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September 2011

Reading...Why?

DSCF2858 "It is impossible to read too much, but always keep before you why you read.  Remember that 'the need to receive, recognize, and rely on the Holy Spirit' is before all else."  

      -Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God

 On the front wall of every elementary classroom I ever taught in I posted the slogan, "Readers are Leaders."  For seven years of my life I enjoyed the immense privilege of working as a teacher of elementary school students.  Reading was a high priority in my classroom.  I did everything I could to encourage my students to read.  I read books aloud to them, I talked with them about books that I was reading, I celebrated the books they were reading... I modeled for them a love of reading.  (It was easy, because I love to read.)  I told my students that if they ever had a spare moment in the classroom I wanted them to do one of three things--they could either (1) Read, (2) Read, or (3) Read.  (Fourth graders love this kind of stuff.)  I believed that reading would make my students better readers, better writers, better communicators and ultimately, influential people (leaders).

As a Christ follower, reading plays an important role in my spiritual formation and growth.  I love reading the Bible, books about the Bible and books about God's presence and work in and through the lives of people around the world.  My reading habit goes beyond the "religious" genre.  I read poetry, fiction, memoir, history, philosophy, biography and sometimes (but not often enough) I even read the directions.  As a Christian, I read so I can grow in Lord and so I can help others along the way in their spiritual journey with Jesus. 

Reading is a good thing and it is important, but Oswald Chambers reminds me that for a Christ follower there is something more important--the Holy Spirit.  Reading feeds the mind, but the Holy Spirit feeds and guides the heart.  The life of the mind, with all of its search for truth, analysis of facts, diverse viewpoints, critical thinking and intellectual creativity is delightful, but is subsidiary to the life of the heart.  Reading, learning and knowing are good (and from God), but "... 'the need to receive, recognize, and rely on the Holy Spirit' is before all else."  I like what Paul says in Ephesians 4:30 regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian:

"His [God's] Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself." (MSG)  

As a Christian read all you can, but always keep before you the question, "Why do I read?"  Do you read to acquire knowledge?... to gain power?  (It has been said that "knowledge is power.")  Do you read to become more Christlike?  Do you read to gain wisdom?  Do you read with your heart in mind?  The writer in Proverbs 4:23 refers to the heart (not the mind) as the "wellspring of life."

Why do you read?  Do you read to "lead" or to be "led"?  As Christians, I believe that we are called to do both.  In the life of the mind and in the life of the heart we are to rely on the Holy Spirit "before all else," allowing God to make us "fit for Himself."

I still like the slogan, "Readers are Leaders," but thanks to Oswald Chambers I have a new slogan to add to the wall of my classroom and/or office:

"It is impossible to read too much, but always keep before you why you read."



A Happy Life

Yes, it has been awhile since I have posted anything on this blog.  I don't have anything profound to say, but I do want to share with you a poem that I came across today.  I found it in a book that I am going through this year in my morning reading time.  The book is, A Diary of Readings by John Baillie.

I don't know about you, but I need to read most poems at last two or three times before I even begin to understand what is being said.  This poem is a good one.  Read it through, and by the third time you will know what I mean.

A Happy Life by Sir Henry Wotton

How happy is he born and taught

That serveth not another's will:

Whose armour is his honest thought,

And simple truth his utmost skill!

 

Who passions not his masters are;

Whose soul is still prepared for death,

Untied unto the world by care

Of public fame or private breath.

 

Who envies none that chance doth raise,

Nor vice; who never understood

How deepest wounds are given by praise;

Nor rules of state, but rules of good.

 

Who hath his life from rumours freed;

Whose conscience is his strong retreat;

Whose state can neither flatterers feed,

Nor ruin make oppressors great;

 

Who God doth late and early pray

More of his grace than gifts to lend;

And entertains the harmless day

With a religious book or friend;

 

This man is freed from servile bands

Of hope to rise or fear to fall:

Lord of himself, though not of lands,

And having nothing, yet has all.