Posted by: Tom Gaddis | May 9, 2009

Whack! Whack!

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” –Groucho Marx

A woman overheard her three-year-old grandson say, when he couldn’t make his Lincoln logs fit, “This is serious.” And so it is with today’s blog.  

One of the joys afforded me while on my two month sabbatical has been the time to read. Nearly everyday I’m writing down quotes from books that are speaking to me. Typically these are words that I want to remember because of their power to shape my very future.

Books are powerful. They can be a 694-page manual of destruction like Mein Kampf in which over a hundred lives were lost in WWII for every word of Hitler’s book. But books have also been a means of transformation, as in the Bible, whose 593,493 words have brought hope and new life to millions.

But I digress.

“A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” wrote Franz Kafka, the great 20th century fiction writer. I interpret his statement to mean that a good writer wields words like an axe—penetrating rigid thinking, breaking through fixed prejudices, and overturning stubborn opinion.

Add the Holy Spirit to the well-written book and reading becomes a spiritual exercise that places in His hands an axe of love that brings forth our joy and spiritual health to boot. This has been true for me in the last thirty-eight days. God’s been speaking to me as I’ve immersed myself in reading and at times there’s this distinct sound of “whack, whack” as truth and soul collide.

Two weeks ago I was struck with the following words from Ignatius Loyola, a 16th century soldier-turned-pastor, which captures for us what Holy Spirit led reading can do for our souls:

“By the term ‘Spiritual Exercises’ we mean every method of examination of conscience, meditation…prayer and other spiritual activities. By these means we prepare our soul to rid itself of all its disordered affections, and then after their removal, of seeking and finding God’s will in the ordering of life for the salvation of our soul.” 

Reading as a spiritual exercise includes any book that has the power to whack us in the conscience and cause us to acknowledge and jettison our sins (faultfinding, resentment, anger, unkindness, ad infinitum) and seek cleansing from Christ. Who can’t use some of this type of reordering?

Reading, according to our Jesuit friend, is a true spiritual exercise when it whacks the little Frank Sinatra in each of us that’s always humming, “I did it my way.” Listening to God as we’re reading has been for me a means of humming a new tune and following His will.

Finally, I think American author, Henry David Thoreau was on target more than he knew when he said, “How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” May we be that man or woman.

Selah, Tom



  1. Dang – that was good!! What you said . . . and how you said it. Truth is always more palatable when delivered with style and those touches of humor.
    Thanks! And looking forward to more to come.

  2. Thank God for humor…okay, and machetes.

    There are days, ohh, like this one, in which the application of spiritual disciplines (whacking notwithstanding) inclines me to yell, “Medic! We got a bleeder!”

    Jesus is indeed the Great Physician.

    God has it covered; He thinks of everything!

    Bless you, Tom.

    Runnin’ with you,
    ~ m

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