On my bookshelf

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reading is such a great thing in my life. It provides an escape from the day-to-day, letting my mind ponder things that are completely detached from my reality and that I may never think about otherwise. I can disengage from the present and dive into another place and time, and nothing else can do that quite like a book can, especially fiction. I love the feeling of expectation when you really want to know what happens next. I love beautiful language, and reading a book that's well-written and almost poetic in the way things are described impresses and awes me. I also love that reading is academic, that it stretches your mind and gives your imagination a workout. I've always known that using your imagination often plays a part in how smart you are and even prevents dementia and memory loss, so folks, reading is not a waste of time! It stimulates new connections between neurons in the brain and helps you come up with creative ideas at home and at work. Reading also has the ability to lift you up, to increase your faith, to encourage you to dream, to inspire you, to give you hope. It's such a powerful tool.

I thought I'd talk about what I've been reading on here every once in a while, and maybe it will give you some ideas for books you'd like to read (or books you'd like to stay away from). I don't want to call them book reviews, because I'd have to take notes and basically construct essays to do a book justice, and I don't want that responsibility. Just something quick and off the top of my head sounds about right. :)

The Fault in our Stars was my first read of the year. I checked it out from the library because I had heard good things. It's a story about a terminally ill teenage cancer patient, and it's written from a witty, wry standpoint, with both humor and tragedy throughout. It was a really good read, and really easy to read, too--it just flowed. The author does a really good job of finding humor in the tragic, which makes the book unique. Get ready to cry throughout this one. Obviously the fact that it's about cancer and it's about love would give that away. While I love the author's writing style, there were plenty of parts in the book that bugged me, mostly when they poked fun at religion and talked about not believing in God and not knowing what comes after death. Just warning you guys.

My next read was Hurt Healer by Tony Nolan. I got it free when I sponsored a child at a Winter Jam concert that was in town a few years ago, where I heard Tony speak. He writes about getting over his devastating childhood, in which he was adopted but told by his adoptive (and alcoholic) dad that he should have never "bought" him. Tony is an inspiration in his life working with hurting people in those same devastating situations to bring them to Christ. It was the third book this year that had the common theme of stepping outside of ourselves and doing more for God, and it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to refocus and reprioritize my life. Tony talks about how everyone around us needs the good news so desperately,and illustrates his points on serving with references to the story of the good Samaritan throughout the length of the book. It wasn't the most engaging read at times, and the writing isn't the best I've read, but it built my faith and got me back to where I need to be mentally.

I posted this picture on Instagram, saying these were my next three reads. I had picked them out off my bookshelf, and thought I had my mind made up. Then I attended that conference I mentioned earlier, and I had to dive into Charlotte Gambill's book, Turnaround God, first. The book talks about how God can turn your life around, and brings up story after story from the Bible to back up each point. She encourages us to step out of our comfort zone and do radical things for God, and not get discouraged when we feel stuck in a situation or there is turbulence along the way.

I have to say, I loved every bit of the book and would highly recommend it. Charlotte impressed me over and over again with insights into things that I hadn't thought about before, and I'm ready to buy another of her books. The book is completely Bible-based, and doesn't rely on her personal opinions or mantras, and each point is so well-rounded and researched. It challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and live more radically for God, much like Tony Nolan's book did. Interesting how there are often common themes in your life at a certain time, isn't it? Love how God speaks to us. Here are a few favorite passages from the book:

"I believe apathy is one of the greatest weapons in the enemy's arsenal. He would rather take on a sleepy sluggard over a wide-awake warrior any day. Too often, we have looked for the enemy in all the wrong places. We are looking for the obvious, when he is often far subtler. Instead of bringing you a nightmare, he will sometimes sing you a lullaby. He will happily rock you to sleep knowing that your apathy can become his doorway of opportunity."

"Don't let disappointment stop you short of your turn. Don't get stuck in your sorrow or hung up on your hurt. Hold on, push forward, and trust the turnaround God, who can make your latter days even better than your first."

"The enemy wants to fracture God's family so that we are distracted by our own dysfunction and therefore of no help to the dysfunction in the world around us."

"God is far more patient with His people than we are with one another. His presence creates room for people to navigate their own change gracefully, rather than using forceful ultimatums that result in deadlock. God's presence opens hearts and lives, while forcing has the opposite result of closing and shutting people down."

I'm really enjoying the Dare to Be devotional as well. Each point is so relevant for my life, and actually prompts me to think about and question my views and my actions, and to realign them with God's when I'm off. I think I'm going to be hooked on devotionals when I'm done with this one. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good one?

I'm currently reading Crazy Love and loving it, though I'm not too far into it. I love that Francis Chan is not concerned with people's opinions of him or what he writes about the problems with the current church in America, but challenges us to make the changes that need to be made. I love me an original thinker. Jesus Is ___ is another book I've heard a lot about and purchased recently.

If you have any books that you have loved recently (or not recently), whether fiction, nonfiction, self-help/motivational, Christian...please let me know.



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