Stretching my brain a few pages a day.

Ahhh… books.  Summer’s here, and for a lot of people, that means a stack of paperbacks and a beach towel.  As always, I used my summer birthday to get a small pile of wanna-read, need-to-read, and gotta-read titles; the only problem is deciding what to tackle first!  Tim Challies’ blog has a fantastic 2016 reading challenge (I know, I know, I’m a little late).  But I actually did list out a dozen books I wanted to get to this year, and slowly, I’m working my way through them.  On my list?  Les Misérables (thought it would be tough but I’m loving it!), Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (started it and lost steam), Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (really great — now I’m reading some of his poetry, which is even better), The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King (it is staring at me from the bookshelf), Tim Keller’s book on prayer.

One on my list I’ve been chipping away at on and off for a few years.  It’s called Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups,  edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith — two guys from one of those little Quaker colleges in the midwest.  Michael assigned it for a class, and I’ve been meandering through it ever since.

I LOVE this book.  When I finish it I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and do it again.  Here’s the thing.  When you find an author or a style that you like, you tend to go back again and again, and maybe, after some time, you find yourself kind of stuck in a rut.  You read people who think like you.  You start to hear all of the same conversations repeated by new voices.  Yeah?  You can relate, right?  But this book is a survey of some pretty stinking amazing people over the span of 2,000 years of history.  It’s devotional, so you can dip a toe in without committing to the diving board (hello, 1,200 pages of Les Mis).  It’s a perfect kick-start to reading the Bible, just the right length for a cup of coffee.

Some of these folks are deep end of the pool thinkers (OK, most of them are.)  Some are mystics.  Some are poets.  Some are missionaries, scholars, monks, people the world was not worthy of (and yet the world has forgotten.)  There are folks in here who strike me as flat-out crazy and others who make me weep, people who challenge my assumptions and my complacency.  I could crank through this book in a short time, but I’d rather keep going my lazy way through, because there are words in this book that float around in my mind for a week or two if I don’t rush past.

Hmm… let me give you a few quotes to chew on.

There is no Christian who does not have time to pray without ceasing.... No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience.

There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.

The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening. The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration...

What if a few pages a day could change your life?  What are you reading?


Camping is when the weatherman said 65 degrees but the thermometer says 35, or the weatherman said 70 degrees but the thermometer says one hundred and freaking fifty two.  Camping is when you lay aside all of your modern conveniences and hearken back to the day of lugging water, rubbing sticks together, and peeing in the woods.  Hello, poison ivy!  Camping is when you realize you are not smarter than a 5th grader, or a boy scout, or yourself 30 years ago.

Camping is when you work really hard all day long so that you can relax for the weekend.  “Relax” means get eaten by mosquitoes, lay on a bumpy pile of sharp rocks to (not) sleep, and eat burnt food three times a day.

Camping is when you can’t check your email or get cell phone service or watch the news and the only thing tweeting is a bird.

Camping is when you sing dumb songs like “Greasy Gobs of Gopher Guts” and “It Only Takes a Spark” and eventually some really sweet songs by Rich Mullins and you might get a little bit teary-eyed remembering the first time you sang those songs around the campfire.

Camping is definitely s’mores.

Camping is wet shoes and wet butts and rain, and dry mouth and sunburn and snakes, and the most ridiculous view of the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen in your whole, entire life.

It’s the Milky Way spangled across the sky, and the shrieking of too-cool teenagers who sound suddenly like they’re about eight years old, and upside-down mountains in the lake.  It’s letting the dogs off the leash, and ice cream cones at a small town gas station, and the sharp snap of a stick in the dark.  It’s a shy deer at dawn and a silent moose at dusk and a flash of fur through the trees.  What was that?

Camping is summer.  Can’t wait.DSCN0433