Friday, May 31, 2019

What I Read and Watched in May

It's been a month of decluttering, packing up the house, and saying goodbyes as we head to the U.S. for home assignment. My brain was going in 20 directions per minute so reading anything heavy was out of the question.

1) I listened to Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton, which was wonderfully narrated. There were several discreet references to sex which probably wouldn't have bothered me if I'd read them, but listening to the couple talk about it felt a little like voyeurism.
2) Alias the Saint - A rather weak entry in The Saint series by Leslie Charteris
3)  The best book of all was Eugene Peterson's Take and Read, a delightful list of recommendations of worthwhile books.

On the movie front, we endured the 3rd film in the Hollow Crown film series, Henry IV, part 2. My husband said he appreciated having the background for Henry V (his favorite), but I am glad I never have to watch it again. The acting wasn't that great and the script is not Shakespeare's best. Add an unnecessary sex scene and you get a wasted Friday evening. The sequel, Henry V, was much better, but quite different from the Kenneth Branagh version. We also watched some Perry Mason and we thoroughly enjoyed the last few episodes of Season 4 of Larkrise to Candleford. Once again, I was impressed by the message that you see NOWHERE else on television - that real love is costly and yet worth the price.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Take and Read by Eugene Peterson

Author, pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson (1932-2018), has written a very dangerous book for Christian bibliophiles. If you love the Bible, the Church, Church history, deep thinking and beautiful writing, Take and Read offers a veritable sinkhole of books to add to your TBR list. (I added 135 titles to mine.)

Subtitled "an annotated list of spiritual reading," the book cites several hundred classics that strengthened Peterson's heart and influenced his thinking throughout his many years of ministry. Although I don't always agree with every point of  his theology, I appreciate his love for the Church and his gift for expressing spiritual truths in clear language.

Spiritual reading does not mean reading on spiritual or religious subjects, but reading any book that comes to hand in a spiritual way, which is to say, listening to the Spirit, alert to intimations of God. Reading today is largely a consumer activity. People devour books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers for information that will fuel their ambition or careers or competence. The faster the better, the more the better. It is either analytical, figuring things out; or it is frivolous, killing time. Spiritual reading is mostly a lover's activity - a dalliance with words, reading as much between the lines as in the lines themselves. It is leisurely, as ready to reread an old book as to open a new one. What follows is a list of books that require the lost art of SLOW reading.

In the chapter on Classics, he gives this tantalizing description of The Collected Works of John of the Cross: Virtually everyone who pursues the spiritual life expects to be rewarded with ecstasy. John has no patience with what he calls our "spiritual sweet tooth." He is a ruthless realist, stripping away the illusions, the fantasies, and the delusions, training us to discern the realities of faith.

In the chapter on prayer, he describes John Baillie's A Diary of Private Prayer: I find a cadenced and austere beauty in these morning and evening prayers. And a searing honesty. There is always a temptation in written prayer toward rhetorical flourish, grandstanding before the Almighty. These prayers guide us in a way of prayer that is simple, direct, and immediate.

I gobbled up the chapter on poetry since I am always on the lookout for meaty, theologically sound poems. And I hadn't read a single one of the books he mentions in his chapter on mystery novels so that sent me scurrying to Amazon. But even though I devoured this book, I don't expect to love all the titles mentioned (some writers lean toward liberal theology). I expect, however, to be nourished by a great number of them. I'm especially happy we'll be spending the next eight months in the U.S. where I'll have access to several wonderful libraries where I can search for many of these gems. Another happy note is that Take and Read is on sale for 99 cents till May 31st.


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?