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A Stone for a Pillow

by Madeleine L'Engle

PUBLISHED: 23rd May 2017
ISBN: 9780451497086
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PUBLISHED: 23rd May 2017
ISBN: 9780451497086

Publisher Description

Book #2 of The Genesis Trilogy. This special reissue of a classic work of spirituality from the author of A Wrinkle in Time offers life-transforming insights on the rich heritage of the Bible and shows how the characters of this ancient text are relevant for living the good life now. Includes a new reader's guide.

In this book for the curious, spiritual seeker, Madeleine L'Engle offers relevant lessons drawn from the life of Jacob from the Old Testament. Here, the son of Isaac becomes a spiritual companion to L'Engle, equipping her to deal with earthly and psychological struggles. Throughout her journey, L'Engle offers contemporary answers to questions that burden modern day readers and believers. With her customary fearlessness and candor, she broaches such topics as the significance of angels, redemption, sexual identity, forgiveness, and the seemingly constant conflict between good and evil.

Madeleine L'Engle possesses the same ambidextrous skill of storytelling as other literary giants, including C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald. Her fictional stories appeal to generations of readers, and are equally embraced in both the secular and religious markets. But, it is her ability in her nonfiction to engage with the historical text of the Bible through a dynamic unpacking of protagonists, antagonists, and matters of faith that establishes the Genesis Trilogy as a highly treasured collection of spiritual writings. A Stone for a Pillow acts as a compass for those traveling through the tumultuous landscape of faith in our cynical and divisive modern culture.

Author Biography

Madeleine L'Engle was the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time, awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light, a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens.

Ms. L'Engle was born in 1918 in New York City. She wrote her first book, The Small Rain, while touring with Eva Le Gallienne in Uncle Harry. She met Hugh Franklin, to whom she was married until his death in 1986, while they were rehearsing The Cherry Orchard, and they were married on tour during a run of The Joyous Season, starring Ethel Barrymore.

Ms. L'Engle retired from the stage after her marriage, and the Franklins moved to northwest Connecticut and opened a general store. After a decade in Connecticut, the family returned to New York.

After splitting her time between New York City and Connecticut and acting as the librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Madeleine L'Engle died on September 7, 2007 at the age of 88.

Excerpt from Book

1 Separation from the Stars In the late afternoon, when the long December night had already darkened the skies, we opened Christmas cards, taking turns, reading the messages, enjoying this once-a-year being in touch with far-flung friends. There, incongruously lying among the Christmas greetings, was an official-looking envelope addressed to me, with Clerk of Court, New York County, in the upper left-hand corner. A call to jury duty. Manhattan does not give its prospective jurors much notice. My call was for the first week in January. To the notice inside had been added the words, Must Serve. It wasn''t the first time that my call had read Must Serve. A few months earlier I had written from Minnesota to the Clerk of Court, New York County, explaining that I was not trying to avoid jury duty, that I had previously served on a panel under a fine woman judge, and that I was ready and willing to serve again. But I pointed out, as I had already done several times before, that I do a good bit of lecturing which takes me far from New York, and I gave the Clerk of Court several dates when I would be available, sighing internally because bureaucracy never called me on the weeks that I offered. This time they did. So I relaxed and enjoyed Christmas in the country, at Crosswicks, bitter cold outside, warmth of firelight and candlelight within, and laughter and conversation and the delectable smells of roasting and baking. One of the highlights came on Christmas Day itself, with the mercury falling far below zero, when my husband went out into the winter garden and picked Brussels sprouts, commenting as he brought them in triumphantly, "Mr. Birdseye never froze them like this," and we had Brussels sprouts out of our own garden with Christmas dinner. And then, before Twelfth-night, I was back in New York again, taking the subway downtown to the criminal court to which I had been assigned. I took plenty of work with me, because I had been told that lawyers do not like writers. But just as had happened on my previous jury duty, I got chosen as a juror on the second day. The case was an ugly one, involving assault in the second degree, which means possession of a dangerous weapon, with intent to cause injury or death. Two men were sitting in the courtroom as defendants. They looked at the twelve of us who had been told to stay in our seats in the jury box--looked at us with cold eyes, with arrogance, even with contempt. Later, as we jurors got to know each other, we admitted that we were afraid of them. And yet, according to our judicial system, we had been put in the position of having to decide whether or not, according to the law, these men were guilty as charged. I was fortunate to serve again under a highly intelligent woman judge, who warned us that we must set aside our emotions. What we felt about the defendants should not enter into our deliberations. We should not form any preconceived opinions. "And remember," she told us, "these two men and their lawyers do not have to prove to you that they are innocent. They do not have to appear on the witness stand. The burden of proof is on the assistant district attorney. The American way is that these two men are innocent, unless it can be proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are guilty. This is the American way." She also pointed out that this assumption of innocence unless guilt can be proven is not the way of the rest of the world, of countries behind the Iron Curtain or in much of South America, where the assumption is that you are guilty unless, somehow or other, by persuasion or bribe, you can prove your innocence. When I was called for jury duty, I knew that I would be taking two long subway rides each day, and riding the subway in Manhattan is nothing one does for pleasure. So I picked up a small book from one of my piles of Books to Be Read Immediately. Why did I pick this book at this particular time? I don''t know. But I have found that often I will happen on a book just at the time when I most need to hear what it has to say. This book couldn''t have been more apt. It was Revelation and Truth, by Nicholas Berdyaev. I didn''t do much reading the first day because I was sent from court to court, but once I was on a jury and had long periods of time in the jury room, I opened the book, surrounded by my fellow jurors who were reading, chatting, doing needlework or crossword puzzles. There couldn''t have been a better place than a criminal court in which to read Berdyaev''s words telling me that one of the gravest problems in the Western world today is that we have taken a forensic view of God. Forensic: to do with crime. I first came across the word in an English murder mystery. Forensic medicine is medicine having to do with crime. The coroner needs to find out if the victim has been shot, stabbed, or poisoned. Was the crime accidental, self-inflicted, murder? Criminal medicine. And there I was, in a criminal court, being warned by a Russian theologian that God is not like a judge sentencing a criminal. Yet far too often we view God as an angry judge who assumes that we are guilty unless we can placate divine ire and establish our innocence. This concept seemed especially ironic after the judge''s warning that this is not the American way of justice. How did the Western world fall into such a gloomy and unscriptural misapprehension? Only a few weeks earlier I had participated in a teenage TV show on the topic of religion. When the master of ceremonies asked the group of twenty or so bright high school students on the panel what they thought God looks like, I was horrified to hear them describe a furious old Zeus-figure with a lightning bolt in his hand. A forensic god. Would this angry god, out to zotz us, have cared enough about us to come to us as Jesus of Nazareth, as a human, vulnerable baby? Or was it anger and not love at all that was behind the Incarnation, as a forensic view would imply? Did Jesus have to come and get crucified, because only if he died in agony could this bad-tempered father forgive his other children? We got into a good discussion, then. The teenagers did not really like their cartoon god. They were ready and willing to hear another point of view. We talked about astrophysics and particle physics and the interdependence of all of Creation. But I suspect there may have been in their minds a lingering shadow of God as a cold and unforgiving judge--not a judge who believes in the American way, but one who assumes our guilt. But no, Berdyaev states emphatically, no, that is not God, not the God of Scripture who over and over again shows love for us imperfect creatures, who does not demand that we be good or virtuous before we can be loved. When we stray from God, it is not God''s pleasure to punish us. It is God''s pleasure to welcome us back, and then throw a party in celebration of our homecoming. In Hosea, God says, "All my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again, for I am God, not man: I am the Holy One in your midst, and have no wish to destroy." The nature of God does not fluctuate. The One who made us is still the Creator, the Rejoicer, the Celebrator, who looks at what has been made, and calls it good. After the guard summoned us from the jury room to the court room, I sat in the jury box and looked at those two men who were there because they were destroyers rather than creators. They had used sharp knives, destructively; their intention had been to injure, or kill. I wasn''t at all sure I wanted to be at the same celebration with them. They both had long hair, one head dark and greasy, the other brown and lank. They looked as though they had strayed out of the sixties, hippies who had grown chronologically, but not in any other way. It was difficult to abide by the judge''s warning and not form any opinion of them until all the evidence was in. That evening I was tired, mentally as well as physically. I bathed, then sat in my quiet corner to read Evening Prayer. For the Old Testament lesson I was reading the extraordinary story of Jacob''s ladder of angels ascending and descending, linking earth and heaven, the Creation and the Creator, in glorious interdependence. The story of Jacob is not a story that can be interpreted forensically. It is not a tale of crime and corresponding punishment. Jacob is anything but a moral or virtuous character. He is a liar and a cheat. Heavenly visions do not transform his conniving nature. The story of Jacob is unfair. He didn''t get his just desserts. But do not turn to Scripture if you are looking for fairness! When Jacob saw the ladder of angels he was fleeing Esau''s legitimate outrage. He was afraid of his brother, and of God; that is, his father''s and his grandfather''s God. He had not yet made the decision to accept their God as his own. But God stood above the ladder of angels, and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham, your father, and the God of Isaac: the land that you are lying on, to you I will give it, and to your seed. And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth.... And behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all the places where you go, and will bring you again to this land, for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have said." And Jacob woke out of his sleep, and he said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." And he was afraid, and said, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." For Jacob the house of God was not a building, not an enclosure, but an open place with earth for the floor, heaven for the roof. It would be several generations before the ark of God was bu

Product Details

Madeleine L'Engle
Random House USA Inc
Country of Publication
United States
Short Title
A Stone for a Pillow
Journeys with Jacob
The Genesis Trilogy
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AU Release Date
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