Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Piper on Reading

One other thought on reading:  I heard Piper say recently, and publicly, that he only reads about 10 books a year.  He said he can read no faster than he can talk.  A good reminder that you don’t have to be an amazing reader to have an impact for the kingdom.  It’s more important to be faithful where God has you and to be faithful in the little things (Luke 16:10).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Role of Reading in the Life of the Busy Believer

After the recent post on my visit to the majestic Mohler museum and library, a friend emailed me the following question:

I have many friends who are passionate followers of Jesus, who do and have worked in the market place for years, and who feel tremendous guilt when they read about Mohler's reading habits.  Personally, I believe that there are people who waste five or six hours a day doing other things and that this can be redeemed by reading.  However, I would postulate that reading in and of itself has become in scholarly circles and many Christian circles a type of idol that people devote inordinate amounts of time to when they could be actively involved in people's lives.  I fully embrace a view of reading that Paul had (Ephesians 3:4-5) and one that can be extrapolated from the wisdom literature concerning walking with the wise.  I also realize that immersing oneself in various literature can inspire and prepare you for untold opportunities to speak into other people's lives. That being said what place in the average believer's life do you think reading should have?
Great question, and one that deserves an answer. The following is my response (with some minor additions and/or clarifications to our original interaction):
Short Answer
For the average believer, whether one reads or does not read is not the issue as much as the importance of developing a lifestyle of learning and growing and pursuing Christ in all areas of life, instead of passively wandering through the motions of the Christian life.  With great audio books, sermons, and interviews, reading as a means of Christian growth is not as critical as it once was.  The question becomes, are people passionately pursuing Christ and taking advantage of the available resources for growth?  Long commutes or time on the treadmill can easily be turned into 30 minutes a day of rich mentoring and resourcing through audio content and books that are so readily available.  Reading should serve and help, and balance must be sought in this pursuit (I Cor. 6:12).  For instance, a man in his 30's with a job, wife and kids should use whatever free time he has to grow in his Biblical leadership in those areas, making sure to prioritize them along with his own growth as a follower of Christ. The temptation for many men in this stage of life is to become overly focused on the 'job' part - taking time from the other areas and attempting to justify their neglect of their family. I would encourage any man to take a good hard look at their calendar and see if they are truly carving out the time they need to really learn and grow and lead their family well, whether that means reading or not.
Other Thoughts
When reading about Mohler's habits, the temptation for some is to feel guilty about their own habit. However, some have the opposite response to Mohler of being inspired by his example. I find myself being inspired, rather than laden with guilt, because I realize I could be much more productive with my time.  I also remind myself that Mohler certainly has a gift for reading and consuming information.  I cannot read 3 books a night like Mohler, but neither can I dunk a ball like Lebron (or anybody for that matter).  That does not mean I shouldn't lace up the sneaks and try to improve my jump shot occasionally and likewise try to improve my reading skills.
It is also important to note that for Mohler and other teachers, reading is more than just a sharpening tool, it is almost a requirement of their work.  It is really at the core of his job.  He turns around and spits back out everything he reads on his blog, on the radio, in the pulpit, in book reviews, in articles, in books he writes, and to faculty and staff at the seminary all day long.  He is essentially paid to read.  That should remove some of the guilt for some.  Though I would say that those in the market place could likely do more reading in their field (and I'm sure they would agree).
There is a difference between guilt and healthy pressure.  It's ok to feel pressure to do something if one should be doing more of it.  It is not ok to feel guilty for doing something that we should not be doing (or an activity that should be considered optional).  The issue that all believers should feel a healthy pressure about is growth in the area of expertise that the Lord has given to us.
Of course anything can become an idol.  Reading can become an idol for sure, as can the act of avoiding reading.  But I believe that many people, especially men, have not really tried to learn to really love reading. But this can change.  Just last year I watched a man go from abhorring reading (A college jock type - awesome basketball player) to a place where he recognizes how important it is and cannot stop reading now.
On a personal level, reading has always been my favorite hobby.  Nothing calms me as much (maybe lifting weights is a close second).  So anytime I have free time, I'm reading.  TV stresses me out, so we don't have one.  Reading calms me.  However everyone is wired differently.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Great article on Reading with Kids

Check out this article on one man's commitment to read nightly with his daughter and what it meant to them.  Certainly inspiring, though I wonder how things might have turned out with his marriage had he maintained a similar practice with his wife.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Baby Race

Friday morning at 5:30 AM Julie’s water broke.  My first thought was “well, here’s the start of another loooong day,” since JI’s birth came 22 hours after his water broke.  But Caroline had a different plan.  I was on the phone with a friend at 8 AM, still thinking we had plenty of time, when Julie said “I think we’re having this baby today.”  Thirty minutes later the contractions were coming in waves, so we shipped John Isaac off to a friend’s house, assembled some belongings and prepared for the trip to the hospital.  In the midst of getting ready my brother in Kentucky calls and informs me they are at the hospital ready to deliver their baby!  The race was on – who would go first?  (Competition never gets old between brothers).

We were waiting for the Birthing Assistant (B.A. hereafter) to arrive before departing, but I wasn’t sure if we would be able to wait at this point – the contractions just kept coming, one after another, and Julie wasn’t getting any relief.  The B.A. arrived around 9:30 and knew right away that it WAS TIME TO GO.  We loaded Julie in the van and took off (though my driving was well controlled, as the B.A. commented afterwards).  I didn't know it at the time, but the B.A. was discretely calling another B.A. that was following behind us in a car, telling her to call the hospital and warn them that we were coming.  She told us later that she was for sure Julie would have the baby in the van!  

Julie was glad to be on the way, but not happy at all about the 47 speed bumps in the hospital parking lot.  When we parked at the entrance, I dashed off and retrieved a wheel chair, only to be informed by my wife that, “I can’t get out!”  Well, we’re not having this baby here – not when we're this close to having her nosocomial - so we all lifted various body parts and helped her into the chair.  We proceeded down the loooong hallway, up the elevator and pulled into the maternity ward at almost 10 AM.  Recognizing her condition, everyone jumped to attention and started helping right away.  A few minutes later she was in the delivery room and ready to go.  The Lord was so gracious to have some of the kindest, gentlest nurses in the room with us – they were so sensitive to her condition.  They immediately checked her and she was already fully dilated!!!!  Julie wasn’t kidding – we would be having a baby THAT DAY.

After many complications from delivering John Isaac with drugs, my amazing wife was dead set on having this baby o-natural.  Now, I’ve heard all the horror stories of women snapping at their husbands in this condition, so I was on my best behavior, not wanting to do anything to frustrate her.  I must have said a thousand times “you’re doing a great job!” and meant it every time.  She amazed me with her resilience and focus – I was truly inspired and became “choked up” many times just watching her endure the pain.  All the material we read beforehand  said there would come a point when she would say “I can’t do this – I can’t go on!”  but she blew right past that point, only hinting at it right at the very end.  She started pushing at 11:30 – and at 12:01, we had our girl!

The only down side of the entire morning was the flurry of messages that came in right before Julie started pushing: my brother’s daughter was just delivered.  They beat us by 37 minutes!  Oh well, you can’t win them all.  I guess it wasn’t a total loss, as Caroline was heavier by 3 ounces.

We spent the night in the hospital and made it home Saturday afternoon with no problems.  Please pray for a speedy recovery for my wife.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Two Books of Note

Colonel RooseveltJust noticed that Edmund Morris' third biography on Theodore Roosevelt, called Colonel Roosevelt, is available for pre-order on Amazon.  Having read the first two volumes, I'm sure this one will be worth the time and effort to ingest.  This volume will cover his life from the end of his presidency till his death in 1919 (volume one covered his birth to the start of his Presidency at McKinley's death, volume two covered his Presidency.)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyAnother book of note is a new biography about Dietrich Bonhoeffer , called Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.  The book was recommended to me by a friend after reading this review on the Wall Street Journal.  The reviewer appreciated Metaxas' efforts to paint Bonhoeffer's faith in a fairer light than others have done (at least according to the reviewer).  Interesting note on Mr. Metaxas:  he has also written for Veggie Tales, has written over 30 children's books, and a best-selling bio on William Wilberforce.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Bat Cave of Evangelicalism

Forgive me while I gush.  A few weeks ago, i joined a co-worker in Louisville to interview Al Mohler for a new video based marriage conference FamilyLife is producing.  While there we had the chance to visit Dr. Mohler’s personal library in the basement of his home (what Ligon Duncan refers to as “the bat cave of evangelicalism”).

His personal librarian (yes, that’s what I said) gave the current volume count at 40,550 volumes, though he hedged with the disclaimer that “hundreds of books come in a month.”

 His Desk (on the right side of the picture)

His Churchill “section” (pic on right) contained over four hundred books by or about the man.  And the collectibles were everywhere.  In one corner was a pile of leather briefcases “to give to friends.”  On a desk were dozens of fountain pens.  Model ships, airplanes and busts protruded from every corner and were perilously perched on every possible ledge.  It was glorious and dangerous at the same time. 

Mohler consumes books like a five year-old eats candy on Halloween.  I asked about his reading schedule - he settles into his favorite reading chair around 11 PM or midnight [see pic of his 'current reading’ stack on left] and reads till 4 or 5 AM, then sleeps till 9 or 10 before heading to the office.  How many books a night does he read?  “Usually 3 or so.”  Not from 3 books - but 3 from start to finish.  You can read Mohler’s comments on his reading habits here.

One of his reading suggestions I’ve followed is to find an author you enjoy and read everything you can that they have written.  One of those authors for me has been David McCullough, who says, “you are what you read” (his bio on Truman is my favorite of his works).  McCullough is a throwback author who still uses a typewriter, partly because he knows he needs to “go more slowly” (read this interview about his typewriter here).  If one of the greatest writers of our time (one journalist said “he is incapable of writing an incorrect sentence") needs to go more slowly, let all others take heed!

Mohler also asserts that “reading will save your life.”  This proved true on one of my all time favorite FamilyLife Today radio interviews where Mark Hamby, founder and director of Lamplighter publishing tells his journey from not reading a single book in high school to being addicted to books.  The story is both entertaining and inspiring, and each re-airing on FamilyLife Today produces a run on Lamplighter books, one of which was Ronald Reagan’s favorite book, That Printer of Udell’sReagan read the book as a young boy, and when he put it down, he said “I want to be like that man.”  That’s what a great book does; inspires you to want to live differently.  Those are hard to find, but those are the ones that are worth reading.  This week I read A Confederacy of Dunces.  It was entertaining, well written, with an intriguing plot-line, but not inspiring.  Nothing about the story made me want to emulate anyone.  None of the characters were redeemable - even at the end - when someone usually comes out changed and motivated to live differently, none had changed.  Their situations had, and they had largely stumbled into new situations, but their inner character had not changed.

This is contra every book I have read about Teddy Roosevelt.  Almost everything about his life inspires me to want to live differently and to want to read more about him!

Al Mohler - Study Tour from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.