Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Reading List

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Family bookstore to pick up another copy of Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein, who founded "Hoops of Hope" at age 9 - it's an incredibly encouraging story for all ages, especially young people, and this was about the 8th copy I've given away since it's been on $5 special at Family Christian stores. While I was chatting with the store manager about missions, she talked me into buying The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. - she even gave me a 40% discount. I laughed all the way to my car that I let her talk me into buying another book, because at this point I need another book to read about as much as I need a hole in my head!

I cried my way through the first 10 pages (a pretty good sign that the Holy Spirit is touching my heart in a deep way), before setting it down on the little endtable to the left of my recliner. There it is right now, along with a couple of Bibles (NKJV & The Message), and two devotional journals. On my right, at the edge of the kitchen table, are: 4 more Bibles (NIV, NLT, One Year Bible, & Spanish NTV), another daily devotional, a Spanish language textbook, my own copy of Take Your Best Shot, a guided journal based on Captivating by Stasi Eldredge, Prophecy & Responsiblity by Graham Cooke (assigned reading for a small group that meets twice a month with one of our church elders), and Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge, which I quoted two weeks ago in my Father's Day blog.

And that's just downstairs... around my bed, I currently have the following: another Bible (NLT), Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Vallotton, Can You Hear Me? (children's version) by Brad Jersak, Ancient Paths by Craig Hill, The Happy Intercessor by Beni Johnson, After God's Own Heart by Mike Bickle, and God Speaks Your Love Language by Gary Chapman. All wonderful books, full of beautiful inspirational ideas and life-changing information... but is it any wonder I have such trouble finishing a book when I'm so easily tempted to start reading another?

Every so often, I stop and ask God to show me what books (two or three at most) I really need to focus on reading all the way through, then I gather up the rest (well, other than the Bibles - since I write and teach on scriptural subjects, it's good to have various translations at hand) to put back on the shelves I have in almost every room of my house. Gloria Copeland once said she's "like an old lady with too many cats" when it comes to Bible teaching tapes - for me, it's mainly Christian books and worship CD's. Last year I hired a young lady who was doing odd jobs to raise money for missions to alphabetize them all by author - why have a book in the house if you can't find it? It helped a lot, although - with the constant barrage of information in our busy world (TV, email, internet) - it can be hard to focus all the way through a single book unless I have God's grace to pursue that particular lesson.

I notice when you create a profile on Facebook or start a blog on Google, you're often asked for a list of favorite books, music, movies, etc. So this week, as I was considering all the books around my house, I decided to make a list of "recommended reading" from what's been lying around (listed above) and some of my favorites from the shelves (listed below):

Turnings by Guy Chevreau - if I moved somewhere far away and could only take a few books other than the Bible, this is the first one that comes to mind. I first read it "devotionally" - a couple of pages at a time, to let it sink in - weeping through whole chapters, as God opened my eyes to the poor and called me to short-term missions in May 2005; when I got to the end of the book, I started all over again immediately and read it through twice, back to back. Chevreau is a beautiful writer and a scholar, a lover of God with a tender heart and a brilliant mind. This book is a gem, a real treasury of quotes and insights, and it really could change your life.

Compelled by Love by Heidi Baker - there's not room enough here to say all that Heidi has meant to those of us who have been inspired by her ministry, so i'll just say that this book - which includes the Beatitudes of Jesus, stories from Mozambique, and quotes by Mother Teresa - is a wonderful presentation of Iris Ministries' core beliefs, relatively short and easy to read. well, "easy" unless you mind crying :) I think I wept at the introduction on this one :) also very affected by Rolland & Heidi Baker's There Is Always Enough (their early testimony) and The Hungry Always Get Fed, a journalistic account of missionary life in Mozambique. or

Face to Face with God by Bill Johnson - I often list "anything by Bill Johnson" because most of his books are taken from his sermons or teaching series, and he is a phenomenal teacher - a 5th generation pastor with a rich heritage in the Word and Holy Spirit, his floor is the ceiling most of the sermons I'd heard before seemed to bounce off in circles until I heard him speak for the first time in 2006 and felt challenged to accept fully that what we already know from the Bible is a true foundation, so let's go on and grow deeper in the things of God.

Can You Hear Me? by Brad Jersak - adult version, subtitled "Tuning in to the God Who Speaks" - this is one of the best books I've ever read on hearing God's voice, except for the children's version mentioned above, which ministers to me greatly as a devotional, too.

Approaching the Heart of Prophecy by Graham Cooke - along with Prophecy & Responsibility mentioned above, these are books 1 & 2 of the Prophetic Equipping series (vols. 4-6 yet to come). more "read slowly" books, and I find myself marking a lot of great quotes, too. Today's world and today's church both need prophetic voices speaking with this kind of love and wisdom.

John Eldredge is another author by whom I recommend "anything" for beautiful, thoughtful writing that touches our hearts "where we really live." Using quotes and examples from life, literature and pop culture almost as freely as the Bible, his theology is sound and "hits home" in a deeply personal way. My favorite of his books is Journey of Desire (republished in recent years simply as Desire), along with Way of the Wild Heart mentioned above. Captivating, which he co-wrote with his wife Stasi, is one of the best women's books i've ever read (over & over). I've given away dozens of Eldredge books, including little excerpt pamphlets designed for Mother's & Father's Day giving, to sincere seekers as well as Christian believers.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young - as you can see from the list above, I read mostly nonfiction. Although I read novels voraciously in high school and college ("Before Christ" in my life story), I probably haven't read fiction in years. I also don't usually read "bestsellers" just because they're popular, and I saw this book advertised so much at first i delayed reading it for about a year. It's superbly well-written and, although the more "meaty" theological discussions between God and the main character felt a little daunting at first, I was glad I persevered - actually, I couldn't put it down. Absolutely worth reading. (If you carry it around with you in public, a lot of other people will tell you that, too!) Author-recommended follow-up: He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen. Easy to read non-fiction & also very good. or

...and I'll stop there for now. I'm sure there are many other special authors & titles we could add to this list, and it probably won't be too long before I'll be praying over a whole new pile of books that have accumulated on my bedside and kitchen tables. Remember how teachers used to give you a "summer reading list" at school? Well, I've enjoyed sharing my list with you - I hope you enjoy reading some of these. Let's see how many books I actually finish this summer! :)

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