What I’m reading now

Down in the bottom corner of this page is a link to my current reading at Goodreads.  That list has some of the books I am reading but not all of them.  I have a tendency to read several books at once in various genres.  Depending on the time of day, the state of the weather, the level of noise in my house, how distracted my mind is, and my mood, I pick up one or another at any given time.  Here are my current reads:

Devotional: Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon – this is a re-read (for the 10th or 11th time, I think) – always excellent, challenging, and comforting.

Theology/Christian Living – just finished Holy is the Day by Carolyn Weber.  See my review here.

History: The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson –  an interesting look at England in the summer of 1911. Nicolson shows the events and cracks in society that will help to lead to war a few years later.

Audio book for the car:  Don Quixote by Cervantes – I just started it but am already enjoying the story.

Read aloud with DS15: The Iliad by Homer – we are reading Fagles’ translation and listening to the audio, narrated by Derek Jacobi – the combination of Homer and Jacobi is unbeatable!

Other Nonfiction:  The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth by Madeleine L’Engle – I love her fiction and am loving this book on writing and living and Christianity

The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill – recommended by a fellow Anglophile – Susan Hill writes beautifully and I am thoroughly enjoying this year in the Fen country with her

Just for fun:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley – #1 of his Flavia de Luce mysteries – Flavia is a 10 year old genius who I am finding a bit annoying.  I’ve heard such good things about these books though so I am persevering.  I hope she grows on me before the end of the book.

What are you reading?  I always appreciate a good book recommendation to add to my massive TBR pile.

“Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present” by Carolyn Weber

I finished this yesterday.  After loving Surprised by Oxford last year, I was expecting to love this book as much, if not more, since the subject matter was more appropriate for my current time of life.  I did like it but I didn’t love it.   Here’s why:

I really did like what she was saying.  There were nuggets of truth throughout the book and one would hit me between the eyes so that I had to put down the book and think about it for a while.  Here are some examples:

God chose to love us through death, into life. Love, the only thing worth living, and dying, for. Love, the only thing for which there is no regret, and for which nothing is wasted. p. 33

A vow, especially before God, means having given your word speaks for you even when you can no longer speak. p. 35

Giving God your all rarely has to do with actual money. Looking at the parable of the poor widow who gave her last coins to the offering, I considered what it is to give God everything, to truly give him significant pieces of yourself until you have given him your all. To give so much that all that is left is to be with him. I think of how the world measures the depth of our giving by what we hand over, but Jesus measures it by what we hold on to. p. 44

Paradox lies at the center of God’s mystery. For in the emptying of ourselves, even in the rendering up of the realization that we may not have a self, we find ourselves filled in and fulfilled by the presence of God. p. 45

Weber, Carolyn A. (2013-08-15). Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present

These and many more truths were heart-moving. I thought about them and considered how they might apply to me and to my life on a daily basis.  For that reason, I really, really wanted to love this book.

In the end, however, the disorganization of the book defeated me.  The author jumped around in her life and in her thoughts just a little bit too much for me to make sense of it at times.  It made me sad, really, because I would have liked to recommend this book unreservedly due to her beautiful language and excellent thoughts about God.

Should you read it?  Yes, if you don’t mind wading through her somewhat meandering thought processes.  The truths about God and His Word are good and her reflections on how to live day by day in obedience to Him are very helpful.

Morning Time – Winter Term 2014

We’ve started school and Morning Time again now that the holidays are over. For the most part, we are enjoying our selections this term.

Here is what we are reading now:

All of us:

Hymn this month: “Trust and Obey”
Verses to memorize: 2 Peter 1:2-11
New Testament – 1 chapter a day (we are just finishing Colossians)

Poetry:

DS17 – we are reading from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry to go along with his studies in 20th century history and literature
DS15 – William Cooper (Ambleside Online’s selections)
Both boys are memorizing “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Read Alouds:
“The Greek Way” by Edith Hamilton
“All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot
“Macbeth” by William Shakespeare

Then DS17 goes off to do his own work and DS15 and I continue with his other read alouds:

“Ourselves” by Charlotte Mason (I need to write a post of praise for this little book. It is excellent!)
“The Iliad” by Homer
“Histories” by Herodotus
“Life of Themosticles” by Plutarch

We are also, in a haphazard and hit and miss sort of way, listening to and looking at the Ambleside Online selections for art and music. This term’s composer is Tchaikovsky and the artist is Manet. We weren’t very faithful last term but I hope to do better this term. We’ll see….

Each boy also has books they are reading and discussing with me but that is separate from Morning Time.

I’m thankful for the couple of hours each day we spend on the reading, discussing, and memorizing together. It can be a struggle some days and the attitudes (mine included) are not always what they should be, but I think it is valuable time that will not be entirely forgotten by the boys when they are grown.

An Encouraging Word from Charles Spurgeon

I’m reading through “Morning and Evening” again this year.  This morning’s devotional was particularly encouraging to me.  I hope it encourages you as well:

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

It is a happy way of soothing sorrow when we can feel–“HE careth for me.” Christian! do not dishonour religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon your Lord. You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. Nothing is so sweet as to

“Lie passive in God’s hands,

And know no will but his.”

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses. There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, his heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and a handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

Am I too busy?

Every day my “to do” list is filled to overflowing. My desire to live intentionally is lost in the sheer mass of necessary chores. Time to think, to pray, to teach, to learn, to worship, to write, and to share God’s truth with others is lost in the forest of busyness.

Many people do not see the need for that kind of space to live thoughtfully. They are content to go and do.  In fact, they seem to thrive on doing whereas I tend to feel dryer and more brittle the more I fill my days with activities and chores.   I seem to be a “Mary” in a world full of “Marthas” (see Luke 10:38-42 to read about these two sisters).  It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else; I just happen to thrive on thinking more than on doing.  So….what do I do with this.

Part of my answer is something Elisabeth Elliot wrote many years ago:

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”
― Elisabeth Elliot, Secure in the Everlasting Arms

The question I need to ask myself each morning is “What is the will of God for me today?”  If I am in the center of His will, then I will be doing what is important, I will be living intentionally.  That is the question I need to have on my mind as I make my daily “to do” list.

Nine Requisites for Contented Living:

Health enough to make work a pleasure.
Wealth enough to support your needs.
Strength enough to battle with difficulties and overcome them.
Grace enough to confess your sins and forsake them.
Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.
Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor.
Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others.
Faith enough to make real the things of God.
Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.
~Goethe

Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries by Anne Perry

Over Christmas break I decided to start the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series by Anne Perry.  I was able to read five of them over the two weeks:  The Cater Street Hangman, Callander Square, Paragon Walk, Resurrection Row, and Rutland Place.  They were quick easy reads.  I enjoyed them and came away with the same feeling as I did after reading Anne Perry’s World War I series–light, easy historical mysteries.  While I enjoyed them, there wasn’t as much depth as there is in some of the other books I’ve been reading lately.  They are great vacation reads though and perhaps I’ll read some more the next time I’m on a school break.

Living Intentionally

There are two main ways to live:  intentionally or reactionally. I know I am living reactionally when my circumstances drive my mood, when I respond emotionally to a situation instead of prayerfully, when I don’t make the time to plan and just “wing it”, when I run my race without thought, prayer, or plans.  When I am living in this manner, I am constantly at the mercy of the urgent, the loudest voice, the squeakiest wheel and I have to ask the question:  “Is this really the way the Lord would have me live?”

The answer is no.  The Lord would have me live with a quiet and gentle spirit, in prayer, in thanksgiving, in an orderly manner.  I have found that it is impossible to live this way unless I have made time for thought, for forming convictions, and for prayerfully determining God’s “To do” list for the day.

Does that mean that the day’s agenda never gets derailed.  No, of course not.  There are days when the whole day turns upside down.  Holding the “to do” list lightly and listening for the Holy Spirit’s direction from moment to moment are key.

However, most days need structure and planning and an ungirding of prioritizing the important things.  The important things are often quiet and undemanding in comparison to the urgent things.  They wait for you to notice them.  They don’t often loudly demand as the urgent things do.  And they will be lost if you don’t take the time to notice them and carve out the space to include them in your life.

I want to live intentionally, to choose the important things over the merely urgent, to think about the true and the lovely and the worthwhile things, to do my husband good and not evil all the days of my life,  to teach what is noble and just and praiseworthy to my children, to love other people in the right ways, to put God and His kingdom first, to have a quiet and gentle spirit which is pleasing to the Lord.

How about you?  Do you live intentionally or reactionally?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

At our house we tend to have unusual conversations.  One recent conversation was about the 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions and what they might be.  One of my children’s teachers had suggested that the 5th dimension might be described as the various other directions in which time may have gone rather than the one in which it ended up flowing.  Time flows like a river in a stream and every day, multiple times a day, things could go in more than one direction.  A decision is made, an event occurs, a thought leads to an action and so time flows in a certain way, according to the will of God.  But what if a different decision had been made or a different event had occurred, or a different thought had led to action, then time may have gone in a different direction.

The various different directions in which time might flow is the premise of Kate Atkinson’s brilliant novel, Life After Life.  Ursula Todd is born to a typical upper middle class family in early 20th century England.  And she dies at birth.  So Time gives her another chance and she is born again in slightly different circumstances and lives until she dies in a childhood accident.  Then she is born again.  And so it goes.  Again and again, Ursula is born, lives a certain set of circumstances, dies at a young age, and then is born again.  It is as if Time is giving her a chance to live her life over and over until she gets it right.  After several “lives” Ursula begins to sense echoes from past lives which help direct hear in future lives.  What is most interesting about the book is the way the author is able to keep the consistency of the main characters in each life–the flightly, pleasure-seeking aunt, the loving, steady father, the favorite younger brother, Ursula herself as well as other main characters in her life–all live different timestreams but are recognizably themselves in each time.   The characterization is the book’s greatest strength.  I thought some of the “lives” Ursula lived were not quite in character but overall, they fit in with her personality.

This book was a page-turner.  Although I don’t have a lot of free reading time, I couldn’t put it down for long and ended up reading at every available moment until I finished it.  Interesting and thought-provoking although not at all consistent with a Biblical worldview.  However, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it.  Recommended.