I will read just about anything. I was, after all, one of those children who read the backs of cereal boxes if no books were lying around on the kitchen table at breakfast. But I usually read things that I personally want to read. Well, maybe not the State Standards for Graduation Tests. But otherwise, mostly, yes. And I have an extremely wide-ranging set of interests, and a genuine desire to learn about experiences and views that do not reflect my own. So I truly will read just about anything.
(OK, I do not read Ann Coulter or her ilk. (She has clones, right?) I did read online this morning what she had to say about John Edwards. She could have said the same about George Bush; either way, she would assure my non-readership forever.)
Anyway, that little introduction was designed to lead up to the disclosure that I am now embarking upon two books at the request of other people. The first is called We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era by Patrick Keifert. Yesterday I went to a Presbytery discussion group for which we had been asked to read either the Keifert book or Diana Bass Butler's Christianity for the Rest of Us. My contributions to the discussion were based upon the latter, but I was intrigued by the references others made to the discernment model presented in the former, so I agreed to read it, too.
The problem is, I loathe the word "missional." I detest it. It grates on each and every one of my teeny tiny nerve synapses. It reminds me of the oft-misused "hopefully," against which the 11th-grade-English-teacher-who-taught-me-to-write would periodically rage with such eloquence. It reminds me of the word "unchurched." I suppose my nerve synapses are teenier and tinier than one night hope, but I cannot stand those words. Give me a story any day. Do not give me a made-up word designed to convey -- well, what, exactly?
I mentioned my little problem with the word as someone at the table handed me the book. Almost everyone else in the group laughed and nodded their heads in sympathy, and the gentleman next to me said, "It's on about every other page."
The other book I am reading at the request of someone else, and the one I have actually started, is Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. A friend of mine, one of my very best and most beloved friends, no longer connected to the church, told me I "had to read" it. It's clearly been a meaningful book for her, and I had the sense that she wanted to discuss it with someone. Perhaps me, since she told me it reminded her of me. And it is, in fact, a narrative. I should be happy.
I'm not. So far, I have reached page 58 and I do not much like what I am reading. A tad bit self-absorbed, perhaps? I am speaking of Elizabeth Gilbert here. I realize that it might verge well over the edge of ludicrous for a blogger (especially a blogger who has just described her own rather limited brain structure) to berate someone else for her inward focus, so I am going to refrain from being overly-critical. I also realize that, while I am liberal and progressive and exploratory and one of those people who might be accused by certain other people of being so open-minded that her brains are scrambled all over the sidewalk, I am also alarmingly orthodox on certain matters of faith. Jesus is a little more than "that great teacher of peace," as she describes him.
I'm hoping that what reminds my friend of me is the author's passion for searching out gelaterias in Rome, and not anything else. (Stracciatella and lemon is my favorite combination, if anyone is moved to send me some.)
So, there you go: today's report from the front, where I am apparently willing to go beyond my comfort zone in my willingness to be Open to Discussion. I am, however, going to read really, really fast. And perhaps I will reward myself with a visit to the local gelato emporium. Stracciatella all by itself might be required.