We’ve just returned from a little break from the first cold snap of the season and the responsibilities of home. This break actually had a little bit of “required” reading involved, but also provided time to just read. The result is a sort of mixed bag of books.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an MA (Christian Studies) from Wilfred Laurier University. Augsburg Fortress the Lutheran publisher, gave graduates a gift certificate which we used the same day in their store in Kitchener. J noticed Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther, likely because it was promoted by Rachel Held Evans, and we added it to our little pile. The book was a sobering look into a fundamentalist/cult-like denomination which twisted biblical teachings into something that could only be described as abusive. The book reads like a series of blog posts, arranged chronologically, telling a story but maybe not fully developing characters. Its a good read, pointing to the dangers using a literal interpretation of the bible as a rule of life.
Following my recommendation, our local pastor’s group read Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I had read this book a couple of years ago and was deeply affected by it. The second time through was no less moving. The fictional story of a woman’s journey with Alzheimers provides a window into this horrible disease and leaves the reader wondering what it is that defines someone as a person. The story is very believable, following the struggles not only of the main character, but also of her family as both memory and identity is lost.
The break I mentioned earlier was a short visit with another pastor in Florida. She is there on holiday as well as a week of study leave and suggested we read a couple of the books she had chosen to read. They are not books I would have necessarily picked up.. Sometimes having a reason to chose a book is a good thing, at least in terms of broadening horizons.
I had read some of Francis Chan’s work before and and found him to be a writer pushing toward the edge, promoting a new way of living in an exciting style. So I was looking to Erasing Hell, a book he co-wrote with Preston Sprtickle to be more of the same. I was disappointed. The book is written as a rebuttal to Rob Bell’s Love Wins and while it does present a convincing argument for the existence of a literal hell it doesn’t do it with the edgy flair of some of Chan’s other work. There are just a few too many word studies, a little to much ancient sociology. I’m thinking the structure may have been more clear if I had read Bell’s book first.
Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger was a good read, pointing to the importance of keeping the Word central in the life of the church. This isn’t at all a new idea, but it is one that is worth a reminder. The book is not a difficult read and nicely reminds us of the importance of keeping the Word at the center in our teaching and preaching. It asks us to recognize again that the Word is used by the Spirit to change lives in a way that moralistic, or “how to” teaching just can’t do. The title refers to churches, not individuals as creature of the word emphasizing the fact that faith and faithfulness is a community activity not only an individual one.
The final read of the week, mixed in among some of the others, was The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon. The story takes us back to ancient Greece and the coming of age of Aristotle’s daughter. The book sees the world through the eyes of this young girl and sometimes leaves the reader confused, because she is confused. The story is well written, a good read, but likely requires a block of time which provides little distraction from the story, the long Greek names, and the bits that are known by the central character and not necessarily explained.
And so ends a little more than a week of reading, I’ve got a couple of more books on the go, but I’m back to work with a sermon looming in my future and the gauntlet of Christmas not far away.