A Book You Should Read: Amy L. Sherman’s Kingdom Calling

Any church is an outpost of the Kingdom of God. There is the mission of the church, expressed in terms of what it does together as a congregation. Then there are the myriad ways members of a congregation—especially but certainly not limited to ones involved in teaching, social services, and other care-taking roles—live out the church’s call to love, to be salt and light, to share the good news of God’s love..

Even if we are at church four hours a week, we churchgoers spend some 98% of our lives not gathered with the congregation as a whole. How can churchgoing folks continue to build the Kingdom of God, not just when we are together, but when we are apart?

3809There exists among congregations an impressive amount of what Amy L. Sherman in Kingdom Calling refers to as “vocational power–knowledge, platform, networks, position, influence, skills and reputation.” As a pastor I am keenly aware of the importance of equipping the body of believers to use their “vocational power” for the growing of the Kingdom of God. How, as Ephesians says, can we “equip the saints for the work of ministry”—ministry not just at church but in our day-to-day lives, in all the places in which God has set us?

Sherman sets the course with a definition of vocational stewardship: “the intentional and strategic use of one’s vocational power (skills, knowledge, network, platform) to advance the values of the Kingdom of God.” In calling for “foretastes” of the Kingdom of God, she speaks of a righteousness that has three dimensions: up (God and me), in (myself), and out (the world and me). This robust understanding of righteousness gets at the heart of the Old and New Testament’s definition of righteousness as right relationship with God, self, and others.

Throughout Kingdom Calling Sherman tells inspiring stories of non-profit owners, teachers, pastors, small groups, construction workers, cleaning service providers, and many others who are helping to advance the Kingdom of God by offering foretastes of it in their own spheres.

As a pastor I appreciated Sherman’s focus on “four pathways for deploying congregants in the stewardship of their vocations” (22). These are:

  1. “Blooming where we are planted by strategically stewarding our current job,”
  2. “Donating our vocational skills as a volunteer,”
  3. “Launching a new social enterprise,” and,
  4. “Participating in a targeted initiative of our congregation aimed at transforming a particular community or solving a specific social problem.”

Sherman shares inspiring stories of church-school partnerships and congregation-wide initiatives, although it is hard to know how to replicate some of the successes Sherman mentions, absent more specific implementation suggestions. But insofar as her aim is to cast a vision to church leaders and attendees of vocational stewardship and the great potential found in vocational power, Sherman’s work has excited me to move ahead in my own church with what I’ve learned from Kingdom Calling.

Family Puzzle (1,000 Pieces)

No, the post title isn’t a metaphor or new song title. We completed a 1,000 piece puzzle last month! It’s a beautiful one, too:

 

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It was challenging but not too hard. The mostly black pieces were most difficult, although the guide lines helped. Especially fun was to see how different family members (down to age five) took different approaches: one person on color, another on edges, another on text, another going by piece shape.

 

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We picked it up at Yankee Bookshop in Vermont, which is one of the best little bookstores I’ve been to. The puzzle is made by Galison, which has some other cool-looking puzzles here.

 

At Last… A Reader’s Edition of the Septuagint

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Septuagint readers have wanted this resource for a LOOONG time, and now thanks to William A. Ross and Gregory R. Lanier, we only have to wait till November for…

a Reader’s Edition of the Septuagint.

Ross writes:

The basic idea behind a reader’s edition is to provide an edition of the ancient text – in our case Rahlfs-Hanhart’s – annotated with running footnotes with lexical information. Since most students and scholars of biblical studies are most familiar with New Testament vocabulary, picking up a Septuagint can make for a challenge. Our reader’s edition seriously reduces that challenge by providing the footnotes for rarer vocabulary, thereby making the reading experience much more seamless and less intimidating.

Here is a sample page, taken from the dedicated Website set up for the Reader’s LXX. Feast your eyes on this:

 

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You can pre-order now through Amazon in hardcover or flexisoft=imitation leather (affiliate links) or through CBD.

In advance–many thanks to William and Gregory and all the others working so hard to bring this volume to completion and into our hands!

Feetures Running Socks

Remember as a kid, when you would get socks in your Christmas stocking and think it was a super-boring present?

As an adult, that feeling changes. (I have been happy for every pair of wool socks I’ve gotten.) As a runner, I’ve come to appreciate good socks even more, to the point that I eagerly check the mailbox multiple times a day until an awaited pair of running socks arrives.

I reviewed Thorlos running socks here. I thought those two pairs would be enough. But I was curious what else was out there, so I reached out to Feetures, and they were kind to send me a sample pair of socks: the Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock.

 

 

It was a good mail day, the day they arrived:

 

 

The first thing I noticed and appreciated was this small touch: the socks are marked “L” and “R”:

 

 

This sock is 95% nylon, 5% spandex, so it feels a bit what I would imagine putting on pantyhose feels like. They are a comfortable fit, and the “light cushion” is just a bit of added protection from the pounding of feet on the pavement. (Feetures has other cushioning options.)

The compression the socks provide is noticeable but not at all uncomfortable; these feel great to put on and wear. They are excellent at wicking away moisture, whether for a short, intense run, or long, slow distances.

One of my favorite things about the socks is it boasts the “The Perfect Toe®” technology (yes, that is all rights reserved!), which means just “no irritating toe seam,” which seems to be a rarity, even among athletic socks. I really didn’t think at all about these socks when I was wearing them—which is a good thing.

My personal preference might be for more cushion, but that’s in part due to some extra support I’m looking for these days to stabilize things after an ankle sprain last fall and developing plantar fasciitis (woo hoo). But there is definitely a place for these light cushion socks, especially if you don’t have lots of room in your running shoes. And Feetures even has a PF-specific sock!

Check out the socks above here. The Feetures site has plenty more options, too.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Feetures for the review sample, provided without any expectation as to the content of this review.

Book Review: The Inner Runner

 

On the one hand, Jason Karp’s The Inner Runner is the running book I’ve been looking for: it’s not focused on technique and training but on the why of running.

This is from the publisher’s description:

Why are so many people drawn to running? Why is running the most common physical activity? What is it about running that empowers so many people? And how can runners harness that power to create a more meaningful life? The Inner Runner addresses these questions and a whole lot more. This book is not about how to get faster or run a marathon; rather, it explores how the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and helps you harness your creative powers. Learn about the psychological, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual benefits of running and introduce lifestyle changes based on the latest scientific research on running and its effects on hormones and the brain.

That description and the chapter titles drew me right in:

  • Why Do We Run?
  • Healthful Runs
  • Better Runs
  • Creative and Imaginative Runs
  • Productive Runs
  • Confident Runs
  • Becoming a Better Runner and a Better You

“Better Runs,” for example, discusses the benefits of a variety of runs: slow runs, fast runs, long runs, paced runs, track runs, social runs, and more. Karp is at his best when he gives advice that is both physically practical and psychologically helpful. Regarding starting a race too fast, he says:

Whether the race is a mile or a marathon, you can’t put running time in the bank. You will end up losing more time in the end than what you gained by behind ahead of schedule in the beginning. …Listen to your inner runner. When you run a race, ask yourself within the first mile (or the first lap or two of a track race), “Can I really hold this pace the entire way?” Be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes, then go for it. If the answer is no, then back off the pace, so you can have a better race. (61-62)

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Karp’s inspiring coaching. On running fast he writes:

Rather than worry about your pace or become a slave to the technology of running, make your runs better by feeling your runs and improving your own kinesthetic awareness. …Faster running comes when we don’t try as hard, when we are relaxed, when we are so well trained that the effort is almost effortless. (68-69)

9781634507950-frontcoverThough the book is more philosophical in nature, Karp delves just enough into the science to convince the reader-runner that he knows what he’s talking about. I can only imagine how invigorating it would be to have Dr. Karp as a coach. For example, he says, “The amount of time spent running is more important than the number of miles, since it’s the duration of effort (time spent running) that our bodies sense” (151). And I love the idea of “developing an inner GPS and becoming an expert ‘feeler’ of our runs” (70), even if it takes more time and work than The Inner Runner might imply.

On the other hand, The Inner Runner left me wanting more.

I resonate with Karp’s experience of running as a primary locus of creative ideas. But I had hoped he would get a bit more technical, or at least more deeply reflective, about what that process looks like for him. For example, in the chapter “Creative and Imaginative Runs” he writes, “I don’t have such a clear sense of how my running influences my writing or my other creative pursuits of my sense of self…” (107). There’s nothing wrong with that lack of clarity, but it made me wish Karp had either dug deeper or just left out that chapter altogether. So, too, with this promising but otherwise unexplored insight:

Ultimately, in life’s bigger picture, running is just an activity I choose to do. It shouldn’t define my self worth. Yet it does, and I am perplexed as to why. (179)

A number of sections read like journal entries that could have been edited down to make the book hold my interest more consistently and pack a more powerful punch.

Still, the book is inexpensive, and I starred at least a dozen passages that I’ve gone back to. I’ve also deeply internalized Karp’s advice about not coming out of the gate too fast and asking whether this initial pace is one I can sustain. That alone made the book worth reading.

You can check out The Inner Runner: Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You here at Skyhorse Publishing, and here at Amazon.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Skyhorse Publishing for the review copy, sent without expectations of the content of my review.

All the New Ends: *Another* New EP from Amusement Parks on Fire, Reviewed

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It’s not until about 30 seconds in to Amusement Parks on Fire’s beautiful new three-song EP, “All the New Ends,” that you hear their signature, shoegazy lead guitar. It sneaks in and out of the first track, an homage to the band’s heavier sound of previous releases, even as recent as November 2017’s excellent two-song EP Our Goal to Realise.

That APOF would begin their 20-minute (!) EP with a mellow (by their standards), lilting 6/8 waltz is surprising, but this band is so good–and had been on hiatus for so long until last year–that their fans will welcome any new direction. It’s still APOF after all: a beautifully crafted song with melodic vocals and layered but not overproduced guitar parts.

That first track, “All the New Ends,” seamlessly moves into “Temporal Rinse” with a wall of distorted, tremolo-picked guitars, overlaid with high-register, ascending diads that I can only describe as reminiscent of the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo.

The listener expects that the band will, at some point, break through the wall of distortion and into a hard-rocking groove, much as “So More It Be” transitions to “Blackout” on their album Out of the Angeles, or as the final 40 seconds of “Road Eyes” prepares us for the almost danceable beat that begins “Flashlight Planetarium” on the Road Eyes LP.

Instead, the title “Temporal Rinse” turns out to be descriptive of the song’s role. It’s a sort of palette cleanser that moves listeners from the mellower “All the New Ends” to the epic and heavier final track, “Internal Flame.”

Rare is the song that eclipses six minutes and holds the listener’s attention the whole time. I think of the Smashing Pumpkins B-side, “The Aeroplane Flies High,” or Sun Kil Moon’s 10-minute “I Watched the Film, the Song Remains the Same,” or anything from Side B of The Cure’s “Disintegration.”

“Internal Flame” takes longer to build than those songs do, clocking in at an impressive 12:43. (This ought to convince anyone that this “EP” is easily worth its $3 in digital format.) By about the 7-minute mark, I was ready for more musical variation than the four-chord progression, but as the song structure remains constant, the band continues to add tracks: more guitars, more drums, tambourine, still more guitar lines, and probably dozens of other tracks lurking beneath the surface that make the song what it is. As an erstwhile recorder of music and writer myself, I can hardly imagine the challenges involved in tracking a 13-minute song so flawlessly.

“All the New Ends” releases in digital format on April 13, with CD and vinyl releasing likely this summer. Here’s the track listing:

  1. All The New Ends (4:31)
  2. Temporal Rinse (3:57)
  3. Infernal Flame (12:43)

Check out the album here.

 


 

Many thanks to the album’s PR team for early download access so I could write the review.