Reading Fast

I’m not referring to a speed reading technique here. This is not a “how-to-read-a book-a-day” post. No, this is something different. Much different.

I gave up reading for Lent.

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In Lauren Winner’s book, “Girl Meets God”, she was challenged to give up her voracious reading habit during the six weeks of Lent. When I read that I gasped. No way.  I could never do that. Reading is a huge part of my life. I love reading so much. So very much. So so very very much.

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I argued with myself, “Just because Lauren Winner did it, doesn’t mean you have to do it.”

I pouted and whined, “I’m in the middle of a really good book right now. Can I just finished it first?”

I wrung my hands, “How am I ever going to get through all 180 titles on my To Be Read list if I up and quit reading for six weeks?”

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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One year I gave up sugar for Lent, but I admit that I was hoping for a little kick-back in terms of improved health for myself.  One year I gave up Oprah – a whole hour of TV watching — and never went back.

If Lent is supposed to be a time to consider the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, then I need to give up something that makes me gasp at the thought.

For me, it’s books.

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Over the past week and a half, some interesting things have happened.  A good friend handed me a book she had just finished and said, “You are going to love this. All the time I was reading it, I thought – this is a Dinah book.” Then, my public library sent me an email– a title I had requested months ago was finally in and waiting for me. I talked to the librarian to see if I could keep it longer than four weeks. But, no. I told her, “I gave up reading for Lent.”  She gasped.

Then, another sweet friend gave me an unexpected gift – these magnetic page clips.

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That spell R-E-A-D.

I have banned all books but one – The Good Book. I have my bookmark securely placed at chapter 24 of the story I’ll pick back up on Easter Sunday. I’ll put my name on the waiting list at the library once more. Fasting from books for a few weeks isn’t that great of a sacrifice. I will survive. Gasp.

The Village Booksmith

In honor of the first National Independent Bookstore Day on May 2nd, I’d like to show off my hometown’s very own, one-of-a-kind, Village Booksmith.

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 There are nooks and crannies and soft seats….and books!

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 Every bookstore needs a furry friend to make it feel homey.

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This is my favorite corner.  I think good thoughts when I sit here.

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This is my go-to shelf.  Wait.  “The Wealthy Writer”?  That must belong in the fiction area.

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Sometimes people stop in and tickle the ivories.

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Books are stacked, shelved, and piled.  I could lose myself in this place for weeks.

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Where else could you read books on agriculture while sitting in a chair like this?

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 I’m so lucky to live down the street from this special place.

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Thanks Annie!  Happy National Independent Bookstore Day!

Aha! Moment

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Hi.

I’ve been on a reading binge and it’s taking me awhile to come out of the stupor.

Since February 1, I’ve devoured 10 books.  My “Books Read in 2015” list has gone wild.  This has got to stop.

With my nose in a book, February flew by, which was exactly what I hoped.  But today the sun is shining, the snow is melting, the windows are open and it’s time to get my nose back into real life.

I need to reintroduce myself to my kitchen, my laundry basket and my writing desk.  They miss me.

I’ve experienced it before: a God-ordained “Aha!” moment.

My thought: “Should I write in my journal tonight or read another book?”

Immediate impression: “Do you want to leave your grandchildren a list of books you read or a book of words you wrote?”

Ok then.

So I will slow my gallop through books to a trot and see if I can find a few words of my own.

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Winter Blahs

snowmanThis is the hard part of winter for me.  Happy Winter starts right after Thanksgiving and stays happy all the way through New Years.  Then Blah Winter moves in.  It’s dreary, cloudy, cold, and snowy.  I need some strategies for staying happy during Blah Winter (that don’t include a tropical island).

My mom used to say that February wasn’t good for anything except for reading a good book.  She would break her usual busy routine in February and spend a few afternoons on the couch with a novel.

I’m more of a non-fiction girl myself.  Almost all the books on my shelves and Kindle are Christian Living/Spiritual Growth/Memoire/Theology.  Maybe it’s because I’ve read a few poorly written novels that fiction doesn’t excite me.  I’m ready to change all that.  February isn’t good for much of anything except for reading a good novel, that’s what I say.

But I need help.  I want a big book with hundreds of pages.  I want beautiful writing that makes me copy parts in my journal.  I want a story that’s compelling, uplifting and inspiring.  I want characters that are so real I think about them all day.  I want to be so swept up that I stay awake past 9:00 p.m. for one more chapter.  I want to cry.  And laugh. I don’t care if it is on the current best seller list, or if it was written a century or two ago.  I don’t want fluff,  predictable storylines or shallow characters.  I don’t want a lot of sex and violence and vulgar language.

I want to remember February 2015 as the month I read a great story.

Am I asking too much?  Is my dream novel out there somewhere?  Help me please!  I’m asking for suggestions!

I Am A Writer

I went away on Sunday as a timid, toe-dipping, hesitant dabbler.  Jotting down silly thoughts was a hobby to enjoy but to keep under wraps. Throwing words out into the great internet cloud wasn’t intimidating because I didn’t have to actually look a handful of readers in the eye.  No expectations, no demands, no problem.

Dabble, dabble, dabble.

This week, I took a big breath and jumped in the deep end, cannonball-style.  I heard my silly scribbles read out loud and looked deep into others’ watery eyes through my own.  No longer words thrown about, but instead words placed with care and precision to reveal one delicate layer.

On Friday, I came home with a new name — Writer.

Thank you, Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference.

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Book End

Sad day.

books2The Pew Research Center reported last week that “nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year.  As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audiobook while in the car.  The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.”

I can’t imagine life without books.  Some of my best childhood memories involve books.  The red Child Craft books full of poems and stories, Nancy Drew mysteries, the Little House series.  I kept it up as an adult and now I usually read around 20 books each year, although in 2012 I burned through 41.  Last year, however, I read a measly 12 books.  What happened?  Am I about to become a “non-book-reader” statistic?  Never!  I know exactly what happened.

First, our church had a “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” program in which I took part.  (So I guess you could say I read 66 books.)  Keeping up with that demanding reading plan did take a chunk of time, but it was so worth it.

Second, I bought an iPhone.  I’m embarrassed to admit how much time that cool little gadget sucked up.  Shudder.   Facebook, Pinterest, Words with Friends.  I am back in control now.  Pretty sure.

Third, I subscribed to Gospel Ebooks.  Every day these nice people send me a list of books that are dirt cheap or even free.  Every day.  FREE.  Books.  So my Kindle got loaded up and I’d read a few chapters out of a new book, but then would get distracted by the next day’s free offer.  And so it went.  I’m working on this gluttonous addiction.

I plan to pick up the pace this year.  And I better.  My current “Books to Read” list has 170 titles on it.  Plus, there are 26 unread books on my Kindle,  a pile of 8 books by my bed, and 13 must-reads on my bookshelf.  At the rate of 20 books a year, I’ll be almost 65 years old by the time I finish.  Then I will retire….and finally have time to do some serious reading.

“I still find each day too short for all the books I want to read….”  John Burroughs

On Becoming a Writer

blog bookI love to read.  I love to read books about reading books.  Some of my favorite titles include “How to Read a Book”,”Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books” and “25 Books Every Christian Should Read”.  This odd bent is spilling over into my writing life.  On my “Books to Read” list (you have one, don’t you?) is “How to Write a Sentence”, “Writers on Writing” and “How to Write Great Blog Posts That Engage Readers”.  Just kidding on that last one.  Although you’re probably thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to download that book.  Now.

If I have aspirations of being a real writer someday (whatever that means….I’m really writing this), I need all the help I can get.  Learning more about the craft is fascinating — plus, it keeps me from actually having to do it.

When I was eight years old I was horse crazy.  I wanted a horse in the worst way.  I read books on horses, I subscribed to a horse magazine and I took the horseless horse project in 4-H.  I had horse pictures all over my bedroom and a horse mobile hanging from my light.  I studied the different breeds of horses and knew all about bridles and saddles.  I dreamed of galloping across the fields on my trusty steed.  Then I got a horse.  As it turned out, I liked learning about horses more than actually owning one.

I don’t want to go down that path again.  So, I’m discovering that some days, when I don’t think I have anything to say, I need to pick up the pencil and see what comes anyway.  I don’t need a fully formed idea before I get started.  I just need to get started and the ideas will develop before my eyes.  The process is scary and exciting — a little faith helps.

Today I wrote: “Writing is like the parting of the Red Sea.  I pick up my pen and step into the waters of thoughts and feelings, not knowing exactly what will take place.  In obedience, I start writing and find a path for my words.  The chaos parts and as long as I keep my hand moving across the page, the walls of water allow me to continue.  I just need to keep moving, even though it’s dark and hard to see ahead. Someday I may find myself in the Promised Land, after a few trips around the desert, of course.”

Sometimes thoughts appear on the page that I didn’t even know I was thinking.  Huh.  You should try it.

 “Real writers wake up every morning with something to say, even if the words have yet to come.”  Jeff Goins

Summer Reads

It is June 22 which means VBS is over and my summer begins!  As I promised in the “10 Things I Miss” post (June 12, 2012) I have a list of books and my fingers are itching to hit the “Buy Now With One Click” button to load my Kindle.  Here’s my line up:

1. The God Box: Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go by Mary Lou Quinlan — After her mother’s death, Mary Lou found boxes full of little scraps of paper with her mother’s prayers written on them.  How lovely.  I might start my own box this summer.

2.  On Writing Well by William Knowlton Zinsser — We’ll see if things improve around here after reading this.

3.  The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy —  I like history, I like presidents and I like getting inside exclusive places.

4.  Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)  by Suzanne Collins — Because I read the first book and heard this one is even better.

5.  A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada —  I have great respect for someone who has been in a wheelchair for decades, wrestles with suffering, yet still has a vital faith in God.

6.  A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington III — I’ve read First Corinthians and Second Corinthians, but not this one.  I’m hoping this book will give depth to the other two.

7.  The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles  by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne — I love books that have really long subtitles.  I don’t really know if I have inner creative battles, but I probably will after reading this book.  Then I will be able to break through them.  And win.

8.  Lit!  A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke —  Once I read a book titled “How to Read a Book”.  I loved it.  Books about how to read books are almost as good as reading real books.

9.  Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard —  I heard this is a trendy book.  Then I saw LeBron on SportsCenter reading it in the locker room before an NBA finals game and things turned out pretty good for him.

10.  I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron —  I sometimes feel bad about my middle age midriff bulge and grey hair.  So far, my neck hasn’t been a problem, so I’m thinking I’d better be ready if that’s the next thing to go. 

See?   I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to get ten new books.  Yay for summer!  What are  you reading?

Old Friend: Gift From the Sea

Anne Morrow Lindbergh is my BFF.  I’ve never met her personally and she’s no longer living, but I know if our paths had crossed, we would have been kindred spirits.  She was the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, author of several books, and mother to six children, one of which was kidnapped and murdered.  I stumbled across her published diaries in a library years ago and our friendship began.  Anne and I wouldn’t have agreed on everything; her marriage wasn’t perfect, her life wasn’t without heartache, her views on God and spirituality would have made for some intense conversation between us.  But she bared her soul in her journals and wrote so beautifully about her desire to find balance.

Her book “Gift From the Sea” was published in 1955.  I take it off the shelf every few years, just to stop by for a visit with my interesting and thoughtful friend who was trying to figure out how to juggle being a wife, mother, artist and citizen.   She wrote about the different stages of a woman’s life, so every time I re-read this book, I find something new to appreciate because I’m in a new stage myself.

“But I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself.  I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.  I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible.”

On marriage:  “A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules.  The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but swift and free…. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing.  Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back – it does not matter which.  Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.” 

On children growing up and leaving home:  “A most uncomfortable stage followed, not sufficiently anticipated…Plenty of solitude, and a sudden panic at how to fill it…With me, it was not a question of simply filling up the space or the time.  I had many activities and even a well-established vocation to pursue.  But when a mother is left, the lone hub of a wheel, with no other lives revolving about her, she faces a total re-orientation.  It takes time to re-find the center of gravity.”

To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one. ~Chinese Saying

 

 

 

Old Friend: Into the Depths of God

Ever since I wrote the post “Old Friends” (Nov. 14, 2011), a thought has been brewing in my head.  (These things take time…)  All those notebooks filled with deep and delicious words that I copied out of my favorite books are just sitting on my shelf.  It seems like such a shame.  So, I’ve decided to share some of my old friends here from time to time.  I hope the quotations inspire you for a moment or more.  Perhaps they will whet your appetite for the book or author and you can make some new friends of your own. 

From “Into the Depths of God” by Calvin Miller:

Bathos (Greek word for ‘deep’) is a word I really discovered at the Great Barrier Reef.  My son had come to scuba dive while my wife and I snorkeled.  While my son plunged deeply beneath clear waters to bury himself in the wonder of the mysterious ocean depths, my wife and I, wearing masks, only floated on the surface facedown.

In some ways, what we were all seeing looked the same.  However, the truth is that the content of our experience was greatly different.  We will both spend the rest of our lives talking about that experience and our enthusiasm will always be exuberant.  But only our son really knew the Reef; he understood the issue of depth…. In some ways it seems to me that much of Christianity is a conversation of snorkelers talking to each other of scuba experiences.

The inscrutable glories of the deep cannot be described to those hooked on the safety of shallowness….  We can see that the tide pools hold no deep adventure.  We can even feel the lure of the dark and haunting indigo of the ocean’s soul.  Still, we balk at real inward adventure.  Our shallow spirituality holds nothing profound, but it is safe.”

On prayer:  “I suspect that the difference between a person of seasoned prayer and one of smaller prayer experience is the amount of time they spend talking rather than listening.  I used to be troubled by Paul’s admonition to ‘pray without ceasing’.  I now believe this is only possible to those who have had enough significant prayer experience to make the listening prayer the largest part of their praying.  Those whose prayers are unending monologues make themselves a giant mouth while making God a small ear.  St. Anthony said that the best prayer comes when we no longer remember we are praying.”

On time: “We cannot possibly flatter the Almighty by hurrying into his presence, flinging a song and a prayer at him, and hurrying out of church back into our hassled lifestyles.  God is never flattered by our sanctified exhaustion…  God does not wear a watch.  His unthinkable glory is learned only in our time-consuming communion with him…   All watches must be checked at the gates of the throne room.  Real relationships never keep their eye on the clock…  The believer who wants an in-depth affair with Christ must not allow time clocks and ledger sheets to destroy that wonderful holy leisure by which we make friends with God.”

What are your thoughts, my Small Drop friends?

 No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning