31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO READ, READ, READ #3

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This marks the 3rd Tuesday since I first offered permission to read, read, read. On each of those days, I have offered a book review for you to consider. Today’s entry was written by a friend and former neighbor and it is lovely.

I think I need to put a disclaimer on this review, right up front: I know Carolyn Weber and I love her. And for some reason, she chose to talk about me in this book. I knew about it ahead of time, even read a chapter or two before publication, but I was still surprised to see my name, right there.

So, that’s out of the way, okay? And the truth of that first paragraph has absolutely NOTHING to do with what I’m about to say, just so we’re all straight about that. 

And here’s what I’m saying: if you like intelligent, lovely, sometimes funny, sometimes achingly honest writing, then this is a book that should go on the top of your stack. This second volume of personal reflections (coming on the heels of the beautiful conversion narrative of “Surprised by Oxford”) picks up her story several years later than the end of volume one. If you’re expecting (or hoping for) descriptions about courtship and wedding, and blissful early years of marriage and teaching, they are not here.

What is here is the story of a transition time in her life, a scary tale of later-in-life pregnancy, labor and delivery, a decision to leave academia and move back to her hometown in Canada, taking a gigantic leap of faith to start over again. It’s a beautiful story, beautifully told. It’s also filled with hard truths, exhaustion, anxiety, disappointment and challenge. And she weaves all of it together with biblical reflection and the ongoing work of the Spirit in the life of a disciple.

Each chapter begins with a life story — a hospital delivery room, journal-writing as therapy, reaching out for help when illness strikes, sitting with a friend for tea, a trip to the beach with her children, a sabbatical move, hiking a mountain trail, a season of struggle in her marriage, a hoped-for new pregnancy and its complications, a prayer walk. And each personal story flows gently into reflection on a biblical story. It’s an interesting amalgam, this memoir/devotional, and I like it very much. Very much, indeed.

Carolyn Weber is a force to be reckoned with, offering a keen intellect, fascinating life experience, and a heart longing after God with every word she writes. I commend this book to you with no hesitation.

Herewith some gems you might enjoy:

“Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely. The eternal cannot be insisted into a measurement.” – pg. 61

“Throughout the day, the clock ticks, and I tick with it. A ticking bomb. Sometimes, I am successful at being calm, at being present. At being attentive to the children, the husband, the paperwork, the household chores, the friends, the family, the many gifts, even in demands, around me. But often I am not. I am harried and hurried. I keep time with adrenaline rather than with affection. I multitask and fret and race and miss: there is a rush in the rush, and in doing so, I forget to breathe, the breathing so central to running a race, to giving birth, to inspiring others, to living life itself. . .” pg. 147-148

“Scripture, prayer and fellowship show us, again and again, how we live the heart of the metaphor into the very most real. As a literature professor, I have come to admire how God uses even the most skeptical of secular minds to expose the most sacred of truths; nothing lies beyond the glimmer of his salvation, not even cynicism, which I find to be a shocking grace, in and of itself.” – pg. 157

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  1. i will look forward to this. i recently read “surprised by Oxford.” It’s kind of making the rounds among the readers at our church, which reminds me I need to get mine on to the next person! or at least back to it’s original owner.

  2. Diana, I LOVE the second quote from pp. 147-148, especially these words: “the breathing so central to running a race, to giving birth, to inspiring others, to living life itself.”

    Just stopping right there tonight and pausing to breathe.

    Thank you for sharing this — these words, this review. I’ll definitely be checking out Carolyn’s books.

  3. Hi Diana, I am so honoured that you would review my book! And so touched at your gracious words. Thank you, my friend. But most of all, thank you for modeling to me in my own life what real faith looks like, how it loves and lives. You are such a gift to so many.
    And I LOVE the series – the idea of giving oneself permission to read. I’ve been doing that lately, too, with Christian fiction actually – a new thing for me. Staying up way too late (always the cost of a good read but so worth the additional circles under the eyes!). And I hadn’t thought of my own genre as memoir/devotional – great term! I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before, but yes. Yes, isn’t that what all our days are, should be? You are living proof of how fellowship sustains.

    • Well, of course I would review your book, Caro. And thanks for reading it. Did I ever answer your email?? I’ve thought about it a lot, but I got buried with sick grandkid and mom-visits, and . . . well, you know. I’ll get there. I will.