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Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Am I Reading?

One of my favorite questions to ask someone, if there is a longer time to talk, is this: What are you reading right now?

The first time I was asked this question I felt like I was being tested. And maybe I was! But when I headed out on my latest vacation, my beloved bible study of five young women about ready to graduate and launch into the big world asked me what books I was taking with me. And that question prompted me to blog during my vacation out of what I ended up reading during the trip. Thus the six posts preceding this one... Thanks for asking, ladies!

But now I'm home. And while it is PURE DELIGHT for me to have nothing but time to read my little heart out on vacation, I find it so much more difficult to discipline myself to stick with substantive reading in the midst of "real life." My days tend to fill up with a bunch of things that are demanding my attention: appointments, errands, a never-ending email inbox... plus fundamental needs like sleep, exercise and prayer.

Nevertheless, I vowed on this vacation that I would not let my deeper reading slip up when I returned home. So here I am. What am I reading?

Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister. By and large, I have really enjoyed this book. I can't deny that at times it gets a little too touchy/feely/mushy for me, but overall, it has been a lovely read. For example, these sentences kicked me in the teeth this week:

“Our time gets totally out of balance. We spend it all on friends, or we spend none of it there. We spend it all on work, or we spend it all on our compulsions… we go from one personal prison to the next.

Balance, the Rule says. Balance. And harmony. And awareness… Benedict says that we must bring a sense of order and awe and proportion and perspective." (pp 75-76)

"Benedictine spirituality requires that we live life to the full." (p. 79)

How MUCH do I want to live out those challenges on a deep and sustainable level?! Reading them here were powerful reminders of where I desire to put my priorities.

Travels in Alaska by John Muir. If you have a Kindle, search for all the free books you can download. Pile about 10 of them onto your Kindle, in case you actually have some extra time to dive into something just for fun. That's what happened on my vacation, and is continuing as I finish up this book. Ponder the photo I've included in this post: it says it all. This book is a GEM. Unexpectedly, I have found it to be spiritually moving too. Though I would not want to split hairs over Muir's theology, in this particular book he references God frequently. In fact, one of the people who was with him in much of his travels was a Presbyterian missionary named Mr. Young, whom he referred to as "an adventurous evangelist." I love that! Frequently, Muir describes how he experienced God in his enjoyment of creation:

[Describing past visits to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California] ...they seemed to me the most telling of all the terrestrial manifestations of God. But here the mountains themselves were made divine, and declared His glory in terms still more impressive.

The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Sparks, Soerens and Friesen. I found this book through the Twitter recommendation of my friend Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, someone who is not prone to shameless promotion. If he recommends a book, he means it. So I grabbed it on my Kindle and started reading. I'm halfway through it, and am finding that it really captures much of what we are experiencing in our own first year trying to live "on mission" in Santa Barbara's Westside community. Here's something from the introduction that sums up my heart as well:

Our collective story doesn’t begin with a grand vision or contagious momentum. It begins with deep hope for the church in the twenty-first century and an honest need for one another.

Whether or not you leave a comment here, I challenge you to ask this question in a conversation this week: What are you reading these days? 

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