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Posted November 12, 2010

Book: Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABCís of Faith
Author: Frederick Buechner
Harper Collins. New York. 2004. Pp. 432

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Frederick Buechner is known as one of todayís greatest spiritual writers, and his three alphabet books: Wishful Thinking, Peculiar Treasures, and Whistling in the Dark, are some of his best-loved works. In these respective volumes he addressed theological vocabulary words, biblical characters, and ordinary words with religious dimensions.

Here, for the first time, all three alphabet books have been gathered into one seamless theological dicitionary ó a guide that points us to the holy aspects of everyday life. The author has updated and revised the entire collection, as well as added a new introduction and 19 new entries to bring the total to 366 for a day-by-day devotional format.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Faces

Faces, like everything else, can be looked at and not seen. Walking down a sidewalk at rush hour or attending the World Series, youíre surrounded by thousands of them, but they might as well be balloons at a political rally for all you notice them individually. Here and there one of them may catch your eye for a moment, but in another moment youíve forgotten it. They are without personalities, without histories. There is nothing to remember them by. They are anonymous strangers. As far as you are concerned, they simply donít matter. They are too much to take in.

But the odds are that for at least one other person somewhere in the world, each of them ó even the unlikeliest ó mattered enormously once, or someday, with any luck, will come to matter. The pimply boy with the beginnings of a mustache, the fat girl eating popcorn, the man with no upper teeth, the suntanned blonde with the disagreeable mouth Ė if you set your mind to it, thereís hardly a one of them you canít imagine somebody loving even, conceivably even yourself. If the fat girl were your kid sister, for instance. Or the pimply boy to grow up to be your father. Or the toothless man to have been your first great love. Each face you see has, or used to have, or may have yet, the power ó out of all the other faces in creation ó to make at least some one other personís heart skip a beat just by turning up in an old photograph album, maybe, or appearing unexpectedly at the front door.

Needless to say, itís easier to imagine it with some than with others. For all her good looks itís harder with the suntanned blonde than with the sweaty truck driver shooting a squirt of cut plug, but even with her you can probably manage it in the end. Thereís hardly a face coming at you down th supermarket aisle or up the subway escalator that you canít imagine it with, given the right set of circumstances, the right pair of eyes. You can see even the bitter faces in terms of what probably made them that way. You can see even the hostile, ugly faces in terms of what they must have been once before the world got to them, what they might have become if theyíd gotten the breaks.

Every now and again, however, you come across faces that are too much for you. There are people itís impossible to imagine loving if only because they look so much as though they wouldnít let you even if you could. If there are faces of the blessed to be seen in this world, there are also faces of the damned. Maybe you can love them for precisely that reason then. Maybe youíre the one who has to love them because nobody else ever has.

In any case, the next time you find yourself in a crowd with nothing better to do, itís a game worth playing.

Table of Contents: An example of all that is in the book:

Angels

Anger

Animals

Anorexia

Anxiety

Art

Avarice

War

Water

Wine

Wisdom

Wishful thinking

Worship

You

Youth