Slice of Life – Disengaging with Fiction

Today’s Slice of Life at, 10 August 2021

The year was 1992 and my husband was traveling for his job. My children were two and four, and we had been at some friends’ house all day playing with their kids and passing the time. As we were leaving Kevin gave me a book, The Sphere, by Michael Crichton. I have no idea if the book was any good, or if I just needed an adult book and anything would have worked. Perhaps I had mentioned earlier in the day that it had been a long time since I had read a novel, and that is why he gave it to me. Anyway, I brought it home, put the girls to bed, and started reading it. I’m not a super fast reader, but for some reason my brain devoured this science fiction book and I read it until 3:00 a.m., and when I finally turned the last page I went to bed.

Those devouring reading times have come once in a while throughout my life when I have fasted too long from reading. For the past few years of teaching grade 5, my students and I have kept track of our reading. Each year I read 40-60 books. However, the pandemic came and reading became something I neglected. I don’t know why.

However, this month reading is coming back to me, fortunately. I read Clint Smith‘s How the Word is Passed, Winn Collier‘s Holy Curiosity, and yesterday I read most of The Racketeer by John Grisham. It was awful, but mesmerizing. I just had to finish it, kind of like The Sphere all those years ago. It reminded me that I need to find good fiction and start reading again! I need fiction to disengage and relieve stress, stress internalized from the daily news as well as the nonfiction books I’m reading.

Do you have any suggestions for my next adult or young adult fiction book?

Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions

Are you being willfully stupid? is just one of the interesting questions Jesus asked when he lived on earth. The book Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions has been challenging and blessing me over the past few weeks. I’m reading and discussing a chapter each week with some family members. Lately the chapters have inspired us to also write poems. The chapters, each with a different question, include:

    • Who condemns you?
    • Why are you afraid?
    • How much bread do you have?
    • Are you being willfully stupid?
    • My God, why have you abandoned me?
    • Are you confused?
    • Do you believe this?
    • Why do you doubt?
    • What do you want?

From the chapter “My God, why have you forsaken me?” with a quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “Earth’s crammed with heaven” I wrote this golden shovel poem.

A Golden Shovelful of Heaven

the mystery of sweet earth’s

bliss and beauty is still crammed

full of crude confusion, with

scandalous prayers to heaven

From this week’s chapter, “Are you confused?”, I created a found poem, this type called a zentangle, based on the following page of text from the book. I was struck with the use of the word incarnate both as an adjective (Jesus, the Incarnate One) and verb (We are to incarnate Jesus.).  Wow!

But what if Jesus came, not to keep us from hell, but to invite us into hell? What if Jesus came to invite us to enter, with him, into the terrors of brokenness and sin and misery in our world? In the scandal of the Incarnation, Jesus took on human form and immersed himself into his world spun off course. On the cross, he was drenched in our sin. During his three days entombed in darkness, many traditions teach that Jesus descended into the depths of Hades to confront Satan and his hordes. If we as God’s people are now called to incarnate Jesus in our world, how could we possibly think Jesus’ ultimate aim is to make sure we are always comfortable, that we get our piece of the American dream?
Jesus invites us into the reality of his work, bringing redemption to the earth and speaking revolutionary Jesus-life to a dead, broken world.

Collier, Winn (2009) Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions Paperback, Baker Books. Kindle Edition.

Incarnate Jesus
Jesus to invite
Us into hell,
Into terror of brokenness.
Scandal of Incarnation–
Drenched in our sin
Entombed in darkness
Descended into the depths
Called to incarnate
Jesus, our ultimate aim.
Jesus-life to a
Broken world

From the same chapter, “Are You Confused?”, Collier quotes Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Here are the words spoken by Porfiry Petrovitch to Rodion Romanovich that touched me: “fling yourself straight into life without deliberation; don’t be afraid.” That quote along with a story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14:25-33 inspired this golden shovel poem:

To Peter
How long do I have left in this life to fling
Open the door of doubt for myself? How did you give yourself
Permission to balter straight
Into walking on the sea and into
A fearless and direct life?
A life of joy and singularity without
Standing around for deliberation
About whether you do or don’t
Have enough faith to be
Free to live, believe, and love–not afraid.

Two Simple Poetry Prompts

Recently I read Holly Lyn Walrath’s post on Medium about her favorite poetry writing prompt.

“Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.”

As she said, that is so simple. I tried it below with a line from a book I’ve been reading, Holy Curiosity by Winn Collier. The line I chose was: “Fear is a second self”

My first self was born of joy and gladness
Then I sat with brokenness around me
My second self became fear and sadness
What and when will my third self be?

Walrath also tells of another prompt she learned from Jericho Brown. This is where you choose an existing poem and replace every word with an opposite word. Then you go back and polish it up.

For my first attempt I wanted to check out the process, and see if it was worthwhile to come back to. What better mentor than “Twinkle, Twinkle” I thought.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark,
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


Darken my voluminous insignificance,
I have no interest in your dissonance.
Down under the heavens so deep,
Unlike any catastrophe on cliffs steep.

When the inauspicious draws to closeness,
When she bathes everything in darkness,
Then I conceal my magnanimous gray,
Darken, darken throughout the day.

It was my depressed and massive night,
Shading the resident in pure sunlight,
For that, you know not my coincidence,
Darken my voluminous insignificance.

After note: I decided I will try it again later with a text more meaningful to me. The process was puzzling and engaging.