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.

fullsizerender-1

  • 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!)

img_6801

  • 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.

dsc02992

  • 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. 

fullsizerender

  • 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!

why I am praying bigger.

I have a sign in my room that has been hanging for going on around five years, since my family moved to the house we’re currently in. It just says, “Pray big.”

Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve been looking over my prayer life. I’ve been reading through my prayer journal entries. I’ve been looking at how often I resemble the Lord’s Prayer. And even evaluating what I actually thank Him for, and what I ask Him for in comparison to what I honestly need or want.

Although I’ve been making progress in my prayer life — and I believe that any prayer is better than no prayer at all — I realized that I wasn’t asking God for anything specific. I wasn’t “praying big” like the sign sitting on my window ledge hopefully instructed. I wasn’t exhibiting the childlike faith that was so alive within me a few years ago.

Let me preface by saying: Orienting your whole language around the ultimate will of God is vital. He has supreme authority, He is in control, and – thankfully – our own desires are not the center of his orbit.

But, I found that I was wrapping my friend’s names in vague pleas or my own dreams in lofty thoughts. The prayers weren’t wrong, and there were a few exceptions. It’s not wrong to say, “Just do You will, Father, because I don’t know what You’re doing.” But the reason I was leaving it at that was because I was living with little faith and underestimating my Father. I wasn’t asking Him to intervene in specific ways and actions, because if He didn’t do it exactly as I wanted it to all be done, I was afraid I would retaliate against Him. I was often afraid to ask God for anything specific because I thought that He would disappoint me. I knew if He disappointed me, I’d be more prone to wander, and I couldn’t afford it.

But the thing was, when I was trying to hide my heart’s desire from my God, I was already wandering. I was wandering and I was not trusting. With the blessings He was giving me, I was plagiarizing them and calling them my own creation. When I felt a lack in my life, I wasn’t telling Him about the emotions I was feeling, because I was feeling guilty that I was feeling any void at all. With the abilities and compartments of my life that meant most to me, I wasn’t keeping held with an open hand because I was afraid that He would snatch them from me. I was distancing myself from Him and the truths I knew by heart.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” —Matthew 7:8-11

But in my internal struggle the fact was this, and is this: He is a good, good Father. He is a gift to us, and yet He still gives good gifts that are born from His heart. And in everything I ask for, He will not be flippant in the way He acts. He will make sure His glory is known through His response, and that my refinement and discipleship and relationships are strengthened on the other side.

There are many goods that God will not give us unless we honor Him and make our hearts safe to receive them through prayer. . . . God will not give us anything contrary to His will, and that will always include what is best for us in the long run. We can, therefore, pray confidently because he won’t give us everything we want. —Timothy Keller, Prayer

I have started praying big again.

I don’t know if He’ll say yes to any of my requests. But I know that He is changing me in the process of my honesty.

In case of disappointment and the possibility of wandering, may He soften our hearts toward Him in these times of waiting, so that when the climate changes we will realize that having Him is better than all our small expectations and His good gifts. May we be able to thank Him for not saying yes to our small prayer, because of His big plan. We can remain confident in our requests, because He will give us what is best.

And if He graciously grants us the desires of our hearts, may we accept it humbly, thanking Him for His will and for the preparation of our hearts to receive it, and that we would be driven closer into His heart in the celebration.

In all these things, may we thank Him for the how much more in all the ways He gives.

more than anything I want, I want You first — Lauren Daigle, First

See it originally here on The Rising Blog: https://t.co/vCKC9Fs2Ki.

what I read in january.

  I didn’t kick off this year with a huge quantity of books read, but as far as quality goes – I hit the jackpot. 

  
1. A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. 

If I have a hope, it’s that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.

 Personally, I am a huge fan of everything I’ve read by Don Miller — even though I have many more books to read of his. This book is perfect for writers, but more than just writing it’s about living stories that mean something.  It tackles the challenges of being suffocated by the mundane and stepping into truth of who you are and what you’re capable of. I love, love, love Miller’s sense of humor and the way he tied up every lesson and personal story in our Maker. I left the last page challenged and inspired in every area of my life.

 

2. Prayer by Timothy Keller.

Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior, and character.

This book. Y’all.

Here’s how HB put it so perfectly:

His book “Prayer.” We might as well drop all the microphones and say, “Tim, you are the Michael Jackson of prayer. You are the Beyoncé of hands clasped and knees hitting the floor.”

Read the book. He gets it. He just gets it.

Someone will be quick to tell me, “No one can teach you how to pray.”

You’re right. No one can teach me how to listen to God. But someone needed to sit me down, take my hand, and tell me sweetly, “This is how you shut up. This is how you stop running scripts and lies in your head. This is how you exit yourself.”

Everything written above describes how I feel about this book so accurately. It shifted my thinking. I believe it could be truly revolutionizing for the church. Now, with all the foundation laid from both Keller and all those he gleaned priceless knowledge from, the hard part begins – actually listening the way I have been instructed. Actually meditating. Actually praying. 

——————————————

Have you kicked off the year with any good reads? 

Something that I’m trying to practice after I finish each book is write about it here, but also – in an effort to bring my theology and knowledge into a real life experience – in a personal journal where I can jot down ideas of application moving forward. 

 How do you practice retaining and applying what you’ve read?