Wednesday, March 17, 2010

‘Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weeds’ by Sarah Cunningham – Book Review

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In my travels on the World Wide Web, the blogosphere and social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc…), I often run across people who have complementary world views to my own; I want to learn more about them (not that I don’t want to learn about others!). One of those people is Sarah Cunningham. When I discovered her blog, and realized she had a new book and was looking for bloggers to participate in her blog tour, I was anxious to hop on the blog tour bus! I could tell from reading her blog entries that I was going to enjoy the book!

Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weed’ is Sarah’s memoir of her life, beginning as a pastor’s kid (PK) in Pittsburgh and Michigan.

According to the back of the book:

Sarah Cunningham, the daughter of a pastor, is exceedingly familiar with coming to Jesus and being born again. But it took her a while to realize that a real Christian grows from the point of rebirth – that a God-following person is a changing person… The author’s images of growth and renewal, planting and reaping, greenery and weeds reminds us that life, even in God’s grace, involves challenges and change.

She shares with us her journeys through life, including her attendance at a Catholic high school, Spring Arbor University (where she earned a degree in Urban Studies), her work in a homeless shelter in Chicago, her missions trip after the Twin Towers came down in NYC, etc…

Here are her reflections on how life changed after 9/11:

“But, for the moment, in the skeleton of life left in the tower rubble, everyone had the time to reflect about life. We had, as a generation, been detached from the comfort of our past in just one day. And now we were drifting, fallen seeds learning to grow in even life’s hardest soil.” (p. 118)

Sarah makes this observation about the human tendency to resist change:

“This is the way it goes with most of my weaknesses in life. I remember them, consider doing something about them for a while, but then they drift out of my mind as if some sort of genetic flaw swept away my intentions.” (p. 127)

I found Sarah’s writing style to be very creative and engaging. Here Sarah talks about praying about change:

“The prospect of praying for ongoing change, then, is sobering. And so for the next few minutes I don’t say anything at all. I just sit and stare out the porch window as if I am locking eyes with a visible Creator who just happened to be walking my strip of Eden at that exact moment.
Then I add one more thought.
Even though I want to keep changing, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need some help.” (pp. 138-139)

Toward the end of the book, Sarah concludes that Eden is achievable on this planet:

“The details of the kingdom as laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and the other books of the Bible became the garden layout I had been looking for. They were the master guidelines that outlined where to remain planted, how to source myself, and how to grow. And I knew as I practiced these things I would not be changed in one conversion moment, but rather I would change like my grandmother did when she came to this country. Gradually, as I slowly weeded out old ways and adopted new ways, I would be naturalized to a new way of life and begin to understand my role as a subject of the king.” (p. 218)

I came away from ‘Picking Dandelions’ with a fresh perspective on my faith based on Sarah sharing her life in this book. As I expected, I found Sarah, in her writing (and probably in real life!), to be compassionate, empathetic and kind – not to mention very funny! She’s not afraid to share her struggles with pride, hatred and self-righteousness; her heart for Jesus is very evident above all else. I loved this book so much that I had a hard time deciding which quotes to include; I had to stop somewhere! She is a very gifted and talented wordsmith. It is one of the best books I have ever read!

In addition to being a blogger and published author, Sarah is also a high school teacher, part-time college professor, and chief diaper changer to her son, Justus. She is also a popular church and conference speaker, and contributor to several books, including ‘unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity’ and the Mosaic Bible. She and her husband, Chuck, live in Jackson, Michigan – another Michigander! – with Justus, and their very rowdy Jack Russell Terrier.

Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weeds’ is Sarah’s second book. Her first book, ‘Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation,’ is a collection of letters from her, as a twenty-something, to the church, expressing her journey through disillusionment and back again. I was so touched by her heart in this book. She is now a thirty-something, but the truths in this book can be applied by people of any age. I look forward to seeing what she has to share in her next project!

You can order a copy of this book here.

This book was generously provided to me by the author for review purposes; I am excited to be participating on her blog tour.

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