Tag Archives: Discernment

Book Review: “Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me” by Raji Lukkoor

with His Holiness S. N. Goenka

A young woman’s yearning for inner peace is about to be realized–at a trip to the woods to unlock the secrets of the ever-thinking mind. Hosted by spiritual master S. N. Goenka, a ten-day vipassana meditation retreat that she attends irrevocably alters her perspective…and her future. Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me is a comprehensive, moment-by-moment description of the author’s ten-day vipassana meditation retreat. The story unfolds with her arrival at the retreat as an ordinary citizen seeking a calmer, more centered existence. Sacrificing every luxury and self-indulgence, and following a rigid daily routine that excludes reading, writing, praying, listening to music, watching TV, and talking, the author spends ten hours every day, meditating.  Inner Pilgrimage provides rich imagery and clearly articulated details of the author’s physical experience and her mental & emotional states, during sustained meditation. It provides a compelling insight into her experience of discovering the realm and rewards of vipassana meditation. (from Goodreads) 

Raji Lukkoor’s experience on a vipassana meditation retreat inspired her to craft the book:  “Inner Pilgrimage:  Ten Days to a Mindful Me”.  I was immediately drawn to the words in the title:  “Inner Pilgrimage”, “Mindful Me”.   The words conveyed a feeling of calm and serenity, along with a desire to discover self. 

Vipassana meditation, also known as insight meditation, is a journey of personal awareness that can transform the quality of our lives.  And this book is about one person’s journey with vipassana meditation, as experienced on a ten day retreat. 

This vipassana meditation retreat consisted of ten hours of silent and motionless meditation, every day, for ten days in a row.  As a participant, Raji Lukkoor, the book’s author, spent that meditative time sitting cross-legged, (the typical meditation pose), with pillows propped under her knees and ultimately ignoring all sensory experience outside of her body.  There were teaching sessions, via DVD, that spoke to the proper ways of meditating, and breathing as a whole body experience.  This particular vipassana retreat is styled using the methods in the tradition of S.N. Goenka, a vipassana spiritual master, of the Buddhist tradition. 

Raji describes the location of the retreat as being in the middle of nowhere, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, U.S.A.  The accommodations are quite sparse – gender-segregated group cottages, with heat and lighting, beds, bedding, bathrooms and showers.  No access to the outside world, no reading material, no journal writing.  And the first thing Raji had to consider was locating a place to sleep.  I identified with Raji’s determination to find a place where she would be comfortable to sleep for ten days.  I have never attended a vipassana meditation retreat, but I have attended other types of silent retreats, all of various durations.  Getting ‘settled’ and feeling comfortable in the sleeping area is very important.  What is new to me is the requirement to remain motionless for ten hours of active meditation.  It intrigues me, but I am not sure I would have Raji’s stamina! If you connected the lack of writing supplies on the retreat, to the writing of this book, you will realize that Raji Lukkoor wrote this book based on her memory and experience of those ten days – and that I find remarkable.  To me that means that this retreat made such a deep impression on Raji, had such meaning in her life, she was able to write about it many days after its end. And not just a re-telling of the events of those ten days. 

Raji Lukkoor

Raji Lukkoor was able to step back in time, to the first day of her vipassana meditation retreat, and bring us, the reader, along for the journey.  We travelled with her as she settled herself in her sleeping area, and checked the bath and shower accommodations.  We joined her negative and positive reactions to the dietary rules and conditions.  As Raji struggled to learn vipassana meditation, we captured the moments with her.  The seating challenges, the physical wins and the physical losses. Lukkoor’s detail focused, sharp engineer’s mind, plus her gifts as a writer brought the reader directly into the centre of the retreat.  We see the balance tip between the whole experience as overwhelming, and the whole experience as life-changing.  As the book comes to conclusion, Raji excitedly travels home bringing with her new spiritual skills to use in her everyday life.  A life in which, she feels more aware and more authentic. 

This book is not an answer to all questions about vipassana, nor is it an instructional manual.  It is one person’s experience.  Within the book, Raji does point us in a direction that will give us additional information and assistance, should we choose to study vipassana meditation more extensively.  Belonging to the Buddhist tradition is not necessary, in order to experience vipassana.  Raji herself had no Buddhist background. 

This is among the best inspirational books that I have read.  I was inspired by Raji Lukkoor’s personal spiritual journey.  I was inspired by this new-to-me form of meditation.  And I was inspired to sincerely look where in my life, I can move from restlessness to calm, from cloudiness to clarity. 

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For me, the Joy of the Written Word is written throughout “Inner Pilgrimage:  Ten Days to a Mindful Me” by Raji Lukkoor. 

Choose Joy! 

Patricia

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Book Review: “Finding Felicity” by Monica Marlowe

When Madeline O’Connor learns that her estranged sister is gravely ill, she leaves behind her life in Manhattan to be at her sister’s side in Italy. There, she discovers an ancient Benedictine monastery that accommodates travelers, and she decides to stay there, among the monks. Everything in her life turns upside down when she falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti, a soft-spoken Italian completely different from the men she knows in New York. Together Madeline and Anthony find love for the first time, and learn that life and love always find a way. When her sister dies, a new life for Madeline begins. A new life that she would never have imagined and yet is perfect for her in every way. (from Goodreads)

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Beginning a book review can sometimes present a challenge.  The urge is to jump right in with both feet, forgetting that the person reading your review has most likely not read the book yet!   

But in some ways this book is about jumping in with both feet.   

As read in the book description from Goodreads, the main character of this book – Madeline O’Connor – leaves her life in Manhattan and flies to Italy to be with her estranged sister, Carrie, who is dying.  Madeline is the Founder and CEO of Felicity International, whose business is high fashion lingerie.  What started as one store has grown worldwide and includes a mail-order division.  Felicity International has become Madeline’s family, her world, her one single interest in life.   

Within the first ten pages, we find that Madeline’s nephew Jonathan has written Madeline a letter, catching her up on family life, the news of his mother’s cancer, and asking Madeline to come to Italy.  So Madeline jumps in with both feet, and heads for Italy, and leaves her empire temporarily behind. 

Early in the book we learn the reason for the sisters’ estrangement: Jonathan’s father is David, Madeline’s ex-husband.  The truth is that Carrie and David had an affair, while David was ‘happily’ married to Madeline, and Carrie became pregnant with Jonathan.  Although his role in the novel is confined to only a few pages, it is important to note that Carrie was married, to Bobby, at the time of her affair with David.   It becomes quickly apparent why the sisters were estranged. 

While originally living in New York, once Carrie and David are married, they take Jonathan and move to Italy.  They were not married long when they divorced, and David moved away.   Carrie and Jonathan remained in Italy. 

It seems that within a couple of days, after receiving the letter from Jonathan, Madeline is in Italy, preparing to meet with her sister. 

While this may sound a little convoluted as I write this very brief synopsis here, the author of “Finding Felicity” – Monica Marlowe – accomplishes the telling of this story with a skill that is to be admired.

Vineyard - Italy

While we are getting involved in Madeline’s life, there is a shift in the time frame of the novel.  We find ourselves in 1943, during World War II, reading another story; reading the story of a young man who is on his way to becoming a priest, and falls in love with a beautiful young woman.  The young man finds himself at a crossroads, and must decide whether to continue to the priesthood, or change his world and find a way to marry this woman. 

As the book progresses the story of the young man is interwoven with the story of Madeline.  The time of the novel alternates between the present day and 1943.  Both stories capture our hearts and our minds.  The author seems to know just when to make the time shift.  While most of the book is dedicated to Madeline, and focus is on her life, it always seemed good timing when the story switched to 1943. 

The novel reader will know early on if this type of time shift is something they like, or something they dislike.   For me, I enjoy novels that switch time frames, as this one does.  Especially as I try to figure out how the two stories are connected.  It stirs up my brain a little bit more!  But, for some readers, transitioning back and forth between different decades and centuries can be a little bit more than they bargained for – everyone is different. 

In this case, I guessed very early on in the book what the connection was between the two interwoven stories.  But how it was going to play out was to be a surprise.  

An Abbey – Italy

As we know from the back cover of the book, Madeline meets a monk in Italy, who turns her world and her heart upside down.  Their love story is played out with a bit of a twist, which I found very enjoyable.  Theirs was not the black and white world of boy meets girl.  Monica Marlowe’s writing style came to the forefront with the story of Madeline and Brother Anthony.  Marlowe’s writing captured me completely and I became totally enraptured with the love story.  When another love interest was added for Madeline, this twist meant I could not put the book down until the last page!  I was so caught up with this book that my tears were flowing freely, by the time the path of every character’s life was laid out. 

Not that I completely liked the way the story turned out – I did not.   The journey of Madeline’s nephew Jonathan is also a very big part of the storyline.  Jonathan’s life is deeply connected with Madeline, and of course with his mother, Carrie.  And throughout the novel I was right there with Jonathan.  However, I was quite disappointed with the way his storyline ended, and also with the speed with which the author ended it.   I felt a little deserted by that part of the novel.  Almost as though the author suddenly realized she needed an ending for Jonathan’s storyline, and created one.  As I mentioned, that part of the book disappointed me. 

An Italian Landscape

 But, that was a small price to pay for the balance of the book, the bulk of the book, being well written and creatively capturing my heart!  For me, “Finding Felicity” was a wonderful wild ride, thoroughly enjoyable, and romantic.

Beyond the basic story, this book is so much more than a love story.  It is a story of life, of real life.   It is a story of choice, faith, decision, interpersonal relationships, discernment, moral values, the value of friendships, and the value of family.  “Finding Felicity” is jam-packed with human emotions, human struggles, and human kindness.  And Monica Marlowe captures and holds our attention through it all.

Monica Marlowe

Would I recommend this novel?  You can probably guess the answer, but just to clarify, yes, I would highly recommend this novel.  Read it and enjoy!

Outside of the storyline, I would like to briefly comment on the front cover of “Finding Felicity”.  I thought the colours, fonts, layout, and design, were beautifully chosen.  I even enjoyed the colour of the back cover and spine, (a shade of purple – my personal favourite colour).  My only negative reaction was the young woman pictured on the front cover.  To me, she does not look strong enough to be ‘Madeline O’Connor’.  Yes, during the course of the novel, we saw a softer side of business woman Madeline, but even so her strong personality held through the entire book.  For me, the young woman on the front cover did not match the woman depicted in the storyline. 

When I received “Finding Felicity” from the author, Monica Marlowe, Monica kindly autographed the book, including a few words.  The inscription reads:  “Patricia, to your Felicity!”  I was thrilled with Monica’s autograph and inscription. But I kept going back to it:  “to your Felicity”.  I felt that must mean something, and during my reading of the book, I thought it referred to ‘Felicity’ as my dream, the ‘thing’ that made me as proud as Madeline O’Connor was about Felicity International.  And maybe that is what Monica meant.  But, somehow, I just felt there was more.  So, tonight, as I finished up this review, I looked ‘Felicity’ up on a “What Does Your Name Mean” website.  ‘Felicity’ means ‘Happiness’, ‘Happy’, ‘Great Happiness’!    

“Patricia, to your Felicity!”    

To YOUR Felicity.

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Book Review – ‘”Be in One Peace”‘ by Dr. Joanne Messenger

“Whether you’re new to self-healing, want more powerful and easier techniques, or you’re on a committed spiritual journey, “Be In One Peace” has gifts of gold for you. This book is not just another chakra book. It is cover to cover essential knowledge and techniques based on practical experience, to get you the results you need—step by step. Learn how to Master Your Energy Budget, Reclaim Yourself from Old Relationships and Events, Repair Your Heart Strings, Integrate Your Heart and Mind, and ease pain and stress to improve your health.

This book is for everyone who wants an easy and painless way to deal with stress, release the shackles of the past and live with more peace. Say good-bye to anxiety, poverty consciousness and defensiveness. Align with the highest vision of yourself and enjoy your new life.

Be In One Peace is a progressive fusion of ancient, eastern and western philosophy with the modern understanding of energy, anatomy and physiology to support your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health”. (from amazon.com)

Dr. Joanne Messenger has practiced as a chiropractor, healer and international course facilitator for over 30 years. She lives in Woodend, Australia and is Australia’s best-known teacher of Chiron philosophies and techniques. She has a bachelor’s degree in applied science, an Excellence Award in radiology and is certified with the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (USA) and in Sacro-Occipital Technique as well as in practicing and teaching Blueprint Healing. Dr. Messenger is past principal of the Australian Energy School of Chiron and former vice president of the International Association of Chiron Healers, Inc. (Press Release)

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“Be in One Peace” – what a great title! Stirred my thoughts to: Peace itself; of one Peace – as in people on common ground;  in one piece – a play on words – keeping something or someone together,  as one.

The cover captured my attention. Somehow, I felt its LIFE.

And, I do not mind admitting, that the day this book arrived from Bostwick Communications, I may have judged it by its cover!  Of course, not enough to impact an impartial review, just enough to make me feel good about the book from the beginning. This book is just approximately ½ inch thick (a little over 1 cm). Good quality paper inside, and also for the cover.  A pretty book, actually.  And one of those books that just felt good in my hand.

What was strange about all this was when I read the back cover, and started getting into the book. The book IS about LIFE – our life as individuals. Briefly, the book is about ways to discover where our pain is, where our stress is, and learn how we can ease that pain and stress to improve our health.

Are you thinking: “yet another self-help book about relieving pain and stress”? I will admit to a brief thought in that direction. But, with a cover like it has, how could it be ordinary?

The book begins by talking about why we get sick, why we have illnesses. Dr. Messenger mentions how sometimes our diseases are impacted by the “DIS—EASE” in our lives. Dr. Messenger explores the path of dis-ease being a gift. Maybe not one we are happy about, we start looking for the receipt in the box to return it!! But in fact our dis-ease is telling us that our lives are out of sync – and we need to pay attention.

Actually, I once heard an acronym for pain:

P A I N = Pay Attention Inventory Needed

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Dr. Joanne Messenger

Whether we feel dis-ease, or disease, Dr. Messenger provides ways we can help ourselves recover, help ourselves feel better. And isn’t that what we want?? In “Be in One Peace”, in 18 short chapters, Dr. Messenger gives us more than 18 different ways we can help ourselves to feel better in the life we are living. One of the attributes of this book is that the chapters are brief. With that, the sentences are also brief,  and free of language that we, the general public, may  not understand. Oh, yes, there are terms we may not be familiar with, such as “Chakra” (Chapter 12), “Heart Filaments” (Chapter 14), “Energy Budget” (Chapter 10) and “Electromagnetic Field” (Chapter 7). But Dr. Messenger’s language in describing these, and other terms, is easy to read and she is clear in what she is saying.

This is not a book that you start to read at Chapter 1 right through to Chapter 18. Although you might want to do that to become familiar with the general flow and theme of the book.  Actually, that is exactly what I did.   Mainly because I wanted to get a general understanding and overview of the book.  At the end of each chapter there is an Exercise section.  In the Exercise, we are given tools to use the techniques talked about in that chapter.

Here is an example of how this, chapter information, and chapter end exercise, can work. In Chapter 5, Dr. Messenger uses an analogy of a suitcase. When we go on vacation, or on a business trip, we pack a suitcase.  We bring with us what we will need for our time away. We make decisions based on where we are going. In life we also carry a suitcase, packing personal skills inside. And we need to prepare for twists and turns, and unexpected events in life. Here is a quote from page 30: “You can prepare for life with as much diligence as a backpacker choosing what to carry or leave behind; however, there are likely to be situations where an extra pair of clean socks would be appreciated.”   We need to make decisions that will carry us through unforeseen circumstances.

So, what is one thing that will give us strength, lessen our stress, and help us be ready to face life circumstances, regardless of what we did or did not put in our (psychological) suitcase? Dr. Messenger believes that one thing, is grounding. We need to start out for a trip calm, and able to check what we need to pack. As we go through life we need to find that part of us that assures us we are grounded. We need to be assured we have the energy, the wisdom, and the strength, that will carry us through. We need them in our suitcase. When we expend energy, wisdom, or strength, to get us through a tough situation, or to help someone who is struggling with (for example) anxiety or depression; they look to us for guidance, we reach into our suitcase and bring out: energy, wisdom, and strength. And we hope we are able to bring the other person to a place of security, assurance and calm.

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If you are like me, after going through something similar to the situation described in the previous paragraph, we move on to the next crisis which may draw from us more energy, and more wisdom. And, let’s say this goes on for a while. Pretty soon our suitcase is close to empty. 

To try to prevent us reaching a point of exhaustion, Dr. Messenger provides easy-to-follow instructions to once more ground ourselves.  Rather than having to draw on outside help to get ourselves re-charged, we can bring ourselves to that place where we are grounded.  Dr. Messenger’s technique proposes a series of breathing exercises and visualization techniques to centre ourselves and return to that grounded position.  We need to refill our suitcase and be ready for the next event life brings us.

“Be in One Peace” speaks a lot about energy, our need for it, how we can acquire more, how we lose energy, our negative energy, and building up our positive energy. If you would like to try more intuitive ways to work with your energy, more New Age focused, then this book is a good place to start.  It is clear, basic, and very instructional. If you are already familiar with the New Age focus for self-healing, or this is the first time you have heard the phrase, this book will have something for you. You do not have to follow any part of the New Age way of thinking to get something from its pages.

As a person who sits on the fence with New Age methods, I may have been a little biased going in. But, whether or not my views have changed,  has, in no way, prevented me from developing and increasing my skill level with respect to self-knowledge, self-awareness, and self-healing.

For example, Chakras. Chakras have always been a little bewildering to me – and they are still. However, Dr. Messenger’s straightforward, basic, and instructional techniques have wet my appetite to give some form of Chakra Therapy a try. Dr. Messenger believes that to live our life well, we need to use the Chakras, (our body’s energy fields), as a way of cleansing ourselves of negative thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. And retaining and absorbing positive thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Did I just explain Chakras in 30 words or less? I may have, but I am sure I did not do them justice. But, I will say, that at this very basic level, Chakras do make sense to me; and after reading “Be in One Peace”, I understand Chakras better than ever before. One of the things that truly helped me, was Dr. Messenger’s way of speaking/writing. There is a light tone to her writing, which comes across in moments of humour and joy. This gives the book a special little twist!

Another point is that we do not have to give up our spiritual or non-spiritual beliefs to benefit from Chakras, or any of the other techniques for personal health and well-being, detailed for us in “Be in One Peace”. Dr. Messenger brings multiple faith traditions into her teachings.  I feel strongly that there is something for everyone in this book.

One of the chapters I enjoyed, (Chapter 9), deals with removing our ‘masks’, removing our ‘armour’ – anything we hide behind to shield us from the world, and from ourselves. The exercise at the end of the chapter is a visualization method of removing our armour. It first looked complicated to me, but was actually quite straightforward to participate in. As with all of the exercises and treatments presented in this book, this is best approached with an open-mind, regardless of our current belief tradition.

Dr. Messenger rounds out the book by dealing with the bigger issues of healing for the heart and the mind. And ends the book by bringing us back to her opening statements that all pain is actually a gift. And once we accept our pain as gift, begin to source the cause of the pain; we will begin to free ourselves from some of the darkness of physical and emotional pain.

It is very important that the reader knows that I am in NO WAY making light of anyone’s pain, and I certainly have had little experience with thinking of any pain as ‘gift’. But what I have experienced is relief, relief at finding out what is causing my pain, putting a name to it, and then beginning the road to some kind of healing. If that makes pain a gift, maybe I will not argue terminology. Neither this book nor my review of it, are in any way substitutes for professional care. And that is true whether you are under doctor’s care at this moment, or in the future when you read this book. From my point of view, I cannot stress that enough.

When I was first given this book to review, and even after I had read a couple of chapters, I began to feel some anxiety – about how I could possibly be qualified to know if “Be in One Peace” would be considered a good book in its field.  After all, what did I know about Chakras and Energy Fields? That challenge resolved itself after my first read through;  because the book is written for both a novice, and an experienced reader, to understand.

Whether you choose to accept any New Age concepts, I would like to suggest that you give yourself an opportunity to read this book. 

 A book I have no trouble recommending.

‘“Be in One Peace”’

 

               

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Book Review: Patsy Clairmont’s “Stained Glass Hearts” – “Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective”

Much like stained glass, life’s broken pieces become  the prism through which God’s grace shines most brightly and  beautifully.

“Life is no doubt full of difficulties, but it is also filled  with promise and possibility,” says best-selling author and WOF {Women of Faith}  speaker Patsy Clairmont. In Stained Glass Hearts Clairmont  guides readers to view the difficult experiences of life through  the lens of God’s grace. Using art as a theme, and likening people  to stained glass windows, she shares that it’s when we’re  surrounded by darkness that His healing light shines most brightly  within us. Encouraging women to step back and see life from this  new perspective, Patsy offers help and hope for the dark  places of life.

Along with character studies of women in Scripture, and  modern-day, relatable stories, each chapter includes:

  • Chalice-memorable quotes
  • Mosaic-recommended music
  • Spires-scriptures and readings
  • Litany-sample prayers

(from www.chapters.indigo.ca)

Original Cover: "God Uses Cracked Pots"

A number of years ago while browsing in a book store, (one of my most favourite activities), I noticed a book: “God Uses Cracked Pots”.   As I stopped and picked up the book, (who could resist that title?), I noticed the author’s name was Patsy Clairmont, at the time not an author with whom I was familiar.   I would come to realize it was my lack of knowledge that was at issue, not the popularity of the author!  However, that day, I was more caught on the title, than on the author. I flipped through it, checked out the cover, and decided it was not for me – as it turns out, not my best decision!  I am now on the lookout for this book. 

Cover Re-released Version

The author’s website, (www.patsyclairmont.com), shows that the book “God Uses Cracked Pots” has been re-released, and I think I know at least one customer!  My memory does not give me a synopsis of the book, but the title is drawing me in!!

With all that said, this review is not about Patsy Clairmont’s book “God Uses Cracked Pots”; it is about her book “Stained Glass Hearts”.  I received “Stained Glass Hearts” at no charge through the Booksneeze Book Review Program, which means I will be also posting this review on their website.

“Stained Glass Hearts” is what I would call, a pretty title; and the book  cover is very pretty, in colour and in design.  I would come to find out that this book is so much more than pretty.  With a book subtitle of  “Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective”,  I quickly learned that, all prettiness set aside, this book would have meaningful words to share.  Patsy Clairmont would have meaningful words to share.  And Patsy did.

Stained Glass Hearts - Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective

At the end of each chapter, Patsy has what she calls ‘The Art Gallery’.
‘The Art Gallery’ consists of a variety of interactive and reflective topics for the reader.  For example, at the end of Chapter 3, ‘The Art Gallery’ consists of a Museum reference for lookup on the internet, a Poem, a Prayer, and a Music suggestion that can be found on iTunes.  These elements link together, and combine with the Chapter topic itself, bringing the reader to a personal place on the road to light and redemption.  The place of light and redemption – on which Patsy has a personal focus, and on which she has written previous books. Patsy’s ‘Art Gallery’ was excellent. I know because I found myself pulled toward the interaction – and did follow-up that pull!

The chapters in “Stained Glass Hearts” focus on directing the readers to find out what is true about themselves, where the darkness is, where the light is, and how all that must come together to be where God is, and where He wants the readers to be.  While that sounds rather serious and somber, Patsy has a gift for making her reader feel good along the way.  As a new reader of Patsy’s work, I found her tone to be serious, yet light.  Early on in the book, Patsy herself states that this book exposes the solemn side of her personality.  I’m not sure that I would describe what I saw of Patsy as solemn, but maybe that is because I am a new fan.

As you might expect from the title, “Stained Glass Hearts”, the emotions of the human heart are explored in the chapters.  Ranging from darkness to light – just like a stained glass window, (to paraphrase Patsy).  Patsy lets us into her own heart, her own time of deep darkness, and her journey out of that darkness.  I always think authors are so brave when such personal emotion is exposed in such a public forum as a book.   And Patsy is one such author.

Patsy Clairmont

Patsy brings us into her family life, time with her friends, and times when she goes to work, speaking at conferences around the world, mainly focused on events sponsored by Women of Faith, an organization Patsy has been a member of since its very beginnings. (Information can be found at: www.womenoffaith.com).

Patsy Clairmont’s generous sense of humour is spread throughout this book.  Patsy reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, but to also honour and accept who we are, and where we are, on our journey of life.

As the book progresses we, the readers, are given many opportunities to share stained glass experiences with the author – looking through something, or at something, as though we were looking at or through stained glass. 

I am not a big ‘nature girl’, (that is probably an understatement), yet one of the chapters that most vividly caught my attention was Patsy’s chapter titled: ‘Stained Glass Nature’.   I learned, or re-learned, a number of things from Patsy’s viewpoint of ‘Stained Glass Nature’.  One of the biggest is my tendency to overlook the beauty of nature.  I learned that one of the reasons I overlook nature’s beauty is that I do not take enough time to stop and pay attention to the beauty around me. 

This, in my personal belief system, means I am not stopping and paying enough attention to God.  It also means I am not really participating in the world around me; rather I am just moving through it with some unknown agenda of my own. 

For me, that has been one of the clearest themes in this Patsy Clairmont book:  stop and look around ourselves, through or with a stained glass window, at all the broken pieces, at all the little pieces, at all that is us, and at all that is given to us in this world. 

Stop and appreciate, stop and renew, stop and see the moment.

Patsy Clairmont

For a person new to the world of Christian non-fiction, I think this book would be an excellent beginning.  Free of deep theological words and intense phrases, this book will appeal to individuals at the early stages oftheir faith journey.  For the same reasons, this is also a book I would recommend to someone well along in their faith journey, but someone wishing to take stock of where they have been and where they have now come.  Not only did I find “Stained Glass Hearts” to be a good Christian writing, it was also a pleasure to read, and to review.

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Book Review: “The Spiral Garden” by author Anne Hines

Description from Goodreads:
Moses never saw the Promised Land. King David didn’t get to build the Temple. Jesus preached an unpopular message and died on the cross. Reverend Ruth Broggan thinks God has something to answer for. Unsatisfied with traditional teachings, Broggan takes a radical approach to finding the meaning of life.

My Review:
The Spiral GardenThe Spiral Garden

by Anne Hines

The rating of this book will depend on the perspective of the reader. Spiritual perspective. Open minded perspective. Humourous perspective. Faith tradition perspective. Family life perspective. Realizing that all of these perspectives follow us, and impact the way we live, and the way we review, I believe they are particularly important when reading and reviewing this book.

The book is comprised of letters, diary entries, log books, formal announcements, journal entries, and phone messages. The dates on all of these are concentrated between 2003 – 2005, and are not sequential. If jumping through the years, locations, and characters, is not your style, you may want to pass on “The Spiral Garden”.

The main character is Ruth Broggan, a Minister of the Unified Church, and takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ruth is divorced, has two children, two best friends, and an unusual perspective of faith. This faith perspective has developed in Ruth over her years as a cleric. Ruth is fired from a church in Markham, Ontario for preaching outside of the church’s teachings, and tries to settle into her new location, while still speaking and preaching a message that conflicts with the church.

Ruth’s struggle is our struggle – why are we here? what comes after? and why does the world suffer pain and tragedy? Ruth has asked God to speak to her, with answers to these questions, and locks herself into the manse in order to wait in silence for God’s reply.

What ensues outside the manse is a growing following of Ruth, culminating in half a million people heading to downtown Toronto, to wait for Ruth to come out of the manse, and celebrate a Church Feast of The Winter Solstice.

Ruth’s take on life is serious, funny, thoughtful, prayerful, witty, and very engaging for the reader. I found that the author, Anne Hines, skillfully pulls the reader into Ruth’s life, and at times I found myself so identifying with Ruth, her writings felt like my own. This is the type of book that I will pick up again, and again, reading only pages here and there – the ones that made me cry, and the ones that made me laugh out loud!

If you want to be entertained, and learn something at the same time, this book is for you. If you are open minded about religion, this book is for you. However, if you are easily offended by slights against any faith tradition, and especially your own, then this book would not be for you.

I was given this book free from a second hand bookstore, but after reading it, I would definitely pay full price!

All in all, I would recommend this book for its humour and for its life lessons.

Take a look for “The Spiral Garden”, and Enjoy!!

Patricia

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