Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Prayer, Ecclesiastes, Children’s Books & Leadership

A few quick entries on several recent books read.  I wish I had time for longer reviews, but with final papers in classes to grade, and summer sessions to prepare for, it’s best I get a few quick reviews noted and move on!

Greatest_prayersA former learner went to hear Walter Brueggemann lecture in another city, and that learner bought a text for me, had Brueggemann sign it, and gifted it to me!  What a delight.  Brueggemann, who of course does not know me (though I’ve met him and go to his sessions at the annual meeting of the SBL – and believe I have read nearly everything he’s ever published) wrote to me, “To Marty ~  Glad we share this teaching business.”  Delightful.  The text is Great Prayers of the Old Testament, published in 2008.  I was surprised I had not seen it or read it already, in fact!  In the text, Brueggemann reviews the prayers of 12 persons, from Abraham through Moses, Hannah and Hezekiah – to Job.  Many great things in this text – all of which are more or less included in other books or writings by Brueggemann elsewhere.  That means, if you’ve read him before, you might not find much “new” here.  But, that being the case, there is new material here and, more importantly, the format and shape of this text is different than Brueggemann’s other commentary works.  This book would be, in my estimation, a great text to use, by a pastor, for a “Sermon Series” on prayer in the Old Testament!  That might seem like a “Well-duh!” kind of statement, but for those who read this blog, let me offer this as a specific suggestion.  This text as the frame – supplemented by other exegetical and interpretive aids, would prove a small investment in cash, for crafting a great series of sermons in the importance and import of prayer!  I’d love to hear the sermon series if anyone chooses to do this!

If you don’t own a commentary on Ecclesiastes – here is the one you should own – in the Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary series, and written by Peter Enns.  The text is thoroughly and decisively Christian in orientation – which is somewhat hard to pull off in particular ways, given the type of “meaningless” wisdom given by Qoheleth.  Enns reviews the core issues in the book though, without being typological or Christocentric in quirky ways – and he has a solid review of other examinations of Ecclesiastes in his literature review and methodological characterization of Ecclesiastes.  I will note in my review here, I did not read pages 30-110 of the text, though I skimmed these pages.  These pages are the “critical commentary” section of the book – and I was reading the text for it’s full review of Ecclesiastes, more than for it’s nuanced interpretation of select verses/words in a chapter-by-chapter analysis.  No doubt I’ll come back and review Enns work in these pages later – but everything else Enns does is well done, thoughtful, theological, and Christian.  Having noted my favorable review of this text, I would actually counsel a pastor/teacher to have another text on Wisdom literature (including Ecclesiastes) in their library – the text by William P. Brown – Character in Crisis.  I read this text years ago – and it is not a commentary.  Rather, it offers a perspective on discerning issues of character formation, moral development and ethical instruction for young persons (or any person) as discerned in Wisdom Literature.  A must read for thinking about pedagogy and parenting and instruction from the perspectives of ancient Israelite Wisdom!

The Gospel According to Moses was recommended to me – and I read most of it.  I’ll let anybody read other reviews of the biography/narrative on sites like amazon.com for people who have interest.  After reading the first several chapters of the text, I got bored with it.  My notes would include the fact that I thought the stories were too long – and therefore, they got boring or dull.  And, in truth, several of the ways that the author overly reads a heavy-handed-Christological-typological analysis of Jesus embodied and existing as Christ in OT stories seemed, well .  .  . heavy handed.  I am thoroughly Christian and fully believe in the means by which God has revealed God’s self in stories of Jewish and Christian literature.  I fully believe the ethic and discernment of Jesus is found in Ancient Israelite literature, as God has given revelation there!  That being said, this author’s interpretation of Christ in and through certain passages, stories, contexts, did not line up with how I understand God’s Revelation.  Not a bad text, but, I found myself skimming chapters after the first several.

In an effort to try to encourage one of our children to read more, I have picked up several Children’s stories – and read them or audiobook read them, to encourage her reading and to be able to dialogue with her about what she is learning and so forth.  I’m delighted to report that two of my most enjoyable recent reads – both in audiobooks that were read so very well, came from these stories.  Go to the links at Amazon.com to read full reviews and get the narrative descriptions – there is plenty there that will save me from typing here.  The Invention of Hugo Cabaret is a great text, and great audiobook.  I loved it, and my daughter enjoyed it.  It functions like a graphic novel in some ways – and the audiobook includes great sounds, narration, stereo effects.  A winner. 

Single_shardWhile my daughter did not like this  next story (neither of them did, in fact – and one of our girls is a reader!) – I loved A Single Shard.  I actually audiobook “read” it as I hiked in Costa Rica – and I will admit, I got tears in my eyes, and even wept – at several points in the story.  Admittedly, this is perhaps from the stories of “conflict” and “overcoming” that involve the main character – an orphaned boy.  And, admittedly, my tears no doubt came from my own issues of having adopted our girls, and thinking about their lives in light of this story.  Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the audiobook and was touched by its narrative, I learned about clay-making, pottery making, and some history of Korea, too!  I’ll come back and read A Single Shard again someday.

I re-read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – as I get ready to read his most recent text, The Advantage – that is on my “wait list” at the local library (review forthcoming).  I don’t think you have to read all of Lencioni’s text – to “get” what he is doing.  A discernment of key concepts can be gleaned in the chapter titles and in any good review of his text.  I do like his “fable” though – as it helps set the context and makes his points memorable.  And, I enjoyed audiobook reading his text again as I hiked in Costa Rica.  I was able to think more about leadership, and enjoy the cloudforest, trees, trail, animals, streams, and birds all together!  That’s a treat!

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