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Entries in Reading (48)


Planning to get soaked

Here were are on the second to last day of 2013. Time to open the floodgates for yearly Bible reading plans. You don't need me to point to any of them for you; Twitter feeds are flooded with them. 

I've read through the Bible in a year a few times, each time, using the M'Cheyne plan, and one year, following along with one of D.A. Carson's volumes, For the Love of God. It's been a few years since I did that.

I do see the benefit of that, but I also like focusing deeply on just a few books. That is my goal for this coming year. I don't know how many I'll delve into, but I can say that I'm beginning with Proverbs and Romans. It is actually my intention to be studying Proverbs all year. I need it.

Along with reading Proverbs, I have a few resources to accompany my reading, among them Dan Phillips' book God's Wisdom in Proverbs, John Kitchen's verse by verse commentary, and a volume by Ray Ortlund, Jr., which came highly recommended to me.

Along with my reading of Romans, I plan on copying it out by hand in a journal, and reading a commentary by Leon Morris as well. Running concurrently with my "soaking" theme for the year is a determination not to buy any books, so I'm determined to be content with what I have. If I want more on Romans, I can certainly partake of Calvin's commentaries online.

For me, focusing more on one or two books at a time helps me remember it better. Just sitting down and attempting to memorize a book has never been entirely successful for me. I am confident this will foster memorization.

Whatever approach you take this year, make it a regular habit to be in the word. If you get started in January and find you lose a bit of steam in March, don't give up; just pick it up again with new determination. There is nothing magical about beginning a bible reading plan in January. Whatever you do, soak it in.


It won't usher in righteousness

I've had a book on my shelf for a while that has remained unread for no particular reason other than I forgot I had it. Who am I kidding? I have more than one of those.

Anyway, I was looking for something a little different. David Vandrunen's book Bioethics and the Christian Life is something a little different. I have never read much about ethics as a discipline.

In the opening chapter, Vandrunen discusses the various approaches to bioethics, ranging from completely secular to a recognition that a Christian view and a secular view are each distinct and legitimate. Vandrunen proposes that Christians participate in mainstream health care (as opposed to setting up their own hospitals, utilizing only Christian health care professionals, etc.) and understand that bioethics is something that Christians and non-Christians can discuss reasonably. He refers to the public square as "common space." 

Thought-provoking are his comments with regard to what our attitude as Christians ought to be as we discuss bioethical issues:

Christians must surely be modest in their expectations about what can be accomplished in their paticipation in secular biotethics. They can be confident in God's promises to preserve this created world and its evil society until the end of history (Gen. 8:22) and thus that their participation in its life will not be in vain. But they should be sober-minded in light of biblical assurance that the world will remain desperately sinful, full of suffering and persecution for Christains, until the end of history (eg. 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim 3:1-5). Christian participation in secular bioethics, primarily through creative appeals to natural revelation, should never be tainted through with utopian dreams. Secular bioethics will not usher in the righteousness of Christ's heavenly kingdom.

And yes, I realize that his comments run counter to those of different eschatological views. And yes, it is implicit that it means that the church as an institution won't be the vehicle for change that some may want. And yes, it implies that we shouldn't be surprised when the rest of the world doesn't immediately change its tune when Christians point out the moral dilemmas with mainstream bioethical views.

It certainly got me thinking.


Studying or reading?

I was working yesterday, preparing my lesson for Sunday, when I wanted to refer back to a book I'd read over the summer. It was Iain Duguid's commentary on Esther. As I leafed through the section I wanted, I didn't really remember the things I had underlined. I thought to myself, "Did I even read this book?" 

Of course I had. In my notebook, I even had notations showing my thoughts about the commentary. I could blame this on middle-aged brain, I suppose. But I wonder if something else is actually at the root of it. I took down another book I had read by Barry Webb, called Five Festal Garments, which included a chapter about Esther, and I saw all of the notations and the underlining, but I had only vague memories. I read the book in July.

Over ten years ago now, I read David Wells's book No Place for Truth. I can still remember many things about that book. Is the difference my brain, or perhaps, my reading practices? I read the David Wells book when we were homeschooling, in the days of dial up, when I checked the internet once a day, for about thirty minutes. I simply was not presented with the vast array of books available. There was no WTS Books or P&R Publishing telling me about new releases. My reading habits and dynamic in life meant that I couldn't read a lot of my own material because homeschooling meant reading what the kids read, and knowing it well.

I think my situation is that I've stopped studying what I read. In a hurry to consume as much as I can, I've stopped slowing down to really think about the books I read. It's probably my own fault. I see everywhere that so-and-so has read fifty books this year, or someone else has set a goal of 150 books in a year, and I wonder if I should be reading more than I am. 

I'm quite sure that even though I don't remember specific portions of some books, they have been taken into my head and influenced how I think, but I would still like to remember more of what I read. In a week when a book (that I am, of course tempted to read, but think I will force myself to pass on) called Crazy Busy is coming out, I wonder if maybe I'm not alone. It may be that some people are smart enough to eat a book in about two days, despite its 300+ page length. I'm not mentally equipped to do that unless it's a very light fiction read, and I have nothing else to do.

I want to slow down. I want to think hard about what I'm reading. I suspect, though, that it means emptying my mind of other things to make room. I'm quite sure I could start with far less time on social media. Facebook, in particular has been a huge source of discouragement for me lately, and that may be a signal to step away more often.

Not long after I read No Place for Truth, I read How to Read a Book. That thing was as dry as toast, but I remember learning from it. I've loaned it out. Maybe it's time to pick it up again; or perhaps another, like The Well Educated Mind, or How to Read Slowly. Can this old dog be taught some new tricks? Or at the very least, be reminded of some she once knew?


Reflecting on getting a good soaking

This past number of weeks, I've spent a lot of time reading the book of Esther as well as reading about the book of Esther. I have to say it's been one of the most edifying experiences I've ever had. I want to be as prepared as I can for teaching this book, so I'm erring on the side of too much reading as opposed to not enough. I feel like Esther (the book, that is) and I are great friends now. Next soaking? The book of I John.

This principle of being saturated with a topic, with being intimately acquainted, has fed my soul so much. I think that soaking myself with other topics is a good idea. Sometimes, I suspect my reading has mirrored my reading of the internet: jumping from place to place based on what sounds good or what is the next "must read" that is being touted. Somewhere in this home of too many books, I'm pretty sure I have enough material to soak myself in other topics, not just I John. 

Hoping for a good dousing soon.


Summer reading plans 

I'm always interested to see when others share their summer reading plans. I plan on doing some reading that will take me away from my usual selection of theology.  I share my plans for the three people who read here regularly.

Yes, these are books about Canada. In addition to Justin Bieber and poutine, we have history. And it's okay to like it!

Canada:  A Portrait in Letters, Charlotte Gray.  This book contains a portrait of Canada through letters. From the Amazon description:

In Canada: A Portrait in Letters, renowned biographer and popular historian Charlotte Gray weaves together more than two hundred letters written by Canadians, both famous and ordinary. These priceless documents are accompanied by a visual narrative of one hundred illustrations, including maps, sketches, and photographs. Adding her own notes and commentary, Gray creates a captivating portrait of a country, rich in diversity and hope, once a backwater of the British Empire, that has matured to take its place among the world’s cultural and economic leaders.

Mennonite Women in Canada: A History. Marlene Epp.  I had Epp as an instructor when I studied Mennonite history in university. I find the study of Mennonites interesting because it also touches on the history of immigration.  This is about women, a group that is often not represented in historical accounts. 

Making Ends Meet:  Farm Women's Work in Manitoba, Charlotte van de Vorst. I never knew my paternal grandfather well, and I wish I had. The ancestors on my father's side were immigrants to Manitoba from Belgium, and I've always been curious about their lives. Two years ago, I visited the location where my father's mother lived as a girl. I'm sure this book will give a little glimpse into what life was like for my great-grandmother. She had a short life, dying in childbirth when my grandmother was two years old.

Perspectives of Saskatchewan, Jene R. Porter, Ed. Saskatchewan is the place of my birth, and the place where my two sons were born.  Again, my mother's ancestors were immigrants to this country, settling into Saskatchewan from North Dakota on her mother's side, and from Germany on her father's side.  Survey books like this are an invaluable source of other reading material through the wonder of footnotes and annotated bibliographies.

As you can see, my interests in history are more along the lines of the social aspects, the people. Accounts of politics and accounts of war are many in histories of all countries, but it's these little details that interest me. And as you can see, I'm being modest in the number of books I choose. There is no way I have time to finish ten or fifteen books in the summer without sacrificing the nutrition of my family, the cleanliness of my home, and my marriage.