Here is a quick look at some of what I have been reading recently.
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Outdoor Moments with God by W. Philip Keller
Philip Keller has rapidly become my favorite devotional author over the last few years. He combines profound spiritual insight with a deep-rooted love of nature in a way few others do, which I really appreciate. This particular book is a collection of vignettes sharing the spiritual insights gleaned from years of time spent in mountains, deserts, and forests. Keller shares how God teaches, corrects, and convicts him from even the most insignificant observations of that natural world. A frozen river is a metaphor for a soul rejecting God; trumpeter swans unexpectedly returning to lakes where they once were plentiful is a lesson in renewal and restoration, and humanity’s foolishness and pride is illustrated by a covey of quail that return to the same cat-inhabited landscape over and over again, with the same results every time. The stories are each just a few pages in length, and are perfect for a morning or evening devotional. While the stories are short, they do give the reader something to mediate on. I like to read a story or two before bed as a way to redirect my mind towards God at the end of the day.
Outdoor Moments with God
By W. Phillip Keller / Kregel Publications
With a rare gift of insight into both Scripture and creation, Keller encourages you to seek the Lord by discovering the majesty of his presence in nature. This volume also includes Keller’s own black & white sketches. 192 pages, softcover from Kregel.
Tolkien’s Modern Reading by Holly Ordway
I received this book from my brother for my birthday, and it was a pleasant surprise. While I am a huge Tolkien fan, this was a very scholarly book addressing a rather narrow subject area, namely correctly the falsely held belief that Tolkien was a man stuck in the past and did not read any of the literature of his day. Admittedly, this sounds exceedingly boring, and I was a little skeptical that it would be worthwhile. However, Holly Ordway combines thorough research with engaging, insightful writing that kept me engaged the whole way through. I came away with a much deeper understanding of how Tolkien was influenced and then how he reshaped those influences to create his own fantasy world. Would I recommend this book? It depends. It is geared for a particular audience. For those who are Tolkien/Middle Earth fans, you will learn a lot about the modern sources helped inspire his creation (and you may, like me, want to read several of these sources yourself). However, if you have no interest at all in Tolkien or in fantasy literature, then don’t waste your time on this book.
At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald
First let’s get something out of the way from the start: this is a children’s fantasy book. I read it, enjoyed it, and make no apologies for that. I find much of the best children’s books are still enjoyable as an adult. George Macdonald’s fantasies usually produce two responses in me: the first response is to realize just how weird they can be. The other is to come away with a feeling that Macdonald’s books convey a sense of genuine goodness in a way few, if any, others do. Their is always a layer of moral truth deep enough to make any adult pause and think. At the Back of the North Wind focuses on the story of a young boy, Diamond, son of lower class English parents. He has frequent encounters early in the story with a being who calls herself North Wind. She takes Diamond on various trips, including to a heaven like country located at ‘the back of the north wind’. This experience has a transforming effect on Diamond, allowing him to face many difficulties ahead. Interspersed with normal daily events such as learning how to be a London cab driver (the horse driven kind), there are some of the weird stories such as a dream Diamond has of little boy angels digging stars out of the ground so little girl angels can polish them. When I refer to the dream sequences as weird, I am not disparaging them at all. I enjoy them, and they do add to the overall story, but they can also seem a little out place and nonsensical. Others sequences can seem profound, beautiful, and essential to the story. In the end, Diamond dies due to illness (he is frequently ill in the story) and the significance of the North Wind becomes more apparent (I won’t explain more for fear of giving too much away). This is a story I liked but it didn’t really come together until the end, at which point several threads of the overall story come together. A good story that I would recommend for older children and child-like adults.
At the Back of the North Wind
By George MacDonald / Everyman’s Library
A Victorian fairy tale that has enchanted readers for more than a hundred years: the magical story of Diamond, the son of a poor coachman, who is swept away by the North Wind–a radiant, maternal spirit with long, flowing hair–and whose life is transformed by a brief glimpse of the beautiful country “at the back of the north wind.” It combines a Dickensian regard for the working class of mid-19th-century England with the invention of an ethereal landscape, and is published here alongside Arthur Hughes’s handsome illustrations from the original 1871 edition.
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