My Top Ten Reads of 2018

pexels-photo-261969

Every year I make a reading goal. I knew 2018 would be a hectic year, so I set my bar a little lower. My goal was to read 36 books. And I am finishing the last few books this week.

Books speak to us in different ways. A book we read this year may not have spoken to us a few years ago in the same way. But here is my list of top ten that met me and spoke to me in powerful ways. I hope you will give a few of them a chance in the new year.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Brene Brown knocked it out of the park…again! Any book of Brown’s is a good bet. But, seriously, if you are a leader, then you need to read this book!

Reality-Based Leadership by Cy Wakeman

Cy Wakeman makes you take a look at drama in the workplace in a fresh way. Her book is practical and immediately applicable. If nothing else, it will bring self-awareness to how you invite unnecessary drama. The first step to being a good leader involves leading yourself.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Let me start by saying that this is not a “Christian” self-help book. But it is packed with great truth. It is a memoir/get-your-act-together book. Do you need a kick in the pants? Start here.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Sometimes we need a fresh start. Sometimes we just need to get back on track. Goins’ book can give you a strategy for both. Put it on your January 2019 list.

Healing Spiritual Wounds by Carol Howard Merritt

I do not recommend this book for everyone. If you are a fundamentalist, then it will kick you in the teeth. Don’t read it. But if you have been wounded and you need to know there are others out there like you, then devour it.

Hiding in the Bathroom by Morra Mele

Love! Love! Love! Mele is an introvert speaking the introvert language. I love her! She gives practical advice. But she also encourages the introvert that you can make a difference if you pace yourself.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner

In January, my father-in-law died. Then a cousin died. And an aunt. And some of my church members. Then some of my church members lost family members. That was the first three months of the year. My doctor, who is Jewish, recommended this book. I listened to the audio version which was read by the author. And I cried. The author does not answer the reason why, but he does remind us that we are not alone. And, in the end, it’s loneliness that hurts the most.

Finish by Jon Acuff

This was my first read of 2018. I’m glad I read it first because it prepared me for the craziness of the year. It helped me finish some big projects that probably never would have been completed.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

I read this book in my hotel room in the Philippines during a mission trip. It wrecked me. It changed me. Read it.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I found this in the dollar bin at the library and purchased it because, well, Elizabeth Gilbert. I was not disappointed. Sometimes we need permission to be creative. Gilbert gives you permission.

Bonus!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

I committed to reading at least one fiction book this year. My (adult) children insisted it was this one. So, I read it. It was fantastic. I see now why children love this series and I highly recommend it. I’m glad I let my children read it.

Feel free to share your favorite read of 2018. Send me a message or post in the comments.

pexels-photo-220326

Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Death

pexels-photo-128458

This week was funeral number seven for me. It’s not really that many considering I am a pastor. Funerals come with the territory. But three of those seven were family members. During the funeral yesterday, I was struck with the intense realization that death makes everyone equal. We love. We hurt. We laugh. We cry. Death makes life so much more real and profound.

Over the years, but especially this year, I have discovered some things to be true about death. As a pastor, these are things I wish everyone knew about death.

1. All death is sudden. No matter how long you have been anticipating it, it will still catch you by surprise.

2. People will say stupid things. Forget what they said and remember that they cared enough to show up.

3. Funerals and memorials are for the living, not the dead.

4. Grief is not a straight line. It’s a hot mess.

5. You’re never fully prepared for it.

6. Death brings out the best and the worst in us.

7. There is no such thing as closure. Lines close. Stores close. Relationships transition.

8. Guilt, anger, and regret are all normal.

9. The practice of sending thank you notes after the funeral is cruel and unusual punishment. I have no idea why that started.

10. It’s ok to cry…to not cry…to laugh…to live. You can’t go over it, under it, or around it. You can only go through it. But it does get better…eventually.

We can endure twice the pain if we have one caring person in our life. Find your one person. Then find a few more.

 

 

 

Everything is Redeemable

pexels-photo-190930

Jim Bakker was a televangelist in the 1980s. He was a TV preacher known for his prosperity gospel with a ministry that reached millions of viewers. Then, in 1987, he was [accused] of raping his secretary. Later he was arrested for fraud and found guilty. In his book, I was wrong, Bakker confessed he had never truly read the Bible until prison. He repented and committed to turning his life around.

I became a Christian in 1992. Although I had heard of Bakker, his ministry didn’t influence me one way or another. After prison, Bakker started touring the country with the release of his new book. I went to hear him speak. It was mostly out of curiosity.

pexels-photo-1050244

The church that hosted him had a large auditorium that seated maybe 5000 people. There were 500 of us there that night clustered together on folding chairs. Most of the people were twenty years older than me. I looked into their faces and saw doubt mixed with hope. I was there out of curiosity, but they were looking for hope. Hope they had been wrong about how they judged him. Hope that people can truly change.

I remember nothing of what was said that night. And I couldn’t get a sense of his sincerity. He seemed repentant. He seemed like a person who wanted to make amends. But it was as if he wasn’t sure how to do it.

pexels-photo-533403

I didn’t discover anything about Bakker that night. But I discovered something about God.

I discovered that God truly desires to redeem all things. And he has placed this same desire in the hearts of mankind.

Here was a man who had betrayed his supporters. Yet, at least 500 of them were willing to take a chance. A handful of people were willing to offer redemption. Now, it’s a far cry from the millions of people Bakker once knew. But redemption is not the same as resurrection. It’s not a re-do, a do-over, or an un-do. Redemption is about us offering up the broken pieces to God to see what he can do. It’s God using our brokenness to create something new and different and beautiful.

pexels-photo-351773

Things will never return to the way they were beforehand. The puzzle never goes back in the box the way it came out. The woman’s body never returns to pre-pregnancy condition. And you never step in the same river twice. If we truly want to experience redemption, then we need to let go of our fantasy of the way we were. We grieve. We learn. We grow. And we receive the new and different gift we’ve been offered. We step into our new beauty that came from the ashes.

What needs to be redeemed in your life right now? Are you willing to surrender the broken pieces to God? What is the first step you need to take today to move in that direction? 

%d bloggers like this: