Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hammering On Our Souls

It is surprising to hear quotes by author C.S. Lewis and comedian Louie C.K. in the same book. Perhaps this is why I found Mark Eckel’s new book, I Just Need Time to Think, so provocative.

Mark was a colleague of mine on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. He is an avid film-buff, a reader, and an insightful commentator on culture. He values words and abhors unthinking censorship. A provocative line in the book states: “Kill the words. Kill the words’ meanings. Kill the wordsmiths...Why are authors, playwrights, cartoonists, and intellectuals the first to be killed in totalitarian takeovers? Because words are power.”

His book is divided into sections on the intellectual and spiritual disciplines, exploring concepts like: study, retreat, discipline, holiday, reading, reflection, obstacles, walking, path, and place. Each chapter provides an opportunity to sink in and ponder these ideas. As I read, it pushed me to think about the way I live. Am I rushing headlong into life with a heavily charted list of “to do” objectives (yes – perhaps too often), or am I willing to step out of my frenetic lifestyle, to slow down, and to think?

As I read each morning on my commuter train to Chicago, I found myself taking time to pause and reflect. His book was working. It made me consider the way I consume information and the way I adapt to the frantic pace of my culture.

He tackles the impact of social media on our culture. I, too, have noted that at business meetings almost every person has a smartphone lying within reach. It is too easy to be distracted. How do we regain a sense of place – placing an importance on where we are and who we are with? Mark suggests this pull toward social media is reflective of our desire to be like God – to be omnipresent.

He writes, “We want to be all things to all people. We want to control all situations. We want to be everywhere at once.”

As a writer and avid reader, I appreciate his deep love of books and literature. He urges us to make books an integrated part of our life, to take time to absorb the words of others, to let words sink into us and take a “hammer” to our minds and hearts.

In the chapter on Reading, Eckel talks about the profound impact books can have upon our lives. He quotes, Louis L’Amour, the prolific western novelist, who said, “A book is less important for what it says than for what it makes you think.” He pushes us to read and to let what we read “knock” on our hearts and minds.

“My life has no transformation without hammering on my soul,” writes Eckel.

I like this as well:
“Books worth our attention should be pickaxes to the frozen sea, our internal sin. But books that move us are impossible without God’s book, His Word.”

Mark’s appreciation of the arts encompasses movies, television, and music – his chapter on music and the blues is one of my favorites, titled, “Reflection: Out of Your Horn.” He writes:

“There is humanness in the blues, where pain and praise are partners. Life is messy. How we reflect about life necessitates rough ground, a friction so we can walk, not slip. Slogging through the swamp gets us to the other side... And if one does not know what trouble is, then the spiritual cannot be understood.”

While the cover of the book depicts college-age students in a classroom setting, I think Mark Eckel’s book can be helpful to people of all ages. We all can benefit greatly from this reminder to pause, to read, to reflect, to think – to appreciate the life of the mind and the heart in a society that places a premium on being busy and distracted. Share it with your students, with your teenagers, and keep a copy for yourself. Read a chapter each day. Absorb his challenge: to pause, to read, and to think.

Read more from Mark here: or order your own copy of his book on Amazon.
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