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.