Prophets so rarely speak words I actually want to hear.

sunlight on 100s of stairs web

I huffed and puffed up this massive flight of stairs. I dripped sweat, my calves burned, but the exercise was physically good for me, and the view at the end of the journey was worth the difficulty. But, still, the process to get there was painful. I think examining our stories is somewhat like this hiking experience.

Perhaps the more accurate title for the post is “Best Books Read in 2017: Third Quarter Edition.” But, there’s a theme running through what struck me in each of these books: the role of stories in shaping the way we engage the world. Continue reading

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Top Five Books Read in 2017: Second Quarter Edition

062917 book list

Just a few of the library books I’ve been reading my way through…

Hey friends, it’s good to be back blogging! I finally caught up on completing my paid gigs and family commitments — just in time to write my second quarter reading highlights. I need to get back to a once a week posting schedule around here.

What’s your favorite book or blog right now? Or what’s on your bookshelf that you’re waiting to find time to read?

I could use some fiction recommendations, as I need a bit of a break from serious reading! Also, if you’ve got a favorite (or least helpful) parenting book, particularly on raising infants, I’d love to hear it.

Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr

Some books soothe my spirit and calm my anxieties. Others shake up my assumptions, forcing me to take a good look at myself. I expected the former, and I got the latter. Turns out, the voice of challenge was what my soul actually needed. Yet again with Rohr (just like when I read Everything Belongs), I filled my bullet journal with quotes and reflections on his words. I wanted the god who will protect me FROM pain and sorrow, and I’d forgotten Jesus who sits WITH us in pain and sorrow. I’d looked for escapism rather than solidarity, but that is not really the way of God.

By Little and By Little by Dorothy Day

I’ve respected Dorothy Day as an influential figure in 20th century Christianity, but I had only read minimal pieces of her work. As I read By Little and By Little, I wept. I learned. I found myself inspired and challenged. Her stories about living in community reflect both the profound beauty and deep challenges of seeing Jesus in others and herself. Her connection to a faith lived out bodily resonated with me, who great up with a more cerebral faith. Last, her writing about poverty and social justice made me feel less like a lone weirdo, and I found a sense of solidarity with her. And now, I’m eager to read more of her work.

At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

I saw nuggets from this book popping up over social media on Facebook and Twitter, and after a bit of a wait at the library, I dug into this book. I couldn’t put it down. Oxenreider and her husband took their three young children on a journey around the world, and this book contains reflections on their travel experiences. Oxenreider’s description of meeting with a spiritual director in Thailand was particularly poignant. She wrote of concerns, fears and struggles that resonate with me as I work out my own mid-30s identity issues. A note she wrote to her future traveling self in her journal before leaving on the trip stayed with me, and I wrote it down and colored it in my own journal.

“But you can do hard things. You won’t be here long. This month is the foundation for the year. Lean in to the struggles; give thanks for the easy times. Hard doesn’t mean wrong. You’re on the right path.”

I needed that reminder. As I keep leaping this year and trying new challenges, I needed the reminder: I actually CAN do hard things, and hard doesn’t mean wrong.

Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Pastrix is not for everyone; if cussing puts you off, then perhaps skip over this one. Reading Accidental Saints reminded me again of what I love best about church and the liturgical calendar; Pastrix reminds me of what I love about Jesus and how Jesus works through unlikely people who show up. Bolz-Weber has a way of reinvigorating the Jesus  I already love, and she points to Jesus in people and stories I might otherwise overlook. And as I work on my perfectionist tendencies, I needed her reminder:

“New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. … New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway.”

And this happens to be paired with Oxenreider’s quote in my journal, and I still keep coming back to these words a month after I wrote them.

Ruby & Custard Crochet by Millie Masterton

And for a completely different kind of book, I loved Ruby & Custard Crochet! Full of cute patterns I would make as gifts (or, let’s be honest, I’d wear myself), I loved the bright colors and whimsy. I’ve got plans to make some mittens and owl hats for kiddos!

Top five books I read in 2017: first quarter edition

Book list bullet journal

Instead of waiting till years end and choosing what books to review, I’m picking five books each quarter to highlight. Here’s my top five favorite books I read in the first quarter of 2017. Continue reading

The scariest post I’ve ever written: my favorite reads in 2016

wild-geese

The title of the poem from which this quote comes is “Wild Geese.”

Discussing my reading highlights terrifies me. Much as I comfortably talk about my messy feelings here, sharing my reading highlights renders my knees wobbly. It’s appallingly intimate.

I’m a scared panda.

Maybe sharing your reading is nerve-wracking for you, too? If so, you’re not alone, friend.

I want to mark disclaimers separating me from books on the list, perhaps to make myself look smarter or more holy. But, those are cheap shots, and it’s cowardly.

I’m not going to apologize for my reading choices, particularly books that I loved and that challenged me to grow. I will, however, note disclaimers similar to ones the authors themselves often attach to their work.

Here are the books that changed me in 2016. Continue reading

Boats, Mushrooms and Jump Starting an Adventure

Sailboat at SunsetI think God is pushing me away from what’s comfortable.  “Jump out of the boat, Beth.  Leap.”

I, sadly, think to myself, “No, thanks.” I like predictable.  I like stasis. And doing things where I feel confident about my skills.

I don’t want risk, weirdness and feeling adrift at sea.

But, what wild rides am I missing while I mutinously hunker down into the boat?  How much life am I missing out on while I cheat myself?

Continue reading

What’s the Point of Theology?

Earlier this summer, I noted on Facebook that Chung Hyun Kyung’s book Struggle to Be the Sun Again upset my theological worldview.  I found myself asking what it might mean to do theology in my context.

I thought other people “did” theology.  They wrote it.  I consumed it, looking for “right,” bright and shiny ideas about God.  I approached theology as my own reflection about the nature of God.  Grounded in the Bible, of course.  But largely a private enterprise.  Personal. And predominantly, right thinking about God — orthodoxy if you will.

Continue reading