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Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts

Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts

by Marilyn McEntyre


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What if writing a list could literally change your life?

From the ancient book of Numbers to the latest clickbait listicle, list-writing has been a routine feature of human experience. Shopping lists. To-do lists. Guest lists. Bucket lists. Lists are everywhere you look.​

But what if our lists did more than just remind us to buy milk and take out the trash? What if the practice of list-making could help us discover who we truly are and even point us to our deepest joys, hopes, and desires?​

In Make a List teacher, writer, and wordsmith Marilyn McEntyre shows readers how the simple act of writing a list can open doors to personal discovery and spiritual growth. Deepening her reflections with abundant writing prompts and real-life examples, McEntyre turns the humble list into a work of art—one that has the power to clear minds, open hearts, and change lives.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802875747
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 02/07/2018
Pages: 202
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Marilyn McEntyre is the award-winning author of several books on language and faith, including Where the Eye Alights, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict, When Poets Pray, Make a List, Word by Word, and What's in a Phrase? Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause, winner of the 2015 Christianity Today book award in spirituality.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Living by Lists 1

Part I Why Make a List?

Lists serve a surprising variety of purposes. Here are a few reasons to make them.

To discover subtle layers of feeling 10

To name what you want 13

To clarify your concerns 17

To decide what to let go of 20

To help dispel a few fears 24

To claim what give's you joy 28

To find out what you still have to learn 31

To put new words to old experiences 35

To get at the questions behind the questions 37

To find out who's inside 41

To play with possibilities 44

To identify complicating factors 47

To map the middle ground 50

To explore implications 53

To connect the dots 56

To get to your learning edge 58

To notice what you might have missed 62

To experience deep attention 64

To enjoy complete permission 67

Part II The Way of the List-Maker

There aren't many "rules" in list-making, but there are reliable ways to make lists useful, beautiful, and fun. Here are a few to try out.

Things to do to the to-do list: Exploring priorities and intentions 72

How to do almost anything: How how-to lists help you learn how 76

Playing favorites: Lists that clarify values 78

The wonder of word lists: How word lists empower, educate, and amuse 81

Allowing lament: How lists open a space for sorrow 84

How a list becomes a poem: Lists that work in ways you hadn't planned 89

How a list becomes a prayer: When lists lead you to your longings 93

A long second look: Lists that teach you how to look again 96

Memento mori: Lists that commemorate 99

Switching lenses: Lists that reframe 103

Better than a punching bag: Lists that open a safe space for anger 106

Lists for life review: How lists help focus the backward glance 109

Cracking open clichés: Lists that get behind the surfaces 113

Wanting what you want: Lists that identify unidentified desires 115

Talking points: Lists that illuminate your message 118

Thin places and sacred spaces: Lists as guides to path-finding 121

Love letters: Lists that count the ways 124

Litanies: Lists that help you relax into prayer 127

Summary statements: Listing for retrospection 131

Part III Play Lists

Lists are a way of opening up "play space." This section is an invitation to play-to tinker with each other's lists, to use the ones provided here as templates for your own, to move lines around and change the mood and marvel at your own ingenuity. Consider, as you read these lists and the short reflections that follow each of them, where whimsy, need, poetic inclinations, and playful imagination might take you.

A List-Maker's Master List 137

Why read? 140

What tennis teaches 144

A manifesto for amateurs 149

How to defeat bureaucracy 154

What's fun after fifty 159

What marriage teaches 163

Other mothers 167

Where the Spirit moves 172

Appendix: A Few Final Lists for Your General Enjoyment

What the beach teaches 177

What weddings require 178

The benefits of bicycling 179

When to call home 180

Why children enchant us 180

Where to dance 181

What you get from a garden 183

How to be happy in high school 183

What leaders learn 184

Listen 186

A manifesto for moving day 186

What every adult should be able to do 187

What teachers can tell you 188

What's worth waiting for 189

Times to practice trust 189

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