Friday, October 28, 2011

Hurry Less, Worry Less by Judy Pace Christie

We live in a culture of hurry.  Our “to do” lists are unending and our days go by in a blur. No wonder this title caught my eye.  Frankly, I didn’t need another book on how to get more organized. I’ve read tons of them and I still manage to be overcommitted and stressed out.

The two most important questions in Hurry Less, Worry Less are, What would you like your life to look like? and What is keeping you from getting there?  

One of Christie’s strategies for bringing balance to overload is to plan an activity sabbatical.  “Consider this a time emergency, and you are simply trying to stop the bleeding by putting a tourniquet on your calendar. This may seem extreme, but it works well for those who are so tired that they feel sick (or wish they were sick so they could stay in bed) or for those who truly have no idea where to start.” (p. 42) She suggests that you stop doing everything that is not absolutely necessary (you’d be surprised at how much is not essential) and to prayerfully re-evaluate your priorities.  “The journey to living abundantly has to be done deliberately.  It is a time for realizing that you cannot, in fact, do everything, but you can do plenty and do it well and happily.” (p. 78)

Dieting fads say “Eat this,” and “Avoid that”, yet many of the newer dieting books teach that temporary food deprivation is not the answer; consistent, healthy life choices are the only way to get slim (and stay slim).  Christie’s book is similar in that she doesn’t provide a tidy list of “dos” and “don’ts.” “As with most important things in life, hurrying less and worrying less requires a commitment to an ongoing way of living.  Again, this is not a time-management course or a guide to becoming more efficient.  It is about transforming your life, tweaking here and there, taking inventory of the good and bad, and moving ahead.”  It’s about deciding how you really want to live and taking the necessary steps to make it happen. She adds, “Over the past few years, I have occasionally felt that my life was once more slipping out of control – usually because I said yes when I should have said no and when I momentarily disregarded how I truly wanted to live.” (p. 115)

Christie’s book has made a huge difference in my crazy life.  When I actually made a list of the things that were sabotaging my peace, I was able to see activities that had to be relinquished.  Several stressful activities could not be eliminated because they are part of the life phase I am in.  But seeing them as part of God’s plan for me at present, stripped them of their anxiety-producing hold.  I highly recommend this book to those who are experiencing a disconnect between how they want to live from how they are actually living. Hurry Less, Worry Less enables them to take steps toward bringing the two lives together.

Friday, October 21, 2011

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger

I’ve heard bits and pieces about So Brave, Young, and Handsome, but was finally nudged into reading it by Amy’s review.

The book’s editor writes, “So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a lean, potent adventure story – a tale of romance and pursuit, friendship and a vanishing American West.  Set in 1915, it features two of the most appealing, aging cowboy rivals you’ll have come across and the modest, self-effacing writer who accompanies them on their trip across the country.…  Enger’s instinct for clean, entertaining storytelling feels rare in today’s world and transports us to a time when, in Leif’s words, outlaw stories could still lean a body forward in his chair.”
Enger is a gifted writer.  Some of the storyline stretches the imagination, but Enger’s writing voice is believable for that time and place.  It is a romance in the old-fashioned sense of the word, a tale of heroes and extraordinary events.
The themes of redemption and forgiveness run through the novel, but are not overdone.  To maintain the moral integrity of the book, the ending is not happy in the Hollywood sense.  Yet it manages to be satisfying because one of the main characters makes a very good decision after a lifetime of very bad ones.
Don’t let the title fool you into thinking this is “chick lit.”  The book has a lot more depth than that and could be equally enjoyed by male or female readers.  It’s a tribute to the dying west and to men who are trying to discover what it means to live honorably.  I’m glad I read it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Sabbath by Heschel

The fourth commandment is often unheeded by today’s Christians because of our understanding that we are free from Jewish laws.  Yet I wonder if we aren’t missing something vital to our well-being by ignoring it.  Why is it listed with the other “essential rules for living” if it has no purpose?  I have read many books through the years that have given me an appreciation for the gift of the Sabbath day, but probably none has been more influential than Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath.
Heschel does not set out to explain why one should keep the Sabbath as much as he seeks to write a love song to a day that he calls “the queen.”   It is a poetic tribute to her glory:

Time is like a wasteland.  It has grandeur but no beauty.  Its strange, frightful power is always feared but rarely cheered.  Then we arrive at the seventh day, and the Sabbath is endowed with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy.  It is a day on which hours do not oust one another.  It is a day that can soothe all sadness away. (p. 20)

The Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor.  The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.  Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of work…. The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath.  It is not an interlude but the climax of living. (p. 14)

In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil there are islands of stillness where man may enter a harbor and reclaim his dignity.  The island is the seventh day, the Sabbath, a day of detachment from things, instruments and practical affairs as well as of attachment to the spirit. (p. 29)

I particularly liked Heschel’s idea that keeping the Sabbath gives one a taste of eternity. If you are even slightly interested in the subject of Sabbath keeping, this seminal book is for you.

Another man who deeply loved the Sabbath was George Herbert (1593-1633).  He wrote:  

Thou art a day of mirth: 
And where the week days trail on the ground, 
thy flight is higher, as thy birth.  
O let me take thee at a bound, 
leaping with thee from sev'n to sev'n, 
Till that we both, being tossed from earth
fly hand in hand to heaven! 

The entire poem can be found here.