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Sabbatical Head Start

On Consolation

I go on sabbatical beginning on June 1.  More in later post about this sabbatical, its development and delay over the past few years, and what the plans, themes, and goals are.

Knowing that the sabbatical was coming, back in March I ordered a bunch of books for it.  I also pulled out a few from my existing library I haven't yet read and plan to during this summer.

Yesterday afternoon, I wrapped up the religion book I was reading, N. T. Wright's The New Testament and the People of God, so rather than immerse myself in something else for the next couple of weeks, I decided to start on the sabbatical reading.

And first up I wanted to read Michael Ignatieff's On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times.  Ignatieff's book seemed a good place to start after two years of navigating the church through the pandemic.  And the last two years of my marriage ending and getting divorced.  Since this sabbatical is in many ways a chance to rest and recenter and heal from those experiences, consolation is a good place to begin.  

Somewhere I'd read a review of the book that interested me.  Plus I had read his last book, Ordinary Virtues, near the beginning of the pandemic  and had really liked it.  

So, seeking consolation to get a head start on this period of sabbath, I began reading and these sentences from the introduction resonated with me, and may help to set a theme for this season of life:

To be reconciled we must first make peace with our losses, defeats, and failures. To be consoled is to accept these losses, to accept what they have done to us and to believe, despite everything, that they need not haunt our future or blight our remaining possibilities.


Body Connections

Body Connections: Body-Based Spiritual CareBody Connections: Body-Based Spiritual Care by Michael S Koppel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Caring for our bodies is faithful moral activity in a world that fragments, torments, and traumatizes."

A helpful book on how to engage in body-based spiritual care for yourself and as a care giver in your interactions with others.

I found some of the chapters stronger than others. And there are helpful practices suggested.

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Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul

Outlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of PaulOutlaw Justice: The Messianic Politics of Paul by Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Paul is proposing a radical rethinking of the political by insisting that justice should be thought in contrast to law."

Building on recent work by various European thinkers, Jennings introduces us to the idea that Paul in Romans was writing to address fundamental political and social issues (and not what most commentators have traditionally focused on). And, particular, a revolutionary idea that society ought to be oriented around love and fellowship instead of law if we are ever going to achieve peace.

A compelling and exciting approach that you'll want to engage with.

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This Land Is Their Land

This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of ThanksgivingThis Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahead of this year's 400th anniversary of "the First Thanksgiving" I wanted to read this Wampanoag based account that stands as a corrective to the myth. This is a very good and effective book. And even though I've read a number of historical accounts of Plymouth colony, there was much I learned or saw in new perspective while reading this book.

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The Poems of Edward Taylor

The Poems of Edward TaylorThe Poems of Edward Taylor by Edward Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"File bright our rusty brains, and sharpen them."

More than a year ago, while reading Harold Bloom's anthology of American religious poetry, I greatly enjoyed the selections from Edward Taylor, a Puritan poet, for their surprising and fun metaphors and images. I searched and found this out-of-print volume. I don't know that I needed to read all of the poems of Edward Taylor, a great selection would have sufficed. But I did enjoy them and broke up the reading of this comprehensive volume by reading other poetry over the last year.

"Woes Pickled in Revenges Powdering Trough"

I delight in the idea of pickled woes!

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Galatians Re-Imagined

Galatians Re-ImaginedGalatians Re-Imagined by Brigitte Kahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if we took seriously the idea that Paul's letter was written to the Galatians, in other words, the Gauls, the Celtic peoples who had been battling Rome for centuries from western Europe to Asia Minor? That's what Kahl does in her magnificent book.

As Rome built its empire it was constantly in battle with the Gauls, who had even sacked Rome in the early days of the republic. For the Romans (and Roman propaganda) the Gauls were the hated and despised enemy other. Public art was filled with images of defeated and dying Gauls.

Kahl argues that it is important to understand Paul, a Jew--another colonized people viewed as strange and other by the Romans--writing to these other colonized people. And writing to them about how in Jesus Christ a new, non-imperial identity and community is being formed among the defeated, colonized people.

Through this lens she reinterprets Paul's discussions of law and grace, justification and salvation, and markers of identity.

This is one of those books that opens up new vistas and radically shifts your understanding of something you thought you had a decent interpretative grasp of.

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The Ornament of the World

The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval SpainThe Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by MarĂ­a Rosa Menocal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An enjoyable read about Medieval Spain and the ways in which the three monotheistic faiths interacted with one another and created one of the world's great and most influential cultures. The approach may be a bit romanticized, but who cares. We need to highlight those positive moments in world history that give us glimpses of what is possible.

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Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw EmotionsUnglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recommended to me a couple of weeks ago when I was in the midst of a depression over my divorce. There are aspect of the book I had to filter. For example, it's written more for a suburban wife audience. And the piety isn't mine. But I found some really helpful discussions in it of expectations and creating a reaction plan for the types of things that normally upset one.

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