Posts Tagged ‘spiritual practices’

6636I have encountered a book lover’s delight for Lent. My favorite new book for the season is Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide. When I read the book description, I expect I was bouncing up and down with glee, for I am above all a reader. Nearly any book I pick up could become an opportunity to for prayer, for encounter with God and God’s creation.

I was pleased to note the inclusion of two of my favorite contemporary writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Benjamín Alire Sáenz. The mingling of works from across continents and centuries makes for an exceedingly rich reading experience. From Fyodor Dostoevsky to Emily Bronte, Derrick Austin to William Butler Yeats, there are thought-provoking, gorgeous writings in these pages. In addition to encountering favorite authors, I also met several new poets. Sarah Arthur has done an excellent job on this compilation.

Along with poetry and excerpts of prose, each day’s selection offers a suggestion of scripture readings from the Bible. Readers can use the daily offerings as they wish, and will discover plentiful opportunities for lectio divina and reflective reading. There are seven weeks of readings, a list of volumes consulted for possible further reading, brief biographies of contributors, and a detailed index of authors and sources. (This last is critical for me to give such an enthusiastic review.)

A tremendous resource for reflection, Between Midnight and Dawn is the third volume of literary compilations from Sarah Arthur that journey through the church year. Through the Paraclete Press website you also can order an ebook or pdf.

I would like send a reader a paperback copy of Between Midnight and Dawn, courtesy of Paraclete Press. Simply click on the rafflecopter link. You will be asked to comment on this post. I invite you to mention a time when you found unexpected inspiration, whether in literature, art, nature or in another person. Due to shipping, this giveaway is open only to U.S. residents.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enjoy the lovely book trailer:

I wish each of you a blessed Lent and Eastertide.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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During Lent, I look forward to undertaking a simple contemplative writing retreat, in the comfort of my own home. I will be using 40 Soul-Stretching Conversations: Writing a spiritual journal with Joan Chittister.

This slim book has a brief quote on the left-hand page, and a response from Joan Chittister on the right. Under each passage there are lines for a written response, so that readers can reflect and then engage with the text. Fifteen of the quotes are from the Bible, and the others from a variety of women authors. I was wishing for a brief list of sources, and hope future volumes might include one.

The work of Joan Chittister never fails to inspire me. Activist, author, and peacemaker, she has a prophetic voice and vision, grounded solidly in her life as a Benedictine. You can purchase this book, as well as other publications by Joan Chittister, from Benetvision.

This year Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, will fall on February 18.

Disclaimer: No fee was received for this review. Review is based on my personal copy of the book.

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“Fasting that does not lead to consideration of the poverty of others misses the whole point.”

Fasting by Scot McKnight is part of the Ancient Practices series from Thomas Nelson. In this helpful and interesting volume, McKnight emphasizes that in the Biblical tradition and in the early Christian church fasting was “a response to a sacred moment and not just an instrumental act used to get what we want.” He makes a convincing case for restoring this view, and renewing a powerful, embodied practice of responding to God.

Throughout the book, McKnight includes perspectives on fasting from Christian writers across the centuries, including Athanasius, Jerome, John Chrysostom, John Wesley, and many others. There are detailed footnotes for those who wish to read the original sources.

Thankfully, McKnight’s work does not romanticize a saintly vision of living without bodily needs. I am grateful that McKnight addresses some of the dangers of fasting, and that he repeatedly returns to the concept of holistic spirituality. We live in bodies created by God, and through our bodies we serve God and one another. While we should rightly resist gluttony and hedonism, we also must feed our bodies nourishing food.

McKnight writes with awareness of anorexia nervosa, a deadly disease rooted in unhealthy perceptions of one’s body, in which sufferers subject themselves to extreme fasting. He acknowledges that fasting undertaken for the wrong purpose is undesirable and potentially very harmful.

In McKnight’s understanding, fasting can be a valuable practice if undertaken for the right reasons, because it brings our whole selves into awareness and attentiveness before God. One might fast out of grief, a deep longing for closeness to God, a deep need for social justice and change. However, fasting cannot be the end of one’s practice. “If you go in prayer to the God who wants to bring justice, then you should be willing to spend your energies working for that same justice,” McKnight writes. Ideally one should come away from a fast with a renewed desire to love and serve others.

Recently I was made aware of the exciting work of 58, “a global initiative to end extreme poverty by living out Isaiah 58.” In this verse of the Hebrew Bible, the prophet Isaiah calls upon listeners “to loose the chains of injustice….to set the oppressed free….to share your food with the hungry…to provide the poor wanderer with shelter….when you see the naked, to clothe them.”

May all of us find a way, every day, to think of the needs of others and to work for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision.

This review was based on a volume from my public library. Hopefully my library system will obtain some of the other books in this series.

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