Call of the Mourning Dove Book Review

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I received this lovely book to review and got to enjoy the first part of it just after I completed my grad school applications back in October and my nephew and I went off to the park so he could play and I relaxed with this book, The Call of the Mourning Dove: How Sacred Sound Awakens Mystical Unity by Stephanie Rutt. The title and subtitle piqued my interest enough to want to check it out with my musical background. It is fascinating and very thorough. It will be most interesting to those curious about contemplative prayer, the mystics, finding commonalities between interfaith, and those who identify with “spiritual but not religious”. Those who are not open to any of those terms will likely not enjoy this.

It does run a bit academic in some ways, but it’s not difficult to read. Stephanie has done a great deal of research here, which is evident both throughout the book, and by the lengthy bibliography. It is difficult to read if you’re in a hurry. It’s a book that I started back in October and would have liked to read a bit at a time, savoring in it. Now that I’m rushing to post this, I wish I had taken more time. I would like to share a few excerpts with you, as I always find that helps get a sense of what it’s about and what to expect.

“The Sonic Trilogy of Love becomes a paradigm of unification, capable of holding the healthy tension that exists between particularity defining religious difference and the ubiquitous mystical experience engendering religious unity. The Sonic Trilogy of Love invites all seekers, one and all, home.”

“As seekers across faith traditions engage the sound of God in spiritual practice, each mya enter the portal into their own unmitigated experience of the divine. Whether mentally engaging a sacred word in contemplative prayer or chanting aloud according to an ancient script, the fruits of practice begin to answer a longing, a not-so-silent cry within, as the sound of God reverberates through the inner chambers, tuning and awakening seekers to that which was previously unknown. Wondrously, if only in passing moments, seekers may start to get just a glimpse of that which is beyond understanding, to suddenly see themselves as God sees them. And if so, nothing is the same.”

Sound is the thing that Stephanie calls the common denominator of prayer, meditation, chant, and song. Sound.

Hunger for unity among the spiritual but not religious (which by the way if you’re reading this–that concept is not something that can be easily dismissed, in fact, I relate much more to this group than those who seek to distance or even to dismiss them. There is something to be said of celebrating our differences, but if we cannot also come together to celebrate in what we do have in common, then we have lost a great deal.

“Spiritual but not religious” are searching for a divine unity unbound from. constraints they perceive are imposed by existing faith traditions. And as more and more seekers are exploring across faith traditions, more are becoming aware of the commonalities related to our personal spiritual quests human and divine, past and present.”

“As an interfaith theologian, I am in constant search of that which unites the world’s faith traditions while, simultaneously, seeking to respect, indeed celebrate, what differentiates. It has been my observation that religious beliefs tend to differentiate while religious experience tends to engender resonance.”

“Traditionally religious practitioners continue to feel those reverberations of the sound of God emanating from their sacred texts, as perhaps the have long experienced. And practitioners can also experience the sound of God only now emanating from the sacred texts and practices across faith traditions.” 

“Engaging the Sonic Trilogy of Love, seekers may, indeed, encounter that still small voice by engaging those very sacred sound practices embedded in the ancient religious canaons. For in doing so, the transformation effects of sacred sound open a portal into an unmitigated expereince of the divine.”

And that was just from the beginning of the book!
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Stephanie continues and quotes and references many wonderful mystics, and desert mothers, and saints, and other figures and mystics from other faiths as well. Here are a few that I enjoyed:

“St. Therese of Lisieux declared, “I am the atom of Jesus,” and the Indian mystic Kabir expressed, “All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.” And with this profound awareness, we find our heart and God’s heart, more often, pulsing together. Though keenly aware of our particularity, we now start to see the face of God everywhere–in our neighbor and in the flower. This is how the Love has its way with us, transforming us and leaving us not where we began–in unity with all.”

Meister Eckhart: “To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the Soul are one and the same…The knower and the known are one.”

Rumi said “there is a place that is made of silence, a place where the whispers of the heart…take place..? a place where voices sing your beauty, a place where every breath carves your image in my soul.”


Many familiar themes reflected contemplative prayer, including some great excerpts from Father Thomas Keating, this concept of sacred word that I teach in my classes for Centering Prayer.

“And we too, as Lovers entering the Sonic Trilogy of Love, The Love, sacred sound, come in contact with that germinal higher part of ourselves, that something “more”, our Beloved, God. And graciously, as a result of our newly found awareness within, we may start to experience our own unique practical consequences without manifesting in daily life in service to a greater good.”

In the Sonic Trilogy of Sound, the Lover, practitioner, through engaging Love, the sacred sound of God, may, indeed, experience the dominance of this religious view and, in such moments, unexpectedly, become a seer of the infinite, seeing into the whole of things and finding only the miraculous, the Beloved, God.”

“God has the ability both to be present here, immanent in this fragiel world, and at the same time transcendent, beyond what we beings in bodies on our small globe can imagine.” 

“Love is justice. It is not necessarily a happy feeling or romantic attachment. Love is a way of being in the world, not necessarily an emotional affect.” 

“However, it is important to know that we cannot will such moments. We can only create the conditions to invite and allow them with our intention.”

In her compelling chapter on Love as Sacred Sound, Stephanie demonstrates a deep connection not just of the Abrahamic faiths, but Hinduism and Sanskrit as well, showing the connection between Hebrew and Sanskrit, as well as Aramaic and Arabic, and she gets into the vibrations of the syllables and references the Genesis 1:1 and how creation was spoken into existence. Growing up around linguists, I find this all extremely and exquisitely fascinating.

“As Jesus spoke in Aramaic, it is important to emphasize the relationship of this ancient language to Hebrew.”

“Christ is the center of the universe. He is the center of humanity. He is the center of every human being.” As she quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “With ever the same brilliance in all, Christ shines as a light at the heart.”

If any of these excerpts lit you up, you may take that as a good indication that you want to read it, I can recommend it. And now, back to grad school. Enjoy the book!

The Call of the Mourning Dove on Amazon
Stephanie Rutt’s Website
Tree of Life School on Facebook
Tree of Life School on Twitter

About the author: 

Stephanie Rutt is founder and presiding minister of the Tree of Life Interfaith Temple in Milford, NH. She received her DMin from Andover Newton Theological School, now Andover Newton Seminary at Yale, where her thesis, the basis for this book, won the Frederick Buechner Prize for Excellence in Writing. She is the creator of the Tree of Life Interfaith Seminary, author of several additional books, and has appeared on the TEDx stage.

Raise Your Voice

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The words you are currently reading are about this important book, Raise Your Voice by Kathy Khang. This introduction is also about the background of my personal/ emotional/ connection and how it is all interwoven with taking back and raising my own voice. (while clumsily learning how to spend my own privilege)

Three years ago on an early Saturday morning at the beginning of May, I think it was May 9th, 2015, I walked into an unfamiliar venue alone after taking an Uber to get there when I was living in Chicago. I knew only one or two faces, and a couple names of the speakers. I had been at my new job and practicing yoga for one year, I was able to attend the event because of a generous scholarship. (These details aren’t in themselves the main point, but they were key milestones, and important to the overarching story and my freedom. I guess you never forget every little breadcrumb trail that contributes to your freedom.)

I remember hearing Kathy Khang speak that morning and eagerly following her work online afterward. I took notes, though I admit I don’t remember much, but that she was engaging, and I think the impression I recall is that she was funny and deeply thought-provoking. Recently, I enthusiastically reached out to Kathy, cheering her on as she received her yoga certification and sharing our common love for yoga, excited to read as she voiced her own yoga journey.

What was happening internally and behind the scenes in my own world at that very moment of that event in 2015 was a little bit of finding my voice when it turns out my personal agency and decision to travel to visit my sister for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend was being strongly discouraged…to the point that my abuser wouldn’t grant his blessing but threatened that I shouldn’t go. (That I would be choosing cursing instead of blessing by failing to listen to spiritual authority, blah, blah, blah. Bah humbug.)

To visit my sister. When she was pregnant. For the first time. My only sister, 8 hours away. On my long weekend holiday.

The whole thing was ridiculous and caused much unneeded emotional tension and turmoil and I was determined to go, had the means to go, and no reason not to go…so I went.

This also coincided with the beginning of the end of my abuser’s tight grip on my life. Gratefully, I lost a great deal of trust in him at this point. I was absolutely perplexed & bewildered why in the world he was making a big deal about this. As you know, I recently recorded my story, raising my voice, this literally taking back my voice and telling my story in my own words, with my own voice. Since this post isn’t about me, I won’t link to that today. You can find it on my site if you dig around. 😉

Raise Your Voice Launch Team

Upon hearing about Kathy’s new book, I jumped at the chance to be part of the launch team and help amplify this incredible book. It’s so delightfully practical, spiritual, and encouraging. Filled with enough anecdotes that give honest, real-life examples. Weaving in narratives from the Bible from her perspective. I loved the way the author described  Esther’s cross-cultural, dual identity, having two names; Esther and Hadassah, along with a time to step up and raise her voice – for such a time as this – to hear it told from Kathy’s perspective was vivid and powerful. As an MK/TCK (third culture kid) growing up outside my passport country, though very much still privileged, not economically, but because of my skin, I could identify with that in my own way as well.

This is a book I want to hand to several people in my life, in hopes that it might help them see past the binary issues of our day, and see more nuance, but also how our silence can speak loudly, and especially the need for diverse voices, and to stop the silencing story about a false kind of unity and niceties.

Kathy articulates this point wonderfully; with the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 and verse 26 about the beauty in the diversity of our gifts and how we are one body of many parts. This doesn’t detract from a holistic desire for unity, but unity isn’t about sameness, or homogenizing. Repeat after me, sameness isn’t unity. Sameness isn’t the goal. Sameness isn’t the gospel. This very point from Paul was counter-cultural, that each individual person had a part to play in their community, in their church, in Roman society, affirmed and loved uniquely by their Creator.

I was reminded of the familiar verse about every tribe, every tongue, every nation. How dare we as Christians think that is the vision of heaven and simultaneously refuse to actively live that out in our world, in our neighborhoods, and in our cities right now. Instead, despite our great intentions many are promoting or at the very least permitting racism and white supremacy, because of one or a few singular complex issues, stubbornly refusing to budge from, but are unwilling to hear and listen to the voices crying out demanding to be heard, for their own safety, for their own survival. By the way, reverse racism is not a thing, you guys. Not a thing.

What about the prayer ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ on EARTH, right now. Like Kathy says at the beginning of her book, we have a responsibility, to steward, our domain.

In Raise Your Voice, Kathy says the following:

“I believe that Christians desire and can handle more complexity. Race and reconciliation can no longer be framed solely as a justice issue but rather as core to the gospel, theologically grounded in the Imago Dei (the image of God). As Christians, if we truly believe we are all created in God’s image, and that God the Creator had a hand in developing, creating, and shaping not just our embodied souls but also the places and spaces we steward and have dominion over, then reconciliation with one another is not merely an option – it’s part of God’s mandate. It requires us to speak up and speak out.”


“When more of us from different intersections and margins raise our voices, we live a fuller picture of the good news.


“Words are powerful and can be used to free people from captivity or to sentence people into captivity. God created humans to communicate WITH one another, not so we would use words and actions to hurt and destroy one another but to be a blessing to one another. God used words to assure Moses of his identity as one beloved and known by the Creator, and then asks Moses to go out and speak up on behalf of the Israelites.” “Likewise, we are seen by God and called out of our imposter syndrome wilderness to proclaim freedom and good news to the world. God asks you to raise your voice.”


“Our unity in Christ does not erase diversity. Our unity in Christ affirms and even demands diversity for the flourishing and stewarding of this world. Our diverse voices allow God’s truth to be told in many ways.”

  • “We are all children of God, and diversity is part of that unity – not conformity or assimilation.”
  • “Knowing who you are also helps you recognize everyone else’s humanity.”

Speaking up doesn’t increase division. It brings injustice and sin to the forefront. Speaking up can be an avenue of truth and healing, which can be painful for you and your friends.”

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I’ll let the author’s quotes and excerpts continue to speak for themselves. This is where the practical, tangible, personal work comes in:


“Be informed and learn from people who are different than you.”

Here are some practical, tangible steps and actions that you can begin today, the following excerpt is a paragraph that I re-formatted into a list for you:

  1. “Walk away from the screen.
  2. Commit to reading books by authors of color, particularly theologians and Christian leaders of color (like this one).
  3. Commit to reading books by authors who have a different viewpoint on issues than you do or come from a different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic experience than you do.
  4. Think about the podcasts and subjects you are most interested in and then add a few from the ‘least interested’ pile.
  5. If you are a man, listen to women preach.
  6. If you are a woman, listen to women preach.
  7. And don’t limit your consumption to Western voices. There is an entire world out there.
  8. Take a hard look at your circle of friends and be honest about the diversity reflected in your relationships. And then take your questions, along with what you are learning, back to the spaces you can influence and use your voice.”

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The injustice we do not understand:

“We often stay silent and do nothing by convincing ourselves the offense isn’t actually that offensive. Sometimes we don’t speak up because the injustice doesn’t affect our daily lives. We don’t understand the impact of a law or the injustice inflicted on others because it doesn’t impact the people closest to us or it isn’t a matter of our heart or heart language.

Queen Esther may have been able to avoid getting involved if it wasn’t for the actions of her uncle Mordecai.”


“Being a Jesus-follower, trusting in God’s sovereignty, and believing in our hearts that God is in control doesn’t absolve us from taking action or speaking out against injustice. In fact, it should be a reminder for us to take the risk and speak up in our churches and communities.”


“How can we pray ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ without recognizing this is an invitation to raise our voices?”


“The reason I most often choose to stay silent is the one I don’t want to admit. If I benefit from the status quo, I have a vested interest in maintaining it. Silence is complicity. Speaking out is often labeled as rocking the boat or causing trouble, but silence is just as dangerous.”


“Speaking out against injustice isn’t about my personal feelings and opinions being prioritized over someone else’s feelings and opinions – instead, it’s about recognizing that our individual feelings and opinions about a situation are secondary in importance to the overall impact on our community and society.”


“However, I don’t consider it divisive to point out the problems as a way to work toward finding solutions. We can trust in God and still question what is happening around us. We can live out our beliefs even if the ultimate outcome isn’t changed for the better.

Mordecai understood that trusting in God doesn’t excuse us from speaking up when given an opportunity to name injustice and fight for justice….And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

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Thank you Kathy, for this incredibly powerful, practical book. For in raising your voice, you encourage us (me) to raise our (my) own voice(s), listen to the voices of others, and recognize how much we need each other. I needed this book, in my journey of reclaiming my voice, in my healing and freedom from spiritual abuse, in my own anti-racism internal work and education, and in learning how to amplify the voices of others, in doing so, even if I’m clumsily flailing about or imperfectly speaking out.

The book is out today! To order your copy from Amazon or directly from the publisher: InterVarsity Press

Please follow and support Kathy Khang’s work. You can find Kathy online:
Twitter: @mskathykhang
Instagram: @mskathykhang

Healing the Purpose of Your Life

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This book has been one of my lifelines over the past year. With the prompts within, I came up with three words that are unique to me, and to my way of being, the myriad of ways that I express my special way of being. These three words aren’t what you might think, and I won’t be sharing those three words, but they do express themselves through yoga, nannying, music, and art. And the title is pretty straightforward, but that has been part of my journey. And this small but mighty book is very healing. If you’re at a crossroads or struggling with this idea, or concept or need to revisit and rediscover, I highly recommend this. And it’s not about over- spiritualizing your purpose, but really practical and deeply spiritual.

This journey is important to me because there are voices out there that will tell you that your gifts, your talents and your unique way of being, even your personality are a “problem.” Nope, it’s not your problem, it’s their problem and they can get out of your face. Our unique gifts and talents and interests and our unique way of expressing our being ARE what make you, uniquely YOU. And these things are guides, markers, indicators to help point you in the direction you were uniquely designed for. What lights you up? What makes you come alive? Those are such important questions. The things that matter to us, matter for a reason. That doesn’t mean we’ll know right away, there are still things that matter to me that don’t have a neat niche that I’m invested in, but I still care and maybe someday it will be a bigger part of my time. I get so frustrated when the message of self-denial is beat on your heads over and over. You can’t do any of that until you know who you really are. Celebrate the unique way you express your beings and your doings express your being.

*and yes this book is on my short list of all time favorites!

“Our sealed orders are built into us so deeply that difficult circumstances and mistakes in our life cannot ultimately keep us from carrying out our purpose. This is true because our purpose is our essence, our particular way the light of God shines within us, a light that can never really be put out.”

– from Healing the Purpose of Your Life by the Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

My All Time Favorite Books for Nurturing a Healthy Soul

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“Remember who you were when you first arrived and reclaim the gift of true self.” – Parker J. Palmer

I have some good books to share with you. I’m obsessed with the website Goodreads. Have you heard of it? It’s a fun and helpful way to catalog books you’ve read, are currently reading, and curate a want-to-read list (and follow friends, too!). I think there is something for everyone here, with books on Women & Spirituality, books on the Soul, and finally books on Purpose & Meaning.

I’m currently actively reading about 6 books including Original Blessing, which is majorly giving me LIFE right now, finishing Artisan Soul and also Echo of the Soul; which is tucked away waiting in the wings. Can’t wait to share more about those books soon.

Alongside the books I’ve been assigned to read for instructor training, I’ve been nerding out and digging into some extra-curricular studying along with a desire to continue nourishing my soul and reading things that are life-giving, spark my imagination and educate. (This is what happens when you’re a life-long student! And I am pretty sure it’s in my genes, with both my parents holding graduate degrees and my dad holding a PhD! Someday…someday…Masters someday!) I’ve been updating the various lists or “shelves” as they’re referred to on the site and through the app.

Here are my top 7 Non-Fiction Books for Nurturing a Healthy Soul*
*Amazon Affiliate links are included for each book, should you decide to purchase a book, following my link simply means that I can receive a small commission that helps support my work.*

  1. Eve’s Revenge
  2. Lost Women of the Bible
  3. Ruby Slippers
  4. Soul Keeping
  5. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
  6. Let Your Life Speak
  7. Healing the Purpose of Your Life

And here is a little blurb about each of them:

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Eve’s Revenge

Eve’s Revenge: Women & a Spirituality of the Body by Lilian Calles Barger

I read this treasure of a book at a pivotal time in my life. Growing up without a healthy embodied spirituality left me filled with a massive burden of unnecessary shame, and what turned out to be an unhealthy body image. The shame of being a woman. A physical, embodied woman. The author, Barger, takes us on a chronological journey back to Eve, the mother of all humanity, and through church history which was dictated primarily by men or priests, often, unmarried men. This left a huge gap in the history of the church and the way the body was viewed in relation to spirituality. She gently and critically looks back and weaves this incredibly redemptive picture of the founding ladies of our faith. She draws the holy connection between Eve and Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is no critique of Eve.  She invites us into a holy embodied spirituality that makes room for our bodies, not one that disconnects or over spiritualizes. It is both eloquent and incredibly insightful. I will forever recommend this book to every woman I ever meet as it is a healing book, and I’m grateful for finding it through Jonalyn Fincher, her book is below.

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Lost Women of the Bible

Lost Women of the Bible: Finding strength & significance through their stories by Carolyn Custis James

Carolyn Custis James is one of my top favorite authors and theologians. Her unique insight and idea of the Blessed Alliance is incredibly redemptive and rich and full. This is not empty. (I highly recommend any of her books. I’ve read 3 of them, and have 2 more to catch up on, with Half the Church and Malestrom next on my list.)

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Ruby Slippers

Ruby Slippers: how the soul of a woman brings her home by Jonalyn Fincher

This is a sparkly book that is more than meets the eye. Jonalyn has incredible depth. Hers was the first book I read that didn’t leave me with the empty feeling that something was missing, as many other women’s books often do. There is no empty stereotype or generalization of women or roles. Instead, she invites us to remove the suffocating, restricting corsets of these stereotypes about femininity. She gives a rich well of information and educates us on the soul, and explains that there is no one picture of femininity, and empowers and frees you up to be your true self.

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Soul Keeping

Soul Keeping: Caring for the most important part of you by John Ortberg

In his delightfully simple but profound way, Ortberg shares about his journey towards this idea of Soul Keeping. He tells about visiting with Dallas Willard and sitting with his wisdom, the incredibly profound insight that he offers. I love the way Ortberg unwraps the layers of the soul and demonstrates how intricate it is and the great, many needs of the soul. Needs like rest, freedom, and blessing.

“Your soul is not just something that lives on after your body dies. It’s the most important thing about you. It is your life.”

“The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings.”

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Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero

This book is not quite as intense or condescending as the subtitle may sound. It’s about a holistic spirituality that includes rather than excludes our emotions – heart, mind, and body. I listened to this via audiobook and found it very bolstering and holistic. He begins by talking about ten things that make for an unhealthy spirituality, like some of the following: 2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear. 3. Dying to the wrong things. 9. Living without limits. Under his second point he explains why feelings matter:

“To feel is to be human. To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God. To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves.”

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Let Your Life Speak

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer

I both read and listened to this book. I began with the audiobook and found the material so compelling and rich that I wanted to see the words for myself. It was recommended to me and it was soothing and full of incredible insight, relatable anecdotes with a bit of his personal vocational story. This Quaker insight includes concepts like “when way closes” which he describes the insight found in learning what paths aren’t working.

“For a good man to realize that it is better to be whole than to be good is to enter on a straight and narrow path compared to which his previous rectitude was flowery license.” John Middleton Murray as quoted by Parker J. Palmer

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Healing the Purpose of Your Life

Healing the Purpose of Your Life by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, & Matthew Linn

This beautiful, tender, book offers fresh language and insight into our unique way of BEing and helpful questions to help you work through your unique way of DOING that expresses your unique way of BEing, without burnout, without sacrificing your self, your nature, who you were created to be. The authors talk about Sealed Orders: personalized instructions each one of us is imparted with emphasizing the Dignity and unique meaning of each person’s life. And talk about Doings that express our unique way of BEing. The particular way the light of God shines within us. I don’t know what else to say except to point you in this direction if this piques your interest or might help the search for meaning you are looking for. For me, it’s been such a helpful, healing place to start and move forward, in finding my own voice again.

*My caveat for you is that if reading is not a helpful way that fills you up or you don’t find to be life-giving, and if you’ve already tried audio books, then prioritize those things that are helpful, life-giving, not depleting sources. If you prefer stories, then find good books that tell good stories, watch good movies that tell good stories. Whatever works for you. You are uniquely made, and what brings me life may not be the same thing that brings you life. Whatever is good for YOUR soul. Do that.

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*Amazon Affiliate links have been added for each book listed, should you decide to purchase a book, following my link simply means that I can receive a small commission that helps support my work. I only link to things that I wholeheartedly recommend and use myself.*