Thoughts on Reading

There is no doubt that I love to read. Books have been my good friends all my life. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve going to the local library in Monte Vista Colorado, my hometown, and heading home with all the books I could carry. Some of my husband’s grumpiest memories probably include loading and moving my boxes and boxes of books over the years as we’ve gone from Colorado to Alaska to Washington and on from there.

I have spent the last month reading instead of blogging. Whenever I feel stressed, I find that turning to a good book (or 10) helps. Of course, there is one Book that absolutely changes my life and renews my mind and that is the Bible. Every day, the Bible is the one trustworthy place to find truth and wisdom.

As I read other books, I find it necessary to always be comparing the truth of the Bible with what the author is communicating in whatever I’m reading, whether it’s a relaxing work of fiction, or a book about history, life, science and ideas. It is so important to learn to read well, with discernment, fully engaged in the book but also completely seeking to compare the truth of God’s Word with what the author is saying.

So here are some thoughts on a few of the books I’ve read this month.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker: I really did enjoy this book about “Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own”. The author has great ideas about minimalism and getting from clutter to clear. He offers assignments to help you begin the process and directions to keep moving forward.  It seems that, as a Christian, Becker is trying to take seriously Jesus statement in Luke 12:15 NASB: “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not [even] when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” His main premise is that, in fact, too much stuff gets in the way of a life well lived.

But here is where the discernment comes in- Becker comments that he believes that Jesus was trying to tell the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 that all his possessions were keeping him from becoming all that he was intended to become.  This smacks of the current fad that says we must all find our passion and potential in life in order to live life to the fullest. What I believe Jesus was teaching here is that when we put anything ahead of Him, be it possessions, jobs, passions, books, or really anything,  that is idolatry and there is no place in the life of a follower of Christ for idolatry. Yes, we are drawn to worship many things instead of the one true God, and we must repent of that idolatry. Discernment, according to Spurgeon, is the ability to distinguish between truth and almost truth. This is a good example of “almost truth”. And it is hard to see.

There are other examples in his book I could point out, but I am not going to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Becker has many good and practical ideas for moving toward a life where possessions are not my idols, and stuff doesn’t dominate my time and energy. Being careful that minimalism doesn’t become an idol in and of itself!

Quiet by Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Just the subtitle of this one grabbed my attention. It perfectly describes my world at work! There are times I really want to shout “just stop talking for a minute!”

There is a lot of psychobabble in this book which I ended up skimming over, but really enjoyed the section titled “Does God Love Introverts? An Evangelical’s Dilemma” and the section titled “On Cobblers and Generals: How to cultivate quiet kids in a world that can’t hear them”.

I love that she discusses the ways introverts work and relate in a positive way and highlights the value of being quiet.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers:

This one is a most enjoyable mystery novel set in England in the 1930’s. The language is more formal than novels of today, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but the story quickly grabbed my interest and held it.

I found this book appealing because it develops the themes that surrounded women of that era. Can a woman get and use an education? Can a woman live a fulfilled life outside the norms of marriage and children? Can a woman actually be an intelligent and independent human being? And all this set in the midst of a mysterious threat at the protagonist, Harriet Vane’s alma mater. Sayers actually did graduate from Oxford, so much of the action in this story flows out of her experiences there.

Again – discernment. I am not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, yet I am grateful for my education, my career and even more for my husband and my family. Give this one a chance – its part of a mystery series that Sayers wrote featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.

So I’m still reading but back to blogging too!   

 

Potters and Clay

But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You are our potter; All of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

Clay is an amazing substance. It looks and feels just like sticky mud, but it can be formed into vessels of beauty and utility.  The more skilled the potter, the more beauty and usefulness the vessel will possess in the end.  But it starts out as a lump of sticky goo that has to be refined by the hand of the potter.  There are many who have never seen the beginning point of a beautiful bowl or mug, only the end. The process to get to the lovely work of art was messy, dirty, and hard.

Most potters today are able to buy their clay in a refined form, already cleaned, pugged and ready to throw. Before modern clay manufacturing, the potter had to know clay from dirt, know where it was, and how to clean it. Beautiful pots come from a starting place of clay that was mixed with dirt, rocks plant debris, and other rubble.  The ancient potter went through many steps to develop a good clay that would produce the kind of pots she wanted.

Ancient people would have read Isaiah 64:8 and immediately realized that being compared to a lump of clay in the potter’s hand involved much cleaning and refining before the vessel could even be formed.  As a potter, God works in our lives granting repentance from sin. That His Spirit grows in us a desire to be cleansed of all the dirt and debris that polluted us before we became vessels of His is beautiful work in our lives. He knows exactly where the sin lies, and works through His Spirit to clean it out. It’s not always, or even usually, pleasant to have the junk pulled out of our lives, but like clay, we will never be the vessel the potter intends until the clay is cleaned and ready to be worked.

There are generally 3 kinds of clay that a potter ends up with.

  • First is a clay body that is too soft. When you try to throw it on the wheel, it won’t hold its shape, but slumps or falls apart. As Christians, we can be like this when the first sign of trouble makes us lose our focus on God and what He is doing in our lives. We can only see the trial, the temptation or the suffering. We lose sight of the magnificent truth that we see in Rom 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. A piece of clay that is too soft will be set aside to dry for a time and then be reworked into the vessel the potter wants.  For a true believer, being set aside as difficult as any trial that comes from the outside.  But be sure, if you are a true child of the Potter, He is not done with you yet! Jeremiah 18:4 says “ But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make”

 

  • The next kind of clay is hard. It is too dry and has become completely resistant to becoming what the potter wants to make it into. When you throw it on the wheel it is stiff and impossible to shape or mold. Oh Christian, do not become this lump of clay! It is much more difficult to get water back into a dry, leathery piece of clay, than it is to dry out the piece that is too soft. In fact, very often the entire lump has to be allowed to dry completely before it can be put back in water and made usable again. This is the piece of clay that says “You turn [things] around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isa 29:16. This clay represents those who arrogantly refuse God’s design on their lives, believing that they know what they want and how to get it.

 

  • The perfect piece of clay is one that is strong enough to hold its shape, yet pliable enough to be molded into the vessel the potter wants to shape. This lump of clay is joyful, trusting in the potter’s hand. As you begin to shape it, it follows the guidance of the master, allowing itself to grow into the beautiful vessel the potter intends. Oh, there is pressure, no doubt, but this piece of clay becomes like an extension of the Potter, created into the image of the One who made it. What could be lovelier than that?