Bookishness, Snippets

Lucky #19

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O Jerusalem

O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre

The classic retelling of the spellbinding events of the birth of Israel. Moment by moment, Collins and Lapierre weave a brilliant tapestry of shattered hopes, fierce pride, and breathtaking daring as the Arabs, Jews, and British collide in their fight for control of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem! meticulously recreates this historic struggle.

Collins and Lapierre profile the Jewish fighters, from the commanders Ben Fusion and Golda Meir to the solders, rabbinical students, and refugees taken directly from their shops to fight; and the Arab soldiers, from the explosives expert planting bombs to the charismatic chieftain whose death in battle doomed the Arab cause but inspired a generation of Palestininans; as well as the British efforts of peacekeeping after General Allenby’s conquest of Jerusalem to their departure in the face of the onslaught.

O Jerusalem! is a towering testament to the fiery birth of Israel and an unforgettable tale of faith and violence, of betrayal and indomitable courage.

I first heard about this book about a couple of years ago, when my boss brought up a couple of incidents of miracles that he said were mentioned in O Jerusalem! He told the few of us present that it was a ‘must read’ as the history of Israel, as recorded by these two brilliant historians (I had heard of Freedom at Midnight), was fascinating.

I have, since then, had this book on my wish list, and finally got myself a copy of it earlier this year. I am looking forward to delving into it. The size is a little daunting at 566 pages. But they also appear to have added chapter notes (I’m assuming they’re summaries), and a few biographical details of the important ‘players’ in this book. I’m in the right mood for O Jerusalem!

On the Job, Snippets

In Conversation with a Student

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A few days ago, I mentioned how I was giving my class children a wee bit of time individually, this month, to speak of anything they want to. I have been intent on staying quiet and listening. Advice would not be given unless and until specifically asked.

Yesterday, one of my girls sat opposite me, and as I pulled out my lunch box, giving her time to pull herself together and say something, she startled me with — “Ma’am, I want to know your favourite colour, favourite food, favourite …” — she rattled off a few things.

I just looked at her in astonishment and then I laughed. “You’re the first of the lot of you who has asked about me. I’d called you here so you could talk about anything you wanted. Why would you want to know these little things about me?”

She shrugged and smiled saying she simply wanted to know. I looked at her closely. J- has always been a quiet child in my class. However, I had noted that she was not quiet in a timid way, but quiet in a confident way. At this point I could not help thinking it was the right assumption. It is amazing how people let out little things about themselves in the mere manner of saying or doing things. J- was establishing an equal ground for communication, and I was amazed by that. Amazed and impressed. Once she had set the pace, and had begun to communicate with me as an equal, she began to open up to me bit by bit. I could tell, though, that we were going into the conversation layer by layer. Each layer revealed something a little deeper. Mind you, this was just one conversation, over lunch, in a matter of twenty to twenty-five minutes, with an eleven-year old.

Young J- will grow up to be a leader. With her quiet confidence, and her natural ability to establish an equal standing with someone I can imagine she has something beautiful ahead of her.

On the Job, Snippets

Listen More

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Lately, I’ve been on a mission to listen at eighty percent, and talk just twenty percent. In other words, I want to be a patient listener. I used to be one once, a patient listener, that is. But those were in the days when I was younger and wiser. I am now older, and thereby a bit foolish — we tend to believe that as we grow older, we grow wiser, and therefore are in a position to dole out advice like candy to eager children. It makes me wonder at my presumptuousness. Very few people are actually seeking advice. Most just want to be listened to. I have begun to notice how everyone is busy talking and nobody is listening. How does one communicate, then? No wonder there is a breakdown in communication these days. Oh, the irony!

Recently, a missionary visited our school and spoke of how his ministry was about ‘listening’ — eighty percent listening and twenty percent talking. Yes, that’s where I heard it from. I thought to myself, ‘Of course! That is so obvious! Why haven’t I seen it before?’ I immediately set about creating time and space for my class students to ‘speak’ to me. I wrote dates on chits of paper and left them lying in my classroom drawer with the instructions that if anyone felt like they wanted to talk to someone who would simply listen without getting on an advice-role, they could pick a chit, give me the date, and we would set time aside on the given date for speaking-listening time. I wanted to leave the children space to decide if they wanted to do this, and stay away from peer pressure, in case they did not want to.

So far, I have met with five of my children. I was expecting to hear of difficulties in learning, home situations, friends and family relationships, that sort of thing. The kind that makes a person who loves giving advice feel all the more important and justified in giving advice. Silly me.

I am astounded that some of them chose to come and speak to me of things they could have come up to me about at any time! One child came and told me that he hadn’t received his SpellBee book in spite of his having paid the money. He said this while we sat apart from the rest of the class to give him some privacy. Another child told me she was unhappy with the seating arrangement because it estranged her from the rest of the girls (I hadn’t realised I had planned the seating rather badly where she was concerned), and when I asked her why she hadn’t brought this to my attention earlier, she just looked at me. A third child used his ‘date card’ to tell me that someone thought he was good enough in football to be sponsored and so he was going to a neighbouring state to play with a sponsorship. Apparently, his mother was also considering putting him in a sports hostel so he could pursue football professionally — exactly what he has dreamed of for awhile.

These extremely short exchanges have me realising that these children long to share even little things, and they don’t really get to. They feel their voices will not be heard among the commotion of judgement, rules and advice. It does break ones heart. It makes me wish I had been wiser to this earlier in the year, not when our academic year is drawing to a close. However, it is a lesson learnt, and I hope to carry this through — to always pay attention to the need of people to talk. This includes listening to my own two, little sons, Pixie and Roo.

As a teacher and an event coordinator, I am constantly in touch with people, talking and listening, dealing with high noise levels that appear to stay in the background in an endless droning. When I come home, I long to rest my ears, to sit in silence and soak it up. But, with my family needing attention, that is not something that happens regularly. I try to make it a point to lend my ears to my sons on our twenty-minute drives to and from school. At home, as well, they get their time. They also have an eager Papa waiting to listen to them.

So, when do I get to talk?

To be honest, I’m a chatterbox myself, and my husband gets hit by the brunt of it. I also trouble extended family and close friends with my endless chatter. But, I am on a mission, now, to talk less and listen more. So, less boring my family and friends, and more listening, especially to the words that are left unspoken and everything in between.

Snippets

The Sunday Post: Of books done, books to come, and Asian drama

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The weeks have been hectic since school began after the Christmas holidays. Apart from lessons and remedial classes, there is always something or the other that needs to be planned and attended to in school. Only yesterday we celebrated 69 years (some say 70 who count the year of institution) of our Indian constitution. While our cultural programme was not elaborate, we do tend to do things with a bit of flare and that takes a lot out of the teachers, admin staff and the students as well (though, to be honest, the children enjoy doing anything that will cause them to miss regular classes!).

I am, however, pleased with my reading so far. While I haven’t quite been able to follow my daily schedule plan where I turn off my tech stuff by 8:30 p.m., so I can read or draw or stitch in the hour before bed, and I haven’t been able to keep up with my daily reading of Don Quixote, I have been able to complete three books so far!

The first two on the list are linked to my after-reading thoughts about them. My opinion of Alexander’s Bridge is to feature in the coming days.

I am currently listening to Alarms and Discursions, essays by G.K. Chesterton, on my daily morning walks. That is one item on my schedule I really look forward to because I get to ‘read’ an audio book. It’s how I completed the Bronte and the Cather! I hope to have a post up, later in the week, with a sentence or two on the essays I am listening to.

As far as other works go, I have picked up Measure for Measure from the school library, and am hoping to complete it before February 9th so I can review it for We Love Shakespeare Week at Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

Also, recently, at a book sale in school, I picked up the following:

  • The Art of Being a Brilliant Teacher by Gary Toward, Chris Henley and Andy Cope
  • Awesome Grammar by Becky Burckmyer

I’ll probably be going into them piece-meal.

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Apart from reading, I’ve also been watching some Asian drama after many months. I think my last drama last year was a fluffy, Korean romance called What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim. This year, during our state harvest holidays, I felt in the mood for some drama again and so decided to try one of mum’s recommendations — another Korean romance drama called Secret Garden. It reminded me of all the reasons why I have begun to avoid Korean dramas (Secretary Kim turned out to be a bit of an exception), and so I turned back to Chinese drama for solace. I am currently watching the ongoing Story of Minglan, a beautiful period drama that takes you deep into the society of centuries old China. I am thoroughly enjoying; the episodes have been the highlight of my evenings in the last few days. I might be putting my thoughts down on this one when it gets over in February…

I’ll end this post with a question: Do you watch asian drama? Which ones? 

Bookishness, Snippets

Surprised by Joy: from atheism to Christianity

Surprised by Joy is C.S. Lewis’s autobiography on his ‘accidental journey from atheism to Christianity’. I am not sure how much of what I read I am going to be able to process tidily enough to put down in a blog post; but I intend to try.

Lewis’s entire book is based around this one word, JOY. He first experiences it as a lad — I can not recall the instance since I began reading this book months ago — and the rest of what he writes is threaded through with his desire to experience this ‘joy’ again and again, seeking to recapture it or recreate it in any way he could think of. It would appear that there was not much that Lewis had not tried or had not been exposed to when he was very young. He seems to have been a very opinionated young man who was very clear about what he wanted and what he did not, what he was seeking and what he did not want to seek. Perhaps, since this is a book written in retrospection, there is more maturity in the looking back than there actually was in the time of experience.

It was fascinating to read all about the process Lewis’s journey took from near full-fledged atheism as a teenager to reluctant acknowledgement of, not just god, but the God as a young man. His struggle was real, and yet he was constantly seeking after that ‘joy’. He writes of discovering Wagner, Norse mythology (I can so understand the allure!) and exploring further afield the otherworldly. He writes of beauty and aesthetics, of Yeats who had briefly had him considering dabbling in the occult. He writes of the various philosophies that influenced his mind-set, bringing him to points of cynicism, and believing himself a realist.

Throughout his reading process he comes across various interesting people who become good friends and help him along the way. He is puzzled when he comes across ‘realists’ like him who are moral, honourable, chaste and upright. He is horrified when he discovers that some brilliant young man in his class, is actually a staunch Christian. He feels betrayed when close friends of his, almost like him in thought, begin to consider that the God of Christianity is indeed real.

He begins to read George MacDonal, George Herbert, and other Christian novelists and poets and realises that there is something different and more desirable in the writing. The ‘joy’ he sought to experience with Wagner and Morris and the like was of something distant, hazy and, at the end, dissatisfying. But the Christian writers brought out something that was present, in the very room with him, full of light and heart-warming. On reading Phantastes this is what he writes:

❝ […] I found the light shining on those woods and cottages, and then on my own past life, and on the quiet room where I sat and on my old teacher where he nodded above his little Tacitus. For I now perceived that while the air of the new region made all my erotic and magical perversions of Joy look like sordid trumpery, it had no such disenchanting power over the bread upon the table or the coals in the grate. That was the marvel. Up till now each visitation of Joy had left the common world momentarily a desert […] Even when real clouds or trees had been the material of the vision, they had been so only by reminding me of another world; and I did not like the return to ours. But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I saw the common things drawn into the bright shadow. (pg. 209) ❞

Personally, there was much I could understand and relate to in Lewis’s journey. It was also fascinating in that his conversion did not come upon him in such a way that he changed overnight. It was a slow process, a reluctant process, a process that involved Lewis shedding away, bit by bit, his old notions and prejudices before he could fully experience his walk with the Lord. He writes of his ‘terror’ of letting go of his old life because the new would demand explicit obedience to God. He would no longer be ‘allowed to play at philosophy’. This last is something I understand personally. Having once been open to reading and studying philosophy, when my relationship with the Lord matured, I found that philosophy had become nothing but gibberish. After all, philosophy is man’s search for truth. It is an interesting, intellectually satisfying experience. But once a person knows the truth, there really is no going back. One cannot feign ignorance nor would one really want to for the truth, does indeed, set one free.

On the whole, Surprised by Joy was rather unlike any other autobiography I have read. But then again, I have not really read that many. It was, however, absorbing to read about the man C.S. Lewis was before he became this powerful Christian writer.

Have you read Surprised by Joy? What did you think of it? Would you read it if you haven’t already? Have you read anything else by C.S. Lewis? Let’s start a conversation below in the comments. 

Snippets

Good-bye, 2018!

woman wearing gray long sleeved shirt and black black bottoms outfit sitting on gray wooden picnic table facing towards calm body of water at daytime
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The beginning of each year promises to bring with it something new. It is like a blank page that stretches out before us. We fill it with hope, dreams, resolutions, and sometimes add our fears and uncertainties as well. But we cannot really know what the year holds for us. We might set our goals, make our to-do lists a mile wide, make excited plans, but none of us really know how far we will go and how much of what we plan we might be able to achieve.

However, as I take a wee bit of time to look back on 2018, I see twelve months stretching back behind me. There is much I cannot recall clearly, and others that amaze me for having happened only this year — so far away they all seem right now.

2018, in my life, has seen the close of an academic year back in April, and the opening of a new academic year while our new school doubled in number from three hundred odd children to six hundred! Our school welcomed a brand new principal in November, with several years of experience, and with a heart devoted to the Lord. Her coming has brought so many long looked-for and desired changes that we have all been happy to finally see come about. We have gone through a whirlwind inspection which drove all of us nearly batty! We have also, finally, managed to start a staff Bible study in school that takes place once every two weeks.

As concerns family, in May, the youngest of my cousins got married to a lovely guy, and they are now happily settling down in New York City, USA. My mother completed her maintenance chemo in early July, and she was officially pronounced completely clear of the cancer in September. My father passed away unexpectedly, just hours after my hundred-year old grandfather died, on 25 July. One of my favourite cousins moved from New Delhi to our hometown with his family sometime around October, and we are all delighted to be back together again in the same city. I visited China with my mother in October! It was a lovely trip. I was terrified of flying, but I’ve flown six times this year, and all is good!! The trip was beautiful and has settled in me a yearning for more travel.

Apart from these, I have been on such a roller-coaster ride these past many months, even back into 2017 and 2016, that this Christmas I have been so completely drained, and yearning for change. This is resulting in plans for drastic action in the new year. My husband and I have this in prayer. It is time for me to grow! In the meantime, over the next few days, I will be working on ways to improvise learning and homework strategies for Pixie and Roo at home. Also, teaching strategies in my classroom for the next three months. I hope to improve the language skills of as many children as I can during that time.

In other things, after three years of barely any reading of any kind I have finally managed to read 21 books this year! That is a big deal for me. Granted, most of them have been quick, entertaining reads, but I enjoyed most of them. The highlights;

  • The Raven King trilogy by Stephen R Lawhead – I finally got to it after years of having it on my shelves. Once I began I simply could not stop till I had completed all three books. I think I finished them all in four days!! A long time since I read something that way. Loved it, of course!
  • Lindsay Buroker – I read two whole series by her, and skimmed re-read an old one. She’s an author whose works I love reading for its sheer adventure and characters. She ranks among the likes of Alistair MacLean and Clive Cussler in my book — perhaps a little better since there’s some meaningful romance thrown in as well. Ha!
  • The Air Awakens (link to review of Book 1) series – I gave book 1 another go after struggling with its juvenile characters at the start; but once the initial awkward pages were done, the whole series picked up its pace and brought into focus a very interesting world. I thought it was doing pretty well until the final book in the series when things took such strange leap of a turn that it felt almost like I was reading a completely different series. Didn’t care for that leap at all.
  • The Giver (link to thoughts) – was an unexpected find. Read it with a whole lot of my colleagues in the attempt to start a book club for the staff (failed so far). After reading this one I found I wanted to recommend it for reading with our middle-schoolers. Full of thought!
  • The First Christmas Tree by Henry Van Dyke (link to thoughts)
  • I have yet to complete C S Lewis’ autobiography. Maybe I shall do so before the year is out!

Also, from the bullet journal I kept briefly for a few months, I appear to have watched the following asian dramas;

  • Healer (4 stars) – a thriller
  • School 2017 (2.5 stars) – rather juvenile
  • Jugglers (dropped) – can’t recall anything about this
  • Pinnochio (3.5 stars) – was slightly unusual
  • Boss & Me (5 stars) – a re-watch; love the way this relationship develops into something mature and long-lasting
  • What is Wrong with Secretary Kim (4.5 stars) – all fluff

I cannot recall if I watched anything else that I did not record.

In terms of resolutions I made and habits I hoped to develop, I am afraid I failed at all of it. I have most of the same goals for 2019, but I’m keeping them low-key so that I might achieve something this year.

However, all in all, it has been a good year, for the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ has been greatly felt and experienced by my family and loved ones, no matter what the event of the year was. He made 2018 beautiful, and He will continue to do so in 2019 no matter what comes our way. I look forward to the new year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR,

MY DEAR BLOGGER FRIENDS AND READERS!!

Snippets

Challenging Myself in the Year 2019

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Content in this Post:
Rambling Introduction
2019 Christian Greats Challenge
The Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2019
Back to the Classics 2019
2019 Library Love Challenge
Creativity Reading Challenge
2019 Book Blog Discussion
My Personal Bucket List for 2019

There are so many interesting reading challenges for the new year. I am tempted to participate in several of them. However, I am certain that I want to be whittling down the steadily growing pile in my book shelves; so I’ve decided to pick the challenges that will help me with this process. I already have, on my Classics Club list, books that I own — save three or four. I figured I would choose my challenges wisely and not too enthusiastically only to find myself getting stuck mid-way!

I have also decided to participate in a couple of challenges that encourage more blogging. I find it interesting to work with prompts. Sometimes, after a long day at work, when you just want to sit down in front of the computer and experience silence, your mind is a blank. Challenges like these might get the wheels turning!

Also, right at the bottom of this post is My Personal Bucket List for 2019.

2019 Christian Greats Challenge: I love that this challenge will help me get to many of the books on my Classics Club list; not to forget that these are books I’ve been longing to read for years but have not got around to them yet. They’ll likely be filling in my TBR list as well! There are 10 categorical books for the challenge. I’m not sure how many I’ll be able to list down here, but I’ll be linking to posts on them as and when I complete them.

  1. a book on early church history (up to about 500 A.D.) – Confessions of Saint Augustine
  2. a book about a prominent Christian who was born between 500 A.D. & 1900 – Hudson Taylor by Janet & Geoff Benge
  3. a Christian allegory – one of the Narnia books or A Pilgrim’s Progress (re-read) or one of George MacDonald’s works
  4. a book on apologetics – Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias
  5. a philosophical book by a Christian author – Wisdom of the Sadhu: The Teachings of Sadhu Sundarsingh
  6. a missionary biography or a biography of a prominent Christian – No One Else by Augustine Jebakumar
  7. a seasonal book – Secret Power by D L Moody
  8. a novel with a Christian theme – Ben-Hur (re-read)
  9. a good old detective or mystery novel – probably a Father Brown mystery by G.K. Chesterton
  10. a substitute (choose one more book from any category or one of the authors mentioned) – Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

The Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2019: I’ve tried participating in this one several times before, but since working again, I haven’t really managed even level one! I hope to do so next year, especially as I’ve been reading in the past couple of months again. Granted, they’ve mostly been e-books. But that’s a start! I’m going with Pike’s Peak (again), level one.

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Back to the Classics 2019: Another one I’ve participated in a few times in the past. I have managed to do fairly well in my book, but it’s been two or three years since I last gave it a chance. This will help me immensely with my home TBR and Classics Club list! I’ve decided to go with six books, level one.

  1. 19th century classic –
  2. 20th century classic –
  3. classic by a female author –
  4. classic in translation –
  5. classic comedy –
  6. classic play –

2019 Library Love Challenge: Now that our school library is fully functional, I’ve been taking out books. I think challenge ideal at the moment.

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Creativity Reading Challenge: I’ve got four e-books on singing in my Classics Club list. I think this challenge perfect for me to get these books done next year.

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2019 Book Blog Discussion: I think this a good way to link up with others who are into this challenge for the discussion. I am looking at level one, aiming for 1-10 discussion posts – the discussion dabbler.

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My Personal Bucket List for 2019: I have a few things I would really like to do in the new year. There is so much that I have neglected for work, and currently, I feel like I might like to commit to something small at the very least. I am not sure how much I might be able to accomplish, if I manage to do anything at all, but I’ll just put these down anyway.

  1. make a water-colour painting worth framing
  2. complete two small cross-stitch projects
  3. learn five piano pieces of my choice by heart
  4. build a repertoire of at least seven violin-soprano duets with my violinist husband
  5. complete grade 3 & 4 music theory
  6. write a short Biblical musical over the summer break
  7. bring my weight down to 64kgs or less
  8. bake something for and with my boys at least one Saturday a month
  9. read at least two whole novels with my boys
  10. complete the reading challenges I have signed up for

 

That is it for now. But I intend keeping this post updated with any further challenges I intend joining, and, of course, I hope to be filling in all those blank spaces!