Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Some Books and Movies to Think About

It’s not that I have had Blogger’s Block. But over the holidays, I have been working on a book I hope to soon complete. It has been a two year project, and I am finding that writing is really hard work. It is also immensely satisfying. There’s something about working with words. Writers I hope to emulate select their words with great care (e.g. Eugene Peterson, Barbara Brown Taylor). I am committed to learning the same craft. In his book, Writing With Style, John Trimble says there are four essentials to winning readers–

  1. have something to say
  2. be sold on its importance
  3. furnish strong arguments
  4. use confident language—find the right words!

Part of what helps me write is to pursue good reads. Here are some books I have been (and am) working through that take serious the advice of Trimble:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Cain. This has been such an eye opener for me. As one put it, it is an introvert’s manifesto. It is packed with stories, stories that are teaching me that I have terribly misjudged some people.

-Killing Patton, O’Reilly. I wasn’t so sure I would like this book. I wasn’t that impressed with Killing Jesus, but once I started, I could not put it down. I had to go back to see the movie.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette, Sides. I am about a quarter of the way through, and it is a ride! Really fun reading and an amazing story. Hampton Sides knows how to paint characters.

Being Mortal, Gawande. When I read his first book, Checklist Manifesto, I was hooked. This physician’s insights have changed some of my habits. His latest book is a sobering—really sobering—look at what happens in the aging process. I can only read small portions at a time. It has reaffirmed my conviction that being denied the opportunity of old age is not such a loss.

A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, Oden. I will always be indebted to Thomas Oden for rescuing pastoral theology and setting a course for future pastoral theologies. His personal journey is one of the most amazing I have ever read.

I have some others on the radar—Thirteen Days in September, Through My Enemy’s Eyes, The Boys in the Boat, and Kingdom Conspiracy. So as much as I appreciate the thoughtfulness, please do not suggest a book I should read (at least until next month).

Over the holidays, I also took advantage of the occasion to see a couple of movies. I had to see Unbroken, and it did not disappoint. Critics rated it lower due to its pace, but when you spend 47 days adrift in the ocean, and two years incarcerated in Japanese camps, things do go slow. The viewer had to experience a bit of this. Zamperini made a vow to God and he kept it. The movie made this clear. It was a great statement of one man’s tenacity and one God’s grace.

The Theory of Everything was a beautiful movie. I wasn’t sure if I would like a movie about Stephen Hawking, but there was a depth and a beauty about it. Incredible that the world’s most famous scientist, due to ALS, was given just two years to live. He has lived 50+ years more! What amazing mercy on God’s part, though sadly he does not acknowledge Him. At the end, Hawking addresses a number of people in a great hall with these “profound” words:

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”

And though the audience in the movie stand and applaud, I left the theatre thinking–what an empty, meaningless statement. How much greater would have been an ending where he declared: “We are humans made in the image of God, living in a unique world created to declare His glory, a world within a universe designed to simply reveal how great is our God. And we can know something of God (which is so much greater than merely understanding the universe), because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. And He came to take on our humanity and die for us because He loves us this much. This is what makes us very special—and makes Him awesome!”

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