Friday, October 17, 2014

'Mercy and Melons' by Lisa Nichols Hickman

 Mercy and Melons: Praying the Alphabet is a collection of lyrical meditations on the practice of praying the alphabet. Each chapter focuses on a letter of the alphabet by naming an everyday object and a theological theme offering subtle and elegant takeaways to spark the reader s imagination as well as their practice of prayer. In the Hebrew acrostic tradition, praying the alphabet served as a pathway to memorization as well as a prompt for thoroughness. Even more so, praying the alphabet put all of the letters into God s presence so that He might arrange a person s unspoken prayers. Drawing on this rich tradition, the book adds two dimensions. First, the book encourages eyes to see the word made flesh in the melons and grasshoppers of daily life. And second, the meditations draw the reader into the flesh made word by asking the reader to articulate and name in specific ways what came alive for them each day. Praying the Alphabet is a practice as timeless as the Old Testament and for every day that ends in y, this book offers momentum for the journey of prayer and paying attention."

This is a prose book written by an author with a poet's heart if ever I saw one. She suggests a new way of forming our prayers, based on the alphabet. You pair up the name of a common object with a theological attribute. They must both begin with the same letter. Then you ponder possible connections and insights about God and life. Lisa Hickman gives us her own examples in separate chapters ranging from A to Z. Mercy and Melons, of course, is her contribution for the letter M.

She believes it's an exercise which helps broaden our imaginations. I was skeptical to start with. It seemed restrictive to confine ourselves to things beginning with the same letter, as if we're trying to force connections. Just as I was thinking of giving up on the whole concept, I found her examples beginning to grow on me. Next, I found my own imagination ticking away with ideas which made me dash for my notebook. It does work.

As well as the prayerful purpose for which Lisa Hickman uses it, I believe this would be a good tool to get ideas flowing in creative writing workshops. I've heard that prayer and writing have the same taproot, so no wonder that makes sense.

Anyone who wants to take up the challenge could fit it easily into a year. You could do one letter each week, doing two rounds, or take it fortnightly and go through the alphabet once. Maybe I'll even consider giving a go myself at the start of next year.

Thanks to Abingdon Press and Net Galley for my review copy.

4 stars

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