“I’ll walk you to the door, Miss.” I didn’t know whether to thank my AT&T salesman or laugh in his face. So I did a little of both.
“I haven’t been called ‘miss’ for about 40 years,” I said with a girlish giggle. “But thank you.”
“I wouldn’t have known. Honest, I wouldn’t!” he called out as I walked to my car. I shook my head and slid in behind the wheel. Okay, maybe I blushed a little.
Thanks, sonny, but I’m not buying a new phone.
Why is it so difficult to take a compliment — assuming it’s intended as a kindness and not a subtle form of mockery? I’ve been called gullible more than once in my lifetime, so I’ve acquired a touch of cynicism in my old age. But when true compliments come my way, I want to field them with grace and gratitude. I know that when I say something that is sincerely complimentary to someone, I want them to receive and appreciate it — like a gift.
So, because I’m on a mission to learn new skills in this final quarter of my earthly life, I’ve decided to begin with practicing humble gratitude. People do say nice things once in awhile. And they mean them. Instead of tossing off kind words with an attitude of dismissal, I’m going to gracefully and humbly say “Thank you. I’m glad you thought so.” And leave it at that. And if it turns out they intended the comment as mockery, I may just catch them off-guard. I’m okay with being gracefully gullible, too.
It’s summer — though in northern Indiana tonight it feels like October — and I’m seeing all sorts of summer reading lists floating around out there. It’s a little late to actually begin a list of intended literary pursuits that will be wrapped up by Labor Day, but since I read year-around, I thought I’d share what’s on my reading stack at the moment. I’m only giving you a partial list, because I’m embarrassed to reveal the enormity of my appetite, but hopefully you’ll find a few here that pique your interest. I’ve grouped them into spiritual, memoir/biography, writing and fiction. There are 16 in all (and some of them I’m already reading) so I’m sharing half of them today, a few from each category, and the rest later this week. Stay tuned.
- “Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence” by Jenni Catron. I’m 50 pages into it and I feel Jenni and I could be friends. From the back of her book: “We all long for significance, even as we fear we will never be good enough. We listen for God, but hear only voices of doubt and practicality. Listen again. There is a call that only you can answer.”
- “Leading Women to the Heart of God” edited by Lysa Terkeurst. This is an inspiring collection of writings by women ministering to women in their church and their community. I’m highlighting, underlining and tagging all the great ideas and words of counsel found in this valuable book.
- “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning. A camp counselor who worked for me back in the days I directed church camp loved this book. He said it changed his life. Three authors I regard highly — Michael Card, Max Lucado and Eugene Peterson — have high praise for Manning’s classic meditation on grace. I’m excited to dig into this one and to share it with my sons.
- “A Circle of Quiet” by Madeleine L’Engle. I love L’Engle’s fiction (“A Wrinkle in Time” stands out) and I’ve read this memoir before. But, some books you just have to come back to. This is the first in her “Crosswicks Journal” trilogy, and I may have to track down the other two, “The Summer of the Great-grandmother” and “The Irrational Season”.
- “The Boys of My Youth” by Jo Ann Beard. Reading this collection of memories from a woman who grew up in my era is like reminiscing with a cousin. Nothing profound, just scattered remembrances that add up to a life.
- “Get That Novel Written!” by Donna Levin. My author-son tells me you shouldn’t talk about what you’re writing, so I won’t reveal why I’m reading this one. Let’s just say this is a novel-writing workshop in a book. Wonderful, and a bargain at less than 20 bucks.
- “The Art of War for Writers” by James Scott Bell. I heard Bell speak at a writers’ conference and was totally enthralled. His book promises “the ultimate novel-writing battle plan”. It should go well with my other “workshop” book as I revisit my childhood ambition.
- “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin. I must admit that I picked this book up today at my local library from the “New Books” shelf. I liked the cover, the title and the premise that (as it says on a sign over Fikry’s book store) “No man is an island; every book is a world.” I’m a lover of books and of suspense. This just felt like the perfect summer read to me. Setting my literary and Christian historical fiction aside for awhile to try something new.
So there’s half my list. What are you reading? And as a bonus, this parting quote from the great bibliophile and philosopher Frank Zappa:
So many books, so little time.”