The premise of Promise Press' new line of special-interest devotionals is that we can learn about God while engaged in quaint leisure activities. Digging in the backyard or sewing a square of cloth can teach spiritual lessons just as valuable as any learned reading the Bible, for the world itself is like a holy text. Although at times reminiscent of Martha Stewart for the religious set--who has time to spend hours quilting or gardening, anyway?--these charming devotionals deserve a wide readership.

"What I Learned From God While Quilting" seeks to "apply quilting experience to a deeper truth." The book is full of stories such as that of the quilt well-wishers made for the family of Lakesha Levy, killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, from scraps of her clothing; a couple's creation of a quilt of light Japanese fabrics to welcome the Japanese exchange students they love to host; Dale Patton, whose Hug Quilt, a present from friends after cancer treatment, got her through the darkest hours. Each chapter ends with a "quilting frame," giving the moral of the story; two scriptural selections; and a quilting tip. Even people who normally find sewing nothing but dull may be tempted to start collecting scraps after reading this book!

"What I Learned From God While Gardening" has a similar structure. The metaphor of the garden is, of course, one with intrinsic spiritual appeal, and Niki Anderson's elegant essays fully develop the themes of beauty, care, and generosity that are embodied in gardening. Her essays about the woman who plants 93 rose bushes to brighten the lives of passersby; the importance of planting bulbs in cold November weather if you want to have blooms in the spring; and about how a passion for wildflowers helps a 7-year-old child who is dying of leukemia keep strong, are all lovely lessons for avid gardeners. Perhaps the only problem with this book is its strong suburban bias. As a city dweller, I wish Anderson had included an extra essay or two on the special joys of spider plants and window boxes.

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