Preorder: Disciplines 2020

I’m delighted to have contributed to the forthcoming Disciplines 2020, the popular annual devotional from The Upper Room that is now available to preorder.

The week of reflections I’ve written are part of the Lenten season for 2020, covering texts such as Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones and Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead by Jesus. Across seven Lenten days, I wrestle with God’s timing, with the courage of faith amidst despair, and with the frustrating wonder of divine mystery.

My writing for Disciplines 2020 also includes this random confession:

When I was a young girl, I wanted to be either Miss Piggy or Wonder Woman; both are strong “can do” characters who take care of themselves (Miss Piggy with her fist, Wonder Woman with her lasso). They are larger than life, stronger than average. They could stand on their own. Yet I am neither superhero nor Muppet nor deity.

It’s quite possible that this not-so-secret longing still holds true for me.

Disciplines 2020 features 53 writers who previously contributed to the beloved Weavings journal, including Don Saliers, Deborah Smith Douglas, Roberta Bondi, Michael Downey, and many more.

Preorder now for the September 2019 release!

The Friar of Carcassonne

File this book under: There is nothing new under the sun.

Also file this book under: Must read.

Friar_CarcassonneWritten by historian Stephen O’Shea, The Friar of Carcassonne: Revolt Against the Inquisition in the Last Days of the Cathars is a fascinating and thorough dive into church history at the turn of the 14th century in medieval France, a world entirely foreign to the modern world and yet entirely the same: the use of incarceration to control wealth & resistance, the conflict of power between church & state, the push-and-pull between formal & informal movements of the church (“religious vs. spiritual,” if you will).

At the center of the drama is the dynamic friar of the southern French city of Carcassonne: Brother Bernard Délicieux, a Franciscan of great oratory & political skill, who challenges the abuses of the Church’s inquisition against heretics — from the accusations against wealthier citizens (with the accused’s property brought under the auspices of Rome and the man’s wife & children evicted) to the practices of torture and imprisonment (including the charging of fees to prisoners for their own keep — a practice continued today).

Author O’Shea is skilled at bringing history to life without politicized sensationalism. He even warns the modern reader against attempting to draw direct parallels in critique (or praise!) of the Church and its abuses, cautioning that “the irrevocable chasm carved by the passage of time should always be kept in mind” (204). And so we should keep it in mind … but for intrigue and as an encouragement to read The Friar of Carcassonne, I’ll share a few passages that prompted me to shake my head & wonder if we will ever learn our lesson and provoked me to consider that Brother Bernard may have something to teach us:

“Bernard’s contemporaries asked plaintively where their Church had gone in this time of spiritual need. … People were told again and again to be afraid: of God, of Jesus, of Hell, of Purgatory, of the Church, of the inquisitors. Of strangers. Of neighbors. Of their own humanity” (176).

“The ‘formation of a persecuting society’ was a deliberate, conscious choice driven by social change and the entry of new actors into the arena of power” (39).

“To a culture of increasing persecution, of a developing Christianity of fear … to a culture intent on demonizing dissent and difference, [the friar of Carcassonne] said no. Brother Bernard saw violent persecution as incompatible with his religion” (133).

The Friar of Carcassonne is a fascinating and recommended read!

Monday Muse: Echo Still

echostillFor the first time in long time, I read a YA novel this spring: Echo Still by my friend and colleague Tim Tibbitts.

It’s also the first time in a long time that I’ve pulled my head out from mounds of church-related books & papers to simply read a story about people.

And Echo Still is a simply beautiful story about people.

Echo Still is the kind of book you buy for your preteen or teen but secretly borrow to read for yourself. The story finds Elijah (nicknamed Fig) navigating the everyday highs and lows of seventh grade: with a love of soccer, an apathy toward homework, a disinterest in bar mitzvah classes, and an envy of other kids who seem to have life a little easier … but also with the incomplete knowledge of his mother who died from cancer and the odd particularities of a grandmother who comes to visit.

A quick read, Echo Still nevertheless conveys an emotional depth and a reality in relationships that had me reaching for the tissue box more than once. Tim Tibbitts paints a touching portrait of how familial love falls down, finds its footing, storms and rages, despairs, and shows up all over again — all in the most ordinary moments.

It’s the kind of book that makes me believe we might all be okay in the end, despite our brokenness.