Homefront (3)

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Reading and knitting news.

Some days at the library or the book shop are like harvest festival, with an abundance of fruitful finds and too many volumes I would love to read. Other visits are like the dead of winter, a shortest day of the year kind of visit where the only books worth reading are the ones I have already read and I come home empty handed.

Happily I’ve plenty to read just now and a pile by my bed that is knee high and threatening to topple any day. I’m currently in the last 100 pages of city saga, Norman Collins, London Belongs to Me. I’d not heard of the author but I picked it up in a charity shop to make up the numbers on a 3 paperbacks for a pound offer.

Norman Collins was a writer and television executive who published several novels in the 30s and 40s before pioneering the first British commercial TV channel, ITV. On checking reviews it would seem that this novel is well loved for its portrayal of a city and the people who live and work there, but I love it most for its portrayal of 1930s Britain and quickly grew nostalgic for a time now past.

London Belongs to Me, is neatly crafted around the residents of 10 Dulcimer Street, a London house owned by the widow Mrs Vizzard who rents rooms to paying guests. A series of their connected stories successfully represent life in London on the eve of the war. There is Percy Boon caught up in a terrible crime, Connie an ageing and light fingered actress, Mr Puddy the night watchman, Mr Squales a failed psychic with ambitions beyond his talent and the rather wonderful Jossers who long for a cottage in the country.

At over 700 pages long, its been a great read as the nights get colder and darker. Thoroughly recommended.

In knitting news I press on with gloves and make slow process on the lace. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to undo the lace scarf but I am quite determined to finish this project at some point.

The lace scarf pattern is 22 Leaves by Lankakomero at Ravelry. I am knitting it in Eden Cottage Yarns Theseus lace, which I purchased using a recent trip to Loop of London.

I’m linking up with Ginny Sheller at Yarn Along today. This is a great place for those of us who love our yarn craft and our reading. Visit her blog for restful thoughts a couple of times a week and the most beautiful homesteading photos.

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Books for Advent

Recommendations for advent reading.

Until recently I had not been part of a church that followed the liturgical calendar. Sometimes it actively opposed such remembrance, arguing that we should celebrate Christ’s birth, his death and resurrection, everyday, especially as there was no direction to make an occasion of these events in scripture. At other times the attitude was ambivalent. Not knowing quite what to do with the season, independent churches who found their identity in having broken away from the established churches, were unable to decide whether to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the celebrations or to keep a safe distance from the worldliness of it all.

Some time before I moved to a liturgical church I found that I was slipping into a rhythm of Bible reading and contemplation that followed the cycle of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, as easily as my heart and writing followed the seasons of the natural world. When my inner winter times seemed to go on forever I took comfort in Lenten practices that followed the pattern of the freshly emerging spring. When resurrection Sunday came, I celebrated more deeply than before. As the last leaves turned and fell in a splendour of autumn glory, mornings were cold but thought of Advent warmed my soul. The rhythms of the church year echoed the patterns of my own spiritual formation and gave me words to pray in the different seasons of life.

Christmas approaches and we rekindle traditions within our own homes, the right date for putting up the tree, recipes we only make at this time of year, trips out to the German markets or to the theatre, a fire in the hearth every night, movies and good books. The tender meanings of incarnation in a broken world are enlivened for us in carol singing and lectionary readings. Counting down to the shortest day of the year we can make time for  extra reading, something devotional or if we are already widely read in devotional works, something more theologically challenging.

The books I am reviewing today are written for advent and offer three different approaches to devotional writing but there common goal is to help us connect more authentically with Christ, the heart of our Christmas faith.

Janet Morely, Haphazard by Starlight: A Poem a Day from Advent to Epiphany.

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This seasonally decorated book offers 37 poems on advent themes, a commentary on each and a question to guide our thoughts and prayers. Morley uses each poem as a stimulus to examine themes of fears and expectations, darkness and light, annunciation, patience, death and hope of resurrection. I have have especially appreciated how her comments on the poem open up the layers of meaning without forcibly dictating the message. The questions at the end of each chapter have been a prompt for my journal notes and help me connect what I have read with how I will respond.

Extract from a chapter one Emily Dickinson’s poem, We grow accustomed to the dark,

“An important dimension of advent is that it moves through a time when the world is becoming increasingly dark. Days are shorter, nights start sooner, and the quality of light is often dulled by poor weather. There is no avoiding having to live quite a large proportion of our waking life during hours of darkness, and for some people this is a physical reality that leads to gloom or even depression … Have you ever experienced the sense of being totally in the dark, either in your prayer life or in life decisions generally? Was it possible for you to risk keeping going in that darkness?”

 

Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

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The Tree of Jesse is a symbol from Medieval art representing the ancestors of Christ as presented in the gospel geneologies. The Jesse tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Voskamp’s book traces the redemptive connections between characters in the Old Testament, Messianic prophesies, and significant events leading up to the birth of Jesus. Those who are familiar with Voskamp’s writing will notice the predominance of her own familiar theme: the overwhelming power of God’s grace to heal the most damaged soul.

An extract from The Greatest Gift, a reflection on Matthew 1

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning. The God. Who walked with us in the garden in the cool of the evening, before the fall shattered our closeness with him, is the God who came after his people in the pillar of cloud, of fire, because he couldn’t bear to let his people wander alone. He is the God who came to grieving job as a whirl wind, a tornado, a hurricane, who covenanted to Abraham as a smoking furnace, who wildly pitched his tent with the holy of holies so somehow, in all the Shekinah glory, he could get close enough to live amid his people.”

 

Paula Gooder, The Meaning is in the Waiting: The Spirit of Advent

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This advent book by Bible Society theologian, Paula Gooder is the most theological orientated of the three book. It involves no scholarly exegesis, but the writing reflects Gooder’s stated intent of bringing the bennefits of modern Biblical Studies to a wider audience of Christian readers. The book has four main chapters, one for each week of advent and they examine stories of waiting in the lives of Abraham and Sarah, the prophets, John the Baptist and Mary. There is an introductory chapter of waiting as a Chrsitan virtue that deals splendidly with the idea of time in Biblical thought.

An extract from the final chapter of, The Meaning is in the Waiting

“Mary’s song of praise, when it comes, is one of the most powerful in the Bible: the idea of reversal (the powerful being made low and the lowly being lifted up), the poetry, and the sheer joy of the song, have made sure that it has remained one of the churches’ favourite expressions of praise for many centuries … Luke portrays Mary as the first poetic theologian of the New Testament : she sees the event of the world around her, makes connections between them, draws deeply on her religious roots and pours this out in a beautiful hymn of praise.”

On the homefront

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Did anyone else listen to Garrison Keiller’s, Tales from Lake Wobegon, in the nineties?

Well it has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, AKA home.

Most things here are determined by homeschooling and a pattern of Andy leaving for work on Sunday afternoon and not coming home until Thursday night. It makes for a very short weekend but I’m learning to cherish the feeling of sadness I have when he leaves as a token of love rather than loss. We are making the most of every minute of the shortened weekend as you may have noticed from my social media activity. Nothing fancy, just good home cooked meals, a little baking, a little cinema, trips out to favourite places not far from home and church.

If anyone reading this also suffers from being apart from loved ones, I hope you find some practices that make it a little easier for yourselves.

We like to share Compline*, by phone, several times a week. Andy reads and by the time he arrives at …

“As the night watch looks for the morning, so do we look for you, O Christ.

Come with the dawning of the day and make yourself known in the breaking of the bread.”

… we’re ready for a restful goodnight and some well earned sleep.

In further news, I am knitting mittens and gloves (endlessly). These in the picture are for Lucy. Knitted up in Debbie Bliss merino wool (Rialto) from a sweet vintage pattern I found inside my Grandma’s war time knitting book, I’m really happy with the colours and the stitch definition.

I’m linking up with Ginny Sheller at Yarn Along today. This is a great place for those of us who love our yarn craft and our reading. Visit her blog for restful thoughts a couple of times a week and the most beautiful homesteading photos.

In terms of reading, I might just treat myself to a Garrison Keiller short story. Sadly most of his early books are now out of print but you can still get hold of second hand copies and wonderful recordings of him reading the stories of small town American life for the radio.

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*Compline is a service of evening prayers from  the Divine Office of the Western Christian Church, traditionally said (or chanted) before retiring for the night. we use the Anglican order and you can find it here.