Friday, May 17, 2019

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

The story of The Great Divorce is deceptively simple. A group of strangers board a bus going to heaven and their various reactions to celestial realities show their true character. C.S. Lewis brilliantly imagines and describes what heaven might be like, but I have to confess that I sometimes found myself wondering, "What in the world is going on here?"

Although short, and not as theologically hefty as some of his apologetic books, The Great Divorce requires patient reading because of our limited human understanding of spiritual realities. Lewis does not pretend to know what heaven is really like, but he does his best to show that it is more real than anything we've ever experienced on earth. Since everything earthly is a shadow of things to come, he makes everything much heavier in Paradise. The little flower was hard, not like wood or even like iron, but like diamond

Standards of beauty and power are turned on their heads. (The first shall be last, etc.) A plain woman who lived a quiet selfless life on earth is practically a princess in heaven. When a man asks an angel if he'll be able to meet any famous artists, the angel replies that he's not sure he's seen any...

"But surely in the case of distinguished people, you'd know?
"But they aren't distinguished - no more than anyone else. Don't you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone like light and mirrors. But the Light's the thing." Nobody's famous in heaven and nobody cares because only One is worthy of praise.

The sensation that Lewis' character sees most often in the heavenly creatures is joy. They also are dwelling in love in a way that makes the human idea of being "in love" look infantile and anemic. In fact, Lewis shows several passengers from the bus whose love for others is purely selfish or lustful.

How to describe how achingly beautiful everything is? Lewis emphasizes that human senses can't take in all the glory, but will adapt to it as time goes by. He describes a group of singers: If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old.

A fascinating read!


Friday, May 10, 2019

Stories as Truth Teachers - Quote by Andrew Peterson

If you want a child to know the truth, tell him the truth. If you want a child to love the truth, tell him a story. (Andrew Peterson quoted by Sarah Mackenzie in The Read-Aloud Family)


Friday, May 3, 2019

What I Read and Watched in April

I read a mixed bag of genres this month (Christian fiction, Christian classics, non-fiction, and vintage), which I'll list in order from least liked favorite:

Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Bonds (I would have enjoyed this more if the author had not spent an inordinate and unnecessary amount of time bashing non-Calvinists. It was a definite distraction from the main subject.)
Interior Life by Upham (some good insights on the holy life, but outdated in language)
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Meissner (fabulous writing for CF, but lacking in theological heft. I hate preachy books, but this one had a fluffy take on forgiveness.)
Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie(Gives reasons for reading together and many book lists)
The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis (much easier to read than I expected!)
Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller (The best book I've ever read on the subject. Review forthcoming)
Fair Harbor by Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1922 fiction that had me rooting for the hero and chortling at all the foibles of the townspeople. Free for Kindle)
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer - An absolute must-read for any Christian. Reviewed here. (Free for Kindle)
The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald (audio narrated by Ian Whitcomb. Pure delight. E-book is free for Kindle)

We avoid most new movies so I cannot explain how we happened to watch these three within a seven day span. The Avenger's End Game was overlong but fun. Since we hadn't watched Ant Man, Black Panther, Guardian's of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel, we were lost some of the time. Next we watched The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a true story of a young Malawian boy who brought an end to drought in his village with his home-made invention. Lastly, we watched The Return of Mary Poppins and were delighted with most of it. (The topsy-turvy song with Meryl Streep was a low moment.)

Did you read or watch anything that you'd recommend?


Friday, April 26, 2019

The Cultivation of Godliness - quote by A.W. Tozer

Last week I reviewed Tozer's classic, The Pursuit of God. There were too many wonderful passages to squeeze into one brief review, so I saved this choice quote for a separate post. He writes of shallow Christianity in 1948. If he only knew what distractions we face now!

The idea of cultivating a relationship with God, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamor and fast-flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient with slower and less-direct methods of reaching their goals. We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relationships with God. We read our chapter, have our short devotions, and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar. (p. 54)

Lord, help us.


Friday, April 19, 2019

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

If you have tasted God's holy, immediate presence,
you will not have much use for life without that intimacy.
- Dr. Dennis Kinlaw -

What a delight to revisit Tozer's classic, The Pursuit of God, after many, many years. As Tozer so aptly puts it, Our pursuit of God is successful only because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. We find Him only because He is eager to be found. (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

Many Christians believe in God, but don't live in intimate fellowship with Him. Their ideas are brain-deep, not life-deep. What makes some people so much more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings and correction? What makes some people so willing to give up all this world's "toys" to serve selflessly and wholeheartedly? Tozer proposes that those who actively pursue Him, put into place certain attitudes and actions that help them to cultivate their life in Christ. Their receptivity may be increased by practice or destroyed by neglect.

One hindrance to communion with Christ is what Tozer calls "hyphenated sins." They are not something we do; they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and power. The self-sins are these: self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. These hidden sins must be rooted out if we are to live in glad obedience to our loving heavenly Father.

Another hindrance is lack of faith. Why do we know so little of that habitual conscious communion with God which the scriptures seem to offer? The answer is our chronic unbelief. Faith enables our spiritual sense to function.

This devotional classic is chock full of admonitions and insights such as, Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity, and bluster make a man dear to God. If you want to go deeper in your relationship to Christ, Tozer will point you in the right direction. But be warned, if you are used to fluffy Christianity that requires little or no effort on your part, you may be offended by what Tozer has to say. I'll close with one of the prayers in the book:


Friday, April 12, 2019

A Well-Read Christian - Quote from Dennis Kinlaw

One day when my son was home during his medical training, we had a conversation about his work. I said to him, "In medicine you have found what you want to do. You are going to give your life to it, and you will love it. But you must be careful. The first thing you know, you will wake up and be fifty years old, and the only thing you will have between your ears will be human anatomy and how to cut into it. That is a pretty thin ration on which to live intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. You need to start forcing yourself every day to read something that is not medical so that when you are fifty, you will be a human person as well as a surgeon

(from Feb 13, This Day with the Master devotional book, Zondervan)


Friday, April 5, 2019

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I'm not a huge fan of young love. The sighs, blushing, sweaty palms and goosebumps irritate me. I prefer the steady, time-tested love of such couples as Elizabeth and Darcy, Anne and Wentworth, and Jane and Rochester. So I was a bit dubious when vlogger Kate Howe  listed her favorite literary couples and most of them were teenagers. I watched her video, which included Almonzo and Laura, just before I started These Happy Golden Years

And I have to agree with her. Their courtship is exceptionally sweet without being saccharine. Almonzo is several years older than Laura and she has trouble seeing him as a possible suitor. When she gets a teaching job 12 miles away from home, he kindly offers to pick her up and take her back each weekend so that she can see her family. She is thrilled to have a way to escape the hardships of her job and accepts, but later decides to give up these rides because she doesn't want to give him any false hopes. She showed a lot of integrity in making that tough decision and he showed just as much in his response. To her surprise, he insists on taking her back and forth anyway saying, What do you take me for? Do you think I'm the kind of fellow that'd leave you out there at Brewster's when you're so homesick just because there's nothing in it for me?

In his gentleness and persistence, he finally wins her. All the pains he takes to make the kitchen of their new home agreeable to her may not be romantic to some people. But being married to a man whose love language is "acts of service" has taught me that they were swoon-worthy.

Another aspect of the Little House books that I've enjoyed has been the underlying faith of the Ingall's family. Wilder is never pushy about Christianity, but shows it as the natural part of their daily lives. When Pa gets out his fiddle to play, he plays a mix of Scottish ballads, American folk songs and hymns. The family attends church even when they don't particularly like the preacher. They pray, trust God, and persevere through trials. When Mary comes home from college where she has learned many skills including doing bead work and reading braille, she gives hand-made gifts to each family member. Later she tells them that having memorized Bible verses as a child had helped her in her studies: Knowing them was a great help to me, Ma. I could read them so easily with my fingers in braille that I learned how to read everything sooner than anyone else in my class. "I'm glad to know that, Mary," was all that Ma said, and her smile trembled, but she looked happier than when Mary had given her the beautiful lamp mat.

This was meant to be the end of the original 8-book series and I highly recommend it as such. The ninth book, The First Four Years, was published after Wilder's death and was a rough draft that she never completed. It is completely unlike the other books in tone and was a huge disappointment.


Friday, March 29, 2019

What I Read and Watched in March

I waffled on my New Year's resolution of reading 20 physical books before reading any fiction on my Kindle. After only 13 "real" books, I caved in and read a D.E. Stevenson novel, The House on the Cliff. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt it was worth falling off the wagon for.

The longest novel I read this month was Shogun by James Clavell. It was not my kind of book and it left me feeling emotionally depleted. (My review is is here.) Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace (reviewed here), The Mind of Christ by Kinlaw (reviewed here), and The Return of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (reviewed here) were much more enjoyable.

On my Kindle was the terrific The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (free at the time of this posting), Be Encouraged by Warren Wiersbe, and The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Bond (reviewed here.) On audio I thoroughly enjoyed George MacDonald's classic, The Princess and the Goblin.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that my viewing tastes are pretty tame. Rather than feel violated by shocking and violent images, we opt for older television programs on DVD - about two nights a week. We watched the second movie in the Hollow Crown series and were disappointed. There are reasons why Henry IV is not one of Shakespeare's better known plays. The dialogue isn't very memorable. The acting wasn't as good as the first film. And it was bawdier. We also watched a couple of Columbo movies from Season 4 and Perry Mason, Season 3. We finished up Season Three of Larkrise to Candleford (second time through); episode 12 is the best thing I've ever seen on television about the different kinds of love that it takes to make a marriage.

What about you? Did you read or watch anything worthwhile in March?


Friday, March 22, 2019

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge

At the root of all art is giving. You can’t hoard the beauty you’ve drawn into you; you have to pour it out again for the hungry, however feebly, however stupidly. You’ve just got to.

One of the themes of Pilgrim's Inn is true beauty. Several members of the Eliot family are extolled for their physical appearance and artistic talent, but Goudge expertly shows that loving deeply and unselfishly is its own kind of art. By this definition, the plainest of the Eliots  (Margaret and Hilary) are artists of extraordinary talent. Some people express loveliness just by loving. Goudge does not sentimentalize love, but instead shows its high cost. 

The title of the book refers to the old inn that Nadine and George buy as their country home. It used to house devout believers who made their pilgrimages to the nearby abbey. Now it has become a refuge not only for Nadine's family, but for other wanderers. Slowly the residents discover the house's  hidden surprises and its ability to bring them healing. The book was written after WWII and several of the characters have lost their hope in humanity and see no point in bringing children into such a world. Goudge deftly proposes that it is BECAUSE of children that the world can improve. While there were children, men and women would not abandon the struggle to make safe homes to put them in, and while they struggled there was hope.

To Goudge, home-building is world-building. Every family unit is a piece of the armor needed to keep mankind safe and sane. Lucilla, the family matriarch feels this strongly:

She tried to pay attention to what the others were saying. But they were talking about the deplorable state of the world, about that terrible bomb, about famine and inflation and chaos and death, and her mind shied away from their talk like a terrified horse. She couldn’t do anything about it now, at eighty-six, except pray, and in between her prayers, now that the war was over, she wished they would let her forget sometimes that things had not turned out as well as one had hoped, and enjoy the things that were left: the spring sunshine slanting into the quiet room and lighting up the flowers, the lively ripe corn color of Pooh-Bah’s coat, the hot tea, the log fire burning on the hearth, the feel of the dear old dog’s chin resting on her shoe, the sound of the sea coming in the pauses of their talk…Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended on their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood.

A lovely installment to the trilogy!


Friday, March 15, 2019

The Confessions of St. Augustine (Modern English Version)

If you put off reading the classics because you are intimidated by their outdated language, this version of Augustine's Confessions is an excellent way to become acquainted with his most personal work. It is not a confession as we normally think of it, but is more a prayer of praise interspersed with personal anecdotes.

As Augustine looks back over his life, he perceives God's mercy at every turn. Even as he ran from God, God's presence surrounded him. In misery my soul cast about seeking sensual objects that could scratch where the pox itched. Yet there was no love to be found. None of these things had a soul, so they could not be objects of love. To love then, and to be loved was sweet to me. But when I found someone I loved, I wanted only to possess and enjoy the body of the person I loved. I found a spring of friendship and polluted it with lascivious filth. I veiled the brightness of real love with a hell of foul, unseemly lust. My God, my Mercy, how much bitter root did You sprinkle on that sweetness? You were gracious to do it. (p. 32)

Although not a heavy book (except for the last few chapters), it merits careful reading. I normally eschew paraphrases, but thought this one was well done. It retained the rich language while giving the sentences better flow. Here is one example:

Original: Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. Modern English Version: Narrow is the mansion of my soul. Enlarge it, so that You can enter. It lies in ruins. Repair it. (p. 19)

One drawback of the Modern English Version is that it skims over two very famous passages that are often mentioned in other books (the pear stealing and Augustine's astonishment at seeing Ambrose reading silently). Still, there is much to be gained by reading this version. I was greatly encouraged by the influence of Augustine's mother's prayers for his life, which spurred me to greater faithfulness in praying for my own grown children.

The band Gungor wrote a lovely song (Late Have I Loved You) based on several lines from Augustine's Confessions, which you can listen to on YouTube.


Friday, March 8, 2019

The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge

There are two kinds of romantic love. One is the passionate emotion that leads you to say, "I do." The other is the unemotional choice that enables you to keep your promise even when the feelings come and go. In The Bird in the Tree, Elizabeth Goudge explores both types.

Nadine and David are deeply in love. Their passion for each other is the "truest" thing they know. But Lucilla, the matriarch of the family, isn't so sure that their marriage is a good idea. And she does her best to persuade then that there might be something truer.

As part of my resolution to read more deeply, I'm reading only physical books for the first few months of 2019. I've already seen a difference in my attention span! And also an increase in my overall enjoyment. The Bird in the Tree by Goudge was splendid in every way: good writing, non-simplistic answers to life's problems, and believable characters (even the dogs are wonderfully "real").

Some delectable quotes:

In times of storm and tempest, of indecision and desolation, a book already known and loved makes better reading than something new and untried. The meeting with remembered and well-loved passages is like the continual greetings of old friends; nothing is so warming and companionable. (p. 266)

It was that declaration of Nadine's, that she wanted "to live her own life," that had exasperated Lucilla beyond anything else in the whole wretched business. It was a remark frequently on the lips of the modern generation, and it annoyed her. For whose lives, in the name of heaven, could they live except their own? Everyone must look after something in this world and why were they living their own lives if they looked after antique furniture, petrol pumps or parrots, and not when they looked after husbands, children or aged parents? (p. 83)

If you are familiar with Goudge, I don't need to extol her gifts, but if you aren't yet familiar with her novels, I suggest this trilogy (Bird in the Tree is Book One) or the stand-alone The Dean's Watch.


Friday, March 1, 2019

What I Read and Watched in February

I continue to stick to my New Year's resolution: NO FICTION on my Kindle until I finish 20 physical books. I miss my e-reader because that is where most of my light reading is stored. On the other hand, I am less distracted with my present reading style, so I'm pleased with that.

I finished Pilgrim's Inn and The Heart of the Family, the last two books in Elizabeth Goudge's Eliot Family trilogy. I also finished up The Little House series, wishing I had skipped the last book, The First Four Years, because it is dissonant in tone from the other books. The Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years were my favorites of the set.

I listened to The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher and although I didn't agree with everything, I greatly appreciated his deep thinking on several hard subjects. I also listened to 18 Holes with Bing, a biography by Nathaniel Crosby. I read Tozer's God's Pursuit of Man and Wiersbe's Be Wise (commentary on 1 Corinthians) on my Kindle.

I watched two old movies on YouTube, neither of which were uh-mazing. But I enjoyed the acting in the British melodrama Turn the Key Softly (1953). And I love Jean Arthur in anything, so I gladly put up with the silliness of Too Many Husbands (1940). (Though I prefer the 1963 remake with Doris Day and James Garner called Move Over Darling.)

What about you? Did you read or watch anything in February that you'd recommend?


Friday, February 22, 2019

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I could hardly put this sixth book in the Little House series down! How on earth are the Ingalls' family going to survive The Long Winter?

The story begins with Laura offering to help Pa with the haying. Although she is very young, he relents so that he can finish before winter. Even with her small size and limited strength, she does her best and they complete the task.  I loved it that she willingly gave of herself even though it was hard. The first night she goes to bed with a feeling of accomplishment: Laura was proud. Her arms ached and her back ached and her legs ached, and that night in bed she ached all over so badly that tears swelled out of her eyes, but she did not tell anyone." (p. 9) That's almost impossible to believe in the selfish, selfie-crazed, "look at me!" world that we live in.

Everyone in the story gives of themselves even when it seems like there is nothing left to give. During that long winter they are hit by blizzard after blizzard. The food and fuel run out. The general store is bare. But complaining is forbidden. Each one is expected to do their part to keep the home running. Ma Ingalls invents recipes out of odds and ends that are left over. She creates a "button lamp" when the kerosene is gone. When there is no more coal, Mr. Ingalls comes up with a solution.

I appreciated the patience and kindness that were expressed during their trials. When Pa comes back from the store with the only food item that was left, Ma expresses her thanks, saying how thoughtful it was for him to know that they would need tea on the upcoming cold nights. With no prospect of Christmas gifts of any kind, Ma and the girls gather up their pennies and nickels to buy one item the stores are not out of - a pair of suspenders for Pa. The girls are as thrilled to give this present as their father is to receive it.

Sacrificial love is a repeated theme in all of the books and one of the reasons they merit multiple readings. A fun element in this book is that Almonzo Wilder is introduced as a part of the community. (His story is told in Book Four, Farmer Boy, but that is before he moves out west and meets the Ingalls' family.) He and his older brother Royal have several interactions with Mr. Ingalls, but not the rest of the family yet.

I was so immersed in the story of multiple blizzards that I was surprised to look up and see the sun shining through my window! And I shed a tear for joy when the "Chinook" finally blew in.

This is probably my favorite Little House book so far.


Friday, February 15, 2019

C. S. Lewis quote on Faith

Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. . . . That is why faith is such a necessary virtue. Unless you teach your moods "where they get off," you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really depending on the weather and the state of its digestion.

The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers, and religious reading, and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

(p. 123, 124 Mere Christianity)


Friday, February 8, 2019

The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher

When I finally got around to listening to The Benedict Option, I was prepared to disagree with quite a bit of it. But I discovered that Dreher and I have more similarities than differences.

He gets off to a slow start with an overview of the history of Western Thought, but this is an extremely important base from which to begin. He clearly shows how our culture has come to the place where we believe that reality is whatever is in our heads. Although the book is aimed at getting Christians to think about creative ways to be counter culture, my biggest takeaway was this philosophical discussion. "To be fully human is to be in touch with reality (i.e., the One-Who-Is)."

These discussions of humanness, God-imaged-ness, and reality are definitely worth the price of the book. (In fact, I can't wait to get my hands on a hard copy so that I can re-read and underline.) His final chapters on marriage and human sexuality are wonderfully clarifying at a time when these topics are becoming blurred. Even if you disagree with Dreher on some things (as I did ), his clarity of reasoning will cause you to think hard about your values and beliefs.

I've failed to mention the main premise of the book. The Benedict Option refers to small Christian communities that live out their faith away from the pressures and sinfulness of the general populace. Dreher rightly notes that religious freedom is the key to retaining rights to form such communities. My doubt is whether or not our increasingly totalitarian government will countenance such groups.

A very compelling read! Have you read it? What did you think?

Here is the link to an article strongly opposed to The Benedict Option.


Friday, February 1, 2019

What I Read and Watched in January

I've had a terrific start to the New Year. If you read this blog regularly, you know I determined to read more physical books for the purpose of more careful reading. (Digital books, whether we admit or not, encourage scanning.) Anyway, I've LOVED the books I've read so far. This may be due to the fact that I read them more attentively OR just due to the fact that I'm very choosy about which books I lug to Brazil with me. Probably both are factors.

The books I read were:
1) The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge - Book One of a wonderful trilogy. Review forthcoming.
2) The Shallows by Nicholas Carr - contains many valid points on how the internet and social media have changed our thinking and reading habits.
3) Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey - a rip-roaring mystery

I read Be Right (Warren Wiersbe's commentary on Romans) on my Kindle as a part of my morning devotions. And listened to What's Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton. (Some of it was laugh-out-loud funny.)

We enjoyed United Kingdom, the story of an interracial marriage that rocked the evolving country of Botswana. This would be a great date night movie since it's based on a true story (something my husband loves) and yet has good acting and a sufficiently happy ending (which I love).

The movie that knocked our socks off was Richard II, the first of four movies in The Hollow Crown series. We've watched Kenneth Branagh's Henry V at least a dozen times so we have accustomed our ears to Shakespearean English. But the pronunciation and clarity of Richard II far outweighed even our beloved H.V. Richard II was not a pleasant story, but it was wonderfully scripted (of course!) and the acting was extraordinary.


Friday, January 25, 2019

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

When my husband's jokes are particularly annoying, I know the problem is not Dan. It's me. I'm just too stressed or too tired to enjoy his quirky sense of humor. I've been noticing the same thing about books lately. Hardly anything I read in 2018 brought joy to my heart. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the books. It was me and my diminishing attention span. I long for the days when I could get lost in a good book.

So in 2019 I'm hoping to cut way back on screen/scrolling time and read more non-digital books. It is appropriate that the first physical book I read this year was The Shallow: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

If I could sum up the book in a few sentences, it would be, "The distractions of the internet make deep reading next to impossible. Without deep reading there is no deep thinking." What Carr didn't say, but what kept coming to my mind, was "If no one is thinking deeply, what will happen to beautifully crafted sentences? What is the future, not just of reading, but of writing?" Kudos to me for not skipping the overly technical chapters (even when I wanted to.) There is a legitimate time and place for skimming, but since I was attempting to retrain my brain to pay attention, it was probably good that I started with a hard book. After struggling through the first 40 pages, I finally hit my stride.

Of the many quotes I marked,  most are too obvious to be enlightening so I'll post just a few.

The computer is so much our servant that it would seem churlish to notice that it is also our master. (p. 4)

The Net's interactivity gives us powerful new tools for finding information, expressing ourselves, and conversing with others. It also turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment. (p. 117)

What determines what we remember and what we forget? The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness. Storing explicit memories and forming connections between them requires strong mental concentration, amplified by repetition or by intense intellectual or emotional engagement. The sharper the attention, the sharper the memory. (p. 193)

Carr maintains that most modern technologies are dividing our attention thereby causing a loss of concentration. I don't think anyone can argue with that. The issue is what are we going to do about it?  I, for one, plan to keep my brain in good working order by reading more carefully, spending less time on electronic devices, and memorizing chunks of poetry and scripture.

Any thoughts?


Friday, January 18, 2019

Back to the Classics Challenge 2019

Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting this challenge again. The rules and sign-up are here. Participants are eligible for an Amazon gift card. Deadline is March 1, 2019. Below is my list of possible reads:

1. 19th Century Classic: Silas Marner by George Eliot
2. 20th Century Classic: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (1940)
3. Classic by a Woman Author: Brat Farrar by Tey 1/19
4. Classic in Translation: Introduction to a Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1609, French)
5. Classic Comic Novel: Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
6. Classic Tragic Novel: Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
7. Very Long Classic (500 pages+): Bleak House by Dickens
8. Classic Novella (-250 pages): 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne or Epic of Gilgamesh
9. Classic From the Americas: ?
10. Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia): On the Beach or Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, Beau Geste by P.C. Wren, or Green Dolphin Street by Goudge
11. Classic From a Place You've Lived: O Guarani by José Alencar (Brazil)
12. Classic Play: Romeo and Juliet, or Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare

I'm shooting for at least 9 of these classics this year. I have at least 4 of these in audio versions and I look forward to listening to them.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Three Short Book Reviews

Due to Christmas festivities, I didn't have time to write detailed reviews of these December reads, so here are the condensed versions:

Farmer Boy: Another wonderful entry in the series. This is the story of Almanzo Wilder who would later marry Laura Ingalls. I imagine these stories were memories he shared with Laura as she wrote the novels. Most of the memories have to do with farm chores and the delicious food he ate.

Almanzo's father is quite different from Laura's "Pa." He is a prosperous farmer and his family lacks for nothing. But that doesn't mean his children are spoiled. Although he would be considered too strict by today's standards, I really appreciated it that he let Almanzo "suffer" his way through some sticky situations. Intermixed with all the firmness is a lot of love and wise counsel. It was a pleasure to "watch" this young boy grow up!

Merchant of Venice: This is one of the most accessible Shakespeare plays I've read because I could actually remember who was who. It has some of the most famous lines in all of literature and a happy ending too. After reading this, I greatly enjoyed watching the 1996 film version on YouTube. The actor who played Shylock did a wonderful job of expressing the nuances of his character.

Finding Father Christmas: I am so used to Christian fiction being substandard that I was actually stunned that Finding Father Christmas was well-written, had likable characters, and introduced subjects of faith without preachiness. It also dealt with a difficult subject in a discreet way. (The second novella, Engaging Father Christmas continued with good writing and characterization, but was a lot sappier.)


Friday, January 4, 2019

15 Christian Books I Plan to Read in 2019

For the past two years I've participated in the Intentional Christian Reading Challenge at Goodreads. It has been a great way to attack my TBR list, especially of books that have been on my Kindle for way too long. And it has helped me to include a lot more non-fiction in my literary diet. But by trying to fit titles into pre-arranged categories, I haven't always been able to prioritize the best books. So this year I'm just making a list of the 15 books I know I should read because they are solid and nourishing and NOT just because they are stuff I want to clean off my e-reader. Here are the titles I hope to savor in 2019:

*The Pursuit of God by Tozer 3/23/19's Pursuit of Man by Tozer 2/5/19

*What's Wrong with the World by G.K. Chesterton
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
The Reason for God by Tim Keller
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
**The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
*Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray
The Christian Mind by Blamires
**Affliction by Edith Schaeffer
The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson
The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers
The Radical Wesley by Howard Synder
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law (1686-1781)

One asterisk means it was free for Kindle at the time of this writing; two asterisks mean it's free for Kindle Unlimited users.

In addition I'll be doing Carol's "Christian Greats" challenge. (with some overlap from above)

1)  A Book on Early Church History (up to about 500 A.D) - still to be decided, 2)  A Book About a Prominent Christian - Radical Wesley, 3) A Christian Allegory - Princess and the Goblin by Gge McDonald, 3/16/19 4) A Book on Apologetics - The Reason for God by Keller, 5)  A Philosophical Book - What's Wrong with the World by Chesterton,  6)  A Missionary Biography - still to be decided,  7)  A Seasonal Book - to be decided, 8)  A Novel with a Christian Theme - The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge.  1/19 9) A Good Detective or Mystery Novel - Bret Farrar by Tey 1/19 10)  A Substitute - The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Do you have any Christian classics you want to read or re-read this year?