Love the Classics? Read on!

This year, I’d like to take you on a journey with me through Classic Literature. Why? Let me begin by saying this:

I love the Classics.

FullSizeRenderGrowing up, my favorite place to buy books was at thrift sales, where I could nab a 1970’s copy of Great Expectations for 25 cents. I think you’d agree, antique books are the best books. They’ve been lived in. Like a wonderful old house with floorboards that creak, the pages of old books are wrinkled with use, sometimes ripped as their reader flipped a bit too zealously in anticipation of the events to come.

Then there’s the smell.

Yes, I said it. I’m that nerdy. The smell.

The pages waft that earthy, smoky, delicious aroma and for a moment you’re transported into the past, years back when the book was first printed and the binding crinkled as it was opened for the first time. As your eyes skim those yellowed pages, they travel the same path that many a reader have traveled before. You share an experience with those readers, and you leave part of yourself in that book.

Which is also why I have a hard time giving up my books.

Books, in my romantic mind, are part of my history. I look at my bookshelves and see seasons of life. The girl who loved fairy tales. The college student compelled to read The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope who actually loved *almost* every minute of it. The young woman who shed many tears in the latter pages of Jane Eyre. I remember the experience of reading them for the first time, and re-reading my copy of a beloved novel is like settling into a familiar chair that contours to my form. It’s comfortable. Comfort-ing.

My husband will tell you I have too many books. I prefer to say that I am building a lifetime of experience to bequeath to my children : )

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(And no, that is isn’t even close to all of them.)

But that doesn’t really explain why I love the Classics, just old books. Nowadays, there are “antique” copies of Danielle Steel books. (No offense to Danielle’s fans out there- she’s just not my favorite!)

The truth is, the making of Classics, by definition, is history’s way of sifting through shelves upon shelves of books and presenting future generations with a grand bookcase of The Best of the Best- the books that have withstood the test of innovation, adaptation and cultural shifts. Books that epitomize an era, that represent the ideals of a generation or a change in perspective. The Classics.

I love reading stories of ages past and realizing how much we’ve changed and, paradoxically, how little we’ve changed.

I love visiting bygone eras, immersing myself in the societies, the lifestyles, the flavors, scents, and textures of the past.

I love looking for God in those pages, seeking Truth in words written or left unformed.

All that to say, here’s what I would love to share with you:

I’d love to read the classics with you. I would love to journey through those stories with you, learn about about life and God through the study of Classic Literature.

You, dear reader- who loves to read classic literature, who may even surreptitiously smell books at bookstores, just like I do- dare I say that we are, as dear Anne Shirley would say, kindred spirits?

In the weeks to come, I’ll share weekly devotionals with you based on Classic novels, focusing on one novel for a month at a time. We’ll look at different themes, symbols, and cultural perspectives alongside scripture in order to learn about life, God, and ourselves.

What do you say? Will you join me?

You are most cordially invited to join me on our new adventure through the Classics. Let’s brew a pot of tea, find a comfortable chair, and peruse those oft-read pages.

I am thrilled to commence this venture with you, and I am eager to hear your ideas, questions, and book suggestions!

Cheers, kindred spirits. And happy reading!

 

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 9.25.11 AM.pngSummary
“Bah, Humbug!” grumps Ebenezer Scrooge, a crabby old miser with little more in his life than work and a cash-box. It’s Christmas Eve, and Scrooge wants nothing more than to go on with routine—eat at the tavern and return home to his quiet abode. But when he sees the face of his deceased partner on the doorknob, the unused bell rings for the room next door, and he begins to hear the clanking of chains down the hallway, Scrooge knows this will be no ordinary Christmas Eve. Visited by four ghosts, Scrooge is forced to face the life he has built for himself and the legacy of apathy he is doomed to leave behind, unless he finds the inspiration and the courage to change his course and embrace Christmas for the joy and goodwill it brings.

A Christian Perspective
This story is one of the most beloved Christmas stories of all time. What’s beautiful about this story is that readers can appreciate it for different reasons at different stages of life. As a child and young adult, I loved the idea that someone as bitter and lonely as Ebenezer Scrooge could find joy again in the fellowship of others. As an adult, the power of this story is in the ability for someone to change.

Scrooge shows little to no compassion in the first stave of the novel. With his love of money and his stringent work ethic, Scrooge believes he is entitled to what he gets and that others should follow his example and work to achieve the same financial security. There is some merit to Scrooge’s endeavors. Hard work is important, but what he fails to see is that some are less fortunate or are unable to work at the same level or in as well-paying a profession as he is for various reasons. With backstory, The reader glimpses the life of an underprivileged boy who had little in life and believed that financial security and hard work would give him peace. As Scrooge goes back in time, he sees how other people poured joy and love into his life asking nothing in return, how people with much less than he experienced mirth he had long forgotten. With each ghost’s visions of Christmas, Scrooge realizes how cold he has been toward others and the wasted opportunities he had to serve others.

Joy is found in serving, as Jesus taught us through his example; “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Scrooge sought contentment in wealth but found in the end that real life is in love, in relationships, and in giving to one another. As Christians, this story provides an important reminder that we find real life in Christ, in His sacrifice that enables us to live freely in love—unafraid for our futures, knowing that God will provide for our needs. As Scrooge sees others living in that unfettered love, he learns to love again, to open his heart to people and to give of himself  with money, time, and love.

Conclusion
It’s important to keep the true story of Christmas at the forefront of our minds and hearts over the season, but stories like these are important if we are going to learn how to live out the joy that Christmas brings: With Jesus Christ coming into our world, we have hope for our salvation and a bright future. Jesus taught us through his life on earth the importance of caring for those in need—whether that is someone in physical need, like the Cratchits, or someone in emotional restoration, like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Over the holiday season, I encourage you to experience the redemptive story of A Christmas Carol in a new way. This short classic packs plenty of drama, suspense, humor, and Christmas Spirit to refresh your appreciation of the season and our reason for celebrating.

What do you think?
So many of us are familiar Charles Dickens classic story of Christmas, through reading it as a student, watching the numerous film adaptations, and re-reading the novel as an adult. How have your perceptions of the story changed over time? How do you think this story is relevant to modern audiences? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

of-mice-and-menSummary

Over the years, Lennie and George have traveled California together looking for work. They share a dream of owning their very own piece of land and living off of its abundance, a dream that seems well within their grasp when they find a job at a ranch in the Salinas Valley. George worries that as close as they’re getting to obtaining the dream, Lennie will ruin things by accidentally getting in trouble like he did in his last job. Lennie, over-sized and slow-witted, loves petting soft things like mice and rabbits, but often kills them in his over zealous affection. He promises George that he won’t get them into trouble so that George will let him tend the rabbits at their dream farm. Most of all, Lennie promises he won’t fight Curley, the instigating ranch hand, and he won’t talk to Curley’s flirtatious wife who keeps hanging around. But these are promises that Lennie is unable to keep.

A Christian Perspective

Reading this story with a Christian lens, I was struck by the brotherly love George has for Lennie, a man whom George has no obligation to help. While George grumbles that things would be much easier if Lennie weren’t around, that he would be able to find work and have no trouble, he still chooses to take Lennie with him across the state. He knows Lennie has nobody else. Later in the story, George tells one of the ranch hands how he used to tease Lennie by telling him to do things that would hurt him, and how he would laugh when Lennie unflinchingly obeyed. But as time went on, he had pity for Lennie, and realized how vulnerable he was. Lennie needed someone to take care of him, and George stepped up. One could argue that George gains something from the relationship—camaraderie, and financial assistance in the land purchase—but George gives up much more by taking Lennie with him, having to run away from well paying jobs when Lennie causes a ruckus.

Reflecting on this sacrificial relationship, I asked myself if I would be willing to care for someone so sacrificially. If someone needed help, had nobody else, would I take responsibility or simply pass them along to someone who was more “qualified” to help? James 1:27 comes to mind, which says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” While George doesn’t help Lennie in light of God’s love, and though Lennie isn’t an orphan or a widow, this verse speaks to their situation: Lennie is a vulnerable person in need and George provides guidance and friendship for him. This story is a beautiful picture of friendship and love that is genuine and sacrificial.

The ending of the book makes a Christian reading more controversial; how is George showing love through his actions, and was it his responsibility to take matters into his own hands? George wants to save Lennie from certain torture, and he believes that Lennie is his responsibility. Still, the delineation between right and wrong is very grey at the climax of this story.

Cautionary Note

Written by a secular author, this book is full of cursing and some innuendo. In addition, Steinbeck deals with some emotionally disturbing scenes which may not be suitable for younger readers.

Conclusion

Having read Of Mice and Men as a high schooler, I was eager to re-read the slim volume with the Christian lens. I was not disappointed. This story and reading forced me to ask some hard-hitting questions about love, friendship, and sacrifice, well worth the time and reflection.

What do you think?
What aspects of the Christian walk do you see or not see depicted in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men? Are George’s actions at the end of the story justified? What have you learned about life from this story? Please comment below with your ideas and questions!

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