On The Bookshelf

We are a house of book lovers. The affection runs to varying degrees depending on work schedules and school load but we’re all readers.

I have been a reader since around middle school when our family moved to a new neighborhood that didn’t have as many kids on my street. It was around that time my mother introduced me to the public library and I fell into stories with great gusto. To this day I would rather read a book than watch a movie.

Because I read so much as a teenager I read pretty fast, at least according to my mister, and I retain a pretty good knowledge of what I have read and I always scored well on vocabulary tests. In a bid to make reading more than just a form of entertainment though I have tried to become more discriminate in what and how I read. Instead of just reading whatever popular fiction was easily accessible I have broadened the scope by reading things that Rob was reading for various bookclubs he was part of, incorporated more of the classics, and, this is a biggie, I try to be reading more than one thing at a time. To that end, if it is what I call my serious reading I need to do it in the mornings and save the lighter just for enjoyment books for afternoon or evenings. (Basically because I am of a certain age I can be too tired at night to really get much from the heavier readings 🙂 )

My mornings usually involve whatever personal reading I have going at the moment and Scripture in general and specifically the Psalms and Proverbs everyday. I love this set of books my friends gave me for Christmas and use it throughout the week alongside my Bible. They combine visual imagery with Scripture and I find them to be beautiful. I hope to keep adding to my set but was delighted to start with the wisdom books.

Right now I am reading these two books with the church ladies. This isn’t my first reading of Eve in Exile and I just get so much from it every time I read it. Chapter twelve is so darn good! Loving The Little Years has been around for a while but as I have not had littles in a while I just never read it. Now that I am reading it I so wish it had been available when my kids were little! I think it may just get included with every baby shower gift from now on. And, being perfectly honest, I have found it quite beneficial even though my youngest is fifteen.

Sam loves to go to the library so I have a steady supply that leads to a stack of books to work through. Right now I am about four pages into this book. When it comes to books I am a sucker for the cover art and also apparently the author’s name. Ellery Adams is such a lovely name, isn’t it? From what I have read so far I think this will be pretty good. I will report back when I have finished it.

My last fiction novel was this one and I was drawn to pick it up because someone mentioned it was a bit Downton Abbey-esque in the sense of an upstairs/downstairs portrayal of Victorian England. I did not find that to be exactly true but it was still very enjoyable.

I really enjoy thrillers and mysteries, and while this was a mystery it moved at a much slower pace than books set in a more modern time. It took me a minute to really get into but I did enjoy it. Enough so that I searched out the other books in the series and will probably read them over time. I was surprised though by some of the other titles from her. They look to be a bit more, how to say it…risque? Not sure if they match their romance novel covers but I probably won’t pick any of those up. But this series is one I would be willing to let Claire read.

I don’t typically listen to audiobooks because I seem prefer actual physical books that I can hold but two that I have listened to and highly recommend are A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court read by Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame. He does such an amazing job! Pretty sure it is found on audible. The other book is The Princess and The Goblin by George MacDonald. What a delightful story! Even though it is considered a children’s novel I found it to be thoroughly entertaining. I think it falls into the category of what CS Lewis meant when he said, “One day you will be old enough to read fairytales again.”

So what are you reading? Do you have any book recommendations?

I am probably going to be in so much trouble for this but here is a quick picture I snapped of my love as I was writing this post. Please don’t be too angry, love. You looked so cozy and content to have fallen asleep while reading.

Gleanings from Galatians

Yesterday the Bible Reading Challenge had me reading the entire letter of Galatians which sounds like a lot but it’s six relatively short chapters that are just jammed packed with rich truth. As usual, no matter how many times I have read something before there is always something to glean…sometimes not even brand new truths but something that just adds to the fullness of my understanding. Here are a few gems and the ponderings they produced.

Chapter 1:15-16 ~

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult anyone.

Paul goes on to say he actually waited three years before returning to Jerusalem to meet Cephas and it would be another fourteen years before he would return and really get into the thick of things with the other Apostles and believers.

My take home was a gentle reminder to not blurt out every thought and rush off willy nilly and get busy but to take some time and stew on what God is doing and what He would have me do.

Chapter 2:11–14

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 

Emphasis is mine and I cannot tell you how heavy that landed on me. If we are living lives that look no different than the unbelieving neighbor beside us then how can we dare ask them to live any differently and why should they?

Everything we do should be different because everything we do is done to the glory of God and with an eternal purpose. Our marriages, our child rearing, the way we are educated and educating, the life we live must be lived in such a way that Christ is revealed. I mean at first glance we may look the same but as we enter into relationships with people, as they get to know us, they ought to become curious about why we seem just a bit different, why there is something they may not quite be able to put their finger on but they know we aren’t the same. It will be something about the means to the end of disciplining our children, the way we love and honor each other, the way our Sabbath is enjoyed, the way we handle our money, the way we forgive, the way we deal with stress, the way we help others. There should be a thousand different ways we live out our ordinary lives that will show we believe Christ is King over all.

Chapter 4:9

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be know by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Just a good solid reminder to keep guard over my thoughts and not allow old habits and ways of thinking to creep in.

Chapter 5

Seriously, the whole chapter. But this little verse…

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Have you ever been out of step with someone you were supposed to be in step with? Stumbling around and so clumsy. It’s not easy to fix without coming to a complete stop and starting again. So that is my prayer; when I realize I am out of step then I want to stop what I am doing and get in step with the Spirit. I don’t want to fumble around tripping over myself trying to make our steps align. I just want to match my stride with His.

Chapter  6:1–3

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 

It is so very easy to have a higher opinion of ourselves than we ought, isn’t it? I don’t think we deliberately set out to think better of ourselves than other people but it is just so much easier to assess those over there, to make judgement calls on their behaviors and actions. Assumptions are second nature to us, assuming that we would never ever do what so and so has done but shifting their sins through our perspectives and coming to a conclusion that we know their story.

In I Corinthians 10 we are told take to heed when we think we are standing lest we fall and then moving in to chapter six of Galatians we are told to restore a fallen brother with a spirit of gentleness lest we be tempted. That spirit of gentleness only comes through the humility of understanding the darkness of our own sin, of using God’s perspective on sin as opposed to our own sliding scale of right and wrong.

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Oh Lord may I put pride far from me!

Chapter 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 

And lastly, this little gem. Don’t give up but keep persevering in the faith, keep loving each other, keep doing the right thing even when it seems that no one else is or no one is benefitting from it or seems grateful for it.

Serve each other. Love one another. Seek forgiveness. Forgive each other. Encourage. Laugh with the one who laughs and weep with the one who weeps. Do all the things you can do for the good of those around you and don’t stop, keep loving them in thought and deed. God promises to grow something that gives an eternal harvest when we stay faithful in this way.

Chapter 6:16

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 

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Think On These Things

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me! 

                                                                                                                                         ~ Psalm 31:1-2

 

Think On These Things

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

~Philippians 2:1–11

Change The World

Years ago our oldest daughter went through a hard situation. It was a difficult moment at the time but with the clarity of hindsight it has taken on it’s proper size. This quote from Elizabeth Elliot perfectly suits that period in her life,“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — “severe mercies” at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”

That deviation from the expected was the ground that God used to grow her into the woman she is now. In a world (she’s an emergency room nurse)  where it can be an every man for himself kind of place she is earning a reputation as a hard worker, willing to help and pitch in, with a pleasant attitude. She is faithful to the life God has given her and she lives it with joy and contentment.

Sometime last year, before her graduation and having her own place and all the adulting she is now doing, Rob and I ran into some people we hadn’t seen in a while and as is often the case we were catching up on children and life stuff. I remarked that I hoped Sarah would take a job locally and stay close. I was actually smacked on the arm and chastised for such a thing. Didn’t I know that God hadn’t given her to us to stay put? She needed to “go and make disciples”.

Rob, sensing my discomfort I think, chimed in that our prayer was that she would be faithful to make disciples and be a faithful servant right here. Without missing a beat we were told that our prayer was too small.

Too small.

TOO SMALL.

As if that kind of faithfulness and obedience is only good enough until the real opportunity to be faithful shows up and involves packing a suitcase.

As if what we’re really made for and made to do are out there in the future somewhere and is the only thing that counts and we are just tinkering around with these smaller lesser things until God finally gives us the BIG stuff, the stuff that really counts and makes us something more than than just the ordinary person in the church pew beside us.

I loved this paragraph from Rachel Jankovic’s book You Who,

“But contentment and gratitude, some of the very smallest seeds, grow some of the biggest trees. These are some of the wildest forces for change in this world. Contentment says to God, “Where You put me, I will honor You. Where You send me, I will go. Where You are, I will be glad.” Gratitude says to God that you accept what He has given you to do, and you will do it, not grudgingly, but with joy.”

Oh my goodness, I love that! Be content wherever you are. If He chooses to send you somewhere then with great joy pack your bags and go. But do not serve Him with any less joy if he keeps you right where you are.

It is no small thing to glorify God in the ordinary everyday. God can, and does, do marvelous things with the simple common things of our life.

Little things offered to God are used to do big things. Five loaves of bread and two little fish were transformed into a feast that literally feed thousands. What do you think God will do with your obedience in joyfully doing what He has given you to do right now, right where you are, no matter how ordinary it may seem?

That kind joyful obedience will literally change the world whether you are in the same town you have always been in or your feet are covered with the dust of some far away land.

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Sharing with Candidly Christian

Think On These Things

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~2 Corinthians 4:7-18

 

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On The Book Shelf

When I was around eleven years old I discovered the public library. It coincided with my family’s move in the middle of the school year to a new neighborhood where there were not a lot of kids on my street. I became a voracious reader. However, there wasn’t a lot of direction or guidelines and at that age I had zero discernment on what was good literature. Needless to say, I didn’t develop a love for the classics. One of the first books I ever checked out was called In Times Like These by Emilie Loring and thus began my journey into the world of romance novels. I wouldn’t call her work the sort of twinkie fiction you find on most shelves today, her stories are more along the lines of Grandma’s pound cake. The occasional slice is a treat but a steady diet will probably make you fat.(Through the years I have read all of her books and collected, gotten rid of, recollected, and lost almost all of her stories. Usually set anywhere from the 1920’s to the 1960’s her heroines were unfailingly cheerful in disposition, the girl always gets the guy, the bad guy always looses, some sort of mystery gets solved and to this day I find them to be endearing and would reread them. I am fascinated by her in general in that she didn’t write her first novel until she was fifty years old.)

Unfortunately, my book reading never really matured or grew. I read what was on the shelves at the store or I what I could easily get my hands on. I read for enjoyment, pure and simple. I wasn’t looking to learn or grow, just to be entertained in the way that most people enjoy movies. I became a fast reader and I always score high on vocabulary and comprehension tests so there’s that 🙂

Fast forward to life with a husband who was also voracious reader but a thinking one who read to be informed and enriched. He’d roll his eyes at ‘my stories’ but gave up trying to encourage me to broaden my reading horizons after meeting, much to my shame, resistance. We were in the early years of the child raising life phase and I read to relax and to a certain extent, escape the world of diapers. I didn’t want to work at reading. I didn’t want to engage my brain. I wanted respite.

Fast forward some more years and now those diaper clad children are in a classical christian school where reading good literature is encouraged and a regular part of life. They track how many minutes a month they read, they have a list of books full of things I have either never read or haven’t looked at since high school English Comp class, and they talk regularly about what they’re reading. The books are shaping and forming their thinking and, at times, entertaining them.

So I’m trying. I made a goal this year of reading a certain number of books. I’m expanding fiction to include more than the contemporary off the Walmart shelf repertoire (I do have a favored author coming out with a new book next month and I plan to read it) and I have discovered some fiction by old guys that I really enjoy. I’ve never been a huge Mark Twain fan but read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and it is in my top five all time favorite books ever.*

IMG_0299I just finished reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and oh, my goodness, what a delightful and charming book! It was a nostalgic read. The kind that made you sigh when you finished it because you were so happy to have read it and sad that it was done.

 

I’m also trying to read more non fiction. The ladies in my church read The Gospel Comes With a House Key by Rosario Butterfield and it was challenging in all the right ways and sparked a lot of conversation.

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Right now I am reading Learning Contentment by Nancy Wilson and it is hitting closer to home more than I expected. One of the most startling things that came out of it was realizing that Jesus was not just obedient in going to the cross but that He was content in the Father’s will to do so. Not just take-a-deep-breath-gotta-do-what-He-says submissive but a satisfied contented determination to do His Father’s will. That kind of contentment seems next level, doesn’t it?

I want to read more biographies and I would like to learn how to read poetry. I still enjoy a good whodunit and other mysteries. Next on my list is Wind in The Willows which I long considered a children’s book that I missed out on but I’m learning that I need to go back and read some of those stories, fables, and fairy tales. They’re rich and deeper than one might expect. I feel a little old coming to these stories and basically in trying to learn how to read correctly (not just consuming and forgetting) but if Emilie Loring can wait until she is fifty before penning her first novel, and since I am surrounded by a community of readers all giving robust support to my endeavor, here I am.

So what are you reading these days? Anything you’d recommend?

*Technically I didn’t read A Connecticut Yankee, I listened to it being read by Nick Offerman and honestly I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. But the great debate surrounds the idea of what exactly do you call it when you listen to a book as opposed to reading a book? Some people believe you can say either one and others are adamantly against using the two words interchangeably. What say ye?