Time Capsule Revisited

Initially posted this on August 13th, 2012. See the update at the end of the story!

I’m not sure if it is because I’m a preacher or because I’m a novelist. Do I love the historical ties to my faith or is it a thirst for the story? Old bibles have always been a treasure trove to me.

This gem I discovered in a dusty old used–ah hem–antique bookstore in Searsport, Maine. It’s antique, alright. It was on a shelf right next to a stack of plastic-wrapped Playboy Magazines from the 1950s. I’ll spare you the storekeeper’s response when I commented on the odd layout of his inventory.

This bible was given to Ruth Lillian Reaviel on July 4th, 1927 by Daddy and Mama. I made some quick observations: First and middle name coupled with the affectionate forms Daddy and Mama–this bible was likely given to a child. How old? I wondered. Teen? Pre-teen? Thumbing thru the book’s pages I came across a torn newspaper clip announcing the engagement of Ruth L. Reaviel to George Barr. The masthead of the paper was not intact, but I found a date on the back–1943. More clues. I’m guessing that sixteen years between the bible’s dedication page and the engagement, Ruth was pre-teen when she got it. Finally in the back of the book I found two handwritten pages of family history notes–names, places and dates. The dates span the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s, so someone was actively writing in this bible some thirty years after it was first inscribed.

When I got back to my computer I hit pay dirt with my first search. Ruth L. (Reaviel) Barr just passed away a couple years ago. The obituary declared her birthdate July 4th, 1917–her parents gave her the bible on her tenth birthday. The article also declared that her beloved husband George had preceded her in death only a couple years earlier. They both lived into their nineties, their marriage lasted more than sixty years. Finally, the paper listed some living relatives. I’ve begun searching for them in hopes to return this bible to family. How did it wind up in the antique bookstore in the first place? Estate sale, perhaps. Perhaps no one wanted it–in which case it will become part of my growing collection.

Is it the historical faith tie? Is it that Daddy and Mama wanted their little girl to have the word in her hands at such a young age? Is it that Ruth appears to have cherished the word through many of the important seasons of her life? Honestly, how many things that you got when you were ten could you still put your hands on eighty years later? Or is it that story element that draws me? Who were these people? What did that ninety years of life and love look like? What stories could this bible tell for all its years of being present in this family? Perhaps I’ll learn more if I discover a living relative who would appreciate having this treasure. Until then I’ll be content to be a very small part of the story–for I am the one who uncovered this family heirloom… right next to the antique porn.

UPDATE 7/21/14: At the end of last week I received an email from a member of Ruth’s family! I’ve replied. I’m hoping to make the connection to get this bible back into family hands … and learn more of the story, as I do. How cool is that?

Ask A Read-a-Holic! pt. 3

readIn a couple of earlier posts I shared the how and the what of my reading habit. Then I had a conversation with a friend who shared that his issue is more difficulty grasping what he reads. Then I came upon this timely gem at Lifehacker: Master the Art of Reading with Lewis Carroll’s Four Rules of Learning. I think these four steps are wise counsel for us all!

So, check out Carroll’s advice, pick up a good book, and ENJOY!

I. Am. Ghost. (the book)

coverxAfter the insanely popular blog post–well, at least intriguing to so many of my friends who had no idea–I modeled a book. I. Am. Ghost. is now available as an eBook wherever fine eBooks are sold. As usual, Amazon and Smashwords will be the main stores of choice. So hurry and buy a copy!

I want you to know that I consulted the pros on this one. The most well-known ghosts contributed. Casper. Beetlejuice. Slimer. Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde. They’re all in there.

Seriously (I can be serious for a moment), since I’ve launched my writing career, I’ve been inspired by the stories of others who have made this career transition and my heart goes out to those who are midstream in it. I. Am. Ghost. is my attempt to help ease, encourage and enlighten the path for others.

I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful in your literary pursuits.

Ask A Read-a-holic! pt. 2

Open BookIn part 1, I waded into the how, this time I’ll share the what of my reading habits.

First of all, I always try to have one big book underway–maybe just a few pages at a time. These sort of books usually require me to read and re-read sections to really let it soak in. These titles sit on my bedside table (or on my Kindle) and they’re often the ones that I doze off reading. At the moment, it’s Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I’m a history buff, so for me, these reads tend to be histories, biographies and stories I’d like to get lost in.

Next I have a couple of books that are my recreational reading. I usually have a novel going, maybe a book on a topic I want to learn more about, or something that’s been recommended to me. I like to have a copy of these books handy, for those occasions when I have a moment to fill. If I can put them on my Kindle, my laptop and even my phone–awesome! Whenever and wherever, I’ve got something to read. Presently I’ve got some James Joyce, a new book by my literary coach Ariel Gore, and some Garrison Keillor floating about. I’m enjoying them all. I’ve got some Kurt Vonegut and Stephen King waiting on deck. Much of this reading for me is about the art. I laugh. I cry. I shake my head in disbelief. It’s about being entertained or taught or challenged, or all the above.

I do read the Bible every day. Over the years I’ve adopted a devotional method of reading–short sections or passages each morning, to read, and then reflect through my day. Sometimes it’s a couple of chapters, other times it may be just a couple of verses. It’s all about how the passage hits me as I prayerfully read. My daily goal isn’t a set amount, but rather a chance to speak with (and hear from) the Author over his book. I can tell you, this is the most rewarding part of my reading habit–I highly recommend you work this into your routine.

More often than not, I like to read a little devotional along with my Bible reading time. At the moment it’s a book published in 1834 called Sturms’ Reflections on the Works of God, by Christopher Christian Sturms, an 18th century German preacher. My sister Diann ran across the book and sent it to me. What a gem! I’ve since learned that a well worn and noted copy of this book was among Ludwig van Beethoven’s personal items when he died.

My advice–read often and read widely! Don’t be buttonholed into reading only those things that you know you agree with, but stretch yourself. If you’re a Christian, don’t be afraid of (I hate this word!) secular books. Read something that would shock your friends! Read for thought provocation. And enjoy!

What are you reading? What do you enjoy? Fiction? Non? Any particular genre? Does anyone read poetry?

Ask a Read-a-holic!

Open BookI’ve said it a million times: If you want to write, you’ve got to read!

Many, I have found, desire to read but find that actual reading winds up on the scrap heap of busy schedules, falling victim to the tyranny of the urgent. Others become frustrated over what to read. So, what secrets can a read-a-holic like me offer up?

I’m glad you ask. I’ll give you my answer in two parts: first, the how.

It was a few years ago that I made, what was for me, a life-altering observation. I noticed that most often the busiest and most hurried people you see are among the least productive. We can argue the validity of my observation some other time. The point is that I don’t want to be like that. I wanted to slow down the hustle and bustle in my own life and so I made the decision that I would try to begin each day with a little reading. Many days it is in my den before I start my day. Sometimes it is a short trip to a coffee shop or diner, and a few pages over coffee and toast. On some days it is a half hour scouring the many blogs and news aggregates I read. For me it’s about an intentionally slow start to my day.

From there, I picked up the habit of always carrying something to read along with me. Many times I’ll have a few minutes arise that surprise me during the day, waiting for someone who is running late to an appointment, having someone cancel, and so on. These kinds of things turn into a last minute, spare few minutes. My Kindle and even a Kindle App on my smartphone have been invaluable on those occasions.

Finally there are those last few minutes before I go to sleep at night, when it is good therapy for me to wind down a bit. For me there is nothing like a quick read to help make my eyelids heavy as a prelude to a snore. There are books on my nightstand.

The key is being intentional about it. Think about meals. We always eat. Sometimes we grab a quick bite on the run. Sometimes we combine a couple of meals into one–brunch anyone? But no matter the method, we don’t fail to take in nourishment. We make it a regular routine in our day. I decided to consider reading like I consider eating. It’s a part of my every day, just like food. I believe that if something is really important to you, you will make time for it.

So, how badly do you want to read?

Do you have any reading strategies to share?