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Living a Whole Year in Three Months
I’ve been writing this newsletter for seven months now, and twice weekly for three of those. January, February, March. Crikey, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s only been three months since Christmas, they have been so well spent. So well spent that I’m, well, spent. A while back I set myself a goal of writing enough to fill a book, no matter what the content was, and now I’m finally at the point that I can say I’ve done that! At some point in the next couple of weeks I’ll be having that book, full of these articles, printed so I can keep it on my shelf. I find goal setting, which I call Teleography, really helpful, but the greatest encouragement to me has been all of you who have read this newsletter consistently throughout the past seven months, however recently you joined, I’m so thankful you did. I hope that you’ve been encouraged along the way, my intention in writing is always to love God and love People, particularly by trying in my small way to help prepare people to read much greater works than I could ever write, but also to read the greatest work ever written.
A couple of years back I ended up in the Ophthalmology department of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, my eye was throbbing with pain and in all honesty, if I shared the only photo we have of what it looked like I might have to put an age restriction on the article. It was not particularly good news. I still don’t fully understand what happened, but ever since every time I go to the Opticians they have a field day, everyone comes to have a look. Following the treatment parts of my lense broke off and got lodged in my eye. It’s like having little diamonds in my eye which refract the light coming in and so now I have glasses that help me to remain focussed on what I’m reading, or writing, rather than looking off in different directions. I still have to close that eye from time to time in order to get a grip on what’s in front of me, but the reality is that I’m mostly used to the new sight the glasses give me now.
When I started this newsletter one of my intentions was the write book reviews, not just to let people know how great a book is, but why they should read it and how.
I’ve always read books with this in mind to some extent, but it’s usually been a secondary goal. Before now I read books mostly for what I could learn from them, but now having broken my prior way of reading and am now reading with new review spectacles on, I’ve found that not only am I able to retain more and enjoy more, I’ve gotten a new and distinct appreciation for reading which I haven’t had before. Sometimes I still find myself shutting one eye, squint, and read like I used to, but on the whole, I’d never want to go back. Helping others to read well has helped me to read better than I ever have before. This isn’t the first time this has happened. When I was younger I fell in love with Shakespeare and subsequently lost my love of reading anything else, nothing could compare to the summers breeze that the bard’s words evoked. Then came Sanderson, a man who is unparalleled in our age both in his speed and in the depth of his plots and characters. I devoured his books in my mid-teens, learning again to love the written word. Then came German, I’d moved countries and so in my late teens and early twenties I read Schiller, Goethe, Schnitzler and others who taught me that beautiful writing transcended the grammar conventions I’d grown up with, and they showed me not only how to bend verbs to my will, but also what a tool sentence structure can be in the right hands. The point is, wherever you are on your journey, whatever you’re currently reading, there is always more.
This might sound daunting, but I don’t mean it to be. If you read one more book this year than you did last year and love it, that’s brilliant, if you read a hundred but remember none of them, you might as well have read nothing at all. It’s not in the quantity but the quality of your reading that you’ll find the gems.
Of all the books I’ve read so far this year, four stand out the most.
If you’re not sure what to read—maybe you set a new years resolution that you haven’t kept, or you’ve been reading my reviews for some time but haven't fixed upon one to get stuck into—here are the four I recommend most highly.
Mission Affirmed by Elliot Clark
“If you’re in a church, you are on mission or you should be to a greater or lesser degree. I am not saying you should go out and be a missionary to foreign lands, but rather that there is work to do right where you are. What’s more, at some point in the course of that mission, you will most certainly wrestle with pride, whether it’s yours or someone else’s this sin is so pervasive that it must be faced. I know that I struggle with pride on a daily basis, it’s a sin I have to mortify more often than I care to admit. If you agree with any of that, you should go and pick up this book.”
We Go On by John Onwuchekwa
“Don’t read this book, listen to it, or read and listen to it. Most of the time when I see that an author has read their own book I roll my eyes, I almost didn’t buy this book for that very reason. Narrators are artists in their own right, most of the time it’s far better to let them do the work. This is not one of those times. John has a voice that cannot disguise or hide emotion. The best example of this is at the end of the book, I’m fairly certain that John closed the recording, turned off the mic, and cried. John doesn’t just know what he’s talking about John feels what he’s talking about. Go and listen.”
Rembrandt is in the Wind by Russ Ramsey
“These ten chapters were written for the Church. Each one complemented the other, carefully crafted by Russ Ramsey not just to tell the stories of artists—or art—throughout the ages, but to reveal something greater. Ramsey has done this through colour, with style, and by exhibiting a part of himself. In short, Ramsey has done to a page with the pen what many artists have done with the brush, he has sought to glorify God and leave behind something which will help others to enjoy Him forever.”
Mission of the Triune God by Patrick Schreiner
“I have this book on Logos (like an eBook) but from what I’ve heard and can tell the physical version of this book is not made to withstand a lot of damage. It will look battered before it even gets to your door.
That. Is. Not. A. Bad. Thing.
What that means is that you will not feel bad about chucking this in a bag, taking it with you, making sure it’s on your person and that you do not forget it. It means you can stick post-it notes throughout, highlight and underline, thoroughly beat the book to bits and make it your own. This is the kind of theology you wrestle with, do the same with the book.”
My wife Anna and I are currently in the process of moving to a different city, which has included getting ourselves ready to attend and serve at a new church, getting rid of more things than we knew we had, and planning long-term for the future careers and dreams that we have been sitting on for some time.
Though we’re moving physically, we’ve also found ourselves moving to a new mindset as we do so. Suddenly things seem to be more peaceful, more stable, and we’re both in a place in our lives that we’re really happy with. As I mentioned before, I set out to write enough to fill a book, not so I could publish it, or so I could even sell any copies, but I’ll be able to hold up the book and say, “I wrote this.”
If you’ve been struggling to read for any length of time now, or there’s a book you’ve promised yourself you’ll make it through, but it’s just not happening, can I encourage you to put that book down, read those reviews and pick one to read. They aren’t long books, but they’ll do you a tonne of good. Once you get to the end, you’ll be able to hold up the book and say, “I read this.”
Like my writing, holding that book up will encourage you on. Knowing you can get through one can help to get the next one read, and the next, and the next.
Why not get moving, make a physical decision to read, pick up the book which interests you most. Make a mental move to read, and don’t just read for reading’s sake, make the choice to read well, look out for anything you’re hoping to learn, find themes, even noticing odd quirks in the writer’s language can help.
Whatever you do, get moving.
Grace and Peace,
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