Posts Tagged Books

Of Guinea Pigs and The Days Between the Years

The days between the years are the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, sometimes extended to my birthday on the second of January. For many years my vocation has allowed me to allot unused holiday time to these days.

In The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis writes of the Wood between the Worlds,

“It’s not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.”

These days are my “Wood between the Worlds”.

Often the kids have been home, sometimes from boarding school, to enrich them. This year they left on Boxing Day and almost simultaneously Red Deer became wrapped in fog and exquisite hoarfrost and quietness. Sunday morning we were still getting over the Christmas flu and found that the trunk light, from a trunk ajar, had drained the car battery. We happily cozied up.

I have lesiurely restored much to rights, set up another jigsaw puzzle, shopped minimally for a half-price calender and a handful of Christmasy stuff for next year, nibbled on Christmas left-overs and baking, slept in, stayed up late, answered emails, played on this blog, and renewed my study of Prayer Book Hebrew.  Yesterday we took in a matinee- the visually spectacular, story line satisfying, spiritually dangerous, escape film “Avatar.”

In The Magician’s Nephew, Polly and Digory travel between worlds and find themselves in the woods.

“What do we do now?” said Polly. “Take the guinea-pig and go home.”

“There’s no hurry,” said Digory with a huge yawn.”

“I think there is, said Polly. “This place is too quiet. It’s so- so dreamy. You’re almost asleep. If we once give in to it we shall just lie down and drowse forever and ever.”

“It’s very nice here,” said Digory.

“Yes, it is,” said Polly. “But we’ve got to go back.”  She stood up and began to go cautiously towards the guinea-pig. But then she changed her mind.

“We might as well leave the guinea pig,” she said. “It’s perfectly happy here, and your uncle will only do something horrid to it if we take it home.”

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Books I have actually finished- Part two

The other book that has been occupying my time is a Magpie pick;

“Mistakes Were Made,(but not by me)  Why we Justify foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts.” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

This is a fascinating look at the psychology of self-justification, though a little un-nerving when it hits close to home.  It is wonderfully readable, and free of jargon.  If it does use a “psychological term” it also unpacks it in clear ordinary English and illustrates it with wonderful life examples.

Today I was reading in Romans, in Monsignor Knox’s translation again, when I came to the statement, “I am not ashamed of this gospel. It is an instrument of God’s power . . . It reveals God’s way of justifying us. . .”

And I thought.  Yes, we all have this drive to be just, to be a “good” person.  It has been hard-wired into us.

The problem is when we take on the burden of justifying ourselves.  Mortals were not engineered to carry Divine loads.  When we try to do God’s work for him all sorts of breakdown occurs.

I harvested a slew of good quotes and short passages from this book, for future use, and I’ve stored them on a Page called, Mistakes Were Made.

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Books I have actually finished- Part One

I’ve made a commitment to read more.  After all, having started blogging I need something to blog about, right?

One of my rules of thumb is to read books my daughter recommends to me. We share similar tastes. So this Sunday, after church, and dinner, I settled myself down in the rocking chair with “My Sister’s Keeper”, by Jodi Picoult- a Janet pick.  And I read on, and still on, until long after the day grew dark (actually not that difficult these days), until I reached the final page.

Take the dynamics of a family with a special need child. Make that need leukemia, with recurrent crises, and hospitalizations. And then jack up the tension with a 13 year old who was biologically engineered to be a donor for her older sister. And then, shades of  John Grisham, have that child ask a lawyer to sue her parents for control of her own body.

“What happened last night?” When Anna goes mute, I lose my patience.” Listen if you are not going through with the lawsuit. . . Because I’m not a family therapist or your best buddy; I’m your attorney . . . . So I will ask you one more time: have you changed your mind about this lawsuit?”

I expect this tirade to put an end to the litigation, to reduce Anna to a wavering puddle of indecision.  But to my surprise, she looks right at me, cool and collected. “Are you still willing to represent me? she asks.

Against my better judgement, I say yes.

“Then no,” she says, ” I haven’t changed my mind.”

Rated PG13, but well worth reading, as a page turner, and for the moral dilemmas of love it works you through.

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God in the Alley

We attend a fairly large church- something around the 2,000 mark.  It means that it’s possible to walk through the swirl of between service bodies and not connect with someone familiar.  So Sunday I retreated to the church library, and despite my experience of past difficulties in remembering a church-borrowed book in the Sabbath rush to get out the door ( Why I normally just check through the 50 cent box of library discards- cause they don’t need returning.), I swiped three fairly recent looking books off a shelf- sans the help of a pair of glasses, and brought them home.

I hit pay dirt on the second.  This slim read of 130 pages is worth it.  It addresses being and seeing Jesus in a broken world, and is full of life stories from Toronto’s inner city.  It also has some good insights, and I quote:

“When I see that my brokenness, once acknowledged, becomes a place of meeting and an opportunity to dignify rather than dismiss or degrade others, I discover that my heart soars with the great hope that all my brokenness is ultimately redeemable in other ways . . . more than merely a series of painful experiences and personal failings to be survived; by the alchemy of grace, God will transmute it all into something of eternal value and beauty.

Suffering without meaning is the path to despair. Suffering with meaning is the trail to glory. And Jesus is the pioneer on that trail. There is no place we can go that he hasn’t been already.”

“It is a continual surprise that God is willing to pour his glory (“the glory of God in the face of Christ”) into a dusty, cracked-broken-jar of clay like me. It’s just as surprising when I see the glory leaking out through somebody else’s cracks. It’s so surprising that it’s easy to miss, easy to dispense with the ludicrous and faintly blasphemous notion that Jesus might be right here, right now.  Seeing is not necessarily believing. Sometimes it’s believing that allows me to see.”

God in the Alley, by Greg Paul, printed by Shaw Books.  Worth trolling your Church library for, or Amazon.

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