Saturday, 4 December 2010

Karen Armstrong - Through the Narrow Gate -2010/048

I decided to re-read this first volume of Karen Armstrong's autobiography when the second (The Spiral Staircase) came to the top of Mt ToBeRead. I remembered most of the content - Karen is a former nun and this book explains why - but I'd forgotten how deeply moving I'd found it. This time around I think I only cried twice.

Last time I read Through the Narrow Gate, was either just before or during my journey to converting to Catholicism through the RCIA process. The Roman Catholic Church has changed a great deal since the 1960s when Karen was in her convent but, even so, I feel there was less I simply did not understand this time around. That said, Karen is excellent at explaining (as one would expect from such an established writer of religious non-fiction) but she doesn't go into the nuts and bolts of Catholicism in this book. Instead, she's focussed on her own spiritual journey in, and out, of a religious Order.

This could be a depressing book and, indeed, I believe Karen was probably depressed during some of the events she describes. In the Introduction she admits to having written several drafts which were 'black and angry' but the finished item is warm and engaging. Although she does not spare herself (or the Order) a long, hard look, she is generous with what she finds.

I'm looking forward to reading The Spiral Staircase when I'm finished my current book - Lisa Bevere's You are not What You Weigh.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

John & Stasi Eldredge - Captivating - 2010/047

I was asked to read this title by the lovely people at BookSneeze and can only apologise for taking so long to do so.

This is a new edition of Captivating (a title I've read before) and have greatly enjoyed revisiting. It contains some new material but is basically a re-release of the rather battered paperback I already own.

The Eldredges have a theory. They believe that every woman (and every man for that matter) is born with a Question etched on their heart which only God can answer. It is in looking to other sources for answers that we tie our selves in knots, hurt others and open our arms to the Enemy (Satan). Captivating makes extensive use of the Bible (starting right back with Genesis) to explain why this is so and then offers a Biblical alternative.

As I read this book I found myself drawn in by the excellent writing and entirely agreeing with the authors - yes, I have a Question. Yes, I've looked for answers in all the wrong places. Yes, I've been wounded and, yes, I want Jesus to heal me. I've found that my faith has been rekindled and, for the first time in a while, I'm spending quality time with Him.

Although there were areas of this book with which I was less comfortable - I'm not big on spiritual warfare - there's enough here for me to mull over and work on without focussing on that aspect. Although I know the Eldredges have their critics, think this is one of the best books on femininity that I have read.