Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Meaning of Marriage

As I looked ahead at my year in January, I was also looking at my bookcase and my "to read" list. Both held titles that I have wanted to or needed to sit with, to think through, books that required more mental or emotional energy than I found when the quiet moments of my day allowed for pages to be turned.

This year, I decided to tackle one "meaty" book a month...just one. I wrote about January's, and February's books here. In the past four weeks, I have read the beautifully poignant Lila by Marilynne Robinson and the useful and delightfully penned manual Family Dog by Richard Wolters. I have bookmarks in half a dozen titles just as diverse as those two are from each other.

But the book that I mulled in March was The Meaning of Marriage written by Timothy and Kathy Keller. Alex read this aloud to me over the early spring weeks, and it was such a gift to be the one just... listening. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God was written for married and unmarried folks alike, and that perspective made it especially refreshing.

The Kellers point always to Scripture:
"...when the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone."

They draw on other wise teachers, my favorite being C.S. Lewis:
"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the greatest secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."

For a culture attempting to define and understand marriage, this book is an excellent read... and I did not take for granted that it was read to me by the man who loves me so patiently and faithfully.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Dorwin is a man who shaped things.
On Sunday mornings my family sits beneath arched windows trimmed in fir that Dorwin's hands bent and bowed. The clear grain, the curves, are beautiful, but these lines are even lovelier as reminders of the lives he shaped.

My father's life was molded by this boatbuilder, this man whose hands changed the geometry of wood -- sharp angles into curves that would weather storms on our rivers and bays.

Dorwin and his bride were newlyweds with my grandparents. They have lived as neighbors for most of their lives and raised their families together, sharing church pews and picnics and camping trips. Their lives were connected at every turn, and my father speaks always of Dorwin with respect for his character. He talks about his integrity and the investment of time that Dorwin made in his life.

Thus, this quiet boatbuilder shaped my life. My father's integrity and gentleness and kindness were learned from fine teachers...and Dorwin is one.

Dorwin's quiet sparkle and low chuckle were a background to many milestones in my life, and the photo here was a snapshot taken at MyLinh's "welcome home" party. He and his family had driven an hour to share in yet another chapter of our story.

His granddaughter wrote to me yesterday, and Dorwin is failing. Cancer is claiming his slight frame, and the tears in my father's eyes last night were evident of grief...and thanksgiving for this man who helped to shape him.

I am thanking God for this man today, reminded of how quietly we shape those around us. May the result be beautiful.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Surprised by Joy

I have been hungry for C.S. Lewis's writing, and Surprised by Joy: the Shape of my Early Life was a satisfying read for February. Walking through Lewis's youth in Ireland and into his exploration of the occult, then atheism, and his eventual arrival at Christianity was a fascinating journey to follow. He writes with honesty (and a vocabulary that humbled me -- I can now define quiddity, farrago, and elenchus). I was so grateful for his perspective on academics, friendship, and God's pursuit of us. Some of my favorite quotes from the book are below, and I hope you, too, might find Surprised by Joy in your hands this winter.

On joy:
"As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, and as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden (giving the full, ancient meaning to 'enormous') comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?...Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse... withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased... In a sense the central story of my life is about nothing else...[It] is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again... I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”

On the space around us:
“The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space.” It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.”  

On reading:
“In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere — "Bibles laid open, millions of surprises," as Herbert says, "fine nets and stratagems." God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”