A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Reading (page 1 of 1)

Daily Resurrection…

I’ve given a couple of copies of Every Moment Holy as gifts, but never got around to getting one for myself until one came bundled with a new Bible. This collection of liturgies creates a new perspective on the everyday occurrences of life.

I’m especially grateful for the one about coffee. Ned Bustard‘s illustration of the phoenix in the coffee cup is the perfect accompaniment to Douglas McKelvey’s text: the resurrecting power of a new day and the ritual of coffee that makes it so.

What Shall We Write About Today?

That is the question facing us today, dear readers—all both of you—as we contemplate the goal, the intention, the vow of posting something every day in this space in tribute to my upcoming birthday. What shall we write about?

I could write about The Dream. Yep, the one I had last night. The one that awakened me with a start, one of the most disturbing and fearsome dreams I remember having. That one. The one with the maniacal laugh and crazy eyes. The one that involved not only my son, but my grandson. I’ll spare you all the details for now, but let’s just say I may have actually screamed my son’s name in real life when I woke with a start. It was that terrible and that realistic.

I could write today about the Ongoing Discombobulation that seems to characterize life these days. Maybe that will come soon. Or maybe it will go away soon, and be replaced by something more productive and pleasant.

I could write about the latest picture of the grandson, mad about his food, but looking like an intense rock star singing into his spoon as a microphone.

I could write about the joy of starting The Chronicles of Narnia over again and catching up with where the grandson is hearing the tales for the first time in his nightly reading/listening time. I could write about how happy it makes me that my son is introducing his son to the wonders of Narnia at an early age.

I could write about how I got some words stuck in my head during this morning’s predawn jaunt, and how I pondered the difference between “shore” and “bank” as the boundaries of bodies of water. Because I tend to geek out about words like that sometimes.

I could write about the fascinating account of one woman’s bicycle adventure from Ireland to India in 1963 (via Maria Popova, natch).

I could write about my put-out-ness (there’s a word for you!) with people who should be grateful for your work on their behalf, but instead pile on incessant demands for impossible results. I could even ponder why I can’t say no to those demands.

But I think, for this moment, at least, I’ll leave all that and think about the scent of books. Real books, I mean. The dead tree/dead octopus kind. One of the most common reasons bibliophiles give for preferring real books over, say, ebooks, the unmistakable aroma, the smell of them. There is a technical term for that aroma, I think, but I can’t put my cursor on it right now. Suffice it to say, the interwebs are rife with articles, posts, and reminiscences about the comforting scent of books. Many of those commentators limit their appreciation to the smell of old books, but I’m quite partial to the smell of all printed books, old and new. Some kids remember the amazing experience of holding that brand-new catcher’s mitt up to their face and taking in the smell of fresh leather, and how that was part of the game. (True confession: that was me, too.) But books! The essence of paper and ink, the feel of the deckled edges…these all add to the tactile adventure that beckons the reader and the lover of craft and art.

That’s what I’ve got on my mind this dark and early Monday. I think I’ll take a few minutes and sniff some books.


On the Supposed “Historical Jesus”…

C.S. Lewis on the alleged “historical Jesus”…

Any theory which bases itself on a supposed ‘historical Jesus’ to be dug out of the Gospels and then set up in opposition to Christian teaching is suspect. There have been too many historical Jesuses—a liberal Jesus, a pneumatic Jesus, a Barthian Jesus, a Marxist Jesus. They are the cheap crop of each publisher’s list, like the new Napoleons and new Queen Victorias. It is not to such phantoms that I look for my faith and my salvation.

C. S. Lewis, “Why I Am Not a Pacifist,” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 1949/2001), 88.

Random Thoughts on a Random Friday in April…

(Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash)

Fridays are for thinking, some deep thoughts, some not so deep, and some just random. Here are some of the random kind, in no particular order or with no rhyme or reason…

    • I may be the hardest working $14-an-hour designer-wannabe in the business.
    • The trouble with clients (members, patrons, customers, etc.) is that they don’t really know what they want, and when you produce what they say they want, they want you to change it.
    • But the trouble with clients (members, patrons, customers, etc.) notwithstanding, they do pay the $14 an hour, so there’s that.
    • Even though René Marie wrote and sang Shelter in Your Arms from a woman’s autobiographical perspective, it resonates with me on so many levels: evocative lyrics, simple, almost melancholy music, and it’s just about perfect for a random Friday afternoon in April.
    • Clarity trumps any awkwardness in the workplace almost every time. Somebody—one of the parties, or both—needs to acknowledge the lingering awkwardness and take the hard step of seeking clarity so that everyone else can get on with some sense of normalcy. Else the mission suffers.
    • Maybe a new gig will take care of that awkwardness by allowing affected people to start fresh somewhere else.
    • Speaking of new gigs, there may be one in your humble writer’s future. No definite job description, no concrete pay package, a few spotty details, but a possibility. Kind of scary for that aforementioned wanna-be.
    • Austin Kleon’s 33 Thoughts on Reading. He first published this list in 2014, but they are still helpful today.
    • And while you’re over there at Austin Kleon’s place, you should also check out his writing advice for artists and visual thinkers.
    • Each day (almost) this year, I’ve found the corresponding daily entries in Thoreau’s Journals, and I’m reading through almost in a “daily devotional” format. Finding some really powerful thoughts (some of the random Friday kind!) and some really mundane twittering. Altogether, I think I see the power of looking and seeing and thinking and recording in a systematic way what you observe. Flashes of greatness often emerge out of daily encounters.

Random Thoughts on Reading and Writing for the Fun of It…

soul music to go

John Greene via Compfight

I started thinking about reading just for the sheer enjoyment of it, about how we – especially we who seek to teach, motivate, or encourage – are very utilitarian in our reading.

Every book, every article, every word has to mean something. There has to be some great principle, some earth-shattering truth which we can impart to our hearers/followers. We read with highlighter in hand, and we look for the snippet, the literary equivalent of a news soundbite, that we can incorporate into our teaching or writing or preaching or other pontificating.

Whatever happened to reading for the sheer pleasure of it? Where did we lose the childlike experience of being so engaged in a book that we lost all track of time, save as it functioned to measure our adventure?

And when did we stop trusting writers – I mean, real writers – to lead us on that kind of adventure? When did we start expecting them to drop those nuggets of factual truth that lend themselves to pontification? Why did we start evaluating writers on their ability to enunciate mere facts without enchanting our imagination along the way?

I’m reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creekand it is a beautiful book. Yet, for all its beauty, it reads like a diversion, a distraction, a long journey with a very observant friend. Yes, there are truths to be gleaned. There are quotes to be used in sermons and social media feeds. Yet, there is a whole lot of sheer joy and enchantment.

I’m not sure I have gained any practical benefit from reading it. But I sure have learned to look around me, to see my surroundings, and to express wonder and delight at the extraordinary ordinary goings-on of life.

I say all that to say I started to write this piece as a post on my mostly-dormant, mostly-ignored blog. While the thoughts were running through my head, I opened the “new post” screen and instead of writing words much like these in this space, I searched for the “perfect” image to go along with the words. As I scrolled through the images in Flickr via the Compfight extension, I became focused on the images and lost the train of thought of the words. That quickly. Just that fast. Once again, I had lost sight of the main thing because I was chasing something secondary.

You see, the “experts” tell us that choosing and using the right image can go a long way toward attracting attention and building our platform. Whatever that means. But I’m more convinced than ever that if we neglect – if I neglect – the act of writing the words, of following my instincts, of listening to my heart, it really won’t matter about the picture. People can find the pictures on their own. I need to be clear on the task at hand: creating the compelling picture with my words.

If I want to write, says I, I need to write. A lot. On a regular basis. The pictures will come in time. The format will take care of itself.

The words. That’s what I want to create. For the sheer joy of it. For the enchantment. For the magic it does for my soul. Then I can invite others to come along for the adventure, and they will share the glory of a dreary Monday evening as we infuse magic and meaning into our surroundings and into our lives.

Five Reasons I’m Making a New Commitment to Reading…

Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexisnyalphotography/5183319657

Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexisnyalphotography/5183319657

(NOTE: This is an adaptation of a post from May, 2006…when I blogged a lot more regularly and rather well at times! The re-post is occasioned by a reading tear I’ve been on this month. Be gentle.)

May has brought about a kind of “renaissance” in my attitude and in my take on things.

One of the new commitments I’ve made is to get serious about reading again. I’ve always loved books, and I want to keep up with the latest/coolest/hippest/hottest books that people in my field and in the world are reading.

But my commitment to getting serious again about reading is also due to a desire to read books that have indicated and influenced the human condition over the centuries.

I sat down and thought about this whole “renaissance” thing a couple of nights ago, and this is what fell out of my Moleskine…

Why I’m Getting Serious About Reading…

  • I’m reading for my ego. For someone who’s supposedly “educated,” for someone who prides himself on being knowledgeable, I sure don’t know a whole lot!
  • I’m reading for my mind. I want to be intellectually stimulated, to get in contact with the Great Themes, the Great Ideas, the Great Thinkers, who have molded, shaped and influenced the world with their ideas and words!
  • I’m reading for my writing. I’ve always wanted to write, and in the past at least, I’ve been pretty decent at it. To put words on paper, to follow the Great Tradition of writing, to sharpen my meager attempts at the craft of writing: these benefits come partly from reading.
  • I’m reading for my heart. I want to feel deeply the pull and tug, the ebb and flow of powerful ideas and stories.
  • I’m reading for my spirit. I want to soar, to get more in touch with God and His world. I want to hold up the mirrors that have reflected the human spirit, as it is and as it could be. And I want to be better for it.

Do you read? Why not? What are you reading right now? How is what you’re reading influencing your life? Jump in!

2014 Intentions…

On the Camino againCreative Commons License José Antonio Gil Martínez via Compfight 

Three weeks in, and I’m just getting around to my intentions for 2014. I quipped on Facebook that #1 would be  “Stop Procrastinating.”

Please note I didn’t say “resolutions.” I discovered a long time ago that “resolutions” don’t really work so well. You make unrealistic ones, and then when you fail early on, you pile guilt on top of the necessary changes. So let’s just say I’ve thought about some “intentions” for this year and leave it at that, shall we?

Anyway, these are not the only things I need to do/stop doing/change, but here’s a start…

  • Read the books currently on my Kindle. I love books. I consider myself a reader. It’s important! I love to find new books and have others recommend them. But I have plenty of books already on my shelves and my Kindle that are in various stages of unread. I need to finish them. I intend to start with the “almost-finished” ones currently on my Kindle as a launching pad for my reading plan in 2014.
  • Learn Adobe Photoshop. I don’t expect to become an expert. I just want to become proficient enough to use this powerful tool for improving our church media, my class materials, and any other digital imagery needs I have.
  • Learn Adobe Illustrator. See above.
  • Learn Adobe InDesign. See above again.
  • Write 300 words every day. I keep talking about wanting to write. And I keep coming up with excuses why I don’t. I know it has to become a habit. The only way it becomes a habit is to do it. Daily. I’m not sure how to estimate 300 words. (This post is currently at 277.) Jeff Goins, Guy Kawasaki, and many others say you have to be brutal about developing the habit. Starting today, I’m putting on my writer’s mask, and going for it! Some of those words will be in the old Moleskine. Others may be here in this space. I hope some will be compelling enough to end up on your must-read list!
  • Cultivate my LinkedIn account. I did a workshop on using it and other social media at a university career event last summer. I set up my own account but since then it has languished in disuse. I see the value. I need to take advantage of that and other tools.

That’s about it, so far. I wrote in my Moleskine that I intended to “use my daily time wisely.” I scratched through that line, because I knew it wasn’t specific enough to motivate me toward action. I need to make better use of the days, but I’m not sure how I’m going approach that task yet.

There are other areas I need to take intentional steps toward improvement. I see this year as a pilgrimage of sorts. The journey begins today. Let’s see where we end up! Buen camino!