I have found that pretty much anything can offer me a learning opportunity, and surprisingly, a great deal of that "anything" often pertains to theology or spirituality in some way. When it comes to learning in the area of theology, not all of it comes through formal teaching or reading books. Below are four of my favourite theological resources. You might be surprised to find that for the most part, books or well-known theologians are not even on the list. I love books, yes I do, and I read my fair share of them, but there's a lot more to theology than books.
1. Other spiritual traditions. I have been fairly impacted by monasticism since I started looking into various forms of it a few years ago. Reading the writings of Augustine and Richard Rolle as well as Benedict and Ignatius has been very refreshing and challenging to my view of spirituality. It has also greatly enriched me, especially in the areas of prayer and hospitality. One of my favourite contemporary resources on monasticism is a BBC documentary called The Monastery (2005) in which five regular people live in a monastery in the UK for 40 days. It is interesting and moving to watch the journey all five men take over the course of time. You can watch the first part here.
2. Business. Being married to a businessman has a lot of advantages. One of the surprising side effects is that I am inadvertently exposed to some of the latest trends in business thought. One of the best theological books I have read in the past few years is Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, he sets about to discover why some companies make the leap from good to great and others don't. Lots of great stories in there, too. Some of the gems of wisdom I gleaned from Collins are: 1) trying to motivate people and keep them interested is a waste of time, and 2) humility will get you further than charisma. If you are interested in more, you can read two blogs I wrote on it here and here. And you can access an article by Jim Collins with the main points of the book here.
3. Reality television. I admit it, I like to watch reality TV. I remember tearing up over an episode of What Not To Wear years ago when I saw a woman first realise that she was beautiful. This past weekend, I engaged in some light sniffling on the couch while watching a boss pay off an employee's student loans on Undercover Boss. Though I know many of the situations portrayed are somewhat artificially induced, there are moments when these real people exhibit amazing honesty, generosity, grace, and humility. Moments like these never fail to remind me of God's creative and generous nature, as well as his ability to transform each one of us. You can watch a sample of Undercover Boss here.
4. Children. I used to work as a Children's Ministry Coordinator. While a lot of my time was spent organising events, scheduling volunteers, and making sure we had supplies, one of the highlights of that job was a particular drama class I got to teach at day camp. There were 4 in the class: 2 rowdy boys, one shy boy, and one small, quiet girl. We decided to act out the story of Jesus stilling the storm. Knowing the boys would like making a lot of noise, I cast the two rowdies as the storm and put the other two kids in the boat, miming the events of the story. It turned out to be so dynamic that I asked them perform it the next Sunday in front of the whole church.
I can still picture it: the two quiet children sat on the floor in front of the altar, one asleep on a pillow, one pretending to row. The fury of the two other boys was then unleashed on them with roaring, stamping feet, waving arms, and much general mayhem. The boy rowing in the boat shivered in mock fear, then shook the young girl awake and she rose to her feet. The two noisy storm boys increased their efforts, looking and sounding like alien monsters as they towered over her. The young girl calmly raised her hand in a stop gesture and looked straight ahead. Both human storms immediately ceased all their noise and crumpled to the floor. To this day, this is often the image I get in my mind when I think about God's authority.
I hope you find some of these resource suggestions helpful, or at least amusing. Feel free to add your own to the list by leaving a comment.
Matte from Montreal
the photo: some of the theology books I am reading this year. See, I do like books!