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Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian Hardcover – November 1, 2014
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Not might. Not could. Not may. Will. Change. Your. Life.
Sacred Pauses: A Creative Retreat for the Word-weary Christian is the rare book that is exactly as advertised. It is a retreat in your hands. Each chapter guides the reader into thinking beyond the words of our faith practice, our memorized scripture, and our beloved hymnody. God is in these details- nuances of sound and shapes, verbs and nouns, colors and texture.
Creative praying is Hackenberg’s gift in execution and in education. Sacred Pauses takes creative prayer beyond the conversations into a lived quietude and spacious openness to the Regal, the Roustabout, and the Rambunctious (my newly inspired Trinitarian formula).
Many of us have had this thought as we work toward welcoming new members into our communities. How do we explain the words we all know? Hackenberg breaks into the presumed circle of understanding and asserts in a brilliant way that none of us may be using words that are meaningful to us beyond their long associations. If I am using words in way that is meaningful to me because the structure is how my grandmother taught me, how am I connected, in community, to you who did not know my grandmother? We frequently wrestle with the context of scriptural guides in terms of behavior, but perhaps it would behoove us to set that aside and spend imaginative time together wrestles with the scriptural guides to our vocabulary, imagery, sensory spiritual experience, and lived reality of encounters with the Holy.
I have never, to this date, reviewed a book I did not finish. I’m breaking that self-imposed code now. I need time with this book. My reading on Tuesday night made me rethink how I was planning to teach on Wednesday night. Instead of the question that I planned to start a discussion, we discussed what images and experiences come to mind, our feelings and thoughts, about the phrase “for the sake of the world”. What is the world? What is “for the sake of”? The conversation, I truly, believe went so much deeper because of the space that was created in which the Ruach danced.
You need this book. Not as an e-book, but as a tangible reality on your desk, in your bag, and beside your bed. You need this as little retreat interludes, little paths by still water, a pocket moment of spiritual direction.
This book comes with my highest commendation: Get it now because it will help you with Holy Week. —Julia, RevGalBlogPals.
The book, with sections like “The Verb Became Flesh” and “In the Shadow of Wingdings,” is an invitation to explore the language of our faith in fresh and inviting ways, through impromptu poems, images and even doodles. I liked the section in which she likens Jesus’ words “my yoke is easy” with those elastic strings that tie her kids’ shoes together in the Target shoe section. Lovely! So much of the language of scripture relies on metaphors that aren’t immediately accessible to a non-agrarian, technological society. How can these words come alive again?
In the Presbyterian Church (USA), we have a prayer in our book of worship that we pray before reading scripture. It says in part, “O God, amid all the changing words of our generation, speak your eternal word that does not change.” Over the years I’ve grown dissatisfied with this prayer. Our lives our changing all of the time. Our God is improvisational, I believe. So I’ve added a phrase: “speak your eternal word that does not change and yet is ever new.” Hackenberg’s book helps us hold those two ideas in creative tension. — MaryAnn McKibben Dana
Here is what I said: Leave it to Paraclete to once again give us a splendid, rich, wonderfully made small book of prayerful meditation, illustrated with good graphic design and full color photography and artwork. Hackenberg is a UCC pastor and the writer of the popular Writing to God, so you can expect a vivid, colorful, aesthetic experience. Here, she invites us to "reconsider and re-engage" with the words we typically use to describe our faith. As Bruce Epperly notes, "This book will awaken you to a sensational faith, encompassing all your senses and enabling you to experience the holiness of God in the quotidian adventures of life." Yes, this is inviting us to leave behind stagnant faith and tired expressions, but it is light-hearted and joyful, too. From grammar lessons to poetry, stuff on letters and helpfully playful definitions, this is upbeat, making you glad to be reading and pondering and doing such good stuff. She draws on Microstyle by Chris Johnson, Finally Comes the Poet by Walt Brueggemann, and so many more artists, poets, scholars, pray-ers. Handsome, unusual, nice. This nice hardback is over 215 pages, with 12 chapters, each with thoughtful questions, stuff to do and ponder, and I could easily see it being use over a period of weeks or months. —Hearts and Minds Books
Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-Weary Christian” is an informed and informative as it is inspired and inspiring. Very highly recommended and thoroughly ‘reader friendly’, “Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for the Word-Weary Christian” is a delight to study and is especially appropriate for the non-specialist Christian reader regardless of any denominational affiliation. —Julie Summers, The Midwest Book Review
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And so it is with Sacred Pause: A Creative Retreat for Word-weary Christians. The book has a beautiful, airy feel to it, with wide margins and color on every page. And indeed the book has to be beautiful if it is to live up to its promise---after all, it is a collection of words promising to help us recover from other words.
In order to rouse the word-weary, Rachel Hackenberg (a minister in the United Church of Christ and author of Writing to God) sets out not to remove us from words but to help us consider them anew. She writes, "Sacred Pause is your invitation to approach the words of faith with curiosity, to seek out fuller understandings of our religious vocabulary, to adopt childlike wonder for the sights and sounds and even colors of words, to marvel at the breadth of meaning that words convey, and to make use of words for spiritual renewal and growth."
In each of the twelve chapters (which constitute twelve individual "retreats") there are guided exercises, such as using mandalas to explore word associations, illustrating the individual sounds words make, and creating "MadLib" psalms (less cheesy and more beautiful than it sounds!). Visual, creative types will no doubt find the connections that Hackenberg makes vivifying, and they will feel at home in the careful design of each page.
As someone who is neither visual nor creative, what I appreciated most about the book was Hackenberg's understanding of the religious language that we use to talk about God; she sees it as essential but ultimately only an imperfect attempt to describe a God beyond our comprehension. Without any hint of jadedness or disillusionment, Hackenberg warns against the idolatry of words, against the false belief that we can completely and certainly contain God within doctrine, liturgy, and religious vocabulary. She writes, "If anything remains with you from your retreat with this book . . . I hope it's the understanding that religious language is always and only an attempt to translate a Word that is beyond complete translation."
I tend to seek my word-therapy in poetry, so I don't know how often I will return to this book. That being said, I thought of several friends for whom this book would be the perfect resource, friends who are more creative than I am and who long for the open-ended exercises that Hackenberg has provided.
Full disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Sacred Pause from Paraclete Press in exchange for an honest review.