Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, 
but the form of every virtue at the testing point..."
C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

“We are what we read,” David McCullough said. 
“We get our ideas from what we read. So it’s extremely important when we try to understand the past, and the characters of the past, 
to not only read what they wrote, but to read what they read.”

Pull up a chair and let's sip our tea together in our virtual Sunday tea party.  Okay, I actually have a morning cup of coffee nearby as I write but we can still share my recent ponderings.  :)

This past week, I read an article in a magazine given to me by a friend, one of the last articles Chuck Colson wrote before his death.  It is an excellent treatise called Can Virtue Be Taught.

While the entire article talked about developing virtue and character in our children as they grow, it was the section about providing good role models and heroes from history which set me thinking for I've heard Colson talk about the importance of good literature, biography, etc. in the home for years.

So much of what is being shown on TV and other media reflect not only poor values but is often absolutely defiling... no wonder children who have grown up with a steady diet of such media reflect low values.  I'm also sorry to say many books written today are also (at the least) what Charlotte Mason called "twaddle".

However, my friend, there is pure gold on those bookshelves... biography, autobiography, and even novels which portray excellent Christian values.  I know from experience as most of my mentors have taught me from the written word, some living centuries before I was born.

My oldest sister refuses to read biography, she feels it is more fiction than the modern novels she prefers.  Of course, all books... including biography and autobiography... are written from the writer's perspective but that doesn't mean we shouldn't read them.

Instead, sometimes I enjoy reading more than one book about a person... such as the books about Jonathan Edwards I've been reading (interrupted by wedding gotta do's).  I plan to write an entire post about those books as soon as I finish reading them.

But often it was in the reading of an autobiography that I began to understand what made a person do the things they did, how they were thinking and reflecting throughout life which helped me learn more about the individual (or group).

It is always important to remind our children as they read biography (as in real life) that there are no perfect people.  Even our greatest heroes of the faith were imperfect and flawed individuals but that doesn't make it any less important to read the stories of Old and New Testament heroes to our children.

How important for them to know that if God can use a murderer like Saul (who became Saint Paul), an adulterer and murderer such as King David,  liars in the lineage of Abraham and his sons,  drunks and prostitutes and those filled with the sin of pride... then He can use us.  Of course, we also give them the Perfect Hero... Jesus.

Once we give them the foundation of the Bible, we make available books which introduce them to those whose lives reflected the Biblical values... never perfectly, of course... but steady by steady and precept upon precept... their journey brought glory to God.

I have enjoyed reading about Bonhoeffer, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield,  George Mueller, Luther, Augustine, Wilberforce, Solzhenitsyn, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Adams, Corrie Ten Boom, Mother Theresa, St. Francis of Assisi... just to name a very few.

Some favorite titles are The Tapestry (Francis & Edith Schaeffer), Wonder o' the Wind (Keller), Surprised By Joy (Lewis), and at least one I have heard is good but is in my "To Be Read" stack called A Passion for the Impossible (Lilias Trotter).

There are Confessions by Augustine, Gifted Hands by Ben Carson, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden, Walking From East to West by Ravi Zacharias,... once again just to name a very, very few in a lifetime of reading.

There will be heroes who are not necessarily of our faith (they may be but are not known for their faith) but can teach our children the importance of endurance, honesty, courage, integrity, kindness, honor, etc. such as Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, the Wright Brothers, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and lots more.

Some book titles in this category I've enjoyed are... My Life by Golda Meir, Madam Curie by Eve Curie, Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'amour, the Landmark books for young people (vintage but still excellent), John Adams and 1776 and Truman and Mornings on Horseback (Theodore Roosevelt) all by David McCullough... once again to name but a few.

I should mention the power of good fiction, too.  Authors for millennia have given us powerful heroes in the form of fiction, perhaps easier to mold into a reflection of virtue than real people.  :)

When the former Soviet Union had outlawed Bibles and religious books, there are reports of people coming to know Christ as Savior through novels such as The Brother's Karamazov by Dostoevsky.

My life has been greatly enhanced by reading novels about inspiring people and/or events.  For instance, Exodus by Leon Uris is one of my all time favorite novels... the story of the Jews leaving post WWII Europe and founding the State of Israel. 

Other novels of profound impact to my life have been... Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, the Narnia books by Lewis, The Space Trilogy also by Lewis, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti (completely changed the way I looked at spiritual warfare), A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Madeleine had a way of helping me think outside the box), and about a gazillion more books.

There are writers whose many fiction books have inspired me to a further Christian walk such as Elizabeth Goudge (breathtakingly beautiful writing) and Jan Karon (I mean, really... I want to attend Father Tim's church!). 

I know I risk leaving out a lot of authors and titles people would find even more important as well as including some authors which may shock a few... but my list is very personal and reflects the written words which have taught me true virtues.

God wrote us a Book and told us a Story and involves us in that Story even today.  It should come as no surprise that we can absorb much through words by Him, through Him, and about His virtues.  :) 

Picture: Time for Reading by Judy Gibson


Terra said...

My reading tastes are similar to yours and this is a lovely post. It's neat that today a friend sent me an email and she quoted from Trotter's book, and now here you mention it too. I have a huge shelf of C.S. Lewis books, and he is my Christian mentor. Love the photo of the red English phone booth and your daughter.

Nana said...

Hello Brenda;
I would like you to know how uplifting you are to me! I also love to read, and find many inspirations from books. I am now into herbs and just about devour books related to growing and preserving herbs. My small herb garden is a wonder to me and I look forward to making gifts for the upcoming holiday season. (yes, believe it or not, it will be here soon.) Love and hugs, Nana

Vee said...

I'm just thinking of all the books I've read as a direct result of reading your blog. You do have great influence! This reminds me to get back to John Adams by David McCullough, which has been sitting with a big old bookmark about a third of the way in for a number of years now. I think I'll just pull that bookmark and start from the beginning.

I have a number of Colson's books, too. Must say that I find them a bit stuffier reading than I prefer. He doesn't trifle about.

TeresaAngelina said...

There is a new book, hot off the press, written by my pastor, called "The Christian Old Testament - Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes" - it is published by Conciliar Press. He has written numerous commentaries but this is new...and it is amazing. Should you have an inkling, do check it out.

And I LOVE that picture you've posted!

Raewyn said...

I love your book posts. :) And I'm reading (well, typing) this with a cup of tea. Although, it's Monday. And midnight. But that's beside the point. ;) What a delightful, varied list...I had no idea that's what the Brother K was about. I too loved Corrie Ten Boom's books and devoured them as a child, thanks to a mother who knew there was no such thing an "reading level" for children. I look forward to expanding my book list...I've heard such good things about "Surprised By Joy" and have wanted to read it!

Heather said...

I always enjoy your Sunday Afternoon post Brenda! I recently read a quote about an up and coming actor who was reading during the down time on a movie set and I laughed out loud 'Who reads anymore? It's like, a vintage activity!' No so my young friend - reading has never gone out of fashion among those who truly want to expand their understanding. I just hope he picks up something worthwhile to read, but sadly the twaddle is more common!

Karen Andreola said...

It's Tuesday and I'm reading your Sunday piece. I agree with your recommendations for heros in reading -although they are imperfect.

I'm also reminded of the old verse:

Books should to one of these four ends conduce,
for wisdom, piety, delight, or use.

I like to keep several books going so I can reach for the one I "feel fit for." Somehow if days go by when I'm away from my books I can begin to feel dull or peevish. Give me a book and I'm the right way up again.
Karen A.

Front Porch Grace said...

Oh to have time, only time, to read all of the books on my list and revisit those I cherish.

When I was a young mom I would often stay up until the wee hours reading. I paid for it when the young'uns awoke and I had to stay awake. (Shame on me, I soon quit that bad habit.)

Now the children are older and no longer are they "Susie Sunshines". So one would think that I have more time to read.

Hmmm. Bittersweet pay off. But now with gardening and other mom/house duties, I don't have as much time as I would have thought.

I will just schedule some and hope I don't fall asleep.

So many books, so little time.