Dec 28, 2015

#Collaboreads: The Inner Life

Today, I am joining Rachel A. Dawson and Amber for December's #COLLABOREADS. The theme this month was "A Friend's Favorite". Basically, read a book that a friend recommends and then answer the R.E.A.D.S acronym to review the book. Link-up and then start conversations with other bloggers who have linked up.  I decided to ask my husband for a book recommendation since our preferences of books is quite different. He loves books deep in theology that sometimes are a bit hard for me to grasp. He recommended The Inner Life.
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The Inner Life is a small book compiled by Penguin Books from excerpts in Thomas à Kempis' notable classic, The Imitation of Christ. It is translated to English from Latin. Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)  a monk, priest, and writer who spent his life from age nineteen until his death in a monastery in Holland. His life was devoted to prayer, simplicity, and union with God (source). Whether he was teaching, studying, offering Mass, or copying manuscripts, he was a humble man with a desire to know God.  His book, and the abbreviated version, The Inner Life reads like a devotional focused on humility and obedience to God.
Riveting : What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?  
Thomas à Kempis' writing was a bit difficult to get used to at first because of the older English, but I was challenged and encouraged by his writings overall, especially those excerpts on humility and simplicity from the world's distractions and amusements. 

  • On loving others: "Whoever loves much, does much. Whoever does a thing well, does much. And he does well, who serves the community before his own interests" (p.17)
  • On obedience: "Lord, for Your sake I will gladly bear whatever You shall send to me. From your hand I will accept gladly both good and ill, sweet and bitter, joy and sorrow; and for all that may befall me, I will thank You." (p. 61-62)
  • On humility: 
    • "He is truly great, who is great in the love of God. He is truly great, who is humble in mind, and regards earth's highest honors as nothing…" (p. 6)
    • "The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does." (p.7)
  • His contrast of the nature (the flesh) and God's grace on pages 100-104 were really insightful and  a great reminder on how vastly different they are ("Nature is eager to receive honour and reward …Grace faithfully ascribes all honour and glory to God…" p. 101)
Elements: How did you relate to/care for the characters?What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?
I was a little thrown off with how short and slightly choppy the chapters where, but once I realized the book was made up of excerpts of The Imitation of Christ, it made more sense why there wasn't a smoother flow. It seemed a bit like Penguin Books just copy and pasted the excerpts that were divided into short chapters (between 1-3 pages), but I soon got used to it and read it like a devotional. 
I cannot say I can relate to Thomas a Kempis very much since I don't follow a monastic life. BUT, I do desire to devote more time to the things that marked his life and his book: prayer, simplicity, humility, and union with God. 

Associate: What other books are like this one? 
I have not read The Imitation of Christ, but I can only imagine it is a worthy read based on The Inner Life. Penguin Books squeezed out a great deal of the wisdom to create The Inner Life. Therefore, it makes sense why it may come off as being intense and serious if it is "The Best Hits" of a classic book on growing spiritually. Kempis does not beat around the bush -- there just simply is no time for fluff. At first, I was put off by this. I like storytelling, metaphors, and visuals. And a bit of humor is nice, every now and then. The Inner Life does not have any of this. However, after talking about this with my husband, I started to see that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Kempis was serious about his faith and The Inner Life exemplifies this. Most of the writing paraphrases different Scripture passages, so in a way, it is almost like a medieval version of The Message Bible since it is translated in Old English. It takes some time to get used to, but I soon realized that the tiny book is jam-packed with wisdom that I could apply to my own life. It also led me to pray through some of the ideas, namely on asking God to show me what humility looks like as a daily practice. 

Emotionally, it reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, because they both were hard for me to get into at first due to the language and somewhat difficult concepts to grasp. But, I ended up loving Mere Christianity once I got through the first few chapters, and the same goes for The Inner Life. The writing style reminds me of Brother Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God. He was a humble monk as well and desired to praise God in whatever work he did, even if it was scrubbing floors or cooking. 

 Design: You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 
The cover is pretty simple with the white background and a passage from the book in Old English font. The title is in a very slightly larger font and red, so there is a contrast, though still a bit difficult to differentiate from the paragraph. There is nothing riveting or necessarily eye-catching about the book's front or back cover. The chapters were short and divided into three books (Book One: Counsels on the Spiritual Life; Book Two: Counsels on the Inner Life; Book Three: On Inward Consolation). The book is relatively short at 108 pages.

Stars: How many out of five do you give this book? 4 stars 
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Yes, I would. It has a different feel compared to modern devotional books, but is definitely worth the read and will bring up a lot of good areas to pray about and ask yourself who you are doing in those areas. 

2 comments:

  1. I have SUCH a difficult time reading old English so I admire you for sticking with it. Sounds like you were able to gain much from it in the end so that is wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. HI Andrea! It's difficult for me too! I felt like quitting a few times, but the content was worth the struggle! Kempis is very wise and has a great way of teaching about simplicity and humility that kept me reading it even though the language was a bit difficult

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