Monthly Archives: March 2014

Excursus Sunday

After posting about One, the loneliest number, it appeared that One would be the loneliest blog post. I will pick up the numerical series again, never fear, but first a little theological excursus.

Last Sunday I preached a sermon. You can listen to it online. The main text was Ephesians 4:1-16, and the sermon title was Growing Up Together. In the sermon I suggested that the Ephesians text indicates that spiritual maturity is not an individual thing, but a group thing, a growing up together thing.

Than I read this blog post. The author, apparently theologically astute, represents spiritual maturity as being an individual thing. Yes the local church contributes to an individual’s spiritual maturity, but an individual can out grow a congregation and move on. SO opposite to what I preached. Completely opposed.

We have to get over being church consumers and start getting the idea that we ARE the Church. Now I’m not saying that there are times when God is calling us to move local churches — but to see this as a spiritual maturity thing does not, it seems, line up with Ephesians 4. And to church-hop without plugging in and deeply contributing to a local congregation does not line up with Ephesians 4. Possibly the spiritual immaturity of the North American Church comes from this sort of attitude.


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One: The loneliest number?

The number 1 (one) makes me think of lots of books or characters in books. Bridget Jones (singletons of the world unite!), Possession (number one in my books), mystery books (whodunnit is usually one person, although, sometimes the twist is that it is not one), and, of course, math books. Don’t worry, no math books here. I’m going to talk about two books that have the number ONE in the title.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. I’ve mentioned Thursday Next (the character) and Jasper Fford (the author) around here before, but not gone into much detail. Mostly, I’ve yelled for you to go find the books and start reading, what are you waiting for? The Thursday Next series is set in an alternative universe in which time travel exists, the Crimean War never stopped (vs our universe where it stopped and may now be beginning again), and one can have a pet dodo bird. In Thursday Next’s world, the book world can be visited by people from the real world. The trick is, sometimes people visit the book world and leave traces of themselves behind, thus contaminating the reading experience for others. Oh the great and philosophical possibilities of book clubs that discuss the Thursday Next series. Where to begin? Metaphysics? Hermeneutics? It is all fair game! In One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, Thursday Next (real) is missing, and needs to be found by Thursday Next (book world). If this sounds complicated, it isn’t. Really. You just have to suspend your disbelief a tiny little bit. Honestly. You should try because Fforde has done a ffabulous job with this Thursday book. It even has a map. Look for NaNoWriMo on the map. It is there!

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters. See, I told you the number one makes me think of murder mysteries. In this case there are too many bodies. Who is the extra corpse, and how did that corpse become dead? All these things and more are investigated by the monk, Brother Cadfael. This is the second book in the Cadfael set. These books are old, as in published in the seventies, and they are set in the middle ages during a civil war in Britain over the succession to the throne, King Stephen vs. Empress Mathilda. Who? I hear you saying. There was a king called Stephen? Never heard of him or this Matilda woman. That’s why reading historical fiction is a good idea. You learn things. And sometimes there are too many bodies.

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Zero. Zip. Nada.

Nothing. The Number 0 is nothing. Yet, it isn’t nothing in some ways. 10 is not 1. 100 is not 10. Zeroes are important, but they still represent nothing.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger is certainly worth reading. It is historical fiction, based on a small fact, blown into a larger detailed story. It is set in the nineteenth century, in Egypt, and features an English woman living there to recover from TB. You should read it. I’m not saying anything else, because, well, you have to just read it and catch a glimpse of a far-away place and a far-away time.

What are you reading? I hope it isn’t nothing.

Other books featuring zero or nothing in the title in my database of books that I think are worth reading:

  • Count Zero by William Gibson.
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson (I’ve only read Volume 1: The Pox Party so far.)

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π day

Happy Pi day. I hope you ate pie of some kind (mine was pizza pie) and did a little trigonometry — in addition to reading books of course.

I finished the most recent alphabet series with my last post. When I linked the post on fb, I asked “What’s next?” The vicar’s wife out there in Alberta requested numbers. Oooh. Numbers! I’m a math geek as well as a reading geek. The tiny drawback with numbers is that there’s no beginning and no end. I’m not going to write an infinite number of blog posts, so will limit myself to the ten digits, an irrational number or two, and possibly some special requests, if there are any.

It is a full moon AND π day at the same time so I’m off to celebrate both. Watch for the integration of numbers and reading in this space.

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XYZ, Now I know my ABCs

OK, I’ve been trying to work out how to do X, which might explain why I’ve taken so long to post. The other reason for the posting delay is the decision I made to update my operating system. That always takes way more time than you think it will, then you have to get new muscle memory on where things are and which way to swipe and all that stuff. It is a process and a half.

Enough about operating systems and on to the matter at hand: concluding the alphabet.

X – I have no authors at all in my database under X. None. Zero. Zilch. There aren’t even a whole lot of words beginning with X. The Constant Reader may here remind me of xylophones, but I’ve little to say about xylophones. Do YOU know any X-authors? Do let me know if you have encountered any. I’m curious.

Y, I’ve got no problem with Y, so on we go to Y, the problem-free letter, the letter with an embarrassment of riches, where I have to choose between two worthy women authors. Wait. I don’t have to chose, I’ll have one of the Y-authors stand in for the lack of an X author. Yes. Sometimes I’m brilliant. (Also humble. And, I hope you realize, not very serious.)

Yfloralis for Yonge, Charlotte M. Yonge, author of The Heir of Redcliffe. I read The Heir of Redcliffe because someone recommended it to me. It was the first of the nineteenth-century women writers on specifically religious subjects that I read. This was, however, before I began my research on 19th-century women who interpreted the Bible. Yonge is one of those women, but I read this book before all that really started. Also, after I read Yonge, I re-read Little Women, and behold! Jo reads The Heir of Redcliffe in Little Women! Literary referencing in the nineteenth century! Excitement! Connections! Hurrah! I like connections. You should read The Heir of Redcliffe for insight into the century. I should revisit it as I’m sure I will understand it differently now.

Y is also for Yust, Karen Marie Yust, author of Taught By God, a book that does a great job helping people think through how the history of Christian education can inform current practice. I sort of fan-girled Dr. Yust at a Large Academic Conference last November. I think she was startled to have me rush up and enthuse about TBG. Oh well. I do like it. You should read it.

And so to Z. I’ve one author, J. Peter Zane, in my database in the Z-section. J. Peter doesn’t make the cut for this blog post because he’s a guy. There are women whose surnames begin with Z, but I’ve not read them. Have you? Any recommendations?


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W is for Women!

Of course, you knew that — this whole alphabet is about women writers. Which Woman? you may well ask. Well, let me tell you.

Wwomenis for Willis, Connie Willis.

Who? Yes, that’s the point! A woman who you haven’t heard much about. Ok, some of you out there know perfectly well who Connie Willis is, but I bet its only a few. The Constant Reader, the Norwegian, and — I’m not sure if there’s anyone else. Oh maybe the Vicar’s Wife out there in Alberta.

Connie Willis writes great time travel books and other speculative fiction. I particularly recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Doomsday Book. Because the books are time travel, they are not your normal science fiction — yet the time travellers start in the future, but not any future I’ve imagined. I’m not sure what disaster occurred to make Willis’s Oxford the way it is, but that is part of the fun — looking for clues and thinking about what happened between now and that imagined future.

This is also a reminder of International Women’s Day! Why do you think I waited to write my W entry? Happy IWD and happy time change.


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Victory? Virtue? Veracity?

Here we are at the difficult end of the alphabet. I’ve dealt with U, now onto V. Various, vexatious V, the sign of victory. The v-authors in my books-read data base are not many, but there is one that stands out.

VVineis for Vine, Barbara Vine, a pseudonym of Ruth Rendell. Ruth Rendell writes mysteries; Barbara Vine writes psychological suspense. I found Vine’s books variously good — some I’ve noted as predictable. Others are full of twists and turns that have kept me guessing until the end. Most of them involve deep dark family or identity secrets. The family secrets thing has been known to keep me reading in the past. Barbara Vine — suspenseful reading for an extra-long winter.


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Sunday, Sunday

Time for another excursus, the weekly rabbit trail, a break from our alphabetic ways.

This week I read Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. This is a LOST book and I can see why it was referenced on that island-centric show. The murder takes place at a hotel on an island which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, which is underwater at high tide. The people at the hotel at the time of the murder all, of course, have previous, off-island lives, which play into the investigation. It is all very LOST-like in many ways. You should check it out.

I’ve also just finished re-reading Possession, Best Book Ever. The language play is phenomenal. Haven’t read it? You should. It is a literary read, there are poems, but that is part of the fun. Look at the language and the way Byatt plays with words. So Good.

Since I just closed Possession, I’m in that between-book haze where I’m still in the world of literary scholars and poets and unpublished manuscripts. I’m not quite in a place where I can even think of what I’m going to read next.

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You may think I have not posted for a few days because the letter U undid me. But I am not undone. Things did not get ugly. I have a U-author who meets all the criteria for inclusion in this Alphabetical List.

Ulionis for Underhill, Evelyn Underhill.

Underhill was a spiritual writer. Mysticism (1911) is a seminal work in the study of mystics and mysticism. Underhill also wrote poetry, novels, and biographies. The biographies she wrote are of mystics, which is not surprising given her interest in the topic. Evelyn Underhill qualifies for this list because I’ve read her (she’s the only u-author I’ve read), she’s a woman, and she’s not well-known and deserves more interest. You should find her stuff and read it. Don’t start with Mysticism, that’s a bit much. I’ve not read Worship but am intrigued by what she’d have to say on that important subject. Mystics of the Church is an accessible way into some of Underhill’s work. Check her out. See what you think.


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