I won't be writing a new post today or next Monday because I'm neck-deep in plans to be away for nearly a week. Every two years, that "virtual" workplace I've written about here, in which I collaborate and converse with writing colleagues online, becomes an actual workplace for a few days when I attend the Festival of Faith and Writing. Held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Why oh why could the Calvinists not have founded a college someplace warmer?!), the Festival is the event for many of us who write blogs, articles, and books on the intersection of faith and life. Besides getting to talk to some close friends and favorite colleagues in person, I'll get to hear wisdom from poets, journalists, theologians, and writers, including Anne Lamott and James McBride.
The price of my getting to enjoy this bounty of writerly wisdom and camaraderie is several days of scrambling to secure the homefront before I leave. So because my brain is not capable of coming up with anything wise or provocative, I thought I'd share a few interesting new books, all of which were written by colleagues/friends I will see in Grand Rapids. Some of them I've read, some I plan to read, some are already out, and some are only available for pre-order. I hope you'll find something of interest.
Found by Micha Boyett - If you have spent any time as the primary caregiver of very young children, and have struggled to see anything meaningful or remotely spiritual in the daily grind of toddler tantrums, playground duty, nap-time juggling, and making the same exact thing for your child's lunch every single day, Micha's book is for you. Found is a memoir covering a year or so of Micha's life, when she was at home caring for one and then two children, mourning the loss of a challenging youth ministry job, and wondering if she would ever have a spiritual thought or feel close to God again. She decided that the monastic life, specifically the Rule of St. Benedict, was actually very relevant to the quiet, repetitive, mundane life of a stay-at-home parent, and turned to the Rule to revive her own faith. Found is a lovely and honest account of learning, over and over, that God doesn't require us to do anything more than give ourselves mindfully and fully to the task at hand, whatever it is.
The Twible by Jana Riess - Several years ago, my book editor and friend Jana Riess started tweeting a chapter of the Bible every day (a project she called "The Twible"). The book version of the Twible includes all of Jana's tweets, along with her reflections on what she learned about the Bible through this process, and a description of each book of the Bible in seven words or less. The Twible is funny and irreverent, but arises from a deep love of and appreciation for scripture. Even the reviews are funny. ("The Twible is the most entertaining version of my dad's book I've read in the last two millennia!" - Jesus Christ)
Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God's Abundance by Caryn Rivadeneira - Broke is the story of how Caryn came to better understand God's goodness through her family's experience with a series of financial crises. Caryn's experiences echo those of many American families over the last seven years. Her family was never homeless, her children never without a meal. But financial stressors such as unemployment and underemployment, a depressed housing market, and mounting medical bills took their toll on her family and her faith. This is her story of faith ultimately renewed in the midst of hard times—including hefty doses of humor and irreverence (are you sensing a theme with the sorts of writers I befriend, and the kinds of books I read?).
Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani—This is the book I'm most excited about, because I have a chapter in it. (Unfortunately, the book doesn't come out until October. But we love pre-orders!) The editors asked contributors to write about those Bible stories or ideas that rarely get covered in mainstream religious writing—all those bizarre stories and odd admonitions. My friend Karen's chapter is about all the times that poop shows up in the Bible. I wrote about wishing that Jesus's legs actually had gotten broken at the crucifixion, and why I wish he had occasionally just chatted with someone who was sick or disabled, instead of healing them. The Disquiet Time web site has a complete list of contributors and occasional posts of funny videos and such. This is going to be a good one...
If you read any of these, let me know what you think. I'll be back with a new blog post after Easter (!).