Friday, June 09, 2006

Reading notes -- honest stories

I've been reading a couple of good books this week: Deliver Us from Evelyn, by Chris Well, and Eat This Book, by Eugene Peterson. I know, pretty big contrast there, but I have eclectic tastes.

I enjoyed Evelyn -- it's a pretty snappy story, with some good plot twists. I really enjoy seeing how some of the characters from Forgiving Solomon Long are developing. Chris does a good job of making Charlie Pasch and and Tom Griggs distinctive characters that engage the reader's interest. What's more, most of the secondary characters come to life, especially "failed thug Nelson Pistek," and the religious con man with the ever-evolving set of aliases. And the end of the book gives a promise of more to come. I think I would have enjoyed one less subplot to keep track of, but that's a small criticism. I have to recommend this book to anyone who enjoys crime fiction, and not just because I'm part of the "street team." I know Chris is working on the next book in the series, at least tentatively titled Kingdom Come, and I'm already looking forward to it.

My other reading is going slower, but that's OK. Eat This Book isn't designed to be devoured. It's a book to savor, to study, to highlight in many places. Peterson has been immersed in the Word for a long time and his wisdom and experience come through clearly. He has a lot to say about how we "use" the Bible instead of allowing it to form us, and I could quote passage after passage that has so much to teach us. But I want to highlight one passage today. He talks about how the Bible is a narrative -- a long and complete story, not simply a compilation of rules and precepts and information to make us better human beings. He says story brings us into God's word, it allows us to participate with the characters; story can act on our souls. And here's what he said that really jumped out at me, as a Christian and as a writer: "Honest stories respect our freedom; they don't manipulate us, don't force us, don't distract us from life. They bring us into the spacious world in which God creates and saves and blesses." Wow.

I'm still wrestling with this. He links imagination and faith in reading the Bible, which is not something you hear about much these days. But I think he's right. We've been told for too long that our imaginations are somehow wrong, or at least trivial, when in fact they are part of how God created us. An imagination in God's service is an amazing thing. (C.S. Lewis, for example.) The imagination can be misused, as has much of creation, but it can be what God meant it to be: a door to experiencing God in intimate relationship.

And I keep wondering: Am I writing honest stories?


Julana said...

I really like Peterson,too. I also started Eat This Book recently. This guy writes words to chew on.

Mike Duran said...

I love Peterson's stuff, Linda, though I've not read this book. The quote is fantastic. I too have encountered oodles of believers who view the use of "imagination" as something suspect -- at least, something we must keep a firm grip on. I suppose there's truth in that. However, from my vantage point, the result is more often an emasculated imagination rather than a sanctified one. Still looking for the balance. Great post!

lindaruth said...

One of the things I like about Peterson is his consistency. He's been saying things like this for a long time -- he's not one to jump on some new "spiritual bandwagon." What he says in Eat This Book is a continuation of what he's been saying all along. I appreciate that.

beccamercy7 said...

Oooohh...Imagination...(as you know, I've always suffered from an Overactive one), but have come to the conclusion that this is good. My illness has taught me that it's one of God's greatest gifts to us. Doesn't He ask us to use our imagination while listening to the stories in the Bible?...especially the ones about Heaven!! Imagining that keeps me going!

beccamercy7 said...

P.S> Re: writing honest stories...-big sigh- when I go to write one, I *imagine* the worst, and then end up not writing it at all. (I think I'm gonna have to wait till everyone I was gonna write about dies or something). ack!