21 Great Books To Read In 2018

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More books and less binge-watching will transform your life!

The following books are in no particular order and speak to various areas of thought. From fiction to faith, I would encourage you to read widely and discerningly. Most people today read within a small circle of authors that they like and agree with. If you are only reading authors who think like you, there is limited growth happening in your soul. Read authors who come at things differently, think differently and even believe differently. Release your fear, you are stronger and more discerning than you think, and who knows, you just might gain some new insights or see things from a different perspective.

  1. The Go-Giver
  2. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
  3. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible
  4. Sabbath As Resistance
  5. Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked
  6. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story
  7. Why You Think The Way You Do: The Story of Western Worldviews From Rome to Home
  8. Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God
  9. Man’s Search For Meaning
  10. 1984
  11. Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
  12. A Prayer For Owen Meany: A Novel
  13. The Sparrow
  14. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
  15. As A Man Thinketh
  16. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  17. Pilgrims Progress
  18. Eager To Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi
  19. Disunity In Christ
  20. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1 & 2
  21. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

I’d love to hear what books have and are impacting you!

Please leave your recommendations in the comments.

Missing Brennan

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Our lives are influenced, enhanced and affected by so many people. Some of them we know well, some…not so much. In my life one person that I had the honor of knowing to some degree was Brennan Manning, and his impact lingers still.

For whatever reason, I came across a review i wrote on his book, “The Furious Longing of God.” As I skimmed my words from years ago, my heart sighed, “I miss Brennan.

To me, he was the most perfect, imperfect person, who had been bathed in the ferocious grace of God, who could articulate the divine love and yet still, like me, struggle.

His words pierced my soul with the grace of God, inspiring me to love more, judge less, rest in divine mercy. Although most of his books carried the same theme, it is a theme that is still desperately needed, the Good News of God’s love through Jesus to the broken-down, wayward ragamuffins.

Here is the quote of Brennan’s that I stumbled upon causing me to remember with thankfulness his impact in my life.

“The ordinary pablum of popular religion caters to the idealistic, perfectionistic, and neurotic self who fixates on graceless getting worthy for union, while allowing the prostitutes and tax gougers to dance into the kingdom. Our strategies of self-deception persuade us that abiding restful union with Jesus is too costly, leaving no room for money, ambition, success, fame, sex, power, control, and pride of place or the fatal trap of self-rejection, thus prohibiting mediocre, disaffected dingbats and dirtballs, like myself, from intimacy with Jesus. Until we learn to live peacefully with what Andre Louf calls “our amazing degree of weakness,” until we learn to live gracefully with what Alan Jones calls “our own extreme psychic frailty,” until we let the Christ who consorted with hookers and crooks to be our truth, the false, fraudulent self motivated by cowardice and fear will continue to distance us from abiding restful union.”

The Shack

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It was and is a powerful book…
It was and is a controversial book…

The Shack created more spiritual dialog among people of every stripe than any book had for a long time.
Personally, I love books that cause me to think, but for some people, books that make them think, or offer a different perspective are to be feared, banned or burned…this is sad and unfortunate.

Paul Young, the author of the Shack, spoke four times over an August 2009 weekend at the church I pastor. In all honesty, it was perhaps one of the most powerful weekends I have experienced, and trust me, I have experienced many.

The ministry that poured out, the grace and healing so many people experienced are hard to describe, yet unforgettable in my soul. Paul was amazing, authentic, a lover of Jesus, and simply a man sharing his journey, through fiction, of how God met him in his “Great Sadness.”

@wmpaulyoung was a blessing to the many believers, seekers, and wonderers who spilled through our doors

So, while the theologians posture, getting ready to battle at the throne of truth and error, and ultimately miss the point yet again, I’d encourage you to see the movie and take some time to listen to the four speaking sessions that Paul presented at SVA…I will provide the links below.

Paul built each session to compliment the next, so pull up a chair, relax and enjoy the teaching, questions, and honesty that was poured out at SVA.

God is larger than we can ever imagine…and He can work with our questions, wounds and struggles…

Session 1: Saturday 8/8/09 9am- Paul discusses the origins of the book with great Q&A session.

Session 2: Saturday 8/8/09 7pm: Paul discusses the metaphors and Trinity in The Shack

Session 3: Sunday 8/9/09 9am: How God works in the Great Sadness

Session 4: Sunday 8/9/09 11am: Seeing things with fresh eyes

Runaway Sheep and Straying Shepherds

Christmas Costume Ideas for (Kids and Teenagers)

Wandering lambs…
Shepherds in bathrobes with belts…
A petrified young Joseph, and a serious Mary holding an ugly baby-doll…
Three wise-men sporting amazing tape-on beards…
Little angels in white chiffon wearing tilted halos…

I love the Children’s productions at church during the Christmas season. You can’t help but smile, and when they go off script, well…that is the best part.

While parents might cringe, to me, this is the purest essence of the story of God’s incarnation. Over the years we have sanitized the story, put it on a Hallmark Card, and in many ways lost the earthiness, and chaos of how God chose to enter the human story.

Kids are honest…
Thoughts come out of their mouths without editing…
The Christmas story is worthy of unedited expression.

If you have never read the book “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” I highly recommend you put it on your holiday reading list. It tells the story of the Herdman family (and we all know a Herdman family or two, it is probably even our own!) and their invasion of a church Christmas pageant. Here is a bit from the book:

The Herdmans are the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, swear, and hit little kids. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation of the tale — the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating — has a lot of people up in arms. But it will make this year’s pageant the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

In the Nativity, God enfolds Himself with humanity.

Darkness meets light…
Brutality meets mercy…
Ugliness encounters beauty…

This Christmas, may you be freed from a neat and tidy encounter with God.
This Christmas may you realize that the best way to celebrate the season is with honesty, craziness and abandonment to the unpredictable God who shows up most profoundly in a Christmas pageant where the actors have all lost the script and roll on with whatever it is their soul produces.

God smiles at moments such as these.