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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Grace's Window and The Secret Life of Bees

Grace’s Window: Entering the Seasons of Prayer by Suzanne Guthrie contains 40 personal meditations on the art of taking one’s experiences to God. Demonstrating a keen awareness of the Divine Presence in her daily rounds, she writes: “Nothing in my life has been wasted as material for teaching me to pray.” Guthrie was tutored in reverential thinking by her mother, who encouraged her to take long looks at everything and to be inquisitive. “Curiosity is the foundation of true education, the love of life, or prayer” she observes. Guthrie imaginatively prays her way through the seasons of the church year and gives us a renewed appreciation for the vibrancies of everyday spirituality. Check out the meditations on her son’s doubt, her daughter’s bedtime devotions, a box containing her childhood mementos, the book that brought her out of her depression and the jazz music of Miles Davis (Morehouse).

Film

The Secret Life of Bees is a remarkable and heart-affecting screen version of Sue Monk Kidd’s deeply spiritual novel about the healing and transforming power of love. In 1964, 14-year-old Lily Owens runs away from her distant and violent father. Accompanying her is Rosaleen, an African-American who takes care of the house and looks after her. One of the only things Lily has from her mother, who died when she was 4, is a picture of a black Virgin Mary with “Tiburon, S.C.” written on the back, so she decides to go there.

In that town, Lily and Rosaleen find refuge with the Boatrights, three black women who make the best honey in the state. They have a large statue of the Virgin Mary in their living room. On Sundays other women join them to say prayers around the statue for comfort and strength. Before long Lily is helping the Boatrights with the beekeeping. What she really wants is to ask August Boatright, the family matriarch, if she ever knew her mother.

The Secret Life of Bees is carried into our hearts with the dignity and emotional authenticity of the exquisite performances by Queen Latifah as August and Dakota Fanning as Lily. We marvel at August’s nurturing love and the pain of Lily’s yearning for her lost mother. When she says, “I can’t think of something I’d rather have more than someone lovin’ me,” we know exactly what she means. When August tells her that beeyard etiquette means she should “send the bees love because every little thing wants to be loved,” we feel deeply the truth of that advice.

Kidd has written about the significance of the Black Madonna to women and poor people throughout history. In this story, those who are suffering, hurt and guilty come to the Boatright’s Madonna, and in her presence they feel comforted and know the gifts of God’s grace. We are pleased that the movie doesn’t neglect this critical element of the novel (Fox Searchlight, PG-13—thematic material, some violence).


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

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