Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Book 7 of 2024 -- Where the Light Fell

 Many years ago Philip Yancey's book What's So Amazing About Grace? was suggested to me and I read it. The book made a big impression on me so when I saw this memoir by Yancey while browsing one day I thought I would give it a try. Besides I always enjoy memoirs as reading material in general.

Yancey talks about his strict, one would even say rigid, fundamentalist upbringing and how both he and his brother had their rebelliousness against that rigidity. How such an grace-less legalistic upbringing (as he describes it) led eventually to a faith based so heavily on God's grace is somewhat amazing. In some ways his brother's form of rebellion and reaction seem much more expected.

As time goes on we see Yancey finding a new path back to faith and grace and hope. We hear how he tries to bridge a massive gap between his mother and his brother. We see him trying to reconcile with the life he had and the life he ends up with.

IT is a good read, it makes you feel and think. And there is a good story told along the way.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Book 6 of 2024 Indians on Vacation

 An impulse buy really, though I do like Thomas King's writing. However this is the first of his fictional works that I have read.

A couple in Prague, seeking a long lost family member and having an interesting visit makes up the base story. Mixed in with the story of their vacation are snippets and episodes from their past. 

A nice light read. Good for a break.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Book 5 of 2024 My Mother's Legacy

 This short little volume was a Clergy Appreciation Month gift from the congregation. The subject of the book, Angie Mercredi-Crerar is well known here in Grande Prairie. She was one of the Metis representatives who visited His Holiness Pope Francis as a part of encouraging the Roman Catholic Church to live in the the truth and reconciliation process.

The book is very engaging. It draws one in and is one of those "hard to put down" books. I just wish it was longer so we could learn more of Mercredi-Crerar's life story.

A very good read.

Book 4 of 2024 -- Disruptive Thinking

 Late last summer I was standing in an actual bookstore holding real live books in my hands looking for ideas of what looked interesting. This was one of the ones the caught my attention (and then I went home and bought the e-book versions instead). The idea of the need to more of us to embrace being intentionally disruptive intrigued me. I really do think that when it comes to the church, to socio-economics, to environmental policy we have to be disrupted or we will really keep trying the same solutions as before while hoping for different results.

To be honest I found the book a bit disappointing. Maybe I had forgotten what had intrigued me looking at the cover back in the summer but reading the actual book several months later left kind of blah. There were some helpful ideas and ways of seeing things but I was not filled with excitement and feelings of "YEAH!" as I was reading.

I still think there is a real need for disruptive thinking and action in the world. I am just not sure this book will help me (and I am not a natural disruptor by any means) get to that point.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Book 3 of 2024 -- When Church Stops Working

 In a clergy discussion last month one of my colleagues mentioned that she had just read this book and recommended it as a good read. While the Zoom meeting was still going on I had purchased it.

IT was a good recommendation. In a world where many of our churches are struggling with decline and trying to figure out a way forward this book offers a different answer. Too often the answer we jump to is "maybe if we tried..." or "this new program will...." or "if we worked harder at...". Instead this book suggests we pause and wait and listen so we can encounter the God who is acting in the world.

It is hard advice in a world where we feel like we have to do something to stave off decline and death. Then again, the way we have been responding have not really worked out the way we hoped so maybe trying a different tack has some merit.

There were suggestions in this book that resonated with things I already thought needed to happen, things I was trying to bring in. I do still struggle with how to convince churches who want to  "do" to get out of decline to pause to "be" and wait and listen. In some ways it goes against all common sense. In many ways it is the reverse of what seems needed, sometimes doing somethings out of our anxiety is the only way we can cope. Then I am drawn to the example the authors use of the Acts 1 church who are told to wait for God to act but end up trying to act themselves while they wait -- only for God to go God's own way as the book continues.

As with most books on this topic it is useless if only the clergy reads it. I encourage all church leaders, clergy and lay, to read and discuss it. With that in mind, I will be suggesting it to our local council.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Book 2 of 2024 --The Dead Sociologists Society

 On Christmas Morning as I was emptying my stocking I found this little volume.

IT is an interesting concept. A bunch of dead sociologists have a meeting, one might even call it a seminar, to present papers about the events most live people would consider the fictional account of Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Because after all the events were real and the story had been fed to JK Rowling by the Ministry of Magic as part of a grand cover-up. Only the ghosts know the real truth.

What results is a unique way of presenting different sociological theories and showing how they might be applied. I like the tool. I greatly enjoyed the reading and pondering if I agreed with the interpretations being presented. 

This is a great way of introducing theory and showing how the theory can be used to analyse a culture. I think I would greatly like to take an introductory Sociology course from the author.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Book 1 of 2024 -- The Undertaking of Billy Buffone

 Love, death, secrets, scandal, a ghostly narrator.  Makes for an interesting book. 

This one I bought simply because I knew the author. Besides a novel to read over the break of the year seemed a nice idea.

It is a story that takes place both in the mid 1970's and in the mid 1990's. On one side we have a scandalous troubling story. On the other we have the story of a blossoming romance, and a family deep in fresh grief, a minister in her first year of ministry, and an odd small-town undertaker. Then there is a surprising twist....

But in the end there is healing, or at least that seems to be where we are headed.

A very good read indeed. Touches the heart. Leads one to consider the power of buried secrets. 

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Book 7 of 2023 -- Value(s): Building a Better World for All


One day in late summer I was standing in a bookstore and started leafing through this one. I liked the premise so went home and ordered it. I was drawn to the idea that we need a discussion about how to build value while being intentional about the values that underpin our decisions.

To be honest it was a hard slog at times. I have taken exactly no economics courses and so there were a few places in the book where I was getting a bit lost in the economics of what Carney was saying. This was especially notable when he was discussing the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis.

After an introductory section of the book providing some historical economic background Carney uses three case studies of global events that both challenged (or are challenging/will continue to challenge) economics and our values as a culture. These were: a) the 2008 financial crash, b) the COVID-19 pandemic, and c) the climate crisis. I think he did a good job of laying out the realities and challenges of both. I also think that in the latter two his analysis does not actually reflect the culture where I live.

Overall in both his discussion of COVID and of the Climate Crisis I found Carney to be a bit overly positive. While his description of the initial response to the pandemic was accurate I think he missed the fact that the initial outpouring of community and "we are all in this together" faded well before the pandemic was over -- and that fading had a definite impact on how the pandemic played out, while also making a strong statement about societal values. In terms of the Climate Crisis I live in a province where 30 years ago the Premier insisted that reducing per-barrel CO2 emissions was enough and that Alberta would not try to reduce actual total emissions -- a logic largely followed by our current government insisting that Carbon Capture and Storage will solve everything and actually reducing use of fossil fuels is not needed.

In the end I found this to be a good book. The length of time it took me to read did make it challenging to recall exactly what had been said in earlier chapters so it is a book I wonder would have been better in hard copy so I could more easily flip back and compare. The other thing I would have found helpful was a list of acronyms. Carney is very good about spelling out an acronym the first time it is used but several hundred pages later it can be difficult to remember what those letters meant.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Book 6 of 2023 -- Pure Colour

 At the beginning of the summer I heard a radio interview with the author of this book. I was intrigued by the concept that the world as we know it is God's first draft and is being assessed to see what would be changed in the next draft. So I bought it for summer reading.

Frankly, I was disappointed. While the book is a novel it does not have a really clear narrative structure. It often seemed more like a stream  of consciousness exploration of some intriguing philosophical questions than a narrative. I prefer a novel to be a narrative piece.

That being said, the philosophical questions raised about the nature of life and the nature of grieving and the nature of relationships were certainly intriguing. IT was worth reading for that piece, it just wasn't what I was expecting or the sort of book I was looking for at the time.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Book 5 of 2023 -- Leisure Resurrected

What does leisure mean to you? How do you use your leisure time? Social Media? Reading? Watching TV? What is the role of leisure in our world today?

I found out about this book while cruising through Facebook one day. It is written by a colleague of mine in Ontario.

Crittenden seeks to explore questions like the ones I listed above. He does so by looking at the roots of our traditions: Greek and Roman understandings, Jewish Sabbath, early Christian understandings. Then he muses about what these might mean for us today.

I appreciated that Crittenden took us deeper into what leisure could mean. I think that for many of us it is more of an entertainment category, or "wasted time" or even moving into the modern equivalent of "bread and circuses" rather than something intentionally life-enhancing. I found it challenging to re-think what leisure could mean. I wonder also how we can push the discussion into our wider circles.