How To Read A Love Letter


A famous anecdote was published in the New York Times in 1940 as an advertisement for Mortimer J Adler’s work “How To Read A Book.”  As I read it again today I was reminded to read the Scriptures in a similar way. Slowly, anticipatorily and intimately. One of the most important aspects of reading Scripture is to begin seeing the details that submerge the text. When we read to quickly we miss most of what God is trying to say, and the transformative application stays shallow.

As you read this week, slow down, soak in the details, ask questions about the text as if you were a CNN reporter. Remember those first love letters that you received?

Your heart began to race…

You could smell her perfume…

You held it gently and ravaged each word with your eyes…

You stopped breathing as the words created an alternate reality…

You were removed from the moment and immersed in a world where letters have the power to free you, or even crush you. Then, the letter was secreted away to a special place that you probably still have, and the letter still holds her magic.

Remember how you poured over the words? Letter by Letter, word by word, thought by thought. No matter how many times you read it it still made your heart skip?

If you’ll approach the Bible that way, you will definitely begin to see things you never saw before!


How To Read A Love Letter

This young man has just received his first love letter. He may read it three or four times, but he is just beginning. To read it as accurately as he would like would require several dictionaries and a good deal of close work with a few experts of etymology and philology.

However, he will do all right without them.
He will ponder over the exact shade of meaning of every word, every comma. She has headed the letter, “Dear John.” What, he asks himself, is the exact significance of those words? Did she refrain from saying “Dear-est” because she was bashful? Would “My Dear” have sounded too formal?

Maybe she would have said “Dear So-and-so” to anybody! A worried frown will now appear on his face. But it disappears as soon as he really gets to thinking about the first sentence. She certainly wouldn’t have written that to anybody!

And so he works his way through the letter, one moment perched blissfully on a cloud, the next moment huddled miserably behind an eight ball. It has started a hundred questions in his mind. He could quote it by heart. In fact, he will- to himself-for weeks to come.

To ponder…ruminate…chew…devour…savor…dwell in… absorb…

These are the ways to read the holy.

Speed reading in order to absorb content might fill your information tank, but it will never touch your soul.

In my book Sacred Space, one chapter is dedicated to his pursuit. Read the chapter titled “Sacred Words” and there you will find some more tools to learn how to navigate the sacred.

Technology Needs Poetry

bookAmy and I had just entered the biblio-pilgrims destination in Portland Oregon this past Tuesday. Even though the temple was under construction Powell’s Books was busy with life. Grabbing a facilities map as we entered we chose to divide and conquer each of us heading toward our favorite areas of erudite worship.

It wasn’t long before Amy shot me a text. She had found a really intriguing and really old book of poetry on the top floor near the rare books section.

She showed me her rare find.

The book was small and had the familiar smell of dust mixed with age; its pages darkened with time.

Compiled in 1929, the title was utilitarian: “One Hundred and One Famous Poems, with a prose supplement.”

Many of the writers were familiar, but the selected works were like a newly found  picture of an old friend. Quickly I scanned the poems and noted some that I would need to read.  What struck me immediately, though,  was the preface penned by the editor Roy J. Cook. It reads as follows:

“This is the age of science, of steel-of speed and the cement road. The age of hard faces and hard highways. Science and steel demand the medium of prose. Speed requires only the look-the gesture What need then of poetry?

Great need!

There are souls, in these noise-tired times, that turn aside into unfrequented lanes, where the deep woods have harbored the fragrances of many a blossoming season. Here the light, filtering through perfect forms, arranges itself in lovely patterns for those who perceive beauty.

It is the purpose of this little volume to enrich, enable, encourage. And for man, who has learned to love convenience, it is hardly larger than his concealing pocket.”

How timely for us today. The age of science and speed, and I would add technology. As technology continues to increase at an exponential rate, the need to slow, and read prose, practice meditation and find balance in solitude and silence with God also rises.

The very advances that were supposed to bring us more time to enjoy life, seem to absorb any spare moment we might otherwise have.

Noise-tired and technologically-saturated lives have great need of words that remind of what matters most.

hamletsblackberry385-01A book I have read in the past couple years titled Hamlet’s Blackberry (which I highly recommend) looks at our current “screen addiction” offering  some hope for our souls in a culture that is obsessive about connectivity. Hamlet’s Blackberry  illustrates how our technological advances over the centuries have eroded  much more than we realize, and the author gives great advice on how to regain what we have lost. Check it out here.

So, yes, our data-filled, noise-filled, and growth-oriented world need prose, poetry and verse to bring balance and beauty back to us. To that end, allow me to reveal some prose from my new little book. The title is “A Psalm of Life.”  The author is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I know you are busy. There are more things in your inbox than in your completed box. You don’t have time to slow and read something that doesn’t help your current end-game…but hold on.

Maybe reading this will be a tipping point for your soul…

Perhaps in the next few moments your soul will be stirred and offer a different direction for your future…

Maybe, just maybe, you will breathe deeper and feel the joy of life return to your bones. So relax, and absorb Longfellow’s words. May they be a dessert for your busy-soul.

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but empty dreams!–
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like a muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

I agree with the editors premise…our world of science, steel and speed need poetry.

The Power of Reading


“A House without books is like a room without windows.”
~Horace Mann

I love books, so I suppose it goes without saying that I also love reading. This afternoon I was in my favorite bookstore in Seattle, Elliott Bay Books, wandering the aisles and perusing title after title. I see books as orphans in desperate need of adoption…today I adopted four! I also love the way some books feel…the composition of the cover as well as the words. While I do have a Kindle and an iPad, I  prefer to feel the weight of pages as they turn and reveal the trapped contents held captive.

Harry Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers” and I wholeheartedly agree. Yet in the US we take the gift of reading for granted not realizing that much of our planets population is illiterate. According to the most recent statistics there are approximately 800 million adults who cannot read or write globally. Illiteracy fuels poverty. The ability to read and write are economic and social game-changers all throughout the world.

While my heart was full as I considered which book to purchase and read today, it was also heavy as I considered the millions who are unable to purchase or enter into the world of books. Illiteracy needs to be defeated, and it is important that we stay vigilant in the push to improve eduction in the US and to fight against poverty, which breeds illiteracy, throughout the world.

Leaders are readers. Education is empowerment. Understanding and knowledge are keys to the future. If we long to have leaders in the future who are broad in knowledge, adept and ethical, it begins in the home where parents start the journey of empowerment through reading. When your children are young read to them, often. Also, let them see you reading as this will stir their desire to read as well. When they ask for a book buy it! And keep encouraging them to read-read-read! These are the best investment you can make for them.

When I ask most men today what they are currently reading, the answer I receive is, “Well, I’m not really a reader.” This is a sad commentary not only for our present time, but for our future. Modern media does scant little to sharpen our thinking or deepen our understanding as it serves up an offering of soundbites and less than intelligent television shows.

When one reads, new worlds are opened up…ideas formed…adventures dreamed. Here are some thoughts on books from others to inspire your reading.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”   ~William Styron, Conversations with William Styron

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ~ George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” ~ Mortimer J. Adler

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books”  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.”  ~ Abraham Lincoln

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”  ~Vera Nazarian

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”  ~Haruki Murakami

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”  ~Maya Angelou

“It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.”  ~C.S. Lewis

“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”  ~Chinese Proverb

“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted;
nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested:
that is, some books are to be read only in parts,
others to be read, but not curiously, and some few
to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”
~ Francis Bacon ~

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” ~Victor Hugo

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ~Dr. Seuss