Books: Holy Is the Day

Holy Is the Day is a new book by Carolyn Weber, whose book Surprised by Oxford I enjoyed so much when I read it back in April. In the earlier book she told the story of how she came to faith in Jesus Christ while a student at Oxford University. This book is less easy to summarize, but full of wisdom, humor, and spiritual encouragement, as well as wonderfully poetic use of language.

The book was just released this week, but I read an Advanced Reading Copy in electronic format. This is the first time I had ever read an ARC, and I learned from the experience how much I usually depend on knowing what a book is about before I read it. (I also decided on don’t like reading books in electronic format. Perhaps if I had a portable reader I’d mind it less.)

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but of course that’s because we usually do. Even trying to discount the impact of the cover design, I often choose whether or not to read a book based on what I read about the book on the cover (or the inside flap). These tell me something of what the book is about, and/or other people’s reactions to the book.

In this case, I knew nothing about the book except the title (and subtitle, “Living in the Gift of the Present”) and the author. The fact that it was written by Carolyn Weber gave me high expectations. The title didn’t really mean a whole lot to me, but I was eager to find out what it meant as I read.

I have to admit that it took me a while to come to any kind of even preliminary assessment of what sort of book it was. Each chapter tells about some event in Weber’s life, from the birth of her twins to shortly before the birth of her fourth child. All of it is seen in light of God working in her life, both through the difficult times and the joyful ones, sometimes openly but more often in more subtle ways.

The book opens with an account of a very harrowing time, the birth of her twin sons, which required emergency surgery without the anesthesia having taken effect properly. I found this difficult to read, both from imagining what it must have been like, and not understanding what I was supposed to learn from it. If the message was that God can get you through even something that bad, well, I believe it but I’d prefer a less extreme example.

When I finally pushed myself to go on to the next chapter, however, I learned that the trauma had led – over time and with much struggle, to healing not only from that event but also of “other, deeper wounds.” It led, if I understand correctly, to the writing of her first book, and no doubt to a great deal of the spiritual richness that she shares in this book.

The rest of the book was much easier going. The sort of difficulties she described were those I could relate to – dealing with young children, illness, moving to a new city, abnormal blood test during pregnancy. And with each she relates what God was teaching her through it.

It’s hard to sum up the various lessons, but it has to do with finding God in everyday life, if we take the time to look. One phrase of hers that particularly struck me was “carpe Deum.” A modification of the familiar carpe diem, “seize the day,” this is an exhortation to “seize God.” By exchanging the “I’ of carpe diem for the “U” of carpe Deum, she says, we turn from a focus on self to a focus on God, and the blessings that come from that.

But this focus on God is within the context of our everyday lives. So often we think of seeking God as something we do at special times or in special places. We turn to God for help and guidance in the big things, but less often in the little things that make up most of our lives.

This emphasis on finding God in all things is hardly new to me, but knowing it and practicing it are two different things. I can always use another voice of encouragement in this path, and Carolyn Weber’s is a voice I enjoy and appreciate.

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