Tag Archives: reading

in the heart’s own wax

One book, printed in the heart’s own wax
Is worth a thousand in the stacks.

~ Jan Luyken (Dutch poet)


O heart, too much like stone, you,
and chisel dulled;
or, better, a hard drive,
with too many hurried bytes.

A tablet of wax
beckoning the fresh
of lettered treasures old and new…

Too many in the stacks;
Move, O bookish stylus, to the wax!

stylus on wax

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Posted by on December 7, 2015 in Poetry, Quotes, Uncategorized


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reading is powerful

Behold, the power of reading.
A wee snippet from a great blog post by Orange Marmalade.

Reading is powerful.

Reading aloud together forges enduring, companionable bonds as we journey together to new places and into new relationships, Jesse Wilcox Smith reading girlsexperience the emotions of a story together, make sense of stories together, create memories and build associations through story. We build a Secret Club, as it were, with passwords of just the odd word or phrase from countless stories that trigger curiously sweet camaraderie.  As we read, we join a larger community with all those who love sorting hats or Frogs and Toads or a red-haired girl who hates being called Carrots. Connection happens through reading, and connection makes the world a better place…

Reading heals.


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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Books, Quotes, Reading


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Bible ennui

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 12.12.07 PM

I actually get this question a lot.
The “why” and “how” of reading are huge. Especially when reading the best-selling book of all time.

Peter Enns’ latest book The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It is stretching, to say the least. But he’s spot on in his description of Holy Writ:

The Bible isn’t a cookbook – deviate from the recipe and the soufflé falls flat. It’s not an owner’s manual – with detailed instructions for using your brand-new all-in-one photocopier/FAX machine/scanner/microwave/DVR/home security system. It’s not a legal document – make sure you read the fine print and follow every word or get read to be cast into the dungeon. It’s not a manual of assembly – leave out a few bolts and the entire jungle gym collapses on your three-year-old.

When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey.
That journey was recorded over a thousand-year span of time, by different writers, with
different personalities, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons.

Eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey as we encounter Life in our own.
I can’t think of a better posture for the read.
Owner’s manual?
Legal document?
Manual of assembly?

Not so much.

And such methods will find us with Sheila, more often than not (if we’re lucky),
dealing with our own Bible ennui. Perhaps we should stop trying so hard.


Take a smaller bite as you eavesdrop on this ancient spiritual journey.
Suck on it a bit as you step out the door
embarking on your own.


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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Bible Questions


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no silence in the library

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It’s said to be one of those onomatopoetic words in the HebrewCarl_Spitzweg_021-detail
imitating the sound of a beast or bird crying out.
I can’t help but think of the “caw-caw” of the crow.

Which tells me that reading is supposed to raise a racket.
Only modern libraries in Western culture would ever post
“Shhhhhhh!” warnings.
There was no silence in the library.
Reading is a noisy business.

But even more instructive than that was the note
that this Hebrew word is a primitive root
signifying the “accosting of a person met.”

To read is to accost.
To read is to be accosted.
Accosted by

Reading as wrestling
much like
that pile of boisterous brothers I recently witnessed

How tame our reading can be by contrast.
If we read at all.
Glancing blows over words
A perennial search for smooth reading fare that leaves
our core beliefs unstretched
our hair unmussed
our heart unperturbed.

Writer, prophet, poet,
O muse,
accost me.



Posted by on July 31, 2014 in haverings, word studies


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life is too short not to read



Amen, Joy.
But define bad

More simply, life is too short not to read.

But then again, I’m convinced that there will be books in heaven.
The new heavens and the new earth will have a library
a planetary library as per Silence in the Library
(just no Vashta Nerada lurking in the shadows).

I’m counting on it.

“And the books were opened.”

So we don’t have to be feverish about this
even though we frequently will be.

And since Jesus also speaks of drinking wine with us there too
winebibers can also take heart.

Guess I need to develop some vintage taste buds.

So we can relax and learn to savor both.

Life is too short not to.

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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Books, haverings


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frugal chariots

Stumbled upon this article by Janie B. Cheaney (what a name! love it!). Empty Frigates.

What wondrously wise wisdom not only for children and their summer reads…
…but for children of all ages and stages and seasons and their Scripture reading…bold emphasis is mine…read it

“Literature” as subject is the study of literary craft. Craft is involved in every form of art, and learning about perspective and composition (for example) can help us understand a painting. But it can also distract us from the experience of just standing and looking. “The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender,” Lewis wrote. “Look. Listen. Receive.” It makes sense to teach literature from a critical perspective in college, after students have read and liked dozens of books. But the younger the child, the less she’ll gain from character arcs and compare-and-contrast. In fact, too much of this could harm a child’s appreciation for literature in general, like poking at a live lab specimen until it’s dead.

empty frigatesThe new Common Core standards appear to make a bad method much worse. Instead of reading lots of novels and stories, students are exposed to “texts,” which they are then taught to dissect. Fiction and poetry go in the same hopper with informative essays and tracts. The fourth- or fifth-grader can’t just read; critical exercises bar his way to the story and its potential “to take us lands away.” If books are frigates, children should be allowed to step aboard and experience the journey, not make detailed diagrams of the rigging. Curriculum writers don’t seem to understand the main problem with standard educational theory, at least since John Dewey: The child is not a soul, but a brain. Brains don’t need experience; they only need facts.

If your child’s summer reading list came with worksheets, ditch them if you can. Just let the kids read, and continue to read to them—lots of books, and all kinds of books. They don’t have to finish every one they start; literary tastes are as individual as fingerprints and take time to develop. The cost is low, the value high. Take it from Emily Dickinson: “How frugal is the chariot / That bears the human soul.”

This is why when I teach I tell the audience to close their books and their eyes and just listen.

We need to allow ourselves to be carried away by texts.
But instead we poke at them until they’re dead.
Superb rigging diagrammers
rather than wayfarers.

Oh bring on that frugal chariot…

Thank you, Janie B. Cheaney


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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Books, Quotations


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power beyond context

Tear off the nonsense of jackets and cuffs,
color the starched breasts like camouflaged armor,
crank the handle of the table knife,
and we’ll all be, if even for a day, Spaniards.


from “SO THIS IS HOW I TURNED INTO A DOG” by Vladimir Mayakovsky (translated by Alex Cigale)

I have no idea what the context is for these lines.context-logo-1024x300
No idea what kind of work
“So This Is How I Turned Into a Dog” might be.
No idea who Vladimir Mayakovsky is, or how well Alex Cigale translates his words.
And I have a feeling if I did know, it would spoil it.

A happy discovery.


i’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. geez.

It’s so drilled into our evangelical, analytical mind that context is everything when it comes to biblical studies. You must cross the contextualizing bridge into the setting of whatever biblical text you are examining.
Who speaks?
To whom?
What is the context?
A text without its context becomes a pretext.
Without their context, words can be taken to mean/prove anything.
Context is king!

These are legitmate questions and concerns, to be sure – and the extent to which we can actually answer them with any kind of certainty can be very illuminating.

But when a friend sent me a link to a site called Bibliomancy with an “oracle” to press for random literary quotes to address whatever questions or life issues you hold before you at the moment, I was reminded of how overblown the whole context thing can be – and how at best its our starting point not our destination. (“Bibliomancy” aka Bible roulette meets great literature.)


okay, this is going a just too far…which is the whole point here

The first click of the “oracle” elicited the “DOG” quote, and within minutes I was looking at a prayer request for whom that quote, I suspected (and evidently was correct) would be filled with meaning in my response.

No context was necessary.
No word studies were required.
The power is in the words, and they were speaking in their own right directly to a life situation and the heart wrapped up in it.

I was reminded of the way New Testament authors use Scripture, of how Jesus used Scripture. So often we’re scratching our heads because from what we can tell about the original context, that statement in that context has nothing to do with that use of it. But, with a shrug of the shoulders we give them a pass because, after all, they were inspired – as we fail to consider that just maybe their inspired use of that text is trying to teach us something about how to use texts in the first place, and that by chaining text and meaning to literal boxes of our contextual rules we are led instead to the

actually, i would leave the "N"

actually, i would leave the “N”

doldrums of an impotent hermeneutic where words hang like windless, sagging sails.

And while this may sound like throwing caution to the wind, it seems more like allowing living words to breathe life anew, creatively, divinely, into this moment, this time, this place…

As they were meant to all along.

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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in haverings


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sapere aude…just read it

Let us dare tojohn adams
speak, and

Let every order and degree among people
rouse their attention and
animate their resolution.
Let them all become attentive
to the grounds and principles of government,
ecclesiastical and civil.

Let us
study the law of nature;
search into the spirit of the constitution;
read the histories of ancient sages;
contemplate the great examples of Greece and Rome;
set before us the conduct of our own ancestors,
who have defended for us
the inherent rights of mankind against
foreign and domestic
tyrants and usurpers, against
arbitrary kings and
cruel priests,
in short, against the gates of earth
and hell.

Let us
read and
recollect and
impress upon our souls
the views and
ends of our own more immediate forefathers,
in exchanging their native country
for a dreary, inhospitable wilderness.

~ John Adams

One of my favorite quotes. Ever. It’s more than a government class motto or a patriot’s challenge.
It strikes me as a lifelong charge in the same landscape as Paul’s “Prove all things. Hold on to what proves good; toss the rest.” (Mike’s Authorized Version there)

I love the fire flowing through Adam’s words!read-a-book

Adams chooses four key action words:


The order here is crucial.

Many of us have no trouble with being bold to speak or write. We blurt things out all the time. “The fool utters all that is in his heart; the wise have the wisdom to show restraint.” Perhaps the greater daring for us is knowing how to be silent and truly listen more frequently. The same goes with writing. How quickly we can slap things on Facebook walls and post on our blogs. Reticence is a bit of a lost art. Sometimes, we let just a bit too much “hang out,” perhaps.

read itAnd many of us also have no trouble thinking either (or so we like to think). We have a multitude of opinions at the ready. Thinking about thinking, I find myself wondering what Adams would think about “Let us dare…to feel.” Answer: probably not much, considering his evaluation of poets: “Poets read history to collect flowers, not fruit; they attend to fanciful images, not the effects of social institutions.” And yet the same Adams wrote, “A man is never alone who has a poet in his pocket.”

But we are awash in feelings, aren’t we? No shortages of emoticons, effervescent expressions and outbursts with expletives thrown in at no additional charge – even though, ironically, so few of us, I feel, are in touch with the deeper subterranean ebbings and flowings of our feelings. Daring to truly feel is, IMHE (in my humble estimation) just as imperative a need as daring to truly think.

It is the reading that is so pivotal in this sequence, for me. Without generous, wide, and wise input from the

I so need one of these. yes, need.

I so need one of these. yes, need.

minds and thoughts of others we are left only with our own – and that can be a lonely, hollow space.

I love the dimensions of Adams’ reading. From ancient to modern, from Greek to Roman to European to American cultures; ancient sages to more immediate forefathers. Most of us, if we read, read far too narrowly. If we are religious, we read that narrow band of religious books that agrees with and confirms where we are; if we are irreligious we do the same. We read the books already bending in our direction. This is only natural. But how incredibly boring. Some well-meaning souls won’t read anything that isn’t heavily threaded with Scripture. Yet writers of Scripture used as their sources the non-canonical records of kings, ancient lore such as the Book of Yashar that is otherwise unknown to us, the Apostle finds truth in Athenian poets and Cretan prophets – while another quotes from Apocryphal books that Protestants ban from Holy Writ.

pick one

pick one

It’s just a thought, and this is really the point of this post, I think. The wider and deeper the reading, the richer the thought (and feeling!), the more inspired the speech, the more helpful and healing the writing.

Christ is sown wide in the world. From the mouths of infants he still ordains praise, and truth can still be heard in the braying of an ass (my personal, constant encouragement). And so in addition to a daily dipping into ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, I dip regularly into C.S. Lewis, into Merton’s musings, Rohr’s contemplations, Rilke’s lyrics, Rumi’s envisionings, and Kushner’s rabbinic wisdom. Such diversity of culture, time, language, religion – and yet how they track. Truth is truth, no matter who speaks it, many voices – Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, agnostic and atheist – forming one chorus, pronouncing his unpronounceable name, whether they know and want to or not, if we will but listen. Solo performances can be spell-binding – but, oh, the power of a mighty chorus.

oldies are goodies

oldies are goodies

So please. I dare you.

Take and read.

And the rest will follow…

* oh, and sapere aude? Latin. Dare to know. Dare you. I dare me.


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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Books, haverings


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