Friday, August 23, 2013

Questions from Kids...

Here’s an opportunity for kids to find answers to a dozen of the questions they might ask when they are sitting in church. Why Do We Have to Be So Quiet in Church? written by Clare Simpson and illustrated by Kay Harker is published by Paraclete Press, It begins with a small, redheaded boy who smiles as he questions and wonders aloud what the answer to that question could possibly be.

He is told that it’s good to be quiet and listen, and everybody else who is there wants to listen also. So he asks more questions, including these and others:

Can God see me?
Does God like it when I kneel or bow my head?
What does God look like?
Can God always hear me?
Does God remember my baptism?
Does God see me when I do something wrong?
Does God really forgive my sins?
Why do we say “Amen” at the end of everything?
God, did you make church just for me?

The answers are interesting and could be the beginnings of more questions and answers to be shared. The drawings are colorful, charming, and appropriate and there is some evidence of multi-cultural friendships among the children, though I would be pleased to see more of that. On every page there is some of the beauty of God’s Creation, including a line of frolicking, funny little mice. Children will smile and so will their grown-ups.

—Lois Sibley

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning all the Way...

Before we dream again, Samuel Wells in his new book calls us to learn to love again, to live again, to think, read, feel again, and finally, we may be ready to learn to dream again. Learning to Dream Again is published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. at (

Wells is now vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, and Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College, London. Before that, for seven years he was dean of the chapel at Duke University and a professor at Duke Divinity School, North Carolina. And if these essays and meditations sound like chapel talks, some probably were. I can hear the students chuckling as they follow his lead, sometimes hiding a tear or two.

Chapel time is brief. But in a book you can have a whole chapter or more on one point, and Wells uses the space to his advantage. And he sounds like what he is, an excellent teacher and preacher, with three points here and nine points under the third point—almost too much, except it’s all interesting, even captivating.

In the beginning of each chapter, Wells tells us what he is going to tell us. And then he begins, casting his line in elusive spots, patiently drawing us in to think along with him. He tells memorable stories, relates incidents in our own history and earlier times. He applies Old and New Testament stories to our concerns and I think readers’ hearts will be quick to settle in, thinking and applying those Scripture stories to our current situations and concerns, including abortion, taxation, torture, the arts, science, hunger, sports, marriage, work and leisure, politics, justice, forgiveness, and eventually, death. Wells asks how did Moses and Isaiah and other OT leaders do it? How did Jesus advise and conclude in the situations he faced?

There is so much “good stuff” in this book, it will take readers a long time to take it all in, listen, reflect, apply to their lives. So, you better begin soon.

—Lois Sibley

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hildegard's Spiritual Reader

Hildegard was born in 1098, the tenth child in a noble family in Bermersheim, near Mainz, Germany. Her family gave her as a tithe to the church, not uncommon then. In 1112, at age 14 she entered a hermitage attached to a monastery and Benedictine convent at St. Disibod Abbey in Disibodenberg. In her late 30s, Hildegard was elected by the nuns as their abbess. Some years later, in 1150, Hildegard and 20 nuns left St. Disibod and started another convent at Rupertsberg, 19 miles northeast, near Bingen on the Rhine River. In 1165, Hildegard again founded a new convent, at Eibingen, just across the Rhine River, so she could visit there often. 

From an early age, Hildegard had visions and prophecies that she believed God commanded her to write down and share. She chose to write in Latin, and Hildegard’s own Latin style created “memorable challenges,” says author and translator Carmen Acevedo Butcher. A prolific author, Hildegard produced three volumes of theology, her own musical compositions, poetry, and a morality play called The Play of the Virtues.  In  her 60s, she wrote an encyclopedia on plants, elements, trees, stones, fish, birds, animals, reptiles, and metals. And between 1158–1170, she went on four preaching tours (we might say missions) to nearby towns, preaching in both monasteries and public places. All of this from a woman who often had health problems, such as exhaustions, fevers, breathing difficulties and perhaps migraine headaches.

Because she was “well-connected,” and well-known through her writings, Hildegard had many opportunities for correspondence with both secular and religious leaders and she never hesitated to tell these leaders what she believed God wanted them to do. In Hildegard of Bingen, author Butcher provides the life story of Hildegard along with excerpts from her songs, poetry, books and correspondence, thus the subtitle “A Spiritual Reader.” This book is available from There is a good map at the beginning and a helpful time-line near the end. A DVD is available at 

Many years after Hildegard’s death at 81 in 1179, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 7, 2012, proclaimed St. Hildegard of Bingen, Doctor of the Church—the fourth woman to be so honored. It’s easy to see that St. Hildegard was a multi-tasking person, and a Benedictine follower of the Rule, who spent her life serving the Triune God where he had placed her.

—Lois Sibley