March Book: Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by AustinSeminary (new)

AustinSeminary We are pleased to announce our March book of the month; Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. Austin Seminary Professor Cynthia Rigby will be leading the discussion.

Here's the book synopsis:

In her luminous and long-awaited novel, bestselling author Elizabeth Strout welcomes readers back to the archetypal, lovely landscape of northern New England, where the events of her first novel, Amy and Isabelle, unfolded. In the late 1950s, in the small town of West Annett, Maine, a minister struggles to regain his calling, his family, and his happiness in the wake of profound loss. At the same time, the community he has served so charismatically must come to terms with its own strengths and failings—faith and hypocrisy, loyalty and abandonment—when a dark secret is revealed.

Tyler Caskey has come to love West Annett, “just up the road” from where he was born. The short, brilliant summers and the sharp, piercing winters fill him with awe—as does his congregation, full of good people who seek his guidance and listen earnestly as he preaches. But after suffering a terrible loss, Tyler finds it hard to return to himself as he once was. He hasn’t had The Feeling—that God is all around him, in the beauty of the world—for quite some time. He struggles to find the right words in his sermons and in his conversations with those facing crises of their own, and to bring his five-year-old daughter, Katherine, out of the silence she has observed in the wake of the family’s tragedy.

A congregation that had once been patient and kind during Tyler’s grief now questions his leadership and propriety. In the kitchens, classrooms, offices, and stores of the village, anger and gossip have started to swirl. And in Tyler’s darkest hour, a startling discovery will test his congregation’ s humanity—and his own will to endure the kinds of trials that sooner or later test us all.

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions on the book so far.

message 2: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Hi, Everyone! This is Cynthia Rigby and I'm the leader of this month's discussion on *Abide With Me.* I just joined the group, and am happy to be here. Now I just have to figure out how to be the discussion leader! I taught an online class last semester, so I'm used to bulletin boards, but this is a tad different. What I guess I will do is post some questions early this weekend, and we can take it from there. Sound good? Meanwhile, can you tell me who is out there? Thanks! Oh - I'm Cindy, I teach theology at Austin Seminary, I like to read literature and am teaching a course in theology and lit this semester, and I always like thinking about why Christian doctrines matter in everyday life . . . I've also got a 10 yr old son and an 8 year old daughter, am married to another professor named Bill Greenway, and was born and raised in NY (but I got to Austin as quickly as I could . . . ). I went to Brown undergrad, Princeton Seminary Mdiv and PhD, and . . . well: that may be enough for now! Looking forward to our engagement on the book, C

message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa J. Hi Cindy, this is Lisa Juica and I am looking forward to diving in to Abide With Me. From the synopsis it sounds like a great novel!

message 4: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby It truly is! I've read it now and am scrambling to re-read it again, now, so all is fresh in my mind! I look forward to discussing with you. thanks for letting me know you are "there."

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Holleran Cindy - Lisa Holleran here. I downloaded the book a couple days ago and a looking forward to a raining weekend to sit on the couch and read! Just so you know, there are a lot of silent people on this group, but they are out there and they are reading the posts. Looking forward to the conversation!

message 6: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Ah, yes. The rain does help. I got up early and began reading, again (this will be, I think, my third time through the book). I was struck by the description of the manse/house, as well as by the way the pastor was depicted simultaneously as being tall/strong and a complete pushover. Because he is young and seems nervous about talking about money, the story says, the congregation thinks they can kind of get away with putting him in this particular house, which is at a distance from town. What do you make of this set-up? This house? This depiction of the pastor of someone who appears strong, but is actually (they think) able to be manipulated? Are the dynamics in this regard particularly unhealthy, or is it pretty typical (only mildly dysfunctional?) that a congregation would choose, as their pastor, a person they felt they could manage/manipulate? Or do you read these matters in an altogether different way?

message 7: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Another question I have is: how are the characters shaping up in your mind, as you read? Do they seem believable? What do they fear? What do they hope for? The story is set beginning in 1959 and moving into the 60s and beyond, I think. I was a child in those days, and the fear of nuclear war was salient. I am about a quarter of the way through the book (again), and I've noticed several references to bomb shelters and the danger of nuclear war. Do these references bring back memories for anyone? What other fears and or hopes do you see in evidence, and for which characters?

message 8: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West Back in the olden days when manses were the norm I remember discussions about painting, repair, etc. Those discussions seemed very separate from "how we liked the pastor" or if he could be manipulated. It was strictly financial -- how little can we do to this property, keep it functional and have as little fuss as possible from the pastor.
I find the setting so typical of the time. What I do not understand is what in Tyler's background keeps him from connecting with his own feelings except as he related to his work as a pastor and his relationship with God. There his feeling seem to overflow, but they are never far from a fantasy - a world where he is comfortable and satisfied. I am to the place in the book where Tyler is trying to settle some of his feelings. He is turned away by the professor and then he turns away from dealing with the reality of his situation even though he seems to be aware of his problems. What a world!

message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa J. I thought it was interesting that they chose to sell the parsonage and put their new pastor a good distance from the church and from the hustle and bustle of the churches life. I was also struck by the description of Tyler as strong yet the house as the complete opposite. I wonder if the reason the church chose the house was to get every last thing of the pastor in that he would be able to fix up the house for "free". Manipulation of sorts. It is mentioned that he was frugal with money so I wonder if the hopes were to have him do it himself rather than ask the church to fix it up. I also wonder if Tyler and his family were put out there because the church didn't want him or others in his family close as to figure out who the church members really are. Secrets being kept from the pastor comes to mind. "We do this behind closed doors that know one can know about...." I see that already shaping up of how Connie Hatch is being portrayed as someone who can't take care of children or wouldn't have the slightest clue as to go about it. Yet, I think she may prove them all wrong. I am not very far through the book yet. I am to the point where it is revealed that Tyler's wife died of cancer.

I think certain characters are being shaped in interesting ways so far.

message 10: by Lisa (new)

Lisa J. My apologies on so many typos and auto-correct issues above. One day my phone will learn to read my mind. :)

message 11: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby I really like Jeanne's point about Tyler's thinking "never being far from fantasy." He really does interpret everything he is feeling (and even how he thinks he should respond to others) in relationship to the spiritual narrative he has constructed for himself. Verses from Scripture, the memoirs of the saints (his teacher criticizes him for this), and the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It seems, at points, that he wants to BE Bonhoeffer. But he is in a very different situation. There is virtually no risk, for example, that he will be executed for being involved in an assassination plot!! Trying to be Bonhoeffer in his world really is a fantasy - this is one that Connie smokes out just before the halfway point of the book. This raises the question for me of how spiritual heroes should function in our lives and journeys. It seems important that we be inspired by the examples of others, but at what point have we gone too far into idolizing them? Maybe here is where Jeanne would say - when we use them to construct fantasy worlds that we try to live in, instead of the "real" world? Poor Tyler . . .

message 12: by Cynthia (last edited Mar 10, 2014 07:19AM) (new)

Cynthia Rigby These comments made by Lisa about what the house tells us about how the church community wants to relate to Tyler, I think, are really insightful. I do think they want to manage him, to keep him at arms' length so they can do so. Maybe Jeanne is right that they put him there for financial reasons - what else could they do with the house? But the text does say that they think they can get away with it because Tyler is uncomfortable talking about money, and young . . . having read this book before, I know this theme of the congregation trying to manage Tyler runs throughout. Early on, you can see it in the way the women discuss him and Kathryn. His sister and mother, in different ways, also try to manage him. How much of everyone wanting to manage Tyler has to do with the fact that he is a minister? With the fact that he is still deep in grief about the death of his wife? Or - with the fact that he does not stand up to them enough? Does Tyler imagine he has more respect from everyone around him than he actually has, do you think? Was anyone else a bit surprised that the very last thing his wife said to him before she died was that he is a coward? (!!). How do you think he interprets this, earlier in the book?

message 13: by Neill (new)

Neill I just finished the book last night, but I won't put any spoilers in this post. I did find it an interesting exercise to draw a genogram of Tyler and Lauren's family. Seeing the diagram, making notes next to each character's name as information is revealed--let me just say that your questions about why Tyler acts the way he does will be addressed in some interesting and complex layers.

What a beautiful novel. It reminds me a bit of Gilead and Home, not just in subject matter, but in style. Did the author study at Iowa with Marilynn Robinson?

message 14: by Cynthia (last edited Mar 10, 2014 07:25AM) (new)

Cynthia Rigby I COMPLETELY agree with you, Neill, that this is in the beautiful style of Marilynn Robinson (in my view, the HIGHEST compliment anyone could ever give an author). I am totally intrigued by the fact that you drew a genogram. Is it possible for you to post it? If not, would you mind sending it to me at my email address: Maybe I can find a way . . . thanks! CR

message 15: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West This story gets inside me, like Gilead. Once Tyler becomes "real" he can be treated as a person and the congregation responds that way. As long as he is a "saint" the people do not need to look to his needs. Remember the book we read on being vulnerable? It is risky, but pays off in relationships. In this story, as I finished I was relieved to find Katherine would be all right. I had wanted to take her home with me and was so glad to see Carol Meadows appear in the story for Katherine. (That family story seems to be another novel waiting to be written.)

message 16: by Cecil (new)

Cecil Grant Hi everyone! I've just joined the Book Club and think the selection of books is excellent. well done austin! As someone who used to pastor two small rural churches "Abide with Me" is intriguing for how it tries to capture life "in the goldfish bowl." Tyler, the outsider, who finds it easier to be friends and engage spiritually with Bonhoeffer and St. Teresa rather than with the people in his congregation. Lauren, who is catapulted into an utterly alien world, and expected to morph to its patterns. And then the congregation whose women we are told are always ironing! People who are desperately trying to appear respectable when beneath the surface their lives are as much a crumpled mess as the pastor they criticise. At times Strout's depiction of life as a rural pastor was so uncannily familiar, that I wondered had she ever visited the churches I was in!!

message 17: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby This theme raised by Jeanne of how "being real" is necessary for being treated like a real person really resonates. It made me think of Barbara Brown Taylor's Leaving *Leaving Church.* Anyone read that? Taylor talks about how difficult it is to be "real," as a pastor/priest, however much she wishes to be. She testifies that, in her case, she had to leave the priesthood in order to be "real." Do yu think this is sometimes true? That people sometimes won't let a pastor (or . . . Other leader?) be real?

message 18: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby I am so glad to hear, Cecil, that the setting rings true to you who have been a pastor in similar settings! I've had pastor friends in such settings say they can't check out a movie or a book without the whole congregation knowing what they are reading or viewing. So hard, in that context, to fine someone who can be a genuine friend and confidente. This, I think, is Connie for Tyler. Would you say The are Connie's out there for rural pastors, Cecil?

message 19: by Arthur (new)

Arthur Keith I ordered the book and it takes a while to be delivered to me. I live in a small town in Mississippi, bookstores and decent libraries we do not have. I do not like Kindle's, so I always order the actual book. I retired a few years back, as I said in my intro to Goodreads, I have had only a few jobs, soldier, pastor and teacher. Being told you can no longer work is difficult. Anyway, when I served as pastor, it has always been in the South and always in small churches. I seem to like them best. But everyone always knows what is going on, often before I did and it was going on with me. In one of my churches, I went through a divorce. My wife at the time decided without telling the children or me, that she was in love with another woman. She went and walked in a gay liberation parade, in fact led the parade. My elders called me to tell what was happening and told me that it was time to move away from there. Today I live in a small Mississippi town where my family has been forever. I cannot go to a store without some family member telling everyone what I bought.
One of the things I have found is that small town pastors have few if any real friends. Your executive spends most of his time with the pastors of the bigger churches, and you really cannot be friends with your parishioners. I was lucky that one of my Austin professors, Dr. Jansen, was a good friend. Of course, he was the only one who spoke my native language, the language of heaven, Dutch

message 20: by Neill (new)

Neill Cynthia wrote: "I COMPLETELY agree with you, Neill, that this is in the beautiful style of Marilynn Robinson (in my view, the HIGHEST compliment anyone could ever give an author). I am totally intrigued by the fa..."

Haven't figured out how to post the genogram here yet, but I'll keep trying, maybe a link to my blog or something like that. One of the issues that emerges from the family system is the challenge for Tyler, the younger brother of a strong sister, and the son of a "weak" father (quoting Belle) and a controlling emotionally fused mother who sees all of Tyler's actions as personal reflections upon her, is to find his own path of grief. He stands under the social pressures of his position as pastor, father, and son; they bear heavily upon him so that it would take a monumental leap of maturity to say to everyone, "This is what I need from you." Instead, his psyche, his soul, and his body take over and finally reveal to the people who love him what he does not feel the permission to share. Why not? What does he fear? That they will cut him off? That to grieve is to fail? How much does he, as an adult, need to please his mother? Can he believe what his truth-telling older sister tells him, that their mother will never cut him off, even if he does what he needs to do, grieves as he needs to grieve?
While I love the reflection of the cross in the final chapters, the strength through weakness that Tyler finally discovers, I have often observed (and perhaps feared?) what Charlie Austin described, that a congregation that sniffs weakness and vulnerability will destroy and devour.

message 21: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West Weakness and vulnerability are not the same. Sometimes it is through showing that you are vulnerable that strength is seen. Tyler showed weakness, I think, when he held himself apart from the congregation. That is when the people started the gossip. Finally he was able to say, " I have needs." People can relate to that.

message 22: by Neill (new)

Neill Yes, Jeanne, an important distinction between weakness and vulnerability. I couldn't get the genogram to post directly, but here's a link to a photo of the genogram:

message 23: by Cynthia (last edited Mar 11, 2014 05:44PM) (new)

Cynthia Rigby I like this distinction. Can we be vulnerable about our weaknesses, I think is the question, so we can get the help we need? The cat's out of the bag - Tyler learns to be.

message 24: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Arthur - I cannot believe you had Dr. Jansen! I have heard so many great stories about him!

message 25: by Arthur (new)

Arthur Keith Cynthia wrote: "Arthur - I cannot believe you had Dr. Jansen! I have heard so many great stories about him!"

He was fantastic. Introduced me to the Church Fathers, was friends with a lot of non-Presbyterians, and was not afraid of sharing those friends. Made me a better person all around. And when my marriage fell apart, he was one of the few people who stood with me. Will never forget him.

message 26: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby What an example of someone who (as the saying goes) "practices what they preach/teach." Jansen sounds like someone who was an old-school mentor - a rarity, I think, these days. And something to aspire to. Jesus taught us not only to do things for each other but to be with and for each other, as he is for us. To tie this to the book: I'd say Tyler, at best, was trying to be with and for those to whom he ministered. He really tried to love them, and often did. But sometimes he had trouble really being "with" them, offering them advice without really listening or ignoring people like Doris when he didn't know what to do. Still, I admire him for the fact that he really wanted to stand by his people, even when he didn't know quite how to pull it off. What do you think? Where was Tyler "successful" at ministering incarnationally (being with and for those whom he served) and where and why was he not able to be with them the way Jansen (for example) was with Arthur (if it is OK, Arthur, for me to make this connection so explicitly?)?

message 27: by Arthur (new)

Arthur Keith Yes, Dr. Jansen was always the one example of how a pastor should be. Too many others at Seminary failed in that part. Sorry if that is too hard but it is the way I felt. It is also one of the reasons I have kept little contact with Austin.

message 28: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Neill - I like your idea of posting the anagram to your blog, especially if that is easy for you. Don't go to too much trouble - but if you post it I will check it out! thanks.

message 29: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Neill wrote: "What does he fear? That they will cut him off? That to grieve is to fail?" This is a great question. I do not have an answer yet. I am going to think about it and post my answer, later. Anyone else want to give it a shot? And we also need to address the truth of Neill's last depressing sentence - the quote from Charlie Austin. But first: the fear (even if we do wind up saying the fear is not irrational . . . )

message 30: by Neill (new)

Neill Cynthia, the link to my blog is in my post from yesterday, above.

message 31: by Lisa (new)

Lisa J. I think what Tyler fears is the self he knows is not the self that the church would want let alone need. I think Tyler also fears the self he knows won't be enough for even himself. I see this mostly through Katherine's character developing. Is the fear irrational? Only if Tyler can not come to terms with self. He tries so desperately do this through Bonhoeffer and St. Therese but can not. He even tries to do it through his old professor and does not find what he seeks for self. I'm not sure Tyler fears failure as much as he fears his self won't be enough or that it has never been enough for his family, the church, and possibly even God.

message 32: by Cecil (new)

Cecil Grant Following on from what Lisa says, I suppose Tyler's breakdown in front of the congregation and his emptying of self is the beginning of his personal redemption and the discovery of his true identity as a pastor. Discovering that you can never be enough to satisfy everyone's hopes, including your own, is perhaps the point at which we become truly free to be a channel of grace.

message 33: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Cenko I read this book yesterday. I'm on vacation and was intrigued. I am Tyler. 15 months ago we lost our son, 27 yrs old, to a motorcycle accident. I am still trying to regain "The Feeling". At first the congregation was very sympathetic, but as time has gone by, and I'm not my old self again, they have been not as patient with me. My. circumstances in life are much different, but his struggles from day-to-day are very familiar. It's ironic that about two weeks ago I wrote my GP and told him I was thinking of retiring early. I wonder what Tyler would have done if he didn't have Bonhoeffer to dissolve into? It also occurs to me that many folks in our congregations try to maneuver us pastors around, and some do it behind our backs. But thank God there are the "Carol Meadows" in our churches. Perhaps the lesson is that we have to totally expose ourselves sometimes to break down the residual barriers-like with Charlie Austin. Even Katherine had to see her dad like a 5-yr old to break the barrier between them.

message 34: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West I like your take on the fear, Lisa. I had to go back to the beginning of the story to find "fear" because I was getting the rage that seemed to grow as different things impacted Tyler. He really has high expectations for himself.

message 35: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West Debbie, I am so sorry! Maybe we never "get over" a loss. Whatever happens is so unique to each person, I think. My brother was killed in an accident when he was 24 and I was in shock, but no way to understand what was happening to our mother.
You helped the conversation about Tyler by pulling us out of the pages and into real life. These things do happen and people are thrown into orbits, each one dealing with it in their own way. The way friends and observers act is just as unique which makes us humans a huge puzzle. Wonder how we ever manage to communicate. Thanks you.

message 36: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Hi, Friends. Please forgive me for being so scarce the last week. I had some unexpected things that came up that kept me away, but promise to be faithful to these last two weeks we have on the book. There is still time for lots of wonderful discussion for those who are game!

just read Debbie's comments and the responses and was deeply moved. Thank you for sharing this, Debbie. I agree with Jeanne that you help bring Tyler into real life. And I have had several pastor friends who confirm your story - the congregation is supportive for awhile, but then wants you completely "back" before you can be. And of course how could you ever be the same self again (and who would want to be) after something so life-altering happened?

I wondered if it wasn't just Tyler that was holding back grief, but also the congregation. It is becoming clear, I think, even before Lauren dies, that Tyler and Lauren and Katherine and Jeannie are not the "perfect pastor's family" their congregation wants them to be. It seems like a main theme of the second half of the book is the people ascknowledging this, but in mean, trite, hateful ways rather than in ways that are healing. Oh - and - it is also Tyler's mother who wants everything to be picture perfect. Can you believe she manages to make his breakdown in the pulpit all about HER? She just needs to admit and grieve that he is not exactly what she wanted in a son.

Does death of ill-founded hopes, and grieving the loss of these, open the possibility of resurrection? (Note, here, that I am not talking about the death of Lauren being a good thing, but the death of false expectations of Lauren, Tyler, et al, and grieving these, possibly leading to a good thing . . )

message 37: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West I believe that it is hard for a person to accept reality. It is so much easier to cherish a "pipe dream" or a hope or a what if. However, once we can accept the reality -- for ourself or our child, or our friend, or for a situation -- we are better able to celebrate that reality. That does seem to be the path to resurrection. In this story we see Tyler's mother, Tyler himself and so many of the congregation with false expectations for themselves and for others.

Dream worlds are not satisfying. I wonder if that is one way we try to hide from God. Maybe become our own God.

message 38: by Arthur (new)

Arthur Keith I believe that I am probably older than most of the people here. And that leads me to wonder if there is perhaps a generational thing at work here. People my generation, the World War II generation, expected one thing from their leaders, certainty, knowledge, a sense of knowing what to do, what was right, while to me the younger generation all talks about learning to be themselves, honest expectations, being yourself. It feels strange compared to what I grew up with, and I believe that that is also true for many of the older population in our churches.
I was told once by one of my ruling elders in the church that many of the younger ministers had too many doubts, that they took away their certainty of life after death.

message 39: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Thanks for the comments, Jeanne and Arthur. I have heard others who are older than me make similar comparisons, Arthur. My grandparents and parents have told me the most important values, as they were taught them, are to do your duty, be responsible, work hard, respect others, and carry yourself in respectable ways. It seems like showing respect and maintaining respectability required, for them, sometimes NOT "baring all" weaknesses, feelings, or even sins. I'm an old GenXer and - 'you're right - we value "authenticity" perhaps sometime to a fault. But - if you can believe this - I think the millennial generation (let's say . . . Those 30 and below) are even more apt to be "transparent" than we "x"ers!! Occasionally I want to tell some of my youngest students: "that's something you probably should keep to yourself." This, in the spirit of wanting to protect them. This is a bit funny to me, since my mom (who grew up in the 40s and 50s) has been known to warn me that I shouldn't share "everything" - it might be used against me, she thinks, since not everyone is forgiving and understanding. And now I find myself telling folks younger than me the same thing . . . ;). What I wish for, to tell you the truth, are more "safe" spaces to tell the truth about ourselves. I think these spaces are few and far between, even in the church. I think Tyler was taking a huge risk. I think he was aware of this, but had "reached bottom" and so took the risk because, well, what else could he do? Lots of pastors (and others) do not get the grace-full response he received. But he DID get such a response. It is not impossible. We have to keep hope that our communities can be what we claim they are - powered by the Holy Spirit, a communion of saints, a place where forgiveness is operative and where resurrection occurs not only in the future, but also in the present.

message 40: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Let's talk about some of the characters. Who is your favorite, and why? Who drives you the most crazy? Who surprises you? I think Doris surprised me most. She started out being so annoying, but then she would up having a good deal of depth. She really is trying, with her husband. She really seems to understand there is something there, something that happened to him, that is getting in the way. She is sticking with him, she is there for him, she is waiting for transformation in ways that are more patient and mature than her "I want an organ" persona led her initially to appear . . .

message 41: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby There's an article in the "New York Times," today, by a guy named James Atlas, titled, "Really? You're not in a Book Club?" Interesting stuff. It is linked at:
My favorite paragraph in it is: "Reading is a solitary act, an experience of interiority. To read a book is to burst the confines of one’s consciousness and enter another world. What happens when you read a book in the company of others? You enter its world together but see it in your own way; and it’s through sharing those differences of perception that the book group acquires its emotional power." It seems to me that this is true . . . that we are entering Tyler's world together, and sharing the different ways we see things . . .

message 42: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne West Cynthia, thank you for the great moderating job you have done with this book. It keeps meaning more to me as I reflect upon comments from the group. You have really helped that to happen. Perhaps other moderators can check out your questions and the way you listen to group participants before asking questions. Happy spring!

message 43: by Cynthia (last edited Mar 30, 2014 03:05PM) (new)

Cynthia Rigby Wow - thanks for the compliment, Jeanne. I was honestly feeling like I hadn't done enough. Crazybusy, this month! But I guess we all do what we can. I loved being engaged in this conversation with all of you. Thanks so much for being part of it. I often think about what it might take, in the midst of our 24/7 lives, to feed our imaginations enough to "live into" what we believe - that one day every tear will be wiped away, and lions and lambs will lie down together, and there will be peace, worship, the realization of joy. How in the world can we "live into" these things if we don't practice imagining them? Reading fiction, it seems to me, is a way of exercising our God-given imaginations. I guess what "Abide With Me" has helped me to imagine (and to "lean into") believing is that forgiving, healing, Christian community is a possibility. That that awful but common brokenness caused by gossip, spreading rumors, fear, and posturing can, indeed, be overcome. That we can, as Christian communities, be transformed together into supportive, nurturing bodies - the body of Christ. It seems to me that being vulnerable, as Tyler was, will not always result in everyone rising to the fore, raising your salary (! that really got me), and "moving you closer to town." But it should. And sometimes it does. And so we have to keep trying. We have to take the risk: in hope. Believing. And with our God-given imaginations for what is possible running on high . . .

message 44: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby To Neill from Cindy: Hey, Neill! I finally checked out the anagram on your (really great) blog and left you a "thank you" note there. But I think I posted it in the wrong place! Sorry for being such a social media nitwit, and feel free to view and delete it. Thanks again for posting it, though - it is really helpful for imagining the "family" in the book. - Cindy (

message 45: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Rigby Anyone have any final comments before we close our this discussion, today? If not, thanks for the great engagement and take care! Following in the footsteps of Tyler, may we all find supportive communities where we can appreciate others for who they are, cherish those entrusted to our care, and ask for what we really need. Blessings, Cindy

message 46: by Neill (new)

Neill Cynthia wrote: "Wow - thanks for the compliment, Jeanne. I was honestly feeling like I hadn't done enough. Crazybusy, this month! But I guess we all do what we can. I loved being engaged in this conversation w..."
Thanks, Cynthia, I'm glad that was of interest. I'm kind of a family systems nerd, so it helps me sometimes to draw the diagram for fictional characters. Even if an author has no family systems training, it's amazing how their intuition leads them to create family patterns that make sense through the Bowen theory model.
Thanks, Cynthia, for moderating this, I wish I could attend the class you're leading! I enjoyed the discussion here, and look forward to more.

message 47: by Neill (new)

Neill Thanks, all, for a good discussion this month. I thought of your comments yesterday afternoon as I participated in the installation of a friend in a church that has surrounded their new pastor with love, comfort, and prayers for healing when his family entered a sudden health crisis shortly after he began his service to this congregation a few weeks ago. My job was to charge the congregation. In retrospect, I wish I had charged them to read Abide With Me.

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