Monday, June 26, 2017

Challenge Reads

I posted recently about comfort reads.  I also want to pay tribute to the "challenge reads" -- books that shaped my values and my heart for the vulnerable in this world.  One of the earliest and most lasting influences has to be Charles Dickens. His passion for social justice, his mockery of the pompous and selfish, his defense of the underprivileged and his idealism have always moved me.

That Dickens could combine his social vision with such humor and rattling good plots has always amazed me. 

Another powerful author who shaped my values is Camus. In his novel The Plague Camus studies people facing evil, making choices to act in solidarity with others or to protect themselves. He never offers easy or pat answers. Other authors I admire include John Steinbeck, Voltaire, the poets of World War I, and Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front. 

Many of these authors were not Christian, as I am. But their courageous confrontation of the evils of this world and their dedication to calling out the best in their readers resonate in my spirit. I would not want to spend my life only reading safe "Christian" books that may speak well of individual needs for faith or trust in God but refuse to address the injustice, the cruelties, and the failures of this world.  

I don't want to hide away in only books that comfort me. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Comfort Reads

I've seen a lot of references in blogs and articles to the experience of "comfort reading," and I wanted to pay tribute to some of the authors who have written books that brought me the most joy, peace, and comfort. They haven't all been escapist books by any means, although they have often taken me to another world and set me dreaming.  One of the earliest to grip my imagination and hold it through multiple readings was the classic, The Secret Garden. Its combination of mystery, nature, hope for individual positive change and restoration, strong story line and unforgettable characters hooked me for good.

Authors I always turned to include Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie. I devoured Jane Eyre and Catherine Marshall's Christie, different as they may be. For humor I can't get enough of Wodehouse,  Rex Stout, Douglas Adams or The Irish R.M. 

There are plenty of fine writers now, and I keep looking for comfort books that fill my imagination as well as bringing relaxation.  Not sure any can match the classics I've always loved, but it's fun to keep looking.

Monday, June 12, 2017

International Children's Day

June 12 is National Children's Day. It's also called the World Day Against Child Labor. While, as a mother and grandmother, I can celebrate the joys of childhood and its happy memories, as a Christian I also have to think about issues of justice and mercy. Every hour children bear the suffering of violence and injustice in this world, facing abuse, neglect, poverty and labor. According to the International Labour Organization, 168 million children are forced into work, often in dangerous conditions. That represents 100 million boys and 68 million girls. I invite prayers for these children and any contributions that support their protection, nourishment, health care and education.

Here's an old family picture of a protected, happy child.