Tag Archives: Mark

A Life In Books

A life in books

A life in books

I was recently asked to list ten book that had had an influence on my life. It’s not as easy as you might think, in fact rather than simply being able to dash off a list each one I chose needed to be balanced against another book, another memory, another situation or point in my life. For each one you discard another three or four could easily take its place.

The final ten are therefore not finite and may not necessarily signify every stage of my life in which a book has featured or even the most important; but they are a representation and compiling the list itself was an exercise in discovering how important literature and reading is in my life and no doubt in many other lives as well.

So here is my list, in no particular order, with a brief explanation as to why it made the final ten.

The Classics

The Classics

Here are the classics, the books I studied at school for my English A Level, but also the ones that I continue to read today

1. Aeneid – Virgil
The legendary epic poem telling the story of Aeneas as he travels from Troy to Rome. It appealed to my sense of adventure and love of history, myths and legends.

2. Selected Poetry of William Blake (and John Keats)
Blake’s poetry and artwork really entered my soul and spoke volumes to me, in particular his Songs of Innocence and Experience, but I had to cheat with the addition of John Keats as his was the first poetry that I wanted to memorise.

3. Anthony and Cleopatra/Macbeth – William Shakespeare
These two Shakespeare plays have become for me just two examples of how words, when beautifully written and composed can be understood by any age. A project to study, create and produce a filmed version of Macbeth using the original language with a bunch of 9 year olds proved that.

Reading as children

Reading as children

First reading books certainly can claim an influence on your life. I could so easily have include the Janet and John books which were my first readers; and the memorable time of being on holiday as a five-year old, sharing the same story with a young fellow vacationer – ‘Look, John, look. See tha’ boats’.

Still it is children’s books that appeal to adults as well that remain timeless.

4. Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
The world of Mole, Ratty, Badger and the irascible Toad spoke of an idyllic vision of the countryside, punctuated by ill-tempered weasels and the disastrous adventures of an annoying amphibian. This descriptive way of writing was only equalled later by Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’,

5. The Blue Balloon – Mick Inkpen
The well-worn copy of this book is testament to just how loved it was by my children. At two and half, my daughter Lizzie could ‘read’ it from cover to cover; every word perfect, every nuance expressed. It was a sharing book and just one of the reasons that I ordered a new copy so that it may be shared with future generations as well

Love of knowledge

Love of knowledge

6. Encyclopaedias
My thirst for knowledge was slaked by the two sets of encyclopedias we owned. One was a series of volumes printed sometime in the early part of the 20th century – the other set from the 50’s. However, both were put to full use, prior to the invention of Encarta and the internet.

Their use nowadays is somewhat limited, but where else could you find Jade, Jam and Jaguars all on the same page!

Strengthening faith

Strengthening faith

My studies have provided me with enough reading material to keep me busy for many a year to come. Whole new bookshelves have had to be created to hold it all, but the basis for it all is found in just one book – The Bible and in particular my 7th choice

7. The Four Gospels
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have become essential authors as I follow my vocation, but many years ago they also inspired me to help form my character and outlook on life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

8. Making God Possible – Alan Billings
Theology books don’t often make me excited, but it was whilst I was exploring what my vocation might be that I read this book. I suspect is it a bit of specialist, niche book, but it made me want to say – ‘Yes, that’s it, that’s what it’s all about.’

9. The Strength to Love – Martin Luther King Jr
Combine the history and struggle of black, African slaves and 20th century segregation with the teachings of a non-violent pastor and you get insights into a world which I can only imagine and yet have a huge amount of empathy with. These were the subjects of my thoughts about justice and equality as I grew up. MLK’s writings are world-famous, and yet they still speak into so many situations that we still face today

Bero Cookbook blog10. The Be-Ro Cookbook
My final book is actually the 3rd edition of the book I have owned. Despite its dubious sexist cover photos; its dog-eared and bespattered pages tell the story of several decades of cooking favourite recipes. It is also a fact that in spite of those decades, I still need to refer to it each time when making scones for the exact quantities. Why is that I wonder?

So that is the ten that made the list – no mention of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Hardy, Harper Lee, Homer…..

Just outside the list

Or the many others that fill my bookcase…

Bookcase blog

Why not have a go yourself and see what your list might contain?

The Empty Tomb

The Empty Cross

The Empty Cross

Alleluia! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

It was with this greeting and response; as we sat down to share our evening meal that a new term began at college. It was only two days beforehand that I had sat next to the Easter cross in my home church, celebrating Easter Sunday and here I was, back to my studies but with new tasks to complete and new challenges. It seemed the same, but then again it also seemed different

I suspect it was the like that for the women, who approached the tomb on the first day of the week. Yes, a dreadful thing had happened and yes, they were probably a bit disorientated and shaken, but they were coming to do what they would always have done if someone died – that at least was normal, but what happened next was very different

Each Gospel gives a slightly different version of accounts. In Mark there are several women together to who arrive to anoint the body, only to find that the stone sealing the tomb had been rolled back and inside was a young white-robed man telling them not to be afraid, but that the body wasn’t there. Despite his call for calm, they are terrified and flee from the tomb, too afraid to tell anyone what they have seen

In Matthew, it is two Marys who go to look at the tomb, only to experience an earthquake, caused by an angel’s descent from heaven; who puts the guards into a stupor and then shows them that Jesus is not in the tomb. He sends them fearfully, yet joyfully, to deliver a message to the disciples that they are to return to Galilee, only for them to meet Jesus himself who confirms what they must do.

In Luke we again hear about a group of women, who meet two dazzlingly dressed men and after being reminded of what Jesus had previously told them, return to the disciples only to be accused of idle talk until Peter runs to look for himself.

Finally, in John, it is Mary Magdalene who, on seeing that the stone has been removed, runs back to tell this to Simon Peter and the beloved disciple, who both then set off towards the tomb, the latter outrunning Peter to reach the tomb, but respectfully waiting for Peter to enter it first, only to be met by discarded linen wrappings. However, it is after this that Mary in a bitter-sweet moment encounters Jesus and can report this back to all the disciples.

All of these accounts add to the story of what happened, but the one fact that they all substantiate is that the tomb was empty.

‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.’ Matthew 28:5-6

I often wonder if it shouldn’t be the tomb that is used more as an image of Christ’s resurrection, a permanent reminder of the defeat of death – but equally it is the empty cross that is a powerful and iconic symbol of transformation to which we are drawn.

This is his blood which he shed for you

This is his blood which he shed for you

The truth is that in a way this transformation is what was happening on Sunday, as I watched people, coming forward to place a flower around the cross. The blooms themselves were fresh and vibrant, and everyone placed them as carefully as they could, trying not to bruise the petals. However, some found it difficult to push  them into the ‘ground’, while others knew exactly the spot they wanted in relation to the position of the cross. One flower in particular caught my attention – a beautiful cream tulip, streaked with red, that was placed right in the centre  at the very foot – which looked this morning as if its cup had opened up to catch the blood that would have fallen from Jesus’ body

Yet, as beautiful as this display had become, each single representative bloom was already dying; just as we are called to die to Christ in order to be transformed and given new life. This truly is the joy of the Easter message and yet not everyone chooses to respond to it. That, no doubt, is the greatest regret as far as God is concerned as he tries, in love, to reconcile all of his creation. However, it still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try and do our part by sharing the Good News

Alleluia! Christ is risen
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

He is risen as he said

He is risen as he said