Better Than Blue Like Jazz

Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith by Judith Valente is a spiritual memoir by a Catholic writer.

While I’m not a Catholic, there were many parts of this book that I felt were valuable.

The cover and title reminded me of Blue Like Jazz. But to be candid, I felt this book was written far better and contained more insight and depth.

Protestants, for the most part, are afraid of silence. Yet Scripture talks about being silent before the Lord. Peter Toon’s work on this point is very good from a Protestant perspective.

Valente discusses the lessons she learned from a group of Benedictine nuns. Spiritual practices like silence, living mindfully and attentively, and spiritual conversation are covered with entertaining stories.

The spiritual lives of the Benedictine nuns Valente encountered and observed (in Atchinson, KS) provoked Valente to reflect on her own life. She describes how she was confronted about her own spirituality and made aware of several important self-disclosures. Namely, her fears, her regrets, and her dreams.

The book is candid and pensive. Valentine and the nuns are critical of much of modern thinking (especially in America regarding values of success and failure).

This is a good insight. Americans, by and large, have an unhealthy and unbiblical perspective on what makes a successful person. It’s usually measured by possessions – how big your house is, how new your car is, what kind of career you have, and of course, the $$$ you make.

Sigh.

Even so, from my own perspective, when we observe the spiritual lives of others who are ahead of us in certain areas, it casts an inspiring light on our own spiritual life.

We are motivated, provoked, and enlightened to push ahead.

This is why reading spiritual biographies are so important. Women and men need mentors . . . we need spiritual heroes.

We need inspiration and motivation for the journey.

This is what we find in Atchinson Blue. The story that Valente tells caused her to find new-found peace within her already spiritually committed life. And it offers to do the same for readers.

One cool phrase I gleaned from the Benedictines was “leisure deficit disorder,” which they believe many Americans suffer from.

One striking and pithy word of wisdom from one of the nuns was to learn how to “listen carefully, to love deeply, and to be willing to change as needed.”

This post is part of the sponsored Patheos Book Club.

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About Frank Viola

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