Tuesday, August 21, 2012

25 Classics for 25 Years

It's hard to believe I'm 25 today. No, not in chronological years (don't I wish!), but more importantly -- spiritually.

Not everyone knows their spiritual birthday. I believe you can be truly saved without knowing the exact moment you passed from dark to Light. But I had the privilege of growing up in a house where I was taught about Jesus Christ, and the simple, true story that all people are fallen, and need a Savior. It was told to me time and time again at home and in church.
So, at a very young age, I distinctly remember sitting in church one Sunday evening at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, listing to our pastor, Randy Ray deliver a sermon. I was young, to be sure. But I realized that I didn't want to spend an eternity separated from Jesus. About all I knew then was that He was Love. And I wanted to be secure in that love for all time.
So I tugged at my daddy's sleeve and told him I wanted to be saved. Those were the days of walking the aisle and making a public profession of faith. That's gone out of fashion now, but I confidently walked that aisle with my parents at my side, and spoke with a dear saint whose name, sadly, I don't recall. What I do recall was how she simply explained the gospel to me -- that Jesus came to earth as a man, lived a perfect life that only He could, and rose again to gain victory over sin and death. And that if I would pray and ask him into my heart, he would come in and live there forever and be my Savior and my Lord.
I prayed a simple child's prayer. That's all it took. No more knowledge at that moment. Nothing I could do. I just asked. And He did what He promises He will always do. He saved me.
That sweet saint in her wisdom shared with me something, no doubt directed to a child, but that has stayed with me ever since. She asked me to hold out my hand and remember one thing. A promise He makes in His word. One word for each finger -- Jesus. Will. Never. Leave. Me.
And he hasn't.
Like any lifelong friendship, I've failed him more times than I wish. But I always found a loving place right back in my Father's arms. I've looked at prayer as a burden, when it's really a blessing. I've preferred self and the comforts of this world over my King and his Kingdom. And all the time, He has been faithful. I have learned and grown and made the faith my own, "working out my salvation with fear and trembling." I have experienced great victories and times of closeness with my God. I have sat under many more great men as pastors and mentors and teachers. I have read and questioned and faltered and strengthened again.
But Jesus has never left me.
I have so far to go. The beautiful thing is that I have a whole lifetime, and then eternity for this long race called sanctification. But I'll admit I'm a little sad to say sometimes I've been saved for 25 years. I feel I should be farther along.
So, it's in that spirit that I've decided to take a little self-inflicted course in Christianity. When I was young, my spiritual birthday was always marked in my house. I got a cake with my favorite verse written in frosting, and a present of a book or some music (most often a CD by my favorite, Steven Curtis Chapman) or a new Bible. So this year, I'm marking my birthday with a project.

I am a reader. The way I learn best is often by reading what others wiser than me have written. I've spent the last month jotting down some of the spiritual classics -- some I've read, many of which sadly I have not.

I plan to spend next year reading 25 of the Christian classics -- one for every year I've been saved. There were so many more that could have been on this list. I brainstormed, perused my own shelves, asked my spiritual mentors, searched in other books, blogs, and for friends' recommendations. At the end of the day, this was an extremely hard task. When there were cuts to be made, I erred on the side of cutting those I had already read, or had read recently, so this list is fairly personal to my year. But I truly feel that all 25 of these are classics and sure that they deserve a place on the shelf of any Christian's library.

I plan to read these 25 this year, as well as through the King's James Version of the Holy Bible. [I have read through the Bible-in-a-Year before in both the NIV and HCSB versions, which are fantastic for modern accuracy and ease, but there is something so poetic about the language of the KJV that I would like to experience.]
So, without further ado, here's the list of 25 books that I have settled on for 2012-2013:
  1. A Celebration of Discipline by Richard C. Foster
  2. Confessions by St. Augustine*
  3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. Desiring God by John Piper**
  5. Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe*
  6. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom*
  7. Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis
  8. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon*
  9. The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey
  10. Knowing God by J. I. Packer
  11. Listening to Your Life by Frederick Buechner*
  12. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis*
  13. My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers*
  14. On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius
  15. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
  16. Paradise Lost by John Milton*
  17. Pensees by Blaise Pascal
  18. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  19. Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  20. Saint's Everlasting Rest by Richard Baxter*
  21. The Saving Life of Christ by Major Ian Thomas
  22. The Search for Significance by Robert McGee
  23. A Shepherd's Look at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
  24. Six Hours One Friday by Max Lucado
  25. Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot
*Selection I have read at some time in the past, but plan to read afresh again.
**I read Desiring God only this year, but felt it absolutely deserved a place on this list, so I plan on substituting another of John Piper's writings. You can't go wrong with any Piper any day.
Which books would you have included? Which classics have I overlooked?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard (Chapter 1)

I recently read a book slightly out of my character -- Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard. It was recommended years ago by a beloved blog, Brocante Home. I purchased it, but set it aside. After all, the cover was a bit outdated (think, light blues and pinks). I thought it would be a bit touchy-feely old-fashioned home advice.
But I found it to be full of practical tips. Anytime you close the last page of a book wanting to improve, live a better life, and look out for the people around you, you know it was a worthwhile read. I already have a couple dear people in my life I plan to give copies to.
So, needless to say, I was underlining up a storm in these pages. Get ready for a host of fantastic inpiration! So much, in fact, that I've decided to break it up by chapter, lest this entry become a book in and of itself.
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour leads... - Samuel Johnson, the Rambler, November 10, 1750
"Rituals" is my term for patterns you creat in your everyday living that uplift the way you do ordinary things, so that a simple task rises to the level of something special, ceremonial, ritualistic.
I've observed in my communications with people all over the world the tendency so many of us have to concentrate our energies on things that are for special occasions rather than things we do, or use, every day. In design terms, this translates into working to get the living room just right, instead of concentrating on the rooms we spend the most time in, day after day -- the kitchn, bedroom, bathroom.... Such events comprise at the most 5 percent of our living time, and the remaining 95 percent is often merely walked through, in wistful anticipation of some later joy.... We want to enjoy all the days of our lives, and especially the time spent in the sanctuary of the home. Life is not a dress rehearsal. [Personal commentary: A dear roommate of mine looked beautiful every day. When I commented on my admiration for her taking care to do her makeup, hair, outfits beautifully everyday she replied, "Everyone always thinks something special happens to you -- an opportunity, meeting your spouse, anything -- on a special occasion, when you're dressed in a ballgown and have had your hair professionally set. But in reality, you're much more likely to meet your mate in class, or run into a lifelong friend, connect with a potential contact on a random Tuesday. You should look your best everyday."]
[In speaking of the author's mother:] I remember the fresh flowers on the table, the food attractively arranged on the plate and planned partly with color in mind.
Stimulating the senses through the details of daily acts makes work fun.
I have a friend who has made bill paying into a ritual. She puts Brahms on her stereo, she places an arrangement of flowers on her desk, she dresses in a fresh blouse and skirt so she is actually ready to mail her bills as soon as she's finished.
Taking time to make bathing a ritual -- using Chanel No. 5 or another delicious bathing gel, a terrycloth face mitt, a special almond soap, planning on allowing yourself to soak, read, sip a glass of orange juice, can give your whole evening a fresh beginning.
The same principle should apply to your dinner plates, glasses, a charming set of colorful napkins, placemats to cheer up breakfast. These special things become details of a breakfast ritual; kept on hand for constant use, they enrich each day.
When you think of a friend and actually sit down at a place you've designed as your writing table, with paper, pens and stamps all set up to dash off a note or card, this ritual can be effortless and pleasurable when you're all ready for it.
My husband keeps in touch with people from all over the world by sending clippings from newspapers and magazines. "Brown's Clip Service" is a sustaining daily ritual for Peter. If you rad something in the newspaper that triggers you to think of a friend, clip it and put it on your desk to send on with a note. [send mail, rather than email]
Another touch I appreciate is sealing a letter with wax. I keep several sticks of wax on my desk -- red, blue, green and purple.
Joyce Carol Oats, in her book Solstice, writes about the clock, pointing out that it runs in one direction only...
And making tasks into rituals actually saves time. It takes some effort in the beginning to think about and institute rituals, and to set up your home for them. But you also have the fun of creating them, and then they tend to sustain themselves and you. Rituals help you make the most of time and help you feel you have more of it because you are enjoying yourself more deeply as you flow through the day, adding touches that stimulate enthusiasm and give energy. Daily rituals help eliminate that enervating feeling of being constantly fragmented. A ritual is a mini-performance.
Daily rituals are personal statements.
All of us work. Whether paid of volunteer, at home or in an office, we should create our own little territory that we can personalize and make our own.
You can personalize your workspace through color -- colored folders, pencils and pens, desk accessories. Even the paper clips you use, whether they be gold-colored metal or in a variety of colors, can add just a little personal touch to your work.
I always have fresh flowers at my workspace, even if it's three daisies in a little vase. And I have a handful of my favorite books near me for inspiration and reference. A dictionary is always on my desk, covered with a print of still-life by Henri Fantin-Latour, my favorite flower artist.
If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; ... because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place.
[On rituals:] They reinforce the significance of the simple acts we perform repeatedly. [We have to do these things anyway, brush teeth, exercise, etc. Why not do them beautifully?]
People have always lived by ceremonies; the daily rituals you create allow you to make the most of what you have, and to stretch time by savoring moments.
Emily Dickinson lived most of her life in one house in Amherst; yet she wrote, "I dwell in possibility."
You can gain more control over your life by paying close attention to little things.
Values and rituals are intertwined; through rituals we can express our values, giving our lives dignity, vitality and joy.
Mark new seasons with childhood reminiscences: In spring, fly a kite, In summer, make a sand castle, In fall, rake leaves and go hiking, In winter, go for a walk in newly fallen snow.
Be three minutes early for your next appointment and wait calmly. While you'll show respect for someone else's time and life, you will also have time to compose your thoughts.
Have a friend bring you some pinon incense from Santa Fe to burn in your fireplace. Once you do, you'll be hooked.
Fast fixing up can be almost aerobic-like when you do it to jazzy music.
Buy a brightly colored exercise roll and do Yoga or sit-ups when you feel tense.
Take a few minutes to be alone several times each day.
Daydreaming can help the brain promote essential cross-circuiting of your creativity. Give your brain a nap; it will work smarter.
Walk to appointments. Program enough time to enjoy the sights along the way. Look up at the architectural detail, notice the window displays; browse.
Buy a set of thin water-soluble and long-lasting colored pencils. Fill a mug or glass with your favorites, and display them on your writing desk.
Make a personal source guide. When you discover a store that has products you like, make a note; order by phone or mail, if possible.
Have a special basket for the mail. It looks pretty, and it's fun to bring into the living room or library, to open at leisure.
For fans of: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
All quotes from Alexandra Stoddard and used here purely for personal review purposes.

New Directions

So, ladies and gentlemen (otherwise known as just myself), I haven't written on this blog in ages. Part of the reason is that I started it before blogging was really something that was all that outward. I was perfectly happy just to write notes to myself about this that and the other, including books.
So, since likely no one is disappointed when I'm silent on the subject for months or years on end, I've let it slide.
But just in case any of you out there are reading, I'm honing the use for this blog once again. It started on inspiration from a book -- Hugh Hewitt's In, But Not Of. Then it morphed into reviews of books I've read more or less.
Now, I plan on using it just to chronical beautiful bits of writing or ideas in those books I read.
I have a finely honed system of underlining, highlighting, dog-earring pages of books I read. But I so often want all those bits in one place. So now, I plan on chronicling those here once I've finished a particularly good book.
I don't promise I'll be much better. It could still be months or years between postings. That's up to the writers I read. I recently realized that if I keep up my present pace of about a book per week, throughout my life, I'll likely only read about another 2,000 books in my lifetime. While that's a big number, there are infinite numbers of excellent books out there, so it seems so limiting. I rarely reread a book, but I often want to go back through the great ideas from a book I've read and enjoyed.
So I'll be writing little bits here, or lots of bits, that I underlined in books I particularly enjoyed.
The End
Or is it the beginning?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Some girls at my work are starting a book club. One of the girls suggested a book by Jodi Picoult called My Sister's Keeper. I ran to B & N on my lunch hour to see if they had it, and, very unlike my favorite book store, they did not. I was disappointed, but left with 3 others (2 hilarious choices by Celia Rivenbark, and a children's book I read long ago and wanted to re-visit, The Callendar Papers) and a movie (The Bridges of Madison County... one of the few movies that lives up to the book's wonderfulness).
Later that night, my husband and I went to Panera (our deal was Sunday night we eat at Burger King... yuk, and watch Harry Potter for him, Monday night we eat at Panera, watch BoMC for me). There, lying on a shelf was My Sister's Keeper. I've noticed before a few books lying around on a shelf, but figured they were for education or something, so I never picked one up. I had some time, so was reading the poster, and this is the coolest concept: It's called BookCrossing. There are specified sites, or you can get stickers to designate a certain book as a swap book. You leave them lying around, wherever, and others pick them up, if interested. Each book gets it's own "call number" and you can register for free where you left one, or where you picked one up.
It reminds me of a time before we were worried about littering up the environment, when kids were allowed to release helium balloons with a message for whomever found it to contact the class who sent it off.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


As the summer reruns season is now upon us, I've had much more time to devote to the pursuit of chronicling the Gilmore girls library. Below is the complete list of all books mentioned in Season 2 of the Gilmore Girls. They've been reading a lot this time! Get thee to a library and do the same!

New York Daily News
Robert Benchley
Dorothy Parker
Anne Sexton
Bhagavad Gita
Steven King
James Reach-David & Lisa
Charles Dickens-Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol
Emily Post
Edward Albee-Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Weddings magazine
In Style Magazine
Susanna Kaysen-Girl, Interrupted
Samuel Beckett-Waiting for Godot
Mark Twain-Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Martha Stewart
Menchen's Chrestomathy
The New Yorker
Grimm's Snow White & Rose Red, Rapunzel
Stephen Hawking-Brief History of Time
Rebecca Wells-Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sinclair Lewis
Lord Byron
Hartford Courant
New York Times
Wall Street Journal
Collette biography
Lewis Carroll-Alice in Wonderland
Henry James
W.E.B. DuBois
Mitch Albom-Tuesdays with Morrie
Dr. Spencer Johnson-Who Moved My Cheese?
Compact Oxford English Dictionary
Virginia Woolf
Washington Post
Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Dawn Powell-Selected Letters
Allen Ginsberg-Howl
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Vincent Malay
William Faulkner
Gore Vidal
Eudora Welty
Victor Hugo-The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Harper Lee-To Kill a Mockingbird
Shakespeare-Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, Othello
Jane magazine
Washington Irving
Amy Tan-Joy Luck Club
Nancy Drew
Margaret Mitchell-Gone with the Wind
Architechtural Digest
Gustave Flaubert
Winston Churchill
Financial Times
L. Frank Baum-The Scarecrow of Oz
Ayn Rand-The Fountainhead
Ernest Hemingway
Lillian Hellman-The Children's Hour
William Congreve
Reader's Digest
Marcel Proust
New York Times Magazine
Vanity Fair
Tokutomi Roka-Letters to a Young Poet
J.D. Salinger-Franny & Zoe
Franz Kafka
Jack Kerouac
Charles Bukowski
Jane Austen
Mary Shelley-Frankenstein
Sherman's Memoirs
Motley Crue-The Dirt
Teen magazine
YM magazine
Seventeen magazine
Spin magazine
Rolling Stone magazine
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings-The Yearling
Kurt Vonnegut-Slaughterhouse-Five
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain-Please Kill Me
Katharine Butler Hathaway-The Little Locksmith
GQ magazine
Essentials of Economics
Richard N. Bolles-What Color is Your Parachute?
The Portable Nietzsche
Tom Wolfe
Emily Dickinson
New York Post
John F. Kennedy
Kate Douglas Wiggin-Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

Sunday, May 13, 2007

GiGi Goodbye...

I've long shared one major characteristic with a character of one of my favorite shows of all time--Gilmore Girls. As you all know, I (and Rory) love to read. And I've often said that just by observing Rory's love for books, and reading everything she read, one could get a wonderful education, at least in the literature department. After all, she did attend Chilton and Yale.
With the series finale this week, I thought what better of a time could there be to post some of what our favorite bookworm heroine was reading all these years. I own each season on DVD, and watch them frequently. Over the past months, anytime I've popped in an episode, I simply jotted down what Rory was reading, either for school or pleasure (usually both). Following is a rather extensive list of books to start with. And this is just Season 1!

Jack Kerouac
Mark Twain--Huckleberry Finn
Steven King
Herman Melville--Moby Dick
Gustave Flaubert--Madame Bovary
Robert Burns--To a Mouse
Leo Tolstoy--War & Peace, Anna Karenina
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Charles Dickens--David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, Little Dorit
George Sand
Honore de Balzac
William Shakespeare--Romeo & Juliet
Martin Luther
Mencken's Chrestomathy
Christopher Marlowe
Francis Bacon
Ben Jonson
John Webster
Alexander Pope--An Essay on Critism
Virginia Woolf
Jacqueline Susann--Valley of the Dolls
Oliver North
Roald Dahl--Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
fairy tales--Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty
Emily Dickinson
Jane Austen
Hunter Thompson
Charlotte Bronte
Judy Blume
Tennessee Williams--A Streetcar Named Desire
Mary McCarthy--The Group
The New Yorker
Dorothy Parker
William Gibson--The Miracle Worker
Franz Kafka--The Metamorphosis
Wall Street Journal
Financial Times
Marcel Proust--Swann's Way
Michael Crichton
Walt Whitman
Sylvia Plath--The Bell Jar
Lewis Carroll
In Style magazine
Miguel de Cervantes
Compact Oxford English Dictionary
Dr. Seuss--The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Illustrated Encyclopedia
Nancy Drew series
Edward Albee--Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Friedrich Nietzsche
James Joyce--Ulysses
Isak Dinesen--Out of Africa
Henry James--The Art of Fiction
The New York Times
John Muir
Henry David Thoreau

Did I miss any?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Cleaning!

I've been Spring Cleaning all morning, and one of my most anticipated projects was to color-coat my bookcase. I saw this a few months ago in House & Garden magazine, and adored the idea. It's so much more aesthetically pleasing than alphabetically order, and I still don't think I'll have too much trouble finding anything I want. Whatdya think?

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Ok, so those of you that know me, know two things:
1. I love books.
2. I have an addictive personality.

These two things manifested themselves at my lunch yesterday, after I finished a scrumptious book, over a chicken salad sandwich at Panera. I simply had to read more of Elizabeth Berg, after having finished The Year of Pleasures. So, I jotted over across the street to my beloved Barnes and Noble, thinking I'd reward myself with a book or two, after a long morning of disasters (woke up late, iron broke, was out of gas, forgot to send a really important email, overdue library book notice... so buying things always make me feel better).
In reading the book descriptions on the back cover, I couldn't decide between 2 of many titles they had in stock, then 3, 4, 5... I definitely left B & N with 12 of Ms. Berg's books.
If this doesn't tell you something about how immensely I enjoyed Year of Pleasures (or how much reading time I've got sans husband for a few days), I don't know what will.
You simply must run out and buy everything you can of this brilliant author. I'll keep you updated on the next of hers in my stack, Durable Goods.

See, sometimes Oprah does discover a gem!