South Of Broad

This was my vacation book; probably only the first, as we are all a family of readers and there’s plenty more where this one came from. It’s unthinkable that we don’t have our noses in a book while on the beach, on the couch, over solitary lunches, hidden away at nap-time. So this was the first, but probably not the last of the week.

What a glorious story. There are some books that I finish that leave me with a strong compulsion to pick up a pen and begin my own story. The power of our human-ness, retold with compassion and insight, gives some anchor to life that awes me and inspires, at times, an aching jealousy. This book did just that.
I always wanted to be a writer. That’s been a longing of my heart since I was young – probably since I first began to read. I love to have my imagination captured by the arc of a great story. When I read something that moves me powerfully, I inevitably am captured by this thought: I want to do that!
The Prince of Tides was a powerful book. I believe I read Beach Music and The Great Santini, but I don’t recall their impact. South of Broad is a rich and robust book, with a cast of characters almost impossible to capture. It’s like The Big Chill for Southerners, a story in which the city of Charleston, with it’s distinctive personality, plays as major a role as any human.
It inspired me. As I walked up from the beach, where I’d read almost to the end, saving the final pages of the book for a quiet moment back at the house, I contemplated the wide range of personalities and interactions in the characters. Fictional life, described with such vivid detail and emotion, takes on a hue of reality that I don’t appreciate in real life.
But thought occured to me, as I walked, that if I took the time to savor and appreciate the web of relationships connected to my day-to-day life, I’d be fascinated and inspired by the same sort of life that I absorbed in Conroy’s book. Just looking at my extended family, I see a wide range of fundamentalists and agnostics, minor criminals and mental illnesses, short tempers and long fuses, utter kindness and sloppy, angry drunks, glimpses of greatness and falls from grace, redemption, loss and love, potential and hope mixed with wasted years and botched marriages, abuse and scorn and denial and recovery. This is life – real life.
Perhaps the truth of the power of such inspiration is in the provocation to look around and reocognize the depth and breadth of energy pulsating within our own families and friends. Someone like Pat Conroy has a unique talent and skill that enables him to craft a story of that weaves fictional characters together in a rich, compelling tale.
As those characters fade from memory, someone like me gets to reflect on the way that a shred of insight can tie together the same sort of human mess into a story that weaves together something that is real. Something that becomes a part of who I am and who I hope to be.
This was an extraordinarily good book.

Is This Weird?

Some random bits and pieces:

~~Our staff went through a one-day retreat and discusses our strengths according to this book. I found it fascinating on a personal level – I learned a lot about myself and have been a bit more self-aware as I interact with others (I’m an ACTIVATOR and a MOTIVATOR, among other things…) It was extremely valuable for our staff, and I think it’s given us some great tools to understand and respect one another’s working styles and natural gifts. This was a win for us, and I recommend it to anyone working with teams. Good stuff.
~~Syd’s birthday party: WIN. Great friends, easy to entertain, NO trouble whatsoever, and lots of love in the room. Had some great conversations with some very special people.
~~I finished this book earlier this week. It tore me to shreds; not because it was sad or depressing – it wasn’t, although it was intense and full of sorrow – but because it was so well-written, so incredibly deep, so real… That’s John Irving for you. I could hardly bear to close the cover. Seems like the older I get, the more dangerous it becomes for me to read a well-written book or watch a well-done movie. I get so sucked into the story that it alters my reality somewhat. Is that weird? Art like that – with a deep story – goes so deeply into my soul that it impacts my ‘real life’. Again, I ask: Is that weird? I don’t know. Weird or not, it was a brilliant story.
~~Looking forward to the next three weeks. They will contain some intense activity, a two-day test of my capacity for extroversion and lots of people, all day long – and after that, some time to breathe.
Glad to be hear, in this moment, right now. It’s a brilliant story.
Here’s a great photo for you, of an amazing young man who continues to grow and mature in a way that brings a smile to my face and peace to my heart. I love my kids. Oh, and props to Maida Vale Music for the awesome and artistic clothing…

"Less Clutter. Less Noise" Giveaway

And the winner is……

Libby, whose least favorite font is PAPYRUS. “Especially in logos.”

Hmmmm….

Libby, I think I agree with you.

I must confess that David Brawley did NOT draw Libby’s name – he is fast asleep. And I must apologize for the fact that it took me so dang long to get this done. But Sydni did the drawing, and better late than never!
It’s a great book, Libby. I know you’ll enjoy it. Direct message me on Twitter or email me (beth{at}powhatancc{dot}org with a mailing address and it’ll be on it’s way!

What I’m Reading Right Now

Craig Groeschel leads Lifechurch.tv, a church that is dedicated to being a reproducing, multi-site organization (“one church, multiple locations”).  Craig spoke at the 2008 Leadership Summit and gave a stirring, exhilirating and truth-filled talk that continues to resonate in my heart.

He spoke about the (almost) indefinable, elusive “it” that marks the unexplainable attraction to something or someone.  In this context, Groeschel talks about the life-changing power of a church that has “it”.
It is fascinating, this concept of the God of the universe – almighty, all-powerful, omnipresent, creator of all things being reduced to a boring, unapproachable, politicized head of an institution found on street corners and interstates all over this country.  But, sadly, it is happening.  All too often, the Jesus that we love is boxed up and set aside as completely irrelevant and unnecessary.  Too much passion – for Jesus, for people outside the walls of the church, for the hurting and disenfranchised – is frowned upon, and not just by those outside the walls, but sometimes by those within. 
Jan is asking questions about this on her always-fascinating blog.  I am learning from the questions she posits, from the fact that I have no easy answers.  Others are praying and pushing and opening dialogue and moving their feet to declare the truth about incredible, exciting, transformative faith found in Jesus.  These are exciting times.
I love the church, and I love Jesus, and I am really digging this book.  Groeschel is an engaging, honest writer.  His stories will give you great insight and make you laugh, and the challenges that unfold just might change your world.
And just might change your church.
You can find “It” here.  You can read Craig Groeschel’s blog posts here.

Life Itself

I’m at my favorite place in the world, seeking a little peace and quiet and doing a little self-care with my favorite people in the world (see below). Conditions are perfect for peace, quiet and self-care; not too many folks here right now. Lots of room to move, lots of blue skies and perfect weather.

Currently, I’m reading Gifted To Lead: The Art of Leading As A Woman In the Church by Nancy Beach. I picked this up in June and dug into it last week. I expected it to be good, but I’m finding it beyond simply good. It’s stunning, inspiring and spiritually challenging.

By the way – women? Read this book.

Here’s something I read today that has been twirling in my heart for the past few hours; she quotes Frederick Buechner from Now and Then:

“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize, but all the more fascinatingly because of all that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly… Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.


Wow.

Life itself is grace.

Just chew on that for a while.

Then I read Robyn’s blog – “3 Girls Mom”; writing about her experience at a Beth Moore teaching conference, she had this to say:

“I also learned that EVERYTHING in my life (good or bad) has been allowed by God for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. And if I don’t use those life experiences (good and bad) to glorify Him, then they were all in vain. Think about that the next time you want to throw yourself a pity party.

God is reminding me today of a few very important things. I find them mind-boggling, heart-wrenching, and spirit-renewing.

And that’s a very good thing.

Oh, and my favorite people in the world? Here they are:


Beautiful Boy

I took several books with me on vacation; I read I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (which I loved – laugh out loud) and The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg, both collections of essays for Women Forced To Acknowledge That They’re Getting Older. That’s me. I loved both books – laughed AND cried, and identified with a lot of what I read, including some things that I just anticipate understanding in the next twenty years. Some of my blog buddies ought to read these books. You know who you are.

I read Janet Evanovich’s latest Stephanie Plum novel, and they always make me laugh out loud. They’re good, predictable and easy to digest – sort of like a 3 Musketeers bar. Yum.
By far, the most moving book I read was Beautiful Boy by David Sheff. The story of his son, Nic, and the challenges of parenting through Nic’s drug addiction, this work profoundly impacted me on several levels. Sheff did an outstanding job of relating the heartache and devastation of loving through intense pain; the descriptions of the worst of their times together were gut-wrenching. I gained great insight into the pain of hidden within the families of addicts. I pray that my ability to be more empathetic will grow because of what I experienced as I journeyed through this book.
I highly recommend Beautiful Boy. Your time will not be ill-spent.
Read more about the book here; read about Nic Sheff and his story in his own words here.

David and Nic Sheff; photo from the NYTimes