In December—smack in the middle of Advent—I was hurriedly sweeping my family room floor, frustrated I had to waste time sweeping when there were gifts to be purchased and wrapped, cookies to be decorated, parties to be planned. Suddenly, into my head popped Henri Nouwen’s words about Advent as a season of “active waiting,” which he says is the belief that this moment is the moment—God is doing something right here, right now, and we want to be present to it.

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I looked at the fir needles and dust and tiny LEGO pieces I’d collected in a pile with my broom, and I realized I was not wasting time. In this moment, with my broom, God was at work, drawing my attention to Himself. He was helping me to pray.

In the months since, sweeping has become what I call a prayer trigger. A prayer trigger is anything that you see or do on a daily (or many times a day) basis that prompts you to pray.

I’m over at The High Calling today, friends, writing about prayer triggers…and my broom. Join me?

 

 
Photo by Egan Snow, Creative Commons via Flickr.

What I Read Last Year

I never feel like I read enough. So many great books. So little time. But when I sat down to compile this list, I realized just how many books I do read.  As Liz Cottrill of Living Books Library says, “Here a little, there a little, every day a little, gets you through a lot of books in 365 days.”

(If you want to see a truly impressive list of books, check out Liz’s list of the books she read last year. There must be close to 80 books there—twice what I managed.)

The list below includes novels and nonfiction that I read with my kids in 2014 but does not include picture books. (If it did, it would be endless!) I share it partly in celebration (I am sort of amazed that I read so much) and partly to encourage you to keep reading, especially to and with your kids, even (especially!) as they grow older. An (*) denotes a re-read. A (#) denotes a read-aloud. A link will take you to a review or response I wrote.

Here are a few books that are particularly noteworthy:

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A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

I began 2014 weeping my way through this beautiful book. I read it again in July I loved it so much. It opened my eyes to the mysterious ways of God and His sometimes severe mercies toward us, which He extends because of His infinite love. And that made me see my own losses in the light of His love. (Lanier Ivester wrote a beautiful and moving post about this book that you really must read.)

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

I’ve been a Berry fan for over 15 years, and this book made me love his writing all the more. The prose is exquisite; the story of a quiet man’s quiet life is compelling; and the deep pain of this world and the deep hope that we have in Christ are palpable. An amazing book.

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

My friend Jody says this book is the clearest portrayal of the Gospel that she’s ever read. It certainly hauled open my eyelids when I read it. I saw myself in its characters–and often I didn’t like what I saw. This novel changed me, in ways I am still discovering. At the very least, it marks the beginning of my tuning in to God’s call to take joy, no matter the circumstances.

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The unifying thread of my reading (and quite possibly my life) is the devotional literature to which I turn day after day, week in and week out.

Devotional Literature

The Bible,* especially the Psalms and Gospels, though I also read a fair amount of the Pentateuch and history books (Joshua-Kings) last year

The Book of Common Prayer*

MacDonald, George. Diary of an Old Soul*

Tickle, Phyllis, ed. The Divine Hours (3 vol.)*

Tileston, Mary, ed. Daily Strength for Daily Needs*

Vos, Catherine. The Child’s Story Bible#

 

Poetry

Guite, Malcolm. Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Church Year*

Hall, Donald, ed. The Oxford Book of American Children’s Poetry#

Peterson, Pete, ed. The Molehill, vol. 1 and 2 (not exclusively poetry, but a little of everything, including recipes!, so I put it here)

 

Nonfiction

Capon, Robert Farrar. The Supper of the Lamb

Clarkson, Sarah. Caught Up in a Story

DeRogatis, Amy. Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in Evangelical America

DeRusha, Michelle. Spiritual Misfit

Guroian, Vigen. Tending the Heart of Virtue

Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work!

Laubach, Frank. Prayer: The Mightiest Force in the World

Laubach, Frank. Letters by a Modern Mystic

Lee, Jennifer Dukes. Love Idol

Mason, Charlotte. Formation of Character

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor*

Pfatteicher, Philip. Journey into the Heart of God.

Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art

Rogers, Jonathan. The World According to Narnia

Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy

Vanauken, Sheldon. Under the Mercy

Welch, Kristen. Rhinestone Jesus

 

Fiction

Aldrich, Bess Streeter. Collected Stories 1920-1954

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess*#

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden*#

Carlson, Natalie Savage. The Family Under the Bridge#

DiCamillo, Kate. The Tale of Despereaux#

Goudge, Elizabeth. Green Dolphin Street

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. The Ghost at the Tokaido Inn

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God

Karon, Jan. Shepherds Abiding

Konigsburg, E.L. The Second Mrs. Giaconda

Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian*#

Lewis, C.S. The Horse and His Boy*#

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe*#

Lewis, C.S. The Silver Chair*#

Lewis, C.S. Voyage of the Dawn Treader*#

Lownsbery, Eleanor. The Boy Knight of Reims#

Milne, A.A. Winnie-the-Pooh*#

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Avonlea*#

Park, Linda Sue. A Single Shard*

Paterson, Katherine. Parzival

Peterson, Andrew. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness#

Robinson, Barbara. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever*#

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

Sayers, Dorothy. Gaudy Night*

Seredy, Kate. A Tree for Peter*#

Seredy, Kate. The White Stag

St. John, Patricia. Twice Freed#

Willard, Barbara. Augustine Came to Kent

Willard, Barbara. Son of Charlemagne

Wilson, Douglas. Evanjellyfish

Younge, Charlotte. The Little Duke#

 

Three cheers for books!
Kimberlee

Grapefruit_by_Stefan_Van_der_Straeten

 

The heavens are full of ruby-hued jewels,
alive with the ridged wrinkles of glistening garnets,
awash in the juices of fruitful glory.
Ah, the delectable flesh of this sky!

Round the center seeds small and smaller
wink like stars in a carnelian firmament,
the center itself a nebula where a million suns
cluster in bright profusion,

flinging out spiral arms
to the edge of the known universe—
an event horizon of pale pith
and speckled skin.

 

***

I wrote this poem last week on a day when I was feeling weepy and disconsolate. Winter does that to me. All the rain and the gray skies start to oppress my soul. But I’d been reading The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon.

Father Capon (he’s an Anglican priest) insists that we stop and look at things and enjoy the thinginess of them. He wants to open our eyes to the wonder of creation. Food is his way into that wonder.

So I took a page from Father Capon’s book, in which he spends an entire chapter meditating on an onion, and I spent a half an hour looking at half a grapefruit. It’s rather a marvelous fruit when you stop and actually see it. Attending to the grapefruit, wonder of wonders, took my focus off of me, and I began to feel less weepy and disconsolate, more smiley and consoled. Taking my cue from those tiny starlike seeds circling the center of the fruit, I wrote this playful little poem. I flatter myself that Father Capon would appreciate it.

***

The Supper of the Lamb is a corking good book, friends. If you like food or wine, you really must read it. Ditto if you like art, music, poetry, literature, or theology. And if you dislike all of those things but you’re rather fond of air, you, too, should read this book.

I wrote a “review” of it (for some definition of review) over at GraceTable, the most beautiful new place on the interwebs. Please come join me for a truly delightful bit of writing (if I do say so myself). It’ll give you a taste (pun intended) of Father Capon’s even more delightful book.

 

Photo by Stefan Van der Straeten, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

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