Friday, July 31, 2020

What I Read and Watched in July

With my son and his wife visiting from the U.S., there hasn't been much time for reading, but we've watched half a dozen movies. Considering our different tastes, the votes were commonly cast for older family favorites such as the first Star Wars trilogy and the Lord of the Rings extended versions. Star Wars seemed a bit silly after LOTR, but it was still fun. I hadn't seen the Star Wars films for many years and had never seen them with the changes made by George Lucas in the remastered DVDs (released in 2004).

As far as reading goes, I'm halfway through four titles, but finished Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (review next week) and Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge.
The Dickens title was plain hard work, but listening to Mil Nicholson at Librivox helped a lot. Most of Linnets and Valerians was delightful, but the far-reaching effects of the black magic on several of the main characters robbed the book of some of its charm. If I had read it as a fairy tale rather than a middle grade adventure story, it might have been less disturbing.

I watched two Hallmark mysteries: Fixer Upper: Framed for Murder & Chronicle Mysteries: The Deep End. And I enjoyed this 45 minute YouTube video of James Clear summarizing his book Atomic Habits.

Anybody else still in a reading slump? Any good books or movies to recommend?


Friday, July 24, 2020

A Culture of Boredom

In a culture that craves the big, the entertaining, the dramatic, and the shocking, cultivating a life with space for silence and repetition is necessary for sustaining a life of faith. Once a student complained to his professor about having to read Augustine's Confessions. "It's boring," the student whined. "No, it's not," the professor responded. "You're boring." What he meant is that when we gaze at the richness of the gospel and the church and find them dull and uninteresting, it's actually we who have been hollowed out. We have lost our capacity to see wonders where true wonders lie.

(from Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 34)


Friday, July 10, 2020

The Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Do your daily small tasks really matter in the whole scheme of things? In Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren walks us through the rhythms of a typical day and highlights lessons that can be learned from each simple practice.

Christians are taught to look for a radical life, a life of conspicuous sacrifice and service - a life that seems obviously set apart for something more than the mundane and unimportant... We tend to want a Christian life with all the dull bits cut out. Yet God made us to spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?

She emphasizes that it is in the dailiness of the Christian faith - the making of the bed, the doing of the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading of the Bible, the quiet, the small - that God's transformation takes root and grows. Evangelicals tend to focus on a "radical Christianity" full of excitement, passion and risk. Quoting Eugene Peterson, she writes, There is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for the long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.

In addition to a radical faith, we American Christians love a productive faith. The busier we are in God's work, the more spiritual we feel. But Tish gently reminds us that if we realize that ALL we do is for God's glory (even the mundane), it helps us to resist the idolatry of work and accomplishment. She reiterates this in her chapter on rest where she writes that sleep reminds us that ultimately it is God who does the work. When we lie down at the end of the day, it is a confession of our limits and a recognition of the holiness of rest and the blessedness of unproductivity. As we stop all our "doing," we joyfully acknowledge God's watchcare over our lives.

This is not a book that will bowl you over, but it is a perfect book to read during lockdown. I, as a missionary, appreciated this careful analysis of what a life of faithfulness looks like, especially when opportunities for [frantic] Christian service have been curtailed.