Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blogged out?

This blog will be two years in existence next month. I’ve contemplated here such subjects as writing and gardening and empty nests and front porches. I’ve vented my pent-up frustrations concerning daylight savings time, various church-related issues, and Christmas. Such therapy I have experienced here, publishing all these thoughts for the world to see. My soul is cleansed. Peace has come. Ahhhh...

I’ve heard of writers who fear that there are only so many books or articles within their souls and that they will run out things to write. And I’ve read books by people who show evidence that this may be true in their case. They keep on writing but it’s just the same story in different words. Comic strip writers are perhaps the ultimate example. My understanding is that Calvin and Hobbes rode off into the sunset on their sled because the cartoonist wanted to quit before he ran out of fresh ideas. (That last sled ride was a great disappointment to many of us.)

So will I quit writing? Will I lose interest? Will I quit blogging rather than sign up for a Google account and make the switch to the new ‘blogger’? (And on a side note, will I teach my wordprocessor words like “Google,” “blog,” and “blogger” so it doesn’t keep underlining them when I compose my initial drafts in the more stable environment of WordPerfect?)

I won’t quit writing. The therapy is too valuable. Writing takes the tangled thoughts in my head and spins them out into the orderly world of words. Sometimes there’s some loss in the process. I read somewhere that people can’t conceive of notions for which their language has no words. I’m not sure I totally agree (which is sort of silly since the person who published the statement has presumably invested much more thought and research into the matter than I have). It seems that my head and heart sometimes contain feelings and nagging impressions that go beyond my ability to line up words to express them. But maybe the problem lies less in a mismatch between what’s in my head and what can be captured by the English language and more in a simple lack of writing skills.

Writing is good therapy. Writing appropriate/useful/interesting thoughts for anyone and everyone who stumbles across this blog presents a different challenge. Many of the thoughts fighting for expression in my head are not particularly appropriate for public consumption. Deciding what to share with the world and what to keep to oneself can be complicated. Some are much more brave than others in that area. How does one find a balance between a) protecting the privacy of one’s own heart and that of others whose words and actions factor into one’s thoughts and b) allowing others to catch glimpses into one’s heart and soul?

You may be thinking that this is a “good-bye blog” post. It is not. I’m simply thinking out loud in light of the fact that it is time for a new post but there are no current topics in my head begging for public consideration.

So ... how many posts can I make about having nothing to post before you quit reading?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Best books ever?

Oops! I fell out of “active blog” status by letting more than a month elapse between posts. The holidays sprang upon me and I was sidelined for a while. But that’s all over now. We’re on to a thus-far-snowless January while Colorado hoards the entire country’s snow quota. OK, we’ve had a few flurries, but it has been mostly unseasonably warm with plenty of rain.

I’ve picked up my reading rate a little. Since my last post, I’ve read (or finished):
  • The Story of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
  • The Last Word and the Word After That by Brian McLaren
  • Growing Spiritual Redwoods by William M. Easom & Thomas G. Bandy
  • Gutsy Faith by Jeff Edmondson
  • Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, & Greg Call
  • The Gauntlet by James Street
  • Two books about Nazarene missions.

Plus, I’ve been working on the magazine backlog. I subscribe to too many magazines to keep up on reading them but I like them all so I keep renewing and they keep coming.

I’m not necessarily recommending the books on that list, by the way. I read them for various reasons. None were “the best book I’ve ever read”. Nor were they anywhere in competition for the worst.

Let’s see. What IS the best book I’ve ever read? (Of course, I need a disclaimer for not including the Bible in the competition since including it would immediately end the discussion and my ramblings.) How would one judge such a thing? Christianity Today recently made an interesting list of The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals. Is influence a good criterium for judging the value of a book? Should I pick the book that most changed my life? Would that speak to the overall value of the book or would timing be a factor? Was it the best book ever or simply the best book for me at a particular point in my life?

I suppose that for overall shift in direction prompted by a book other than the Bible, I would have to stretch back over 20 years to when I first read A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whithall Smith. But then I’m delving into ancient history. A copy of that Christian classic still occupies a spot on my bookshelf, but I don’t know as I’d call it the best book in my collection. It simply came at a good time for me.

Oswald Chambers’ daily devotional classic My Utmost for His Highest (put together by his wife after his death) would be another nominee for a “best book I’ve ever read” award based on influence. I’ve been through it several times and it has shaped my beliefs and left quotes in my head. It’s also still sitting on my shelves. I don’t know when I’ll read it again. Not this year.

Spiritual Leadership
by J. Oswald Sanders is a more recent entry into the competition. I need to read it again. I keep trying to find the original edition but that has proved difficult. Apparently, it was a book that begged for revision and commentary in its original form.

I suppose I ought to branch out beyond Christian nonfiction in my competition for “best book I’ve ever read”. In fiction, I’d head right to the classics - Dickens, Hugo, Twain. But which would be the very best? I’d need to review them all to pick one. Every time I pick one up, I am reminded that there’s a reason why the classics are still in publication. They truly have enduring value. I haven’t read any modern fiction that can compete with them, but maybe I’m just missing the good stuff. And in spite of a market flooded with new entries, George MacDonald who wrote in the late 19th century is still my favorite Christian romance writer.

Still, I keep reading new books, looking for another one that will open my eyes to new visions of truth. And I am changed by them. They tug on me and move me in this direction or that. Sometimes the move is almost imperceptible. Sometimes it’s more obvious, at least to me. Because I’m moved by them, I try to be quite selective in my reading diet.

Many have moved from print sources to film for their major influences. That’s not for me. The publishing world may be quite restrictive in whose words get into print and whose don’t, but it’s not nearly so limited as the world of film. How many movies come out each year that are worth watching compared to the number of books worth reading? Maybe I’ll investigate the answer to that question sometime. Meanwhile, I have a few more books to read. (I even updated my list of current reads on the sidebar.)