Summertime. That word is full of promise. I hear "summertime" and think of light: early morning light and the lingering sun after supper. The promise of summertime has always been something about time, as if summer serves up more time along with more light. In any case, the promise of time translates for me into the promise of more reading time.
I'm sure this dates back to childhood summers and all those bike rides to the downtown library. The cool basement Children's Room at the Carnegie Library was a place of magic presided over by Miss Dunn. She always greeted me with a soft smile and a new book she thought I'd like to add to my stack. She was just about always right.
So with a nod to Miss Dunn, A Word in Time will offer this summer some books you might like to add to your stack. Each week throughout the summer, Echoes from the Edge will feature brief book recommendations from our Beatitudes Fellows and other young faith leaders. Their recommendations will cover a wide range of topics and genres, from prayer to politics, things churchy and not-so-churchy. They will be sharing reading that matters to them, both fiction and nonfiction, and saying a few brief words about that reading.
I'll be doing the same, most weeks, in my Word in Time section of the page (sometimes I'll return to the customary lectionary-based post as we wouldn't want to ignore that Other Book during these summer days.) And if you have a book to recommend, please send that good word to me, and we'll include it in this summer's offerings.
So to start, this week, I'll offer a recommendation that I'd like to offer to every member of our Congress, if only I believed they were readers.
I surprise myself with this recommendation, because this book has been around for quite awhile, and I'd actually never read it (but I did see the movie.) I'm sure many of you may have read it, or at least been assigned it during high school.
It's John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Really. This is one powerful book, and now I know why it's been the target of book-banners. It's radical. It questions every institution and spares none, from banking to religion. This was Steinbeck's first big book, and he never again wrote one as good as this.
Steinbeck structures his indictment of injustice around the story of the Joad family-you likely know this-but he does it so smoothly, so eloquently, telling a broad sweeping epic of the land and the times, and then focusing his lens on just one family and then spanning wide again. The story of the Joads is a study of resiliency, and the final scene is as powerful an Easter story as I've come across.
It's a long book, and could last you through the summer. It's waiting for you at your local library. Maybe Miss Dunn is, too.
Echoes from the Edge
By John Helmiere, 2012-13 Beatitudes Fellow - June 10th, 2013
Three Recommendations from John:
Sadhana: A Way to God , by Anthony de Mello S.J. "a highly accessible and practical book of 47 contemplative methods of prayer, it has given me the variety and insight to breathe life back into a tired prayer experience"
Community and Growth , by Jean Vanier "The saintly founder of the L'Arche communities writes a constant stream of wisdom on navigating the polarities of communal belonging and individual becoming-- of great use for developing genuine community that integrates responsibility and freedom"
The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to Catholicism , by Michael Himes S.J.
"A systematician from British Columbia, Himes covers ten primary Christian doctrines and sacraments in very, very short, funny, progressive and brilliant ways. I use it to inform my teaching and preaching. It's really a systematic theology."
Finally, the Poet
By Mary Oliver, from The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays - June 10th, 2013
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?