National Reading Month

nationalreadingmonthAs a writer, I wonder where to start blogging about this wonderful month, designed to raise our awareness of reading.
To be honest, as a mom to two elementary aged girls, I only need stand in line with them at the grocery store to be VERY aware of reading. But my awareness is of them, reading the tabloid headlines while I try to distract them, because who really wants to explain the that Queen isn’t really an alcoholic, hasn’t banished Camilla to the Caribbean and that Princess Diana really wasn’t murdered by the heir to the throne. Oh it makes me think back fondly to the days when they could barely hold a board book.
But then as I consider those simpler days, not permeated by “what’s Alzheimers mummy and will the Queen be alright?” – thanks to another headline – I remember that without their ability to read the tabloids, they wouldn’t be reading Anne of Green Gables with me (we take it in turns) and that Harry Potter Clue would be meaningless without the context of seven trips to Hogwarts together.
Reading is one of the keys to a happy life. Even a housebound person can visit exciting, strange, distant places; they can get wrapped up in a whirlwind romance, fight in a war, or teach school in a frontier town while falling in love with a dashing Mountie (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Reading makes stronger families. Without those 15 minutes where we snuggle up on the sofa to visit Green Gables each evening our days would be so diverse we might not all be in one place and together, but when Mummy opens the book, the girls and even their military father stop what they are doing and come running.
Reading makes better students and workers. Research seems to suggest that if children are reading at grade level by the end of first grade, they will continue on that path, but if they aren’t doing so by then, they are far less likely to by fourth grade. Reading is a muscle and needs to be exercised just like any other. It needs a varied diet of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, silliness, (David Walliams or Roald Dahl anybody) and then something a tiny bit over our heads (Tim Keller or CS Lewis for the grownups, perhaps?)
So as there’s a whole month dedicated to reading, I wondered if I might challenge you to, well, do some reading? It occurs to me that many of us read ourselves to sleep. This has been my MO since I was able to hold a book. But why as authors do we leave a very important part of our work until we are about to nod off? Here’s the challenge – carve out 15 minutes to read during daylight hours. Maybe even write in a reading journal for the month. You could challenge yourself to read out of your traditional genre of choice. Maybe you could jump to nonfiction? Or choose a book of the Bible and a good commentary. It is Lent after all.
As Christian authors, it’s worth remembering that reading the Word also draws us closer to The Lord. Something I consider vital in my writing journey. A dear friend of mine laid down a reading gauntlet just yesterday. She suggested we open the Bible and leave it on our kitchen countertop so as we are moving around we can snatch a few verses here and there. Adding a journal to jot down thoughts on what you read is also advised. The hope and belief is that the more scripture we ingest, the more ammunition we have when in a tricky situation. If we’ve read some, the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind when we find ourselves needing some words.
One of the most challenging talks I’ve ever given was when I was asked to speak on Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. Oh my! I had read it before, but not paid a ton of close attention. If you haven’t, I would firmly encourage you to do so. It paints a picture of Holy Scripture as a living, breathing, fluid document, and every bit as relevant today as when Jesus walked the earth. This is truth that we are to hide in our hearts, use to bring light to darkness and allow to transform us fully into children of the King. That sort of reading is our legacy and our birthright and available to everyone.
So if nothing else this Lent, be aware of the gift of God’s Word as well as your words and other peoples. The printed page changes lives.
“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit down and relax, all you need is a book.” Dr. Seuss

debbhackettDeborah Hackett is a British member of ACFW’s Virginia chapter. A career radio journalist, she is now enjoying ‘making it up as she goes along’, something that the BBC frowned upon. Deborah lives just outside Washington DC with her husband Willy, a Royal Air Force Pilot and their two daughters. Deborah plays bass, teaches Bible study, loves to take road trips and ski.


Father’s Day Thoughts by Debb Hackett

‘The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.’ 1 Thes 5:24

This Father’s Day is especially poignant for me as just days ago we received news that my dad has an inoperable heart condition and he was given 12-18 months or possibly much less time. This sad turn of events has really set me thinking about my dad and the man he has always been in my life.

We are often told that our relationship with our biological fathers has a great impact on our eternal Father. So what do we need from our Heavenly Father? For each of us that’s different. For some it’s a tangible sense of His presence. For other’s it’s the surety of His sovereignty, His power to forgive. All of us need His grace and for me, I need to know He is constant.

I’m a military wife. We move a lot. In 12 years of marriage we have packed up four times, three of those trans-atlantic moves and two of those while quite pregnant. There’s always change in our life together. We are either settling in or preparing to move. So constancy is a big deal to me. My Lord is my foundation. When everything else shifts, having the Lord be the same means everything; comfort, strength, security, certainty. So if that’s what I need in my Heavenly Father, I lucked out here in the mortal realm. My dad has been a faithful man for as long as I can remember.

David Thomas Evans, born in the mining valleys of south Wales gave his life to Jesus at a Billy Graham rally years before I was born. He has always been a private man and so didn’t particularly share his faith at home. I don’t recall him leading family prayers or reading the Bible with me, but he studied the word hard and became a lay preacher in the Methodist church. He was faithful to the call. He was stood next to me when I too gave my heart to Jesus, at a Billy Graham rally in 1984. I often accompanied him when he was preaching and as my faith grew he was a great answerer of my many questions. Then came the youth-group worship band era. I lost count of how many rehearsals and gigs he patiently drove me to and then sat through, never once complaining. He was faithful to my walk with the Lord.

In the summer of 1992 my dad had a massive, life-altering stroke. Gone was the walking unaided and the talking, so gone was the driving and the preaching. Instead of settling in to a life of bitterness, he fought for every ounce of independence possible. I saw him learn to tie shoelaces one handed, cut steak one handed and communicate slowly but clearly. And he never complained. Not once. No shaking fists in anger or asking ‘why me Lord?’ My dad trusts Jesus, and carried on worshipping as fully as his broken body would allow. He was faithful in sickness. At my wedding in 2004 he gave the traditional father-of-the-bride speech and was word perfect. My mother told me they had written it together and he had practiced every afternoon for three months. Every bride wants to be remembered for looking radiant. Most people barely recall I was there. They comment on how marvelous my dad’s speech was, and I’m ok with that. Well, mostly ok. He has been a faithful father.

His initial prognosis after the stroke was eleven years of life, but my mom had other ideas and so after about 20 years he started to slow down. Everything began to be a little more effort, but still every Sunday he was in church after motoring there in his wheelchair. After a prolonged spell in hospital left him much weaker, he missed services for four months. We were with him when he finally made it back – it was Christmas morning and the congregation cheered. Not many eyes were dry that day. He was faithful even when it was very hard.

And now after 24 years and just weeks before they celebrate 60 years of marriage, my parents sat in a hospital room and discussed DNRs. The leaky valve in his heart can’t be fixed – he’s too old and frail. So now it will slowly tire and then one day, stop. He was able to tell my mom that he doesn’t want to be resuscitated. He’s not scared to go home. His parents, five siblings, his only son and one grandbaby are all waiting. He is trusting Jesus to have sovereign hold of the number of days. In Psalm 56:8 David reminds us that the Lord numbers our wanderings. It seems my dad is faithful with every aspect of his life, including the end of it.

So as we celebrate Father’s Day, I am thankful that I can celebrate my earthly father being full of faith and so being a constant reminder that my eternal Father is faithful. He is unwavering in the center of the storm when the phone rings at 3:30am with the worst news. He’s there when I’m worn out from parenting two little girls, (even though they’re practically perfect). He’s beside me when I open the Word and look for meaning, and when I’m worshipping, in that moment when I can’t help but raise my hands and eyes to Heaven, I believe He is smiling. I may well be missing one dad by the time another Father’s Day rolls around, and if that’s the case I will rejoice that he is whole again and reunited with so many saints and in the arms of his Lord and savior.

And I’ll allow the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father to remind me of how full of faith my dad was.

DebbHackettDeborah Hackett is a military wife and mom to two little girls. She lives in Northern Virginia and is working on her first fiction project – a family saga. When she’s not writing, she loves to play bass on her church worship team, teach Bible study, explore, ski or bake. She serves on the Northern Virginia Young Life committee and is a print and broadcast journalist.