Friday, July 31, 2009
"One of the vital challenges facing thoughtful people today is how to read the Bible faithfully without abandoning our sense of truth and history. Reading the Bible Again for the First Time provides a much-needed solution to the problem of how to have a fully authentic yet contemporary understanding of the scriptures. Many mistakenly believe there are no choices other than fundamentalism or simply rejecting the Bible as something that can bring meaning to our lives. Answering this modern dilemma, acclaimed author Marcus Borg reveals how it is possible to reconcile the Bible with both a scientific and critical way of thinking and our deepest spiritual needs, leading to a contemporary yet grounded experience of the sacred texts."
Thursday, July 30, 2009
In October, I'll be presenting at the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The JASNA AGMs are always wonderful--interesting presentations and prestigious plenary speakers in great locations. I've attended AGMs in Seattle, Toronto, and Tucson. This year it's in Philadelphia, and I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, all the historic sights.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
During my two-year doctoral leave adjuncts occupied my office at HU, so I'd had to move a lot of stuff out to give them room to put their books on the bookshelves. Most of the books I moved home were ones I thought I'd need for my research. Quite a few books, actually. Add to those the ones I acquired during the course of my doctoral studies and you can imagine how many books were stacked all over the second story of our house.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)
Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? Serious (but not always)
Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Hardcovers
Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Fiction
Poetry? Or Prose? Prose (unfair question, though. I like both.)
Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Autobiographies
History? Or Historical Fiction? Historical Fiction
Series? Or Stand-alones? Series
Classics? Or best-sellers? Classics (but I love the occasional best-seller)
Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? Straight-forward, I guess. "Lurid" prose???
Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Give me plots! Please!!
Long books? Or Short? Long
Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? Non-illustrated means more to read
Borrowed? Or Owned? Owned
New? Or Used? New
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Don't tell me it's not about the $$$$$. The newest thing in "Christian Fiction" is, you guessed it, vampires. Thomas Nelson is publishing a trilogy by Eric Wilson called Jerusalem's Undead, about characters who have risen from the dead after coming into contact with Judas' blood. A Senior VP says about the series: "It is fantasy, but he weaves it from a biblical perspective and ties it back to the power of blood." Mmm hmm.
Friday, July 24, 2009
1. Last Sunday, Arkansas Democrat Gazette columnist Kane Webb did his a column called "Worst Books '09: Hate the Books, Love the Reviews." He shared some of his favorite great reviews of bad books, then asked some local discerning readers this question: What is the worst book you've read of late? And why? It doesn't have to be new, just new to you. One reviewer named Sophie Kinsella's Can You Keep a Secret as her worst book. She said she wasn't expecting high lit, just a fun read for the beach, but, boy, was she disappointed with the "same old rehashed heroine" in this "stale and tired" book. She continues: "Jane Austen wrote (time and again) a better version of this romantic tale, and she gave us heroines with brains. Take Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse to the beach, and leave what's-her-name at home." Amen, sister.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
" My chosen vocation . . . [has] remained a subset of a larger vocation, which was the job of loving God and neighbor as myself. Over the years I have come to think of this as the vocation of becoming fully human.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The other day, I went to the Revenue Department to license my vehicle. I walked in, took a number, and sat down. I looked at my number -- 35 -- then looked up at the display -- 22. Well, I was in for a wait.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Follow-up to last week’s question:
Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?
Well, for me, it's some of both. You saw my nightstand last week--those are all unread books. And I have stacks of unread books in other places, too. But I do have a few unread books scattered among the already-read ones on my bookshelves, especially in my office. Those are pretty much the "I'm gonna read 'em someday, but I'm not sure when . . ." books. Those on the nightstand are the "I'm definitely reading this as soon as I have time . . ." ones.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
In memory of
youngest daughter of the late
Revd. GEORGE AUSTEN,
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County.
She departed this Life on the 18th July 1817,
aged 41, after a long illness supported with
the patience and the hopes of a Christian.
The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind
obtained the regard of all who knew her, and
the warmest love of her intimate connections.
Their grief is in proportion to their affection
they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in the deepest affliction they are consoled
by a firm though humble hope that her charity,
devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her
Friday, July 17, 2009
I've already told you that I'm a Type A personality, so you're not surprised that I'm wondering about what's next, right? Life's an adventure that I intend to experience fully.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Just a glimpse
Last year, I took a class in Writing Creative Nonfiction at Ole Miss. One of our first assignments was to write a memoir; one limited in scope, of course, but covering an event of obvious significance in our lives.
When it comes to writing, I'm not usually a procrastinator. Maybe that comes from being a non-traditional undergrad student who was too afraid that if she put off writing a paper until the day before it was due, one or all of her children would wake up with projectile vomiting and uncontrollable diahhrea, or maybe I just realized that my brain works better if I allow myself time to let ideas take root and grow. Either way, I was always the student who started writing the day after the paper was assigned. (You can probably already tell I have control issues.)
I've written many critical analysis papers, even some fiction and poetry. But the thought of putting my life on paper for others to see left me reluctant even to turn on my laptop, much less to begin trying to find words and shape sentences that would lay myself bare to a classroom full of critics and a demanding professor. Then finally, after producing what I thought was a no-holds barred expose', the most often-repeated response to my memoir was, "You left out what we most want to know!"
This is not a new problem for me. I've started multiple diaries and journals only to either abandon them because the introspection required was too painful (you have to be honest with yourself when you are your only audience) or because I was afraid that someone would find my words and actually read them. Yet, all my life the words that others were brave enough to write have given me great joy. I have no illustions that my words here will illuminate anyone's life or bring joy to the multitudes. I simply want to gain the courage to speak, to reveal myself, but I must admit, at first it will probably be only in small glimpses. That's enough for me now.
Oh, yes--tomorrow's the day!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
No rest for the weary.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Today, I'm speaking to a group of Christian librarians who are attending a conference here at HU. I was asked to discuss two things:
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
One week and counting til the defense . . .
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Rituals are actions that have symbolic value. They are a way of acting out in the physical world what we believe to be true in the spiritual world. They can focus our minds and direct our thoughts towards God. They can add beauty to our lives and comfort us. I wrote in an earlier post, Coveting the Metaphor, about how Sue Monk Kidd's conscious use of symbol and metaphor enhanced her spirituality and her life. I believe that the addition of small rituals can do the same.
To enhance my pursuit of intentional spirituality, I have added a few small rituals to my devotional time. First of all, I have set aside a certain place for my morning devotions. It's upstairs, just a comfortable chair in the corner of a bedroom, but it's a quiet place away from chores and TVs and the normal bustle of life. On one side of the chair is my Bible, the devotional/theological book I'm currently reading, and my journal; and on the other side is a table where I've placed a small candle. Before I begin, I light the candle. Next, I open my journal, date the entry, and then write down one thing for which I'm grateful. I don't make a huge list, although I could. I just wanted to establish a ritual that will encourage me to have a grateful heart. Next, I read a passage of scripture and choose one or two verses to copy into my journal, and make a few comments on these--why I chose what I did, the connection to my life, a realization I've just made, a prayer, anything I feel at the moment. Next, I read a chapter or so of the devotional book, copying any great lines or paraphrasing intriguing discoveries into my journal and commenting on them. Then, I pray. When I finish, I blow out the candle. Extinguishing the flame does not signal the end of my pursuit of God, but it is a ceremonial closing to a time of dedicated devotion.
The candle ritual works for me on several levels. It's beautiful and comforting. Because it signals a beginning and an end, it focuses my mind on the present and my purpose. The light of the candle has a metaphorical connection to God. The scent of the candle is reminiscent of the incense burned in the Old Testament, which symbolized the prayers of the saints. It is an intentional act performed for spiritual purposes.
If you have any rituals that you find beauty and joy in, I'd love for you to share them.
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Psalm 141:2 Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
From Marilynne Robinson's Gilead:
--I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice . . .
--The moon looks wonderful in this warm evening light, just as a candle flame looks beautiful in the light of morning. Light within light. It seems like a metaphor for something. So much does. Ralph Waldo Emerson is excellent on this point. It seems to me to be a metaphor for the human soul, the singular light within the great general light of existence. Or it seems like the poetry within language. Perhaps wisdom within experience. Or marriage within friendship and love . . .
--I think sometimes of going into the ground here as a last wild gesture of love--I too will smolder away the time until the great and general incandescence . . .
Monday, July 6, 2009
Do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
After nine years serving on the staff of a big urban church in Atlanta, Barbara Brown Taylor arrives in rural Clarkesville, Georgia (population 1,500), following her dream to become the pastor of her own small congregation. The adjustment from city life to country dweller is something of a shock -- Taylor is one of the only professional women in the community -- but small-town life offers many of its own unique joys. Taylor has five successful years that see significant growth in the church she serves, but ultimately she finds herself experiencing "compassion fatigue" and wonders what exactly God has called her to do. She realizes that in order to keep her faith she may have to leave.
Taylor describes a rich spiritual journey in which God has given her more questions than answers. As she becomes part of the flock instead of the shepherd, she describes her poignant and sincere struggle to regain her footing in the world without her defining collar. Taylor's realization that this may in fact be God's surprising path for her leads her to a refreshing search to find Him in new places.Leaving Church will remind even the most skeptical among us that life is about both disappointment and hope -- and ultimately, renewal.
Collins is a jester and a double agent. A poet readers flock to, he gets the laughs and the applause, he paces and bows, concealing his weapons and serious mien. His self-portraiture is mordant, his drollery preemptive, his insouciance camouflage, his intelligence of the stealth kind, and his intricately constructed poems detonate as they blossom in the reader’s mind. Collins is fanciful and mindful, cocky and prayerful, blissful over ordinary things and intimate with dread and loneliness. Here he is morose in Paris, staring down a fish staring back on a plate in Pittsburgh, rain-harried in Dublin, awake and repentant at the fringe of night in a bright bathroom, loitering with intent in the kitchen. Collins’ seductive poems are decoys drawing us into deep waters where memories waft like tangled weeds and death lurks in the cold spots. Wryly philosophical, caustically whimsical, disarmingly beautiful, Collins’ covertly powerful lyrics deftly snare all that is fine and ludicrous about us, from the old habit of poetry itself to the spell of love and the long, rolling song of the self. --Donna Seaman
Friday, July 3, 2009
Every time I go to a conference, I'm tempted by all the books there for sale, especially the ones I can have autographed by the authors who are plenary speakers. I restrained myself to three books at the CSC, and this is one of them--Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
It's very easy to get caught up in the idea of being more spiritual, but if I am not intentional (there's that word again!), that's all it will be: an idea, not a reality. And that is not what I want. I know that I am an "idea person." I can easily live in the world of books and ideas and feel like I'm doing something or changing my life, but all I'm actually doing is reading about doing it, thinking about changing it.