Lent Pictures–Lent Thoughts

Through the season of Lent I posted over thirty pictures to social media with quotations over the spiritual themes of Lent. It all started by accident. I wrote out in a red marker a quote I was reading from St. Augustine, and then the next day I wrote out another one not he white board and posted, and then a trend set in.

By that first weekend I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I outlined a pattern of Fridays being Bible verses, Saturdays would be song references, Thursdays would be inspiring quotes of Christian content, Tuesdays would be pop culture and literature references and Monday’s would be primarily theological in nature.

My method was to create the quote in an analogy way. Yes, it would be delivered digitally in the photograph, but I wanted it to be real items like paper, chalk, ink, wood. For the most part I succeeded in this. The one exception was to get a typewriter font I used my Mac, but it is actually printed on paper.

There were some quotes I intended to use but never did. For example, I intended to use a Brene Brown quote where she says, ‘Sometimes the bravest and most most important thing you can do is just show up.” I love the quote and have taught my children for yeas that 90% of success is just showing up. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis when we are encouraging people to stay home I decided that might send the wrong message and people might misunderstand that I was one of those misinformed and misguided people who think social distancing is a bunch of bunk. By contrast, I am a historian. I know full well the danger of a pandemic.

I also wanted to use a Stephen King quote I like — “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” It is a good quote for Lent, but I just never got to it. Another one I wanted to use was “You can’t fight in the war room” from Dr. Strangelove but alas, it didn’t happen. I wanted to put up one day one of my favorite thoughts on Lent — “Why do they call it a fast when it goes so slow?”

Brene Brown, Anne Lamott, and James the Brother of Jesus got the most comments and likes.

I must admit I was surprised most of these didn’t get more attention. But who knows how the FB algorithms work, right? I’ll probably reuse them again next year, with perhaps a few more added in. Until then they are posted here for you to peruse, or if you want swipe them and post them to your page. I don’t care. These were my arts and crafts projects for the spring.

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS

What are your favorite books?

Many bloggers have a single blog where they list their top 10, top 25, top 100 or 1000 books.  I’ve found that I just can’t do that because there are so many wonderful books out there that I’ve read.  I also find that my predisposition toward a book, like a film, is to like it.  A book has to work hard to make me not like it because I have so much goodwill toward the writer.  I always want the writer to succeed.  So, instead of listing my top books ever, I am instead putting together a series of blogs that cover my top three books in certain categories.  Today I launch with the top three most significant books in the world.  In my opinion, at least.

The Bible

Without a doubt, it is the single greatest influential piece of literature, religion, philosophy and history in the whole world.  Yes, that includes the non-Western world too, for there are probably more Christ-followers in China than in the United States and Asia and Africa are now filled with Bible teaching churches.

For many of us the Bible is more than literature, it is a way of life and the guide to knowing God.  However, if we just think about it as a literary piece, it is the greatest literature ever.  Whether you believe it or not, the stories in the Bible are gripping, heartbreaking, inspiring, and usually very crisp.  Most of us forget how short Jonah is, or how brief the gospels are.  Besides, we could barely speak if we stripped our language of every metaphor that emerged from the Bible.

The Iliad, Homer

The Iliad Cover
War, Women, and Wandering

Okay, we’ll throw in The Odyssey as well.  For the ancient Mediterranean world, The Iliad and The Odyssey served an analogous function to the Bible today.  It was memorized, adored, quoted, and believed as a religious guide.  Most everyone rejects the religion of the stories today, but the narrative necessity of great heroes like Hector and Achilles, tragic kings, battles, and then the epic journey of discovery that is Odysseus’ destiny are the pillars of a great deal of storytelling.  One can scarcely wonder what world literature would be like if The Iliad and The Odyssey never were.

Confessions, St. Augustine

Thomas Cahill, in his classic work How the Irish Saved Civilization, points out that St. Augustine’s Confessions was the first time, really, that anyone ever picked up a pen and wrote the word “I” and meant it as the subject of a book.  Not many people today have read St. Augustine, and those that do usually gravitate toward his theology.  Certainly there is theology in Confessions, but it is the first true autobiography, so the next time you pick up that overpriced hardback at Costco where a celebrity spills his or her guts about all their trials, tribulations and debauchery before finally cleaning up their act you need to thank St. Augustine because he literally invented that genre.  He also gave us, in Confessions, one of the most interesting prayers ever uttered:  “Lord, make me sexually pure, but not yet.”

In the coming weeks I intend to blog about my favorite books from other genres–history, preaching, classical literature, sci-fi, fiction, and so forth.  But these are, in my opinion, the most important and influential books in the world.  I would be interested to know what you think are the three most influential books?

 

image from simania.co.il