May, March and April in Books #ReadUpstream

In keeping with the inauguration of the #ReadUpstream movement, I’m going to speak a little about what I’ve been reading and maybe entice you to do your own reading ‘upstream’; i.e. choosing classics and good books that speak to your heart, even if no one else is reading them. More about the origin of #ReadUpstream is here.

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When it comes to those things that bring me joy, I’m not sure whether I fancy birds or books more. Perhaps equally. I have books with ‘birds’ in the title melding those two—a love of reading and a fascination with my avian friends. There is much I learn from both—life lessons from the birds, echoing God’s message of carefree, trust-filled living and lessons in the lines of the many books that populate my home.

I often am reading many books at one time, which is why the title of this post is “March, April and May in Books.” There are many books that continue to engage me, but I will attempt to whittle down the list to include some of my current favorites.

  1. Fierce Convictions—The Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, Karen Swallow Prior

I first learned the name of Hannah More in the film ‘Amazing Grace’ (2006) about William Wilberforce and his campaign against the slave trade. There was a small part played by a feisty young woman named Hannah, whose name I catalogued for later. The later arrived with the release in 2014 of this book by Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English at Liberty University.

Hannah More’s life was set in the backdrop of Bristol, England in the early 1700’s, a historical period that was the height of the slave trade in Europe. I’ve only just begun reading how Hannah and her sisters started a school for women, an outright novelty for the day and age, as well as learning of the unheard of practice for her to spend time–imagine this–writing in a place of her own-mostly poetry. This particular privilege was made possible by the allowance of kind benefactor who was a previous suitor.

Hannah and I have much in common—a love of writing and reading and a background in education. Of course, the part we don’t share is an experience in opposing the slave trade. That tale is ahead of me in this book and I look forward to reading it.

Continue reading “May, March and April in Books #ReadUpstream”

Rethinking Writer’s Conferences, Accompanied by Angels

 Sometimes a big idea starts as a small nudge, a whisper you might ignore for the wildness of it all. You carry the dream of an idea around and wonder if someone else is hearing it, too. Then one day you jump in and ask, “Do you have a moment or two to talk about well, Something?”      
     And you make a date at the park, the one where the air show is practicing (’cause you forget when you pick the location the Blue Angels are in town) and you picnic anyway.
     And over tuna and chips you blurt out your “what would you think about????” to your bosom friend and she practically shouts (because of all that noise–remember the jets?), “Yes. I’ve been thinking that, too.!!”
      And you spill out your thoughts, scribbling fast on paper (because she has four children to manage–all you had to remember was your lunch and your journal) and the dream starts to take shape.What if we did something different? Not to go against the stream, but create our own current?
     What if we found a quiet place for writing and retreating and relationships where women of faith could be encouraged to live into their gifts as Jesus grows in them?
     What if, instead of all the ‘how-to’s we gave away what we know–and Who we know–and wove that into 3 days of writing and listening and practice–and REST?                                
     What would that look like?  What would we call it?  You dub it ‘Abide’ and now that it’s named, it’s really happening….and oh….Jesus, we expect you to show up, big time.

     You find the Holy Spirit had been speaking to you both—for many, many months–about the same word–Abide. Through the same Scripture passages–John 15.  And you talk about what that might look like–a session on Lectio Divina (a phrase you’ve never heard but want to know more about) and maybe practicing poetry–even pantoums.
     And you share your passion about Writing as a Spiritual Practice–just listening to Jesus in the woods with your journal and pen and some questions.
     Then you plan and you pay and pray and you meet and over many more lunches (noisy ones, there’s all these kids…) and you cry for the connection and the peace that God is bringing with the little band of 12 women God has put together.

     Then you ask for someone to help you lead the worship and one of the attendees is a stellar guitar player and you practice (more than once) and the glory comes down like a kiss from Heaven that says, “Yes!” again.

And you know Jesus is up to something. 
Something big. As big as the sky with the angels above the trees in the blue you can’t see the end of.

And you thank God for your friend Kimberlee.
 
And you tremble in your boots at the big God that whispered the nudge
in all it’s wild goodness.
And you fly.
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After eighteen months of prayer and planning, 
my friend Kimberlee Conway Ireton and I are heading over to the 
Cascade Mountains in Washington this weekend for ABIDE.
This is our first writer’s retreat for women of faith,
a place of rest and relationship,
borne of a little dream from our big God.
You’ll come? Maybe next year?