It’s that time of year again. One of the joys of summer for me is that it at least seems like there is more time to read. Traveling, sitting on the beach, or by the pool are all made better accompanied by a good book. Here are some of the things I’ve enjoyed reading in the past year. Why don’t you add your own recommendations on our website, www.stdunstan.net. (Editor’s note: You can add your recommendations by “commenting” on this post.) Happy reading!
Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. Swedish author Backman was one of my great reading discoveries this year. I’ve enjoyed all I’ve read by him, including A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and his latest, Beartown. Britt Marie tells the story of a woman who has been overlooked all her life, who finally leaves her long-cheating husband. She ends up in a small town that life has passed by, and in this unlikely place she finds redemption and the courage and strength to create a new life full of rich surprises.
Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Maybe you’re like me and have thought, “Do I really want to read another novel about World War II?” That was my reaction for a long time to the thought of reading Nightingale. But this novel is unlike any others. It is the story of two sisters in German-occupied France and how they both learn to survive and resist. Very few novels move me to tears; this one did.
The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall. Here is what one of my favorite writers, Mark Childress, has to say about this book: “If you ever pined for a mother who would take a hunting falcon as her wingman to a parent-teacher conference, Polly is the gal for you. Delicious.” Polly is not your ordinary mother. She was newly widowed and in her late 50s when her daughter Willow was born. The story of this mother-daughter duo is sometimes poignant and sad, and always hilarious and unpredictable. A great summer read.
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Eleanor Flood wakes up resolving that this day will be different. She’ll do all the small things right – shower, dress, take her kid to school, go to yoga, be nice to her husband. And then everything falls apart, and life begins anew.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner tells the story of Cora, a slave on a Georgia cotton plantation, and her bid for freedom. A twist in this story is that the Underground Railroad is not just a metaphor, it is an actual secret network of tracks, engineers, and conductors running underneath Southern soil. I’m a bit ambivalent about that literary device, but the story of what Cora encounters at each stop along the way, and the urgency of her flight, being pursued by slave hunters every step of the way, is a chilling look at what life in the South in a bleak time in our history.
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott. A new book by Anne Lamott is always a reason to say hallelujah. “Mercy is radical kindness,” Lamott writes. “It’s the permission you give others—and yourself—to forgive a debt, to absolve the unabsolvable, to let go of the judgment and pain that make life so difficult.” Funny, irreverent, and deeply faithful, Lamott always makes me stop and think and look at life differently.
Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer. This book came out in 2011, but it is even more timely now than when it was first published. Palmer explores five “habits of the heart” which can help restore our democracy. I’m considering using this book as the basis of a Sunday School series next year.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South,” John Grisham says of Bryan Stevenson. “Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope.” Just Mercy is the story of Stevenson’s tireless work defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in an often corrupt criminal justice system. A nonfiction book that reads like a novel.
Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett. When President Obama gave Tippett the National Humanities Medal, he praised her for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.” Weaving her own experiences with those of whom she has interviewed on her NPR show “On Being,” Tippett examines the themes of words, flesh, love, faith, and hope, and what it means to be human and become wise.
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White. White was a successful magazine publisher when he was convicted of fraud and check kiting in 1993 and sent to prison in Carville, Louisiana. The prison shared space with a leper colony with 130 patients. Prisoners and lepers did not mix often, but White’s work brought him in contact with the patients. This is his chronicle of his own transformation while spending 18 months with those on the margins of society – drug traffickers, tax evaders, and lepers.
We are now doing volunteer sign ups for coffee hour after the 10 a.m. service. If you can take a Sunday, please sign up on the website, www.stdunstan.net. (The link for SignUpGenius can be found at the bottom of any website page, including this one.) Remember the “spread” doesn’t have to be elaborate, and clean up is easy now since we are using all paper products.
Mark Your Calendars
Lent 2018 seems like a long time away, but we already have some special plans for the season. Noted author and theologian Diana Butler Bass will be at St. Dunstan’s the first weekend of March. Her lecture on Saturday afternoon, March 3, will be open to the wider community. She will also lead Sunday School and preach on Sunday, March 4. We have studied several of Diana’s books in Sunday School and the Tuesday morning study group. Her most recent book, Grounded, is now out in paper back, and is highly recommended. More details about this special weekend soon, but put the dates on your calendar now. You won’t want to miss this.
A Note from Tom
Steven and I are grateful for all of your good wishes, prayers, cards, and gifts of food during the past weeks that I’ve been away. Thank you all for everything. We are truly blessed to be part of the St. Dunstan’s parish family. I look forward to being back to the organ bench on Pentecost.
- Our condolences to the family of longtime parishioner Mary Linns, who died on May 24.
Lost and Found
There are two jewelry items currently in lost and found. Toby Raper found a pair of rings on the ground between the trash bins in the back of the parking lot and a visitor found a small cross in the Founder’s Room. St. Dunstan’s ‘Lost and Found’ is a basket near the door in Susan’s office.
A Prayer for Summer
By James Vanden Bosch
God of creation, God of the seasons, bless your creatures with seasons of delight.
Lord of the Sabbath, you who have established the rhythms of life, establish in us also the rhythms for human prospering: grant us the good sense to enjoy Sabbath rest in this season.
Grant us, moreover, wisdom to know that there is a time to play, a time to cease from our labors, a time to sense majesty in a blue sky, richness in green grass, love in faithful friends, and joy in our being.
Grant us, then, blue skies this summer, and green grass; grant us faithful friends and the time, strength, and spirit for play.
Grant us the wit to know the goodness of this creation, which, blind, defiant, or ungrateful, we despoil.
Send our roots rain; send our hearts ease, so that we may show in our lives that we can live rightly in this season of our lives and see it as if for the first time, in wonder, in awe, and in a spirit of thanksgiving.