A Couple of Good Books

A while back I reviewed a book which posited that many books that are not Christian are still good for our spiritual growth (see Recovering the Lost Art of Reading by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes). They do this by making us think deeply about the human condition, to learn new things, to develop empathy for other people. So in this post, I thought I’d mention several books I’ve read recently that fit that description.

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

In this book tragedy strikes a family when their young son drowns in their swimming pool. Here are some of the questions it made me think about:

*What is a family, and what holds a family together?

*How do spiritual disciplines help us navigate grief and other challenges of life? Can spirituality become too self focused?

*Which is more important — achievement or relationships, honesty or success?

*What happens when we hide or misrepresent who we are or how we feel?

*How do different people react and cope with tragedy?

It also made me understand how a person from a different culture (in this case India) may react differently, and how a child with two cultural heritages may feel isolated and have trouble fitting in.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This book can be best characterized as fantasy, not my usual choice, but I liked it. Main character Nora Seed, finds her life rather sad and unfulfilling. In a near death experience, she finds herself in a library where there are many, many books — each one telling the story of her life had she made a different decision somewhere along the line. It made me wonder ….

*What regrets do I have about my life?

*If I had made other choices would my life be better, or just different?

*What makes life worth living?

What good books have you read recently? I’d love to hear about them. Every book we read can teach us something and be an avenue for applying the Christian world view to life.

For more about reading see:

More About Books & Reading

The Art of Mindful Reading by Ella Berthoud– Book Review

Stewardship of My Reading

Read More Books!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably realize that I am an avid reader.  I read a lot, and I read eclectically — I read theology, biographies and memoirs,  novels, and poetry.  I’m interested in the brain, spiritual disciplines, autism, leadership, creativity, spiritual gifts and more.  My children say they rarely see me without a book in my hand.  I’m convinced that reading not only educates you, it makes you a better person, because you learn about the feelings and experiences of others.

Right now I’m working on a bulletin board at our church that will deal with lifelong learning, and books in particular.  Martin Luther wrote over 600 books and here are some of the things he had to say about the subject:

“There never yet have been, nor are there now, too many good books.” 

Martin Luther

One Book is enough, but a thousand books is not too many.”       

Martin Luther

“Every book is a great action, and every great action is a book.”

Martin Luther

So my message today is simple:  MAKE MARTIN LUTHER PROUD!  READ MORE BOOKS!

For some reviews of books you might enjoy, see these posts:

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen–Book Review

What the Bible Says About Purpose by David Ramos–Book Review

the thank-you project by Nancy Davis Kho–Book Review

 

 

The Art of Mindful Reading by Ella Berthoud– Book Review

My husband and I were recently on vacation, and we visited another congregation for worship.  The Pastor there, in his sermon, mentioned that everything in our life is stewardship;  i.e. stewardship is not just about how we use our money, time and talents for the church, but how we use our entire life in service to Christ.  That means everything we do can strengthen or weaken our Christian walk.

So, in going with that thought, as readers, the things we read and the way we read is important.  It’s part of the stewardship of our life that God expects of each one of us.  I have always felt that God speaks to me through my reading– and not just my “religious” reading–not only the Bible, or Christian books, but EVERYTHING.  Often, without planning on my part, I’ll find myself reading books with a similar theme or topic, and I know it’s something God means for me to study or think about.  Sometimes I read a book out of obligation — I need to review it for the blog, or a friend loans it to me–only to find it is just what I needed at the time.  I truly believe that God speaks to us in ways that come naturally to us, and for me, reading is one of those ways.  I don’t like surprises and thunderbolts — I need to mull things over and gradually come to my acceptance or conclusion.  God uses reading to help me do this.

This book, The Art of Mindful Reading, is not a Christian book, but a book that can help you, as a Christian, to pay attention to your reading.  Maybe, like me, you’ll find that it is one way God speaks to you.  The author is a bibliotherapist — you’re probably wondering what that is.  Here’s how Ms. Berthoud describes her work:

“My job involves looking at the entire person–their life, their tastes, their passions, desires, hopes, dreams and any issues they may have.  I then prescribe the ideal books for them to read right now–according to what is happening in their lives at the moment, what new paths they might be taking or what major life events are happening to them.  I aim to give the right books to the right people at the right time in their lives, and therefore I take reading as a pastime very seriously.”

Hmmm… I might say God is my bibliotherapist!

This is a beautiful little book, and you’ll learn all sorts of things about how reading is good for you.  With every book you read, you can live a life different from your own.  You learn about different people, places and times.  It creates empathy with others.  In addition, reading affects your physical and mental health.  Did you know that readers of fiction live, on average, two years longer than non-readers?  Reading slows your heart rate, and as your eyes move back and forth across the page, it creates a stress-reducing, meditative state.

The author helps you to determine what kind of reader you are, makes suggestions for creating your own special reading space, gives suggested exercises for reading more deeply (mindfully) and journaling about your reading.

VERDICT:  5 stars.  I loved it.  Readers!  Run out and get a copy today!

Is God Still Speaking?

I love reading!!!God speaks to us in many ways.  Some people see God in nature;  others in art;  still others in the lives of great saints.  As for me, I’m a word person and God most often speaks to me through words, and the things I am reading.  I don’t think that’s odd.  After all, didn’t God “speak” the world into existence with words?

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  Hebrews  11:3

Isn’t Jesus called “the Word”?

  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  John 1:1

Isn’t the Bible, our primary resource for knowing God, His Word?

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is not to say that there is plenty of unedifying reading material out there.  We have to use discernment in what we select;  but there are a plethora of good choices.  There are Christian writers of every ilk;  there are classics that educate us;  devotionals that feed our souls.  History and historical fiction can inform us; biographies inspire us;  poetry lifts our spirits.

So compose your own reading list.  Ask for suggestions from your Pastor and other Christians.  Take a look at books we’ve reviewed on our blog.  When you find a writer who speaks to you, see what else they’ve written.  Dive into some of those literary classics that bored you in high school or college.  And, of course, don’t forget your Bible.  Try different versions;  buy a commentary or a study Bible, attend Bible study.  God made us creatures who learn, and above all, He wants us to learn about Him.  Don’t miss the opportunities that are out there for you!

Stewardship of My Reading

“All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful, but not all things build up.”  1 Corinthians 10:23

Anyone who reads our blog regularly knows that I am an avid reader.  I read all sorts of things:  suspense novels, historical fiction, novels that address ethical questions, legal thrillers, nonfiction books about the brain, mental illness and other medical issues, spiritual autobiographies, books on prayer and other aspects of Christian living, the Bible (of, course) and more.  None of these books are “unlawful” and sometimes I use my reading time to just relax and take my mind off my responsibilities and the stress of everyday life.  Of course, we learn something even when we read books that seem merely escapist — we increase our vocabulary, travel to foreign cultures, grow in understanding people very different from ourselves, etc….I’m sure you could add to the list.  However, it is also true that some books are more edifying than others.

Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of LifeMost of the time I am reading two books at once:  one that is just for fun, and one that builds me up in some way.  I read my serious book for a bit first thing in the morning (when I’m fresher) and the other one throughout the day and before bed. Right now my morning book is called, Gracious Uncertainty: Faith In The Second Half of Life by Jane Sigloh.  In the forward, Jane is described as a “wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, poet, vintner, cook, gardener, and story keeper.”  The book is a serious of short essays, starting with a memory about her spiritual life, many from her childhood and youth.  It has inspired me to look back on my own spiritual journey and consider writing some of those memories down for my children and grandchildren.

I also try to do my Bible study early in the day.  I’ve been reading through the book of Acts (that’s what we’re studying in our Tuesday morning class at church) and parts of 1 Kings (our Sunday School unit this quarter is called ‘Kings and Prophets–we’ve been using material from Concordia Publishing, if anyone is interested).

My point in all this is simply:  if you’re a reader, like I am, be a good steward.  Read to relax, but also try to also spent time with things that are truly worthwhile.  Don’t have much time?  Pick a book like the one I mentioned or a devotional that has short chapters or essays and read one a day.  Read through the gospels in small bites.  Read a Psalm each day.  Then think about what you’ve read.  Write down quotes or verses that strike you.  Talk to others about what you’ve been reading. Build yourself up.

P.S.  The Lutheran Ladies recently signed up to be B&H/Lifeway Bloggers, and review new books.  Look for our book reviews on our blog and B&H Publishing website.  Hopefully our reviews will point you toward some edifying reading!

Book Learning, Again

If you’ve been following our blog for any length of time, you know I love books.  Today I’m excited because I found a great website our readers should visit if they have young children or grandchildren.  Here’s the link: http://readaloud.org/.

Evidentially one of the best things you can do for your children is read to them.  My mother read to me and I, in turn, loved reading to my girls and my granddaughter.  They still remember some of those favorite books.  Anyway, there is a reading challenge on the website — 15 minutes a day for 21 days.  Twenty days results in a habit, ninety in a lifestyle.

As a Christian parent, I would like to add this suggestion:  spend some of those reading times on Bible stories.  When our daughter Kate, was in second grade, we went to her parent/teacher conference, and the teacher told us this story about our daughter.  They had a story time each day when the teacher read aloud to the students;  sometimes the children brought favorite books for her to read.  One day Kate brought in a book of Bible stories.  Her teacher explained she was not allowed to read them to the class, but Kate could certainly bring her book to read to herself during their “free reading” time.  Kate did this, and her teacher said pretty soon a couple other kids were reading Bible stories during that time, too!

So, I say, read to your kids;  read Bible stories to your kids.  Let them see you reading your Bible.  It will become a habit and then a lifestyle.  It will influence them and they will influence others.

Let me know if you take the 21 day challenge!  It starts on October 2nd and I want to hear your stories!

God loves you and so do !!

Joan

Book Learning #2

In my last post, I promised to share some of what I have been reading lately.  I read widely and eclectically.  I read because I’m curious, and I like to know how and what others think.  I don’t always agree with everything I read, and so I don’t want our readers to necessarily take this post as a recommendation or endorsement of every book I mention.

First of all, in our weekly Bible study, we’re doing Acts this year.  I can certainly recommend this book!  Acts is exciting reading.  It includes miraculous events, travel, interesting people, sermons and even a ship wreck!  Written by Luke (the gospel author), it can be seen as a bridge between the gospels and the epistles and also between the work Jesus did on earth, and the work He continued to do through the Church.

In our Sunday School class, the material we are using comes from Concordia Publishing House (good if you are looking for solid Lutheran teaching, I recommend you look at their website).  This quarter we are studying kings and prophets.  Our first lesson deals with Solomon, David’s son, and his prayer for wisdom.

I’m also reading two books from our library and both are fairly new.  The first is My Utmost:  A Devotional Memoir by Macy Halford.  I chose it because I’m fond of what I call spiritual autobiographies.  I enjoy hearing about the spiritual journeys of others.  Ms. Halford was raised as a Southern Baptist;  when she was twelve, her grandmother gave her a copy of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.  She has read this daily devotional through every year since.  Wow!  That was the greatest take away for me — I never thought of using the same devotional over and over.  I tend to use one for a year and then it remains on my bookshelf forever, seldom touched.  This is an idea I may try.  I admit I have never used My Utmost for His Highest, but I know our author, Leslie has, so maybe she’ll chime in to tell us more about it.  (hint, hint).  I learned a lot about Oswald, who was definitely not a Lutheran.  According to Ms. Halford:

“Attempts at pinning Oswald down generally failed:  ‘He was a sort of proto-Pentecostal mystic, and Wesleyan in his theology,’ wrote an anonymous commenter on Puritanboard.com.’ That was as close to correct as one was likely to get, but it still wasn’t entirely correct.”

He definitely tends toward the Holiness traditions (Methodist and Wesleyan) and my husband and I had a lively discussion about the difference between how the Lutheran view of sanctification differs from the Holiness churches– they believe in the possibility of entire or complete sanctification” — Lutherans, I guess, believe sanctification is always incomplete, on this side of heaven.  (Maybe my friend, Nancy, who is Methodist would like to comment on this).  At any rate, according to the book, someone can read the My Utmost devotional without even noticing Oswald’s views on this.  (If you enjoy theological debates, the book also covered different views on the end times — post and pre millennial, the rapture, etc.).  The author says My Utmost has been called “the little black dress of books”  perfect for every occasion.  I liked that.

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My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir                          An Oasis in Time: How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life by [Marilyn Paul]

The second book I am reading is written by a Jewish woman named Marilyn Paul and it’s called, An Oasis in Time:  How a Day of Rest Can Save Your Life.  I haven’t gotten too far into it — just reading a chapter a day– but it is about the importance of taking a Sabbath day of rest, and she talks about Christian and Muslin traditions, as well as her own.  I found it interesting to realize how much our life revolves around a weekly routine –on Monday, we plan the things we want to accomplish, and by Friday we’re assessing how we’ve done and winding down.  Rest is an important part of the routine (built into us since creation, when God “rested” on the last day).  Without rest, we lose that routine and become more and more burned out and stressed.  There are suggestions at the end of the chapter and exercises to help learn how to celebrate a day of rest.

Well, that’s it for me and what I have read, studied and learned about this week.  I’d like to hear from other writers and readers:  what are you reading?  What do you like/not like?  What has been edifying?  I want to hear your suggestions, too.

 

 

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning, the sun just starting to rise above the tree line, I can’t help but to chuckle and stand in awestruck wonder. I know God has a sense of humor. He shows it to me all the time and right now is one of those moments.

I am not a morning person, far from it by any sense of the phrase and yet I sit here @ 5:45 am writing today’s next blog post in the Ecclesiastes study we have been going through. I have just gotten back from a trip to the E.R. with my 7 month pregnant daughter, Kimberly. (If you have been reading our blog, I talked about her a few posts ago) She has had very severe heartburn with this pregnancy, severe anemia, and started swelling recently so when she woke me up @ 3 in the morning in severe pain, I followed the doctors orders and took her in, worried that she might be developing pre-eclampsia because it runs in my family. As we were running out the door, something told me to grab a book off of my bookshelf and bring it with us.

You see, this was not just any book. It was my second copy of Erma Bombeck’s book Forever Erma. I have two copies of this book for a special reason. The first copy I have was given to me by my mother-in-law, Mary. (Who became my mom when I was 17, when my husband and I started dating a year after my own mother had passed away of cancer) When I went into preterm labor with our younger daughter Kirsten, she had brought the book with her to the hospital and read it to me from my bedside to help take the focus off of the pain and direct it in a positive way. I went into preterm labor a total of 9 times during my third trimester, and each time she would bring the book and read it. We would laugh, we would cry, and she would tell me stories of experiences she had with being a mother, just like the journal entries Erma Bombeck wrote down and recorded for the world to read in this book. Inside the back cover are written all the important phone numbers and notes Mom needed just in case, scribbled in her handwriting. I will never part with this book. It means the world to me, I cherish it. So when I came across a copy at Half Price Books one day for $2, I bought it, for such a time as this.

So, in keeping with tradition, I took it along with us to the hospital tonight and read it to my daughter, to help take her mind off of the pain she was experiencing and turn it into something positive. As I sped up to the emergency room, got her into the nurse’s hands, who just so happened to be outside the door bringing a wheelchair in, I quickly parked the car. As I got out, I paused for a moment and the tears started to flow. I stood there, in the silence of night, and prayed to God that my child and my unborn grandchild would be alright. I quickly wiped away my tears and headed in to join her. As we sat in the labor and delivery room, I read to her. We laughed, she shared her worry, we talked about motherhood, and when the nurse came in and heard me reading to her, she couldn’t help but smile. I was reading Erma’s journal entry from May 12, 1974 (which was written 1 month after I was born). It was titled When God Created Mothers. (If you haven’t read this book I highly recommend it) When Kimberly noticed the smile on the nurse’s face she immediately said, “It’s a tradition in our family.” and I explained why.

As we came home, and I helped get her settled, I told her I loved her, and off to bed she went. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging to me to just stay up and write my blog post now. Because I am not a morning person, I hesitated, but obediently came back to sit down at my computer. (along with a cup of coffee!) As I read the verse I had planned to do for today’s blog post, I started to cry and laugh all at the same time. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says this…

A time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance.

Tonight, God showed me that this verse is certainly true. We can even go through it all in a short time frame, even in the span of a few hours, sitting in hospital room.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

 

photo courtesy of umcrp.org

 

Read Like a Lutheran

This post is a not on our monthly topic, but since a number of followers have mentioned that they are looking for book recommendations, I thought I would mention a great resource I recently found browsing the web.  Concordia Publishing House has a summer reading program called “Read Like a Lutheran.”  You can sign up for different age levels (so if you have children the whole family can register).

The adult program has reading lists for different topics such as:  Lutheranism, Adult Spirituality, Biblical Literacy, Church History, Luther, etc.  If you want to read your own selections you can do that, too.  You earn points and when you get enough are entered into drawings for a variety of prizes.  You also get a $5 coupon toward a $20 purchase right away.

So, I hope you visit read.cph.org and have a great summer reading like a Lutheran!  Tell us how it works out for you!

 

Books on Sacrficial Living

The Hiding Place & Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  She was imprisoned for her activities.  Her first book, The Hiding Place, tells about this ordeal.  Tramp For the Lord is the sequel.

The Duty of Delight:  The Diaries of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and devout Catholic convert.  She tirelessly served the poor by creating a community dedicated to direct aid for the homeless. 

Love Mercy by Lisa Samson and Ty Samson

This is the story of a family’s journey from living in a five-thousand square foot house in suburban Baltimore to caring about justice, mercy and the kingdom of God breaking into our suffering world.  They eventually sold their home to purchase a run down Victorian which they call a “hospitality house,” open to those who need a place to heal, be safe, or just relax for a while.  Lisa and daughter, Ty, eventually travel to Africa to chronicle the AIDS crisis.

The Diary of Elisabeth Koren (1853-1855)

This diary takes us on a journey across the Atlantic to the frontier of the Middle West with her young husband who served many Lutheran congregations.  Travel is primitive;  her husband is gone for weeks at a time, and Elisabeth lives with other families in a crowded Iowa log cabin until the first parsonage is finally built.

These women can be mentors for us in trying to be a “living sacrifice.  Have you read any of these books?  Will you?  Do you have others to suggest?  Let us know.