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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"My Soul Feels Lean" (Joyce Rupp)

TITLE: My Soul Feels Lean: Poems of Loss and Restoration
AUTHOR: Joyce Rupp
PUBLISHER: Notre Dame, IN: Sorin Books, 2013, (176 pages).

This warm and gentle book of poems and reflective meditations are written by a spiritual teacher who has sometimes been called a "spiritual midwife." She helps people navigate between the past and the future, in the challenging phase of now. She has written many books on spirituality and is a popular teacher at retreats and conferences.Taken from her years of interactions with people facing loss, death, and despair, she brings together her wealth of knowledge and reflection in 107 poems that reflect about how a lean soul looks at loss and restoration.

The first part of the book leads the reader through the ups and downs of loss. It asks what loss means to the soul. Is there a way to continue through life during times of grief? Instead of a how to manual on how to do this or why we do that, Rupp invites the reader to journey along the valley of questions without any impatient demand for quick answers. It is more descriptive of the emotional condition rather than prescribing a solution for the problems of life. Both positive and negative emotions are simply treated as is, reserving judgment on whether they are good or no good, preserving as accurately as possible the feelings without making a judgment, and gently flowing words that move with the heart. There are poems to encourage the meek to step forth in courage, the comfort of hope even when losing a job, the longing for mother, a mood of rejection and regret. Rupp expands her poems beyond North America, into the African continents, seeking a sense of meaning for the hunger, disease, and thirst. Where is love? What emotions do terrorism evoke? What about the loss of friendship? These and many more issues of life are dealt with not by prescribing solutions, but by engaging the mood of the moment, to express the deeper longing of the heart, so vulnerable to modern technological putdowns and human impatience.

The second part of the book takes a look forward to search for restoration and hope. This means new growth amid the Winter drought. It means learning to hear the breathing of Spring. It means that even in dying, there is hope for the living. In quietness and trust, one looks for a sense of freshness and a new beginning of New Year's Day. It encourages one not to run away from problems, but to be resolute to face them and tackle them in good time. Singing a melody, pacing with the rhythm, and waking up to the oft-missed little details of life in a fast-paced world, readers are encouraged to let go of non-realistic expectations and be more aware of the existential framework, anchored by hope.

There is very little references to the Christian faith, except for some brief allusions for hope and anticipation of a more restorative future. Nevertheless, this book is about journeying through life, and is a good companion for our spiritual walk through life. Loss is something that we will face from time to time. Restoration is something we need to have most of the time. Most of all, this book is a reminder that life is not to be treated as a giant jigsaw puzzle to be solved. It is to be appreciated for what it is.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Ave Maria Press and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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