Weeds

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I  glanced up at the landscaping along the back of our home while preparing my garden for onion sets and seed potatoes. My heart sank. Four foot weeds were growing ugly up through pachysandra, weigelia, and hostas.  My immediate thoughts were work harder! work faster! I must tend to the mess at the side of our house.

In that brief moment, one of the main reasons I garden completely escaped me.

My  intention was to have some quiet time with God during the simple work of planting vegetables. Practicing His presence was gone in a nano second.

My deepest apologies to Brother Lawrence.*

Predictably, the arguments inside my head began. I don’t want to focus on what I’m doing. What’s the Lord got to do with gardening anyway? It’s May already for crying out loud. This place needs to get in shape before half the summer’s over! I’ve got to get this finished so I can move on to the flower beds. 

So much for that “quiet time with God.”

How often do we trade in what’s in front of us for an obsession of what lies ahead of us?

This topic surfaces often in my circle of friends and family. On our way to my cousin’s daughter’s soccer game, we chatted about trying not to hurry to the next thing on our daily agendas. So when we walked to the soccer field and got lost in the woods, we made sure to take notice of the beautiful path and lush plant life. We found a bit of delight in those moments of lostness. During the soccer game we sat in the hot sun and remarked how good the rays felt on our shoulders. Our focus on being present to simple things was refreshing.

When I discipline myself to stay present in the ordinary, I avail myself for extra-ordinary time with God. A correlation between the two has taught me to practice presence in life’s more mundane tasks, including turning soil over to plant seeds.

Weeds are going to keep growing; might as well enjoy the moment!

Blessings,

Donna

th?id=OP*The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of teachings from Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century Carmelite monk. Compiled by Father Joseph de Beaufort, the compilation includes Brother Lawrence’s letters and records of conversations about finding God in the ordinary.

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What’s on Your Bookshelf? Part Two

Sharing books is my focus the next few days. See What’s On Your Bookshelf Part One for more summer reading selections. A few I am looking forward to~

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Available Aug 2015. Love her wit and passion for people.
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Henderson’s newest.
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Highly recommended by spiritual directors.
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Recommended by those who loved The Kite Runner.

Thanks for the book recommendations following my last post. Keep them coming!

Currently Reading. . .

The New Jim Crow   Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Seems like I’ve been plowing forever through The New Jim Crow. I use plowing in the best sense of the word. Every page digs up startling truths on the plight of the contemporary African American male profiled for the United States penal system and delegated by the justice system to a permanent second class status. Although a pretty dense read for me, it’s an important book on racial justice so I’m not willing to let it go by the wayside.

The Whole Brained Child by Daniel Siegel, M.D.

I was first introduced to Siegel through his audio cd set, “The Neurobiology of We.” His neuroscience research on the impact of relationships on the adult brain fascinates me. The Whole Brained Child provides insight to the child’s brain. It emphasizes “strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind.” The institution where I teach began integrating  child development, behavior, relationships, and spiritual growth with neurobiology several years ago. I believe even more information is on the horizon for this holistic approach to understanding ourselves, each other and our relationship with Christ.

A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

If you are looking for a hard hitting devotional, this may be the one. 1940’s professor and Presbyterian Scottish minister Baillie dispenses with analogies and personal stories. Instead, his writing is direct, his attitude is serious, and his emphasis on holiness is challenging. The book jacket blurb encapsulates the exacting tone of his work. “If private prayer may be characterized as the wrestling of the soul with God, this book will be of real assistance in making that struggle not only easier, but more constructive.” Each morning and evening devotion proves to be constructive for me. I appreciate Baillie’s spiritual depth.

The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, PhD

The subtitle to this book summarizes the content well: “using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression one small change at a time.” Korb helps me understand how my brain is wired and what alters my neuropathways for stronger emotional health. His lay approach to explaining brain function provides an easy to grasp text. Korb’s section on behaviors that will improve brain functioning and decrease depression are valuable to me.

As I peruse this list, I realize I don’t have a good novel going. Time for a trip to the library before going on vacation Friday! What are some of your current and/or favorite reads? Looking forward to hearing from you.

Donna

What’s On Your Bookshelf? Part One

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I’m wary of statistics when I can’t verify their validity, but if this graphic is only partially true, it’s downright sad.  Is reading becoming passé in the United States?

Some of my fondest childhood activities was borrowing books from our local library bookmobile. Checking out books in a bus was an adventure! I also loved the “bookish” smell of our public library, the gleaming hardwood floors, tall windows, and cubbyhole nooks to hide in with a good book. Great childhood memories!

Jim and I passed along our love for reading to our children and they continue to be “readers.” Of course, cuddling up with grandchildren and a good book is priceless.

I’m thankful that being “sixty-something” means more time for reading. I insert the word more, because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a book around waiting for me to get lost in. But this season offers a definite increase of space in my day for one of my favorite pleasures.

I would love to hear from you and what is keeping your nose buried in a book!

Recent Reads. . .

Day After Night by Anita Diamant

Diamant’s first novel, The Red Tent, is one of my favorite works of historical fiction. This month I caught up with two of her most recent novels, Day After Night and The Boston Girl. (I tried out The Last Days of Dogtown, but lost interest about one-fourth through. Maybe I should have stuck with it?)  In Day After Night, the author offers an in-depth look at the plight of Jewish women in a post-WW Israeli detainment camp. A shared traumatized history of Nazi abuse births a loyalty in friendships unmatched by many women today. Historical narrative is Diamant’s fiction niche and Day after Night delivers a powerful story.  Her careful attention to research integrated with an unnerving account of survival compelled me to read this book in just two sittings.

Equally engaging is Diamant’s latest offering,  The Boston Girl. Once again, the protagonist is a Jewish woman, but this time the era is the turbulent 1900’s and the setting is Boston. As always, Diamant’s historical detail provides a rich texture to the storyline. The leading lady breaks through her “old world” family traditions and culture to embrace the identity of the modern American woman.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

Although I’m a pretty utilitarian cook, I resonate with Niequist’s philosophy of table fellowship when gathering with friends and family for dinner. What can I say? I get excited over dinnerware, love to pull together tables capes, and enjoy conversation over a leisurely meal. What Niequist brings is a spiritual and relational point of view to the dinner hour. A friend of mine loved Niequist’s Bread and Wine so much that she bought several copies and gave them to friends. (Hooray that I’m her friend.) I am definitely a fan and faithful reader of Shauna Niequist.

All Things New by Lynn Austin

Austin depicts the struggles of daughter, mother, and freed slave during the Reconstruction era with an engaging account of post-war survival. Although Austin’s writing is simplistic at times, I found the multiple issues that these women faced to be enlightening and their strategies to overcome great loss admirable. I’ve picked up other Austin works of historical fiction when looking for a quick read that about an important period in time.

Called   My Journey to C.S. Lewis’s House and Back Again by Ryan J. Pemberton 

Called is a true account of a young man who became a passionate Christ follower through the writings of C.S. Lewis. A marketing and public relations executive by day and seeker of theological understanding at night, Pemberton senses a call to Oxford, England to become an official university student. His dream was to literally follow in Lewis’ footsteps; to reside in the community where Lewis studied and taught. Pemberton is accepted into prestigious Oxford University and ends up renting space in the very home where Lewis lived. Pemberton’s autobiography is a mixture of professional disappointments and personal delights as he searches for a true meaning of calling. What he found is not what he was looking for.

Waiting for Me on My Bookshelf . . .

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Our church office administrator introduced me to Hannah’s writing a few years ago. When I want to veg with a book, I turn to one of hers.  The development of characters reminds me a bit of Jodi Picoult’s style, although Hannah’s sometimes predictable plots are remiss of Picoult’s more creative arc. The Nightingale follows a young woman’s passion and pain during German occupied France in the late 1930’s. This book appears to tell a more complicated story than other Hannah works I’ve read. We’ll see!

Restless by Jennie Allen

A must read according to our children’s ministry pastor at my church. Allen has caught the attention of many women at our church with her IF:Gatherings; quick to the point Bible studies and discussion starters. Restless is an interesting companion to Calling. Allen focuses on pursuing our passions, living our dreams.

Savor   Living Abundantly Where You Are As You Are by Shauna Niequist

Savor is counterpoint to Restless. While Allen inspires to move out of your “comfort zone,” Niequist lobbies for savoring life right where you are in the moment. I’m looking forward to discovering how Savor differs from Bread and Wine.

And a few more to purchase  or borrow from the library . . .

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Do you take time to read? If so, what’s on your bookshelf?