Interview with Brenda Keller, Author of A Monk in High Heels

This is the book.

My friend Brenda Keller has just published a book - A Monk in High Heels (living a cloistered life outside the monastery).

The book is short and funny and sad and serious all at the same time. Which is kind of how Brenda is (including short, just like me!). Her voice shines through in the book as she chronicles part of her journey back home, as she puts it, her journey through some tough questions and her quest for a deeper and more meaningful connection with God. This journey was not to retreat from the world but to learn from monastics how to be faithful in the world.

We thought it would be fun to let her voice shine through on the blog as well!  So here are a few questions I had for Brenda to give you a sense of who she is and what her book is about.

How did you end up going to a monastery in the first place?
I had a professor in college who always talked about visiting one about an hour from where I went to school.  I don't remember even hearing about a monastery before that point.  She always made it sound like a peaceful retreat place and that year I was in desperate need of exactly that!  I got brave enough to call and ask one day and, as they say, the rest is history.

Why did you keep going back?
Two monasteries in particular became home base for me spiritually.  I found myself seasonally almost seeking God in the quiet and warmth of such a holy, safe place.  It became the only place I could be completely honest with God.  So, when I couldn't figure things out, was very frustrated especially spiritually, or just needed some room to hear myself think, I would go for a few days and reconnect.  I used to go several times a year (need it or not!), but since I joined the Episcopal Church in recent years, I haven't been back as much.  I think much of what my soul craved that I didn't even realize from the monastery was the liturgy.  Now I'm fortunate enough to be a part of that all the time. 

What is the hardest part of "monastic life" to live out in your uncloistered life?
Meditation!  My definition of meditation is just quiet communion with God and whether that noise is literal or just inside my head, I find it very hard to be still.  It's no easy thing to sit with hard questions and trust God not only has the answers, but ultimately is the answer.  True monastics make it a priority to be set apart on a regular basis.  Like on purpose!  I have an entire room in my house set apart for contemplation, I have no tv and no internet at home, and it's still hard.  There's always going to be distractions.  My prayer often is that God would help my mind listen only to his heart. 

What made you decide to write a book about your experience?
I didn't mean to write a book in the first place!  I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true.  For several years my experiences, especially conversations and interactions with the monks, were very private to me.  I liked not having to share them.  But, over time I would mention this or that and people always wanted to know more.  As modern as we claim to be, I think our souls still yearn for the ancient practices and to connect with God in simple but profound ways.  I started a blog series on monasticism and got a bunch of e-mails from people desperate to know God like the monks do.  I started writing down my experiences, mainly for them, and the rest is history!  It's not my story as much as it is the monks who have dedicated their lives to true monasticim.  I want people to know about their lives.  The ministry they have there forever changed my relationship with God.  You can't really thank people for that, but this is a start.
This is Brenda.

Who are you hoping will read the book?
I hope the book is not so religious that it's unfriendly and just funny (snarky) enough for people to relate.  There's a reason people don't discuss politics or religion!  But, I think the same things that were drawing me to the monastery in the first place still draws people.  A lot of people are sick of the quick fix.  They want the lasting, deep relationship with God that sustains when life is hard.  And that takes work!  There's no three easy steps to being spiritual, unfortunately!   I want ordinary people to read this book. People who love God and people who are currently a little ticked he hasn't shown up yet like they hoped.  While I absolutely don't think God is anything to make fun of, I think life is.  And I especially think the spiritual life is hilarious.  This book doesn't laugh at God or the monks, but it puts my humanity front and center as I trip and stumble on my way to the heart of God.  I like to think at several points in my journey He laughed too.

Order "A Monk in High Heels" here.

Read more about/hear more from Brenda on her blog: Peace Love Jesus and Coffee.


Ray Barnes said…
Thanks for this Penny.
It's always a pleasure to be able to add another really good blog to my collection.
You are welcome, Ray. I think you will find Brenda to be very good company!