You might think my office was a very poorly organized library if you were to stop by my house right now. You’d be right about the sad state of my organizational skills. The festive piles of books surrounding me includes my textbooks for this quarter’s class at Northern Seminary and the crazy rotating cast of characters I’ve been borrowing by the pound (for this project) from actual libraries that keep their books on shelves organized by Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress numbering systems. I also have a Leaning Tower of books I’ve already read, and about which I need to decide if I’m going to keep them or pass them on. I also have books I keep handy for reference.
My husband’s office has boxes of books in them, never unpacked from our move here 2-1/2 years ago. We knew our housing would would be temporary-ish, so we left the books in their cardboard containers. If one of us needs one, we dig and rummage through the boxes, which are labeled with general categories. What I’ve learned from the results of those well-intentioned labeling and book sorting efforts is that I should not ever work in a library. (I’ve crossed accounting and brain surgery off my “possible careers” list, too.)
Those piles of books, along with my husband’s various piles of books in progress, which at present includes this book with an especially memorable title, don’t bother me so much. They’re like a really haphazard tool collection. We’re using those tools in one form or another. Even the ones in their cardboard warehouses.
I have one little pile of books haunting me right now, in the same way a bunch of brand-new tools still wrapped in their laceration-causing clamshell packaging might drive a carpenter nutty. I have books of all kinds waiting to be read – not for school, not for a current writing project, but because I’ve either purchased them or someone has sent them to me to possibly review. I am nonplussed by lots of things: people who get into the “10 items or less” line in the store with 13 things, including one that needs a price check; the mystery of the shuttered Sonic near my house with a sign telling me they’re rebranding; or people who take up two parking spaces in a crowded lot. Life is too short to lose valuable spleen juice on these things. But life feels as though it is too short of time right now to give these works of heart the attention they require. This is the kind of thing that causes a bit of low-level agita for me. They’re waiting in the pile, and I’m waiting a wee bit impatiently for time with each one.
Here’s a quick peek at some of what’s in this stack, and a note about why I am looking forward to reading each:
Amos Smith’s Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots has a foreward written by Leonard Sweet and an afterward written by Father Richard Rohr. I had an opportunity over Christmas break to begin the book, and really enjoyed what I read so far. He is endeavoring to reconnect the church in the west with the largely-unopened gifts given to us by the Alexandrian (Desert) Fathers and Mothers. We gain a fuller picture of both God and ourselves by engaging the ideas of faithful followers of Jesus who reside in time and places not immediately adjacent to our own.
Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels has one of the greatest religious book covers ever: The thumbnail pic at right does’t do it justice, but that the reason Mr. and Mrs. 1956 are huddled under the umbrella is because it’s raining frogs around them. My friend and fellow Her.meneutics contributor Jennifer Grant and her co-
conspirator editor, Cathleen Falsani, have pulled together a book of frank, funny, heartbreaking, joyous and provocative essays about the Bible. My skim after I purchased a copy made me want to sit in a chair on a sunny day and eavesdrop on the lively conversation going on in the pages of this book, while making sure I have an umbrella nearby, just in case.
I’ve cherished and been challenged by most everything Ruth Haley Barton has written, beginning with Invitation To Solitude and Silence, which I read more than a decade ago. Her writing about spiritual formation has focused in recent years on leadership and corporate dynamics. (Surprise! The classic spiritual disciplines are about forming us not just as individuals, but into Christ’s image as his body, living his kingdom on the earth he loves. She’ll be speaking at a conference at Trinity International University next month, and I’d love to hear her in person, though I’m not sure my schedule next month will allow it. (Check it out – and if you’re in the area, go if you can!) I received a review copy of her newest, Life Together In Christ: Experiencing Transformation In Community, and am chomping at the bit to dig into this volume. We are formed and transformed by the company we keep. I haven’t been as intentional with some of my friendships as could be, and sense this book will help recalibrate me.
With nothing more than the title to tantalize me, Erin Lane’s Lessons In Belonging From A Church-Going Commitment Phobe seems as though it would be another way to think about some of the same issues as Ruth Haley Barton’s book, above. After all we’ve been through when it comes to the local church, my husband and I now find ourselves with more questions than answers about what it is to belong with/to/in a congregation.
Age has given me some of the gifts Adele Calhoun and Tracey Bianchi discuss in True You: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Using Your Voice, but I’ve unwrapped them clumsily over time. I’ve probably missed a few others in the process. Because I have younger friends and a couple of women with whom I’m in a mentoring relationship, I’m looking forward to reading what True You has to say about this topic. I am certain the book will give me some wisdom to pass on to my younger friends who are still figuring out who they are, what they have to say, and how they can gain a hearing for their message. I’m imagining it may encourage me to do a little backtracking in order to figure out what I’m still missing in my own life in this department.
Forget the fantasy list you may be keeping at Goodreads. What are the books you have waiting for you at your bedside or next to your favorite chair?