Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Been doing quite a bit of reading of late. Which has been really good. I ended up doing quite a bit of reading while I was on retreat a week or so ago. (Actually its ten days ago now, the time has flown by, but in some ways it seems ages ago.) The first book I've been reading is 'Thomas Merton's American Prophecy'. Essentially this is a biography of Thomas Merton, but throughout the book there are quotes and bits of his writings, many of which I've found helpful, have resonated with me, maybe even inspired me, at the very least I've wanted to make note of them. Here's just one of them for you...."Life does not have to be regarded as a game in which scores are kept and somebody wins. If you are too intent on winning, you'll never enjoy playing. If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget how to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted." (Thomas Merton: Love and Living: 10-11)

The next book I've been reading is 'Growing Souls' by Mark Yaconelli. Now I've read another book by Mark Yaconelli - Contemplative Youth Ministry - but I don't think I ever got round to blogging about it. But it was brilliant. In fact it was in CYM that I first was exposed to little snippets of Thomas Merton. (CYM being the book Contemplative Youth Ministry, not the Centre for Youth Ministry, where I did my first degree.) Anyway. Growing Souls is also a very good book, though a very different book to CYM. Growing Souls essentially tells the story of the 'Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project', the results/findings of which are the basis for CYM. I found Growing Souls to be a refreshing reminder of many of the things I was inspired by in CYM, and an encouragement as I reflect on the work and ministry I engage in at the moment here in Sheffield. Reading over the last few days, as I've been thinking about my future, and some of the things that are important to me, it has served as a prompt not to forget, or to let go of, or maybe to sacrifice, some of the things that I have really grown to appreciate in my life over the last few years. I'm talking about space to reflect, a sense of not needing to rush about from one thing to the next, of silence, of reflecting inwardly, of retreats, a growing contentment with who I am, a growing contentment with life and the things it throws at me.

Another book, which in its own way has also reminded me of some of the things which I've grown to cherish and place value on is a collection of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls comments and columns, cunningly entitled Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All (if you say it quick it sounds similar - apparently it used to be a nick name of his). Again, anyway. I dipped into this book (ok I read it all) while I was on retreat. It was so easy to read - as I said its all newspaper columns and magazine articles, all just a couple of pages long. It provided much needed light relief whilst I was on retreat, pondering life and not talking to anyone. I guess its Hugh F-W that has in part inspired me to think a bit more about what I eat, where my food comes from and all that sort of stuff. In taking time to cook, to consider where food comes from, to go out an pick/find it myself, I've found another way to connect with nature, with creation, and with God. It also fits in well with the whole 'slowing down' thing.

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