Good Reading Raises the Level of All Thinkers

Looking for Truth in all the right places

Although the Bible remains the number 1 bestseller in books each year, buying a Bible, or any other book for that matter, is not the same as reading it.

It’s the books we actually read and understand and internalize that shape who we are and forecast who we will become.

Universal truth applies to all people in every context and throughout all generations. But where do people even begin to look for truth?

In books.

The Bible admits through words written by King Solomon nearly 3 thousand years ago:  Of making many books there is no end.

There are books that feed hungry souls. There are books that fuel unhealthy appetites. There are books that are as disposable as the daily newspaper.

Today, there are books that sell. There are books that last. A book that does both becomes a classic.

Indispensable among books in any language is the Bible. The Bible used to form the cornerstone of education. Educated persons shared in common a literary heritage with tracks of written words crisscrossing the Bible throughout centuries of recorded history.

A translation of the Bible in any language is a gift of inestimable value. Ask Abraham Lincoln.

Or I can tell you how some Russian people responded when a group I was with in 1993 handed out Bibles to those who had sat in darkness for 70 years. They cried.

“A River Never Rises above Its Source”

Charles Scribner II, editor of the renowned New York publishing house, is attributed with those words. He maintained literary standards for reading and writing.

Words and the meanings of words are essential for reading, thinking and understanding. Necessary nutrients for healthy minds and bodies, words can make us whole. Or tear us apart.

Lacking common ground for communication in both history and literature, is it any wonder that America appears more fractured than at any point in history? Left behind are those who lack the ability to read and appreciate timeless and timely literature.

Reading to understand what we read requires thinking to process information, make connections and use of the mind God gave us.

Readers in the Food Court

This on the steps to Admin Building at UT

Spurred by appetite, personal preference and advertising, Readers want what they want now.

“Reading today is largely a consumer activity––people devour books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers for information that will fuel their ambition or careers or competence. The faster the better, the more the better. It is either analytical, figuring things out; or frivolous killing of time.” Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book.

Selah. Reading should nourish our souls. Reading can affirm our identity as human beings of infinite worth. Reading reminds us we are not alone.

And it helps people relate and communicate when they can share a working knowledge of the some of the same literary building blocks.

Reading quality material elevates all the ships in the harbor. This is especially true when people can read and talk about what they read. Instead of being marooned on islands of personal preference or shot at by those who disagree, Readers learn to think “for the benefit of society.”

All truth is God’s truth.

Frank Gabelein served as headmaster for 42 years at a Christian college prep school. He believed that “because all truth is God’s truth, it should make no difference whether it is natural or revealed truth, as long as learning relates to life.”

Gabelein believed that the doctrine of common grace asserts that God gives his gifts among all kinds of men, believers as well as unbelievers.

“There is an excitement about the humanities that can be very moving . . . the humane visions of greatness in literature and art and music can bring us into encounters with genius . . . Genius comes through common grace. As such, it is a miracle of divine sovereignty. In giving genius to Plato, or Shakespeare; a Leonardo or a Monet; Mozart or Tchaikovsky, or turn again to literature, a Jane Austen or a Hemingway––in doing this, God acted sovereignly [sic] and the results of his action are to be accepted thankfully.”

Can Readers be saved?

People are hungry for truth. Not your truth. Not my truth.

The truth.

People confuse truth with personal experience.

Written in stone on the Administration Building, the University of Texas, Austin––”Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Jesus said that.

Go read a good book. There’s truth to be found, tasted and treasured for those who seek the truth.

And eat your vegetables too.

The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. And further, my son, be admonished by these. Ecclesiastes 12:11–12

A Time to Thrive

The days are getting shorter by the minute.

From September 21 until the winter solstice, the days get shorter. Depending on a location’s latitude (how far north of the equator), daylight slips away at the rate of 3 minutes a day.

Days seem to go faster, don’t they?

Turning the calendar page in October brings both a sigh and a lament.

Slant light in the northern hemisphere brings longer shadows, changing colors and colder temperatures.

Without holidays to look forward to––especially Thanksgiving and Christmas––I might pull the covers over my head and take a Rip Van Winkle nap.

Wake me up when it’s warm.

No longer can I tell if I’m waking up in the middle of the night or if the alarm didn’t go off? Is it morning?

Wake me when sunset occurs later than 4:00 pm. When I was in Germany, it was dark by 4:30 pm each day.

Oh, how I dread fewer hours of daylight. As if I have been cheated out of what I need to survive.

Daylight Saving Time or not, the hours of sunlight per day shrinks.

We live by the clock, not a sundial.

Shorter days, longer nights and the sense that time itself tucks itself in earlier each day must mean something. Seasons change for a reason.

Autumn leaves must fall.

Slow down to thrive.

Yet each season has unique beauty. And purpose.

A time for every season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Once school starts, pedal to the floorboard acceleration.

Activities crowd schedules and the demands on time and energy queue up, waiting a turn for focused attention. Right?

It’s like we’re stuck in second gear.

Fall gently eases people into cruise control. No shifting gears for a while. Enjoy the scenery.

Give a thought to this wonderful world we call home and the people who inhabit this world.

Sit around a table with people you love. Listen to everyone’s conversation. Look people in the eye when they speak. Each person has something to contribute.

“People would rather you hear their story than have a wish granted.” Author Marion Roach made that statement in a memoir class I took two weeks ago.

I think she’s on to something.

As the days get shorter, time to be with people, listening to their stories, I think, will nourish the roots of relationships.

Fall can be a time to thrive.

 

Want to read more about length of days?

 

 

To Kill a Mockingbird Banned, Again

Multiple copies of To Kill a Mockingbird show how much I value this book.

Yet another school district has banned To Kill a Mockingbird. Because the book makes some people uncomfortable.

Id-E-ots!

The books is supposed to make readers uncomfortable.

The book strikes at racial prejudice and injustice toward Blacks, hitting a bull’s-eye only the mindless can miss.

Like Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird serves as a time capsule, capturing and exposing a period in American history when a majority of people in the South hid behind racial fear and bigotry.

Read more

Dirty Dancing and Giant Revisited: Story Lines about Change

Dirty Dancing: A frame for story context, 1987

Saturday night I watched Dirty Dancing. Again.

ZAP! Hooked. In a time machine, I sat transported and transfixed.

From the vantage point of 30 years after Dirty Dancing opened in theaters, I see a lot to admire about this film.

In 1987, when Dirty Dancing made cultural shock waves, I did not watch. Or let my children see it either. Years later, I learned that my teenage daughter saw the video at a friend’s house.

Whatever.

While the movie does portray some dirty dancing, as well as admit some explicit consequences of sexual activity, dancing provides a frame for story context.

The story unfolding exposes prejudice, hypocrisy and bigotry.

The dictionary defines bigotry as the stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

The movie is about how people can have one set of standards, values and professed ideals for themselves and yet apply another standard to those who are not like them.

Read more

Don’t Judge Las Vegas, the People or the Place


“From a distance, the world looks blue and green …”

“From a distance,” the lyrics go, “there is harmony and it echoes through the land.”

The image above shows the view from my window seat on a flight as it landed in Las Vegas, one of several trips as an adult I have made to visit a place where for years I lived as a child.

My dad helped build the original Las Vegas Convention Center. My mother held important jobs, including personal legal secretary to State Senator Mahlon Brown.

Real people live and work in Las Vegas. And yes, go out to play.

My daughter-in-law greeted me yesterday morning with these first words.

“There was a S-H-O-O-T-I-N-G in Vegas last night.”

Her eyes formed big O’s as she spelled to spare her preschoolers this tragic news. She and her husband had returned home earlier that day on a flight from Las Vegas to Housotn. My husband and I traveled from Lubbock to keep our grandsons while they had a weekend away.

Don’t judge.

Read more