This is a wonderfully exuberant book, big ideas and thoughts in the small change of everyday life, lots of ways of looking at what is in front of us all the time and finding ways to expand that thinking out of the literal and the immediate, and into something much more life enlarging. Some of it is wonderfully literal - Shrove Tuesday and eggs, but then eggs with a difference, entirely enjoyable and with the effect that you feel bigger rather than smaller for reading and thinking. I very much admire this ability to take the everyday taken-for-granted world and transform it so that the colours are brighter and the people around you are nicer and more interesting. Stephen Cherry somehow manages to reach the place at which all the great spiritual traditions, both eastern and western, meet up, without in any way losing sight of his own Christian perspective, but without imposing it either. This book shares the strengths of his earlier Barefoot Pilgrim - a book I read much of between the cracks in my fingers (aaargh, yes, I do that). I simply loved the poem in this book about being thanked - so honest, so complicated (why are we?), so utterly self-aware, but in the end how wonderful to be shown the human way simply to give in and give thanks onward to the larger reality. It is funny, human and helpful, as is so much in the book. I'm not sure all the poems entirely work as poems, but this is also something I so much liked about the book - I think we are mostly so reluctant to put ourselves on the line that reading slowly through the cycle I found myself increasingly rejoicing at a human spirit so prepared to share the journey, from which I so much benefited.
I did struggle with the constraints of Lent. Some days the poem didn't resonate. Some days I just forgot. Then I gave up, because I wanted to read forwards, and go back to things I had logged but not much felt like thinking about on the day. Now Lent is over, it is easier to read in the order it appears as more of a diary of a journey, and for me it works better like that. But in fact I think I will be going back and forth in the book for some time to come, and his note in the introduction, about how one of his early readers said that these were more like prayer 'stems', ways of unpacking some quite directed thoughts on particular subjects, is very helpful - it is a very creative way of beginning to think about something one may not have really found a way into before. Poetry does seem to do that.
This book was written for Lent, though I read it during ordinary time – but that’s OK because the author admits: Let me come clean. This collection of prayers, some of which are more poetic than others, was not written for Lent. It was not written for publication. It was not even written as a collection. And yet there is a common theme.
The introduction to this book reminds me of Ann and Barry Ulanov’s ‘Primary Speech’ – especially ‘when we drop something heavy on our foot and hear ourselves spitting out an exclamation we are not proud of. So it is with prayer from the heart, prayer in the Spirit. It has to be, for it is only in this way that we give voice to rough protestation, raw praise and unfettered lamentation. True prayer is necessarily unguarded and unrefined. It is rough and raw’ though it is nowhere mentioned in the footnotes.
Despite OFSTED’s attempt to do so: The word 'spirituality' is a highly attractive one: infinitely more attractive than 'religion' and more liberating than 'prayer. To pin it down by definition is perhaps to miss the point of the word, to forget why the word itself is so compelling today. It is about the undefinable, the untameable, and the unorganiz¬able. ……The paradox involved here is well expressed by Robert Llewellyn, who talks about the value, when dealing with distrac¬tions in prayer, of two sentences: 'Do not try to think' and 'Do not try not to think'.
On fulfilment: Christianity's disagreement with Maslow is most intense at the very top of the pyramid. To frame life as the pursuit of 'self-actualization' is far too individualistic and, to be blunt, selfish to square with Christian values in general and the gospel of Jesus Christ in particular. At the top of the Christian pyramid is not self-actualization but self-giving. What exactly that is and why it is more than fulfilling is something that is hard to explain — something we only realize through spiritual intuition and faithful and generous living.
Insightful: What the Psalms achieve over and above the hymns and songs is to remain in touch with the wildness of the grace of God and the actual pain of the human soul. They do so in ways that are not tidied up to fit in with the disciplines of metre or rhyme or to sound nice when sung in worship.
A good poem, it is said, is felt, is experienced, before it is understood. In this way a poem is like a person. We can enter into a relationship with it, finding it unfathomable and inexhaustible and irreducible. A poem is not a code. It is the shape and sound as well as the meaning of the words of which it is made. Poetry is language understood sacramentally: it conveys not just meaning but grace, and therefore speaks of plenitude and peace.
Beautifully and sensitively written. Prayers that can be used outside the Lenten and Easter period. Prayers that are not overpowering and difficult to understand, they are written simply and from the heart.
An inspirational book with meaningful prayers for each day of Lent. At the moment, I am part way through it, but look forward to opening it each day. Many prayers are practical, but have a meditational depth to them. Highly recommended for personal devotional time during Lent, or beyond.
A book that challanges us to put God at the centre of our everyday lives. It is both thought and action provoking. I am so looking forward to the Lent studies, that go with it, which we will be holding at our church.
This was a good choice for Lenten meditations. Not all have been equally relevant but most have been very thought provoking and useful. I liked the introduction to each week. I used it alongside Bible readings not instead of them.