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Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

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In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to cr In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art.


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In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to cr In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What makes art Christian? What does it mean to be a Christian artist? What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art.

30 review for Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura Baugh

    This book was recommended to me and I ordered it from the library promptly; I'd liked reading Madeleine L'Engle, and I've often discoursed on the relation of faith and art. I was a bit disconcerted when the book arrived, however; it was a smaller volume than I'd expected, and when I started reading, it seemed rambling, disorganized, and not terribly helpful. Had I found the low point of L'Engle's work? As a writer and a Christian, I have of course been challenged -- internally and externally -- by This book was recommended to me and I ordered it from the library promptly; I'd liked reading Madeleine L'Engle, and I've often discoursed on the relation of faith and art. I was a bit disconcerted when the book arrived, however; it was a smaller volume than I'd expected, and when I started reading, it seemed rambling, disorganized, and not terribly helpful. Had I found the low point of L'Engle's work? As a writer and a Christian, I have of course been challenged -- internally and externally -- by the unfortunately common, "But you should do Christian art!" Trouble is, I really dislike most modern "Christian art," which is almost entirely knock-off sellout schlock. (The art of previous eras has been filtered by time so that better examples are preserved, which helps.) My own arguments that all Truth is of God, and real art is Christian, even if it shows only a part of the story, were valid to me but incomplete. As I got further into this book, however, I began to find it more and more relevant. L'Engle takes risks in telling us of her own journey in discovering truths of art, and she takes some potentially unpopular stands on the nature of art and its audiences. She defends "art" as something just as vital or more so than science (while simultaneously emphasizing the glorious art and truth of science), she points out the differences between fact and truth, she talks about the artist's experience of losing control of both oneself and one's story, including the (oh so familiar!) disconcerting sensation of having the characters take over and do something wholly unplanned and incontrovertible. She also challenges both artists of all varieties and the complacent Christian community in fulfilling our roles as co-creators in the image of God, honoring truth and story, and allowing ourselves to serve the story. I found myself pausing at periods to ruminate on what I'd just read, and I suspect I'll be buying a copy of this to keep for myself. It's for Christian artists, yes, but it's also for Christians, for artists, for anyone who enjoys art of any form, and for any open-minded person seeking truth in the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    This book is an intuitive artist’s dream. Incredibly beautiful, insightful, and inspiring. I listened to it on audio and before I was even halfway done, I ordered a hardcover so I could re-read it and underline it liberally.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dale Harcombe

    I remember the first time I read Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art. It was an eye-opener for me – and a book I became completely absorbed in. Since then it has been read numerous times. It is one book of mine that has multiple paragraphs and sentences highlighted or underlined as well as pages turned down at the corners. Yes that’s shocking I know to some people but that‘s what I do when a book is a useful tool. This book certainly was for me. Some of the pages are so highlighted, i I remember the first time I read Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art. It was an eye-opener for me – and a book I became completely absorbed in. Since then it has been read numerous times. It is one book of mine that has multiple paragraphs and sentences highlighted or underlined as well as pages turned down at the corners. Yes that’s shocking I know to some people but that‘s what I do when a book is a useful tool. This book certainly was for me. Some of the pages are so highlighted, it is mostly all blue or yellow or whatever colour highlighter was to hand at the time. Much of the yellow highlighter has faded over the years but the message of the book has not faded. This book, as the title suggests, in not specifically about writing as it deals with various forms of art. In it Madeleine L’Engle, one of my favourite writers, talks about the need of the artist to be ’obedient to the work.’ That means not being prescriptive about being in control and trying to make the work go the way we want it to but being open to let the work dictate the story and form. At a conference a woman said to Madeleine L’Engle about her Newbery winning A Wrinkle in Time. ‘I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was eight or nine. I didn’t understand I, but knew what it was about’ Madeline L’Engle goes on to say, ’As long as we know what it’s about, then can have the courage to go wherever we are asked to go, even if we fear the road may take us through danger and pain.’ For some of us that may mean drawing on memories we would rather not dredge up or being ready to take a risk in our writing or trusting that the work knows what is needed better sometimes than our rational mind does. ‘The artist must be obedient to the body of the work, knowing that this involves long hours of research, of throwing out a month’s work, of going back to the beginning, or, sometimes scrapping the whole thing.’ Or how about this one a few sentences later, ‘when the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening.’ How often have you had someone see something in your work that you were unaware of yourself? Or that you didn’t know you felt until or remembered or held that view until after the words were written down? I don’t feel I can give an adequate review of this book. It’s one each of us needs to read for ourselves. I wrote most of this review for another blog but once I had the book out from the bookcase, I couldn't help but re-read it. It's still an absorbing book that has a lot to say about the writing craft, particularly when combined with a stance of faith. One last quote to leave you with - ’When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. But before he can listen, paradoxically he must work. Getting out of the way and listening is not something that comes easily, either in art or in prayer.’ These words are worth thinking seriously about. As in any Madeleine L’Engle book I find there are lines that will challenge thinking and some aspects I will disagree with. That doesn’t matter because at least it has challenged me and got me thinking about the question enough to formulate my own response. First published in 1980, this book is still as relevant, insightful and encouraging or challenging, today as it was when I first read it. I hope I’ve convinced some of you who haven’t read it, to give it a go and I’d love to hear your responses to it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Trying to encompass all my thoughts and feelings about this book would take...well, a book. Or some approximation thereof. This is my second time reading it and I find that once again it reaches and touches me on so many levels. I find joy here, and inspiration; the book *makes* me want to write. It gives me fuel, or refuels me, if you will. I am reminded of the adventures that unfold in both life and art when we take the time to simply *listen* to the story, to the vision, the photograph, the a Trying to encompass all my thoughts and feelings about this book would take...well, a book. Or some approximation thereof. This is my second time reading it and I find that once again it reaches and touches me on so many levels. I find joy here, and inspiration; the book *makes* me want to write. It gives me fuel, or refuels me, if you will. I am reminded of the adventures that unfold in both life and art when we take the time to simply *listen* to the story, to the vision, the photograph, the art, the still small voice. I am reminded that we live mostly on the tip of the iceberg while the larger part of ourselves, of life, the part we cannot really control, lies below the surface -- and when we listen, when we let go of fear of the unknown, we find ourselves, we find true freedom. We are more than we know. And this is how I want to live, how I want to write -- in truth, and hearing that roar on the other side of silence. Read it. And follow your art.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    It is not a perfect book and I certainly don't agree with everything but oh it is wonderful. Such insight and presence and goodness. Thank you L'Engle for this book. My mind and heart are larger for reading it. My ears more open. Familiarity to some of her fiction will help but is not mandatory, however regardless if you read this you should read Wrinkle simply because it is A Wrinkle in Time and that book in itself is close to the heart of life and God.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BookishStitcher

    I loved this book so much that I want to reread it till I have it memorized and it has been etched on my soul. I almost can't even review this because it struck me on such a deep level that it feels too personal to talk about why this book impacted me the way it did. Struggles and doubts that I have had suddenly took on new light when she talked about her path. Basically, any review that I give this will be inadequate for how it made me feel.

  7. 4 out of 5

    D.M. Dutcher

    This book is like listening to your erudite upper-class grandmother wax poetic about faith in relatively bland, indefinite terms while she sips chamomile tea on a rattan chair in an immaculately kept garden. This means some of you absolutely will love this book, and others will squirm and fidget because they hate tea. I'm the latter. It isn't a bad book by any means, and it's good to see L'Engle engage faith, albeit elliptically. It's more about intuition and sentiment than a hard look at the Chr This book is like listening to your erudite upper-class grandmother wax poetic about faith in relatively bland, indefinite terms while she sips chamomile tea on a rattan chair in an immaculately kept garden. This means some of you absolutely will love this book, and others will squirm and fidget because they hate tea. I'm the latter. It isn't a bad book by any means, and it's good to see L'Engle engage faith, albeit elliptically. It's more about intuition and sentiment than a hard look at the Christian and art. It's not that correct either; bad religion has made plenty of good art; the gnostic William Blake is one example. I also think if you can see the Incarnation in secular and Christian works, it might just be you seeing something the author didn't intend. But this isn't a work really for those of us who want nuts and bolts; it's feeling, sentiment, and poetry, and for people who enjoy such, it's fine at doing that. I tend to not connect with L'Engle, but this book, like all her rest, seem tailor made for sensitive, intelligent young women with a religious, non-dogmatic bent, and you'll probably enjoy it far better if you are one. Men would probably connect better with someone like G.K. Chesterton; "The Ethics of Elfland" in Orthodoxy makes a good contrast in styles between the two.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Schuyler

    Madeleine's book is full of food for inspiration, moments that resonate, and encouragement for Christian artists. Writing about Christian art was difficult for her. She found Christianity in art by Christians and by secular people, regardless of their faith. I think I would agree. Some songs both Christian and secular move me very deeply, books both Christian and classic resonate with my soul. That is simply because they are good and full of truth about the world. This book is full of thoughts th Madeleine's book is full of food for inspiration, moments that resonate, and encouragement for Christian artists. Writing about Christian art was difficult for her. She found Christianity in art by Christians and by secular people, regardless of their faith. I think I would agree. Some songs both Christian and secular move me very deeply, books both Christian and classic resonate with my soul. That is simply because they are good and full of truth about the world. This book is full of thoughts that are hard to summarize but rich to read about: thoughts on political correctness, God's healing through art, and the sense of wonder that the Christian art requires. Madeleine told herself stories to heal the pain of things she did not understand. I deeply resonated with that as well, but I'll save more thoughts on that for a stand alone article, hopefully next week. She gives anecdotes about her life and different writers she met, and books she worked on, all fascinating to consider. Her words have a warm, friendly, deep thinking style. Along with the inspiring paragraphs, there are sections that are confusing. Sometimes there were thoughts about communion I downright disagreed with. Sometimes I didn't understand what she meant or how a particular thought connected. She writes in a very personal, conversational style that would probably take me more than one reading to wrap my mind around. But in spite of that, I often found myself giving a resounding yes to things I did understand. Madeleine is Catholic and I am not, but I didn't find her Catholicism overwhelming to the content. Her mind is one it would be intimidating to converse with, though she seems very kind. My favorite chapter by far was Chapter 11. In this chapter she is talking about the idea of being a servant of the stories, and how the stories know more about how they are to be written and what should be in them than the author does. For instance, the story will tell her what it needs, if it's a knowledge of physics or cellular biology, and she will study that thing. She doesn't take what she knows and pour it into a book. She takes what the book needs and learns it. In chapter 11, Madeleine told several anecdotes about unexpected characters that popped onto her page and made her work so much more vibrant and complete than her original idea without them. She also told a beautiful story about making an unlikely situation in her book, and finding out that something like it had actually occurred in history. "Miracles" as she calls them, of fiction matching up with true life can indeed take place. I have happy first-hand accounts in my own stories of those things happening without my prior planning. Walking on Water will give you much to ponder about Christian art. Some of it will be confusing, but all of it will be deep and worthy of consideration. I enjoyed it, and it's an easy read, so I recommend all Christian artists give it a try. Perhaps this statement of hers summarizes the book best: "I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity...." Madeleine L'Engle (2016) Walking on Water, pg. 96. Convergent Books. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    The rating says it for me this time--it was okay. It was repetitive if you've read other books by L'Engle, and the points she makes about art and artists are interesting but not particularly enlightening. My favorite thing about the book is that I identified with a few passages as a writer. It was nice to say, "Someone else felt this way or went through this too." Otherwise, I'm disappointed. Usually, L'Engle's books leave me with much more than this one did. My dad said, "It's Madeleine--it wasn The rating says it for me this time--it was okay. It was repetitive if you've read other books by L'Engle, and the points she makes about art and artists are interesting but not particularly enlightening. My favorite thing about the book is that I identified with a few passages as a writer. It was nice to say, "Someone else felt this way or went through this too." Otherwise, I'm disappointed. Usually, L'Engle's books leave me with much more than this one did. My dad said, "It's Madeleine--it wasn't bad." I agree, but it wasn't good either. If you're looking for a book about advice for writers, this is not that book. If you're struggling to understand what being a Christian artist means, this may give you some insight. Otherwise, I would read almost any of L'Engle's nonfiction books over this one, especially The Crosswicks Journals.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Dorrough

    Do you know the feeling? The one where you begin to read a book or see the first few frames of a movie or the first few notes of a song and you take a quick breath because you know you are about to be fundamentally changed? This is how I felt in the first few pages of this gorgeous book. In "Walking on Water", Madeleine Le'Engle explores the relationship between faith and art. She spends most of the time reflecting on what makes certain art "Christian" or "non-Christian", and then rightfully conc Do you know the feeling? The one where you begin to read a book or see the first few frames of a movie or the first few notes of a song and you take a quick breath because you know you are about to be fundamentally changed? This is how I felt in the first few pages of this gorgeous book. In "Walking on Water", Madeleine Le'Engle explores the relationship between faith and art. She spends most of the time reflecting on what makes certain art "Christian" or "non-Christian", and then rightfully concludes that the job of the artist is to serve the art. To serve the gift which they were given by God, and in this act of service and creating "art" they are glorifying God and therefore it is Christian. She also talks about how art that mentions Jesus can often be secular. I wept tears of relief through much of this book. Through my entire life I have inherently KNOWN that art is not evil, that it is a gift from the Lord. In my adulthood, I have experienced shaming from other Christians for loving the things that I love. For reading books about dinosaurs, future worlds, and superheroes. For watching movies that are depressing and deemed "sinful" because they're not made by a "Christian" movie studio. For letting my child read books about witches, wizards, outer space, and fairies. She even spends time on the concept of "naming", one that I am often drawn to and moves me to tears when I encounter it in any work, even so-called secular art. However I love these things because the Lord has drawn me to Himself within these stories. On the outside, a book like Harry Potter is written off by Christians because J.K. Rowling is not one. However, the fact that so often in my life I have been the boy under the stairs, the intelligent but lonely academic, the bumbling friend and yet have been called by Christ into a great adventure is to me a reflection and glorification of Jesus, even if that's not Rowling's intention. Isn't the Lord bigger than His work? Isn't this why we can truly see Him in almost everything, even the secular? (She does spend some time talking, as well, about how there is such a thing as truly secular art that misses the mark). Reading "Walking on Water" gave voice to my struggles of faith and art in adulthood. I am not a writer, but I am a reader and an avid consumer of seemingly secular art. I am grateful for Le'Engle, and for her obedience to write down her passionate discourse and her own struggles with her faith and how it relates to art. I recommend this book to everyone. Even if you're not a Christian. Even if you're not an artist. Even if you don't care about the relationship between the two. As human beings, we are participants in creation and we are deemed to be "God's masterpiece"... we are works of art. The relationship between art and faith often reflects our own views of how we relate to our Creator. I am thankful, for one, that I believe that we can walk on water as we keep our eyes on our Creator.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy Neftzger

    This book is one of the best I've read for artists who also happen to have a strong religious faith. L'Engle approaches creativity as a natural response to being created in the image of The Creator. In fact, she explains that most children start out creative, but wander (or are trained) away from these activities. Unlike many Christian "artists" she defines the individual as an artist who happens to be Christian, rather than a Christian who is obligated to produce art as an evangelism tool. What This book is one of the best I've read for artists who also happen to have a strong religious faith. L'Engle approaches creativity as a natural response to being created in the image of The Creator. In fact, she explains that most children start out creative, but wander (or are trained) away from these activities. Unlike many Christian "artists" she defines the individual as an artist who happens to be Christian, rather than a Christian who is obligated to produce art as an evangelism tool. What I respected most was her assertion that art designed to evangelize tends to be come across as forced, and is often lower quality because of this. The book is also filled with some great concepts for helping the artist to reconnect or remain connected to creativity. I strongly recommend this to Christian artists of all genres: music, visual, literary, dance, etc. Well worth the read for those interested in becoming the person you were created to be, rather than the one that the Church tells you to be.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Faith Hough

    Madeleine L'Engle was not only a brilliant story teller, she was a humble, beautiful and insightful woman who, in this book, wrote many of the wisest words I have ever read--about being a writer, and artist, a woman...a human being and child of God. I couldn't stop quoting passages to my husband, family--okay, anyone who would listen--but this was a book that was best read slowly, page by page, with time for reflection. (So the constant pausing to quote ended up being a benefit for me!) It is cer Madeleine L'Engle was not only a brilliant story teller, she was a humble, beautiful and insightful woman who, in this book, wrote many of the wisest words I have ever read--about being a writer, and artist, a woman...a human being and child of God. I couldn't stop quoting passages to my husband, family--okay, anyone who would listen--but this was a book that was best read slowly, page by page, with time for reflection. (So the constant pausing to quote ended up being a benefit for me!) It is certainly going to be one of the first books I think of if I am ever again asked the "desert island" question. I highly, highly recommend this book to everyone--but especially to writers and artists...and any woman struggling with marrying the dual roles of writer and mother would do well to find some answers in these pages.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Poiema

    I've read at least one book by Madeleine L'Engle every decade of my life, starting with _A Wrinkle in Time_ when I was a child. Madeleine's theology does not always match my own, but I deeply respect her thoughtfulness and depth. This book is about the arts. I love that Madeleine does not encourage Christians to stay with "safe" art (Thomas Kinkade comes to mind). Truth can be captured by some very unlikely artists and humanity is the richer for it. Come to think of it, I believe Madeleine L'Eng I've read at least one book by Madeleine L'Engle every decade of my life, starting with _A Wrinkle in Time_ when I was a child. Madeleine's theology does not always match my own, but I deeply respect her thoughtfulness and depth. This book is about the arts. I love that Madeleine does not encourage Christians to stay with "safe" art (Thomas Kinkade comes to mind). Truth can be captured by some very unlikely artists and humanity is the richer for it. Come to think of it, I believe Madeleine L'Engle has earned a place in that club! Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amberlee Bixler

    Is there a 5 star plus I can offer for a review? I ask, because this is the one book to warrant it. Ms. L'Engle beautifully presents several arguments for re-uniting the theological with the artistic, and how an artist (writer, performer, dancer, etc.) can not only bridge the gap between the two, but also clearly defines the reasons why one must. The quotes and arguments are simply stated, and honestly reasoned. This is the book I read when I question whether the pain is worth the thunder, and a Is there a 5 star plus I can offer for a review? I ask, because this is the one book to warrant it. Ms. L'Engle beautifully presents several arguments for re-uniting the theological with the artistic, and how an artist (writer, performer, dancer, etc.) can not only bridge the gap between the two, but also clearly defines the reasons why one must. The quotes and arguments are simply stated, and honestly reasoned. This is the book I read when I question whether the pain is worth the thunder, and always, always find the answer is yes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maribeth B.

    "In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own." "If our lives are truly 'hid with Christ in God,' the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all tha "In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own." "If our lives are truly 'hid with Christ in God,' the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all that we do and say and write. What we are is going to be visible in our art, no matter how secular (on the surface) the subject may be." I realized recently that I am Presbyterian in my theology, Anglican in my devotions and liturgies ("my timekeeping," as I call it), and increasingly Catholic in my imagination. This book absolutely nurtured my Catholic imagination, while rankling my Presbyterian theology a bit and confirming my Anglican-style timekeeping. And in spite of my disagreements with some of L'Engle's theology (specifically, her clear distaste for the doctrine of predestination), she did have a true and lovely gift for articulating the incredible importance of art and creativity in the Christian life. She also shows, in her rambling yet enjoyable style, that truly Christian art--even if it isn't produced by believers in Jesus Christ--brings "cosmos out of chaos," order from disorder, meaning from pain, joy from the mundane. "All shall be well," she writes, quoting Lady Julian of Norwich, "and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. No matter what. That, I think, is the affirmation behind all art which can be called Christian. That is what brings cosmos out of chaos." I've definitely been encouraged and affirmed in my vocation, thanks to this book. I did have to read it slowly and with discernment, because it's quite possible to be so enchanted by L'Engle's beautiful turns of phrase, you don't realize she's being a bit unorthodox until you read that one paragraph or sentence a second time. That said, our Lord undoubtedly gifted her with a great deal of insight into the value and power of creativity. For that reason alone, Madeleine L'Engle remains an inspiration and encouragement to all the writers, painters, musicians, and craftsmen who seek to do their work for the glory of God and for the edification and delight of others.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kat Heckenbach

    A friend, who is an artist and Christian, loaned me her copy of this book because she though I would enjoy it. Less than halfway through, I gave it back--because I'd bought my own copy. I have always been a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan. A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I remember reading as a kid, one of the first books I truly loved. One of the first books that drove into me the love of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, I was afraid that might make me biased about this book. So, I A friend, who is an artist and Christian, loaned me her copy of this book because she though I would enjoy it. Less than halfway through, I gave it back--because I'd bought my own copy. I have always been a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan. A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I remember reading as a kid, one of the first books I truly loved. One of the first books that drove into me the love of science fiction and fantasy. Of course, I was afraid that might make me biased about this book. So, I'll start with the negative--which I did find. The book is wandery. I get that this is almost a collection of essays rather than something officially organized(there are no chapters, only divisions between essays), but even within essays I found the topics wandering. It sometimes bothered me and sometimes didn't, but overall I would have liked it better if there had been more cohesion and logical flow. It also wasn't something I could read straight through. I have had it here on Goodreads in my "currently reading" list for what seems like months. I found I had to be in the mood to pick this up. But--when I was in the mood and picked it up, I always--always--found something that struck a chord with me. Even it was just one sentence or one thought, there would be a connection, and generally one that applied to something I was struggling with regarding my art at that very time. I also really appreciated L'Engle's honesty, the way she views art for art's sake, even as she sees it a means of worship. So all in all, I am very glad I read this, and very glad I bought my own copy. I have a feeling it's something I'll turn to many times in my life as I follow my artistic journey. My Website Find me on Facebook My YA fantasy series: book 1 book 2

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adrienna

    This author had many valid points and able to reflect on Christianity and art. I loved some of the statements in the book as an artists/creativity with writing. "If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. He must become a creator, imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader "know" each other; they meet on the bridge of words (L'Engle, Madeline, This author had many valid points and able to reflect on Christianity and art. I loved some of the statements in the book as an artists/creativity with writing. ‎"If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. He must become a creator, imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader "know" each other; they meet on the bridge of words (L'Engle, Madeline, p. 34)." Loved this passage too: page 62, "Moses wasn't qualified. He was past middle age when God called him to lead his children out of Egypt and he stuttered. He was reluctant and unwilling and he couldn't control his temper. He saw the bush that didn't consume by the fire. He spoke with God on Mt. Sinai, face glowed with such brilliant light that people could not bear look at him. Therefore, God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear His glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think we did the jobs ourselves. We will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own." (paraphrased). This was the icing on the cake for me as a writer, "an artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in the world...artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through and must find means of expression (p. 143)." Now I truly understand why I have those restless, insomnia nights when YHWH calls me to write or a story lives in my dreams/visions and need to be released on paper (manuscript). There is a living soul that needs this story! Thank you Madeleine for helping me understand the gift of a creative soul as a lyrical-miracle artist (writer, poet/past rapper, past artists, actress, etc.) *Father gave me this book as a gift (he read it first I'm quite sure and sent it to me, signed in love). Thanks Dad. 3.75/4 stars.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jaci

    Madeleine L'Engle writes about her art and the art of being a "Christian" writer. I took my 4th-8th grade students to hear her speak in 1988 (St. Andrews Episcopal School) and have been a life-long fan. She was forceful, opinionated, not patient with these kids and absolutely compelling. It was interesting to read that she kept working notebooks of quotes from authors, words, ideas, etc., and revisted them frequently. She also rewrote her books and believed that discipline was a large part of the Madeleine L'Engle writes about her art and the art of being a "Christian" writer. I took my 4th-8th grade students to hear her speak in 1988 (St. Andrews Episcopal School) and have been a life-long fan. She was forceful, opinionated, not patient with these kids and absolutely compelling. It was interesting to read that she kept working notebooks of quotes from authors, words, ideas, etc., and revisted them frequently. She also rewrote her books and believed that discipline was a large part of the creative process. p.17: "The reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian." p.44: "During the act of creation there is collaboration." p.126: "Jung says that we are far more than the part of ourselves that we can know about, and that one of the most crippling errors of twentieth-century culture has been our tendency to limit ourselves to our intellect."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The pleasure of this book is not just L'Engle's style, which is warm and inviting. The ideas here are big. In the past, creativity may have been easily dismissed, or thought of as something I do when I have time. This book challenges me and this notion. This book, along with "Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts", answers many of the questions and struggles that I have had as an 'artist' who became a Christian. This book is *double bonus awesome* if, besides being a writer, you are a wom The pleasure of this book is not just L'Engle's style, which is warm and inviting. The ideas here are big. In the past, creativity may have been easily dismissed, or thought of as something I do when I have time. This book challenges me and this notion. This book, along with "Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts", answers many of the questions and struggles that I have had as an 'artist' who became a Christian. This book is *double bonus awesome* if, besides being a writer, you are a woman or in theater. She knows a lot about both, as her husband was an actor.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    L'Engle puts into words so many thoughts that have been swirling in my head for decades about Christians and art (and Christian art). Now I'm aching to re-read the Wrinkle in Time trilogy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    A fascinating and thought provoking read. Even when I disagreed with her conclusions, like when she talks about gendered language, her questions and observations are usually on point and worth mulling over. This is a book designed to stretch the mind with thoughts on the creative process, what that has to do with faith, and a vocabulary that will knock you off your feet (proving her point on the dangers of a shallow vocabulary). I loved her thesis: bad art means bad religion. And I loved the ins A fascinating and thought provoking read. Even when I disagreed with her conclusions, like when she talks about gendered language, her questions and observations are usually on point and worth mulling over. This is a book designed to stretch the mind with thoughts on the creative process, what that has to do with faith, and a vocabulary that will knock you off your feet (proving her point on the dangers of a shallow vocabulary). I loved her thesis: bad art means bad religion. And I loved the insights on her writing process.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn Green

    I found myself underlining and bracketing paragraphs, making notes in the margins in the first half of the book. As the book went on, I felt that, though there are nuggets of wisdom tucked into the pages, L'Engle's style leaned toward the meandering. She didn't ramble, it was just that the stories and anecdotes she used to illustrate her points tended to be on the lengthy side, and I felt it was a circuitous journey to her main point at times. I confess to skimming some later chapters, but it's I found myself underlining and bracketing paragraphs, making notes in the margins in the first half of the book. As the book went on, I felt that, though there are nuggets of wisdom tucked into the pages, L'Engle's style leaned toward the meandering. She didn't ramble, it was just that the stories and anecdotes she used to illustrate her points tended to be on the lengthy side, and I felt it was a circuitous journey to her main point at times. I confess to skimming some later chapters, but it's overall a worthwhile read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lmichelleb

    This book was a slow simmer for me, and has nurtured and encouraged my soul, watering places I didn't even know we're thirsty. Ms. L'Engle insightfully asks the hard questions about who we are, why we must create, and how to submit to the work given us. Deep, life-giving words here, recommended to all, not just artistic types!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    This book made me cry. (Most things do these days, but still.) As someone who doesn't necessarily identify primarily as an artist, it was deeply relevant to me; one of the most profound yet simple unfoldings I've ever read of what it means to be a Christian in a dark, broken, confusing, and yet somehow still beautiful world. Vulnerability, doubt, pain - and joy & trust in our Father through it all. Read it. You won't be sorry. "I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has This book made me cry. (Most things do these days, but still.) As someone who doesn't necessarily identify primarily as an artist, it was deeply relevant to me; one of the most profound yet simple unfoldings I've ever read of what it means to be a Christian in a dark, broken, confusing, and yet somehow still beautiful world. Vulnerability, doubt, pain - and joy & trust in our Father through it all. Read it. You won't be sorry. "I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love."

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susie Finkbeiner

    I spend a lot of time thinking about how I arrived at writing novels for the Christian market. I contemplate often what it means to be a Christian and a writer and how those two parts of me collide. Walking on Water helped me process a lot of those wonderings. I'm inspired.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I reread this after reading it over 15 years ago as a first-year student in college. In fact, I reread the same copy and had a nice little dialogue with my naive-yet-earnest 17-year-old self who desperately wanted to understand faith, writing and the creative process, and who underlined far more passages about angels and Jesus than I thought possible. My main assessment? L'engle's insights on the nature of the creative process hold up well and resonate with my faith identity even now, so much so I reread this after reading it over 15 years ago as a first-year student in college. In fact, I reread the same copy and had a nice little dialogue with my naive-yet-earnest 17-year-old self who desperately wanted to understand faith, writing and the creative process, and who underlined far more passages about angels and Jesus than I thought possible. My main assessment? L'engle's insights on the nature of the creative process hold up well and resonate with my faith identity even now, so much so that I was astounded to see how many of her concepts I echo to my classes almost verbatim. I had no idea how much L'engle's perspective had seeped into my very bones and informed my own way of understanding how art is made. Is it a perfect book? No. L'engle's got some misguided ideas about the virtues of the generic male pronoun, which are beyond my understanding and frankly offensive to me as a woman writer trying to find my identity in a patriarchal world. She's also not a fan of abstract art, of art that maintains chaos instead of making "cosmos out of chaos," yet I think representing chaos is its own form of justice. But she makes both of these points and moves on, thank God. These relatively minor qualms aside, L'engle helped me understand why the Christian faith, in particular, is one that I find so meaningful, especially when it comes to explaining the mystery of writing. It's the idea of incarnation, of Word-made-flesh, of God-becoming-human, of creation out of the deep that makes me stick to the religion of my childhood and turn to it when I'm trying to wrestle the divine from the ether and onto the page. Some of my favorite passages: "Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it's bad art, it's bad religion, no matter how pious the subject. If it's good art -- and there the questions start coming, questions which it would be simpler to evade" (14). "I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, 'Here I am. Enflesh me" (18). "Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still-born" (34). "We think because we have words, not the other way around. The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually" (38). "We cannot Name or be Named without language. If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopwork words, we are setting ourselves up for a takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles -- we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than 'the way things are'" (39). "Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named. And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos" (46). "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation" (50). "And as Christians we are not meant to be less human than other people, but more human, just as Jesus of Nazareth was more human" (59). "The artist must be open to the wider truths, the shadow side, the strange worlds beyond time" (80). “The painters and writers who see the abuse and misuse of freedom and cry out for justice for the helpless poor, the defenseless old, give me more hope; as long as anybody cares, all is not lost. As long as anybody cares, it may be possible for something to be done about it; there are still choices open to us; all doors are not closed. As long as anybody cares it is an icon of God’s caring, and we know that light is stronger than the dark” (104). “Despite our inability to control circumstances, we are given the gift of being free to respond to them in our own way, creatively or destructively” (105). “We need the prayers of words, yes; the words are the path to contemplation; but the deepest communion with God is beyond words, on the other side of silence” (128). “The creative artist is one who carries within him[/her] the wound of transcendence” (129). “…the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness, and then rushes to canvas or paper. An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in this world” (143). “Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear” (149). “In prayer, in the creative process, these two parts of ourselves, the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind, stop fighting each other and collaborate” (162).

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ron Vitale

    I finished reading Walking on Water a few days after the 11/13/15 Paris attacks and to have the premise of the book juxtaposed against the backdrop of the horror in the world helped me to be more introspective. I haven't read Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" in more than 30 years and, to be honest, what I remember is mere impressions. I remember that I liked it and that there was a calmness and creative spark about her work of fiction that comforted me and pulled me in. Reading L'Engle's I finished reading Walking on Water a few days after the 11/13/15 Paris attacks and to have the premise of the book juxtaposed against the backdrop of the horror in the world helped me to be more introspective. I haven't read Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" in more than 30 years and, to be honest, what I remember is mere impressions. I remember that I liked it and that there was a calmness and creative spark about her work of fiction that comforted me and pulled me in. Reading L'Engle's "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art" hit home to some of the more intimate parts of my personality and my creativity. Why do I write? What am I trying to accomplish? How do I see God (or not) in my work. Although L'Engle's religious beliefs and mine differ significantly in certain areas, I could relate to the sanctity of art and of its importance in the world around us. (Even more so with the most recent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Kenya.) Written in 1980, there's a certain charm in reading L'Engle write about her typewriter and the work that she does and how she sees the world. In a time before social media and the internet, her thoughts on those "porno theaters" and secular television are a faint memory of a past which the world has moved on from in such a short span. Today in the 24 hour news cycle, immediacy of selfies and egocentric orgasmic additions of our treasured self-importance, I wonder what L'Engle would think. But when I strip away the generational differences between us and focus on the art, she and I are on the same page. Her talk of the struggle of writing, the work and the tremendous amount of time it takes to hone one's craft and to become a good writer spoke to me. Hearing strangers ask her about "her writing hobby" and how they didn't see writing as true work, made me smile. L'Engle and I could be kindred spirits in that regard. And in the early section of the book, she sows such gems of wisdom that I could not get enough. Is it we that are creating the masterpiece of art or, as I believe, we need to get out of the way and check our egos at the door, and let the art come forth on its own. Art is Godlike to me because we are creators in that respect, and as sacrilegious as that might seem, I do believe that there is a speck of God in art (yes, I'm tipping my hat to Hindu influences here). When I write, I want to get at the truth about life, people, experiences or the human condition. My whole point in writing is to share what I've seen to help others. Some might say "so what?" or "your work sucks," but that's not the point. As L'Engle, the act of writing is sacred to me. I struggle to become a better writer and, little by little, I am becoming better, but it's for a purpose. The visions I see, the experiences I've lived, the intuitive glimpses of dream-like beauty that I so desperately want to jump up and down and share with the world, are my art and worth creating. L'Engle's book is filled with great passages that I mentally applauded. Yes, she and I differ in how we express our religious beliefs, but that's what made me love this book even more. I could compare her beliefs with my own and use them as a touchstone to test the waters of where I stand now at my current age and in a world of terror and barbarism. Even more than ever, we need art in today's world. Art that challenges, wakes us up, causes us to question and, at times, to unsettle us. If you're a writer and wondering about why you write, I recommend that you pick up L'Engles book. There's a lot of matter here and, when you close your eyes, will you have the faith to walk across the water with your art or not? When each of us stares at the blank page, that question has often gone through my mind. So far, thankfully, I've taken the leap of faith.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    An excellent book to the very end. I really like how the author emphasis that an artist must do the work, to trust and let go of the need to control. This is a book that I would like to own and refer to often. So much I can relate to especially the difficulty of the work, the vulnerability of being a creative.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    Madeleine L’Engle portrays Christian artists in the modern world almost as if we live in exile, like the Jews in Babylon. We learn to appreciate the art of the world around us and to care for its artists, whether or not they are believers. We learn to see the underlying hand of God in creation, and in the creations of his creatures. We accept that “bad art is bad religion” because it does not draw us closer to anything true, and that good art might be good religion even when not ostensibly relig Madeleine L’Engle portrays Christian artists in the modern world almost as if we live in exile, like the Jews in Babylon. We learn to appreciate the art of the world around us and to care for its artists, whether or not they are believers. We learn to see the underlying hand of God in creation, and in the creations of his creatures. We accept that “bad art is bad religion” because it does not draw us closer to anything true, and that good art might be good religion even when not ostensibly religiously inspired. The author leads readers on a guided tour of aesthetics (from Plato to Tolstoy and beyond), faith (which accepts that which cannot be understood because … and which, therefore, lies very close to story), icons (which express more than can be told), truth (and wisdom), and even the use of the word “he” rather than “he/she.” It’s all told in a gently conversational style, filled with threads of story and prayer, and reminder of a “God who told stories” in the New Testament. We see glimpses of glory as children. Then we grow out of them. L’Engle reminds us that “We are all more than we know,” that fiction is the vehicle of truth, that we need intuition and symbols just as much as we need intellect, and that names are more important than the labels and boxes we place around everything—names give creativity, freedom and identity... and story. Best of all, from my point of view, the author reminds readers that faith invites questions and should never fear them or else it's not quite faith. So I will write my questions in stories of “What if” and rejoice in having read this book. Disclosure: I received a copy from Blogging for Books. I offer my honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    No Christian artist could possibly fail to receive edification, enjoyment, and encouragement from this wise exploration of faith and the creative calling. The writing itself, first of all, is of the highest order. Each word, each phrase, each sentence is positively musical, rippling with sonic resonance and semantic force. Yet there is no pretension; it's poetry in the guise of mere conversation. Here is a good writer. A more rambling book you will seldom find. It is very nearly stream-of-consciou No Christian artist could possibly fail to receive edification, enjoyment, and encouragement from this wise exploration of faith and the creative calling. The writing itself, first of all, is of the highest order. Each word, each phrase, each sentence is positively musical, rippling with sonic resonance and semantic force. Yet there is no pretension; it's poetry in the guise of mere conversation. Here is a good writer. A more rambling book you will seldom find. It is very nearly stream-of-consciousness, with idea following idea often with no clear plan or intention. Take, for example, this paragraph appearing in a discourse on the modern legalism around masculine and feminine pronouns (p. 34). Perhaps it is this background which has made me assume casually that of course I am not excluded when anyone refers to a novelist—or anyone else—as he or him. My closest woman friend is a physician, and so is my daughter-in-law. Not all women have been as fortunate as I have been. When my books were being rejected during the fifties it was not because of my sex, it was because the editors did not like what I was writing. What, I ask you, does the mention of the physician and daughter-in-law, followed by an observation on being "fortunate", have to do with the rest of the paragraph? Neither these women nor this good fortunate are mentioned again. They are a fleeting thought, recorded as thought and not for purpose. Two paragraphs later we have left the question of feminist pronoun rules for the topic of how war corrupts language, where we remain for much of the rest of the chapter, a chapter which concludes with, "There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation" (p. 51). There's a powerful and brilliant statement, worthy of deep reflection—and yet you see that it has only the most cursory connection either to feminist pronoun usage, wartime language corruption, or any of the other meandering ideas the chapter has touched on. The book meanders. This is to some degree a fault. It makes the book more exhausting; one must work to keep up with L'Engle, must really concentrate. It makes the reading a bit less motivating because although each moment on the ride is beautiful, there is little sense of trajectory, of where we're going, of what might be gained by continuing to read. It's likely, too, that the meandering is unintentional, a product of a ramshackle process of production. Elsewhere she admits, "Granted, much of my nonfiction work is lifted directly from my journals" (p. 160). This volume is nonfiction, and much of it reads like a journal. Yet the meandering is not without its charm. Her destinations are chaotic but lovely and potent. Paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, she chooses to say what happens to come to mind; thankfully, what happens to come is continually brilliant, provocative, inspiring, wise, and helpful. The last three chapters fall into a more orderly and deliberate flow, and these are particularly illuminating and enjoyable because they explain both the background to the writing of many of her books and also the creative and spiritual implications of those backgrounds. If you've ever hoped a really good author would brave the vulnerability to expose how she came to write what she wrote—both the wild inspirations and the dogged discipline of the craft—your hopes are met here. Despite the book's largely shambolic structure, its themes and thesis come through unmistakably. There is no "Christian truth", no "safe truth": all truth, and all expressions thereof, regardless of source and context, are God's truth and not to be disdained. Children possess an imaginative openness that adults tragically lose but artists must reclaim. "Imaginative openness" (my phrase, not hers) is faith; the creative process, likewise, is very close to if not identical with prayer. The artist (like the believer; indeed like Christ himself) must give up control, surrender to the will of the Father, and die to be reborn. Yet surrender and faith do not discount work: writing—like the Cross, like every act of love—marries abandonment with labor, free gift with hard-bought possession. Throughout the book we are fed this rich food, worthy of deep contemplation. L'Engle has an uneasy relationship with the rational world of the intellect on the one hand and the illogical or supra-logical world of the imagination. She explains that her books often carry substantial scientific themes that she researches diligently and learns well. From all of her writing we see she is no fool. And yet in this book she will say, "When I was a small child, visiting my grandmother at her beach cottage, I used to go down the winding stairs without touching them" (p. 114). She goes on to explain that she believed, and still believes, that she indeed possessed some childlike miraculous ability to levitate—she herself doesn't use the word—while traveling down these particular stairs, an ability she had lost by age 14. I don't suppose I will go so far as to directly dispute that a young Madeleine L'Engle floated down her grandmother's stairs, but it's certainly a questionable notion. More importantly, its appearance in this book marks a particular theme, the theme of wild openness to the supra-rational, the miraculous, imagination merging with reality. This is not a safe theme. That is part of her point, part of her agenda in advancing it. But in our age irrational thinking, even madness, are so pervasive, so normal, that wild openness to sheer undirected "believing" is always fraught with danger and often positively destructive both to individuals and societies. She wrote in 1980, deep in the modernist period in which reductionist empiricism threatened to quash so much of what makes us human, including the domain of the spirit. Now in a post-modernist period her calls for deliberate transcendence of reason are less needed and less helpful. A young Christian artist must read this work, accepting its unification of faith and creativity and its annihilation of boundaries in truth. He must be fully mindful of her contrast between logic, discipline, and order on the one hand and miracle, imagination, and abandonment of control on the other. Christian artists old and young will appreciate the explorations of a brilliant, faithful, restless, and wise mind, the glimpses into the creative processes of a master, and the challenges and encouragements to faith and craft, or the unification thereof—perhaps "faithcraft"?—that L'Engle powerfully advocates.

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