Monday, August 25, 2008

books and quotes

We returned from our vacation two days ago to a big pile of fur and a slightly bigger pile of to-do items, the largest of these being organising a church retreat for this coming weekend. I am also trying to register for a French course which begins next week and have managed to find a centre that offers the times I need and is within a reasonable commute, though the classes start at the unreasonable hour of 8h15!!!!!! It never ceases to amaze me how all the information for those wanting to learn French is only available in French. Not so bad for the intermediates like myself, but how the heck do beginners manage to sign up at all? Thank goodness phone numbers are in a universal language for the most part.

Today I want to share a few good quotes with you from my journey to Manitoba.

I read the story of Jonah while on vacation and loved what Eugene Peterson said in the introduction to the book:

One reason that the Jonah story is so enduringly important for nurturing the life of faith in us is that Jonah is not a hero too high and mighty for us to identify with - he doesn't do anything great. Instead of being held up as an ideal to admire, we find Jonah as a companion in our ineptness. Here is someone on our level. Even when Jonah does it right (like preaching, finally, in Nineveh) he does it wrong (by getting angry at God). But the whole time, God is working within and around Jonah's very ineptness and accomplishing his purposes in him. Most of us need a biblical friend or two like Jonah. - The Message, intro to Jonah
It is so good to know that God is not put off or thwarted by our ineptness.

On Friday while wandering around The Forks (that's a shopping area right by the water where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet in Winnipeg), I picked up a really cool book called The Mystics of the Church, printed in 1925. Mysticism is not something you often hear talked about in church circles these days, in fact, detached intellectualism often substitutes for faith in our western world. I do consider myself a mystic, despite not knowing everything that might encompass. The words I have read thus far in this book have been like a nourishing soup on a cold winter day, or a soft chair at the end of a long upward climb. Here are a few bits for you to enjoy:

The Christian mystic therefore is one for whom God and Christ are not merely objects of belief, but living facts experimentally known at first-hand; and mysticism for him becomes, in so far as he responds to its demands, a life based on this conscious communion with God. It is found in experience that this communion, in all its varying forms and degrees, is always a communion of love. - Evelyn Underhill, The Mystics of the Church

The mystics are the greatest of all teachers of prayer, and of that deeper communion to which disciplined prayer can lead. This they can do because of their solid hold upon unseen realities in which, at best, most of us merely "believe." In an experience which often transcended all their powers of expression, they realized God as an abiding Fact, a living Presence and Love; and by this their whole existence was transformed. And this happened to them, not because He loved and attended to them more than He does to us; but because they loved and attended to Him more than we do. - Evelyn Underhill, The Mystics of the Church

My first attempt at a lengthy work of fiction was about a reluctant mystic. I am in the process of rewriting the shitty first draft (this endearingly irreverent term is taken from Anne Lamott's wonderful book on writing called Bird by Bird where she so honestly describes the process of getting on paper the things deep inside of us that must be told) and making the story more cohesive and readable. Hard work and a long process, but I believe the story is worth telling, and I will wrestle with the thoughts and words until the story is free. Feel free to see the work in progress at

It seems to be a season of studying and learning for me, so much so that I am considering going back to University in the coming year. And what exactly does a mystic study at university and what jobs await them after they graduate? Good questions. Got any answers?
This is my fuzzy friend at the pool of my brother and sister-in-law in Winnipeg. Metamorphosis is all around.

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