Friday, January 28, 2011

Making Sense of the Remnants/Mann

Books! Books! Books! I’m downsizing my library big time because of a future move. Unlike this neat and organized bookshelf to your left, mine looks totally abandoned. Some of my beloved books are in designated piles across the floor or packed in boxes to be placed in loving hands for others to read. I am thankful for the many I can place on my new book shelves - some to wait for that rainy day.

As I look over the titles, they remind me of the many different stages in my faith journey. I can see seasons of my life: decades where I searched new truths from the old story; studied certain scripture; experienced particular academic settings; celebrated emotionally hyped and quiet meditative worship. The books tell the story of the journey.

I love my seminary years: they gave me opportunity to sit with the scholars of the time and give place to new understandings. Those were the years I lived out the Yentl of the 70s and wouldn't trade them for riches. And then in communities where I served, I met both lay and clergy who shared their faith in meaningful ways. I especially remember a Presbyterian minister who had studied in a Jewish seminary – how I loved to sit at his feet to hear his interpretation of scripture. I am thankful for opportunities for spiritual growth and for the people I met along the way. The books verify the process.

Dates on the front pages often determined the length of time that I stayed with a particular author and their perspective of the truth. Books, whether novels, non fiction or theological treatises portrayed certain faith doctrines – all of them revealed individual world views, although sometimes couched between the lines and not visible. Yet, they helped me to distinguish between the kind of Christian I want to be and the kind I don’t want to be. Hindsight is usually 20-20 – a good practice to continue.

One of the growing areas for me, especially since my retirement, is finding theological books that stretch my thinking. In doing this, I promptly remember the richness in the discovery of new truths. I often wonder if ministers have miles of books to learn better ways to tell congregations what they want to hear, or if these books serve to create a safe haven to explore areas of new understanding, and the courage to step out of the acceptable circle to find new and refreshing experiences of God’s love.

And so I continue reading titles, thinking about the impact they had on my life and wondering if I will give then away to influence someone else’s life or put them back on the shelf for future use - some of both, I hope. I liken this in some ways to a recent incident where good friends sifted through the ruins of their house after a fire, in search of family wedding rings - a symbol of identity and heritage. I will continue to sift through the many books collected over the years and find that which is meaningful in this season of my life and what clearly identifies who I am and to whom I belong?

Donna Mann Check out Aggie's Dream (September, 2010) (Children's Farm Stories)


Peter Black said...

Oh, Donna, you scratch me where I itch, with sharing about your love of books and their influence on your life. Especially poignant for me is your need to downsize.
I've been so reluctant to downsize my library since we moved house, and still have boxes to sort through to decide what to keep and what must go, as I'm just about out of space to unpack any more.
Still, a couple of former congregants -- students in university and college -- have received some already, and are interested in more of my discards.

Donna Mann said...

I think that's the clue, Peter. Putting your beloved books (friends) into loving hands may take some time but it's worth it. Thanks always for your kind remarks.

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