Book Review (sort of): Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines

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I don’t know if it’s because Amber C. Haines is a poet, or because reading this book is a little like breaking open a pomegranate and exposing ripe seeds clustered in their hollows, the red of their juices lingering as stains on your fingers after you bring out the fruit—but this memoir, Wild in the Hollow, calls for something other than the typical way I do a book review. Instead, I’m sharing twelve found poems taken from Amber’s words (including page references to the book).

What is a found poem? The Academy of American Poets defines it:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

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1. From pages 49-51:
It didn’t take me long to see how different I was in the church

So tidy and clean
the church so aware of how it looked.

No one talked about brokenness. I did my best
to look good enough for the keeping, but—

How broken I was. How I didn’t fit. It seemed the rest
of the church had healed up good. Either that

or no one knew how to grieve
the stories, the rumbles of despair. Most days I thought

I would drown. Fresh in the memory of wild back roads
I walked in and asked, “Will you love me now?”

—–

2. From page 54:
My mamaw

She rocked in her chair.
She told me secrets. We became
so close in our brokenness, spoke
in secret language before she slipped away
into her real life. Her confessions
unified us, her perfect love for me
cast out fear.

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3. From page 54:
So much hammered doctrine

was an effort to control,
to harness the Holy Spirit so we could feel
better about ourselves—
a measuring stick superimposed into
the very hand of God.

—–

4. From page 56:
What is Scripture?

What is Scripture if
it doesn’t pour in,
transform,
and then
flow out from the depths,
especially
as love?

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5. From page 57:
I wish I had known

The depravity of man is only
the realization of the hollow,
the need. Depravity
should only imply that we
can be filled
with God.

—–

6. From page 58:
Mercy

Isn’t it sometimes
God’s mercy
that we crash?

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7. From page 111:
Friendship Beginning

a long, silent pause
like an orchestra
before the music begins

like a cellist holding position
with the bow hovering
just above the strings

—–

8. From page 141:
A Word of Truth

Do not forget
that the Spirit of God
indwells you.

And just like that,
the ash blew over, and I began
to burn.

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9. From page 173:
Repentance

a sorrow
a recognized need
a change of mind, the turning point
a place of release
a place to go

—–

10. From page 173:
After Repentance

obedience
moving forward
into righteousness, peace, joy
propelling the kingdom of God

—–

11. From page 186:
Good News

Isn’t brokenness
the fertile ground for the seed
of hope? We are weak ones, but
this is not bad news.

—–

12. From page 197:
In this one moment

I have seen my children
run naked and wild. I have seen them
without a drop of shame.

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Bible Reading: Like Looking for Thimbleberries

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How is reading the Bible like looking for wild berries?

Today I am sharing part 5 of the BibleDude.net Ephesians Project and would love to see you there. The article begins…

Have you ever noticed how much “Once upon a time” sounds like “In the beginning”? It’s how the great stories begin (and reveals where the great stories were born). I noticed this when I read Ephesians the way I went looking for thimbleberries.

We were backpacking near Vail, Colorado. I had found…

(Continue reading at BibleDude.net.)

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God’s Heart in a Little Green Marker

Why? WHY? Why-why-why?!

I want to know, too. So I take out my little green marker and highlight anything I see that answers the question, “Why?”

Reasons. Purposes. Motives.

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Then I put on my magic…

Would you like to hear God’s heartbeat? I invite you to read the rest of my article at BibleDude.net: God’s Heart in a Little Green Marker. (I’d love to meet you in the comment box over there!)

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In-Betweens Are Places, Too

I stalked him shamelessly. I hounded him, followed his scent, tracked his every move. I kept close on his tail, and I wasn’t even discreet about it.

In the process, I learned so much. Tracking Jesus was a fun and wonderful way to know him better…

Read the rest of this article at BibleDude.net. I’d love to see you there!

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Snowball Fights, Fruitfulness, and Overcoming Sin

(This Wednesday Ann Voskamp hosts a community of those who share about “The Practice of Resurrection.” Below I share an idea that may help resurrect a dead motivation to follow God, resurrect a dead excitement for being fruitful, or resurrect a dead hope of overcoming sin. Click on the Holy Experience badge to read more posts on “The Practice of Resurrection”!)

What do snowball fights, knowing God, and 2 Peter 1:8 have in common?

I live with four family members, and all of them are male.* I still don’t get why snowball fights are fun. Why do they love being pelted with icy globs? To me, it’s like being hunted.

But they have their great fun packing snowballs while I watch (from inside) and take pictures with the window between me and them. I heat water in the kettle and take out the marshmallows so that the hot cocoa will be ready when they come in, red-cheeked and happy.

That’s in winter. In the summer I work with my sons on the simple skills of catching and throwing a baseball. I tell them how to position the mitt. I remind them not to shut their eyes when the ball is coming at them. I show them that if they throw the ball with the right hand, they should step with the left foot (not the right, as they were doing).

Sometimes the progress seems slow. At the beginning of one summer, though, I went to the backyard for one of the first throwing and catching practices of the year. They were much better than I remembered; their skill level was even better than it was end of the previous summer!

Wondering what happened, I told my husband about it. “They got so much better at throwing all of a sudden! I haven’t even been working on it that long!”

Charles’s explanation came immediately. “It’s because of the snowball fights.”

Of course.

Maybe the way to get better at throwing is not so much to “work on” throwing skills. Maybe we should just have snowball fights, and the throwing will improve automatically, almost without thinking about it. Plus, it’s fun.

The Snowball Fight of 2 Peter 1:5-8

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:8)

What?! If something will guarantee my usefulness and fruitfulness, then I want to know what it is!

What, then, are “these qualities”? What is the snowball fight?

Now for this reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
(2 Peter 1:5-7)

Instead of fretting over or “working on” being fruitful, I should focus on “these qualities,” things like

faith,
moral excellence,
knowledge,
self-control,
godliness,
kindness.

Then (God help me!), the fruitfulness will follow.

The Snowball Fight of Knowing God

Avoiding sin is the throw-and-catch practice. Knowing God is the snowball fight. Maybe the way to get better at conquering sin is not so much to work on avoiding that sin, gritting my teeth and saying, “I won’t sin, I won’t sin, I won’t sin!” Maybe I should just know God better and better, and overcoming the sin will follow as a natural consequence, almost without thinking about it.

And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…

No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.
(1 John 2:3-4 and 3:6)

I think it’s worth a try. Plus, knowing God better is fun.

*Note: If you’ve read my previous post for a book club on writing, you will have noticed that a large part of this post is identical. But the thoughts above on knowing God and 2 Peter 1:8 came before the thoughts on writing. I suppose, if I consider what Laura Boggess said: “Good writing requires living well,” then it’s not surprising that the snowball-fight insights would apply in multiple areas!