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Entries in Reading (45)


Take time to smell the pages

My daughter does the same thing with a new book every time she gets one: she holds the book to her nose, flips the pages and smells. She has a thing about the way books smell. I think there are times when the enjoyment of reading is inhibited because she doesn't like the smell. Naturally, she is a paper book lover, as opposed to digital. She enjoys the sensory experience.

I am not a book sniffer myself, but I have seen lately the need to stop and sniff the pages in a figurative sense. Over the past six weeks, as I prepared papers, I had to pretty much race through my reading. Sometimes, I was frustrated because I had to take longer to understand something. At other times, it was frustrating to have to have to hurry through. I skimmed the bibliographies and wished I had time to spend delving into some of the issues more deeply. There just wasn't time. While I love having completed my assignments, I can't say the process was easy, and at times it was onerous. I don't like to be rushed, but it is a consequence of busyness.

Being busy is an interference to our gratitude. That is a principle I read in Christine Pohl's book Living into Community. She comments:

"Gratitude and wonder are squeezed out when our lives are packed full with busyness and responsibilities. There is simply no room, no time to notice." 

No time to notice; that situation extends to so many aspects of our lives.

When I am in a hurry, I just don't notice things, whether it is the many things for which I am thankful or the wonderful things I have read in a book. As a child growing up, I read L.M. Montgomery's books over and over again to the point where I can repeat passages at length. I wouldn't be able to do that unless I had either read repeatedly or read more slowly, or perhaps, both. I want to be able to remember what I read, especially if it is eloquently stated. And certainly, eloquent writing is far more memorable than that which is not.

I think this is why I don't like reading lists. When there is a list, I look at it as something to be conquered. I don't want to look at reading in that way. I want to stop and "smell" the pages. I want to dwell on the footnotes, check out the resources, and follow the bunny trails. I guess I'm more like my Beagle; the joy of the trail isn't the end; it's the variety of smells in between the beginning and the end. 

I am thankful for good books. I am thankful that I have the means to purchase books and libraries to borrow from. But I don't want to get caught up in the busyness so that I don't notice not only what's inside the book, but what's going on around me. Certainly, placing a list of books to be read by a certain date means I have to avert my eyes from other things in order to finish. I can't do that. Reading methods and approaches are not universal. Some of us want to slow down, and some of us want to hurry along. I may not physically smell the pages, but I want to do so metaphorically.


Too much theology?

Is there anything as too much theology? I didn't think so, but the past few weeks, I've been wondering. My seminary class has a lot of reading. In addition to learning the course material, I am also beginning my research for my hermeneutical papers. That means more reading. It means commentaries, and it means lots of Bible reading, because the first thing to address when writing a hermeneutical paper is the context. Between school and weekly planning for teaching Sunday school, I've found my interest in other thelogical books a little half-hearted. In May, I will be starting a course about how the New Testament uses Old Testament Scripture. I have a feeling I may continue to feel this way.

Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, and I don't juggle multiple books like I used to. I find that trying to juggle too many draws my focus away from the school work, and I want to be focused. On the upside, seminary has meant I'm reading other things. And I'm actually reading without a pencil in my hand, which I seldom do, but sometimes, it's good to do that. It's good to have a break from the theology. Sometimes, stepping away for a break is good to just process things and let them settle in my brain.

My husband and I both began reading The Last Kingdom series, which is about Alfred the Great. It's set in the 9th Century, and there's lots of battles. I never thought I'd like this kind of book, but I really do. I'm about to start the second volume, and my husband just started the third. There is eight in all, so we should keep busy with that.

I am about to finish a book called The Famine Plot, which is about the Irish Famine. The author, Tim Pat Coogan has written many books, and was a journalist. I've read two of his other books, one on Michael Collins and one on Eamon DeValera. Coogan's mother, Beatrice, wrote a novel set in the time of the famine, The Big Wind, and I picked that up recently.

In April, Dr. Michael Haykin is bringing Karen Swallow Prior to my school to speak about Hannah More. I decided to give in and see what all the fuss was about, so in preparation for her lecture, I want to read Fierce Convictions. Judging from those who liked it, I suspect I will, too.

I don't know if I'll get all of these finished before May, which is my goal. Once the deadlines for my papers get closer, I know I won't have as much time. As for all those other unread books, I'll just have to pencil them in for the summer.


Other kinds of goals in 2016

I don't have any particular reading goals this year other than I want to read. I'm not good at keeping lists, so I'm just going to go with the flow. I have the syllabus for my hermeneutics course this semester, and there will be a lot of reading. I will basically be immersed in hermeneutics, and I can only see myself reading anything else at bed time, when I read fiction. 

But what about other goals? How about creativity goals? One year, it was my goal to take a picture every day; and I did. I may do a modified version of that and take a picture every week. It's a good way to practice composition. This year, I have some knitting goals. I want to make both my husband and son cardigans. I also want to make a blanket for no one in particular; just something to have on hand in case a gift need arises.

This past year, I've been really convicted about the amount of conspicuous consumption I participate in. When I look at the crammed bookshelves in my house, and many of those books unread, I feel a little guilty. Stewardship of our resources is a serious matter. I want to use our resources wisely. This year, I am seriously considering buying some coloured stickers and putting a red one on the spine of every book on my shelf I haven't read. That will give me a daily visual reminder that I don't need anymore books at the moment.

I want to be more helpful to people. There are young families who need babysitters; older people who need practical helps; women who need friends. I want that to be something I am paying closer attention to. It doesn't have to be anything spectacular. Just being open to the prospect of helping others is the place to start.

I want to make the most of my seminary time. I will be at school every Tuesday from 8:30-11:15, and I want to develop friendships. I want to take advantage of the seminary chapel days, and make connections with my school community. I'm taking a Masters of Theology, and I'm a part-time student; I'll be there a while.

I also want to be more physically active this year. I was pretty much a big ole couch potato last winter, but this winter I want to be out more, walking. My next door neighbour is 91 years old and very active. I think he's always been active. As I get older, I want to stay healthy and be active, keep extra weight from hanging around, and have a healthy heart. It won't happen if I don't get up and move.

Most of all this year, I just want to know the Lord better. I want to think more deeply on God's truths rather than just giving a cursory glance. I want to mull things over, ruminate over them, and drink deeply. I was quite convicted by this passage in a the boook God's Battleplan for the Mind:

Shallow Christianity has become the blight of the modern church. Success is no longer measured by Christian maturity and discernment. Rather, it is judged by the quality of the praise music, the comfort of the building, and the increased size of the congregation. Godly meditation is the answer to this superficial religion. Meditation broadens the shoulders and deepens the experience of God's people. It sobers foolish minds and matures childish reasoning.

If thinking more means I speak less, perhaps that is a good thing.


Favourite Reads of 2015, and a look at what's coming

I didn't read a lot of books in 2015. The winter and spring were very difficult times, and during that time, I didn't read much. When I did, I read the bible; a lot. Especially the Psalms. Some weeks, I would read through the entire book. I have one of these, and it was with me beside my bed for times when I couldn't sleep, and it was near the couch when I was knitting or watching t.v.

Once the fog started to lift, I did begin reading more. Here are my three favourite reads, in no particular order.

Running Scared, by Ed Welch. This is a book about fear and anxiety, but it's so much more. It does a great job of encouraging the reader to really examine her relationship with God, and her understanding of who he is. Someone who doesn't struggle with anxiety would learn a lot from this book.

Praying the Bible, by Donald Whitney. I did a review of it at Out of the Ordinary, so I won't say much here. It is a book about praying the Word of God, and he does focus on the Psalms. Since I was very much in that book, it was a great companion. It's a book I'll read again.

Hebrews, Richard Phillips. When I began preparing to teach Hebrews, I solicited opinions regarding a commentary, and this was recommended more than once. I have about five volumes from the Reformed Expository series, and this is my favourite. The insights are wonderful. This is not a technical commentary, but it has helped me understand the text very well. It is perfect for devotional reading. If you are interested in this series of commentaries for your bible reading, I recommend starting this with this one.

Looking ahead to 2016, I don't have much of a list. I received the course syllabus for my hermeneutics class, and ordered some textbooks. We have one required text and a collection of recommended ones. Quite providentially, I already have three of the recommended ones, but I purchased two others.

My required text is Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard. I'm only familiar with Blomberg. The two other texts I purchased were An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics, by Moises Silva and Walter Kaiser. My prof this past semester referred to Kaiser a number of times, and I've read books by Silva, so I ordered this one. I also ordered Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. The table of contents intrigued me, so I ordered that one. I have three big papers due over the course of the semester, as well as weekly assignments. I think the extra resources will come in handy. 

I have a few books for pleasure lined up for over the holidays. Right now, Openness Unhindered is on the list, as is The Distinctives of Baptist Covenant Theology. I'm almost finished God's Battlefield for the Mind. When that's finished, I'm going in a totally different direction, and reading The Famine Plot, which is about the Irish Famine. I've read two other books by the same author, and this one sounds interesting.

Who knows how the reading will go over the year? Life interrupts, and I want to keep room for family, friends, creative pursuits, and of course, hockey! I don't know how many books I'll read, and I don't know if I'll even keep track. But I plan on reading.


Tips for bible reading

I've noticed quite a few people sharing their favourite reads of 2015 as well as their plans for what they will read next year. Once New Year's gets closer, we will see many sharing about reading through the bible in a year.

Some folks don't enjoy reading through the bible in a year, because they can't stop and ponder long enough. I'm sort of that mindset. Having read through the bible in three months this fall, I think I'd rather read it at that pace, because then the rest of the year can be used to focus in more closely on particular parts of the bible. If someone didn't want to try reading in 90 days, one could draw up a schedule for reading the bible in six months. I read the bible for an hour a day, around 12-14 chapters, and I finished in three months. I think one could easily set a target of six to eight chapters a day and be finished in less than a year. If you're interested in a schedule for a 90 day reading one, I found this one. I began using it, but ended up using it only as a guideline.

One of the problems of reading through the bible, of course, is hitting the wall after Exodus. Personally, I hit the wall at II Chronicles. Leviticus was way more interesting. It can be daunting to think of reading the whole bible. I want to share some tips that helped me.

First, look for themes. I think it gives focus to our reading. I looked for the theme of covenant, God's holiness, and redemption. When I got to Leviticus, I looked for the theme of clean/uncleannesns. As I read through Psalms, I paid attention to the word "steadfast." Once I got to the New Testament, and I began to see repeated themes, it was even easier to concentrate. I used a pencil crayon and marked words in my bible. I wrote down favourite passages in my journal.

I found listening to the bible very enjoyable. I love Max Maclean's recording. I enjoyed listening to the Psalms, especially. They were, after all, written to be heard. I found much of the poetic literature easy to listen to. I listened to the entire books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Lamentations. I was surprised how quickly I was able to hear the repeated words and themes. We are such a visual culture; I think it's good to hone our listening skills.

I would also suggest having someone to read along with. I don't necessarily mean reading together (although you could do that), but keeping in touch with a friend for support and encouragement. I like accountability, and knowing that I had to give a report to my prof about my reading helped. Not everyone is a check list person, but some people really benefit from a tangible list to tick off things. And of course, there is always a cell phone app for that. 

I love reading. And I love reading about what books are coming out, and what books are good. I can't forget to read my bible, though. And more and more, I think I need to be thinking about what I read more. That's where memorization and meditation on the Word becomes helpful. But that's a post all its own.

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