Category Archives: On Faith

5 Female Poets of Faith

gardenia NOLAOne thing the world needs is for more people to read poetry. Especially from female writers of a certain age who identify as people of faith. I hope you enjoy this small round up and hope you’ll take the time to read more of their work via the links provided. You will be richer for it.

–Abigail Carroll

Photo:  Julian Russell

That I Might Dwell

That I might dwell in warbler
song, in fields of sorrel, fields
of stars, that dwelling in your
house I’d know, I’d rest, I’d play
at wonder. Oh that I might dwell

in pine-branched shade, among
the sway, among the praise of oak-fern,                                                                                        granite, jay nest, spruce—
among the shadow-dance of leaves,
the breeze unpinning doubt, all

apathy, all hollow hours, all fears.
Oh may I dwell in reverence here,
and dwelling in your house, I’ll
wait, I’ll pray, I’ll lay this body
down on what you’ve dreamed,

on what you’ve sung, spliced, spun,
twined, embroidered, breathed.
And dwelling in your house I’ll
know the peace of moss, the moth-                                                                                                    winged hush of unhinged awe,

musk of sage, gaze of deer. Oh let
me lose myself in rooms of fox-                                                                                                          glove, cowslip, wild plum, wren—
that I might taste the sleep of loam,
that I might tenant beauty here.

from Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (Wipf & Stock 2018)

Abigail Carroll is a poet and author whose most recent book, Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, 2018), is an offering of poems that travels the intersection of the natural landscape and the landscape of spirit. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017), has been called “sparked with joy and stitched with whimsy” by the Chicago Tribune, and Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (Basic Books, 2013), was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize.

Click here for Abigail’s website.

–Barbara Crooker

IRELAND

A brown hare washes her face

in the lane while the hare in the moon

looks on.  The hare in the moon

carries an egg, new cycle of life

that comes in the spring.  But now,

it’s autumn, the sky closing in,

fir trees inking footprints

on the gray silk sky.  A luminous sky,

tattered with crows.  Two swans,

ruffled lilies, float in the lake’s bright bowl.

Some fairy’s touched all the trees overnight,

turned them orange, yellow, and red.  All of

the green fields are clotted with sheep.  What

is the world, but the body of God?

from The Book of Kells by Barbara Crooker (Cascade Books, 2019)

Barbara Crooker and I first met in person at the Seattle AWP Conference in 2014. I’d just read one of her poems in a collection “How to Read a Poem” (TSPoetry Press) and gushed about how much I loved it. Barbara’s been writing a long time and is an inspiration to me personally as her persistence in publishing has blessed the world with so much beautiful poetry. 

Her 8th volume The Book of Kells from Cascade books, has just been released. From the back cover: “In her work, Crooker considers the struggle to pin lines to the page, to tie experience to the written word, to wrestle between faith and doubt, to accept the aging body as it tries to be fully alive in the world. Crooker contrasts the age of faith, when the Book of Kells was created, to our modern age of doubt, and uses as her foundation the old stones of Irish myth and lore from pre-Christian times. Above all, she captures the awe that the word inspired in preliterate times: “The world was the Book of God. The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty.””

You can read more about Barbara and her work on her website.

–Jeanne Murray Walker

STAYING POWER

In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International convention of Atheists.  1929

Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts

outside and question the metal sky,

longing to have the fight settled, thinking

I can’t go on like this, and finally I say

all right, it is improbable, all right, there

is no God.  And then as if I’m focusing

a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.

It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t

there that makes the notion flare like

a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon

spraying it with the hose to put it out.  Even

on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

tells me they’ve found melanoma,

complains that the hospital is cold, I whisper, God.

God, I say as my heart turns inside out.

Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,

and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire

again, which–though they say it doesn’t

exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.

Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s

a phone, maybe.  You know you didn’t order a phone,

but there it is.  It rings.  You don’t know who it could be.

You don’t want to talk, so you pull out

the plug.  It rings.  You smash it with a hammer

till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up

metal bits.  It rings again.  You pick it up

and a voice you love whispers hello.

Jeanne Murray Walker is a writer and teacher born in Parkers Prairie, a village of a thousand people in Minnesota.  She frequently lectures, gives readings, and teaches workshops in places ranging from The Library of Congress and Oxford University to Whidbey Island, WA, from a working fish camp in Alaska and  Texas canyon country to Orvieto, Italy. She taught at The University of Delaware for 40 years, where she headed the Creative Writing Concentration..  She also serves as a Mentor in the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts Program. 

Jeanne’s newest release is from Paraclete Press, Pilgrim, You Find the Path by Walking, a collection of 50 sonnets in contemporary language.

Click  here for Jeanne’s website.

–Laurie Klein

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St. Kevin’s Blackbird

Outstretched in Lent, Kevin’s hand

did not expect

the blackbird’s egg, its speckled warmth,

new-laid, in his uplifted palm. Think prayer

as nest: an intimate travail whereby

fledgling hopes, like birds, leave behind

a kind of grave. Amen, seeming

premature, the saint-in-waiting

dovetailed faith with knuckles.

And afterward, did he save those eggshell bits,

adorn his windowsill with each goodbye

the smallest beak ever made?

He never said. Nor will he

know these hearts of ours,

more shell than shelter,

as they fissure, let in light enough

for Christ to enter. Yes,

let grief be, with every breath, a readied womb.

from “Where the Sky Opens” (Wipf & Stock, 2015)

Laurie Klein is the author of Where the Sky Opens (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and the prize-winning chapbook Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh. She also wrote the classic praise chorus “I Love You, Lord” forty-three years ago, “weary and bone-lonely…while our first child slept.”

Laurie’s poems and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ascent, The Southern Review, Ruminate, Atlanta Review, Terrain, and the Holman Personal Worship Bible. She is a recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred. She lives with her husband near their daughters and a growing group of grandchildren in Eastern Washington. You can connect with her on Facebook and at www.lauriekleinscribe.com.

–Marjorie Maddox 

Photo Credit: Thad Meckley

Eucharist

Host

the small circle of face

we see by

in light of wine

the sliver of why

that bends the bones

begs “Come!”

the orbed cross

bright in the palm

of the poor

the crucified moon

nailed high

on the night of tongue

Chalice

To sip is to sing the Amen

into veins, sweeten

the soured tongue.

But first: lips

pursed with it,

hollowed mouth brimming

with want.

This is the swallowing

of what spewed out: spears

stuck long in the side,

thorns thick in the skin.

No trickle.

A Hallelujah

torrent down the throat.

Marjorie Maddox is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. She has published eleven collections of poetry, most recently the  re-released Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, about her father’s heart transplant. Some of her other titles include What She Was Saying (stories) from Fomite Press, Wives’ Tales (poems) from Seven Kitchens Press, and True, False, None of the Above from Cascade Books’ Poeima Poetry Series, as well as Local News from Someplace Else (about living in an unsafe world).

Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, Pa., birthplace of Little League and home of the Little League World Series. She is the great grandniece of baseball legend Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

Click here for Marjorie’s website. 

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Tell me, whose poetry are you reading these days?

When God’s Word Goes Haywire {Operator Error}

P_20181111_130112You know how it is when you’re clicking around online and you visit a website link looking for information and up pops that 404 Error message?

I was stuck in a rabbit hole kind of like that recently, stewing for weeks over an issue (always the battleground for me, the ol’ noggin) and could not seem to get past it. I had worried the situation to death, played scenarios over and over again about a particular Terrible Thing that I needed to pray against and it wouldn’t go away. I woke up with it on my mind and went to bed mumbling about it in my prayers.

There was spiritual warfare going on like crazy, fighting principalities and powers, pushing back that stupid devil/destroyer/stealer. I was in a battle for sure.

So~one night in the shower--the land of ‘aha’s’, we all know this, right?–I heard the first half of John 10:10 running through my head, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy….” and the next thing I heard was the Holy Spirit saying, “Um, there’s the abundant life part. You forgot the rest of the verse.”

The problem with memorizing Scripture, if I may be so bold, is that sometimes the wrong parts stick. I’d been so uber-focused on the steal/kill/destroy part of the verse in John that it had overshadowed completely the fact that God is a good and abundant God.

He is aware of what is needed and able to take care of those we love. He is not blind to what’s going on in our lives and the lives of others. He’s not caught by surprise with the challenges we face. He is rich in mercy, lovingkindness and grace. And he’s like superpowerful, to use the theological term, capable of accomplishing what seems impossible.

So, in my head, I made up a counter-ditty for the God Team.

Ready? 

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus comes to heal, build and give joy.  Heal, build and give joy. That’s what He does. That’s what He’s all about. That’s who He is, what His character contains. Resurrection power, unending love and unlimited resources.

I’d like to work on memorizing t h a t.

Here’s a picture I made in case you need to remember, too. heal, build and give joyThis week look for Scriptures as you read that focus on God’s capabilities, his care and his concern. See how it turns your prayers around and then let me know how it goes;  I’d love to hear about it.

10 Reasons to Smile–A Photo Essay

I heard someone once say that “art is a way of seeing.” I think learning how to pay attention is an art, too. There is so much remarkable beauty all around us, inside, outside all around, particularly here in the “upper lefthand corner” of the United States where I live. My bi-monthly newsletter talks about the ‘miraculous to mundane’ parts of our days, because that’s where we live. Here’s what I saw when I was looking.

I never tire of this view from our upstairs deck, the way the trees frame the clouds and the horizon. Even when I’m standing at the kitchen sink there’s a far away scene to fill my soul.

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The other day I purposefully took a crazy long way home from the grocery store (talk about mundane). But this made up for it, a tree-lined winding drive right off one our main highways. I literally stopped in the middle of the road and snapped this photo. Wouldn’t you?

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My friend Kimberlee and I were walking on a path around a lake in Seattle last week and stopped to photograph these mushrooms. One of the locals pointed out they’re s u p e r poisonous, like don’t even touch them poisonous unless you wash your hands afterwards. But they look like there should be gnomes or fairies hiding right next to them, don’t you think?

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This is beautyberry in my front yard after last week’s rain. Aptly named, yes? I love the purple against the green.

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These fuschia blossoms land on the stairs below the basket hanging on our deck. They looked like resting ballerinas to me. Sometimes there is remarkable, delicate beauty right at our feet.

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The colors in our backyard this time of year always catch me by surprise. The russet colored tree that’s aflame with reddish orange is a Japanese Stewartia. It blooms with white flowers in the summer, another happy surprise.

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I took this photo the other morning on my walk. I was captivated by the way the light shone between the trees, like Jesus might be coming right through the sky.

P_20181011_134337This is Greenlake in Seattle,which should be called Golden Pond, yes? Look at the mirrored reflection on the surface of the water. It looks like a painting.

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I remember a line in Laura Barkat’s book, God in the Yard–Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, “smallness permits attention.”  I’m also reminded of a phrase from Seamus Heaney when I look at this photo about the “diamond absolutes.” Can you see the diamonds?

One more miracle in the middle of the mundane. I was walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday and looked up at this supernatural sight–a lake in the air? A feather in the sky? Only God. Only God.

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I’m so grateful every day for the beautiful place where I get to live. I’m grateful, too, for the way God has tuned my eyes to pay attention to miracles–big or small–from lakes to fuschia blossoms.

May He grant you one or two moments of glorious ‘aha!’s in your day today.

((If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter–next one is in November--just click here.))

Welcome to my Brand Spanking New Space!

Hello to readers new and old! ((Old and young? Recent and longtime?? I never know how to say that)).

How was your Summer?! Mine was busy with lots of travel–to Southern California and Santa Fe–remarkable and rich! Home remodeling–yay, a new sliding door! Plus full and fun (exhausting) visits with our five grandkids. But so.worth.it. 

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Santa Fe Sky, St. John’s College. Just God showing off.Since we last said hello around the end of July, my amazing Webgal Gretchen (whom I refer to as the Fairy Godmother), has been working behind the scenes to work her magic. I felt like all I did is dust off the furniture and move things around to make things more organized.  But s h e hung all the pictures.

Isn’t it gorgeous??

Why a New Look?

Glad you asked. As God has refined my presence and purpose here on the internet, I’ve discovered my gift to you, dear Reader, is to serve as a kind of virtual Bulletin Board where folks can find information, inspiration and encouragement. I’ll be sharing about everything from the particulars of writing and the journey of putting one’s work out in the world, to directing you to resources for illuminating poetry, new Christian voices and some helpful lists, too. (You’ll find a few up there under the ‘Lists’ tab right now).

After a visit last Spring to a Christian writer’s conference, I came back more committed than ever to also feature weekly essays about the work of two groups of people underrepresented (IMHO) in the blogosphere, Faith Writers Over 50 (The Sage Ones) and Christian Writers of Color. There will be interviews and book reviews for you to get to know these fine folks better. 

Weekly posts might also be ‘Listicles’–Articles in a List–like

  • 10 Things I Learned at the Writer’s Conference
  • 5 Travel Tips for Uber Novices
  • 5 Online Christian Communities to Visit
  • 5 Places on the Web for Women in the Word
  • 5 Non-Profits I Trust
  • 5 Female Pastors Who Write
  • 3 Blogs about Faith and Food
  • Five Female Faith Poets You Should Know
  • 20 Christian Poets of the Twentieth Century

You’ll find occasional poetry (mine) and a new book announcement at the end of the year.

Under Resources, you’ll find my Editing Services and soon-to-be-launched ‘Self Publishing 101’, a topic that has garnered interest among many writers. I’m also working on a Speaker page (if you’ve been part of a gathering where I had a chance to say a few words, I’d be so grateful if you could share your remarks in the Comments below. I’ll contact you if you don’t mind me using your thoughts later).

And, since I got a ‘big girl’ camera the first of June, I’ll be changing the photos from time to time at the ribbon across the top. Sunsets and flowers are favorite subjects. And the way light falls across a room. Or a floor.

I do hope you’ll subscribe for once-a-week posts from yours truly as I share the wonders of this wide world with you.  Simply enter your email in the “Sign up Here to Receive Exclusive Content” box and you’ll be on your way.

I also have the next edition of my newsletter waiting in the wings–for which you can sign up right HERE.

While things have been quiet-ish here, some of my poetry found its way into two fine publications–print and online.

‘Revelation’ is in the newest issue of iola magazine, ‘Bloom’. You can order it here (and get a free book!) There is much to love in this second edition and I’m honored to be a small part of this beautiful endeavor.

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And, although a serious topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a poem I penned about the suicide of a lifelong friend at the end of May. Wrapping words around the world is the way I process things, so I wrote a poem. You can read “For D.” here at Barren Magazine online. It was one of the Editor’s Picks for the inaugural issue; that kinda blew me away. 

While I think launching this new website is a Very Big Deal, I realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t likely to do much for world peace or global warming. I can’t solve the U. S. trade deficit or make sure that hungry children in this world will be fed. 

What I can do, however, is pick up the pen (or the keyboard) that’s in my hand and offer you a glimpse of God’s glory through the people and the world He’s made. We are surrounded by beauty and wonder and creativity if we only could see it; perhaps my job is to hand you a telescope and say, “hey, look at this!”

Actually, I think if we all just did our own little square (instead of the entire quilt, as the saying goes) we’d make a whole lotta difference right where we are.

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That’s all for now. In the grand scheme of things.

Just one more thing: If you know someone who’d enjoy my work, please share the love.  Buttons are right below. Bless you!

 

3 Non-Profits That Champion Women & Families

P_20180513_170950_vHDR_OnYesterday in my daughter’s backyard we celebrated Mother’s Day. Hanging out under her hawthorn tree, iced drink in hand, listening to jazz tunes in the background, I felt richly blessed and grateful.

Not all women have children and therefore not technically mothers, and may not have their own family. For that reason, Mother’s Day is awkward and sometimes a sad day. But mothers or not, a l l women should be valued, for they are all made in God’s image.

That image of God’s likeness in the beauty of women is often lost in the chaos and destruction of life. Sin and disease, heartbreaking poverty and inadequate care all play a part in that loss. But there is hope to be found in the work of three non-profits championing the worth of women and families.

  1. Lulu Tree–Founder Emily W.–Uganda and Sierra Leone, AfricaMother with baby Uganda

The Lulu Tree’s mission is to prevent tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s families through the local church.  This is accomplished by partnering with pastors so that they can care for their own families and their church families.

The church can then equip villages by providing community training including soap-making lessons, prayer clinics and community clean-ups, and health, hygiene and nutrition classes. Individual families can then be helped through micro loans, business training, and educational assistance.

The most vulnerable are protected when communities are equipped to care for their own, in the name of Christ. Strong families with roots in the local church form the foundation for thriving, happy children.

  • To learn more about Lulu Tree, click HERE. Donating to Lulu Tree includes support for teen moms to attend school, mama kits for pregnant teens and microloans for vulnerable women in the church.
  • To learn more about the origin of the Lulu Tree name, here is a short video with Emily. 

2. Mary’s Song Restoration Center for Women–New Orleans (founder Parris Bailey)

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Mary’s Song Restoration Center for Women is a rehabilitation program that offers an opportunity for women to permanently change lives by Power of God. Mary’s Song is located in Metairie, Louisiana and is an exclusive faith based drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

From their website: We specialize in the treatment of women ages 18 to 55 that struggle with substance abuse, alcohol addictions, and/or with other life controlling problems.

Mary’s Song provides a multi-faceted and personal alternative to standard free drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Housing 12 women during the first four phases of the program and only 4 in the fifth phase enables us to provide a home-like atmosphere with ample access to Pastoral counselors.

Mary’s Song is focused on individual attention, personal relationships, and the care of the whole woman, including:

    • Abstinence-based treatment
    • A total-wellness focus that includes nutrition and fitness
    • Celebrate recovery 12-step faith based program
    • Weekly individual therapy sessions
    • Weekly group therapy sessions
    • Completion of GED
    • Exercise and Nutrition Classes

For more information about supporting Mary’s Song through purchasing their organic skin care products, click HERE.

3) Sew Powerful- Seattle, WA (founders  Jason and Cinnamon Miles)

Sew Powerful started by my friends Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It has been a privilege and a joy to partner with them in their work. If you are a seamstress and want to contribute to their purse making program, click HERE.

Sew Powerful’s mission (from their website):

We exist to combat extreme poverty in a very challenging place called Ngombe Compound in Lusaka Zambia. We do that by equipping community members with jobs as well as training, tools, and technical skills to make what we call “Purposeful Products”. Products that can bless local children and empower their academic success. Our current Purposeful Products include school uniformsreusable feminine hygiene padsfood, and soap. Our overhead rate in 2017 was 1.35% and in 2016, it was less than 4%. When you give financially – you are helping create jobs and empower academic achievement – two powerful ingredients for combating extreme poverty. Learn more about our mission.”

There is so much joy in the world and beautiful work being done to help

women and children all over the world.

I hope you’ll consider what y o u might do to help–and now you’ll know where to start. 

Worry & Wonder–Holy Week

“Only in those moments of vivid experience that made her come alive was she at home in her own country.”    –Marianne in Green Dolphin Country, Elizabeth Goudge, Hodder & Stoughton, 1944

Friend T and I were chatting on Instagram the other day about my favorite author (see above). There’s no writer I can recall whose stories have deepened my vision of the Gospel and my appreciation for the beauty of language quite like Elizabeth Goudge.

But my heart is also quieted today, a heaviness at the back of my bones, weighted down by worry for the world and the myriad of ways we are messing it up. I’m afraid to read the headlines (we’ve canceled our daily paper) and when the news scrolls across my computer screen I click through to a different page. There is it the present reality of war and famine afar and the deranged antics and societal injustice at home. Big heavy sigh.

It seems foolish and insensitive to trivialize the trials of this day and age by attending to other simple joys: the gentle breezes waving fir branches outside my window or the way a chickadee alights on a bird feeder, the bright burst of daffodils against the grey. But the mundane holds a bit of miracle this week before Easter. Indeed, the miracles are there in all our days if we but look.

Attending to the richness of words in a good story is another way to pushback the unseen edges of this cool, gray day, much like reveling in the bright color of the salmon-y pink blossoms of quince bush in my back yard. (this is a friend’s clematis by the way, not my quince.)

Remarking on such simple joys may seem frivolous to some. Blossoms, books, birds.

But it’s not frivolous, no. For one, noticing the glorious passages in a good book can call us to remember that beyond the bleak and gray of the day in front of us there is Easter on the other side. For, if an author does it correctly, resurrection will show up in the language and in-between the lines of a good story.

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“All good stories lead to God,” my friend Laura opines. I’m inclined to agree.

But really, why discuss the finer merits of a passage of literature when these are such somber, serious times? Shouldn’t we be d o i n g something?” Well, yes these are somber, serious times. It is Holy Week after all, the days we dwell on Christ’s passion prior to His resurrection.

But often the wisest recourse we have is to remember to fill up our own souls with the staying power of beauty and truth.

So, I give you this, in addition to the joy of remarkable, inspirational language, there are also the right-in-front-of-us gifts: days of new sunrises, friends and family nearby to laugh and pray with, the morning’s hot coffee in a special mug, a favorite book on my lap.

These are also days when the word of God holds out hope, our very breath and life. The one and only Good Book.

When we have the companionship of others on this journey–always with its terrors and triumphs–we can often find a common denominator to lift us up and keep us in place with the anchor of a well-loved book. A favorite line or passage in a poem or paragraph, the sing-song of dialogue that makes us laugh, an author’s way with language as she paints a picture of a season’s wonder and discovery. Together we remember there is beauty above the here and now. We remind each other, “Let me tell you about something I read….you’ve got to hear this.”

When we share the good news of a great story, lines that comfort, encourage and inspire we are partners of a piece of small joy, if even for a moment.

My prayer this week and in the weeks ahead is that you would find a good story to sink yourself into (alongside the Source of all good stories, The Book of Books, of course.)

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The promise of Easter is the power to change how we see the world through God’s eyes. There is victory on the horizon, whether it’s right now or in the not yet.

May you find a good story to anchor your life, not because you want to escape this world but because in its pages you might find what you’ve been missing.

And if you need a place to start for recommendations–good fiction and Christian non-fiction, Sarah Clarkson (aka ‘BookGirl’) has her recommendations here.


Tell me what you’ve been reading~I’d love to hear in the Comments. Maybe I could read over your shoulder?