Tag Archives: books

Treasure Hunting in Southern Pines

I love my community, or rather, I’m learning to love my community. It hasn’t come naturally to me; it is something I’m having to practice. Today has helped me along the way.

Patty and I went treasure hunting through town this morning. It started because I’m becoming an old man, which apparently is defined–by me–as a morning person. Being a morning person is also something that hasn’t come naturally to me, but I woke up at 7:30 AM today and that got me started.

First, we went to the local farmer’s market, where we scored some tomato plants, bacon, chorizo, and an assortment of fresh veggies. The only thing that would have been better would been to have gotten some of the brisket the meat folks had run out of.

Next, we went to a church friend’s yard sale, where I scored a PG Wodehouse book and Patty discovered some nice plates that will apparently make nice wall decorations.

After that, we stopped at the Goodwill to drop off some donations, which inevitably led to us browsing inside. There, I got a copy of Dickens’ Great Expectations and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Both are books, admittedly, I should already own and have read, but alas are not. Well, I own Pride and Prejudice, but it is part of a single collection of Austen’s books, and I hate reading books that way. I also got DVD copies of The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Tristen and Isolde. 

Finally, we stopped at the Post Office where I picked up a package of some neat canisters I’d ordered from England and a copy of Understanding Fiction–the book that influenced Flannery O’Connor while she was studying at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

All told, it’s been a productive and fruitful morning. Now, I’m off to do some yard work with my boys–they just don’t know it yet!

In Defense of a Friend

Recently, I was chiding my friend, Kimberly, for skipping tracks in a podcast. I accused of her very likely engaging in the same erroneous activity when reading. I even went so far as to accuse of her reading the book of Revelation before the rest of the Bible. She was kind enough to ignore my accusations, but simply offered an explanation for skipping the tracks in the podcast.

Well, I still don’t think it is a right to skip around in books–I have another friend whom I know does that, and I will not back down from haranguing him.

But, in defense of Kim–and all my friends who skip chapters in books–I must admit that even if I can’t agree with their practice, they do have the Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, on their side.

It is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never “skip.”All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

So, C.S. Lewis has their back. I’m not sure how one can know the chapter is of no use to them without having read it, but if they can know that, then they have Lewis’s permission to skip it.

My Summer Vacation in Narnia

I’ve got a plan to read through the entire Chronicles of Narnia this summer. Initially, my plan is to read a book a day to complete the trip in a week. I’m on track so far, but this is only day two. I’ve been there before, but it has been a long time since I’ve experienced the whole of Narnia.

In order to get more bang for my buck, I’ve hired a couple of tour guides for my trip. Once I’ve read each of the seven books, I’m going to follow them up with Douglas Wilson’s What I Learned in Narnia and Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis. This may be one of my best vacations ever!

If all goes well, I should have plenty of time this summer for another vacation. Right now, I’m leaning toward a return trip to the Shire and Middle Earth. If it works out, I’ll read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. My tour guide for that trip will be Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings, which I’ll read after I finish the four Middle Earth books.

I’m not looking for prayers for safe travel, only good travel. Just as Mr. Beaver replied to Lucy when asked if Aslan was safe.

‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver. ‘Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’

Life in a Carnival

Tonight I watched the DVD Bookumentary, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. I cannot commend it enough. I bought the book several months ago, but found it at the bottom of a stack of books that I am planning to read. It has just been moved to the top of the stack.

A stream of conscience flowing with brilliance. That is the only way I can describe what I saw tonight. He talks about wonder, life, death, hell, graveyards, rabbits, kittens, hawks, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow, mud, icicles, grandpas, grandmas, babies, oceans, sand, pails, college, philosophers, need I go on?

You absolutely must watch the film and/or read the book.

You can whet your appetite with this short youtube of the DVD.

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Top Four Reasons You Might Need a Kindle

This is a short and sweet post on why the Kindle (or Nook, Kobo, iPad, Android Tablet, or any other e-reader) may be a viable and preferred alternative for some readers to traditional books. I occasionally read books on my Kindle, but am not a huge supporter of all things Kindle. These (stolen mostly from Alan Jacobs’ lecture on Reading in an Age of Distraction — HT: FirstThings) are a few reasons why I might be wrong not to be a bigger supporter of the Kindle.

1. It occupies your thumbs. Many people find it difficult to read a book because their mind is constantly occupied with wanting to check their e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter updates. For some, this may be more of an addiction for their thumbs than it is their minds. If you fall into this category, the Kindle may occupy your thumbs enough to enable you to read more.

2. It makes you cool. If toting a book around makes you look nerdy, then toting a Kindle around makes you look “technologically adept” and that may be enough for some folks to have one and read it.

3. It allows you to read what you really want. Some folks just can’t get “in” to reading because they burden themselves with “educated” books. They force themselves to read the acceptable classics: Tolstoy, Austen, and others. They find it difficult to get into these books, so it takes them longer to read them. They do this because they know people will see what book they are carrying around and will/may judge them for what they’re reading. Reading on a Kindle allows you to give in to your guilty pleasures and read the books you really want to read without passersby knowing what you are reading. Because you will be reading the books you really want to read, it will be easier to get “in” to them and thus read more.

4. It provides instant access to most books. When you do finally have the itch to read, you are often forced to wait a day or more to get over to the library or store to pick it up. Worse, you might have to wait several days for it to arrive via post from Amazon. By then, you may no longer have such a strong desire to read. The Kindle allows you to download and begin reading the book almost instantaneously.

If you aren’t a reader, these may be the helps that get you on the path to being one. If you are, but aren’t as consistent as you’d like to be, the Kindle may be the difference-maker for you. If you are and are consistent, this may be pointless for you. If you are and are a paper purist, I’m sorry for any offense. But, what’s worse? Reading books on a Kindle, or not reading at all?

Finally, this post is dedicated to my friend, Uri Brito, who loves the Kindle. He really does.

Review: Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses

Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (Classics of Western Spirituality)Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses by Gregory of Nyssa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my first foray into Alexandrian theologians, and I read this book on the recommendation of an Eastern Orthodox friend.

Gregory of Nyssa was an Alexandrian, emphasizing the allegorical approach to Biblical interpretation. This approach was a popular approach in his day, and probably a necessary one. After all, the Alexandrians were trying to reach the learned Greeks and philosophers of their day with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Paul can rejoice in Christ’s being preached even when it was only being done to multiply his hardships, then we can rejoice in Christ’s being preached even when we prefer a different hermeneutic.

Gregory’s allegorization of Scripture reminds me much of the preaching I heard as independent, fundamental Baptist. He accepts the literal interpretation of the story of Moses’s life as historical, just as they would have. He then, however, allegorizes Moses’s life to find principles we can apply to our own lives, so that we can live a life like that of Moses. In other words, he spiritualizes it so that their is a devotional principle that we can find and live ourselves.

What follows are three examples from the book that really stood out for me. The numbers within the quotes (e.g. 188) are the paragraph numbers found in the book.

1. “188. If the interior, which is called the Holy of Holies, is not accessible to the multitude, let us not think that this is at variance with the sequence of what has been perceived. For the truth of reality is truly a holy thing, a holy of holies, and is incomprehensible and inaccessible to the multitude. Since it is set in the secret and ineffable areas of the tabernacle of mystery, the apprehension of the realities above comprehension should not be meddled with; one should rather believe that what is sought does exist, not that it lies visible to all, but that it remains the secret and ineffable areas of the intelligence.”

If Gregory is simply separating the people of God from the enemies of God, and the multitude represent the enemies, therefore making knowledge of him incomprehensible, then I believe he has a point. However, in the greater context, he seems to be implying that because the people of God could not access the Holy of Holies (which houses God Himself) then God is not accessible to His own people. He seems to ignore the fact that the Holy of Holies has been accessible to the people of God through the work of Christ. All mysteries have been revealed, says Paul, and we do have access to God. Gregory’s allegorization fails, because it fails to take into account all of Scripture.

2. “31. The change from a rod into a snake should not trouble the lovers of Christ–as if we were adapting the doctrine of the incarnation to an unsuitable animal. For the Truth himself through the voice of the Gospel does not refuse a comparison like this in saying: ‘And the Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.’

“32. The teaching is clear. For if the father of sin is called a serpent by Holy Scripture and what is born of the serpent is certainly a serpent, it follows that sin is synonymous with the one who begot it. But the apostolic word testifies that the Lord was ‘made into sin for our sake’ by being invested with our sinful nature.

“33. This figure therefore is rightly applied to the Lord. For if sin is a serpent and the Lord became sin, the logical conclusion should be evident to all: By becoming sin he became also a serpent, which is nothing other than sin. For our sake he became a serpent that he might devour and consume the Egyptian serpents produced by the sorcerers.”

Gregory really hit the nail on the head with this one. I especially appreciate his insight here because he shows the redemptive purposes of the serpent being lifted up. He doesn’t restrict it to its personal purposes for me, but shows the whole purpose of Christ in coming to save the world. And, he answers a question I have often wondered about, Why was a serpent–which is representative of satan–what was lifted up, when what was lifted up was to be representative of Christ?

3. “301. The history, it seems to me, offers some advice profitable to men. It teaches us that of the many passions which afflict men’s thinking there is none so strong as the disease of pleasure. That those Israelites, who were manifestly stronger than the Egyptian cavalry and had prevailed over the Amalekites and had shown themselves awesome to the next nation and then had prevailed over the troops of the Midianites, were enslaved by this sickness at the very moment they saw the foreign women only shows, as I have said, that pleasure is an enemy of ours that is hard to fight and difficult to overcome.

“302. …Pleasure showed that she makes men beasts…”

Here is a personal application (that actually has redemptive import, were we to take the time to flesh it out) that is of eminent importance. Man is created with an impulse, a drive, to dominate. We were created in the image of God to exercise dominion over the created order. Men, as Gregory points out, are good at exercising warfare like dominion over their enemies. Men, however, are beasts when it comes to dominating pleasure. We become like beasts when we make our lust (and therefore woman) the object of our dominion. They are our helpers, not our feats. It is a necessary reminder he offers us here, “that pleasure is an enemy of ours that is hard to fight and difficult to overcome.”

All in all, Gregory’s allegorization is at times helpful and so the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. But it does take much knowledge of the Scripture to sift out the fantastic and imaginative from the faithful and true.

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