What IS a bookmarked life?

Bookmarked Life Sidebar ButtonIf you’ve seen the new site design (if you read in a reader or over email, click over to the full site to see what I mean), you may have wondered at the new subtitle, “Building a Bookmarked Life.”

Writing book reviews here is one way that I process the books I read, and really take the information I learn into my life–whether it’s a life tip from a non-fiction book or a better understanding of a culture or time period from a piece of fiction.  I don’t just want to read for diversion–although certainly reading is a worthy leisure activity purely on its own merits!–I want to be changed and challenged by the books I read.

As our culture becomes more and more geared toward quick hit information, I think it’s getting harder to really interact with ideas unless you’re careful to keep up your ability to interact with longer arguments and deeper stories.  I’m not satisfied with superficial “three ways to revolutionize your productivity by Tuesday” type articles or 30 second clips purporting to explain global issues.  I don’t think other people are ok with it either.  

But how can we fit in what Plato called “the examined life?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time to sit around contemplating my navel.  Life is full and moves at a fast pace.  I get that–I have four kids, I homeschool, I have a job, I keep this blog and a few other personal writing projects on the side…and I know some of you are way more busy–but I think that makes it even more important not to skate by on the surface of life.  I’d love to spend hours a day reading, but even though I don’t have that kind of time in this phase of my life, I pick up a book when I can and consider what I’ve learned as I go about my day.  What I make time to read has changed me and has had a profound impact on the way I do all of life.

The bookmarked life is about carving out time–whether long chunks or a few moments here and there–to read more deeply, to think about ideas more carefully, and to let what you read impact you and make your life richer.  It may seem like we can’t afford to make time for that, but I sort of think we can’t afford not to.

Word(s) of the Year: Double Down

DSC_0343When I read The One Thing recently, I was struck by the author’s statement that sometimes instead of filing your goals down to be more manageable, you need to think big and double down on things that are really important to you.

My one word goal for 2014 was grace.  Often throughout the year the word was a reminder to stop beating myself up for mistakes, to let go of perfectionism, and to extend compassion to other people (especially my family).  I read books on grace, studied God’s grace, and found it to be a good theme for the year.  I hope to continue putting that knowledge into practice.

But as I did my end-of-year thinking and praying and planning and goal setting, I increasingly felt like I needed to do some hard things.  Some big things.  I think I may be ready for a push year, and so when I started thinking of a one word goal for 2015, I kept coming back to the idea I read about, like maybe when it comes to my goals and building habits in 2015, I need to take my foot off the brake and double down.

It’s two words.  I know.  Warn me if the One Word Goal Police catch on to me.  🙂

I’m excited about the year ahead.  I made goals for every role of my life as I usually do, but this year I chose a big reach goal for each category.  I may not accomplish all of them, but if I double down I’m sure to get somewhere!

As usual, I’ll be reading–history, fiction, education, life management, read-alouds for the kids–but I’m also excited to delve into a couple of books about language learning and we’ll see what other interesting topics come up.

I’m also planning to launch a newsletter via A Spirited Mind–mostly as a place to put a longer article about a topic or theme from recent reading, some good reading-related links, resources for finding books, great quotes, maybe some interesting word definitions…I haven’t decided if it will be quarterly or monthly (what would be your preference?).  In thinking about what to do with these bits and pieces I collect, a newsletter seemed like a good repository.  Hopefully you’ll think so too!

So whether you’re doubling down or giving yourself grace (or both!) this year, I hope 2015 brings you promise and growth.  Thanks for reading A Spirited Mind and for your thoughtful comments and emails.  I love hearing from you about what you’re reading or thinking about!

If you do the one word for the year thing, which word did you choose for 2015?

Sabbath as Resistance

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now is an interesting take on Sabbath as a halt to acquisitiveness and anxious productivity.  The author uses the Exodus account of Israelites being freed from Pharaoh’s coercion and brought into a new model of living that sanctified a day of rest.  The parallels with modern life were thought-provoking–our tendency to get caught up in churning over the “bricks” we need to make or made incorrectly or failed to make reveals our lack of trust in God as our provider.

The book is not really comprehensive in its treatment of the topic of Sabbath, but I do think it has a lot of good points to consider.  It’s more concerned with the attitudes of our hearts than with questions like what exactly we should or shouldn’t do on a given day.

I didn’t agree with everything the author concluded, but found the book good to think over.  I’m figuring out how to balance a heavier work load this fall–which is good and I am grateful–and it’s very, very tempting to consider Sunday one more work day.  And even when I do forgo the work, it’s also tough to refrain from being distracted by my list of “bricks” for next week when I’m supposed to be focusing on a sermon.  So this book was a timely read for me, and if you’re interested in the topic I’d recommend it if you’re reading other books as well.

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

The Bookmarked Life 2

The

2The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

I’m thinking about which artists and composers to choose for our school year.  We’re studying the 1800s, which is a fabulous century for the arts, so I’m trying to narrow it down.  If you had to choose four to six artists and four to six composers to represent the nineteenth century, who would you pick?

…Furnishing my mind

A book I’m reading about how to structure work when you’re a “creative” has me thinking about the things I furnish my mind with and how they influence what I write.  A lot of my work involves branding and marketing, so I try to be mindful about what advertisements I take in so that I’m not subconsciously influenced–I figure if I’m paying close attention, I will be less likely to inadvertently use the same phrasing or idea.  But it’s interesting to consider how everything we see, hear, and read influences our thinking and creating.  It’s sobering really, and a good reminder to be a careful consumer.

…Learning about

One thing I love about history is connecting eras.  I think in school it’s easy to see history as a series of discrete events, but really it flows into itself and each time period or major happening influences the future and is influenced by the past.  Right now I’m learning about World War I, and love how what I’m reading dovetails with what I previously read about the Great Influenza and the Dust Bowl.

…Living the Good Life

My parents took the big kids to stay with them and do fun lake things for a week and a half leaving us with only Eliza.  Y’all.  The last time I only had one 14 month old child around, I was about eight months pregnant with Jack.  Not the same thing.  I love my big noisy crew, but I can’t even tell you how delightful it was to have a week of greater mobility and quiet, with lots of date nights out (taking one baby somewhere seems so much more doable than it did when we had our first baby), time to take long walks, the chance to take care of some house projects, get work done, sweep the floor without it needing to be swept again four minutes later…it was a perfect break–just long enough to help me feel rested but they came back before I started to get bored.

…Teaching

We have one last week of summer term before taking our last summer trip (my cousin is getting married so we’re hauling back east again!) and then the school year will commence in earnest.  I’m solidifying goals, purchasing the last pieces of curriculum, and laying out plans.  The nice thing about this year is that, other than Spanish, I didn’t have to choose anything new.  We are in a great groove with curriculum and it feels good to continue with what’s working rather than scrambling to find alternatives.  Hopefully those do not become my famous last words.

…Creating

While the big kids were away, I undertook a complete and massive overhaul of their bedrooms.  It’s the sort of thing you just can’t do while kids are actually living in their rooms (at least not on this scale!).  I painted walls and furniture, moved furniture from room to room, switched out mattresses, sorted all the toys and whatnot, and purged edited contents heavily.  I’m hoping that by making the rooms more beautiful and organized, they will be easier to keep clean.  Because I’m not a design blogger, I didn’t think to take before pictures, but here are the afters:

I mentioned last time how I had painted some of Eliza’s furniture.  The dresser and bookshelf on the left were from Josh’s room growing up (although they were a lovely 1980s brown then!) and the changing table dresser on the right was in my nursery when I was a baby (it was yellow then) and still has vintage 1978 wrapping paper lining the drawers!

Here is the rest of the room–including a Peter Rabbit rug that my dad hooked for my nursery before I was born.  If you know my dad, that will probably strike you as funny.  Also, note the reading baby!  That’s my child!

Sarah asked for a “purple princess” room, so I did my best.  The paint color she chose was “Lavender Sparkle” because she liked the idea of glitter paint.  In real life the paint does not glitter (I have to draw the line somewhere).  I painted her dresser and the top of her desk/art table pink from a free sample paint can I picked up a couple of years ago, and made the canopy out of some super cheap Ikea net curtains and a wire hanger.  She has some other art prints on the wall, her castle dollhouse (which happens to the be exact coordinating shades of pink and purple!), and a new bin organizer (Aldi, $15) that are not pictured.  Her existing sheets are pink with pink and purple princess fairies on them, so it all goes together nicely, if you’re into pink and purple princess fairy themes like Sarah.

It was really sunny when I took these pictures; the wall does not really look as reflective as pictured in real life.  Jack’s Star Wars room includes some Pottery Barn pillowcases and shams purchased on super sale last year, cut outs of his Star Wars drawings mounted on poster board, and a cool framed print of R2D2 that my parents gave him for his birthday.  This room is also our guest room, so when visiting us you are, sleeping with Yoda will you be.

Jack’s friend Adam’s dad made this awesome Jedi Jack sign for Jack’s birthday.  I’m hoping that his new organizer shelf thing (also from Aldi) will help Jack keep his room clean.  He has so many Legos and other building toys that it’s often overwhelming for him to keep things picked up.  Maybe having them easily visible and sortable will help.  A mother can dream.

Last, but not least, here is Hannah’s new room.  I painted the desk and chair (also from Josh’s childhood room) and headboard a fun coral color left over from when I painted the backs of the bookcases in my office.  Her “new” bedding was from Pottery Barn when I was in college.  Not pictured is her toychest, which is sort of like a bench and is full of doll clothes and accessories.  I lined the inside of her closet with some bookcases left over from other areas of the house, because Hannah loves to play “worlds,” which is kind of like dollhouse mixed with fairy house mixed with bits and pieces of assorted whatnot repurposed for imagination play.  I used to play like that too as a child so I want to encourage her, but previously it was a huge mess all over her room so now she can keep the worlds contained on the shelves and shut the closet door on the whole thing!  This may also cut down on messy room issues as well as keep the baby out of the tiny bits of tinfoil and acorn cups and whatnot.

It was a lot of work, but I’m so happy with the results!

…Memorizing

I’m almost through the first chapter of Colossians and it really is helping me to think more deeply about this piece of scripture.  The kids are starting a new passage next week–Philippians 2: 1-18.  I’ve been working on a new system for organizing and reviewing our memory work, based on this post from Sarah Mackenzie (scroll down to see her memory notebook system).  I’m doing one notebook for our poetry and Shakespeare memory work, and another one that we’ll keep upstairs where we do family worship that will hold the hymns, Psalms, and Bible memory.  Hopefully this will help me stay organized about review.

…Seeking balance

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to cultivating a calm and happy home this fall (and yes, I do realize that “calm” is an elusive goal with four children, but I think I mean calm in the sense of the opposite of frenzied and frazzled, not calm in the sense of pin-drop quiet).  Some of that comes down to order–having a routine, leaving margin–but I think it also has to do with choosing for beauty and relationships rather than more activities or a more packed schedule.  I’m a fairly driven person, and it’s easy for me to take on too much.  That works sometimes, but often it results in having to hurry and play sheepdog snapping at everyone’s heels to move through the day rather than being loving and mindful.  As I mentioned in my review of Essentialism, when things are crazy it is helpful to pause and ask, “What is the most important thing this very minute?”  I guess if I were a person given to being snuggly and whatnot, asking that question might result in more disciplined learning or routine, but in my case I think it probably means loosening the tight ship and refocusing on ultimate goals (that my children would be well educated, love learning, and value beauty) rather than immediate tasks.

…Building the habit

I’ve been thinking about the habit of orderliness.  Keeping things in order helps my mental state, and I think it also helps the kids to feel less stressed when everything is in place.  As part of my huge upstairs overhaul, I spent a lot of time sorting and organizing their things, and coming up with systems that might be easier to keep in place.  I’m hoping that this fall we can all work on order–keeping the kids’ rooms clean, getting through our chores, and even keeping our schedule orderly.  I don’t want to be rigid about it, but I think Gretchen Rubin has it right about how outer order contributes to inner calm.

…Listening to

I listened to three entire audio books while painting bedrooms, and found it a great way to get my mind off of my aching muscles and redeem the time.  My husband figured out how I can play things off of my phone through our in-house speaker system so now I can listen to audio books or Pandora stations  or whatever else whenever I’m on the main floor or in the basement.  Technology can be amazing.

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

 

The Bookmarked Life

2Something new!  The Bookmarked Life is my take on catch-all posts–a record to help me remember this season of life.

Right now I’m:

…Considering

Did you see this Slate article about the girl who sent all of her texts in calligraphy for a week?  Something about that really appeals to me–maybe it’s the juxtaposition of fast and slow communication, or the fact that it would force me to think before I mindlessly use my phone.  I probably won’t text in calligraphy (although I could!  I love calligraphy!) but I’m thinking about mindful technology use.

…Furnishing my mind

As we’ve been reading more poetry and going over grammar in a different way this month, I’ve been reminded of how beautiful language can be–it has a structure, but there’s a wildness to it too.  Reading about the Oxford English Dictionary reinforced that feeling!

…Learning about

…Spanish curriculum options.  I decided to go with PowerGlide based on the Rainbow Resource review, and then after a 20 minute perusal of Homeschool Classifieds I found a like-new used set for $25, postage paid.  Since my kids love mysteries and stories, I think this option is going to be a win for us.

…Living the Good Life

The kids wanted to put on a colonial feast at the end of the semester, but we were getting ready for our big trip then so we put the idea off until this month.  Sarah made blancmange, Hannah made Scotch Collops, and Jack made Martha Washington’s Great Cake with meringue on top.  They did a great job, and it turns out that blancmange is really good.

…Teaching

We had a short Summer Term this month–nothing taxing, just reading from Sonlight, Ambleside, and other book lists.  We checked out all of the preschool and kindergarten type books to read aloud and Hannah and Jack read a lot of the older grade selections.  We also found some fun new favorites.  I’m happy that we got a chance to really focus on reading great children’s literature, read more poetry, and brought in math concepts in different ways this summer.  We also started a fantastic language arts enrichment curriculum that I’m super excited about.  More about that later.

…Creating

After living in our house for over a year, I’m finally doing something about the children’s rooms.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the baby is now over a year as well?  First up, the nursery.  I painted the walls (Baby Bee Yellow, same as the old house) and also painted some furniture and rearranged knick-knacks and pictures.  I think the new color makes the changing table/dresser with the Peter Rabbit knobs look much smarter.

…Memorizing

We’re working on 1 Corinthians 13 together, and I’m beginning to memorize Colossians on my own.  I recently read a fabulous book on the topic of using Scripture memory to deeply meditate and study the Bible–look for the review next week.

…Seeking balance

As I look ahead to the fall, I’m trying to think through the best way to handle my work/life balance in terms of windows for our best work.  I do my best focused creative work in the morning, and the kids focus on schoolwork better in the morning too.  I don’t want to wake up at 4am, but sometimes the kids are up before 6:00.  So as I work through plans for fall I’m considering the best times to schedule our babysitting (we have an amazing adult, Christian, educated babysitter who is available part time and who is fabulous with the kids and willing to supervise them doing schoolwork assignments–it is nothing short of a miracle, I know) in order to maximize everyone’s best windows.

…Building the habit

Exercise.  It’s addictive when I can get into a rhythym, but due to my aforementioned desire to sleep past 4am, it’s tough to schedule.  I’m trying to give myself points for showing up, even if some days I only make it through 15 minutes of Jillian Michaels before the baby starts eating crayons or someone starts a small fire in the toaster.

…Listening to

The baby now refers to herself as “Ah-za-za!” and it’s so stinking cute.  I could listen to that all day.  In the car, the kids and I are listening to the audio book of The Swiss Family Robinson (it’s very, very, very long).  And, since the new carseat I bought last week was a Graco TurboBooster, naturally I have had I Got a Man on the brain (“When your man don’t treat ya like he used ta, I kick in like a turbo boostah”).  Late 90’s hip-hop is always relevant, isn’t it?

What are you bookmarking this week?

 

Disclosure: A couple of links in this post (the ones to Amazon) are affiliate links.  Thanks for clicking through from A Spirited Mind!

Made For More

Made For More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image is an excellent, thought-provoking, theologically sound exploration of the problem of identity and how to ground yourself in who God made you to be, so that you can uniquely reflect Him and bring Him glory.

At first I was afraid that this would be another pink-and-purple, God-lite style devotional book, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it deep, meaty, and challenging.

I thought the author did a wonderful job of using Scripture to find what the Bible says about identity and reflecting God’s image, rather than having an idea and then searching for Scripture to back it up (a subtle distinction, but an important one).  I had never considered metamorphosis as a theme in the Bible, but this book helped me think about the Bible in light of how God changes people, and I loved seeing that layer applied.

I also appreciated how Anderson emphasized that God created us a certain way, and that we reflect and glorify Him when we’re doing the things He made us to do, using the gifts He gave us, and being the unique person we were created to be.  Anderson really unpacks the difference between self-esteem and identity grounded on external factors and identity grounded in who we are as a unique creation.

Related to that point, and perhaps the most profound section of the book (and I hope the author writes more extensively on this topic in a future book, because I think she nailed it) is Anderson’s description of integrated identity.  That is, rather than chasing the have-it-all thing, or attempting to compartmentalize different facets of our identity, Anderson advocates a convergence and flourishing that comes from seeing our different callings and roles–from personal to professional, expressing our giftedness to accomplishing mundane tasks–as a chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to reflect the unity and wholeness of the Trinity.  And, she writes, when we love God with the fullness of our identities, and seek Him in every aspect of our lives, we will enjoy His peace and see those seemingly disparate parts of who we are “work together in beautiful coordination for our good and His glory.”  I love the way she puts this:

The fact that I am a woman, that I am a mother, that I am a writer—even where I live—all work together to enable me to image God in a more complex, more brilliant way than if my identity were simply one-dimensional.  So even as we strive for wholeness, we do not reach it by diminishing the multidimensional nature of our lives.  We find it through the complexity of them.  We find wholeness as each facet is cut to capture and reflect the radiance of Christ Himself.

I am not doing justice at all to Anderson’s argument here, but the whole section is so well thought out, so well written, refreshing, and encouraging, I would recommend the book if only for that part.

But really the entire book is excellent.  I got so much out of it and think it may wind up making my best of 2014 list.  I also think this would make a great book study for a group.  While it’s not structured as a Biblestudy, it could be used as one if you looked up all of the references and tailored it for your group.  I could see using it with high school girls or an adult women’s study.  Even if you don’t get a chance to read the book and discuss it in a group, it’s a wonderful book for personal reading, and I highly recommend it.

 

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book, but the opinions contained in this post are my own.  This post contains affiliate links to Amazon–I’m grateful for your support of A Spirited Mind!

Holding On To What You Read

In her post on reading goals, Keren noted that she was not planning to read more than 80-100 books this year because that is her threshold for retaining what she reads.  If you read a lot you probably have that sort of sense of threshold as well.  I know I do.

Since I read a lot, I keep trying new things to make sure that what I read really gets assimilated into my life.  I don’t just read to fill my brain with words (although I do love that).  I also love to really interact with ideas and learn new things.  To that end, in 2014 I’m adding a new tool to my usual reading routine.

I’ve blogged before about how I read to maximize retention: I use tabs to mark things that jump out at me, then I reread the tabs and take detailed notes, share the notes, and blog about the book (you can read more about that process here if you’re interested).  If there’s something I really want to devote more thinking time toward, I print out my book notes and put them into my thinking pile.

Yes, I have a thinking pile.  I’m all sorts of organized.

This year, inspired by the cool graphics lots of bloggers use (I’m not old school to be ironic; I honestly just haven’t had time to learn how to do it myself or I would) I decided to make an idea board for each month, based on things I’d like to keep thinking about.  I keep it in a frame on my desk, so I’m reminded of highlights from the thinking pile.  Here is my page for January:


I put in things I read on blogs, a couple of things people said to me in conversation, and ideas from things I was reading in December.

  • Cultivate a taste for beauty – This reminds me of the reasoning behind reading high quality books to the kids, surrounding them with good music and art and keeping things orderly.  Childhood is wheN our aesthetics are largely formed.
  • Build liturgy – Likewise, I’m thinking of how rhythm and routine define our family, and what sort of message they send to us and others about our values and what we worship.
  • Fifteen minute connections – I read something about how valuable even 15 minutes of focused connection can be to relationships.  Having started doing this with the children on school days I can already say I am seeing great results.
  • Make laughter your chocolate – I got this from Ann Voskamp, and I like the reminder to get my stress relief from relational joy rather than calories.
  • Carve out Sabbaths – I really do have to carve them.  It’s very, very hard to keep work out of Sunday, but I’m working on it.
  • Live the Good Life – This relates to seeing my life as Plan A and living accordingly.
  • Things that are difficult aren’t necessarily broken – I’m remembering that although I love to constantly tweak things for greater efficiency, some things are just hard.  that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong.
  • Legacy – I thought about making this my word of the year, but chose grace instead.  Legacy reminds me to think about how I’m spending my time in light of what will mean the most in the long run.  Surprisingly, while Facebook doesn’t always win, it doesn’t always lose either.
  • Sleep. Move. Eat real food. – I can get caught up in perfectionism when it comes to diet and exercise.  Oh no!  I ate a bite of apple!  I might as well have ice cream!  I don’t have time to do a 90 minute workout, so I might as well skip exercise today.  That sort of thing.  This line reminds me to simplify and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
  • Be kind.  Always. – Another downside to being an efficiency-aholic is that I’ve noticed it doesn’t always make me kind.  I’d like to choose kindness, even if it means being five minutes late.  I notice this a lot because one of my children suffers from the same failing, and it’s made me see mine more clearly.
  • External order -> Internal calm – I find that when things are basically orderly (I didn’t say clean, just orderly!) I feel calmer.  And I am always, always looking for calmer!
  • Keep screens in their place – Because I work flexibly, I find it difficult not to be always working.  I’m trying to think of ways to keep my laptop in its place.  Similarly, I have a bad habit of checking my phone a lot.  I hate it when other people look at their phones when they are with me, so why do I do that to my children?
  • Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come – This is a line from one of my favorite hymns, and it’s a piece in the novel that I’m (still) working on.  It’s to remind me to, you know, work on it.
  • People are not interruptions – (Yet) another downside to the whole efficiency thing is that I’ve noticed I get impatient when people throw off my schedule.  I’m reminding myself that people are not interruptions, they are the point.
  • Calm and wise – This is a reminder to stop and think before I get wound up.  Funny enough, it’s something I say to the kids all the time.  Along the same lines, I found myself admonishing one kid this week, “Don’t freak out.  THINK out.”  Did I miss my calling as a motivational speaker or what?
  • Family meetings – full cups – We started having family meetings after I read about it in several books.  So far this involves giving everyone allowance, asking “what went right in our family this week?” and “what does our family need to work on next week?” as well as giving everyone full cups by going around in a circle and telling each person something you liked or admired about them this week.  To be honest, we have only done this once so far and my husband was not able to attend, but so far so good.
  • Zoom out once a week – This reminds me to take stock of how things are going, to keep perspective, and to get off the ride for a few minutes to really think things through.

I have high hopes for this as a tool to add to my reading retention arsenal of tabbing, note taking, and writing.  If you read a lot, how do you let it sink in?  If you were to make an idea board, what would you put on it?

Word of the Year – Grace

When I thought about a word for 2014 at first I was leaning toward legacy–maybe I should evaluate the many and various things that always threaten to overwhelm me in light of whether or not that thing will matter in the long run.  But the more I thought about it, the more that thought made me tired.  I’m tired, friends, eight ways to Sunday.  I’m tired of trying to wring out more minutes from each day, of trying to be more efficient, of feeling like I have to explain my choice to sleep until 7:00 or justify my decision to hire a babysitter.  I’m tired of the fact that the first word that springs to mind when someone asks how I’m doing is “busy.”

Grace.  I need grace.

I need to give grace to myself.  I  am my own toughest critic, and I don’t often struggle with doing too little.  I’d like to give myself grace–to stop beating up on myself, to stop holding myself to a false standard of perfection, to cut myself some slack sometimes.

I need to give grace to my family.  We get in this whirl of life so easily around here.  I work hard at keeping lessons interesting and resisting the urge to view the children as a unit, but I think grace might be needed for times when things are crazy–to take a deep breath and regain perspective and give grace to a bunch of kids who are learning how to obey and respect each other just like I still am.

I need to soak my spirit in God’s grace.  I read something on Elizabeth Foss’s blog (I’m constantly encouraged by her writing) about how only God is omniscient so I don’t have to read everything on the internet right now.  And I was struck, in the way that only a blinding flash of the obvious can strike a person, by the thought that God is not asking me to be omnipotent, omniscient, or perfect in any way.  He is perfect in every way so that I don’t have to worry about the myriad ways I fall short.  I realize that for some that could sound like a cop-out, but again, I’m not prone to the doing-too-little side of the pendulum.  I’m thinking that for my annual Bible reading plan I might go through the scripture specifically noting where God gives grace.  I think my soul needs to delve into this well.

So I think 2014 will be the year of grace for me. A little extra note of beauty.  A little bit less efficiency perhaps, but a lot more focus.  More gentleness.  More understanding of and pointing toward the only reason anything works for me at all.  Grace.

 

What have you read on the subject of grace?  I like to read a lot in my word of the year topics, so please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Desiring the Kingdom

After relishing Imagining the Kingdom (link is to my longer review), I was eager to read the first book in the author’s exploration of cultural liturgies (that is, the practices and habits that form who we are and how we live).  Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formationcertainly lived up to my expectations.

Of all of the books I’ve read in 2013, these two works have had the most impact on my thinking about the Christian life, education, culture, and worship.  I can’t recommend them highly enough.

In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith lays the foundation for his later arguments in Imagining the Kingdom (although I think you could read them out of order if you must), and proposes that our identities are shaped not so much by what we know as by what we love.   You can’t separate the two, but neither can you rely on pumping yourself (or your children) with knowledge and hoping for the best.  Our actions, Smith writes, flow from what we worship, how we define the good life and what we think human flourishing looks like.   In other words, plenty of people who would espouse a “solid worldview” actually act in opposition to that worldview when push comes to shove, because at a deeper level of habits and unarticulated beliefs, they have a different story going on.

That sounds a little deep (and it is!  I’ve been mulling this stuff over for about two months now!) but it’s also quite simple: it’s not enough to change someone’s mind, change has to happen on a deeper heart level.  And the deeper level is about the story you believe about life, and purpose, and success and what those look like.

This obviously has huge implications for schools, universities, and churches, but also for individuals and families.  I think Smith has a lot of valuable things to say about habits and literature and culture and art and education, about how the way we spend our time defines us, and where our allegiances truly lie.

After reading this book I’m thinking about Advent differently, I’m thinking about habits and stories differently, I’m thinking about time and daily rhythms differently…it’s hard to condense my reams of notes into one short review.

Suffice it to say, I would really love to discuss these books with someone, so I’m hopeful that one or more of you will read them!  I think these would make excellent gifts for students, teachers, people interested in philosophy and culture, people involved in the arts, pastors, parents…basically anyone who enjoys sinking their teeth into thoughtful arguments and interesting ideas.

One idea I’ve been considering carefully is how I should spend Advent (Smith says Christians ought to be a “people with a unique sense of temporality”–that we should see time differently because of what we believe).  Smith suggests that Advent is a time of careful reflection and expectation rather than a time of over-indulgence.  So I’m thinking of ways to be thoughtful and reflective and meaningful this month, rather than getting caught up in a whirl of overdoing activities and food and shopping and whatnot.  I’m interested: how do you make Advent a deliberate time of expectation and meaning?

If you decide to read Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, come back and let me know your thoughts!

 

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What Stresses You Out?

My husband forwarded this interesting infographic to me last week.  It uses the Myers-Briggs types but inverts them to describe what stresses different types out.  Josh is an ISFJ and I’m somewhere between an ENTJ and ENTP.  Once we got started talking about it of course I pulled out my handy copy of Please Understand Me (I feel like everyone should own this book–it’s an indispensable reference).

I know that some people deplore personality types as an indulgent way to excuse bad behavior, but I see them as a helpful means of understanding tendencies so that you can communicate and work together better.

For example, the infographic highlights that two things that stress Josh’s type out are indecision and last minute changes.  His type likes established routine.  However, my type really dislikes established routines, and is known for constantly trying new ways to improve systems (I think this is why I read so much in the time and life management genre).  I doubt that I’ll convert him to the joys of constantly tweaking in pursuit of efficiency, and he’s not likely to make me like mundane tasks, but somehow knowing these things about each other is really helpful.

If you’re interested in personality types, really the best and most exhaustive resource I’ve found is Please Understand Me (link is to my longer review).  It gets at a lot of the nuances of types that simplified overviews can’t cover.

Do you know your personality type?  Do you find the concept helpful or annoying?