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Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes from a Lifelong Journey Paperback – February 3, 2014
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"[Shaw] describing her own experiences and thoughts on a variety of subjects with similes and metaphors had me scrambling for my highlighter! She writes about things we all think about. That is what had me sometimes chuckling and sometimes nodding in agreement over subjects such as getting a massage, parenting our children, waiting for a diagnosis, and moving to smaller quarters. This volume is all about making transitions in life as we ascend to the next life. That is the journey that Luci Shaw so lovingly shares with her readers." (Melanie Sheets, St. Anthony Messenger, August 2014)
"Using the metaphor of a mountain climber leaving behind the trappings of human life and eventually her mortal coil, Shaw here finds profound beauty in her ascent toward a heavenly home." (Emily Whitten, World Magazine, February 8, 2014)
"[Adventure of Ascent] is interesting as the testament of a sincere but far from naïve Christian. This should appeal to church reading groups and older readers." (Library Journal, February 15, 2014)
"Using engaging, insightful, lyrical language, poet and octogenarian Shaw offers reflections on her life in a neatly gathered, extended metaphor about making a journey to the summit of the mountain of life. . . . Shaw doesn't pretend to have all the answers―questions about God and the search for meaning in life still persist―but she ponders them with a grace and faith that make the reader glad to be along for a portion of the journey." (Publishers Weekly, December 9, 2013)
"Luci Shaw, poet and adventurer, scales the heights of the later years, grasping bramble after bramble. Yes, there are challenges. The closing decades of her lifelong journey provide tough moments, sudden and sometimes sharp-edged surprises. But Luci keeps her face turned to the beauty of Christ and shows us all how to climb, handsomely and with dignity. Wise, strengthening, playful and loving." (Emilie Griffin, author of Green Leaves for Later Years)
"At an age when many of her peers are simply marking time till death, Luci Shaw embodies what it means to be a fully flourishing human being. Her Adventure of Ascent, which calls to mind the best of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Henri Nouwen, is spiritual confession at its finest." (Paula Huston, author of Simplifying the Soul and A Season of Mystery)
"The veteran climber Luci Shaw spray paints vivid blazes on the trail for those of us who are coming behind her. What is old age? How does it look from the outside? How does it feel? As the path gets rockier, what advice can she offer? Watch. Luci's backpack is dwindling above us and her walking stick--the one she inherited from her father--flashes as she climbs. This is a fabulous guidebook, filled with stories, wisdom and humor about the steep path we ascend after sixty." (Jeanne Murray Walker, professor of English, University of Delaware)
"I love this sage book." (Lauren Winner, author of Still)
"Shaw's humor, insight, and the honest wrestling with faith on her pilgrimage make this an enjoyable guide to this land that borders on the undiscovered country, to the journey that no one survives." (Jeff Sajdak, Calvin Theological Journal, April 2015)
About the Author
Luci Shaw is a poet, essayist, lecturer and writer-in-residence at Regent College, Vancouver. Widely anthologized, her writing has appeared in numerous literary and religious journals and she has coauthored three books with Madeleine L'Engle. A founding member of the Chrysostom Society of Christian Writers, Shaw is the author of ten volumes of poetry and other titles such as Adventure of Ascent, Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination & Spirit, Harvesting Fog, Scape, Water My Soul: Cultivating the Interior Life and The Crime of Living Cautiously. Shaw is a frequent retreat facilitator and leads writing workshops in church and university settings. She has lectured in North America and abroad on topics such as art and spirituality, the Christian imagination, poetry-writing and journal-writing as an aid to artistic and spiritual growth. She is poetry editor and a contributing editor of the quarterly journal Radix that celebrates art, literature, music, psychology, science and the media. She is also poetry and fiction editor of Crux, an academic journal published quarterly by Regent College. In 2013 she received the Denise Levertov Award for Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University and Image, and her papers are preserved in the Luci Shaw Collection at Wheaton College's Buswell Library. Shaw lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband John Hoyte.
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Those imperatives feed our first-half dreams for our lives. They nourish our ambitions. They are tools in a builder's hands - and while we're building our lives, we often accumulate fix it hardware as though we're stocking a Home Depot. While imperative-driven technique may be a helpful tool in a builder's hands, these same tools tend to be the exact baggage we jettison as we enter the second half of our lives. The second half is a climb upwards. Those builder's tools no longer serve any purpose in our lives.
What struck me about Luci Shaw's Adventure of Ascent: Field Notes From A Lifelong Journey (IVP Crescendo 2014)* is how blissfully free of imperative language it is. Poet Luci Shaw, 86, discarded the tools of ambition decades ago. She is focused entirely on the work of making the final stretch of her journey on earth. Her book is a series of vignettes and reflections that give those of us at a lower elevation a look at the internal narrative that describes this ascent.
"The problem is none of us know how long we have left. Or what physical problems will afflict us. Will our money last? That's one question, but not the most important. There is so much I have to do, to learn, to experience (though once again, why is that important to anyone but me?) Can I trust that God will allow me enough energy and length of days to realize and carry out my calling and complete the climb?"
While most of us imagine this final stage of life is mostly quiet reflection about all that's come before as a way to make our peace and take our leave, Shaw's book reminds us that there is far more to this stage of life than steeping in memories. Climbing, by definition, has much to do with awareness of where you are and where you're heading. It's hard to climb looking back 100% of the time.
Shaw reflects on the past, but is very much a woman of the present. She writes of the waning energy she has for travel, of failing health, of loss. She also tells stories of choir, of visits with her spiritual director, of designing a new (final) home. She is writing as she contemplates her own death, and she is writing to make sense of what it means to truly, fully live as an octogenarian.
"I sometimes visualize the truths still hidden from me, what in the New Testament are designated 'mysteries', as gathered like translucent beams of light high above me, in the groins and arches of this cathedral we call the Christian faith. In one sense I myself am in that 'cloud of unknowing'. And in that knowledge gap I'm wondering if all the fervent prayers on my behalf have already been answered..."
This book may not make much sense to you if you are looking for a hammer or a jigsaw. But it will be a welcome companion if you find yourself looking upward at a path shrouded in fog, knowing that your destination is waiting just ahead.
* * * * * * *
If you are a pastor, church staffer or congregational leader, please take a few moments to offer your thoughts on how your congregation relates to members in the second half of life at my short survey: [...]
Here is a quote from Luci Shaw's "A Word to My Readers;" which follows her generous Acknowledgments, at the book's beginning:
"This is a story with many stops and starts. Some questions with no immediate answers. Doubts that weigh heavily and are not easily resolved. Many admissions of failure. High hopes and purposes as well as detours and uncertainties. And triumphs and revelations that sometimes overwhelm my astonished soul." (Pages 12-13)
Eighteen chapters follow, and then the book concludes with Notes. Examples of the chapter titles include: The View From Here (Chapter 1); Finding Sure Footing (Chapter 6); Lightening the Load (Chapter 11); and Companions on the Way (Chapter 16).
On a related note, Luci Shaw's earlier memoir, God in the Dark: Through Grief and Beyond (1989, and reproduced in 1998 by Regent College Publishing) is now a classic. Although Adventure of Ascent surely can be read by itself, I can also imagine giving both books to someone who is grieving and growing new life chapters (for many reasons).
Thank you to Luci Shaw and all who help with her books - poetry and prose.
Ellen Grace Olinger, Ed.D
What a refreshing contrast to drink deeply of Luci Shaw's rich cup of life, not "darker and bitterer" for its long steeping, but pungent with wisdom, redolent because of a God-infused view of her own journey, bracing for the steep trail ahead of all of us. Even her vocabulary challenges me as she pulls in images of terrain ("seracs and erratics"), foreign terms (Schadenfreude), and words I can't find on my Kindle dictionary ("amortality").
There is a brave, positive, and God-struck voice emanating from these pages. I have enjoyed her poetry for two decades, but God in the Dark and this continued memoir are books that I will return to for inspiration.