A Life Contrary

living a life out of the ordinary

Archive for the tag “Books”

Books, man…

Books. There are so many ways that books can affect us. For the better or worse. Some can transport us to distant worlds and teach us about the ideas of courage, bravery, and perseverance. Some teach us about people who display those characteristics and more. Some books educate us on facts and figures and concepts. And some books are just for nothing else than good, ol’ entertainment – giving us an escape from whatever is going on at the moment.

It’s for this reason that I love books. From my childhood, I can remember being read Little Golden books by my mother and when I got older, I can remember my sister reading me Little Women and A Tale of Two Cities. Reading has always been a big thing in my family. I can remember reading Great Expectations in school and my mom joining in so we could discuss it. I remember reading I am the Cheese and being so shocked that I took it straight to her room and insisted she read it too. I remember my sister and dad reading Stephen King and Les Miserables and discussing it even though I had no clue what they were talking about.

So it’s no surprise to me that a book would have such an impact and change my life in such a way.

Two years ago, I heard about something called a launch team and never one to turn down a good author or a free book, I applied. It was for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love and little did I know I was one of 5,000 applicants. Greater still, I found out that I was one of the 500 who were picked for the team. Can you believe that?  I couldn’t.  Next came a secret Facebook group and 499 new friends that I couldn’t have ever dreamed up.

What’s more?  After two years, we are still going strong and getting ready to launch another book.  I’ve been on a few more launch teams since then (10 or so), but nothing will ever come close to my first – that original group.  My friends.  My people.  My church, especially at a time when I’ve become disillusioned with so much, these women have provided a constant and a safe place to land.

Thank you, Jen Hatmaker.  Thank you, my FTL sisters.  Thank you, Jesus, for this phenomenal opportunity that I thought was once in a lifetime, but turns out I get to do again!  Keep an eye out for Jen’s latest book, Of Mess and Moxie.


Books for 2017

Since last year’s book list was all but a complete failure, I decided to go pretty low-key this year.  Also, since I still kept buying books, even though I wasn’t reading them, I decided to pull from my shelf first for my list.  It’s kind of a light list, but I figure if I shoot through those, then I can add a few tougher ones in later.

So, without further ado, here is my reading list for 2017:

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen*

Out of the Darkness by Kevin Jones*

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

Bride(zilla) of Christ by Ted Kluck and Ronnie Martin

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Poets & Saints by Jamie George

None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper

A book by CS Lewis (still undetermined)

A book by Wendell Berry (still undetermined)

Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

Like I said, it’s a super short list right now,  I’d by averaging little more than a book a week, though at my current pace, that may be all I can manage.  However, I am also starting a book club.  This should double my list and also push me out of my comfort zone.  I’ve added some super smart ladies that I’m sure will have some great books for us to read.

What are you reading for the year?  Any recommendations or suggestions?

In Which We Discuss All The Books

Well, I didn’t exactly get a book report done for March.  There’s a good reason for that.  I didn’t read anything other than Scripture in March.  One of my Lenten goals was to read through the gospels.  I decided to take that and read nothing but the gospels for most of Lent.

So, since I don’t have much to report of what I have read, I thought I’d give a quick update of what I’ve been reading.

I know that I should be reading things off my 2016 book list, but there are just so many books and so little time!  I5 Habits have decided to give audiobooks a try for more than just long distance trips.  I’m currently listening to 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz.  It was picked to be a bit of an experiment and see how well I would retain the information with only listening in bits and pieces.

I’ve learned two things:  I retain more than I thought and I find myself listening more often that just when I’m commuting or in the car.  It may only work for certain books, but I am definitely going to try to keep up on the audiobook thing and see if I can double my reading.  I’ve even started a list on Hoopla of books that I want to listen to.

Loving My Actual Life

I’ve been picked for two new launch teams and I can’t wait to share more about each of those books.  The first is Loving my Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall.  I’ve just downloaded it and hope to get it done soon.  The second I’ll be writing about soon.

Love DoesWhen I Don't Desire GodI also bought Love Does by Bob Goff and When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper.  I haven’t gotten started on these yet (see above), but we’re going to have Chas start Love Does soon and I’ll probably read it with him.


I also picked up a copy of Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs at work the other Present Over PerfectLooking for Lovelyday and started to thumb through it.  I got through the introduction and realized that I must read this soon.  Shauna Neiquist’s Present Over Perfect will also be released soon, so chances are, I’ll be grabbing a copy of that, too.

None of the books above were on my 2016 list, but if you’ll remember my list was pretty light for just this reason.  I don’t know that I’ll get to all of these or even those on my list soon, but a girl can dream, right?

So, what are you reading?  What have you read this year that has really stuck with you?  What must I add to my ever growing list?

February Book Report

Unfortunately my reading has been slow as of late.  I only finished one book in February and I’ve decided to take a little break from my list during Lent (I’m reading through the gospels).  However, the one that I finished was phenomenal.

Help my Unbelief

I read Barnabas Piper’s Help My Unbelief:  Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith.  This is the first book of Piper’s that I have read, but I have enjoyed several of his articles and listen to his podcast, The Happy Rant, regularly.

This book deals with doubt in an open and honest way.  As the subtitle suggests, it proposes that doubt is natural and not the enemy of faith, but rather a tool to be used to deepen and grow your faith.  Doubt can be a healthy thing and if properly interpreted can be a great help rather than a hindrance.

The premise of the book is set upon the idea that our faith isn’t mean to be blind.  We aren’t called into an ignorant faith that is weak and fragile.  Our faith isn’t baseless.  We are called to a reasoned faith in God, one that is founded in who He is and what He does, both in our lives, those around us, and those that we learn about in God’s Word.

Most of the time, the word translated as “belief” in Scripture is more accurately “trust.”  So, as we are called to believe, we are actually to trust.  Faith can be defined as belief and trust.

I love that Mr. Piper tears down the ideas that we must have explanations and answers for everything.  We often fail to see the beauty in the mystery and forget that “I don’t know” doesn’t mean that we are idiots or that we are mindlessly following a myth.  Through his work, Piper shows that if we knew all of the answers about God, He wouldn’t be much of a god.  Resting in this mystery doesn’t make us dim or fearful of knowledge, but rather shows our maturity in that we understand that we cannot always explain everything.

As I shared after reading Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching for Sunday, doubt is a major factor in the life of the believer.  We have to wrestle with this and if we do it open and honestly then we are much more likely to have success and grow as believers rather than to continue on in darkness where the smallest stone can fracture our faith.

Unlike Evans who approaches the topic in a very personal way with literary flourish, Piper approaches doubt and faith in a very practical way.  Though he does still use his personal story as a backdrop, it is more of a “proof text” rather than a major plot point.  Piper looks at belief, and conversely doubt, in the broad sense and then brings it down to the level of how it should look in our everyday life.  If Evans asked the important questions, then Piper took it a step further and answered them.

Though some may not like where he ends up, you cannot deny its validity.  There is a very real sense in which we, as Christians, must rest in the unknown and embrace that which we cannot see.  We must be able to settle into those places that don’t have the clear  lines drawn so that we may better understand when we do arrive at the answers we seek.

We are not the first to doubt.  Even John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was actually the Messiah (Luke 7).  He sent his disciples to ask Jesus.  What better an example for when we doubt?  Go and ask Jesus.  We will have doubts; this is a given.  But what are we to do when those doubts arise?  Go and seek the answers from the one who has them.

Even though this book does get a little academic at times discussing belief and doubt in the abstract (and is missing a bit of the snark that I’ve come to associate with Piper), I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is struggling with unbelief but also to new believers so that they can arm themselves when the doubt comes.

January Book Report

Searching for Sunday

Rachel Held Evans is divisive.  She’s a blogger and writer.  And she’s made a career out of doubting her faith, asking tough questions, and writing about them.  It’s a nice gig, if you can get it.

To date, I’ve read two of her books.  This doesn’t mean I’m a fan of hers or that I agree with her positions.  I do agree that she’s bold enough to speak her mind and not shy away from admitting that she doubts and has questions.  Just like the rest of us.

In Searching for Sunday, Evans uses a beautiful literary device transposing the traditional sacraments of the Church with her own struggles and journey of faith.  While discussing Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, and Marriage, she navigates the journey she’s been on for the past several years.

Her story isn’t new and it isn’t revelatory, but it is necessary.  I don’t always agree with her conclusions and I rarely agree with her theology, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy this book.  Like with most of her writing, you don’t have to agree with where she ends up, you just have to understand the journey.

And I do.

I often struggle with doubt.  Mine may not be in the same ways or on the same scale as Evans, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relate.  In addition to the beauty of her writing, Evans is a master of bringing forth conversations that need to be had, sometimes unapologetic and sometimes overly apologetic.

Evans writes what she knows and this book is no different.  It is largely personal and covers what she’s gone through over the past several years struggling with Evangelicalism, a foray into the Emergent, and landing in a small Episcopalian church.  It deals largely with her hurts and her pains and how God has healed and helped her, as well as the areas where she’s still hurting.

In the end, even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know that I would recommend this book to just the average reader or faith doubter.  You have to be on a certain foundation, I think, to get the most out of Ms. Evans’ writing.  However, for those who have the basics down, but still question would be as enamored with this book as I was.

Mental Wholeness

Like the Westminster Catechism, I believe that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  However, to do this, I think we have to be holy, healthy, and whole.  We have 4 “pillars” of health:  mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.  I believe that these correspond to Jesus’ command for us to love God with all our mind (mental), heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), and strength (physical), in Luke 10:27.

To this end, I strive to health and wholeness in each area.  Mental is one that is both easy and difficult to maintain.  There are a million apps and games out there that help with memory and cognition.  However, I’m not sure that just that is all you need for brain health.  I’ve used Brain Age and Luminosity and a couple others and they work well, but I think you need a bit more.

There is a creative and imaginative aspect to mental health, too.  I’m not much of a crafter, but I do like to think of myself as a big of a creative soul.  I’ve just gotten into the grown up coloring books that are all the rage now days.  I’ve also started Bible Journaling.

Scripture memorization is also a wonderful tactic.  You get the benefit of stretching your mental muscles with memorization and you also get the added bonus of having a wealth of scripture at your mental disposal.

These are all well and good and wonderful tools to use.  But the most fun tool for building mental health and wholeness?  Reading!  I love to read, so this may not be the same for everyone.  I like to read broadly, but I will say that my focus lately has been nonfiction and theology.  I’m trying to mix it up a bit this year with my 2016 reading list.

My usual goal is reading two books a month, but I’ll admit that I’m a bit behind schedule this month.  I’ve already finished one book and have two more started that I’m reading concurrently.  I’ve not made the time to read in the past couple weeks, but I hope to get back in the routine.

Check back in on Wednesday for my first monthly “Book Report” on the book I’ve completed.

It’s All About the Books

2016 books


Reading is one of my favorite pastimes.  I’m pretty passionate about it.  So, without further ado, I will post my reading goals for 2016.

Help My Unbelief by Barnabas Piper

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey

Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd

The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster

Something by Wendell Berry (I’ve yet to decide on a title)

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst

Simply Jesus by NT Wright

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider

Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

Father Brown Mystery by GK Chesterton

Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

Heretics by GK Chesterton

I only have 18 books on my list this year.  I will explain a little more of the reasoning behind that soon.  I also usually like to leave a couple spots open for recommendations.  Otherwise, this is pretty much it.

I do realize that this list is a little unbalanced.  There’s a lot of Chesterton and not a lot of fiction.  Those kind of go hand-in-hand.  I actually added Father Brown to compensate for the lack of fiction.  A good portion of this list is actually heavy on books that I already own.  Other than that, I will see how it goes.  I have a lot of books that I’d like to read, but this list is pretty skewed.  I may either learn a lot or it could backfire and I may get bored with the same topics.

So, there it is.  What are you reading this year?

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