Thursday, July 26, 2007

Synthesizing reading and life

Though I'm fully immersed, or rather that should be submersed, in planning (I find far too many interesting rabbit trails to follow, thus not progressing onward, but side-ward), I'm desperately trying to finish as much of my Summer Reading Challenge list as possible.

On sort of a whim, I started The Contemplative Pastor (Peterson) after hearing a Circe conference speaker incorporate many references from it in his seminar. The book was beneficial to a point (I didn't really itch where it scratched) but far less evocative for me than for the Circe speaker. He was able to take Peterson's thoughts and mold them into his life as a teacher / administrator.
For me, his grafting was a balm more than the book alone was.

Nevertheless, there are always diamonds in the dust. (Even if you are not spiritually inclined, many of the quotes to follow are valuable for their literary references, so please read on.)

Prayer has to be a response to what God has said. (p. 9)

I am busy because I am vain....I am busy because I am lazy....It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. (pp. 18-19)

The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth. (p. 44)

When I engage in conversation, meet with a committee, or visit a home, I am coming in on something that has already been in process for a long time. God has been and is the central reality in that process. The biblical conviction is that God is "long beforehand with my soul." God has already taken the initiative. Like one who walks in late to a meeting, I am entering a complex situation in which God has already said decisive words and acted in decisive ways. My work is not necessarily to announce that but to discover what he is doing and live appropriately with it. (p. 61)

Descriptive language is language about --- it names what is there. It orients us in reality. It makes it possible for us to find our way in and out of intricate labyrinths
Motivational language is language for --- it uses words to get things done. Commands are issued, promises made, requests proffered. Such words get people to do things they won't do on their own initiative.
[P]ersonal language...uses words to express oneself, to converse, to be in relationship. This is language to and with. Love is offered and received, ideas are developed, feelings are articulated, silences are honored. (p. 62)

The blithe ignorance is frightening: "Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? . . . On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does not one believe a word of it?" (p. 83. Quoted from Annie Dilliard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which, by the way is actually a real place not far from where I live. Dilliard graduated from my master's alma mater, and Tinker Creek runs through the campus.)

Gregory of Nyssa and Teresa of Avila got me started. I took these masters as my mentors. They expanded my concept of prayer and introduced me into the comprehensive and imaginative and vigorous language of prayer. (p. 90)

[W]ords have the power to make things happen, to bring something out of nothing, to move inert figures into purposive action. (p. 91) [I am making a banner of this statement for my English classroom.]

Ships sail East, and ships sail West, / While the selfsame breezes blow,
It's the set of the sails, and not the gales, / That determine the way they go. [Author unknown] (p. 96)

Shakespeare, the poet from whom we know the most about people, is the poet about whom we know next to nothing. (p. 101)

[T]he difference between a profession, a craft, and a job[:]
A job is what we do to complete an assignment. Its primary requirement is that we give satisfaction to whoever makes the assignment and pays our wage. We learn what is expected and we do it. There is nothing wrong with doing jobs. To a lesser or greater extent, we all have them; somebody has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage.
But professions and crafts are different. In these we have an obligation beyond pleasing somebody; we are pursuing or shaping the very nature of reality, convinced that when we carry out our commitments, we benefit people at a far deeper level than if we simply did what they asked of us. In crafts we are dealing with visible realities, in professions with invisible. The craft of woodworking, for instance, has an obligation to the wood itself, its grain and texture. A good woodworker knows his woods and treats them with respect. Far more is involved than pleasing customers; something like integrity of material is involved.
With professions the integrity has to do with the invisibles: for physicians it is health (not merely making people feel good); with lawyers, justice (not helping people get their own way); with professors, learning (not cramming cranial cavities with information on tap for examinations.) (p. 132-33)

Thinking of my pursuit to finish my Summer Reading Challenge list, thoughts about an Autumn Reading Challenge are rolling around in my head. Drop me a comment if you might be interested in another seasonal challenge.


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Definitely interested in another seasonal challenge.

Even though I set the Challenge aside to read some unexpected (usually library) books, it has been great in keeping me on a chosen reading path.

I may not completely finish it each time but I have always come close.

Kathleen Hamilton said...

Yes, of course I'm interested in another challenge! I often veer pretty far off my list (like this time!), but I still love the challenge.

DebD said...

I'm also interested in another challenge and I've been pondering my next list as well.

I am busy because I am vain....I am busy because I am lazy....It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard. (pp. 18-19) ouch! Boy that rings was to true for me.

Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke?
I find that one rather harsh and insulting. I suspect he has not been in a liturgical church before, much less an Eastern Orthodox one. Is this a book written only to Evangelical Protestants?

Carol in Oregon said...

"For me, his grafting was a balm more than the book alone was."

Oh, how many times have I found this to be true. We laugh about a dear friend of ours whose extemporaneous movie reviews are ALWAYS better than the movie itself. He seems to suck the marrow and give only the best parts.

So I will copy a few of these quotes down; I thank you for skimming the cream for us.

I like the challenges, not because I achieve them, but because I achieve more than I would have without them.

I'm already missing your posts, but truly am excited for the challenge ahead of you.

Ann said...

I read this book (Contemplative Pastor) about 10 years ago, and it really did scratch where I itch! Now I try to live my life by it. Have you looked at "The Message," Peterson's paraphrasing of the Bible? I love it!

Ann said...

In response to/in conversation with DebD: I am a priest in a liturgical church. The quote is from Annie Dillard. I tend to agree with her. People often recite the prayers and receive communion without really thinking much at all about what we're really saying, and how we're asking to be transformed into the image of God. Do people really hear and believe, for instance, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us?" Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who really do sense the power of God every time you invoke God's name. But most, I think, don't.