Thursday, December 8, 2016

Can you really help yourself?

I want to catch up on book reviews. I want to catch up on reading, writing, editing, and just being me. I want to catch up! But can I really help myself--can you or anyone else really help yourself--just say "I want, I need" and somehow do it? Doesn't time keep slipping through your hands, just like mine, as the urgent takes over from the necessary, and the committed slips and slides to another date. I'll have to edit the deadlines on that review list again...

Of course, it's snowing and icy outside so those unwritten reviews might slide like those cars swerving when the wheel is turned and heading the wrong way. My promises might be hid under dark gray clouds or blowing in the wind. And my urgent needs have been book sales and getting the bedroom ready for my mum to visit. Plus it's way too near to Christmas! Help!

But can I really help myself?

This month I've read various books that offer tidbits of help, tidbits (and larger) of faith to help, and fairly strong hints of promises and help. But I still can't catch up; some reviews posted here were due a month ago, but I'm doing my best. So help yourself to some coffee and see what you think of the books.

First is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a birthday gift which I read in the space between October and November. Perhaps I didn't follow the artists' way as portrayed in this book, since I've fallen so far behind. It's an encouraging read, combined with great workbook exercises, well-written promises the reader might try to commit to, and an excellent understanding of human creativity, together with just the right level of low-key spirituality to appeal to all who don't actively despise the suggestion that there's more to life. Enjoy this one (and make the commitments--perhaps then you won't break as many commitments as I've done) with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

Next is a book that's being studied in a small group at my church. While the artist's way encourages readers to find and listen to their own needs, guided by a higher power, Hearing God In Conversation by Samuel C. Williamson encourages us first to listen to that higher power. The Artist's Way keeps its definitions of God simple and inclusive. But Hearing God is a powerfully Christian book, keeping faith with the Bible and Biblical tradition throughout. Still, the art of listening is the same in both books, and both authors reveal a God who has made us to converse with him, to recognize his hand on our lives, and to share our lives (and our creativity) with him (who created all). Both books are practical too. And both are easy to read. Enjoy with some more well-balanced three-star coffee.

Getting Religion by Kenneth L. Woodward is a somewhat different book, but it's faith-filled and goes well with Hearing God--I'm sure the author has heard and listened well. Kenneth Woodward grew up Catholic and worked (famously) as a journalist. His insights into America's spiritual life, the interface between faith, history, religion and politics, and the driving forces from the 50s to the present day are invaluable and informative. I learned much from overlapping chapters and sections, each like a small essay, each offering its own nuggets of information, and I really enjoyed the read. Drink some elegant complex four-star coffee with this one. It's a hefty tome with a huge amount to offer.

Finally there's Sandy Scott's Lessons from Zachary. Written as memoir by a life coach whose son was born with severe brain damage, this book is an intriguing blend of discouraged lifestory combined with empowering, encouraging lessons. The author begins with a failing marriage and two children, one of whom has serious special needs. She navigates single parenthood, a world that's slowly learning special needs doesn't mean less than human, and multiple accidents and betrayals. Meanwhile she learns, as we all should, to move beyond labels into the realms of possibilities, both for herself and for her child. It's an interesting memoir and an encouraging read--one to enjoy with some more well-balanced three-star coffee.

I still can't help myself get the book reviews written on time. But perhaps I can trust God to know I'll write them at the right time. Meanwhile, Mum's room is ready, the book sales are done, and it's time to edit Paul's Purpose! Yay!

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