I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Please, Just Don’t

Forget about truth being stranger than fiction, truth is way funnier. It almost always is. And Jean Kerr wrote brilliantly about her truth as a mom. Originally a playwright, Kerr also wrote magazine essays. She parlayed those into books. And she sure had a keen talent for highlighting the laughter in the mundane. I like her style.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was, for me, a perfect example of how our lives are the perfect material for any piece of art we have the desire to create. Whether it’s the feelings that accompany the varied life circumstances that are universal, or the cast of characters who are almost always by our sides (again, universally), a mom-writer will never be short of ideas if they look down about 20 inches to the nearest child.

The thing about humor writers like Betty Macdonald, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, and Jean Kerr is that they inspire me. For any woman desperately seeking time to mother, wife, and foster a writing career, these women modeled a way. They just took family-life experiences and mined them for gold.

Life is messy and parenting is tornado-level messy, but with quotes like these, I feel mollified when I must loudly proclaim things like, “Don’t lick the mirror!” Because, ew! And please, just don’t.

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”

Truth? Yes indeedy.

Enjoying the books I’ve chosen in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever? Missed a few days? Click the button below!

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It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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Through the Trees

A singing waiter, a girl who loves to read (and who fights for her education), and a bad girl who only wants to be a mama were three of my favorite storylines in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

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Taking place in the beginning decades of the 20th century, Smith brilliantly captures the plight of over-comers. In this case, the Nolan women. From the deepest desire of motherhood in Katie’s sister to the deepest desire to rise above, in Francie, this book allowed me a birds-eye view through the trees. I felt like I was given an inside track on the themes that run through many women’s hearts, even now in 2016.

The main character, Francie Nolan encountered something that felt relatable to me. Mostly, the idea of being a girl in a boys world. That Neely was loved more because he was a boy made me mad. And that Katie had to work extra hard to overcome her husband’s weaknesses didn’t help either. This book was, I believe, an ode to feminism.

But above all it’s all about the books. The love of All The Books. Of Francie, Smith writes,

“The world was hers for the reading.”

Indeed it was.

So, of course, this was one of my favorites characters in a story. And this book, one of my favorites.

Catch up with all of the other books in my Best Books Ever series for the Write 31 Days Challenge. Click the button below to see what others were on my list.

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Outside Looking In

Any book that references Dairy Queen is a book I’m going to love. And it was certainly true for The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. 

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Oh Dally, Pony, Sodapop, Darry… your names, alone, slay me. I’ve been on the outside looking in. Plenty.

And writing really has been the catharsis to the angst that brings.

It was for Ponyboy, too.  “Stay gold,” Pony.

There were quotes upon quotes that moved me in this story of East side greasers versus West side Socs.

“Nothing sparkly can stay.”  Now, that one was a lie. As a parent, I now know that glitter can stay. Glitter ALWAYS stays.

Hinton packed a ton of wisdom into this short novel about outsiders looking in. “There isn’t any real good reason for fighting except self-defense,” is there?

But his insights into our common humanity, well… even in High School, I was desperately seeking the commonalities.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”

As years become decades, I’ve realized how beautiful it can be to acknowledge that we all see the same sunset. There is comfort to be found in that, isn’t there?

Yes indeedy.

Only a handful of days remain. If you’ve missed any of the posts in my Best Books Ever series, click the button below. I am writing these as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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Rooting for the Underdog

I’m assuming that my heart for the underdog is why God gave me a quirky kid.

I’m also assuming my fervent desire for any underdog to succeed is rooted in my own underdog underpinnings.

That’s a lot of under.

I like to be out from under, though.

And Frodo Baggins, one of my favorite underdogs in all of book history (next to Zaccheus in the Bible), struggled mightily to come out from under his circumstances.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is quite possibly one of the best stories of all time. Any age can read it (or at least have it read to them). I can’t imagine a life circumstance that isn’t dealt with in the book. And there are any number of “giants” to be overcome.

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And more than all of that, it is the smallest among us, the ones we think will be least effective, both for change and against evil, who end up being most useful and helpful.

It was the character Galadriel who said,

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Indeed.

Who instilled hope in all of humanity?

A baby.

Who was most instrumental in winning the battle for The Ring?

Hobbits.

The smallest of All.

Oooh, I love me a good underdog story!

Adding to my love for this series? J.R.R. Tolkien was besties with C.S. Lewis. Oh yes they were!

It just doesn’t get better than that.

The movies were fantastic, but these books were rich in detail and painted a picture of good versus evil that I no reader can soon forget.  And it left me rooting for the underdog, once again.

Yes indeedy.

Click the little button to see other books I’m writing about in this Write 31 Days series.

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Can’t Handle the Tooth

In honor of the incredible toothache pain I’m in right this very minute, I’m going to share a quote by one of my favorite authors of all time (and then a book of his, too). Or maybe two books of his. Or three. Or…

“If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.” -C.S. Lewis

That guy, up there, wrote exceedingly well about the God. And life. And pain. And love.

And friendship.

I like what he wrote about friendship so very much.

The first book of C.S. Lewis’ that I read was “The Four Loves”. Although still hovering over Christianity as though it were a possibility, I was still too full of Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche to land.  And as I read Lewis’ take on charity, eros, philia, and storge, I realized there were enough “thinkers” in this Christianity gig to make it a pretty sure thing.

And then, I got to the part about friendship and I exhaled. Because, exactly.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

But, then in The Abolition of Man, Lewis brought me down to my knees. I thought I saw through all that religiosity and hypocrisy.

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.”

Oh boy! He had my number. And as I speed read every book I could get my hands on (because, BOOKS!), I realized that there was no more denying God.

So I didn’t.

Ultimately, C.S. Lewis, turned my eyes outward and upward.

And they are ever upward.

Even as I sit here feeling like I can’t handle the tooth (pain). 

Yes indeedy.

If you are hovering over Christianity, grab a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Or, The Great Divorce. Or, if you are more fantasy fiction leaning, The Chronicles of Narnia series. (And no, it’s not just for youth. I daresay you get far more out of it as an adult!)

And then, if you missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below. I am writing this series as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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