Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read?
As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook. Happy reading!
First, what are you reading?
Ready for Anything: Productivity Principles for Work & Life by management consultant David Allen.
Love Multiplies by Michelle and Jim-Bob Duggar.
What do you like best about them?
I first read David Allen’s Getting Things Done a few years back, but found his ideas (more than a system, really) a little too daunting. The idea of “getting things out of your head,” and clearing your in-box to zero, just seemed impossible. The only thing I remember taking away from it was if you can do something in 2 minutes, you should just do it then, because otherwise it will take up space in your brain that slows you down. This really does make a difference with household things, like setting the timer for a few minutes and trying to clear off a surface, empty the dishwasher, etc. It’s remarkable how much progress you can make. A recent “Meet a Reader” Dr. Andy Bland, mentioned David Allen as a favorite author (and Andy mentioned he regularly has an empty in-box), I thought I’d give this productivity guru another try.
I’m reading Ready for Anything in the hopes of gleaning good information about general productivity skills for family and work. With managing our household, my work for the Catholic Post, and now my wildly busy but amazingly fun volunteering work for the Behold Conference, I find myself missing critical e-mails and not staying on top of things they way I should. At the moment, I’m just soaking up the wisdom in the short essays and questions in Ready for Anything, and hoping some of that will stick and help me manage everything better. I have to confess this book, to me, is like Flylady for professionals, and I do love Flylady.
Why do I feel a wee bit embarrassed to admit reading Love Multiplies by Duggar family? (For those who don’t know, they are famous for their TLC reality series, 19 Kids and Counting.) For some reason, we have been Duggar-focused in the last few weeks. I had DVRd some of the shows on TLC, and watch with the kids when we just need some downtime. Trust me, it’s a very engaging, wholesome show. My husband watched a few with us, and has taken to joking sometimes, “Are we watching the Kardashians today?” This is what we like to call at our house, “theologian humor,” but we all laugh. Can I ask again, why are the Kardashians famous? It’s completely baffling.
When we watch the show, we point out where the Duggars’ beliefs might not be exactly Catholic, but a lot of their ideas are very practical and they display a very honest, earnest desire to be the best they can, and thereby serve and glorify God.
So both of their books came from the library, and I have to say that after reading more from them, it's clear they are pretty sensible people with good hearts. I found myself thinking, like I did about Steve Jobs last fall: “not far from the kingdom of God.”
The Duggars’ faith and their parenting is based on love, not fear. They truly try to help their children develop healthy relationships with one another and the world. The parents work hard on their own marriage and on managing distress and anger. They have some helpful ideas about living below your means. They try to live out the Gospel as they see it, and raise their children to be servants.
I was definitely skeptical before reading their books, and even dismissed them as a “full quiver” type of Christian, but in fact they specifically say they don’t believe in that, and really just are committed to remaining open to life, and grateful for God’s gift of children.
Some might laugh at this, but I found myself thinking of the Duggars again last weekend, when our family attended liturgy at Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church--we try to go every few months, because it’s an awesome liturgy and a beautiful, icon-filled church. During the liturgy, this thought popped up: “Imagine if the Duggars were Byzantine Catholic.” I know it seems far-fetched, even incongruous, but how beautiful, for the Duggars, who really do have such a heart for following Christ, could see it brought to its fullness to experience the transcendent and beautiful liturgy. All the chanting, incense, and reverence. And the Duggars, with their diligence, honesty and desire for good, would be amazing apologists for the faith. Hey, stranger things have happened.
What do you like least about them?
What’s most annoying about Ready for Anything is not being able to implement things because I’m just too darn busy.
As far as the Duggars, I’m old enough now to take away the good things from the Duggars without going overboard. Instead of thinking I need mirror them (I need to shop exclusively at thrift stores! wear only skirts! make tater tot casserole!
My family doesn’t look like their family. Earlier in my marriage and my family life, I might have thought, “I need to take all these ideas, our days need to look like theirs, my kids need to dress matching, etc." Instead, I take away the good and leave behind the not necessary, but truly, there is a lot of good among the Duggars.
Most apealling about both of these books is the attraction of virtue. It’ natural to be attracted to what is good there. But we don’t have to emulate every bit of it. Look at the variety of saints—all so different in the way they exhibited holiness. Think of the difference between a St. Catherine of Siena and a St. Gianna Molla, or the difference between St. Francis of Assisi or St. Francis de Sales.
To paraphrase Tolstoy (actually, he said the opposite), all happy families are happy in their own way. There are many ways to be a happy, productive person and a happy, healthy family.
What’s next on your list to read?
Normally I set aside Lenten reading well ahead of time, but I have not done so this year. The only spiritual reading I’m doing (other than the tons of books I peruse for the Post) is my usual reading of the Divine Liturgy (that I read on my most used app, hands down, the Universalis App, and as usual this time of year they are really good). I need to remedy that, so let me leave you with a quote from The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. This is a book I try to read each Lent.
Your language should be restrained, frank, sincere, candid, unaffected, and honest. Be on guard against equivocation, ambiguity, or dissimulation. While it is not always advisable to say all that is true, it is never permissible to speak against the truth. Therefore, you must become accustomed to never to tell a deliberate lie whether to excuse yourself or for some other purposes, remembering always that God is the “God of truth.”
So, what are you reading these days? Any books you would like to share?