“Too much reading is just frustrated writing.” ~Samantha Bennett
The quote above arrived in an email this morning. It was an ironic quote to read on a day that I dedicated to reading. I read two (borrowed) books in their entirety, finished off the last third or so of another book, and am working on a fourth book. All in all, a very delightful way to spend the day!
While I have experienced times when my reading is “frustrated writing,” today’s reading was different. Sometimes reading becomes fuel for my writing. (It’s no coincidence that I sometimes refer to “devouring” books. It’s much like food for the mind!)
On the last day of my Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class before the final exam, we had a class discussion about what it means to us to say that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Given the wide range of denominational and theological backgrounds that students bring to class, it was not surprising that our opinions differed on this topic.
It’s probably also not surprising that I was the outlier in urging caution about placing too much reverence in the Bible. It’s not that I don’t value the Bible—in fact, I do very much, and this course I just finished helped me to value it even more—it’s that I believe that it is a text that provides its greatest benefit to us when we are able to wrestle with it and question it. Much like the Zen Buddhist saying that cautions not mistaking the finger pointing at the moon for the moon, I believe that the Bible should point us toward a relationship with God and not become the object of our worship itself.
I’ve seen too many cases where the Bible (or one’s interpretation of it) has become such an object of worship in itself that it leads to the text being used a weapon against others or can lead to driving others away from Christianity altogether because of the misuse of the text. Today, I’ve collected a few links from people who express similar concerns with how we treat the Bible.
“In this parable we are reminded that a religious approach to the text is not one in which we attempt to find out its definitive meaning, but rather where we wrestle with it and are transformed by it.” ~Peter Rollins in The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief
I have just finished reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief by Peter Rollins. It’s one of those books that is so good and so mind-stretching that I need to read it again before I’ll be ready to write about the book as a whole. I can say for now, though, that it’s absolutely fantastic and well worth the read. Its message is also subversive enough that it’s going to take me a little more time to fully process it.
In this post, I just want to look at the one idea quoted above that really jumped out at me as I read tonight. While I have heard about the importance of wrestling with the text before, I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of this as I come to the end of this semester of studying the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).
Most weeks, I collect links around a specific topic to share in my link love roster, but this week I just want to call out a few of the many blogs that I draw inspiration from on a regular basis. The list of blogs in my RSS feed is long, so I can’t possibly give a shout out to all of the ones that I love, but this list covers a few of the highlights among those that I’ve been following for a while and that are consistently an inspiration to me. There are a dozen more that I could add that are equally deserving, but I doubt you would all read a post that was that long!
In each case, I’ve tried to pick a fairly recent post that I particularly enjoyed as a starting place, but I’d encourage you to look around at other postings too, if what you see is of interest to you.
I love words. I always have … or at least I have for as long as I can remember. My mom says that from the time I was old enough to sit up by myself, she could keep me occupied just by giving me a page of the newspaper. Apparently I would stare at the words in rapt fascination for long stretches of time that would allow her to fix meals or get other things done around the house. I still love the sight of printed words—in any language. It’s still a marvel to me that we can capture thoughts from our minds with scribbles on a page. I suppose it’s no surprise, therefore, that I grew up loving to read and to write.
I also love the sound of words. Sometimes the sound of a certain word will capture my attention, and I find myself marveling over the sound of each letter and each syllable, how those sounds fit together, and how the word feels in my mouth. This happens with new words (to me) and to words that I use all of the time. In those moments, it’s as if they are suddenly highlighted by a spotlight in my mind that makes them exotic all over again.
I just finished reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters this evening. This is one of the most engrossing and amazing books I have read in a very long time. Despite running to almost 600 pages in the version I have, I could hardly put it down. I could scarcely turn the pages fast enough to feed my need to know what happened to the two captivating heroines in this story.
The story is set in Victorian England and could best be described as rather gothic fiction. The settings are dark and depressing, but they spring to life in the author’s descriptions in a way that I suspect are true to the times.
Most of the characters are not very nice people in various ways. Even the two heroines of the story, Susan and Maud, have their own dark secrets that they are hiding. The many secrets in this story lead to a multitude of plot twists and turns as the reader (and most of the characters) discovers that nothing and no one are really who they seem to be. The complexity of the story and the way that it is presented is nothing short of brilliant.
Most people would say that I read obsessively. I read blogs, I read e-books, I read paperbacks, I read hardbacks, I read magazines, I read journals.
I read because I love it, but I also read to survive. When I spend much time without in-depth reading (by which I mean reading a book), my quality of life seriously suffers because I grow inward like an ingrown toenail. I need the mind and heart stretching experience of reading something that expands my world.
A friend of mine recently gave me a personally autographed copy of the debut novel Prayers and Lies by Sherri Wood Emmons. My friend is a friend of Sherri’s, and Sherri included encouragement to me in the note with her autograph that the dream is possible! I was so incredibly touched by this gift and the encouragement it brought with it (not to mention the fact that a book is always a marvelous gift to receive!). It may be one of the sweetest gifts I’ve received in a while.
However, I have to admit that I didn’t really expect all that much from the book; it didn’t sound like my type of subject. I threw it in my backpack at the last minute for my recent trip to NYC because I figured that way I could at least tell my friend that I had read it.
Boy, was I ever wrong! Continue reading
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” ~C.S. Lewis
I think everyone has felt the kind of electric moment of finding that we have some special thing in common with someone else that C.S. Lewis is talking about. There’s an instant sense of connection that takes place in that moment, and the more unusual or deeply felt that something is, the stronger the connection that is formed by that recognition.
I have certainly had that experience many times over the years where friendship springs to life with the discovery of a shared interest, experience, or trait. Sometimes the feeling is stronger than other times. Sometimes the friendship formed becomes an abiding connection, sometimes it’s only a momentary highlight of my day. But the deepest, most earth-shaking, longest lasting of these friendships have almost always been with people I’ve never met—sometimes even with people who don’t even exist!
Reading is one of my favorite activities. In normal years, it’s not unusual for me to read at least 100 books in a year. I generally prefer “real” books, but I must admit that I enjoy my Kindle as well.
I did not realize until today, though, that I read differently on my Kindle, and this difference may have something to teach me about how I live my life as well.