Thursday, February 21, 2008

What I'm Reading -- February 2008

One of the questions many of our church members, and even some of my non-church friends, ask me on a regular basis is, "What are you reading right now?" I don't know if those with careers other than ministry receive this question on a regular basis, but I find it a very positive question. As one who spends a great deal of time promoting education in general and Christian education in particular, I encourage reading. One of the ways we are formed both intellectually and spiritually is through what we read. Every month I will be updating my blog with a list of what I am reading and my reflections on these books.

The God-Hungry Imagination: The Art of Storytelling for Postmodern Youth Ministry by Sarah Arthur (published by Upper Room Books). I have only recently begun reading this work, but I already am very encouraged by what I have found. The author appears to be well grounded in the struggles, trials, and blessings of modern youth ministry. In a time which finds youth ministry books promoting the latest programming fads saturating the market, this book appears to be taking a refreshing approach. I look forward to continuing to read, and sharing more next month.

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (published by Riverhead Books). For those unfamiliar with Anne Lamott, I would describe her as insightful, though at times irreverent. Some of her frank and even harsh language can put one off, but throughout her writing there is a wit, humor, and wisdom which shines through. This book has been no exception. The individual chapters are fairly self-contained, and I find that I am unable to put a chapter down until I have finished it. For someone like me, who has a short literary attention space which causes me to hop from book to book and back again, this is high praise. Those who are easily offended by periods of irreverence when reading about faith issues will want to avoid this book.

The Hamlet by William Faulkner (published by Vintage). The reformed English major in me keeps me going back to fiction on a regular basis. I find that reading fiction, whether modern or "classic," keeps my creative side well fed. The Hamlet will certainly not be a novel for everyone. It is the first of the "Snopes trilogy," which chronicles the rise to influence of the Snopes family in a rural Mississippi county and small town. As with most of Faulkner's work, it is very dense reading and can be a little bit inaccessible. However, Faulkner had a gift for painting complex characters and for allowing characters to speak with their own voices. This can lead to entire chunks of narrative shared by an unreliable narrator. For those who find this technique frustrating, another novel (or even writer) would be best. While this has not been my favorite of Faulkner book thus far, I have managed to by drawn in by the characters. This book has even been able to affect my mood on occasion, which I can rarely say of any book.

Thank God It's Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross by William H. Willimon (published by Abingdon Press). Since encountering some of his writing while in seminary, Dr. Willimon has become one of my favorite preachers/writers. I am just beginning this book, but I am already enjoying it. Whenever I encounter one of his sermons or reflections on a Biblical text, I nearly always come away considering something new about the passage -- What could be a higher complement for a preacher? I am sure some of his insight (and maybe even a story or two) will make their way into a sermon of mine down the road. I look forward to gladly giving him credit. Though I am only a handful of pages in, I have no reservations in recommending this book.

Wow -- I'm pretty positive so far in my reviews. I'm sure the harsh critic in me will surface in the future. By the way, the two books of the Bible which I am reading right now are the Book of Job and the Gospel of John.

Read any of these books? Let me know what you think.

Grace and peace,