Every single day of sunshine in September feels to me like an act of grace. This September followed a very soggy August, and every day I was able to be in the garden, enjoying the sun, I felt thankful. September has been about blackberry-picking with my boy, and finding light in unexpected places.
My best friend came to visit me after being away for more than a year in Japan. It was such a gift to see her after such a long time, and to catch up on everything.
The boy has a new obsession with making things and doing science experiments. I am good at neither. This means I regularly let him loose with some paper plates, a yellow napkin and an extravagant quantity of sellotape, and call it ‘craft-time’, and when we’re in the garden I let him fill a large bowl with water, drop various inanimate objects into it, and call it scientific exploration. We are both inordinately happy with this arrangement.
This month I was well enough to leave the house twice! Hurrah!
The first time was to Dartmouth, and a meander through some art and book shops. The second time I ventured out to see the sea and went out for a meal with Jon and the boy. Praise the Lord for his abundant mercies in providing restaurants that hand out colouring pencils and paper before the starters have arrived, and that cater for the paleo diet.
Eve – Wm Paul Young. You probably know this author from his previous book, ‘The Shack’. Like his previous book, it is a fictional story that follows a character who has been through suffering (this time it is themes of rape rather than murder), who has a supernatural encounter and emerges with a transformed outlook. Where it differs from The Shack is that rather than tackling theology in the abstract, it seeks to retell the story of Eden (Genesis 1-4).
Some of his theological interpretations I really appreciated; others I felt missed the mark. I felt his interpretation of the Fall was a little too easy on Eve and a little too hard on Adam – but as Milton used his fictional retelling of the Fall (Paradise Lost) to do the opposite, I figure it’s about time someone evened up the score. The book almost lost me in a couple of places, but it is well worth persevering. What this book and The Shack does best is to act as a discussion starter and rekindle a wonder of the story and a sense of God’s love for the broken – and it does this job excellently. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £10.99 or Wordery (UK) £9.24, or Amazon.com (US) $8.80.
Resilient – Your invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life – Sheridan Voysey. This is a collection of devotions on the Sermon on the Mount. Sheridan is a master writer of devotions: his tone is pastoral without being sentimental; his illustrations are rooted in real life, and he digs deep into the word without being over-intellectual. It is the classic devotional style: a verse at the beginning to reflect upon, with a short but meaty commentary, and questions or quotes at the end. It doesn’t simply go through the Sermon on the Mount, but dots around using several themes in the sermon. It is a thoughtful and enjoyable journey, and great if you’re looking for devotional material. It’s out on 21st October, so add it to your wishlist – from Amazon.co.uk or get it from Amazon.com (US) $13.99.
or Discovery House (UK) £8.50 now
Finding Myself in Britain – Amy Boucher Pye. Every now and again it is a good thing to take a look at our culture through the eyes of an outsider – and Amy Boucher Pye does just this in her book on British society. As an American who married an English vicar, she has a fresh perspective on the things we take for granted – such as our obsession with tea, our relationship with the royal family and remembrance day, our approach to Christmas. It follows through a year and has snippets of her story mixed with fun miscellany about our society, and a few spiritual reflections on being a foreigner in a new culture.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable trip through some of our traditions and cultures, and made me reflect on how we treat those of a different culture, and particularly Americans. Her writing is conversational and an easy, pleasurable read, and this is exactly the kind of thing that you would read (ironically enough) whilst drinking a cup of tea – whimsical and thought-provoking in equal measure. (And look out for my name in the acknowledgements…) One for Brits, Anglophiles, and anyone who has ever lived abroad. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £9.99 or Wordery (UK) £7.91, or Amazon.com (US) $9.82 (and watch out for a giveaway on the blog SOON!)
Wearing God – Lauren Winner. This book takes a fresh look at the Bible’s metaphors for God in order to meet with God afresh. The Bible doesn’t just describe God as ’Shepherd, Father, King’ but as clothes (think ‘clothe yourself with Christ’), bread, a labouring woman, fire. I have a hardback copy, which I recommend, because I am underlining so much, and will want to return to it again and again. Her writing is both elegant and theologically rich. I am taking my time with this, enjoying every well-crafted chapter, soaking in her thought-provoking observations. One of my favourite books this year – it’s just so artfully done. Pricey, but worth every penny. Get it from Amazon.co.uk £14.99 or Wordery (UK) £11.87, or Amazon.com (US) $19.07.
And also reading advanced reader copies of: Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey, Coming Clean – Seth Haines, Knowing the Heretics – Justin Holcomb, The Message 100. There are some good books coming soon!
- Silver Linings Playbook – finally seen this. Love love loved it. It’s such a beautiful unconventional love story, and treats mental illness with a compassionate, whimsical humour. It’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t work but really does. HIT.
- United 93 – I’m still traumatised by this film about the only aeroplane hijacked by the 9/11 hijackers that didn’t make its intended target. artistically, it’s fascinating. I thought it would follow the usual ‘disaster movie’ format by highlighting a few stories, getting us into the characters. It doesn’t. We are robbed of the chance to get to know any of the characters and their backstories, and instead we just hear snatches of conversation on the plane, then in the air control station. Because of its realistic feel, when the plane goes down it feels less like a film and more like you are eavesdropping on footage that ought not to have been released. It felt voyeuristic rather than redemptive. I would NOT recommend this to frequent fliers.. MISS.
- Street Dance 2 – great film! Ultimate comfort watching. HIT (if you like that sort of thing…)
- Unknown – I watched this excellent thriller again. Happily, I had forgotten the plot twist. HIT.
- BBC’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover – terrible. I found myself siding with the perfectly reasonable husband rather than the slightly grumpy lover, which made the conclusion a little unpalatable. This had all the right ingredients, but didn’t work. MISS.
- The Bourne legacy – great sequel with a new ‘Bourne’. I’m a fan (though it felt like it ended abruptly). HIT.
The Hurt Locker – the dude who plays the new ‘Bourne’ was also in this film about a small company of American soldiers in Iraq who defuse bombs for a living. As I know someone who used to do exactly that, I had an extra interest in it. What strikes you is the mad intensity of a tour abroad. It’s artfully done and brilliantly acted – HIT.
- Odyssey – Jon and I binge-watched this thriller series starring Anna Friel. It was utterly gripping – really sorry to hear they’re not doing a second series, because this was awesome. (Also, halfway through I thought, ‘that lawyer dude is so pale he could be a vampire’ – and in that second I realised where I’d seen him before: the Twilight series.)
- Nashville – I’m rooting for Rayna and Deacon.
- Jane the Virgin – reached the end of series one. OH MY GOODNESS. I am still traumatised by the final thirty-second cliffhanger.
- New Girl – still loving this series. Favourite quote recently – Nadia, the world’s most unsuitable mother-to-be, on looking at a cot for the first time – “Where is top for baby cage?”
I had two unexpected gifts this month. One amazing friend bought me a colouring book, so I’m finally getting in on the trend (and discovering how bad I am at colouring within the lines…) It’s fun doing it together with the boy.
And another amazing friend, who knew I couldn’t be at the Greenbelt conference, gave me Greenbelt in an envelope – all the talks on a drive plus instructions for having the more ‘authentic’ Greenbelt experience (i.e. wet and freezing). I’m looking forward to spending time enjoying a wide variety of talks, espeically the ones by Paula Gooder and Katharine Welby-Roberts.
Best Joke Ever ( by Jon Marlow)
Q: Why do owls not like to go on dates in the rain?
A: Because it’s too wet to woo.
(The best bits and blogs for September were so long that I’ll do them in a separate post on Friday.)
On the blog
Thanks for staying with me while I went on a crazy marathon guest-posting tour. There were lots of popular posts this month, including:
- All the Things I Cannot Speak (for She Loves),
- The Day I Went to a Faith Healer (Mudroom),
- Like Me, Like Me, Like Me – Confessions of a social media addict (For Seth Haines) and
- When the Journey is Too Much for You.
Plus, the ever-popular God and Suffering stories restarted for another season – check them out if you haven’t already.
And finally… Have you read my book yet? If you have enjoyed it, I would love you forever if you could leave even a one-sentence review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It would be amazing if I could have 50 reviews on Amazon.co.uk and 15 reviews on Amazon.com by the end of the year.
If you haven’t yet read it, please do download it for FREE! (See below).
I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her magnificent What I’m Into Linkup.
I received a free advanced copy of many of the books above in exchange for my honest review, which these all are. This post contains Amazon and Wordery affiliate links, which means if you click through to Amazon.co.uk Wordery.com or Amazon.com from this site and buy absolutely anything in the world, you help this site, at no extra cost to you.
Over to you:
- What have you been into this September?