A gracious and industrious lady of Claremore, Cindy Smith (Musgrove, Merriott, Smith funeral Home) stopped by to talk about starting a Youth Symphony in Rogers County. I have no doubt it will get it going, she makes things happen. It would be an excellent outlet for the high school students and younger to further refine their musical skills. As details emerge for this venture, you’ll hear about it in The Daily Progress.

The last time Cindy dropped by, right before Thanksgiving, she gave me a book to read and I promised I would. At the time, my reading list was at least a mile long. I still had books my wife bought me this summer that I hadn’t opened.

Although I majored in English Literature in college, I found ways to survive with minimal reading of lengthy material. Short stories, plays and essays worked great for my attention span, books were another story. In adulthood, newspapers and magazines had been fun to read, but books had stayed off my radar screen.

About four years ago my wife brought home the book “Lord Foulgrin’s Letters,” by Randy Alcorn. It took me by storm. I proceeded to read every piece of fiction Mr. Alcorn had written. Kim has been cultivating me as a book reader ever since. She keeps me pretty stocked up and she chooses very well.

On any given day I have a bookmark in one work of fiction to go along with my bible reading. I already had a healthy stack of literature to read the day Cindy gave me The Shack, I was afraid I’d would not get to it before Christmas 2009. I brought it home and placed with the other un-read books. We had a lot of family stay with us over the Christmas break. The Shack was quickly discovered.

My mother, an avid reader, LOVED The Shack. So did my father-in-law and then my wife. Once Kim read it, it moved into the spot known as “next” in my reading list, ahead of most of my summer gift collection and the Christmas additions.

I am glad it did. The Shack, by William Paul Young is an amazing fictionalized account of a man going through the process of grieving the loss of his daughter. I have never read anything that reconciles grief with faith and hope like this book does. The story is hard to put down. It makes you think and then re-think what you thought you understood. Read The Shack. It’s a story you won't likely ever forget.

The question now becomes who should read it next? Is the subject matter too heavy for my daughters? They’ve read some pretty serious material over the past few years, lots of knights and dragons who experience death by sword or dragon-bite. All three of them finished reading my two books about September 11th and loved them.

Reading is one of the most important skills to help your kids develop. It goes hand and hand with spelling. I recently attended my youngest daughter, Hope’s, school spelling bee. It was exciting to watch the girls and boys overcome their anxiousness about being in front of an audience and put on the spot to spell something. My daughter had the word “poi” in her second round. I could tell she did not have a clue what the word meant: neither did I. She calmly asked the spelling bee chairlady for a definition. After the definition was given, I was at a loss for exactly how to spell the Hawaiian finger food. Hope took her time then spelled it correctly. Maybe reading all these books helps their growing brains think better. Hope did well but did not win. A confident boy named Jordan Newberry who effortlessly spelled many words, including "nirvana” was the winner. I think he'll do well in the next level of the annual Scripps Spelling Bee.

I’ve moved on to a non-fiction book called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, by Meg Meeker, M.D. I’m halfway into it and I highly recommend it to every man that is, was, or ever plans to have the honor and privilege of being a father.

By the weekend I should be back into my Ted Dekker collection that’s been waiting on me since this summer.

It’s amazing what I missed all of these years when I so easily settled for Newsweek and Sports Illustrated.

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