Monday, March 7, 2011

The Circle of LIfe: The Heart's Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr

Both authors have each written a sizable number of popular books on spirituality, and as close friends , they decided to do one together. Since they graciously give permission to copy any part of this book for use as a prayer resource or in a review such as this, I will accept their generosity and offer you several direct quotes. I would never be able to match the beauty and poetry of their writing in a paraphrase. The introduction begins with the statement:  "The four seasons tell a story of transformation every year."  --and continues with --"The seasons invite us to honor the earth out of which new birth germinates, sprouts, blooms, blossoms and grows.  Listen to Earth's song of the seasons passing through her sacred body.  Listen intently to these seasons as they reveal our story of unfolding growth as well."

In a section on prayer, the seasons are referred to as "Winter, Humble Servant of Creation"; "Spring, Graceful, Playful Child of Creation";  "Summer, Earth's Fruitful Season";  and "Autumn, Season of Wisdom and Transformation." -- And later, they  reflect that "Each of the four seasons is a classroom for the heart.  If you sink your roots deep in the soil of a season's truth, it can become your mentor."  For each season there are childhood memories, prayers, poetry, and celebrations, all related to the seasons of our lives.  The authors claim that "We long for connections in the midst of disconnected lives -- connections to ourselves, to others, to the world we live in.  Most of all we yearn to connect with the sacred."

Here are two additional quotes, one from each author, on the season in which we are -- winter:

"Blesses are you, winter, frozen and cold on the outside, within your silent, nurturing womb you warmly welcome all that longs for renewal."  (Joyce Rupp)
"Tonight I honor the darkness and sing of the life I was given in the holy darkness of my first home, that nurturing, earthy womb where I grew bright with life and blossomed in God." (Macrina Weiderkehr).

Even if you do not live in a geographical area of dramatic change from one season to the next, where all that is written "rings true" from life experience, I expect you will find beauty and inspiration on every page.  I heartily recommend The Circle of Life to any reader who has an interest in deepening your life through a closer relationship with creation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Michelle, A Biography by Liza Mundy

The author has painted a marvelous portrait of a remarkable woman, Michelle Obama, who was born in Chicago in 1964 to Fraser and Marian Robinson, a city-worker father and a stay-at-home mother.  She also has one brother, Craig.  The family lived on Chicago's South Side, in a  mostly black neighborhood.   In about 1970 the Robinson's moved from the predominantly black area to the bi-racial neighborhood of South Shore.  (Michelle's mother still lives there, alone, as Fraser had died of MS in his early 50's.   As a young man he had moved from Alabama to Chicago for better economic opportunities than could be found in the South.  Both parents were exceptional people and believed in the value of hard work, doing your best, education and community service.  Besides his work, Fraser served for a time as a volunteer precinct captain for the Democratic Party  

Although the Civil Rights Act was signed into law six months after Michelle was born, schools were still segregated in Chicago, but after massive protests were waged, the city built a few magnet schools that were bi-racial.  Michelle left her neighborhood to attend one of these schools, where she made many friends, both black and white, worked hard and was admitted to the National Honor Society.  The school had leadership opportunities and provided an excellent preparation for college-bound students.  After graduation she was accepted at Princeton, where her brother Craig was also a student and a "basketball star."  She later studied at Harvard Law School and became a lawyer.  She was more concerned with helping the poor than in winning awards, and she left her law position to work in city planning.

Michelle proved to be intelligent, witty, a bit sharp-tongued, well-organized and an excellent leader.   These traits, plus a lively sense of humor, attracted attention and won a number of influential friends, loyal and committed as she was.  With her Harvard  background and her positions in law and in city planning, it was not long before she and Barack met.  (In fact, her law firm appointed her as Barack's adviser and mentor!)  They were very much alike, both being highly intelligent and service-oriented, with a strong desire to make the world a better place. 
They also had differences, which became another attraction to both of them.

Barack's interest in politics soon became evident, an inclination that Michelle did not share.  However, she realized his potential and was convinced that he could be more influential in the political arena.  So as their friendship grew and they married, she devoted herself whole-heartedly to help him in his political ambitions.  She became a key player in Barack's campaigns,  first as a contender for the state Senate, then in his race to the U.S. Senate, and later to the presidency.  She became extremely effective in this new venture, with the strong work ethic that she had inherited from her father, her magnetic appeal, pleasant personality and good humor.  She soon won many friends and supporters for the cause.  For both of them, family was of the highest importance, and after their two children were born, they found it a constant struggle to find the time they needed for one another.  More than once this caused a strain their relationship,  but their love and loyalty triumphed.  -   Since this biography was published before Barack Obama was elected president, Michelle's possible role as First Lady was not addressed. -   The book is well worth reading, and I highly recommend it.