Tag Archives: reading

A box of new books

I am a library rat. I love the library. I like the smell of the books, the relative quiet of the cool space. If I had to choose one place to be “stranded” for days on end, I would choose the library.

I live in a small town. Our library is not much to brag on, volume wise. But the librarians are wonderful: friendly, helpful, they call me by name when I walk in and ask how I liked a book that they recommended a few weeks before. Problem is, I’ve pretty much read everything in stock and have to go to other local county outposts to find selections. And I do.

Sometimes, I splurge and buy books, books I really want to try to keep in my personal library, or try again, I am notorious for giving it away. I bought five new books this week, books I cannot find in my county’s library system because of the newness of the publication or the obscurity. A big brown box of books arrived on my front porch, Monday. Christmas in July indeed!

I have read three of the five and a library book that I had started. I really like to read. It s a great vacation reward and a necessary jump-start to my mind. Reading about the diverse topics of these new books helps me in my endeavor  to creatively impart knowledge and, more importantly, its pursuit to young people. I have been made angry ( nearly to tears) by the stories and conditions espoused in some of the books that I have just read. I have been encouraged and exhorted to continue to grow by others. I have found friends in the authors and those who assisted them. I have seen worlds unknown to me  and relived circumstances all too familiar.  I have been stretched, confronted and challenged to change and bring change in my wake.

And I read a little mystery just for fun.

If you have a hard time finding a good book, contact me. I have an uncanny knack for finding really good ones. And, at this very moment, I still have a decent library.

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I go through these seasons

I go through these seasons where I just take in all I can about a subject that I know God is having me to explore: to better grasp His heart about it, to better understand how it relates to His Word, how it is universally viewed and how it has been viewed over time. Before I talk ( discuss, share insights with other people seeking to understand better) I like to do what I can to have some basic knowledge if not wisdom. SO, I am reading, watching documentary, listening, considering, even remembering things holy and otherwise that God has paraded before me and me through.

I don’t have much to say right now about anything. There is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking. This is the latter. The time to speak will come. It will come.

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Greek to me

I often rave in my classroom about the curse of dualism: either/or, black/white thinking. Dualism is the fallout of the Greco-Roman system of thought and categorization. It produces a culture of we/they, as in, we are good, they are bad. We are right, they are wrong. Get the picture. It is not very knowledge based, hardly wisdom based, and it does wonders for one’s relational IQ.

But dualism has been all the rage in the west for a couple of thousand years. That is until now, its power to possess is waning. Maybe it is a function of the “smalling” of the world. Information and technology can change a lot about what we know and who else can know it quickly. Post modernism embodies this paradigm shift, this new, more respectful way of seeing the universe and those who dwell in it. And everyone is getting the memo – except those who should have identified, addressed, and corrected  this error first, the “truth seekers,” the Church.

Unfortunately, we seem to cling most passionately to something old and worn and honestly never really helpful: dualism. In the third century there was a huge brouhaha about gnosticism in the church, the same basic dualism argument. It contended that “Matter is evil and spirit is good.” It was derived from the traditional Greco- Roman nomenclature: essence is reality and matter  is decaying. From such were derived many non-incarnational mentalities, which in turn led us to value less the earth, humanity, and the interactions between the two. Never mind that Jesus didn’t just teach about incarnation, He was the embodiment of it.

Anyway, the mentalities of Plato’s perfection and Aristotle’s ascending achievement totally eclipsed our view of Christ. We, at least in the west, see Him via these lenses. But what if He was something altogether different and/or more? What if through our understandings of the way the world worked – ( and how much did we have right back then? or do we really have now?) we totally missed the story of God. The story God told us about Himself, most clearly punctuated by the Person of Christ. What if we missed it all? What if in our retelling, the beautiful story got botched? Maybe a few characters were remembered and salvaged, but the plot and the back stories all got confused and glossed over in our desire to make the story line fit our way of seeing the world.

What if all along, the beautiful story (of God) was right there in front of us? What if so much that we do not see about God, about us, was right there, but we saw it through lenses that all but blinded us to it.

Anybody willing to have your prescription checked? Continue reading

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lifelong learning

We are all lifelong learners in a sense. That is, we are signed up for the course. Whether we pay attention enough to discern the offering of such course is up to us.

I like people who like to learn. Whether they like learning through books, or tv, or movies, or even real life – learners – people who notice new things, share them, apply the knowledge and understanding that they gain, those who rejoice in change for the better are just invigorating to be around.

People who enjoy the status quo and stagnancy are about as attractive as a drink of  brackish water. That’s what my favorite verse, Jeremiah 48:11, is all about. “Moab has been on his lees from his youth, he has not been tipped over from vessel to vessel.” It is the picture of stagnancy – the build-up of crud that after a time becomes unnoticeable to the palate, even familiar and in such, desirable.

It is the picture of one for whom familiar crud is better than examining, straining, adding, mixing.

Mrs.Pickett, my principal, is a learner. Everyday she asks me about something new. Did you see this on the news? Did you read about that? Did you notice the relationship between? She challenges and inspires and motivates me everyday to see more, understand more, live more open to gain. I am losing her to the Peace Corps in the Philippines this summer. I hope they learn a lot. Her loss in my life is huge. My learner leaders are few.

Learning is fun and makes life interesting. Too many students groan when I ask them to look into something, like learning is some curse of the fall, complete with thorns and thistles. But I argue it is the antithesis of such. It is the joy of discovery, adventure, and curiosity yet alive in man, that proves us made in God’s image.

I love to learn.

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a time out to read

I took time out to read this weekend. I had been riding around with Pat Conroy’s newest book, South of Broad, in my car for a week. It’s due back at the library, overdue in fact. I never got around to reading it. That makes me angry since I made a special trip to check it out. Instead of taking it back, I chalked the extra 50 cents in fees up in “good investment” and made myself take the time out. It’s about 500 pages. I knew it would take me all the reading time I could squeeze out of the weekend.

I love Pat Conroy. His words are so beautiful that they make me hurt. He can tell the ridiculous, true tales of the South and the deep, dark pains of the human psyche with the most lyrical of words. His stories are usually about the cult of class, both the moralism and ignominy of Catholicism, and all the fractures of human spirit which lie almost imperceivable, like hair- breadth cracks in fine China.

What he does best, is characters. His stick. They get under my ribs, under my nails; they cling. They seem more real than those breathing actual air around me. Because I can see inside them: their thoughts, their fearful vacillations, their justifications, they seem more real.

It always takes me a day or two to truly return from reading great writing, the kind that leaves me in some kind of juxtaposition and in a place where there are only questions. Good writing leaves me at once in tension and free-fall… sort of suspended in a post traumatic shock – a place where my mind disavows and my body seeks to right its disrupted systems.

All the foibles and secret distresses of those I just met through story will plague me a good while yet. I deeply consider and characterize them. I ache alongside them and silently plea their case before God, whom they cannot seem to find. I stretch and reach and wrap my mind around their predicament, work words to my lips to warm them and to awaken them from their wounding.

But, I will sit and gaze dreamily on so many who are not ten feet from my inhalations.  I will shade my eyes from hands grasping at sunlight,  I will cover my ears from silent cries toward me. Why is this so?

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I am reading…reading…reading.

Sometimes I do not let myself read…because it becomes all that I want to do. I stop eating, I stop sleeping – of course I stop doing laundry and other necessary things. So I only allow it for a day or two at a time.

At one time, before the kids, I did research for a ministry – I pretty much read things that others did not have the desire, nor will, nor stomach to read. I read and summarized and drew comparisons and developed corollaries.  I’m pretty good at it. Maybe when I am older, or better, when my children are, I can again do more of that work.

I do not like the culture of ignorance. The attitude that it is better to not know, to not seek out truth, but to just decide some position in order to have an identity or a sense of belonging. I have never been so aware of this stagnancy, this static orientation of truth in our culture. I am most concerned.

I am tired of those who position themselves and try to make others do so – for ratings or dollars or ego. I am tired of people no longer discussing things to find solution, but rather to be heard. I am truly tired of it.

Sometimes I want to scream  when people make arrogant, asinine comments about subjects they couldn’t spell much less explain. Some unknowingly bait me…looking for my unquestioned agreement as a believer…I have to walk away… I do not trust my words nor my (pharisaical) training to slay fiercely and quickly unprepared challengers…So great is my anger…I fear my flesh.  So I walk away and let God cool my mind, slow my heart…and ask. “What, LOrd, is mine to do here?”

I have perhaps unfairly, almost altogether given up on my generation. So I look to the precious, still tender hearts and minds that come behind. I do not waste what God has mercifully offered my sincere heart to understand. I do not pour it out in vain to be trampled upon. I store, ration and bottle and then try to put into the hands of  the next generation the questions of the man who would find God and walk in His ways.

It’s all I know to do. It’s all that keeps me sane.

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