Every once in awhile, I like to share with you some of the books I’m reading. I love to spend time with a good book, and I’m always on the lookout for my next read. In the past few months I’ve read a couple of books that are worth recommending. So here’s a sampling from “The Pastor’s Bookshelf.”
The Overload Syndrome by Richard Swenson, M.D. – The subtitle of this book says it all: “Learning to live within your limits.” The book’s cover shows a stack of coffee cups leaning precariously to one side. Has your life ever felt like that? If you’re like me, you just thought, “Yeah, every day!” Swenson, a medical doctor, looks at the issue of stress from a spiritual perspective, offering some simple techniques to help the reader stop, rest, and heal. Swenson helps the reader see how the continual fast-paced progress of our society contributes to our overwhelming feeling of being overloaded.
His chapter on accessibility is especially insightful. He talks about how cell phones, email, and answering machines have made it impossible for us to get away from people who want to contact us. The concept of solitude has disappeared, and our own self-importance has been inflated by the many different ways we can “be needed” by other people. Swenson addresses several topics like this – some of the others are change, commitment, fatigue, debt – and then offers his own prescriptions for how to deal with them. The end result is a life characterized by peace, harmony, and meaningfulness.
Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger – Geiger and Rainer conducted an extensive study of successful churches to find out what they were doing to thrive and grow. The answer was simple. No, really, the answer was the churches were simple in their approach to helping people grow in their faith. These churches didn’t have dozens of different programs; they had a limited number of programs centered on a single purpose. Everything the church did served the purpose.
Imagine a boat full of rowers all working at different speeds and aiming in different directions. The boat wouldn’t get far, would it? This is what many churches are like in how they program and do ministry. Rainer and Geiger paint a picture of a church full of people rowing at the same speed and the same direction, following the four guiding principles of clarity, movement, alignment, and focus.
The challenge of being a simple church is being willing to say “no” to the ideas that don’t fit into the simple purpose. The authors talk about several churches that ended very popular, very successful programs because they didn’t fit into their goal. Rainer and Geiger offer a challenge to this church and every church: simplify.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck – I am almost ashamed to admit I’ve never read a John Steinbeck novel until this one. I was supposed to read a few of them in high school, but I figured that’s what Cliff’s Notes were for. So I finally took up the 600-page “East of Eden,” and found it to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. Having just spent a lot of time in Genesis during Bible Study last year, the stories and characters were still fresh in my mind, and I was amazed at how Steinbeck was able to weave the biblical story of Genesis into his epic tale of the Trask and Hamilton families. It’s hard to put into words just how much I liked this book, and easy it is to get caught up in Steinbeck’s storytelling. His evocative writing style is compelling, and ending of the book is simply beautiful.
Have you read a book recently that you really liked? I’d love to hear about it!