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Friday, October 26, 2012

"Acceptable Words" (Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, eds)

TITLE: Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer
AUTHOR: Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, eds.
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012, (206 pages).

This is a fine literary gem. Gems I must say. Filled with psalms, hymns, and spiritual writings, the editors Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney have brought together some of the best prayers and poems to nourish the writer's soul, and to re-invigorate a desire for God in prayer. The quotes throughout the book gives readers many moments to ponder about life, about faith, about creativity, and God. There are at least seven ways to use this book.

Firstly, it can be used as a tool to sharpen our writings, to be aware of our awareness, and to focus our attention on the big idea. Too many times, writers meander in many other directions in the drive to overcome the writer's block.

Secondly, it reminds me that writers are readers too, and there are so many good pieces to read here! In fact, good writers are also good readers. This book compiles some of the best writings, from theologians like Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and William Barclay; hymn writers like Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley, and Isaac Watts; philosophers like Soren Kierkergaard and G.K. Chesterton; preachers like Henry Ward Beecher, Peter Marshall, and D.L. Moody; classic writings from John Donne, T.S Eliot, Robert Frost, as well as contemporary writers like Madeline L'Engle, Henri Nouwen, Luci Shaw, and many more.

Thirdly, it is a good reference book to spur creativity. The book is structured in seven perspectives, each addressing a specific area important to the writer. Like a camera, one can use the book as like a zoom in lens to observe the world around, to study it, and to ponder on it. One can also zoom out from the details, and to start the creativity process to expand the vision, to let the Word inform our thinking, to discover joy in our writings, to pray, and to offer our work back to God. It allows the writer-reader to plunge into the book straightaway without having to read from cover to cover before gaining any benefit.

Fourthly, it is a book of prayers. There are biblical passages to direct our attention back to God. There are many wonderful moments in which readers can share in the spiritual moments of the reflections and writings of the individual contributors. One can even use this book as part of a personal spiritual retreat. Some of the poems and writings can appear simple but hold immense depth. Simple words can hide deep insights.

Fifthly, this book can be a teaching device for educators. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a short introduction that describes the theory and many literary tips for the avid writer. It blends in many things. From art to prose, from prayer to praise, there is something for nearly everything.

Sixth, it is a wonderful book to appreciate life in general. In our technological and scientific world, too many of us approach life with a problem solving paradigm, seeing everything as a problem that needs to be solved. Unfortunately, life is not about solving problems. Life is about living. Appreciating art, music, dance, and literary works remain one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate our humanity. In fact, we can reflect the Creator God in our creativity.

Seventh, it encourages readers to write, and writers to read. In other words, it enables both reading and writing to inform each other. When I read a touching passage or a poem, I cannot wait to put down the book to write something. When I write something, and in my moments of pausing, I cannot wait to pick up the book to read something.

As a writer, I must say that this book is one of the best books for the writer's soul. The editors Schmidt and Stickney have given us writers a powerful gift, an early Christmas present. If you are a writer, this book is a must have. If you know someone who loves to write, give that person this book. They will probably give you a big warm hug, and if not, a prompt electronic kiss.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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