The Sampler (3-31-20)

We have an Invisible Coat Rack at our church. People see it only when they need it. After they deposit their coat, the rack disappears. The coat is forgotten forever. The rack never has less than four coats at a time.

As I meander through books, magazines, and the vast expanse of the internet, I go back for the coats I left hanging for later. A well-written article is worth the effort. Assuming I have plenty of shallow stuff in my life, I look for things that are deep and demand another look. I graze to find things worth digesting.

I’m rarely able to give these things the attention they deserve at first glance, so I save them for times that I stop for reading and reflection. So, here’s the stuff I can’t let go. I’ll send posts like this with the following things in mind: articles, essays, blog posts, books, podcasts, sermons, lectures, and other tools or sites that I keep revisiting. What are you enjoying lately?

Articles

Cal Newport writes on the Deep Life, as good an argument as any for reading Digital Minimalism. I’m on my third trip through that book this year.

Seth Godin asks: Is everything is going to be okay? That depends.

Greg Morse of Desiring God compels me to sing my loved ones home.

Listen Up

I’ve been listening to a political podcast called The Argument. It has all the heat but plenty of light. Short, irenic debate amongst these New York Times writers: Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg, and David Leonhardt.

Books!

I’ve already mentioned Digital Minimalism, but an easy second is Made to Stick by the Brothers Heath. These guys are to writing what Anthony Fauci is to COVID-19. When they speak, you listen.

My Psalter for all occasions, I carry it with me wherever I go. Crossway knows how to creatively print Bibles:

IMG_20200328_163948

BL

Rules of Parenting

In a recent newsletter, Comment magazine senior editor Brian Dijkema shared the following rules of parenting, and I heartily approve:

  1. Always be reading.
  2. Let your children know that you will ignore them by ignoring them in favour of what you are reading. Why? See 1. For exceptions, see 3 below.
  3. Unless they want to read with you. Then always read with them. Why? See 1. But also, allows you to exhibit the infinite nature of love. Yes, you love reading. Yes you love your children. Don’t choose. Read to your children because you love them as persons, but also because you love books. (Infinite love of children) (infinite love of reading) = more love. Does this make any sense? See 4 below. Any special instructions? See 5 below.
  4. Maybe not, but who cares? I’m still reading.
  5. No need for instruction (with one caveat, see 6 below): children are by nature drawn to a reading adult like a moth to a flame. At some point they will lean against you to the degree that you will tip over. Embrace this.
  6. Read good books, and be absolutely ruthless in not reading bad books. Isn’t this elitist? See 7 below. Also: read with some modicum of expression, please. Does this mean you need to do voices? See 9 below.
  7. No. The world wants you to attend to slop. Find the pearls. How will you find them? See 8 below.
  8. Start with Glady Hunt’s Honey for a Child’s Heart. She’ll train your eyes and ears. Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family isn’t bad either.
  9. Of course, poppets! When else will you get to mimic a totally unreliable and catastrophic Toad without being taken in for questioning?
  10. Don’t let the age of your children force you to stop reading aloud. Apply rule 1 to rule 3.
  11. All of the above applies to you if you’re single or without kids. Find someone to read aloud to. They will love you for it. See rule 1.

BL

A Young Man Builds His Library in Hope

A young man builds his library in hope. Each paperback treasure is acquired as an act of aspiration. A library is an image of the man he hopes to be: the canon he constructs is a standard of what he thinks he ought to know. It grows quickly, in unexpected ways, exceeding his attention. But there will always be more time to read, right?
A middle-aged man tends his library with a more sombre aspect. Reshelving a book unfinished is one more failure, a door one closes perhaps never to return. When I put The Noise of Time back on the shelf, I recall all the places Barnes has accompanied me on this adventure. But I see some of his novels still unread and wonder if I’ll ever get back to this corner of the library. In fact, it was Barnes who gave me a word for this: le réveil mortel—the wake-up call of mortality. Who knew tidying your library could be such an existential risk?
At some point you realize: I will die with books unread on my shelf. So be it. The grass withers, the flowers fade, the pages become mildewed and musty. So too will I.   Even those unread books are a sign of aspiration, ambition, hope. I’ll die reading. I trust there are libraries in the kingdom.
~James K.A. Smith, in a lovely post- Mortality and My Library. It reminds me of a similar statement Lewis gave in an address to students:
If I say to you that no one has time to finish, that the longest human life leaves a man, in any branch of learning, a beginner, I shall seem to you to be saying something quite academic and theoretical. You would be surprised if you knew how soon one begins to feel the shortness of the tether: of how many things, even in middle life, we have to say “No time for that,” “Too late now,” and “Not for me.”
This talk was published as Learning in Wartime. Do you feel the shortness of the tether? Like Smith, with God’s help, I will die reading. I’m also going to raise four readers. There is some measure of comfort in knowing that the quest will continue.

To read

Since I tend to avoid book lists, this short list of my own probably requires justification. There are a small handful of authors that I try to read faithfully and studiously pursue their recommendations. I was delighted to find several of these authors publishing one after another during the last year.