Monday, September 22, 2014

Quote of the Week - The Beauty of the Ordinary

Edie Wadsworth over at Life in Grace opened her post today with this quote:

Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. 
Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. 
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. 
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples, pears. 
Show them how to cry when pets and people die. 
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. 
And make the ordinary come alive for them. 
The extraordinary will take care of itself. 
- William Martin

Hop on over to her blog to read the rest of the article. Good stuff.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Who am I to criticize Shakespeare? All I know is that I like some of his plays and don't like others. Strangely, I'm inclined to enjoy his tragedies since they aren't quite as silly as the comedies. Midsummer Night's Dream may be the silliest of them all.

The most famous line from this play is "The course of true love never did run smooth," and Shakespeare sets out to prove just how foolish and fickle lovers can be. Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius. Both men love Hermia. But, of course, Hermia's father wants her to marry the one she doesn't love. Oberon and Titania (fairy king and queen) have a spat and he casts a spell that causes more romantic confusion.

I'm sure it would have been much more enjoyable (and much easier to keep everybody straight) if I'd watched the play. Maybe someday. For now I have to say the most delightful part of the whole experience was reading the Arthur Rackham version. Even on the Kindle Fire the pictures were large enough to admire. Rackham perfectly captured the ethereal quality of the fairies. The only fly in the ointment (apart from the silliness) was that I could not underline favorite passages. These beautifully illustrated books are like pdf files and cannot be highlighted.

I especially enjoyed Oberon and Titania's benediction at the end of the story: "Hand in hand, with fairy grace, will we sing, and bless this place."

I'm halfway through my goal to read  four Shakespeare plays this year!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Life of Obedience by Andrew Murray

In our anti-authoritarian culture, books about radical obedience rank up there in popularity with books on male headship. I have to admit I picked up A Life of Obedience only because it was offered for free and because I love Andrew Murray.

Murray traces the theme of obedience from Genesis to Revelation. We all know that sin was introduced into the world through Adam and Eve´s disobedience. And we know that the Israelites were given constant commands to walk in God´s ways or else suffer the consequences. 

But isn't that just for the Old Testament? Don´t we now live in a state of grace, light years away from all that legalism? Murray would say no. At every single point in Jesus´ ministry He was 100 percent obedient to his Father. We are to do nothing less than follow his example. "If you love me, keep my commandments."

Lest we fall into the trap of seeing this as salvation by rule-keeping, Murray elaborates on the blessings of living in such intimate relationship with Christ that it is our joy to live unreservedly for his honor and glory. Whereas the Jews of the Old Testament did their best to follow God´s commands and kept failing, New Testament Christians were given not only Christ´s example, but Christ´s enabling presence. The Holy Spirit changes our rebellious, stony hearts into "hearts of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26) as we yield ourselves completely to God. Some traditions call this "sanctification" or "complete surrender;" Murray contends that without it, we are doomed to a life of mediocre Christianity.

I highlighted countless passages but will share just a few:

We have imagined that more study of the Word, more faith, more prayer, or more communion with God would surely be the keys [to abiding in Christ], but we have overlooked a simple truth: "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me." So, again, obedience is the key... obedience on earth is the key to pleasing God's heart. (p. 17)

If you accustom yourself to studying the Bible without an earnest and definite purpose to obey, you will become hardened in disobedience. (p. 49)

From the very outset of the Christian life, let us avoid the fatal mistake of calling Christ "Master" but not doing what He says. (p. 58)

Beware of seeking just enough obedience to ease your conscience, and as a result to lose the desire to do and be and give God all He is worthy of. (p. 92)

A very worthwhile book!

Friday, September 5, 2014

On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos

I first heard of Louis Markos when The Teaching Company offered a big discount on his lectures about C.S. Lewis. Later my husband enjoyed Restoring Beauty, Markos' book on the themes of truth and beauty in Lewis' books.

While I was still reeling from the impact of The Lord of the Rings (which I read it for the first time in 2013), I heard that Markos had written a book called, On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis; I knew I had to have it.

His introduction, called "Stories to Steer By," suggests that in the past morality has been taught "first and foremost through stories." But today there is a dearth of such tales. "Worse yet, we try to make up counter stories, politically correct fairy tales that are as paltry as the newfangled virtues they are meant to celebrate" [i.e.tolerance, multiculturalism and environmentalism.] (p. 12)

Markos then sets out to celebrate the traditional virtues of courage, love, self-control, etc. by highlighting how each of them is portrayed in the masterworks of Tolkien and Lewis. Although friendship is not included in common lists of virtues, Markos contends that Tolkien elevated it to new heights with his powerful depiction of the bonds between the members of the Fellowship, especially between Sam and Frodo.

Each chapter of the book deals with a specific moral quality as evidenced in Lord of the Rings and in the Narnia Chronicles. Although I loved both of them, I wasn't always able to appreciate the two of them being compared side by side. It was jarring at times to be pulled out Middle Earth and yanked into Narnia. Still, I appreciated Markos' keen observations with regard to these two masterpieces of English literature.

Fairy tales are often accused of prettifying hard truths. In the hands of masters like Lewis and Tolkien, they are more likely to strip away prettified lies. (p. 153)