To Kill A Mockingbird (Again)

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I’m reading To Kill a Mockingbird again in anticipation of reading Go Set a Watchman. I think TKAM is the perfect American novel, encapsulating a period of time that has passed away.

I still don’t understand how so many white people could hate black people merely for being black. I suppose it’s probably one of the best examples of the fallen nature of humanity that I can think of.

Still, I love the character of Atticus Finch. He’s not perfect, but he’s willing to stand up for what he believes in, even at the expense of his reputation and career. He’s also courteous and kind to those who hold opposing viewpoints (which is an extremely rare commodity these days).

I also love how the book is narrated from the viewpoint of 6-year old Scout. She can be naive at times and quite frank at others. In other words, she’s a very typical 6-year old. Yet she can also be very insightful, too.

I love both the book and the movie. For once, I’m thankful the movie didn’t try to incorporate every single plot device, leaving out a good bit of the book. It focused on the heart of what Harper Lee wrote about and got that part spot-on perfect.

I can’t imagine there ever being a remake of TKAM. Who’d play Atticus Finch? No one, and I mean no one, could ever top the pitch-perfect performance of Gregory Peck.

I don’t expect GSAW to be equally as brilliant. I’m just thankful that we get a second book from Harper Lee, 55 years after the first. I get that it was written before TKAM and how the characters are all much older. It makes my head hurt, but I get it.

We need more people like Atticus Finch who love their families and take unpopular stands for what they believe in. We need those who will fight for those who have no voice. We need those who will love unconditionally without compromise.

Now back to the book.

Back at McKay’s

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31, The Message).

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you know that my idea of heaven is a place like McKay’s Used Books, CDs, Movies & More. It’s a place where the inner book-nerd can bask in the glow of the warmth that comes from a warehouse filled with everything to satisfy his geeky little heart.

I went Saturday and did my usual trading old unwanted stuff for new wanted stuff. I picked up The Beatles Anthology Volumes 1 & 2. Lo and behold, when I got home I discovered that Volume 1 consisted of two Disc 2s and no Disc 1.

So I went back today. What else could a self-respecting multimedia nerd do?

I ended up trading in a bit more and picked up a fantastic (to me) CD called Music Box Christmas Creations (which I am currently listening to as I write this) for the princely sum of 19 cents.

I also got the Beatles Anthology Volume 1 with both discs.

I had thoughts of putting up a hammock and calling it home, but then I realized my cat Lucy might object. She’s already camping out on my backpack to keep me from leaving home after I spend four nights dog sitting in the Bellevue area.

The best place is still in the “Very Scratched” section. Most people will pass that up, but I’ve learned that with the miracle of a little 70% rubbing alcohol (and occasionally some toothpaste) you can get any CD with scratches to play, In fact, you really have to work hard to make a CD unplayable (as I’ve learned).

Most of us are like that. We’re not new. We’ve got some scratches and scars and wear and tear from a life of poor choices, unfortunate circumstances, and that old persistent problem called a sin nature.

God still chooses to use us. He goes to the discarded section and picks us out because He has plans for us. I love that about God.

I only wish I had more stuff to trade at McKay’s. Maybe one day soon.

 

I Like Free Stuff

“The payoff for a life of sin is death, but God is offering us a free gift—eternal life through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King” (Romans 6:23).

I like free stuff. I admit it.

Every so often, I stop off at the Brentwood Public Library and check in the front where they keep all the materials that for whatever reason they can’t accept as donations.

I’ve found more than a few antiquated computer manuals from the late great 80’s and some other unintentional sleep aids. I’ve also managed to run across some treasures.

I picked up a seven-volume set of classic books on prayer that I will (hopefully) read before I die.

I found a Dorothy Sayers mystery paperback that I actually hadn’t read before.

I found a couple of opera recordings on CD that I will use to further broaden my musical horizons.

I do so love free stuff.

After all, aren’t the best things in life free?

My salvation was free to me, but not free to God. It cost Him Jesus. It cost Him everything.

I don’t say that to invoke a guilt trip on anyone, but as a reminder to myself that I should never take any part of the process lightly or for granted.

I need to remind myself that I’m saved not because I was oh so very clever or witty or crafty but simply and solely out of the grace of God.

The key, then, for me is to live gratefully. The lesson from all this is to see all my life as a grace that I don’t deserve. To see whatever comes next as a gift, no matter how it fits into my preconceived plans. To live it as a hymn of gratitude back to God.

Oh, and I will keep checking the library for more cool free stuff.

 

The Silver Chair

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So now I’m reading The Silver Chair. That means I only have one more Narnia book after this. Also, I believe there will be a movie hitting theaters in the next year or two based on this book (although I’m a bit skeptical as to how faithful the filmmakers will be to the original source material).

I do love this book.

I love how Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole escape from their dreary clouded school day into bright and sunny Narnia. Well, technically they start out in Aslan’s country, but it’s in the same world.

I also love that ol’ Puddleglum, the Marsh-wiggle. He’s the pessimist of all pessimists, but he’s the one who keeps the other two grounded and who comes through grandly in the climactic scene (which I won’t divulge for those who haven’t read these books yet).

I especially love how the book’s theme is that you can make a royal mess at the start– to the point that it seems like you’ll never get back on track– and still at the end find a way to succeed. After all, it’s not how you start that matters, but how you finish.

More accurately in my experience, it’s not how many times you’ve screwed up or how big a fiasco you’ve made of your life up to this point, but how God can transform even that into good. Or better yet into something marvelous.

It’s funny how the evil scheme was to get one of the main characters, who had been bewitched, to steal what was already rightfully his. It’s funnier still how Satan did the same to Jesus, offering Him the world if He would only worship the prince of lies. Jesus knew that the world and everything in it was already His. Furthermore, He knew that all this world was not Satan’s to give in the first place.

Temptation is often the devil trying to get us to go after something good, but in the wrong way at the wrong time, like having premarital sex or having an affair instead of enjoying intimacy with the one God made especially for you. He offers what is not really his to give and what God alone can truly give, but often in a way that is different and much better than we would have chosen.

So I give the book 5 stars. Out of 5.

PS There is a BBC film version that is quite faithful to the book but looks as though it had a special effects budget of about $8. It’s good in a campy sort of way.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

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“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”
“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.
“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.
“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there” (C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).

I’m now almost done with my favorite of all the Narnia books– The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. That means only two more to go after this one.

There’s so much to like in this book, but the best part is toward the end when they’re getting close to the end of the world, beyond which lies Aslan’s country. Spoiler alert.

The book reminds me that at some point, we have to say goodbye to the ones we love. That’s hard. But the key is in the perspective. That is, you focus on the time you had and the memories you made instead of the loss. Plus, God never takes anything away without giving something better in return. Usually, that something is God Himself. But I digress.

Even though I read these books through every year and I know I’ll read them again at some point in 2016, it still makes me a bit sad knowing that I’m nearing the end of these books.

I think my favorite character is that noble mouse Reepicheep. He’s the smallest of them all, yet he’s also the bravest and most daring. He’s the one who wants to head into the darkness and stay at Ramandu’s table for the adventure of it.

But I like Lucy, too. After all, I did name my cat after her.

 

Hangin’ with The Magician’s Nephew

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Some people like to spend their annual vacation in Panama City or Savannah or Gatlinburg. I myself like to visit Narnia on a yearly basis. So it’s that time again when I pick up The Magician’s Nephew and commence on re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia.

Back in the day, the series started with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and went in the order in which C. S. Lewis wrote them. Now, the series starts with The Magician’s Nephew, which involves the creation of Narnia, and progresses chronologically in terms of the story line rather than in the order in which the books were published. Is that clear as mud?

Either way, they’re great books. They always encourage me and reaffirm my faith without being overly preachy. Even those who don’t care much for Christianity can read these books and find much to like. Or so I would imagine.

I highly recommend these books to anyone who likes allegorical fiction (even though these books aren’t really allegories in the strictest sense) or just good literature. They were written for children but anyone who is young at heart will love them.

I will keep you updated as I move through the seven books in the series.

 

Revisiting My Own Past

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Recently, I discovered an old favorite band of mine that I hadn’t thought about in a while. You’ve most likely never heard of the band, since they were a late 70’s jazz fusion band. You most likely have heard of their drummer, an English chap who goes by the name of Phil Collins.

Anyway, back in the day I owned a cassette compilation of some of their most well-known compositions. I’m fairly certain I picked it up in the discount section at either The Sound Shop or Camelot Music in the Hickory Ridge Mall, probably just before heading to the food court for some pizza from Sbarro’s.

A few weeks back at McKay’s Used Books (and everything else you can think of), I had enough trade credit for four of their CDs among some of my other noteworthy finds.

It’s interesting how much more I appreciate their ridiculous musicianship than I did way back when. Of course, back then I really dug groups like Wham! and Club Nouveau. Don’t hold that against me. My musical tastes have definitely matured a lot since those days.

Also, I’ve been reminiscing about a great series of books I used to read as a wee younger lad. I believe they were called Choose Your Own Adventure. In them, you would read for a few pages before being presented with a list of choices, a la if you enter the dark and scary hallway, turn to page 94, but if you elect to stay in the kitchen and make yourself a PB&J, turn to page 108. I loved those books.

So my next quest is to find at least one of those books. I’m checking out the usual places– the library castoff section, Goodwill, McKay’s, and amazon.com, but so far no luck.

So far, I’m batting .500, which for me is a win.

 

 

 

All is Grace

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“This book is by the one who thought he’d be farther along by now, but he’s not . . . the dim-eyed who showed the path to others but kept losing his way . . . the disciple whose cheese slid off his cracker so many times he said ‘to hell with cheese ‘n’ crackers’ . . .”

But, this book is for the gentle ones . . . who’ve been mourning most of their lives, yet they hang on to shall be comforted . . . the younger and elder prodigals who’ve come to their senses again, and again, and again, and again . . . because they’ve been swallowed by Mercy itself . . . [and] dare to whisper the ragamuffin’s rumor—all is grace. (All is Grace, 27)

Have you ever had a book that you’ve been wanting and waiting to read for a long time? I’m finally getting around to reading a book like that. It’s called All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, my blog derives its name from a Brennan Manning book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, for which he is most famous. But I can vouch for all his other books, which are equally grace-drenched and read-worthy.

All is grace. I love that idea. Everything that’s ever happened to me– the good, the bad, the ugly– is all grace because it has either reaffirmed what I knew about the goodness of God or driven me into a deeper dependence on that same God who works all things together for good. Because of that grace, nothing is ever lost or wasted or useless or in vain. Absolutely nothing.

I believe now that the life of faith works in reverse from the ordinary life. As babies, we’re born totally dependent on others and grow more and more into an independence of being able to stand on our own two feet. In the spiritual life, we start out as independent strangers from God and grow into a complete and total dependence on God.

As of this writing, I’m on page 100. I’ll probably be posting more about this book as I get farther into it, so remember you have been warned.

 

Your January Report from Yours Truly (Borrowed from TCM)

I always love when they have the monthly updates from TCM about new DVD releases, as well as biographies about the classic movie stars and information about upcoming classic movie festivals.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so here’s my own January report:

I recently read a fantastic book by Mark Batterson (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,  Wild Goose Chase, The Circle Maker) called The Grave Robber. It looks seven miracles of Jesus from the Gospel of John from the viewpoint that the God who did those miracles back then is the same God who is just as capable of producing miracles in this day and age. It definitely came at a time when I needed a spark of renewal and revitalization in my own faith, so I give it two thumbs way up.

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Also, I’ve been listening to some old Bob Dylan. By that I mean his first eight studio albums, remastered and released in mono. I love the way he has with words, even if I don’t always understand completely what he’s singing about. Plus, I’m sure my two uncles are smiling down from heaven at this musical selection.

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In keeping with the 60’s theme, I went to the library and checked out an old movie adapted from a Neil Simon play, Barefoot in the Park. It features Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, both looking radiant and very young in this film. It’s a comedy that manages to be funny and intelligently witty at the same time, a rare feat for Hollywood.

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I think that wraps up my report for January. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep you updated on my latest book, movie, and music finds that will probably not be new (or possibly even new to you) but they will be new to me.

So until next time, watch TCM and keep me posted on what you are reading, listening to, and watching these days.

 

 

 

That Longing Inside

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“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back” (C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces).

It’s that longing. If you watch TV at all, you are led to believe that you can fill that longing with a new car or a new kitchen appliance. Or maybe if you drink the right beer or wear the right kind of sweaters. Just about anything and everything from fast food to cologne to mattresses will satisfy that deepest of longings inside of us, or so we’re told.

I think all of us have deep longings that nothing we do or buy or acquire can ever truly satisfy. For most of us, we’re unable to even name what that longing is or even pinpoint what it is that we truly desire.

That C. S. Lewis guy also said that if we have longings that nothing in this world can satisfy, then it means that we were created for another world. I think he was on to something.

I personally find myself longing more and more for a world I’ve never seen before, but one that I have dreamed about. I imagine it will look a whole lot like Mr. Lewis’ Narnia, especially the one described in toward the end of his book, The Last Battle.

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet” (C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces).