Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this while on a missions trip 20+ years ago. I didn't get it and I didn't like it (and I didn't like that I didn't get it LOL) The ideas did not make sense to me.

I'm a better reader now.

I did carry with me pictures from that reading. The bus, the grass, the grey town that kept growing because no one could stand to be next to each other while feeling isolated.

I understood more of the allusions and ideas that Lewis was trying to enflesh, but certainly not all of them. I could resonate with the discussions the Ghosts had with Spirits and be convicted of my own ghost-likeness.

I did not understand much of Lewis and MacDonald's discussion - perhaps I need to read Phantases to better do so. I'm looking forward to reading that with and listening to their discussions of this book.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to re-read Northanger Abbey so I could listen to the Literary Life podcast episodes from last fall with an updated read. I don't really remember when I started it, but I know this spring hasn't been as conducive to reading in the evenings, so it has taken me a while to read through it.

I read it quite a while ago, when I first read all of the Austen I could get my hands on, and I enjoyed it, but it is the only one I hadn't re-read. I liked it on that first read, but it never called me back.

This read was different. I've very much enjoyed meeting Catherine in a different way; I understood the plot better with General Tilney - it had seemed more confused and "gothicy" dark before. For some reason I had been more confused of the timetable before, probably skimming long descriptive passages ;)

Anyway, this was fun. It was worth the last couple of chapters to see how Mr and Mrs Morland handled their daughter's situation. They are the finest of the Austen parents, IMO.

I also am contemplating Henry Tilney's "Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?" This is a gentle rebuke; what a declaration and brings to mind Mr. Knightley's similar rebuke in Emma. As I've been considering Charlotte Mason's Ways of Will and Reason principles, this was a wonderful example in story form of "Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas."

I'm excited to listen to the podcast episodes and hear Cindy and Angelina's discussion of the book.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Book Review: In Vital Harmony by Karen Glass (Audio Book)

In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of EducationIn Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education by Karen Glass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started in February with reading and I restarted via Audible on May 1 and finished the audiobook today. I do plan to finish reading the print book as well.

I've come, this year, to appreciate audiobooks that just keep me going through the book. When reading print, I often get bogged down in wanting to understand all of the nuances and details that it can take a long time - if ever, before I finish. With audio ... I can just keep going. Knowing that I plan to go back and read the text helps me. I like the global picture that audio forms and filling in the details with text. Whole to parts.

Glass pulls together Charlotte Mason's educational principles in a multi-faceted whole. As she puts together the jigsaw puzzle of Mason's principles, Glass argues - thoughtfully and persuasively - that two principles are the border and the others relate to those as they fill in the picture.

But she doesn't stop there, Glass takes that framework and helps the reader know how the principles work out in the day to day, in the individual studies and practices of a CM education.

Glass's writing is clear and makes deep ideas understandable, graspable.

Donna-Jean Breckinridge can read me anything she wants to. While there are places where editing is obvious, they are not bothersome and her generally smooth reading adds both enjoyment and understanding. She not only reads the words, but clearly agrees with them.

Highly recommended to the new and the experienced CM educator alike.

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review: The Irrational Season

The Irrational Season (Crosswicks Journals, Book 3)The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

L'Engle takes her thinking through the liturgical year, starting with Advent and considering incarnation and the human condition, light and dark, time (chronos & kairos), love, Trinity and living out and thinking after Christ day in and day out - understanding the self and how it is manifested within the liturgical framework and the community of believers. She even ventures to consider those days when we become functional atheists and struggle to believe.

Some of her poetic responses are included throughout - some are better than others, some are awkwardly placed.


"And then we are in kairos. Kairos. God's time,which isn't really tie at all in the sense that we know man's time, chronos. It is impossible while we are living in time, to define kairos; it is to be understood by intuition, rather than intellect, and recognized only afterwards, by anamnesis when we are back in time again, for in kairos we are completely unselfconscious. Whenever I have loved most truly and most spontaneously, time has vanished and I have been in kairos." p 17

"It has been my experience that freedom comes as the temperate zone integrates sunside and nightside, thereby making wholeness instead of brokenness." p 21

"The first bitter lessons of marriage consisted in learning to love the person we had actually married, instead of the image we wanted to have married." p42

"After all these years I am just beginning to understand the freedom that making a solemn vow before God, making a lifelong commitment to one person, gives each of us." p 46

"... the happiness offered us by the Beatitudes is not meterial; it is more spiritual than physical, internal than external; and there is an implication which I find very exciting that the circle of blessing is completed only when man blesses God, that God's blessing does not return to him empty." p 60

"When I tend to go cosmic it is often because it is easier to be cosmic than to be particular. The small, overlooked particulars which are symbols of such things as being peacemakers are usually to be found in our everyday lives. Of course we'd rather have something more dramatic and spectacular, so we tend not to see the peacemakers in our own path, or the opportunities for peacemaking which are presented us each day." p 83

"I stand with Paul here. When we deny the Resurrection, we are denying Christianity. We are no longer the Church; no wonder the secular world is horrified by us." p 93

"During the question and answer period one of them asked me about the moral precepts in my stories, and the question alarmed me, because a novel should not be a moral tract, it should be a story." p 100 (YES!)

"But God always calls unqualified people. In cold reality, no one is qualified; but God, whose ways are not our ways, seems to choose those least qualified, people who well may have come from slums and battlefields and insane asylums. IF he had chosen great kings, successful and wealthy merchants, wise men with their knowledge of the stars, it would be easy to think that these people, of their own virtue and understanding, accomplished on their own the blessing which God asked them to complete. ... the blessing is always God's." p 101

"I'm not looking for morals, I'm looking for truth." pg 102

"(Simone Wiel said that revolution, and not religion, is the soporific of the masses)" p 108

"So the Ascension is freed to move into the realm of myth.
"It doesn't bother me when people talk condescendingly about the Christian myth, because it is n myth that sunside and nightside collaborate and give us our glimpses of truth. But when I use the word myth I bump headlong into semantic problems, because myth, to many people, is a lie. Despite the fact that during the last decade myth has been rediscovered as a vehicle of truth, there are still those who cannot help thinking of it as something which is false. We give children the Greek and Roman myths, the Norse or Celtic myths, and expect them to be outgrown, as though they are only for children and not to be taken seriously by realistic adults. If I speak of the Christian myth it is assumed not only that I am certainly not a fundamentalist, but that I am an intellectual who does not need God and can speak with proper condescension of the rather silly stories which should be outgrown at puberty. But I am far closer to the fundamentalist than the atheist when I speak of myth as truth." p 114

"The most difficult thing to let go is my self, that self which, coddled and cozened, becomes smaller as it becomes heavier. I don't understand how and why I come to be only as I lose myself, but I know from long experience that this is true." p 119

"If I am conscious of writing well as I am writing, those pages usually end in the wastepaper basket. If I am conscious of praying well, I am probably not praying at all. These are gifts which we know only afterwards, with anamnesis.
"Trouble always comes whenever we begin to take credit for any of the gifts of the Spirit, be they gifts of prayer, tongues, prophecy, art, science. This can be as fatally true in the secular world as in teh religious--but one of the greatest victories of the Enemy has been the separation of sacred and secular, and placing them in opposition. All of creation is sacred, despite everything we have done to abase and abuse it. " p 124

"We sit in the brilliant sunshine of intellect and don't even know that we are not whole." p 136

"I am basically intuitive rather than intellectual (which is probably why the third person of the Trinity is the least difficult for me), although I don't discard or discount my intellect; nightside alone is as incomplete as sunside alone." p 138

"We may be a global village, but instant communication often isolates us from each other rather than uniting us. When I am bombarded on the evening news with earthquake, flood, fire, [Covid 19], it is too much for me. There is a mechanism, a safety valve, which cuts off our response to overexposure to suffering." p 139 - Timely!

"We've been trying to understand the Trinity in terms of provable fact instead of poetry, and so we stop saying the Creed at many services." p 156

"If she diligently practiced her music, it also practiced her." pg 161

"... destruction of language is a result of war and is always a curtailment of freedom." p 163

"We need words with which to think; kill words and we won't be able to think and we'll be easier to manipulate." p 164

"I seek for God that he may find me because I have learned, empirically, that this is how it works. I seek: he finds." p 171

"... one of Satan's dirtiest devices is to promise infinite understanding to finite creatures." p 175

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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Review: The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth

The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this as my 2020 Lenten bedtime book.

It was a wonderful choice. Considering story - and true story - in to the Gospel, King David, and interwoven with her own life events was a beautiful way to study the incarnation and Resurrection.

L'Engle and I have theological disagreements, but she always makes me think and her perspective helps me to understand others with whom I may disagree in specifics but not essentials.

Her long career as a storyteller makes her eminently qualified to contemplate Story as Truth (and I compare with Mattie Ross in True Grit who calls lying "stories" - an all to frequent mischaracterization). I've been tracking what she calls chronos/kairos through other books - Pieper Leisure the Basis of Culture and Makoto Fujimura's Refractions. Her final chapters - Creative Act, Redemptive Act, and Resurrection were so encouraging and perfect during this past Holy Week. She talks about Myth and Fairy Tales in ways confirm much I read from Angelina Stanford.

"Story makes us more human, and until we become fully human we will not be ready for home." p38

"This is because Scripture is true. Truth is deeper and wider and much more demanding than many people would like, but Jesus promised that it would set us free." p 49

"We do not need faith for facts; we do need faith for truth." pg 94

"It is, I suspect, fear of story, fear of imagination, fear of the unexplainable. The less vocabulary we have, the more limited our words, the more frightening the imagination becomes." p 102

He grinned. ... "You're much better when you don't think."

And that is true. It doesn't mean that I must never think. It doesn't mean that he hadn't been training me [to co-lead studies] for a good many years. It doesn'tm ean that I didn't have a full barrel to draw from. It does mean that the creative actions do not come from the cognitive part of the brain alone, but from a much larger area. When I write, I realized, I do not think. I write. If I think when I am writing, it doesn't work. I can think before I write; I can think after I write, but when I am actually writing, what I do is write. This is always the instruction I give at writers' workshops: "Don't think. Write." And I put a time limit to the assignments. "You may not work on this for more than an hour. If you're not finished at the end of an hour, that's all right. Stop." It's a lot easier to write without thinking if there's a time limit. p 144

"Many of the symbols which are now purported to be New Age, or, even worse, signs of devil worship, are Christian symbols. Indeed they may be misused and distorted by groups which are not Christian (a black mass is a blasphemous distortion of the Christian Eucharist), but that does not mean we need to toss them out and hand them over to the enemy! Give up the rainbow as a glorious sign of God's covenant with his people? Never! Give up the crescent moon and the stars and call them symbols of S--n rather than visible signs of the glory of God's creation? Never! The enemy can't have them unless we weakly and thoughtlessly relinquish our very own heritage." pg 185

"Too much Christian art relies so heavily on being Christian that the artist forgets that it also must be good art." pg 200

"... the people I know, in literature and in life, whose chief concern is fulfilling themselves, are always empty." p 202

"In the fairy tale we find hope of interrelatedness, and sometimes this hope comes because fairy tales deal forthrightly with brokenness. ... In fairy tales, and in life, there is risk--risk of failure, of horror, of death. But there is no despair. Rather, there is an unspoken affirmation of the ultimate happy ending." p 225-226

Once there was a man who was a Namer. That is what he was called by God to be, and to do. Out of the earth,in the days of the beginnings, the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would name them: and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name.

Adam's vocation as a son was to be a Namer; that was how he was to co-create with the Maker of the Universe. If you name somebody or something, you discover that the act of Naming is very closely connected with the act of loving, and hating is involved with unNaming--taking a person's name away causing anyone to be an anonymous digit, annihilating the spirit.

When we are unNamed, we are broken; all around us we see fragmented, mutilated people. And the world offers little help for healing, for knitting up the "raveled sleeve of care." p 229-230

"And is the importunate widow a witch or a wise woman? It all depends. Witches do not have either humility or a sense of humor; wise women can laugh." pg 247

"We are not privileged because we deserve to be. Privilege accepted should mean responsibility accepted." pg 253

"Meditation is the practise of death and resurrection." pg 263

"But the beast and the princess and the journey [of fairy tale] are not without us, but within us, and we ourselves are the kingdom over which they are now to rule." pg 263

"People who try to sell us cheap grace equate integrity with self-indulgence, freedom with anarchy, liberation with chaos. It doesn't work. Only discipline and obedience to the strict law of love allow us to be free. It is only the daily discipline of work at my desk which frees a book to be bore. It is only the discipline of daily prayer which allows the freedom of meditation and contemplation. A river isn't a river when it overflows it banks. The stars would be raging, flaming destruction if they had not been set in their beautiful courses. So with grief; each day of our lives is preparation for grief, preparation for living in Jesus so he may live in us." pg 273

She ends with He is risen indeed! (italics hers, pg 296) which was perfect to finish with yesteray.

May the Lord help us to understand the many facets of story.

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Review: Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing

Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gayle Boss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Boss is a very good writer and conveys her ideas well. This book is very sad to think about how man's dominion over creation is many times selfish domination instead of careful stewardship.

There is less directly about Jesus and his sufferings in this book than I might have expected for a Lenten read. There is too much to feel about than can be done about, which can be a danger of numbing ourselves and overwhelming us. I was grateful that the Resurrection reading was joyful and hopeful.

She says in her intro that she didn't share these stories with her kids when they were young and she wished now that she had. I'm still not sure that I would with my teens (and near teen). It was sad every single day; I started to dread it.

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Friday, April 10, 2020

Frost by Dawn Garrett


Have you ever noticed
that the clearest, bluest
skies yield coldest days?

A few puffy white clouds
cling to the heavens
but mostly the blue is unhindered.

Shockingly, on our walk
we're pelted by pellets
of sleet? of snow?

Flakes flitter and fall
with no evidence
of their formation.

Crystals balled up
like a bloodroot bloom
against the dark.

The daffodils along the
path stare at me
with accusing eyes

blaming me for
the snap of cold
after days of warmth.

Where shadows rest
on roofs, blocking brilliant sun,
frost persists, holding tight.

This unusual, unseasonable
April morning where
the cold reminds us it's

Good Friday.