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The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

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This memoir reflects on key moments of the author's early life, from childhood to his entering seminary, that reveal how God speaks to us in a variety of ways every moment of every day. This memoir reflects on key moments of the author's early life, from childhood to his entering seminary, that reveal how God speaks to us in a variety of ways every moment of every day.


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This memoir reflects on key moments of the author's early life, from childhood to his entering seminary, that reveal how God speaks to us in a variety of ways every moment of every day. This memoir reflects on key moments of the author's early life, from childhood to his entering seminary, that reveal how God speaks to us in a variety of ways every moment of every day.

30 review for The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I've finished my first Buechner, a birthday gift from a friend, and what a gift (both the words and the friend). Just after receiving The Sacred Journey, I heard a podcast guest on What Should I Read Next list this author as one of her all-time favorites. And just this week, after reading a large portion of the middle section of this lovely memoir, I heard another work of Buechner's (Whistling in the Dark) quoted on two different episodes of The Next Right Thing podcast. I understand the attenti I've finished my first Buechner, a birthday gift from a friend, and what a gift (both the words and the friend). Just after receiving The Sacred Journey, I heard a podcast guest on What Should I Read Next list this author as one of her all-time favorites. And just this week, after reading a large portion of the middle section of this lovely memoir, I heard another work of Buechner's (Whistling in the Dark) quoted on two different episodes of The Next Right Thing podcast. I understand the attention. This book is a telling, in three parts, of Buechner's life as he comes to faith in Christ. I was drawn in completely with the titles of these three sections: Once Below a Time, Once Upon a Time, and Beyond Time. Buechner's descriptive abilities are filled with such detail and honesty that as I think of this book and as I will certainly continue to think of it, the memories he wrote about will seem like my own, so much did he draw the scenes for me. I'm off now to get my hands on one of the many books I get to discover in this has-to-be rich backlist.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This was insightful, uncommonly honest, and beautiful. I couldn't put the book down, but had to, twice, before finishing the mere 112 pages (3 chapters called "Once Below a Time, Once Upon a Time, and Beyond Time"). I will not share any of the story, so as not to ruin any of it for future readers; however, if you long to journey well, you will be encouraged by this autobiographical work which has at its core, an interest in helping others to know faith, hope and love in this lost world. I can't sa This was insightful, uncommonly honest, and beautiful. I couldn't put the book down, but had to, twice, before finishing the mere 112 pages (3 chapters called "Once Below a Time, Once Upon a Time, and Beyond Time"). I will not share any of the story, so as not to ruin any of it for future readers; however, if you long to journey well, you will be encouraged by this autobiographical work which has at its core, an interest in helping others to know faith, hope and love in this lost world. I can't say it better than a review from Christian Century, "Reveals the ultimate goodness of things ... A book filled with wonders."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Choat

    In the introduction to this memoir, Buechner says that he has determined “to try to describe my own life…in the hope that such glimmers of theological truth as I believed I had glimpsed in it would shine through…” because “if God speaks to us at all in this world…it is into our personal lives that he speaks.” Rather than attempting to reconstruct a perfectly linear narrative of his early life, the author shares word-snapshots, pictures of particular people and places and days, some of which were In the introduction to this memoir, Buechner says that he has determined “to try to describe my own life…in the hope that such glimmers of theological truth as I believed I had glimpsed in it would shine through…” because “if God speaks to us at all in this world…it is into our personal lives that he speaks.” Rather than attempting to reconstruct a perfectly linear narrative of his early life, the author shares word-snapshots, pictures of particular people and places and days, some of which were clearly momentous at the time, but more of which he realized only later as being significant milestones or turning points. He recounts, with candor, humor and the clarity of hindsight, events which shaped him and directed his journey through childhood to young adulthood; and in so doing, shares his particular perspective on many of the rites of passage common to us all. Reading these pages is, indeed, as Buechner puts it, “like looking through someone else’s photograph album…somewhere among all those shots of people you never knew and places you never saw, you may come across something or someone you recognize…may even catch a glimpse of yourself.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is the most thought-provoking and encouraging book I have read in quite some time. What a writer. So many of the experiences (mostly "ah ha" moments, really) that Buechner shares resonate with my soul. I marked so many pages. I must read more of Frederick Buechner's writing. This is the most thought-provoking and encouraging book I have read in quite some time. What a writer. So many of the experiences (mostly "ah ha" moments, really) that Buechner shares resonate with my soul. I marked so many pages. I must read more of Frederick Buechner's writing.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ansley Medlicott

    No words can describe his writing that stirs memories and echoes in my soul I did not know were there. This book is a gift.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marty

    I was given this book by my brother-in-law, who has me figured out well. This is a beautiful memoir and does truly tell, not one man's story, but the story of many. Buechner's descriptions are sensual and rich. They draw vivid lines and yet feel like dreams. I'm so glad I finally got into this book. I started it on a reading-adventure-day in the sun with a friend. And so I will, gratefully, be able to tie it in my memory to both people in my life. One powerful selection that rung me on self refl I was given this book by my brother-in-law, who has me figured out well. This is a beautiful memoir and does truly tell, not one man's story, but the story of many. Buechner's descriptions are sensual and rich. They draw vivid lines and yet feel like dreams. I'm so glad I finally got into this book. I started it on a reading-adventure-day in the sun with a friend. And so I will, gratefully, be able to tie it in my memory to both people in my life. One powerful selection that rung me on self reflection and understanding: "But to lose track of those depths to the extent that I was inclined to--to lose track of the deep needs beyond our own needs and those of our closest friends; to lose track of the deep mystery beyond or at the heart of the mystery of our separate selves--is to lose track also of what our journey is a journey toward and of the sacredness and high adventure of our journey."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    It's been a while since I stayed up through the night to complete a book. The Sacred Journey was the perfect one for me to read during this time of "lenten lack" as I guess you could call it—no TV, no YouTube, none of the usual stuff I use to distract myself. It forces me to confront the quiet; but Buechner has a better phrase: he endorses the regular exercise of listening to your life. He gives us just a handful of pages and all are beautifully expressed—it's Buechner after all—and yes, it's mem It's been a while since I stayed up through the night to complete a book. The Sacred Journey was the perfect one for me to read during this time of "lenten lack" as I guess you could call it—no TV, no YouTube, none of the usual stuff I use to distract myself. It forces me to confront the quiet; but Buechner has a better phrase: he endorses the regular exercise of listening to your life. He gives us just a handful of pages and all are beautifully expressed—it's Buechner after all—and yes, it's memoir-ish. More than anything it's about his slow climb into Christ's arms. I guess I wasn't expecting that (even though I should have), and came away encouraged by it. I appreciate how he pulls all the audio clips from his early life together; how he doesn't try to justify the odd, tiny moments that were significant to him. We know why they were significant: They calcified a belief and relationship with Christ he danced around for 27 years, a turning point so important he sets it as the last thought the book—coupled with a poetic turn of phrase, though, because he can't help himself. I loved that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    The Sacred Journey is memoir, poetry and philosophy in one slim novel and I loved it! Buechner’s book is messy- somewhat disjointed feeling, and yet beautiful and touching. The seeming unorganized stories come together much like real life does… where big moments hardly matter and the small, seemingly unimportant, conversations can change everything. Buechner tries, and I think succeeds, in using his own life (filled with very real pain- like his Father’s suicide) to show the humanity and great j The Sacred Journey is memoir, poetry and philosophy in one slim novel and I loved it! Buechner’s book is messy- somewhat disjointed feeling, and yet beautiful and touching. The seeming unorganized stories come together much like real life does… where big moments hardly matter and the small, seemingly unimportant, conversations can change everything. Buechner tries, and I think succeeds, in using his own life (filled with very real pain- like his Father’s suicide) to show the humanity and great journey we all have in common. His spirituality is not overbearing, it is honest and real, while at the same time rooted and sound. I found myself extremely encouraged in my own journey of faith because of this book. At first, I was a little put off by his over-thought and extreme poetic style of writing. I felt like he was wasting words and beating around the bush until, almost as if he read my thoughts he says “…I started to sense that words not only convey something, but are something; that words have color, depth, texture of their own, and the power to evoke vastly more than they mean; that words can be used not merely to make things clear, make things vivid, make things interesting and whatever else, but to make things happen inside the one who reads them or hears them.” (P. 68) and then it sort of clicked for me. This memoir isn’t simply a retelling of his major life moments, it is actually an attempt to explain and paint humanity and the vast array of feelings and emotions that entails. After reading that quote, I sort of relaxed and sat back to enjoy the ride and let the book just take me wherever he was going. One thing that is amazing to me is how optimistic Buechner is, despite the harshness of his life and his emotionally under-developed family. I found this paragraph particularly beautiful: “To do for yourself the best that you have in you to do -To grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst- is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from. You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own.” (P. 46) Adding these quotes to my review do not spoil this book, as I could never convey the art that is found here by chopping out little portions, and I could copy down a number of other amazing paragraphs, but I will leave that up to the individual to read- or borrow my underlined copy, but I do want to end with the message that Buechner himself ended with. After becoming a Christian and later deciding to attend seminary he says: “It was a long way to go, and there is no question but that there is a vastly longer way to go still, for all of us, before we are done. And the way we have to go is full of perils, both from without and from within, and who can say for sure what we will find at the end of our journeys, or if, when that time comes, it will prove to be anything more than such a beautiful dream… Faith. Hope. Love-- As words so worn out, but as realities so rich. Our going-away presents from beyond time to carry with us through time to lighten our step as we go. And part at least of the wisdom of the third one [Love] is… ‘Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.’ Above all, never question the truth beyond all understanding and surpassing all other wonders. That in the long run nothing, not even the world, not even ourselves, can separate us forever from that last and deepest love that glimmers in our dusk like a pearl, like a face. “ (P. 112) So well said, and more importantly, so true! Buechner basically promises that becoming a Christian is not the end of your journey, nor is it the beginning; it is just part of the whole of what God is doing in your life and in the lives of others. We aren’t done ye and this side of heaven, we never will be. Beautiful.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Mcgregor

    This is a short book of Buechners upbringing and he remembers many of the happenings that formed his life. He does not go into great detail about his whole childhood but is very selective. It is interesting the details he remembers about how he felt and thought although he says it is hard at 30, 40, or 50 to exactly remember how you felt at 16. He waits until the last two pages to tell how everything in his life reached the culmination of him finding himself changed by some sort of faith in Chri This is a short book of Buechners upbringing and he remembers many of the happenings that formed his life. He does not go into great detail about his whole childhood but is very selective. It is interesting the details he remembers about how he felt and thought although he says it is hard at 30, 40, or 50 to exactly remember how you felt at 16. He waits until the last two pages to tell how everything in his life reached the culmination of him finding himself changed by some sort of faith in Christ. He tells it better than I but he indeed struggles to tell it because he wants to avoid cliched expressions. What I really enjoy is his retelling of his life he reads so deeply into it that I am tempted to remember my sacred journey and maybe write it. I have recommended this book to two friends who are reading it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Ritter

    Buechner assumes that, "the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all." For that reason, he writes a memoir that doesn't fall into the genre's trap of overindulgence or braggadocio. Doing as he implores us to do, he looks back on his life to find the blessings he missed or half forgot. Buechner relays not only milestone highlights but also mundane lowlights and trifling no-lights that prove to be as significant in shaping him. He dwells longest on episodes that provoke him to Buechner assumes that, "the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all." For that reason, he writes a memoir that doesn't fall into the genre's trap of overindulgence or braggadocio. Doing as he implores us to do, he looks back on his life to find the blessings he missed or half forgot. Buechner relays not only milestone highlights but also mundane lowlights and trifling no-lights that prove to be as significant in shaping him. He dwells longest on episodes that provoke him to reflect on more than the happenings. He's adept at extrapolating from specifics to generalities. His recollections of childhood are especially profound. The short book is laden with meaningful truths. Consider this nugget: "To do for yourself the best you have it in you to do-to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst-is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power life itself comes from." We read autobiographies to learn about someone else. Sacred Journey is that rare sort of worthy autobiography through which we learn about ourselves and are reminded of our lives.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Kiedis

    Honesty, mystery, and certainty share a warm embrace in Buechner's The Sacred Journey. Buechner, now 95, wrote The Sacred Journey in his early fifties, a decade after The Alphabet of Grace. Whereas The Alphabet of Grace gives us a "day in the life of," The Sacred Journey attempts to "make something out of the hidden alphabet of the years." This is important. Because God is at work in our lives, we are not simply marking time, but are on a sacred journey. Buechner is looking back in order to look Honesty, mystery, and certainty share a warm embrace in Buechner's The Sacred Journey. Buechner, now 95, wrote The Sacred Journey in his early fifties, a decade after The Alphabet of Grace. Whereas The Alphabet of Grace gives us a "day in the life of," The Sacred Journey attempts to "make something out of the hidden alphabet of the years." This is important. Because God is at work in our lives, we are not simply marking time, but are on a sacred journey. Buechner is looking back in order to look ahead. He searches memories and moments, some shocking (his father's suicide) and some seemingly mundane and forgettable (the garbled blessing of a monk); he searches and listens for the voice of God. He speaks not just through the sounds we hear, of course, but through events in all their complexity and variety, through the harmonies and disharmonies and counterpoint of all that happens.Buechner gives us his life story in three movements: "Once Below a Time" (the period of childhood when timelessness reigns), "Once Upon a Time" (the moment and days when the fragility and temporality of life takes hold), "Beyond Time" (hearing the voice of God in the listening to one's life happening as part of [God's] plot for one's life). I mentioned that The Sacred Journey is honesty, mystery, and certainty. Here are examples: Honesty: "Concern for myself was the hallmark of those years. . . . I do not think that it occurred to me to me then to wonder much about the kind of person I was becoming or not becoming. I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I had no clear idea what I wanted to write about . . . I believe, apart from simply the great fun of it for me, [becoming a writer] was as much as anything to become famous enough not to have to explain to strangers how to pronounce my difficult last name. To be famous, it seemed to me, would be no longer to have to worry about explaining who I was even to myself because what fame meant was to be so known that in a sense I would no longer be a stranger to anybody." (pp. 89-90) Mystery: "I choose to believe that, from beyond time, a saving mystery breaks into our time at odd and unforeseeable moments . . . " (p. 96). The Sacred Journey is a chronicle of the mysteries of life, seemingly unknown, but never to God, and less to ourselves as we learn to listen to them. Certainty: "God was addressing me out of my life as he address us all" (p. 6) ... and "here at the end [of his memoir] I am left with no other way of saying it than that what I found finally was Christ. Or was found. It hardly seems to matter which. . . . I am reduce to the word that is his name because no other seems to account for the experience so fully." (pp. 110-111) Where Buechner has me scratching my head: I appreciate the ponderings of Buechner, I always glean from his writings, but some lines give cause for pause -- and a little concern: It seemed to me then, and seems to me still, that if God speaks to us at all in this world, if God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks." (p. 1) Certainly, Buechner points us to Scripture (albeit vaguely) from time-to-time, and I want to believe he does not elevate personal ponderings to the level of holy writ, otherwise he leaves me scratching my head as I did when a young college student told me years ago, that God told her what to wear -- every day. Happily, such is missing from the reflective "life pondering" of Frederick Buechner. My evaluation and recommendation: The Sacred Journey did not change my life, but it certainly get me thinking about my life -- about how God uses everyday moments, even seemingly benign moments, à la the pondering of Augur the pondering of Augur in Proverbs 30, to "speak" into my life. And the fact that God is intricately involved in every facet of life makes mine -- and yours -- a sacred journey. Should you read it? Of course. It's Buechner! Delightful passages: The weak power of self: "You can survive on your own. You can grow strong on your own. You can even prevail on your own. But you cannot become human on your own." p. 48. This entire page is worth a re-read. Buechner's descriptive powers: "And Grandma Buechner came too--like the Inspector General, we feared--came to run her white gloved finger over the upper edges and lower sills of our lives, checking for unreality and extravagance, came to dust off a Scharmann maxim or two." p. 51 The book in a sentence: "'For all thy blessings, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, we give thee thanks,' runs an old prayer, and it is for the all but unknown ones and the more than half-forgotten ones that we do well to look back over the journey of our lives because it is their presence that marks the life of each of us a sacred journey." p. 57 On words and vocation: But if a vocation is as much the work that chooses you as the work you choose, then I knew from that time on that my vocation was, for better or worse, to involve the searching for, and treasuring, and telling of secrets which is what the real business of words is all about." On memory: Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still." p. 21 His "Mrs. Everest" (an early and powerful influence on Winston Churchill): "[Mrs. Taylor] was my mentor, my miracle-worker, and the mother of much that I was and in countless unrecognized ways probably still am, yet I don't know where she came from or anything about her life apart from the few years of that she spent with us." pp. 13-14. Authors and books that shaped him: Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory,Donne, the Apostle Paul, Thomas Craven's A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, Gerald Manley Hopkins, writers of the 17th century: Sir Thomas Browne and Bishop Jeremy Taylor and John Doone; Paradise Lost

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Beautiful memoir of Buechner's early days. Tragedy and happiness are examined and treated lovingly as the gift they were. His lyrical descriptions evoke vivid imagery and sharp emotions. "...and it is for all unknown ones (blessings) and the more than half-forgotten ones that we do well to look back over the journeys of our lives because it is their presence that makes the life of each of us a sacred journey." "What quickens my pulse now is the stretch ahead rather than the one behind, and it is m Beautiful memoir of Buechner's early days. Tragedy and happiness are examined and treated lovingly as the gift they were. His lyrical descriptions evoke vivid imagery and sharp emotions. "...and it is for all unknown ones (blessings) and the more than half-forgotten ones that we do well to look back over the journeys of our lives because it is their presence that makes the life of each of us a sacred journey." "What quickens my pulse now is the stretch ahead rather than the one behind, and it is mainly for some clue to where I am going that I search through where I have been." "And it is because I believe that (that God was addressing me out of my life) that I think of my life and of the lives of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live, as not just journeys through time, but as sacred journeys." "There can be no real joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all.""Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders." (from the White Pearl to Rinkitink in the Oz books by Frank Baum, quoted by Buechner.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    Buechner looks back on his first 25 or so years and muses on the various happenings that shaped his journey to Christ. The journey is ill-defined, erratic, filled with ups and downs, big and small events, as is that of most of us. He is very candid about his failures and his fears, his family and confused aspirations. As such the book it probably reflects much more about how those who become believers without a dated crisis become true followers of Christ. The problem with Buechner, in more very Buechner looks back on his first 25 or so years and muses on the various happenings that shaped his journey to Christ. The journey is ill-defined, erratic, filled with ups and downs, big and small events, as is that of most of us. He is very candid about his failures and his fears, his family and confused aspirations. As such the book it probably reflects much more about how those who become believers without a dated crisis become true followers of Christ. The problem with Buechner, in more very jaundiced view, is his love of more classical language that bears the stamp of another era. He loves long convoluted sentences, extremely long paragraphs that make it difficult for a modern used to Twitter and Facebook and more punchy prose to wade through. And yet I found the book helpful and inspiring of reflection on my own life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donovan

    Just finished this short and wonderful memoir of Buechner's early days. He chronicles the sounds and words of his life - the simple memories that slowly pushed and pulled him towards the mystery of faith in his late twenties. He captures the tragedies of his early life and the small beauties that were found in there as well. He shares with us his heart and his journey and makes us think that we are not alone. He writes, "Listen. Your life is happening. You are happening. You back on your journey. Just finished this short and wonderful memoir of Buechner's early days. He chronicles the sounds and words of his life - the simple memories that slowly pushed and pulled him towards the mystery of faith in his late twenties. He captures the tragedies of his early life and the small beauties that were found in there as well. He shares with us his heart and his journey and makes us think that we are not alone. He writes, "Listen. Your life is happening. You are happening. You back on your journey. The music of your life..." All of our lives are telling a story and we are all on a journey. Let us all pause and listen to that journey and story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Megan S Spark

    "On All Saints' Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy saintho "On All Saints' Day, it is not just the saints of the church that we should remember in our prayers, but all the foolish ones and wise ones, the shy ones and overbearing ones, the broken ones and whole ones, the despots and tosspots and crackpots of our lives who, one way or another, have been our particular fathers and mothers and saints, and whom we loved without knowing we loved them and by whom we were helped to whatever little we may have, or ever hope to have, of some kind of seedy sainthood of our own."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Love the concepts and principles of his journey, and clearer direction perceived. But I am not a fan of the artsy, flowery prose style. It's decent Advent or Lent reading. Possibly empowering for contemplation toward a change of emphasis or direction in attentions from his life's example. It's old style lyrical. But I'm not sure that his young life would resonant much with the current young adult generation from the style of writing alone. Hope I'm wrong. Love the concepts and principles of his journey, and clearer direction perceived. But I am not a fan of the artsy, flowery prose style. It's decent Advent or Lent reading. Possibly empowering for contemplation toward a change of emphasis or direction in attentions from his life's example. It's old style lyrical. But I'm not sure that his young life would resonant much with the current young adult generation from the style of writing alone. Hope I'm wrong.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I've known for a while, originally secondhand and then with each of his books that I've read for myself, that Buechner is a great and profound author. This book is the one where I first realised that I love him as an author. From an academic standpoint, this is theology through autobiography. And in his command of the tools of writing, it is both beautiful and revelatory. I've known for a while, originally secondhand and then with each of his books that I've read for myself, that Buechner is a great and profound author. This book is the one where I first realised that I love him as an author. From an academic standpoint, this is theology through autobiography. And in his command of the tools of writing, it is both beautiful and revelatory.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dayspring

    This was the first book that brought me into the world of Buechner. Each time I read Buechner, I am struck by more than his characters, reflections, and stories (which are also incredible); mostly I am amazed by his beautiful way with the english language.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rick Hamlin

    Succinct, profound, elegant, inspiring. Other spiritual memoirs might be more dramatic or longer or hipper, but this one, written more than a generation ago, still holds its devastating power. The scenes in it, however short, stay in the mind forever. Transforming.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    This is a beautiful book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    A little verbose at many points,yet an enjoyable read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

    On the strength of this sentence alone, I’ll read more by him: “...in the long run, there can be no real joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all.”

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joe Henry

    Buechner's biggest first splash of literary work was a novel (A Long Day's Dying, 1950)...and a very successful one, by all accounts...and this 1982 work of non-fiction reads like a novel. When I read the text here, I imagine that he writes as if he were speaking...and speaking very well...telling his story in gripping fashion...in very long sentences (though not the infamous "run-on" variety, that you would say) and short...a mix, flowing naturally...cohesive. You might think, then, that having Buechner's biggest first splash of literary work was a novel (A Long Day's Dying, 1950)...and a very successful one, by all accounts...and this 1982 work of non-fiction reads like a novel. When I read the text here, I imagine that he writes as if he were speaking...and speaking very well...telling his story in gripping fashion...in very long sentences (though not the infamous "run-on" variety, that you would say) and short...a mix, flowing naturally...cohesive. You might think, then, that having heard him speak would be a help in "hearing" (imagining) him speak the words of the text. What I think I found, however, is that having read his text gives me a basis for imagining how he speaks, should I ever be so fortunate to hear him in person. That surely would be a treasure. His writing grows on you, in the sense that one seems to get with it and get more out of it with more and more repetitions. It impresses me as classic, in the sense that I recognize myself often in his expression of his experience--and you or anyone might as well. It reminds me of what someone said that we as humans are more alike than we are different. For an introduction, here's his first paragraph of the Introduction. See what you think. "About ten years ago I gave a set of lectures at Harvard in which I made the observation that all theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups and downs, its mysteries and loose ends, and expressing in logical, abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he believes he has found implicit there. More as a novelist than as a theologian, more concretely than abstractly, I determined to try to describe my own life as evocatively and candidly as I could in the hope that such glimmers of theological truth as I believed I had glimpsed in it would shine through my description more or less on their own. It seemed to me then, and seems to me still, that if God speaks to us at all in this world, if God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks. Someone we love dies, say. Some unforeseen act of kindness or cruelty touches the heart or makes the blood run cold. We fail a friend, or a friend fails us, and we are appalled at the capacity we all of us have for estranging the very people in our lives we need the most. Or maybe nothing extraordinary happens at all--just one day following another, helter-skelter, in the manner of days. We sleep and dream. We wake. We work. We remember and forget. We have fun and are depressed. And into the thick of it, or out of the thick of it, at moments of even the most humdrum of our days, God speaks. But what do I mean by saying that God speaks?" Can you hear his voice? What descriptive adjectives would you choose? Personal? Honest? Transparent? Worth a listen?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, writes in the Introduction, “I think of my life and of the lives of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live, as not just journeys through time but as sacred journeys.” He then sets himself the task of looking back over the first half of his life for “whatever meaning, of holiness, of God, there may be in it to hear.” So, The Sacred Journey is Buechner’s ‘spiritual autobiography,' a la EfM, of the first half of his life. I liked his project from the begin Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, writes in the Introduction, “I think of my life and of the lives of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live, as not just journeys through time but as sacred journeys.” He then sets himself the task of looking back over the first half of his life for “whatever meaning, of holiness, of God, there may be in it to hear.” So, The Sacred Journey is Buechner’s ‘spiritual autobiography,' a la EfM, of the first half of his life. I liked his project from the beginning—he is, after all, a great writer—but I was completely hooked when I really began to see myself in Buechner’s own story. (He suggests that “the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.”) When he describes his concern for himself as the “hallmark of those years [after his discharge from the Army and return to Princeton], I can so easily see myself. When he says that he wants to be a famous author because, “To be famous, it seemed to me, would be no longer to have to worry about explaining who I was even to myself because what fame meant was to be so known that in a sense I would no longer be a stranger to anybody,” I hear my own longing to want to be known so that I might know myself. And, when he declares that, because of his discharge from the Army, he came “through the war [World War II] relatively unscathed when many a braver and better had not come through at all,” I am slapped in the face with my coming through the ‘90s and AIDS relatively unscathed when many better than I didn’t come through at all. His vulnerability in revealing himself makes me feel less alone in the world. He also compares writing a novel to life, finding that, like a novel, “perhaps life itself has a plot—that the events of our lives, random and witless as they generally seem, have a shape and direction of their own, are seeking to show us something, to lead us somewhere.” Wouldn’t that be great?!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ba

    Probably one of the most articulate writers I've encountered-someone who has thought patiently and been rewarded with humility and wisdom. "there can be no real joy for anybody until there is finally joy for us all" p.97 & p. 10-11: What I knew then, without knowing that I knew, was that to see the dusk, the fireflies, the green lawn, in their truth and fullness is to see them, as a child does, already clothed with timelessness, already freighted with all the aeons still to come during which the Probably one of the most articulate writers I've encountered-someone who has thought patiently and been rewarded with humility and wisdom. "there can be no real joy for anybody until there is finally joy for us all" p.97 & p. 10-11: What I knew then, without knowing that I knew, was that to see the dusk, the fireflies, the green lawn, in their truth and fullness is to see them, as a child does, already clothed with timelessness, already freighted with all the aeons still to come during which they and everything else that ever was will continue eternally to be what has been[...] Resulted in some interesting minor changes in my thinking: on the poet's preoccupation with death (what quickens the heart) and what Buechner brilliantly notes: our love even for the people we hate or torment us or don't particularly care for on p.73: they make up part of the landscape of our lives - we will miss them - we recognize something universal in our experience and theirs. Then the idea in "beyond time" of our lives as novelistic - his description of our lack of sense in terms of ability to assess events as important or not - small events in retrospect hefty, full of importance. Buechner's rendering of his moments of shame - the call from a distraught friend, the failure to act during the training simulation and after during the discharge ceremony - were powerful. When Buechner writes with exuberance, we feel it! When he describes charged moments like these, he does so sparingly...an excellent writer and thoughtful meditations, so valuable to read. He understands the absurdity of life, but communicates so well his gratefulness and has such a keen way of finding beauty. Thinking about on p.47 his discussion on the difficulty of the strong/weathered (or rich) man's difficulty in receiving a gift. The unclenching of a fist.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    ...”my friend’s broken voice on the phone was a voice calling me out into that dangerous world not simply for his sake, as I suddenly saw it, but also for my sake. The shattering revelation of that moment was that true peace, the high and bidding peace that passeth all understanding, is to be had not in retreat from the battle, but only in the thick of the battle. To journey for the sake of saving our own lives is little by little to cease to live in any sense that really matters, even to oursel ...”my friend’s broken voice on the phone was a voice calling me out into that dangerous world not simply for his sake, as I suddenly saw it, but also for my sake. The shattering revelation of that moment was that true peace, the high and bidding peace that passeth all understanding, is to be had not in retreat from the battle, but only in the thick of the battle. To journey for the sake of saving our own lives is little by little to cease to live in any sense that really matters, even to ourselves, because it is only by journeying for the world’s sake - even when the world bores and sickens and scares you half to death - that little by little we start to come alive. It was not a conclusion that I came to in time. It was a conclusion from beyond time that came to me. God knows I have never been any good at following the road it pointed me to, but at least, by grace, I glimpsed the road and saw that it is the only one worth traveling.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Lovely message, but I came in not expecting a memoir but more meat. I loved the introduction best for that reason- which was lovely: “Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowel, and in that sense his words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in he vowels, for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster.” “Deep within history, as it gets itself written down in history books and newspapers, in the Lovely message, but I came in not expecting a memoir but more meat. I loved the introduction best for that reason- which was lovely: “Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowel, and in that sense his words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in he vowels, for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster.” “Deep within history, as it gets itself written down in history books and newspapers, in the letters we write and in the diaries we keep, is sacred history, is God’s purpose working itself out in the apparent purposelessness of human history, in short, of the saving and losing of souls, including our own.” “...through which glimpsed, however dimly and fleetingly, the sacredness of your own journey.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This was the cover. I read it in pb. Rec from LU article class reads. Any story of someone not raised in a faith that discovers God's hand in their past will always hook me. His writing style was difficult for me to get. But he noticed their were "moments" in his past, recognized them as "gifts" and determined there must be a "Giver" and that is faith. I liked that. Also those things are at once both "chance" things AND "God's things." "There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak." "I do This was the cover. I read it in pb. Rec from LU article class reads. Any story of someone not raised in a faith that discovers God's hand in their past will always hook me. His writing style was difficult for me to get. But he noticed their were "moments" in his past, recognized them as "gifts" and determined there must be a "Giver" and that is faith. I liked that. Also those things are at once both "chance" things AND "God's things." "There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak." "I do not know why it is that we remember so much about some of the small decisions of our lives and so little about most of the great ones."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I enjoy this short little memoir and its reflections on coming to a greater awareness of God, time, reality, relationships, and how to move through all this in one's imperfect humanity. The particular ways in which Buchner marks pivotal moments in his growth and development– often tied to family tragedy– was inspiring, leading me to consider similar turning points in my own life. A good book that I'd recommend to friends looking for an easy, engaging, yet deep encouragement to consider anew thei I enjoy this short little memoir and its reflections on coming to a greater awareness of God, time, reality, relationships, and how to move through all this in one's imperfect humanity. The particular ways in which Buchner marks pivotal moments in his growth and development– often tied to family tragedy– was inspiring, leading me to consider similar turning points in my own life. A good book that I'd recommend to friends looking for an easy, engaging, yet deep encouragement to consider anew their own life journey.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    “Only in my middle age did it become real enough for me to weep real tears…and to see better…who it was I was weeping for and who I was that was weeping.” Beuchner has a poet’s gift, adding rich philosophical musings that are Biblically grounded. This is his most personally difficult, finally beautiful journey. I love this writer. for the books on this shelf I don't have dates, but I started my research in 2011 thru to about 2014 to gather an idea of what's out there already related to what was m “Only in my middle age did it become real enough for me to weep real tears…and to see better…who it was I was weeping for and who I was that was weeping.” Beuchner has a poet’s gift, adding rich philosophical musings that are Biblically grounded. This is his most personally difficult, finally beautiful journey. I love this writer. for the books on this shelf I don't have dates, but I started my research in 2011 thru to about 2014 to gather an idea of what's out there already related to what was moving me to write.

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