Why I’m Reading What I’m Reading

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I do not read fiction very often. One of my reading goals this year is to read at least two works of classic literature. There are a few driving forces that caused me to choose the Hobbit. First, the imagination and depth of writing from Tolkien really appeals to me and speaks to my love for stories of redemption. In an interview at DesiringGod.com, pastor and author Timothy Keller said this about Tolkien:

Tolkien has helped my imagination. He was a devout Catholic—and I am not. However, because he brought his faith to bear into narrative, fiction, and literature, his Christianity—which was pretty ‘mere Christianity’ (understanding of human sin, need for grace, need for redemption)—fleshed out in fiction, has been an inspiration to me.

What I mean by inspiration is this: he gives me a way of grasping glory that would otherwise be hard for me to appreciate. Glory, weightiness, beauty, excellence, brilliance, virtue—he shows them to you in some of his characters.

When people ask: how often have you read Lord of the Rings?, the answer is: I actually never stop. I’m always in it.

Keller’s words confirmed to me that not only would I benefit from reading a bit more of Tolkien but that I would thoroughly  enjoy doing so.

Secondly, the first of two films based on The Hobbit is scheduled for release this December and I wanted to read the source material beforehand. The final reason I chose to read the Hobbit is rather personal. I want to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books to my son when he gets older. I want to share with him the sense of adventure, loyalty, sacrifice, and standing together to fight evil that Tolkien magnificently brings to life. I’m practicing some voices as well. I do a pretty good Gandalf.

Simply Strategic Stuff by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan
Over the last year I have had to take a crash course in church administration. The tag line on this book says, “Help for leaders drowning in the details of running a church.” Um… yeas please! Tim and Tony provide 99 brief chapters of advice, tips, and challenges to help you hire staff, communicate more clearly, cast vision, and build teams. I’ve tried to read a few of these chapters each day and journal my thoughts about how the information given can help me in my current context.

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading by Tony Reinke
I read quite a bit. In fact, the plan is that I will read somewhere between 30-40 books in 2012. So why would I want to read a book about reading when I could be reading about any other subject? The reason I chose to read Lit! is that I want to become a more enlightened reader and more intentional reader. I have been reading Tony Reinke’s blog, Miscellanies, for years and I have very much appreciated his insight and keen interest in the written word. In this book, Tony gives the reader a theology of reading and he teaches you how to discern what to read. The second half of the book is filled with practical instructions about the art of reading. Tony covers everything from reading faster to organizing what you read to highlighting/taking notes on what you read. My hope is the Lit! will help me be a better reader so I can communicate what I’m learning more effectively.

In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
I first read In The Name of Jesus as I was starting out in my first full-time ministry position as a Campus Minister. I try and read this book every so often to be reminded of my calling of leadership. This is Nouwen’s meditation of the temptations of Jesus and how they relate to the temptations that Christian leaders face in the course of leading and serving those around them. The temptations to be relevant, popular, and out in front bubble up in the heart of everyone who leads but there is hope. Looking to Jesus we see how to overcome through prayer, ministry, and being led by the Spirit. I recommend this book to every pastor- young or old.