Pooping Elephants

I’M DESPERATE!

When people ask Pastor Tim Keller why he reads so much, he simply says, “I’m desperate.”  Keller is desperate for insight to help himself and others.  I resonate deeply with this sentiment.  In fact, it seems very odd to me that any Christian, especially pastors and those in full-time vocational ministry, would be needing to explain/justify the need to read.  I should also say that I am constantly stunned by how many pastors and those in full-time vocational, Christian ministry do not read or read books not worthy of their time.

I was recently asked by a friend about my own reading habits.  Here is what I told him:

I usually have a book with me wherever I go. I have them for appointments so don’t mind at all when someone is late! If I have a package to take to the post office, a book will be with me. And the DMV or waiting for a haircut are great times to read. You get the picture. There are lots of places/times to redeem the time.

On top of these haphazard things, I read intentionally 50-60 important books per year and peruse hundreds. The 50-60 include lots of highlighting, marginalia, and then sifting out what is most beneficial for teaching, discipleship, and writing projects. I also read several dozen journal or magazine articles.

As I get older, I am rereading the most formative books in my own personal canon. So The Great Divorce was recently reread. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis famously said legitimate readers are re-readers of important books. I think that is true.

Of course, I am always reading Scripture which this year means 2-4 chapters of meditative reads with note taking and highlighting. Scripture memory and review are daily disciplines which go back over forty years ago to my early college days. Then ten verses of my Greek NT along with some vocabulary review and basic grammar.

People regularly mention that I have a good memory.  I think that is true to some extent.  However, let it be known that review, review, review is a major staple of my life.

HOW TO TALK TO ONE ANOTHER

Theologians are generally leery, even disdainful (usually in quiet, socially accepted ways!) of “lay” people. And so-called “lay” people tend to return the favor. There are many reasons for this, and Keith Johnson helps unpack them for us.

Johnson’s book is desperately needed since the animus between professional theologians and the church is acute and does not seem to be getting any better.

The author provides a good historical sketch of how theology moved away from the church and found itself in the academy. This offers perspective for how we ought to proceed in understanding the challenge of wedding theology to the church.

Johnson writes with a gracious touch but makes clear how we all need to make amends for our less than Christlike behavior.

FOUR TYPES OF PEOPLE

My wife and I were talking about a piece she read by Tim Keller in which he describes two types of people:

    Those who get what they want and are not happy

    Those who do not get what they want and are not happy

My wife took the second group of people and made two groups:

    Those who have given up believing they will ever get what they want to be happy

    Those who have not given up believing they will ever get what they want to be happy

As we were talking about all this, Doreen asked me if I thought there were non-Christians who truly were happy with their lives.  I do. In fact, I know some. They have not yet gotten to Ecc. 2:11. (Take a gander to see what I mean if you are not familiar with this terrific section of Scripture.)  Their hearts are still satisfied with their lives apart from God.

My question to you: Why are so many Christians such unhappy folk?

 

WRITE IN YOUR BOOKS!

If you scroll down to the post for Dec. 19, 2018 you will see a heavily annotated copy of Finnegans Wake.  My friend and regular reader of this blog, Dr. Dave McCoy, made a comment about his own copy of Finnegans Wake.  I asked Dave to send me a picture and he has.

I love looking at the marginalia people put in their books and Bibles so enjoy a real pro at work here.  And make sure to click the picture to enlarge it!:

BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN AND DESIGNED!

It is wonderful to see publishers who care about a book’s design and aesthetics. Baylor University Press consistently hits home runs in these areas.

John Swinton has written a terrific book that makes us look more honestly at our ideas of time and how they impinge on our treatment of those with disabilities. Non-spoiler alert: we don’t do very well at either!

There is much to like about this book. It helps us wrestle with issues of great consequence and yet maintains a gracious tone throughout.

Perhaps this quote by Scott Bader-Saye from page 57 well describes the tenor of this terrific book: “The ways we experience, name, and interpret time contribute to the kinds of communities we imagine and inhabit.”

Highly recommended!

GIVE A GIFT TO YOURSELF!

This is the third book I’ve read by Tim Larsen. I interviewed him on the other two books.

There is so very much to like about this book. I will simply list out four of my favorite things about the book:

Some shorter books like Larsen’s pack in plenty of content. If a lecture series becomes a book (as is the case with this book), there is a better than average chance that the smaller size book will have great content. You can see this with books (from another lecture series) like Andrew Delbanco’s fascinating, The Real American Dream. Larsen’s book does not disappoint as it offers the reader plenty of material.

Even though there is much content, the writing is lucid and engaging.

Larsen is an eminent historian of nineteenth-century Britain. You can always count on him to do careful archival work and know the primary sources. This book showcases those strengths.

Larsen is sensitive, as was George MacDonald, to Christians who struggle with doubt. As one who knows firsthand these struggles, I greatly appreciate Larsen’s treatment in this book.

Perhaps it is too late for a Christmas present, but how about a present for yourself for the new year?!