Monday, November 28, 2016

Reading Round-Up: Beginning of Advent

I haven't done a normal "reading round-up" post in so long. The beginning of Advent (my favorite season of the year in many ways) feels like a good time to do so, especially since my headaches, while still present, are getting better enough for me to be able to focus more on reading again. I'm still struggling with staying awake when reading (mostly because higher doses of pain meds make me sleepy) but I am finding I am able to read more again, and that's always a blessing.

Here's a peek at what I've been working on in recent days and weeks....

Andy Crouch's Strong and Weak is a beautiful little book that's all about what it means to flourish. Crouch (whom I've had the blessing of hearing speak) talks about embracing both our authority and vulnerability as image-bearers of God. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, who embraced both of those better than any human being before or since, we can find our way into true flourishing instead of falling into the traps and sins of exploiting others or withdrawing from suffering into safety. It's a really good book, one that I think has plenty of insights for anyone, but maybe especially for those who are leaders or serving in ministry.

I'm about half-way through Majestic is Your Name: A 40-Day Journey in the Company of Teresa of Avila. These "40 Day" journey books came out in the early 1990s, I think, and I don't know if they're all still in print, but I like the concept -- you get excerpts from the saint's writing, accompanied by daily Scripture readings and prayers. I am enjoying what I am learning from Teresa and feeling especially comforted by her picture of the soul as a castle. How good it is to remember that our hearts are throne rooms for Jesus!

I've been reading essays in C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity with the sweet girl for school. It's been a while since I've revisited the book (such a classic) and I am loving doing so with her, especially as we talk our way through Lewis' ideas. I have her reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for literature right now (she's heard it read more than once, but this is the first time she's really studied it as literature) and the essays are helping us think through some of Lewis' "big ideas" that come through in all his writing, children's stories as well as essays. We've talked about forgiveness, pride, and charity -- important virtues and vices.

November is a Lewisian month, so I am also enjoying Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis's Chronicles (bits of which I am assigning to the sweet girl as well). Some lovely essays here by Joe Rigney, who really loves and understands the Chronicles well.

I've discovered a new-to-me poet: Philip Terman. He's a Jewish writer that I stumbled across a few weeks ago on the Writer's Almanac. I put his collection Our Portion on hold, and it's been wonderful to have it on nights when I am too tired to keep my eyes open with longer work.

I actually finished a novel -- yes, I managed a bit of fluff! -- from the new book shelves at the library. I picked up Nina Stibbe's Paradise Lodge on a total whim, and I'm glad I did. It was funny and acerbic and incredibly British. It's set in the 1970s and stars Lizzie Vogel, a teenager whose first person narration was so funny and strong that it carried me through even though reading novels has not been easy for me for a while. I think I probably picked it up because I saw that Lizzie was learning about life working in a nursing home, something that sounded interesting to me (having grown up with my grandmother living with us for several years, and having spent a lot of volunteer hours in a nursing home as a young adult). Those scenes in the nursing home, as she works with the elderly, are some of the best -- the most homespun, poignant, and funniest.

Natalie Babbitt's recent passing (she was the author of the well-known middle grade novel Tuck Everlasting) sent me to the library shelves to read her first picture book: Nellie, A Cat on Her Own. A sweet fantasy with especially sweet pictures...and Babbitt herself was the illustrator. It was neat to find out that she was an accomplished artist as well as writer.

Other books I'm starting or hoping to start soon: Ann Voskamp's The Broken Way, a couple of older prayer resources -- Praying in Color and Prayer and Temperament, and Joanne Fluke's Christmas Caramel Murder (more know how much I love to think about how I would re-write or edit Fluke's books!). I've got some Advent resources on hold, but I don't think they're in yet...though I need to re-check my library bag. I was so tired when we went to the library on Saturday that I might have missed some of what we picked up on hold.

It's good to be reading again.

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