In Common – February 9th 2019

I’ve got a great mix of books going on this month, and I love the cross-talk going on.

 

This month I am reading through a new release by Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise. It’s a great read, digging into the history of Africans and African-Americans in this country and their history and involvement with Christianity and the American Christian church. This book looks at the involvement of the Christian church in the development and acceptance of slavery in this country, and the role of the church in establishing slavery (and segregation) as an accepted institution in the country.

 

I shared some notable quotes from this week’s reading in The Color of Compromise on Instagram and am including them here as well:

 

As reliance on slave labor increased, sticky questions about Christianity, race and bondage began to emerge. (The Color of Compromise, p. 35)

 

Over time, Europeans compromised the messaged of Christianity to accommodate slavery while also, in their minds, satisfying the requirement to make disciples. (The Color of Compromise, p. 36)

 

Missionaries carefully crafted messages that maintained the social and economic status quo. They truncated the gospel message by failing to confront slavery, and in doing so they reinforced its grip on society. (The Color of Compromise, p. 38)

 

The gospel message was compromised so that African Americans could still be proselytized but only enough to keep them in their state of bondage. Accepting Christ made us brothers and sisters in Christ, equal in a spiritual sense, but equality did not extend to the physical realm. This narrative was pushed, and not just to the African slaves.

 

I am also reading On Reading Well, by Karen Swallow Prior. In this book, Prior examines twelve virtues, using a classical piece of literature to explore each virtue. It is a great read, one that I definitely recommend.

 

This week, reading her chapter on Courage, Prior discusses The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn struggles throughout the story with what his conscience, formed by the corrupt society he has been raised in, is telling him, regarding the escaped slave Jim. I LOVE Huck Finn, and I’ve posted on my reading here.

 

Prior points out that

 

“… one main part of Twain’s satire in the novel is the conscience that is malformed by a corrupt culture. Huck harbors distorted views of right and wrong, ones imparted to him by his flawed society. The progress he undergoes that corrects the wrong lessons his culture has taught him is the essence of Huckleberry Finn.” (On Reading Well, p. 97)

 

Prior goes on to mention that

 

Huck, like many in the antebellum South, developed a conscience with a distorted sense of right and wrong.in Introducing Moral Theology, William Mattison uses slavery as an example to show how the conscience can be malformed by social norms such that a slaveholder in eighteenth-century America could ‘genuinely’ believe ‘in his heart of hearts’ that owning slaves was a ‘virtuous act’. (On Reading Well, p. 98)

 

Huck struggles with his conscience throughout the novel,

 

… as he tries to convince himself to do the ‘right’ thing by returning Jim to his owner, Miss Watson. (On Reading Well, p. 100)

 

Finally, Prior describes the courage shown by Huck in making such a monumental decision, one that to him, is a decision between helping Jim and facing eternal damnation, or doing the ‘right’ thing and returning Jim.

 

When Huck hears the call of God’s law on his heart, he mistakes it, ironically, for temptation to do wrong. His decision to help Jim run away is not, in his mind, an act of nobility, directed toward justice. But this is the great irony of Twain’s satire: we know that it is. And despite Huck’s erroneous belif that his intention is unjust, Huck shows courage in his willingness to sacrifice his very soul to obtain Jim’s freedom. (On Reading Well, p. 101)

 

Jemar Tisby, in The Color of Compromise, makes this statement:

 

But if racism can be made, it can be unmade. (The Color of Compromise, p. 39)

 

So how do we as a society, a culture, unmake racism (as well as other moral failings)?

 

I’ve been reading Tending the Heart of Virtue this week, which examines the role classic stories awaken a child’s moral imagination. Children’s stories, and stories in general, are powerful, more than people realize. The author, Vigen Guroian, discusses how ‘how merely giving instruction in ethics yields very little actually being transformed into character-building substance’ (p. 19).

 

I shared the full excerpt on Instagram, but the main point he makes, after quoting Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, is that

 

Mere instruction in morality is not sufficient to nurture the virtues. It might even backfire, especially when the presentation is heavily exhortative and the pupil’s will is coerced. Instead, a compelling vision of the goodness of goodness itself needs to be presented in a way that is attractive and stirs the imagination. A good moral education addresses both the cognitive and affective dimensions of human nature. Stories are an irreplaceable medium for this kind of moral education – that is, the education of character. (Tending the Heart of Virtue, p. 20)

 

We need stories, lots of stories, and good quality stories, to help shape the moral imagination of children. Humans are made for storytelling. We connect to the moral message in stories much more readily that in a list of ethics instructions.

 

Coming back to Jemar Tisby’s statement that racism can be unmade then – what can be done?

 

Earlier this week, someone in one of my online reading groups shared a wonderful post about the lack of living books (in the Charlotte Mason sense) for people of color. The author, blogging at Heritage Mom, shared here about with the lack of living books in this realm, she is including so many life-giving books instead – books for children that include children of color that build a child up, but may not fit the traditional CM definition of living book. There are many books that focus on Civil Rights, segregation, slavery, and the various struggles experienced in the black community. However, there is a noticeable lack of children’s books featuring children of color JUST BEING KIDS.

These are essential for children, regardless of race. Black children (and other people of color) need to be able to see themselves in the characters of children’s books, and white children need to see children of color as characters in books, and not just in books dealing with civil rights and struggles. These are the life-giving books that will help form the moral imagination in children of all races.

 

In a follow-up post she shared a list of resources for choosing books that include people of color. Because this is a topic that has seen a significant amount of discussion lately, I’ve seen other book lists sharing life-giving books, featuring people of color. I’m including some here.

 

Heritage Mom’s Life-giving Books for Black Children

 

Read Aloud Revival’s Diverse Picture Books to Celebrate the Everyday

 

Here We Read – a gold mine of picture books for children, lots of lists. I follow her on Instagram as well.

 

 

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

 

In Common – January 4th

 

New year – new reading goals!

Last year my goal was 52 books and I finished the year strong with 67 books read.

I’m going to push myself a little more and try to get through my official Goodreads Challenge goal for 60 books, but try to beat my goal again.

I’m working on my January stack this month – several longer term reads, including reading from the New Testament (the Jewish Annotated New Testament) and Old Testament (reading in the New American Revised – Catholic Bible). I’m at the beginning of Grudem’s Systematic Theology  – at around 1200 pages, I expect this to be a year-long read for me. My full reading list, including family read alouds are included below.

I’ve got a good reading routine established at this point, though I am working on getting started a little earlier each morning to get more done before the day gets going. I always read scriptures, theology and Christian topics in the morning, and move on, as time allows, to education and reading topics. In the evenings I try to get through my daily checklist (or as far as possible).

This month, I am reading through Eric Mason’s Woke Church. In this book, he challenges Christians to stand up to indignities and injustices in our world, where traditionally we (the church) have been unengaged.

Mason addresses the importance of community to the body of believers.

But in the gospel, man is not just reconciled to God by faith. Man is also reconciled to man by faith. (p. 41)

We are the sheepfold, the body, the new humanity, chosen race, new creation, the elect, exiles, royal priesthood, living stones, and temple of the living God! All this speaks not of our individuality, but of our connectivity through Jesus’ death by faith. (p. 43)

Mason speaks of the importance of proclaiming the gospel and the important of kingdom activity.

Regeneration is a motivation for good works. It is a fruit of gospel transformation. … He [God] expects us to be active in good works for His glory as a response and proof that we have been transformed. … Being transfomed by the gospel means that we as the covenant community bring that newness of life wherever we go. Our desire should be for our kingdom activity to point to the need for the soul to be changed. (p. 47)

After stressing the importance of community and action, Mason then gets into Justice as a character of the church.

We are called to follow His example of caring for the physical needs of others in order that the gospel witness of the kingdom might saturate the earth. (p. 55)

As exiles in the world, we must see ourselves as incarnational missionaries in the world for justice. (p. 55)

Our witness depends on our commitment to showing off the glory of Jesus in how we work in the world to be agents of change. Being agents of change means speaking to its brokenness, but also having the skill to use the truth to serve in bringing solutions. (p. 57)

Two final quotes from Woke Church …

… you’re supposed to be opening up your life so God can give you common ground with people who are not like you. This is where we live out the gospel. The gospel is supposed to bring people together who wouldn’t naturally be together. That’s the nature of it. (p. 57)

And finally,

I’m glad that when we see the injustices and the brokenness of our society we have the tool of God’s Word to help us become change agents – to make a difference in our spheres of influence. The gospel is the truth that unites us. It is the common ground that knits our souls together as one. (p.58)

I’m rereading Karen Glass’ Consider This, which explores Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. This book was so helpful when I read it last year, and I was excited when an opportunity to read it again in our book group came up. There is so much good stuff to glean from this book!

Glass introduces Mason’s first two principles, that children are born persons” and “they are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil. Mason believed that  “educational philosophy begins with a conception of man.” (p. 13) Her principles were contrasted with some prevailing ideas of her time that supposed that “a person could be born good or born bad, and that education could not change his nature.” (p.14)

Glass writes about Mason’s view:

…all possibilities are present with a child – and educational endeavors must take a different turn. If a child’s character has possibilies for both good and evil, then care must be taken to lay a foundation of good principles and nurture them, while at the same time helping the child to see and correct his own faults of character. (p. 16)

In discussing the classical purpose of education, Glass quotes David Hicks in Norms and Nobility (on my TBR someday list!)

‘The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and act in accordance with what one knows.’ … When our knowledge is transformed into action, It becomes virtue, and virtue was the goal of classical educators. (p. 18)

And,

Education, in antiquity, was never separated from the larger purpose of forming a virtuous person. (p. 22)

Speaking of virtue, I have started On Reading Well this week, and Karen Swallow Prior explores 12 virtues that are exhibited in classical works of literature. Each chapter focuses on one book and one virtue. The virtues she examines are Cardinal virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Courage), Theological virtues (Faith, Hope, Love) and Heavenly virtues (Chastity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility). This is a slower read – I expect to read over the course of the Winter and Spring, so as I go through each chapter, I’ll share some notable quotes.

 

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:




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In Common – October 19th Edition

In Common is my Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the week, and current reading list

My October reading stack is pretty hefty, with several longer term reads going on, but several titles that I have started this month and plan to finish this month as well (crazy!). I am trying hard to clear my TBR pile before 2019 – I have a few titles that have been in my TBR stack for a year or two, so I am determined!

I managed to locate my copy of The Lifegiving Parent which had gone missing over the summer, and even though I had gotten through almost half the book when it disappeared, I restarted it last week and expect to finish it up this week. I have worked through several Clarkson titles over the past two years and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. This is a great guide for Christian parents going through the process of child rearing, discussing topics such as nurturing your child’s spirit, strengthening your child’s faith, and cultivating your child’s character.

“You cannot impress on your children’s hearts what is not already on your own.” (The Lifegiving Parent p. 52)

“We cannot really become lifegiving parents without taking seriously the call to model the life of Christ to our children.” (The Lifegiving Parent p. 54)

“It is ultimately about your showing them the abundant life of God through your own faith life and showing that you are diligent to grow in all the godly virtues that come out of your faith.” (The Lifegiving Parent p. 111)

“The more your children see the life of God in you through your faith, the stronger their faith will become.” (The Lifegiving Parent p. 117)

“Our words should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit and be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (see Galatians 5:22-23). Strictness, harshness, anger, guilt and legalism will not change our children’s hearts or shape their wills for the good, and in fact can close their hearts to us.” (The Lifegiving Parent p. 137)

I’ve also started reading John Holt’s Learning All the Time. This is a great book so far. It focuses on early learning in small children, and as I have come to expect from John Holt, he makes great points on how to approach early learning. In an earlier chapter addressing how little children learn to read, Holt makes the case for less intervention rather than more.

“Learning to read is easy, and most children will do it more quickly and better and with more pleasure if they can do it themselves, untaught, untested, and helped only when and if they ask for help.” (Learning All the Time, p. 8)

“People learn to read well, and get big vocabularies, from books, not workbooks and dictionaries.” (Learning All the Time p. 19)

“.. Young people want, need, and like to read books that have meaning for them, and that when such books are put within easy reach they will sooner or later figure out, without being ‘taught’ and with only minimal outside help, how to read them.” (Learning All the Time p. 28)

This week I’m finishing up Ed Stetzer’s Christians in the Age of Outrage. I’m hoping to dedicate a post to this book so I’ll hold off including notable quotes until then, but it has been an excellent read, one that I certainly recommend.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

In Common – September 14th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the week, and current reading list.

I took a long break from my reading updates, but I am elbow-deep in so many books,  I thought it was time to get back to it!

This week I am wrapping up some books, and making room for some new September reads. I wanted to share some notable quotes before I put these books away and and new titles to the list.

Bruce Handy’s Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, was a delight. He spent six years putting this book together and the effort was worth it. He read books from his childhood, as well as children’s books he passed over as a youth. His analysis of books, compared to how he remembers them as a child, or as most children remember them, is quite interesting. Each chapter has its anchor book, but he weaves in references to similar titles, along with fascinating background details of the authors. He writes with a humorous voice that adds to the book’s enjoyment. He gave his honest opinion on books as well – something I appreciated because I understand that some people don’t like certain books, regardless of their status as classics or cult favorite. I appreciated his honesty.

In the Introduction, Handy recounts reading The House at Pooh Corner to his children. In the scene where Christopher Robin has to tell Pooh that he is going away and cannot do “nothing” anymore, Handy describes it as a “wrenching scene” and a little while later,

As I read this aloud, I couldn’t help but weeping. It’s a story, of course, about leaving childhood behind, which for poor baffled Pooh, the one being left – the one who exists only in Christopher Robin’s imagination – is a kind of death. … All this was swirling through my head as I read, tears spilling down my face, and my heartless kids couldn’t have cared less. (p. xx)

Having gotten the raised eyebrows from my kids as I cry my way through The Velveteen Rabbit (every time!), I found his tongue in cheek description of his children hilarious.

In his chapter entitled Runaways, he tackles books with characters that deal with family drama, bad parents, and yes, even runaways (most notable being The Runaway Bunny). In another example of his humor, he writes about “bad” parents:

There are a few characters I might accuse of sloppy parenting, such as the Man in the Yellow Hat, who is so laissez-faire that he never realizes that merely admonishing Curious George to be a good monkey, and then abandoning him for hours on end, will never not prove a recipe for disaster. And as we will see, the mother in The Cat in the Hat is so loopy she leaves her children in the care of a fish; hers will be the house where all the kids go to smoke weed in high school. (p. 28)

In his chapter on Beatrix Potter, he writes,

A key aspect of Potter’s genius is that she keeps one foot firmly planted in each world, human and beast; her stories are familiar yet strange, cozy yet haunted by Darwinian menace. In her view, anthropomorphism had well-defined limits, as she noted by way of criticizing her contemporary Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: “A frog may wear galoshes; but I don’t hold with toads having beards and wigs.” (p. 98)

Later, he writes about Beverly Cleary and the Ramona books.

Reading Ramona the Pest makes me feel five again – not a 100 percent pleasant sensation, but a powerful one. Ramona’s vividness on the page and her headstrong joie de vivre are big reason’s why. So too is Cleary’s recognition of the way seemingly minor details can loom so large for a young child trying to make sense of the world. (p. 149)

Handy includes an appendix, where he suggests book pairs, as well as a fairly extensive bibiography. This book was a fun and informative read, and is a great resource for considering books to read to your own family, or on your own.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

In Common: February 2nd 2018

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the week, and current reading list.

I have not kept up with my commonplace over the winter months, but I am trying to get back into good habits. I’ve managed to keep up with my reading schedule since the new year, and so I am pretty motivated to start my weekly summaries as well.

One of my longer term reads I started in January is the Introduction to The Gateway to the Great Books. This short offering is similar to the Introduction to The Great Books of the Western World (which is awesome, by the way), introducing readers to the value of reading good books. One thing that is mentioned is the different kinds of reading matter, and how different books call for different styles of reading. Not everything needs to be read actively, but in the same vein not all books are worth reading at all.

“We need to remind ourselves of this bygone situation in which a book was a lifelong treasure, to be read again and again. Deluged as we are with a welter of printed words, we tend to devaluate all writing, to look at every book on the shelf as the counterpart of every other, and to weigh volumes instead of words. The proliferation of printing, on the one hand a blessing, has had, on the other, a tendency to debase (or, in any case, homogenize) our attitude toward reading.” (GTTGB, Introduction p.19)

As for the importance of actively reading a book (and Mortimer Adler was all about actively reading, pencil in hand to mark up the book):

“Buying a book is only a prelude to owning it. To own a book involves more than paying for it and putting it on the shelf in one’s home. Full ownership comes only to those who have made the books they have bought part of themselves – by absorbing and digesting them. The well-marked pages of a much handled volume constitutes one of the surest indications that this has taken place. Too many persons make the mistake of substituting economic possession or physical proprietorship for intellectual ownership.” (GTTGB, Introduction p. 29)

I’ve got so many good books going on right now, including our read alouds (for school as well as bedtime)! I’ll share some more excerpts next week.

Current (Personal) Reads:

Current Read Alouds:

In Common – November 1st Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

My reading slump continues. I don’t know if it is because school is in full swing, the seasons are changing, or if I just overloaded my reading pile.

To be honest, I’ve put several books in my stack on the back burner and have focused on just one or two, while I have gotten caught up with the C.J. Cherryh Foreigner series. I’ve got the final two books arriving tomorrow (actually there is one more, but I make it a rule to wait until the paperback comes out for most of my fiction books, and the newest book comes out in paperback in January…).

I think the break has been helpful and I am trying to finish up my current stack for 2017. I might get a couple smaller titles squeezed in before year’s end, but I don’t expect to tackle any more from my 2017 list – they’ll just have to wait for 2018.

This week I am wrapping up Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-educated Mind. Along the same lines as Adler’s How to Read a Book, Bauer’s book goes through different genre’s and the different approaches to actively read each. At the end of each chapter, she includes an extensive annotated book list, which includes recommendations for best editions to choose. I have really enjoyed this book, and my TBR list has become, to be honest, unwieldy at this point. Now that I am finishing up the book, I may go back, and focus on one genre’s annotated book list at a time.

This week, I started a new book (I know, I know…). I’m reading The Life-giving Table by Sally Clarkson. I have loved her other books, and I am so excited to get into her new book.

“Through our careful preparations, our attention to tone and atmosphere, our gifts of loving touch, our example of humble service, and the provision of satisfying food, we can bring ourselves and those we love closer to Christ and foster growth of body, mind, and spirit. ” The Life-giving Table, Sally Clarkson

This is an excellent follow-up to The Life-giving Home, where she focused on traditions and family functions. Her new offering covers feasts and meals as a way to minister to family, friends and community. Hospitality is an area I want to improve upon in 2018 (being an introvert is hard!), and Clarkson is an excellent mentor for this.

 

Current Reads:

In Common – September 20th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

My current read pile has grown a little stagnant. I’ve been busy getting ready for the new school year, and have not made nearly as much progress as I would have liked.

I’ve got a stack of books to preread for my Year 5 student as well, so I am pretty sure many of the remaining titles on my 2017 list will be pushed to 2018. But I have managed to wrap a couple books up.

I recently finished In Defense of Sanity. This is an extensive collection of essays written by G.K. Chesterton and I believe it is a wonderful introduction to Chesterton’s writings.I’m already giving thought to what is next for me, as far as Chesterton goes. I’ve got the complete Father Brown Mysteries, which I just have never found the time to start, but maybe something a little deeper, like The Everlasting Man. One of my favorite quotes from In Defense of Sanity is taken from “If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach.”

“Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.”  In Defense of Sanity

I took a break from my current stack and read A Man Called Ove this past week. This was such a wonderful book, and it provided a much-needed break from all the non-fiction I’ve been working on. Ove is such a man of principle, and while he is a surly man of few words, and seemingly averse to forming friendships, somehow he manages to touch the lives of so many people. Even as a young man, he lived by a simple code, passed down from his father.

“‘Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say’, said Ove.” A Man Called Ove

This week I am trying to finally finish Locke’s Second Treatise. I have enjoyed reading it, though I have been at odds with some of Locke’s arguments (mostly his argument that labor puts the greatest part of value on land, a view that can be seen in the justification of wholesale Native American land grabbing) but overall his writing on the rights of man, man’s role in society and the limit of authority and government is fascinating.

I did take a break from my regular reading schedule to binge read a couple books from C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. I am a couple of trilogies behind schedule and trying to get caught up.

And as is my habit, I did start another book this weekend – Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible. This is an excellent overview of inductive bible study methods. I am a little familiar with the method because of my time spent doing Good Morning Girls bible study, which uses an inductive approach (somewhat), and also because my daughter has worked through Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible For Kids. I expect it to be a quick but impactive read.

 

Current Reads:

In Common – August 9th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I’ve been slowly working through The Well-educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. While there is a lot in this book that reminds me of How to Read a Book – and in fact SWB not only mentions Adler’s book on several occasions but does go into the different levels of reading – I love how she devotes a chapter each for several book genres.

In each chapter, she goes into some detail about the genre itself, and then specific suggestions on how to read books in the genre. Finally there is an extensive annotated book list.

I am currently working through Chapter 7, which covers History books.

“The overall task of the historian isn’t just to tell you what happened, but to explain why: not just to construct a bare outline of facts, but to tell a story about them.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB gives a thorough overview of periods of History writing, covering Medieval and Renaissance history, Enlightenment, as well as so many -isms that have always tripped me up, such as Relativism, Positivism, Progressivism, Post-modernism, and others. I feel better equiped to tackle History titles having read her introduction.

“History was not meant to serve any sort of ideological end. It was meant to find the truth.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB’s annotated list is extensive – she lists in order of time period written, earliest to most recent, starting with Herodotus’s Histories and wrapping up with Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man.

I am finishing up Math and Magic in Camelot this week, so look for a review soon. I am really enjoying the story as well as all the additional activities and information included.

Current Reads: