A Time to Read, A Time to Behave

By the sounds of this day, you would think it is just another typical April Saturday in Augusta, Georgia.  My neighbor is cutting grass, kids two houses up are playing on their swing-set, and the UPS and FEDEX trucks compete for how many stops they have to make.  Normally, the Masters would be in full swing this weekend, but then, this is anything but a normal weekend.

I woke to a blue, cloudless sky with temperatures in the 50’s.  By noon it had hit 68.  A cool breeze reminds me that it is still a bit nippy for shorts.  Patrice slept in, but I suspect the smell of the sausage and biscuits I cooked up had her rousing up sooner than she had planned.

A quick scan of various news-sites somberly reminds me that 90% of the stories concern the current pandemic . . . how many have died, cures in the making, who’s to blame, when we will get our quarantine checks, what states have tightened their lockdown laws, which ones have loosened them, and will we ever be able to go back to work.  I have concluded that the prime suspect of my current malaise is spending too much time watching the news and not enough time praying.

My earlier Facebook post, sharing Max Lucado’s 2013 commentary, The Silence of Saturday, reminds me that God’s silence is not His absence.  Silent Saturday’s have their purpose. 

So, this morning, I read my devotionals, prayed for everyone I know and those I don’t, Face-timed with my two granddaughters, and enjoyed some sausage and biscuits with my lovely bride.  Keeping my eyes on what matters most helps me remain sane during this time of self-isolation.

It’s been a few months since I last read a book of fiction.  This morning, I got the urge, the urge to read a favorite author of mine.  Louis L’Amour, why did you have to die? 

Not sure why I got this sudden desire to plunge again into the dusty desert trails of a L’Amour novel.  Truth be known, L’Amour’s stories have a warm, nostalgic place in my heart.  I learned to love them while living in Athens, Georgia, back in the 1980s.  My Aunt Daisy had an extensive collection of L’Amour paperback novels.  I would borrow them three at a time, until I had read them all. For the background of that story, check out my February 20, 2019, blog post, Daisy Grace, Louis L’Amour, and Fried Chicken Fridays. 

I came to appreciate the leading men in each of his books.  His fictional heroes  always “portrayed men behaving decently.”  Good fiction shapes one’s imagination and soaking oneself in the fictional lives of L’Amour’s western version of manhood always seemed to reinforce, if not solidify, my image of what a strong man ought to be.

We are living in a time when everyone, most especially men, need to behave decently.  I guess the urge to read a L’Amour novel reflected a deep-seated desire to immerse myself in stories about rugged men of the West who were rich in courage, honor, and moral clarity, but lacked pretentiousness and conceit.

Can fiction like L’Amour’s help in that effort?  CS Lewis once said, “Since it is likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.  Otherwise you’re making their destiny not brighter, but darker.”  I suspect that the same applies to adults.  The western “knights” of L’Amour novels give flesh to the bones of bravery and courage. 

L’Amour characters are flawed but, in their own way, point to the need to be righteous.  We admire the “good guys” and intuitively know that is who we also need to be.  What better time to be mindful of our failures and need for righteousness than the day before Resurrection Sunday?

Could it be that today, being the Saturday of Holy Week, a day given to silence and reflection, has prompted these character qualities to come to mind?  Scripture challenges us, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8 NASB)

Fiction is not a substitute for more edifying reading and study.  But if you occasionally indulge in reading novels, might I urge you to read books — like L’Amour’s — that nourish your moral imagination.

At the very least, it’s a good way to spend a shelter-in-place Saturday afternoon.

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