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Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  6,726 ratings  ·  645 reviews
In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to cr ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Waterbrook Press (first published 1980)
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Average rating 4.30  · 
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Laura Baugh
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Kelly Baugh
This book was recommended to me and I ordered it from the library promptly; I'd liked reading Madeleine L'Engle, and I've often discoursed on the relation of faith and art.

I was a bit disconcerted when the book arrived, however; it was a smaller volume than I'd expected, and when I started reading, it seemed rambling, disorganized, and not terribly helpful. Had I found the low point of L'Engle's work?

As a writer and a Christian, I have of course been challenged -- internally and externally -- by
K.M. Weiland
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is an intuitive artist’s dream. Incredibly beautiful, insightful, and inspiring. I listened to it on audio and before I was even halfway done, I ordered a hardcover so I could re-read it and underline it liberally.
Cindy Rollins
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I never read L’Engle before last year when I was blown away by her Crosswick Journals. I picked this up after reading Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark. This book touched me deeply because it admitted the connection between pain and art. Truth, goodness, and beauty are not fantasy worlds. I also love her acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of creation.
Dale Harcombe
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
I remember the first time I read Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art. It was an eye-opener for me – and a book I became completely absorbed in. Since then it has been read numerous times. It is one book of mine that has multiple paragraphs and sentences highlighted or underlined as well as pages turned down at the corners. Yes that’s shocking I know to some people but that‘s what I do when a book is a useful tool. This book certainly was for me.

Some of the pages are so highlighted, i
Aug 05, 2011 added it
Trying to encompass all my thoughts and feelings about this book would take...well, a book. Or some approximation thereof. This is my second time reading it and I find that once again it reaches and touches me on so many levels. I find joy here, and inspiration; the book *makes* me want to write. It gives me fuel, or refuels me, if you will. I am reminded of the adventures that unfold in both life and art when we take the time to simply *listen* to the story, to the vision, the photograph, the a ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Twenty years ago when I first read this book, I loved it. Admittedly I loved the feel, the atmosphere of it, but struggled more with the ideas and ideals. I didn't have the relational background for many of the ideas in it, so the style and general consciousness was enough.

I've been intending to re-read it for a number of years and finally took the time.

Perfect timing.

The style and the ideas came into more overlap for me on this second reading. I could love both. Her insistence that Christians
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is not a perfect book and I certainly don't agree with everything but oh it is wonderful. Such insight and presence and goodness. Thank you L'Engle for this book. My mind and heart are larger for reading it. My ears more open. Familiarity to some of her fiction will help but is not mandatory, however regardless if you read this you should read Wrinkle simply because it is A Wrinkle in Time and that book in itself is close to the heart of life and God.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much that I want to reread it till I have it memorized and it has been etched on my soul.

I almost can't even review this because it struck me on such a deep level that it feels too personal to talk about why this book impacted me the way it did. Struggles and doubts that I have had suddenly took on new light when she talked about her path. Basically, any review that I give this will be inadequate for how it made me feel.
D.M. Dutcher
May 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is like listening to your erudite upper-class grandmother wax poetic about faith in relatively bland, indefinite terms while she sips chamomile tea on a rattan chair in an immaculately kept garden. This means some of you absolutely will love this book, and others will squirm and fidget because they hate tea. I'm the latter.

It isn't a bad book by any means, and it's good to see L'Engle engage faith, albeit elliptically. It's more about intuition and sentiment than a hard look at the Chr
Lancelot Schaubert
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you get down about your artistic work, you’re supposed to invoke your muse. Problem is, as Neil Gaiman pointed out in Sandman, sometimes a lesser muse of a finite part of creation will tempt you to chain her to your type writer and force her to inspire you and that’s no way to treat a lady. So, as Boethius says, sometimes you need the greatest muse to kick out the lesser muses, to point them in their place, to call them the hussies they are. You need whom Milton called The Muse of Sinai: th ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine's book is full of food for inspiration, moments that resonate, and encouragement for Christian artists. Writing about Christian art was difficult for her. She found Christianity in art by Christians and by secular people, regardless of their faith. I think I would agree. Some songs both Christian and secular move me very deeply, books both Christian and classic resonate with my soul. That is simply because they are good and full of truth about the world.

This book is full of thoughts th
Amy Neftzger
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the best I've read for artists who also happen to have a strong religious faith. L'Engle approaches creativity as a natural response to being created in the image of The Creator. In fact, she explains that most children start out creative, but wander (or are trained) away from these activities. Unlike many Christian "artists" she defines the individual as an artist who happens to be Christian, rather than a Christian who is obligated to produce art as an evangelism tool. What ...more
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-with-dad
The rating says it for me this time--it was okay. It was repetitive if you've read other books by L'Engle, and the points she makes about art and artists are interesting but not particularly enlightening. My favorite thing about the book is that I identified with a few passages as a writer. It was nice to say, "Someone else felt this way or went through this too."
Otherwise, I'm disappointed. Usually, L'Engle's books leave me with much more than this one did. My dad said, "It's Madeleine--it wasn
Anne Bogel
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
L'Engle puts into words so many thoughts that have been swirling in my head for decades about Christians and art (and Christian art). Now I'm aching to re-read the Wrinkle in Time trilogy!
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Do you know the feeling? The one where you begin to read a book or see the first few frames of a movie or the first few notes of a song and you take a quick breath because you know you are about to be fundamentally changed? This is how I felt in the first few pages of this gorgeous book.

In "Walking on Water", Madeleine Le'Engle explores the relationship between faith and art. She spends most of the time reflecting on what makes certain art "Christian" or "non-Christian", and then rightfully conc
Justin Wiggins
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember first reading this when I was in community college years ago, and underlining many passages, memorizing quotes, and finding it be a very challenging, encouraging, and fascinating read. At that time my writing was quite bad, but it was a start, and this book was one that really helped me find my voice, as well as others by C.S.Lewis, George MacDonald, Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, Jane Austen, and others.
Re-reading it again for the second time reminded me of why I love writing, that go
Faith Hough
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine L'Engle was not only a brilliant story teller, she was a humble, beautiful and insightful woman who, in this book, wrote many of the wisest words I have ever read--about being a writer, and artist, a woman...a human being and child of God.
I couldn't stop quoting passages to my husband, family--okay, anyone who would listen--but this was a book that was best read slowly, page by page, with time for reflection. (So the constant pausing to quote ended up being a benefit for me!) It is cer
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
I've read at least one book by Madeleine L'Engle every decade of my life, starting with _A Wrinkle in Time_ when I was a child. Madeleine's theology does not always match my own, but I deeply respect her thoughtfulness and depth. This book is about the arts. I love that Madeleine does not encourage Christians to stay with "safe" art (Thomas Kinkade comes to mind). Truth can be captured by some very unlikely artists and humanity is the richer for it. Come to think of it, I believe Madeleine L'Eng ...more
Amberlee Bixler
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Is there a 5 star plus I can offer for a review? I ask, because this is the one book to warrant it. Ms. L'Engle beautifully presents several arguments for re-uniting the theological with the artistic, and how an artist (writer, performer, dancer, etc.) can not only bridge the gap between the two, but also clearly defines the reasons why one must. The quotes and arguments are simply stated, and honestly reasoned. This is the book I read when I question whether the pain is worth the thunder, and a ...more
Maribeth B.
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
"In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own."

"If our lives are truly 'hid with Christ in God,' the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all tha
Kat Heckenbach
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
A friend, who is an artist and Christian, loaned me her copy of this book because she though I would enjoy it. Less than halfway through, I gave it back--because I'd bought my own copy.

I have always been a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan. A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I remember reading as a kid, one of the first books I truly loved. One of the first books that drove into me the love of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, I was afraid that might make me biased about this book.

So, I
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author had many valid points and able to reflect on Christianity and art. I loved some of the statements in the book as an artists/creativity with writing.

‎"If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. He must become a creator, imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader "know" each other; they meet on the bridge of words (L'Engle, Madeline,
Diana Maria
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"But only if I die first, only if I am willing to die. I am mortal, flawed, trapped in my own skin, my own barely used brain, I do not understand this death, but I am learning to trust it. Only through this death can come the glory of resurrection; only through this death can come birth. And I cannot do it myself. It is not easy to think of any kind of death as a gift, but it is prefigured for us in the mighty acts of Creation and Incarnation; in Crucifixion and Resurrection. You are my Helper a ...more
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Madeleine L'Engle writes about her art and the art of being a "Christian" writer. I took my 4th-8th grade students to hear her speak in 1988 (St. Andrews Episcopal School) and have been a life-long fan. She was forceful, opinionated, not patient with these kids and absolutely compelling.
It was interesting to read that she kept working notebooks of quotes from authors, words, ideas, etc., and revisted them frequently. She also rewrote her books and believed that discipline was a large part of the
Aug 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The pleasure of this book is not just L'Engle's style, which is warm and inviting. The ideas here are big. In the past, creativity may have been easily dismissed, or thought of as something I do when I have time. This book challenges me and this notion. This book, along with "Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts", answers many of the questions and struggles that I have had as an 'artist' who became a Christian.

This book is *double bonus awesome* if, besides being a writer, you are a wom
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnation activity"

"An icon is a symbol rather than a sign. A sign may point to the way to something, such as: Athens -10 kilometers. But a sign is not Athens, even when we reach the city limits and read Athens. A symbol however, unlike a sign, contains withing it some quality of what it represents. An icon of the Annunciation, for instance, does more than point to the angel and the girl, it contains, for us, some of Mary's acc
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and thought provoking read. Even when I disagreed with her conclusions, like when she talks about gendered language, her questions and observations are usually on point and worth mulling over. This is a book designed to stretch the mind with thoughts on the creative process, what that has to do with faith, and a vocabulary that will knock you off your feet (proving her point on the dangers of a shallow vocabulary). I loved her thesis: bad art means bad religion. And I loved the ins ...more
Jocelyn Green
I found myself underlining and bracketing paragraphs, making notes in the margins in the first half of the book. As the book went on, I felt that, though there are nuggets of wisdom tucked into the pages, L'Engle's style leaned toward the meandering. She didn't ramble, it was just that the stories and anecdotes she used to illustrate her points tended to be on the lengthy side, and I felt it was a circuitous journey to her main point at times. I confess to skimming some later chapters, but it's ...more
This book was a slow simmer for me, and has nurtured and encouraged my soul, watering places I didn't even know we're thirsty. Ms. L'Engle insightfully asks the hard questions about who we are, why we must create, and how to submit to the work given us. Deep, life-giving words here, recommended to all, not just artistic types!
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me cry. (Most things do these days, but still.) As someone who doesn't necessarily identify primarily as an artist, it was deeply relevant to me; one of the most profound yet simple unfoldings I've ever read of what it means to be a Christian in a dark, broken, confusing, and yet somehow still beautiful world. Vulnerability, doubt, pain - and joy & trust in our Father through it all.

Read it. You won't be sorry.

"I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has not
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Madeleine L'Engle was an American writer best known for her young adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regener ...more

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“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own.” 297 likes
“I love, therefore I am vulnerable.” 288 likes
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