take ten: what I’m reading

Right now, I’m reading a few books and each is proving helpful in their own way. Two minutes on each…

The Lord’s Supper: Five Views // I realize that most people are unaware that there are more than two view, but I was somewhat surprised to discover that there are no less than five! Over the last few years, I have been moving from a memorialist (symbol only) understanding of this observance to a more sacramental (real presence) view. Of course, I don’t have it all worked out, but I think that’s probably as it should be… with the Lord’s Supper as well as most theological truth. If you’ve got it all figured out, let me know… you’ll be the first.




Next up is The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith // I think I mentioned this one a while back. Somehow a group of guys I meet with on Monday mornings agreed to read this with me. To say that it has provoked some interesting conversations and several “eye-rolls” is an understatement. So not everyone thinks the “new monasticism” is a wonderful expression of the Christian faith… their loss.




Now we are venturing more towards my true “nerd” center. This one is for a what is turning into a lifetime project of research and writing on 1 Peter’s use of the Old Testament. Hengel, a German New Testament scholar, passed away a few years ago. He was one of the most influential theologians of the past century. I know you’ve never heard of him. He was German, so maybe it is understandable. He’s no Francis Chan. This book was one of the last that he published.




You have stopped reading by now, so it doesn’t matter, but this one is also for the thesis. For what it is worth, I think Beale’s understanding of the way in which New Testament writers utilize the Old is probably as close to “right” as it gets. Hopefully, the approach he recommends is what I’ll be using in the months to come.

Currently Reading: The Awakening of Hope

With all this talk of camping and the outdoors, I may be losing some of my theology-nerd street cred. So maybe it is time to dive back into some thoughtful reading. Today’s post isn’t quite full-on over the top boring academic theology; we should probably ease our way back into this.

Over a year ago, I had the pleasure of reading Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Wisdom of Stability. I not only love what he had to say, but how he said it. So when Alison told me that he had written a new book, I couldn’t wait to dive in. His new book is called The Awakening of Hope:Why We Practice a Common Faith.

As I expected, this new book is filled with poignant reflections on the Christian life – particularly as it is lived in community. This doesn’t come as a surprise, largely because so much of what Wilson-Hartgrove draws from is his own experiences in the Rutba House, a new monastic community in Durham, North Carolina.

The table of contents gives a good sense of what one might expect in picking it up…

  1. Pictures of Hope
  2. Why We Eat Together
  3. Why We Fast
  4. Why We Make Promises
  5. Why It Matters Where We Live
  6. Why We Live Together
  7. Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
  8. Why We Share Good News

I’m only about halfway through, but he has already given me lots to think about. Each of the topics he addresses are things that I’ve previously encountered and spent some time reflecting on, but he comes at them in ways that I haven’t really considered before. Or I guess maybe a better way to say it is that we share a similar view or opinion, but the way he expresses is how I wished that I had.

Some great thoughts here on infidelity and trust…

Infidelity is a tendency deep within us. But it also comes to us through the constant barrage of powers at work in this world’s broken systems. Because sex sells we are inundated daily by the suggestive poses of women and men to whom we’re not only not committed but whom we do not even know. Their images come to our senses not as icons in which we might glimpse the divine but as products to be consumed. This pornographic imagination is extended to real estate, destinations, entertainment events, and even educational opportunities. Our broken economy does not invite us to ask how we might be faithful to our people and place but rather how we might use them to satisfy our base desires. Infidelity is sold to us as a good … To make promises is to proclaim that a culture of mistrust has been interrupted by One whom we can trust. It is to live as a sign of God’s faithfulness, even as we struggle to grow into fidelity ourselves. We make promises because we’ve glimpsed a picture of hope and know that it points us toward the life we were made for.

I’ve probably re-read this paragraph a dozen times and it is no less convicting the twelfth time through as the first. If the second half of the book is as thought-provoking and spirit-stirring as the first, I may need to take a breather before forging ahead.

Anyone out there reading anything great right now?

The Wisdom of Stability

At my workplace, we recognize someone’s birthday by getting a piece of paper with their name printed on it and then co-workers write a word that we think describes the individual. Despite the fact that I’ve forgotten all the words on my sheet done a few months ago, I think it is a good thing to do. And while I could make a guess at what words found their way next to my name, I am fairly sure one word that many would affirm as descriptive of me didn’t make the list…


It was likely avoided because most people would see that word as pejorative. I, on the other hand, wear it more like a badge of honor. There isn’t any sphere of my life where I can’t make a case for standing apart as being a good thing. Well, maybe one or two. But in my fantasized life of total detachment, those one or four things stay connected to me.

It is one of the many reasons I like traveling. When visiting a place, I’m not just seeing the sights as most tourists might. I’m evaluating… Could I live here? Or here? Or wherever? The act of being in another place (no matter how briefly) reaffirms for me that I’m not tied down. I’m not stuck. We could pick up and move at a moment’s notice. We could start over some place else.

And yet, I’m beginning to recognize what any moderately sane person intuitively knows even if they are unable to articulate it. Namely, that a constant state of restlessness – a perpetual hedging of bets – a sustained fostering of the “grass-is-greener” mentality is damaging. It is unhealthy for families. It holds relationships hostage. It keeps work undone. But worst of all, it leaves the soul divided. And so for several years now (and yes, it is taking years), I’ve been growing in my awareness that this dream of an un-pinned down life isn’t good.

I say all of this by way of introduction to a book that I’ve found particularly helpful in bringing clarity to the fog of ideas that has taken some time to accumulate in my own life.

This is a book about staying put. I suppose someone could (and probably has) written a book on the merits of “going.” And a fine book it would be. One can’t necessarily turn to the Bible and find an air-tight case for never leaving. Where would be be without some of the great goers of the faith? Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Paul. Even Jesus leaving the familiarity of the God-head in order to be with a broken humanity is predicated on his willingness to go.

And yet, this book on page after page offers exactly what the title suggests it will… wisdom.

Lots of it.

In the great tradition of Scripture’s wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes), Wilson-Hartgrove’s insights aren’t true for any and every situation, but his words are ignored at our own peril.

In a culture that is defined by mobility and distraction, Wilson-Hartgrove guides the reader to the truths we know deep down inside of us to be right. We all long for rootedness, connectedness, sustaining a flourishing life for ourselves, those we love, and those we want to love. But this can only happen through the intentional choice to stay.

Or in his own words…

Stability challenges us to question assumptions of our hyper-mobile culture, but it ought not to make us immovable. Staying put and paying attention are, rather, dynamic disciplines aimed at helping us grow and progress towards wholeness.

However, what I appreciate most (and there is much to appreciate) about Wilson-Hartgrove’s work is his recognition that stability is about far more than physical presence. Physical presence in a particular place both contributes to and is a manifestation of presence with a particular God and particular people.

I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone.  Not to kids heading off to college.  Or even young singles/marrieds who are searching for their place in the world.  But for those of us who think that the search can and should last a lifetime, consider afresh that your place may very well be right where you are.