All posts by mayibethemoon

Thy Geekdom Come vol. 2 Review!

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This fun book contains 42 daily readings that explore the intersection between faith and fandom.

As a theologian and teacher I’ve always enjoyed finding connections between my faith and popular culture – as a way to make it more understandable but also as evidence that God is interested in the whole of our lives. I loved how these authors found parallels between stories in Scripture and in the Science Fiction and Fantasy worlds, from TV shows to video games and manga. Some of the references were to books and shows I dearly love, some were things I’d never heard of. But the eternal resonances were beautifully drawn out and every entry made me stop and think and reflect on the world as it is and as it could be (the essence of all good sci-fi). Regardless of your fandom, if you’re into SFF there’s something for everyone here. If you are a Christian and a geek, then this is a great resource to inspire your faith and to help you to make deeper connections between the spiritual and the imaginary.

The authors are from a range of backgrounds and abilities but largely from the North American continent. They could add a little more diversity by perhaps inviting a British priest-in-training to contribute to the next volume…

Unspoken by Guvna B – Book Review

Published by Harper Collins in the UK on 16th March 2021. I received an eARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Similarly to my last review (of A Rhythm of Prayer by Sarah Bessey) this was another book that I came across unexpectedly at a time when I really needed it. The central theme of this book is grief and how Guvna B came to better understand and express his emotions through his experience of loss.

Guvna B is a ‘clean’ rap artist from London – meaning his lyrics don’t contain swearing, misogynistic or sexually explicit language or references to drugs and gang culture. Although he grew up in London, his parents were both originally from Ghana and Ghanaian culture had a huge influence on his upbringing. This book covers his childhood, getting his big break, his marriage and his life in general, through to the unexpected loss of his father and two of his close friends. He explains how cultural and social expectations meant he didn’t know how to healthily deal with his emotions until he was overwhelmed by grief and he realised he wasn’t able to cope. He unpacks the lessons he learnt about himself and the impact of toxic masculinity to help his readers better understand how to love through difficult experiences.

Guvna B writes in a very conversational tone which I think will appeal to his target audience of teenage boys and young adult men who listen to his music. In terms of the style of writing it was an easy read, although he covers some deep and difficult topics in a sensitively and appropriate way. While I recognise I am not the intended market for this book – I only knew one of his songs before I read it – I still took a lot from it as I was going through a grieving process myself.

I hope a lot of young men get access to and read this book. I hope they find hope within its pages, and a way to improve themselves and their situations by better understanding their emotions and their worth.

Content warnings: alcoholism, death, grief, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, suicide, racism, violence, references to gang culture.

A Rhythm of Prayer – Book Review

Ebook received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

A Rhythm of Prayer edited by Sarah Bessey, published in the UK by SPCK, released 8th February 2021

I am a firm believer that sometimes a book appears in your life right when you most need it. I joined NetGalley in December and was browsing the Non-fiction theology/Christian titles in early January and saw this book. I put in a request, and being new to the site I am always surprised when my requests are granted. With a busy start to my university term I thought it unlikely that I would have time to read it before it came out.

Then my Nan tested positive for Covid and was taken into hospital. The prognosis was poor, and I found myself unable to find the words to pray. I was nudged towards this book, sitting waiting on my Kindle app. For the first few days I managed to read one prayer or reflection, and the words resonated deeply in my soul and helped me find my way through the grief and despair that threatened to become overwhelming.

The prayers and reflections on prayer are drawn from real life, in all its beauty and confusingness. As I put my roots down deeper into the Anglican church, I am growing more familiar with the power of liturgy for when you can’t find the right words yourself. This book for me is already being incorporated into my ministry as an ordinand, and will be a resource I return to repeatedly through the course of my ministry. One of the reflections – ‘A Reminder’ by Sarah Bessey – I have already used in a church service I was leading and with my tutor group (I also heartily recommended the book on both occasions).

I love the diversity represented by the authors of the prayers. Although I believe they are all cisgendered women, they represent many different cultural backgrounds, sexualities and several are people with disabilities. They also come from a number of different church traditions, although predominantly from America and a fair number are from evangelical denominations. For me it was powerful to read these reflections from a range of different voices, whose experiences may be very different from my own, yet they resonated with me. These are also voices that are not always given enough time and space within our churches.

I really loved this book, so much so that I have already bought a hard copy. It came at a time when I really needed it, and I know I will frequently return to it and by nourished by it throughout my life and ministry.

Finding Meaning

For Enid

Everyone knows
 there are five stages of grief
 Denial
 Anger
 Bargaining
 Depression
 Acceptance
 

 But what I now know
 is that it is not a linear path
 

 Yesterday, I knew she was gone
 Today it does not quite feel real again
 Some days, I can laugh and find joy
 Others, sadness wraps around me
 Like a blanket
 Somehow comforting
 And I sit
 I do not want to move
 Because a world without her
 seems less bright somehow
 

 I’ve heard there is a sixth stage
 “Finding Meaning”
 I know I’m not there yet
 

 Because how do we find meaning in this?
 

 The weight of all the world has lost
 Seems too heavy to bear
 The numbers ticking ever upward
 and she is not just a statistic - 
 The lives
 The jobs
 The hopes and dreams
 

 Is there?
 Can there be?
 Can we find meaning in such dark times?
 

 I don’t want to trivialise
 my pain
 or anyone else’s
 with trite phrases
 

 But I do know
 I am not alone
 I do somehow have hope
 Despite everything that’s lost
 I will not be overcome
 

Sequins explained

The other week I shared a poem I had written whilst on a retreat/conference in France. I have lots of other takeaways I want to write about following on from that conference, but for now I want to unpack the imagery that helped to create that poem.

The conference was called Blesstival, and was a gathering of friends of a wonderful charity called The Bless Network, or Bless. Many years ago when I was an undergrad studying French at university, I interned through Bless at a French church. Since then I had not been greatly involved with the charity, I would read the newsletters and think to myself: It’s been a while, I really should sign up to one of their events. This time I stopped thinking about it and booked myself on. I am so glad I did.

The theme for the weekend was “un chant s’élève” – a song is rising – and the teaching was all around the ideas of worship and prophecy, how God sings over us and gives each of us a message to share with the world. At the end of Saturday morning’s session, one of the organisers, Chrissie, came over to me and said she had been given a picture for me of God sewing together the tapestry of my life, and sewing bright sequins into the work. After this session I spent some time in the prayer room reflecting on this picture, and others that had been given to me over recent years. A yearning was rising up inside of me to write again, something I have loved over the years but keep putting on the back burner, making excuses about not having the time or the head space. I was listening to an IHOP worship album on my phone while doodling, and I jotted down some lines from one of the songs that jumped out at me:

Just put me anywhere

And put Your glory in me

I’ll serve anywhere

Just let me see Your beauty

(IHOPKC & Corey Asbury – All Is For Your Glory)

and then it the words just spilled out of me, inspired by the song and the picture I had been given.

But there are references within the poem to other pictures, words and images given to me over the years, that seemed to align with the new one.

I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious, to those who have been with this blog from the start…

When I was thinking about how sequins reflect light, it was easy to link in with the poem I wrote several years ago which inspired the name of this blog: May I Be the Moon. In that poem I thought about how it is better to reflect the glory of God, as the moon reflects the sun, than to believe the world revolves around me.

Similarly, I wanted to include the image of the mirrorball, which again reflects the light around it. Back in the days of my Bless Internship, one of their conferences had the theme of ‘Mission as a mirrorball’. The idea here was that by serving others in the name of God, we are drawing His light in and reflecting it back out onto those He made and loves, just like a mirrorball. The moon, the mirrorball and the sequins all unite around this idea of reflecting the glory of God in our lives.

Next, the arrow. While in this poem it represents a kind of road sign pointing the way, it also for me has connotations of the arrows used in archery. These have to be pulled back before they can be released into flight. The work of weaving our lives together includes pain and setbacks, bad times as well as good. But in all things He works together for our good. The setbacks we face will ultimately lead to greater freedoms. (A no now means there is a better yes to come). Likewise in the work of the weaving, we will not see the full picture until it is completed and all the colours are sewn in.

Finally, the phrase ‘see what I am building in your life’. A few years ago I was on the way home from an evening service at church. We had visiting speakers who I knew had a gift for the prophetic, and I was hoping for some insight into a situation I was facing. I was disappointed not to have received any words during the service, but my route home took my past a building site with a massive crane standing tall over it. The building was still in its early stages but you could already begin to see the shape it would take, and the size of the crane bore witness to the eventual height of the construction. In that moment I heard God’s whisper ‘see, what I am building in your life’. 

The construction of my calling, my learning, my relationships, was (and is) still in its early stages, but the process of constructing the building, the process of weaving the tapestry, points to the genius and majesty of the creator as much as the finished product ever will.

Sequins

You are making me

A tapestry

Colours showing You at work in me

Blues, greens, reds,

The moments and emotions of my life

Woven together in beautiful harmony

And gently sewn in

The sequins start to glimmer

Flashes of light in the darkness

Reflecting Your beauty

The work You have done in my life

Becomes an arrow pointing to You

And I hear Your whisper

“See what I am building in your life”

The work of Your hands

The moon, a mirrorball,

That draws Your light in

And reflects it out

To show the world the Way to You

Life and Perspective

Hi… *waves*

So… it’s been a while…

And the worst part is I don’t really have a reason. So many times I’ve said to myself, I’ll sit down and write something this evening, or this weekend, or whenever and it just never seems to happen. The intention is there but nothing materialises.

I could blame so many things, time, energy, the fact that my desk has a pile of paperwork I need to sort through and my study is currently a junk room… and all these things have had an effect, it’s true. But mostly I have lacked motivation. I’ve found myself with nothing to say, at least, not that I felt able to express in writing. I have found other ways of expressing myself, but journaling and writing blog posts have required a concentration I have not had for a couple of months.

In all honesty, I let myself get lost in the rush for a few months there. After finishing my MA, I was a bit at a loss with what to do with myself, so I started to fill my time with all sorts of things that packed my hours and left me drained. While some things were stimulating and fulfilling on some levels, deep down my soul was striving and I did not find rest in these things. I kept pushing on and piling on the activity, and I completely overlooked the still, small voice, whispering to me to slow down, take time.

I just looked back to see what word I picked for myself this year, because I had forgotten. And it was such a simple word:

Breathe.

How could I forget? To live my life by this simple rhythm of in, out, in, out. How different could my year have been if I had just slowed down. Not that it has been a bad year – there have been lots of great things – but my enjoyment could have been deeper if I’d allowed myself pauses for breath.

But God is faithful. Even in the rushing around, I knew he was leading me and calling me. Even through all the stress and worry and anxiety, I knew he was holding me and loving me.

He led me to Ukraine, where for two weeks I served and loved a group of orphans, who reminded me of the beauty of simple things. The days were long and hot, but I found a peace there that had been missing from my life for so long. And I heard the whisper again.

I came back with quite a severe case of flu, which forced me to actually rest for a week. (I need to learn to do that for myself, without illness or injury being necessary. Maybe I will learn this lesson one day.) But in that week I reflected on my time in Ukraine and gained a better perspective. One I am trying dearly to hold onto as life’s waves begin to crash around me again.

And though I have faced a few disappointments in the month since I have been back, I am reminded that God is sovereign. While I don’t think that means the things that have happened were his plan, I believe that He will bring good things out of them. I pray for this, and hold onto hope. I have also been learning to hold lightly onto the things I have been given. I have been so blessed in so many ways, that I cannot allow myself to be bitter over the things I have been denied.

This is not what I thought I was going to write tonight, but the words have flowed so I believe this is what has been waiting in my heart to be written. I have more things to say over the coming weeks, so I expect you will be hearing from me again soon.

One final thought I want to leave you with. I sponsor a couple of children through a charity called Compassion, and tonight I realised that I have not written to them for a while. I was looking back over the last letter I received from my little boy in Colombia (I say little, he’s become a teenager without me noticing) and he shared with me a Bible verse which hit me right in the feels. Here it is for you now.

Disney Readalong Wrap Up

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about taking part in the Disney Readalong from 6th-12thMay. There were five challenges:

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I allowed myself to extend the challenge into Sunday 13thMay, as most of the Saturday evening was taken up with the Eurovision Song Contest. Work was really busy that week as well, meaning I didn’t get as much time for reading as I would have liked due to being super tired when I got home each evening. But I did complete three of the prompts!

 

1) Frozen – a book set in winter: I read Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf. This book was brilliant if a little hard to follow when reading in a tired state of mind. It felt like it was semi-autobiographical, I’m not sure if it was or not. The book follows Alicia as she navigates adulthood with divorced parents and an autistic sibling – the eponymous brother, whom she feels is trapped as if in an ice block – and tries to make her way both in work and relationships. This narrative is interspersed with research into polar exploration, anecdotes about successful and unsuccessful attempts to reach the North and South poles and related scientific discoveries. These are woven into the storyline so Alicia’s story as she applies her research to her own life. I really enjoyed this book, I’ve never read anything else like it. I will definitely be rereading it when I am more awake so I can take more in and appreciate the writing more.

 

3) Aurora’s Dress – a book with pink and blue on the cover: I read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley. I am a big fan of the webseries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, the accompanying novel, last year. I loved this spin-off/sequel which follows Lydia as she tries to recover from the fallout of the scandal that occurred during Lizzie’s vlog series (it is a bit different from the Pride and Prejudice storyline as it is modernised so I won’t give away any spoilers). One of my favourite things about the series is the exploration of the relationship between the sisters. As much as I love Pride and Prejudice, Lydia in the book feels like a plot device used to bring Lizzy and Darcy together, and is quite caricatured. In the webseries and accompanying novels, Lydia is very much her own character, with agency and real, deep emotions. It was great to catch up with these characters again and get a glimpse of what comes next in their stories.

 

5) Cinderella – read the Grimm fairytale and watch the Disney movie. I used to watch this film in French all the time so it felt weird that I opted to watch it in English this time. I had forgotten how sappy and instalove-y the film is, but it has good music and I love the little animal creatures (especially Lucifer the cat who is one of the better Disney villains). I was surprised how different the fairytale is, there are three balls for one thing. I’m looking forward to reading more of the Grimm fairytales as I only recognise a few of the titles.

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So that was my first prompted readathon! I enjoyed the experience but will maybe check out my work schedule before taking part in another one.

Readathons and other bookish things

Sorry it’s been a while again. April turned into a surprisingly busy month, which came and went in a flurry of activity and weather. And then May snuck in out of nowhere and took me by surprise – but I think things should settle down into more of a routine now.

So I thought I’d bring you an update on my reading/book buying/writing New Years Resolutions and how they are going. Short answer: things never go to plan, do they?!

Writing is the quickest one to cover – I’ve not been doing much (can you tell?) but I still intend to do more. I’m trying to figure a few things out about the future at the moment, including how writing will fit into it, but I do miss writing fiction and I want to make more time for that in my life. I will get there!

In terms of buying books, I have fallen off the wagon a few times… Of the fifteen books I have bought so far this year, five were for Ninjabookclub and one was in a Ninjabookbox. Two my Vicar recommended to help with the whole figuring out the future thing (he would have lent them to me but someone else was borrowing them). That leaves seven which I have no excuse for, other than that they were cheap or signed copies and I wanted them. Still I certainly have had worse starts to the year in terms of book buying. I’m aiming to read all the books I buy this year this year in an attempt to justify their purchase (one of them is no. 4 in a series, of which I have only read one so far, so that will be fun…)

I have had some success in unhauling this year, though. In January my parents and I sorted through a number of boxes they are keeping in their attic for me, which included many books I had kept from my childhood. I gave two boxes to friends for their kids and one box to a charity shop. Since then I have also weeded out a few more from my shelves which I was not excited about reading any more. I am also stricter with myself about not keeping books I have read unless I gave them 4 or more stars.

Each year I set my Goodreads target as one higher than the number of books I read the previous year, meaning my target for this year is 78 books. Currently I have read 29, which is three books ahead of schedule. You would think that this would mean my TBR is decreasing, but, surprisingly, it is not. The main problem is how easily I can request books from the library. Southampton City Libraries allow you to request any books from any of their libraries for free, and they have a great range. I have borrowed fifteen books from the library this year so far, eight of which I have read and seven I am currently borrowing.

So my TBR shelf on Goodreads has only gone down by four since the start of the year. And I’m not even sure I’ve added all the books I bought to it…

So in an attempt to address this I have started coming up with a monthly TBR, which includes a mixture of books I have bought and borrowed. I am usually a bit ambitious to allow for mood reading. I am going to try not to borrow any more library books until I have read everything I have borrowed from family and friends as well. And I’m going to try EVEN HARDER not to buy books other than for NinjaBookClub… (let’s see how that goes!)

——

Last weekend was Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon, which I took part in for the first time. I joined over 1900 other readers and together we read half a million pages in 24 hours. I wasn’t able to join in the whole 24 hours, but I did enjoy focusing on reading time instead of watching tv, etc. I will take part in the next one in October for sure. I am also on the lookout for other readathons/readalongs I can take part in, to help tackle my TBR with focused reading. This one was easy because there were no stipulations as to genres or categories. I have come across several intriguing sounding readathons on BookTube (the bookish area of YouTube) that I have thought about taking part in but I would have had to resort to buying books for some of the prompts and we already know I am trying to avoid that!

But the other day I came across a readathon with fewer categories and I already had books to meet all of them! So today I have started the Disney Readalong, hosted on BookTube by Cherrie Walker, Tiny Book Dragon and Cristina’s Journey. The readathon is from 6-12thMay and there are five prompts as follows:

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Here is my TBR for the week:

  1. Frozen: Brother in Ice by Alicia Kopf– I’m not sure if this is actually set in Winter but it is about Polar Exploration so I think it counts.
  2. Dory: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne– this was the hardest category as I am generally pretty aware of what books I own (despite there being so many) but I was surprised to see this on my bookshelf so it got picked
  3. Aurora’s Dress: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley– actually this was pretty hard too as I had loads of books with one or the other colour but I like that I found one where the colours are actually clothing. I am a big fan of the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and I read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet last year so I am happy to be finally reading this one.
  4. Huey, Dewey & Louie: The Counterfeit Guest by Rose Melikan– this is the second book in the Mary Finch trilogy. I read the first, The Blackstone Key, last autumn and loved it so I have been keen to get around to this one.
  5. Cinderella:Although I slightly disagree that Grimm was the original version (I think Charles Perrault’s version predates theirs, and I’m not even sure his was the original) it does give me a good excuse to finally read my gorgeous edition of Grimm’s fairytales. Although I only have to read Cinderella for the prompt, I will also be reading the rest as my next short story collection to read. And it’s never a problem to have to watch a Disney movie. This one has probably my least favourite prince, but it’s worth watching just for Lucifer the cat.

 

They are all fairly short – The Counterfeit Guest is the longest but based on the first in the series it won’t be too challenging a read and I am saving it for last anyway! I started Brother in Ice this morning and it is really good so far. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything like it before.

I will be tweeting my reading for the week, probably from my personal twitter rather than the blog twitter (@cerilouisew rather than @mayibethemoon) but please feel free to follow both accounts…!!