Emily Dickinson, that most elusive of souls. At one moment you feel like you’ve touched hearts with hers and find a kindredness, at the next you feel baffled trying to figure if she really meant that heretical thing she just said. I feel wary of many works of criticism on Emily Dickinson because they easily reduce her to her eccentricities. What I found in Kristen LeMay’s treatise I Told My Soul to Sing is a willingness to walk with Emily soul to soul allowing her to be her most brilliant, human, spiritually sensitive, yet fearlessly questioning self.
The only thing I knew about Eugene Peterson before I picked up this book was that he was behind the Message. So I imagined him as a hip, young, guy with maybe a bit too modern taste for my view. But, his reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins in the title of his newest book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire hinted to me that there might be more to this–as I’ve come to learn–aged theologian and life-long pastor than I had discovered. It turns out he embraces the poem of the same name by Hopkins because it marked a shift in his thinking, one of those moments that change the trajectory of a life-time. He suddenly understood with Hopkins that we are born to reflect Christ from the inward to the outward; that this unity between in the inner and outer life allows us to live out “what I do is me, for that I came”. Despite my early skepticism, I now align Peterson in my thoughts with modern truth-bearers like Tim Keller and John Piper. A man who offers thoughtful, Christ-enlarging, heart-probing insights into scripture and Christian living.
I don’t think I’m the only one longing for “home”. But when we break it down, what are we really wanting?
“Lord, what you do not do remains undone.
If you will not help, I will gladly surrender.
The cause is not mine.
I will happily be your mask and disguise,
if only you will do the work. Amen.”
— Martin Luther
We have spoken of art as a means to enrich the imagination as we turn towards God, allowing us to connect with him more honestly and with understanding. Religious poetry shapes us in this way also, if not even more directly. Hopkins, Donne, Dickinson, and many of the Romantics–who even without intension speak of God’s world as if stripping a veil–have been my gateway to a sacramental appreciation for life. I would like to think that spiritual sensitivity did not end with them.
Perhaps an image immediately comes to mind when I speak of feasting your eyes on art. For instance, the captivating gaze of Girl With a Pearl Earring, or the striking color palette of a Matisse. Now take this same idea and think of feasting on God–mulling his characteristics over in different lights, and celebrating our dance of living in response to God’s presence. This is the opportunity that sacred art offers. Respected art historian Timothy Verdon has dedicated his masterful work Art and Prayer to helping us receive sacred art as a gateway to prayer.
“I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.” ~Madeleine L’Engle
As the long nights descend and the trees grow naked, Advent waits in the marrow of winter’s chill despite the twinkling lights. It is a season of stripping away, even, some might say, of death. It is out of this barrenness that Gayle Boss bore All Creation Waits. Behind the dull cloak of winter green things sprout and new life bulges, it is but the hush before a new beginning.
In reading this book I have gotten the sense that I have come to know Bobby a little bit. He writes in a very personal manner as if everything he has chosen to say comes from deep within him. He pours himself out here because he is writing about what he himself has been molded by, and yet it is beyond him. This isn’t a book pushed out to fulfill a marketing niche, but a sincere guide worth returning to.
Love, Henri is a collection of correspondence from the late highly respected Catholic priest, professor, and pastor Henri Nouwen. Nouwen came to me highly recommended, but I was still surprised how deeply impactful the content of mere letters could be. These are words of friendship, constructive criticism, sympathy and encouragement sent by Nouwen to address various needs in his friends and acquaintances throughout his life. I filled the pages with ink stains.