SNOW, FIRELIGHT AND BOOKS

There was only a sprinkling of snow, but icy streets kept us inside for a couple of days.

Those cozy, snow days brought back memories of all-day card games with our grandchildren while chili simmered on the stove, and each of us always had a good book waiting to be read.

Pete, our grandson, sent a text on Friday morning:

“Gmom, I hope you and Grandad have a fire going today and a good book to read!” He knew that we did, because at Christmas every member of our family had at least one book on the wish list, and in the gift exchange, we accumulated some good books.

Just prior to the snow days, I ran across a bookmark quote: “Woke up this morning with a terrific urge to lie in bed all day and read.” As I read it, I said to myself, “Now that’s what I want to do one day, just forget everything else and read all day long.”

I love the stories that Eudora Welty told about her mother’s love of books.

When the Welty home was on fire, one of the first things Mrs. Welty rescued from the flames was her prized set of Charles Dickens novels. And Miss Eudora said about herself: “I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them—with books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight, and with their possession within my arms, captured and carried off to myself.”

Good books encourage, teach, educate, inspire, and help shape our values. C.S. Lewis said,

“We read to know we are not alone.”

Studies show that reading actually does nourish the brain. According to researchers who did a study with students at Emory University, the act of reading a novel stimulates the brain for days. Reading seems to activate the mind in the same way that we activate muscles when lifting weights. The more active our minds are, the more agile they become. Mark Batterson, author of “The Circle Maker,” wrote, “The simple act of reading involves millions of impulses firing across billions of synopses.”

I do hope that all these wonderful things are taking place in my brain when I sit in front of the fire with my favorite books–although I do have a tendency to fall asleep when I get too cozy.

 The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “The Need to Read.”

The writer, Will Schwalbe, says, “Reading is the best way I know to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. I’m on a search to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.”

I too have been on a search to find books that enhance my life. Along with my love for many kinds of books, I have found that the Bible helps me examine my life and inspires me to be a better person. A consistent reading of the Bible does help me to get my head around the big questions about life. 

James McCash said:

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.”

 

“Sad Woman” photo courtesy of holohololand at Free Digital Photos

 

Choosing Gratitude

On the book table at Anderson’s Oncology Center,

I find Nancy DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude. Paging through, I see a heart-rending story: In a New Delhi slum, a three year old boy is leaning against the cot of his dying mother. The boy’s eyes are hollow, his stomach is distended, and his face is fly-infested.

     “Standing there in that slum,” says Paul Tripp, “I felt all complaints I had ever spoken as if they were a weight on my shoulders.” Later, when Mr. Tripp returned to his home in America, he asked a church leader from India who had come to the states to study, “What do you think of Americans?” The man from India answered, “You have no idea how much you have, and yet you always complain.”

As I read, I become ashamed of my self-centered grumbling. I am nudged to give thanks for “common mercies,” such as bath soap, toothpaste, hot water, air conditioning, and so many other things that I normally take for granted.

I also give thanks for the great big things, such as excellent medical care, kind, caring people who treat me with dignity in my most vulnerable moments, smiles, encouraging words, books that elevate my thoughts, and prayers.

Nancy DeMoss also brings up the matter of giving thanks to God for those people who have touched our lives and who need our expressed gratitude.

Pastor William Stidger wrote a letter of thanks to his English teacher who had first inspired in him a love for literature and poetry, preparing him to become a writer. In return mail, he received a feebly scrawled note from his former teacher:

     “William, I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, lonely, like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.”

Some time ago, my husband, a retired Air Traffic Controller, felt an urge to write a thank-you letter to someone who had touched his life:

“Colonel Sam, you had a great influence on me when I was a young man. Before entering air traffic control school, I would be required to pass a physical exam. I failed because I was underweight. However, they told me to gain weight and come back in a few weeks. You flew me to Keesler Air Force Base in the summer of 1954 for the second physical, and perhaps you looked at me and thought I was still too skinny to pass the test. When we were air borne, you handed me a sack of bananas and said, “Eat these and you will weigh more.” I passed the physical, and that opened the door to my future.”

Colonel Sam Forbert responded with a phone call, saying that someone had done the same favor for him when he was a young man.

 

Virginia Dawkins is a newspaper columnist. Her personal experience stories and devotionals have been published in a series of Cup of Comfort books. She and her husband live in Meridian, Mississippi.