A Gift for Preachers: Reading For Preaching

This morning I read Reading For Preaching: The preacher in conversation with storytellers, biographers, poets, and journalists by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. I ordered the book this summer after it was highly recommended to me and was finally able enjoy it this morning because of some unexpected free time.

It is one of the best books on preaching that I have read (I believe I’ve read quite a bit of them, too) and was able to simultaneously: teach me, challenge me, inspire me, and cause me to worship. I already know that my preaching, and those who find themselves (unfortunately or fortunately) listening to it, will be blessed because of the insights and suggestions Plantinga provides in this book.

This isn’t an official book review…. the publisher didn’t send me a copy…. no one asked my opinion… and perhaps no one cares… but I highly recommend it.

If you are a pastor, get yourself a copy.
If you know a pastor, please gift him or her with this gem of a book.

Quote of the Day: The Brain Rules

“Most of us have no idea how our brain works. This has strange consequences. We try to talk on our cell phones and drive at the same time, even though it is literally impossible for our brains to multitask when it comes to paying attention. We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive. Our schools are designed so that most real learning occurs at home. This would be funny if it weren’t so harmful.”

John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (p.2)

I have been thinking a lot about how I can improve my thinking, learning, and doing, with the hopes of improving my academic, professional, and creative endeavors. I’ve only read about 20 pages of Brain Rules but so far I’d highly recommend it. Not only is it full of helpful information on how to improve our thinking and doing, it’s an incredibly interesting read. You can also check out the 12 Brain Rules here.

Cataclysmic’s Favorite Books of 2013

Here are some of our top reads from 2013:

Chad Chambers (@ChambersChad)

Favorite Book – T.F. Torrance, Incarnation – not just my favorite book of this year but my favorite book in many years. Hope to read Atonement soon.

Favorite New Book – E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes

Better the Second Time – Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, The Spirit of Adoption

For the Fun of It – Stephen King, Doctor Sleep

Jessica Parks (@mrsjessparks)

Favorite Book – Michael J. Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross

Favorite New Book – T. Michael Law, When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible

Favorite Patristic Writing – Melito of Sardis, On Pascha

Favorite OT Book – Ellen F. Davis, Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament

Mike Skinner (@mike_skinner)

Favorite Book – William C. Placher, Narratives of a Vulnerable God: Christ, Theology, and Scripture

Favorite Theological Book – Jeff McSwain, Movements of Grace: The Dynamic Christo-Realism of Barth, Bonhoeffer, and the Torrances

Favorite “Sermon-Fodder” Book – Lee C. Camp, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World

Favorite Patristic Writing – Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ

Michelle Mikeska (@M_Mikeska)

Favorite Book – Ed. Dallas Lee, The Substance of Faith and other Cotton Patch Sermons by Clarence Jordan

Favorite Book on Revelation – Michael J. Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into New Creation

Favorite Book on Pedagogy – Ed. David S. Cunningham, To Teach, To Delight, and To Move: Theological Education in a Post-Christian World (Seeks to use rhetoric as a meaningful way to teach theology in a postmodern context)

Favorite NT Intro Book – Ben Witherington III, Invitation to the New Testament: First Things

What were your favorite reads of 2013?


Winter Reading Plan – No New Books!

I love to read…and my great weakness is new books. I am constantly acquiring books for my already tall “to read” tower. Yet, maybe ironically, I find that this pile is one of the greatest hindrances when it comes to enjoying what I am reading.

My expectation of the next book eclipses my attentiveness to the book I am holding in my hand. Especially as I get towards the end of the book, probably the place I should be paying the most attention, my mind starts to move on to what I will read next.  Now, if this only happened with bad books I would not consider it a problem, but it happens with most of the books I read. I realize one way to solve this problem would be to stop buying books, but I am not ready for this draconian of a step (although I am pretty sure my wife is!). My solution, however, has been to install a winter reading plan.

For the last few years, I have not allowed myself to read a new book for all of December and January. Instead, in December and January I re-read my favorite books from the past few years. December is set aside to re-read my favorite non-academic (non-PhD research) books from the past few years. In December, I re-read my favorite two books from this year, my favorite two books from the previous year and one classic text. Also, in December ,I re-read the four gospels as a lead up to Christmas. Since in my research I work in Paul’s letters, it serves as a nice break and also a reminder there is this person named Jesus and he actually did a few things before the cross and resurrection! January is set aside to re-read my favorite (or the most important) books from my research. In January, depending on their length and complexity, I will re-read 4-5 books that have most shaped my research. This usually includes titles from this year and from past years. Also, I will read Galatians, the primary focus of my research, in Greek plus one English translation each week.

I have found that this little method allows me to really enjoy these books and also has carry over effects for my reading throughout the year. December and January have also become a very fruitful time for my own research. December, with no real inflow of academic works, has become a time for my thoughts to crystallize helping me to formulate a mental sketch of my research for the coming year. January has been a time for me to remember the reasons I started this research in the first place and to regain my bearings.

Here are my selections for this December and January:

December –

  1. from this year: Quiet by Susan Cain, The Pastor by Eugene Peterson
  2. from last year: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, beautiful boy by David Sheff
  3. classic: On Christian Doctrine by Augustine

January –

  1. Recovering Paul’s Mother Tongue by Susan Eastman
  2. Because You Bear His Name by Bonnie Howe
  3. The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle by Albert Schweitzer
  4. Paul by William Wrede
  5. The Way We Think by Giles Fauconnier and Mark Turner

There it is, but for now back to the pile…I still have five days to hurry through a few more books!