I appreciate the suggestions from the previous post, and have put several of them on my "wish list". I had specifically asked for Barnes & Noble gift cards for Christmas because when I was overseas with the Army, BN was the only company that offered APO shipping and the stuff got there in only a few days. But in searching around looking for books, I was disturbed to see that Amazon was consistently cheaper - in one case about $4.00 cheaper. Which means I could have gotten more books! For my birthday, I may have to go with Amazon. I normally go in for brand loyalty on this kind of thing, but cheaper books is a hard thing to ignore.
Book #1 - Reclaiming the Center edited by Erickson, Helseth and Taylor. I saw a review-in-progress over on Phil Steiger's blog and thought it sounded like a good read, and definitely on par with my post on the emergent movement's fear of certainty. I've only worked through some of the intro so far, but it looks challenging and informative. I'm sure there will be a few posts inspired by this one.
Book #2 - For the Life of the World by Fr. Alexander Schmemann. Thanks to those "people who bought this book also bought..." links, I was reminded of Fr. Schmemann, of whose writings I have heard numerous praises, but have yet to read myself. This book was originally written in 1963, and in reading the preface and 1st chapter last night, I was struck by how seemingly prescient this book is. Since Fr. Schmemann was tackling the rising head of secularism I suppose I should not find it all surprising, but what I've read so far could have been written today.
Here is a brief quote that got me thinking last night. Fr S is speaking about the tendency in our culture to "spiritualize" religion or to make it entirely about activisim and action to help people.
"Whether we 'spiritualize' our life or 'secularize' our religion, whether we invite men to a spiritual banquet or simply join them at the secular one, the real life of the world, for which we are told God gave his only-begotten Son, remains hopelessly beyond our religious grasp."
In thinking about my context at a seeker-sensitive church, I see that in large part we attempt to do both. We are trying very hard to introduce people to the spiritual life, but without presenting the demands (often uncomfortable and frequently arduous) of discipleship. However, we are also trying to offer people practical advice on how to get along better with their spouse or deal with their anger. We have no material things to offer and instead offer the "materials" of therapy, the pscychological and social tools to help make everything ok. It is far easier for me to see the validity and benefit of the latter, while the former I find very disheartening. In trying to do one or the other, much less both at once, what are we really offering people? I am afraid that Fr. Schmemann just might be right - the real life offered to us in Christ disappears when we try to shape it to our whim or try to make it a little more comfortable.