Review: Preaching the New Testament

Preaching the NTPreaching the New Testament edited by Ian Paul & David Wenham. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.

Summary: The contributors to this volume consider how the character of the genres and sub-genres of the New Testament shape how these texts are preached with faithfulness not only to the meaning of the text but also to the type of text they are preaching. Essays include not only discussions of genres but also issues in hermeneutics and homiletics as they bear on the teaching of the New Testament.

Anyone who has attempted to preach from the various New Testament texts quickly realizes that not only do  different principles of interpretation apply to different genres, but how one preaches these texts differs. When preaching a gospel narrative, helping people inhabit the story is crucial. When preaching Romans, understanding the argument Paul is making and how he develops it is important.

A number of books have been written on genre and exegesis. What is different about this book is that it takes the various genres and sub-categories of genres and explores how these might be preached in a manner consistent with their form. There are several essays concerning various types of writing found in the gospels–an overview by D.A. Carson, a treatment of the nativity narratives by R.T. France, which was the last thing he wrote before his death, and chapters on parables, miracles, and the Sermon on the Mount. Successive chapters consider the book of Acts, Paul’s epistles, and the Pastoral epistles, Hebrews, the General Epistles, and Revelation. These are followed by chapters on the use of archaelogy and history in preaching, how one preaches the ethics of the New Testament, the preaching of hope and judgment, two chapters on hermeneutical issues, and a concluding chapter that considers preaching the gospel from the gospels.

I thought in general the essays were of high quality. Carson’s on preaching the gospels, like so much of what he writes was a goldmine bringing together exegetical and homiletic insight. France explores the crucial issue of how one brings fresh life to familiar infancy narratives. I. Howard Marshall helpfully addresses both the horizon of the context of the Pastoral epistles and a number of contemporary issues that the texts address under the categories of Christian belief, Christian character and congregational life and gives us examples of two of his own homiletic outlines. I thought the essay on Hebrews especially helpful in identifying both the challenges of preaching this text and the thread of redemptive history that may be brought forth.

In the portion not devoted to specific genres, Peter Oakes essay on archaeology and history emphasized as the most crucial task helping people understand everyday life in New Testament contexts. Stephen Travis helpfully took on the important issue of preaching hope and judgment. In his discussion of judgment I thought he struck a good balance of what may be clearly affirmed and the places where there are no definitive answers, between the reality of judgment and the truth that this was not God’s intention for human beings.

A common quality of all these essays was the conviction that those who preach do not need to choose between faithfulness to the text of the Bible and preaching that engages contemporary hearers. In fact, they would contend that faithful attention to the genres of New Testament text that allows these genres to shape how one preaches is critical to homiletic relevance and delivers the preacher from falling into patterns of boring sameness. While this is not the sum total of good preaching, which includes the pastor’s engagement personally with the text and speaking in the power of the Spirit, this work contributes to God’s word being heard by God’s people through the human vessel of preaching. I would commend this book to any who are committed to biblical preaching and seek not only to be faithful to the meaning of these texts but also their literary character.

Review: Scotland: A New History

ScotlandScotland: A New History by Michael Lynch, London: Pimlico, 1992

Summary: This one volume work provides a comprehensive overview of the history of Scotland from the Roman invasions, through the kingdoms of the Picts, the Wars of Independence, the rise of the House of Stewart, the Treaty of Union in 1707, the commercial and intellectual zenith of Scotland in the late 18th/early 19th century and its continued efforts to define its relation with the U.K down to the time of writing in 1992.

Despite my name, part of my ethnic heritage is Scottish but until picking up this volume, I had never read a history of Scotland. The closest I’d gotten was to read a biography of Robert The Bruce, who led Scotland to victory in Bannockburn in 1314, regaining Scotland’s independence. Despite my love of history, I knew little of Scotland’s history and Michael Lynch’s well-researched and meticulously documented one volume history amply redressed that balance, spanning twenty centuries over 450 pages.

Lynch begins with the Roman invasions and the resistance of the Caledonians leading to the building of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall to control the restive clans. He traces the Gaelic influences on these tribes and the gradual formation of the kingdom of the Picts from the petty kingdoms in the sixth century. He traces the great kings from David I through Alexander III who provided a period of stability and growth of the towns in the 12th and 13th centuries. Then there was the period of the Wars of Independence including the “braveheart” resistance of William Wallace until Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn secured Scotland’s independence from England in 1314. War continued and the Bruce line gave way to the Stewarts culminating in the reign of James VI who also inherited the throne of England as James 1 in 1603 (the King James of the King James Version of the Bible). This union of two states in one king led, after much turmoil in the 17th century to the Treaty of Union in 1707..

The next couple of centuries marked a time of great intellectual and commercial flourishing in Scotland including the development of shipbuilding in the Clydeside yards. Edinburgh became a center of intellectual luminescence giving us the likes of Adam Smith and Thomas Reid among others. The 18th century was not without uprisings as “Jacobites” contested the Union while various parties wrangled for ascendancy in the Protestant church, and Highlanders were expelled from their lands in “Clearances.”. Two wars in the 20th century led to periods of great prosperity followed by great depressions, and continuing Labor advocacy as well as pressures for an independent Scotland (most recently in 2014). The book closes with the new prosperity coming from North Sea oil revenues.

It would seem that the challenge of writing Scottish history is all the cross-currents one must deal with: Highlands vs. Lowlands, conflicting clans, Catholic and Protestant, Labor and Landowner, independence vs union. Lynch covers it all with admirable thoroughness, which is both the strength and weakness of this history. Various periods, and developments of commerce, politics, and the church are covered in turn. Yet what is lost at times is the sense of a narrative. To deal with varying factions and developments, he will often go back and forth in time over a century or more and explain various developments in careful detail. What also seems apparent is that he assumes some basic knowledge of the contours of this history, the geography of Scotland and even some terminology–likely not problematic for a native, but for Americans like me trying to understand our heritage, a bit confusing and daunting at times.

However, read map in hand and a basic timeline in front of one, this history certainly fills out the story in a comprehensive way that it appears no, or few other authors have attempted. The extensive footnotes and bibliography give the person who wants to explore further ample resources. One hopes that this work might be brought up to date, with perhaps a few more aids including more detailed maps and perhaps a glossary of terms, and maybe some judicious editing. The history of this people is full of narrative power and pathos and should not be overshadowed by the other “kingdoms” that make up the United Kingdom.

Review: Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations

Evangelical Postcolonial ConversationsEvangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis edited by Kay Higuera Smith, Jayachitra Lalitha, and L. Daniel Hawk. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

Summary: This book arises from a roundtable that sought to apply postcolonial concepts to re-visioning evangelical theology and praxis, coming to terms both with how colonialism shaped evangelical theology and mission and what it means to listen to the voices of the formerly colonized.

In 2010 Gordon College hosted a roundtable chaired by Joseph Duggan, a pioneer in applying postcolonial concepts to theological conversations. This, in turn, led to the second roundtable and the papers that form this volume. Postcolonial theory has developed a set of constructs to describe the power relationships that prevailed during imperial/colonial eras, and the reframing of those relationships necessary in the postcolonial era.

What is ground-breaking about this book is to put the concepts of “evangelical” and “postcolonial” in the same title and to conceive of them in conversation. What this involves is a willingness to face evangelical complicity in subjugating colonized peoples, including in some cases attempts to assimilate, marginalize, or even destroy (as is the case with our Native American population) those peoples. We often want to argue that we were not “those” people, and yet to begin to engage the formerly colonized in the Majority World means both to face this past and to appreciate the full dignity and cultural riches of these peoples who help us glimpse new facets of the diamond of evangelical convictions outlined in this book as christocentrism, communitarianism, conversionism, charism, textualism, and activism.

The editors give, perhaps, the best summary of the content of the book:

“The conversation begins, in part one, with an interrogation of evangelical missions and the grand narratives that articulate/d and legitimate/d the missionary enterprise. Part two then exposes the racial and national ideologies that configured the grand narratives. As steps toward rectifying these and other colonial/missional metanarratives, the authors in part three revision evangelical theology in a postcolonial key, and those in part four revision evangelical practices and praxis. The conversation in part five circles back to an account and self-critique of the Postcolonial Roundtable, which generated this conversation, and ends with words of hope” (p. 27).

A number of the chapters in this work themselves represent a conversation, being co-written, in many cases by someone from a Western background and someone from the Majority World. For example L. Daniel Hawk describes this history of white colonial practice and mission with Native Americans and then Richard Twiss, a pioneer in developing Native American indigenous theology describes his own theological journey of resisting colonial influences and re-visioning evangelical belief in the cultural expressions and practices of his people. Victor Ezigbo and Reggie Williams explore the importance of developing an African Christology that focuses on Christ the revealer, rather than a western, “white” Jesus. Similarly, Joya Colon-Berezin and Peter Goodwin Heltzel contend that a christology that utilizes the concept of hybridity (Jesus/Christ) rescues Jesus from western, White imperial images, and emphasizes both his humanness as part of a subordinated people, as well as his divinity.

Perhaps as illuminating as any of the essays was the final section and the self-critique of the roundtable and the challenges even these individuals steeped in postcolonial thinking had in fleshing out postcolonial evangelical praxis in their own community. Learning to hear the non-Western, non-male voices was the challenge one might expect. Developing a spirituality of prayer was more something given lip service to than practiced. Understanding how white privilege made it easier for white participants to share personal experiences than Majority World participants, whose experiences were often painful reminders of demeaning subordination, was a critical awareness that developed during their dialogues.

If there was one critique I could make, it has to do with the terminology of postcolonial conversation. Terms like metanarrative, subaltern, hybridity, praxis, and even the term postcolonial can use defining. Familiarity with postcolonial discourse was assumed. The careful reader who pays attention to context can learn how these terms are being used but either an introductory essay on postcolonial analysis that introduced the terminology of the field, or at least a glossary might have been helpful. While I understand any field of discourse having its unique terminology, if the aim is the kind of radical inclusiveness aspired to in these conversations, some form of induction into the language of the discourse is important as a form of hospitality (in the self-critique, it appears that even some members of the roundtable had problems with postcolonial language and concepts).

That criticism aside, this work is to be commended for beginning an important conversation that comes to terms with the unseemly elements of the colonial past (and sometimes present) and affirms the cultural identities and theological and practical contributions of majority world believers. The model of the Postcolonial Roundtable, and even the transparency of its self-critique are something from which any who are involved in similar conversations can learn.

Review: Crucible of Command

Crucible of CommandCrucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee–The War They Fought, The Peace They Forgedby William C. Davis. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2015.

Summary: This is a dual biography of Grant and Lee that studies their contrasting origins and yet similar qualities of command through back and forth narratives covering similar periods leading to their climactic confrontation, the peace they established, and its aftermath.

Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee have been the subjects of numerous biographies, including Grant’s own memoirs. What distinguishes this book is that it attempts, and I think, succeeds in rendering parallel accounts of these two men’s lives who met first in Mexico and finally at Appomattox Courthouse (and once later when Grant was President).

Davis traces their contrasting childhoods and characters. Lee was the Virginia patrician who loved his home state and rarely traveled from it except on assignments. By contrast, Grant was the merchant’s son who moved around, wanted to see the world and was a failure at everything except leading men in battle. Both were educated at West Point, Lee at the top of his class, Grant in the lower half. They briefly encountered each other in the 1840’s during the U.S. invasion of Mexico. In the years leading up to the Civil War Lee struggled with resolving the Custis estate while Grant struggled through a series of failed business ventures, finally working in his brother’s store in Galena, Illinois.

When war comes, Grant re-joins the army, commanding troops in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lee resigns his commission, and after serving as an assistant to President Davis, eventually gains command of the Army of North Virginia, which he leads for the remainder of the war. We see both learning to command large forces. Grant in his tactical defeat at Belmont, his victories at Forts Henry and Donelson and near disaster at Shiloh. Lee’s first command is in western Virginia where he is defeated at the battle of Cheat Mountain. What is clear about both is that they learn from mistakes, develop command staffs around them they can trust and win a series of striking victories that ultimately bring them opposite one another in the campaigns of 1864-1865 where the Union’s overwhelming superiority eventually outflanks and surrounds Lee. We discover hardening resolves, of Lee against the Union even while he extricates himself from slave-holding, and Grant from an indifference to the issue of slavery to increased support of emancipation and the capabilities of black soldiers.

The author also explores the political realities each faced and their skill in handling this. Lee learned through constant communication to win the trust of Davis who easily could have micromanaged the war. Grant had to deal with political generals and a sometimes hostile press. Part of the success of both men was their skill in navigating the political realities that military leaders cannot be ignorant of.

While reading this book, I forgot the last phrase in the subtitle–“the peace they forged.” This book does not stop with the dignified surrender of Lee nor the magnanimity of Grant in allowing the Confederates to return home with their horses and side arms. It explores the subsequent years and the efforts both made to promote reconstruction, efforts subsequently frustrated. And both men die in their early 60s, after serving as Presidents, Lee of a college, Grant of a country.

William C. Davis interweaves the narratives of the two lives skillfully, and while we see differences between the two men, we see two great military leaders, formed by common training and experience, coping with similar exigencies of war. Davis observes that in some ways, Lee has fared the better of the two, mostly because of the corruption in Grant’s administration. But it seems that, while on opposite sides, they were a pair of shining stars of equal brightness. And for the reader interested in biography who thinks they must choose between these great lights, Davis has provided the alternative of discovering them together.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher as an ebook via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Memorial Day Parades

Parade Down Federal Street, circa 1940 / copyright Ohio Historical Society

Parade Down Federal Street, circa 1940 / copyright Ohio Historical Society

Memorial Day weekend. Time to fire up the grill if you haven’t already. Spring is coming to an end, the last frost is past and the gardens are going. And when I was a kid in Youngstown, we would make our way downtown to the Memorial Day Parade along what we then called Federal Street.

We usually found a place near the Home Savings and Loan building. The challenge was working your way in front of the tall people so you could see all the action.

Probably the most fun was to see and hear all the marching bands from the local high schools with the drum majors and majorettes twirling (and dropping) batons as they made their way down the street. There was lots of John Philips Sousa. Nothing says patriotism like his marches such as Stars and Stripes Forever.

There were the various veterans posts with men marching in their uniforms carrying American and veterans post flags. Of course this was fitting on a day when we honored the service of our military and those who died. Many of these were World War II and Korea veterans only fifteen to twenty years or so after these conflicts. My dad, who was an Army veteran from World War II would always stand a bit straighter, almost as if he was at attention. Maybe it was just pride.

Interspersed with these groups would be our local celebrities–the mayor and other local politicians riding in convertibles, and other local leaders. I always remember the pretty girls who would be perched on top of the back seats waving at the crowds.

As a small kid, it was always cool to see the police come by in both police cruisers and on motorcycles. And the fire department would always have at least one of their trucks in the parade sirens blaring.

There would be a mix of other groups as well. You would have dance groups dancing their way down Federal Street. There would be union locals with union officials in more convertibles, always carrying a sign with the local number and some slogan. There were ROTC units from Youngstown University and ethnic groups in costume

All this seems pretty tame fare by modern standards. But it was a great way to begin this day where we remembered those who served, and especially those who gave all for their country. Our patriotism was yet to be tempered by cynicism over our country’s involvement in Viet Nam. Our parents were members of “The Greatest Generation”.

We didn’t talk a great deal about those wars. Then as now, wars were terrible things and the most vivid memories were not ones easily revisited. But after the parade, we often went to a cemetery, to lay a wreath, to place a flag at a veteran’s grave, to remember. Years later, when my son was involved in Boy Scouts, his troop would place flags at all the graves of veterans at a local cemetery. When we finished, the place was abloom with flags. So many served.

But then it was often off to my grandparents until grandma passed in 1965. Cousins and uncles would be there for a big picnic in their big backyard. I remember how good the hot dogs were off the grill with relish and mustard. Then there was my grandmother’s potato salad. We topped off the day with the first fireworks of the summer at Idora Park. We’d often watch from Rocky Ridge, where we could see the fireworks over the trees.

School was almost finished for the year and Memorial Day got us thinking of all the fun things we liked to do in summer. Good memories of a simpler time.

[Want to read other “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown” posts? Just click “On Youngstown” on the menu bar at the top of this page to read any or all in this series.]

Conflicts of Interest and Bias in Reviewing

managing-coiThe last few years of writing reviews on Goodreads and on this blog have been an interesting journey from writing reviews simply because I want to remember what the book was about and my “takeaways” to having a group of people following my reviews who are interested readers, and in some cases authors or publishers. I’ve gone from only reviewing books I’ve bought to getting review copies of books from publishers. Friends have asked me to review books they’ve written, and sometimes I’ve done so. I also review a fair number of books from InterVarsity Press, the publishing division of the organization for whom I work. Most of these books I purchase at a discount and some I receive on a complimentary basis, not for review, but for use in my work.

What this raises, which was called to my attention by a friend who forwarded this NY Times article, is the question of reviewer bias and conflict of interest. My first response as I think about this is that it is impossible to not be biased unless I am utterly ignorant of a subject, and even then, I have my own preferences about writing style and more. If I’m utterly ignorant of a subject, I may actually be an unhelpful reviewer, even if relatively unbiased.

On the matter of conflict of interest, it was interesting to discover what the New York Times Book Review considered to be conflicts of interest: writing a blurb for the book, having the same agent, or publishing under the same imprint, particularly if it is a small publishing house (none of which is an issue for me at present). They did not consider a personal relationship with the author to be a conflict of interest or strong feelings on the book’s subject to be a problem. Rather it may be an asset if it adds depth and insight to the review and is acknowledged.

So here are a few thoughts of how I am learning to deal with this that I hope will be helpful to those who read my reviews. I also would welcome the comments of other reviewers.

1. I do make a disclosure at the end of my reviews when a book I am reviewing was obtained on a complimentary basis for review. As I understand this, it may be an FTC requirement to do so and publishers actually request this. I have been critical of books I’ve received as review copies and try not to treat them any differently than other books I review. I send the reviews to the publishers as well as publish them on social media. So far no one has cut me off.

2. If I would consider the author a friend, as opposed to an acquaintance, I would disclose this and perhaps give a personal slant to the review where this is relevant. I consider someone a “friend” if we’ve had what I consider a significant and ongoing personal or professional relationship. If I end up considering the book really bad, I just won’t publish a review (I’ve never had this come up yet). I have raised questions or differences in reviewing the books of friends, as I have others.

3. Where I have strong feelings or a definite perspective that is similar to the author’s, I will often ask the question as I review of “what is missing?” or “what might I add?” to what they have written. In general, this would follow my summary of the basic content of their work, and appreciation for what they’ve written. I sometimes will mention books or authors with opposing views, as I’m aware of these.

4. Where I would hold a perspective differing from the author, I would first of all try to fairly represent what they’ve written and the merits of their work and only then, acknowledge questions, reservation, or critique of what they’ve written. I don’t always do this. If they’ve written well and presented their case well, I may simply try to situate their contribution within the context of the larger discussion and differing points of view. Sometimes, I may commend works giving differing perspectives that I’ve found helpful.

5. When would I acknowledge personal bias? I don’t like doing this all the time because I think the review should be about the book, not about me. I think if I come to the review with a strong bias against the book or author, I need to say so. Sometimes that will be true of me and I’ll be favorably surprised by some aspect of the book, or the book as a whole. I’ll say that as well.

6. So, what about those reviews I do of InterVarsity Press? I’ve acknowledged my connection to the publisher both here and previously. I don’t think I need to do this with each book. This is a private blog and not done for my organization. I try to approach reviews as I would for books from other publishers, trying to respect the author’s effort, give some idea of the content and value of the book, and critique where this is warranted. Actually some of my toughest criticism has been of a few of their books. That said, I do appreciate the high quality of books they’ve published over many years, and certainly am happy if people decide to buy one of their books because of a review I’ve written.

The truth is, I have a passion for seeing people buy and read good literature, no matter who publishes it, and even if I disagree with the perspective. I think what it comes down to for me is that in whatever I review, I want to be fair to the author and honestly represent the book to the prospective reader, whether people like what I write or not. If at some point, I fail at this, feel free to let me know. After all, that’s the social in social media.

Who Was Aldus and Why Should Book-Lovers Care?

"Aldus Manutius". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Aldus Manutius“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

What do italics, semi-colons, commas, and the pocket-sized book have in common? They were developed or enhanced by Aldus Manutius, a printer and publisher who lived from 1449 to 1515 in Venice. Sometimes he is referred to as “The Elder” to distinguish him from his grandson (“The Younger”).

You may be wondering how I became interested in Aldus. Remember that post the other day about bookstore crawling in Columbus? It turns out there is a group of book-lovers in Columbus who host book crawls for their members. They operate under the name The Aldus SocietyThey describe themselves as “an organization for people who appreciate the many facets of text and image through various media, but principally the book, past, present and future.” They host  “a wide variety of programs and activities on book collecting, the history of printing, publishing, and book selling, book illustration, book design, book bindings, paper making, typography, calligraphy, and libraries.”

It turns out that many book societies have chosen names honoring great figures in the history of the book and Aldus is high among them. One of the Aldus Society members, Jay Hoster, has written a biographical sketch on the life of Aldus, from which I’ve drawn much of the information in this post, along with the Wikipedia article on Aldus.

One of the key innovations of Aldus was to develop italic print which enabled him to print books in a more compact format, about the size of today’s pocket paperback, yet printed on quality vellum with innovations in the book-binding process. His first edition in this format was an edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy without all the commentary that obscured the text and made for large, burdensome editions. His, while elegant, was portable. Subsequently he published a series of the Greek and Latin classics in the same format, contributing to the Renaissance rediscovery of these classic works while making corrections and improvements to the texts.

Whether you like punctuation or not, Aldus was an innovator here as well. The semi-colon first appears in his works, and the comma in its present form as well. His grandson published the first book on principles of punctuation, Orthographiae Ratio, in 1566.

The Aldine Press had a distinctive printer’s mark that continues to have influence down to the present day. It consists of an anchor entwined with a dolphin, symbolic of the motto, festina lente or “make haste slowly”, an apt representation of both the quality and prolific output of his press. Versions of this were used by William Pickering, a nineteenth century London publisher and by Doubleday (which publishes an Anchor line of books). Aldus’ design has even been incorporated into the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Modern typography also reflects the impact of his work. In addition to italics and punctuation, one of the type faces he commissioned Claude Garamond to develop serves as the basis of our modern Garamond typeface, one of the most readable typefaces. There is also an Aldus typeface, developed by Hermann Zapf that is similar to Garamond and based on a typeface developed by Giambattista Palatino, another type face developer associated with Aldus.

Garamond

Garamond

Aldus

Aldus

What learning about all this has done for me is help me appreciate the craft that has gone into book-making, something we take for granted today. And yet, when we sit down with a book that is comfortable to hold, made with good paper and bound well, and with a pleasing and readable type face, we owe our reading pleasure to the innovations and craft and traditions of book publishing laid down by people like Aldus Manutius.

Going Deeper: One

5iRrkKEoTOne of our deepest human longings is for intimacy. We hope to find it in marriage. Perhaps we have found it with a friend or group of friends. We long for it in various communities of which we are a part, including our church communities. We may even long for this with God but not be sure whether such closeness is actually possible. And when we find that intimacy, we often describe it using the language of one–the two become one, being of one mind and heart, being at one with each other, oneness with God. It is the oneness not of losing one’s sense of self but of knowing and being known.

This past Sunday, our Pastor Rich preached on John 17:1-26. There was one section of this which yielded an insight I’ve wanted to go deeper into this week, found in verses 20-23:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I’ve often focused on John 13:35 that says,  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What I’ve paid less attention to is that our ability to love for each other, to be one with each other is rooted in a deeper oneness. Jesus prays that we might share in the oneness he has with the Father, and it is by this that we are also at one with our fellow Christians. Rich talked about this incredible thing that we’ve been brought into the life of loving oneness between the Father and Son and that our oneness with each other flows out of this oneness. Intimacy with Jesus is the fuel for intimacy with each other.

The challenge for me is that I try to do the “oneness thing” on my own strength and what these verses say is that my oneness with my community in Christ comes from being in Christ who is in the Father. The best way I can nurture “the beloved community” with God’s people is to know and accept and embrace my belovedness. Because of Jesus, God is for me. Because of Jesus God loves me in spite of all my faults. God loves me just because He does, and invites me to be as close to him as Jesus and the Father have been forever.

Because this is so, I don’t have to change the things I don’t like in others to be one in Christ with them, or conform to the expectations of others. We simply have to love each other just because. I’ve found myself loving people I didn’t like or wouldn’t have chosen to hang around with. I’ve found myself loving people I disagreed with.

Rich talked about the beautiful thing that happens when we are one with God and each others in these ways–“more and more people, as they see our unity, are drawn into the divine community that we ourselves are a part of. ”

One of the things I love about our church is that it is this crazy place where people who otherwise would not be in each other’s lives are learning to love each other and anyone else who walks in the door in practical and life-giving ways. We don’t do it perfectly, at least I don’t. But we don’t give up. That is the power of One!

Bookstore Crawling in Columbus

I’ve heard of wine-tasting tours, gallery hops and pub crawls in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve yet to hear of a bookstore crawl in Columbus and I’m kind of wondering when the booksellers around here will get their stuff together to pull one off. Searching online, I found a San Francisco Bookstore and Chocolate Crawl, a London book crawl, a blog post about book crawling in Houston, a Literary Crawl in Nevada, a Cambridge book crawl (a GREAT place for a bookstore crawl), and more.

B & N

Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center

But I think we have the makings for a great bookstore crawl in Greater Columbus. I would have no problem spending a day visiting some of the great bookstores in our area. So I’ve come up with my own book crawl itinerary. In some cases, there are multiple outlets for some stores and I’ve chosen a favorite out of these. Since I live on the north end of the city, I’ll start there and work my way south.

1. Barnes and Noble Easton Town Center. This is probably the biggest and classiest Barnes and Noble in the city and if you were to go to one retail outlet for new books, this is it. Biggest danger here is being distracted by all the other boutiques in this trendy shopping district.

Village Bookshop

Village Bookshop

2. Village Bookshop2424 W Dublin Granville Rd Columbus, OH 43235‎. This is a used and remaindered bookstore located in an old church building, with both first and second floors. You can ramble from room to room, from sections of children’s books, to a table of biographies, to sections of American, world, and military history (including a great selection of military prints) to literature, philosopy, fiction, and much more.

3. Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, 3560 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214. I have to admit that I’ve never visited this indie bookstore focused on children’s books but they’ve been around a long time and must be doing something right. The pictures on their website suggest this is a delightful place for children!

4. Karen Wickliff Books, 3527 N. High St., Columbus , Ohio 43214. They claim to be the oldest and largest used bookstore in Columbus. This is the place to go for out of print, scholarly, and collectible books. I’ve found their religion section among the best of any used bookstore I’ve visited.

Acorn Bookshop (from http://www.acornbookshop.com/)

Acorn Bookshop

5. Half Price Books, 1375 W. Lane Ave. Columbus, Ohio 43221. Half Price Books is a national chain of used and remaindered books, music, and video. I’ve been to all their Columbus locations and think this is the best (though we like them all!). It’s located just west of Ohio State, and because of this has a bit more academic selection of books including a great section of $1 and $2 books.

6. Acorn Bookshop, 1464 West 5th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212. Even the entrance to their website is fun and what makes this store, located in Grandview, to the west of Ohio State, is the effort all the booksellers make to know their customers and how much they love bookselling. George Bauman is co-owner and has been bookselling for 50 years. On one visit, I met Norman Knapp, who “Norman-izes” their books which includes cleaning, repairing, and on books with dust jackets, putting a protective plastic sleeve like libraries use to protect the book. Make sure to go down to the basement, which has more extensive selections in all the categories you find upstairs.

The Book Loft

The Book Loft

7. The Book Loft, 631 South Third Street, Columbus, OH 43206. This store, in the heart of German Village, can be entered from a brick walkway lined with flowers along the side of the building. The store consists of a series of rooms on a couple levels and you will want to print out or pick up a store directory.

Read It Again Books and Gifts

Read It Again Books and Gifts

8. Read it Again Books, 4052 Broadway, Grove City, Ohio. This is a charming used bookstore off the beaten path a bit on the southwest side of Columbus in Grove City’s renovated downtown district. The booksellers have expanded their hours recently and have great selections of the latest fiction as well as a broad selection of children’s books, history, biography and cookbooks (one of which we bought on our last visit there). What impressed me was how they worked with children in the store to find “just the right book.”

Columbus is a great place for booklovers. I’ve probably missed some good places and would love for my Columbus friends to add to the list in the comments. And if you are visiting town this summer and love books, I hope this might help you plan your own bookstore crawl.

Review: The Accidental Executive

Accidental ExecutiveThe Accidental Executive, by Albert M. Erisman, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2015.

Summary: A former Boeing executive reflects deeply on the biblical character of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, and amplifies on these reflections from his own experience in business leadership and interviews with other executives in a highly readable account suitable for discussion groups in business and church settings.

Over the years I’ve seen many people write books that are a variation on the theme of “leadership lessons from the life of….” What sets the good ones apart from others in my opinion is how carefully and closely the author actually remains to the biblical text, not forcing it to affirm things it does not say or speculating or over-psychologizing the text.

This is one of the better examples of this genre in my opinion. It is evident to me that the author, a former Boeing executive, has spent a long time soaking in the narrative of Joseph’s life from his immature beginnings and lack of awareness of how his brothers perceived him, to his formative experiences as a slave where he feared God, worked responsibly and fled sexual temptation, to prison years where he devotes himself to the task at hand, trusts God over the long years as he awaits deliverance, and then forthrightly, and without regard to personal position advises Pharoah with divine insight and good strategic insight cultivated through years of service. Then we see how he copes with fantastic success, confronts the thorny issues of reconciliation with those who betrayed his trust, and his later years.

I thought it of particular interest that Erisman questions some of the later decisions and the lack of apparent consultation on Joseph’s part when he institutes policies that enslave all of Egypt (while his own family enjoys special privilege) and how this might have contributed to the eventual enslavement of Jacobs descendants. This was a new thought to me and I thought reflected well on approach to scripture that doesn’t see accounts of lives like Joseph’s as unvarying hagiographies but rather descriptions of people who both walked with God and made mistakes.

Erisman enriches his reflections by drawing upon his own experience in industry as a Director of Technology for the Boeing Corporation. Discussing Joseph’s patience for example, he talks about a strategy that his R & D folk came up with to make production processes more efficient that was squashed by conflict between two divisions but adopted five years later when assembly was bogged down and needed this solution. He describes meetings he held with his division during a downturn as an example of dealing with fear through utter transparency that did not withhold bad news nor what steps were being taken by the company.

While Erisman’s own experiences often make him aware of subtleties in the text of Genesis, the stories that came out of his interviews with other execs, orginally appearing in ethix.org, gave memorable illustrations that particularly underscored the quality of integrity that ran through Joseph’s life. Perhaps most moving was the example of Wayne Alderson, who turned around Pittron Steel through his “value of the person” campaign, where he provided an office for the union president, spent regular time on the shop floor with employees and regularly thanked them for their work as they finished a shift. Through this he made Pittron profitable, and a buy-out target. When the new owners expressed appreciation for what Alderson had done but did not want him to continue the practices that accomplished these results, Alderson walked away rather than compromise. He also tells the story of Sherron Watkins, who was the whistle-blower at Enron who exposed its fraudulent accounting, at the cost of her job.

Not all the execs lost their jobs however. We also have narratives of Gloria Nelund in the banking industry, Alan Mullaly at Ford, Bill Pollard at Servicemaster and Bonnie Wurzbacher at Coca-Cola among many others who talk about the challenges and opportunities for influence in the business world. And this underscores a final value of this book in revealing that there is no sacred-secular dualism where spiritual work is better than work in the world of business. Erisman concludes his book with a discussion of calling that argues that people can answer the big call of God on their lives in corporate life and the world of business.

The book’s chapters are short and make this ideal for discussions in business and professional groups considering the ethics and spirituality of work. The format also lends itself well to personal reflection and the book, printed on high quality paper, makes a great gift for the business person in one’s life. Church groups that want to gain an appreciation for the world of work and the opportunities for spiritual faithfulness will also find this book a great resource.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”