M. Craig Barnes's Christmas list

November 25, 2014

To give

Sue Monk Kidd’s writing is as wonderful in The Inven­tion of Wings as it was in the highly regarded The Secret Life of Bees, but this time she is using her literary skills to tell a story of freedom from slavery—freedom for both blacks and whites.

Donna Tartt’s novel The Goldfinch depicts the desperate need for art among those who’ve lost their way in life. But the book is a brick. I slogged through it, so one of my friends should have to.

Daniel James Brown has written The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I just gave copies of this extraordinary story to the vice presidents at our seminary. We’ll use our Christmas retreat to discuss the book’s insights about what it takes to weave individual stories into an effective team.

To receive

When I was a grad student in Chicago I got hooked on Magic Slim and the Teardrops. Some have suggested they were the last great blues band in town. They are now gone, but Pure Magic is a new release of the music that we still need on a Friday evening after a hard week.

I am struck by our students’ deep devotion to being good stewards of what remains of God’s creation. We need serious theologians like David Fergusson and his book Creation to keep us centered in the Christian tradition as we fulfill this stewardship.

In the documentary The Ad­dress, by Ken Burns, a New England school helps its students overcome their learning disabilities by having them memorize the Gettysburg Address, and then present it before their teachers and parents. I watched this on PBS and was fascinated by its subtext—carefully written words still have the power to change lives.