Our Common Life

A favorite childhood memory is the summer reading program at the public library.  Some years ago, my community library added a summer reading program for the grown ups – complete with prizes that encouraged us to take up volumes from sections of the library where we were not frequent explorers.   Thank God for opportunities to turn off our beaten paths and listen for the whispers of the Spirit stirring from unfamiliar pages and through voices that do not prompt our easy, impulsive “Amen!”s. 

We associate summer vacations with the gift of time for extra reading, for picking up (or downloading!) some of what we’ve been meaning and hoping to read.  I think it was from our brother Rev. Laird Keever that some of us learned to call our stacks and shelves of unread books our “library of intention”.  May there be time these weeks for a summer reading program in our libraries of intention!

A traditional rhythm of daily prayer includes a time of prayer known as the “Office of Readings”.   The traditional readings include psalms, a scripture passage and also a reading – fairly often something written by or about a historic saint – that offers encouragement or enlightenment.  Today, many religious communities include in their Office of Readings chapters from contemporary writers speaking to disciples of Jesus in the 21st century.

We share a common vocation as disciples of Jesus to be learners.  Included in our great commandments is the commandment to love God with all our minds.   I cherish in the histories of the United Church of Christ the rich commitments to learning and teaching, to the faithful honoring of questions and challenge and exploration.

If this is not already a part of your rhythm of daily prayer, I invite you to take up the practice of an Office of Readings that includes time with books that stretch and strengthen your mind, heart, and soul. 

A hope I have as our Iowa Conference website continues to develop is that it will include a “book corner”, a space where we can share with one another titles of and brief comments about books that have invited us to stretch and strengthen as disciples of Jesus.  We might in this way share and gather offerings for our Office of Readings and libraries of intention.

Let’s start here!  I’ll be watching the comment section below.  What book is stretching your mind this summer?  What book is moving your heart?  Nourishing your soul? 

Jonna Jensen, Associate Conference Minister for Eastern Iowa

5 comments on “Our Common Life

  1. Judy Scheer on said:

    Presently I am reading “Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America” by Stanley Hauerwas. I find that I react to many of his ideas with scorn, but then think that there are grains of truth in what he is saying. I am about 5/6 of the way through. This is one of those books that I cannot read in one sitting. I need reaction and thinking time.
    I am reading parts of the Old Testament which I started during Lent 2010. Presently I am in Jeremiah. I am reading about the false prophets. This makes me wonder who are our ‘false’ prophets today and how are we supposed to recognize their voices while listening for Our still-speaking God.

  2. Marilyn Sargent on said:

    Jonna, yesterday was to have been my 3rd Tuesday morning reading sabbatical, but unfortunately it was scrapped and, quite honestly, the 2nd one wasn’t complete due to unexpected pastoral needs. However, it is my goal to spend each Tuesday morning reading one of the books from my “library of intention” (love that definition — and it is so good to know I am not alone in that quest!) As I move further into my routine and find myself stretched and moved and fed, I will check in again.

  3. Jane Willan on said:

    I’ve already won a prize at the Burlington Library.

  4. Dianne on said:

    I am reading The Language of God by Francis S. Collins. He presents arguments for and against various theories about creation, including points of view from Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design. He introduces another idea: BioLogos.
    This is not a topic a personally need to argue about; I just enjoy the sun and enjoy the rain (when it comes) and the flowers.
    On the other hand, when I argue about sustainability and land use, I like to have these ideas in my arsenal.

  5. Lindsey Braun on said:

    I reread Kathleen Norris’ “Dakota: A Spiritual Geography” this summer. Her deep love of small, rural, and quiet places (without romanticizing them) is helpful in my rural setting. I think I may invite a reading group from my congregation to read it with me this fall or winter–it could help us better identify our gifts for each other and for the world. Norris’ sense of the playfulness of monks led me back to a little book I hadn’t read since college: The Rule of St. Benedict. The calls for obedience sometimes rankle a bit, but the commitment to listening to one another, eliminating idle chatter, and building up the community will all preach.

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