Most months I just make myself choose a book to review, which leaves out many of the things I read (or hear about) that I want to recommend.

 

This month, I must, must, must recommend three books to you. If you don’t need these books in your life, someone you know does. I promise.

 

City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles- This is the same author of Take This Bread and Jesus Freak. Her signature reflective, unorthodox theology is revealed in this slim book wherein she reflects on her interactions with neighbors in the Mission District of San Francisco. The blurb for this book makes it sound like the majority of the book will be about distributing ashes in public areas on Ash Wednesday 2012. It isn’t.

 

The details of that day are, maybe, 1/10th of the book. Instead, the majority of the writing is Miles’ reflections on her own interactions, expectations, and experiences with her neighbors. At first I was frustrated by this. I just wanted to read about ashes! Then I paused and reflected on my own expectations of my author-neighbor.

 

Ash Wednesday is about how the extraordinary mixed with the ordinary- the death of our hopes and the newness that arises from them, not by our own power. This book is Ash Wednesday– breathing the messy, frustrating, not-yet-ness of our life in God, inside and outside of the church walls.

 

Great quote: In his parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes God’s great commandment unequivocal: love God; love your neighbor. But like the lawyer who challenges him, I often wished to weasel out of responsibility, hoping to calibrate who, precisely, was my neighbor; how much, exactly, I was required to love people. I didn’t always love my neighbor the drunken gardener, or my neighbor the rich gentrifier, or my unknown neighbor in the yellow house. And I really dreaded the parable’s implication that I could be saved by what they had to give.  (94)

 

 

Conclusion: Yes, you have time to read this before Ash Wednesday. Do it.

 

 

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown: I am coming late to this book, which was published in May 2012. However, the perfect storm of hearing about Brown (who was not on my radar), reading quotes from her, and recommendations from friends meant that I decided to use a free audiobook coupon for this book. I’m so glad I did.

 

Not everyone loves this genre. I suppose it’s “self-help”, but I don’t care for that term. Let’s say, “self-health”. I appreciate the way Brown hits at what keeps us from “whole-hearted living”. The reality is that we can’t lean into God’s desires for us, if we are not willing to acknowledge the things that try to keep us from those desires.

 

This book hits me right where I am right now and I suspect it would for others. Brown, a “shame researcher”, explains the way perfectionism, shame, fear, and vulnerability get in the way of our relationship with our own self, with others we love, with our communities, and with God. Even if this is not the kind of book you think you would enjoy, I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy, peruse it, and keep in your office. Between now and Pentecost, I promise you will meet someone to whom God will speak through Brown’s words.

 

Great Quote: To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards. It means learning to forget myself on a regular basis in order to attend to the other selves in my vicinity. It means living so that “I’m only human” does not become an excuse for anything. It means receiving the human condition as blessing and not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality.

 

Conclusion: You need this book- for yourself or someone else.

 

 

The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential:  by N. T. Wright- This is a very small book given the author’s writing proclivity. It feels finished, but there is a distinct air around it as though it is not exactly what Wright wanted to publish. At the very end of the book, there is a glimpse into what the Psalms have meant to him personally. It’s a touching section, but it feels held back. I’m not sure that N. T. Wright is the kind of person to pen a spiritual memoir. This section may be a close as he’ll get any time soon. That’s too bad, really, because he obviously loves the psalms.

 

The book takes a look at the psalms as the intersection of God’s time and ours, God’s place and ours, God’s desires and ours. The book is a little formal and the language is exclusive, not to be unexpected given the author. Yet, Wright does move through the book explaining how life was found there and life can be found there.

 

Wright is careful to note that the psalms were a prayer book, first, for Jews and would have certainly been meaningful to Jesus in that context. Any Christian interpretation of the Psalms, as they might point to Christ, is not incorrect, but is late to the book.

 

Wright obviously cares deeply about the Psalms and their use. His prose is almost Pauline in how he seems desperate to convey his point to the reader. This might frustrate a reader who doesn’t love Wright, but this book slows one down to ponder the truth in the psalms and their use and misuse. This book would make an excellent book study- especially for an older group, a lunch time meeting, or as part of a retreat weekend.

 

Great Quote: When humans take up their divinely appointed role, looking after God’s world on his behalf, this is not a Promethean attempt to usurp God’s role. It is the humble, obedient carrying out of the role that has been assigned. The real arrogance would be to refuse the vocation, imagining that we know better than God the purpose for which we have been put here.

 

Conclusion: Useful, interesting, different perspective

3 thoughts on “RevGalBookPals: A Three-fer!

  1. Thanks Julia. Do you have a page reference for the Brene’ Brown quote? I do not have that book but I think I may use that quote in my sermon on Sunday. Thanks

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    1. I’m sorry, Elaine, I don’t have a page number (the downside of the audiobook). I think there are lots of RevGals who have this book. If a Google search doesn’t work, I’d throw it out on the FB page.

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