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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. 4 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. 5 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. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    I never read L’Engle before last year when I was blown away by her Crosswick Journals. I picked this up after reading Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark. This book touched me deeply because it admitted the connection between pain and art. Truth, goodness, and beauty are not fantasy worlds. I also love her acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of creation.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 5 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lancelot Schaubert

    When you get down about your artistic work, you’re supposed to invoke your muse. Problem is, as Neil Gaiman pointed out in Sandman, sometimes a lesser muse of a finite part of creation will tempt you to chain her to your type writer and force her to inspire you and that’s no way to treat a lady. So, as Boethius says, sometimes you need the greatest muse to kick out the lesser muses, to point them in their place, to call them the hussies they are. You need whom Milton called The Muse of Sinai: th When you get down about your artistic work, you’re supposed to invoke your muse. Problem is, as Neil Gaiman pointed out in Sandman, sometimes a lesser muse of a finite part of creation will tempt you to chain her to your type writer and force her to inspire you and that’s no way to treat a lady. So, as Boethius says, sometimes you need the greatest muse to kick out the lesser muses, to point them in their place, to call them the hussies they are. You need whom Milton called The Muse of Sinai: the Holy Spirit. And when the Spirit shows up, she can manifest herself in the encouragement of ten thousand friends. As the poet said, Christ plays in ten thousand places. And in my darkest hours of my career, consistently, when I have appealed to the Muse of Sinai against other muses, he has sent me Jackina Stark. Jackina has, more than any one person, fueled my craft over the years with books and lectures and atta boys so that I could not quit if I wanted to. She texted me out of the blue on the most depressing day I’ve had in ten years concerning the craft about a Madeline L’Engle writer’s conference called Walking On Water. “I love her book Walking On Water,” she said. “I really need to read her. Haven’t yet,” I said. “WHAT? Not even A Wrinkle in a time?” “Okay, Wrinkle I have read.” “Her non-fiction writing/spiritual book Walking on Water is one of my very favorites! So beautiful. Get it immediately. Or I’ll have to have it sent to you.” “I’ll see if the library has it. Likely can’t afford another book at the minute,” I said. “But Walking on Water! I need you to be reading it this very minute. I’ll help your head and heart. Where should I send it?” A day later it was in my inbox. I finished most of it in two days, got distracted, finished the last twenty pages yesterday. And as when she sent me On Writing and Story and Bird by Bird, she gave just the right medicine at just the write time. Muse of Sinai once again gave me Jackina at my darkest hour and Jackina once again gave me yet another new light in my flickering candelabra. Walking On Water, unlike most writing books, is rather ethereal. In some ways it reminds me of Bradbury, but in most other ways it reminds me of of devotional classics by mystics. She at no point minimizes the discipline and craft of writing. Rather by humbling the proud, she makes it possible that we might enter the chapel of great writers by kneeling through the tiny door: the door that only children may enter. 1. COSMOS FROM CHAOS She begins the book not by doing or recommending doing, but by being. Properly ordered, this reminds me of Heschel’s Sabbath where an architecture of time orders work that follows: we don’t become who we are from our work. We know who we are, rest in who we are, be who we are, and then work out of that wisdom and confidence. Proper being predicates proper doing. And so silence and stillness predicate all good creative works. And that is precisely what we have so little of in society in general and my life in particular — ESPECIALLY at the start of a project when I am so prone to neurotic flurries of intense activity. Madeline reminds us, like Lewis before her in “Christianity and Literature,” that whatever Christian standards we apply to art (she rails often against pornography, brutality, the sorts of things folk do in secret because they’re afraid to let the children see), we still must measure the work by what is common to all good art. So on the finite end, “Christian art” is simply a marketing genre of kitch art for shallow Christians, but art itself is predicated upon the truths of Christianity and so, in a sense, all good art is Christian art. God is Beauty therefore all beauty is God’s beauty. God is goodness therefore all goodness is God’s goodness and so forth. From there she transitions (which she seldom does in this book, but I don’t know if poor transitions is always a flaw...) to the idea that all learning under compulsion has no hold on the mind, a thought from Plato (she draws from deep wells, which in and of itself makes me want to continue with my program in reading the western canon). She rightly points out times she learned under compulsion and then quickly shifts to show the role of play with the mind, something Chesterton spoke of often as did Lewis. The job of the artist, first and foremost in her mind, is to find chaos and speak cosmos firmly into it. To create another world in places where our own world is crumbling. She gets this from a musician but applies it universally. And the. she moves to Mary. Being an Anglican (Anglo-Catholic) helps her in this regard because she doesn’t treat Mary like a Juliette who happened to go through a Juno pregnancy and got lucky it was Jesus. She speaks of incarnating thoughts: that angels come to us to bear anointing and we, like Mary, must become obedient to her command. Obedient to the work because the work comes and says, “Enflesh me.” We either bear or refuse. To hear is to obey and the younger we are, the more we see the angels and hear their commands and feel willing to say, “Yes, and...” Here she points as she points often to Aristotle’s idea: “that which is impossible and probable is better than that which is possible and improbable.” Because, simply, possibility is higher than probability and if we something consider something impossible and yet we _know_ it’s probabilistically possible, that opens up entire new realms of possibility as opposed to merely putting limits by being improbable. Improbable possibility is hitting your number on the lottery. Probable impossibility is turning water into wine. The Nazi engineer focuses on the former and the Christian artist focuses on the latter, efficient bullets and Bonhoeffer’s poetry in the concentration camp. She points to Peter whose faith went three layers: first believing in who Jesus was, then believing in what Jesus could do, then believing in who he was in Jesus, and last believing in what Jesus could do through him. The last bit is the hardest, but it’s the one if taken obediently Madeline hopes will enable her to one day walk across her pond, listen to those great disembodied minds we call angels (the ones with thoughts so vast they give us nose bleeds and seizures), and ultimately all things that lie on the other side of reason: the dark and unknown we do not willfully admit exists. Faith seeking understanding. This too is where art interjects: to speak of what we have no words or data on. What’s miraculous to her is that Mary said, “Yes.” And how that obedience carried her through delivery and rearing. She speaks of all writing as a lake: that some like Dostoevsky feed the lake with rivers and others like your local poet does it with flicks of raindrops, but the calling is to feed the lake and obedience makes it bigger, better, more beautiful. To pursue what we want to make in the chaos while praying, “If this is not your will for me, then change my will.” To pray he gives what he commands: that we, like little Christs, give flesh to the thoughts of God. That we, like subcreators, make in the image in which we are made. 2. ICONS OF THE TRUE Madeline moves on to show how Christ didn’t come to make us suffer but to show us how to suffer well. She points to Orthodox iconography where anonymous painters use anonymity to encourage time at task, care and virtue in the work. Unlike signs, the symbols we make actually contain some quality of that which they represent. And because of that, they testify to spiritual realities if they remain accurate even when the artist does not believe in God. Therefore, according to Buber, we must utter words not as if they come from our mouth but as if when speaking them we enter the word. We ultimately see God manifesting his unknowable universal bounty into the particulars of the everyday. Therefore the thought that we must, we ought to write, never leaves us. She also points out that the scandalous particularity of God is what flies in the face of something like the Spanish Inquisition and even sets the stage for the scandal of incarnate art. The beauty of writing, for her, is that a reader co-creates with the author in a marvelous way — much in the way that the author co-creates along with God. Therefore the work wants not to be signed because the work itself and the dialog with the reader matter far, far more than the author. To make icons of the true renders us all prostrate. She so believes in this icon theory of writing that she compares the diminuation of vocabulary copywriting to that of a dictator, both of which she calls anti-Christian. God I wish I could have met this woman. Having leveled that critique, she turns her ire to the book of Common Prayer and shows why there and elsewhere in the feminism movement — to which she considers herself a proto-player — well, I'll leave it to her: Nor do I want to be stuck in the vague androidism which has resulted from the attempts to avoid the masculine pronoun. We are in a state of intense sexual confusion, both in life and language, but the social manipulation is not working. Language is a living thing; it does not stay the same; it is hard for me to read the language of Piers Plowman, for instance, so radical have the changes been. But language is its own creature. It evolves on its own. It follows the language of its great artists, such as Chaucer. It does not do well when suffering from arbitrary control. Our attempts to change the words which have long been part of a society dominated by males have not been successful; instead of making language less sexist they have made it more so. Indeed, we are in a bind. For thousands of years we have lived in a paternalistic society, where women have allowed men to make God over in their own masculine image. But that's anthropomorphism. To think of God in terms of sex at all is a dead end. To substitute person for man has ruined what used to be a good theological word, calling up the glory of God's image within us. Now, at best, it's a joke. There's something humiliating and embarrassing about being a chairperson. Or a chair. A group of earnest women have put together a volume of desexed hymns, and one of my old favourites now begins: “Dear Mother-Father of personkind.” No. It won't do. This is not equality. Perhaps we should drop the word woman altogether and use man, recognizing that we need both male and female to be whole. And perhaps if we ever have real equality with all our glorious differences, the language itself will make the appropriate changes. For language, like a story or a painting, is alive. Ultimately it will be the artists who will change the language (as Chaucer did, as Dante did, as Joyce did), not the committees. For an artist is not a consumer, as our commercials urge us to be. An artist is a nourisher and a creator who knows that during the act of creation there is collaboration. We do not create alone." Reminds me of St. Catherine of Siena: "What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly, the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed you created her; by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good." Lady's got style. 3. HEALED, WHOLE, AND HOLY Biggest pickup from this chapter is that she too got and gets called a liar as I was. This is the West's modern analytic philosophic failure to understand the value of narrative hypothesis when it comes to logic and math and science as well as the practical value of concretizing experience. She believes, correctly, that all children are artists and it's an indictment of our culture that so few remain so as they age. The freedom of the iterative spirit gets lost as we age: the freedom to climb trees, chain mountains together (as Chesterton said in his defense of Rash Vows), and to run across the lake when called. Writing — and performing, to some degree — returns us to that prime creativity. To what Tolkien called subcreation: a participation in the ongoing donation of being. Interestingly enough, the qualitative nature of subcreation means that He chooses folks who look bad on paper. And as someone who has perennially scoffed at LinkedIn, resumes, and the like — I really appreciate that. She points to how pain sort of lances the boil (to use my name in a pejorative sense) and opens up the wound that needed healing all along. Through the healing, we become what Nouen called Wounded Healers, but through the creative act. Pain isn't inherently creative: some seek out pain, which becomes a masochistic inversion of reality, inherently nihilistic and parasitic on the true creative act. It takes a receptivity to move towards the pain, but creatively. To move towards the abyss and say, "Let there be." 4. A Coal in the Hand She moves from healing through our wounds towards being healed through THE wounds. She also points to the name of trust, the childish "Baba" or "Papa." The coal in hand bit, if I can remember right, I think relates how she thinks we should consider how being "90% of children are highly creative" but how that languishes to 10% in adulthood. And how to foster that: childlikeness without childishness, developing into joy rather than arresting development into despair. 5. Probable Impossibles This is connected to her rendering of Aristotle's idea that a probable impossible is greater than a possible improbable. She wants to enlarge possibility, which reminds me of the Dickenson poem: "I dwell in possibility — a fairer house than prose — more numerous of windows — superior for doors." She's illuminating how hypothesis predicates execution, how ideation predicates delivery and so forth. So it's better to say, "This impossible thing is probable" — that is, the illumination of our metaphysics and frame for the world so that we might learn to love greater, better, truer than how we're currently permitted to love. It's far, far better than the critical eye that desperately searches for the far end of the bell curve outside the standard deviation. Because most data sets have blind spots, black swans they never considered. The Probable Impossible writes stories about black swans. They transfigure. They move and shape and form. That includes never assuming such impossible joys are your DUE: you don't deserve it, it's currently impossible. Therefore it's not there for you, it's not there so you can prove something, it's there as a gift for you and you're meant to share it. I'm running out of characters — only 300 left — but I would continue a chapter-by-chapter analysis. It was a well-timed book provided by a mentor who's never late or early, but who arrives precisely when she means to. And I mean both Madeline and Jackina in this instance. Read on friends. Lancelot of Little Egypt

  10. 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.

  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. 4 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.

  13. 5 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!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    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.

  15. 4 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.

  16. 5 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.

  17. 4 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.

  18. 4 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.

  19. 5 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

  20. 5 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.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diana Maria

    "But only if I die first, only if I am willing to die. I am mortal, flawed, trapped in my own skin, my own barely used brain, I do not understand this death, but I am learning to trust it. Only through this death can come the glory of resurrection; only through this death can come birth. And I cannot do it myself. It is not easy to think of any kind of death as a gift, but it is prefigured for us in the mighty acts of Creation and Incarnation; in Crucifixion and Resurrection. You are my Helper a "But only if I die first, only if I am willing to die. I am mortal, flawed, trapped in my own skin, my own barely used brain, I do not understand this death, but I am learning to trust it. Only through this death can come the glory of resurrection; only through this death can come birth. And I cannot do it myself. It is not easy to think of any kind of death as a gift, but it is prefigured for us in the mighty acts of Creation and Incarnation; in Crucifixion and Resurrection. You are my Helper and Redeemer; make no long tarrying, O my God." Oh, what a glorious way to end this book, which I love and am so looking forward to read again. I found so much beauty and wisdom and joy in this book of Madeleine L'Engle's, I am really baffled to have found so many comforting and true words. Also, while reading it I found so many autobiographical elements which have echoes in her beautiful fiction books. Really glad I read this book🌈

  22. 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."

  23. 5 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.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    "to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnation activity" "An icon is a symbol rather than a sign. A sign may point to the way to something, such as: Athens -10 kilometers. But a sign is not Athens, even when we reach the city limits and read Athens. A symbol however, unlike a sign, contains withing it some quality of what it represents. An icon of the Annunciation, for instance, does more than point to the angel and the girl, it contains, for us, some of Mary's acc "to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnation activity" "An icon is a symbol rather than a sign. A sign may point to the way to something, such as: Athens -10 kilometers. But a sign is not Athens, even when we reach the city limits and read Athens. A symbol however, unlike a sign, contains withing it some quality of what it represents. An icon of the Annunciation, for instance, does more than point to the angel and the girl, it contains, for us, some of Mary's acceptance and obedience, and so affects our own ability to accept, to obey" "Naming is one of the impulses behind all art, to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos. God asked Adam to name all the animals, which was asking Adam to help int he creation of their wholeness. When we name each other we are sharing in the joy and privilege of incarnation" "to be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist" "If the artist works only when he feels like it, he's not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work"

  25. 4 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.

  26. 5 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.

  27. 5 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!

  28. 5 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 not 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."

  29. 5 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Wow! This book was outstanding! It was like a master class in art appreciation, a session with an amazing therapist, and guidance from the best spiritual leader, all in one. I highly recommend this one for anyone, not just artists or Christians, but anyone who wants to grow as a person.

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