Rights.

September 30, 2009

Introduction:

Let me say right off the bat, I am a male. I have never experienced PMS, nor do I have any desire to. I will never really understand what women have gone through in their fight for equal rights, but I do understand, and respect, all individual human’s rights, triumphs, and beliefs –no matter who, or what, that person may be. Let me also say right off the bat that I am alive. The Lord has given me the breath of life, and that enables me to have any understanding and opinion at all. Living has given me the experience to be able to have the chance to triumph over my own boundaries in the world, and the freedom to develop my own beliefs. Quite frankly, what I respect and value more than anyone’s personal desires and, unfortunately, their personal tragedies, is the right to life. The gift of life.

I.     In a comfortable little apartment, in a comfortable little neighborhood, there lived a woman in her mid-thirties. Though she never had experienced true love, she was very content with her life. She had the convenience of her career and a group of shops right close to home, and she was very friendly with her neighbors; they took care of each other. She did not like to go out much at this stage in her life, but there was no real reason to. In the evenings she would read a book or watch television with a cup of tea; sometimes she would just lay about and dream. The woman truly loved life.

Down the street from the woman, a baby girl about three months in growth lived comfortably inside the womb of her mother. Though she never had experienced real life, and though she did not really understand it, she was very content with the protection she felt being surrounded by her mother. She had the convenience of sharing breath and nourishment with her mother, and she felt genuine love for her provider. The baby would spend her time kicking and playing, or sometimes she would just listen to the nervous chatter of her mother, memorizing the tone and rhythms of her voice. The baby truly loved life.

II.     One night, around midnight, the woman in her thirties was awakened from peaceful dreams by a man at the foot of her bed. As she sat up to scream, the man raised his left arm over his right shoulder and swiftly let it slice through the air to make contact with her temple. A sharp pain bled all the colors together –and she went black.

When she came to, the woman felt another’s flesh against her own. She tried to move but found her limbs were tied to the four bedposts. Upon opening her eyes, she quickly realized her situation and screamed. She screamed for her mother; she screamed for God, but with the thick strong tape across her mouth, all she could manage were low, quiet, muffled screeches. She was trapped. He was already inside her, and there was nothing she could do. Her mind turned from fear to rage; she tried to wiggle her way out, but she was pulled tight. She was helpless. When the man climaxed, she felt her soul connect with one that was cold and deathlike. Life became reduced to its most primitive stage: kill or be killed. Her mind became ultimate terror, and she again slipped into unconsciousness.

The next day, about the same time Sarah Johnson was filing a report of rape at the police station, the baby’s mother rushed to her appointment at the abortion clinic. She went straight to the receptionist.

          “I have an appointment at noon.”

          “Jaclyn Baker?”

          “Yes.”

          “Have a seat. The doctor will be with you shortly.”

The baby was awakened from a quiet slumber as her world moved a little off balance. Her mother tried to get as comfortable as possible with her legs up in the stirrups.

“This isn’t so bad,” she thought just before the anesthetic gained control of her mind. The doctor placed cone shaped rods in her cervix and stretched the muscle until the opening was large enough to work in. The doctor then put the tube of what is really just a powerful vacuum cleaner inside the mother and flipped the switch “on.”

For the first time, the baby experienced fear. Her whole world was being ripped apart. With the instinct to survive the baby fought back; she kicked, and she screamed. She screamed for her mother; she screamed for God, but the life was being sucked out of her. She was trapped. The vacuum already had a hold of her, and there was nothing she could do. She desperately tried to hold on, but she had no strength. She was helpless. When the vacuum finally ripped her from the wall of her mother’s womb, her mind became ultimate terror. Her soul was ripped apart from her mother’s. She traveled down the vacuum tube, quietly dead.

III.     Three years later Jaclyn Baker got a call in her office from Sarah Johnson. Sarah wanted to know if Jaclyn could pick up her son from daycare. She needed to work late that night, and she said she would appreciate the favor, because Jaclyn was the only one that Sarah trusted with her son.

They had met three months after Jaclyn’s abortion in the waiting room of a female psychiatrist who specialized in women’s issues. Sarah leaned over and told her how wonderful this doctor was; she said that her healing progress was coming along quite good. As she began to show, Sarah eventually told Jaclyn about the rape and when she found out she was pregnant. She said she wasn’t sure if she’d be keeping the baby or not –she had at least six months to decide on that –but she couldn’t imagine strangers raising a child that was hers, even if he wouldn’t have a father. The man was never caught. That first meeting, Jaclyn only said that she was there for personal problems. As they talked more about their careers and the weather and what not, they discovered how close to each other they lived. Eventually, they became best friends.

Sarah knocked on Jaclyn’s door a little after eight.

          “How was he?”

          “Just fine, as always. Just fine.”

They chatted a little more about his growing personality, and then Sarah Johnson whisked her son home to bed.

Jaclyn Baker cried herself to sleep that night, like she did many nights. She wondered who her baby might be. She wondered what her baby might have become. She missed her child very much.

 

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139: 13-16 (NKJ)

 

 

Peter L Richardson
May, 1992

 

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Lessons from Job: The Bet.

September 22, 2009

(Ch 1:6-12, Ch 2:1-7)

Nake Came I...

Nake Came I...

“Naked I came from the womb, naked I shall return whence I came. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Book of Job 1:21

Many Christians I talk to get offended when I use the term “bet” to refer to the challenge between God, the Lord, and Satan, the Adversary, but that is precisely what it is. Think about two boys on the playground. One kid starts bragging about how strong his dad is, and the other naturally has to challenge him and state, “I bet my dad can beat up your dad.” It is a challenge, but it is also a bet. A wager to see whose dad is more powerful. If their fathers were actually to fight, the kid whose dad won would also win bragging rights as a result of the bet. This is similar to what happened to Job, except there were cosmic beings wagering over his life! Job was innocently minding his righteous business and unexpectantly living his life while a challenge was being made that would alter that life forever. Many people are offended that God would play with a man’s destiny so lightly, let alone, someone who was considered to be the most righteous man on the earth. But what I find really scandalous is that God is the one who brought Job up! Look closely at the text. God, on his throne, has called all the angels to present themselves at court; apparently, even though Satan is fallen he is still expected to report to God all his activities. When God asks him where he has been, Satan doesn’t give too many details: “Um, just roaming around the Earth, you know, doin’ what I do.” God could have left it at that, or maybe even asked him to get more specific, but his next statement goes something like this: “Hey man, have you checked out my boy, Job, that cat is amazing, out of all my servants, he is the one who follows my laws the best!” Think about this. God pointed Job out to Satan. Perhaps I’m stretching here, but it is almost like God initiates the challenge. How would you respond if you were Satan, God’s Adversary? “Yeah, well, the only reason your boy is so good is because you take such good care of him. I’ll bet if you took all his riches away, he’d curse you in a second!” How does God respond? “You’re on! Do whatever you want to him, just don’t harm his body.” By the next paragraph, Job has lost everything in a matter of hours; blow after blow, his servants report to him one after the other how some crazy disaster has taken all his livelihood away, and finally he learns his kids are all dead! However, he does not curse God, in fact, he blesses him, and rationalizes that God provided all his riches in the first place, so he had the right to take them away.

End of story, right? God and Satan had a bet; Satan obviously lost; God can get back to blessing Job. But wait. That’s just the first chapter; there are forty-one additional chapters to get through, what could possibly be in those? Turns out, in the second chapter we have the exact same scenario going on. God is having another one of his angel line-ups; Satan shows up, and God apparently can’t resist bragging about his servant Job. “Yo, Satan, what have you got to say about my boy, Job? You bet he’d curse me, and he didn’t!” Once again, God initiates the challenge. Satan ups the ante: “Come on! You were too easy on him. You know how humans are, make that boy feel a little physical pain, and he’ll give in. He’ll curse you! You’ll see!” God could even have left it at that and told Satan to go suck on his loser wounds; instead, he takes the bet again! “Alright, do whatever you want to, just don’t kill him.”

Why would a loving and righteous God allow such a good man to experience so much suffering? We can never fully understand that question; because, as we learn later, we can never really comprehend the mind of God, but I believe that God does offer some revelation as we move further and deeper into the text, and a closer reading gives us a little bit of insight. The first time I read Job, I was still in my searching for truth stage. I finished the book, and I literally thought, “Wow, God’s kind of a &!(% in this story.” But I didn’t really understand it. Another explanation to why God brings up Job so frequently is that he is just a loving father bragging about his child’s accomplishments. Sometimes you just can’t keep your mouth shut. I am a divorced dad, and I know I have driven away potential women because in our conversations I would often direct the topic back to my kids. She might mention something she did or thought, and I would immediately respond with “Wow, that reminds me of the time my kids ________________.” When their kids are doing right, parents just love to tell the world about it. I don’t think God is any different. But God is omnipotent, right? He had to know where that conversation with Satan would lead, so why bring him up? I think once again, God is just being a loving father to his son. How is that loving? Well, fathers discipline and train their sons. But Job was the most righteous man on earth, what kind of discipline or training could he possible need? Many people interpret The Book of Job with a theory that Job’s sufferings are symbolic of Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross. I don’t agree. The evidence of Jesus is all over The Book of Job, as we’ll discuss in a later post, but, in my opinion, Job is not a symbolic Christ figure. He’s simply not good enough. We’ll also discuss these details in a later post, but a close reading of Job reveals that even though he did everything he was supposed to do according to God’s law, he may have had a sin he was blind to, something many religious people fall victim to: pride and self-righteousness, and while he was God’s best servant, there is evidence in the text that shows he seemed to lack what is ultimately most important to God: relationship with him. God was giving Job the push he needed for self discovery and for a greater revelation of who God is. He wanted a deeper relationship with his best man.

Couldn’t God have done it in a simpler and gentler way? I don’t know; as The Book of Job teaches us, we can’t comprehend the mind of God, but I also believe there are more reasons why God had to take Satan’s challenge and wager with Job’s life. A bet simply wouldn’t be a bet unless both parties had something to lose. What could the God of the universe have to lose? Well, if Job failed to remain faithful, God would lose his best man, but I believe it goes deeper than that. Job, we’ve established, was the most righteous, in other words, he was the highest example of human integrity on the earth. Job spent much of his time, we later read, doing good in the name of God: helping and encouraging people in need, counseling them to do good and have faith in God’s provision; if Job comes on hard times, no matter how bad, and he gives up and curses God, he’d be seen as a hypocrite. Since Job’s life, in a sense, represented God’s actions on Earth, God’s perceived integrity depends on Job’s actions (something that all you Christians, myself included, should think about very seriously). And if Job, the best, fails, what does that say about the rest of us; how do we have a chance? But the real question here is “Why does Job serve God?” Is it, as Satan accuses, because Daddy’s got the wallet open, or is it because Job loves and honors his Creator, and he is willing to do anything for him? If God’s best man gives up on him as soon as something goes wrong, what does that have to say about his service? It would imply that Job only served God because he was afraid of him; afraid that he would take away his livestock; afraid he would take away his family; afraid he would take all his toys away, so let’s just kiss the Almighty’s butt, give him what he wants, so everything can work the way it is supposed to, so I can move on with my life. It is very much the philosophy of many pagan religions who made strange sacrifices to appease their unpredictable nature gods. Job’s failure would imply that God was not to be worshiped simply for who he is as a personal higher being, but only for what he can give. It is equivalent to the gold digger who “loves” her man when he’s rich and handing out gifts, but if he runs out of money, she’s out. She never loved him for who he was, only for what he had. It would actually make God look like he was lonely and desperate for all humanity’s affections, and he had to bribe people to worship him in order to satisfy his ego.

Now, I believe that God deeply loves all of humanity. He is our Creator, and our Father, but don’t think for a moment that he needs us. The Bible makes it clear in many places that while God is a god of relationship, he is set apart by holiness, and he stands on his own in eternity. I question God every day why he hasn’t struck me with a lightning bolt; I screw up so much, but it is his mercy, and his love for me that holds back his hand, and in fact, that love prompts him to continue to bless me despite my imperfections and constant abuse of our relationship. I have nothing to offer God but my broken love and my time. Because I have learned to love him back, I do my best to please him, and that means going about trying to do good, and trying not to do evil, but God doesn’t need me; he wants me. God wants a relationship with those of us created in his image so much that he is willing to work with us, and through us, to reveal his glory to the Earth. If you are a person of faith, do you worship because you want to know God and be known by him, or do you worship to get “blessed” and carry your “Get Out of Hell Free Card”? This is Satan, our Accuser’s, challenge to God. God wanted to prove, for our sake, that he is worthy to be loved for who he is; the I Am.

  • All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.

 Peter L Richardson

 

Lessons From Job: Introduction

September 15, 2009

Naked I came from the womb, so I shall return… 

Naked Came I...

Naked Came I...

Preface:  

I teach The Book of Job as literature in my high school Honors English class. Once the students realize that, yes, you can read the Bible in a public school, as long as no one is proselytizing their religion (I am convinced, however, that some never really believe me, and secretly think they are breaking the law with me; hey, whatever holds their interest!), the complaining stops, and many report at the end of the year that Job turned out to be their favorite unit. And why not? The story is an interesting concept (if you choose to believe it is only a story), and it raises philosophical questions that humans are still grappling with to this day. It is mostly written in poetry, and the imagery and metaphorical symbolism in the book are stunning. When I first began to search out Christianity, people who knew I wrote poetry told me to read the Psalms, and they are good, but in my opinion, Job holds the title for the best poetry in the Bible. Once I read it, it quickly became my favorite book of the Bible, not just because of  the poetry, but all the questions that led me to Jesus, and all the questions of life that were (and many are still) burning in my heart are asked in The Book of Job. In class, I try to create activities that really bring The Book of Job to life. We have acting projects, and I make students draw something from the imagery, but my favorite lessons are the group discussions and debates that Job inspires. I only mediate these discussions, not wanting to cross any legal boundaries, but mostly so the students can find their own questions and then ponder the answers on their own. There is nothing more exciting for me, in my teacher role, to see students, who are drowning in the over-stimulation of the media and the drama of their own insecurities, apply a deep philosophical question from an ancient text to their own lives, making it current and relevant to the issues we have today. My students discover that we humans have not really changed all that much in the 4,000 years of recorded history.

In my class, I try to just let these ancient writings raise the questions, so I teach the students how to inquire on their own as we study the literature, dissecting lines of poetry, connecting common themes throughout the book; however, there is much insight from The Book of Job that I have discovered for my own life while teaching Job in this capacity. I don‘t think I would have discovered these personal lessons if I only viewed Job as scripture. Not to mention, many of my students have had profound insights that I never would have discovered looking only through religious glasses. A few months ago, I was asked to give a teaching on these lessons at a small group meeting in the church I worship at. The teaching was well received, so I have decided to undertake writing these lessons down in hope that someone else might be able to learn from them, or at least begin to ask their own questions. I thought I might just write a quick post, but as I began to review my notes, I realized that this task is much bigger than I thought. In the coming weeks and months I will be adding more posts specific to “Lessons from Job.” Since I can’t make you act or draw pictures, and since we can’t really debate, I hope you find the words interesting and engaging!

Peter L Richardson

 

Introduction:

This is the background information that I make students takes notes on. I admit it’s kind of dry (unless you are a geek like me). It is not essential for understanding the kind of lessons I’ve learned, but I’ve decided to add it here because I think if you are going to take an in depth look at The Book of Job, this is worth taking the time to know.

If you are not familiar with the story, Job is considered to be the most righteous man “in all the East.” One day God is bragging about his servant Job in heaven, and Satan challenges God, through two wagers, that if God removed his protection and allowed Satan to take everything away from Job; including his riches, family and health, he would curse God to his face. God took him up on the bet. When Job loses everything, he remains faithful to God, but ends up pretty depressed. Three of Job’s friends hear about his state and travel many miles to comfort him, but after mourning in silence for a week, they begin to advise Job to repent of whatever horrible sin he committed so God will let up. Job claims to be innocent of any gross sin deserving that kind of punishment, and thus begins the debate. In the end, God breaks in and tells all of them that they don’t really know what they are talking about; he honors Job for staying faithful, and he restores everything back to Job and then some. Common themes from The Book of Job are:

  • Why do the righteous suffer?
  • The virtue of patience.
  • Keeping integrity in the face of disaster.
  • To reveal God as creator.
  • The lack of human ability to fathom God.
  • Wisdom begins with fearing God.
  • The need for repentance and humility.
  • Knowing and trusting God is more important than righteousness.

The Book of Job (Iyyobh in Hebrew) is considered to be the oldest book in the Bible by most scholars. Both Christians and Jews consider Job to be fully “inspired by God” and consider it to be Holy Scripture. Job is an important religious figure in Islam as well. If Job was a real person, he would have been alive around 2000 BC in Mesopotamia, which is now the Middle East. He would have been a contemporary of Abraham, who is considered to be the patriarch of both Jews and Arabs. This is around 600 to 800 years before Moses wrote down the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, what is considered to be “the Law” of God. Both the prophet Ezekiel (in the Old Testament) and the apostle James (in the New Testament) speak of Job as if he were a historical figure. Possible authors of The Book of Job are: Job, himself, writing about his personal experiences in about 2000 BC; Moses, acting as the scribe of a story handed down during his time as a shepherd in Midian in about 1250 BC; King Solomon while he was composing and compiling “the Wisdom Literature” of the Bible in about 950 BC; and finally an anonymous Jewish exile in Babylon to explain the suffering the Jews were experiencing in about 400 BC.

One thing that is peculiar about The Book of Job, when compared to most ancient literature, myth, and religious documents, is the scientific integrity the book holds. Most ancient cultures tried to explain the natural process of the world through strange myths and allegories. The author of The Book of Job seems to have a strong understanding of the scientific world, even about things only discovered relatively recently. For instance, Job 26:7 states: “God spreads the canopy of the sky over chaos and suspends earth over the void,” which suggests that the author has some understanding of the earth being suspended in space. Regardless of who the author was, The Book of Job was written a long time before Galileo. Other than some discrepancy with the identity of certain beasts, or discrepancy with the proposed timeline of evolutionists, with the correct interpretation of figurative language in The Book of Job, the scientific content of the book is entirely correct in its explanation of how the physical world works.

The Book of Job follows the model of  Babylonian “discussion literature” where different sides of an issue were debated in a poetic format. The Book of Job is part of the section of the Bible known as “Wisdom Literature” which also includes Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. All the books hold the common theme: “Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,” and they teach men how best to live a moral and righteous life. Besides the Prologue and the Epilogue, The Book of Job is written entirely in poetry.

All scripture references are from The Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha.   

Peter L Richardson

Five Steps to Help You Understand What the Heck You’re Reading!

“I don’t talk things, sir. I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive.”  -Professor Faber from Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.

 

Introduction: We all have different backgrounds and cultures; we all have different experiences in our lives. To be frank, some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and others are born with a spoon full of heroine raging through their bloodstream. We cannot control where we come from. Studies have made it clear that children whose parents read to them on a regular basis from infancy will be more successful than their peers whose parents were unable to give the same attention. While we cannot choose our beginnings, there is a time in our lives when we are able to take control of our destiny, and it is much earlier than many people realize. In our modern world, literacy is not only essential for success; it is a minimum skill needed to just get by in life. Just knowing how to read is not good enough anymore, there needs to be genuine comprehension of what you are reading. For those children who grew up with books, reading comprehension seems to come natural. Just like a child growing up by the sea. She will seem to have a natural inclination towards swimming, but another child who lives inland usually has the same ability, just not the same opportunities to get in the water. Would we ever tell the second child she has no hope for learning how to swim? Of course not; it may be harder for her to train her muscles and lungs to work in the water, but with enough effort and time, she can successfully learn how to swim, and do it well. So it is with reading comprehension. It is a skill that has become second nature to many, but it is just a skill that can be learned by almost anyone willing to put the time and effort to train the neurons in their brain to fire up the imagination and the inquiry that leads to better understanding of a text. No matter what level of education you have, reading can still be a daunting task at times. If you or someone you love has struggled with reading in the past, take heart! Following are some relatively easy skills you can learn which will help you comprehend and understand almost anything you are confronted with. After enough practice, these skills will become second nature, and you’ll use them without even thinking about them. For now, keep this checklist with you and take it out anytime you feel intimidated by what you are reading.

 

STEP 1: What are you reading? Sounds simple, but you need to determine what kind of literature you’re reading before you even crack open the text. Following are various genres of writing that authors use to express themselves. You should have a basic understanding of the following literary terms, and you should be able to identify what you are reading just by looking at the form. Is it fiction or nonfiction? Is it a narrative, drama, poetry, or an essay? If it is an essay, is it expository or persuasive? If you don’t know the definition of any of these terms, look them up! When good readers can’t guess the meaning of the content through context clues, they will take the time to find out something they don’t understand in the text from other sources. Is it time consuming? Yes. But once you have gained the knowledge, you won’t have to research it again. It is worth your time.

 

STEP 2: What is the background and history of the work and/or its author? You will need to know something about the culture and history of the setting or topic of the work you are reading. If you are reading a novel set in Japan during the 1940’s, the more you know about Japanese culture and about World War II, the better you will understand the story, and the more you will enjoy it. A good example of the confusion that a lack of understanding of a culture or time period can cause is in the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. In an effort to get an A on a history presentation in a class they neglected all year, these guys stumble through time and wreck havoc while they try to collect important historical figures. They often end up in a lot of trouble and come close to death because they are clueless about the customs of the times and places they visit. You won’t risk death if you don’t read up on the background of a novel, but the lack of understanding can sometimes kill your enjoyment of what may be an excellent story. Often it is through fiction that we learn about different cultures and time periods; that is fine, but you must take the information with a grain of salt and realize that writers have prejudices and take liberties in their interpretations.

Likewise, knowing something about the author can really help you to understand what his/her main point is. For instance, if you learn an author is a dedicated communist before you read his work, you will be able to pick up anything antidemocratic more quickly. Writers are good with words; that is why they write, but they are not always the most intelligent source on the subject they write on. It is important to read everything with an open mind and a willingness to learn a new perspective, but at the same time, you should also always be “reading between the lines” and making thoughtful decisions to accept or reject what the writer is putting down on paper. Knowing the author’s angle beforehand will help you prevent being fooled by half truths and twisted thinking through elegant and passionate words. Think this step is not worth the time? Consider Hitler and the intelligent Germans who were swayed into the Nazi Party through his speeches and his interpretation of history.

 

STEP 3: Observation. You’ve heard it said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but it’s a good place to start. The problem is you can’t stop there; you need to dig deeper. Find out as much information as you can before you even start reading. With most texts you should be able to answer the 5 W’s and H just by taking in a good observation of the work. What are the 5 W’s and H? Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? First of all, skim all the titles, headings and bold print in the table of contents and throughout. This will give you a basic idea of what the book is going to be talking about. Next, look at all the pictures and charts in the book. Pictures, graphs and charts are carefully chosen for a reason; they are there to complement the content and enhance your understanding of it, yet many people just ignore them. Lastly, you should read the summaries that are printed on the back cover or inside the book jacket. We all like to get to the movies early to catch the new previews. Movie previews are meant to spark your interest and give you a good idea of the content of the film. Advertisers want to give you just enough information to draw you in and get you to spend your money on another show. Summaries on book covers are the same; without revealing the plot, they will introduce you to the major characters and give you a hint of the conflicts they may be facing. Will our heroes survive?!? 

 

STEP 4: Interpretation: Now you are finally ready to begin reading. Once you start the book you need to constantly be monitoring your understanding. The biggest question to ask is “WHY?” What is the author’s purpose for writing the text in the first place? What does the author want you to know or experience through his/her work? Following are three techniques you can use to find the answers:

  • Personal Connection. The best way to find the answer to these questions is to make personal connections with the work. What do you already know about the topic? What kind of experiences have you had that are similar to the characters in the story? What are your current beliefs? Find a way for your experiences in life to relate to the topic and main ideas. For instance, we’ve all been rejected by the opposite sex at one time or another, if the author is breaking the heart of one of his characters, allow yourself to experience the pain he/she is feeling. If the main character has obstacles to overcome, think of specific struggles you have been through and cheer him on.
  • Visualizing. Another skill you’ll want to practice is visualizing. This is simply forming word pictures in your mind. When an author is describing a tree, don’t just logically know what a tree is, but spend the time imagining what that tree actually looks like. Picture this: the branches gently swaying in the wind, as a few of the leaves, with faint hints of yellow and red, lazily float and find their way to the ground. The first sign that school would be upon us soon… Many people have told me that they just find reading to be boring. In my opinion, they are just not using their imagination. If all you can see when you read is black words on a white page, that is painfully boring! You have to look deeper into the meaning of the words and truly imagine what is being written. If it takes you longer to read that way, so what? Reading a good book is like eating a good steak, you need to slowly chew on the soft meat and savor the taste of the spices dancing on your tongue as the juices run throughout your mouth. Mmmm. Steak. Visualization is often essential to fully understanding a work.
  • Prediction. Last, but not least, you should always be trying to predict what is going to happen next. When we watch a movie, we are always trying to figure out how it’s going to end: Will the guy get the girl? Who is going to survive and who is going to get killed off? Books are no different. Because I like to read, I know most of the plot formulas that authors use when they write. Some of my friends hate to watch a movie with me because I can usually predict the end half way through it. I’ve pretty much learned to keep my mouth shut! (Two movies that managed to trick me: The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense.)  Prediction is an easy skill to master with stories, but it works just as well with nonfiction. When you are reading about science, try to imagine and predict what the next steps of a formula are going to be. If you are reading a persuasive essay, try to predict what the final argument will be, especially if you disagree; you’ll need to counter argue. The bottom line is, if you are trying to figure out what is going to happen, you are thinking about what has already happened, and thinking about the text is essential to understanding it.

 

STEP 5: Evaluation/Application. This begins during reading, but often can’t be fully completed until you are finished the work. First, you need to discover what the major themes, or most important ideas of the work are: find those life lessons and timeless truths hidden between the lines. Next, you need to ask, “How does this apply to my life?” We live in a time of unprecedented stimulation. Many people will give up reading a text just because they are not constantly feeling pleasure from it. It is true that good writers will leave you wanting to read more, and their skill with their craft will determine whether you make it to the end of their work, but a positive reading experience doesn’t always keep your brain stimulated at a high level. More often the stimulation is slow and subtle. Have you learned a new skill or gained useful information? Does the work change the way you feel about the topic, or has it reinforced your beliefs? If it has any impact at all, you can give the work a positive evaluation. It was worth your time. When you are reading for pleasure or self-interest, this stage may only take place in the form of deep thinking. You may find yourself washing the dishes or mowing the lawn and mulling over something you read that in the moment didn’t have much of an impact, but now you can’t get that phrase out of your mind. When you take the time to think about and evaluate what you’ve read after you’ve finished reading it, you are well on your way to comprehending it. The next step is to apply what you have learned to your life. Maybe you’ve read a novel set in Mexico and you fell in love with the culture, so you try an authentic Mexican Restaurant. After that, you begin planning your vacation to experience the culture first hand. Or you’ve been raised to believe a certain doctrine all your life that you just accepted as truth. You read an article that challenges your belief; you spend many sleepless nights trying to figure out what to believe, so you do more research on the subject and hear both sides of the argument. Whatever the outcome, whether you change your beliefs or become more grounded in them, you are still better off from the inner struggle; you have grown as a person. The most important thing to consider is how the material has enhanced your life. Did it increase your knowledge, provide an experience, change/reinforce your beliefs, or all the above? If you can answer yes to any of these questions you have had a successful experience with a book.

 

Conclusion: This is the reason we read, simply because reading causes us to think and evaluate life. Reading forces us to discover new ideas and new worlds. It opens our minds to the endless possibilities, and in the overwhelming process of the search, we begin to see a path develop towards something like truth, if not truth itself. If your source of information is dominated by quick sound bites on internet searches or talking heads in their endless cycle of shouting matches, you will never learn to truly think for yourself about the issues, because you don’t give yourself the time needed to think. If your source of entertainment is dominated by visual stimulations of graphic sex, longer action scenes, and insulting, crude humor, you will never develop the full potential of what true feelings are meant to mature into, because you will never allow yourself to move past emotional adolescence through the wisdom and experience of others. Movies and documentaries have the potential to offer thought provoking issues and ideas that can move your soul and cause you to think, but in our pleasure obsessed society this kind of media is hard to find, and the stimulation fizzles out and falls flat. True stimulation that lasts longer than the moment is more likely to be found in a book.

Peter L Richardson
2006

 

“Wordplay”

What’s in a word?
What’s in a rhyme?
Is it the silent tick-tock of time?
Are they definition, description or meaning?
Are they truth, fact or seeming?
A word is empty without sight.
The sun is darkness without light.

Peter L Richardson
1996

At the Beach at Night

September 1, 2009

 
Let’s swim to the moon, unhu, let’s climb through the tide; surrender to the waiting worlds that lap against our side…   -Jim Morrison
 
The intensity of loneliness on the beach at night is immeasurable. Long since tired little eyes with sick bellies full of cotton candy have gone to sleep and lovers have shared their long kiss goodnight, I find myself wandering the sands on the edge of time.
 
Daring only to dip my feet in the ocean, I feel the wet sand push up through my toes; the grains light up like crystals glistening in the soft moonlight. Sand is the ultimate symbol of materialism: You build a house on sand –it will crumble… Every grain of sand represents the physical treasures of the earth. We are taught to latch onto these treasures for support while we are still very young. Instead of reinforcing our foundation by building a stronger mind and character, we learn to consume more and more and more, building our castles higher and higher –only to find them knocked down by the incoming tide.
 
I am mesmerized by the steady rhythm of the waves crashing into the earth and wandering back home, collecting hidden treasures and secrets on the way. The white foam flowing over and throughout the waves become the essence of virgin beauty against the deep mysteries of the dark tide. The pulsating waves taunt and tantalize, beckoning me to come and play with desire. Back when I was child, I sought adventure whenever I could, but like most children, I was more clumsy than daring, and my rewards were mostly scabs and bruises on my feeble limbs. It was my mother who taught me the healing powers of the ocean; how the salt waters would cool and cleanse my wounds. I learned from my father the ways of the tide and how dangerous it could be to work against it. The ocean is the most powerful force on earth, a living being that breathes with the tide. It can choose to swallow you up, or exhale and send you back to safety. In its anger, and even its gentleness, the ocean controls the shape of the earth, beating the sands of the shorelines like a hammer, or smoothing them over like pearl with its gentle touch. Who can predict the mood of this beast? The ocean is fate.
 
Ancient sailors were the finders of new frontiers, riding into the dawn. Scientists are the new seekers looking below the murky depths for their answers to the great mysteries of the universe. But fate, of course, eventually leads us to death. How soon we venture to the drowning point is entirely up to ourselves. You can only tread water for so long; if you want to live, you must learn to swim. The better swimmer you become affords the opportunity to take higher risks, giving you a greater opportunity to live. The black waters reflecting the night sky look like death. Sometimes it is so dark you cannot find the horizon. Staring out into nothing, you must submit to the tide, unaware of where it my lead you. But there are some nights the moon is so full, there is a guiding light, a protector. Sometimes, I can even see the man’s face watching over me, letting me know there is something at the end of this journey.

As each grain of sand builds up our material lives, each star in the night sky shines bright a treasure of the heart; it may be love, peace, satisfaction, forgiveness… The stars are our conscience, our guardian angels, our friends. The sailors used the stars to find their way home, and if you search them well enough, you will see your path develop. The beach is a place where people tend to fall in love. That feeling of loneliness leaves us clinging to another’s soul. We need not take this journey alone. People need people; the nights can be too long and dark to spend them alone in this wicked world. You can fill your soul with physical pleasures, but money burns and sand castles crumble. Love is forever.

Morning bids me wake up. I sit up with salt in my mouth, sand in my underwear and in desperate need of a shower. Hardly above the horizon the sun already begins to warm up the loneliness of the night. It’s going to be a great day for the beach!

Peter L Richardson
1991

 

“beyond”

I long to see the sun set over the ocean.
The ocean is eternity;
The sunset is the end,
And soon after, you can’t see the horizon.
Midnight blurs the lines of distinction,
And the earth and the sky are endless.

Peter L Richardson
11/9/00