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Gilead, Marilynne Robinson 

This novel narrated by a dying minister as a message to his seven-year-old son is set in the small town of Gilead. It is a beautiful, haunting and bittersweet story of hope and loss. I feel a soul kinship to John Ames, the narrator of this novel, and have given this book as a gift to those I love dearest as a proclamation of how beautiful the world can be despite the tragedy that befalls us all.  

Quotes: 

“There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance, it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?”

“Wherever you turn your eyes, the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except the willingness to see. Only, who will have the courage to see it?”

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How to be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum, Keri Smith

This super-fun, interactive book is an insightful exploration of how to view the world creatively. It was on my summer reading list when I taught high school English. Students loved it!    

Quotes: 

“You are an explorer. Your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before. Take notes. Collect things you find on your travels. Document your findings. Notice patterns. Copy. Trace. Focus on one thing at a time. Record what you are drawn to.”

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Learning to Walk in the Dark, Barbara Brown Taylor

Part philosophical musing, part scientific research, part memoir, this book by former minister Barbara Brown Taylor explores all the many facets of darkness in light-hearted and insightful ways. I loved the balance of dark and light in this text and can identify with what she calls the “lunar spirituality” defined in its pages. It is very readable, engaging, informative.      

Quotes: 

“How many times… have I rejected love because it did not present itself the way I expected, in a form acceptable to me?”

“Do I want the kind of light that shines on things or the kind that shines from them?”

“With limited time left on this earth, I want more than the top half of things- the spirit but not the flesh, the presence but not the absence, the faith but not the doubt, I want it all.”

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The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder

A very short little novel that tells the story of a bridge and the people who walked upon it. This book was suggested to me by my friend Melissa, whose opinion I hold in high regard, and I found many little insights hidden in its pages.  

Quotes: 

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

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The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran 

Almustafa, the prophet, prepares to leave for a new home and is stopped by the people of the town to share his wisdom before departing. Each poem in the book is a response to a question they asked him. I found The Prophet in my Grandma Rose’s belongings after she died with the note inside, “To Rose, who will understand all.” I decided to read it shortly after when Melissa told me she had asked for it for Christmas. (I don’t ignore synchronicity.) It is a book I return to over and over again. 

Quotes: 

From “On Love”

“When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.”

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Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr.  

This collection of edited sermons shows that King is a master of language and a prophetic voice that still speaks today. I was assigned this text in a Christian Ethics class, and the lectures spoke to my soul. 

Quotes: 

“We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.  Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down with our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process….”  

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.  Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

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