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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Best this month

B O O K

Sparks of the Divine: Finding Inspiration in Our Everyday World by Drew Leder contains 100 reflections on the holy detective work we all have to do to find signs of the Divine in our daily experiences. With a smorgasbord of lively, illustrative material, Leder, a professor of Eastern and Western philosophy at Loyola College, Baltimore, tutors us in the art of uncovering spiritual meaning in nature, objects, places and events. He advises us to become "slow-motion mystics" who are open to the residues of grace that can trigger attention, gratitude, meaning and joy.

Leder regards a cloudy day as a chance to pause and do some inner exploration or healing. He recommends that the next time you pass a tree, you feel the exchange of breath and life between you and it. The author sits in front of his computer and sees it as a model for a well-functioning mind. He looks at a windshield wiper and wonders what he can clear away in his cluttered life. A fire hydrant becomes a teacher of unplugging the energies you keep locked inside. He suggests we muse on the spiritual meanings that come while we are watching a sports event, blowing bubbles, putting on our pajamas and using our toasters. Rounding out the usefulness of this book, Leder adds 15 guided meditations to help readers achieve a fresh appreciation of the world. This spiritually literate work ends with five practices that will come in handy on your mission to find the Holy One in unexpected places (Sorin Books, 2004).

M O V I E

A Very Long Engagement reunites French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and actress Audrey Tautou, who showed their immense talents in Amélie. This World War I romantic drama is filled with colorful characters. Amid the terrors of trench warfare, it conveys the deep yearning of a determined young woman to find the man she loves who is missing in action.

Mathilde is a perky young woman has a limp as a result of a bout with polio. She lives on a farm in Breton with her aunt and uncle. When Manech, her childhood boyfriend and fiance, goes off to war, she is confident he will return. When he doesn't, she hires a detective to find out what happened. Through letters, photographs, interviews with wartime survivors, news items and trips to wartime archives, Mathilde's quest takes her deep into a tangled and complicated story involving five men sentenced to death for trying to escape from duty. One of these was Manech.

Tautou shines in the role of Mathilde, a woman who suffers one setback after another and yet refuses to give up her search. Her love for Manech is an ardent flame that is maintained in the face of innumerable disappointments, dead ends and mistaken notions. For all romantic souls, this is a film to savor and take to heart. It depicts the unswerving course of true love (Warner Independent Film, R--violence and sexuality).


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