Join the Conversation

I read with a pencil now. Taking notes in the margins while I read is a time saver: I’m already compiling notes for discussion posts and paper topics. But more than that, I have learned how to have a conversation with a book.


A few weeks ago my husband received a book from his parents. It was an inspirational book they had already read through and thought Dan would appreciate, so they sent it his way. When he opened up the cover and flipped in to check out the print size, chapter titles, whatnot, he started laughing his loud laugh (I love this laugh; I used to listen to it before we were dating and think it sounded like the most genuine laugh I had ever heard). “Look at this!” He showed me pages with underlining in nearly every paragraph. (Underlining made by a ruler and a pen, by the way.) After certain points his Dad had even written in commentary: “Amen!” or “Yes!” or “Right on!”

“I think Dad liked this book!” More of the loud laugh.

Sometimes interaction with books isn’t positive. As a teacher, I sometimes use textbooks that other instructors have used before me. One particular instructor at our Bible College employed a complicated 4-color highlighter system that I haven’t yet decoded, but he also wrote notes in the margins. Some of my favorites are in a text whose author had a somewhat more liberal stance on Bible interpretation than this instructor. His notes more often look like this: “What?!!!” or “No Way!” or “HERESY!”

This is the kind of interaction that indicates what Oprah’s guest Dr. Robin would call “being PRESENT in your life.” It means what you see, hear, or read is not just passing through your system unfiltered. It means the people in your life are not just objects in your field of vision.

You know that feeling you get when your eyes have moved over every word on a page and yet you get to the bottom and realize you have no idea what any of it said? Yeah, don’t do that. Read with a pencil in your hand. Make notes as you go. Start a conversation with your life. That way later on someone will know you were here once.



Filed under General, Virtues

7 responses to “Join the Conversation

  1. I LOVE this post!! “Start a conversation with your life.” So. Good.

  2. Andrea

    Whew! What a relief!
    I’ve actually been somewhat embarassed to loan some of my books, or give them away after reading, because they are marked up, and written in. I’M SERIOUS! I thought I was some sort of nut?But lets face it, why wouldn’t someone who carries on a conversation with herself a great deal of the time, find it difficult to “have a conversation with a book”? Please don’t have me committed.
    Love it!

  3. Wow. See I used to do this, but then I lent out novels and such to my grandmother and she erased all of my markings! She said it was rude to “deface property.” (To which I reply: my property?)

  4. @Amanda – I’ve had the same problem with my students! They are very hesitant to write in their books. Also, I believe some Christians have a very strong belief AGAINST writing in their Bibles for a similar reason.

  5. Don White

    Many years ago on a teaching tape by Bob Mumford I heard him say, “If your Bible is too good to write in, throw it away and get another one.” He said it half joking, but his emphasis was on the need to interact and wrestle with the text. James said something similar in 1:22 (NIV / from my memory), “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says.”

  6. katieleigh

    I love the line “Start a conversation with your life.” Thanks for sharing.

  7. Pingback: Conversations on Culture « cakes, tea and dreams

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