8 books finished in 2015: The Meaning of Marriage

8 books finished in 2015

I did not intend for this to be the Winter of Tim Keller, but here we are with three books by him in a row (…ish). Thankfully, he quoted Jane Eyre in the final chapter, so I already know what I’m reading next. (JANE EYRE! REASON TURNED TYRANT! That wasn’t the section he quoted, but the section he did quote is equally disciplined, and he named yet another reason she is THE BEST and I LOVE HER THE MOST and then I spent the moments before sleep recapping, for myself, in dramatic fashion, the plot of the book, and IT IS SO DRAMATIC AND GOTHIC AND MY EVERYTHING!) (This is going to kick off a Spring of Bronte, since one of my friends is currently reading a Charlotte Bronte biography, AND I realized there are works I haven’t read available free for my kindle!)

Ahem. Back to this book. It has sparked so many good conversations and intellectual side pursuits in the past two weeks that I have been referencing it constantly! I couldn’t avoid talking about it if I tried.

Though, can we have this conversation with a dose of humility (on my side) and…ummm…restraint? I don’t miss the irony of finishing and posting this near Valentine’s Day. And I was reminded just yesterday, by a dear friend, that I’d REFUSED to consider reading this book last fall, even though my church community was reading and discussing it, at first because I was single and didn’t want to get caught up in a conversation about marriage, and then because I was starting to date someone and didn’t want to get caught up in a conversation about marriage. (Is there an echo in here?) Now, a few short months later, I’m seriously dating someone (here’s where the restraint comes in, folks – please refrain from winking and joking, because this is a vulnerable place), and realized that any idea I had about how that might look was totally off base, that this is a lot more work and vulnerability than I expected, and that I need a point-of-reference more comprehensive than Not A Chick Flick. (Because I will eviscerate a chick flick swiftly and mercilessly – apologies to housemates for whom I’ve ruined the viewing experience – but rightly naming something as shallow doesn’t necessarily mean you understand depth.)

“It is hard to get a good perspective on marriage. We all see it through the inevitably distorted lenses of our own experience.”

Welp. This book was awesome. I appreciate SO MUCH that Keller attacks our common idols – he points out all of the ways that society and culture and the church have wrongly viewed marriage (both historically and in the present), and he brings us back to the Bible, to what God says, to what Jesus says. It’s so refreshing that he acknowledges these influences but doesn’t necessarily engage with them, or pick a side, but instead offers a third choice.

I should definitely pull quotes from this. [Update: I tried.] Especially about the work of, the commitment to, the reasons for marriage. So level-headed. So realistic. So much more sustainable than romantic notions. [Yes. All of this. I tried to pull quotes, but realized that anything taken out of context was going to sound incomplete. And I don’t think it’s appropriate, or legal, to transcribe entire chapters onto my blog.]

“In this book we examine the Christian understanding of marriage. It is based, as we have said, on a straightforward reading of Biblical texts.”

That’s a fairly thorough summary. If you’re interested in that, I highly recommend this book.

Marriage haiku, based on the lessons of this book:
not a fairy tale.
no consumer transaction.
it’s tough, but fruitful.

7 books finished in 2015: The Return of Sherlock Holmes

7 books finished in 2015

Sherlock is not dead!
So many mysteries solved.
Watson asked to hush.

I’m so intrigued by this serialized storytelling, and the ways it relates to television shows today. I can think of so many shows that close a season not knowing whether they’ll get to return – so there are false endings and momentary resolutions that keep us wanting more. That’s the way it feels with these Sherlock mysteries – constantly referencing Sherlock’s retirement or his requests that Watson stop sharing stories.

I made this for you!


This will be a short list.

For those of you who, like me, were checking twitter feeds from the Grammys last night, saw some reference to Kristen Wiig being awesome, watched the video, and then proceeded to fall into a Sia wormhole. Which included the original video for Chandelier, the weird follow-up video for Elastic Heart, and this awesome interview about taking performance art to the masses. I won’t judge you if you spent the rest of the day listening to her latest album on repeat. Because that’s what I did, too.

I love when artists do artsy stuff like this.

6 books finished in 2015: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

6 books finished in 2015

suffering, sickness, pain, death.
we are unprepared.

I started reading this book in 2013. At that point, I’d read a number of books about suffering. Many of them gave great suggestions for how, as a Christian, I should respond to suffering, but none of them really helped me understand my anger toward God. This book did. It was so comprehensive! I appreciate that Keller, in most of his books, starts by breaking down worldviews – the lens through which we interpret the world. It helped me to understand WHY I was so angry, because the modern American stance toward suffering is one of avoiding it at all costs. Our only response to suffering is one of shock and anger. I’m probably not paraphrasing this well – I read the first section 18 months ago – but this helped SO MUCH. I was finally able to understand, and accept, and eventually get over, my anger.

[For the curious: I’ve had persistent double vision – monocular diplopia in both eyes, which means, I kid you not, I see double even with one eye closed – since the fall of 2011. I haven’t discussed it much here on the blog, at first because I was in distress, then because I assumed it would end and I’d be able to look back on it and process, and now because it’s such a normal part of my life that I forget to bring it up.]

This book isn’t just for those who are suffering. Actually, let me quote from the book’s introduction. (It’s what won me over in the first place.)

So is this a book for sufferers? Yes, but we must make some distinctions. We are all sufferers, or we will be. But not all of us are currently in an experience of deep pain and grief. Those who are not feeling it, but are seeing it in others, will have a host of philosophical, social, phychological, and moral questions about it. On the other hand, those who are in the grip of pain and difficulty now cannot treat it as a philosophical issue.

He breaks the book into three parts: one looks at “the problem of evil,” one pulls together all of the themes and teachings about pain and suffering in the Bible, and a final series of meditations designed to help actual sufferers in the midst of their grief. (Keller recommends that anyone in the midst of suffering starts with the second section.)

I think every Christian should read this book, and any non-Christian who wonders what the Bible says about suffering.