DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

PB and J

Written by: on November 23, 2019

The last few months have been full of all kinds of new learning for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed the books we have not read together. Yes, it has been highly informative the learning from different perspectives, viewpoints of classmates on books they haven’t read and sharing my thoughts (to the best of my ability) on books that I haven’t read. Of the books that I haven’t read this semester, Pierre Bayard’s book ‘How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read’ is my favorite. Though not the book that I have read the least of this semester, I certainly haven’t read a great amount of it yet, somehow there have been smatterings of understanding that have shone through to shed light on the reality of non-reading.

I don’t read books, entirely. Even, books that I crawl through are not thoroughly read. Many years ago, I read a book by Daniel Coleman, ‘In Bed with the Word’. Every word of it, seemingly, was well thought out. I have no recollection of this book other than the title, that has stuck with me for whatever reason. Quickly, just as the book popped back into mind, I thought to refresh my thoughts on ‘In Bed with the Word’ by reading a summary on Amazon. The book came back to life just as it had been alive in me years ago. Not only that but, the summary of the book was written by the Professor whose curriculum the book was a part of in my studies at Carey Theological College. I remembered my Professors passion for this book and her passion for other books and authors that at the time I had never heard of, like: Buechner, Vanier, Carretto and Merton. And, I wonder now, had she read any of these books? I bought most of the books she mentioned and others by the same authors, they are on my bookshelf, margins littered with my engagement. Have I read these books?

Reading books ‘very quickly’ is a discipline that has been encouraged by our teachers and the structure of the program’s curriculum thus far. It has been emphasized that reading at a doctoral level requires a different kind of attention. This is new for me. Bayard’s book is the Cherry on the top of this sweet message cake and, it is sweet because liberation is sweet.

When I was in the 5thgrade there was a Reading Board set up at the back of the classroom. The board was laid out on graph paper. Each person had a line across the board and every square filled yellow along that line represented a book that we had read. The Reading Board was set-up for the entire year and along my line were 10 or 12 books that I had not read. Most people had read 15 to 20 books and my friend Mark, he had read more than 150 books. I couldn’t even make it passed a few Chapters in a Hardy Boys book. When I looked at Mark’s line on the board, growing weekly there were two predominant thoughts that would ride through my mind. The first was, ‘No way, Mark is a genius; so cool!’ The second, was fairly close to it, ‘Yeah right, there is no way that anyone could read that many books, Mark is being dishonest.’

The truth is, I was struggling with my inability to read as much as everyone else. Reading was not a priority for me. I remember reading and quiet time was administered as a consequence for disobeying my parents or for bothering my brother. Playing sports was of far greater importance to my family. I struggled to come down from the overload of excitement, playing sports daily after school until bedtime, to the quiet internal thought world of words worked out into wonderful stories. The truth is, when I looked at my line of unread books in comparison to Mark’s golden square road of intellectual accomplishment, I felt ashamed.

‘It should be the most normal of behaviours to acknowledge that we haven’t read a book while nevertheless reserving the right to pass judgement on it. If we rarely see this practise in action, it is because acknowledging our non-reading (which, as we have seen may be quite active rather than passive,) is, in our culture, deeply and ineradicably marked by guilt.’ [1]

Even though I owned the books, had glanced eyes-glazed at them and some pages inside of them, I couldn’t admit that I had not read the books I squarely noted in yellow that I had read. Now, I understand these books are representative of libraries of books of thoughts shared and explicated between covers. Now, I’m beginning to understand that there is a library that is still taking shape within me as I continue to learn and grow both from what I read and what I don’t read [2]. What a perplexing notion!

I was four years old when I bought my first book. It was August 1981 and I was at summer camp with my family. The night before I had heard someone speak of a man who I did not know but, who knew me. I learned about a man who did amazing things, helped people, loved people and that he loved me too. Even, that I was on his heart when he was killed without good reason. I remember being broken up and thankful, that he died and that he loves me. I was told there was more to his story and the next day I went to the tuck shop with money I had saved and bought my first book, the Bible.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

In my library is the idea that words are alive and on my bookshelves is the possibility that the written, prophetic word can come to life in us and through us. Yesterday, I was speaking with a man named Mel. He has not read the Bible extensively; he has heard about Jesus and he loves to talk about Jesus over a cup of coffee when the right time arises. Mel knows that Jesus can change lives because his life has changed because of him. The stories he tells of Jesus are not precise according to scripture; they are mixed with some stories from his First Nations culture. Mel’s stories of Jesus are beautiful, true and God has used them to change lives!

[1] Bayard, Pierre. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. London: Granta Books, 2007.

[2] Popova, Maria. Book Review: How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read. Brain Pickings. Retrieved From: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/15/how-to-talk-about-books-you-havent-read/

About the Author

mm

Chris Pollock

Dad of Molly Polly Pastor at the Mustard Seed Street Church Trail Runner

12 responses to “PB and J”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Chris, You bring up some themes that resonate with different posts this week. I also talked about liberation, but not necessarily from social norm of equating intelligence with reading, so that is a welcomed addition. Nancy, too, jumped to the “texts” of others’ lives and that was a worthy pivot knowing the highlight relational context of your ministry.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Shawn, thanks for responding despite a later-posted-post. Yes, liberation to be as we are with regards to reading. To be impressed upon as we are with our diversity in focus when it comes to subjects and texts!
      Good topic, this liberation topic, eh!

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    Chris,
    Be free, keep telling the stories, and change lives.
    Also know, that people like Mark or like me, who have all the marks on the Reading Board, or most gold stars on the chart, or bookshelves loaded with marked-up books from engaged reading, we are no less shame-filled and desire to be freed from the burden of having to “know it all.” Often times, its the shame of never being good enough that drives such over-achieving behaviors. This isn’t always true, of course. Some people just really love to read a ton, and that’s totally fine. But it seems for the rest of us, Bayard’s book provides freedom from guilt whichever side of the reading coin you find yourself on. And that sorta sounds like the good news story found in the first book you ever bought.

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Hi Darcy, thanks for taking a moment to reply to my post (in a tad late again). So, you would be up there challenging Mark for the lead! That would have been awesome to see a little bit of competition for him 🙂 who knows, maybe totals would have been twice what he put up there! It was actually quite exciting. Yes, there was the feeling (perhaps for a number of students) like ‘wow’ or ‘whoa’, in those feelings we learn and grow too. Thankful to celebrate and learn from those who are super well-read now. I didn’t understand what being ‘well-read’ at the time meant. Now, I do and am so happy to learn from people whose minds and hearts have journeyed through many more texts than mine have! Thankful for the relief in Bayard’s book…I’m trying to connect this book with Van Doren’s, ‘How to Read a Book’ now. Any advice (measuring the two up side-by-side)?

      • Darcy Hansen says:

        Chris,
        I think asking the questions before reading has been helpful to me. What is this book about? Why am I reading it? At what level do I need/want to read it? What are my take aways? We pick and choose how we approach a text everyday. For me, knowing why I’m spending time in the text matters. I bought a book for my project, skimmed 3 chapters and have tabled it for a later read. I have another one though that I am devouring page by page. I sure don’t have the answers or clever insights as to secrets of reading or not reading. Maybe, one day, after I receive my doctorate, I’ll have figured all this out. Pray and do your best. God will direct us:)

  3. Nancy Blackman says:

    Chris,
    As always your post is thoughtful and so alive. I love that you bought your first book at the age of 4! That right there shows an early love for reading, I think. I grew up to love the library because bookstores were not readily available where I grew up. To this day, the library is a very, very special place. When I first moved to downtown LA the first “card” that I got was at the library and I remember telling my husband, “This is the most important card in my wallet.”

    Just as you said, words are alive and come to life in us and through us.

    Bless you!

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Nancy! I certainly didn’t buy a lot of books. And, I only remember two from my early years. The One I mentioned and ‘The Value of Tenacity: the story of Maurice (the Rocket) Richard’. The Rocket was a hockey sensation in Canada.

      So sweet that you have childhood memories of the library. Do you remember what the library meant to you when you were younger?

      Hope you’re having a good weekend, Nancy! Bless ya.

  4. mm John McLarty says:

    What I found so freeing about this week’s book was the idea that books exist primarily to spark ideas and conversations among us, not separate us even further by the “read” and “read-not” categories. So often I hear conversations that begin with “Have you read ___?” Of course, if the answer is “no,” then it’s assumed that no meaningful conversation could happen. What if we could retrain ourselves to begin a conversation with “I was reading ___ the other day and it make me think about ____. What do you think about ____?” And then wait to see what the other person says, rather than simply regurgitate someone else’s words that we once read. What do you think?

    • mm Chris Pollock says:

      Hi John, thanks for taking a minute to comment on my (somewhat late) blog entry!

      I would much rather it be the way you described! Books do weird things to people. It’s a funny line we walk on as we may (or, may not) want to talk about what we are reading even, if simply for discussions sake or to avoid an uncomfortable silence. I think subject matter is much more important than the book itself! We could even just talk about the subject to begin with and then refer to the book as a source for neat perspective? I don’t know best route. Somehow, humility and grace. Or, silence…

      God bless you brother. Have a great start to the week!

  5. mm Steve Wingate says:

    I have no recollection of this book other than the title, that has stuck with me for whatever reason.
    It is odd how the influence of meeting, even with a book, often has more to do with the impact with an outcome than precise wording

  6. KupavatMeacy says:

    What’s up, this weekend is nice for me, as this point in time i am reading this impressive educational piece of writing here at my home.

    Thanks a lot. I value it.

  7. Simon Igesa Bulimo says:

    Great man of God. God enables us venture deep into certain things in our early years. At age four you knew about books. Thanks for the way you have interacted with the book

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