Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book 6 of 2019 -- Growing Pains

In a discussion recently about the state of the world and the Donald Trump effect one of the people mentioned this book and offered to lend it to me.

It is a good read, unsettling at times but thought-provoking. While I have never read any of Dyer's books I did generally appreciate his syndicated columns. He is able to take what could be relatively dry material (the book contains analysis of voting patterns and economic data) and present it in an engaging manner.

Dyer offers an alternate interpretation of the populism espoused by Trumpsters and Brexiteers, one I find much more logical than the rhetoric from the populist side. I found myself wondering what he would have to say about the rhetoric from our recent provincial elections in Alberta and Ontario where populism has made a definite impact.

I especially appreciated the case Dyer makes for an Universal Basic Income. I have long believed a Gauranteed Annual Income would be a good idea, though of course the devil is in the details. I really liked Dyer's contention that it should be universal where many proposals have seen it solely as a piece of the social safety net. The idea of universality and therefore removing stigma of receiving it makes sense. And of course if Dyer is right (and I think he largely is) that the future changes to the global economy will bring on massive shifts in employment then UBI becomes a good way to avoid the revolution.  Coincidentally I was reading an article earlier today outlining the link between income inequality and social and physical health. Dyer highlights the dangers of this as well

Another interesting take in the book is Dyer's suggestion that humans are somehow hard-wired to seek a more equitable society, even as humans are also apparently hard-wired to seek dominance. This would be a good book for a discussion group.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Book 5 of 2019 -- The Power of Kindness

I have listened to Brian Goldman's radio show White Coat, Black Art for many years and so when a colleague of mine posted that she was reading his latest book I had to take a look.

While the book title is about kindness the book itself is about empathy. Goldman talks about his quest to learn about empathy as he seeks to learn how empathetic he is.

In his search we learn about some biological markers of empathy that show up in an MRI. We explore some psychology around empathy, and the lack thereof. We meet people who have the ability to connect with others, often because of a shared woundedness but sometimes just because they are good at connecting. We see how roboticists are trying to program empathy. We explore a program that is trying to teach empathy, or maybe plant the seeds of empathy, in school children by bringing infants into the classroom.

Possibly my favourite story in the book was the chapter that discussed working with dementia patients. That one was a real eyeopener about the possibilities.

Like Goldman, I often wonder how empathic I am. This book did not answer that question for me. But it did give me some more insight into the question. It is one I would readily suggest to others.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Book 4 of 2019 -- The Sacrament of Interruption

For Lent I am preparing a series called "The Practices of the Church". Actually I did the first one in the series on Baptism of Christ Sunday since that was an opportune time to talk about Baptism and the other parts of the series will be: Prayer, Marriage/Relationships, Funerals/End of Life, and Communion. This book was suggested as a possible resource for the series.

It is a quick easy read, though I will likely re-read any relevant chapters while prepping for the sermons in the series. I tend not to follow where Schaper goes  much of the time but she does present some sparking thoughts about what it means to be sacramental.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Book 3 of 2019 -- TheMerchant of Venice

Because sometimes you just need to read a classic.

To be honest I do not think I have read any Shakespeare since I was in University, which would mean either Richard III or Othello is the last play I read.  I might have looked up a sonnet or two in the interim but certainly the last play was for a drama class. Which puts it pretty close to 30 years ago.

It took me a scene or two for me to get the rhythm and get my language back under me. All the more so since this is one I have never read before. I have heard some passages like Shylock's contention that as a Jew he is much the same as other men "if you prick us do we not bleed" and Portia's plea for mercy "the quality of mercy is not strained" but had little more than a passing understanding of the plot.

Interesting play. To read it in an English class today would not only lead to discussions of love and mercy and revenge (definite themes of the piece) but also to the racial dynamics of how Shylock is written and described.

And I need to read such things more often.

Book 2 of 2019 -- Out Of Sorts

In her book The Great Emergence the late Phyllis Tickle spoke of the idea that every 500 years or so the Church has a great rummage sale as a part of a grand reset. I found the idea intriguing, even if I think it fit the Reformation better than her other historical exemplars, and only time will tell how the current era will math that image. In this book Sarah Bessey takes a similar tack to discussing her own faith journey.

Bessey uses the image of gathering to sort through a loved one's 'stuff' after the funeral. What gets kept? What gets donated? What gets tossed out? She then uses this image in terms of how our faith changes over the years, a process in which we once again ask what to keep and what to toss, along with deciding whether or not or how to integrate new insights and understandings.

This book is largely a memoir, but in the act or writing a memoir Bessey invites us to consider the questions we bring to faith.

I think Tickle is right. I think the church is once more at that time where we need to investigate what needs to get put out to sale.  I am not sure the church is yet willing to do it. I like Bessey's approach.  When we go through the belongings it often takes a few goes. Some stuff gets tossed immediately. Some gets put in a box because we just can't deal with it yet. Some survives one or two cullings before eventually being put out to sale or toss. I suspect that is how the church will move into what Tickle called the great emergence.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Book 1 of 2019 -- Revelation for Progressive Christians

Early this month I pondered offering a Bible Study on Revelation and this book was suggested as a possible resource.

Revelation is, to say the least, challenging book for many of us. This is largely because of how it is sometimes used by some of our siblings in faith. It does not help that it is a challenge to move through the imagery in much of the book to see where meaning may be found (well that and all the death/destruction).

I think Schmidt does a good job here. Indeed this is likely to be one of two resources I use for the study group,

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Book 12 of 2018 -- Grounded

Another random find this time.

I started reading this on in the early fall when working on a worship series around environmental stewardship. Then took a break from it for other things and finished it in December.

To be honest it almost felt like the two parts of the book could be separate books in and of themselves, maybe as a two volume set.  There were some linkages between them and Bass does a good job of highlighting those links in the conclusion, but in the end it felt like two books on a similar theme melded into one book.

I really appreciated the beginning discussion of the primary question of "Where Is God?" as it kept popping up in the book.  I do agree with Bass that this is a key question as we move forward.

THe first portion on eco-theological issues is a good book. The second portion which pushes for a look on a social environmental level is also a good book. I just am not sure they work as a single volume.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Book 11 of 2018-- Indian Horse

I chose to read this book because my eldest is reading it for school and I thought I might be better able to push her on what it i about if I read it as well (English is not her strongest subject).  I am really glad I did.

I had gone to see the movie based on the novel earlier this year and found ti very powerful. As is usually the case (pretty much always the case in my opinion) the novel is far better than the movie.

From a literacy point of view this is a fairly easy read. The text is accessible. The style is easy to read (for those of us used to reading more formal writing especially). Wagamese paints pictures and draws the reader in to keep reading.

At the same time this is not an easy book to read. The story is about Saul Indian Horse, effectively left orphaned at age 8 and hauled off to a residential school We watch as Saul struggles his way through that experience and finds a way out through hockey--only to encounter the reality that is racism in Canada of the 1960's and 1970's. We also watch as Saul's life eventually falls apart into rage and alcohol. Indeed the book is written as Saul remembering his life as part of healing from his alcoholism. There are terrible stories told. Indeed I find it a brave choice for a high school class because it will call for skills beyond reading and interpreting -- certainly nothing we read in high school 30+ years ago pushed the emotion so strongly.

A few months ago I encouraged folks to see this movie. Now I have to encourage folk to read this book. (Later this year her class is reading Ready Player One. I may have to give it a go a well. Also they are reading Merchant of Venice. I wonder how my Shakespeare reading skills are after all these years...)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Book 10 of 2018 -- The Redemption of Scrooge

Earlier this year we were talking about plans for Advent worship in a worship committee meeting. I had found a list of Advent study resources that allowed the possibility of having a Study Group that would correspond with the worship services for those Sundays. We reviewed the list and thought that this one would be worth a try.

So of course I had to read it and make an assessment.

THere are, naturally, 4 sessions (to correspond with 4 Advent Sundays). Though the study would likely start in November to finish by mid December for scheduling purposes. The 4 sessions essentially correspond to the 4 ghosts: Bah humbug deals with Marley; The Remembrance of Christmas Past with the Ghost of same; The Life of Christmas Present; The Hope of Christmas Future which also looks at the closure of the story and how Scrooge is transformed and Redeemed.

It looks like it would make a good study. It gives a new way to look both at the Advent season of preparation and Christmas through the lens of a beloved Christmas story. There are times where the links to the Scrooge story are a bit more tangential than a focal point but on the whole it works. Not sure how it will translate into a worship series but the story of transformation is a clear part of the trory of Christmas.

I think it is worth a try. Only way to find if it works -- right?

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Book 9 of 2018 It's Good To Be Here

I learned about this book last spring when I saw an announcement about it being launched at this summer's meeting of General Council. Knowing David personally, and having read his writing in other places I immediately thought it would make a good piece for a discussion group. And so I started asking around to see if there was interest.

There was indeed interest so we are starting to read and discuss it this week. Which means I had to read it before the group started.

The book is a collection of short pieces wherein David tells his story(ies) about being a person living with cancer. It has poignant moments, it has humour, it has heartbreak. But it also has hope, it has spirit, it has reality.

It is a fairly quick easy read, and it is definitely worthwhile.