Episcopal priest, retreat leader, spiritual director, and author of many books, Barbara Cawthorne Crafton begins each day by reading in her Book of Common Prayer the assigned biblical texts and petitions to God for that morning. These meditations on the Daily Office bear the distinctive marks of this prolific spiritual teacher — the ability to discover the Holy in everyday activities; the determination to discern the movements of the divine in people, places, and things; and the willingness to wrestle with the mysteries and the paradoxes of the Christian faith. Crafton is not afraid of thinking or writing about death: it helps her value life. She also has a higher hope: "There is nothing on earth that does not seed future life with its own death." Now there's a quotation to treasure in hard times. We love what she has to say about Jesus' saving grace: "From all the obstacles I throw up to that grace in my life, I need saving. From the crippling effects of my own ego. From my petty warfares. From my selfishness. Are you saved? Jesus is saving me every day."

Whether writing about the meaning of the Biblical phrase "the fullness of time," her moods, or her identification with the trials and tribulations of teenagers, Crafton is always warmly personal and vulnerable in her exploration of feelings we have all had at one time or another. We especially liked her comparison of church to a garden and her discussion of Jesus cursing the fig tree as a bad hair day. There are also times when Crafton is very explicit about spiritual practices. Here is a good one on praying for your enemy:

"Don't pray anything specific for them. You don't need to. The madder you are about it, the more assiduously you should avoid any words at all in your prayer for your enemy. Leave the details to God. God doesn't need our suggestions anyway — he is fully informed about our affairs. We don't need to tell God things. God knows.

"Just name them before God. Picture them, if you can. Picture them in the hands of God — literally — if you have that kind of childish ability to imagine. Just lift them up to God for blessing, the same blessing for which you yourself long. You need do nothing beyond this in prayer . . .'

"Spend some time in the prayer for your own enemy, in these days of high emotion and hot temper. Have the courage to present your adversary to God and trust that God knows our hearts — all of our hearts — and that Christ is, as we have always maintained, the Lord of history. Nothing can happen, in the church or in the world, that is beyond the mercy of God to heal. Nothing is beyond the power of God to turn what happens in human affairs to possibility and good."