Friday, March 25, 2011

Longing for Enough in a Culture of More

By Paul Escamilla

Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2007

134 p. Spiritual

Longing for Enough in a Culture of More is a small book, but it is an insidious book. As you read page after page, it grabs your soul, shakes it up, and smoothes it over. When I first looked at the book, I thought it was going to be about simple living, which I guess it is. But it is really not about using less and buying less; it is about appreciating more and accepting the grace that has already been given.

The book is divided into five sections: The Good Book, The Good Life, The Good Work, The Good Society, and The Good Earth—a lot of sections for such a small book. Each section is divided into several short chapters. This is not a book to be read quickly; it is a book to be savored. While I was reading the section on The Good Book, I couldn’t quite figure out where Escamilla was going to lead our thinking. This probably came from having had an erroneous presupposition about the book.

Each section had a chapter that I especially appreciated. I enjoyed the chapter about Adam and Eve because I had just edited a school paper my daughter had written comparing Adam and Eve as painted by Michelangelo and Adam and Eve as etched by Albrecht Dürer. We had spent a great deal of time looking carefully at the pictures, discerning the differences and discovering what was in the minds of each of the artists. Escamilla says, “What Eve and Adam soon learn is one of the plainest and yet most elusive of all life’s truths: pure pleasure never is.”

Then I enjoyed the chapter “Regarding Words” because I have most definitely been living in a world of words. He asks, “What happens when there are so many words doing so many deeds that no longer can any single word be heard?” The chapter is a call to use words wisely and well and to welcome silence as well as a few well chosen words that will be understood by the people around you. The essays and books to be edited are piling up on my computer; the books to be read are piling up on my nightstand. My husband and I are reading and discussing a political book that causes us to speak many words; the pundits on CNN are throwing words at us. Frankly, I just need to walk around the neighborhood or out at the park in perfect silence. It will allow me to hear the words of peace that are being whispered in my ear.

And then I read with pleasure the chapter about following the seasons. It’s cold but sunny today; winter has let go and spring is coming. But oh, how I hated this winter. It was a horrible, cold and snowy winter. I had trouble appreciating it. And I have been so tied to my computer that I have not been able to fully appreciate the wakening earth. My husband was the one who cleaned out all the flower beds and saw the shoots of the daffodils; he was the one who has been glorying in the changing season. “By developing our awareness of the sustaining forces of earth and sky that surround and enfold us, we are likely to walk more softly and understand more clearly our beholdenness to an environment that is in many ways shrouded in mystery, resplendent in change.”

Paul Escamilla is a pastor and seminary professor. He has several books available through Cokesbury, the Methodist Publishing House. I would suggest that you pick this beautiful little book up and read it, savor it, and grow from it. It will illuminate your soul.

A review from the Circuit Rider:

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