recent books

A group of reflective autobiographical, journal, memoir-type books that recently have inspired, motivated, and energized me. I've included excerpts from my blog posts on desert spirit's fire! and amazon reviews of each book.

Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker

John Brent Bill, Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker: A Humble Stumble Toward Simplicity and Grace on Amazon

Bad Quaker book coverFriend and friend Brent's brand-new book brings us a panorama of a few more or less typical days in the several and varied lives of a Bad Quaker hoping to become better by following Jesus more closely. Not too long, easy to read, fun to read, yet packed with probing questions about Jesus' clear examples and our own lifestyles. Brent encourages us to observe the world around us, assess how we relate to the people in that world, to keep asking "what would Jesus do," cuz as trite as that question sounds by now, in the Spirit of Life God calls us and enables us to be Jesus here and now, to do what Jesus would do, even to say the words Jesus might choose.

Life Lessons from a Bad Quaker brings us much more of the practical than of the theoretical. I strongly tend to be more of a human doing than a human being at times, yet my drive to do needs a whole lot of refinement and some redefining. I'd benefit a whole lot by creating my own Life Lessons journal of some days in my own life. Maybe you would, too? Popularized by the majorly successful Godspell, Richard of Chichester's prayer pleads "May I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly." Brent's newest book just may lead you to know, love, and follow Jesus with more simplicity and more grace.

my amazon review: For a Closer Walk with Jesus―really!



Let's All Be Brave

Let's All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie F. Downs on Amazon.

let's all be brave coverBlog pal Marci chose grace as my star word for this year, but does it not take a fair amount of bravery to trust in the reign and the rain of grace? Like a close friend who's not too clingy, Annie Downs writes about the stuff of life in an easy, natural conversational voice.

[page 184] Grace is this year's word for my life, and in this book about bravery, Annie reminds us grace has rhythms of start, stop, race, slow down, hesitate. I long to be able to talk about [page 200] my people, my God, my hope, my map. "...your people are waiting and your God is watching with expectancy for you to see where you map is going to take you." In Spanish hope and expect are one and the same word: espero. In essence that means hope already is almost realized whenever you claim "¡espero!" Annie tells us it's about radical hope [page 163] that I'd further describe as deeply planted, solidly-rooted, almost impossible to uproot, throw away, destroy. Radical hope with roots so deep you can't I can't no one can uproot it. I'll take a bow to Annie's Wesleyan heritage and say that's prevenient grace. That's God's ongoing presence and action each of us bravely can dare to trust.

Maybe I will be talking about my people, my God, my hope, and my map, if only I'm brave enough to run with the idea of someone untying my ship from the dock [page 201] and pushing it out to sea just far enough that I can't quite reach back far enough to take the person's hand. I need to bravely trust the breeze of the Holy Spirit to guide my little ship through the waters on to the next port of call.

my amazon review: fearlessly and wonderfully written



Slowing Time

Barbara Mahany, Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door on Amazon

Slowing Time book coverBarbara Mahany's Slowing Time is a lovely, love-filled journal of seasonal nature and spirituality; she emphasizes how the church's liturgical year of grace and the Jewish festivals both have deep roots in earth and sky. Reflecting upon astronomical and meteorological seasons, she opens each new seasonal section with a lilting description of the literal nature of sun, shadows, light and dark at each solstice or equinox. Subtitle, "Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door" hints at Mahany's emphasis on perceiving with all your senses, not solely with the one of our five senses most engaged in a particular activity. Although the author lives in Wilmette, Illinois, I find it fascinating that reading Slowing Time gives little indication of a rural, urban, or suburban setting. In other words, these activities and observations can happen anywhere, so go chronicle your own experiences Slowing Time!

my amazon review: living into each moment



Mercy & Melons

Mercy & Melons coverMercy & Melons by Lisa Nichols Hickman on Amazon.

Mercy & Melons: "Thanking God for All Good Gifts from A to Z" presents a memorable and rememberable way to "pray always" and to perceive God's hiddenness in the smallest, most mundane objects and events. Lisa Nichols Hickman Prays the Alphabet by pairing a clearly theological or scriptural concept with one not obviously immediately so. "Mercy & Melons" in the title, Grasshoppers and Glory for letter G, Yellow and Yahweh Y. The Hebrew bible book of Lamentations and several psalms model an acrostic approach to devotion, so this book and our practice in response to reading Mercy & Melons has scriptural precedent. You could practice Praying the Alphabet in your head or in a notebook. You could visually (drawings, sketches, photographs, paintings) or poetically illustrate your own pairs of Praises & Pavements – Berries & Baptism – Rivers & Rhubarb.

my amazon review: "pray always" by praying the alphabet



Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet

Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things on Amazon

"The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet." Proverbs 27:7, NKJV

every bitter thing is sweet cover

I loved reading Sara Hagerty's story, learning a little about the yearnings of her heart, and appreciating the model she provides for very slowly, randomly, surprisingly learning to trust God. Maybe Sara teaches us how ultimately to tell about our own struggles in ways that will benefit others?

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet demonstrates Sara's daily solid grounding in scripture―in my theological tradition, that would include a close parallel of being grounded in the sacraments. Theologies not only spoken but also worn with (and within) our entire beings! A snippet of scripture heads each chapter; scripture passages "For Your Continued Pursuit" conclude each chapter.

"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see―how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him." Psalm 34:8, MSG

my amazon review: grounded in scripture and in God's love



Undistorted God

undistorted god cover

In Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise, with chapter titles like Largesse of God, Rhythm of God, Motion of God, House of God, Ray Waddle's often energetic yet deeply reflective reports on his own experiences of God's presence or non-presence in his life create a wild, orthodox, and appealing model for our own journaling, blogging, or book-writing. Despite Undistorted God mainly featuring the author's own story, at almost every single juncture he places himself solidly within the two-thousand years (plus) history of the people of God in Jesus Christ, and demonstrates the centrality of Eucharist and prayer in his journey.

my amazon review: I'm going to do this, too!



tables in the wilderness

Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again on Amazon

tables in the wilderness cover"They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Even though he struck the rock so that water gushed out and torrents overflowed, can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?" Psalm 78:18-20

In sometimes present tense, other times past, Preston chronicles a few years of his young adult wilderness wanderings as a Baylor University undergrad. This book tells part of the story that's my story that's the story of Israel's wilderness peregrinations. Tells the story of many who seek to journey faithfully with the God of history, attempt to live baptized in the world about them. How many times have I commented how the people who wrote down the words of scripture wrote theology at least as much as – probably more than – they wrote history? In Tables in the Wilderness, author-blogger Preston Yancey writes theology at least as much as he writes about the days of his life.

What else did I especially like about Tables in the Wilderness? I enjoyed yet envied Preston's interactions and ongoing relationships with his faithful (interesting, unusual, supportive, etc.) friends. His observations about church architecture, including Church of No Windows, made me want to write about a few church structures I've known. Don't we all "test God in our hearts" and demand the food, community, companionship, healthy air, human presence we crave and need? And despite our intensive, extensive yearnings, longings, and cravings, you know it's only by grace that we even imagine approaching the Table of Grace, that eschatological wilderness banquet, the ultimate earth day celebration.

my amazon review: wilderness feasts



Becoming Myself

Becoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You on Amazon

becoming myself cover
Author Stasi Eldredge's Becoming Myself mostly keeps women readers in mind, but really, this book could benefit anyone of any gender or chronology beyond ten years old or so. Becoming Myself encourages a person to look inward, to look back, to assess and to affirm the pain, the messiness, the failures, the what might have beens, in ways that acknowledge what has happened--because you know you can't change what you don't acknowledge! A good psychotherapist or counselor can help with this kind of "inner work," but in the end, you actually do it yourself, as you clear out the old to make space for different, healthier behaviors.

my amazon review: help with the journey

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