Saturday, June 04, 2011

more reading

I have been feeling like my imagination is all dried up, so I've been reading a lot to try to replenish it...among the things I've read lately:

My S3 group read this for our first study together...I confess that I didn't finish it in time for our conversation, though I was much closer to the end than I realized (one of the downsides of the kindle--I can't tell when the endnotes begin, so the % finished is misleading!). We all generally seemed to agree that this book had good things to say but we were kind of beyond them already, or else they didn't exactly apply to the church (for instance, churches are unlikely to be using sophisticated monitoring services that tell us whenever someone uses the word "presbyterian" in a blog, tweet, or FB post....). I felt like there were a few applicable things, but they were few and far between, and often tucked in the midst of stories about businesses. I felt pulled between obsessing over the stories and glossing over them because they weren't directly and obviously applicable, but overall I'm mostly glad I read them all. I confess I did skim a few sections.
Things in this book that I think are directly applicable to the church:
1. Decide on a purpose and strategy for engaging in social media, and make sure the institutions (and the people using SM on behalf of the institution) use it responsibly and with that vision always clearly in mind.
2. pay attention to what people are saying and where they're saying it--and respond. Don't just leave stuff hanging out there, whether on your church facebook page or a church member's blog, while you take a Presbyterian hour (aka 3 years) to come up with a committee that will look into how to respond.
3. Don't think you can get away with not engaging in the online and social media world. you can't, so figure out how and why you're going to do it, and then do it and do it well.
Interestingly, on my way home from the trip where we talked about this book, I flew into Milwaukee airport (MKE). I tweeted, with my twitter account still unlocked, about what a fantastic and easy experience MKE is and how much I loved it. Within 24 hours MKE had tweeted back at me, returning the love and thanking me for letting people know that it's a great O'Hare alternative for the savvy traveler. I immediately followed them, of course, and also liked their facebook page...and while I don't want everyone who flies out of O'Hare to start going to Milwaukee (because it would make it less relaxed for me, and I'm selfish like that!), I do want them to be a successful and awesome airport. And they clearly have a social media strategy and a monitoring service that's working wonders, and they know how to respond and keep their customers in the loop. It was like a case study straight out of the book, only more personalized!

We all know I have a penchant for princess books. This one is about Juana la Loca (the mad) of Spain, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. For the record, I don't believe she was mad. And the way this historical novel is written, if she is mad then she was clearly driven there by the men in her life, who were always scheming ways to take advantage of her. The story is charming at first, and filled with the usual things you expect of a historical novel that focuses on princesses--pretty dresses, betrothals, nervousness, court life, passion. Pretty much in that order. But soon it becomes a page-turning horror-flick of intrigue, abuse, drama, loss, pain, and betrayal...all mixed in with pretty dresses and passion. It's quite the fast-paced novel. I don't want to give it away for those who enjoy the princess book genre, but let's just say: the men come off looking pretty bad in this one. and, historically speaking, that's probably fairly accurate. There are a number of choice words I used in regard to the men in the story, and even men in general, while reading this book--none of them are appropriate for this blog, but I suspect you can use your imagination. Suffice it to say, I actually felt better about my own (lack of a) romantic life when this was over. And I really liked the book too.

I really enjoyed these reflections on the pastoral life from two UCC pastors, one male and one female. They take turns writing the chapters, so each one is in a distinct voice, and I enjoyed that as well. They reflect on such things as family, work, boundaries, grace, hope, call...and they do it with a tone that draws the reader in. So many books about pastors, or call, or church life, or what it means to be a pastor, or whatever, are B-O-R-I-N-G. They make it seem either much more impressive or much more simple than it actually is. I enjoyed the nuance and the recognition of complexity, the undercurrent of hope, and the reminders to ground life in prayer. I did not enjoy that one of Martin's chapters flat out says the very thing I have been struggling with lately: "It also requires the kind of clarity that does not confuse people's diverse expectations with a job description, which means that it requires being willing to disappoint people."
Let's just say that I don't handle disappointment particular, me disappointing other people is not really on the agenda of things that are acceptable. It turns out that this is good for exactly no one, due to the fact that it is extremely bad for fact, I end up disappointing myself in the effort not to disappoint anyone else. To have this pointed out to me not just by my therapist but then by the book I am devouring is a cruel twist of the Spirit. just turn that knife a little further, please.
anyway, this was a great book of reflection on life AS a pastor, not life AFTER being a pastor or what life might be like IF you were a pastor. Highly recommended.

A re-read, but so worth it. Not only are the illustrations fun, but the content is pretty much exactly what I believe. Or almost, anyway. I love when books agree with me. (LOL) I also love when books accessibly and in clear language explain that God is love, period, and what that means for our theology and our life. In particular, I enjoy the image that "God loves you at least as much as the person who loves you the most, when they are loving you the most." yes. at least.

This was free for kindle, as are zillions of other classic books, and seemed like a good classic work to spark my imagination for a bit. Somehow, I don't think I'd read this before, though there may have been a movie or a cartoon or something? Anyway, I don't remember reading it...and I think I would have remembered all the scientific mumbo-jumbo peppered throughout. LOL. The whole time I was reading it I was picturing the submarine ride at Disneyland, which I think maybe used to be 20,000 leagues themed but now is Finding Nemo themed. Either way, the ride is so overrated, I cannot believe people stand in line for 2 hours for that ride. Anyway....I kind of loved this book. I read it today, on my day off, and pretty much couldn't put it down. I didn't even want to play facebook games because I wanted to know what was going to happen to Captain Nemo and his captive guests as they travelled the world. You have to admit it's kind of exciting to imagine speeding around the world via the gulf stream or under icebergs or into dead volcanoes, walking around on the ocean floor, hiking to Atlantis and harvesting seaweed and watching pearls form. I mean, it's cool. I enjoyed the visuals my brain created while I was reading, even if I did have to skim a bunch of stuff that reads like a made up marine biology textbook. but I also, as a 21st century environmentalist whose mother loved the oceans more than pretty much anything on land (except the fam, of course!), was super uncomfortable with the ways the ocean and its life were used for sport. Whaling, "hunting," battling octopus, spearing sharks, have turtle fillet for dinner...Let's just say I didn't handle all that stuff very well. It kind of turns my stomach. The best moment in the book (at least in this area) is when Captain Nemo refuses "The Canadian" (a whaler) the opportunity to pursue and hunt whales in the Antarctic, because it would be only for sport and that kind of killing is unacceptable. Second best, the professor's rant about how whalers have killed so many manatees that the ecosystem is out of balance, so stop it already. Too bad those moments are surrounded by descriptions of sealskin shoes and eating turtle and whatnot. Not to mention, you know, the killing of people, which we never find out the reason for...but still, it's a classic for a reason, and if you haven't read it, you should!

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