how to read - part 5

I'm pleased to share a guest post from my friend Jennifer Johnson. You can find her writing at or follow her on Twitter @seejenwrite

Every evening I try to solve that day’s New York Times crossword puzzle. Each day, beginning on Monday, they get more difficult, and every week I struggle to finish a puzzle beyond Wednesday.

It’s not great for the self-esteem.

However, the more often I do these puzzles, the more I see common words used and re-used. Often they are short words like “yet” or “afar” or “eke” – words the editors can throw in to make longer and more unique words fit the grid. The more I pay attention, the more I see connections between puzzles.

Last week I got the unwelcome (but not surprising) news of two different work projects potentially coming to a close. They represent a fair chunk of my income and – more to the point – my identity, and so I did what any emotionally healthy Christian would do in this situation: I began thinking of all of my friends who have their professional lives more together than I do, who make more money than I do, and who have experienced more visible success than I have. I compared my own (so small!) contributions to the work others are doing (so important!) and for good measure I reminded myself how many of them are younger than I am.

So it was fabulous week, and then yesterday I read “The Happiness Hypothesis.” It describes a study that revealed the majority of people, given the choice between earning $90,000 a year when your friends earn less or earning $100,000 a year when your friends earn more, would prefer to earn less so they could feel more successful than others. You read that right – most people would rather make less money if it meant they could feel superior.

Later that day I ran across an article in the New York Times about our culture’s obsession with “leadership” and why it’s okay if not everyone is gifted as an entrepreneurial Type-A, and for good measure finished the day by running across this quote:

“Every time a friend of mine succeeds, a small part of me dies.”
— Gore Vidal


The more crossword puzzles I do, the more connections I notice. Reading functions the same way: the more I read, the more I see themes emerging that speak to my life. The more I pay attention, the more Spirit uses reading to make connections in my life puzzles.

Coincidence? Perhaps when we are struggling in some way we simply are more aware of insights relating to our lives, much the way we suddenly notice everyone has a gray Toyota after we buy ours.

Or perhaps, if we commit to a habit of reading, it’s one more way God can speak into our lives. Of course he uses his Word – why wouldn’t he also use the words of others?

I’m in a better place with my career this week; I applied for some new work and had some productive conversations. But now I’ve noticed some bad habits I need to really get serious about working on and some ways I’m choosing lazy options instead of doing the hard work to change. So you can guess what kind of stuff God’s going to be bringing across my path this week.

What about you? How does God speak to you when you read?