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The call: ‘Wake, O wake’

31 October 2014

David Adam reflects on being roused from sleep and oblivion

A Kind of Sleepwalking: And waking up to life
Judy Hirst
DLT £9.99
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Forgetful Heart: Remembering God in a distracted world
Lucy Mills
DLT £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT861 )

JUDY HIRST's book A Kind of Sleepwalking presents us with an alarm call to awake. In Walden, Henry Thoreau wrote: "To be awake is to be alive. I have not yet seen a man who was quite awake."

Most of us have areas of life where we are not truly awake; or we have chosen the safe and habitual path, which is often soporific. If we are alive, we cannot avoid being confronted by suffering, loss, and grief. If our eyes are open, we will discover that our lives and others' are full of wonder.

We should be aware of the new, of awe, and of the "otherness" in all our dealings. If we are afraid of death, it is likely that we are afraid of living fully.

God is not seeking our obedience as much as our love, expressed in our relationships with each other and the world. Irenaeus said: "The glory of God is a living man." This is for us to explore.

These are the great themes of this book: it is a call to be fully awake, to live life abundantly, and involves looking at all the above issues. Each chapter has suggestions for discussion, a Bible passage for reflection, and a closing prayer.

Lucy Mills in Forgetful Heart confesses her own forgetfulness. "I don't just forget ordinary trivial things. I forget about who I really am, and what has been done for me. I forget the one who made me and redeemed me. I forget to love and to be loved. I forget the things that are really important."

Her main aim, however, is in the subtitle: Remembering God in a distracted world. This is a book full of wisdom and personal experiences, and explores passages of the Bible.

There are four parts. The first looks at memory and then at various distractions. The second deals with the history of forgetting, within the scriptures and ourselves. God remembers even when we forget. Part three, "Ripples of Forgetfulness", is concerned with "compassion fatigue", and how we close our minds, owing to overload. Alongside this, we all need to be able to forget, or normal life becomes impossible.

Part four, "The Art of Remembering", looks at methods of using our memory, and explores the grace of God.

Both books are concerned with the opening of eyes and hearts. Both emphasise the need for attentiveness for making real contact with others, for love, and for remembering. Both are excellent for study groups and personal reading.

Canon David Adam is a former Vicar of Holy Island.

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