AND IT WAS GOOD by Madeleine L'Engle ($15)

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Most of the literature on Genesis and creation emphasizes what was created, and how. But in And It Was Good, Madeleine L'Engle casts long, loving, and perceptive glances not only at the created universe but at its Creator as well. At every level she sees the connections between Made and Maker, and in the vast beauty, order, and complexity of our world she observes many of the characteris- tics of God, the First Poet.

Just as L'Engle learns about God from his book, Genesis, we learn about this human author from her book, And It Was Good. She too is a creator and poet, and her reflections on early chapters of the first book of the Bible radiate the intuitive insights of her keen mind, a luminous view of her own world, and the warmth of her large heart.

"Much of THE BOOK of Genesis, particularly the early chapters with their unfolding of the creation narrative, is poetry. For years a persistent and hitherto unsolved question of mine has been, "Who was the poet of Genesis?" Was it the Lord God himself?. Or Moses, the scribe of the Pentateuch? Or the scholars of the past and present who have involved themselves in translating the ancient Hebrew manuscripts into ringing contemporary language versions?

I think Madeleine L'Engle has given me an answer. In developing her concept of co-creativity and co-creators she helps me to see how it is possible for God and man to work together - the primal impulse of God as Maker, First Poet of the universe (poet means, literally, maker), inspiriting, ingodding human thinking and imagination until the divine word becomes enfleshed and is expressed in human language. In the rhythmical, idiosyncratic syllables and phrases of Scripture are expressed not only the infinite truth of God and his purposes, but the specificity, the particularity, the singularity of articulate human beings made in God's image. The creative process is thus seen complete in Genesis--the rich, cyclical cadences of "God said, 'let there be'.., and it was so... and there was evening, and there was morning-- one day" flows from action to story and poetry in a co-creating that is both genuinely divine and authentically human.

For the story of Genesis is my story. It is not simply a fragmented, legendary account seen dimly through the vast distance of eons. It is utterly concrete, believeable, actual, because it touches on things I myself touch--oceans, islands, fur, wings, leaves, fruit, as well as wonder, beauty, temptation, sacrifice, pain, disobedience, repentance, and restitution. The fresh joy of Adam and Eve in a verdant paradise is my own joy as I walk in the Illinois woods in spring. After grabbing clumsily at what looks good to me, and even infecting others with my greed, I feel both shame and alienation from God, and then I am Eve--ashamed, and afraid of the Creator who has been my closest friend, running with Adam from the Garden, from the fierce cherubim, ducking and cringing before the thrusting sword that turns and flashes with holy fire. Eve's travail in child-bearing is my own--I have undergone it five timesmand her exultation in getting a child from the Lord has been multiplied in my own maternity.

I am not surprised at Madeleine's preoccupation with the glory of Eden, at her recognition of that which Jehovah declared good as it shines out in a million ways even from a creation flawed and broken by evil. Neither am I surprised at the satisfaction she finds in meditating on the diversity and beauty of the first creation--all freshly green, dew- soaked, fragrant, unpolluted. She and Hugh have their own Edenic spot at the foot of the pasture lands of Crosswicks, mossy, the light dappled with cool, leaf-shaped shadows even on the longest, hottest days of summer. This is Madeleine's being place, complete with brook and faithful dog, where, barefoot in the running water, she knows with all her senses the sharp delight of God's presence in creation. The reality of being herself made in God's image, a creator, rises in her there again and again, like sap in a tree every April.

In the intimacy of this small, tree-lined, private place, Madeleine finds time to examine the microcosm; and from the spreading, glacial rocks that crown a neighbor mountain, or from the top deck of a freighter at the foot of the world she begins to penetrate the mysteries of the macrocosm. From such vantage points she finds a true perspective to bring to the most tragic or glorious or fleeting or ordinary of life's circumstances. Hers is the way of affirmation, not negation, yet she neither avoids nor evades pain, paradox, or mystery, but balances them with the confidence, often defined as faith, that God will fulfill his promises, will bring explanation and understanding in his own time.

As we worked together through the intricacies of the manuscript of And It Was Good, time and time again I literally caught my breath at some of Madeleine's outrageous statements. "Madeleine, you can't say that!" I would explode, protesting the radical nature of her declarationsm radical in the true sense of digging for and baring root principles. But reading further, penetrating deeper, I would grasp the holy logic of her conclusions and find myself acknowledging, "You not only can say that, you should!" In commanding such commitment and focused attention from her readers and drawing them down the avenues of her thinking she seems to be echoing the stringent demands of the God who "asks us to listen even when what he asks of us seems most outrageous."

Perhaps Madeleine's most valuable insights surface as she reflects on the character of God, as Maker, Father-- sometimes implacable, never impassible--a stern Taskmaster, and a loving Provider who is with us in our suffering and shares in all our joy. It is he who undergirds Madeleine in her creating. It is he who is seen on every page of this book. And it is good." - from the Foreword by Luci Shaw

Madeleine L'Engle's many books are internationally recognized and appreciated. Her novel A Wrinkle in Time won the Newbery Award and A Swiftly Tilting Planet received the American Book Award. Other popular books from her pen include A Circle of Quiet, Walking on Water, A Severed Wasp, and The Weather of the Heart, a book of poems.

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