(Christine Valters Paintner, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, 2001, 173 pages.)
Christine Valters Paintner wants to change your life — in a good way. Macrina Wiederkehr, an actual monk (cloistered in Arkansas of all places), writes in the foreword that this book is an invitation to “spend twelve weeks in the cave of your heart, nurturing your creative soul, and sitting at the feet of your inner monk” (ix). Will you accept the invitation?
This book is a twelve-week course at the pace of one chapter per week. I am reminded of Julia Cameron’s transformative, twelve-week book The Artist’s Way, although Paintner is much more theological. A strong similarly between the two books is that both seek to unleash the inner creativity that is within every human being and that both require you to do the exercises, not merely read the text. One can certainly gain insights from simply reading the words on the page, but the true transformation comes from carving out the time and space to work through the creative prompts provided for each week. If you or a group you are a part of have worked through The Artist’s Way in the past, Paintner’s book could be a perfect continuing education course.
You may be asking, “Why twelve-weeks?” Paintner answers, “because it is the span of a season” (3). She helpfully, at this point, quotes a Rumi poem that, “What nine months of attention does for an embryo, forty early mornings will do for your gradually growing wholeness.” The number forty, of course, has strong biblical resonances from the days of Noah’s flood to the number of days Jesus spent in the desert following his baptism. But twelve weeks is 84 days, more than twice forty, more than double the days of Lent. The audacity of such a project reminds me of 2 Kings 2:9, which reads, “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.'” I began this review with the claim that this book could change your life. For those who have experienced the transformative power of the forty-day Lenten season, consider picking up Paintner’s book. Her twelve-week, self-guided course promises to nurture your creative soul with monastic wisdom — offering you potentially a double-share of God’s Spirit.
(This book review is part of a Roundtable on The Artist’s Rule at the Patheos Book Club. The Rev. Carl Gregg is the pastor of Broadview Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.)