This month I’m reading…
Transforming Love: How friendship with Jesus changes us
Amy Boucher Pye (Form, 978-0281087952)
I am delighted to be sharing Amy Boucher Pye’s latest book with you this month. As she is the former host of the Book Club, I know her writing holds particular interest for many of us – and this book certainly doesn’t disappoint! Focused on the passages in scripture where Mary, Martha and Lazarus are mentioned and interact with Jesus, there is a mixture of digging deeper into scripture, personal stories, reflection and meditation and questions for use personally and in a group.
What Amy does so well is facilitate quiet, reflective spaces for us to draw closer to God in, and I enjoyed her gentle guidance as I took time out to engage with the material she has obviously so lovingly prepared. Throughout the book she provides personal adaptations of Psalm 23 and encourages us to write our own too. This has been the psalm God has drawn me to over and over again in the last couple of years, so I was really touched by that special feature too.
Your latest book focuses on the sisters Mary and Martha – they seem to hold a special place in your heart – could you explain why?
Five years ago, I was invited to lead a women’s retreat at Lee Abbey, Devon – a place I had always wanted to speak at! But my heart sank when I heard that the topic was ‘Finding Peace between Mary and Martha’. “Oh dear,” I thought, “more pitting Mary against Martha.” But as I got into researching the biblical stories, and delving into the early Church writers’ exploration of it (mainly male writers!), I realised how rich the stories are. Not only for what we learn about action and contemplation through the Luke 10 story, but also grieving and rejoicing, and pouring out our love to Jesus in the John 11 and 12 stories.
Why do you think we tend to believe we are either a Martha or a Mary?
I guess putting ourselves into types might feel
like an easier way to approach life than dealing with contradictions and paradoxes. But even Martha and Mary don’t fit into the character types we’ve created – after all, we see Martha calling Jesus the Messiah (one of the few in the New Testament to do so), and Mary super upset at the death of her brother.
You talk about the need to marry contemplation and action – could you explain why?
Simply, if we’re all about action we may forget why we do what we do; if we only focus on contemplation we’ll not do anything! We need both. God propels our action as he partners with us, and we remember that we love, honour and worship him when we slow down and pray.
How do you view the different journeys that the siblings went on with Jesus?
Each are so rich and varied! I explore the journeys deeply in the book, how Mary deals with her crisis of faith and how Martha finds peace with serving Jesus. And although we never hear from Lazarus, he of course plays an important role.
What do you hope readers will learn about friendship through Jesus’ interactions with these siblings?
That friendship with Jesus really will change everything! We might feel a bit jealous of the siblings as they got to know Jesus in the flesh, but if we trust and believe that he is with us as the Risen Christ, then we aren’t lacking. He’ll comfort us, convict us (lovingly), stretch us, share his wisdom with us and receive our love and adoration. We become truly ourselves in relationship with him.
I noticed in the acknowledgements that you talk about your writing partners and how much they helped push you in your writing of the book – could you explain how that partnership works?
I love meeting weekly with Tanya and Amy. We share our dreams and fears and everyday life. And we talk through all of our writing projects. For this one, Tanya worked through it chapter by chapter with me, pushing me to make things concrete and applicable – as I tend towards the abstract and mystical. I love that the theme is friendship, because friendship with these amazing women sustains and encourages me.
You mention training to be a spiritual director in the book. Could you provide a few details of what this means, what life looks like for you now and any future plans for writing?
I love being a spiritual director. I am building my practice slowly, but so enjoy accompanying people on their journeys with God, noticing how they are responding to him and how he is working in their lives. But I’ll still keep on writing, speaking and retreat leading. I very much appreciate these streams of life and how they inform each other. For instance, I have another collaboration with my dad coming this autumn: Holding Onto Hope, a 40-day journey with images from the Bible, illustrated by him. And I continue to lead retreats at Lee Abbey, Penhurst and El Palmeral.
Amy Boucher Pye on:
The books that have changed my life
Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila
When I did my MA in Christian spirituality, I felt like I made a wonderful new friend in Teresa of Avila. OK, so she lived in Spain many centuries ago! But I loved delving into her writing as she shared about her intimate relationship with Jesus. Her autobiography, The Life, is a good place to start if you’ve not read her before, and is available online.
Practicing His Presence by Brother Lawrence and Frank Laubach
This version of Brother Lawrence’s well-known letters is one that influenced me so much in my 20s and 30s, as I came to understand that we can live moment by moment with Jesus. Frank Laubach was an American missionary in the 1950s who tried to live out Brother Lawrence’s practice of calling to mind that Christ lives within those who believe in him.
Listening Prayer by Leanne Payne
I edited this book in the 1990s, and through it started my own journey of hearing God – with plenty of bumps along the way, of my own making! Through it I gained confidence that the God of the universe would delight to speak to me. On this topic I also really recommend Dallas Willard’s Hearing God.
Twelve generations ago, at the beginning of the 18th century, a woman from the African Gold Coast was taken in chains across the Atlantic. Two hundred years later, another woman lay dying in London, worn out by hard-fought battles for social transformation.
Between these two points in history the world changed beyond recognition. The world became smaller, communication easier and the industrial era was born.
Clothed with Strength, written by author Sarah Allen, details the lives of four women during this period: Rebecca Protten, Hannah More, Ellen Ranyard and Josephine Butler. While the two centuries in which they lived saw dramatic cultural and spiritual change, what draws these women together is their God-given drive to fight injustice, help the oppressed and seek the transformation of society through the offer of salvation in Jesus.
In world where we are encouraged to claim our power and shout about our identity, these women teach us what it means to lay aside the significant privilege of wealth, reputation and freedom. They did not fight for their own rights but for God’s glory and the good of others. This book honours them for their work but remembers that they lived and served clothed in his strength.
Clothed with Strength by Sarah Allen was recommended by Jonathan Pountney, editorial director at 10 Publishing. The book is available now.