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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

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Three books, three reviews with take away points, and one book I may not finish and why

[ 1 ]

Road to Reality
The first book, Road to Reality by Melvin Tinker, is a small book that I got at a book give-away last fall and have been casually reading it. The subtitle says it all, Finding Meaning in A Meaningless World.

A few weeks ago I decided to finish reading this book in part due to a community tragedy and part due to getting through some tough issues of my own. Melvin Tinker reveals an astute understanding of modern society and addresses the heart of religion and philosophy: where did I come from (origins) and who am I (identity)? In nine chapters, the book presents a road map to understanding reality. He begins in the preface with this:
"[T]he sense of lostness [permeates] the lives of many people living in the post-modern West. Listen to these words of a fourteen year old: 'Why am I here? What have I done ... Who cares for me? I am me. I suffer because I am me. Why do I live? For love, for happiness? ... I hate this world. I hate my parents and my home--though why, I don't know. I searched for truth but I only found uncertainty ... Where can I find happiness? I don't know. Perhaps I shall never know.' ... Plutarch wrote: 'The soul is in exile and a wanderer.'"

Often I find myself going from day to day on autopilot. The routine of life provides a way to cope with "what" is going on around me, but never addresses the "why." Most people don't want to know why unless there is a tragedy. And even then, they really don't want to know why tragedy happened they just want to blame someone for it. Road to Reality provides a different perspective on "why" by addressing the search for meaning, origins, identity, order, forgiveness, goodness, life, mercy and future. I've reread several chapters and plan to read it again when time allows.

My take away: This is a very well written, concise, smart exposition of a Christian worldview. If you don't know what that means--read Road to Reality.

[ 2 ]

Marked for Life
I read Marked for Life by Crystal Woodman Miller in a day. It's a roller coaster ride of a book. Crystal is a survivor of the Columbine massacre (April 20, 1999). The book begins with her narrative of touring Beslen School No. 1--the school where more than 30 terrorists were responsible for the death of 330 people. As a survivor of the Columbine shootings she is aware that there are Columbines everywhere. The majority of Marked for Life relates the horror she experienced of being in the library that tragic day (the library was the scene where the most students were shot) and how she traveled through those dark days, months and years of coping, dealing and living with the pain and suffering of that event.

Two chapters that really got me (almost to tears) was the chapter, which recreated that day in April, which found her under a library desk praying for her life and one of the last chapters in the book where she had joined a team sent to Indonesia to help recovery efforts after the tsunami. From being a victim of an American tragedy to helping victims of tragedies across the globe, Crystal's book is a powerful story. The "issue is this," she writes. "We can't just move on, because each one of us has aftershocks from our own bouts with suffering ... I've chosen to invest myself in serving the world around me."

Marked for Life is written in a conversational tone and could be disregarded as a feel-good inspirational book. However, it intimately details the anatomy of grief and suffering that really challenges the reader to dig deeper into the reality of pain--whether it is your own or someone you love.

My take away: Often what someone in pain is not telling you what is hurts them the most. But there is hope.

[ 3 ]

I have risen early today. Far in the distance, a faint glow paints the horizon. Dawn is coming, gently and full of prayer.

Small Graces
Small Graces by Kent Nerburn resonates with me on many levels. First, after reading chapters The Gift of the Dawn and The Eloquence of Silence I realized he writes from a portion of America that I claim as my homeland--the Upper Midwest (specifically Minnesota). Writers from that region seem to tie their literature and lives to the land where they live. Maybe it's the solitude or the long winters that bring out such meditations. Second, he is very knowledgeable in the ways of the native culture. Since my youth I studied native culture around me--Chippewa, Ojibway and Sauk and Fox. I have abandoned that study over the last decade for reasons I will not relate here. But as I read Small Graces, I realized I deeply miss the Northern woodlands that rest at the edge of the prairie.

Kent Nerburn writes prose as meditations and observations. One Amazon.com reviewer said it this way: "It is so unassuming and poetic." Each chapter is a lyrical journey through various themes: awakenings, passages, gatherings and departures.

I borrowed a copy from the library and I just may have to go out an buy myself a copy because I really like this book. And yet in some respects I don't like this book. Much like my review of Blue Like Jazz, Kent Nerburn beat me to it and therefore I question whether or not my own writings have a marketplace. Much of my essays, which have been published, have a lyrical quality that is present in Small Graces. Though I have never read Kent Nerburn's work before, I will probably search out his other books.

My take away: Don't let the small moments of the day escape. They are a gift.

[ 4 ]

Okay, so the book I'm not sure I want to finish reading is Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I put the book down after the first 30 pages because of his nauseating writings. Clearly he has a personal agenda--American men are wimps and need to be "dangerous." WTH!? John Eldredge presents a nonfiction book that takes his agenda and injects it into the Holy Scriptures as a way to validate his premise. Okay, that my be harsh which means I may have to force myself to read the rest of the book in hope that it gets better and not worse.

My take away so far: The book might work better if presented as a personal memoir of how the author approaches his own masculine identity.

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