God’s Gift of Reading Opens Wondrous Worlds

One of my favorite places in this world is my home library.  Not only is it cozy, warm, and inviting, it also houses my main earthly treasure, books.  I admit it: I am a bibliophile.  I love books, and I can’t seem to get enough of them.  No wonder I am a Christian; we are called the “People of the Book,” after all.

Fellow book addict Edward Newton once wrote: “A man (or woman) is the most interesting thing in the world; and next is a book.”  Who was it that said that a book is a man’s best friend?  When I am in my library, I surround myself with hundreds of friends that provide different perspectives of God and of creation.  In the ancient art of reading I meet a very ancient God indeed.

I think that God has granted us the gift of reading in order to better explore who we are and to make something of ourselves.  It is a travesty that fewer people read books these days, for it is in reading that we can find ourselves—and many times loss ourselves—in the worlds that books create.

There is no better time for reading books than now.  Laptops and e-readers have made the sport versatile and mobile, giving us instant access to thousands of texts at the palm of our hand.

It’s an even better time to read as a family and to read to our children.  Our President’s Administration encourages it; our schools emphasize it; our bookstores nurture it.  Even Nancy Guinn is becoming new and improved.

Oh! and the joy to see a child read!  My five-year old daughter is reading up a Dr. Seuss storm, and it’s an absolute thrill to watch her sound out words.  This week she worked through the word, “incredibly.”  Every victory makes her want to read more, and her voracious habit has turned my car and my wife’s car into extensions of her own growing library!

When I read with my daughter or partake of the sacraments offered in my library, I quickly realize that by reading we can also find the very fingerprints of God.  In an Atticus Finch, we find God’s fingerprints of courage in the face of prejudice and status quo.  In a Frank McCourt, we find humor despite humiliation.  In a Winston Churchill we find an enlightened future rooted in a distant past.  In a Strunk and White we glimpse the wisdom of the English language.

Books are a powerful medium in which authors gain the voice to say something profound and grope for a mysterious God.  Words help us to discern and see God at work around us. Books capture moments in time and show us a mirror of who we are, from the darkest of souls to the grandest of visions.  They also reveal just how close or how far we have ventured from God.

Perhaps I like books and can see God within many pages of my library because I love writing too.  Writing and reading go hand-in-hand and establish a dance between knower and known.  A late professor of mine, Dr. Daniel Goodman, once said in a sermon: “We write because we want to find God.  Every sentence in its own way is a search for God.  Every period at the end of a sentence is another admission of failure, another frustration.  So what do we do?  We start another sentence, always searching, always seeking; but God, ever the ironist, always seems to reside and live in the next sentence.”

Same can be said about books.  God is in the next page, the next purchase, the next library loan!

Edward Newton cited a rather fitting poem for us booklovers:  “Thou fool!  To seek companions in a crowd/ Into thy room, and there upon thy knees/ before thy bookshelves, humbly thank thy God/ that thou hast friends like these!”

God is concerned with Health Care.

By Joe LaGuardia

This month will be an important one as Congress will debate healthcare reform.  Each side will sharpen their rhetorical skills and crunch numbers with stats and polls.  In the midst of all this hoopla, it is my hope that Christians are prepared to voice their convictions from a strong moral foundation that is both biblical and godly.

I must tell you that I deliberated whether to write on this issue; after all, there is no unifying opinion on healthcare in America, let alone in the Church.  With all of this talk about healthcare though, I can’t help but to think that Christians should gain some sense of what God might have in mind for reform, even if they can’t agree on particular policies.  So, here are several things I think you should consider when coming up with your own ideas about healthcare:

First, we must consider that the healthcare debate reaches into the very heart of diverse worldviews in the American public sphere.  One worldview, for instance, champions free markets and the rugged individual.  Everyone earns his own healthcare, presumably from an employer.  Government should leave well enough alone and let the free market divvy up the benefits that each individual gains.

In essence, the private market will allow competition to blossom in the face of a large number of consumers.  The forty-five million people who are uninsured should compete for jobs that offer healthcare plans, rather than have the rest of America foot their bills.

Another worldview sees things from a more corporate, or systemic, perspective.  Each individual is not an isolated being, but is connected to the community at large.  People are interdependent upon a web of care.  When one cannot afford healthcare, everyone suffers.  Each person is accountable to one another, even if it means sacrificing some tax breaks in order to enlarge healthcare options via a government public-option program.

Second, it would be wise for us to examine our values pertaining to economics and social justice.  Again, there are two sides to this coin.  Some value economic diversity and argue that redistribution of wealth is inherently immoral, whereas others argue that social justice—building a just society—means that caring for one’s neighbor takes priority.  The government is either a bane of the market—taking from the rich and giving to the poor—or a source of promise, enacting legislation that forces the rich to spread the wealth in an otherwise greedy culture.

Third, we must ask ourselves how our reading of the Bible informs our values.  Lots of people claim that their view is biblical; my only question is, “Which part of the Bible are you reading most?”

In the Old Testament, it is obvious that God held Israel—a nation with a centralized government under King David—accountable to care for the impoverished in its midst.  Neglecting the needs of its citizenry was not option because the holiness of the nation depended on the equity of justice, healing, and reconciliation.  The Torah saw to it that healthcare was a part of Israel’s national policy.

Yet, in the New Testament, Jesus’ program for salvation and redemption included the whole individual by the hands of another.  When Jesus talked about being a good neighbor, he mentioned a Samaritan who helped pay the healthcare bill of a dying traveler.   Jesus did not seem to expect the government to heal people; it was God who did the healing.  It was in Luke’s gospel that Jesus stressed over and again that God called individuals—the wealthy in particular—to share their resources with the “have-nots” of society.

As you construct your moral foundation concerning healthcare, I only ask that you consider where you fall in these categories and where God wants you to be in these categories.  I’m not looking for specific policies here, only the ability to think critically about how our ideas might stack up against the moral framework of God’s standards for a healthy nation.