I Know What You Should Read This Summer

Summer. Vacation. Barbecue. Beach. Books.

Am I right?

For many of us, the coming of summer brings the opportunity to read--at least more (or other) books than we do the rest of the year. So I’ve decided to offer a few suggestions of books I KNOW won't disappoint:

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

Boone, by Robert Morgan

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber (see my review
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard 
Life is Mostly Edges, by Calvin Miller (see my review

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe  
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain 
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck 
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard

On Writing, by Stephen King


Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford 
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, by James Shapiro 
No Ordinary Time, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard

History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, by Brad Meltzer

A Timbered Choir, by Wendell Berry
A Thousand Mornings, by Mary Oliver 
Kneeling in Jerusalem, by Ann Weems 
Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, by Rainer Maria Rilke 

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life, by Lois Tverberg (see my review)

An Altar in the World (A Geography of Faith), by Barbara Brown Taylor (see my review
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, by N. T. Wright (see my review
From the Garden to the City (The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology) by John Dyer (see my review
Viral (How Social Networking is Poised to Ignite Revival)by Leonard Sweet (see my review)  
A Year of Biblical Womanhood (How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master)by Rachel Held Evans (see my review
Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (see my review
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson (see my review
Leap Over a Wall, by Eugene Peterson 


Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

Naomi and Her Daughters, by Walter Wangerin (read my review)

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving 

My Recent Releases
The Red Letter Life: 17 Words of Jesus to Inspire Simple, Practical, Purposeful Living
Northkill (a historical novel) 
Life Stinks...And Then You Die: Living Well in a Sick World 

(photo credit: ngader via www.everystockphoto.com)

"Oh, Davey"

Kids, back in the day, before the Cartoon Network, before cable TV, when cartoons were only shown on Saturday mornings, there was a bright spot on the Sunday morning television screen, called Davey and Goliath, a stop-motion animated series produced by the Lutheran Church in America (now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Each fifteen-minute episode taught the main characters (Davey and his dog, Goliath) a valuable lesson. Maybe only those who (like me) watched the show many Sunday mornings before leaving for church can appreciate this commercial, but it sure makes me smile:

Pastor, Get a Life. Seriously.

Pastoring can be a tough gig. The work is never done. People can be changeful creatures. Ministry is so constant, need never takes a holiday, crises never cease, and criticism rolls on like a never-ending stream. Every time you deliver a sermon, the next one is a mere six days away. Every time someone volunteers, someone else resigns. For every repentant soul, there are half a dozen who are making eyes at the devil. Or so it seems at times.

That's why I'm convinced every pastor needs a good hobby. Something that can counter the frustrations and struggles of ministry. Something to make Mondays a little brighter. Something to replenish the empty fuel tank. Something sufficiently different from ministry pursuits to constitute a mini-vacation every week or so...if only for an hour or two. Like:
Jigsaw puzzles. New ones, so there are no missing pieces. Because, unlike ministry, they can be finished!

Hiking or Jogging. Gets you outside. Gets your dopamine flowing. Every run or hike you complete is a small victory.

Photography. When you take a nice picture, it stays took. It never turns around to bite you, either.

Sudoku. Numbers go in squares. Numbers add up. Numbers stay in squares. Numbers seldom get mean. Unlike people.

Writing. Unlike ministry, in which (ultimately) few things are in your control, words do what you tell them to do. Most of the time, anyway.

Music. Whether you collect, play, or attend, music really doth hath charms to soothe the savage breast.

Travel. Nothing like the open road--or open sea--to clear your head and renew your soul. Some find a bike or motorcycle helpful. Others seek a change of climate. Some RV it. Whatever works for you, but it should be something that can be repeated more than a few times a year.

Grandkids. Not sure it qualifies as a hobby, but one of the most restorative things I do is pick up my grandkids and take them out to lunch. Or take them on a picnic. Or to the zoo or children's museum. It's often the emotional high point of my week.
These are just a few ideas, of course. What about you? Do you have a hobby that refreshes you?

A Memorial Day Prayer

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on
the One whose power over us
is great and gentle,
firm and forgiving,
holy and healing…

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone…

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs…

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice…

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace…

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts...

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.


(from the Concord Pastor blog; cross-posted from Bob Hostetler's Daily Prayer Blog)

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 29)

The desk above belongs to my friend, Rev. Darryl Jackson, pastor of First Baptist Church at 6701 Ringwood Road in Oxford, Ohio. Obviously, he subscribes to the "clean desk, clean mind" school of thought. Either that or he cheated.

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)

Money Secrets of the Amish

I wasn't even halfway finished reading Loralee Craker's Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving before I started begging my wife to read it too. For two reasons: (1) She loves reading and learning about the Amish, not just because it is my ancestry on my father's side, but also because the Amish way of life resonates with her, and (2) This book illuminates and reflects so much about me!

I wasn't raised Amish (my grandfather left the community when he was nineteen), but so much about the way I was raised reflects the values and practices Loralee writes explains in her book (which often leaves my wife, the lovely Robin, utterly mystified). For example, her chapters are titled:
1. Upside Down
2. UWMW: Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, or Do Without
3. Don't Eat the Marshmallow: Learning Delayed Gratification
4. Pay on Time
5. Rethinking Gifts
6. Saving
7. Operation De-spoil the Kids
8. Repurpose, Recycle, and Reuse
9. Dead Horses Smell Bad, but Debt Smells Even Worse
10. Shopping Secondhand
11. To Bulk or Not to Bulk?
12. Amish Foodies or Frugal Feinschmeckers
13. Bartering: I'll Trade You This Cow for a Bunch of Rugs
14. The Best Things in Life Are Free
While sharing the "secrets" (many of which smack of common sense and biblical reasoning), she introduces the reader to people like Bishop Eli King, Amish wife Ella Yoder (who can bake fifteen snitz pies in no time at all), and Amish farmer Amos (who saved $400,000 while raising fourteen children without depriving them in the least). Every chapter is intensely practical, applicable, and potentially life-changing.

While I generally confine my book reviews on the Desperate Pastor to books relating to church, ministry, and leadership, I wanted to recommend Craker's book here because so much in it could benefit men and women in ministry.

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 28)

The pastor's desk above is that of Dustin LeMaster, Director of Youth & After-School Ministries at Millersburg United Methodist Church in (you guessed it) Millersburg, Ohio (in Holmes County, the epicenter of Amish Country).

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)

Church of the Week: Cincinnati Airport Chapel, Redux

A few years ago I posted a short blog post here on the Desperate Pastor, featuring the airport chapel at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (here), which I visited again this past week, on my return from a speaking engagement in Florida.
On that occasion, however, I failed to note (if it was there at the time) the sign posted at the entrance to the chapel: "No Sleeping in Chapel." Prompts me to wonder, in all my years as a pastor and preacher...why did I never think to post a sign like that on the doors to MY church?

Living the Quaker Way

Philip Gulley is probably best known as the author of the bestsellers, Front Porch Tales and Hometown Tales, among many others. But I haven't read those books.

When his book, Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today, was released, however, I was anxious to read it. And I'm glad I did.

I was interested in learning more about the Quakers (or, more properly, "Society of Friends"), a unique Christian movement that endures to this day. And I hoped not only for an education but also for a transformation in my own life and practice. So who better than Gulley, who is the pastor at Fairfield Friends Meeting House in Camby, Indiana, to do that for me?

He does it in nine parts:
Introduction: Discovering Your Inner Quaker
What Is a Quaker?
A Quaker Way Altar Call
Thirty Days of Application: Living the Quaker Way Through the Queries
Gulley does his best to define "The Quaker Way," though he admits that an authoritative explanation is elusive, due to the broadness and inclusivity of the Quaker tradition.

It was interesting to read the book as a (more or less) polemical presentation of a tradition that more or less avoids polemics. I thought it was most affecting in its plea for the counter-cultural values of simplicity, peace, and integrity. His emphasis on the "queries" was moving and convicting.

My only disappointment was the lack of insight into what a Quaker worship experience is like--I suppose, because it is so varied from one "Friends Meeting" to another that a clear picture is elusive. As is much about the Quaker way, apparently. But the things Gulley does nail down are things worth living, as the book's title says.

The Pastor's Desk (Episode 27)

The pastor's desk below is that of my nephew, Father David Hostetler, LTJG, CHC, USN Chaplain, 5th Combat Logistics Battalion, whose desk has been featured on this blog before (here). But THAT was his desk at Camp Pendleton in California; THIS is a photo of his desk at the chapel on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where he has served in recent weeks. You can see his flak jacket and kevlar helmet behind the network hub, and the "Diet Coke" on his can is written in Pashti.

All pastors are on "active duty," of course. But some may be more active than others.

(If you would like to participate in this recurring feature on the Desperate Pastor blog, submit a single photo of a pastor's study, office, or desk--but no tidying up before taking the picture, mind you--to bob@bobhostetler.com, along with a short description identifying to whom it belongs)