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Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton Literary Series) Hardcover – April 17, 2001
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Walking on Water collects 12 brief meditations by Madeleine L'Engle on the nature of art and its relation to faith. L'Engle, the beloved author of A Wrinkle In Time among others, has written and spoken widely and wisely about the connection between religion and art. The gist of her understanding is as follows:
To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.She believes that "[b]asically there can be no categories such as 'religious' art and 'secular' art because all true art is incarnational, and therefore 'religious.'" And "incarnation," in L'Engle's view, means "God's revelation of himself through particularity." In this book there is some slippage between L'Engle's autobiographical and critical voices. As a result, she often claims Christian significance for works whose meaning is not intentionally Christian. She admits this freely:
[B]ecause I am a struggling Christian, it's inevitable that I superimpose my awareness of all that happened in the life of Jesus upon what I'm reading, upon Buber, upon Plato, upon the Book of Daniel. But I'm not sure that's a bad thing. To be truly Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all.-- Michael Joseph Gross
“When I discovered Walking on Water years ago, my creative self underwent a sort of liberation. I had always sensed that there was a wonderful connection between spirituality and creativity, but Madeleine’s insights about both of those worlds helped me claim with more confidence my own creative gifts. This is a wise and inspiring book that should be in every artist’s library.”
–Vinita Hampton Wright, author of Grace at Bender Springs and Velma Still Cooks in Leeway
“Once again, L’Engle touches the deepest parts of our psyche and heart with her artist’s wand. She writes with an earthy rhythm that not only reveals the mysteries of our artistic natures, but also qualifies all along the way her inimitable wise-woman philosophies. L’Engle’ s writing is God’s gift to a generation who needs to sit on a stump and lend an ear to what the right brain is saying to the left and to what the soul is saying to the heart. Walking on Water guides the wandering artist back to the Savior and says ‘There, you’ve come home again where you belong!’”
–Patricia Hickman, award-winning author of Katrina’s Wings
“There are those who write about art-making as if they’ re detailing the techniques of a heart surgeon. Then there are those, like Madeleine L’Engle, who simply show you their heart. Like the words of Jesus to the fisherman brothers, the words of Madeleine are ‘follow me’ words. Through the pages of Walking on Water hungry, thirsty folks have been following for two decades–quickly recognizing that the reason Madeleine is worth following is that she follows Jesus.”
–Charlie Peacock-Ashworth, record producer and author of At the Crossroads: An Insider's Look at Contemporary Christian Music
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Top Customer Reviews
Ms. L'Engle takes as the theme of the book, Jesus' invitation to Peter to come to Christ walking on the water. For a brief moment, Peter did just that. Ms. L'Engle states that is how we were created to be, and even when we sink, and cry for help, that Jesus will pull us up. She says, "The impossible still happens to us, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. (Page 238).
Ms. L'Engle views the creative process as a successive letting down of barriers. Of opening to God. When one responds to the urge to create, one is one more than holy ground-one walks on water-since God is the Creator and God's creative energies are limitless and surprising. God's very unpredictability and joy become the same creative force in musicians and artists of all kinds. Ms. L'Engle speaks of the freedom to laugh at ourselves as one of the prerequisites for bringing about that which is worthwhile.
Lest we mistakenly think that Ms. L'Engle's approach is sweetly sentimental, listen to what she says about the rigors of faithful creativity, "Complicated creatures we are, aware of only the smallest fragment of ourselves; seeking good and yet far too often unable to tell the difference between right and wrong; misunderstanding each other and so blundering into the tragedies of warring nations, horrendous discrepancies between rich and poor, and the idiocy of a divided Christendom." (Page 153).
This would be an outstanding book to give or receive for a special occasion such as graduation or confirmation. For Christians of any stage in life, "Walking on Water" is a call to live expectantly and trustingly.
If you find this review helpful you might want to read some of my other reviews, including those on subjects ranging from biography to architecture, as well as religion and fiction
The book is also filled with some great concepts for helping the artist to reconnect or remain connected to creativity. I strongly recommend this to Christian artists of all genres: music, visual, literary, dance, etc. Well worth the read for those interested in becoming the person you were created to be, rather than the one that the Church tells you to be.
I like to think of this book as a "standard work" for artists, regardless of their chosen medium of expression. Like a book of scripture, I felt moved by the Spirit while reading most of it, attesting to the true principles contained in many of its pages. Well before I reached the end of the book, I could understand why it was suggested reading for any creative types feeling "blocked" in their efforts.
I've already given my first copy away and had to order another!