Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Twins

two books. many analogies. various connections.

This is a bit longer review and comparison of two books that I found helpful in my own spiritual journey. Read on if so inspired!

At the beginning of 2014, I vowed to read at least 30 books this year.  Well, here it is September, and I've already made it to 26!   This past July, I read Love and Salt after hearing about it on a favorite blog. I wrote a very short Amazon review of it here.  In August, I read about half of The Seven Storey Mountain, and I have made it my September goal to complete it. (It's a bit of a monster, but worth it.)    Let's just say I'm glad I did!  I really got into these two books.

Reading The Seven Storey Mountain, I had to enter into Thomas Merton’s world, and I found that world - similar to my recent experience with reading Love and Salt- to be both encouraging, enlightening, and at times, very dark. Thomas Merton is first and foremost building a world around the soul.  He is expressing the development of character as he feels his need for a more devoted and dedicated form of faith, and in this way encourages us in our faith journeys. It was also enlightening. We travel with Merton as he moves around and visits other countries. We see unfold the intellectual and spiritual landscape when he moves to America.  Why, then is it dark?  There are themes of spiritual apathy, and each place he visits, he is discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm and even violence that he sees.  Much of this sadness arises from materialism, his scorn for vanity, and his bitterness toward many spiritual communities he happens upon.

Everywhere Merton travels or moves, he faces the same enmity between himself and the world- and the conflict he sees between various members of various communities and God.  He stops at Calvinist school in France, he attends a gentleman’s school in Great Britain. He judges the twilight of faith that he sees, but he never does so in a self-righteous way. He knows, after all- and quite well- that he has darkness in his own soul, as well. In this way it encouraged me. He does not let his judgment of others color his pride, but is humble instead.

And in fact, his spiritual journey is a humiliating one.  He must constantly fail and fall. It is even agonizing at times- when in poetic justice he falls in love with the wrong women, or when he goes to live with his Uncle, finding himself independent as an adolescent, yet meanwhile seeing his father dying. He faces misery with fortitude, but he faces one trial after another. He finally finds happiness and peace in a roundabout way, when he realizes that he wants to be a priest in a cloistered community in NYC. At this time, he finally puts God at the center of his life. The darkness of his parents’ deaths recedes as he finds hope and happiness with this adjustment in his deep down soul. At this time in his life he writes :
“At about three in the afternoon I was in the habit of going to Corpus Christi, or to Our Lady of Lourdes which was even closer, and doing the Stations of the Cross. This meditative and easy prayer provided me with another way, more valuable than I realized, of entering into participation with the merits of Christ’s passion, and of renewing within me the life that had been set alight by that morning’s Communion.” page 292

Love and Salt is a more recent Catholic book, but alike to Merton's work in a few ways.  Like The Seven Storey Mountain, we must face despair and death, for they are woven throughout. Both books kept me up at night, both books had me a little spooked, and both had me a little down. Both books enriched my life, my faith, and my soul, and I know I became a little deeper because of them.  The trials they each face feel close-- and I really can't say too much without giving away the content. It is different because it is a series of letters, written between two females who are friends. 

 One woman is a cradle Catholic, and the other is discerning a conversion to the Catholic faith. Read Love and Salt just for the references. They reference Nick Cave, Madeleine L'Engle, Flannery O'Connor, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and the list goes on. Amy Andrews, one of its authors, is a recipient of the Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction.  “What began as a Lenten discipline soon became a habit, and we continued to write for years. We wrote to preserve and make sense of our daily lives…. [W]e wrote because it was the only way we knew how to pray.”  Although also Catholic, and deeply intimate faith portrait. It was published by Loyola Press in 2013.  If you are a young adult female audience, go with Love and Salt.   Both books kept me up at night, both books had me a little spooked, and a little down.  Both books feel like an intimate portrait, a journey into a spiritual landscape both dry and lush, alternately. If you have to choose one, I would say— choose Merton. He’ll push you and make you think. Love and Salt certainly will too, but Merton is heavier reading. Even though he is hard to read because of his sensitivity to the darkness of the world, eventually he finds God, and that discovery is what makes this book rare and beautiful as it unfolds. 

Not to detract from my intended purpose of sticking to two books, Merton’s book also reminded me of Frank McCourt’s journey to the United States as described in the book Angela’s Ashes and his perspective on the Protestant world of America. Called “Soupers,” (a common Irish Catholic term, as I understood it- someone please correct me if I am wrong) they do not have the physical reliance on Christ’s body the way he does, and they do not have last rites at their death (among other reasons).  I believe he is making the point that in denying the real presence, the Eucharist does not nourish the soul the same way.  But I could be wrong, of course, so don’t quote me on that.* 

I did not have any bones to pick with Merton's book, but I did have a bone to pick with Love and Salt.  Sorry if I get up on my soapbox for a minute! I find it somewhat dangerous to get too deep into a serious friendship such as the one portrayed in this book.  I pour my heart out to my husband Stephen, and try to leave it at that!   I couldn’t help but wonder if it could become an idol very quickly and easily if this constant flow of letters continued beyond the publishing date of this book. If you are going to take a risk in publishing your secrets, take a risk with your bride or groom.  And while I'm on it, children also need to understand this as a boundary in your home. Your husband or wife is your confidante. To harm this bond is as dangerous as playing with fire. “Love is as strong as death… many waters cannot quench love.” If you have a book twin or a best friend….. the sweetness of being first place belongs to your sweetheart only— not your child, your Mother, your best friend, your sibling, or anyone else.    Perhaps you have a best friend and a husband, and you have chosen that as a reasonable boundary.  Perhaps your sibling is your best friend, and you’re fine with that decision. Some people might be ok with that, but all parties must be ok with it.  Perhaps you have other things you bond over with your husband besides books, or film, or music (or x.y, or z.)  I’ll leave you to decide where and when and how you draw that boundary. But draw it, you must. 

I think what is so important about both of these books is that they are journeying to put God at the center of their lives. The salt is the tears, the salt of the earth is the bond they share because of Christ.  The result is a supernatural life and eternal life in heaven spent with God. I’ll close with this jewel, for as with both books, delving into the spiritual is what makes its authors the salt of the earth, and that unique pursuit is ultimately what ties these two books together. And for me, that's what makes them book twins.

*or any of that, I don’t have bragging rights- Heavenly Days!

Linking up with Jen and What We’re Reading Wednesday!
Also, check out my post today at Real Housekeeping!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Thousands Sing Song Written by Zach Sobiech in The Mall of America

I'm not sure why I'm on a heaven kick this week.

At any rate, the first time I saw this video, it was linked from Conversion  I really enjoyed it, and may have even cried. She said, and I quote:
"I’ve posted a lot of videos on my blog over the years. But this one just might be my favorite." 

I hope this encourages you today.

Thousands Sing Song Written by Zach Sobiech in The Mall of America

Monday, September 15, 2014

Heaven is for Real

I'm sure there are many clips from youtube that could be linked here. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to at least watch part of the movie Heaven is for Real.

Brief Synopsis: True story. 4-year-old boy slips from consciousness.  He has a vision of heaven, and can't stop talking about it when he wakes up. The movie depicts the father's growing awareness that this vision is from God, and that he cannot ignore it any more than he can ignore a whale (or porcupine) in the same room with him (or under his seat.)

See it, if you can! The book - and the movie- have brought comfort and hope to millions of people.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

And he who never managed this...

The other night, we attended the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra (CSO).  The first piece had a trumpet whose part was to “ask a question.” The piece had a “Question and Answer” feel. 

The second half was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
O Freunde, nicht diese Toene!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere anstimmen und freundenvollere!
O friends! Not these sounds!
But let us strike up more pleasant sounds and more joyful! 
Freude, schoener Goetterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brueder,
Wo dein sanfter Fluegel weilt. 
Joy, o wondrous spark divine,
Daughter of Elysium,
Drunk with fire now we enter,
Heavenly one, your holy shrine.
Your magic powers join again
What fashion strictly did divide;
Brotherhood unites all men
Where your gentle wing's spread wide. 
Wem der grosse Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein,
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seine Jubel ein!
Ja - wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer's nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund! 
The man who's been so fortunate
To become the friend of a friend,
The man who has won a fair woman -
To the rejoicing let him add his voice.
The man who calls but a single soul
Somewhere in the world his own!
And he who never managed this -
Let him steal forth from our throng! 
Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Bruesten der Natur,
Alle Guten, alle Boesen
Folgen ihre Rosenspur.
Kuesse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprueft im Tod,
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott. 
Joy is drunk by every creature
From Nature's fair and charming breast;
Every being, good or evil,
Follows in her rosy steps.
Kisses she gave to us, and vines,
And one good friend, tried in death;
The serpent she endowed with base desire
And the cherub stands before God. 
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch das Himmels praecht'gen Plan,
Laufet, Brueder, eure Bahn,
Freudig wie ein Held zum Siegen. 
Gladly as His suns do fly
Through the heavens' splendid plan,
Run now, brothers, your own course,
Joyful like a conquering hero 
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!
Brueder - ueberm Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen. 
Embrace each other now, you millions!
The kiss is for the whole wide world!
Brothers - over the starry firmament
A beloved Father must surely dwell. 
Ihr stuerzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schoepfer, Welt?
Such ihn ueberm Sternenzelt,
Ueber Sternen muss er wohnen. 
Do you come crashing down, you millions?
Do you sense the Creators presence, world?
Seek Him above the starry firmament,
For above the stars he surely dwells. 
Or, as Martin Luther would say "JOYFUL JOYFUL, We adore thee!" 

Now, if you’re still bored, go read this post from Catholic All Year about Halloween.  I think it’s interesting that she was a  character from zombie movie, and her kids were saints.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Death is Ended

1 Corinthians 15:51-52New International Version (NIV)

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
(if you make it to about 36 seconds in the video, you hear the above verse being sung -- so much energy! I love it!)

Friday, September 12, 2014


Just started rereading the book Boundaries, written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in 1992.  

From ch. 4 "How Boundaries are Developed"

"Practicing means I can do anything! In his late forties, Derek was in the practicing phase. Derek’s style represents someone still stuck in the second stage of separation-individuation. During this period, which usually lasts from age ten months to eighteen months (and then returns later), babies learn to walk and begin to use words.

“Rapprochement, which occurs from around eighteen months to three years, comes from the French word meaning ‘a restoration of harmonious relations.’ in other words, the child comes back to reality. The grandiosity of the past few months slowly gives way to the realization that ‘I can’t do everything I want.’ Children become anxious and aware that the world is a scary place. They realize that they still need Mother.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

avoid sin like the plague

My children, run, jump, and make all the noise you want, but avoid sin like the plague, and you will surely gain heaven.
-St. John Bosco