Reading Interests of the Year: Ireland, Women and the Early Church, Leadership (and some for fun), along with Brian’s Top Books
Brian always has good suggestions for books to read. And his six favorite from 2018 are listed below. This was a year of reading to my immediate interests. I have always wanted to travel to Ireland (O’Connor is my maiden name!) and I had the opportunity for our 25th wedding anniversary. When Brian and I travel we often read to prepare, so a few are listed below. I also wanted to read more about the role of women in early church history and leadership. And then there are just a few books that just are for fun.
How the Irish Saved Civilization: The untold story of Ireland’s Heroic role from the fall of Rome to the rise of medieval Europe.
By Thomas Cahill
Such a great read and made me proud to be Irish! I especially found the part about St. Patrick fascinating— so filled with grace and redemption. This is Ireland’s significant role in making an impact in history and in Christianity.
“The Irish innovation was to make all confession a completely private affair between penitent and priest – and to make it as repeatable as necessary. (In fact, repetition was encouraged on the theory that, oh well, everyone pretty much sinned just about all the time.”
By Frank McCourt
A very raw and engaging memoir of an Irish boy during the the early to mid 1900’s. The pages are filled with poverty, neglect, and tragedy- as are many parts of Irish history. Shared candidly (and maybe too candidly at times), yet with wit and forgiveness. I gleaned much about the life and forbearance of the Irish people.
“We fight the rats and we fight the stink from the lavatory. We’d like to keep our door open in the warm weather but you can’t when people are trotting down the lane to empty their brimming buckets… it’s not their fault if the builders put houses up with no lavatories but this one is outside our door.”
To School through the fields: An Irish Country Childhood
By Alice Taylor
This was the kind of “nice” memoir that quieted my mind and gave me a rest. It’s nice to have a book like this once in a while. It is the kind of childhood we would want for all our kids.
“Silence was restored for the news on the radio but we young ones had no interest in the news; to us there was no world outside our own.”
The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity can reach the west… again.
By George G. Hunter
Some thoughtful and helpful insights in impacting others with the gospel through things like a team, a community, nature, imagination, scholarship… Not only did the Irish identify the beauty of the gospel and shared that in a varied ways, they identified with the people they sought to share it with.
“Saint Patrick (though not Irish) had identified completely with the Irish.”
Women and the Early Church
Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ
By Cynthia Long Westfall
Clarifying and informing on the role of women and men in the church. It spurred me to look more deeply into some of those challenging passages and to learn more about the history and context of those passages.
“Therefore, when Paul gives honor and recognition to so many female members of the Roman church in Romans 16, it stands out as a significant deviation from the cultural practice and ideal.”
Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels
By Kenneth E. Bailey
By far my favorite book I read this year! The author uses his middle eastern experience along with historical and cultural context to look more deeply into the ministry of Jesus. I especially was challenged as he looked at women and Jesus’ ministry. This book was not only very informative but rich and devotional as well.
“Jesus was voicing, and thereby exposing, deeply held prejudices buried in the minds of his disciples.”
Developing as a Leader and Disciple
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society
By Eugene Peterson
I enjoy anything by Eugene Peterson. This is a look at discipleship through the Psalms of ascents. The title says what discipleship is about- we keep going, following, trusting with our eyes on Jesus. So rich and full of depth.
“The easiest thing in the world is to be a Christian. What is hard is to be a sinner. Being a Christian is what we were created for… without Christ we are doing life the hard way.”
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
By Timothy Keller
Great book about finding purpose and making a difference through work- whatever our work may be. It was highly encouraging to consider how each of us are called by God to make a difference in the big and small things, every day as we work.
“…the Christian faith gives us a new and rich conception of work as partnering with God in his love and care for the world.”
Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders
By Reggie McNeal
This was filled with good reminders and questions for becoming a spiritual leader. To be a good leader is more that just having a gift of leadership, it is something we become over time from a changed heart.
“The capacity to see God at work in the common things of life is the hallmark of great spiritual leadership.”
Liturgy of the ordinary
By Trish Harrison Warren
I knew I was going to like this book with the ordinary pb&j sandwich on the front. I like things that help me to think about Jesus in the everyday moments of life. This is a good book for taking some extended time with the Lord or for a Sabbath.
“We have lost our capacity to see wonders where true wonders lie.”
Quiet: The Power of the introvert in a world that can’t stop talking.
By Susan Cain
See Brian’s list below for a description.
“Use your natural powers—of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity—to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.”
The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost
By Donna Freitas
This was a very helpful and informing book as I lead others in a different generation. There is a lot I could say from this book- but I wonder how we will one day look back at the early years of social media.
“I think that being in constant contact with the world sometimes is overwhelming, … so it’s nice to be unreachable for a little bit.”
Just for Fun
Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships
By Christine Hoover
Thanks to my dear friend Amy for this book:) Real friendship is much more than that “one best friend” or the 100 good friends. The best relationships are ones In which we look to Jesus and choose to love well those right before us.
“Self-preoccupation that hinders initiation is, simply put, a major hindrance to friendship.”
A Wrinkle In Time
By Madeleine L’Engle
A science fiction and fantasy classic that I felt was time to read before the new movie came out. The movie changes quite a bit- taking out parts that I think make the book distinct and clever. I enjoyed the book but not the movie so much.
“I do not know everything; still many things I understand.”
A Gentleman in Moscow
By Amor Towles
Having spent a year in Russia, I found this novel especially enjoyable. The author humorously and cleverly depicts Soviet era Russia. Even if you never set a foot in Russia, this novel will not disappoint!
“If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”
Brian’s Top 6 From 2018!
( I feel like I need a drum roll….)
By Susan Cain.
As someone who leans to the more introverted side of the scale, I found this book affirming of the value introverts play as leaders and on teams. It was also helpful to think how I can contribute best in various settings. It also is helpful in thinking about each person’s contribution and what we look for in leaders. It’s ok to not be super outgoing!
The Blood of Emmett Till
By Timothy Tyson
This book looks at a Mississippi murder that helped spark the civil rights movement. It is an important part of our national heritage and the racial issues we are still facing today.
By Upton Sinclair
I listened to this classic early in the year. It is set in the meat packing industry in Chicago which treated the workers like the animals being slaughtered. An interesting element was the way race played into it. As each wave of new immigrants came, the pressure increased on the workers- lower wages, worse conditions, unfair housing contracts,… Germans, Irish, Poles, Lithuanians each group was taken advantage of and mistreated because of race. Then the southern blacks are brought in and they are treated worse still. These are not new issues and there are on going problems that remain with us now in housing, education, employment,…
Where the Conflict Really Lies
By Alvin Plantinga
I read this as I was also reading Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. Pinker disparages faith and attempts to paint believers as idiots. Plantinga shows that science and faith are not at odds. Faith and Naturalism are, but so is science and Naturalism.
On the Reliability of the Old Testament
By Kenneth Kitchen
A thorough look at the OT and evidence for when and how it was written. So many ignore or dismiss the OT. I learned a good deal from this work.
The Good Shepherd
By Kenneth E. Bailey
A great look at the Good Shepherd throughout Scripture. A rich discussion that drew me closer to the Lord.
And Then There Were None
By Agatha Christie
An engaging mystery!
Race Relations and the Multi-tasked Life: Picking up a book and stepping into the unknown
We have to start somewhere. It feels much easier to do nothing than to take a step. A step is scary, unknown. What if I don’t know what to do? What if I end up not having enough time? What if that step turns into another step, or leads me on a different path than I wanted?
I experience this all the time in life. Often that “step” takes faith. And I have no idea what might happen next. Sometimes it takes me to unexpected places- like across the world to Asia, starting a new post, initiating a spiritual conversation or maybe just walking across the street to a neighbor. As Bilbo said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
There are other times I am paralyzed and I do nothing, even though I tell students all the time, “Just take the first step of faith and He will guide you. He will lead you.”
But have you ever experienced this with a book? You know you should explore a topic or order a certain book, but there is a hesitancy. “If I learn about this or that, then I am responsible, accountable. I might have to do something. I might even want to change!”
This year it is a small book list. I read more but some are forgotten. So maybe it is just as well that they didn’t end up here. These four books cover two topics in which I need to explore. We are bombarded with the issues of race and all the complexities of that topic. We also live in a distracted/multi-tasking age, in which we are overloaded and connected, yet isolated and unknown. Working with college students I find we need to address both of these topics, but often I am at a loss or feel paralyzed and don’t know what to do. These books helped me to take that step.
By Bryan Stevenson
A true story of how one man took a step to save a life, leading him to a life of extending mercy to the poor, defenseless, and destined to die in an unjust system. This is a must read I think for everyone who wants to understand and explore the injustices towards black Americans and those who cannot defend themselves. But be prepared to be really angry and really sad. But it is worth it!
“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.”
Divided By Faith
By Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith
Context always gives clarity. I found starting with a historical context very beneficial in looking at America’s race problem. This book was helpful for me, to not only explore this context, but also explore where America stands today and why we remain in that spot.
“We found that a pivotal and clearly held assumption for a large majority of white evangelicals is that all Americans have equal opportunity.”
The Multi-tasked (or Distracted) Life
By Richard A. Swenson
Life is meant to have space and room. But most of us live with every inch filled in, flowing over, and busting at the seams. Multi-tasking is just what we do. Once we find margin, most of us would not return to our margin-less and overloaded lives. Once we find room to breath, connection with others, and living without competition we are free.
“Margin, however knows how to nurture relationship. In fact, margin exists for relationship.”
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You
By Tony Reinke
An important read for anyone who feels conflicted by the time spent on any device and the desire to live for things that really matter. Multi-tasking it our enemy. It makes everything urgent and nothing most important. It keeps us in the immediate and not in the eternal.
“In the smart phone age, we are bombarded daily by the immediate: Facebook updates, blog posts, and breaking news stories. Yet, the most important book for our soul is ancient.”
Knowledge. Answers. Growth. Escape. These are a few reasons I might pick up a book for the New Year…
Sometimes we are looking for solutions to the problems of our world; and this past year has been a year of deep divides and complicated issues. We also want escape– you know, to be entertained and distracted from the world.
Unintentionally I read books this past year that uniquely take a look at some difficult issues, but not necessarily from head-on. Whether through an unordinary memoir or a beautifully written novel they address real problems, ask questions and give indirect solutions and hope. They touch on things like homelessness, unemployment, marriage, and neglected or orphaned children. Beware though, some parts of a few are disturbing.
Hillbilly Elegy is a timely memoir in light of the election– a life in the white working class Hillbillies of the Appalachians. While The Rise of Christianity and the biography of George Muller are timeless in their reminder that hope is found simply in Christ. He is the answer for the woes of this world– He always has been. I also threw in a book more for fun and one for deepening our faith. Below, in each book description, I hi-lighted a topic it touches.
Facing and Escaping the World:
By J.D. Vance
It was hard to put this one down. The author’s memoir– that of a “hillbilly” and part of a dysfunctional white working class family, is a book worth reading. It is full to the brim with candid life experiences, shocking language, and heartbreaking realities. The issues of dysfunction, poverty and unemployment are complicated, and often the stories behind them are not what we expect. Also, this is an interesting read in light of the last election.
“The Pew Economic Mobility Project studied how Americans evaluated their chances at economic betterment, and what they found was shocking. There is no group of Americans more pessimistic than the working-class whites.”
The Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls
This is a memoir of the author’s chaotic, adventurous, and poverty-stricken life, which often left she and her family destitute, hungry and homeless. It also was difficult to put down, because every chapter was full of unbelievable adventures and losses. Beware though, the life and language are raw and often disturbing. It is worth reading to understand the hidden and often misunderstood life of homelessness or deeply dysfunctional families. Homelessness is not always what we think. Dysfunction runs deep. The solutions are not easy. And chains are difficult to break.
“Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we cried. Fussing over children who cry only encouraged them, she told us. That’s positive reinforcement for negative behavior.”
By Christina Baker Klein
There was a time when a train carried orphans from New York City to the mid-west in the hope of giving them a home. The train arrived and people showed up to find a child– some to make the child a part of their family, and others, to take the child for an extra pair of hands. Though a novel, it is based on the historical orphan train. Set back and forth between the modern era and the 1920’s it compares the lives of two orphans, their similarities, losses, longings and hopes. The realities the book exposes are sad at times, but worth taking the time for.
“I learned long ago that loss is not only probable but inevitable. I know what it means to lose everything, to let go of one life and find another. And now I feel, with a strange, deep certainty, that it must be my lot in life to be taught that lesson over and over again.”
The Rise of Christianity
By Rodney Stark
The book addresses the question, “How did Christianity become a widespread movement which impacted the world in such a short period of time?” I found this book fascinating. I especially loved reading how Christ followers impacted those around them during terrible calamities and drew others to Christ. Christians faced the plagues of the world with Christ. This was new. Their life and actions were in stark contrast to the world around them. The way of Christ changed everything– how people were treated, the freedoms for women, the lives of children…. It has changed the world, and it started that first Century.
“Equally alien to paganism was the notion that because God loves humanity… they love one another. Indeed, as God demonstrates his love through sacrifice, humans must demonstrate their love through sacrifice on behalf of one another…. These were revolutionary ideas.”
George Muller of Bristol
By A.T. Pierson
I love anything about George Muller– one of my heroes in the faith.Towards the beginning of the book I was inspired and reminded that often God calls us to wait instead of reacting or responding. Waiting with prayer is often what we need– not a decision or closure to a problem. He was a man of faith and prayer. He waited on God to meet his needs and God used him in amazing ways for the gospel and the welfare of orphans. It was a dark time for orphans in England and God used Muller and his simple trust to shed light in this dark time.
“God is often moved to delay that we may be lead to pray, and even the answers to prayer are deferred that the natural and carnal spirit may be kept in check and self-will may bow before the will of God.”
The Meaning of Marriage
By Tim Keller with Kathy Keller
Read this book if you desire to be married, know people who are married or are married! In a culture in which marriage has lost its meaning and foundation, this book is an important read. Explore again the power of God’s plan, intent and mystery in marriage.
“A strong marriage between parents makes children grow up feeling the world is a safe place and love is possible.”
All The Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
A beautifully and cleverly written novel that takes place in war-time Europe. The story follows the life of Marie Laurel, from becoming blind, losing those dear to her and living through World War 2. It simultaneously follows the life of Werner, an orphan who becomes a young German soldier in the war. I highly recommend this for a really good read! It is so well written as the author skillfully intersects the worlds of these two different lives during the war.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
North and South
By Elizabeth Gaskell
Taking place in the nineteenth century, it is a story of a young woman who moves with her family from the beautiful English countryside to the polluted, bustling industrial north. A wonderful story of character, love, romance, contentment, and the navigating of a different culture. If you are a fan of Jane Austen you will love this as well! And check out the BBC series of North and South.
“Oh, I can’t describe my home. It is home, and I can’t put its charm into words”
Invitations from God
By Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
The introduction alone is inspiring and worth reading. Each chapter shares how God invites us to Himself and to go deeper with Him. I like that the chapters can really be read in any order at any time. So if you want to read about rest you can read that chapter first. If you want to read about weeping, you can read about weeping. This is a good one to read with someone else and for personal growth.
“They are by no means all of the invitations, but they are ones that our achievement and entertainment addicted society tends to ignore or avoid.”
From the Trinity to Elisabeth Elliot: Newer and Older Favorites-
I recently finished my new favorite book, Delighting in the Trinity (Read more about it below.). My husband has been recommending it for the past year, and now I understand why. This book should be next on your list. Today this read could be more influential than any other book you could pick up. Not just understanding God as the Triune God, but knowing Him as Father, Son and Spirit, will shape your mind, your words, and devotion. Some how it makes the Rock you stand on seem stronger, His love seem more lovely, and your confidence seem more secure,
It is easy to separate knowledge from our devotion and from our relationship with God. This book (and all of these books) connect the two. As I began to glimpse a little more of the Trinity, it made me stand in awe of God and desire to dive more into the love of God and into the book of John. I never expected that from “learning” about the Trinity! Let me know what you think!
Some of favorite books in college were written by the beloved Elisabeth Elliot, who recently went to be with the Lord. Below is a tribute of books I read some 20 plus years ago. I read whatever of hers I could get my hands on, for she was one of my favorite authors back then. When I had a chance to meet her I was so nervous that I could barely say a word, yet there was so much to say! Her books had inspired me to seek a life that was focused on the eternal and not the temporal. Her words were challenging (and sometimes controversial), but it was always good to be pushed to trust God and walk in what is true. Most of all, as I read about Jim Elliot I desired to live a life for significant things– and in making Christ known wherever I ended up. I am very grateful for the life she lived and for the lives she often wrote about.
Deepening in Knowledge and Devotion:
Knowledge shapes our mind. Our mind shapes our devotion.
Delighting in the Trinity
By Michael Reeves
This is a must read and my new favorite book! It has not only helped to deepen my knowledge of God, but has impacted my devotional life. It all started when my husband (who often talks about the Trinity) read this book last year. Soon, he began recommending it to everyone (including our pastor who read it and recommended it in an excellent sermon he gave about God as Father this past Spring)! The Trinity is essential to the faith, and this book does an excellent job in helping people like me to understand it better. Some bonuses: this book is not dull, but very interesting, relatively compact (only 130 pages) and full of wit!
“That is, if God were not personal, he could not be merciful (things do not show mercy); but if God were just one person, then love of the other would not be central to His being. There would have been nobody in eternity for him to love. Thus the only God inherently inclined to show mercy is the Father who has eternally loved His Son by the Spirit. Only with this God do such winning qualities as love and mercy rank highly.”
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
By N.T. Wright
I heard about N.T. Wright, one of the great thinkers and theologians of our day from Great Britain, but I didn’t think I would be able to read (understand) any of his books. Well, this is written for people more like me, but still very challenging! He writes about how to become a person who reflects Jesus to the world. I like this. It doesn’t just happen in an instant (though the Spirit is at work), but happens over time as we practice habits which help to make us into the people we were created to be– beacons who display Christ-likeness to a dark and dying world. God has a big vision for our lives in Christ– a life transforming and world shaping vision, that takes place in the mundane spaces of our life.
“They are the virtues, hard initially but second nature after long practice, which generate communities in whose lordship of Jesus is apparent, a life by which by its very nature doesn’t stay as hidden property within those communities but of necessity spills out into the world around as people see human life lived in a radically different, and often compellingly attractive, way.”
By Timothy Keller
I think most people would benefit from this book, as it addresses all the things, even good things, which take up the spots of devotion that should be reserved for Christ. I especially liked the end with its suggestions for identifying false gods– those things we find our mind going to when we daydream or have idle thoughts. Hmmm… Insightful.
“The human heart is indeed a factory that mass-produces idols.”
By Lois Lowry
I recently saw the motion picture and read the book, and both kept me pondering the implications of the community which was created. Would a world be better that is completely peaceful, yet void of choice and differences? I can’t help but think about the ability to choose in which God has given us. He could have made us “obedient” all of the time– a sort of robot, but instead He gave us a choice– to love, give, and show our individuality.
“Jonas had to stop and think it through. “If everything’s the same, then there aren’t any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things!”… “It’s the choosing that’s important, isn’t it?” The Giver asked him.”
Streams in the Dessert
By L.B Cowman
Written almost 100 years ago and given to me by a good friend, it is a favorite of mine for devotional reading. I prefer this than to some of the more modern, popular devotionals in which the author writes as if Jesus is speaking in first person. This is a timeless classic, containing a collection of writings and scripture, that points me to walking by faith, trusting and loving God and loving others.
“He withdrew…. to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:13). There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music…”
Introduction to the Devout Life
By Saint Francis de Sales
Though written over 400 years ago, I love how much of his thoughts on living in Christ are relevant for today. During a time when much was written for those in a “religious vocation,” this was written for people of all walks of life. He discusses prayer, confession, fasting, friendship, love, etc. I benefit from these “classic” writings for they point me to the essentials of faith without some of the modern “fluff.”
“It is a general rule, with respect to the feelings and affections, that their test is in their fruits. Our hearts are as trees, of which the affections and passions are their branches, and deeds and acts their fruit.”
A Tribute to Elisabeth Elliot:
Shadow of the Almighty
By Elisabeth Elliot
I like reading a good missionary biography every once in a while for inspiration and new focus. Jim Elliot was a man with great focus and single mindedness for making Christ known. This book influenced me in college to say, “Yes, Lord. I will go where you lead.”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Through the Gates of Splendor
By Elisabeth Elliot
This is the inspiring story of the five men who gave their lives so tribes in Ecuador would know Christ. Their passion and mission challenged people to question their own lives and what they were living for. They impacted so many, including my life in college and the very tribes who martyred them.
“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.”
A Chance to Die
By Elisabeth Elliot
A portrait of the life of the missionary Amy Carmichael, who spent 53 years (without furlough) saving children who were in danger, orphaned or sold to temples for unspeakable work. She created for them a refuge and home in which they experienced the love of Christ. This is a favorite missionary biography of mine. She was an inspiring woman who was committed to making Christ shine and known in a very dark place.
“The women of the Band were learning that if the Lord of Glory took a towel and knelt on the floor to wash the dusty feet of His disciples, then no work, even the relentless and often messy routine of caring for squalling babies, is demeaning. To offer it up to the Lord of Glory transforms it into a holy task.”
Passion and Purity
By Elisabeth Elliot
Ok, it has been a really long time since I have read this book– sometime in college. I remember we were all reading it. Many thought it was unrealistic and dated. I liked her challenge, the way she trusted God, and was willing to die to herself for something greater.
“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end, but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able to honestly pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done.”
On Asking God Why and Other Reflections on Trusting God in a Twisted World
By Elisabeth Elliot
Don’t we all want to know, “Why?” This is probably what prompted my boss during an internship in college to pick this up off my desk. Even though we had very different spiritual beliefs, this book lead us to some interesting discussions. This book is about bringing the questions we have to a loving Father and learning to trust Him. It is classic Elisabeth Elliot– encouraging the reader to trust God and walk in obedience.
“Like Walter, I have been through some dark tunnels. Although they were frightening, in the end I’ve found my Heavenly Father always knows the way out.”
By Elisabeth Elliot
Most people don’t want to admit they are lonely or experience times of loneliness. But loneliness is a normal part of living in the world this side of heaven. She understands (having been through the deaths of two husbands) and shares her experiences with loneliness and the peace she has found. Filled with truth for any stage of life.
“Loneliness comes over us sometimes as a sudden tide. It is one of the terms of humanness, and, in a sense, therefore, incurable. Yet I have found peace in my loneliest times not only through acceptance of the situation, but through making it an offering to God, who can transfigure it into something good for others.”
Discipline: The Glad Surrender
By Elisabeth Elliot
I remember borrowing this book from my roommate in college and feeling very challenged. Self-discipline is never popular and denying our feelings seems foreign. She calls us to trust God more than our feelings, to walk by faith, believe God’s word, and to choose the way of the cross.
“Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”
Knowing Truth and being changed:
What do you want for the new year? Do you want success, significance, change, or deeper relationships? These are a few books that shed light on truth and remind me what I really want this year: to see transformation, to bless others, to grow in prayer and in my intimacy with Christ and with others. Don’t we each need encouragement to walk in the light, in order that we live out what is true? These are not all my “favorite of my favorite” books (but some on prayer, I do love!), but each are worth reading if you seek to know and walk in the light this year. Recently I was thinking much about our need for connection. A couple of these books touch on this in a round about way. One reminded me to not rely on my feelings when I feel let down in relationships, but to remember the truth. Another book depicted a sad life without deep connection, which resulted in separation (where believing lies can lead). No matter what I feel, I need the truth–the love and security of my relationship with God. This is a bright light in an uncertain world.
Faith is not a feeling
By Ney Bailey
This is one of my new and old favorites. I read it in college and again recently, still finding it applicable for today. If you find your feelings tripping you up from walking by faith, then I would encourage you to read this book. (I recommend it to all my seniors in my bible study.) Even though this is an easy, short read, full of stories from the author’s life, it will encourage you to make the choice to walk by faith each day. Relying on feelings may lead to immediate gratification, but the benefits of walking by faith are for now and the future.
“I’ve chosen to believe that God’s Word is truer that anything else.”
Search for Significance
By Robert S. McGee
Knowing and believing the truth is good, but living in light of it makes a world of difference. Do you find yourself believing lies about yourself, others, God or your future? This book helps to identify areas we mis-place our security and significance and then replace them with the truth. The result is being freer to be the person God has created you to be and living more fully for Him. I have read this mulitple time over the years. A must read for anyone who desires to place their significance and security in God’s truth.
“We have a choice in our response to failure. We can condemn or we can learn. All of us fail, but this doesn’t mean that we are failures. We need to understand that failing can be a step toward maturity, not a permanent blot on our self-esteem…We don’t have to allow failure to prevent us from being used by God.”
Into the Wild
By Jon Krakauer
This book really intrigued me after my son read it for English class and I watched a recent PBS special interviewing the sister whose recent book makes known the family life that contributed to the events of her brother’s life. It is a tragic, but powerful story about a college student grad who leaves his life behind to escape his family and live life on his own terms. While hitchhiking the US with no money, taking on random jobs, finding eatable plants, his goal was to make it alone in Alaska– where he planned to go all along. From my perspective, the book is depressing and facinating. After watching the interview, I clearly could see the devastating impact of broken relationships– building barriers and creating distance. Even though he made extreme choices, I am reminded of everyone’s need for connection and complete love and acceptance.
“McCandless conveniently overlooked the fact that London (Jack London) himself had spent just a single winter in the North and that he died by his own hand on his California estate at the age of forty, a fatuous, obese and pathetic, maintaining a sedentary existence that bore scant resemblance to the ideals he espoused in print.”
7- an experiemental mutiny against excess
By Jen Hatmaker
Tired of the need to always have more, be busy, distracted, spend, and waste, the author uses seven months to focus on seven areas for reduction ( a type of “fast”). The result is a deeper awareness of God, simplicity, and an entertaining, yet challenging book! Jen Hatmaker is a gifted, intense and humorous author. Even though I enjoyed the book, it felt somewhat “trendy”- as she took on this new, all-consuming, and “radical” plan to bring about change in her life. Full of inspiring ideas, it could put others under the pile or be difficult to duplicate. The interesting thing to me is that the classic spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, solitude, giving, simplicity, confession, scripture reading, etc) modeled by Jesus and in the bible serve the purpose, among other things, for simple and lasting transformation of our lives and for making us more like Christ over time. God knows we need Christ and to become more like Christ!
“So for now I’ll continue to reduce and simplify, fight and engage until I know what else to do. What I know now is this: less. I don’t need to have the most, be the best, or reach the top.”
We probably all would like to pray more. If I could grow in praying continually, I know my year would be brighter. What I like about all these books is they encouraged me, not only to want to pray more, but actually to pray more.
The Way of The Heart, connecting with God through prayer, wisdom and silence
by Henri Nouwen
I just like books written by Henri Nouwen. This is what it says on the back of the book, “Ancient spiritual wisdom to heal our troubled souls.” I am finding a pattern in my life- I want to see and encourage simple and lasting transformation. Whether I remember the specifics of this book or not, it plants a seed in encouraging coming to Christ, connecting and communing with Him. This is at the heart of prayer and simple and lasting transformation. This book is a new favorite. Even though it is small in size, it has timeless insight and wisdom enough for a book many times its size!
“As ministers our greatest temptation is toward too many words. They weaken our faith and make us luke-warm. But silence is a sacred discipline, a guard of the Holy Spirit.”
A Praying Life
By Paul E. Miller
(Since these are all on prayer, I included this one that is actually described below under “favorite reads of 2013”.)
The Believers School or Prayer
By Andrew Murray
This book, a classic from the early 1900’s, is full of short and powerful chapters– should be read slowly, overtime. You will want this on your bookshelf to reread again.
“The Christian life is no longer the vain struggle to live right, but the resting in Christ and finding strength in Him as our life.”
Power through Prayer
By E.M. Bounds
Written also in the earlier 1900’s and for the “preacher,” it is very applicable for anyone who wants to be effective as a witness and representative for Christ. This is another “classic” for your library.
“This perpetual hurry of business and company ruins me in soul if not in body. More solitude and earlier hours!” (Quoting Wilber Wilberforce).
By Richard Foster
I always like Foster’s depth. This book gives an overview on types of prayer in order to take you deeper into the mystery of prayer. One of my favorite chapters was “Praying the Ordinary.”
“We pass from thinking of God as part of our life to the realization that we are part of his life.”
Recently while my husband was overseas for a month, I decided to clean out his office. This included organizing his bookshelves. He loves books! During the process I discovered a few books I wanted to read. One of these books was very short, but so insightful– each page oozing with wisdom. Another, read more like a story, and was so very powerful. Each, along with a few others I read this summer, bolstered my faith. I was reminded of how great God is, how wonderful my future is with Him in heaven, and how much the bible and the world makes sense when I start with God. I was continually reminded that love is a simple, but not easy, key for solidifying my faith and showing others what Jesus is like. All of this bolsters my faith, but also demonstrates a walking Jesus to the world around me. I would encourage you to read all of these books. If you had to pick one…. I am not sure which one I would recommend. If I had to pick, I would pick the first one on the list– “Same kind of different as me.” There is a kind of life that changes lives. I hope you can take the time to read it (But if you do, I promise you your eyes will not be dry by the end.)
Same Kind of Different as Me
By Ron Hall and Denver Moore
I picked this up off our shelf in the search of a “good read.” I vaguely remember my husband reading and recommending it. All I can say is that this book is an amazing picture of Jesus being made real in life. I would say this book is a “must read.” On the cover of the book it describes the story as about “a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together.”
“The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced we’d enjoy life a whole lot more if we owned a whole lot less.”
The Mark of the Christian
By Francis A. Schaeffer
This book is very short, yet I was still slow in reading it. Each page is full of timeless wisdom which challenged me to remember, display and talk about the one thing that will shape the world more than anything else. There is one simple “mark” that the world can see that will show them Christ. But unfortunately, this powerful mark has not always been visible, but clouded by lesser things. This is worth picking up and looking at how Christian love can make all the difference.
“It is possible to be a Christian without showing the mark, but if we expect non-Christians to know that we are Christians we must show the mark.”
The Reason for God
By Timothy Keller
This is also a great book to read, to give and have as a resource. It gives weight, reason and insight into faith in God and Christianity, but with humility and approachability. I loved the chapter on the resurrection, for everything about Christianity hinges on this. Here are some titles of chapters: “How can a loving God Send People to Hell,” “Science has disproved Christianity,” “You can’t take the Bible Literally,” and “The Reality of the Resurrection.” Now I know you want to read it!
‘”Why did Jesus have to die? Couldn’t God just forgive us?” This is what many ask, but now we can see that no one “just forgives,” if the evil is serious. Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it…. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself.’
By Randy Alcorn
I loved this book! This book gave such a beautiful picture of heaven from what the bible has revealed about it. I know as a child, I imagined heaven was a place of white puffy clouds. Then, I thought it was probably a rather dull place of singing. Later, heaven became something much different. I think heaven will be familar, earth being a reflection of it, but also beyond anything we can imagine. Now, I long for it. One thing about this book (even though I read and enjoyed the whole book), it could seem redundant, and a little like a resource book– but still a book you want to read and have on your shelf!
“The things we love about this life are not merely the best this life has to offer– they are previews of the greater life to come.”
Living with more focus:
Summer is often a time to reevaluate. Simplicity often brings better focus and reduces stress. We all want less anxiety and more time to live out our priorities. I realize I need to simplify, focus on good things and have time for rest. Here are just a few books that have made me pause and think in regards to my time and my focus.
The Rest of God
By Mark Buchanan
This is one of my newer favorite books. Understanding and living the gift of the Sabbath is truly refreshing and restoring. I wonder why I ignored it for so long. I anticipate this day now, as I look forward to the time and the ways I can enjoy the day, God, my family– and be refreshed. Everyone should read this!
“Sabbath invites us to stop. In that ceasing, fresh possibilities abound…”
Freedom of Simplicity
By Richard Foster
This book is a helpful guide in exploring living more simply. As we empty our hands, we really have more to give. I want the freedom to par down my life so I can invest more fully in the things that matter. It is easy to get caught up and wooed by present contemporary ideas and teachers, yet ignore the wisdom from the past. This book also helps to point us to some of that wisdom.
“History has a wonderful way of freeing us from the cult of the contemporary.”
Living into Focus
By Arthur Boers
How do we find focus in the midst of a highly distracting world? How do we retrieve the things, which matter most in life, robbed by technology? I like that this book addresses this issue and affirms finding and practicing things in our life that give it meaning and richness. I wouldn’t necessarily go to the extremes this book could suggest, but I find it helpful to look how technology has hi-jacked the “depth” and personal in our life.
“When we allow devices and machines to reside at the center of our lives, we displace values and practices that once enriched the quality of how we live.”
Spiritual Secrets of George Mueller
By Roger Steer
George Mueller is one of my heroes. This book has challenged me to dream, pray and live big. It will give you the desire to walk by faith, pray big, and reevaluate what you are living for. This is one of my favorite books about faith… and just one of my favorite books!
“There was a day when I died, utterly died: died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes and will–died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends–since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”
In My Father’s House
By Corrie ten Boom
Corrie ten Boom is another one of my heroes. This book is about the years leading up to the “Hiding Place.” I admire the focus and the love this family had, and how they lived it out. How could a family risk everything they had for others? What was her family like growing up? What was Corrie’s father like? It makes me want to have a family with purpose and give my children experiences of meaning and focus
“In the five days of war that followed, many people came to the house; Father was a pillar of strength for all of them; he prayed with everyone who asked. Sometimes the shock of what was happening would engulf me, and while Father was bringing trust and peace to those in turmoil, I would go to the piano and play Bach. No other music gave me so much rest.”
My Four Favorite Series for Fun:
Summer is a good time to read for fun. I love to escape with a good book, but I am always a little disappointed when I finish, for I want the story to keep going. Therefore, I am so happy when a good book is followed by another in the series! Then there is much to look forward to. These I have enjoyed personally, and with our kids.
Little House on the Prairie
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
I read this series even with each of my boys when they were little (skipping the “boring” parts about dresses and dolls). There is much in these books about hunting, farming, guns, and wild animals for any boy to love (and for me too)! I find myself looking ahead to find out what happens next!
“These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraphs and kerosene and coal stoves — they’re good to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”
By C.S. Lewis
I enjoyed reading these as an adult (for I didn’t read much as a child). My husband reads these also with our boys during their early grade school years. Most of them have gone through them at least twice! There are many great things to talk about with them from these stories. If you haven’t read them, you will love them.
“I am [in your world].’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” “But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”
By J.K. Rowling
I don’t know how many times I have read these. I love the books and I love the movies. I first read these to be one step ahead of my oldest son when he was much younger, for he wanted to read them. The books and movies have been great to enjoy together over the years, as we would anticipate the next book or movie. I love the creativity throughout and the world J.K. Rowling created.
If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
Lord of the Rings
By J.R.R. Tolkien
There is so much to love and appreciate about these books. I am not only amazed at the world he designed and crafted, but also the language as well! My husband and I read this aloud to each other, for a way to invest time together. These are also books my husband begins reading with our boys when they turn ten.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
Significiant Reads of 2013:
As I join the Christmas season with the gathering New Year, I pause and find the two intertwined with the word, “redemption.” I am thankful for many redeeming moments this past year, some though, disguised in uncertainty or difficulty–a reminder that the death of self brings life and greater joy in His presence. I am thankful for full redemption given through a babe– His life as a ransom for mine. As I look ahead, I anticipate and hope for God’s redeeming work to overflow to my life and from my life. The following books are a few favorites of 2013. Each book has a redeeming thread stitched and woven throughout. The first two books share redemption through a story. The second two, help to redeem moments in life by pointing me to Christ. All four became a gift to me this year. I wish I could sit down and discuss any or all of these books with you and the influence they hold.
By Victor Hugo
This was my third time to persevere through and consume this book. After seeing the motion picture, I desired to return to it, and remember the story as Hugo wrote it. One thing that always strikes me in this story, is how easy it is to forget the true hero. The bishop was a small and modest man, however, in the end he had profound impact on countless lives. His life touched many that he would never even meet.
“As we see, he had a strange and peculiar way of judging things. I suspect that he acquired it from the Gospel.”
Unbroken – A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit)
It is difficult to put into words a short summary for this book. To the surprise of my husband, I read and recommended this book. Usually he is the one who reads history and war stories. “Redemption” or “redemptive story”is the only genuine way I know to sum up this significant and true story about Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and World War II POW. It is filled with an amazing redemptive thread, but for some, the horrors, sufferings and evils of the POW camps may be burdening and overwhelming.
“One morning, they woke to a strange stillness… It was an experience of transcendence… For a while they spoke, sharing their wonder. Then fell into reverent silence. Their suffering was suspended. They weren’t hungry or thirsty. They were unaware of the approach of death. … Joyful and grateful in the midst of slow dying, the two men bathed in that day until sunset brought it, and their time in the doldrums to and end.”
A Praying Life
By Paul E. Miller
I want prayer to influence my life in a larger and more profound way. This book made me want to pray. It also gave me specific ways to have more of a life of prayer. Prayer is not just a means to an answer, but it is apart of God’s loving hand in shaping me. I really appreciate his humble approach in this topic.
“’What I thought was a stone was really a loaf of bread.”
The Life You’ve Always Wanted
By John Ortberg
I like this book a lot. It gave me a hunger for transformation and to be more like Jesus. I didn’t feel guilty reading it, but it did give me hope and desire for growth. His look at spiritual practices (disciplines) is simple, yet compelling!
“Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry can keep us from living well… Depth always comes slowly”
Books of impact and influence:
Recently, these books have impacted me and my hope is that they would have influenced me–even in a smallish kind of way. I consider many of these “classics,” because I think they stand the test of time, trends or the latest new thing.
In the Name of Jesus
By Henri Nouwen
If you could pick one book from this list, I would start with this one. It is short and profound. How does a Harvard professor move to living among the handicapped? This book calls us to define our lives around God’s love and nothing else.
“…God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”
By Andrew Murray
This is a thin book and you will want to read it slowly and thoughtfully. You will not read it only once! This book helped me go deeper in my understanding of humility and in my earning for it.
“Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue.”
By C.S. Lewis
There is much one could say about this classic, that I put off reading for some amount of time! For me, this beloved book made me marvel at how God uses all things to point to Him–whether it is science, logic, nature, morality, or the mundane. Things tend to make sense when you start with God.
“There are lots of nice things you can do with sand: but do not try building a house on it.”
The Great Omission
By Dallas Willard
This is another book I put off reading! “Spiritual disciplines” or certain spiritual practices seemed daunting for me and were just another good thing to do in a long list of good things to do. The author masterfully wooed me to Jesus and the desire to be more like Him.
“As disciples (literally students) of Jesus, our goal is to learn to be like Him. We begin by trusting him to receive us as we are. But our confidence in him leads us toward the same kind of faith he had, a faith that made it possible for him to act as he did.”
By Francois Fenelon
Although Fenelon lived in the 1600’s, what he writes applies to life today. He points the follower of Christ to true life through the love of God and by becoming small.
“Attachment to ourselves is a thousand times more infectious than a contagious poison.”
Impact and Influence for the Campus:
Some of these are timeless classics that are not just for the college student, but will influence your impact on the campus and the world.
Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening
By Dan Hayes
God uses university students to accomplish big things around the world for his name. It will cause you be a part of God’s great plan and to pray for big things on the campus.
“Throughout recent history the university has been God’s primary vehicle for expanding His kingdom and spreading the gospel to the world.”
The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman
What did Jesus do? This study is packed with Jesus’ method for making disciples and changing the world. It was a simple method of calling a few to be with Him. This is an important read if you want to help others to follow Christ and impact the world.
“…Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of His training program–just letting his disciples follow Him.”
By Jason Mandryx
I love this book! If you want to pray for the world and develop a heart for the needs of people around the world, this book is a good place to start. In its seventh edition, it uncovers the needs of every country in the word.
“Sumatra (Island of Indonesia) is prone to natural disasters since it lies in a geologically volatile area, (rendering many homeless)…. ruthless logging threatens the environment, and the traditional lifestyles of many… Sumatra is the largest unevangelized island on earth… and most people have never had a long-term gospel presence in their midst…”
Shadow of the Almighty
By Elizabeth Elliot
I like reading a good missionary biography every once in a while for inspiration and new focus. Jim Elliot was a man great focus and single mindedness for making Christ known. This book influenced me in college to say, “Yes, Lord. I will go where you lead.”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
A Few Books about People:
Stories about people inspire and motivate me. I love seeing how the bad and the good in people’s lives work together for something better. It encourages me that God can do His work through simple people, like me. I selected a few of these books because they are shorter in length. During busier times, when I am less tempted to read, it can be nice to have a shorter book. Even though they are small, they are big in inspiration.
The Gospel according to John
The author, John, describes himself as one “whom Jesus loved.” I love this book because of that — the author writes out of love. The book of John is one of my favorite gospel writings of the saving story of Jesus Christ. Read through it asking two questions: “What is Jesus like?” and “How do people respond to Him?” If you ask these two questions thoughtfully and honestly, you will be changed
“Everyone who drinks of this water [from the well] will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water I [Jesus] will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 14:13,14)
By Corrie Ten Boom
This is an amazing story of love, faith and forgiveness from the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. This is a must-read for everyone who wants to grow in forgiveness.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Tramp for the Lord By Corrie Ten Boom
This sequel to The Hiding Place is full of beautiful stories displaying the fruit of the spirit lived out in Corrie’s years after the death camps. I was challenged by her walk of faith and her forgiveness stories. This book will make you want to go back and reread The Hiding Place.
“I could not do it. I was not able. Jesus in me was able to do it. You see, you never touch so much the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.”
The Practice of the Presence of God
By Brother Lawrence
This is a simple and profound book from the 1600’s on one monk’s experiences of the nearness of God. It inspired me to think about continually talking with God and thinking about Him throughout the day.
“That we might accustom ourselves to a continual converation with Him (God), with freedom and simplicity.”