Thursday, April 05, 2012

Lauren Winner, Still

Still to describe ongoing activity or condition; still as quiet, motionless; still that's a vat containing liquid spirits; a "still" is a boatsman's summons to the crew. Now, Still is the title of Lauren Winner's Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis.

still cover This book reveals aspects of Lauren Winner's faith journey most of us can identify with, though I'm not convinced it had to be compiled, printed, and distributed as a hard-cover book; it reads like a peek into a teenager's journal, personal blog, or as an overheard ongoing daily conversation between neighbors, friends or classmates. Women especially often feel guilty and agonize over human propensity to dissect and analyze almost every little piece of behavior, attitude and emotion, but why is doing that necessarily illegitimate? Know thyself and appreciate thine own history *still* remains outstanding advice and a necessity for relatively smoother sailing over life's rockier shores. In short, there's zero wrong and lots that's right about chronicling your days, months, and years. Remember also, "out of a sense of self, a sense of the other."

The subtitle is about "Mid-Faith" and as Lauren writes a lot about middles of many kinds as opposed to beginnings and ends, it occurs to me that even when we're at the beginning of one endeavor or concluding another, there's a lot of middling going on in our lives. There's middle school and middle tints in paintings and photographs. Middle tense in Greek and other languages. Midweeks, midlives. Middler year in seminary. Life is messy and never will not be so. She's also clearly engaged with the Episcopal Church and I love her many references and allusions to its sacraments, prayerbook, rites, liturgies, culture and people.

Unlike the author, I haven't spent my entire life following a spiritual path, though during my adult years I've done so. Like author Lauren Winner, I consciously knew, decided and determined to whom and to what I'd dedicate my life (by the grace of God and the call of the Church?!), but unlike her, I lost the connections I had and then couldn't seem to place – or insinuate – myself into any situation that would bear fruit for my ongoing sense of call. I'll acknowledge my resentment at her easy references to friends, acquaintances and family members as well as mentions of being invited to teach here, there and everywhere, but her childhood setting well may have prepared her for those experiences. In any case, for all of us in the church, those of us who follow Jesus, it's as the pastor said to his daughter who was unsure about her faith commitment on her confirmation day, "What you promise when you are confirmed, is not that you will believe this forever. What you promise is that this is the story you will wrestle with forever." [p 172]

Several years ago I read and enjoyed Lauren's mudhouse sabbath and was delighted at her generous offer to send copies of Still to all members of my blog ring who requested one. Without a doubt she's been through many changes (reflections on her divorce pepper the pages and she refers to her mother's final illness and passing) since mudhouse sabbath, but haven't we all? mudhouse sabbath had much more of a re-readable, handbook quality; Still emerges out of a very different perspective. In it LW displays evidence of someone willing to put their spiritual struggles out there for the world to observe and in author q & a at the end of the book, when asked why she didn't specially chronicle her professorial and related professional experience, Lauren said she wanted to write a book regular people in the pews or taken a holiday from sitting in the pews could relate to rather than a volume exclusively for disaffected professors or pastors in meltdown, and it fills that bill. In my review and blog of mudhouse sabbath I mentioned, "...one of the beauties of mudhouse sabbath is the way every chapter can apply to every reader and easily be adapted to your own circumstances," and that's actually true of Still as well.

Is this a don't miss it, run right out and buy it kind of book? No, not quite, but if you can borrow a copy from friend or library you well may gain insights into your own days. It's also a book I'll keep in my collection and well may read again, or at least graze through some of its meanderings and I'd be glad to let you borrow my copy. After all, this still is the story we've committed to wrestle with - and to live - forever!

my amazon review: still living the story

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