We moved into a new house back in August, and until a couple weeks ago I didn’t have a nightstand. There wasn’t room for one in our old condo, but these days we have the space and I got tired of digging around for my glasses on the floor when the toddler wakes at 4:45am. (Yes, he wakes that early. Pray for us.)
“I need a nightstand,” I told Daryl a month or so ago, dropping a not-so-subtle Christmas present idea. (I said this before remembering that we give each other naps for Christmas because uninterrupted sleep is the only thing, besides world peace, that I want. You can keep your Banana Republic cashmere sweaters. I just want two hours in a bed without a toddler’s foot in my face…)
“You have a nightstand,” he countered, pointing to my side of the bed, where a stack of twelve or so books stood three feet high.
“Point taken,” I said.
I’m a reader. Always have been. If I don’t have a novel or two going at all times my mental health suffers. I need to read like thespians need to act, hummingbirds need to hum, beavers need to gnaw, Kardashians need to post inappropriate selfies. It’s not a want; it’s a need.
I well up with joy on Saturday nights knowing that in the morning the weekend newspaper will be waiting at the end of our driveway with so many pages to read. I always feel all my Christmas presents so I can open a book first and lose myself in it for the next hour as everyone else opens gifts. (Introverts gotta introvert.)
If you’re looking for some great reads to start off the new year, here are some I highly recommend. As always, I’m not paid to endorse anyone or anything, these are just books I’ve genuinely enjoyed. Perhaps you will, too.
Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community
by Brett McCracken
This book needed to be written.
In a consumer-driven culture where many of us ask “what can I get out of church?”, Brett reminds us that the discomfort of sitting with sinners and saints alike to lean in to the uncomfortable work of growing in holiness, pursuing mission, and following Jesus is what church is all about. This book was an encouragement to me as a pastor, a challenge to me as a believer, and an inspiration to me as an introvert.
As he notes, “Nothing matures you quite like faithfulness amid discomfort.” Preach.
Worth a read, worth giving as a gift, worth studying together in a small group or on a church team.
Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World
by Amy Peterson
This book is a serious, thoughtful, game-changing reflection on the way overseas mission is carried out by U.S. churches. Part memoir, part mission history, Peterson writes of her own experience on the mission field and how trying to save the world ended up causing her to reevaluate the model of missions American churches have practiced for decades.
I underlined practically half of this book. Not only is it wise; it’s beautifully written.
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
by Julia Alvarez
This is the only fiction book to make the list because I just didn’t read much fiction this year (unless you count Dr. Seuss and books about Lightning McQueen, in which case I read a TON of fiction…). This book is a gem, though, and it kept me up way past my bedtime. Alvarez’s characters are beautifully three-dimensional, each flawed, each worth cheering for.
As the oldest of three sisters, I have an ongoing love affair with books that capture sisterhood well. Alvarez does it wonderful justice.
Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Sermons on the book of Romans
by Fleming Rutledge
I have a total author/preacher crush on the Rev. Rutledge. From her brilliant turns of phrase to her deeply thoughtful theology, I can only hope to preach sermons this brave, powerful, and true.
Our pastoral staff read this together over a period of months this year, and every time we met to discuss it we couldn’t help but gush. From her spot-on illustrations to her knowledge of history, art, and culture, Rutledge’s sermons sparkle with wit, humor, and grace. She’s ridiculously smart, but her words don’t read as intellectual, they simply read as true.
Liturgy of the Ordinary
by Tish Harrison Warren
I’m not alone in loving this book. It is one of Christianity Today’s 2018 Book Award winners, and it’s been praised all over the interwebs. With good reason. It rocks.
Warren, an Anglican priest, writes of the grace of God in the ordinary things of life, from making her bed in the morning to crawling into it at night. Rather than seeing the mundane realities of life–brushing teeth, eating lunch, driving to work–as drudgery, she finds God at home within them.
One reviewer called this book “non-preachy,” and I agree. It is an invitation to find God in the simple moments of life, not a “how to” in getting your best life now. Refreshing, for sure. And wise.
Next week? My reading list to start off 2018. Stay tuned…
What did you read and love in 2017? Let me know so I can check it out!