Biographical Picks

 

Looking back on 2016, I was surprised at the number of biographical books I’d read. Here is my list with a brief review of each.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Written after his wife died, I would recommend this to anyone grieving. Lewis is brutally honest with his feelings and gives a true window into the soul of someone who loved deeply.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
This is the third out of four of her Crosswick Journals. It takes the reader through the liturgical year, addressing questions of faith and facing old age. Her writing style is lovely. Those of you who read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid must read this series, also.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Parts were helpful, but some parts were difficult to comprehend. I had to read it very slowly. I enjoyed the biographical parts the best.

More Than Petticoats – Remarkable Georgia Women by Sara Martin
These stories were impressive, and one was of particular interest to me. That was the chapter on Leila Denmark. She is my cousin’s aunt (on her father’s side) and an exceptional woman. She was a pediatrician until the age of 103, and she lived to be 114.

One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty.
In this autobiography, Mississippi native Welty shares the details of her childhood and influences on her writing.

Dispatches From Pluto : Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
British-born Grant writes about the south in such a charming way. I really loved his narrative of life in the delta as seen by an outsider.

There is a lot of variety in these selections. Written from 400-2015, there is something here for everyone.

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From the lost files of Thoughts on the Words of C.S. Lewis- Friendship

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C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works. This quote is from The Problem With Pain; it’s long and it’s ALL ONE SENTENCE, but it’s good. You may have to read it twice.

“Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the least) of that something which you were born desiring and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, listening for?”

Whew! If you are like me you will have to read that more than once, but I love it and hope it will strike a chord in you, too. My wish for you today is that you have, or find, that friend who has an inkling of your heart’s desire; one who perhaps can share it with you, whether it’s writing, bird watching, teaching, gardening, or whatever it is that has been in you for long time.

Great Minds Think…Differently

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Photo by Dan

Different authors write in disparate ways, and I don’t think a good author would tell you to do it exactly like they do. Many write in the morning, so some of the following advice may be something you might want to try if you are a morning person.

  • Hemingway: “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”
  • Ray Bradbury: “My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this.”
  • Stephen King: ““There are certain things I do if I sit down to write,” he said. “I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8:00 to 8:30, somewhere within that half hour every morning,” he explained. “I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon.”
  • C.S. Lewis: “ I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one.”

Say Yes to Life

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Madeleine L’Engle, an author of books for children as well as books for adults, once said, “A children’s book must be … a book that says yes to life.” I think this is a profound statement.

I’ve been working off and on for quite a while on a book. It is aimed at middle-grade readers and I want it to be a book that impacts for good.

I was dismayed last year  while I was browsing the covers of some books that had been put out on display for middle schoolers. Now, I don’t mean we have to stay away from every hard subject of life, but one book there was definitely not one that this age group of young teens should be reading. And it wasn’t just the topic, suicide, but it was other things I found as I flipped through the pages; things I don’t even want to write here.

I see no reason kids need to have gutter language and sexual innuendo paraded and applauded. They get enough of that on TV and in the locker room and behind the teacher’s back. Why can’t novels be something uplifting and something to produce better thoughts?

Here are some of my favorite books for middle-grade students:

  • The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Okay for Now by Gary D.Schmidt
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Gone From These Woods by Donny Bailey Seagraves
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

What are your thoughts on reading material for middle school?

Thoughts on the Words of C.S. Lewis – The Inns

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C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works, including “The Problem of Pain” from where the quotes in this series were taken.

“…a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath, or a football match. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

I  am so blessed when I think about all the “inns” the Lord has provided for me, and so ashamed, too, of all the grumbling I do.

I have a happy love – we will celebrate 35 years in a little over a week. We will have a good time, quietly, perhaps spend the day just hanging out and eating something good, maybe shopping, but NOT in any mall.

I’ve enjoyed many lovely landscapes, but I’m especially glad to have a nice view right in my own backyard.

I’ve been to the symphony a handful of times and enjoyed the music there. But, in the milder weather, when it’s not too hot, and my doors and windows are open, I enjoy the symphony of birds and children’s laughter and bouncing balls.

God has given me a few great friends over the years and we’ve enjoyed some merry meetings.  I’ve bemoaned the lack of a friend many times in my life, much to my disgrace, so I am ever thankful now when God sends someone to me, a kindred spirit.

A good soak in a bath with bubbles is nice and a football game watched with my mom is fun.

I feel like I should break out in song right about now – “these are a few of my favorite things!” All these blessings and more I am grateful for, but I pray I will not mistake them for home.

But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. – Mark 10:30

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. –     I Timothy 6:7

Thoughts on the Words of C.S. Lewis – Like Judas or like John?

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C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works, including “The Problem of Pain” from where the quotes in this series were taken.

“Offences must come, but woe to those by they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make that an excuse for continuing to sin. The crucifixion is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role of Judas remains simply evil.”

At the school where I used to teach there was a Bible teacher in the high school that drilled into his students a passage from Romans. He would quote the first part:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (Romans 1:1)

They would respond:

God forbid. (Romans 1:2)

He not only taught them the scripture, but he lived before them in a way that showed he believed God’s word. He also works with inner-city ministries and preaches, carrying that message of forgiveness wherever he goes.

There is and always will be sin in the world. No matter how the dreadfulness of sin is used for the good of God’s glory, we do not have a license to sin. Instead, we strive to obey God’s prescription for life.

C.S. Lewis also said,

“For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

Think about that.

Thoughts on the Words of C.S. Lewis – Love the unlovely

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C.S. Lewis was a novelist, poet, academic, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist. He is probably best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, but he wrote numerous other works, including “The Problem of Pain” from where the quotes in this series were taken.

“Everyone has experienced the effect of pity in making it easier for us to love the unlovely – that is, to love men not because they are in any way agreeable to us but because they are our brethren.”

We all have people in our lives who are hard to love. I know I myself am hard to love sometimes. But, there are those who seem to be always disagreeable or annoying or pessimistic or sometimes downright ugly in spirit. There is no way we can love them by ourselves. We need the grace of God working in us to reach out and love that person. And they are most likely the one in the most desperate need of some love and affection.

When I think that Christ loved me, that He reached down to me in all my sin and rescued me, how can I not love my brethren? And how can I not be kind even to strangers?

I think of this verse:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hebrews 13:2

Who knows what someone else may be going through? Kindness should be handed out without any thought of getting any in return. I’m not saying it’s easy. But, it’s right.