The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Firstlight and The Jane Austen Book Club


Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd is now available in paperback. Kidd is the best-selling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid’s Chair as well as three profound spiritual memoirs, God’s Joyful Surprise (1988), When the Heart Waits (1990), and The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (1996). Still, not many people have read her first work, written when she was in her 30s—inspirational stories, personal essays and art of living essays. This new book is a wonderful collection of those pieces written for Guideposts over a 12-year period beginning in the late 1970s as well as some from other publications.

There is plenty of evidence of Kidd’s spiritual unfolding here. Author Thomas Merton’s autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain encouraged her to try writing, opening up for her the startling depths of the inner life and the challenge of exploring its spiritual riches. She notes: “Creativity is essentially a spiritual experience, a conversation between my soul and me.”

The book is divided into 13 spiritual motifs, and they provide access to many of the most important things in life. As you read them, you’ll be inspired to connect with your own beginnings—“the moments when the light broke and your heart opened.”

For example, Kidd finds value in meditative practices and contemplative exercises to fine-tune her attention. She demonstrates a deep appreciation for everyday spirituality and begins to see God in annoying people, peeling onions and doing household chores. She pays tribute to a friend who while in the hospital with searing pain in her arthritic hands has an epiphany that God is present in her suffering. She marvels at “the unrestricted availability” of Jesus, how he never excluded anyone. Other themes include compassion, solitude, silence, simplicity, letting go and standing fast (Penguin USA).


The Jane Austen Book Club
is a delightful and totally refreshing drama about how a book club creates community for a group of very busy people. They include Bernadette (Kathy Baker) who has been married six times; Prudie (Emily Blunt), a lonely French teacher whose marriage has hit a rough patch; Jocelyn, a dog breeder who is single and intends to stay that way; Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) whose husband (Jimmy Smits) has just left her for another woman; their daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace), who is into extreme sports; and Grigg (Hugh Dancy), the lone male in the club whose first love is science fiction. They decide to read all of Jane Austen’s novels over a six-month period. They discover that the 19th-century English author has plenty of insights that can be applied to contemporary friendships, marriages, sexual politics, money and class issues, social manners, second chances and finding one’s own place in the world (Sony Pictures Classics—PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use).


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