Monday, December 8, 2008


This fall before we ended our half-year sojourn in Sewanee, TN, I befriended Isabel Anders, an author who has achieved acclaim for her spiritual writings and who lives year-round at Sewanee. Isabel has 19 published books in her repertoire, and the latest, 40-DAY JOURNEY WITH MADELEINE L’ENGLE, was added to her list of titles this month. It’s a book that pays tribute to Isabel’s friend and mentor, Madeleine L’Engle, renowned novelist, poet, and speaker. I once met Madeleine L’Engle at an Episcopal Churchwomen’s conference at Camp Hardtner, Louisiana where she delivered a series of lectures about her journey with Christ. A few years after meeting her, I found a copy of her book, WALKING ON WATER, at Trinity Church, NYC, and read it. The book influenced me to persist in the writing process back in the 80’s when I was discouraged midway in my research and writing about 16 memorable Louisiana women.

Isabel’s 40-DAY JOURNEY provides the opportunity for Christians everywhere to be mentored by Madeleine L’Engle, she explains in the directions about how to use the book – and encourages readers “to begin living what you learn.” She has selected 40 inspiring excerpts from Madeleine L’Engle’s books and added to them questions to ponder regarding the excerpts, psalm-fragments, nudges for journal reflections, followed by prayers of hope and healing for readers.

Isabel promises readers that if they follow the instructions in 40-DAY JOURNEY, they’ll deepen the focus and intensity of experiences that result in spiritual transformation. Most of Isabel’s books center on this deepening of the spiritual life and reflect her own deep faith and daily spiritual practice. In preliminary pages of the book, Isabel gives direction for keeping a spiritual journal which she recognizes as a form of meditation; i.e., “a profound way of getting to know yourself – and God – more deeply…writing is generative: it enables you to have thoughts you wouldn’t otherwise have had….”

Also included in the preliminary pages of 40-DAY JOURNEY is a brief biography of Madeleine L’Engle, who died in 2007. Isabel talks of Madeleine’s engagement with the questions of life and death, and her exposition of themes about good and evil, science and faith, and man and nature. Readers will remember Madeleine L’Engle’s book, A WRINKLE IN TIME, which received the John Newbery Medal award for an outstanding young adult book – and which has sold eight million copies. Isabel adds a note that is heartening to writers: Madeleine L’Engle’s prize-winning book was rejected 26 times before being accepted by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It’s now in its 69th printing!!!

I especially liked the excerpt from Madeleine L’Engle which Isabel chose for Day 24: “Through no virtue of our own we are made dead to the old and alive in the new. And for each one of us there is a special gift, the way in which we may best serve and please the Lord whose love is so overflowing. And gifts should never be thought of quantitatively. One of the holiest women I have ever known did little with her life in terms of worldly success; her gift was that of bringing laughter with her wherever she went, no matter how dark or grievous the occasion. Wherever she was, holy laughter was present to heal and redeem. In the Koran it is written, ‘He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh.’”

Isabel’s 40-DAY JOURNEY WITH MADELEINE L’ENGLE is a gift to those of us who are interested in spiritual growth and provides a series of “inspirations” to help us understand how the Holy Spirit is working within all of us. Brava, Isabel, and thank you for the Christmas gift you have packaged of the writings from the work of your friend and mentor, Madeleine L’Engle. You have achieved that which you write about your mentor in the preface to 40-DAY JOURNEY: “an illumination of the journey with Christ that more timid minds might bypass…”
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