The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

Seasons of a Family’s Life: Cultivating the Contemplative Spirit at Home
by Wendy M. Wright, professor of theology at Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., and mother of three young-adult children, ponders the lessons of parenting and how her family life has been enriched by moments of silence and contemplation. Although the hyper-fast pace of modern life works against these two spiritual arts, Wright believes that it is possible to practice the presence of God within the household. The family is also the ideal place to practice forgiveness, she claims, since those living in proximity to us are always challenging us to become more patient and empathetic with their flaws and foibles.

Paying attention, Wright says, is “the fundamental art of the spiritual life.” A chapter on the role it plays in discernment is especially cogent. She notes that discernment is not the same as problem solving. The discrimination it calls for is not a matter of comparing pros and cons of a particular choice. She offers a poetic analogy: “It is more like the turning of the sunflower to the sun.” She continues with this definition: “Discernment is about feeling texture, assessing weight, watching the plumb line, listening for overtones, searching for shards, feeling the quickening, surrendering to love. It is being grasped in the Spirit’s arms and led in the rhythms of an unknown dance.”

Wright sees consumerism as an obstacle to the development of family solidarity because when it takes over the minds and hearts of husbands, wives and children, there is little time left for cultivating silence or exploring the sacred places in our lives.

The home is the perfect milieu for nurturing the open and loving heart, Wright concludes. Here wonder and reverence can be practiced as we cherish the marvels of life and the mysteries of those closest to us in the family circle (Jossey-Bass).

Pieces of April, written and directed by Peter Hedges
(screenwriter for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and About a Boy), takes place entirely on Thanksgiving Day. April (Katie Holmes), 21, has long been estranged from her mother, who is dying of cancer. Convinced by her boyfriend (Derek Luke) that she needs to have at least one good memory of her, she invites her whole family to have Thanksgiving dinner in her small apartment in a rundown area of New York. When her stove breaks, she has to find another way to cook the turkey, which means reaching out to her neighbors, including an African American couple with their own meal to prepare and a Chinese family who don't speak English.

As her parents (Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt), younger sister (Alison Pill), brother (John Gallagher Jr.) and grandmother (Alie Drummond) drive into the city, we learn about all the ways April has disappointed them over the years. Has this former drug user and rebellious child changed--and will they be able to see it? This is a sweet, funny, heartfelt and believable story about a Thanksgiving to be truly grateful for (IFC Productions Release--PG-13 for language, sensuality, drug content and images of nudity).


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