So what does that have to do with us at First? Well, in my opinion, it will be the church, the followers of Jesus that will turn this ship we call society as we seek ways to be kind and to care for one another. A great way to do that is to seek out the great thinkers of our time, to seek ways to expand our own learning and understanding of the world around us, so that we may better serve the world. To that end, I have set for myself an ambitious reading list for the summer months, comprised of books that have been on my “to be read” list for at least a year. I am inviting you to read along with me and then join me in a discussion of the book of the month on the last Saturday of the month at my home. Perhaps we will learn something new about ourselves or our world, perhaps we will grow in our understanding of each other or at the very least, we will enjoy a morning in the sunshine talking about an interesting topic. I hope you consider joining me for one of these reads.
Books I am reading this summer:
I have been doing some deep thinking of late. I really don’t understand the world, don’t recognize the world, much anymore. I find myself asking questions like: when did we lose dignity and kindness as guiding principles, when did it become the thing to do to shame people because apparently they don’t care enough about all things and when did we stop talking to people who disagree with us like they aren’t people too? I really don’t like the world I am currently living in where it is okay to call people names and belittle them because they think differently or look different or love differently. I really don’t like the world I am currently living in where our leaders cling so tenaciously to their political party and the power they have to the detriment of our citizens. I really don’t like the world I am currently living in where the individual is placed before the collective. So I have been doing some deep thinking of late to try and figure out what has contributed to a more polarized and lonely society. It has been quite the journey. A journey that began quite a while ago, to be honest. I have seen how getting out of my own box or lane, has helped me grow into who I am today. I fully expect that in 10 years I will not be the same I am today, having continued to grow in my understanding in the world and myself. It is the way of us humans, isn’t it? To continue to learn and expand our thinking as we encounter the world.
In fact, the only way this world is going to change is if we as individuals have the courage to change and allow ourselves to be challenged to grow in our thinking instead of clinging to our ideological bunkers out of fear. I think first century Jerusalem wasn’t much different than 21st century America and it took Jesus to shake things up and get people to look outside of themselves and change the world. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen and in the centuries since Jesus we have had to go through several shake ups as we resist the temptation to “turn in on ourselves” as Luther described.
June: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo
Why read a book on loneliness? Well, we are facing a crisis in our ultra-connected world and the symptoms of that crisis are things like the opioid epidemic, the increased suicide rate and the rise of gun violence. John Cacioppo and William Patrick has written a book about life, loneliness and the power of social connection which I believe is vitally important to the work of the followers of Jesus, the church and our society that has the power to treat the root causes of all these symptoms.
July: The New Cosmic Story: Inside our Awakening Universe by John Haught
Last year I had the privilege of hearing John Haught speak, and I was captivated by his thinking about our universe and our God. If you are a person who is curious about how science and faith can live together or if you are someone who likes to imagine our big, beautiful universe, I am fairly certain you will enjoy this book. I have found that remembering that I am a part of something bigger than myself helps me connect with people and to reclaim my sense of wonder.
August: More Than a Rock: Essays On Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature and Life by Guy Tal
While I was on sabbatical, I participated in a photography workshop that was co-led by Guy Tal. I found Guy to be a deeply thoughtful and creative human being with an amazing story to tell. His book is sure to inspire and provide food for thought about life and faith and creativity.