09 February 2008


Both Carl and Christianne have tagged me, so it's time for me to get my rear in gear and post this book meme. You've all been playing, so you know how it works.

Here we go ...
*the 1-2-3 meme*

pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
open the book to page 123
find the fifth sentence
post the next 3 sentences

From Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning:
“Soon I discovered that, in addition to alcohol, I had developed a second addiction: ministry. The attention and recognition that come from writing and preaching, teaching and counseling, had become my latest drug of choice. Even my relationship with God was predicated on my ministerial identity.”
If you spend any amount of time with me, this is a book I’ll reference frequently (as Christianne can attest). This book is one I keep coming back to as I trust God with the hurting places in my heart, with the mystery of what’s before me, with my confusion and doubt, and in short with my life. I appreciate Manning’s candor and honesty, his ability to give it to you straight without pulling any punches.

*that book meme with 9 questions*

1) One book that changed your life:
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
This book was the beginning of the reawakening of my creative self. What I remember the most is the Morning Pages: engaging in the practice of writing every morning for 30 minutes without editing yourself (it is harder than it might sound, and really awakens you to the reality of how much we edit ourselves before we even get anything out there).

While my primary mode of creativity has to do with language, this book encouraged me to play with other and less familiar forms of art: so I dabbled in photography, watercolors, acrylics. Like with the morning pages, the important thing is just to do it, not to preempt yourself by saying “I can’t” before you even try.

2) One book you’ve read more than once:
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
So many other books could have been listed here, but I chose this one because I love it when an author takes a well-known tale and examines it from a different angle: by telling the story from an alternate perspective (like Anita Diamant in The Red Tent, or Wicked by Gregory Maguire), or by putting the story in a different context like Steinbeck does in this classic work.

Steinbeck retells the story of being cast out from Eden, but in the context of early 20th century California. There is sin, animosity between brothers, intense evil, and profound, earth-shaking wisdom. One Hebrew word is at the center of this story and it shook me and moved me to my very core.

3) One book you’d want on a desert island:
Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning
I can’t think of any other book that I’ve turned back to more since I finished reading it. Others could be on this list, to be sure (Blue Like Jazz and Waking the Dead come to mind), but this was one of those books that found me and spoke directly to my deepest need at the time.

Instead of trying to do justice by summarizing the book, I’ll offer up one of the many passages that is underlined, starred, and bracketed in my copy: “Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then – at our wits’ end – trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, ‘Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit,’ surges from the heart” (p. 117).

4) Two books that made you laugh:
The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float by Farley Mowat
I think I’ve read this book about five or six times at least. Take one author from the far northern reaches of Canada, a lot of rum, the tale of the purchase of a sailing vessel that is something less than seaworthy, an extensive vocabulary (I still need a dictionary with me whenever I read it), and a host of comical but decidedly non-cartoonish characters, and you have a recipe for the first book that made me laugh so hard that I cried and nearly split my gut open. Seriously: go to Amazon.com and order it now. It will be the most hilarious $6 you've ever spent.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
This memoir is a hilarious retelling of the author’s quest to find some measure of happiness away from her humdrum temp job in New York by cooking through every single recipe of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. The author kept a blog while making her way through the famous cookbook and scored several fans across the country in the process. From her “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” obsession and quest to find obscure (and less than palatable) ingredients, this one is sure to offer a good, hearty laugh.

5) One book that made you cry:
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
I read this very short Lewis book in the fall of 1998 after my teenaged cousins were killed by a high driver in a horrific car accident. In this book, the Oxford don and man of letters becomes decidedly raw, wearing his heart on his sleeve. More sporadic journal entries than well-constructed arguments and steps for handling grief. This book shows him moving from head to heart, and he is frighteningly honest about how dealing with the loss of his wife taught him that faith goes beyond intellectual assent and dabbling in theory: it is flesh and blood, it is life and death, it is deeply and painfully personal.

Reading this book gave me permission to acknowledge my own doubts and insecurities, to know that I was not alone when the death of two someones I loved very much rocked my faith. I'm not so sure that it's book that made me cry as that it gave me permission to cry, to feel deeply, to scream, to tear my hair out ... and to know that God was in the middle of it all.

6) One book you wish you’d written:
In the Name of Jesus by Henri J. M. Nouwen
It is decidedly short, simple, profound, and wise. It is about stepping out of God’s way, it is about embracing humility. It is about letting go of the desire to be significant. It is about downward mobility. It's about ministering to the world like Jesus did. If you haven’t yet, please read it.

7) One book you wish had never been written:
I can’t think of any specific title for this category, primarily because writing this list required me to go back to my bookshelves. Any book that would fit in this category is a book I got rid of. Anything that reduces life or spiritual growth into any number of steps, any book written about getting rich quick, or any book that seeks to discredit or make another person ridiculous is one not worth the paper its written on.

8) Two books you are currently reading:
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
I love this book. More than one person recommended it to me, so I took the hint and bought it. I love Norris’ earthy and poetic prose, her experience of living in Benedictine community, and the truth she distills from her own life and the lives she observes the lives of those around her.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
I actually finished this on the way home from Florida to have it fresh again in my mind for my book club, but haven’t started another book to take its place. Jane Austen is a literary goddess, a sharp-witted woman who knew and understood perhaps better than anyone the society in which she lived. She’s just brilliant and I love everything she’s written.

9) One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
But I can only choose just one? Seriously? Have you seen the growing pile in my windowsill? The Kite Runner is near the top of that pile, but since this has already been mentioned several times by meme participants, I’ll offer a different title.

Enough readers I respect have recommended this work by McCarthy that I knew I had to read it. The premise is a captivating one: a nameless father and his son struggle to make their way to the coast (they don’t know why) after a desolating, apocalyptic global catastrophe. I’ve heard this book described as transfixing, searing, a tiny pinpoint of hope and light in the overwhelming darkness.

I just need to mention Anne Lamott and Donald Miller too. They're not on this list as the answer to any question, but as authors I love them: deeply spiritual, hilarious, irreverent, honest, and funny. Those are my kind of writers and I love 'em.

So if you haven't yet, it's most definitely your turn. All the cool kids are meme-ing these days ...


  1. your pile of books looks an awful lot like mine. I have a pile of works in progress, ones I want to read again, and one for recent aquisitions. I have got to tone em down before Amy carts them away!

    Thanks for playing.

  2. Dude, is that the pile of books by your window that you've been meaning to read?! It's a mile high, at least!!

    I see you've got Shane Claiborn's "Irresistible Revolution" book in that stack. I remember writing about how that book rocked my world last year! (Is that when you added it to the stack? It's near the bottom, so maybe it was one of the ones that got that stack started . . . )

    Yay, it was so fun to read your selections here. I think Manning's "Ruthless Trust" just scored to the top of my must-read list. You already know most of what I've been walking through the past 48-72 hours, but you should hear what happened today. I guess I'll just say for now that the specific confirmation I'd been praying for seems to have come to light . . . but knowing me, I'm such a wimp that I'm still going, "Really, God? Is that really you? Or am I just imagining it?" Not sure how imaginary crocodile tears and heaving sobs can really be, though . . .

    I'll try to post about it soon. But I think this story's gonna be the hardest one to try to write about.

    Love to you this night. Love you so, so much.

  3. I love that you love Ruthless Trust. When I moved to Colorado, I was working on finishing my masters thesis. I was not looking (really) for a job, but I also did not have a real plan. After a while, I began to get a little nervous (well a lot). One day, I sat down and read that book from cover to cover, crying the entire way through. It really struck a chord. Kudos on the storycorps taping. That is exciting beyond words (in an ironic sort of way!).

  4. I am feeling this post on so many levels. Unfortunately, the Manning quote speaks of my addiction as well. Who would think one could become addicted to ministry. (A book called Toxic Faith has helped me see clearly, a must for any person thinking of FT ministry or a person already there.)

    I know we had Manning in common, I re-read Ruthless Trust and Ragamuffin Gospel at least once a year. Always close to me. He's so brutally real.

    What surprised me is Cameron's book! You do morning pages! I have been journaling, in part because of this work, for over 20 years. Most memorable quote from it is, "Art is born in attention."

    I picked up East of Eden a few years ago after living in the shadows of Steinbeck's California. So much drama happened in my own life when I was 1/4 way through it, that I haven't picked it up again. Now I am once again intrigued.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. excellent selections. i'll have to check out some of those that i hadn't heard of when i get through my little mountain.

    when i was in college we read 'a grief observed' after we read 'the problem of pain' you should really read those two books together in that order because it illustrates so clearly the difference between a detached theological idea and one that is grounded in experience.

    christianne: i can't wait to hear that story.

  6. I have gotta get into this readin thang . . . lol. I am so behind. Great books and descriptions!

  7. holy pile of pleasure batman! how do we ever find time to work? we weren't created for....oh shoot I can't finish that sentence without slipping back to Genesis...before and after Eden. Looking forward to what we were really created for and knowing it's far beyond our wildest dreams. But for now, this little ole brain thinketh being able to take in a stack of books like that daily would be a sweet taste of heaven!

    i might be able to help a sista out....i highlighted throughout my reading of captivating and transcribed those personal standouts in a 13 page word doc if you'd be interested in a precursory read (granted it's the stuff that spoke most to my heart back then and it is just a snippet albiet a good overview of the book).

    i see kite runner on your pile ~ i can't wait to get to that one too!

  8. Carl - This was a fun meme, but hard for me. I have the feeling most of our crew are big readers, so I can't imagine it's an easy meme for anyone ... but it's always challenging to look at our book collections from this kind of perspective & think about why certain books are important to us.

    Christianne - Yep, that is my pile of books. It's starting to block out the light. I could move it, but I keep it there as a powerful reminder to keep up on my reading.

    Yes, I ordered Claiborne's book shortly after you wrote about it on your own blog. See, that pile has been growing for quite awhile now!

    I'm so glad to hear that you're looking to read Ruthless Trust. I was fairly certain you would, & I think you'll find that like it did for me, it is going to meet you with where you're at right now. It is so, so powerful. I can't put it back on the shelf because there are usually several things a day that point me back to the truth Manning has distilled in this book.

    Blessings to you, friend!

    Suz - Ruthless Trust is such a powerful work! It sounds like it met your deepest need at the right time, too. I think Manning moves many readers in that way.

    23 Degrees - I've read Ragamuffin Gospel a couple times too. I've got that in the windowsill pile because like you're saying, it's one of those that deserves to be revisited again & again.

    I LOVE Cameron's book. Should be required reading for the creative life! Morning pages have changed my life. So many people start by saying, "I can't be creative", or "I'm not a creative person" so they don't even try.

    Steinbeck's Eden is a big commitment, both in terms of length and in subject matter (there is some intense evil in that book), but is worth the read I thing. One word: "timshel".

    Terri - I have the Problem of Pain too, but haven't read it. I probably should have read that first, but was so happy to find something about grief that wasn't whitewashed or theoretical, that wasn't holding pain at a distance. I love that this little book was published & that it was able to meet me in that dark, dark place.

    [Terri - C's story is a *good* one!!]

    Nathan - You can't fool us. You're a big reader. I think there's a lot you could recommend to this crew!

    Di - It is a big pile, huh? I know, my job is seriously cutting into my blogging and reading life. If I could find a way to get paid to blog and to read, I'd be all over it. I think I might excel at a job like that!

    And I'd definitely LOVE to see that Word doc, to go through the finer points of that book. I'll read the book, of course, but it'd be nice to see what you have too. A lot of women I respect have found that book to meet them where they're at, so I think it's high time I hopped on board!!

  9. the kite runner is of course found on every book shelf these days. You should also watch the movie .. all local actors and very faithful to the book.