10 Things I Read Last Year

In December, I learned to be quiet. That’s all.

So instead of 10 things I learned in December, here is a list of 10 things I read in 2016. I collect quotes like some people collect antique dishes or shoes or shot glasses. Here’s a peek at some good quotes from my reading year.

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1. “Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith…I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless; prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.” Lauren Winner, Still: Notes On a Mid-Faith Crisis

2. “The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

3. “Right theology is ultimately hospitality that lives broken right open — with your time and your space and your heart. Every day you can do one thing that you wish you could do for everyone.” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

4. “If you want to really tick people off, just bring up the word Jesus… Say Jesus and people either get happy, or they get mad. They either smile, or a cloud comes over their faces…No other name has such potency. Not Clinton, not Gandhi, not Thatcher, not Lennon.” Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir

5. “I have spent so much of my believing life trying to chain myself to a rock in order to prove my love to Jesus that I may have missed the chance to be chained to Jesus instead… Maybe I’ve missed the point all along. Maybe being chained to Jesus doesn’t involve a chain at all.” Micha Boyett, Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer

6. “Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it.” Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

7. “The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry.” Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

8. “Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

9. “Had God pulled me from Adam’s rib and placed me naked in the garden, the story would be no different. Let’s not blame Eve anymore. If she hadn’t eaten the fruit it most certainly would have been me. I would have eaten it again and again, and then I would have given you a bite.” Amber C. Hains, Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

10. “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism.” Philip Yancey, as quoted in Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

What’s in store for 2017? How about a little more Wendell Berry? I must have been a very good girl this year. Tell me, what book are you reading to start 2017?

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2017 Bible Reading Plan

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Sometimes I wish God would rip open the heavens and speak actual words I can actually hear. Preferably in English since I don’t know Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic. And not in King’s English, please, with the thees and thous and shalts and arts. Just normal midwest plain talk.

I should stop wishing, because every time I tear open my Bible, He speaks. Thousands of words on the pages of scripture are waiting for me to perk up my ears and pay attention. Real conversation with the God of the universe can take place, with a little effort and dedication.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Here’s the new reading plan that will take us through 2017. It’s a little different than in years past and may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a place to start. I plan to post a reflection at the end of each week that goes along with the passage we’ve been digging into on Monday – Friday.

Click on “2017 Bible Reading Plan” at the top of the page for more information. Let me know if you’re in!

(Nice little bookmarks with the 2017 Reading Plan are available in the church narthex. Or I’d be happy to send you one! Email me at dinah.overlien@gmail.com)

2016

Shhh

November has been noisy.

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So many, many words flung here and there.

So many, many opinions, weighty statements, impassioned posts.

I felt myself drowning in the sea of words,

so I stopped using them for a while.

Why add to the noise?

Shhhhhh.

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It’s Advent.

Be still.

And know.

That I.

Am God.

Remember?

He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Don’t forget!

The government will be upon His shoulders.

Reminder:

Prepare Him room.

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Let’s scooch over a little bit, away from the focus on ourselves.

Let’s toss out some of the clutter in our minds and hearts.

Let’s turn the volume down and lift our eyes up.

Make some room for Jesus.

He’s on His way.

He couldn’t come at a better time.

Lover of Books

“Rereading books,

we said with immense agreement,

was the mark of the real lover of books.”

I came across this quote while I was rereading “A Severe Mercy” (by Sheldon Vanauken), which makes me a real lover of books, evidently.

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For the past thirteen years, I have kept a list of all the books that I have read. In 2013, I read twelve books. That was the year I got my iphone. In 2015, I read 55 books. That was the year I got over my iphone.

This quote got me wondering. Of the hundreds of titles on my list, how many had been worthy of a second read? Surprisingly, there was a handful.

  1. “Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  2. “When the Soul Listens” by Jan Johnson
  3. “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan
  4. “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren
  5. “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis
  6. “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean
  7. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  8. “Peace Like a River” by Lief Enger
  9. “Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken
  10. “The Holy Bible” by God

I really don’t like to watch movies I’ve already seen.

I don’t care to listen to the same album over and over.

But sometimes a book comes ’round again,

and I just have to open the pages.

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Two Books

In June, I wrote about my son-in-law’s Christmas gift to me — reading four books together in 2016. The first two books were a resounding success so we each made another pick.

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My second choice was “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. It’s a story about a fly-fishing, Presbyterian minister and his two sons. If you’ve seen the movie, you will picture Brad Pitt standing in the river, casting his line, on every page. But that’s ok. Because the writing is so captivating, even Brad Pitt takes a back seat.

Maclean’s phrases are picturesque: “The storm came on a wild horse and rode over us.” “Then the air disappeared from view.” “We were so dry that we could feel in our ears that we were trying to swallow.”

Some more of my favorite excerpts:

“You can love completely without complete understanding.”

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things — trout as well as eternal salvation — come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

“As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God’s rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty.”

“It was here that I started this story, although, of course, at the time I did not know that stories of life are often more like rivers than books.”

My son-in-law, Dan, admitted it was tough at first to wade through all the fly-fishing lingo, but when he finished the book, he sent me this text: “Wow. That book deserves another read-through. Man, that last paragraph. The best ending words I have ever read.”

That’s saying something.

Dan’s second choice was “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. I’m just a couple chapters in so the jury is still out. Dan and I will talk it over at Thanksgiving.

Persistence

See all those books?

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Those are books that I have bought and read and highlighted about the craft of writing. There’s another stack that size of more books I have checked out of the library on the same topic. You’d think, after reading all these books, I’d be making progress. But I find that there’s always more to learn. Or re-learn.

It’s also easier to read books on writing than to actually write.

That’s why I couldn’t resist this latest title.

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 When it comes down to it, every book on the stack says the same thing —

BIC

(Butt In Chair).

In other words, I just have to do it —

I have to be consistent and persistent.

I have to get my hiney in the chair routinely and habitually.

Persistence is a key in more than my writing life.

I could use a book entitled,

“A Christian’s Guide to Persistence:

How to Create a Lasting and Productive Spiritual Life”.

When starting a new Bible reading plan in January, I’m all gung-ho and ready to dig in. But by March, I start lagging a bit. When beginning a new Bible study class in September, there’s excitement in the air and lots of anticipation. In May, I’m wondering where all that dedication went.

Persistence is hard, whether it’s in spiritual disciplines or writing.

Or anything else.

But I have the answer.

BIC

“I will not neglect Your Word.” Psalm 119:16

 

Incubation

I have learned a valuable lesson.

Here it is:

It takes me three weeks to learn valuable lessons.

I read a bad book on writing. A person probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to a badly written book on writing. There was one redeeming sentence, though, and I took it to heart.

“If you want to be a writer

you need to write one thousand words,

every day,

Monday through Friday,

for the rest of your life.”

Three weeks ago I set out to obey this commandment. I wrote whatever came into my early morning fog-brain. I whined. I complained. I rambled. I typed out numbers and dates to add to my word count. (Two thousand and sixteen — that’s four words.) I stopped at exactly 1000 words every morning for two weeks. I wanted to quit when I read back the blather and twaddle that I found on those pages. Terrible stuff. But I kept going.

After the third week, two things happened.

First, I came to my senses and realized I could make my own rules and set my own goals. I don’t have to follow someone else’s idea of what is required to become a writer. Especially someone who wrote a bad book on writing.  I tweaked the word count and assigned a topic. Monday through Friday, for the rest of my life.

Second, I had a divine moment of clarity. All that drivel I had been spewing for three weeks finally cleared the way for deeper understanding, renewed purpose, and clearer vision. Once the gunk was gone, creativity had a chance to flow.

It was a hard climb, but worth the trouble. Slightly out of breath, I feel like I’m on the edge of a huge scenic overlook and am just now getting a view of a sweeping panorama that I didn’t know was coming. (Cue the soundtrack.) I have been slogging up an incline with nothing in my sights, just plodding along in the underbrush, unaware of how far the climb will be. Then, one day, there is space and sky and vista. (Crescendo violins.)

Incubation time is more necessary than I realized.

Three weeks.

I need to let an idea sit for three weeks and see what hatches.

I need to stick with a discipline for twenty one days to see what develops.

That’s a valuable lesson.

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