Tuesday, October 03, 2006

reading

A few years back, I had the impression that I sensed God telling me, "Read. Read. Read."

I love to read. But there are so many other things in life that can come in and crowd it out. Good things. And plenty of them. Great in their place. Not so great out of place.

I venture to say that I get the greatest reward out of reading than most any other activity. First and foremost, of course, Scripture. Regularly. Consistently. Blogger friend Allan Bevere shared this informative, formative article from Christian History, entitled, "The Habits of Highly Effective Bible Readers: What we can learn from the church fathers that will enrich our own Bible study". It is good to read widely. But the more we do so, the more we need to keep at our reading of Scripture. Francis Schaeffer used to tell his students that it was even more critical that they should keep up their Bible reading, while reading philosophy. And to be reading it, then, all the more!

Of course read what interests you. What interests you is related to who you are which is related to how God has gifted you. Therefore I will major on what interests me. But also I will want to stretch beyond that, at times, to learn to appreciate other subjects and ways of writing. I tend to like nonfiction and theology, and hang all the rest. Except for good humor. Need some of that. But the blog world has helped me stretch beyond just what I know I like. Ernest Hemmingway's The Old Man and the Sea is a great example of a fiction book that was a great read for me. And I look forward to reading more classics, especially theological, which I could easily neglect, except for good friends in the blog world, who awaken me to some of those books.

When reading I don't worry myself sick over trying to remember all the details (like I used to). I think more in terms of impact and formation, than ideas and information- though without discounting the latter. I think this is especially important in Bible reading. Though true in other, as well (unless you're reading much of politics or the sports page; that's good for practicing your speed reading and scanning- ha). I have to say, I'm not a fan of speed reading. Maybe some high speed intellects can do it. I can't. Even John Wesley, who knew by memory the Greek New Testament better than he knew the English translation of it, was known for reading slowly. Of course he did alot of his reading on horseback. I think it is perfectly fine to read slow. With pauses here and there to gather our thoughts. But to keep moving that pace. Even if you don't think you're really "getting" all of it.

Just some thoughts on one of my favorite individual pastimes. I think I'll go upstairs now and read.

What would you like to share about your own reading?

11 comments:

Adam Krell said...

I found myself getting overwhelmed by all the books being recommended to me, not to mention my own long list of books I had in queue. I've tended to read slowly because I've wanted to make sure “I got” all the material I was reading, but it made my list of books to read an unconquerable mountain. I've heard about speed reading courses and have always been skeptical. But someone in our fellowship studied the speed reading material and really noticed an immediate change in her speed, enjoyment and comprehension. This got me interested and so I dove into the material. I must say, this has been one of the best things I've ever done. Now I can plow through books and I feel I retain the information more, not less. When reading for pure pleasure (fiction, etc.), I don't do the speed reading thing, but for general reading it really makes a difference. I've noticed that going slow can actually hinder my comprehension of the big picture of what the author is trying to communicate.

Ted Gossard said...

Adam,

I've taken some speed reading directives before. I find them helpful for reading many things. And I do think the more one reads, the more one's speed and comprehension should pick up. There surely is such a thing as reading too slow; I'd agree.

But I just don't believe I can do justice in reading some things, if I go over them fast. And I include Scripture in this (though I think it is good to go over Scripture in the sense of covering ground so as to get a good overall view of the Story, and settling down, so as to really get into a part of that Story, or the writings). Reading some parts from Bonhoeffer certainly involves some reflection for me.

But the most important thing I'd say is "Read." Whether fast or slow. And in what ways work for the person.

Thanks Adam, for sharing that.

Scot McKnight said...

Ted,
Great thoughts. My own theory of reading is "desultory." I read what comes my way and what provokes interest. I do much less planning a reading schedule and read what comes my way next -- sometimes a classic, sometimes a new book, sometimes what a friend recommends, what a blogger recommends ... I just try to avoid locking myself into some schedule.

Ted Gossard said...

Scot,

Thanks! Yes. I think I do basically or much the same, certainly on a mini-scale compared to you. But I find reading like this rewarding and important for me, as a person (like as in, not drying up and blowing away). Although it's like eating candy for me, I do need to apply more discipline to it, due to a busy schedule (same for all) and my tendency to fall asleep while I'm reading. Probably everyone else has to as well, since most have to battle something, like sloth or distractions, etc.

L.L. Barkat said...

Hey, I just picked The Old Man and the Sea off my attic bookshelf. I don't know that I've ever read it....

.... now, if I could just find me that horse...

Ted Gossard said...

hey L.L., Hope you enjoy that read. Even though you don't have a horse.

Andy Blanks said...

So I am halfway done with seminary, which means I am constantly reading.

Unfortunately, so many are books I wouldn't normally read. (Is this an indictment on me? On Seminary? Or both?)

My undergrad is in English, and I am an editor at a Christian pub company, so reading is a huge part of my life. I have recently become immersed in so many of these wonderful blogs. Just found Jesus Community recently and I truly, truly enjoy it.

To answer the question? I just finished Willard’s "Divine Conspiracy," McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy," and Rick Yount's "Called to Teach" and "Created to Learn."

Ted Gossard said...

Andy,

Thanks for your comment and kind words.

Going through seminary, I would say the same thing you're saying. I think to a point, that having to read and be exposed to some books and kinds of scholarship we would not otherwise read is very good for the seminarian. I would have more difficulty with it, if that is what comprises the majority of one's education. Sure, there are disciplines that are often tedious in themselves, yet we hang in there if we're really into the subject.

I recall that Scot McKnight said that he (and I paraphrase here, and certainly risk deviating from his thinking) values clear writing, and that scholars at times, simply can't write. Yet he reads those who are outstanding, even when they can't write well. But has come to value less cumbersome writing by scholars that is accessible to all.

And I recall Eugene Peterson writing that one can get along well (maybe he was recommending this) with just a handful of writers. Not to say one wouldn't read others, but that they would major on reading certain ones.

Sorry for the long comment back. I too have read the Dallas Willard book you refer to. Great stuff. Good to read those you mentioned. (I've only looked at Generous Orthodoxy; ought to give it a read. And the Rick Yount books sound good.)

Beyond Words said...

This year, reading has changed my life. I started reading "The Privileged Planet." by Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards, and realized God is bigger than a literal reading of Genesis. I began reading N.T. Wright--everything I could get my hands on--and realized who Jesus really is and what he did. I re-read "Colossians Remixed" by Brian Walsh, and it suddenly made sense. All in all, I have a sense of the radical congruency of Scripture and the Gospel--and what it means to live in the kingdom of the Beloved Son. This is liberating and terrifying because some of my new creed goes against the narrow view of women's roles and creationism my church teaches. And my convictions about standing against "empire" are very hard to live out in a (at large) church so deeply enculturated.

Ted Gossard said...

Beyond Words,

Good to hear of your journey and the impact of reading on it. I think you're on a good track. You're gaining a perspective that can help others as well.

It is good to share thoughts together, at appropriate times (I can go overboard, especially in the past, in trying to do that), and test them in the crucible of conversations. As well as weighing all according to the Story found in Scripture. And centered in Jesus.

Keep at it. I think, especially for some of us (surely most bloggers), reading is a primary means of growing in God and as human beings.

Ted Gossard said...

One thing I'd like to add, as I've been thinking off and on about what Adam shared with us (and I think it was very good).

Some people may speed read and get plenty out of it. I like to slow down, and for me that is necessary and helpful, in getting a real "sense" of a book that I can enter into and enjoy. Kind of like being in a room, and maybe more specifically in a fellowship of conversation in that room.

The best reading, I think, requires interaction that, for me, speed reading can't get done, at least not very well. Though some high speed intellects may well be exceptions here.