Some reading along the way
I've been back at work for three weeks and it's given me just a bit of distance from the three months that I had off due to my medical condition, together with the preceding weeks which are all a bit of a blur. I've described this time as being 'graced' because despite my unwelcome circumstances there have been many riches along the way.
We have this fantasy that when we're unwell we'll have the opportunity to read all the books we haven't got round to and watch all the films and series on Netflix in the 'My List'. Of course the reality is far from this. However, I did read, moved in the early days by books with which I was looking for a connection. And many of these were re-reads.
Michael Mayne's 'The Enduring Melody' is a book that I've read several times, and used as the basis of a number of sermons, drawing on his exploration of the enduring melody, the cantus firmus, at the centre of a life. This forms the first part of the book. However, the bulk of the book takes the form of a journal with the chapter title, 'The Questioning Country of Cancer' relating Mayne's experience of what proved to be terminal cancer. This frank but moving account took on a fresh significance and Mayne became something of a companion to me.
Another re-read was Barbara Brown Taylor's 'Learning to Walk in the Darkness'. I'd read this before and wasn't overly struck but finding myself confined to strict bed rest with the prospect of needing to learn to walk again once I was fitted with a custom-made back-brace, the book was a pretty good summary of where I found myself! Again, it made a particular connection and gave much to reflect upon in the way of 'lunar spirituality' in contrast to 'full solar spirituality.'
Eugene Peterson has been a 'friend' for over thirty years and I returned again to his little book on the Psalms and in particular the Songs of Ascent, 'A Long Obedience in the Right Direction.' I found him inspiring and reorientating. In a re-issue since his death there is an introduction by his son in the form of a letter to his Dad. He concludes, 'for fifty years you've been telling me the secret. For fifty years you've stealed into my room at night and whispered softly to my sleeping head. It's the same message over and over and you don't vary it one bit. God loves you. He's on your side. He's coming after you. He's relentless.' I was deeply touched, and continue to be, by these words.
Douglas A. Campbell's 'Paul: An Apostle's Journey' was an absolute delight which took me in another direction and in the process gave me a fresh perspective and excitement for Paul. I'm now reading Tom Wright's 'Paul - An Autobiography.'
And then Nigella, 'Feast' which, with a currently limited diet, has been welcome fantasy-reading, stirring hope for a not-too-distant future when I can get back to cooking and enjoying food again!