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A Good Read Can Take You Places

Many customs, traditions, rituals, and usual habits have stopped or at the least taken on a very different look this spring and summer. Though much has changed, there is one custom that is particularly fit for a time of isolation — the summertime book list.

Perhaps you too, had the intent of enjoying several books for some relaxing fun and insightful learning. It’s not too late…it’s August, and on my calendar, that means it’s still summertime. Here are a few of the books I have been deep into this summer…

The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs. My formative years were in Minnesota, the Land of Lakes. Isn’t that a better place to discover the secrets of water than in the desert southwest? Maybe not – because it seems the lack of water led a desert rat like Craig Childs to know how precious and mysterious water is. His book is a trek into the isolation of the desert to learn about himself, people, and survival in a time of drought.

Near the beginning of his book, Childs writes — I imagine those who now die here are intent on getting across rather than intent on finding water. The only way to get across is to have the sole intention of finding water.

How true this is while we are in the midst of a pandemic, we just want to get through it as quickly as possible. But in such an approach, we miss the learnings, discoveries, and that which will sustain life. In my read of Child’s book, I paused to consider where God has placed the water on this long journey through this pandemic.

Where have you found the water?

Another surprising find this summer — The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia. I haven’t made it all the way through this rather long novel, which sometimes rambles and goes off on tangents (like life often does). But a good summertime read brings me into another place and time — a summertime escape from the realities and intensities of today.

The setting is northeastern Mexico during the early 1900s, a time of demonstrations and the pandemic of the Spanish flu. There is a struggle among classes, cultures, and human cruelty and kindness.

And the bees? They surround the young boy, Simonopio, from his birth. Through the bees we see the mystery within Simonopio’s gifted ability to see both the danger and the blessings in the world around him. It is a similar lesson which Craig Childs learned about water — in the desert, it can both save and take your life.

Through her book, Segovia has brought me into another world and another culture. There are times in her book she could have been more to the point, fewer words, and more direct. But then, that would be like taking a trip through the desert and just wanting to get through it. I would miss the water hidden in unexpected places. Segovia’s writing style causes me to linger long enough to see something new — a way of life not my own, a people rich in wisdom, tradition, and struggling to find a way forward.

What have been your places of struggle and challenge this summer?

There are two other books that have taken me deep on my journey into soul, heart, and mind. White Fragility–Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kensi.

In both books, I have been challenged in my thinking and self-reflection. Neither are easy reads, but very engaging as each author writes from their personal journeys and understandings. Both DiAngelo and Kensi write courageously and boldly of the truth of the human condition. Both give hope and possibility for our broken racial relations. However, the journey through both of these books challenges me and confronts my assumptions and biases. I am still pondering and contemplating what it means for me from my place of privilege. It is that place where I have enjoyed advantages in life predominately due to my majority status. Like Simonopio, in Segovia’s novel, I am needing to ponder what the Spirit of truth has been murmuring in my ear. In The Murmur of the Bees, there are some things that need to be eliminated so that a new sweetness can be enjoyed by all people.

Woven through all of my summertime reading have been key passages from the Good Book itself:

  • John 7:37 — “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”
  • Psalm 119:103 — How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
  • Micah 6:8 — He has told you, O mortal, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, and to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Along the Journey with Christ,
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