Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What I'm Reading Right Now

Usually, I'm reading four books at any given time. I enjoy doing that because, for one reason, it keeps my mind fresh and for another, the interplay of ideas from different books from different disciplines incites the creative juices while fostering a sensitivity to connections I might not otherwise see. But it's been awhile since I talked about what books I was reading. So, here's my current list ...
  • I'm slowly making my way through James C. Davis' The Human Story: Our History from the Stone Age to Today. Davis taught history for thirty-four years at the University of Pennsylvania. His focus during those years was on European history, especially on the city of Venice and the lives of ordinary Europeans. But it's clear that Davis also spent some time teaching survey courses, covering the gamut of human history.
This excellent book--accessible, informative, fast-paced--is the result. I've already cited several things from Davis here and here. When I bought The Human Story, I expected little. But my low expectations were unwarranted. It's fantastic!
  • H.W. Brands' Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times is the book I'm currently reading aloud to my wife on our driving trips. (She's the one behind the wheel, by the way.) I have to confess that I'm not an Andrew Jackson fan. But, true to the promise of the subtitle, Brands paints an interesting and vivid picture of both Jackson and the early American frontier from which he sprang. The United States was a blank vista that white men of ambition were able to conquer and nobody was a more assiduous conqueror--military or political--than Andrew Jackson. I still don't like him, but Brands is a fine writer who informs his reader as he entertains.
  • Most weeks, I spend a few hours studying in the library of a local Roman Catholic seminary. Their reference books help me to prepare my sermons and other writing. The library is on summer hours now, open only in the afternoons. Last week, I arrived a bit early and sauntered down to a room that houses books that have been donated to the seminary, but which the library can't use. There, I found a book I cited in my message last Sunday: Three Priorities for a Strong Local Church.
Written by the fine evangelical pastor, Roy Ortlund, the book delineates three deceptively simple priorities around which Christian congregations (and individual Christians) should build their lives: loving Christ; loving Christ's people in the Church; and loving the world. These three principles are rooted in Scripture and Ortlund does a good job of flushing out how churches, leaders, and individuals live out those priroties.

Joseph F. Girzone, forced more than twenty years ago to retire as an active priest for health reasons, has nonetheless become a best-selling author and speaker. Girzone is most famous for his novel, Joshua, later turned into a film starring F. Murray Abraham.
  • Right now, I'm reading his book called Trinity: A New Living Spirituality, which I cited in this post. I'm about halfway through Trinity and so far, what I admire most about it is that rather than trying to explain the Triune God as a theological doctrine, Girzone sets out to help the reader experience the ways in which God has revealed Himself as one God in three Persons. (He also demonstrates, as my seminary professor Ron Hals did in his book, Grace and Faith in the Old Testament, the consistency between the God revealed in Old Testament times and Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, as seen in the first century.) It's a book brimming with warmth.
  • Mark Dahle is a Lutheran pastor in southern California, who I met last year. (And wrote about here.) Dahle has a new book out about healing, called simply, How to Pray for Healing (and what to do when nothing happens). Actually, I'm now in the process of re-reading the book, attempting to digest it fully.
Rooted in a ministry of healing he's been conducting at his congregation in La Jolla, Dahle offers practical tips on how to pray for healing, some of them a bit different from what one might expect. But his entire approach appears to be Biblically-based, as one would expect of a Lutheran who confesses the Bible to be the authoritative source and norm of his life, faith, and practice.

Dahle has self-published the book, which can be purchased by check for $10.00, the check payable to "How to Pray for Healing." The address: PO Box 8309, La Jolla, CA 92308.

I'm still trying to figure out what I think of Mark Dahle's book. If you read it, let me know your reaction.

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