From a great essayist:
Perhaps you have noticed that the book icon for Pooping Elephants, Mowing Weeds: What Business Gurus Failed to Tell You does not take you to Amazon. Well, that shall soon be remedied. Pooping Elephants, Mowing Weeds…will be released this March in ebook format for less than two bucks.
This was a fun and gratifying ebook to write. Like many ebooks, it is short at about 7,500 words. I believe it offers some needed perspective, especially for those who are in the business community.
I write down many things as I read. One of my commonplace books is pictured above. They are wonderful friends who have been with me for many years.
If you are not familiar with a commonplace book, listen to this description by Tracy McKenzie of Wheaton and consider using one yourself!:
Last week I began a new feature on this blog that I am calling “From My Commonplace Book.” A commonplace book is a journal in which you record favorite quotes from what you are reading, and sometimes the thoughts that they evoke. In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, it was not uncommon for students to be required to keep a commonplace book, and many of the leading lights of the American revolutionary generation did so. I’ve been doing so now for more than a year, selecting quotes that help me to think through my calling as a Christian, historian, and teacher.
I could type them on my laptop, but I like the idea of writing the quotes out by hand. For one thing, it heightens the sense that I am following in the footsteps of those who have gone before me. We live in a present-tense society that dismisses 94 percent of all the human beings who have ever drawn breath on this planet simply because they are no longer living. When I sit down to my commonplace book with pen in hand, I am self-consciously engaging in a countercultural act. It’s a symbolic gesture but no less important for that. It helps me, imaginatively, to think of myself as entering into a grand conversation about enduring questions, something far bigger than the transient fads and obsessions that so easily steal the best days of our lives.
Writing the quotes out by hand also forces me to slow down, and that in itself is a countercultural act as well. By lingering over a passage and recording it with painstaking care, I am symbolically setting it apart from the ocean of information that inundates me daily. Much of that information may be valuable, but the passages that go into my commonplace book are life-changing.
I have loved these Penguin Great Ideas books since the time when I first laid eyes on them. Why I Write by Orwell was one of the Christmas gifts my wife gave me. I finished it on the plane this past Thursday. What a book! Only 120 pages, but packed with arresting insights and keen observations. Orwell is a master of both.
Here are a few samples:
On Neville Chamberlain
“His opponents professed to see in him a dark and wily schemer, plotting to sell England to Hitler, but it is far likelier that he was merely a stupid old man doing his best according to his very dim lights.”
The way we talk and think:
“It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
And there is so much more in this funny, wise, and brilliant book!
Click on any picture below to enlarge.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale is one of the world’s best. Unlike Harvard’s collection, you don’t need to wear white gloves. Once we were vetted, we were shocked by the freedom they give to scholars.
Here are a few things we looked at. First, is Jonathan Edwards Bible. Paper was rare, but Jonathan liked to write…a lot. You will see that the small sheet has the passage of Scripture and then two blank pages to take notes on what he was reading. And did he ever take notes! I did somewhat of a quick count of his handwritten notes on Genesis and each page has about 2500 words! On a similar size sheet of paper I write about 250 words.
Jonathan’s wife, Sarah, along with their daughters, made fans. When the fans were no longer of use, Jonathan would take the delicate scraps and weave them into a book where he could write down sermon notes, etc.
Doreen got choked up when she held Jonathan’s Bible in her hands. The word that kept coming to my mind was “humbling” as you see the great effort Jonathan exerted to make sense of God’s Word.
Fabric from Sarah’s wedding dress.
Our dear friend, Dr. Dave Mahan, is the director of the Rivendell Institute (www.rivendellinstitute.org) and teaches at Yale Divinity. Dave set us up with Susan Howe, who is a world-renowned poet. In 2017, she won the Robert Frost Medal for “distinguished lifetime service to American poetry.” Susan was a sheer delight to be with. We spent two terrific hours at her beautiful home in the country. Susan is candid about not being a Christian, but she is captivated by the beauty and respect for language she finds in Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.
I headed over to Yale’s Sterling library and was thrilled to see they have my first book.
Michael McClymond is Professor of Modern Christianity at St. Louis University. Doreen met Mike in college some thirty-five years ago! She had not seen Mike since, but he happened to be at Yale the same time as us. Mike told us about his various writing projects, one of which he happened to remember quoting my book, The Battle for Hell. Mike is a wonderful guy, expert on Jonathan Edwards, and graciously offered to be a resource for Doreen with her book on Sarah.
Check out Mike’s work here: https://sites.google.com/a/slu.edu/michael-j-mcclymond/
The great folks at the Overseas Ministries Study Center made our time fun and fruitful. Many thanks to Dr. Tom Hastings, Pam Huffman, Pam Sola, Michael Racine, Ray Sola, Judy Stebbins, and the ever present help of Chee-Seng and Sharon!
Check them out at www.omsc.org.
I will close with a foodie picture. This is Nica’s Market (www.nicasmarket.com), a terrific and reasonable place to grab a bite (or many bites!) to eat. The guy behind me seems skeptical about my choices, but trust me, they were good.
Some of you know that we came to Yale so Doreen could begin to do intensive research on Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan. Most of you know that Doreen’s first book is on the ministries/marriages of Jonathan/Sarah Edwards, George/Elizabeth Whitefield, and John/Molly Wesley. Doreen’s book is used as a required text by a professor of history and theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It is gratifying to hear how the students appreciate Doreen’s hard work. Here is recent picture of Doreen speaking at DTS.
We usually stop in Dallas on our treks back east. Our wonderfully encouraging friends, Bill and Helen Reeves, welcomed us into their lovely abode on our way to New Haven, CT.
Our first big stop was in Knoxville, Tennessee. Doreen’s sister and brother-in-law live there. I was reminded that we were in the Bible belt when I stepped into the restroom of a Christian bookstore. I guess several biblical truths could work like “Go…and Make Disciples!”
We made it safely to Yale. Here is Dr. Ken Minkema, the Director of The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale. We had a terrific and productive time with him.
I close this log with a few pictures from one of our study locations. These are from the Yale Divinity library.
A peek out our window…
A great six minutes!
Our youngest son, Chris, recently finished his honors thesis in classics. It is quite technical (yes, I’ve “read” it) and about 100 pages long. That length is pretty typical. Now consider an undergraduate doing this for his thesis on Shakespeare:
In his senior year at Princeton in 1954, Daniel Seltzer, assistant professor of English, wrote a thesis that was nearly six hundred pages long…Dealing with “royal themes–the characterization of moral ideas on the stage,” the thesis was for Seltzer a “kind of catharsis,” and he now looks back with Joycean delight at the comment of his roommate who suggested that “I put the thing on casters.”
Who or what do you love enough to go overboard? Rather, take a look at the people and things you tend to go overboard with and you will discover your true loves!
There are two men who have taught me the most about the proper ways to integrate theology and literature: Ralph Wood and Roger Lundin. I have interviewed Ralph before, and Lord willing shall be going back to Baylor for another interview. I corresponded with Roger. I was planning on meeting with Roger during my lecture at Wheaton, but Roger unexpectedly died a few days prior to my talk. Jeremy Begbie of Duke collaborated with Roger. Here is part of Begbie’s tribute:
He cared about words – or better put, he cared for people through words: his students, colleagues and readers. That was why he labored so hard to find the right ones. That was why – with that memorable sidelong glance – he paused so often in conversation. That is why he spent hours and hours revising and re-editing his essays and books. In all the years I knew Roger I can honestly say I never remember him using words carelessly. He knew that careless words could hurt, maim and wound. In a culture deluged with half-thought out words, sloppy, hollowed-out language, he saw it as his calling to hone words full of care for others, full of the winsome generosity of God. And in the corridors of the academy, few things are needed more today. We academics revel in large words – to impress, to intimidate. He inspired us to use words with largesse. And that is a legacy beyond measure.
The rest is here: http://www.transpositions.co.uk/tribute-to-professor-roger-lundin/