Thursday, June 19, 2008

Logos Discussion Group

This month our Logos reading and discussion group at Lake Murray Community Church is on our last book of the year, Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. Yes, our twelfth book and the end of our first year draws near, and I really couldn't be happier with the group we have. Well, I wouldn't mind having a few other people involved (and you know who you are!) but I also don't want to overwhelm the Belseys who have been so gracious in opening their home and serving absolutely scrumptious lunches to us all. So overall, I'm quite happy.

Discussing literature, whether it is distinctly Christian in content like Blue Like Jazz, Traveling Mercies, or The Screwtape Letters or just contains jumping off points to analyze the effects of sin (Picture of Dorian Gray), the power of persuasion (Persuasion, of course), the depths of hypocrisy (Shakespeare's Measure for Measure), the beauty of Creation (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), strength of character (Jane Eyre), or the sin of prejudice (Cry, the Beloved Country and Their Eyes Were Watching God), sharpens us as believers.

We learn to see the world through someone else's eyes -- which can only help us draw others to Christ. We learn to value truly excellent writing -- which can only help us to improve our own. We learn to discuss our ideas and listen to other viewpoints -- which can only help us as we learn to give-and-take with non-Christians or Christians of different traditions. We learn of other cultures, other ways of thought, other times and places -- which can only help us relate to people of all ages, races, and creeds and thus presents us with potential opportunities for sharing the Gospel of Christ. We learn compassion, critical thinking, the heft and power of words. Discussing literature, while truly a pleasure in and of itself, also prepares us in our own Christian witness to better love and understand others and therefore be able to present the love of Christ more compassionately and more powerfully.

At our last meeting, I took down a list of potential books for our next reading list. It was very different than last summer when Kitty and I brainstormed a list with prayer and much thought. Although that experience was fun, I really like hearing the recommendation of others and perhaps read some books I haven't been exposed to myself. We have a lovely group of people attending the meetings, some who enjoy the art of the persuasive argument and revel in analyzing character and theme, some who would rather sit back and absorb and mull over the ideas presented by the work itself and by the discussion. I am so thankful that the discussion sometimes goes very deep and sometimes becomes quite spirited and that we feel free to disagree with each other while valuing each others' ideas.

So here's a list of the books our group mentioned. I'll be praying over this list over the next ten days or so as I pick up my just-arrived copy of Blue Like Jazz (gotta love!) to reread before our meeting on June 29th. I also check the county library system to assure that the books we read and discuss are readily available for those who can't afford to buy them. If you have any feedback on the books listed, please feel free to leave a comment.

Possible Books for Discussion:
Gaudy Night -- Dorothy Sayers
Piercing the Darkness -- Frank Peretti
Life of Pi -- Marten
All's Well That Ends Well -- Shakespeare (playing at the Old Globe this summer)
Cry of the Peacock
The Lovely Bones
Keys of the Kingdom -- A.J. Cronin
Mayor of Casterbridge -- Thomas Hardy
something by C.S. Lewis -- A Grief Observed, Surprised by Joy, Problem of Pain
Heaven -- Randy Alcorn
Beowulf -- Seamus Heany translation (also on CD and a movie is also available)
The Long Walk
North and South -- Elizabeth Gaskell
Cost of Discipleship -- Bonhoeffer
Dracula -- Bram Stoker or Frankenstein -- Mary Shelley
Uncle Tom's Cabin -- Harriet Beecher Stowe
Death Comes to the Archbishop -- Willa Cather
Joan of Arc -- Mark Twain
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee
12 Angry Men (novel, not the play)
The poetry of Judith Deem Dupree and Kathryn (Kitty) Belsey -- it would be fun to have the poets come to discuss their work, and since Kitty is already our hostess....

I like to see a balance among Christian books, newer fiction, and classics, and if the books have movies as do To Kill a Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, North and South, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Kiterunner, and Beowulf, plus the various incarnations of Dracula and Frankenstein (Would Young Frankenstein qualify???), then I give those works a bit more weight as our group does enjoy watching movies. I hope that we'll attend another Shakespeare production at the Old Globe this year as last year's trip to see Measure for Measure was so fun! I also pray about what we can focus our discussion on with each book -- some theme or character from which we can learn something about faith and Christianity. I have yet to add my book or two to the list, but I'm thinking I'll recommend:
The Cloister Walk -- Kathleen Norris
Imitation of Christ -- Thomas a' Kempis

So I'll be researching the library holdings, considering themes to discuss, and praying over the recommendations of the group. We'll see which twelve works God will lead us to read and discuss for the second year of Logos.

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