5 Resources to Help You Connect and Flourish: August - Reservoir Church
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5 Resources to Help You Connect and Flourish: August

August 24, 2018

by Steve Watson

Reservoir exists to help people connect with Jesus and flourish. We think the right church can be a good part of that happening, so we enjoy being a church that can help you discover more of the love of Jesus, the gift of community, and the joy of living. But we’re also aware that there’s a lot more to a flourishing life than church and that at any given time, church isn’t for everyone.

So each month, we’ll start sharing a few resources we’ve been enjoying and finding contribute to a flourishing life for us. This month’s top 5 is from me, but in the future, I hope to feature contributions from others in our community as well.

  1. This summer, two of my friends published an extraordinary book entitled Solus Jesus: A Theology of Resistance. Emily Swan and Ken Wilson are the co-pastors of Blue Ocean Faith, a Jesus-centered, fully inclusive church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Emily and Ken write theology, but it’s theology grounded in their lived experience and is both accessible and practical.Solus Jesus covers a lot of ground. The first section of the book argues for the validity of our human experience in matters of faith, describes what it’s like to follow Jesus as a living teacher, and argues that we are starting to experience large changes in Christianity that might help us flourish in the 21st century. The middle section of the book examines the implications of the anthropologist and critic Renee Girard on the significance of envy, rivalry, and scapegoating in all culture, including religious culture. Emily and Ken write movingly of their own experience being scapegoated and rejected by some church circles because of their coming out as a queer pastor and an ally.The final section of the book fleshes out a Jesus-centered, inclusive faith that is muscular enough to ground us and resist injustice.While Emily and Ken’s work is original, it’s also grounded in a long tradition of wise and brilliant writing and talk about God that comes from the margins of power, leaning into faith to resist their own diminishment. It’s a tradition they reference extensively.
  2. The second resource is really a cluster of resources to help us in our thinking and conversations around race. Several friends recommended I read Austin Channing Brown’s memoir, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Many of my Black friends resonated with Brown’s journey of coming to love her own blackness. The book also exposes the limits of the supposed diversity of many of our institutions and calls us all to move out of and beyond whatever White supremacy we have internalized. A podcast I enjoyed that looks at some of the same topics from a different angle is Freedom Road Media’s interview of Reggie Wiliams by Lisa Sharon Harper. Williams is a scholar, but in this episode, entitled “Black Men’s Magic”, he quite gets quite personal. He explores historical constructs for Black manhood that have been oppressive to him and talks about ways he and others are experiencing the freedom and power and beauty of Black men.In my own Asian-White interracial household, a lot of our conversations about race this summer have been in reference to Asian and Asian-American pop culture. For us, it’s been the summer of Crazy Rich Asians, Awkwafina, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Recently, in The New York Times, Kelly Marie Tran writes about her experience as the first woman of color to play a leading role in the Star Wars franchise. Her piece gets at the marginalization of Asian-Americans in pop culture and her own growing resistance. I came away excited to hear more from her.
  3. One of the areas where flourishing can seem elusive is in our workplaces. We can wonder if we need to find a better line of work or maybe just give up on our desire to find meaning and purpose and happiness in our jobs. But what if how we think about our work can give us more joy and purpose, not matter what our work is. This is the premise of one of my favorite ever episodes from Shankar Vedantum of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast. This summer, they rebroadcast their episode “You 2.0: Dream Jobs.” It highlights psychlogist Amy Wrzesniewski’s work on how people can find satisfaction in their work through recasting their job in terms that are meaningful to them. Whether you’re a boss who wants a better culture in your workplace or a person who’s bored or restless in your current work, this is a great episode for you. I’ve found it really helpful in thinking about my own satisfaction at work.
  4. I’ve read a lot of good novels recently, but one of the more intriguing was Roland Merullo’s The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama. The premise is that Pope Francis wants a break from being famous and wants a clandestine vacation as an ordinary person. His cousin and personal assistant is drafted to make plans. It just so happens that they escape from the spotlight together with the Dalai Lama and the assistant’s estranged wife and that both the Pope and Dalai Lama have some similar dreams and premonitions they are compelled to explore. On the one hand, this is a road trip novel, entirely fictitious. And yet most of the Pope’s and the Dalai Lama’s musings within are captured from real life interviews and speeches. I didn’t find Merullo’s anti-religious bent he steers things in especially satisfying, but the novel’s portrayal of two famous leaders’ ordinary spiritual lives is winsome and appealing.
  5. Lastly, I’ll recommend an episode of a podcast that our group of churches puts out – the Blue Ocean Faith podcast. This summer’s episode with Erin Lane was compelling. Erin Lane is an author who has written about women’s experience in churches and about Christians’ desires to avoid churches altogether. She’s also been involved with the Center for Courage and Renewal, an institute interested in the intersections of faith, compassion, justice, and integrity, and associated with author Parker Palmer. Lane talks about all these things and more in a really fascinating conversation with our podcast hosts. Search “Blue Ocean Faith” in your podcast app.

I hope you enjoy some of these resources for your own flourishing life. If you have ideas for things we should include in future lists, send them to me at steve@reservoirchurch.org with the subject “Top 5” in your message.