I don’t remember when I began reading. But I do remember being a part of the Blue Bird Reading Group. That is when I learned that enjoying to read could be a forbidden activity. That day, I was six or seven, the Blue Birds were called to the Reading Circle. I could see that it would take a long time for it to be my turn to read out loud. What to do? Never one to hesitate too long, I began reading. Soon the story (I think it was beyond See Dick run. See Jane run.) began to intrigue me. When I heard my name called to read I had no clue where I was to read. Needless to say the teacher was liberal in her admonishments.
When I was still young, I took Elocution Lessons. I didn’t know then what it was called, I just knew that I was to emote as I learned the ‘pieces’. Emphasize words, make my voice go up and down. Get dramatic. It wasn’t until under the tutelage of my Dad that I learned the message behind any story that began “Once upon a time….”
Every Saturday evening, after our baths, we put on sleepers and raced to the living room, three blue eyed, blonde haired little ones, to sit on the floor while Dad practiced the Bible story he would tell his class of boys the next day in Sunday School. His voice inflections, the mobile expression on his face, the eyes grow large as he neared the climax of the story and his pace changed was my lesson in story telling. To this day, a phrase, a question, a scene can make me have a “Once upon a time…” moment and I remember Dad.
As time went on I found that reading held mysteries, delights and experiences that I vicariously enjoyed. On Saturday morning, Mother declared it is time to do our cleaning chores. I found myself dusting on my hands and knees (Mom said I had dirty elbows until I was 16) and thought about my book. I pushed the dust rag with one hand and my current book with the other hand – until I found myself in the hidden seclusion under my bed. I stopped pushing the dust rag. Soon I heard my Mom calling, “Are you reading, Susie”? So as to avoid telling a lie, I quickly slid my book under the mattress and answered. “No.” Moms are clairvoyant, so she hid all reading material at the beginning of the cleaning time on Saturdays after that.
When was a good time to read? When the house was quiet. The lights were out by 8:30 pm, and I would go to my closet, place my book on the convenient shelf, turn on the pull-switch light and read until my legs and eyes gave out.
Later Mom gave me permission to visit the Clinton Public Library. Oh, my. I knew what Heaven is like. Shelves and shelves of unread books, with bean bag chairs in different places. When I chose my book, I learned a review-tool that was fool proof. I was in my fairy tale reading then. I searched for a worn cover, flipped a few pages and noted the number of quotation marks. The more there were, the better the action and resulting conversation in the book. The dashing prince dashed on a white stallion and the helpless princess was always rescued. The ending of the story always ended with a happily ever after sunset.
When the Big Snow was dropped on Clinton, Oklahoma, Mother was ready. “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.” I guess Mom didn’t know that despite this Once Upon a Time…we knew Dad had to tunnel from the backdoor to the garage to feed the chicken and milk the cow? Did she know we knew that the front door was drifted shut? Somehow she thought that the longer she read, the better it would be – she read the whole book and was hoarse for a day or two. For weeks afterward we repeated the key phrase from Phronsie Pepper about the parrot, “Tan it sing?”
Many of the books I wrote shaped my thoughts and gave me options for life. The books I remember from years past are:
“The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck – a book that helped me understand a different culture in the far east and the viciousness of evil of man toward man, no matter what color his skin is.
“In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon – when I began to realize that the Bible is a way of life and not just a group of stories.
“The Triumph of John and Betty Stam” by Mrs. Howard Taylor – read while I attended Midwest Christian College. It was then I began to consider trust and faith, and wondered how strong my faith in Jesus Christ is? This couple was assassinated by bandits in Northern China.
Readers’ Digest Condensed Book – that contained a story about the Polish people scrabbling in the ground for a potato to make a meal from during the Nazi controlled territory during World War II. I read this story aloud to my 6th grade students. One little boy’s response to the horror, “If that happened to me, I would get my gun and….” His bravado would have disappeared in this kind of situation.
After retirement from teaching in 1997, and learning about creativity, personalities, Options, problem solving through the techniques of Hats – Talents Unlimited – SCAMPER – True Colors – Multiple Intelligences, I was ready to read for ‘fun’. I went to the public library and checked out the current ‘best seller’. After four pages, I returned it to the library because of the foul language. Why clutter my mind with such useless vocabulary. I turned to the Rogers Christian Church Library. There I found books – romances/adventure/faith/other cultures/missionary biographies – and I read. I soon learned I couldn’t read ALL the books in the library.
But a brief list of authors were these, that I remember, and there were more.
Joel Rosenberg wrote a series of fiction and nonfiction books that intrigued me. From Epicenter to The Last Jihad to Tehran Initiative to a series of five books. These books are the product of research of the present day news through the eyes of Daniel and Ezekiel prophecies. They gave me a way to look for God and his working in the daily news.
“The Dogs May Bark: When the Caravan Moves” by Gertrude Morse. I met Russell Morse when I was eighteen and many of the stories Gertrude writes about Russell Morse told in the Christian Service Camp. Such exciting adventures in Tibet – I still have his youngest son’s notebook of the Lisu alphabet that Laverne compiled to create a translation of the Bible.
The authors Bodie Thoene, Karen Kingsbury, Angela Hunt were authors I found. Then I found Mike Mason, who wrote, Champagne for the Soul, Practicing the Presence of People, and other books I have not read as yet. Mike Mason taught me about where to find joy when life storms threaten.
There are more books that have changed my life….during the ice storm of 2009 in the discomfort of power-less days, I read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. Reading that book gave me strength to endure.
Then in quick succession I read “Crazy Love” and “The Forgotten God” by Francis Chan; “Radical” and “Radical Together” by David Platt. These four books made me see to the core of my heart and how it has become changed by the culture of the American Dream. Accepting lies of plenty and comfort, rather than exercising Faith and Trust in God by letting God be God in my life.
Then the powerful book, “Through the Fire Without Burning” by Dumitru Dudeman changed my life. Reading it made me realize that my walk in Christ is weak indeed.
Where did this love of reading come from? My Grandmother Suderman papered her first house with old newspapers…and read them when the chores were done. Mother loved to read all kinds of books and self-published several. My favorite is “The Lines Are Fallen” by Anna Daisy Siemens, the story of the Suderman family. Psalm 16:6 – The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; Yea, I have a goodly heritage.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:17-18.