Monday, August 27, 2018

I Read It Twice Already: Inspired by Rachel Held Evans

Blogger was drunk in my previous draft. Let's try this again.

I sat with this book--Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans--for almost a month. I'd listen on audio for a while, rewind, start over, listen some more. After a while I became so desperate to annotate that I ordered a physical copy. After I'd finish a chunk of the audio, I'd re-read the physical text and write notes, observations, and underline...a lot. 

"Drawing on the best in recent scholarship and using her well-honed literary expertise, Evans examines some of our favorite Bible stories and possible interpretations, retelling them through memoir, original poetry, short stories, soliloquies, and even a short screenplay. Undaunted by the Bible's most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture's mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God's loving and redemptive work in the world."

In short, this book should probably be titled "Reading the Bible Like a Reader" but that's not nearly as catchy. Not convinced that Jonah was really swallowed by a whale? Unsure about miracles? Many-headed beasts with 10 crowns? 

RHE (my pet name for her) jumps into interpretations that integrate culture, history, and the instances when whether or not the stories within the Bible really happened just don't matter. This book looks the Bible's most confusing bits straight in the face and insists we can uphold a Christianity about inviting people to the table rather than asking them to leave. 

I admit, I'm already reading it again (on audio and in print). 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

In the Books, a July 2018 Wrap-Up

As I mentioned in my previous post, my reading went a bit bananas in July with the arrival of my Kindle. Here's a quick wrap-up and mini review of the books "In the Books" for this month.

Dog Man #2 A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey - Greyson loves this series to bits. I wasn't overly impressed with the first book, but this one definitely grew on me. There are plenty of fun classical literary references here for the adults.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans - This when reading really got its claws back into me. Rachel Held Evans is my favorite progressive Christian writer and memoirist. Her writing is equal parts thoughtful, beautiful, and smart. I listened to Inspired on audio--the best way to read her work--and I ordered a paperback copy while I was still listening in order to read and annotate. So yeah, I read it twice at once. lol

Bird Box by Josh Malerman - The result of Twitter recommendations! I asked my fellow readers for recommendations to scare the poo out of me, and this one fit the bill. It's about a mother and her children, set adrift in a world where they must remain blindfolded to avoid being driven to homicide by...something. While this book is scary as all get-out, it's also complicated and dreamy in a way that reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's The Road...but I liked this one even more.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt - Good, old school horror! A three hundred year old witch walks freely around Black Rock, appearing in homes, making a regular circuit through town, and generally bleeding into the background. But aren't those pesky townspeople always their own worst enemies? Read it and see.

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist - Another audio selection, Niequist writes about her daily life...the ordinary and extraordinary. It's not a new concept, but Niequest has a delightful writerly voice. I listened to this one on audio and almost wish I hadn't. Her reading is VERY FAST (I thought I had the speed up), and it loses some of its glory. I think I would've liked to slow down and read the words on the page myself.

Matilda by Roald Dahl - A re-read/re-listen. I never get tired of it.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol - I loved Ghosts by Brosgol, but I liked Be Prepared even more. Young Vera desperately wants to fit in with her friends, and she wants to go to camp! Her mother, though, sends her to a Russian sleep-away camp that is not quite what Vera was expecting or hoping. Think lower-key, introspective Lumberjanes.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - A great graphic novel in every way. This was another re-read. Just pick it up already.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne - So. Much. Fun! Another winning Twitter recommendation, this one is about Lucy and Joshua, high powered work rivals who just happen to have some sparks. A very endearing novel when the characters weren't always so endearing.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay - A thinking person's horror novel. A family's young daughter is seemingly possessed, or is she?  This novel is also a lot of fun with plenty of shout-outs to classic horror, both literature and film.

Hocus Pocus and the All New Sequel by A.W. Jantha - Hocus Pocus is always a good time and a MUST, even in July. The actual Hocus Pocus novel was JUST LIKE the movie which made it a nice comfort read, but the sequel was a new delight. I didn't expect much from the writing, to tell the truth, but it was good!

Don't call it a comeback! Ok, do.

What have you loved lately? 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

My Kindle Saved My Reading Life

Amazon Prime Day resulted in some off-the-cuff purchases that I don't regret even a bit because the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader seems to have salvaged my dreadful, uneventful reading life.  #sorrynotsorry

My reading slowed to a trickle in March. I was reading with Greyson over the summer, mostly adding the Dog Man Series to my Goodreads "Read" category. Audiobooks were fine on my commute to work, but I only commute one night a week during summertime, so I wasn't making any huge dents that way.

I spend so much time grading at my computer and tending to my online classes in general, that I now find reading on devices excruciating. My eyes are Just. Not. Having it. For whatever reason, my attention span generally can't handle traditional printed books.

I wasn't sure the Paperwhite was the solution, but I was willing to take the chance.

In the month since I've had my Kindle, I'm happy to report that I've downed 12 books. Most of those were actually on the Paperwhite, while a few snuck into the #24in48 readathon and Dewey's #ReverseReadathon via the iPad (comics are so much better on iPad).

I feel...lighter. I'm reading whatever I want to read, truly going with the flow, eating up samples, taste-testing books, and downloading what really grabs me. It's free range reading at its fullest, and it's working for me.

Do you know how much of a relief this is? I'm sure you do, reader, I'm sure you do.

Friday, June 29, 2018

What's In That Bible Exactly? Wrapping Up the Gospel of Matthew

Two months, 52 Bible pages transcribed, 260 journal pages written (Scripture + notes, commentaries, application, thought, questions), nearly two whole journals filled, three and a half pens used.

This is what it took to write The Gospel of Matthew, which is tied for the longest book of the New Testament, chapters-wise with Acts, at 28 chapters. Actual word count has Luke coming out on top, so I have no idea how many notebooks it will take the finish that one. I'll get there in time.

Throughout this experience of copying down and studying the first Gospel, I realized how much more I learn from slowing down, reading closely, sometimes multiple times through, and taking the time to delve into some commentary, and in some cases write notes on a verse or chapter's application in my life. No shit, right? I already knew this was a thing because I survived college and graduate school, but it did bring me closer to an understanding that I never would've felt by simply reading the words. No matter how many times through, I (personally, me) had to write them, spend an exorbitant amount of time with them, and read what others have said about them, eke out the history, search for the context.

This has been a phenomenally enriching experience and a humbling one as well. I can honestly say it's humanized Jesus for me in a way that I haven't felt since I was nine years old. As I was writing the final chapters, specifically Jesus's passion and crucifixion, my hands were shaking. I could see far too much familiarity in the angry, cruel, abusive crowds calling for His execution, turning on Him, spitting, berating, beating, crucifying.

It's also shined a light on how extremely perverted man can communicate the Word. Twisting it and turning it into a gatekeeper to keep people out rather than inviting them in.

I call bullshit.

Jesus is love. God is love. Period.

Images by Freepik