What I’ve Read Lately…the serious stuff…

This book surprised me…it seems to be packaged as a ministry strategy book but is actually  a collection of beautiful essays regarding connections between arts and worship. If you are a Lauren Winner reader, she writes a great essay about her struggle in “over paying” for a piece of art. (This one has a place behind Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water, a definite must-read.)


It seems half my Facebook feed has read or watched Half the Sky. In many ways this is one author’s response  to that life changing book. James has written about women’s identity and place in the church and this volume is a next step: once women view themselves as whole, called, and Image Bearers, what is their call to help women in the most broken parts of the world? James’ (albeit gently) indicts readers with a limited understanding of the Bible if they possess a limited understanding of middle eastern culture- then and now. Just started this one and it is immediately compelling.

My sister handed me this one in August and I finished it in a night. She had it as assigned reading when she was in grad school and much of her work currently involves play therapy which this book vividly describes. Wow. Read this if you are a parent, educator or person who interacts with other people.

What have you read that’s challenged you lately?


A pot of soup, a prayer

Yesterday I came home and cooked a huge pot of chicken noodle soup – I think it was 95 degrees and we were still wet from the pool. It turned out decent, but honestly, I  wanted the smell in the house as much as we needed the meal.

 When life swirls, the kitchen can be a place of comfort and clarity, (yes, especially with My Brothers Friends Girlfriends Cake still in the refrigerator. )

But when I make it out of there, somewhere along the way,  I have come to love, need, hunger for prayers…Here’s a favorite by Walter Brueggemann.

And Then You

We arrange our lives as best we can, to keep your holiness at bay,

with our pieties, our doctrines, our liturgies, our moralities, our secret ideologies,

Safe, virtuous, settled.

And then you-

you and your dreams, you and your visions, you and your purposes, you and your commands, you and your neighbors.

We find your holiness not at bay, but probing, pervading, insisting, demanding.

And we yield, sometimes gladly,

sometimes resentfully,

sometimes late…or soon.

We yield because you, beyond us, are our God.

We are your creatures met by your holiness, by your holiness made our true selves.

And we yield. Amen.

(October 1998)

If you love poetry and need prayer, or love prayer and need poetry, or are hungry for clarity in a world swirling, this volume is a favorite. Yay for the Great Room Switch which brought forth lost book treasures!

Amplifying Our Witness (I know this author but that’s not why I’m telling you to read this book)

Ben Conner was my director many years ago when I was a Young Life Volunteer. He taught our group of college students, the same way you teach  fourth graders, and the same way you teach  thirty-one year olds:

 He asked more of us than we thought we could give and he repeated the same things over and over.

Life is liturgy. How are you participating in the life, death and mission of Christ?

 Thus this liturgy of the ordinary, and this participation, became so much part of my own formation, and what I didn’t understand at the time, my practical theology.

And this book just took that framework to a whole new place, a place I have needed to be.

 Ben, for years now a Director of Capernum, Young Life’s ministry for adolescents with developmental disabilities,  unpacks mission (God is at work, are we joining him?), the doctrine of friendship and affirming presence, and the expansive Gospel, where we realize it’s so much bigger, so much more profound, and, at times,  so much more inconvenient, than our rational, linear steps and equations.

Ben, with countless years of ministry, countless years of seminary and degrees, states, ” I came to the realization that if I can’t teach prayer to adolescents with development disabilities, then I don’t know enough about prayer.” (P.75)

And that single question has made me rethink how I regard so much of my life and interactions and “spiritual pursuits.”

Because it might just be my rational, intelligent, systems-based, (read: angst-infused) perspective on God that can lead to frustration and malaise. God is not limited. We limit Him with an incomplete glossary and biased and narrow views of how He works in the world and who, we think, gets to bear His image.

But, for fear of misrepresenting this book, I must add that “the practical element” here is part of what sets it apart and above. Ben weaves theological teaching throughout practical steps and personal stories regarding his relationships with these kids. The book itself feels experiential, and thus the theology real and  possible.

You can order Amplifying Our Witness here and here . Or you can borrow mine, if you don’t mind the lost art of margin scribbles…

Have a great weekend!We are packing up to move the girls into our bedroom, together. And Travis and I will be moving into Sophia’s old room, together. Help. Us. All. This should not be that hard, nothing is leaving the house, but maybe that’s the issue…(Especially because I’m about to discover what we’ve been “storing” underour bed for the past five years. )

Anna Quindlen wrote a new book for my birthday.

(Though that may not have been her intent.)

Around this time of year, I tend to step it up from the strongly reflective (spacey) state I am constantly in (which must be why  I am disorganized enough leave my keys on car roofs only to have them driven to the library, turned in to the library and 24 hours and 3 searched through bags of trash later, returned to me) to an Uber Reflective State. The past few days of my pedestrian, key-less life, this book was the perfect companion.

I first discovered Anna Quindlen years ago when she was writing her column in Newsweek. I thought that was the most dreamy gig – “Hey, we’ve got this last page thing in the magazine every week…can you just handle that?” I’ve since read a few of her books and learned that she won the Pulitzer, yes the Pulitzer, for Commentary. Did you hear that? There’s a Pulitzer for Commentary…God Bless This World.

If you, or someone, you know happens to be getting older, this book is a rare gift. I think I will make it my Annual Birthday Read.

I want Taylor Armstrong’s Hair Length

but I do not want her story.

She spoke in Virginia Beach last week. And I actually didn’t know who she was. I don’t watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’ve seen a few of the Atlanta and  New Jersey ones but, honestly, the way producers portray women on these shows makes my soul die just a little. Keep in mind, though, that when I turn on the TV at night I am magnetically drawn to any and all coverage of Kardashians, so I am in no position to take a moral stance on Reality TV. Just wanted  to explain that I knew next to nothing about Taylor Armstrong before I read her book.

And there are a million and one ways I could take this post regarding the subjects of domestic violence, control, mental illness, raising daughters, intervention, tough love, grief, and yes, lip implants.

But I’m not going to, because you can read it, or even better, run, do not walk, to get into therapy and discuss all of the above. (What if your therapist could also give you lip implants? That would be a valuable co-pay. Ruthie look into this.)

 I will say that my favorite part of this memoir was the last few pages: the acknowledgements. Taylor thanks dozens of people for various ways they supported her over the years. And there are funny references and tender ones and jokes I will never understand (because these are not my friends). And it was in those last few pages that I found what I couldn’t seem to find anywhere else in this book – hope. Because, it turns out, throughout the nightmare that was this woman’s marriage, she was not alone after all.

And it made me think about who would be in the last few pages of my book…and whose books I might be in –  for showing up in the mess, and for refusing to go away.

Beach House Books – Always a bonus

Before we left for vacation, I posted about what I planned on reading while we were away. But when we arrived at the house in Florida, this awaited me:

Beach house books! Paperbacks left by vacationers along the way with bent corners and sandy covers and plot lines that pull you in without putting you under. Delight! Can I tell you the authors whom I first met through paperbacks found on Beach rentals shelves? As a teenager this is how I read through every volume by Amy Tan and John Grisham.

This past vacation, I met Elizabeth Berg. I know I’m probably late to that party. I read two books by her from the above basket. The first I wasn’t crazy about, the second I loved, each took me about a day and a half and neither kept me up at night examining my existence. Perfect. Let me recommend this one:

 Sweet, tender, mother/daughter relationship, polio, and Elvis. (My descriptions never fail to make books sound  bizarre.)

What great books have you found or forgotten at a beach house? 



Dear Dr. Henry Cloud

I confess…this is “The Book I Reference the Most, that I Actually Haven’t Read.”

And, this next one is “The Book I Most Need to Read If I Would Stop Choosing Memoirs Instead.”

But this next one is ,”The Book We Read a Lot. And I love more each time.”

 “Say Yes to Cleaning Up. Say No to Meanies. Say Yes to Sharing.” Those could keep me occupied for years.

We’ve checked out Sophie and Sam every few months from our church library since Sophia was tiny. This is a GREAT  one for preschoolers- the stories are short and memorable and they rhyme! (What more could any of us be looking for?)

We are headed out on vacation next week so I am thinking of catching up on my Cloud reading, including his newest, Necessary Endings. But it is vacation so I’m collecting (uploading) fiction too. And I’m most excited about this one:

 Chess, Cold War, the search for meaning. I’m saying Yes.

As always, share what you’ve read lately! Don’t make me resort to my Amazon recommendations…we all know that’s a dark place.