The Hills in the Distance Are Always Blue

The hills in the distance appear deceptively blue. So says Burley Coulter, the sometime sage of the Port William Membership.

Uncle Burley said hills always looked blue when you were far away from them. That was a pretty color for hills; the little houses and barns and fields looked so neat and quiet tucked against them. It made you want to be close to them. But he said that when you got close they were like the hills you’d left, and when you looked back your own hills were blue and you wanted to go back again. He said he reckoned a man could wear himself out going back and forth.
— Wendell Berry, Nathan Coulter, 7.

Don’t wear yourself out. Be content.

Why Read Fiction?

On a recent episode of Ask Pastor John, John Piper discussed how he uses technology in his Bible reading, prayer, relationships, and entertainment. While discussing the tools he uses for reading eBooks Piper provided a helpful explanation of why reading fiction is beneficial for us.

I think one of the things that great literature does, fiction included, is that it touches us in places and ways through insights we haven’t had and emotions we haven’t experienced that make us wider, deeper persons when we come to the Word of God itself so that we are more useful in God’s hands and we are more capable of even knowing and experiencing more of him.

I’ve read several novels in recent months that have affected me in the ways described by Piper. I know that everyone’s taste in books is different, but I encourage you to give one of the books listed below a read.

Cry, The Beloved Country
Alan Paton’s 1948 novel about South Africa is one of the more powerful novels I’ve read. Both the prose and story are moving. The story follows Stephen Kumalo, an elderly Zulu Anglican priest, as he searches for his sister and his son Absolom in the crowded and dangerous city of Johannesburg. I especially enjoyed the spiritual friendship that develops between Kumalo and a fellow priest.

The Wingfeather Saga
Humor, mystery, adventure, danger, family bonds, compassion, sorrow, joy, hope, and more are found in Andrew Peterson’s four novel series about the Igiby family. I read this series to my kids. They loved the books. My wife and I loved them too!

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
Bertie and Jeeves provided me with some much needed laughter during a rather discouraging time.

Remembering: A Novel
Andy Catlett is a broken man, broken physically and emotionally. As he begins to remember the people and the place from which he fled his brokenness is transformed. Another excellent entry in Wendell Berry’s Port William series of novels. Read it slowly and thoughtfully.

A Ground of Solid Comfort

The perfect satisfaction of the Father with Christ’s work for his people, so that Christ could say, ‘It is finished,’ is a ground of solid comfort to his church evermore.
— Charles Spurgeon, Sermon no. 2344: “Christ’s Dying Word for His Church”

Head and Heart

Charles Hodge The more extensive and accurate are our views of literal truth, so much the more numerous and salutary are the forms which it may assume for enlisting the affections. It is a tendency of pietism to undervalue the human intellect for the sake of exalting the affections, as if the reason had fallen deeper than the will. It cannot be a pious act to underrate those powers which were given by him who made the soul in his image. We must speculate. The heart is famished by an idle intellect.
— Charles Hodge, The Theology of the Intellect and That of the Feelings (emphasis added).

The Wonderful Exchange

This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.2.