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A book club made up of introverts. Imagine.

Although there are extroverts who read and who join book clubs, I’m sure. Just not ours.

Sunday night was my re-entry, so to speak. I’d been on book club sabbatical for several months, trying to do all the things that had become pressing, suffocatingly so, in my life. I’d missed it. I’d missed the gathering of these women, the conversations about thoughts and words.

The book was Quiet, by Susan Cain. Interesting to discuss this quiet book in this group of quiet women.

Most of us liked parts, agreed with parts, and skipped parts of this book. It’s dense, and it’s study-based, and honestly, it took some work to get through it. It didn’t grab me, not really. Even though I’m introverted by nature, it wasn’t a book with which I related. I’m not sure why?

Maybe we aren’t such a tribe, we introverts. Maybe we don’t need to make ourselves one. Maybe the fact that we are introverts makes the whole idea of there being a group of us a bit ridiculous. Maybe there are as many differences among introverted people as there are among, well, people.

Honestly, the tag line threw me a little. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Why power? Why does everyone need to be powerful. Why not The Place of Introverts, or The Peace of Introverts, or The Purpose of Introverts?

I know why, actually. The word power is a marketing word. It tests better. It sells books better. But, whatever.

I was struck, though, by the re-realization of how noisy the world is. Introverted or not, there’s just a whole lot going on out there. Earplugs are required. Filtering out the noise, the distractions… this is the skill I need. This is the challenge I face. The challenge we all face.

Today I’m baking. The children are studying. For the moment, the house is quiet. Soon, it won’t be. Something will come up. A phone call, a kid with a need, a husband coming home.

But the quiet minutes, they are a gift. I’m thankful for them.

Whether you work, whether you parent babies or teens, whether you are single, whether your career is inside or outside of your home… wherever you are at in the wide wide spectrum of personhood, I pray you find ways to make space for yourself in your day. And treasure that.

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All the people I’ve known in my life who have come to the place of living openly as same-sex attracted people, have left their faiths.

There might be some, I’m suspecting, who are living closeted lives and who go to church, but I had never shared a hymnal with anyone who was open until I met Sally.

We were at a Christian Women’s Renewal, about sixty of us, and at our worship time on the first evening, I sat beside her. I stuck out a hand and introduced myself, and we shook, and we started to talk.

She shared her passion for her ministry, Center Peace, which she described as an organization that provides support for men and women who experience same-sex attraction, and which does workshops for churches to help them both better understand and provide healthier environments for same-sex attracted people within their congregations.

And then we were singing and worshipping and that was that.

We ended up in the same prayer group, though, and spent a few moments in conversation here and there, and I came to admire and respect Sally Gary, for her story, for her life, for her honesty, and for her courage to be someone who loves God and likes girls.

A few weeks later, at a big Christian gathering at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Sally launched her new book.

Loves God, Likes Girls is a memoir. It is a beautifully written account of an only girl-child born to older parents and raised in a bible-belt Christian home often marked by anger, secrecy, and emotional abuse. It’s Sally’s journey, her story of growing up in an often confusing environment, and her eventual realization that she was attracted to women.

It’s a sad, poignant, but ultimately hopeful story of one woman’s experience.

What it’s not, is a book that takes either polarizing side of this emotionally charged issue. You won’t find arguments supporting homosexuality, nor will you find arguments against it. Paul isn’t quoted, and neither is Leviticus.

This is a book that is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s Sally’s story, told honestly and bravely, and it’s beautiful.

Love you, Sally Gary. God bless!

Sally ministers at Center Peace, and blogs at Peace of my Mind…

 

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I met Willow a couple of years ago, online. I don’t remember who commented on who’s blog first, but I do remember reading her words and thinking, this girl can write.

And, as an added bonus, she’s funny!

Maybe it was because she wrote about things that made sense to me. Family. Kids. Relationships. Messing up.

And she wrote about it all with humour and style, and always from the point of view of a (as she describes herself) recovering pharisee.

If you aren’t religious at all you might not know what that means. But if you’ve ever come across a religious person (like me), then you have met one.

Pharisees lived in Jesus’ day, and he was forever calling them out. Saying things like, Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, and calling them hypocrites. For what had happened was that in an attempt to keep the Jewish law, they’d become extremists, keeping the letter of the law but totally missing the intent. One of those, can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees kind of things.

It’s easy to slip into pharisee-ism. It’s easy to focus on the do’s and the don’ts, and to lose sight of the who’s and the why’s and especially, the One. It’s easy to become judgemental. To strain gnats. Yep, been there done that, and will probably do it again.Thank you, grace.

So… Willow’s book.

I was so excited to find out she had written her first novel, and even more excited when she said she would send me a copy of it. I received it in the mail, opened and read her note, and then put it on the shelf with the other beauties waiting for my attention once summer arrived.

And then it did. And I sat down one day last week and read Willow’s funny, funny book in one, gigantic gulp.

From the book’s back cover:

Facing a cataclysmic identity crisis, pregnant Haley is battling for her very life – her life as an eco-chic, vegan Christian, that is. She hadn’t counted on being thrust into a war zone when she agreed to leave her East Coast life and go with her husband, Rick, to the Montana outback for the summer. And she certainly hadn’t counted on attending a ladies Bible study in a smoky, rancid saloon. Rather than run from it, though, Haley decides it is her God-given mission to subdue and educate the redneck forces that discount her superior vocabulary and sophisticated hairdo. With no help from Rick or his freaky Aunt Win, Haley dives headfirst into her mission only to find herself sucked irretrievably into a maelstrom of humiliating mishaps.

With tensions mushrooming as fast as her belly, will Haley see that she is actually living out the reality of the scripture, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”? And just how many car explosions and massive wardrobe malfunctions will it take for her to realize that it is her own judgments of others that are boomeranging back on her?

This is a sweet and funny story. It’s the best kind of Christian fiction, well-written and self-deprecating.

So…

I’m giving away a copy.

I’d love to share Willow’s book with you! Because it’s a great book, and also because I appreciate all of you so much. Thank you for reading this little blog of mine. Really.

I’m ordering another copy of The Epic Undoing of Haley Ann Ewing today, to give away. Leave a comment on this post, if you’d like a chance to win this, and at the end of the day I will make a draw.

UPDATE:

THE WINNER OF THE BOOK DRAW WAS KIM. PLEASE EMAIL YOUR ADDRESS TO ME AT janellerosss @ yahoo.ca, AND I WILL SEND YOU THE BOOK AS SOON AS IT ARRIVES. CONGRATULATIONS! AND THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO PARTICIPATED. WE’LL DO THIS AGAIN SOON.

some of the books I'm feasting on this summer

some of the books I’m feasting on this summer

Today I’m blogging at How to Homeschool High School, and I’d love it if you’d take a minute to pop over and have a read. I’m writing about being tired, and summer, and taking a break. Because yesterday, my tired self and I curled up and read a book. How I needed that!

Dad’s post from last week made me think about the books in my life. Some have been life-long friends. Some hung out with me for a while but over time we’ve lost touch. Some are new acquaintances, and the relationship has yet to be proven.

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Of course there are old friends like Anne, way over there in Eastern Canada, and Tom and Huck and the Mississippi that was their playground. But there were others, less popular maybe, who loved me well. I could never relate to Nancy Drew, but tomboy Trixie Beldon drew me right into her mystery-driven world. My first romance was found in the pages of Daddy Long Legs. The Dragon Riders of Pern series gave me a taste of fantasy, and every bite was delightful.

As a girl, I read and read and read. As I grew, my interests and maturity led me to works historical and theological and psychological and classical. Words upon words upon words. Book after book. How blessed I’ve been. How richly blessed by this life-long feast that has nourished, informed, and entertained me all these years.

When I was pregnant with my first son, and was so sick for so long, I read the entire series of  Anne of Green Gables books again. All the way through her growing up and marriage and children and the awful war. I’ve read Anne and many other favourites with my children. We’ve pioneered our way through the Little House books. We’ve laughed over The Borrowers and we’ve cried over Where the Red Fern Grows. We’ve been Around the World in Eighty Days, and we’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island with the Swiss Family Robinson. We’ve sat at the round table with Arthur and his knights, and we’ve travelled all over the world with stories far and wide.

Stories. They raised me and they’ve raised my kids. And a good one, found among all the many, many words out there today, is still a great gift.

Did you hear about this? Recently, Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts was reviewed by Tim Challies. In his review, Mr. Challies was a little bit mean. He had some problems with what he considered were some mystical aspects of the book, and his review, while not nasty, was rather cold and dismissive.

And Ann, bless her heart, responded by sending him an email inviting him to come and have dinner at her home.

Now I already love Ann, and her gracious response did not surprise me a bit. But what I really love about this story is the way her email affected Mr. Challies. He was, in fact, so affected that he apologized online for his review. He didn’t apologize for the problems he had with Ann’s book, but he did express his regret for the way he went about the sharing of his thoughts.

Looking back at my review, and perhaps even more, the process of writing it, there are at least two things that concern me. The first is that I would have said certain things differently had I known that she and I might soon be sharing a meal together. Let me give an example. Of Voskamp’s literary style I wrote, “There is clearly a kind of appeal to it so that those who don’t hate it, love it.” I ask myself, Would I have said that to a friend, that her words are hate-able, as if that could not be hurtful? Would I have said that to someone I had planned to share a meal with a few weeks later? Probably not. Why, then, would I say it at all?

The second concern is that I fear that I might have said certain things differently had I considered her an “insider,” a fellow member of whatever little circle of the Christian world I inhabit. That one may concern me even more. When writing about Voskamp’s experience in Notre Dame I asked, “What does she not understand about the gospel that her ecstasies have to happen in a place dedicated to a false gospel of salvation by grace plus works rather than a gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone?” Would I have asked it that way if Ann was someone I might be on a panel with at the next conference I attend? Probably not. I may even have assumed different things about the way she understands the gospel. And maybe I would have put more effort into discussing some of the book’s strengths and showing how they balance the weaknesses. I hope not, but I can’t deny that somewhere in my mind lurks this insider and outsider kind of thinking which somehow encourages me to extend greater courtesy to one group than another.

I did poorly here and I can see that I need to grow in my ability to critique the ideas in a book even while being kind and loving to its author. There was reason for the shame I felt when I saw that name in my inbox. I had put effort into reading the book and understanding and critiquing it, but no real effort into showing love and respect for the author. I had assumed poor motives and in arrogance and thoughtlessness had squelched useful discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.

There is value in engaging the ideas in any book, and especially a book about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask Ann’s forgiveness for this.

This apology impresses me. Tim Challies’ humble words make me want to stand up and clap. These words convict me, because I have been Ann, but I have also been Tim.

In this amazing time of technology, when thoughts can be thrown up on a screen and sent out into the world with a simple tap of a finger, how much do I really think about the people my words are affecting? Those I engage online are not avatars, they are flesh and blood and spirit and soul.

I need to be able to distinguish between a person and her message. I need to be able to disagree with or question a message without diminishing the messenger. Because when the line between a person and her message is blurred, the chasm opens and widens and deepens, and who wants that?

It’s hard to have a conversation, let alone a relationship, across a chasm. But across a dinner table, well, that will work.

I need to remember the story of Ann and Tim.

I am a great reader. And by that I mean I love to read, not that I am good at it, whatever good at it might be. But I read. A lot. I breathe in words, daily, like air. I read from almost all the categories. I can’t really do genre romance, but other than that … you could give me a cookbook and if I was desperate for the words, I’d consume it, cover to cover.

I love books for different reasons. I can escape into a Robert B. Parker and his quick and quirky dialogue. I love me some Kathy Reichs or some Sue Grafton from time to time. I was sad when I heard that Anne McCaffrey, who first introduced me to fantasy, had died earlier this year. I spent hours with her in the world of Pern.

I’ve spent time with many spiritual teachers through their books, from C.S. Lewis to Francis Chan to Beth Moore. I’ve been challenged, stretched, and even disheartened at times by the things I’ve read.

More recently, I’ve been a blog reader. I’ve had favourites I’ve read daily for a season and then discarded, and some I keep coming back to. Many of the ones to which I return are written by women in their thirties, full of discussions of mommas and babes, of healthy eating, of community of motherhood. Of doing it differently, and I remember that time in my life, when being a mother was all-consuming and the children were almost the whole of my world.

I’m encouraged by these women, by this generation of seekers and writers. But sometimes, what I feel when I read these passionate women’s words is, maybe, left out? Or passed by? And maybe, even, a little condescension on my part. Although it hurts to confess these thoughts, because part of me would like to still be the young mom with the years ahead. Or at least to be considered a part of that group. And I want to say to them that one day they will look back and realize that, no matter how they tried to do it right or better than it had been done before, the children grow and separate and do their own thing, and then the whole world is about the whole world. A big old world, waiting.

But I love to read their words. To read about their desires for radical love, and radical hope, and radical parenting, and radical worship. Radical seems to be the thing. The adjective to describe the yearning that is out there, to make it all more.

I read the words. I breathe them in, gulp them down in noisy swallows, and I think that I, middle-aged and with the children growing and the church hurting and the marriage aging, I want to be radical, too.