Quite a productive time reading whilst we were away in sun-drenched France. I’ve discovered that the key to holiday reading is twofold. One, choose thin books with large print; it gives a sense of progression that’s so encouraging. And two, ignore the family; it creates space in the schedule!
The key reads were
1. The Times; it’s reading so it counts! And it was about as expensive as a novel. About £3.50 every day. Athers is never to be missed. But especially during an Ashes series.
2. Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes, which is essentially a book about how to feel good about yourself if you’re running a church that isn’t growing! That’s not entirely fair. It’s a book that redefines success in terms of faithfulness, not fruitfulness. It reminds us that the Lord gives the growth and we’re doing what He requires of us if we’re toiling away in godly, sacrificial service. The chapters on encouragements were especially stimulating. And you can expect some of the CCB staff to be hearing the best bits at our start of term gathering!
2. Mirror, Mirror by my good friend Graham Beynon, which is essentially a book about how to think about yourself. Can you see a pattern beginning to emerge? I’ve heard Graham on this issue before and I’ve skimmed bits and pieces. But this was a chance to grapple with the issue and think about what needs to change. If I’ve understood him correctly he’s saying that our self image needs to be found in the mirror of God’s word and not in the countless other mirrors that we look to for an idea of who we are and how we’re doing.The strength of the book is the clarity with which Graham describes concepts and his determination to apply them practically. I hated the endless quotes from others. But that’s just me!
3. The C.J. Mahaney edited compilation entitled Worldliness was, however, my pick of the reads. It’s short, which is always a bonus. But it was a brilliant little read. It helps us to safely navigate between the twin dangers of separation from the world and accommodation to the world. It deals with clothes, music, leisure, the heart and media. It’s hugely practical and I’m thinking that this needs to be a book of the term.
4. The first novel I read was an undemanding read by Nick Hornby called Slam. I think I got it free with the Times a while ago and never ventured further than the back page. It got some great reviews. But I’m still not sure how you can describe a book about teenage pregnancy as ‘very funny’. Which is how the Daily Telegraph described it. It’s written from the perspective of and with the style and vocabulary of an eighteen year old, which takes some getting used to. Apparently Hornby wrote it for teenagers, which would make sense. It’s a moral tale on how a momentary mistake can unalterably transform the lives of at least three key people; the teenage mother, the teenage father and the baby. The baby in this tale is called Rufus; cool name!
5. Tony Parsons’ Stories We Could Tell is a tale of three young men growing up on the night that Elvis died. But it’s probably more than that. Parsons was a writer at the NME in the late 70s and much that happens in this tale reflects his own experience. It’s a little bitter. At the heart of the novel is Terry’s relationship with Misty, perhaps mirroring Parsons’ own relationship with a young journalist, Julie Birchall. It’s a relationship you long to see develop. But through it’s twsts and turns, Terry ends up feeling like he’s been sold a fake and reluctantly has to settle for a pale imitation of the woman he thought he was getting. Ouch!
6. I’ve nearly finished C.J. Mahaney’s Sex, Romance and the Glory of God and it’s terrific. It’s a must read for all husbands. Most husbands won’t come away feeling good about themselves. But if they read it they might just save their marriages!
7. Our Father is a must read for anyone on the Co-Mission staff because it’s been written by our Senior Pastor, Richard Coekin and because it gives you the bragging rites at the Staff Away Day in a weeks’ time. It’s brilliant, but don’t let Richard know I said that. I’m enjoying flat batting his enquiries about whether I’ve read it or not! In it Richard analyses each of the phrases in the Lord’s Prayer, explains them, applies them and helps us see how we could pray them. The key indicator of how good a book this is and, perhaps more accurately, how obedient a disciple I am will be shown by whether I’m still praying the Lord’s Prayer long after this has gone back on the bookshelf and gathers dust.