The Screwtape Letters. Most of us have read it at one time or another. I reread it this week with my daughters and was struck again by its often disturbing relevance and genius. On the surface, it seems like a good joke: a senior devil’s tutorials as addressed to his younger nephew, an inexperienced tempter. But I can see why Lewis himself spoke of both the ease of its inspiration , and the unpleasantness of its writing. “It almost smothered me before I was done,”…Continue Reading “Devilishly Clever”

How could I have forgotten — or did I somehow miss it before? — the power and mysterious beauty of Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River? I pulled it off the shelf a few weeks ago to read aloud to my daughters, remembering vaguely that I had liked it when I read it over ten years ago. Had I remembered the plot in detail, I may not have chosen it as a read-aloud. But we would have been much the poorer for it. The book…Continue Reading “Peace Like a River”

In A Life Observed, author Devin Brown offers a biography of C.S. Lewis for a new audience: “a generation who may know him only through the Narnia films.” Though I don’t fit into this category, I’ve enjoyed this retracing of Lewis’s spiritual development for several reasons. First, Lewis is one of my spiritual mentors. His books have influenced my thinking and my faith in far reaching ways — quite possibly more than any other writer. His ways of imagining spiritual truths are often the first…Continue Reading “A Life Observed”

Part of the reason I wanted to read this book is that the author is from my hometown. Jackie Roese was a year ahead of me in high school. I didn’t know her personally, but I knew who she was. It was a surprise to me when I learned that after high school, she became a Christian and married the son of my 6th grade Sunday school teacher. She Can Teach tells some of her story, including how in the years since then she attended…Continue Reading “She Can Teach”

I discovered Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife in this article about how our experience of our faith changes as we mature. The book explores that long stretch of years we call middle age — from around 45-65 — and the perspective shifts, professional landscape, brain chemistry, and changing values associated with it. I really enjoyed the book, despite a few aspects that bothered me. Do you want the good news, or the bad news, first? Since my overall…Continue Reading “Life Reimagined”

There are several great reviews of this book around, including this one that convinced me I wanted to read it. Ironically, I believe it was the idea of a listening God that interested me. Finishing the book, it’s the idea of a listening Janet that inspires me. How many of us listen well? Recently I commended someone for being a good listener, mainly because the person keeps quiet while others talk. This is one attribute of a good listener, but not the only one. It’s…Continue Reading “The Listening Life”

It’s a little known fact in this corner of the blogosphere, but I’ve seen all the Star Wars movies. So even though I hardly ever review movies, I’m going to attempt to now, because in what may be becoming a tradition, we went to see Rogue One this week. But in contrast to last year’s experience with The Force Awakens, which left me unequivocally approving, this movie left me ambivalent. To its credit, Rogue One depicts war with some degree of realism. The characters suffer…Continue Reading “Rogue One (with spoilers)”

Although we are tempted in times of agonizing silence to think of God with an icy stare on his face, refusing to make eye contact, I have found it comforting to think of God simply sitting with us in our pain, quietly listening. Maybe what feels like awkward and anxious silences to us are actually full and gentle silences. We are reminded that listening is not inaction. When God is listening to us, even if we do not experience the results we hope for, he…Continue Reading “On silence”

I’ve been using a One-Year Bible in my daily reading. I don’t see anything spiritually essential in completing the Bible in a year, but I like the idea of reading from cover to cover — however long it takes. I started in the spring or summer, and as Christmas approaches I find myself in Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of God departing from the temple in chapters 8-11 is incredibly powerful and haunting. The spirit of God, all whirling wheels and cherubim and fire…Continue Reading “Incarnation”

We’ve had some cheerful reading around here lately: Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, mentioned in our history textbook. I’ve been reading it aloud to the girls at lunchtime, trying to model how to go about engaging with a not-necessarily-accessible “classic” book. For some reason even I don’t understand, I decided this was not enough dark, spiritually probing Hawthorne, and in my spare time I reread The House of the Seven Gables. These experiences challenge me to think about what it means to “like” a book or…Continue Reading “House of the Seven Gables”