10 books that changed my life

  1. Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin – an amazing book that changed the way I see my relationship to the LGBT community and how God desires us to love each other and build bridges, not argue over who is right.
  2. Love Without Agenda by Jimmy Spencer, Jr. – I just read this one, and it totally changed how I understand what being a Christian and a youth minister means, in a world where everyone is fighting over beliefs and forgetting to just love like Jesus did.
  3. Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud – as boundaries have always been a struggle in my life, this book was super helpful.
  4. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – learning to cultivate a life of gratitude even in the mundane and sometimes tragic has been one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned.
  5. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne – I love this passionate guy, and I think he has a great grasp on what it means to live a true Christian lifestyle, to fight injustice, and love those less fortunate.
  6. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller – I love this guys’ humility, sense of humor, and willingness to be honest about all the doubts and frustrations in finding God, and the pitfalls of organized religion.
  7. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller – another great one from Miller, focusing on our intense need for relationships and love, and especially our need for affirmation from the God who created us.
  8. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – a great and humbling book that helped me understand what grace is, challenged a lot of my previous thoughts, and helped me be okay with not being okay, and needing more of Jesus.
  9. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – This incredible story changed the way I see God’s presence and faith in the face of death and grief.
  10. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis – the best explanation (in a parable) of heaven and hell and sin I’ve ever read.

one thousand gifts

One of my favorite speakers and writers, Beth Moore, says a theophany is a visible manifestation of God.

This book is a theophany.

I’m just one chapter away from finishing it now and I’ve been taking it in for a month, slowly, savoring the treasures inside. Ann’s writing makes me want to dance a happy writer’s dance, kind of like the feeling I get reading the prose of Gilead or the poetry of Macrina. It’s. Just. So. Good. I think I have underlined 75% of the words in this book. For example:

A pickup drives into the lane. I watch from the window, two brothers meeting, talking, then hand gestures mirroring each other. I think of buried babies and broken, weeping fathers over graves, and a world pocked with pain, and all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me. If it were my daughter, my son? Would I really choose the manna? I only tremble, wonder. With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too . . . if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our worls, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.
To see through to God.
That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave. (p. 22)

I think what really makes this book worthy of the attention it’s been receiving is who Ann Voskamp is. To be honest, I wouldn’t pay as much attention to it if it were written by a name I already knew well. But Ann is a humble farmer’s wife who writes a blog. She agreed to do book club videos for each chapter that were filmed by two moms with a calling to encourage other Christian women, and her honesty and transparency are amazing to see. Let’s pray through all the popularity she’s gaining that the Lord will protect her heart.

The core of her book is about learning eucharisteo – a Greek word that means thanksgiving. As a self-proclaimed pessimist and complainer, this is really turning me upside-down- finding grace and joy in tragedy and in the everyday.