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The Battle to Read Deeply

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.

Ray Bradbury said that in 1994, several years before the proliferation of social media and smartphone use began seriously hijacking our capacity for sustained reading. Now, his warning is more relevant than ever.

The truth is, it’s always been a challenge to create the space necessary for the kind of reading that nourishes the heart. But in this current age of distraction, it can feel almost impossible.

A couple of years ago, Philip Yancey wrote a piece for the Washington Post titled “The death of reading is threatening the soul.” He noticed that the online world of soundbites and clickbait was contributing to a troubling diminishment in his own reading life, and he resolved to push against the trend.

I’ve concluded that a commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of Internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish. Christians especially need that sheltering space, for quiet meditation is one of the most important spiritual disciplines.

We think that Philip is right—that we need a “fortress of habits” to support a reading life. And it’s that conviction that’s making us particularly passionate about this year’s Renovaré Book Club, including and especially the fact that Philip is one of our facilitators this year. We’re convinced that when someone clicks the “Join Book Club” button, what they are really doing is beginning to construct their own reading fortress out of the building blocks of intentionality, encouragement, community, accountability … and really wonderful books!

This year we’ll be reading together:

Book One: Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image, written by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. This updated release combines two of Yancey and Brand’s modern classics to offer a profound exploration of the wonder of the human body. Philip will be facilitating our journey through this book—his first time in the Club!

Book Two: Doors into Prayer, by Emilie Griffin. When William A. Barry says a book “makes prayer enticing,” we pay attention! It helps that Renovaré’s own Emilie Griffin wrote the book in question—a handbook on prayer that is as practical as it is eloquent. Plus, Emilie herself has agreed to facilitate.

Book Three: The Interior Castle, by Teresa of Ávila. According to Renovaré Board Member and lifelong pastor Dr. Miriam (Mimi) Dixon, this sixteenth-century classic is “a field guide for any pilgrim in search of a deeper life with God.” Gladly, we have Mimi (who has spent many hours being mentored by Teresa’s writing) to teach us how to access this guide.

Book Four: Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23, by Dallas Willard. Becky Willard Heatley and Larry Burtoft lovingly crafted Dallas’s recorded teachings into this wise and deeply encouraging treatise on living life without fear. We’re thrilled to have Becky and Larry serve as our facilitators.


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