daffodils, poetry and napping nephews

The Daffodils, by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
The thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

When I first read this poem, I thrilled at Wordsworth’s characterization of “…that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude.” He puts it so well. I think that “inward eye” may also be “the bliss of”:

  • long quiet car rides,
  • the calm that settled on the house when my nephew fell asleep for his nap yesterday, and
  • a cup of coffee or hot tea in the morning.

Oh, and autumn… the whole, entire season of autumn.

(This poem is in the public domain.)

Lost Book: If found, please read

You know that frustration when you’re looking around your house for a certain book, and instead you find a million other books you’d like to read, or re-read, but never the actual book that sent you on the great book search? It drives me crazy– but I’d miss it if it ever stopped happening.

A related frustration is embarrassingly discovering you’re not the exquisite house-cleaner you thought yourself to be as your hands unsettle dust-bunnies right and left.

I realize this may not apply beyond my little house o’ dreams, and some of you in the Internet cosmos may actually keep your books organized– Dewey-style, even?– and thus never spend precious minutes searching shelves, dressers, car trunks, and under the bed for missing tomes. So, graciously, I’ll let you live vicariously through the fruit of my frustration.

Below is the list of books that drew me in with either the compulsion to re-read them or to experience them for the first time. My favorite thing about a “found-while-looking-for-something-else” booklist is the miscellany of it.

  • Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg (a re-read)
  • Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas (we were assigned to read it in our pre-marital counseling class, but, full disclaimer: I didn’t finish it. The chapters that I read blew my mind when I was still single, so I’m anxious about the post-wedding effect.)
  • Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino (a re-read– I skimmed through his book If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler last night at B&N. So, of course, when I picked up this one to look beneath it in a dresser drawer, I didn’t return it to the drawer.)
  • The Knowledge of the Holy, by A. W. Tozer
  • Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (a re-read… if we can really count my rushed approach to high-school required reading as a first-read)

Most of these books can be found on Amazon.com or Christianbook.com, or alphabetized by author’s last name, labeled by genre, on your impeccable bookshelves.

And at the library.

Or the used-book store down the street, unless it recently changed names and owners and you’re too nostalgic and intimidated by change to cross its threshold.

You know, unless that’s the case.

By the way, the book that launched this post is G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. I’m still on the search for my copy. (I think it still has a pencil marking my place from when I set it aside for something work-related a year or two ago. I also think it might actually be frozen in time somewhere.) If you or someone you know has information regarding its whereabouts, please call the lost-book hotline. I promise the information you share will not be held against you– unless you borrowed it and lost it in the trunk of your car.

How do you organize your books? Do you hang onto them or keep a cycle at your local used-book store– or have you converted to Kindle, Nook, etc…?

[Check out more (and maybe less random) booklists at Reccomended Reading: Booklists from the New York Public Library, National Endowment for the Arts “Summertime Favorites“, TIME Magazine’s Best English-Language Novels (starting in 1923), Christianity Today’s Books and Culture webpage.]

“Hipster Christianity” (and lots of parenthetical asides)

I read about Brett McCracken’s book Hipster Christianity a few weeks ago on Justin Taylor’s blog, “Between Two Worlds” (one of my hub’s favorites), and read the (free) sample available in “.pdf” format. (Find it here.) Seriously, I can’t resist the word free. (My graduate thesis included an analysis of the word freedom… “free-dom”)

Tom's are cool, right?

I was pleased to find that McCracken wrote a cover article along the same theme for the most recent issue of Christianity Today. You can read the article, “Hipster Faith,” at the magazine’s website.

After working for a year at the local Baptist Collegiate Ministries, and spending a lifetime as the perpetually un-cool older sister of a perpetually cool younger brother (note to my two younger brothers: you’ll never know which one of you I’m talking about… that’s such a mean, older-sister thing to do– and yeah, you’re both cooler than me), I’ve had the privilege of watching from the fringes (not the cool fringes, it’s really more like the boundary) as the hipster Christianity trend took hold. All that’s to say, this is a trend/movement worth noting, and while all things are easily manipulated by our human nature, there is definitely merit in the ideas and actions coming out of the hipster Christian crowd.

Additionally, anyone with the name “Brett McCracken” is going to be cool. That’s just the way it is.

Permission to Speak Freely… in church (a book by Anne Jackson)

Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession, and Grace  -              By: Anne Jackson      Anne Jackson’s new  book, Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace, was released this week. She offers a coupon until noon today for the audio version (which makes it just $2.98) on her website. Because the topic is a personal one, hearing Jackson read it in her own voice brings a layer to the story that I didn’t anticipate. (I just like coupons.) However, art is a large part of the book, which features mixed-media contributions centered on themes of fear and confession. The audio version clearly falls behind when it comes to expressing the visual arts. I’m sure both formats have their own limitations, and benefits.

Also, seven essays from the book are available for free on seven different blogs. Begin by reading Essay #1 at Donald Miller’s blog (author of Blue Like Jazz, Through Painted Desserts, and more recently, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). He’ll send you to the next blog to read Essay #2, and so on.

Jackson is probably best known for the transparency that shapes her writing. In Permission to Speak Freely, she considers how silence in the church has starved confession, and consequently, forgiveness and healing. The concept for the book began when Jackson asked the question, “What’s one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” on her blog. The responses, she says, were illuminating and heartbreaking.

Delving into her experiences with pain in the church, Jackson gives a sincere narrative of her own life in the first part of the book. She wanders through childhood hurt at the hands of church members, addictions and betrayals of trust. After being reconciled with God, she still found it difficult to reconcile with the church. Even while serving on staff at a church, she struggled as she was told by a church leader to keep silent about her questions about faith, the church, and her controversial past. However, her story– and her message– doesn’t end there.

In Part Two, she spends time looking at the parable of the prodigal son as she continues to explore the relationship between the church and the broken- and suggests, of course, that the church is comprised of the broken. Jackson describes the strength she received from the church, when she finally decided to stop hiding her depression. She writes,

Literally, I had no more strength. I needed to borrow some from others.”

But, she also heard another message when she openned up about her struggle.

I started to hear, ‘Me too.’ Other people were in the same Valley of Death I was walking in…”

And, it took someone first saying, “I’m broken” for the others to hear that voice and realize we were surrounded by others just as broken as we were. Just because somebody speaks out doesn’t instantly fix anyone, and that’s the way it is sometimes. We can’t always expect life to be perfect once we’ve confessed, or realized we’re not alone. But sometimes, that just enough to get us through another day.”

Jackson’s message is a call to bring back the idea of “sanctuary”- a safe place to confess and find forgiveness- to the modern Christian church. The narratives and essays are interwoven with poetry and art sent to Jackson through her blog and the website, www.permissiontospeakfreely.com.

If you’ve already started reading Permission to Speak Freely, or read Jackson’s first book, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic, let me know what you think. What do you like about her approach to what could be a sensitive topic for many Christians?