A Few Favorite Books Read This Year

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Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love – Katherine and Jay Wolf

I had heart bits and pieces of Katherine’s story, enough to intrigue me. I purchased this book as an audiobook, and it was playing every single time I was in the car until I finished. Katherine and Jay are honest about their suffering, yet loud about the hope always to be had in Jesus. They truly invite the reader into this season of their life, and it left a mark on me. By far, one of my favorites is this:

“What has happened to me is extreme; however, it is not that different from what everyone deals with. I am a sort of microcosm for what we all feel. I can barely walk, even with a cane, but who feels free even if they can? My face is paralyzed, but who feels beautiful even when they look normal? I have no coordination in my right hand, so I can’t hold things, even my child, but who feels like a competent parent even if all their faculties are intact? For months I could not eat, and even today I have difficulty swallowing, but who feels fully satisfied even if they can enjoy every delectable treat they desire? I am tired almost all the time now, but who always feels energized to engage fully in their life? My voice is messed up, but who feels understood even if they can speak plainly? I have double vision, but who sees everything clearly even if they can see normally? My future is uncertain, but whose isn’t? …. I believe that pain is pain, no matter the form, but perspective is also perspective. Ultimately, ours is a story of a life overcome by hope. We are discovering joy even in the sadness and choosing contentment when it is very, very hard… We have learned that when everything else is gone, hope remains.”

We are all in this unpredictable, broken world where suffering is the norm, not the exception. Together we must stand, choosing to truth and hope in God even when it feels impossible. Their testimony will give you a new view on life’s challenges, great and small, as well as a deep love for our God of eternal hope.

Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed – Sara Hagerty

This post is the fruit of my enlightenment, let’s call it, after reading Sara’s latest book. If you can’t get your mind around this theme / truth yet, she writes: “God never stops looking at and into us. There is never a time when we are unseen by Him.” It is comforting, inspiring, and strengthening to know and believe that no matter what, God’s loving eyes are on me. He sees us under the mountain of laundry, He sees us working diligently at your job, He sees us when we wrestle over Spirit and flesh, and He knows and cares about every emotion we feel. If we want to bear the fruit of God, if we want to actually develop His qualities, we should start with an almost secret (and sacred) habit of conversing with and gazing at Him. It’s our private life with God that overflows to incredible Kingdom impact, not our focus on how well we’re doing. Truthfully, there are truths are learned reading this book I should recite over myself every week.


Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Thing, Say, and Do – Paul David Tripp

I shared a few of my favorite quotes in a post. I read a lot, and I confess sometimes I can’t recite to you passages I found profound months after I read a book. But this theme, this question Tripp poses: who do I live in awe of? comes up daily in my mind. Reading through my journal writing while reading this book, this line continues to recharge my soul toward awe of God first and foremost: “If you lose sight of God’s incalculable glory, you will live like a king instead of trusting the King, and you will load kingly burdens on your shoulders. If you lose sight of God’s amazing grace, you will try to produce by human effort what will only ever come by means of divine grace.”

Only when the grander fear of God rules your heart will you be free of all the little fears in life that chip away at your heart. When you live in a reverential awe of the magnitude of God’s power and authority and are stunned by the fact that he exercises his power for his glory and your good, then you can be free from all the anxieties that make you timid and rob you of joy.


Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith – Michael Reeves

The back of this book includes this statement: “A rich and enjoyable read on the basic beliefs of Christianity that avoids dumbing down its profound and life changing truths.” This book was incredibly helpful at Biblically unpacking the truth and reality of the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit. He irons out, as much as the finite, human brain can with Biblical resources, characteristics, nature, even personality of each member of the Trinity.

The Son makes the Father known; the Spirit makes the Son known.

Reeves quotes William Tyndale, and while it doesn’t summarize the book in its entirety, I enjoy reflecting on it: “For if the Spirit’s first work in salvation is to loose our hearts that we might have a lust or desire for the Lord, then the Christian life is about so much more than “getting heaven.” The Spirit is about drawing us into the divine life. The Father has eternally delighted in the Son through the Spirit, and the Son in the Father; the Spirit’s work in giving us new life, then, is nothing less than bringing us to share in their mutual delight.” 


Fight Back With Joy – Margaret Feinberg

On the back cover, these words: “No matter what your circumstances, you can practice defiant joy. When you do, you will embrace a life that’s richer and fuller than you’ve ever known before—a life radiant with joy.”

Enough said. Can we ever have too much encouragement to choose joy? Plus, Margaret is hilarious, quirky, and writes like you’re already friends.

Joy means holding on to hope in God regardless of the outcome. Declaring we will give up everything and entrust ourselves more fully and wholly to the One who holds all things together.


Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace – Jan Johnson

This book called out the weary, hurried parts of my soul and gave them reason to rest in grace and peace.

Simplicity is not a discipline itself but a way of being. It is letting go. It is an “inward reality of single-hearted focus upon God and [God’s] kingdom, which results in an outward lifestyle of modesty, openness, and unpretentiousness and which disciplines our hunger for status, glamour, and luxury.”

We practice simplicity when we intentionally arrange our life around God—what he is doing in us and in this world—and let the rest drop off. Practice simplicity not because it’s trendy or you think it will solve all of your problems, but to arrange your life around God, and let everything else take its proper place. Jan challenges her readers to exhale what is unnecessary so that we can inhale good, true, lasting nourishment from God. This book inspired me to ask God for wisdom to say no to lesser things so I have free and energized yeses for Him.

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. Pedro Arrupe


Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren

This was a recommendation from my sister-in-law and it was a great one. Drawing from the diversity of her life as a campus minister, Anglican priest, friend, wife, and mother, Tish Harrison Warren opens up a practical theology of the everyday. Each activity is related to a spiritual practice as well as an aspect of our Sunday worship. Come and discover the holiness of your every day. (via)

One aspect of the book was particularly bright and convicting (thank you, Holy Spirit) — a genuine resistance to boredom. Not the boredom that’s genuinely a bummer, but the boredom of slowness. She writes, “The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary. I often want to skip the boring, daily stuff to get to the thrill of an edgy faith. But it’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith— the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small— that God’s transformation takes root and grows.” My heart swells as this. Mostly because, in reality, however many days I have on this earth will be made up of mostly ordinary. Sure, there are some big, bold, beautiful highlights and seasons, but pretty ordinary. If I avoid gazing at God in the mundane, I’ll miss so. much. And I don’t want to miss any of God, not one ounce of Himself He wants to give.

Jesus is eternally beloved by the Father. His every activity unfurls from his identity as the Beloved. He loved others, healed others, preached, taught, rebuked, and redeemed not in order to gain the Father’s approval, but out of his rooted certainty in the Father’s love.

May we live like Jesus, knowing our eternally beloved-identity and living from that.


Books I look forward to reading in 2018:

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver
The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary – Jonathan Pennington
Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful – Katie Davis Majors
Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul – Mark Buchanan


Do you have any favorites from this year?

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