In the past few years Anne Lamott has been writing some spectacular books - they are among some of my favorite. Her newest (released Spring 2017) is titled "Hallelujah Anyway" and even though I had not read it until now I've been using the title as a mantra of sorts. Bad day? Hallelujah anyway. Got fired? Hallelujah anyway. Relationship issues? Hallelujah anyway. The subtitle of the book - Rediscovering Mercy - is the way we are able to say hallelujah anyway. Mercy is the key. Mercy for me, mercy for you. "I'm not sure I even recognize the ever-presence of mercy anymore, the divine and the human: the messy, crippled, transforming, heartbreaking, lovely, devastating presence of mercy. But I have come to believe that I am starving to death for it, and my world is, too." Buried under what life has handed us is the mercy we were born with. Working through the past perceptions, messages, wounds, etc is helping Lamott rediscover mercy and she's sharing her findings with us. She doesn't claim to have arrived, she's still on the journey and I suspect that like all of us she will be until the day she passes from this life. We never arrive at anything - we only journey closer to the arrival of it.
Anne Lamott, if you aren't used to her writing, takes a millisecond to adjust to. She writes in a very stream of consciousness kind of way. If you haven't read her writings yet I encourage you to do so, it is well worth your time. "Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgivable. Mercy brings us to the miracle of apology, given and accepted, to unashamed humility when we have erred or forgotten....Mercy, grace, forgiveness, and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves - our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice. It includes everything out there that just makes us sick and makes us want to turn away, the idea of accepting life as it presents itself and doing goodness anyway, the belief that love and caring are marbled even into the worst life has to offer."
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Audiobook Narrated by Carol Bilger
Better late than never, right? *wink*
When Diamant released this title I was in the midst of having babies and being all judgy and stuff. A fictional account about a person from the Bible and it doesn't match up to what the Bible says? Then I can't read it - that's like...like...blasphemy or something, right? UGH. I'm so over myself. So when a framily member mentioned a couple of years back that it was her most favorite book of all time I added it to my list. And then I needed something to listeread while waiting for a hold so I grabbed this up from the shelf at the library.
Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, is the narrator of her own story. It is through her voice that we learn of how Jacob and Leah came to be her parents, of her large extended family, of the event that changed the course of her life forever, and how she was able to live any kind of life after deep betrayal. Through Dinah we get a glimpse into the complicated and intertwined relationships of women - specifically the wives of Jacob - during the earlier days of this world. Each month at the new moon the women would gather in the red tent for three days to pass the time of their monthly cycle together - instead of waiting on others, being waited on. They would pass the time celebrating the power and gift their bodies brought forth because of the monthly flow of blood - stories, songs, food, and the teaching/learning of traditions would happen in the red tent. Tense relationships would be forced to look each other in the eye, mutual understanding of their collective need for each other was reaffirmed. It is in the red tent that Dinah learns much about life and her role in it.
So, if you are a Christian - specifically an evangelical American - then you probably should not read this book. It will piss you off. I'm just sayin'. As a former evangelical stuck in a bubble I can say it that bluntly. This book would have pissed me off had I read it when it was first released or perhaps even five years ago. But I've learned a lot since then about what's worth getting upset about. Diamant takes a woman briefly mentioned in the Bible and weaves a narrative about her. Diamant wasn't setting out to write an accurate Biblical story. She was intrigued with parts of Genesis 34 and wrote a story loosely based on it. Everyone breathe, it's really okay. Click here to read an article about the book and Diamant's defense of it. Anyway. Up until a certain part in the story I felt like Anita Diamant might have actually been portraying the story of Jacob and his wives with more accuracy than us Christians might be comfortable with, where I started to differ with her loose interpretations is the story surrounding Joseph once he landed in Egypt. What I loved most about the book is Diamant's wide open look at women in a time period when women were not much more than property and had zero rights at all. I love the strength Diamant gave these women in each other and in themselves - I loved the red tent and what it symbolized. It wasn't established as a tent of shame as other ideas out there (there being the evangelical Christian world) might imply - it was established as a tent of celebration, after all it is only through women's bodies that the population of this world increases and generations are born. I love that it was a place for women only to gather and to strengthen one another and teach one another. In 2014 Lifetime did a miniseries TV adaptation of the book, I'm curious to watch it now that I have read the book and see how someone chose to bring it to life. Unlike my friend, this is not my most favorite book of all time - but it was a good read for sure.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
The title, main and sub, is really what caught my attention. And in the last lines of the introduction I was all in for reading on, ""Option A is not available. So let's just kick the shit out of Option B." Indeed.
Sheryl Sandberg was thrown under the bus of Option A and run over. When it had done its damage and moved on, all that was left was Option B. She graciously shares the lessons she has learned and is continuing to learn about living Option B to its absolute fullest. Adam Grant was an integral part of Sheryl's quest to live Option B and so he is present in this book - behind the scenes. His stories and his insights are shared through Sheryl's voice. There were so many good and solid points that I'm having a hard time highlighting them for the sake of a review. It definitely gave me some things to think on and consider and implement into my own vocabulary and forward motion.
Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: Discovering How God Speaks and Heals Today by Jack Deere
Jack Deere spent the first part of his Christian life believing, and teaching, that the Spirit had passed on and wasn't alive and working in people *today.* And then something happened to change him and his mind. As a result Deere needed to leave his teaching position as Dallas Theological Seminary, left the church he was pastoring, and even lost friends. Crazy right? Well, us Christians are awful that way. But that isn't Deere's soapbox and I won't step up on it right now. *wink*
In this book Jack Deere starts by relaying his personal story and testimony about his life of faith and his experiences with the Spirit. He then moves into sharing the evidence - biblical and physical - about the activity of the Spirit today. I really liked this book, Deere relays his story with relatability and his testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit is convincing (although I didn't need convincing). It was a surprise read for me in that I was surprised at how much I liked it.
Empowered Evangelicals: Bringing Together the Best of the Evangelical and Charismatic Worlds by Rich Nathan, Ken Wilson
Well, here's another book that I couldn't renew due to how I had to obtain it and ran out of time to read it. I only got less than 100 pages in. I would have finished it had I been able to renew it through the library. It was slow going for me but I was interested enough to keep reading. In my ideal world I would request it again and read it all the way through but that's not going to happen - at least anytime soon.
Nathan and Wilson make the "argument" that the charismatic and evangelical expressions of faith can in fact co-exist peacefully in the life of the believer. I don't disagree. The part that I was able to read was Nathan describing his faith journey through both the charismatic and evangelical worlds to reach a place where both have room in his life as a believer. I really enjoyed reading that part and saw similarities in my own journey of faith. Maybe someday I will pick it back up.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Audiobook Narrated by Edward Herrmann
I realize that I am in the minority when it comes to this book. But I was SO bored. I got to chapter 9 and was finding reasons to pause it (I was listereading it) and do anything else. I couldn't even get to the part of the book that another friend did before she abandoned it also. She abandoned it for much different reasons than I did. This is a rare case where the movie engaged me more than the book. Not that Louis Zamperini's story is boring...at all. But Hillenbrand's telling of it clearly isn't my cup of tea.
The Mirror Cracked From Side To Side (Miss Marple #9) by Agatha Christie
Audiobook Narrated by Emilia Fox
I love Agatha Christie. And there a just a handful of her titles I haven't yet read. This was one of them. And I decided to listeread it, although I am pretty sure I will read it in print at some point.
As I started listereading this title I realized I had seen a screen version - quite a long time ago. Parts of it seemed familiar to me so I really enjoyed listereading it.
"The mirror crack'd from side to side; 'The curse is come upon me,' cried The Lady of Shalott." American film star Marina Gregg has settled down in St. Mary Meade, home to Miss Jane Marple. At a welcoming fete, one of Ms. Gregg's enthusiastic British fans falls down dead - a victim of poison. Miss Marple wasn't in attendance but that doesn't mean she can't figure out what happened and whodunnit.
In This Mountain (Mitford Years #7) by Jan Karon
Audiobook Narrated by John McDonough
Retirement is proving tougher to enjoy than Father Tim thought. He's kind of bored, feeling at loose ends, not sure what direction he should head. In this installment of the Mitford Series the reader gets to know more of the residents of the town and travel through the valley with Father Tim.
*So my library system doesn't carry any audiobook versions of the series past this one. I'm SO disappointed! I'm looking into other options but this might be the end of my free listereading of the Mitford Series. I could get it on Audible but I'm reluctant to pay for listening to books - $14.95 (or more) a month seems a bit too much for this unemployed chick.*