To Blog, or Not To Blog…..Recommending Books as an Exercise in Blogging.

That is the question that I have been asking myself ever since I asked our web designer Jared if I could have a blog, and then was presented with the daunting task of writing what was supposed to be daily or weekly entries, but have instead settled for monthly. And now, months later, I have a total of about three blogs, with nothing to say at all.  Though Brian Colmery has definitely become more proficient at the task than I have.

Let’s begin with the basics, because a blog is not only something that you all should know about, but also because my primary intention with a blog was to begin to create community in a cyber savvy community such as yourselves.

What is a Blog?  It is short for “weblog.”  And though there are many different defintions of a blog, and many different ways that a blog can be run, it is basically a daily journal, log or diary from somone.  That someone could be a single individual, or a large organization, and the entries can be as mundane as what someone ate for breakfast, to what political or theological leanings one has.

Why a Blog?  There are many reasons why people have blogs, but for the purpose of The Quest ministry, there are four that I think are important for the direction I would like to see it go.

1) Creating/Building Community:  This is not something we would have been talking about a few years ago, but in an ever increasing technologically savvy culture, the internet has been one of the main avenues to not only create, but to also build community.  This type of movement can been seen in the explosion of online chat rooms and groups.  Creating and building community over the internet is not the same as doing it in person, nor should it take the place of it, but if we are all going to be on our computers for so many hours during the day, why not take advantage of the situation.

2) Exchanging of Ideas/Thoughts:  A blog, or forum is a great avenue to share ideas and thoughts, and to reflect on them.  It would be ideal on a Wednesday night if we could all go around and share, but with so many people and so little time, that would be impossible.  So why not enter into a community, and help create and build community by the exchanging of ideas and thoughts.

3) Information: Fulfilling what seems to be the original intent of the internet, a blog (or forum) is a great way to get information out to you, to the people.

4) Resources:  One of the great things about a blog, and one of the reasons that blogs were a major influence in politics this year, is because bloggers (those who write blogs) cite all their sources for you to check.  You don’t have to rely solely on someone’s information, but can check the facts yourself.

So what does a blog look like?  Well, a blog can take many different forms and shapes as I said earlier.  But one hopes that in the future any blog I write would consist of the four characteristics that I listed above.  That whatever I write would help create and build community within The Quest.  That it would be a place for the exchanging and reflection upon various ideas and thoughts.  That it would be a good source of information and resources.

The Blogging Exercise:  So let’s begin the December month with a trial run in blogging, and see if we can get this thing going.

It seems to me that one of the things that we all enjoy sharing with each other are the thoughts and ideas that we receive from reading books.  If you read a really good book, or a really challenging book, etc., aren’t you very likely to say to someone, “I read this awesome book!  You need to read it!”  Of course that sounds great, but then reality hits when you realize you already have five books that you want to read, outside of the ten others that someone said are the best ever.

But since the Holiday Season is among us, and you will have time to read more, and books may be a great gift for someone, let’s discuss the books that you think we all should be reading.

The Criteria is simple:  1) Give us the title of the book  2)  Give us the author’s name  3) Tell us why we should read this book, whether it’s theological, fiction or non-fictional literature, political, humorous, or just plain fun.  What are the reasons?  4) Let’s begin to dialogue with each other.  Jump in on someone’s thoughts.  Concur or disagree with the comments?  Etc.  5) Etiquette: Do this exercise in grace, love, encouragement.  If someone recommends The Cat in the Hat as the best book ever, don’t say, “You are so stupid, I can’t believe you.”  Rather, “Wow!  The Cat in the Hat is a great book, but I might have to put Dostoyevsky a little higher on the list.” 

So as I was thinking through my own list, a couple of thoughts popped up to me, mainly from what I saw on Hugh Hewitt’s blog for Sunday and Monday, November 28 & 29   A good, or great book is something that you reread.  So I began to think of the books that I have reread, and they number very few.  But I think that is a good criteria, but maybe for someone who is a little older, and who is at the stage in life to begin to reread books, because they have already read everything.

So let me begin with my list for the Christmas Holidays, some of which I have reread, and others which I have not, but want to.  These are a few books that I think everyone should read.

The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:  In my humble opinion, the greatest novel ever written, but I haven’t read everything.  But I have read no other novel that explores the great issues of freedom, grace, love, humility, etc, as does this book.  Dostoyevsky is an author that should transform you, and this book does just that.  Your ideas of what true love, sacrifice, grace and more will be challenged by this book.  And Chapter 5, The Grand Inquisitor is a standard text in many theology and philosophy classes on the concept of freedom.  A long read at about 800 plus, small print pages. 

Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis:  I am currently on my third reread of this series, and have learned and seen and understood new things everytime I read through them.  I was so enamored with CS Lewis and his works that I even took a class on him at the seminary Regent College in Vancouver, BC.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that Lewis and others have called them children’s books.  That they are not!  Though enjoyable for any aged audience, a child will enjoy the fairytale fantasy of it all, while an adult will not only do the same, but will grasp the deeper themes in Lewis’s writings.  Forever etched in my mind is the character of Aslan, that I can hardly think of God at times without imagining a lion.  Lewis takes the ivory tower theories of theology, and inserts them into the practical everyday living of characters, where they should be.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok:  I have just finished the three of Potok’s novels, and what is amazing about this author is that he has chosen to focus on a different form of Judaism in each of his novels, making this a wonderful learning experience.  My Name is Asher Lev is one of the great novels.  It is especially amazing for those of you who have an artistic bent, as the character Asher Lev explores the creative aspect of art, and creating something out of nothing.  You will have a hard time putting this book down as this young Jewish prodigy tries to find his artistic place in a very legalistic upbringing, and reconcile his artistic gifts in a religious community that sees many forms of art as satanic.

The Church of England Series by Susan Howatch:  Susan Howatch is my favorite living author, and no books have forced me to re-think through many things, and challenged me at the core of what I believe and who I am, as these have.  Though these novels follow the lives of the clergy in England, I know that you do not need to be a pastor, or in the ministry to enjoy them.  Howatch captures humanity in a very realistic portrayal, as we follow the characters through the story as they struggle to follow and serve God in the midst of all their temptations and sin.  I’m sure many will be turned off by her very realistic portrayal of the struggles by way of sex, drinking, pride, etc, but that would be a shame, since I think they most accurately reflect our own sinful lives.  Like Potok, Howatch explores the different strands of the Church of England in her series, and it becomes a great learning experience as well.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:  A good read that will force you to think through your own beliefs on many issues in the Christian faith, such as love, community, sex, etc.  Miller has a very comical narrative style, and I found myself laughing out loud as I worked my way through his book.  Whether you agree or disagree with the ideas and thoughts in his book, this is a book that has definitely been a topic of conversation in many Christian circles.

So these are just a few of my thoughts and these are some of the books that have really challenged and shaped me, but I know that there are many others out there as well.  So feel free to share your thoughts.  And as I continue to learn how to blog, and put my energy from my personal diaries I keep, to this website blog, I hope that it will build community, and that you may learn a lot from it as we carry on a conversation via the internet.  As the months progress expect to hear more about my interest in the growing Emergent Church Movement . sex (the sermon topics for late January and February), as well as some of my thoughts on dating and marriage as I am in the midst of helping my fiance plan our wedding.

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