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Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

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Spiritual and autobiographical reflections on the author's seminary days, early ministry, and writing career. Spiritual and autobiographical reflections on the author's seminary days, early ministry, and writing career.


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Spiritual and autobiographical reflections on the author's seminary days, early ministry, and writing career. Spiritual and autobiographical reflections on the author's seminary days, early ministry, and writing career.

30 review for Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Of the three memoirs that Buechner wrote, this was probably my least favorite. I can’t bring myself to give this book less than 4 star. There are some hidden wisdom-gems that spoke especially to my life right now. Buechner writes of his middle life and college teaching career. He compares and contrasts Christianity to Buddhism and it is in those pages that I leaned the most from this book. He explains that the two religions are based around the same fundamental principal, love, but the ultimate Of the three memoirs that Buechner wrote, this was probably my least favorite. I can’t bring myself to give this book less than 4 star. There are some hidden wisdom-gems that spoke especially to my life right now. Buechner writes of his middle life and college teaching career. He compares and contrasts Christianity to Buddhism and it is in those pages that I leaned the most from this book. He explains that the two religions are based around the same fundamental principal, love, but the ultimate goal and purpose for Love is quite different. Buddhism has 4 levels of Love and the last and highest form is upekkha- “the detached, dispassionate love which no longer makes or even recognizes distinctions of any kind but loves all people impartially, whether they are torturers of children or great humanitarians. There is something a little too cold-blooded and inscrutable about it to equate it to the Christian concept of agape as God’s love that shines forth on both the just and the unjust.” (P. 52) After describing the feelings of being a new parent Buechner writes: “‘He who loves fifty has fifty woes… who loves none has no woe.’ Said the Buddha, and it is true. To love another, as you love a child, is to become vulnerable in a whole new way. It is no longer only through what happens to yourself that the world can hurt you but through what happens to the one you love also and greatly more hurtingly. When it comes to your own hurt, there are always things you can do… But when it comes to the hurt of a child you love, you are all but helpless... There is no way to make him strong with such strengths as you may have found through your own hurt, or wise through such wisdom, and even if there were, it would be the wrong way because it would be your way, not his. The child’s pain becomes your pains, and as the innocent bystander, maybe it is even a worse pain for you, and in the long run even the bravest front is not much use… Side by side with the Buddha’s truth is the Gospel truth that ‘he who does not love remains in death.’ … To suffer in love for another’s suffering is to live life not only at its fullest but at its holiest.” (P. 56) Buechner never spells out how God’s love is like the love described above, but you come to that understanding as you read through the book. There is peace in that too, because God is much more able to handle our struggles than we are each other’s. Our love is messy, His love is perfect, and He is able to bear the burden of loving enough to let us grow. It’s also reassuring that the ultimate purpose of this whole thing isn’t nothingness or disconnected, but a full embrace of our humanity and our role in God’s epic story. This book is slim but dense and worth a read. (If you only have time to read one, read The Sacred Journey)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Beautiful, poetic. This passage sums it up. . . "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Beautiful, poetic. This passage sums it up. . . "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace."

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sumangali Morhall

    Now and Then is the second in a trilogy of short memoirs by Buechner, along with The Sacred Journey and Telling Secrets. This is my favourite of the three, though I enjoyed them all. It covers the author’s rather shambling journey to seminary, and a gradual growing into life as a Christian minister. I love the stark realism in the stories, and his broad-minded approach to religion. His melancholy, self-deprecating honesty is utterly endearing, and the writing is sublime. His views on writing its Now and Then is the second in a trilogy of short memoirs by Buechner, along with The Sacred Journey and Telling Secrets. This is my favourite of the three, though I enjoyed them all. It covers the author’s rather shambling journey to seminary, and a gradual growing into life as a Christian minister. I love the stark realism in the stories, and his broad-minded approach to religion. His melancholy, self-deprecating honesty is utterly endearing, and the writing is sublime. His views on writing itself, and how it may dovetail with a spiritual life, are brave and consoling. While the sentences can be long, tiring journeys, the destination is always worth the effort. These are books I will treasure and re-visit.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    As I've said before, one of the ways I chart whether or not a book is good is if it makes me want to write. I very much wanted to write while reading this. I kind of came in mid-stream, as this is part of a larger series of Buechner's autobiographies. This was loaned me by a friend, so I didn't know much about it until I sat down and started reading it. I was not, at first, impressed, as the foreword and the second edition introduction were both very self-conscious and humble and felt rather like As I've said before, one of the ways I chart whether or not a book is good is if it makes me want to write. I very much wanted to write while reading this. I kind of came in mid-stream, as this is part of a larger series of Buechner's autobiographies. This was loaned me by a friend, so I didn't know much about it until I sat down and started reading it. I was not, at first, impressed, as the foreword and the second edition introduction were both very self-conscious and humble and felt rather like the medieval trope of false self-degradation. Once the book itself started, however, I realized it was not at all false, and that the text was worth the wait. Hurrah for this Christian admitting that Christianity is rough and weird and not something easily claimed in the early days because of its reputation. Hurrah for awesome theological musings and beautiful word paintings. I loved the first half of this book and the adventures in education. The back half was a little less fun, as it felt rather like a flesh-and-bone annotated bibliography of Buechner's other works; granted, now I want to read his other stuff, but telling me about it was a bit slow reading. There are also several nods to Buechner's own writing style and temperaments; these sections felt a little like Stephen King's On Writing, which I maintain is still one of the best books on the craft out there. This is a very slim autobiography/memoir/theological study/bibliography, but worth it as an introduction to the man. I do recommend it, if you're into any of those categories.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The second of Buechner's memoirs and again excellent. This one covers his time at Union Theological Seminary becoming a Presbyterian minister, through a nine year stint as a teacher of religion at a high school, his marriage and children, and several of his books, ending with the writing of his (Pulitzer Prize-nominated) novel Godric. While at Union, he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Actually, it's from a Tillich quote that the book takes its title... "We want only to show you The second of Buechner's memoirs and again excellent. This one covers his time at Union Theological Seminary becoming a Presbyterian minister, through a nine year stint as a teacher of religion at a high school, his marriage and children, and several of his books, ending with the writing of his (Pulitzer Prize-nominated) novel Godric. While at Union, he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Actually, it's from a Tillich quote that the book takes its title... "We want only to show you something we have seen and to tell you something we have heard ... that here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves is a New Creation." Buechner covers off various biographical details, various angsts and joys, and insights, and the "now and thens" from himself that are a New Creation glimmer throughout.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Longfellow

    Now and Then: a concise review. Great idea to publish multiple memoirs, each with a specific focus, Now and Then being “A Memoir of Vocation.” Three chapters, 109 pages total. I recommend reading each chapter in a single sitting. The first chapter, “New York,” is my least favorite, largely because I was distracted by the glaringly obvious life of privilege with which Buechner has been blessed. It recounts Buechner's time at Union Theological Seminary. The second chapter, “Exeter,” is my favorite Now and Then: a concise review. Great idea to publish multiple memoirs, each with a specific focus, Now and Then being “A Memoir of Vocation.” Three chapters, 109 pages total. I recommend reading each chapter in a single sitting. The first chapter, “New York,” is my least favorite, largely because I was distracted by the glaringly obvious life of privilege with which Buechner has been blessed. It recounts Buechner's time at Union Theological Seminary. The second chapter, “Exeter,” is my favorite because of its references to literature and reflections on teaching. The third chapter, “Vermont,” covers Buechner's transition from a decade of teaching to life as a full-time writer. Once again, this chapter testifies to a life of privilege that will be obvious to readers who have had more modest opportunities and resources. Though I’ve focused on Buechner’s privilege in this brief commentary, Buechner doesn’t reference it at all, which I suppose is fair. He is focused entirely on what it’s like to decide how one should live one’s life and how best to positively influence the world in the brief time we have. In each of these chapters, Buechner’s talent for writing and the reflective quality of his mind and life are on display in satisfying ways. I intend to eventually read each book in his series of memoirs.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Eiffert

    "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Buechner writes better than anyone. "Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." Buechner writes better than anyone.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Buechner’s memoir touches on his work life. While there were many aspects I could not connect to (he seems brought up in privilege and leisure afforded to the well-off), I identified with his search for “real” work as a minister. He reflects that much of what was meaningful in his vocation was in the very earthy details of life and family, and the Spirit of God that seems to blow between them.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cal Davenport

    Buechner is a companion to all introverted, literary Christians. In this, one of several of his memoirs, he admonishes us to "listen to our lives," then provides his own as an example. His subtle, quiet prose is peace imparting, here as always. Buechner is a companion to all introverted, literary Christians. In this, one of several of his memoirs, he admonishes us to "listen to our lives," then provides his own as an example. His subtle, quiet prose is peace imparting, here as always.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Frederick Buechner grew up agnostic, as a man of the world, and then, in his mid-20s, after being mysteriously moved at a church he had just wandered into, gave up his current life in favor of conversion to Christianity. He had already published his first novel. Rather than focus on a follow-up, he entered Union Theological Seminary to become a minister. This book, Now and Then, picks up at this point, right where the first half of his autobiography, The Sacred Journey, left off. It follows his m Frederick Buechner grew up agnostic, as a man of the world, and then, in his mid-20s, after being mysteriously moved at a church he had just wandered into, gave up his current life in favor of conversion to Christianity. He had already published his first novel. Rather than focus on a follow-up, he entered Union Theological Seminary to become a minister. This book, Now and Then, picks up at this point, right where the first half of his autobiography, The Sacred Journey, left off. It follows his maturation from his time at seminary, where he is taught by such theological powerhouses as Reinhold Neibhur and Paul Tillich, to his time as chaplain at a prep school full of atheists, to the point where he picked his writing back up again and penned such masterpieces as Godric. In reading any autobiography (especially that of a literary figure), I find myself identifying with the main character, trying to figure out what he or she was doing at my age, calculating how I stack up against the greats. With Buechner, this impulse is even greater, as he espouses many of my deeply-held convictions, such as doubt always being mixed with belief, the importance of comparative religion as a way to shed light on Christianity, and the need for new language to describe old truths. Reading Now and Then was like reading someone live out one of the lives I want to live.

  11. 5 out of 5

    James Klagge

    The middle one in a series of memoirs, running from entering seminary in his late 20's, till his 50's. Reflections on finding holiness in the every-day: as he quotes Tillich (with whom he studied at Union): here and there even in our world, and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation. While in seminary he worked in East Harlem doing something approximating to community development work--or at least he was involved with and impressed by those who did. This led to a nee The middle one in a series of memoirs, running from entering seminary in his late 20's, till his 50's. Reflections on finding holiness in the every-day: as he quotes Tillich (with whom he studied at Union): here and there even in our world, and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation. While in seminary he worked in East Harlem doing something approximating to community development work--or at least he was involved with and impressed by those who did. This led to a need in himself to choose between that sort of ministry and the more intellectual ministry of writing, which he ultimately chose. This reminded me of a similar choice I made after working for 2 summers with an inner-city Christian ministry in Chicago in the late 1970's, when I made a similar choice to pursue an academic rather than an activist career. Here is what he says about that choice (p. 30): "In any case, theirs was a road I did not take because I did not have either the stomach for it or the gift for it, but like other untaken roads, it haunts me still….On the road that I took instead, have I ever done anything or been anything to match in its own half-hearted and fragmentary way their degree of self-sacrifice? I genuinely don't know and feel sure that I'm better off not knowing. If I have, then it was by grace alone. If I have not, then I can only hope that at the end of the journey, where all roads finally meet, grace may prove sufficient." A nourishing read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Not his best. Buechner is one of my all-time faves, but he does occasionally tend to swerve uncomfortably close to a cheap kind of universalism for me, and that's on full display on some of these pages. There are gems here, to be sure. I don't think he's capable of writing anything that doesn't have at least some soul-piercing truths. But his chronic doubt chafes a bit here, whereas elsewhere in his work it seems humble and honest and beautiful. It's really not necessary to follow every assertio Not his best. Buechner is one of my all-time faves, but he does occasionally tend to swerve uncomfortably close to a cheap kind of universalism for me, and that's on full display on some of these pages. There are gems here, to be sure. I don't think he's capable of writing anything that doesn't have at least some soul-piercing truths. But his chronic doubt chafes a bit here, whereas elsewhere in his work it seems humble and honest and beautiful. It's really not necessary to follow every assertion with some variation of "but maybe not". He also goes a little deeper into Buddhism here than I cared for, and I deeply disagree with what I took as his belief that the Buddhist concept of radical detachment can teach us about not loving people too much. I think the cross showed us that there's no such thing as going too far with love. Maybe he meant something else and it was just over my head, I dunno. In summary, it's short and worth a read, but not his finest. And when Buechner is good, he's the BEST.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Светлана

    Buechner is consummately skilled as a writer. His nonfiction style is the perfect blend of truth and ephemera. He gives us a tour through several unspectacular events and places in his life, yet draws the truth out of them like an unlooked-for flavor in a meal prepared by a master chef. He speaks truth more unobtrusively than almost any other author I have read, and in that I would see him as a predecessor to Donald Miller. (Or, others would say Donald Miller is a succesor of his.) This book carri Buechner is consummately skilled as a writer. His nonfiction style is the perfect blend of truth and ephemera. He gives us a tour through several unspectacular events and places in his life, yet draws the truth out of them like an unlooked-for flavor in a meal prepared by a master chef. He speaks truth more unobtrusively than almost any other author I have read, and in that I would see him as a predecessor to Donald Miller. (Or, others would say Donald Miller is a succesor of his.) This book carries forward an idea present in his other books, about seeing God as the main character in your own autobiography. “Listen to your life,” he says more than once. Where I was less impressed is his theology proper. I sense a deep sympathy in some paragraphs where he mentions times of doubt or depression. In other paragraphs, I felt that Buechner was betraying more skepticism than is becoming of a preacher, and perhaps that is why he is so popular in theologically mainstream-to-liberal circles. As just another instance, when he cites examples from Buddhism, they are, for the most part interesting, but I can’t help but feel that it is a ploy to keep less religious readers engaged, especially when he backpedals and says that the Christian view is more encompassing. Of course, Buechner himself mentions this dillemma of audience, which tries to straddle the line between those who are “in” and “out” of this club we call religion. He is neither the first nor the last to experience this dillemma, but all in all I feel that, whoever his reader is, Buechner truly has something to say, and says it powerfully—not so much like a trumpet, but more like rising string overture, a gentle reminder that your soundtrack is already playing, the camera is running. This is your life. What is God saying through it?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claire Cash

    would give 3.5 stars if goodreads allowed half ratings. did i enjoy this book? i don’t think i could confidently say i enjoyed it thoroughly, however, there were many wonderful glints of wisdom entrenched within the pages of it. i loved the whimsical way buechner writes and i always had a pencil in hand to underline things to carry with me in my heart after i’d turned the last page. i didn’t like how he tended to generalise all non-believers and a portion of this memoir where he writes about the would give 3.5 stars if goodreads allowed half ratings. did i enjoy this book? i don’t think i could confidently say i enjoyed it thoroughly, however, there were many wonderful glints of wisdom entrenched within the pages of it. i loved the whimsical way buechner writes and i always had a pencil in hand to underline things to carry with me in my heart after i’d turned the last page. i didn’t like how he tended to generalise all non-believers and a portion of this memoir where he writes about the argument he gave for required church at the university he ministered at reminisced strongly of the fear-mongering sermon given in the middle of ‘portrait of the artist as a young man’ by james joyce. he had an open-mindedness regarding reading and internalising the bible that i admired (a quote about this: “on the one hand, it was to be read with the eye of faith and to the heart’s uplifting; on the other hand, it was to be read as critically as searchingly as anything else”). i chose to read this book to get an inside look at a strong believer’s mind since i don’t communicate with many myself and this book did not disappoint in what i was searching for.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This is the second book of the trilogy of autobiographical works of Frederick Buechner. While the first book explores his childhood experiences that leads to his conversion and calling, this book explorers how God was working and speaking and in through his vocation. I appreciated his insights gained from Seminary, where he learned two encounter God in the scriptures, even while treating them as a historical document. I appreciate his willingness to struggle with skeptics as a school teacher, whe This is the second book of the trilogy of autobiographical works of Frederick Buechner. While the first book explores his childhood experiences that leads to his conversion and calling, this book explorers how God was working and speaking and in through his vocation. I appreciated his insights gained from Seminary, where he learned two encounter God in the scriptures, even while treating them as a historical document. I appreciate his willingness to struggle with skeptics as a school teacher, where he encouraged people to ask tough questions. He offers particularly helpful insight in the area of Buddhism, differentiating between the goal of detachment from love for Buddha, verses they're willing, sacrificial, redemptive Love Of Christ. And lastly, it is helpful to learn from his major decisions through different phases of life, as he pursued his dream of writing, while also making a living in supporting a family. Through it all, he was listening for God's whispers through the people he met and the experiences he encountered.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Block

    This year (2020) I’m rereading the Frederich Buechner books in my library. I own six of them, written at various times in the 1970s into the 1990s. I last read through my Buechner books in 2015 and 2016. The second time through, I’m finding even more to like than when I first read them. Now and Then, another of Buechner’s autobiographical novels, documents three different periods in his life: 1) His years at Union Seminary in New York City; 2) His nine years on the faculty of Exeter Academy after This year (2020) I’m rereading the Frederich Buechner books in my library. I own six of them, written at various times in the 1970s into the 1990s. I last read through my Buechner books in 2015 and 2016. The second time through, I’m finding even more to like than when I first read them. Now and Then, another of Buechner’s autobiographical novels, documents three different periods in his life: 1) His years at Union Seminary in New York City; 2) His nine years on the faculty of Exeter Academy afterwards, and 3) his early years in Vermont, where he and his family moved after Exeter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Sue

    I picked this book up out of curiosity from one of the Strand NYC $1 carts. Without a doubt, it's one of the best books I've read this year: simply written, kind, thoughtful, and full of all kinds of graces: "What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup." I picked this book up out of curiosity from one of the Strand NYC $1 carts. Without a doubt, it's one of the best books I've read this year: simply written, kind, thoughtful, and full of all kinds of graces: "What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane Glen

    Guess I should have read the book that came before this first. An interesting insight into Buechner's life. Guess I should have read the book that came before this first. An interesting insight into Buechner's life.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jack Henry

    Not quite as good as Buechner's first memoir but still beautifully written and spiritually insightful. Not quite as good as Buechner's first memoir but still beautifully written and spiritually insightful.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stanley Turner

    The second book in the memoirs of Frederick Buechner. This work while good doesn’t quite reach the same level as his first work of his memoirs Sacred Journey. This one covers his period from seminary through his move to Vermont some 10 or so years later. Highly recommended...SLT

  21. 5 out of 5

    JUDITH

    This lyrical writer blends autobiography with religious reflections and personal doubts. Now and Then, published 1983, covers his New York seminary experiences, his time establishing a respected religious department at Exeter and the years that followed in rural Vermont as he carved out a writing career. One is left with the impression of a sensitive and humane man struggling with many of the issues that plague us all and finding in his living the grace which sustains, the good news he seeks to This lyrical writer blends autobiography with religious reflections and personal doubts. Now and Then, published 1983, covers his New York seminary experiences, his time establishing a respected religious department at Exeter and the years that followed in rural Vermont as he carved out a writing career. One is left with the impression of a sensitive and humane man struggling with many of the issues that plague us all and finding in his living the grace which sustains, the good news he seeks to share.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Edie

    Picking up where The Sacred Journey left off, Now and Then continues Buechner's autobiography. Evocative writing describes scenes and people and emotions with startling clarity. Littered with perceptive insights, this is an excellent follow-up. Picking up where The Sacred Journey left off, Now and Then continues Buechner's autobiography. Evocative writing describes scenes and people and emotions with startling clarity. Littered with perceptive insights, this is an excellent follow-up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    This was the first book I ever read by Buechner, although I started reading Godric half a dozen years ago and stalled after a relatively short time. But I found the autobiographical "Now and Then" fascinating and simply a pleasure to read. I found the period of history he dealt with very interesting (the 1950's to the 1970's) because that was my own life from birth to adulthood but was Buchner's life from early adulthood to middle age and he provides some valuable insights regarding the intellec This was the first book I ever read by Buechner, although I started reading Godric half a dozen years ago and stalled after a relatively short time. But I found the autobiographical "Now and Then" fascinating and simply a pleasure to read. I found the period of history he dealt with very interesting (the 1950's to the 1970's) because that was my own life from birth to adulthood but was Buchner's life from early adulthood to middle age and he provides some valuable insights regarding the intellectual climates during that period. For instance I found the existence and prominence of the "negos" in a religious school in New Hampshire in the late 50's to be surprising and interesting (I had never heard of them - he says their hero's (if they admitted to any) were "Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsburg, Jules Feiffer, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, and Ayn Rand." He also provides a fascinating look at Union Theological Seminary at which he learned under the likes of Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, James Muilenburg, Samuel Terrien, and others. I was also surprised at some of his stories of those days and the way they expressed faith. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Buechner and as a window on the theological/cultural winds of the middle age 1900's. There is much more, especially of his thoughts on "vocation" which of course is what it is mainly about - set against the backdrop of America during that time. I have started Godric again and now found the first chapter delightful! I don't know what the difference is except that now I have been properly introduced to Buechner.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kim Buchanan

    The second in Buechner's four-volume autobiography. This one covers his seminary years, his nine years of teaching at Exeter (establishing the religion department there), and settling into the writing life in Vermont (where he still lives). This book hangs together better, feels more focused than the first volume, "The Sacred Journey." But isn't that the way of things? As a child, we take experiences as they come to us. Because we haven't lived much of life, we're unable to distinguish the really The second in Buechner's four-volume autobiography. This one covers his seminary years, his nine years of teaching at Exeter (establishing the religion department there), and settling into the writing life in Vermont (where he still lives). This book hangs together better, feels more focused than the first volume, "The Sacred Journey." But isn't that the way of things? As a child, we take experiences as they come to us. Because we haven't lived much of life, we're unable to distinguish the really important, pivotal events from the everyday. Thus, Buechner's first book feels a little "rambly." I realize now that in book, he was trying to find the important strands. (For instance, as a child, he doesn't yet know just how pivotal an event his father's suicide was...that will come--I think--in the next volume.) Finds them, he does in "Now and Then." It is in seminary that Buechner's loves for ministry, teaching, and writing come together to form his vocation, a vocation he lives out by (1) being ordained, (2) teaching, and (3) writing fiction. While Buechner still questions, not his calling, but how exactly to live it out, he writes with much more confidence here. Descriptions of his time at Union Seminary in NY and the brief "backstory" descriptions of his first novels--very engaging.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I read the third of Buechner's autobiographical trilogy as an assignment for a course when I was an undergraduate. 14 years later, I have now read the other two books in the set. I remember being quite moved by Telling Secrets, but this book was my favorite of the three. He has a beautiful way of finding the narrative and the grace in the people, settings, and events of his life, which I found very instructive. In this book, he also tells how the other books that he has written grew out of the d I read the third of Buechner's autobiographical trilogy as an assignment for a course when I was an undergraduate. 14 years later, I have now read the other two books in the set. I remember being quite moved by Telling Secrets, but this book was my favorite of the three. He has a beautiful way of finding the narrative and the grace in the people, settings, and events of his life, which I found very instructive. In this book, he also tells how the other books that he has written grew out of the different elements of his life, which was much appreciated as I like his fiction even more than I like his non-fiction. I think this book also particularly resonated with me because Buechner is an introvert and a student of theology, which he writes about a fair bit in two of the chapters. One of my favorite quotes from the book: If you have to choose between words that mean more than what you have experienced and words that mean less, choose the ones that mean less because that way you leave room for your hearers to move around in and for yourself to move around in too.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Scott Harris

    This book is a must read for people who feel overwhelmed by the sense that God might be calling them to something more. It is a refreshing account that can speak to those who are confused, inadequate, undecided and hesitant. This is the second in Buechner's trilogy of autobiographical writings, capturing the bulk of his adult life. In his typical style, it is well written and easy to read. His candor is however the true joy. It reveals the inner thoughts, fears and insecurities of his journey to This book is a must read for people who feel overwhelmed by the sense that God might be calling them to something more. It is a refreshing account that can speak to those who are confused, inadequate, undecided and hesitant. This is the second in Buechner's trilogy of autobiographical writings, capturing the bulk of his adult life. In his typical style, it is well written and easy to read. His candor is however the true joy. It reveals the inner thoughts, fears and insecurities of his journey to ordination and his subsequent ministry. It is peppered with remembrances of legendary theologians and the contributions they made that reach well-beyond their ideas. It recounts Buechner's experiences of faith in a generation hostile to religion and his ability to find a ministry that came to life through his passions, not at their expense. There are many memorable quotes in ths book, but my favorite is found at the very beginning as the author describes his decision to be a Christian. He writes: 'To become a Christian sounds like an achievement, like becoming a millionaire. I thought of it rather, and think o fit still, more as a lucky break, a step in the right direction." (4).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Strohschein

    This brief book records Frederick Buechner's life from his time at Union Theological Seminary to his vocation as a writer in Vermont. It is divided into three sections, places that left a deep imprint upon Buechner - New York, Exeter and Vermont. The most engrossing section for me was the first, as Buechner discusses his days in seminary and his professors, among whom included luminaries of liberal Christianity, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. I feel a certain kindred spirit with Buechner as This brief book records Frederick Buechner's life from his time at Union Theological Seminary to his vocation as a writer in Vermont. It is divided into three sections, places that left a deep imprint upon Buechner - New York, Exeter and Vermont. The most engrossing section for me was the first, as Buechner discusses his days in seminary and his professors, among whom included luminaries of liberal Christianity, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. I feel a certain kindred spirit with Buechner as he felt called to be a writer, something I think I have some skill (but no discipline!) at. Buechner spends a lot of time reflecting on writing and his own works. I also learned some fascinating things about Buechner's personal life, including the fact that he met Princess Margaret and that his wife was George Merck's daughter. Something that I noticed since I read "Under the Unpredictable Plant" recently is that whereas Eugene Peterson says good novelists look outside themselves to craft their stories and characters, Buechner states that he relies much on his own experience.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Buechner's Now and Then: a memoir of vocation, was an evocative autobiography and a good book for where I'm at right now. Buechner writes from the point of view of a man in his fifties looking back over the choices of his life and searching to find the role of God in and through his life. The little details, as they do in biographies, fade away and in the narrative that is left often there are revelations to be seen. Though not providing a clear explanation of the obvious meaning of his life in Buechner's Now and Then: a memoir of vocation, was an evocative autobiography and a good book for where I'm at right now. Buechner writes from the point of view of a man in his fifties looking back over the choices of his life and searching to find the role of God in and through his life. The little details, as they do in biographies, fade away and in the narrative that is left often there are revelations to be seen. Though not providing a clear explanation of the obvious meaning of his life in the greater narrative of humanity, if such a thing is possible for anyone, Buechner infuses his story with vitality that brings meaning to the small things. Whether he chose the best course for his life or not is a question that he mentions but does not consider it worth time thinking about. His life is what it is and within it he finds grace and love and the suspicion that it is an integral part of a greater story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pat Loughery

    One of Frederick Buechner's memoirs, Now and Then is an honest look at his various intermingled vocations of minister and writer. If you've read other Buechner, whether fiction or nonfiction, you'll enjoy this story from behind the scenes. If not, you'll also enjoy a good memoir from a kind and creative soul. Of particular interest are Buechner's comparisons of love in Christianity and Buddhism; and Buechner's interaction with Agnes Sanford, one of the wonderful lay leaders of healing prayer in t One of Frederick Buechner's memoirs, Now and Then is an honest look at his various intermingled vocations of minister and writer. If you've read other Buechner, whether fiction or nonfiction, you'll enjoy this story from behind the scenes. If not, you'll also enjoy a good memoir from a kind and creative soul. Of particular interest are Buechner's comparisons of love in Christianity and Buddhism; and Buechner's interaction with Agnes Sanford, one of the wonderful lay leaders of healing prayer in the past century.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric Black

    As I was promised, Buechner's writing is full of quotables and "mullables." This second of three memoirs tells of his journey from writer to seminarian to minister to writer again. I plan to use this memoir as a textbook for new seminarians just beginning their foray into vocational ministry and who may be asking some of the same questions Buechner asked of himself, of his life, and of God. Now and Then is an easy and quick read. Here and there, to borrow a phrase, he gives background to several of As I was promised, Buechner's writing is full of quotables and "mullables." This second of three memoirs tells of his journey from writer to seminarian to minister to writer again. I plan to use this memoir as a textbook for new seminarians just beginning their foray into vocational ministry and who may be asking some of the same questions Buechner asked of himself, of his life, and of God. Now and Then is an easy and quick read. Here and there, to borrow a phrase, he gives background to several of his other writing ventures.

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