Spiritual Lemons: Biblical Women, Irreverent Laughter, and Righteous Rage. By Lyn Brakeman. Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, 1997. 126 pp. $12.95 (paper).
The God Between Us: A Spirituality of Relationships. By Lyn Brakeman. Philadelphia: Innisfree Press, 2001. 157 pp. $14.95 (paper).
Although written with different intentions and objectives, these two books are united by a common method. In both, Brakeman uses the tradition of midrash to inspire and frame her work. Each is a collection of midrashim, meant to serve as a springboard for further reflection and discussion. Although certainly not restricted to this use, the book's design seems particularly suited for use by small groups. The midrashim are accompanied by commentary by the author and followed by questions designed to help direct and stimulate further reflection and consideration.
The two works share this method, with some minor variations, but the theological and spiritual intentions of the works are distinct. Spiritual Lemons was Brakeman s first effort; in it she focuses on accounts of biblical women, for example, Sarah, Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary and Martha, Susanna. Of the two collections, I found this one to be the more inspiring and enlightening. Brakeman's imaginative renditions of the biblical accounts are fresh and stimulating, and her commentaries are both revealing and provocative. These commentaries are somewhat autobiographical, in that they generally explain the context of the author s inspiration: why that particular story attracted her and how her imaginative response to the account evolved. I think that the most successful example of this imaginative treatment is her rendition of the Syrophoenician woman from the gospel of Mark, which she uses as a very effective platform to explore and relate her own experience of the spiritual dimensions of begging. This book could serve as a very useful and stimulating tool for small group discussion, whatever the gender make-up of the gathering.
In the preface to Spiritual Lemons, Brakeman writes that using midrash "is like throwing the Word into the air like so many rubber balls to see what new formation will emerge, what new enchantment will be revealed" (p. 12). In her second set of midrashim, Brakeman uses the technique to explore the spirituality of relationships, prompting readers to look within the patterns of their intimate relationships for "the God between us," the God who is revealed in the midst of such intimacy. …