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Monday, March 28, 2011

Little White Church

My Mennonite Story...
Looking for a new book, I went to the local library.  Usually I go with a list of possible good books off some booklist.  And then I get there, and none are available.  I get myself on a waiting list and I wait, and wait, and wait until a month or so later, I finally have a book in hand.  This time, I saw a pile of blue books with literature.  I asked if they were for a book club.  Yes, they were.  It was open enrollment.  Hmmm.  What would it be like to join a book club and not know anyone?  I thought about the book clubs I had joined before that have faded away into oblivion.  How many well-intentioned book clubs had I joined?  I would venture to say ten over the course of years.  Actually, I feel as if I've been in a bit of a transition stage as it relates to friends.  In other words, I'm lacking some close friends for the moment.  Feeling a need for a little girl-time, I'm thinking this might be a good thing.  If nothing else, at least the lot will enjoy reading.  We'll have that in common. 

We're reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  Funny how I said, "we."  Hey, I'm already part of the club!  The book has its own book club questions in the back.  But the list the library shares is a combination of the Mennonite book questions and someone else's questions.  The book is supposed to be humorous as per the quote on the front cover from Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love (that was a good book...Eat, Pray, Love - btw, much better than the movie). 

It just so happens that my boys and I used to attend a small Mennonite church.  I was going through a tough time in my life and I had the urge to connect spiritually.  A couple of girlfriends, sisters in fact, invited me to attend. The church congregation was warm and inviting.  The church itself was plain, simple, and without much ornamentation.  It was white and clean with wood pews and a single aisle to the pulpit.  The little white church was nestled within a rolling valley.  You drove down a road meant for one car and around a bend.  There it sat right by a pretty little creek, on a perfectly green lawn with a white gravel parking lot.  The minister was the best I had ever heard.  He was young and dynamic.  His message was straightforward and down-to-earth.  He was a family man and clearly supported strong family values and spoke strongly about family roles.  Men were supposed to be men and step up and take care of their family.  And a wife was supposed to take care of their man.  Great concept.  A little hard to do when I was on my own at the time.  No matter, it was healthy fodor for my soul.  It made me look at my life and put my priorities in order.  I appreciated the simplicity of my Mennonite church family.  I felt the message hit the core of my values and resonated warmly in my heart.  I look fondly back at that time. 

So, I'm off to read and chuckle over Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.  In a few days, look for a book critique.  The book club meets April 20th.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


In desperate need of a good read, my son and I stopped at the little second hand bookstore in town.  Its been there for a couple years and I've wanted to stop many times before.  The bookstore is in the basement of a very old building on the square of a quaint country town. It was dark, with a low ceiling, a maze of little rooms crammed from floor to ceiling with books, and little overloaded tables and shelves shoved in any available spot.  It smelled dusty, musty and a little like cigarette smoke.  A book reader's haven at best. A perfect fire hazard at worst. There were a half dozen visitors perusing the tight aisles -- a mom and her kids, a few men of which a couple were Amish.  The guy behind the counter (the owner - or so I assumed)  inquired as to my taste.  My genre is usually women's contemporary fiction or books off Oprah's book list.  He suggested, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  He said that he thought this would be right up my alley.  I read the back of the book.  It didn't say much about the story line.  By the cover, it had something to do with a circus.  It was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.  I did remember seeing this book on a few book lists.  I went with his recommendation.

Then the book guy suggested that I take a look at another book that he read called, When Elephants Weep -- the Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy.  And I wondered what was up with the elephant theme.  We walked back to another room and he pulled that book from the shelf.  He said it was was about animals and how they really do have feelings and emotions.  I must have been an easy sell that day.  I walked out with two elephant books.  The dilemma:  which elephant book should I tackle first?