Do You Think…?

…I’d (finally) start enjoying Christmas again if I turned off the TV entirely for the next month, and instead listened to beautiful Christmas music, watched Christmas movies, practiced Christmas carols on the piano, and read a few books?

Won’t happen, of course, but it’s a thought.

I’ll at least listen to Christmas music.  Here’s one of my faves!


Between The Times | Why Should Christians Read Literature? by Michael Travers

For the Record (Michael Travers): Why Should Christians Read Literature?

August 1, 2012 by administrator

[Editor’s Note: Michael Travers is Professor of English and Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness at Southeastern. He is author of Encountering God in the Psalms (Kregel, 2003) and co-author (with Richard D. Patterson) of Face to Face With God: Human Images of God in the Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2008). As a disciple of Christ and good literature, and teacher on both at Southeastern, we asked him to write on the topic of reading literature for Christian formation.]

Why should Christians bother reading literature at all? Because reading literature humanizes us—in the best sense of the word. Literature helps us realize the image of God in us in ways that we cannot afford to miss. Consider….

Literature exercises and develops our emotions and imaginations. People write about what they experience and how they respond emotionally and imaginatively to their experiences. As we read good imaginative literature, we begin to see our own experiences and emotions in the larger human context. Which emotions are healthy, which not? Which emotions ought we to cultivate, which should we put to death? In literature, we can see the expressions and consequences of human emotions in real-life situations and can be encouraged or take warning accordingly. It is the same with our imaginations. Reading literature gives us what Kevin Vanhoozer calls “the power of synoptic vision”: through our imaginations responding to the imaginative writings of others, we see the important issues in life, not just the urgent and immediate circumstances around us. Imagination allows us to see the universal and timeless human issues and truths in the particular experiences of the characters in the book we are reading.

Literature speaks to the human condition in which we all find ourselves all the time. As humans, we all share the same human condition. No matter our gender, race, or nationality, we all struggle with sin, experience the emotions of love and hate, give expression to our strongest desires, and we all long for something that this world cannot satisfy—in the end, God. Literature connects us with others who have given effective expression to our common humanity and longings and, while we may not agree with a writer’s worldview, he or she illuminates our common condition in ways that can help us understand our situation better and relate to others outside of our immediate community. In Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective, Leland Ryken helpfully suggests that literature “clarifies the human situation to which the Christian faith speaks.”[1] Likewise, with C. S. Lewis, a Christian can think of literature as one form of “pre-evangelism”: a means to help people ask the important questions—the eternal questions—and which gives us an opportunity to speak the gospel into their lives.

Literature expands us. Reading imaginative literature takes us outside of our own immediate situation. We get to meet other people from other places—even from other times—that we would otherwise never meet. When we read a novel, we don’t just follow a plot line; we become acquainted with more people—some friends, some not so much friends—who hone our humanity. We get to look in on other cultures—oriental as well as occidental, contemporary as well as ancient—and in its turn that experience helps us not to be blinded to the realities of our own culture and time. Again, C. S. Lewis is helpful here. What he says in An Experiment in Criticism is worth quoting at some length: “We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own….”[2] He continues, “in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here [i.e. in reading great literature], as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”[3] Think a bit about that!

Literature can help us glorify God in our lives. Humans are “wordish creatures.”[4] Only we, of all God’s creatures, use sounds and graphics symbolically to communicate what is not immediately present to our five senses. Only we imagine and create what is not essential to our immediate needs. Only we can appreciate beauty, truth and goodness in their own rights. God made us wordish creatures, and he communicated the gospel to us in words. Even Jesus Christ is given the epithet, “Word made flesh,” and only He communicates the Father to us sinful people. Because literature is a wordish medium, it is in some senses the form of artistic expression that allows us to get closest to our Creator. After all, we are all part of that great Story, and our stories fit into the larger Story. And you can’t tell a story without words.

Why read literature? How can you not? It’s part of our heritage as humans. But we must cultivate it if we are not to lose it again and revert to an earlier age or place where the Word and the word were both darkened. Make your words flesh that the Word made flesh might be glorified.

[1] Leland Ryken, Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 34.

[2] C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 137.

[3] Ibid., 141.

[4] Bradley Green, The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life (Crossway, 2010), 104.

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April 21 (S)…Sowell (as in Thomas)

I have to admit that I have been crushing on Thomas Sowell for a long time.  He is a erudite economist, a pithy political pundit, and a phenomenally talented writer.  His is widely published as a columnist and is a prolific nonfiction author, all while continuing his day job as a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Instition of Stanford University.  To say he is highly accomplished is probably a bit of an understatement.  He’s one of my favorite people ever to advance the causes of economic solvency and political conservatism.  Plus, he has a wicked sense of humor.

With that confession now off my chest, let me share with you some of my favorite “Sowellisms.”

Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.

Socialism is a wonderful idea. It is only as a reality that it has been disastrous. Among people of every race, color, and creed, all around the world, socialism has led to hunger in countries that used to have surplus food to export…. Nevertheless, for many of those who deal primarily in ideas, socialism remains an attractive idea — in fact, seductive. Its every failure is explained away as due to the inadequacies of particular leaders.

Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.

Whenever someone refers to me as someone “who happens to be black,” I wonder if they realize that both my parents are black. If I had turned out to be Scandinavian or Chinese, people would have wondered what was going on.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.

Both free speech and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.

Capitalism knows only one color:  that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.

It’s amazing how much panic one honest man can spread among a multitude of hypocrites.

One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.

People who pride themselves on their “complexity” and deride others for being “simplistic” should realize that the truth is often not very complicated. What gets complex is evading the truth.

Intellect is not wisdom.

Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty.

Despite a voluminous and often fervent literature on “income distribution,” the cold fact is that most income is not distributed: It is earned.

There are only two ways of telling the complete truth–anonymously and posthumously.

Extrapolations are the last refuge of a groundless argument.

Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present- not where we wish we were, or whee we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact.

One of the consequences of such notions as “entitlements” is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.


This is a very small sampling of the wit and wisdom of Thomas Sowell…a dip of the toe.  I urge you to check out his columns at Townhall (one of several publication websites), his books (they’re available at your local library), and those columnists and authors whom he recommends.  He is worth it.

Yep, totally crushing…

April 2 (B)…Books (and a Bookish Nerd)

If you know me personally, you had to know that today’s topic is a no-brainer. 

I love books.

I love reading, and try to do so every day.  I listen to audiobooks in my car constantly, and I set (often unattainable) reading goals each year, hoping not only to improve on my totals from the previous year, but to push myself to read things I would not ordinarily pick up.  And every year, I have had had great surprises, failures, disappointing revelations, but (nevertheless) satisfaction at having added to my reading history.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Goodreads, and I was instantly hooked.  I have always had a personal library, and Goodreads was the tool that allowed me to catalog my books, track my reading, get new book recommendation, publish book reviews, follow other readers’ reviews and comments, and interact with a group of people who love books as much as I do.

So I cataloged, organized, categorized, and made lists.

Most importantly, I started formally tracking my reading in 2007.  This has proved to be one of the most satisfying endeavors I have ever undertaken during my reading life.  I have learned a lot about my reading habits and my taste in books.  I discovered, for example, that pre-planning my annual reading is an absolute FAIL for me, as my mood is the dictator of what books wind up on my bedside table.  I also discovered that I am a relatively slow reader, in comparison to the many bookworms I encounter on Goodreads, in the blogosphere, or wherever we happen to connect.

Here are some stats:

2007:  40 books; favorites – Family Baggage and Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney
2008:  44 books; favorites – The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan, Becoming Finola by Suzanne Strempek Shea
2009:  84 books; favorites – My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2010:  49 books; favorites – Rain Gods by James Lee Burke, The Water is Wide and South of Broad by Pat Conroy, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2011:  54 books; favorites – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, My Reading Life by Pat Conroy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
2012:  12 books (to date); favorite (to date) –The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

The best things about this project are that I am getting better at picking books I love, and I have at my fingertips book recommendations galore…to share with others, or to peruse when I’m in a slump.

I’d love you to connect with me bookishly.  Comments, complaints and snide remarks are welcome and encouraged.

Here’s where you can find me:
My personal book blog:

I also revew books on

So, from one book lover to (hopefully) many…happy reading!

101 in 1001

This is a really cool project over at Read, Write and Live that was originally started at Day Zero Project.

From the original site:

The Challenge: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on your part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple challenges such as New Year’s resolutions or a ‘Bucket List’. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips, study semesters, or outdoor activities.

So, because I love making lists, and because this is really a cool way to make & pursue some longterm goals, I’m going to try it.  Look for my list to materialize over the next 2-3 weeks.  My start and finish dates are set, so I have to get moving!

Wish me luck.  Join the project with me and we’ll keep tabs on each other’s progress.  Most importantly, follow along and let me know what you think!

Start Date:  January 1, 2012

Finish Date:  September 27, 2015

  • Completed
  • In Progress
  • Not started yet

My List (in no particular order)

  1. Listen to Moby Dick by Herman Melville (unabridged audio).
  2. Listen to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (unabridged audio).
  3. Read A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
  4. Take my child to Walt Disney World.
  5. …and Disneyland (because Jodi suggested it should be two trips!).
  6. Get my paperwork / files completely organized and put in a permanent place.
  7. Unplug from the internet for a week.
  8. Unplug from TV for a week.
  9. Blog every single day for a month.
  10. Collect enough flamingo Christmas tree ornaments to decorate my small tree with nothing but flamingos.
  11. Send cards on a holiday other than Christmas.
  12. Run another 5k.
  13. Run a 10k.
  14. Email a personal note to each of my girlfriends – just because.
  15. Snail mail a personal, handwritten note to friends and/or family – just because.
  16. Go to the gym every day for a month…then another month.
  17. Take a break from exchanging gifts one Christmas and go on a vacation instead.
  18. Go snow skiing.
  19. Have coffee with Jodi once a month for a year! 🙂
    Lunch at Paradise on Jan 21  – to celebrate Jodi’s birthday
  20. Have coffee (or wine) with Bri once a month for a year!
    January 5 (Bri’s birthday) – wine at Ground Control
  21. Go on a date with my husband once a month.
  22. Go on a mission trip as a family.
  23. See my friend Reema (& her family) face to face for the first time since grade school.
  24. Visit my friend Andrea in Chicago.
  25. Take a road trip with my husband.
  26. Take (another) road trip with my friend Lisa.
  27. Go back to Chattanooga for a visit with friends!
  28. Visit the Kriegs again…and meet sweet E.
  29. Have the Kriegs visit us in AZ.
  30. Renew my scuba diving certification.
  31. Take a shotgun class & learn to shoot moving targets.
  32. Forgive someone I haven’t been able to forgive (and who must remain nameless for now).
  33. Practice the piano at least once a week for six months.
  34. Lose 10% of my weight (for starters).
  35. Pray specifically and purposefully for someone every day for a month.  Make it a habit.  Continue ad infinitum.
  36. Adopt a child.
  37. Hike in the White Tanks.
  38. Learn to golf?  Maybe?
  39. Get all of our artwork hung on the walls.  Get rid of any artwork that does not find a home.
  40. Go to my 25 year high school reunion in 2013.
  41. Visit NYC.
  42. Write in my Gratitude Journal every day for a year starting January 1, 2012 – even if it is just a word or two.
  43. Sell the kitchen table / chairs on Craig’s List.
  44. Get a massage every month.  Don’t skip, because it makes me a nicer person. 🙂
  45. Get a pedicure every month.  Don’t skip, because it makes my feet feel better. 🙂
  46. Take an international vacation…place to be determined (Mexico is not an option).
  47. Get a sunflower tattoo on my right shoulder blade.
  48. Get a wedding ring tattoo on my left ring finger (duh!).
  49. Get a toe tattoo.
  50. Take my kiddo somewhere fun every week of his summer vacation in 2012 (even if it is just a different park).
  51. Set a minimum reading goal each year of 52 books (not including audiobooks).
  52. Set my standard goal of 100 books each year (including audiobooks).  I set it, now to meet it!
  53. Review every book I read.
  54. Cook something I haven’t tried before once a quarter (or more often).  Get help if necessary.
  55. Cook a hot meal for my family every day for a week.  No sandwiches, cereal or salad.
  56. Master the art of couponing…not extreme couponing.
  57. Commit deliberate acts of kindness – regularly & with purpose.
  58. Visit Niagara Falls.
  59. Plan a girls’ getaway weekend and actually do it.
  60. Take a beach vacation.
  61. Use my calendar daily instead of relying on my memory.  Make sure it is in a visible & accessible place.
  62. Carry a book (or my Kindle) in my purse all the times.  Take advantage of small windows of time during the day to read.
  63. Save some of my cash allowance from every paycheck.
  64. Visit Cody, Wyoming.
  65. See Tom Petty in concert (if possible).
  66. See Garth Brooks in concert in Las Vegas.
  67. Finish painting the inside of our house.
  68. Read something from the Bible every day – maybe even read the Bible through?
  69. Read Pat Conroy’s entire body of work.
  70. Visit the San Diego Zoo.
  71. Take the dog for walks, by myself, with my iPod.
  72. Get a mammogram.
  73. Get bloodwork done and submitted to my doctors.
  74. Take a class.
  75. Start swimming again…regularly.
  76. Listen to music – even if it is just one song – every day.

Randomly Ruminating…part 2

Things I’ve grown to like (that I never realized I would):

  • The Desert (it’s the dry heat)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrying a backpack
  • Doing laundry (ok…stretching a bit, but I do like my washer & dryer)
  • Vacuuming
  • Audiobooks (actually, I LOVE these)
  • Skype
  • Sushi, raw oysters & runny(ish) eggs
  • Having very short hair
  • Deep tissue (painful, bruising) massage – because I feel immeasurably better afterwards
  • Some rap music
  • A drama-free life
  • Being a little out of step with the mainstream
  • Living in the Southwest
  • Making lists

Things I’ve grown to dislike (that I never realized I would):

  • Most veggie meats (I grew up on them…now…kind of blech)
  • Talking on the phone (for the most part, I’d rather text / FB / IM / email)
  • Having long hair
  • Uber-long books
  • Pumps (very uncomfortable for me – much prefer wedges & platforms)
  • Being a packrat

Things I’ve decided I want (or need) to do more:

  • Pray
  • Read
  • Write to / visit my long distance friends
  • Work out
  • Spend more time with my local friends
  • Organize my time, my stuff, my house / car, and my life
  • Say what I mean, mean what I say
  • Travel
  • Explore the Southwest
  • Take pictures

Things I’ve decided I will not do anymore:

  • Eat Lima beans
  • Try to prop up one-sided relationships
  • Fail to clear the air when it is needed
  • Wear pantyhose
  • Be embarrassed by silly stuff
  • Fly Delta (if I can help it)
  • Suffer foolishness or guilt unnecessarily

I want to be better at my life.  More on that…and other things…tomorrow.

Randomly Ruminating…

…my brain is full of non sequiturs.  Read on…

In the midst of registering my sweet little man for school this year, I got to cogitating.  A great education is completely unrelated to how much a school may (or may not) cost to attend.  Really good schools can cost a small fortune (McCallie & Girl’s Preparatory in TN), or they can cost next to nothing (Great Hearts Academny in AZ).  I mention these schools because they are the ones I know, and their reputations are not earned by the $$ that goes into the school, but rather by the stellar graduates they produce – on a regular and consistent basis.  This is a great thing, because it means that a top notch education is available to anyone who has the wherewithal to seek it out and obtain it.

I have had a singularly frustrating week this week, and it has been largely due to the ineptitude of government.  It all started with needing to get licensed here in Arizona, and get our cars registered here.

  • Monday (Day 1) – Arrive at the DMV that really isn’t the DMV because it is third-party outsourcing.  Can they register my vehicles?  No…systems are down statewide.  Went to Phil’s office to print the sheef (reem?) of registration paperwork for Cody’s school, filled it out & dropped it off, only to learn that I had forgotten one essential item – his birth certificate.  Aarrgghh!!
  • Tuesday (Day 2) – Took the birth certificate to school.  Hooray – officially registered now.  Arrive at the “not really the DMV” only to learn that I could still not register our vehicles.  This time because neither vehicle is in my name, and because I need to have emissions testing done on mine.  I don’t suppose this information was available on Monday, right?  OK, what about getting my license?  Not there, but the licensing office is down the road, and I’m given a map…to the COMMERCIAL licensing office, which of course does not apply to me.  OK, where do I go?  Back in the direction I came from to the Motor Vehicle Division…oops, wrong again.  This is another third-party that only does tags & insurance…but hey, it’s cleaner than the first one, and I’ll go back to it when I have my documentation.  Cross the street to the DMV (finally) only to find it overflowing with people because of the system failure on Monday.  In an building with 133 maximum occupancy, they were at or exceeding those numbers.  It was packed, hot (because the a/c was fritzing), stinky (what do you expect?), dirty, and noisy.  I tried, but when I realized I LEFT MY LICENSE AT HOME, I gave up and left.  Aarrgghh…again!!  Too late to do emissions.  Went to Walmart to get Cody’s school supplies, and two hours later (and some $$$ later) we got home…exhausted.
  • Wednesday (Day 3) – Forgot to get Phil to sign the paperwork for the tags, and he’s in downtown Phoenix all day at a job site.  My bad.  Got the emissions testing done, then off to TJ Maxx (my favorite store…yay!) to get drawer organizers for the gargantuan task of getting my kitchen organized.  <– Progress, but this is going to take a while.
  • Thursday (Day 4) – SUCCESS…FINALLY!!  Not only did I get both of our vehicles registered (wow, was that expensive), but I also am officially licensed to drive in the state of Arizona.  While this is all good, it does highlight the complete inefficiency of government.  Why could not most of this be done online?  It was just paperwork and fees, for heaven’s sake.  As a reward to my long suffering 6yo, who patiently accompanied me on all of these excursions, he is now happily playing in the Chick-fil-A playground while I’m taking advantage of their Wi-Fi and drinking a (well-deserved) Diet Dr. Pepper. 🙂

In light of the above, I am even more thankful than I already was for the relaxing weekend we spent with our much-missed friends, the Kriegs.  What a fun time we had…celebrating sweet Cody’s 6th (yes…6th) birthday with a yummy meal, a “made with love by Mandi” birthday cake complete with dinosaur decorations, and a birthday present worthy of the happiest of happy dances (Rex from Toy Story 3).  We also got to see the Detroit Zoo, which was a cool outing made even cooler by a fabulous dinosaur exhibit, had yummy Mexican food for dinner, and then watched Sherlock Holmes (a fantastic movie).  The kids & guys got to swim while we grown-up girls got pedicures & laughed riotously over yummy Pei Wei food.  An evening of pizza & kidlet movies (Mater’s Tall Tales and Three Little Pigs & a Baby), then church the next morning that fed my soul with a good Sunday School lesson and great sermon.  We hauled a** to the airport (with a quick stop at Culver’s for lunch), and made it through security with lots of time to spare.  Kudos to Mark for the outstandingdriving.  We are so thankful for y’all, and can’t wait to return the hospitality (we recommend a winter visit!).

So as I’m sitting here watching my kiddo play and letting my ice cream melt, I am thinking once again about last night’s Skype call to my parents, and how surprised I was when Taylor came in to say hello because his voice is so much lower than it was the last time I saw him.  That is a rather sad testament to how long it has been.  At least a year and a half, maybe more…

It is HOT outside this week – fluctuating in the 108-116* range.  Ridiculously hot.

I am way behind in my reading for this year, making it very likely impossible to reach all of the goals (or complete all of the challenges) I set for myself.  My main reading goal is always 100 books, not counting any of the reading I do with or to Cody.  I’m about halfway.  The best I’ve done in the past 5 years is 84 books in a single year, and this is a paltry number compared to some readers I follow, who complete each year with 200-300 books under the belts.  I want to hit my target at least, and I’d like to do that every year.  There is still time to ramp up the effort, so I’m going to try.

I’ve gone up from a 1.25 magnification in my reading glasses to a 1.5 this year.  Aging sucks.

My interest has been piqued in kinesiology…specifically how it could benefit me with some of the health issues I have.  I’ve wondered…because when things seem to be long term or chronic, and medication seems to be a permanent fixture, it causes me to ponder if there are other (more effective) solutions.

Since it’s past 4:30pm and I’ve yet to open a box today, I’ll leave this to be continued…hopefully tomorrow.