This month I started doing a new thing. I decided to start recording the books I’ve read, movies/shows I’ve watched, and video games I’ve played during the month. The idea was that if I could remember what I’ve been reading I could give mini-reviews or reflect on them at the end of the month. I’ll split the lists into three posts. One focusing in on books, another focusing in on movies/TV shows, and the third focusing on video games. This one will be focused on the books I read or started to read in April.
The Finished Books:
1. For the Time Being by Annie Dillard – I’ve already reflected a little on this book on my previous blog post. This was a book that I’ve had since college. I remember trying to read it then, but having a difficult time getting into it. Trying it this time I was able to drawn into it, but have little idea of what the point she was trying to make.
As I said with my last post the main idea of the book seems to be reflecting on suffering and the existence of God. However, if you go into this book expecting a typical structure you’ll be mistaken. Basically, Dillard takes a number of topics and in each chapter talks a little about each of them. She labels these topics in each chapter with headers like Birth, Sand, China, or Now. So each chapter has these numerous little tunnels that weave throughout the book. All of which connect to the ideas of evil, pain, and suffering while trying to reflect on where God fits into it all.
I can’t say I agree with all of her thoughts that are presenting in the book, but at the same time I had trouble figuring out what her actual thoughts were. She quotes from many sources Jewish rabbis, Hindus, and Catholic priests; but gives you no real firm ground as to where she stands. This isn’t so much a negative point, but more of a warning for those who read it expecting something telling you want to think or believe. This is more of an exercise in reflection than one on dogma or argumentation. Given that it may not be a book for everyone, but I found it to be an intriguing read.
2. Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby – This is a book that our church was doing for small groups. Since I was leading one of those groups I was reading this book. It was the first time I’ve read the book, but it is considered to be a classic. My thoughts on the book are mixed.
The point of the book is to find ways to experience God. In particular to see where God is working, and to be involved in His work. Overall, I thought that the principles that Blackaby presents for doing this are pretty solid. Nothing comes to mind that made me really wary when came down to his basic principles of how to experience God.
There were two things that I did dislike about the book though. First, it suffers from appearing to be a bit prideful. I don’t know Henry Blackaby so I have no idea what he is really like, but the writing style of the book just smacks of arrogance sometimes. Even in trying to be humble at one point saying something like that God had to look high and low for someone as ordinary as me. Not to mention constantly referring to some conference where he tells how somebody’s life was changed by reading his book. Not that it isn’t good to have testimonials, but the frequency of such examples, with few examples that don’t involve the book or Blackaby himself, started to rub me the wrong way.
The second problem I had with the book, was that it gave a lopsided view of how God may speak to you. Many of Blackaby’s examples are amazing. It is about how he and his wife were called to Canada to pastor a small church and all the amazing things that were done there or how people were called to serve God in amazing circumstances and amazing outcomes. These examples naturally led me to ask is this how God speaks to everybody? What about God speaking to people in the everyday, in our communities, in things that are not “full time ministry.” I think there has to be balance here; we need to be challenged that we are not just settling for the comfort we have where we are, but I do not believe that God calls everyone the same way. We are not all meant to be Paul or Moses at least in terms of our accomplishments. So while I thought it was solid on its principles, the tone of the book and the examples it gave diminished its value in my eyes.
3. Church Planting is For Wimps by Mike McKinley – This was a book that I got for free from a conference about a year/year and a half ago. I have to say that I enjoyed this book much more than I had thought I would. The title may fool you into thinking that it is only a book for church planters, but I think it is for anyone who wants to think about leadership in the church.
What is the book about though? By the title you may be thinking it is about planting a church, and you’d be somewhat right. Actually, it is about the author’s journey into church revitalization. Which is going into a church that is severely unhealthy/dying and trying to bring it back to life. Through this journey he outlines many of the difficulties there are to doing such a process, the process that he went through on the path to bringing the church back to life, and his failures on the way.
Honestly, it is a book that anyone who has been a Christian and a part of a fellowship could appreciate. He has many thoughts throughout the book that are a challenge to many contemporary ideas about what the institutional church should look like. I think if you’re looking into leadership at any level, this could be a valuable book to read and think over. It doesn’t put things in a glamorous light, but it is honest and I think portrays a reality that is more present than the glitz and glamor of the mega-church.
The In-Progress Books:
1. King’s Cross by Timothy Keller – It is hard to exactly say what this book is. It is a book that goes through the book of Mark, but it is neither a devotional nor a commentary. Expected either of those would probably lead to disappointment. Basically Keller takes a passage from the book of Mark and then explains the main theme or at least a theme that can be drawn from that passage. The style makes a good book to discuss with a group, which is exactly the context in which I’m reading it. The men’s group that I’m a part of is reading through this a chapter a week. This means that I’m not all that far into it so far, only chapter five, but so far it has led to interesting reading and discussion.
If you’re familiar with any of Keller’s other works than you pretty much know what to expect. He is intelligent, but able to put things in a way that is fairly easily understood. I’ll probably have more to say once I’ve finished the book, but this is my take so far.
2. Searching for Home by M. Craig Barnes – This is another book that I’m reading and discussing with a friend. No surprise the focus of the book is on home. It is basically exploring the idea of home and if home is simply a place or if it more than that. Barnes presents that home is more than simply a place and that our ultimate home is God.
I’m only about a quarter of the way through this book, but so far he has been exploring the concept of home that people have had in recent generations and how the current generation seems to lack a sense of home. He calls this generation nomads because they don’t often have a place they can call home because they move around quite often. This lack of home can often lead to a disconnectedness and lack of purpose.
I’m not entirely sure where he’ll all go from here, but so far it has been an interesting read with good thoughts about what home is and how we view it.
Well those are my books for April. I technically have another one I just started, but I’ll save it to put in the May list of books since I’m not far at all in it. One thing about writing down a list of books for the month is that I realize how all the books I read are serious in nature, I may have to change that for upcoming months, but my watching and playing habits balance out my serious reading though. Also I hope to have links to all the books, movies, TV shows, or video games if available. I’m hoping to have the links be the pictures, but if I can’t get it to work I’ll have them be the titles, so if you’re interesting in checking them out yourself you’d be able to.