Ash and Starlight

Connecting with God, each other, and ourselves in the broken and beautiful

Category: Books

A beautiful book to add to your list…

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Dani Shapiro’s most recent book – one for your summer list….

With summer book lists a flyin’ here is one to add to your list. My recent book review of Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance is now available at The Christian Century. You can read it here.

This powerful book delves into some of the biggest identity questions we hold…Who am I? What (or who!) makes me who I am?

This is a book about secrets and the shock, anxiety, chaos, and grief that can come with major revelations. It is also a book about release, trust, the deepest kind of faith, and true essence.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is when Dani shares her shocking familial discovery with a rabbi friend. “You can say, ‘This is impossible, terrible,’” he tells her. “Or you can say, ‘This is beautiful, wonderful.’ You can imagine that you’re in exile. Or you can imagine that you have more than one home.” Shapiro’s journey to name home in more than one place re­flects the internal paradox faced by all people of faith. We are made of heaven and we are made of earth. The work of faith is to merge these worlds and realities, embracing them as unified rather than hierarchical.

I’m reminded through this book that while we “can never know what lies at the end of the path not taken,” we can offer ourselves to the here and now with gratitude and trust, finding ourselves at home.

Something A Little Different – “Casting Lots”

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Photo by Susanne Moorman Rowe

Blessings, friends. I’ve  been in the swirl of moving preparations as our family anticipates a season of much transition. Sometimes, my only prayer is to try and have a blank, peaceful mind when I can get out in the cold, fresh air for a (slow, pregnant), jog. I have been reminded this week that calm and security is always within us – what a hopeful promise that is. Even when our external circumstances ‘heave and ho,’ we can find deep within ourselves that still sanctuary.

Just this week, my book review with Christian Century was published – a book I read this past summer called, Casting Lots. It is such a powerful book, my friends. Written by Susan Silverman, it’s a memoir centering on adoption, but so much more.

Anyone with a complicated, messy life and family—namely, all of us—will find a home in Silverman’s story. Grief and joy, trust and despondency, brutality and compassion all speak their piece. Silver­man doesn’t try to tidy up the paradox. She shows us how to live within it, pointing us to the life that is truly life.

You can read the review here.

Joy and grace over each of you and your weekend. Remember, the calm and security lie within….

 

 

 

Are People Doing the Best They Can?

This book is changing my life. I’ve read other books by Brené Brown (also incredibly life-changing), but when my friend recently gave me this one, it struck my soul’s chord with a resonance that’s been loudly ringing at a whole new level.

One story in particular struck this chord. Brené talks about being asked to speak at a conference pro bono. She really doesn’t want to speak at it, but is guilted into it. The conference conveners say, “don’t forget the people who supported you before you were famous.” They then share that *all* the speakers share rooms, insinuating that Brené must think she’s better than anyone else if she wanted her own room (she later has some awesome things to say about boundaries, compassion, and asking for what you need).

What ends up happening is that Brené says yes out of guilt to both the conference and roommate. When she gets to her hotel room, her roommate is wearing muddy boots on the couch and eating a sticky cinnamon roll. After finishing her roll, she proceeds to smear her icing-covered hands all over the couch, then  goes out on their patio and lights a cigarette. When Brené tells her it’s a no-smoking room, the roommate says the rule doesn’t extend to the patio, and continues to smoke (which is hard, because Brené  is an ex-smoker).

Brené is absolutely furious. She leaves for the airport immediately after  walking off-stage from speaking, and she finds herself irritated by everyone – the man smacking his gum behind her in line, the parents who aren’t watching their kids closely enough, etc. Everything puts her on edge.

When she gets home, she tells Steve (her husband) that she wants to go out for chicken fried steak, then shop for a new sweater. He encourages her to eat a salad and go for a walk. She ends up making an appointment with her counselor, Diana, rolling some deli meat around a cheesestick for dinner,  then goes to bed.

At her appointment with Diana, Brené lays it all out there. She’s still enraged. Diana’s response, after hearing Brené hash everything out is-

“Brené, do you think people are doing the best they can?”

Brené is incredulous, and becomes even more angry. This question, however, leads her to ask everyone around her the same thing, and eventually do a formal social work research study using this question (you’ve GOT to read this book).

After her counseling appointment, Brené goes to the bank. Still stewing about this question while waiting in line, she comes to in hearing  a woman in front of her yelling at the bank teller. The woman is elderly and white, the teller is young and black. The woman says she wants to speak to a supervisor because she wasn’t making the withdrawals the account showed. When the teller points to the supervisor, also African American, the woman says she wants a different supervisor.

When Brené gets to the front of the line, the teller asks, “Can I help you?” Before saying anything else, Brené asks, “do you think people are doing the best they can?”

She ends up learning that this young man served with the military overseas, and during his duty, his wife cheated on him with a friend. After all he’d endured, he still replied that he thinks people are doing the best they can. “You never know about people,” he said. “That woman could have a son with a drug addiction problem who’s taking money out of her account without knowing it. Or maybe she’s suffering from Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t remember withdrawing the money.”

When Brené asks Steve, he doesn’t say anything for ten minutes, and just looks out the window. Eventually, he says, “I don’t know. But I know my life is better if I live as though people are.”
What do you think? Are people doing the best they can? How does this impact your life? Your faith? The way you see God, the world, and yourself?

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