Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Whatcha' Reading?

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think that decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." -Anna Quindlen

In my free time lately I've been doing a lot of reading (that amounts to about twenty minutes or so a day, by the way). I've just read and am reading two books that have compelled me to take a deeper look at how I'm doing to truly live my religion as a practicing Christian. I just finished Three Cups of Tea and am currently reading The Robe.

Three Cups of Tea
is a true story of one man who fights poverty, illiteracy, and terrorism by building schools and doing other humanitarian projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book focuses on educating girls in particular. We must never underestimate the role a bright and confidant woman can have in the lives of her children and those around her. More than anything the book has made me take a hard look at this war that we are fighting. I think I've all but ignored it mostly out of habit. I took and interest to it when I read the fantastic book A Thousand Splenid Suns and then the interest waned. This story, however, is true and really give me hope that good will prevail. It also forces me to face the idea that I do very little community service. I tell myself that my family and my church responsibilities keep me busy enough. But I feel like those are just excuses some times. There is more to me and I would do well is get out of my comfort zone.

The Robe is an entirely different book. It is the fictitious story of the Roman soldier that got Jesus Christ's robe after the Savior's death. I'm still working through this book, but so far I'm intrigued by what Christianity must look like to one who has not been raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The philosophical exchanges between characters show how there are questions and problems like who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going that resonate with every religious, and irreligious, tradition and culture.

The book also makes me think about my outward oblations as they compare to my inward commitments and covenants. The church to which I belong has a number of rites and rituals that are a physical outward reminder of our personal covenants. This was a way of life--to the extreme--for the Jews 2,000 years ago. I often find my mind wandering and wondering about the sincerity of my outward worship. As do most people, I believe that my actions are sincere. I avoid hypocrisy, but also acknowledge that I am far from perfect and too often give in to my lesser human nature (like the way I just polished off half a package of cinnamon graham crackers while writing this blog entry). The author paints a remarkably ugly picture of the Sanhedrin in particular. They embody and define hypocrisy. On the other hand, Christ is a real and super-read being in this book. People can identify with him, yet he is so much more than a leader and a king. I think I forget what a personal connection that is well maintained with Christ himself can do for my soul.

Both books have made me look more introspectively into how I spend my time, who I am helping and how I live what I know to be true. Both are good reads and worth the time and effort.