Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reading and Loving It

Well, I've finished some books recently and started a new one. Hopefully I'll get some reviews up here soon. But I'm kind of behind again in life, so we'll see. But let me tell you about the one I just started that I LOVE: Devotional Classics. I highly recommend it. Highly. Click on the link I have under my reading section to order it from Amazon. Lisa, a lady that is mentoring me, is going through this book with me, and I'm loving what I've read so far. It's a compilation of excerpts from different authors who have written various Christian devotional classics. SO AMAZING. Each excerpt is short, includes a brief passage of Scripture at the end of that excerpt for you to study more in depth on your own if you want, and it gives reflection and/or small group questions. Do you read "old" books? I say you should! Cultivating that as a practice has been a relatively new thing in my own life but one that is probably the most significant and rewarding for my spiritual life/practicing the disciplines of the faith, with the exception of learning how to actually study Scripture itself. Since I have this bad habit of starting about 50,000 books at a time and it taking 20 years to finish each one, I am usually in over my head with reading, trying to multi-task in my learning. I'm not a good multi-tasker by the way. But for the last couple of years, I've made it a priority to always be reading at least one old book. I've found this year that I usually have more old books going than new. It's so refreshing to realize that the things that seem to "work" today in the Christian life are not new. These authors can help us! They've been through a lot, and I'm always amazed when reading them to see how little culture really has changed. It seems to surprise me every time. But I realize that human nature hasn't changed over time. So how could culture, when it's comprised of individual human beings living together, making up societies? (Same for all classics, not just "Christian" ones, but for now I'm just addressing the Christian classics since that's what this book is about!) With our community group at church, I just re-read one of my favorite books, The Jesus of Suburbia, but as I continue to read more of the old books, I realize that while some of the ideas in the Jesus of Suburbia book seem at first to be radical and new, they're not. The Jesus portrayed in that book is the same Jesus so many brilliant authors knew and loved and wrote about. Why wait for some big-name Christian author to write a New York Times Bestseller before we learn how to grow? Help in spiritual growth is already there. And it's been there a long time. It's so easy to relate to what these authors of the great devotional classics are saying and teaching. It is SO relevant. I just really love old books, if you can't tell. I like a lot of new ones too. But I noticed the other day that even my favorite "new" author (meaning still alive and more recently published), Gary Thomas, is such a student of these old books and seems to quote the old guys so much that even his books don't really say anything new! I have a thing for the old. I'm a nerd, what can I say. But I really will try to influence my friends to join in this passion. So be ready! I wanted to share something I read from one of the excerpts, but that will come later, because now I don't have time and I really wanted to first share some things from the introduction that talks about what I've been trying to express; Richard Foster just does it better!

"We today suffer from the unexamined notion that the more recent something is, the better, the more true it must be. This book is our attempt to counter this present-day myopia. It brings together fifty-two carefully chosen selections from the great devotional classics....The word classic has gotten bad press in our day. If a book is a "classic" we immediately think it must be obscure, hard to read, and most certainly out of touch with modern concerns. As Mark Twain aptly notes, it is the kind of book that "everyone wants to have read but no one wants to read." In reality, however, for a writing to be a classic means simply that many people over a sustained period of time have drawn strength from its insights and witness to its value...It is a genuine asset to be soaked in the devotional classics. Pure modernity makes us parochial. But these writings have vintage. They are weaned from the fads of the marketplace. They give us perspective and balance. C.S. Lewis notes, 'A new book is still on trial, and the amateur is not in a position to judge it...The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity, which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can only be acquired from old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.' ...A word of instruction needs to be given about reading these devotional classics. These writers make no attempt to grab you quick and hold you tight. They have no intention of tickling your ears and titillating your fantasies. They promise no easy steps to instant holiness, no guaranteed plan for personal prosperity, no surefire technique for peace of mind. Since these men and women wrote before the modern notion of speed-reading, they did not know to fill each paragraph with trite cliches and meaningless jargon. As a result, each phrase is pregnant with meaning and it is best to read at a measured pace, pausing often to reread, rethink, reexperience the words until we not only understand their meaning but are shaped by the truth of them."


And when these kinds of books get hard to work through and reading them requires a little bit of support or verbal processing, that's what good friends at a coffee shop are for!

What about you? What are some of your favorite "oldies"?


Dalene said...

Reading Classics back-to-back constantly.

Love this post.

Let's read one together. Maybe I need to post my book list.

Kate said...

Next time you're going to start a classic, I would love to read along with you! A couple that are coming up on my reading list are: "Humility" by Andrew Murray and "Female Piety" by John Angell James.