Reading for the “Whim”

Plane travel is something I actually look forward to in my schedule. It is not the destination, but the possibility that causes this anticipation. On a plane, I can catch up on some reading. I don’t download emails. I may listen to music. Sometimes, I can catch a movie, but what I look forward to most is having an uninterrupted hour or two for reading.

What do I read? The Medenblog introduction (written by someone else) promised that I would share what I was reading. For some reason, people may actually like to follow what I am reading. As President of CTS, I follow Dr. Neal Plantinga whose continuing education course, “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching” has been well appreciated and was a course I enjoyed as well.

Reading is essential for preachers and leaders. What kind of reading is “the best” for preachers and leaders? My initial answer is read for the “whim.”

Alan Jacobs in a recent little book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction has convinced me that he, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton are right in this insight:  Read what gives you delight – at least most of the time – and do so without shame. Read for the whim! 

In his delightful and challenging essay, Jacobs asks questions like “whether reading makes you a better person”. The short answer he gives is No. It doesn’t.  (p. 52) What would your answer be and why?

Jacobs knows that not all reading is equally good and valuable, but he seeks to appeal to the standard of the reader’s own pleasure – a criterion that sounds more simple and straight-forward than it is.  (p. 38)

As I read Jacobs, I could not help but think of the rich variety of people that God has created and gifted. Our reading patterns are a reflection of our interests, our needs and our callings. Reading for the “whim” may be reading as directed by the winds of the Holy Spirit. I can tell you that when I choose a next book to read, I am mindful that a sovereign God may particularly use this selection in ways I do not always comprehend. For example, I have always loved reading about presidents, managers and coaches who lead others and build a culture where others prosper. Maybe I have been reading – for such a time as this.

I will share what I am reading, but please keep reading as God leads you. Read for information, understanding and entertainment and also read for the “whim!”


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