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.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Book 8 of 2018 --Greening Your Church

In mid summer I went to NAINConnect 2018 in Edmonton. One of the workshops I attended at the event was looking at environmental issues. This was one of the books they had available as possible resources for faith communities to use in such discussions. Knowing that I was going to do a series of sermons in September to mark Creation Time I decided I would get the book.  ANd then I read in late August as part of my preparation for those sermons.

The book comes from a Roman Catholic source, which explains why there is a section in the first chapter about Creation-minded saints. But on the whole it speaks to the broader Christian community. It talks about the theological underpinnings of a Creation Care ministry and also includes some practical steps one can use for such a ministry.

It is a short little volume. It has some good ideas and some good understandings. Of course the real trick is translating the concepts into a sermon... which was a bit of a challenge at times.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Book 7 of 2018: Hearing Beyond the Words: How to Become a Listening Pastor

One day I was browsing through Facebook when one of my contacts recommended this book. Because Pastoral Care and visiting has always been an area of ministry with which I struggle and because I value the wisdom shared by the contact I decided I would give it a read.

The book uses hospitality as the way in to the topic of listening, which at first I thought was an interesting choice. However it worked very well.

I found that Justes addressed well what it means to listen "beyond the words". The book also captures the intimacy and vulnerability that this brings.

I read through, but did not do, the exercises at the end of each chapter. They really are set for a place where there are groups (or at least pairs) of people working through it together.  I see how it could be a very helpful tool in a classroom setting.

The book raises the question of what it means to really listen to the other. What might it force us to do? What might it cost us? And yet it is what we all really want. At the same time I think I am not alone in acknowledging that I do not always do it well.

I remember a person whose partner had died several months earlier comment that people kept asking how he were doing and yet never gave the impression that they really wanted an honest answer. To be in community means we need to look for the honest answer.  That may mean an interpretation of both the words and the other stuff beyond the words.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book 6 of 2018 -- Evil and the Justice of God

Several weeks ago I decided to do a series on Job. And so I went book shopping. When I saw this title I thought it seemed like a good match for some of the questions Job raises. I also knew it was written by someone on a different point of the theology spectrum, which was in fact a selling point.

In the end the sermon series spent (at least in plan) less time than I thought it would talking about God and justice. But the book was a good read. Wright and I are in different places theologically but at the same time I found myself in agreement with what he was saying far more than I had expected.

If it had not been for the series on Job I likely never would have read this book. That would have been a loss.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Book 5 of 2018 -- When Bad Things Happen to Good People

By my count, I first read this almost 30 years ago. And even then it was almost 10 years old.

I chose to re-read it this month because I am planning a series on Job in June/July and I remembered that Kushner uses the story of Job in this book. AS it happens the reflection of on Job was not quite as much of a focus as I remembered but there are still things I am sure will inform my sermons on the book.

But even if nothing from this book makes it into those sermons it was a good thing to re-read. Kushner pushes questions about God: omnipotence? just? good?. He pushes the reader to ask where God is when tragedy (natural, medical, or human-caused) strikes, which is a key question in any era. His discussion on prayer was very good.

At the same time some of the book shows its age. I do wonder what Kushner would say about it now. How have his thoughts changed over the last 40 years?

And now I want to read JB by Archibald Macleish. If I can find it that is.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Tough Movie

Yesterday afternoon a group of us went to see Indian Horse.

This is a movie that pushes the viewer to face the reality that was and is the Indian Residential School system. And pushes us to remember it is not ancient history. As one person said afterward "this was in my lifetime" -- it starts in 1959 and we push through 30 years of Saul's life.

The movie is the story of a small boy, Sau l Indian Horse. And to be honest his is really the only character in the movie that is very well developed. The others are developed only so much as they interact with Saul, though since the movie is told as Saul sharing his memories of his story that does make a deal of sense.

This is a tough movie to watch. It is disturbing to know that such violence and racism are a part of our identity as Canadians. It is one thing to know it happened, it is a whole other level of disturbing to see it enacted. But for that same reason it is a very important movie to see. Over the last decade Canada has officially been taking part in a truth and reconciliation process. But I have a strong hunch that settler-stock Canadians have yet to fully understand the truth (but want to rush to the reconciliation). If we are going to be serious about reconciliation we have to honestly name and recognize the truth of our past and our present [because racism is still a big factor in Canada].

Violent beatings, degrading treatment, inhumane conditions, belittling language. These run through the movie, these run through Saul's life. There are deaths, there is alcoholism, there is the glimmer of one teacher who seems to be a "good guy" and yet he also is part of the problem...

In fact it is hard to say there is much hope in this movie.  There is a lot of reason for despair. There is a lot of reason to think reconciliation is impossible. But hope? That is hard to find.

Where is the hope for reconciliation in Canada? IT lies beyond the pain.  I see on the film website that they are open to community screenings. I am going to suggest that the church host such a screening with a time for debrief and discussion afterward.  The piece I was pondering  was what age. Would it be appropriate for the church youth group? I think so but it would have to be carefully planned and plenty of attention paid to how the post-viewing discussion would be handled.

I think this is an important movie. I also think many people will find it too hard to watch.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Book 4 of 2018 Becoming Fully Human: The Greatest Glory of God

How can one ignore a book with a title like this?

Each topic/chapter in this volume is a series of reflections.  Each one starts with a few screens of text to introduce the topic at hand and then a series of one paragraph reflections. The reflections themselves appear to be drawn from a variety of sources, but the original source is often not given. That is my biggest frustration about the book, that Chittister does not name the sources enough..

For each topic there were multiple paragraphs that I found myself highlighting. For each topic there were multiple paragraphs I found myself saying "Hmm, not sure...". I think that is a good mix. It would be boring to read something with which one totally agreed and really frustrating to read something with which one totally disagreed.

I see this as a good addition to a church library as almost anyone could sit down and read all or part of it and be engaged

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book 3 of 2018 We Make the Road by Walking

A bit of an impulse purchase this time. Browsing through the lists and thought it looked interesting.

This book is set up as a support for small faith communities. I could see it being used in that setting, or as a small group ministry. Though I do wonder if a whole year of McLaren might be a little limiting for a faith community. After all even a congregation with resident clergy does not get a whole year of that clergy, what with vacation time and study leave and duties to the wider church (assuming the clergy in question makes use of those things).

I like the approach that McLaren takes in here. I would appreciate a chance to engage the discussion questions with a group.  I would not take a whole year to do the book, maybe do a quarter at a time.  At the same time reading this book has impacted my sermons over this winter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book 2 of 2018 -- The Lifesaving Church

One of the most challenging issues for a faith community to address is suicide. A few years back I was at a community meeting to discuss an uptick in suicidal ideation and behaviour in town and one of the local clergy said that he never knew how to prepare a sermon for someone who had died by suicide (because he said he did not know "where they were", had they died in good relation with God) [at the same meeting a supposed youth pastor in town said he did not understand why these kids were suicidal because they had no idea what actual suffering was, the ministry people at that meeting were somewhat less helpful than everybody else in the room].

How do we bring things like grace and mercy and forgiveness and love into a suicide situation?

This book by Rachael Keefe does just that. And does it really well. A large part of the power of the book is that it is memoir. Keefe is able to speak from her own experience after much self- and theological reflection on that experience.

AS a piece of writing the book is a light read. The whole volume is 102 pages, including 6 Appendices of resources for the church (clergy and layfolk) to consider in ministering to those who are struggling with issues around suicide and those who are on an arc that may take them to the brink of suicidal choices. The text is approachable and the memoir aspect makes it narrative, which draws the reader in.

At the same time there were times I found the book very challenging to read. At an emotional level that is.  If one is going to take seriously the challenges to the Body of Christ that Keefe raises up in these chapters (each of which is titled "The Body of Christ  ________"), if one is going to allow oneself to sit in and with her story, one is going to be struck to the heart.  More than once I had to take a break before moving to the next chapter, or the next section of a chapter, to stop and process what the story and reflection were bringing up within myself.

I almost didn't right this whole review. My first response as a review of this was to simply say "Read this book! Make sure there is a copy in the library of your church. Make sure there is a copy at the local Suicide Prevention office so they can lend it to church-folk. Read it as a group of care-ers and ask how ready we are to admit that the Body of Christ is all these things" Those sentences still stand. This is a very good book on a topic most of us do not want to talk about.

 DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book with the promise to post a review of it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Book 1 of 2018 -- Wildlands of the West

This looks terrible, beginning of March and I have only finished one book.  To be fair a good part of my time from January 10 to February 9 was spent reviewing material to prepare for the meeting that created this report. Well that and I have made great strides in Candy Crush....

At any rate this was a Christmas gift. It is a National Geographic product and so it has some wonderful photos in it.  I know not everyone likes National Geographic's editorial approach but it can not be denied that they get great photos (I am sure there are dozens that don't get chosen for each one that is).

I had heard of the Bureau of Land Management but did not really know what is responsibilities were. I would not say that I have a full understanding of the their work but this did give a picture. I also found that Allen gave a good stab at trying to lay out the difficult line between conservation and utilization (though it is apparent that historically the balance has been to preference utilization over conservation). Given the current occupant of the White House it would be interesting to learn what the priorities of BLM have become now, given that there had been more of a move towards conservation over the last few decades.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Book 10 of 2017 -- Preacher

Last fall I got an e-mail from a professor at my seminary asking if I would be willing to review a book for the journal Touchstone.  I agreed and so was sent a copy of this book.

Until it arrived I had, in fact, never heard of David Read and so had no expectation about what I would find in his sermons. I was pleasantly surprised.

The book does include a brief biographical sketch to introduce the reader to Read and then proceeds with the sermons.  These are divided into church seasons, leading the reader through the year from the Season of Creation through to Pentecost.

I found Read's sermons to be both timely for the era where they were first preached but also timeless in that often they also speak to the current situation. I may not follow to the same place as Read does theologically but found engaging with his texts a healthy exercise.

They say that one of the best ways to grow as a preacher is to be exposed to preaching.  Which is a challenge for many of us, what with being relatively busy on a Sunday morning.  Books like this can heelp to meet that need.

Now I just need to find the formatting information I was sent and write the actual review....