Wake Up to Wonder – Karen Wright Marsh

Wake Up to Wonder: 22 Invitations to Amazement in the Everyday by Karen Wright Marsh
Published by Brazos Press on July 11, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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In her quest to live a vibrant spiritual life, Karen Wright Marsh had a she didn't need to find and follow the perfect plan; she needed people she could follow.
In Wake Up to Wonder, Marsh introduces us to those people--faithful yet oh-so-human Christians from across centuries and cultures. Inspired by their example, she offers playful, simple practices that bring deeper meaning and purpose to everyday life.
In the company of diverse spiritual companions--from Dorothy Day, Francis of Assisi, and Fannie Lou Hamer to Patrick of Ireland, Wangari Maathai, and Henri Nouwen--readers journey through physical health, prayer, activism, Scripture reading, creativity, and beyond. Each chapter includes hands-on invitations such as writing prompts, space for personal reflection, and "Try This," a collage of spiritual and personal experiments anyone can do. As readers wake up to wonder, they'll discover what these twenty-two historical figures already that a life of spiritual depth, amazement, and connection is within reach--today and every day.

Wake Up to Wonder is a collection of twenty-two devotional essays with practical suggestions—the author calls them “invitations”—to help readers become more in tune with the amazing things that surround them. It’s an eclectic work, offering historical reflection on Christian leaders, practical exercises for putting the book’s teaching into practice, recipes, prayers, poems, writing prompts. It’s a structuredly unstructured in that, while there is an overall form to the book, there’s also enough that’s malleable to make each day’s (week’s?) reading a unique experience that doesn’t feel forced.

The twenty-two essays are divided into four sections: 1) Wake Up, 2) Reach Out, 3) Go Deep, and 4) Dwell. As you might be able to guess, each section gets a little bit deeper or more involved. The early practices seem a bit easier or typical. “Put Pen to Paper” is about writing one’s thoughts and emotions. “Sing Out Loud” harnesses the power of song (even if you can’t sing well, like me!). “Follow Your Breath” is about calming oneself and becoming aware of your embodiedness through your breath. Later exercises are a bit more wild or abstract. “Escape to the beach!” “Do the unexpected!’

Each exercise is also based on the life of some Christian figure who embodied that particular practice. This aspect is truly what makes Wake Up to Wonder interesting. These aren’t random ideas out of author Karen Wright Marsh’s head, but lifelong practices from other Christian figures. Readers gain the solidarity of knowing that other people have also done these things and made them important in their life. It builds a connectivity with the past and with other believers to generate the feeling that we aren’t just all out here alone.

This element, which is similar to Wright’s previous book Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, lends the work a biographical aspect. Readers can learn about and learn from these Christian figures. Some of these figures are ones you probably know: Martin Luther, Augustine, St. Patrick, Dorothy Day. Some are more obscure: Caedmon (the 7th century monk), Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (a 20th century Chinese-American pastor), Pandita Ramabai (a nineteenth century Indian Bible translator and scholar). Wake Up to Wonder does a great job featuring some of the familiar faces (usually those that are white and male) while also sharing with readers the lives of other important Christian figures who are not as well-known to history. Simply as a historical work, I have to commend Marsh for that.

Wake Up to Wonder is a thoughtfully composed book that invites readers to explore and embrace the wonders of everyday life through historical examples and personal reflection. Marsh’s narrative style and the inclusion of diverse figures make the book a compelling read for anyone seeking inspiration and meaning in their daily experiences.