what i read in march.

This month, I continue my average from February of four books in four weeks and add my 2017 stack to a total number of eleven books! I hope that as I reach one of the busiest seasons of my life (I see you coming, May!), I will only continue making reading good, long, sharpening books a priority. (And what better way to procrastinate homework?) March held: Two memoirs, one novel, and one biography. There were two books out of this roundup that were winners for me – they are compelling, convicting, and stories that I personally connected to immediately. The other two held little substance for me. Let’s dig in!

  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines 

Go and find what it is that inspires you, go and find what it is that you love, and go do that until it hurts.

For those of you who may not know (who are you? where do you live??), Chip and Joanna Gaines are the TV hosts of Fixer Upper on HGTV. They are strong believers and hard workers. This book read as an easy-going dialogue between Chip and Joanna as they gave us glimpses into their childhood, dating years, newlywed adventures, and into the details of how they have built their career and family. I traveled to Waco over Spring Break and this book brought the details of everything I experienced (like driving by where Chip and Jo met, swinging at Magnolia Market…) to a new level of appreciation. On the other hand, it also spurred me on personally to tackle my God-given desires with boldness. If you love Chip and Jo, you’ll have more reasons why when you get your hands on this book. I am cheering you on Gaines’ and praying that you continue restoring dusty, beautiful things to bring God glory!

 

  • Chasing Slow: Courage To Journey Off The Beaten Path by Erin Loechner 

Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.

Chasing Slow is about living an abundant life, saying no to the rat race and certain components of the American dream, simplifying, and also giving yourself grace in the mess. This book is SO aesthetically pleasing with beautiful typography and photography. I am tucking many ideas from this book in my pocket! I started cleaning out my closet (again). I took stock of my priorities. I prayed hard prayers about loving the poor and then did something about it. For this, I am so grateful! But, overall, I found Loechner’s voice to be condescending and life-draining. I found the extras in the book (recipes, added blurbs, a few misplaced stories in my opinion) to be good, but just not fitting. I’ll be recommending and furthering the ideas and a few quotes this book carries to friends for many days to come, but probably not the book itself.

 

  • Wise Blood by Flannery O’ Connor 

The black sky was underpinned with long silver streaks that looked like scaffolding and depth on depth behind it were thousands of stars that all seemed to be moving very slowly as if they were about some vast construction work that involved the whole order of the universe and would take all time to complete. No one was paying attention to the sky.

My girl Flannery disappointed me with this one. This novel was haunting. Unlike Flannery’s short stories, I missed the redemption song she usually, however subtly, ties into the narrative. There were many paragraphs that blew me away with her imagery and understanding of humanity. O’Connor is amazing at capturing heartbreaking human emotion and transforming that into tangible empathy for the reader to take away. That’s the best I can say about Wise Blood.  (Also, book cover goals. But that’s not the point. 😉 )

 

  • Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior 

More’s life shows that the facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves, and that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.

I first heard about Hannah More when I was reading Seven Women by Eric Metaxas last May, and I was shocked about how quietly her story is being told in the 21st century. Hannah was, as the the book title describes, a poet, reformer, and abolitionist living from 1745 – 1833. She was known for her wit and her never-pausing pen. A pen that aided the abolition of slavery in England weeks before she died. More’s life proved the importance of friendships and hospitality, the balance between strong convictions and tolerance, and loving God with your whole heart. She pushed the boundaries, but stood tall in the lines she believed in. I hope to be like Hannah More as a writer, as a citizen, as a friend, and as a woman of God.  Hannah’s story needs to be told and rewritten in our lives today — start by learning about how Hannah glorified God in her life with Fierce Convictions!

Next Up…

You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (I am making progress!)

What books have you put down this month and what books can you not put down?

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what i read in february

This month puts my tally to seven books so far this year! I am passionate about each of these books on my shelf this month. The common threads, unintentionally, have been solitude, idolatry, technology addiction, pressing against lies, ministering with compassion. These books have made me wonder why people don’t read and how in the world they function without books. Everyone that owns an iPhone would benefit from Changing The Subject, every minister should read The Way of the Heart in seminary, every Christian should invest in Counterfeit Gods, and The Broken Way continues to take my breath away. Humor me? Read on for all the good words about these books that my nose was stuck in this February.

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  • The Way Of The Heart: Connecting With God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence by Henri J. M. Nouwen 

We have, indeed, to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw every day, shake off our compulsions, and dwell in the gentle healing presence of the Lord. Without such a desert we will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others. But with such a spiritual abode, we will become increasingly conformed to Him in whose name we minister.

Henri Nouwen’s pen, I am convinced, was made of gold. This account is easy to read and gives a deeper level to Christianity’s simplest lessons in a way that convicts and inspires. This book touches on how we have replaced compassion with systems, living life together for meetings, action for God as intimacy with God. Nouwen redefines ministry, what it looks like to live out a true ministerial life, and the problems of how we have been approaching it in the 21st century. I highly recommend this read if you are seeking more prayer, solitude, and compassion in your life… or, maybe, especially if you don’t know why those components even matter on the daily. (This book would be especially profitable for church staff, pastors, and those in leadership roles in their communities!)

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  • Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters by Timothy Keller

We become like what we worship.

In this book, Keller takes the three main things that we have set before God as a culture and points to the truth of how life in Christ trumps everything the world has to offer. What made me love Tim Keller even more in this book, is that he is aware and awake to the problems of our secular and church culture. He knows what is going on outside of his generation and has such a gift for pointing us to the Scripture that applies to the same issues we are wrestling with today. Counterfeit Gods made me ask myself what motivates me to wake up in the morning (is it an idol or my God?) and made me look at money, sex, and power completely differently. This goes on my list of “Christianity Classics” and I’ll be recommending it for years to come.

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  • The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into The Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

In Christ, I  am chosen, accepted, justified, anointed, sealed, forgiven, redeemed, complete, free, Christ’s friend, God’s child, Spirit’s home.

Oh, The Broken Way. This was my second journey through The Broken Way, and so much more came alive to me on this time through. I led a small group in my church and we watched the accompanying videos and discussed our readings each week. Something I appreciated that wasn’t at the front of my mind when I read it last October, was how Voskamp doesn’t just tell us truth, but invites us to live the story with her. I appreciate her honesty that doesn’t make me feel like it’s impossible to live a messed up, cruciform, yet-truly-abundant life. To see my first full review of the book, go here. If you’ve read The Broken Way and don’t want to let the truths of the book get dusty in your mind, check out my book-based playlist. 

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  • Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts

Do most of us truly wish to be in the swim of the digital “now”? Or is it more that people are afraid of not being in that swim? Could both be true at once? Almost everybody I know makes the same superficial complaints about the distraction, the triviality, the frustration, the self-alienation, you name it. At the same time, there is clearly such a powerful, and, it seems, increasing desire to be in touch – to express ourselves, to hear from others, to  be caught up in that pulse for a time eases our essential loneliness.

A T T E N T I O N: Everyone that owns an iPhone needs this book. While The Way of the Heart was about the spiritual implications of noise in our lives, Birkerts takes on a more intellectual angle. It’s about our generation’s “fragmentation of focus” & being “choked by noise”. How technology is literally rewiring our brains, our kids’ brains — how it’s changing the way we communicate & see art. It initially made me want to pull every iPad from every little kid’s and grown adult’s hand, and honestly? I don’t think that a bad thing. We need to be more aware of the issues of connection, attention, and communication because of the silent change brought on by our devices. Simply put: this book has encouraged me to forget about my phone more often, embraced people over systems, buy in physical stores when possible, create with no distractions, and read more books. If I ever go completely off the grid, y’all can blame Sven Birkerts.

Currently reading….

 

Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

…and currently contemplating on what titles to choose for the weeks and months ahead!

What authors and topics have been keeping you flipping pages as we dig in deeper to 2017? Tell me what books have been on your mind in the comments!