I have to admit that I love Douglas Coupland books. He is a Canadian writer, who coined the term, Generation X, with his book of the same title. I feel like his small book, Life After God should be on Seminary book lists because of it’s treatment of postmodernity and religion. His books aren’t always especially awesome, but his treatment of stories is so remarkable I can never get away from them; the stories stay in my head forever.
I have made it a pilgrimage tradition to only buy Coupland novels at Powell’s when I am up there. And I prefer to buy them used. I try to be as hipster as possible to get the full experience. It’s an extra bonus because I never remember where the books are so I get to ask someone for help, and publicly identify myself as someone who is into an author the store clerk has never heard of. It’s a great chance to practice being self-righteous in a non-sinful setting.
The Gum Thief is about some people who are working retail, at a Staples, who develop an unlikely relationship. They write to each other in the break room, as they write and read a story that one of the characters is working on. The book itself is really unique as it goes back and forth between the story and real life – with the anticipated intermingling that every reader is expecting.
Here’s 2 long literary quotes to help you chose next time you are up at Powell’s:
- p.23, “I think if human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween…Who made the rule that everyone has to dress like sheep 364 days of the year? Think of all the people you’d meet if they were in costume every day. People would be so much easier to talk to – like talking to dogs. Hey cool costume! I dig vampires too.
- p.192, “I have to add another way that Kyle is driving me nuts. He has a digital camera, and when he shoots something like a bridge or a thousand pigeons, he almost immediately scrolls through his pictures and looks back on what’s basically the present moment and treats it like it’s the distant past – even if the bridge or the pigeons are still right there. // At the end of the day, I’ll scroll through the day’s photos with him, and even on the camera’s dinky little screen the whole day comes back to me, which is unsurprising, but what is surprising are the background details I remember that I might never have remembered otherwise: an Evian truck blowing blue smoke; a woman walking three wiener dogs; a cloud shaped like a muffin. So imagine if you could scroll backwards and look at your whole life the same way. God only knows how many trillions of memories are stored inside us – memories we’ll never retrieve simply because we don’t have a device that allows us to browse them properly. With your mother, do you think the memories were still locked inside her and she couldn’t retrieve them? Or do you think the memories were simply gone? Is anyone’s existence only as good as their brain is at any given moment? And if so, what about the soul?”
Seems timely that I blog about Perry Noble’s book Overwhelmed, and when I google search him to give some link-love, he has broken his social media silence just yesterday!
For those who don’t know, Noble was the founding and lead pastor of New Spring Church, a rocket of a church in the Carolinas, until he was canned. He was struggling in his life and had some personal issues that were overflowing into his leadership, so the board at the church removed him. It’s always a terrible story, and there are so many common threads in these mega church pastor explosions and flame outs. It’s remarkable in two equal but opposite ways: why does it keep happening, and how amazing are men like Richard Warren and Andrew Stanley for their long integrity in their leadership roles!
All that to say, I picked up Perry Noble’s book, Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry, because it included some of his backstory in leadership when he was dealing with his burn out. Reading biographies of other leaders is an incredibly helpful practice for those with leadership roles. Sometimes this is to learn from their strengths and, in this case, sometimes it is to avoid their mistakes.
It was a helpful book, but really it could have been half the length. The first half of the book is about his personal stories, and the second half felt like a repackaged sermon series. I didn’t think it would be that way, but it was really difficult to continue to take the book seriously as it got more and more tedious. So, if you pick it up, read the first half and shelf the rest. Unless you are into it, then knock yourself out.
Here’s an encouraging line I highlighted:
- p.81, “Most Bible experts agree that the fourth man in the fire was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. But Shadrach, Meshach and Agednego didn’t see Jesus until they got into the fire.”
Mark Wilson is a pastor in Wisconsin and he has written Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus as a book on evangelism for everyday Christians. Many of us see evangelism as a special gift that only a few people have, but Wilson shows how having a heart for sharing Jesus with others is available to all! How much better do we share the gospel when it comes from a heart passion, rather than a rote training program?
The strange title comes from ancient near eastern fishermen who would search for a rare shellfish that gave a deep purple dye. The metaphor is that Jesus goes to great lengths to reach people because they are so valuable, so we must imitate Jesus, both in his methodology and valuation of humanity.
Moving evangelism from a pressure and guilt experience to one of practicality and joy is such a gift to the church. If we stop looking at witnessing as a sales pitch, we will be free from the guilt of not meeting our quotas. When Jesus called the disciples who were fishermen, he used their old job to describe their new job; they went from fishing for fish to fishing for men. Fishing was not about pressure and guilt – it was about knowing the water and the fish and being able to respond to the conditions of the sea. While there was no official training program, fishing took a long time to learn to do well, as you worked with and learned from generations ahead of you. I’m ready for a way of sharing my faith that feels like fishing – something that energizes and refreshes my soul.
Here’s some purple quotes:
- p.19, “There are two great metaphors for sharing the gospel: fishing and treasure hunting. The purple fish combines both.”
- p.22/23, “…for most Christians, evangelism feels more like a trip to the dentist than a purple fish fishing adventure…And like so many Christians, I abhorred witnessing and felt guilty about it.”
- p.40, “We cannot share what we do not have. Unless our mission flows from worship and holiness, we’re just hypocrites playing silly religious games.”
- p.94, “Here’s a great prayer to start the day: ‘Jesus, what are you up to today? Can I join you?’ You’ll be surprised at the divine appointments you will encounter.”
- p.133, “Most believers are terrified to share their faith because of their own negative personal encounters with obnoxious Christians, and they definitely don’t want to become ‘one of them.’ “
- p.138, “…net fishing in the New Testament was social rather than solitary: ‘An entire village would fish together and often two boats would work in tandem drag-netting fish in between them.’ “
- p.148, “Jesus is already present in the lives of everyone around us. Our task is to recognize where he is working, and then follow the divine nudge to help others see it too.”