Summer books and TV — ’tis the season for getting lost in a good story

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Ah, summer.  I am loving it: the slower pace of life, the lack of papers to grade, the chance to catch up on reading and writing (more on that later).  And sleep!  No longer does that alarm go off at the brutal hour of six.   That may be the best thing of all.

BOOKS

The kids and I are in reading mode, with another trip to the library planned for today.  Matthew and I just got a kick out of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, which I read as a kid and loved.  It was pretty darn fun as an adult, too.

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On my summer radar is introducing Charlotte’s Web with the kids.  They haven’t read it yet, and I haven’t read it in years, and can one properly be a child without this marvelous book?

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I’m engrossed in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I’m reading it with an eye to improving my teaching practice (sometimes you end up with a classroom full of introverts, and you can feel it), but a plus is that I’m starting to understand myself better as well.

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On a whim a while back, I also picked up Pray Like a Gourmet:Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul by David Brazzeal.  It’s a book on expanding your prayer repertoire, offering a whole smorgasboard of things to try, and it’s a beautifully-designed book as well.  A very unique approach … sort of like fusion cuisine for the spirit.

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TV SERIES

‘Tis the season to get lost in a series, and luckily Masterpiece Theatre is about to oblige.  Tomorrow night is the start of “Poldark,” and I am counting the hours.

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I’ve read the first three books in the series, and they’re fabulous, so my hopes are high.  Apparently the series was a colossal hit in the UK (they got to see it a few months ago), so the advance buzz is good.  Tomorrow night it starts — set the DVR!  And check back here Monday for some post-show thoughts.

Intrigued?  Here’s the PBS preview.

What are YOU enjoying this summer?

Lord, that I may see

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This window is in the beautiful little chapel of the Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos, California.  I’ve been there several times, and it was on this most recent visit that the words resonated with me.  Lord, that I may see.

What in my life do I see clearly ? What in my life do I miss?

Like many of us, the sense that I rely upon the most to engage with my world is the sense of sight.  It helps me do the things I classify as unexciting and mundane, like drive and cook dinner.  It helps me survive.

But sight also brings joy to my life.  With sight, I can fully experience things like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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And this.

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But it’s not enough just to see these things.  To live richly and gratefully, I need to be conscious that I am seeing them.  I need to pause in the moment, or at the end of the day — or both — and let the miracle of those flowers, that sweetly absorbed reader, those vivid red radishes, sink into my soul.

In the Gospel story referenced in the window above, the beggar wants to go from blindness to sight.  My challenge is not literal blindness, but taking sight for granted.  My challenge is to recognize that God’s grace drenches this world, and that my sense of vision is one of the primary ways that God chooses to share that grace with me.

Lord, that I may see … what a beautiful challenge for the week ahead.

The fortune cookie said I had to do it

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If it’s on my fridge, I might just remember to do it.

I opened a fortune cookie a while back and this was the message inside: Treat yourself to something of quality.

My first reaction was Oh, goodie, can I?  And my second was to start thinking about what “something of quality” actually means.  What comes to mind when I read this phrase?

Here are a few things:

*A day at a high-end spa

*A crazy-expensive bottle of really good wine, the kind you drink only once in your lifetime

*A handbag that is a cut above my usual Old Navy/J C Penney ones

*800 thread count sheets

*A night at, say, The Ritz

*A first-class airplane ticket (whenever I fly steerage — which is all the time — I look covetously at first class and their leg room, their real meals and dishes, their private bathroom.)

None of these is actually likely to happen, given the reality of the Moyer budget, but this is still where my mind went first.  And then I thought: Why do I hear the phrase “something of quality” and automatically think of pricey things?  Aren’t there plenty of other quality things and experiences that don’t cost half my monthly salary?

*A cup of really good coffee

*A walk in a beautiful place  (like Filoli, where I hope to go again soon)

*A feel-good movie (lately I’ve rediscovered “Strictly Ballroom,” which is one of the most happy-making films I know)

*A quiet summer evening in the backyard

*A book that you just can’t put down

*A book you loved as a child and revisit as an adult, realizing that it’s just as good — or even better — than you remembered

*Some really focused writing time at a favorite cafe

*A quiet half-hour spent in prayer

The items on this second list are, actually, within my budget.  With a little planning and dedication, I can make them happen.  In fact, I think I’ll regard this as my “summer to-do” list; I will probably add to it as the weeks go on.

What about you?  What is something of quality that you’d like to treat yourself to this summer — or maybe even this week?

 

Thought for the day

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“[W]e believe that God desires us into being.  He desires our wholeness so much that he allows himself to be broken for its sake.  He awakens our desire for him by pouring his own Spirit into our lives.  Our hearts long for him, we say, just as a river seeks its ocean home.  The whole of creation lives and grows under the impulse of desire.  Every new life springs from a moment of desire.  Every flower is pollinated by attraction and desire.  Every step of discovery is made out of a desire to go beyond, always beyond, the horizon of the known.  Every meal we eat, the very sustenance of our living, is taken because our bodies express their need of food in the desire that we call appetite.

Why, then, do we feel the need to suppress our own desires?  Is it possible that our deepest desires flow in the same eternal stream as God’s desire for us and for all creation?”

– Margaret Silf, Close to the Heart: A Practical Approach to Personal Prayer

Mary: A mom who had to let go

Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea by James Tissot

When I was a junior in college, I studied in Paris for a semester.  As I boarded that plane at San Francisco International Airport, hauling my comically overstuffed Samsonite, I was nervous and excited and totally ready to immerse myself in a foreign culture.  And I had a fabulous time … so fabulous, in fact, that I resolved to go back and live there again someday.

About a year later, I did.   After graduating from college, I found a position teaching English in a  Parisian suburb, used my junior year connections to find a reasonable studio apartment, and embarked for nine more dirt-poor but unforgettable months in the City of Lights.

It’s only now, years later, that I fully understand what my mom had to go through while I was gone.

She hid her worry pretty well, all considered.  But looking back now, I can understand the anxiety that must have been there, especially that first trip. After all, I was going off to a foreign country I’d never seen before, living in a big city with a host family none of us had ever met.  There were the differences in language, culture, and social norms to navigate.   There was the very real chance that I might meet some dreamy European male who would sweep me off my feet and inspire me to take up  permanent residence in the other hemisphere.  And my two stays in Paris happened before the advent of email and cellphones made the world shrink in size.  There were many, many  times that I was out with friends on the town, or on a train to Germany or Italy, and there was absolutely no way for my parents to contact me unless I called them first.

I’m sure all of this was going through my mom’s mind before I ever boarded that Northwestern plane on that January evening.  But she hid her fears well, because she knew how desperately I wanted to go.  She knew how much I’d been aching to see the world, and  that I’d never be entirely at peace until I let the waters of a totally different culture close over my head for a while.  That’s what moms do: we let our kids go chase their dreams, even though it costs us a heckuva lot to see them leave.

And Mary did this too.  She let Jesus go off and preach and teach and fufill his own potential, doing what he was born to do.  I believe that Mary was a woman of great faith, but let’s not forget that she was also a mom, and I suspect that she worried pretty ferociously about her baby.  After all, he wasn’t off talking about puppy dogs and rainbows and safe, nonthreatening things; he was challenging the system, pointing out hypocrisy and pettiness, which is an excellent way to make people want to shut you up for good.  She must have known that he was getting on the wrong side of very powerful people who could cause very powerful trouble.  But she also knew that this was his calling, that it was what he was born to do.  She couldn’t keep him from it.  All she could do was love him, hope for the best, and pray like mad that he’d be safe.

That’s what my mom did, twice.  It’s what I’ll likely find myself doing someday, if my boys have inherited even an iota of my wanderlust.  And as we let our kids go off and pursue the lives they are dying to live, we can rest assured that we are in good company.  In this — as in so many things — Mary was there before us, showing us how it’s done and loving us as we do it.

If this post sounds familiar, it’s because it’s one that I wrote four years ago.  School has been crazily busy lately, too busy to write anything new, so I decided to rerun an old favorite.  And hey — it’s May!  What better time to honor Mary?