Pause & Ponder // Reading in May

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In a way I’ve been searching all my life for better ways of seeing.

This was my first encounter with a phenomenon I would notice again and again, throughout my career: For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.

When it comes to creative endeavours, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.

John and I stressed that no one at Disney needed to wait for permission to come up with solutions. What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken? For too long, a culture of fear had stymied those who wanted to step outside of Disney’s accepted protocols. That kind of timidity wasn’t going to make Disney Animation great.

Creativity, Inc – Ed Catmul

There is a way that God designed us to encounter Him: firsthand. God has always preferred and invited firsthand communication.

To truly embrace “this God” means that we must be rid not only of the things we worship as idols but also of the idol we have made and called “God.”

Secondhand Jesus – Glenn Packiam

Pause & Ponder // Reading in March

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Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.

The Heart of a Leader – Ken Blanchard

Generosity is what keeps the things I own from owning me. In other words, the point of my generosity isn’t just to bless others; it’s also to liberate me.

“I work with college students, helping them to strive after Christ and his kingdom, especially within communities scarred by poverty, hopelessness and exclusion. One of my most daunting challenges is not helping students see that they can make a difference in these complicated situations; it is helping them to confront the messianic complex which convinces them that they are the solution.”

Overrated – Eugene Cho

Pierre Huyghe—a French artist—believed that “being an artist means asking questions about the reality of existence.” Huyghe’s work has followed this line, which led Time magazine to call him a “question maker.”

Let’s be the sort of people who, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, “can risk being peaceful in a violent world, risk being kind in a competitive society, risk being faithful in an age of cynicism, risk being gentle among those who admire the tough, risk love when it may not be returned, because we have the confidence that in Christ we have been reborn into a new reality.”

Better: How Jesus Satisfies the Search for Meaning – Tim Chaddick and Craig Borlase

Pause & Ponder // Reading in Feb

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The danger goes beyond authority figures silencing female voices. Young women internalize societal cues about what defines “appropriate” behaviour and, in turn, silence themselves.

It wasn’t until I heard the Phi Beta Kappa speech about self-doubt that it struck me: the real issue was not that I felt like a fraud, but that I could feel something deeply and profoundly and be completely wrong.

I realised that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming.

Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

The very meaning of food is being transformed: food cultures that once treated cooking and eating as central elements in maintaining social stricter and tradition are slowly being usurped by a global food culture, where cost and convenience are dominant, the social meal is obsolete, and the art of cooking fetishised in coffee-table cookbooks and on television shows.

Just as we long ago broke farming into its constituent pieces and are now suffering the consequences, our solutions have tended to follow a pattern that is no less reductionist, in which each problem (for example, synthetic farm chemicals) is met with its own discreet solution (organics). Yet just as most of our food challenges are now understood to be interrelated and evolving, our solutions, too, must be both comprehensive and capable of constantly adapting.

The End of Food – Paul Roberts

The French writer and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet recalls his friend the literary theorist Roland Barthes musing, ‘In a restaurant it is the menu that people enjoy consuming – not the dishes, but their description.’ The words, the bright names of ingredients, the voluptuous-sounding dishes are all part of the experience of the food.

“We don’t sit around a table as a distraction from the travails of daily life. We do everything else in order to sit around the table. What you share when you eat in the Caribbean isn’t just food, it’s stories. Words become a condiment to the food.” Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

The Edible Atlas – Mina Holland

Pause & Ponder // Reading in Jan

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I finally realised that my fear was boring.

I made a decision a long time ago that if I want creativity in my life – and I do – then I will have to make space for fear, too. Plenty of space.

It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).

What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant? What do you love even more than you love your own ego?

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert

“A bookshop is not like a railway booking-office which one approaches knowing what one wants. One should enter it vaguely, almost in a dream, and allow what is there freely to attract and influence the eye. To walk the rounds of the bookshops, dipping in as curiosity dictates, should be an afternoon’s entertainment.” John Maynard Keynes

The title of Ward’s blog is borrowed from a saying of Andy Warhol’s: ‘I like boring things’. Warhol took he most boring and ubiquitous object he could think of – a tin of soup – and made millions of people see it anew. Ward says that when he refers to boring things he is thinking of things that only seem boring, because we’re not paying attention to them… “The transformative power of attention”.

Curiosity is a life force. If depression involves a turning inwards, a feeling that there’s nothing in the world that is worthy of our attention (or that nothing we pay attention to is worthy) then it is curiosity which takes us the other way, that reminds us that the world is an inexhaustibly diverting, inspiring, fascinating place.

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It – Ian Leslie

The climax of God’s creative work is not the creation of humanity (or the satisfaction of human desires exclusively defined) but the experience of Sabbath. Sabbath is not an optional reprieve in the midst of an otherwise frantic or obsessive life. It is the goal of all existence because it is in Sabbath, creation becomes what it fully ought to be.

God the gardener is a striking image. It helps us understand that the divine creative activity is fundamentally about ‘making room’ for others to be and to flourish.

All along the way decisions have to be made about how people relate to the land (agriculture) and each other (culture). These decisions reflect more or less appropriate forms of abiding: bread can be consumed in ways that respect and honour fields, farm workers, and bakers, but it can also be consumed as a produce in which relations to land and others have been degraded. Food production and consumption, in other words, embody a logos. What we eat and how we eat it reflect whether or not we think we need to abide with others at all.

Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating – Norman Wirzba

Pause & Ponder // Reading in Nov & Dec

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Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls.

We are accountable before God for our imaginations as much as for our deeds.

As Jesus stepped out of the Judean wilderness and into the public eye, he did not avoid such lonely spaces. On the contrary, he pursued them for the rest of his days. The same word that is translated desert in the temptation appears throughout Jesus’ visible years as solitary or lonely places.

Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years… and Yours – Alicia Britt Chloe

Really, prayer and worry are of the same essence. They are both a rehearsing of circumstances, a mulling over, and a kind of mental and emotional chewing. But in worry, there’s no connection, no traction, no relational receiver.

To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain – Matt Chandler

That is the essence of encouragement—treating the people in your life as the best possible versions of themselves, whether they are currently living up to that standard or not.

Tongue Pierced: How the Words You Speak Transform the Life You Live – Nelson Searcy

Efficiency is a dangerous mind-set to bring to our faith. We do not want to be efficient worshipers, driven by a desire to get more of God in a shorter amount of time.

The Next Story – Tim Challies

It’s not that I hold that belief so much as that belief holds me.

All Is Grace – Brennan Manning

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past thirteen years, it’s this: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.

“Grace will take you places hustling can’t.” Liz Gilbert

Regret is a tough but fair teacher. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.

Rising Strong – Brene Brown

Pause & Ponder // Reading in October

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“It is harder to decide what you want to say than it is to figure out how to say it.”

“Reading is another necessary luxury. William Safire once told a budding writer, “Never feel guilty about reading, it’s what you do to do your job.” Reading is the collecting of intellectual income; writing is the spending of it.”

On Speaking Well – Peggy Noonan

“The taproot of cookery is not the desperation of the belly any more than it is the gastrointestinal tracts vulnerability to the imagined dangers of raw food; rather it is the mind’s thirst for delight – it’s lifelong and obsessive quest to discover, in everything it takes a shine to, unnecessary goodness, superfluous beauties and gratuitous truths.”

“The most serious thing I have to say about God – after fifty-some years of living in a world full of aardvarks and artichokes, garlic and girls’ knees, mushrooms and men’s noses, zebras and zucchini – is that whoever was responsible certainly spent a lot of eternity simply playing around. Creation looks like nothing so much as the original wild party.”

“But beware. Civilization is a fragile thing. You could get everything else right and destroy the whole picnic with Styrofoam cups. It’s taken us 5000 years to get this far. Let’s have honest-to-goodness stemware only, please.”

“The world we live in exists not because it is an old inventory item once made and long since shelved, but because each scrap of its marvellous being is an intimate and immediate response to the Creator who, at every moment, romances it out of nothing into existence by loving regard.”

Capon on Cooking – Robert Farrar Capon

“Isaiah calls us to an intimate activism and an active intimacy.”

“God deliberately chose an elderly barren couple to launch Israel the nation, and he sustained that nation by sending them patriarchs and prophets who were supernaturally born. The very birth and existence of the nation of Israel was a miracle both physically and spiritually.”

Home for Good – Krish Kandiah

Pause & Ponder // Reading in September

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“If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man’s ethical formation, in man’s inner growth… then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.”

Pope Benedict XVI – Wyatt North

“Certain realities take us beyond language because that is their very purpose. They do what words cannot do.”

“The God of the Incarnation is as much about kitchen tables as ecclesial altars.”

“In essence, what God is telling Adam and Eve is this: “I am going to give you life. You may receive that life, but you may never take it. To take it is to ruin and destroy the gift that it is”.”

“If our Eucharists do not succeed in breaking down the barriers that separate us from each other, then we have little reason to hope that these barriers will break down in our world.”

Our One Great Act of Fidelity – Ronald Rolheiser

“Stegner argued that a wild place was worth much more than could ever be revealed by a cost-benefit analysis of its recreational economic value, or its minerals and resources. No, he explained, we need wild places because they remind us of a world beyond the human. Forests, plains, prairies, deserts, mountains: the experience of those landscapes can give people ‘a sense of bigness outside themselves that has now in some way been lost’.”

“Thought, like memory, inhabits external things as much as the inner regions of the human brain. When the physical correspondents of thought disappear, then thought, or its possibility, is also lost. When woods and trees are destroyed – incidentally, deliberately – imagination and memory go with them.”

“It is difficult, even now, to travel through the clearer glens of Scotland and miss the evidence of earlier calamity. Difficult, too, not to be disturbed by it, not to find one’s own relationship with the land changed by the knowledge of what once occurred here. The pasts of these places complicate and darken their present wildness; caution against romanticism and blitheness.”

The Wild Places – Robert Macfarlane

Pause & Ponder // Reading in August

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“Kafka might have advocated tackling ‘only books that bite or sting us’ (or ‘wound and stab us’, depending on which translation you favour)… but he didn’t have to commute through the rush hour, holding on to a swinging strap with only the words in front of his eyes to take his mind off the armpit of the person standing two inches away.”

Reading the World – Ann Morgan

Pause & Ponder // Reading in July

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“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”

Allegiant – Veronica Roth

“That’s his call. Show up.”

Starving Jesus – Craig Gross & J.R. Mahon

“Alec Motyer said, “Holiness is the most intimately divine word the Bible possesses.” And thus the call to be holy as he is holy is the call to the most intimate union with God. Imitation of God has intimacy with God as the goal.”

“Prayer is the language of intimacy. Prayer keeps communion. And prayer bears fruit, not simply in answered prayer, but in presenting us to a holy God to be transformed into his likeness.”

The Pursuit of the Holy – Simon Ponsonby

“In solitude we confront the forces that seek to shape us in their image and the alternative ways that we try to define ourselves, and we meet the God who offers us true identity and hear the voice that truly defines us and shapes us according to his image.”

“It’s important that we pay attention to the mundane as well as the sublime, as it’s the mundane that makes the sublime possible.”

“Because of these assumptions in many churches about what constitutes participation, we can become convinced that the faithful word in the Christian life is always yes. When we are asked to participate in an activity or group or sharing time, if we are really committed to community, if we truly trust God, we think we must answer “yes.” Conversely, no is the unfaithful word. No is the word that shuts us out of community, that doesn’t trust God and is closed to others and his work.”

Introverts in the Church – Adam S. McHugh

Reading in June

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1 month. 12 books.

June was a fairly good month of reading for me; there were a few gems mixed in with the cheesy, switch-off lit.

My friend Bex Lewis’ book Raising Children in a Digital Age is well worth a read – perhaps particularly for parents, but I found it helpful as an ‘adoptive aunty’. I love the focus on learning how to do life online together, and not focusing on the false notion of ‘digital natives’.

A few ‘stop and think’ lines from last month:

Jesus turned “others” into “anothers.”

Don’t shortchange mystery.

Post-Modern Pilgrims – Leonard Sweet

People don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

Love Well – Jamie George

So, don’t just think that some time in the future when you’re older or wiser or can control your temper or you live somewhere else or you’re not single or you’re a better person, you’ll serve God or do what He wants. He wants all of you now, how you are.

Letting go is not giving up and admitting defeat; it’s choosing to move away from a thing that is actually defeating you already.

Speed Bumps & Roundabouts – Pip McCracken

Real criticism begins in the capacity to grieve because that is the most visceral announcement that things are not right.

We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.

The Prophetic Imagination – Walter Brueggemann