Archives for January 2017

Growing into Love — A Book Review

I have this friend. I met her in Texas, of all places. She’s sorta tall, sorta not tall, very willowy and has a lovely, large smile. She is also one of the funniest people I know. And the smartest. She admits to being very type “A,” and I’ll give her that. I get it, really I do. She wants to do All the Things, and to do them over-the-top-to-perfection-and-beyond. Her name is Michelle DeRusha.

Michelle has been on a wonderful journey over the 6-7 years we’ve been acquainted, not all of it easy. She owned her ambition and admitted it might be a bit Too Much. And she earnestly sought to find her way to a place of contentment with less ‘success’ than she had dreamed about. All through that journey, she wrote about it on her blog. She wrote about it exceptionally well.

Michelle writes exceptionally well, period. I did tell you that, right? Well, she does. Boy, does she. She wrote a memoir called, “Spiritual Misfit: a Memoir of Uneasy Faith,” that I absolutely adored — in fact, it is my very favorite of the many, MANY such books I have read over these years. Read and reviewed, for some very talented writers. It didn’t sell all that well and that made me very sad.

It broke her heart.

Then she got a strange ‘assignment’ through her talented and faithful agent — a book about Christian women in history, 50 of them, to be exact. Very different kind of writing from that memoir. Very different. But you know what? She hit it outta the park — right outta that park, she hit it. 

Then she got another assignment, sorta like that second one. Now this isn’t the style of writing she hoped she’d be doing. It isn’t her favorite, not by a long shot. And this topic? It pretty much scared the pants off her.

Why? Because one of the two main characters is among the most widely researched and written about in all of Christendom. But the other person? Not so much. And it was that part that hooked her. She’d already done a bit of research about that second person — Katharina Luther – for her 2nd book and she was smitten, very much smitten, by her strong personality and sense of self . . . in the early to mid 16th century, no  less!

So with fear and trembling and more than a few tears, she took on this latest assignment: to write about the marriage of Martin and Katharina Luther. She dug in, did her homework (and then some) and today, TODAY, her book launches out into the world.

Friends, you need to read this book. You need to buy it, in multiples, and give it to your friends and family, especially any daughters/sisters/granddaughters/mothers you may be privileged to know. Michelle did an outstanding job,  weaving in pieces of history, reflecting on things like family dynamics, faith, the impact and import of the Protestant Reformation, wealth and poverty in the 16th century, cloistered life, married life, childbirth, the plague, loss, grief, and the power of personal fortitude in the face of opposition and false accusation. 

Perhaps my favorite thing about this story and the way Michelle has chosen to tell it is this: Martin and Katharina did not love one another when they married — they chose one another out of obedience to God (Martin) and expediency due to societal pressure (Katharina). But over time, especially through the lovely letters that we still have from Martin to Kate, it is clear that they came to care for one another, deep and true. They built a real partnership, a remarkable thing to do, given Luther’s stated ideas about hierarchy and the realities of the time. Growing into love is a delightful thing to see, even 5 centuries in retrospect.

You can find the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your favorite neighborhood bookstore. Don’t miss this opportunity to re-affirm your faith and to learn something new about people you’ve heard about all your life. An added bonus for me was the wellspring of gratitude that spilled over in my spirit simply because I live in the time and place that I do. 

Given our current climate of rancor, fear, discord and disappointment, that gratitude is no small thing, friends. It is good to remember that some pretty remarkable forward movement has happened over the last 500 years (yup, this is the 500th Anniversary of those famous 95 Theses of Martin’s). Yes, we still have a long ways to go, a long ways. But think about these things for a minute:  women’s rights, the speed of communication, ease of travel, majorly upgraded standards of health care — all of these are exponentially better now than they were then. It was good for me to be reminded of the progress we have made as a culture during this difficult season of serious back-sliding. Very good.

Luther quote photo

I received an advanced reader’s PDF of this book in exchange for writing a review. Something I am OVERJOYED to be able to do.

Opening to the New Year — SheLoves

One of the great privileges of my life these days is my association with the wonderful people at SheLovesMagazine. Today is my monthly day to write for them. You can begin that essay here and follow the link at the end to finish it over there. Please do join the conversation!!


Stepping into Epiphany is always a mixed bag for me. January 6th means that Christmastide is finished for another year. Now we are headed for Ash Wednesday, which comes quite late in 2017. In some ways, this shift in seasons is a relief — all the red around my house comes down and is packed away for another year. The ornaments are gathered off the tree, the candles are stored in a cool place, the nativity sets are stacked into a plastic bin, each baby Jesus safely secured in a corner somewhere.

Although I don’t relish the work of lugging Christmas bins from house to garage, I do enjoy seeing the cleaner edges of my usual living space emerging from the red, green, silver and gold lavishness of the holiday season. I love Christmas, truly, I do. But I’m glad when it’s time to turn away from the celebrating and re-enter a more ordinary season. My capacity for holiday decorating seems to have diminished with time!

This time, however, it feels like something important is missing as I move more fully into this new year. Since my retirement from parish ministry six years ago, I have gladly embraced a more open schedule and relished the monthly visits from an ever-changing list of people seeking spiritual direction, either here in my small study or via Facetime or Skype. I have also appreciated my monthly opportunities to write for two magazines, one online, and one in print. Occasionally, I even try to fill my own blog space with reflections both prosaic and photographic; the introduction of a monthly newsletter has been a welcome addition to my writing life.

But at this turn of the year, with 2017 opening before me, it feels like my capacity for the good work of direction and writing is larger than the demand for either one. People I thought were committed to my one-on-one work chose to drift away, usually without any formal farewell. A possible temporary job situation didn’t pan out. Both the inner drive to write and the outer call for it seem to have fled the scene.

So what I’m left with at this moment in time is a noticeable sense of emptiness. Maybe openness is a better word; I am open for more in my life . . .

Come on over and offer an encouraging word to those of us talking about this at SheLoves today!