Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Vacation Reading

We’ve been at the beach for few days now. We arrived Saturday evening, unloaded and settled in, went out for seafood at a small local establishment where we were seated at a table on a screened porch and pulled our ‘napkins’ from a roll of paper towels.

This is an unlikely vacation spot for our family. We all burn easily. Marnie spreads the sunscreen on us the way I put peanut butter on bread. The sand is a sad necessity for enjoying the ocean. I say it every year. I love the ocean, but I could do without the beach. My kids feel differently. So the pattern is beach before lunch, an interlude of lunch and napping or whatever can be done inside where there’s AC, usually followed by late afternoon time at the pool nearby.

We love it here. And my favorite place at the beach is a fair distance from the ocean. It’s the front porch of this beautiful house. Those chairs are the best reading site to be found here, removed from the sounds of the TV, visited by occasional breezes that make it a delight in the morning and bearable at mid-day.

So here’s what has occupied my time and thoughts on the porch this week.

In the mornings I’ve been spending a few minutes with The Journals of Jim Elliot. To read Elliot’s journals is to get a tutorial in reading the Bible. Elliot came to his Bible every day expecting to hear God speak. The journal was simply a means of recording what the Spirit spoke to him through the text. When Elliot came to the Bible he was on a quest, expectant and eager – and disappointed on those days when nothing seemed to arrest his attention. I was somewhat gratified to read these words:

March 17, 1948: Meditation yesterday on the curtains and boards seemed fruitless. I fear I don’t have time in a single hour to both pray and study . . .

March 19, 1948: Somehow the study of the tabernacle seems fruitless. . .

Even Jim Elliot struggled to wrest meaning from Exodus 26 and 27. These barren moments with the scriptures only intensified his quest, moving him to pray for mercy, for insight into the “wonderful things” of God’s law.

In the afternoons I made my way through Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. The back of this book is sprinkled with snippets from various reviews and I can’t think of an adjective that hasn’t been used. This story managed to wriggle its way into some deep place within me. I can’t comprehend what it takes for an author to create and tell a story that has the capacity to lay claim to the reader and not relinquish that claim until well after the final page. I was sitting in the chairs when I finished it around 3:00 pm today. That favorite place here at the beach was the site of a sad moment – finishing The Kite Runner. Hosseini makes me wish I could write fiction.

Elliot – making me want to be a better student of scripture. Hosseini – making me want to write better, especially when it comes to stories. Vacation reading gives me something to aim for when I get back to my work.

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