Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#40: Grace – More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Max Lucado)

Grace is central to the Christian faith. We invoke it daily and its name peppers our songs. But sometimes I wonder if we REALLY know what it is. We’ve learned that grace is “the unmerited favor of God,” yet do we truly understand what that means to our daily lives. In his book on the subject, Max Lucado explores grace from lots of angles in a practical and approachable way.

Over the years, I have read most of Lucado’s books and have had the privilege to hear him speak. I always find that several passages virtually jump off the page and into my heart. Grace was no different. I’ve decided to limit myself to sharing only one passage with you here (after all, you need to read this book for yourself).

In Genesis 32, we read the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. After fighting all night and suffering a dislocated hip, Jacob realizes that he is struggling with God and declares that he will not give up until Jacob receives a blessing. Here’s Lucado’s portrait of grace based on this passage.

What are we to make of this? God in the mud. A tooth-and-nail fight to the finish. Jacob clinging, them limping. Sounds more like a bootlegger brawl than a Bible story. Bizarre. But the blessing request? I get that part. Distill it down to our language, and Jacob was asking, “God, do I matter to you?”

I would ask the same question. Given a face-to-face encounter with the Man [God], I’d venture, “Do you know who I am? In the great scheme of things, do I count for anything?”

So many messages tell us we don’t. We get laid off at work, turned away by the school. Everything from acne to Alzheimer’s leaves us feeling like the girl with no date to the prom.

We react. We validate our existence with a flurry of activity. We do more, buy more, achieve more. Like Jacob, we wrestle. All our wrestlings, I suppose, are merely asking this question: “Do I matter?”

All of grace, I believe is God’s definitive reply:  “Be blessed, my child. I accept you. I have adopted you into my family.”

Adopted children are chosen children.

. . . . .

God saw our lives from beginning to end, birth to hearse, and in spite of what he saw, he was still convinced ‘to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.’ (Eph. 1:5, NLT)

(Lucado, Grace – More Than We Deserve, 119-120)

Encouraging stuff, huh? Do yourself a favor. Accept the fact that most of us don’t fully understand grace. Then with an open heart and open Bible, dive into this wonderful book from Max Lucado. You’ll be glad that you did.

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#39: My Nine Lives – A Memoir of Many Careers in Music (Leon Fleisher)

In addition to determining to learn more about composers, I have also begun to venture into biographies about performers. I was immediately attracted to the memoir of Leon Fleisher because of my personal interest in music related injuries. I was aware of his many years as the left-handed pianist due to focal dystonia and his legendary teaching at the Curtis Institute. I quickly learned that this marvelous musician was a man who epitomizes perseverance and passion for his craft.

I especially enjoyed reading Fleisher’s finely crafted descriptions of performances and lessons. His words made me thirst to hear the sounds that he produced. His insights encouraged me to revisit familiar pieces that hold special places in my heart. I cannot wait to finally hear his legendary recording of the Brahms’ D Minor concerto. I greatly appreciated the author’s open discussions about his various obstacles, failures, fears, and relational difficulties. I suppose we all face the same challenges to some degree; it’s comforting to hear a stellar musician sharing situations with which I can identify. I suppose it gives me hope for overcoming them in my own life as well.

I’m glad I read the memoir. I look forward to listening to Fleisher’s recordings. I trust that I will return to My Nine Lives again in the future.

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#38: Vivaldi: Voice of the Baroque (H.C. Robbins Landon)

I’ve come to accept the fact that I actually know very little about the composers and performers of classical music. During my years of study, most of my attention has been focused on their music rather than the story of their lives. That’s a situation that I can easily correct by reading some biographies…….and this was the first in what I hope will be a long line of such reading.

Before reading Landon’s biography, I knew of Vivaldi as the composer of The Four Seasons and the “Red Priest” who worked tirelessly with the girls of the Pieta. I was surprised to learn about his operatic writing and his questionable relationship with the Giraud sisters. The chapter entitled “Problems in Ferrara” was especially interesting as the biographer detailed the accusations of fornication leveled against Vivaldi and Anna Giraud.

While the book was primarily biographical in nature, the discussions of Vivaldi’s compositions — with special attention given to the operas, sacred compositions, and The Four Seasons — were insightful and well written. I found the book very approachable while being extremely informative.

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