Thursday, August 14, 2008

theological reading for mums and other busy people

I believe many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand. (C.S.Lewis, introduction to Athanasius' On the incarnation.)

"Ok, Dr. Lewis, I agree with everything you say (apart from the pipe). I was moved to joy and praise more often during the hard theological slog of my PhD, than by any light devotional reading since.

"But I'm a mum. I lost my brain to hormones, I can't sit down without a child climbing over me, and my eyes are grainy with exhaustion. I'm happy if I can read 4 consecutive verses of the Bible, let alone a book of theology."

Or so I would have said just a year ago.

Bookworm that I am, I read virtually no Christian books - besides ones on parenting - during my years with very young children. That's starting to change as they grow older. But here's a secret I wish I knew 9 years ago: regular theological reading is possible for mothers of young children.

There are theological books tailor made for mums and other busy people. Not light devotional books, but real theology by real theologians. I discovered this in a moment of divine serendipity, when I thought I'd ordered one book by John Piper, and a different one arrived in the post.

Here it is: John Piper's A Godward Life: Savouring the Supremacy of God in all of Life, a collection of short daily readings. It only takes 5 minutes a day, so it hasn't been any great stretch to add it to my morning routine! But it lifts my eyes to God and filled my mind with his truth.

And here's another one: Philip Jensen's By God's Word: 60 Reflections for Living in God's World. A friend of mine was given this collection of thoughtful essays by one of the best Bible teachers I've heard. I've dipped into it, and it looks excellent.

I did a quick search on Amazon, and here's some collections of short excerpts from theological giants: John Calvin, Day by Day with John Calvin; William Gurnell, The Christian in Complete Armour; J.C.Ryle, Day by Day with J.C.Ryle; Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening; Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections; C.S.Lewis, A Year with Lewis: Daily Readings from his Classic Works and C.S.Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection.

Or you could take a great Christian classic and read a few pages each day: perhaps a book about the character of God like J.I. Packer's Knowing God or John Piper's The Pleasures of God, or a book on Christian living like J.C. Ryle's Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots or Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness.

John Piper says if you read slowly for 15 minutes a day, you'll get through 10 Christian books in a year. To mothers with babies, 15 minutes of reading probably sounds like a dream of a different life. But even 5 minutes a day will get you through 3 books a year. That's 3 more than I've read most years since being pregnant with my first child.

Light devotional reading is fast food, quickly digested and unsatisfying. Good theology is low GI food, slowly and steadily nourishing mind and heart throughout the day.

Why should mums and other busy people live without it?


mattnbec said...

Hi Jean,

Well, you'd never know you hardly read any theological books from your blog!

A good encouragement to keep feeding the soul - thanks. I've been putting together a very advanced list of books I want for Christmas (started so that I don't get Mummy-brain and forget what I want when people ask closer to the time!), so the 15 minute idea is a good one to help me actually read any books I am given.

Matt and I found the Piper book (and the follow-up/s) and the Day-by-Day ones great for reading aloud together too. Ditto Spurgeon. Actually, you can read Morning and Evening daily at:
Alternatively you can download it as a pdf.

Someone mentioned to me that they found you can read and even use a pen/highlighter when you're breastfeeding if you set up your pillows right! She used to do her Bible reading like this with a nightlight during her middle of the night feeds! Not sure it would work for me, but it seemed to for her.

PS Sorry this is such a long comment, but does anyone know whether you can get any of these sorts of things sent to your email or blog reader? I've found that's the best way for me to do Bible reading regularly at the moment, so perhaps that's a good way to do further reading as well.

Jean said...

Nah, that was a bit of backwards-speak: past in present tense, for the sake of all those mums of babies out there. Up to this year, I did virtually no theological reading at all. This year it's taken off, with the kids older and a blog to write!! - which is why I snuck that line in about "now the kid are older". Is snuck a word? Probably not, but it's a good one.

You caught me out again!!

I do enjoy your comments, so thoughtful, keep them coming.

I'll post your question today.

Jean said...

There: I've put in an explanatory sentence. Don't say I never listen! ;)

mattnbec said...

Ah - now I see the kids being older bit. Gotcha. Thanks for listening and posting the question. :-)

Snuck is definitely a word. At least, I use it.

mattnbec said...

Oooh - wiktionary says 'snuck' is a word chiefly in Northern American usage. I'm not sure I'm so keen on Americanisms. Snuck is is a good word though. Hmmm...Well, I've heard that two usages of a word at an academic level make it officially a word, so perhaps both you and I using 'snuck' as past-tense for 'sneak' makes it now officially in Australian usage too.

I'm still not saying 'gotten' like an American though...uuurgh!