Top Five Books Read in 2017: Second Quarter Edition

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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!

Hungry for mercy: thoughts on comparison, prayer, and Luke 18

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Fear settled in like the rain clouds this week. Not a torrential downpour, but a misty trickle that has me wanting to pull blankets over my head and hide. Like a scared dog, I want to tuck my tail and slink under the couch waiting for the threat of thunder to pass.

I want to hunker down and armor up, praying God will somehow vindicate me. I play the me vs the world game.

It’s bananas. It’s unhealthy. I know it.

And it still took me about twenty-four hours to find a bigger perspective while my feelings roamed all over the place and the lies weighed in heavier and heavier.

I consulted Jesus. What I wanted was vindication.

What I needed was grace. Continue reading

A feast for the beloved betrayers

bread and juice for communionEvery year in the week leading up to Easter, I read the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospels. After so many readings, I know how the story ends.

Even so, I find myself wishing for an interruption in the story. I’m like Peter in Matthew 16 who wants to deny that suffering will happen to Jesus. I want Pilate to stand up to the religious leaders. I mutter to myself about the folks eager to get Jesus crucified, and somehow I pray each time they find some hidden capacity for grace and love over fear.

Resurrection — yes, please! But this crucifixion part, I struggle to look full on in the face. Continue reading

Love (not unquestioning obedience) is the goal

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Words are like rocks. We can build with them, or we can break things with them.

As I’ve said before, stories matter. And the stories shaping our perspectives on obedience and submission matter, too. These stories impact the way we communicate, and the baggage others carry with these words matters, too.

Reading news and social media the last few months, submission and obedience are trigger words for me — regardless of the position supported. Whether it is government or religion, I flinch. They are power words.

Too often, the act of obedience and submission dominates the conversation, while ignoring critical questions like obedience to whom and for what end. Continue reading

The more, the merrier.

Earlier this week I posted on the importance of stories for shaping the way we live. As an exercise in conscious storytelling, I’m sharing stories influencing my views on immigration, refugees and discipleship.

Essentially this post explores three questions:

  1. How do I understand myself as an American?
  2. How do I see refugees?
  3. What are the expectations of a disciple of Jesus?

As we explore together, my point is not converting you to my perspective, but the process of open and conscious storytelling. These stories frame the way I approach the world, and rather than having you agree or think I’m neat-o, I hope the stories encourage you to consider your own life, reactions, and core values.

Agreement is not required, but respect is. Continue reading

Rediscovering the importance of story

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When I challenged my home congregation to read Luke in the month of February, little did I know that challenge would leave me reading the whole book in the first three days of the month. I saturated myself in Jesus’ words the last couple of days.

I needed it.

The last couple of weeks, for me, feel like waking to some nightmarish alternate reality. Each day brings news reports that violate my core values.

I’m an INFP on the Myers-Briggs. The salient point about my personality: I delight in seeing the world through other people’s perspectives, and I hate conflict. Right up to the point where my core values are tripped, and then I am a rampaging tiger with roaring feelings and little logic.

I can handle disagreement and questions. I do not react well to shame, control or folks who bully or ridicule others, especially those who are marginalized or are weaker than them. I lose my mind. Poof. Out comes the tiger from normally placid me. Continue reading