As part of my commitment to a couple of book projects, this spring I am taking a personal blogging hiatus and have invited some folks to blog in my stead. It is my intention help share some new voices and perspectives with a larger audience and keep my blog active during my break. If you are interested in guest blogging, feel free to submit an idea. Today I welcome Ed Dunn as he shares a few of his favorite books. Ed is the Presbytery Executive for the Presbytery of Boise and a dreamer of great things for the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is a husband and a dad who sees a great future in the hearts and minds of the next generation.

 A friend often suggests that he has a list of things he’s going to do in his A.L.T. or Ample Leisure Time. What he really means is that he’s found his vocation too demanding to take some time for a Sabbath. Ample Leisure Time is a misnomer since none of us truly has “ample” leisure time. Instead we might grab an hour or two and maybe occasionally, a day to escape the demands or worries of vocation or family or…

Ministry as a calling is very demanding and often I hear laments from church professionals that there isn’t enough time to get everything done. There’s always a meeting to attend, a sermon or lesson plan to write, a pastoral visit to make and other activities that fill our days.  Who doesn’t long for a moment of A.L.T. in ministry? Who doesn’t savor those occasions when everything appears to be complete?

Sometimes you have to create a moment of A.L.T.  Sometimes you have to intentionally schedule a moment for rest today in order to be refreshed for ministry tomorrow.

I have found that reading is a great way to spend some of my brief moments of A.L.T. I am thankful for my Nook e-reader especially when traveling by plane. (When was the last time you carried 27 books in your carry-on bag?) If you enjoy reading I’d suggest five books to read in your A.L.T.  Each book connects with the vocation of ministry but does so in a wonderfully unique manner of storytelling and journal.

1. Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic, by Reinhold Niebuhr  
Niebuhr journals his experiences as a young pastor in Detroit. It is a glimpse into the pastoral journey of one of the great theologians of the past century.

2. Markings, by Dag Hammarskjold
Like Niebuhr’s Leaves… this work contains simple journal quotes, poems and notes that give theological insight from one of the world’s foremost statesmen of his day.  His advice to “Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only (the one) who keeps (an) eye on the far horizon will find the right road” has been among the most important aspects in my ministry.

3. Brother to a Dragonfly, by Will Campbell
Campbell tells his life story and describes his role as a pastor and leader during the Civil Rights movement.  Campbell’s use of language creates vivid images and reminders of the important people in my own life.

4. The Good News From North Haven: A Year in the Life of a Small Town, by Michael Lindvall
I enjoy Lindvall’s stories about ministry and ministers. Who hasn’t been taken on a “snipe” hunt at some point in their pastoral career or been in awe as the witness to Incarnational moments during a baptism?

5. And the Laugh Shall Be First: A Treasury of Religious Humor, by William Willimon
Willimon collected a series of short stories humorously describing church life: Have you ever calculated the true cost of the church bazaar? You’ll be amused when you read this one.

I’d encourage you to read these books even if they don’t fit your idea of what to do in your A.L.T. They have provided valuable insight for my vocation especially in those times when I was taking myself too seriously. They have made me smile at myself and at the Church. They are the kinds of resources you’ll enjoy reading again and again!

I’d welcome your suggestions for things to read during A.L.T.


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