Read Widely

 

x7cdil50kky-clem-onojeghuoIt’s a brand new year and I have many thoughts brewing. I haven’t made official resolutions, because that doesn’t work for me but as with every new year I’m reordering my plans and priorities.

One priority this year is to read even more. I know most people dislike “what I read in…” posts, so I’ll share a little of what I’m reading now.

I do not consider myself an excellent writer, far too many muddled thoughts, but on a few occasions I have had people ask what can they do to be a better writer. I do not feel equipped to give advice because I need it myself but my one thing is always, “Be a better reader” but to add to that, “Read widely”. It is fact that a baker cannot make delicious bread if he has not become a friend to the ingredients. To bake and to bake deliciously are two very different things. It is the same for reading and writing. The art of reading widely should be something we all know how to do.

When I say “read widely” I mean not only books by many authors but also many types of genres and on many different things. Mix a little fiction with your religious non-fiction, a little poetry with your leisure reading. Try a book of history with a beloved YA book. I have heard “I read, I just don’t like fiction” or “I find non-fiction boring”. Let me encourage you that there over 130 million books in this world and you may have yet to find your favorite.

There are three reasons why I believe we should read widely; First for wonder, second for growth, and thirdly for understanding and wisdom.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Firstly, reading for wonder will involve a lot of fiction reading. My personal opinion is that individuals that do not read fiction are doing themselves a huge disservice but especially those tasked with teaching and leading others. Of course you can take that opinion with a grain of salt but I do believe “leaders should be readers”, and “leaders should be wide readers”, I should put that on a T-shirt. maybe not as catchy as the original. Why? Because the world is already so bereft of light when we can’t see the beautiful, we need to grasp on to beauty when we see it and understand darkness in contrast to light. Also, because all wonder points us back to the awe-inspiring King, the beauty of creation shows that the creator is most beautiful. In addition, You do not need to teach children so much “how to be” if they have a steady diet of books that allow them to understand “the how” firstly in their own minds and hearts. I do not then understand why we would cut ourselves off from beauty when it can only enhance our lives. fiction is the land where all worlds exist. fiction allows for wonder far past our own little plot and gives us ability to awe at things beyond our imagining. We should be enraptured with the good gift of the written word and wonder on it’s beauty. Fiction gives us a safe space to think deeply.

I have heard many arguments against fiction. None have been convincing. It’s one thing if you are a pragmatist and choose not to read fiction but it is quite another thing to make arguments against it. Someone once told me that fiction was lying and this made me speechless. Storytelling is not lying but it CAN be quite the opposite, truth telling. Thank God that Jesus was a storyteller and wove truth through parable and the Psalms to show us the range of our humanness and our great need.

I personally believe that the child-likeness that is lauded in the Bible would have a harder time being extinguished if we read about wondrous things in our Bibles and books more often.

“I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
― George MacDonald

There is wonder to be read also in non-fiction, in poetry, even in histories and biographies.

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I am a believer because of reading C.S. Lewis. What I mean is that C.S.Lewis was the tool used to prod me toward faith. As a child I read stories of heroism and magic and longed so badly for that land. As a young adult I read his religious works and the magic that I remembered now made sense. The wonder sat in waiting to make connections I never knew would be made as an 11-year old reading The Magician’s Nephew. Even now when I read Wendell Berry or Sigrid Undset I am touched by that awe. Reading is a tool for seeing, fiction is a sweet looking glass to see the world through. Friends are made in fiction that could never be made elsewhere and those friends are friends for life. If you have an introverted child or a child that becomes lonely easily, a good living book can soothe and give wonder like a playmate and friend.

Secondly, reading for personal or spiritual growth. This does not always mean Christian non-fiction. The greatest “Growing Books” for me have been sometimes biographies or narratives of Missionaries and Martyrs. The Hiding Place affected me in ways that I didn’t even now as a child and there are images from that book that have stayed visually with me for a long time. A biography that influenced me as a young child,  Joni  about Joni Erickson Tada changed my perspective greatly.

Fiction too can allow us to empathize and stand in the corner with people very different from us. Christians should want this.

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” -Lloyd Alexander

A lovely Christian religious non-fiction title can also prod us toward growth.  There are books that I have read and journaled about in my commonplace book that were tools to a forever change in my heart regarding some personal matter. Recently I have been reading the puritan Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Jewel of Christian Contentment and it has helped greatly with a lifetime of worries. I am thankful for this book and it has happily been added to a place of honor in my mind’s library where books like the Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity lie.

It is almost impossible to become a better writer by never reading a book, so personal growth in reading is a benefit to those that would love to write. I lack so much as a writer and although I am not a great Grammarian (Mark Twain said it’s ok) I like to think that reading vigorously has sparked my desire to write down my thoughts and create a space for wonder and growth. Stephen King has famously said that if you want to be a writer you need to read a lot and write a lot. That is something I have heard from many writers and take it to heart.

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“Force yourself to read books you normally wouldn’t read. For me, a self-confessed theology-lover, that means reading fiction. For novel-fans, it means adding a little Packer to the diet. If you are planning on being a good preacher, you’d better like good stories. The greatest preachers in Christianity have known how to express deep theological concepts through riveting narratives. So, hunker down and start reading classic authors like Hugo, Dickens, and Dostoevsky. Watch these brilliant authors paint masterful pictures of sin and redemption and salvation. Hold on to memorable characters. Enter other worlds through the imaginations of Tolkien and Lewis.
Secondly reading for growth. And when I say “growth”, I really mean the stretching of our hearts, compassion. Reading widely allows us to step outside of our insularity and into the world of others, into different experiences and hardships and joys and celebrations. It helps us to understand, love, show compassion to others. It helps our own hearts ” -Trevin Wax

Lastly, reading for wisdom, as a believer the number one book we read for wonder, guidance, growth and wisdom should be the Bible. It is the foundation of all things. It is very hard to see beauty in ashes if we do not see the bigger story or to rejoice in suffering if we do not know the true and better way that awaits.

There are many books that can also help us toward wisdom, firstly the Bible in books like Proverbs but also a book such as the Institutes of Religion or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, books that Charlotte Mason considers “stiff books” that practically challenge our dull senses awake to think about what we think on a matter and to read more and study about it. Even books of Allegory such as the Pilgrim’s Progress or a sweet novel such as Stepping Heavenward or the always wise words of Wendell Berry.  There is so much wisdom one can glean from Church Fathers to humble authors if we would just read them, although wisdom is a process and reading a good book does not equate to being wise, wisdom comes through understanding and being open to truth.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

God has gifted us with much beauty in this world, through word, art, music, and life. If we look for it, it is there. If we choose to forget it, the alternative is a sort of mind death, where we just run on auto-pilot in this fast moving culture from one mind-numbing thing to another, never stopping to awe, to grow, to become wise on truth, goodness and beauty from above.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

― Ray Bradbury

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So, my reading long-awaited reading list, just kidding. In the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola recommends a Stiff Book, a Moderately Easy Book, and a Novel. Charlotte Mason, my 19th century educational mentor, would have read much like this and more, it would have included poetry and bible reading as well, so here is my list:

Bible and Devotional Reading: The ESV on a reading plan, Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, and The Cloud of Witness.

Stiff Book: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield

Moderately Easy (Does not mean twaddle, just something easily read): Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Novel: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Poetry: Selected Emily Dickinson (with Emma for homeschool) and Roots to the Earth by Wendell Berry (a beautifully illustrated copy gifted to me at Christmas by my husband).

I have reverted to this system to keep me from unwieldy reading lists and although I have many half finished books, I won’t be picking them back up until I’ve finished these above. I pray. I should make a to read in 2017 post to help my brain remember what I want to read and pick back up. I hope 2017 is a year of reading more for all of us.

Our Advent Family Traditions

38643“Advent is for Adoring Jesus.”

The word Advent is Latin for “to come”. We use the word in the English language as an arrival of something important and so we celebrate the most important arrival. With great adoration, we celebrate the gift of the First Coming and with deep longing and expectation, we await the Second Coming of the best and merciful gift.

I did not grow up following the liturgical calendar but as my family has studied church traditions we have come to love so much of what believers before us did to honor God. Not out of necessity for sanctification but to increase wonder and remembrance.

“Earth breaks up, time drops away, In flows heaven, with it’s new day
Of endless life, when He who trod, Very man and very God,This earth in weakness, shame and pain, Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall, But the one God, All in all, King of kings, Lord of lords, As His servant John received the words,“I died, and live for evermore!”    -Robert Browning

Not everything we do during the Advent/ Christmas season has a religious tone but resting well with Family in truth and goodness is also a part of the goal during the month of December, so we take it slow, plan little and enjoy one another’s company as a sweet gift of God.

Our Family Advent Traditions:

Advent Family Worship– Devotional: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper. We use this for our Family Devotional reading for the month of December. Hymn: Silent Night and Oh Come All Ye Faithful. full_the-dawning-of-indestructible-joy

 Advent Calendars– We are recreating this lovely calendar from Mer Mag. I may be painting stars right up till Advent Devotion tonight but what a sweet tradition. I remember growing up in Germany we had sweet little chocolate advent calendars houses and you know sweets aren’t the Gospel but the are a good gift we can rejoice that we have in this season. I haven’t decided what else to put in the star but maybe it will be a question we can ask each other at Advent Family Worship.

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source: Mer Mag

Ornaments for our Advent Readings– Every year we have made ornaments, whether for a Jesse Tree or for our Christmas Tree, this year, we are making encaustic (my art medium, it is pigmented wax and more) family collaboration ornaments. We are making one for each day of the Advent readings to hang on our tree. File_000

Good Reading– Our Christmas reads this year are The Bird’s Christmas Carol, Little Women (I watched Little Women with my Mother every Christmas and since I am a book before movie person and I feel Emma is ready, we are reading Little Women for the first time together), and The Cloud of Witness (which is a daily read all year).IMG_0386

Joyful Work– In past years we have made jam for neighbors or screen printed ornaments for friends, we might make garland for our tree or bake a treat for someone. This is not antithetic to the rest we celebrate in the Advent season because we honor God in purposeful and joyful work and giving.

A Habit of Rest– We Protect the schedule and don’t overplan. There is time needed to awe in the wonder of the truths we hear. A culture of Black Fridays and 1 million events has allowed us to fill rest with busyness. Being busy for the sake of being busy is not good work. To do good work you must rest in goodness, beauty and truth.

What are your advent traditions new and old? Christmas is coming, Jesus is coming. Let us Adore him around our hearths and in our homes.

 

 

8 Women of Faith

What do the likes of Jane Austen, Esther and Sarah Edwards, Lady Jane Grey have in common? The book Eight Women of Faith by Michael A.G. Haykin. It is important. As a Christian woman that loves church history and stories of faith and has a burgeoning love for theology and getting acquainted with our church fathers I often think about the women that stood in the pages of our faith history with resolve and dignity. How many stories of women of faith are there that we will never know but that have touched the lives of so many souls all around them? How joyous is it to think of and how merciful is it that we have so many that we can read about.


Christian women could do much good to look back on the stories of women that although through very different circumstances loved the same God as we do in this year and learn from their wisdom and faith. Proverbs 31 is a beautifully daunting passage that exemplifies a Godly woman but we know how reality and poetry are not always the same. The gospel changes all of that and allows us to see the poetry in the mundane and how we may not be Queen or great novelist but how the intermingling of past story and faith can speak to us in our present circumstances as we realize the gravity of the call in the “celestial lines” of our present story.
I learned a many new things about women of the faith that I never knew, from this book. I am only inspired to learn more about the theological works of Anne Dutton and to listen and learn from the beauty in the hymns of Anne Steele. In addition, I can’t help but admire the heritage of Jonathan Edwards and family and the faithfulness of the women that belonged to it, and I hope to read more about Sarah Edwards and Esther Edwards Burr in the near future. I was personally touched with Esther Burr’s sweet female friendship with Sarah Prince and long for that sort of friendship for myself and one day for my daughters. In addition, I was happy to learn more of the Faith of Ms. Austen from Michael A. G. Haykin. Some have tried to mar her name with rumours of why she never married but truthfully she was always known to be a woman that loved God. The Jane-ite in me appreciated readinf it and although I know there is much mystery about her life her written prayers in this chapter show more truth than speculators could even know.

And about Anne Steele, it took me a few tries to find a hymn in one of our collected hymnals but as pictured above, I did (389). And read it as I loved on a sweet, sick baby. Again, I urge you to read Eight Women of Faith in your reading time and be encouraged. Here is Father of Mercies by Anne Steele, in full, (the methodist hymnal I found it in must have only cared for 3 verses :p ) :

1 Father of mercies, in thy word
What endless glory shines!
For ever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
2 Here, may the wretched sons of want
Exhaustless riches find;
Riches, above what earth can grant,
And lasting as the mind.
3 Here the fair tree of knowledge grows,
And yields a free repast,
Sublimer sweets that nature knows,
Invite the longing taste.
4 Here, the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life, and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
5 O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light!
6 Divine instructor, gracious Lord,
Be Thou for ever near;
Teach me to love thy sacred word,
And view my Savior there.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway but all opinions are my own. You can visit purchase online or at Crossway.org.

Be of Good Courage

Last night before my husband and I went to bed we said a prayer for this country. My heart was heavy and thankfully we prayed for peace and I could sleep through the night with that peace. I woke up, heart heavy but of good courage.

Months in to this election cycle my daughter heard our newly elected President, then candidate, mocking any number of individuals. She said “That man is so mean”. I, of course, agreed with her. This whole election cycle has been discouraging. We had two major party candidates that had ethical and moral failings, much more so than I would like to think my President would possess. We watched the name-calling, the disparaging of cultures, the fear-mongering, the hurtful words and so many other examples of debased character and it didn’t seem to matter to a majority of people that supported these major candidates. I did not support either, convictions are not something to scoff at and I could not allow fear to mar true conviction of spirit. But I understand not everyone felt the same, I will pray to be gracious to those that asked for this outcome. 

I do not know what to think of the “White Evangelicals” that decided this election. I want to be upset but I know I need to show grace. We have a President now that fully acknowledges his opinion of women as “things” and nothing more, he jokes about sexual assault and judges them by some superficial standard. If you have never struggled with unwanted physical advances or assault then maybe it’s trivial but my heart is broken because I struggle with telling my girls that this is the leader of our country, someone that we should be looking up to. We now have a President that espouses the exact opposite of Lady Liberty’s call to the masses and has sewn xenophobia and hatred all along this election cycle. I am heart broken for all my brothers and sisters that long for the shores of America, the beautiful, and those that  love our earthly home just as much as me regardless our differences. I also struggle to understand or to put the words together to explain to my children when they ask how such “a mean man” can become president. I do not know, is my answer. God is sovereign and I know this place is not my home forever. I can trust him. 

I’ll make it clear that I did not choose the alternative either. You do not have to choose between two evils, thank God for that freedom.

Earlier this week we we’re learning America, the Beautiful for our patriotic song in our singing portion of our school schedule. I cried because we do truly need the grace of God in this hour and I truly desire that America be a good and beautiful nation. We have become lost on the way or we never knew the right path to begin with, history may be more telling than we would like. Have Mercy on us God but grant us good courage. God shed his Grace on thee, America. 

I read this from CH Spurgeon this morning, my most favorite speaker of truth:

Oh, do not give way! You need not be cowards; do not give way. Do not say, “I must be beaten, I must always be despondent, my life is crushed.” You need not be so. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” Get you to your chamber, fall upon your knees, pour out your heart before God, tell your trouble to the Most High, and, as the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, he must and will help those who put their trust in him. Has he ever failed any who trusted in him? Who has ever stayed his hand, or withdrawn him from his designs? Who has ever made him deny his promise, or retract his word? If thou wilt trust him, he will be better to thee than thy fears; nay, better to thee than thy beliefs, or thy largest hopes. Stay yourselves upon him; lean upon the bosom of eternal love; lean hard, lean all your weight there, and leave that weight there, and the Lord be with you, and bless you! Blessed are all they that trust in the Lord.

Be of good courage, friends. Blessed is those that trust in the Lord.

Praying Together


IMG_8855I meant to sit down and write this review before Sebastian was born. I’m just now getting to it. Thankfully with the help of caffeine and finally some decent sleep I’m able to talk about this precious book, Praying Together by Megan Hill. Know that I read this during some very sleepless, anxiety-filled nights and I found it a great comfort.

“People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” – J.I. Packer

In the beginning of Praying Together, Megan Hill quotes J.I. Packer “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.” It’s a mic-dropping quote, I feel like Megan is saying “I’m just going to put this right here” but does one better  and continues to elaborate the point for the rest of the book. It is an excellent overall sentiment for the book, That God’s people pray, and people being plural…pray together. We aren’t islands for our own prayer, yes we pray in our prayer closets and by our bedsides and our early morning devotional corners but we were not meant to do life alone and for the believer that means prayer becomes a very important priority to being a part of the body.

In Praying Together, Megan Hill first shows us the foundation for praying together through the example of scripture and helps us to understand where we fit in this context.

“And so we come at last to the direct commands—the explicit imperatives—of the New Testament Epistles. Again and again these Scriptures tell us to pray together. With everybody. Everywhere. About everything.”

 

I love this simple and beautiful quote that sums up some why’s, when’s, where’s, who’s and how’s. Prayer with one another IS a beautiful gift of God and as we build on the foundation of scriptural prayer we see the fruit of that prayer. Praying Together has helped me to see the bigger picture of prayer in regards to the body. That not only is the desire of prayer, answered prayer, but it also the love, discipleship and the genuine revival God provides to believers that pray together. The fruits of prayer, Megan Hill calls them.

“In a glorious circle, as we love each other we cultivate one harmonious voice—with which we delight to pray together all the more.”

What better way can we become best knit together as we live in a world that breaks us and causes godly grief to form in our hearts at every turn, than through prayer?

I particularly enjoyed the portion of Praying Together that delved into the practical practice of prayer. Megan quotes Diedrich Bonhoeffer “It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.” and asks us to consider if this is true for us in our church, groups, and homes. I would love to say that it always is but I know that would be a lie. I am thankful though that Meghan Hill outlines some practical examples for us so succinctly to ponder the point. When I struggle with my prayer life, and just my life-life, I need to read of the godly wisdom of believers that first turn to prayer instead of the worries and anxieties alluringly laid before me.

“It is, in fact, the most normal thing in the common Christian life to pray together.”

If you would love to understand the larger picture of prayer in the life of the believer, I so encourage you to read Praying Together and allow it sit on your mind and heart as you begin to use the wisdom written in it.

The Women’s leadership group at my church will be heading to hear Megan Hill this Fall and I very much look forward to hearing her thoughts on prayer in person.

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray together wherever we can—in back rooms and backyards, in empty classrooms and in deserted stairwells, at picnic tables and pews and subway platforms—asking the Lord to gather a great harvest to himself”

The image here is such a beautiful one. In Psalms 42, which I have been studying this month for a teaching session, we see an image of great brokenness, great thirst for living water. It acknowledges our great need. We are broken, we are thirsty, our only hope is in a holy god that transforms us, our hearts, our minds and our desires. So let us pray and draw our hearts toward him, TOGETHER.


I received a review copy of Praying Together from Crossway. The review is my own.

Sebastian Luke Benson

  I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted. We’ve been kind of busy here with a brand-new human. ;p He’s beautiful and we’re tired. God is good, so very good, and sustaining and gracious. Sebastian Luke Benson was born on June 30th, 2016 and we love our new addition. We are thankful.

Additionally our community has loved us so well through a difficult pregnancy and exhaustion of a new baby in our home. Thankful for gospel community.

 Kenny and I couldn’t love this baby more and the girls are over the moon with him. Here’s a bunch of cute images of him so far.

    
    
    
   
   

Habits of Grace

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This book, Habits of Grace by David Mathis, although not lengthy has some powerful recommendations for anyone that would like to shape their habits and disciplines on the Word of God especially in modern lives of busy schedules and social media noise.

habitsofgracebook“We might get alone and be quiet to hear our own internal voice, the murmurs of our soul that are easily drowned out in noise and crowds. But the most important voice to hear in the silence is God’s.” – David Mathis

Why I am interested in Habits? Well, because I have a lot of bad ones. As we homeschool in the Charlotte Mason method christian habits are vital and a theme that we are discussing weekly. I am confronted daily with the fact that I cannot expect good habits if I don’t model them myself. But it’s not something to fret and compare one’s self to others because that defeats the power of grace in our lives, what we can do is study and learn along with our children what a life of grace-influenced habits looks like. Charlotte Mason felt that we act on habits all through our days and we definitely fall into our habits good or bad in times of trouble. Looking at my life of habits, I tend to agree.

“And the little emergencies, which compel an act of will, will fall in the children’s lives just about as frequently as in our own. These we cannot save them from, nor is it desirable that we should. What we can do for them is to secure that they have habits which shall lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.” – Charlotte Mason,  Home Education

So let us also apply this to ourselves. This is why I was intrigued with the title Habits of Grace; What does it look like as an adult to pursue “grace-empowered” habits?

Firstly, I enjoyed the break down of this book into three primary sections: Hearing His Voice (Word), Having His Ear (Prayer), and Belonging to His Body (Fellowship), and part four (Coda) that brings it all together in terms of Evangelism and Stewardship.  

Simply put habits begin first with the hearing and meditating on his word, making time to pray and seek him and being refined through the fellowship of believers. I, myself can speak as a testament of all those things having impact in my life towards slow but moving transformation and Jesus being the center of it all, through his spirit all believers are being transformed.

“Not only is enjoying Jesus explosively transforming in the way we live; it is also essential for making Jesus look great. And that is why we have the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit came to glorify him (John 16:14). The primary mission of the Spirit—and his people—is to show that Jesus is more glorious than anyone or anything else. It cannot be done by those who find this world more enjoyable than Jesus. They make the world look great. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Christian life—and the universe—hangs on the people of God enjoying the Son of God. But this is beyond us. Our hearts default to enjoying the world more than Jesus. This is why the hinge thought—enjoying Jesus—is bracketed on both sides by grace and spiritual.” – John Piper

Habits of Grace walks us through many practical and accessible ways to develop these habits. David Mathis even outlines how to pursue them on the “Crazy Days”, which might be every day for many of us.

“The crazy days will come. And there are seasons of life, like with a newborn at home, where all bets are off and it’s just a crazy season. But with a little intentionality, and with a modest plan in place, you can learn to navigate these days, and even walk with greater dependence on God, knowing full well that it’s not the ideal execution of our morning habits of grace that secures his favor and blessing. You can commune with Christ in the crazy days.” – David Mathis

I encourage every believer to read this book, some of the suggestions might help in cultivating your daily habits or maybe it changes your routines drastically but I believe it is very beneficial for the believer as we all center ourselves on the Cross in the midst of busy lives and worldly noise.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway. The review is my own.

You can purchase a copy here and at Crossway.


 

elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

The Romantic Rationalist

Lewis There is no secret, if you know me, that I have a love for Lewis, C.S. Lewis. I was raised on the hills of Narnia and drunk from the shore of Cair Paravel through his books and they will forever hold a special place in my heart. The many places and tales C.S. Lewis wrote about kept me longing for more, more than here, more than this current plane of existence. It moved me to believe that this world is a half life, a whisper ghost of things to come. I can’t help but get a bit emotional when I speak of Mr. Lewis because of the great impact his writing has had on my life and the gentle prodding toward the Gospel in my early years.

I love C.S. Lewis for his fiction, the characters that feel like real people and friends, that I empathize and root for and many times grieve over. The multi-dimensional way that even the most un-human of them seem the most and best human, namely a little mouse called Reepicheep or how my heart burns bittersweet for Orual in Till We Have Faces. Even in their failings some of the most broken see truth and dragon scales fall off to true new life, Eustace discovered that and we all know how unpleasant he was to begin with.

I first loved Lewis for his fiction but I best loved him for his non-fiction. I will say that the influence of Mere Christianity is what soothed many doubts and indifferences to Christianity and the Church, it was a tool toward deepening faith in my life. His essays, books, his prodding us toward joy in suffering, his loving correspondence with children, the way he wrote about and sought truth, the way he spoke of and loved the wife of his late life, Joy Davidman, all of it made him my best-loved author. But this is not an essay about his influence on me this is a review of the book the Romantic Rationalist, edited by John Piper and David Mathis

First I will admit that a book about C.S. Lewis already has a plus in my mind but of course it could be a bad book about Lewis then that would definitely make me change it. This book, the Romantic Rationalist is a plus, plus, plus. The book is a compilation of well-written essays by very intelligent men about Lewis and his influence, his writings, his insight.

I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of knowledge that the essayists had about the writings of Lewis and their insights became valuable as I compared my own thoughts I’ve had over the years. C.S. Lewis was, in my mind, an great example of Matthew 22:34 in his life and through his writing.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” – Matt 22:34, ESV

I believe this is what the title of this book represents. Someone who sees the bigger picture of the Gospel practically but not only that loves with a sweet affection that big picture story and can express it with words that flow beautifully from deep love and a moved and forever changed soul. I believe that if you are a fan of C.S. Lewis and love theology you will love this book. My favorite Essays were Undragoned by Douglas Wilson, which may have convinced me that C.S. Lewis was an undercover Calvinist ( joking). By John Piper and by Randy Alcorn. All essays are a wonderful and I would love to have witnessed the panel discussion that occurs in the back of the book. So read this book and if you are only slightly familiar with Lewis you may also find a benefit here while you look into some of his deep thoughts. I dare to say it would help you embrace his writing more. So I recommend this book wholeheartedly and love it for what it says about Lewis and the connections it makes.

So for the Lewis fans and all, I’m including some of my favorite quotes from the book to sway you.

 

Quotes:

When Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, it is for one person—the traitor Edmund. The great lion gave his life for one grimy, little boy. Now it is true that Tirian in The Last Battle says that it was by Aslan’s blood that all Narnia was saved, but while glorious, this is an application, an extension, an afterthought. The nature of the lion’s death as told in the foundational story is seen as a very definite atonement. It really has to be—Lewis held to substitutionary atonement, and as Garry Williams has clearly shown in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the two doctrines are logically intertwined. He who says A may not have said B, but give him time.
-Douglas Wilson, Undragoned

 

In Romans 8:28, Paul wrote, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” This verse tells us what we will one day see in retrospect. Lewis, in The Great Divorce, wrote that “both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. . . . Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”13 The curse will be reversed. Lewis has Aslan explain the deeper magic the witch didn’t know about when he died for a sinner: “The Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”14 Retrospect enables us to see everything differently. It’s why we can call the worst day in all of history “Good Friday.” Faith is like a forward memory, allowing us to believe as if what is promised has already happened. One day we will see how Romans 8:28 was true all along, even in those moments we most doubted it. Joseph saw this in Genesis 50:20, the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Notice Joseph didn’t merely say, “God made the best of bad circumstances.”) -Randy Alcorn, C.S. Lewis on New Heaven and the New Earth

 

Lewis came to Christ on the converging paths of romanticism and rationalism. And as a Christian, he became a master thinker and master likener. This is who he was, and this is what he knew. And so this is how he did his evangelism. He bent every romantic effort and every rational effort to help people see what he had seen—the glory of Jesus Christ, the goal of all his longings, and the solid ground of all his thoughts. -John Piper, Romantic Rationalist

 

The sad truth is that many of us are, at best, only half awake. We think we’re engaged with the real world—you know, the world of stock markets, stock-car racing, and stockpiles of chemical weapons—but in fact we’re living in what Lewis calls the “shadowlands.” We think we’re awake, but we’re really only daydreaming. We’re sleepwalking our way through life—asleep at the wheel of existence—only semi-conscious of the eternal, those things that are truly solid that bear the weight of glory. We want to believe the Bible—we do believe it, we confess the truth of its teaching, and we’re prepared to defend it—but we nevertheless find ourselves unable to see our world in biblical terms, and that produces a feeling of disparity, an existential disconnect. If faith’s influence is waning, as two-thirds of Americans apparently now think, then it is largely because of a failure of the evangelical imagination. We’re suffering from imaginative malnutrition. -Kevin Vanhoozer, In Bright Shadow

 

You can purchase this book here: The Romantic Rationalist or from Crossway

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Crossway, my opinion is completely my own.


elliewithgirlsEllie Benson is Mother, Artist and Lover of Jesus. She blogs here at  ellieeugenia.com about faith, art and family and shares resources for all of those things. You can also find her at Charlotte Mason Living , a large growing online inspiration community for Charlotte Mason homeschooling families that she created.

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