Books, Christianity, Life

Sensible Shoes… A Sensational Read!

A sensational story that will profoundly touch your life!

A spoiler-free book review:

Sensible Shoes … A story about the Spiritual Journey

by Sharon Garlough Brown

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

. . . we all have quite an adventure ahead of us.”

Meg p341


Sensible Shoes is the story of the spiritual journey of four unrelated women whose lives become interwoven as they walk through a three month retreat. Although the sessions are held every other week, the four become friends. They find much growth and healing as they share their dreams, desires, fears, and failures with one another.

Learn to linger with what provokes you.”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s professor P 80

Four Pairs of Shoes

  • Meg Crane
    • Age 46
    • Widow
    • Mother died about 3 months ago
    • Recent empty nester
  • Hannah Shepley
    • Age 39
    • Associate Pastor
    • Has a compulsive desire to be needed: a “codependent pastor.” (P 81)
    • On a forced 9 month, fully paid, sabbatical.
  • Mara Garrison
    • Age 50
    • Eats to self-soothe
    • Has a sordid past
    • Unappreciated by husband and their two sons
  • Charissa Goodman Sinclair
    • Age 26
    • A married PhD student
    • A perfectionist
    • A professor wants his students to wrestle with God and have a personal experience with Him; This retreat should check that block.

. . . Restlessness is movement.”

Dawn, Mara’s therapist. P33

Mara knew the script by heart. Dawn would remind her that peace wasn’t the absence of conflict, but presence of God in the midst of the storm.”

P 33
http://www.labyrinthlife.com/free-stuff.html

Trying on New Shoes:


Retreat facilitator, Katherine Rhodes, introduces the retreatants to a passel of approaches to connect differently/better with God. Like trying on a new pair of shoes, sometimes a new way of encounter takes a little time for it to fit well. The list that follows and the descriptions are just a piece of what is fleshed out in the book.

  • Walking a Labyrinth
    • This concept totally intrigued me. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is a single path that winds about, arrives at a center point, then leads back to the original entry point. It doesn’t have any obstructions or dead ends.
    • The journey is one of prayerful walking.
    • There is no specified amount of time for walking a labyrinth.
    • Although there is no right way to pray the labyrinth, many people divide the prayer into three parts:
      • inward journey: the time to notice what is distracting/hindering/competing for one’s time with Jesus. It is this part when one takes the time to confess wrongs, let go of burdens, and look at what fears are binding one.
      • center: a time to pause, to be, to rest in God, a time to receive what scripture/insights/revelation/peace/presence God is choosing to reveal.
      • outward journey: a time to allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower, a time to ponder the insights received in the center.
  • Lectio Divina
    • Lectio Divina means sacred reading. From as far back as the middle ages, Lectio Divina is a slow, prayerful way of taking God’s Word into oneself.
    • By lingering over the Word, one is able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order to encounter the living God.
      • Read aloud, or have another person read aloud, a passage of scripture. Listen for a word or phrase that seems to choose you. Don’t analyze it or think about it. Just listen.
      • Read the same passage aloud a second time, or have the same person as before read it aloud again. While listening this time, ponder that word or phrase. Ask why it speaks to you at this time. What is God saying to you? What does it have to do with your life right now?
        Do not be afraid to feel and think!
      • After pondering/wrestling with the word or phrase, begin to converse with God about it. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s prodding and reassurance as you talk with God.
      • Finally, just rest in Him. Don’t worry about using words, just be in His love.
  • Reading the Bible devotionally as prayer
    • Allow God’s personal Word be precisely for you! For example: change the name of the person being addressed to your name!
    • Focus on God’s graciousness and power instead of your personal fears and worries.
    • Remember this type of reading is not reading the text historically, but instead, focusing on God’s promise of love. Allow God to draw you into intimacy with Jesus.
  • Praying the Examen
    • This form of prayer was developed in the 16th century by Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way of talking through the details of one’s day with Jesus. The examen helps one quiet oneself in order to recognize the work of the Spirit and God’s presence throughout the day. It allows one to pay attention to details of the day.
    • It is a prayerful replay of the details of the day, both the life-building and the life-draining moments.
      • As one ponders the day, there are moments that seem to invite lingering/pondering. That is the Spirit’s invitation to notice those moments.
      • Some possible questions to help get into focus: (from p 178)
        • “When were you aware of God’s presence today? When were you aware of God’s absence?”
        • When did you respond with love, faith, obedience …. resistance, avoidance?
        • When did you feel most alive, energized, drained, troubled, agitated?
      • Once the day has been reviewed, confess the things that need confessing and allow the Spirit to bring forgiveness and grace.
      • Consider how you can choose better and live more attentive to God’s call to love tomorrow.
      • “Ask for the grace to recognize the ways God makes His love known to you.”
  • Palms up/Palms down prayer
    • This form of prayer is simple … but not easy! It uses physical movements to help focus the praying person on letting go and receiving.
    • The person begins by thinking of all the worries, troubles, concerns, anxieties, distractions etc and faces the palms of the hands downwards releasing those things to God.
    • When ready, the person turns the palms upwards to receive what gifts God has to give.
    • Release and receive as many times as needed.
      • note: sometimes it is hard not to pick one’s troubles back up, so it may take many times of releasing to let go … and vice versa, sometimes it is difficult to accept God’s blessings and it may take receiving them over and over before one truly takes ownership of the gifts.
  • Wilderness Prayer
    • Read prayerfully and slowly Genesis 16:7-10 – the story of Hagar in the wilderness.
    • At this is a major decision-making moment in Hagar’s life, a crossroads, the Angel of the Lord asked Hagar 2 questions:
      • Where have you come from?
      • Where are you going?
    • Ponder these same questions. Journal your responses after asking the Spirit to bring to mind those people, places, things, and events which brought you to this crossroads.
  • Self Examination
    • Self Examination is not about perfecting oneself. It is about listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.
    • It is a time to allow God to nudge so that one can recognize where there is resistance to Him.
    • It is cooperating with the Holy Spirit by saying YES to God’s movement in one’s life.
    • Several texts and suggested sets of questions are listed in the book to accompany this
  • Rule of Life
    • This is an intentional structure – likened to a trellis – designed to free one to respond to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. It helps a person orient and grow towards Christ along that structure.
    • The focus is to deepen intimacy with God. It is not a resolution. It is not a focus on fixing or controlling a behavior. It is not a list of dos and don’ts or obligations.
    • A Rule of Life is prayed about and developed after prayerful listening.
      • A Rule of Life is meant to reflect who a person is becoming in Christ.
  • Praying with Imagination
    • By putting oneself in the scene of a Bible passage, using the senses to create the scene in one’s mind, and being a person in that passage the scene becomes alive and exposes things God may want to reveal.
    • There is no worry about being historically accurate: ie no need to know how the people dressed or what the accent sounded like … it’s about being in the moment as part of the story.

The Spirit of God is always speaking to us, but we need to slow down, stop, and give more than lip service to what God is saying. We need to get off autopilot and take time to look and listen with the eyes and ears of the heart.”

Katherine Rhodes: Retreat Facilitator. P 51

Pros & Cons

I loved this book and have recommended it to a number of people already. It is one that caused me to think differently about how I relate to God. It gave me examples of where to begin and how to progress. I truly found it to be life altering! The cons are essentially non-existent, and the pros are so strong that I give the book a 10 out of 10.

  • Pros
    • Great characterization. I fell into each of their stories and felt their joys and pains. The struggles were real.
    • Easy for multiple age groups to connect to the story.
    • Rated PG-13 . . . clean language, no steamy details.
    • The spiritual exercises are described through the journeys the characters take, AND are many are described in one page like a handout the retreatants received so anyone interested could try the exercises at home.
    • some of the topics introduced through the lives of the characters make for great conversation openers with a teen audience.
    • This book is Christian, not denominational. I could not tell, by reading the story, what sect the author is.
    • It ends satisfactorily. Although it is the first of a series, the story stands alone. And I want to read more, for sure!
  • Cons
    • I don’t have any cons for this book, but I do have a caveat: Although these spiritual exercises could be shared with a younger audience, the stories are sometimes explicit and would need to be edited out for younger kids.

While it is essential to read God’s Word, we must allow God’s Word to read us.”

P 102

Final thoughts

Read this book with an open heart! Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey with the protagonists! It will stay with you for a long time.

Perhaps God wants to reveal something to you . . .”

Dr. Nathan Allen, Charissa’s Professor. P 81

Christianity, Plays

A Lesser-Known But Intriguing Christian Play

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The House by the Stable by Charles Williams

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

This is not one of those books I just picked up for the fun of it. It was actually a required text for my Modern Christian Writers class, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it!

Although some Christian works appeal to people of all religions as well as those who embrace no religion, this is likely one that will almost exclusively be appealing to Christians.

Background

Charles Williams is a British playwright, novelist, poet, and theologian. He was also a member of the Inklings, a group in which J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were also members.

Some of his other works that I have read include War in Heaven and Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury.

Summary

The House by the Stable is an allegorical play about a man who courts Pride both literally and figuratively, and unknowingly engages in a battle for his soul against Hell. He also alludes to the innkeeper from the Bible who refused Joseph and Mary a room but offered them a place in the stable.

Pros

  • Compelling dialogue
  • Unexpected choices when it comes to characters
  • The Christmas Story from a different point of view
  • Strong message
    • Powerful understanding of how Pride can corrupt and change a man
    • A testament to the value of grace in a Christian’s life

Cons

  • A little heavy-handed with the message
  • The perfection of the good characters and the extreme wickedness of the bad ones mean that the only relatable character is Man.

Review

Dialogue

The dialogue of this play contributes to its long-lasting value and immediate appeal to readers. For instance, this is what Man’s mistress–fittingly named Pride–says when she is asked why she adores Man so much:

It is no surprise–if you think what you are. Indeed, it were stranger if I adored you less. You are Man, the lord of this great house Earth, or (as its name is called in my country) Sin; you are its god and mine.”

You can tell immediately that Pride is a dangerous character–not only does she pretend to worship Man, she also encourages him to worship himself. Her influence on Man has caused him to lose his friends and to think only of himself. This is undoubtedly a toxic relationship–and that’s the point–that humankind’s relationship with pride is unhealthy and damaging to one’s self and others.

Unexpected Choices

Having the character who represents the angel Gabriel be just a shuffling butler, “that old gossip of heaven” is an unusual choice.

It was also clever to have Pride be the literal mistress of Man, and for Man to be the man who let Mary and Joseph shelter in his stable.

Point of View

Even though Mary and Joseph and the stable where Jesus is born are all part of this play, the focus is on Man, who is a stand-in for all humans who are trapped in sin.

Message

If I had to pin down the message for this play, I would say it is that the negative aspects of pride are humankind’s worst enemy. Charles Williams treats it as one of the most terrible sins. Pride ruins one’s relationship with others and damages one’s relationship with God.

This quote offers another message that is important:

You are my worshipful sweet Pride; will you be so arrogant always to others and humble to me? Will you always make me believe in myself?”

Man

It reveals that self-confidence, while good in reasonable quantities, can be a trap if it is excessive. Overconfidence can be dangerous when it leads to pride and causes one to sin.

Conclusion

This play has some strong insights that made it worthwhile to read, as you saw above. It’s also incredibly short, so if you aren’t a fan, it’s not like you wasted a bunch of time. I would say, give it a try!

Rating System

If you’re interested in how I rate books, check out my rating system.