This summer has been tremendously busy. Our house, our hearts, and our schedule have all been full. Still, I always make time for reading in my life. By this ripe old age of almost fifty-eight, I have learned that I must read or whither. There simply isn’t a choice. Each morning I must water all my herbs, vegetables, and flowers; and at some point each day, I must read. This is the law of summer. One of my biggest challenges each year is narrowing down my reading list. I have to balance the things I need to read with the things I want to read. Some of my choices have to be professional. Others are for pleasure or sheer interest. A few are for fun. Some will feed my spirit. The BEST ones cover all of those areas and more. Those are the crown jewels of my reading summer. This summer I’ve been blessed to read two of these wonders so far.
A couple of weeks ago I attended The Society for Classical Learning Conference in Atlanta. It was wonderful. I enjoyed time with friends and colleagues, heard some great speakers, and came away inspired. You can’t ask for much more than that. One of the speakers was Andrew Peterson, one of my very favorite singer/song writer/authors. He did a concert which, of course, was awesome, but he also gave a talk on “The Integrated Imagination.” It was especially good. During the talk, which focused on the fact that Jesus is part of all that is true and good and beautiful, he mentioned a book I read a couple of years ago: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. I wrote the title in my notes and made a mental note to re-read it.
When I got home I was in my usually end-of-June frenzy. The end of June signals the end of the childhood of summer. July comes in as an adolescent with fireworks and fun and ends in middle age and the reality of back-to-school advertisements. UGH! August brings the last few gasps of life, though this year summer-life will be a bit longer since I don’t have to go back until August is more than half over! Anyway, added to my usual end-of-June frenzy was the challenge of post-conference enthusiasm. I was briefly paralyzed–how can I possibly read everything I want to read when the precious days are passing away like sand through an hour-glass? (Yes, I can get THAT melodramatic!) AND ALSO: Where do I start? I finally decided to consolidate my notes from the conference and let that be my guide. I sat on my deck in the shade and worked through all my notes. When I came to Andrew’s talk and the note about Walking on Water, I knew what to do.
This is a book that needs to be savored. I have been reading a chapter or two a day and taking copious notes. I still have four chapters to go, but I thought I’d write a post about the book now instead of later because the summer is passing and if you want to read it you will need time. The subtitle of the book is, Reflections on Faith and Art, and that is what it is, but it is also so much more. There is so much here for the educator, for after all teaching IS an art.
Madeleine L’Engle is probably most famous as the Newbery Award winning author of A Wrinkle in Time. She was also a Christian and in this book she did a beautiful job of explaining how creativity–both the act of creating and the enjoyment of things created–is an important part of Christianity. Her work is full of wonderful quotes from wise men and women throughout history. It thrills me that she admits the fact that these quotes came out of her own personal commonplace book and talks about how important journaling is to the creative process. I love this woman!
Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:
“To be true Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all.” (p 32)
“Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work has been still-born.” (p 34)
“In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered among the stars.” (p 55)
“An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith.” (p 55)
“Early in our corruption we are taught that fiction is not true.” (p 73)
“At the beginning of all spiritual endeavor stands humility, and he who loses it can achieve no other heights than the heights of disillusionment.” (p 75)
“…to co-create with God is our human calling.” (p 81)
“…unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.” (p 89)
“Ridicule is a terrible witherer of the flower of imagination. It binds us where we should be free.” (p 103)
“…one of the most crippling errors of twentieth century culture has been our tendency to limit ourselves to our intellect.” (p 126)
“The great artists keep us from smugness, from thinking that the truth is in us, rather than in God, in Christ our Lord.” (p 133)
Go buy the book. Read it. Digest it. Use it. There’s a world out there that needs us to.