John Mark Comer gives a fresh take on Christian calling and purpose. Through his creative style, Comer takes a good look at Genesis and the story of a man, a woman, and a garden. He unpacks God’s creation and his original intent for how we are meant to spend our time. Here, you’ll find answers to questions like “Does God care where I work?” “What about what I do with my free time or how much rest do I get?” “Does he have a clear direction for me?” Garden City has been a huge help in guiding discussions about my students vocation and what life looks like after college. I believe Comer’s thoughts are questions we should be asking ourselves throughout our lives. Garden City helps us answer why we are here and what should we do about it. This book is faithfully Biblical and explains God’s beautiful design for work and the Sabbath rest in a casual, down to earth style. It gives a sense of purpose for the present and hope for the future.
Unashamed is an autobiographical book following the life and ministry of rapper and hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore. It’s a beautiful story of God’s redemption and reconciliation from a troubled and messy past to Grammy winning rapper. Follow Lecrae as he wrestles with God’s call on his life, in college, to serve him through music. He desires to see the secular world of hip-hop and rap transformed by the gospel, but he is an outsider. Follow his struggle of being shunned by many religious people because of his relationship and work in the secular world. It’s an incredible picture of how to be Christian in this secular age.
~ Kyle Schumacher
The two authors of this month’s selections are two people I had the awesome opportunity to hear speak.
I was first introduced to Christena Cleveland in my seminary class, Leadership Through Conflict, and then I heard her speak at Intervarsity’s Urbana Conference in St. Louis, MO. She is a social psychologist and a Christian. In her book, Disunity in Christ, Christena Cleveland uses storytelling, social psychology, and laughter to discuss the ways in which the church has failed to live “in community” with one another. Have you ever thought to yourself, why are we so bad at unity in the church? Or, have you ever labeled someone as being the “right” kind of Christian versus the “wrong” kind of Christian? Or maybe—and I am guilty of this one—you use “they” and “them” a lot when talking about your fellow Christians negatively. Why do we do these things if we are a part of the ONE body of Christ? As we talk about reconciliation during Lent, this is an important book for us to fully understand how we are contributors to the disunity of the church and within our communities.
Last month, during the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference, Debby Irving was invited to speak to a bunch of Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, and Baptist youth leaders about being white. It was true, the majority of us in the room were white. In fact, 86% of mainline protestants are white. In her book, Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, Debby Irving tells her story of how she realized—as a white woman—she was complicit in the narrative of race, racism, and division in the United States and why her efforts to create di-versity often failed. I believe that her story is important for white people to hear and under-stand. She also offers thoughtful questions for the reader to reflect on. I think her story will also help us flesh out the difference between doing “for” and doing “with.” Britney
Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur
By Clifton Taulbert & Gary Schoeniger
Have you seen the commercials? “Erie, our time is now! We need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in every facet of the community.” They seem to run a lot during the morning news shows.
My reaction was, “Hey, everyone can’t be a small business owner! Enough. Not my thing.” And I ignored the commercials. Until I attended an Erie Together event in 2016 where I learned the back story to this commercial.
I came to realize “the time IS now” for Erie-ites to be possibility thinkers. “The time is now” for leaders from every sphere of our community to think outside the box, and take risks to make positive changes for the future. Entrepreneurs in education, churches, civic leadership, the arts, public spaces, medicine, manu-facturing, infrastructure and business need to be developed.
And this thinking applies to relationships, to families, to personal interactions as well. We need to be entrepreneurs! Same old, same old really isn’t good enough. It holds us back. It keeps us stuck in ruts. We miss what God might have in store for the safety and security of the familiar.
The book contrasts a true story set In the late 1950s, in a poor cotton community in Mississippi with timeless, universal principles that can help us be entrepreneurial in every area of life. Taulbert’s Uncle Cleve overcomes opportunities limited by social and legal constraints beyond his control and develops a black-owned business when this was nearly impossible.
Who Owns The Ice House? reaches into the past to remind us of the timeless and universal principles that can empower anyone to succeed. It has helped me look at life through a very different lens. The time is now for Erie, for FPCC, for you, for me. I dare you to pick up a copy in the library and see if it doesn’t change your outlook! ~ Seph Kumer
First of all, thank you to Britney Knight for suggesting this idea. It’s my hope you will not only read the books featured but you will also write your own reviews for books that you would encourage us all to read.
I have had three books suggested to me over the past four months. None of them have to do with theology or leadership or Biblical studies, the topics that usually are found between the pages of the books that I most often read.
The first is “Hidden Figures” (Margot Lee Shetterly, William Morrow/Harper Collins, 2016). This book is based on a time in history when humans, rather than machines, were called “computers” because of their ability to crunch numbers; when humans were intentionally discriminated against because of the color of their skin; and a time when women working with men had to, to quote the book, “think like a man, work like a dog, and act like a lady”. The book, now also a movie with the same title that was released last month, focuses on the lives of three African-American women who worked as “computers” and the story of their lives framed by the fabric of their lives: marriages, deaths, families, church, and a world in which they moved be-tween the semi-segregated society of their work place and the fully segregated society in which they lived in Virginia. It’s a marvelous book.
The second book is “Sing For Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family” (Daniel Bergner, Lee Boudreaux Books, 2016) the story based on the life of Ryan Speedo Green, an African-American male who overcame a childhood that included time spent in a juvenile detention facility to become an international opera singer. His life was influenced by a special classroom teacher named Mrs. Hughes, who kept in touch with him while he was in juvenile detention. Mrs. Hughes’ husband, the executive director of another school, paid the way for Green to attend a production of “Carmen” at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Green remembers, “The desire to better myself, to be above what was around me, what better art form to do that in than opera?…It was the prestige. It was coming from my neighborhood and walking into the Met—it was so overwhelmingly beautiful; it was the way people dress up; it was the grandeur; it was like walking into a palace. It was like being transported into another world.”
The third book is “Small Great Things” (Jodi Picoult, Ballentine Books, 2016) The title comes from a quote often attributed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things that are great.” Picoult struggled as to whether “(A)s a white woman, did I have the right to paraphrase these sentiments?” “This book tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers,” according to the author’s website. In a review of the book, Picoult says: “Most of us think the word ‘racism’ is synonymous with the word ‘prejudice.’ But racism is much more than just discrimination based on skin color. It also about who has institutional power. Just as racism creates disadvantages for people of color that make success harder to achieve, it also gives advantages to white people that make success easier to achieve. It’s hard to see those advantages, much less own up to them.”
The common threads of racism, discrimination, bias, prejudice, and overcoming incredible challenges connected these books for me. I found them individually and collectively a very good read. Two of the three are based on true life experience, the third reflects truth about the experience of life today. I commend each and every one of them to you! Timm