Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Pastor's Bookshelf

I don't know for sure about the bookshelves in other pastors' offices, but I have to admit that quite a few of the books I have purchased over the 6 years I have been serving as pastor here have never actually been read. It's embarrassing, but there it is. There are even some that I bought in seminary which I have not yet read. In case any of my professors should see this, I hasten to assure you that none of these are texts required for any of my classes.

No, these are all books that I purchased because they excited me when I saw them in the store. "Ooh. I want to learn about that! I need another book about . . . " prayer, evangelism, pastoral care, spirituality, preaching, relationship, Jesus, the Bible . . . the list goes on ad infinitum. Sometimes I buy a book because I know the author or I met him/her once at a conference. In many cases I opened them right after I bought them, read the introduction, scanned some sections with interesting titles, and set them down to read later. When the "to read later" pile next to the living room couch gets too tall, I move them either to a bookshelf in the house or a bookshelf in the Pastor's Study. Some I carry around in my laptop case for a while to remind myself I really really want to read them soon. Moving them to the Pastor's Study is pretty much the kiss of death. I have a few that I consistently go back to for reference, but most of them gather dust . . . sigh.

And Bibles - oh my. I think I have lost count, and I'm sure I have lost track. I have Recovery Bibles, a Green Bible, several Study Bibles, a Women's Bible, a multicultural Bible, a Kwanzaa edition Bible and I don't know what all else. I have NRSV, NIV, KJV, NKJV, Life Application, Message, CEV, Good News and JPS. I have Bibles on actual paper from pulpit sized down to one so small I keep a magnifier in it. I have Bibles on CD and MP3 to listen to and I even have 7 different translations of the Bible (some with apocrypha) downloaded to my iPhone. I have Bibles in English, Greek, Spanish and Korean, the last one in case a Korean speaking person comes to church and forgets his/her Bible. And if you are wondering, yes, I have actually used most of these in sermon prep and my own devotions.

Every now and then, though, I decide I really should see what one of those books says. And when that happens I am nearly always astounded at how much good stuff is in that book! I almost always say to myself, "Self, why didn't you read that years ago when you first bought it? You could have been using this information all along!" Right now I am trying to read three of Peter Gomes' books at the same time, because they are all fascinating. I've had them for what seems like ages, but they have just sat collecting dust on the Pastor's Bookshelf.

I suspect I am not the only one with a bunch of books that have never had the spine cracked. And I do know better than to say anything like, "I vow I am going to read every one of these books in the next year! I will select one every week and read it through." That might last a few weeks, but then life will get in the way. No, the best I will be able to do is just what I am doing now - grab one off the shelf whenever a title catches my eye and read while I'm eating my lunch. At least I can be assured that I won't run out of lunchtime reading material any time soon.

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