So, What Are You Reading Lately?

A pair of recent conversations and a few memorable exchanges (one even included the surprise gift of a couple of books my friend had been reading!) have cemented for me the lasting impact and import of this simple, but sticky, question, “What are you reading lately?” It is a question which I routinely ask people in the course of conversation and it has led to numerous worthy recommendations for future reading as well as untold conversations full of fascination and information. However, it has also elicited the always startling response of, “I don’t read much.”

The numbers are in, and it does not look good. In fact, it appears that we may be on the verge of a self-inflicted age of “literate illiteracy.” While we are busily catching up on the latest Facebook gossip, or attempting to squeeze that 160 character quote down to 140 characters, our ability, and even our desire, to attend to something more complex than the latest clever meme making the rounds has alarmingly atrophied. As one New York Times writer opined in January of this year, “[According to a Canadian media study conducted by Microsoft] we now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish.”  According to recent Pew Research 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book in the last year and, worse still, 1 in 3 American men have not picked up a book in the last 12 months! The numbers sink even further for those with low incomes and no college education.

Reading is a gift which allows me to freely converse with ancients like Augustine and Isaiah. Through this marvelous facility I am able to pick the brains of brilliant and not-so-brilliant thinkers of our age like Hawking, Wright, or Dawkins (I will leave it to you to discern the brilliant/not-so-brilliant divide). Because of reading I have travelled to real places I will never put my feet, like the summit of Mt. Everest with Jon Krakauer or the South Pole with Sir Ernest Shackleton. Additionally, I have wandered the fantastical paths of Middle-earth and Narnia and crossed galaxies with Asimov and Herbert. The potential poverty of my life without reading is staggering to consider.

So, to the question again, “What are you reading lately?” I would truly like to know. Give me your best and most recent reads. Let’s share the love of great stories and the pursuit of worthy thought with one another.

In the spirit of transparency, I offer you my current reading stack:

The Nathaniel Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman. This series of nautical adventures is more robust that Horatio Hornblower and not so esoteric as Jack Aubrey. If you need to spend some time on the high seas, Nathaniel Drinkwater is a fine companion.

The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton. I am reading everything by Chesterton I can locate. He is eminently quotable and has a pithy wit. He would have an immediate affinity and command of social media were he living today.

The Collected Poetry of Robert Frost. His voice continues to stir something good, and pure, and simple, and profound in me. I commend a “Walk Through Snowy Woods” as you peer down “The Road Not Taken” and perhaps consider the business of “Mending Wall” with Mr. Frost.

Enduring Salvation: A collection of sermons delivered by Dr. Paul Vernon Bomar. Dr. Bomar served Siloam (the church I pastor) at the turn of the century from the 1800’s to the 1900’s. The opening line of the introduction is the following endearing quote from Dr. Bomar, “People ought to have religion enough to attend church regularly and sense enough to stay home in bad weather.” The sermons did not disappoint and challenge me to carry on the good work that others have done here before me.

How about you? What are you reading lately?

 

3,304 Lives Lost Today

 

If these were people of color, or people of no color,

If these were convicted criminals, mentally disabled, or physically handicapped,

If these were women, gays, white men, black men, whores, thieves, or druggies in rehab (again),

If these were derelicts, outcasts, or homeless,

If these were deaf, mute, or blind,

If these were liberals, conservatives, SJWs, clingers, communists, capitalists, fascists, socialists, or some other “ists”,

If these were Black Panthers, KKK-ers, gangbangers, thugs, or bikers,

If these were Native Americans, Latinos, Middle Easterners, Asians, or Caucasians,

If these were Amish, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Buddhists, Evangelicals, or Atheists,

There would be an unquenchable outcry for justice;

An unrelenting effort to bring an end to the horror;

An unapologetic condemnation of lives callously taken;

A collective shudder as we considered the loss of life.

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But these are not those.

Those can speak.

Those can raise a fist in defiance.

Those can hold a sign in protest or call a press conference.

Those can raise funds to fight the injustice.

Those can gather together for mutual support and help.

Those can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of certain slaughter.

All of those, acceptable or disagreeable,

Can.

These cannot.

Are these less because they cannot?

Are these despised because they cannot?

Are these voices not to be heard because they cannot?

Are these considered “not” because they cannot?

How shall those who can respond to these who cannot?

*One that cannot is aborted every

26 seconds
137 every hour
3,304 every day
23,196 every week
100,516 every month
1.206,192 every year

in the United States alone.

(Source: Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life)

 

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

This famously unbalanced egg-head’s hubris led to his equally famous fall leaving “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” the unpleasant task of bearing off his scrambled remains. It is astounding that it came down to words and their meaning. Humpty’s closing statement is quite telling, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

In an equally tragic, though much less fictitious, act of hubris, a committee of 9 decided for all under their jurisdiction just what particular words would mean, namely, “marriage.” Humpty’s question of who will be master has been answered for us and we are left with a swirling morass to be be sorted out with no clear understanding of just what words now mean. Already a Montana man has petitioned for the right to “marry” his second wife without severing his relationship with his first wife. It is a curious, if dreadful, thing to watch a society cast off from it’s foundational moorings trying to steer the ship with neither compass nor rudder.

Words have meanings and yes, those meanings often change and evolve. However, those words which seek to grapple with core issues of existence have a surprisingly stubborn and “sticky” sense about them. “Marriage” has been, and I suspect, will continue to be, one of those words. I have read with great interest the various attempts to discredit the notion of “traditional marriage” (an unfortunate pairing of words). All have pointed out the wide variety of familial arrangements throughout history, yet without exception they fail to acknowledge that the basic, and most widely entered into, relationship of EVERY society in the history of mankind has centered around the pairing of one man and one woman.

All of which leads me to offer you, my reader, a brief exercise utilizing a simple internet search. Using your preferred search engine seek out the relationship between the Greek concepts of hubris and nemesis (two of those “sticky” words that have found their way into our vocabulary). Yes, words have meaning, even if we have difficulty discerning just what it is they mean. As Alice tells Humpty after reading his marvelous poem, Jabberwocky,

“It seems very pretty,” she said when she had finished it, “but it’s rather hard to understand!” (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.”

Yes, Alice, “somebody killed something” but it remains to be seen just what that something was. Here’s to “all the king’s men” who are tasked with cleaning up the unfortunate mess.

 

 

Some Wisdom from Os (Guinness, that is)

“Every age is fooled by its own fashions, and it is time to subject this modern idolatry of opinion and numbers to decisive Christian thinking…Legalization of any practice, and then its normalization through numbers, need never mean a revaluation of what we know to be wrong because God says so, simply because the majority opinion now hold it to be right. Ten million ignorant assertions, even when magnified and accelerated in a hundred million tweets and “likes,” still never add up to truth and wisdom, or what is right and good.” -Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times.

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When a Basket Is Not Just a Basket

Mark 6 and 8 tell two stories of Jesus feeding the multitudes with what seem to be impossibly limited supplies.  In both of these stories we are told that the disciples are instructed to collect the leftovers so nothing will be wasted.  In the Mark 6 account it states that “they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.” and the Mark 8 account of the second feeding states, “and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.”  Pretty straightforward right?  Nothing to notice here except some baskets.  Enter the Greek.

In Mark 6 the word for basket is kofinos.  This is the word used in the telling of the feeding of the 5000 in each of the gospels.  Apparently everyone saw the same thing at this event.

In Mark 8, the feeding of the 4000 (a different event) the word for basket is spyris and, for the record, Matthew uses the same term in his account of this event Mt. 15:32-39. Again, indicating that everyone saw the same thing.

So what is the difference between kofinos and spyris?  It’s the difference between a lunch box and and a toy box!  The kofinos is a small basket easily carried around while the spyris is a large, man-sized, basket.  The spyris was the type of basket used to lower Paul over the wall in Acts 9:25.  Pretty significant wouldn’t you say?

Thank you Obi Wan

Learning this new blog format is a bit of a challenge for a semi-luddite like me.  I am ever so grateful for patient teachers like Carli (a.k.a. thesuperrare) who are willing to invest in folks like me.

Look for changes coming to this page in the coming days!