a resolution to read

Reading is one of the three R’s of new year’s resolutions and I have noticed there are quite a few people who are committed to reading a few books this year – everyone is sharing their lists! I notice because I love to see a good book list, and because I am a reader myself.

Ever since I was a little girl, if  I wasn’t outside playing, I was inside, on my bed, with a good book in hand. Nancy Drew and Babysitter’s Club gave way to Max Lucado and then Elisabeth Elliot.

College was full of books that still fill our book shelves and my list on amazon “to read” is quite. long.

I tell people that I read like some people run. I have conditioned myself to read a lot of books over a short period of time. I like to read capital G “good” books and that often means non-fiction Christian. I do love good literature but right now in this learning+growing season of life I just cut to the chase with the books that present flat out propositional truths. Capital T “truth.”

I don’t typically start the year with a year-long list, that seems crazy to me… but as friends recommend books, as I come across one book in another, I add the title to the “to read” list, and ask the Lord what I should read next. and with whom. Often times I am reading “this book with her” and “that book with these girls” and these couple on my own.

However, I did start this year with a pile in mind, one I thought connected the themes of life that were filling my thoughts – on growing, living brave, and getting to the good work the Lord has prepared for me. 

Before I share my January book list with you and how I go about reading through the pile, I want to list a few considerations concerning reading.

I said I’ve noticed people sharing their book lists. and I am gonna join in on the fun and share mine, too. But here’s the thing – reading is not the thing. books are not IT. With that made clear here are some consideration…

  1. If you’re gonna read any book, read The Book of books. Read the Bible. If you read a bunch of others but neglect this one, the others don’t matter. THIS is the book that matters. These Words are truth and life. This is the book you can build your life on; you can completely recommend to anyone and everyone. This is THE book. Read it.
  2. If you’re gonna read some other books – before you begin, answer these “why’s” and repent when you realize that “yep, I’m reading for all of the wrong reasons
  3. Funny enough even something as wholesome as reading can be messed up by sin. One way is you reading for all the wrong reasons. The other way is by a bad book. Don’t read bad books. Now, if you read point one and you think – well the Bible is full of awful stories with terrible characters, what of that!? Remember this – the protagonist in scripture is Jesus and right and wrong are correctly understood; the antagonist is actually bad, and the story is True and points you to Truth. Plus, scripture is well written. It’s high literature. Think through this sort of lens when you are determining if a book is good or bad. And then with a repentant, righted heart, read good books.
  4. Once you’ve gotten yourself into the practice of reading the Bible, once you’ve repented and now you’re on the way to reading 📖 well and good books, – which by the way, I’m writing this in list form, but of course the experience of it all sort of may swirl around – repenting and reading and righting all mingling together – I would love to share with you the books on my January list
  5. I would also love to know A. what you’re reading and B. If you’ve read any/all of the books on my list, what you think about them. I mean maybe you have another suggestion or perhaps a helpful critique of one of them (my list isn’t “ultimate” you know 😉
  6. Here’s my January Book List
  • bible with a year long bible reading plan
  • Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines
  • Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
  • Falling Free by Shannan Martin
  • Unseen by Sara Hagerty
  • The Peace Maker by Kevin Sande

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? Which one do you want to add to your book list? And, what books do you currently have on your list? I want to hear from you 💙💙💙💙

Like I said, I read like some other people run. I read a lot. I read at a steady pace and lap through each book. I am going to leave the running analogy now because – I don’t run. I chose these books because most of them were sitting on my shelf already, not-yet-read, and that in and of itself is enough motivation for me.

To get through the books this month, with the exception of the bible which will take the entire year, I simply read one page at a time. Often. I started with Capital Gaines because I thought it would be a quick, easy, non-life.changing but still encouraging read, and I was wrong for the most part (it was a quick read.)

*Full disclosure – I read Capital Gaines before the month of January began, but didn’t plan to, and had it on my January list, which is where it stayed. So, feel some relief, if you need to.

Then I moved on to the book Unseen because even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, I was gifted it, my sister said she loved it, then another good friend pulled it out of her bag and asked me if I had read this book… and I felt like maybe I just should! So I did. It was so good. I know it took her so much more time to write this book than for me to read it, … which is like any book,… and part of me wants to go back through it slowly so that Sara can know how much I truly appreciate the work she put in and the heart she poured out. I am still sifting through the message of the book and hope to share a cup of coffee with the friend who gave me the book in the first place.

Now I am in the middle – literally – of Falling Free, a book I purchased as my sister was still lauding it, but it took me a few months to start. I am so glad I did now and I am sad I didn’t sooner. It is a hilarious, hard to hear, hurts real good book. You should read it. I told another friend it’s sort of like a girl’s Radical by David Platt. See what you think 😉

My sisters and I are reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Let me tell you, when I first saw the title of this book. I was IMMEDIATELY completely PUT OFF by the title. I still feel a lingering tinge of “ew” towards it. But one I realized Sally was in her sixties and hopefully not too affected by our culture’s god-of-this-air named Productivity I felt a little bit better. Then, so many friends recommended it, I thought… ok. I can at least skim it. Plus, with my sisters whatever is always better. I wanted to FLY through this book, but my sisters want to sit in it, so I have paused around chapter four.

I have yet to start The Peacemaker, but plan to by the beginning of next week.

If I don’t finish the January list, the books roll on over to February, where my list is shorter. March doesn’t have a list yet, and would like one, so your suggestions are welcome!

(links for the books : BibleCapital Gaines / Unseen / Falling Free / The Peacemaker / Own Your Life) PS when I was inserting the links to purchase these books from amazon, I noticed that each one of them are considerably less money than I remember them being a couple of weeks ago. So, seize the day! and buy the book!

READ WORTHY : ONE THOUSAND GIFTS… and a few different opinions

Here’s the book, in all of its attractive simplicity, just like I imagine its author.

Ok. I will give it to you straight.

Here’s how I came to the decision to read this book. A few women I knew were reading it; my church’s summer book study, my good friend, Lauren, and Carolyn, my friend and mentor. So, we began.

I ordered the book on amazon and packed it in my holly aiken bag alongside all of my other books that made my medium size tote into a large.

I had just finished Mary Beth Chapman’s book, Choosing to See, Memorial Day Weekend. (On a side note, I LOVED THIS BOOK. and recommend it to you. any and all of you.)

Lauren and I start reading in Chattanooga. This trip I call the Hampton Inn trip. We – with our babies – spent A LOT OF TIME in the Hampton Inn. We were glad when we waved goodbye.

And we were also glad for the time there because it gave us time to read.

We got lost in Ann’s poetry, swept up by her pen’s imagery, and consumed in thanksgiving to the Lord. We sat leisurely outside of Chattanooga’s downtown Starbucks, kidless and young, slowly eating our meal, thankful we did not have to rush or feed little mouths. (We are grateful for the little mouths… and we are grateful for daddies who gifted us by watching over the babes.)

I did notice how I had felt so much more with Mary Beth than I did with Ann. I laughed and cried and prayed my way through Mary Beth’s page-turner. However, with A Thousand Gifts, I saw what Ann was writing – and I wanted very much to feel with her – but for some reason for me personally her poetry kept me at arm’s length.

I’m not sure if this is because of my personality – sometimes I like to get into the pool one inch at a time – or because of the way that Ann’s writing works on her readers. Does anyone have anything to say to this?

We get home after our Hampton Inn Trip. I’m reading in bed. And then the chapter about her son. Emotion hits. Ann, a mother of six, relays a time with her son. She’s caught up. He is too. She in her work. He in his frustration. And they wrestle it out together. She gets on his level. She gracefully, graciously communicates the gospel to her son. And I about lost it. I read it out loud to Tyler (which is what I like to do with all that I read, but I have to contain myself.) I’m almost relieved – because now I have come into a stride with Ann.

We are in Destin, Florida. Lauren and I keep reading. We are both trying not to read every word to our respective husbands. Ann shares openly with her reader that as a young girl, she cut herself. I cringed. But I keep reading. She concludes the chapter and shows the Lord as Redeemer. I burst out the door and smile at Lauren. We sit on the front porch sans husbands and beam at each other. We are so in love with the Lord, so glad we are friends, so happy in the sunshine, the warmth of His love.

We drive to Panama City. Lauren has finished the book. In an effort to finish it with her, I take every napping moment and read. I get to the last chapter. Pause for thought. Has she taken poetry too far?

Lauren and I have the same question. We search for reviews. We are stunned at the results. Well-regarded apologist blogger lambasted her (that same night we find out that he apologized. But still, we are sad.) We talk it over together. We talk it over with everyone. We lay out the opinions. We read over her words. We share our thoughts. We think. We read Scripture. We are just…

This is where we settled.

~ Her book is poetry. Ann Voskamp doesn’t seem to set out to write a theological treatise. That being said, we’d love to read a second edition. It seems only some words need changed; only a few sentences added for explanation.
~ Of course I do not know Ann personally but what I gather from her book is that she has a melancholy personality. She takes life into her. She lets it seep in and really affect her. Ann has been through some really hard situations, some very dark days. And because she takes it all into herself and because this book is a bit of a memoir, the book can be dark at times. Which I think, looking back and after talking it over with friends, is why it was hard to relate to her. I am not a melancholy person. And I did not readily want to enter her darkness. But oh was I glad when she got to the LIGHT!
~ She writes in a sort of stream of consciousness. The philosophy behind stream of consciousness is that truth is relative. Here is where the problem lies. Ann writes her thoughts. She then writes an objective truth, a Scripture command and promise. Stream of consciousness philosophy falls apart and this can be hard on the reader. Personally, I am not a huge fan of stream of consciousness, but I as Ann’s sister in Christ, I appreciated reading her thoughts, and her bravery to write them. So I read her with grace, held what she was saying loosely, and clung to the truth of the Scripture in her book. Others didn’t necessarily take this approach.
~ In her last chapter, where she opens the conclusion to her book, “…make love with God,” jaws dropped. Heads titled. Eyes re-scanned the words. Lauren thought, “Can you say that!?” I thought… ‘oh poetic liberty perhaps taken a little far.’ And kept reading. My response to the chapter was, well it doesn’t seem needed for her overall thesis but I see how she was bringing her journey of thanksgiving to a full, rounded circle. And I can live with it. Some reviewers hated it. and gave good theological reason. Others seemed to go right along with it. Here’s Ann’s blog post response. Gracious, what do you think?
~ There are some times when the Lord shares with us through His Word and through our experience devotional thoughts, devotional take-a-ways. It may be that He applies His word to something quite particular in your life in such a way that the application is not exactly or particularly what the Scripture easily communicates, but you know in that time that the Lord through His Word with the Holy Spirit was teaching you in that moment. I think this happened for Ann as she relates her time in Europe in the last chapter of the book. The issue is, friends, with these times we cannot relate them to others especially in such a way that we are trying to teach our experience to another. Because what happens is we can misrepresent and even malign the Scripture. If you have read Elisabeth Elliot, I think she does a wonderful job sharing in her books ways in which the Lord personally spoke to her through Scripture without asking you to accept it for yourself. The thing is, though, it seems in Ann’s book that she is attempting to teach you something, she wants you to get it. And we just cannot wholeheartedly accept it. I especially speak directly to the part where she writes about the mystical union. Friends, do you know these times with the Lord? I think we can look to Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Scripture, where she ‘hides these things in her heart.’ When the Lord speaks TO YOU, hide these things in your heart. Share them with your spouse, perhaps, with your closest friends. They are to be pondered, not taught.
~ For us to recommend this book, Lauren and I decided we would do so with reticence, sadly, because some of what Ann writes could be interpreted a little not-so-orthodox. And at the same time, if you are a wise reader, a discerning mind, a gospel-centered believer, thinker, person who would appreciate honesty and encouragement, then I think you could stand to read Ann’s One Thousand Gifts.

My heart ended here – and I am grateful to the Lord for preserving me and growing me through this book, this good time with a good friend, and through the sultry summer.

Bless the LORD, o my soul, o my soul, worship HIS holy name. Psalm 103:1

So true, isn’t it?

READ WORTHY : What I thought about Grace for the Good Girl

click here to read more rachel IN raleigh posts on this book

Grace for the Good Girl is written by a North Carolina girl. So automatically, this book and I started on a good foot together. And I was reading the book with a friend, so double good. Two good feet, I guess.
As I got into the book, I thought – yes, I agree with you. I do try to earn my salvation. Yep, I do act like Martha more than Mary. And… well, you’re right, I am a good girl who sometimes gets a little too bent on being good instead of knowing the Lord. There was no real revelation here. And the author just straight pours out from her little dear heart. Which I loved and at other times I thought, in my little pious english-major college graduate self, when will she ever get to her point!?
Well girlfriend let me tell you – she did. And with a precision and a gracious vengeance like none other. (That’s why she wrote the book and not me. I just write this leetle teeny blog.)
Chapter nine was grace like rain. First, hard and sort of beating down on me. But cleansing me nonetheless. And then, surely as rain is known to do, her words were refreshing to me. Energizing even. And I was just so happy – dancing in the grace-rain comin’ down on me. Just loving it! I didn’t care that my hair was wet! That I needed a bath because I was a stinky sinner – I mean, it was so good being clean!! Then the rainbow appeared through the next closing chapters.
And all I wanted to do was sit on a front porch with sweet tea and the author, whose name is , and talk forever.
Since we are sort of close to each other – both being Carolina girls and all – I feel it’s not a complete impossibility.
And besides, she has a blog. So I can sort of sit and talk with her there. … at least, get to listen to her.
Which I am absolutely sure will be better than me sitting there talking about whatever wandering thoughts come to my brain.
I thank the Lord for this woman – she wrote this book for me, I’m pretty sure.
To encourage me as a young woman, a budding wife, a new mom, and a novice bible study teacher.
Really, praise God from whom all blessings flow. His blessings, His grace flows like rain.
sweet tea is the perfect drink to enjoy with company

Book Review :: The New Birth Order Book

The New Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are

by Kevin Leman (Fleming H. Revell, 1985, 1998)

Inside the Pages

Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist with a Christian worldview, has a theory – that who you are and how you are is largely based on your birth order. If you tend to be a visionary and perfectionist, you may be a first born (like me!); if you are mysterious and sometimes moody, but have many friends, you are probably a middle child; if you are easily upset when you do not get your way, you are likely the youngest child of your family, and if you are a voracious reader and interact well with adults, you may be the only child. However, it’s not always very simple to pinpoint! There are many varying factors, and of course, we are all so unique.

Worth Repeating

“A. perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, hard driving, natural leader, critical, serious, scholarly, logical, doesn’t like surprises” (15)

“As important as a child’s birth order may be, it’s only one an influence, not a final fact of life forever set in cement and unchangeable as far as how that child will turn out.” (338)

From My Perspective

I find it interesting that this book was published the year I was born. Obviously I needed it. And honestly, it really did help me. Dr. Leman’s book is insightful and helpful. The book’s insight into person’s personality traits and their strengths and their weaknesses is interesting and enlightening. I am most definitely the oldest child – which I was already very fully aware of this reality, but I also carry some only child traits – who I tend to make fun of and feel sorry for because only children, in my experience, tend to be obnoxious when they are young and they do not have any siblings to set them straight. In all seriousness, I realized that I carry only child traits because my parents treated me like an adult from a very young age. I also realized that even though my mom is the middle child in her family, she is also the first girl – which means she is a middle child/first child mix -which makes for a very dominating yet also very emotional personality – yes, that’s my mom in a nice little nutshell! My mom and I fought alot – it’s true, even if you don’t believe it – and I think it’s because I am the oldest child and my mom carries oldest child traits, which I never really realized until I read this fancy little (meaning, quite insightful) handbook. How helpful this book could have been in my relationship with my mom if I had only read it earlier! And how helpful its insights are going to be with my husband and one day, with our precious children.

The book is in someways an easy read and in others, a very hard read. The book’s terms are easy to understand and the author tells funny short stories. At the same time, though, you are coming face to face with yourself – and sometimes it’s a bit shocking to see the real you in the mirror of another’s knowledgeable insights. You also come face to face with the other significant people in your life and their strengths and weaknesses and how you are to relate with them, like your spouse or your children. With the helpful tips on parenting, I am sure I will be pulling this book out the minute my oldest child (who is yet to be) can walk and talk!

Dr. Leman understands that his writing is not infallible and that people are unique, created in the image of God. The author also understands that people can be studied and theories can be formulated and for the most part proven, which he does well in this book. There are some great, gospel centered counselors who find Leman’s work helpful and there are other who personally do not fit into the theories’ categories and do not typically use this work’s information in counseling. This theory is not the gospel.

With all of this said, I think this book is worth the reading (Look at all the helpful knowledge I gained!)- and its companion, The First Born Advantage, especially if you are the first born child (or tend to function as the first born in your family) – so that you can learn a little bit more about yourself.

I encourage you: let not self knowledge be the end, but self knowledge as a means by which you better reflect the glory of God as you love Him and love those around you well. The Lord was so sweet and gracious to me to teach me these lessons about myself and my mom. I am excited about applying this knowledge so that I can better love and respect her.

number one!
number one!
number two!
number two!
number three!
number three!
number four!
number four!
number five!
number five!

{beautiful photographs courtesy of courtney navey with always autumn studios –  alwaysautumnstudios.com}

Book Review :: Experiencing the Resurrection

Experiencing the Resurrection: The Everyday Encounter that Changes Your Life

by Henry and Melvin Blackaby (Multnomah Books, 2008)

Inside the Pages

Henry and his son Melvin Blackaby begin their book by stating “the gospel includes the cross, the resurrection, and the sending of the H0ly Spirit at Pentecost” (1). These central elements of the gospel are pivotal for the believer to understand and to experience the resurrection. The book deals with the doctrine of the resurrection and then applies Scripture’s teachings to the believer’s life. It is not only head knowledge that the writer wants to give his readers, but heart knowledge as well. As the believer understands and experiences the cross, he will experience Christ who is the believer’s peace, joy, power, authority, confidence, and hope. (1 Corinthians 15:55-58, ESV)

Worth Repeating

“Remember, studying the resurrection is not an academic exercise. Our focus is not merely information, by application. … True knowledge of God is always personal, powerful, and life changing.” (6)

Charles Spurgeon had a way with words. He explained in one of his sermons how it is that we can know where our souls will be in eternity:

You may know very readily. Where does your soul delight to be now? Your delight prophesies your destiny. What you’ve chosen here shall be your portion hereafter. If you loved sin, you shall be steeped up to the throat in it, and it shall burn around you like a liquid fire. But if your delights have to do with your God, you shall dwell with Him for eternity.

Spurgeon is right – our time on earth sets our direction for eternity.” (205)

From my Perspective

This short book is perfect for a devotional aid. It is based on Scripture, thorough, clear and concise.The authors include pointed questions, astounding Scripture, and personal insight into the resurrection.

With a title like, Experiencing the Resurrection, I expected the ground to shake and for me to get swallowed up in it as I read it – but the ground did not and I still standing pretty still. I expected much more out of it – it’s a personal expectation; the book itself is not lacking in the sense that I think it deals well with its topic – sort of. That is not to say that I cannot see how it could be a helpful devotional-style book to read, especially for someone who is picking up a book on the resurrection for the first time.

On the matter of the resurrection – and the reality that we can experience it – I have a different reaction altogether. The Resurrection of Christ has not left me wanting; it has filled my deepest void; my deepest desire. The resurrection, Christ! our Victorious Redeemer King!, is not a matter only to be discussed, pondered, critiqued, and reverenced but He calls us to touch His nail scarred hands, to bathe in His beautiful crimson blood; to be washed in His light, to know the Truth and be set free – to experience the resurrection, heart, mind, soul, and strength!

This little book began with such a huge task – to articulate this resurrection experience – that perhaps any book would fall short. It is an experience that is not easily articulated; it’s so deep, so mysterious. Except until someone sincerely shares the truth of their own encounter with the Cross. I think this is the very part of the little book that is missing – the authors do not tell the story of their own personal resurrection experience. I do not doubt that each of the men have experienced the Cross. But it is much easier to write about what the cross is and how the general ‘you’ can experience it is than it is to describe one’s own encounter.

This is where the challenge rests for you and for me – to encounter the resurrection of Christ and to believe He is the Resurrection and the Life and then for you and for me to share this Good News thoughtfully, winsomely, and excitedly in love and in truth with the world around us.

1 Corinthians 15:55-58 declares, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (ESV)

book cover
book cover