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Christmas Books

I received some really good books for Christmas from various people, and I am really excited about reading this year. I also bought Courtney a couple of good books.

Here is the list:

I receive a particular satisfaction and joy when I actually do the things I say I think are valuable. Reading is one of those things where I often miss this particular satisfaction. Nevertheless, with this new selection, you should be seeing a particular kind of smile on my face.

Resident Aliens is my first read, and I am already half way through it. I'll reading Parenting Without Perfection next for Courtney. I am not sure what is next.

If you read this and see me in person, ask me about how my books are going if you want to get into a long conversation.

Reading Old Books

I heard a quote recently about C.S. Lewis saying that every third book we read should be from a different century. He says that this will help us see our cultural blind spots.

Many people read books from the same group of authors if not the same author. Some only read mainstream evangelicals, others only charismatic writers, still others only reformed writers. Reading old books would help us break out of our own tradition enough to see beyond the set of problems usually addressed by the books we read and might help us to see issues that authors of our own culture fail to see because they all have very similar lives.

Sometimes we avoid old book because we think they will be difficult or irrelevant. However, classics, Lewis says, are classics because they are so accessible and I would add relevant. Surviving the test of time is proof that they are readable and relevant.

I haven't picked my "old book" yet, but I am planning to. I have a few seminary that I could reread. I am sure it would do me good. It's not like I really remember all of what is in them. Plus, I am a different person now: I am sure I would different ideas would stick out to me.

Finishing Blue Like Jazz

Well, I finished Blue Like Jazz (BLJ) tonight. I think Dave mentioned it to me a couple of years ago. I wish I had read it then. Most of the ideas are things I have heard through other sources. I think I particularly liked his thoughts about living with the hippies and the confession booth where they confessed to their classmates.

I think I would really like to go to his church. In large part, I am very much like him. One way that I am not is that I am married and I am not a writer. It seems to me that the church really needs some regular Joes like me to live the Gospel. In some ways it will look similar to the thoughts in BLJ. It is one thing to be a missionary, pastor, writer/speaker and forge a path of discipleship. It is another to live in a mid-sized town in Texas, work 40-50 hours a week and have a family to support and find a way to live a righteous and holy life to God. Should I serve more? Should I give more? Should I work less? Should I buy less? Should I...Should I...Should I. It is almost enough to make one want to give up.

Incidentally, my good friend, Rusty accused me of worshiping an idol with my desire to live such a life. It is so hard to ferret out the line between really fighting against fear and wanting to live a life of radical discipleship and making such a life an idol and worshiping it apart from the living God.

I am not sure about his conclusion. It is hard to live a free life. Even when I think about my children, they get jealous and end up being suspicious of us playing favorites. I am particularly thinking of my two-year-old. It starts young. I can see this in myself. I hate it, but I often begin to compare myself to my peers when I see their stuff or find out how old they are. Why can't I be free?

Miller in BLJ talks about learning to accept love. This is the struggle of the Christian life. It is hard to believe the kind of love that God has for us. We almost refuse to believe it. I can see that I have often rejected it. I feel like I need to do something to repay God. This is just not true. Why can't I get that through my head!?

Beginning Blue Like Jazz

I just started reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. It is a really good book. It is fun to read because I recognize so many of the thoughts and themes as things I have thought before but never put down. I can see that we have both had similar influences. However, we have gotten them from really different places.

Discipline

Every quarter or so, PDI, the company I work for, has a staff meeting. Kirk Fischer, one of our VPs usually gives an inspiring presentation of some sort. It is always good, but this time I really think he hit on something.

Wrapped up in your own little world

Tonight Courtney reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in the Bonfire of the Vanities. Sherman is finally having to tell his boss about his awful predicament. The weight has been crushing Sherman for weeks, and he finally has no choice to notify his respected employer of the ordeal he is about to undergo.

His boss is interested, but Sherman soon realizes that this boss is really just as interested in the juicy story as he is in Sherman. To top it off his disregard he takes a call from a local celeb to thank him for letting him use his private jet. Twice, the vain celeb interrupts Sherman's gut-wrenching confession for frivolous chit-chat.

It becomes obvious as Sherman moves throughout his social circle that no one is really interested in him. Everyone is wrapped up in their own little world and pays attention to him only when he either benefits them in some way or when he is becoming a detriment to them.

I am afraid that Wolfe's description of the world is more accurate than not. Are you wrapped up in your own little world? or better yet, am I?

It is difficult to come up with too much evidence to the contrary. God help me.
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New Book - Sacred Romance

Well, it is that time again. At the behest of a friend, I am starting to read The Sacred Romance again. I started it several years ago, but it just didn't capture my imagination. I am hoping I get more out of it. I am sure that I have changed.

So many people have liked the Eldredge books, that I sort of feel obligated. I usually develop a bad attitude toward things like this and stay away from them. Sometimes, it turns out that I was right, but usually I end up liking it and feeling like an idiot. My dang pride gets the best of me every time. "I didn't find it first, so it can't be good, right?"

Truth vs. Peace

As you may have read, I have been reading The Da Vinci Code. I finished it last night, so I thought I would record at least one thought about the much read novel. The religious outlook The Da Vinci Code has me somewhat confused. On one hand, it seems that Sophie, Langdon, and Teabing are all in a search for truth. However, in the end, it is only Teabing, and perhaps the Church, that are really seeking truth. Sophie and in the end Langdon, are seeking what might be called peace. In some ways, the book shows the dichotomy that most people see when looking at religion in a pluralistic world. You can either search for truth, or you can search for peace.

A search for peace is only concerned with metaphor and mystery. It is not concerned with truth. Hypocritically, most seekers of peace make no claims to exclusive truth, except that there is none or at least that it cannot be found. Instead, they seem to see the essence of faith as believing without thinking. This is postmodern religion. "How it affects me," is the most important criteria for religion. They have given up on the idea of truth either because they are frustrated by all of the competing claims or the idea of exclusive truth is morally repugnant.

A search for truth, on the other hand, is concerned with how the claims of a religion correspond to reality. These usually end up being either radical atheists out to prove all religions false or religious zealots eager to prove their own superiority. This is modern religion. "How it aligns with objective(scientific) reality," is the most important criteria for religion. Confused about humanity's humble original condition and subsequent fall, they pridefully make all kinds of exclusive claims and gladly divide up humanity between those that are in and those that are out.

Christianity, and in truth all religions I have studied, make truth claims, and they all make exclusive truth claims. Islam claims that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Buddhism claims nirvana can be reach by following the eight-fold path. Hinduism makes claims about reincarnation and law of karma. Christianity claims that Jesus Christ is the second person of a Triune God. Judaism claims that YHWH is the one true God. While some of these claims may be compatible, no religion is entirely compatible with another. In fact, most religions have further subdivisions based on irreconcilable interpretive disagreements.

I can hardly believe the statement in The Da Vinci Code that, "those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical." Surely Brown would not have us believe that the only true believers in a religion are those that espouse his own religion, one that rejects all claims to absolute truth. This is truly the height of arrogance.

It is certianly true that there have been some dastardly religious people in human history. There are so-called Christians that rank among the top. However, if one truly understands the scriptures one can see that the writers did not intended to put down women as Brown claims but to move their cultures to the ideal of equality. They did not seek to hold up current political or societal power structures, they stood outside of and usually against them.

Christianity invites all those with a critical mind to investigate its claims and experience true peace. Grace and Peace begins many of Paul's letters. Grace speaks of the objective fact that Christ has paved the way for the adoption as sons for all that will believe. And Peace speaks of the ever widening harmony God desires to pour out upon humanity. True seeks of truth and peace will be both satisfied and challenged if they would humble themselves and look for one outside them selves for safety. He eagerly awaits.
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New Book

On vacation I started a new book: The Da Vinci Code. It is certainly interesting. Much of it is patently false. Some of it is true. He is not a bad writer, and it definitely keeps your interest.

I have put off reading it for too long. It is more interesting than I thought it would be. While it is often aggravating, the story pulls you along quite well. In addition, it is a good conversation piece. I will need to do some research, but I have already seen many holes in Brown's theories.

More to come if time permits.

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Courtney's Response

A week or so ago, I wrote a little on 'Bonfire of the Vanities' It was difficult to write, and I somewhat dreaded the reaction of Courtney. However, knowing her forgiving heart and the forgiving heart of my Father, I went for it.

If you are interested in her reaction, look here http://midnighthour.org/blog/index.php/archives/12.

It pains me to have hurt her so, but I know the path to righteousness leads through confession and repentance. And, I know this is what she truly desires of me.