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Gerunds can change your life

Playing. James H. Evans, Jr. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2010. 128 pages, softbound. $15. www.fortresspress.com.
Shopping. Michelle A. Gonzalez. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2010. 140 pages, softbound. $15. www.fortresspress.com.
Many Metro Lutheran readers, like this writer, realize while heading into the Christmas shopping season (also known as Advent) that one’s commitment to a commercial-free month of December will again be challenged. It is too late to decide to simplify on Black Friday; the fear of disappointing nieces and neighbors is too great.
No, the time for committing to an alternative Advent is now, January, when we are not so easily enticed (because we are receiving the first credit card bills). So, now is also the time to read a couple of books from a Fortess Press series, “Christian Explorations of Daily Living,” to prepare ourselves for living into a new way of being.
Shopping is not a book about the Christmas Season per se. It is a resource guide for living intentionally one’s values while participating in a commercial society.
The act of shopping is more complicated than is realized, argues its author; modern consumers are just so embedded with consumptive impulses that Christian values are rarely brought to the kitchen table.
Michelle Gonzalez walks readers through Christian views of shopping from Augustine of Hippo to Tammy Faye Bakker. With an easy-going style and without judgment, she raises questions about adequate compensation to laborers and excessive spending in hopes that consumers increase alignment of what is valued and personal values.
Serious recreation
Ironically, James H. Evans, Jr.’s Playing is a little more stiff or formal in style. Evans similarly wants to raise readers’ self-awareness about lifestyle choices, but his subject and style sometimes feel at odds. Then again, he does take “playing” very seriously and makes the case that everyone should.

It is a resource guide for living intentionally one’s values while participating in a commercial society.

After familiarizing readers with recognized thinkers who have tackled the theme of play — Kenneth Burke, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Brian Sutton-Smith, Johan Huizinga — Evans uses a trinitarian framework to make a case for holy play.
Yet to be released as part of the “Christian Explorations” series are Working, by Darby Kathleen Ray; Eating and Drinking, by Elizabeth Groppe; and Parenting, by David H. Jensen.

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