Spiritual Growth

The Best and Worst This Season

Charles Dickens gave us A Christmas Carol, and among many others, he also gave us  A Tale of Two Cities. I plan to to savor some Christmas literature this season, but first I’d like to consider Dickens’ opening to his latter tale, a fitting interpreter of our current year.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, Continue reading

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Peace, Pursuit, and Andrea del Sarto

I just re-read the last several posts to review where we’ve been going on JNC. I enjoyed the descriptive posts more than the informational post, largely because the descriptions engender peaceful feelings. I need peace. No pursuits. I must be quiet. Right now, physically, I feel awful: my fibromyalgia. I feel like I’m being crushed from the inside out. I had to leave church this morning, unable to stay for the worship service or the Thanksgiving, fellowship dinner following the service.

I do not use JNC as a platform to detail my personal issues; this is not a place for writer’s therapy.  I try to stay focused on themes that nourish growth in Christ and well-rounded maturity — for all of us! Is not JNC’s motto “Walking with Christ and becoming more like Him”?  It’s an embarrassingly lofty goal, but biblically sound (after all, we, as pedestrian theologians, have the Holy Spirit). The motto reminds me of Robert Browning’s poem, “Andrea del Sarto”. Here are two, often quoted lines from this long work: Continue reading

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Genre, Genre, What are You? (Plus a Gabe update)

Are we there yet?

You mean, at the end of this series? No! It’s taking me a long time to get through it because I do not post every week. So, I’ll see if I can up the pace on this series about being a good reader and a self-discipler.

We’re on point two of six points on The Reader-Navigator’s Map.* Point 1 is Biblical Literacy (both the anchor and rudder) and point 2 is Genre Identity (the ship’s hull). As the ship’s hull, I see an understanding of a book’s (or a writing selection’s) genre as some ballast in my ship (my mind) giving me balance and perspective, essential to reasonable interpretation, analysis, and appreciation.

Don’t you love to learn and to read? I doubt you would read my blog otherwise. Since we must be rather brief (a book I am not writing here), I would like to offer a smattering of quotations from some expert readers along with some commentary to help us consider the impact of genre (categorization of literature) when reading.

I’m sure  you view writing as a craft. Writers are sometimes called wordsmiths. Have you ever thought of reading as a craft? This is not my idea. A fascinating thought! Who said it? Continue reading

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Your Home Library: One Dozen Books to Build Biblical Literacy

I always encourage young people to start their own, personal libraries — to begin with just one shelf in their bedrooms to place books worth keeping for a long time, some for even a lifetime. Whatever our ages are, we can equip ourselves with excellent resources to help us disciple ourselves in Christ and to guide us in whatever we read.

In our last post, I presented six points (guideposts, navigator’s criteria) to guide the Christian reader. You may wonder why my first point would be Biblical Literacy. Employing our ship/ocean metaphor that I set up in the last post, I am identifying Biblical Literacy as the anchor to ground us, the ballast to stabilize us, and the rudder to guide our vessels — as Christ-followers, thinking and interacting with what we read, whatever we may be reading. Therefore, I’d like to offer you a concise bibliography of core books to build your biblical base. You may have a number of these or some similar to them. You may find some here that you may want to add to your wish list. A person growing in biblical literacy and alert thinking will want to use books such as these. Continue reading

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It’s Brief! – One Apology and Six Pithy Points for Readers

Why is it that one Christian describes a book as a blessing from the Lord, another finds it flawed but useful, and a third sees it as dangerous? Listening to differing views has motivated me to do some research and to write a basic list of guiding principles that can help us navigate our reading experiences (religious and secular) in ways that lead us away from the shoals and toward solid Christian growth.

I apologize for the tediously long, recent post that set up this new series! Let me redeem myself, as it were, with a brief post. Here is a preview of the six points (as currently standing) that we’ll be exploring in future posts. Please note that I’ve moved from a guidepost metaphor to a map/voyage metaphor.

Six sailing points on The Reader-Navigator’s Map:

  1.   Biblical Literacy = both anchor and rudder                                                                                                                      2. Genre Identity = the ship’s hull                                                                                                                                    3. Knowledge Soup = the ocean                                                                                                                                          4. Thinking Habits = wind in my sails                                                                                                                              5. Influence and Influenced = Reader-Pilot’s changes/growth                                                                                      6. Impact = From Pilot to other passengers — changes/growth

This is where this series is launched. This is where this post will dock! I’m excited to write about Genre (not gender) Identity!  With these points, I hope you can anticipate where my reasoning is sailing.

God bless you with wisdom and joy in reading,  remembering as Emily Dickinson expressed,                     “There is no Frigate like a Book. . . .”

Comments welcome! Invite a friend to join us!

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Self-Discipleship in Christ through Reading*

R. C. Sproul recounts in his book, The Consequences of Ideas, the story of attending a parent conference in a public school when his eldest child entered first grade back in the 1960s.** Sproul listened to the principal explain the school’s philosophy and program, describing specific activities that promote particular aspects of child development. Every activity had purpose.

Finally, Sproul asked the principal, “What kind of child are you trying to produce and why?” The principal answered, “I don’t know. Nobody has ever asked me that question.”

Sproul replied, “I deeply appreciate your candor. . . but frankly, your answer terrifies me.”

The school’s methods stemmed from a purely pragmatic philosophy — what works; what succeeds. But succeeds at what?  Pragmatism can foster a child who can do: read, write, compute, relate and respond. But what of the soul of the child? The composition of the heart? The character? The life? For what purposes is the doing?

This applies to our doing, and in this post, to our reading. “What kind of person am I aiming to become through my reading and why?” Continue reading

Categories: Being Like Jesus, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Standing on the Edge (with my books)

We always live at life’s edge. Each moment becomes that edge.  Looking back often comforts me because I can avert my attention from the sharp brim facing the future. Every past moment is cushioned within the experiences before and after it. Its context is sure. I like that. The present pushes me away from the cushion. The sharp edge of the now connected to the handle of yesterday slices into the unknown, next moment. Yet, it is the mixed messages from yesterday’s record (the good and the bad) that make me nervous about the future. At first I wrote this as my next sentence: My comfort comes less from the past’s good experiences than from the God of those good experiences. Then I realized that this may be pious silliness.

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How to Read and Beyond

I pulled three paper backs off the third shelf of our bookcase along the western wall in our living room at 2:00 a.m. this morning. Bodily discomforts of various sorts had awakened me. Sometimes I can return to sleep, but other times my body insists, “Forget sleeping!” My mind was immediately at work on a subject that has been toying with me for a number of days. Reading. What to read, how to read, when to read, and why read — all danced in my thoughts.

Quietly, I shuffled out to the living room, intent on not awakening my Paul. To the bookshelves. Taking the three volumes, I slumped in my leather, La-Z-Boy, covered myself with a blanket, took a colored pencil and a regular pencil, and opened the first book.

Jews and Christians are called “The People of the Book.” The Bible. We  wear that label with great pride — both good pride and bad pride, I suppose. Books agitate. Continue reading

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And Just What Is Government?

Paul and I spent most of Inauguration Day, Friday, January 20, following the events via our online connection which we cast to our “big” screen (a 37 inch flat screen that is not hooked up to use as a TV).  Watching “the peaceful transfer of power,” our patriotic spirits were exercised, and we almost felt as if we were there. Almost! Happily, I was curled up in my roomy, warm, upholstered chair. The hubbub, the music, the crowds, the motorcades, the who’s who entrances —  all blended to evoke a spirit of belonging — similar to (for me in my simpleness) going to a county fair, but on a huge and impactful scale. This is more than the satisfaction of belonging to a local community or club; on this day, we gratefully sensed our belonging to our country, the United States of America. ( Much of the week end’s madness had not yet happened. I choose not to smudge Friday’s memories with it.)

As I ruminated over the day’s events and words, I asked myself, “And just what is government?” The teens in my Sunday school class and I had discussed this a few weeks before when we were reviewing a period in ancient Israel’s past, the era of the judges, which preceded the kingdom era of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. In the era of the judges, everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).   I asked my teens, “What is government?” Their only association of the word is with politics — some form of civil government and economic system such as democracy or communism. Hmm. There is something important beneath these ideas, something preceding them.

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Focusing for 2017

Ready or not, 2017, here we come! Really? That is, 2017 says to us, “Ready or not, hear I come!”

As I’ve thought and prayed over the themes to explore in 2017, I’ve found my mind full of more ideas than I can attempt. I’ve decided on some core focuses which will offer us plenty of space to travel! In this new year, I’ll continue to write one article per post, but I want to add a Pass Along section with each post (or most posts) in which I will highlight a resource: book, magazine, website, store, recipe, or whatever.  I’ve been posting once month, but I may try twice a month.

Here are our core focuses as I presently understand that they should be for 2017:  Continue reading

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