Read Wide

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Daniel 1:17

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” Matthew 11:19

A few weeks ago, I bankrupted all of my emotional and mental energy on current events, news feeds, friend’s urgent prayer requests, and the weight of the world’s brokenness. I believe in lament, but I needed sanctuary.

Books are that place for me, a spot where logic and emotion meet, and I find the melding of mind and spirit, the making of soul rest. Give me a hot cup of tea and a good book and I will sing praises for the small things that make my soul sigh contentedly.

When I found myself worn out, I scanned my ever-present book pile and decided each of my current reads was too weighty and significant to be considered restful.

I did what anyone who needs a distraction does. I turned to Facebook. I polled my friends for suggestions.

“I want the literary equivalent of well-woven cotton candy for the soul. Fluffy and light and maybe even a bit cloyingly sweet,” I wrote, and posted as my status update.

Herein is the interesting thing about books, discovered in my friend’s responses: What is soul rest to one is mentally daunting to another. What is saccharine and pedantic to one is sentimental and profound to another. The plot that drags on wearily might set another’s fingers flipping. So, while books carry a measure of commonality in themes, story, message, and purpose, the way a page turns and impacts is highly subjective. Do we laugh at the same passages, underline the same lines, let tears slide down our cheeks during that chapter? Show me your bookshelves, your dog-eared pages, your yellow highlights, and I will know the worlds you’ve traveled, like viewing stamps in your passport.

So often we want to go deep into the pages of a book, the same books. The well-loved, well-worn ones. But when we read wide, we open up horizons. Because you won’t know what makes your page turn fast or pause long, what brings soul rest or mental challenge without reading wide.

Reading books is a lot like finding your people. It can be awkward and uncomfortable at first. Sometimes you just won’t click. There’s something familiar and easy about the sameness we tend towards, the books that speak to us, that we agree with, that we find beauty in. But growth doesn’t happen without expansion and the uncomfortable stretch of reaching wider than our own circle of ideas and beliefs. Story helps us dig into other viewpoints, dissenting ideas, radically different world views, and words we’d never think to string together. Reading wide stretches our capacity to understand others, but it also does the work of informing and revealing to ourselves just who we are and how we think.

If all the books were feasts, we would have a host of courses. Books to set loose our taste buds and feel like wine on our tongues. Books to make us full and satiated and wise. Books which cleanse our palettes and open us up to new flavors. Books too rich to do anything but dabble in a little at a time.

A wide feast of words cultivates a well-nourished and flourishing soul.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you tend to read wide or do you find yourself returning to the same books again and again? Do you use books for different purposes in your life such as relaxation, collecting information, inspiration, or learning new skills? Which books do you gravitate to the most? What books have been foundational in your growth?

PRAYER: Father God, we thank you for the dimensions and diversity you’ve given each of us and the different tastes and capacities we have to learn and grow and reflect you as we do. We pray we wouldn’t take the wonders of your creation for granted but would dive into the richness you have in every area of our lives. We pray we’d be good stewards of our time and our minds and souls, learning, growing, and resting in you and the ways you’ve provided for us. Amen.


Best Books for Business

As the saying goes, “So many books, so little time.” We all love a good book list. The stacks of books on our nightstands threaten to reach the ceiling, and we are constantly combing yard sales and thrift stores for a bargain on a bookshelf to store all our treasures. Which books are your favorite? And, if you had to narrow down that list to your favorite books for business, which titles would we find there? We asked a few writers to share their recommendations with us, and we thought we’d share their suggestions here with you, in this series, Best Books for Business. See if any of your favorites make an appearance here.

Featured image by Marty Hadding. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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