Southern Heights Presbyterian Church

5750 South 40th Street - Lincoln, NE - 402-421-3704 Worship Sundays at 10:30

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Filtering by Category: #abookaweekforlent

#abookaweekforlent The End of Lent

When I was young...like, really young...my parents would have to hide my books, place me outside, and lock the door on me. (Don't fret, it was a fenced in back yard, in full view of the kitchen window. Plus it was the early 1980's. No worries). They would do this because they loved me, and they wanted to make sure that I spent time playing outside.

Let me repeat that: My parents would hide my books and lock me outside to make sure that I played outside. 

I share this story simply because I think that it illustrates how important reading has always been to me. How much I love reading. How much I love the knowledge of non-fiction books and the worlds and people opened up to me through fiction books. How important books and reading to me have always been. 

Which is why I am sad, truly sad, to say that my title for this post is:

#epicfail

Here we are, on the Monday after Easter, and, as I sit at my desk, sucking down the much needed cup of coffee, I must take a moment to confess: My little Lenten experiment/discipline of reading a book a week for Lent was a total and complete failure. I only read two and a half books out of my planned seven. (Well, not a complete failure then, I suppose, since I did get some reading done...)

I suppose that part of it was that I shouldn't have chosen a 400 page autobiography to kick it off (which only happened because I had been on the library waiting list for two months for that book, and there was about a four month long waiting list behind me. I didn't want to lose the chance to read it!). And part of it was the reality of the lack of reading time available when you take a three year old on a train trip to Chicago for a week. And part of it is that the only time that I have to myself is those quiet hours between when Little Man goes to bed and when I do, but that lately he's been fighting that magical time, and wanting me sitting right there beside him as he falls asleep. And part of it was the reality of the busyness of the season of Lent, particularly Holy Week. And part of it, quite frankly, was the fact that I simply set the bar pretty high. 

I know all of these things, and they make pretty good excuses for not doing the reading that I had planned on doing...but I don't want excuses. Because I wanted to read. I wanted to stretch myself to make and find the time in my life schedule to do the reading that I want to do.

I'm always saying that you make time for that which is really important to you....what does the fact that I only got two and a half books read during my planned period of reading seven books because I simply didn't have the time say about the importance of books and reading to me?

It can't be that it's not important. As I illustrated above, books and reading have always been very important to me. But, even with having challenged myself, I just simply couldn't find the time, or the energy, to do the reading that I had wanted to do. 

#graceabounds

But maybe I should have titled this post this, instead. Grace abounds. Because, more than anything else, this little experiment of mine has challenged me to think about that thing that I always say about making time for the things that are important to you, quite frankly often in judgement when others simply state that "I would love to, but I just don't have time". I guess I always figured that it was an excuse. A cop-out. a nice way of getting out of something. But, the reality is that, in our world today, it very much so is a possibility that someone simply doesn't have time to make time for the things that are important to them. Because there's a whole lot of things that are important...we're all just making judgement calls on what is more, or the most, important for us.

Sometimes, we'll mess it up. Sometimes we won't get it right. And sometimes we'll feel as if we're missing out on something that we desperately need, and look with longing on in it. 

But, in the midst of all of that, it's important to remember that grace abounds. 

Grace abounds when we have to make judgement calls about what is more important than something else. Grace abounds when we get it wrong. Grace abounds when others get it wrong. 

Grace abounds...and hopefully we'll figure it out and get it right. 

And now, I will take some time...and read a book. 

#abookaweekforlent week 1

Pioneer Girl 
The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder

When I first heard that this book was going to be released, I was excited. Flat out excited. Like so many women and girls, I grew up on the Little House series, reading and dreaming about life on the prairie in a little sod cabin. When I was young, on one of my family's epic summer vacations, we went to DeSmet, South Dakota, and to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum there, where we learned more about the life that the Ingalls family lived there. I remember being particularly struck by the description and the demonstration about how the family (and most other residents of DeSmet that winter) would twist hay into sticks for fuel in order to survive, a process that would cause their hands to bleed.

And it's with that memory that I begin my reflections on this book. As autobiographies go, it is beautiful and unique because it, quite literally, is Laura's memoirs that she decided to sit down one day and write. It's not the more polished versions that were marketed to magazines and periodicals (the story of which is lovingly detailed by the editor of this edition), but instead is complete with poor spellings, rambling thoughts, and stories that are out of order. In that way, it is an incredibly nostalgic look at life on the prairie post Civil War, just as the frontier was opening up. It's a look back at a life, a story to share so that the story will not be forgotten. 
It's also nostalgic, in a way, for us who grew up on the books, because it gives us an inside look at the life depicted in the fictional family's life. It also helps us to understand a bit better, perhaps, some of the decisions that the family made as far as the constant moving and changing of careers, locations, and so on. 

But that's where the nostalgia also become so not nostalgic. Because the stories that are shared through this autobiography aren't the polished, moral-laden, children's stories, but instead are the hard and harsh realities that families and individuals really faced on the frontier. Starvation, isolation, death, and so much more. Much has been made in reviews of the stories revealed about Wilder's experiences in Iowa (a chapter of her life that was completely left out of the books), stories that definitely torpedo any illusions that we might have about how idyllic life at the time was. 

The story that is told here is real. It is really real. Beautifully so, as it describes a life that was not only lived, but survived and celebrated. It tells a story of how important family and community and faith are to tackling and surviving the chaos of the realities of life (in fact, I would say that it is safe to say that without any one of these three, the family simply wouldn't have made it, at least not coming out on the other end as strong as they did). It is beautifully real because it is the truth of life, not the polished versions that we like to tell...but the honest truth of what makes us who we are. 

And what a beautiful thing that is. 

#abookaweekforlent week .5

Last week, I posted about my #abookaweekforlent personal Lenten discipline/project. This week, I am going to share with you about the first book that I read for it. Because of the lag time in the posts (the introductory post coming about during the first full week of Lent, which is actually the week that I read the second book), posts will come about two weeks after the week I read a book. So, the first book, which I read the week of Ash Wednesday, is being posted during the second full week of Lent. Clear as mud?

The main reason for this lag is that it gives me a little bit of time after I read a book to digest it and think about my reaction to it and develop more fully some thoughts about it. 

So, here we go.

 
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I picked this book up on a whim, actually, one evening as LittleMan and I were drifting aimlessly through the aisles of Target. There it sat on the shelf and, as much as they say that you can't judge a book by it's cover, the reality is that sometimes you buy a book just based off of the cover. And the cover drew me in. 

I took it home, and it sat for a few days, until, one evening, as I sat near LittleMan's bed as he drifted off to sleep, I started to read.

And, from the beginning, the story drew me in as much as the cover had. The book is told in two stories, the story of what happened in the house in the 1890's, and the story of what is happening in the house in the current day. It is also told from the perspective of a number of different characters, which the author does quick successfully. 

There's a few places where the author I think lost a few great opportunities to expand the narrative, trim the narrative, or a make a character more sympathetic. There's also a character who gets dropped out of the conclusion entirely, leading me to wonder where he went...as I had fully expected him to return to the house shortly, and his arrival would have changed the course of the story significantly. 

All that said, though...those are minor nitpicks. Because the real gift of this story is the underlying narrative of dealing with grief, and the lengths that people will go to in order to avoid losing a beloved person (particularly a child). It also delves deeply in the affect that grief has on us, our physical, mental, and emotional state, and how it can mess with our entire sense of reality, morality, and self.
Of course, I can't give away too much without giving up the whole plot of the novel, but I think that the very concept is thought provoking and worthy of a bit more reflection and thought....particularly the idea of how far we are willing to go to avoid dealing with loss and grief.

I am particularly intrigued by this aspect of the book because I believe that grief and loss is something that we, in our culture today, do not deal with very well. We have distanced ourselves from death quite significantly, and, in many ways, we have sanitized death to the point that it seems unreal. We do everything within our power to put off death, often to the point where I question if it is more about avoiding the loss than giving the person life. 
Children, in particular, are not exposed to death, or often even illness, so that the first time that they end up attending a funeral, often as an adult, they don't know what to do or how to react. 
The goal of living forever has become the ideal (or perhaps always has been), but we don't think about the cost of immortality. 

I think that, as hard as it is to lose someone (and trust me, I have experienced great personal loss in my own life), grief is compounded by our cultural avoidance of it...and, as a result, the pain and the emotional cost is growing. 
On the other hand, if we were able to work towards a healthier sense and understanding of death, dying, and what we believe and understand about it all...well, I think that it would lead us to, in general, a healthier grieving process and, overall, a healthier and happier outlook on our own lives.

What do you think?

Warning: This book does have paranormal themes and has a bit of violence, some involving children. Also, it describes the death of children. It's an important plot point, which the novel hinges on, but if it's something that acutely bothers you, you might want to give the book a pass. 

#abookaweekforlent

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” - Ferris Bueller

A friend and I were recently talking about the movies that were nominated to receive Oscars. We were talking about the movies that we had heard about and which ones we wanted to see. She asked me if I had seen any of them, and I found myself scoffing and saying, “I don’t get to watch movies anymore.” And then I realized that I had recently said the same thing about any number of different things that I love to do. I’ve said it as if these things were

“I don’t get to do that anymore.”
It’s code for “I’m too busy.”
It’s code for “I’ve got too much else to do.”
And it’s time for that to stop.

Our lives have become so incredibly busy. Between work, family, activities, and so on and so forth, it seems that we have something to do every moment of every day.
There are things and people that are pulling at us from all directions, demanding our time, our energy, our attention.
And as we go along, living in the midst of this incredible busyness, we start to drop things out of our lives that we see as things that we can do later...things that we later see as luxuries and not necessities. Things like reading, spending time with our significant other, coffee and conversation with friends...even prayer.

But the reality is that these very things that we drop out of our lives in order to make room for the busyness of our lives...they are the very things that we need in our lives in order to have the strength and the stamina to handle the busyness of our lives. They are things that take us outside of ourselves and feed our souls. They are the things that renew our spirits and expand our horizons.
We need these things in order to sustain our lives. We need these things in our lives in order to enjoy our lives.
We need these things.

And so, for me, I’ve decided to do something about it. For the season of Lent this year, I have chosen to take on a spiritual discipline of reading. I’ve set the bar pretty high, I know...I’ve challenged myself to read at least one book a week (fiction, non-fiction, whatever) in order to get me back in the rhythm of taking the time to read. I am hopeful that I will find myself renewed in many ways at the end of this 6 and a half week period of time.
Will you join me in the Lenten discipline of challenging yourself to engage in something that you love and that renews you? I pray that, if you do, you too may find yourself renewed and lifted up in many ways.

“He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8 CEB