I connect Thanksgiving to reading books. This is because I still recall being in the fourth grade and finishing my very first chapter book, “The Baby-Sitters Club #13: Good-Bye Stacey, Good-Bye” (by Ann M. Martin) while underneath the kitchen table while my mom cleaned up after our huge family meal. Reading was difficult for me to learn, so most of my classmates had finished their first real book a year or two before me. I was so proud of myself for sticking with the book and actually finishing it.
I have always loved books, but really enjoying reading has come late in life…. as in the last 9-ish years. What I appreciate the most about books is what they have to teach me. I love that AHA Moment you get when you read something new. Fascinating indeed! I love learning from what I read. Nothing can replace it! So, this Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you some books that I am grateful for having the opportunity to read.
So, if you are like me, and you call winter Reading Hibernation Season, and you’re looking for a good book to go along with your hot cocoa (or tea), fuzzy blanket, and the glow of a fireplace while snow whisks in the chilly wind outside, here are my top 5 suggestions of books that have influenced my Christian walk…
5. “The Giver” Author: Lois Lowry Synopsis
This book was part of my 8th grade English academic year. What I remember most about the book is that I loved it and it fascinated me. I re-discovered this book a year or so after seminary, and found the book to be a lot more insightful than what I remembered from my adolescent brain. Recently, there was a movie made from the book, which was a pretty good adaption. The disappointing part that greatly separates the two was in the book you have this ability to draw your own conclusion, but in the movie, they tell you the conclusion (and this is why the book is always better ). The conclusion I gather is the vitality of free will and chaos in any given life. God ruling over us as a great robot commander would look pretty boring and blah (for a lack of a better word). Life, death, hate, love, birth, anger, war, peace, joy, soul-searching, memories, etc… Without these things, we only merely exist, not live. God did not give us a life to merely exist in; He gave us a life to live!
Side note: I also recommend what you might consider the adult version of this book, “The Perfect Day” by Ira Levin because I think it carries the same essence of a message although the plot is quite different (FYI: “The Perfect Day” contains adult themes).
4. “Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture” Author: Adam S. McHugh Synopsis
I found this book about 6 years ago while surfing the net. It sounded amazing, so I ordered it and read it in a few days’ time. I grew up an Evangelical and spent so much of my life feeling inadequate for not being out-going enough. This book really put into perspectives that not only are Evangelists needed but so are the thinkers and theologians. The book is written by a pastor’s own experience, which made it more real to me. I recall one part, where I had to put the book down and just cry, and it was the section that spoke about how introverts are natural servants who don’t want recognition. Being a pastor, I am constantly in front of everyone and if I do something, it gets recognized, and truthfully, that gets old for me really quick. I miss my days, of what I call being an Invisible Servanthood, where I got to do stuff in the background and no one noticed. Another thing that is pointed out is McHugh did a survey of congregation members and asked what they looked for in a leader. The survey revealed attributes from both introvert and an extrovert category, which only goes to show, introverts and extroverts are both needed. McHugh is great at explaining that extroverts get congregation members in the door, and introverts keep them there. We all have a place and must work together. A church without extroverts or a church without introverts would be greatly hurting because something would be missing in The Body of Christ.
3. “Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy” Author: Dr. Timothy Paul Jones Synopsis
I discovered this book while browsing the theology section in our local Christian bookstore, and it was a fantastic find! Dr. Jones explains everything Eschatology (the study of ‘last things’). Although, it is true, I’m a sucker for books about end-times and the afterlife from a theological perspective. This book covers the entire subject from life after death, the four main perspectives of end-times, the four main interpretations of Revelation, Daniel, Matthew 24-25 and Jesus’ other teaches on the topic, Paul’s teachings on the topic, the New Heaven and the New Earth, Genesis 1-3 connection to Revelation 21-22, etc… It’s written in an extremely down to earth manner and easy to follow along (it doesn’t even seem theological), he adds humor into the book, and it is written in an unbiased way so that the reader can draw his/her own conclusion. It was a book that broadened by understanding of Eschatology by seeing how it runs throughout the entire Bible, which absolutely blew me away! There is also a DVD series to go along with it that explains (briefly) the four perspectives and four interpretations of Revelation.
2. “Humility: The Journey towards Holiness” Author: Andrew Murray Synopsis
I have written about this book before in a previous blog, which you can read about here.
1. “Strength to Love” Author: Martin Luther King, Jr. Synopsis
While visiting the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in September of 2013, I came across this book at the gift shop of MLK Jr’s birth home, and I am so grateful I did! This is by far, one of the absolute best theological books I have ever read! If I ever become a teacher, this book will be required reading! The book is composed of sermons MLK Jr. gave throughout his ministry. And trust me when I say this, his speeches were great, but his sermons were far more amazing! His sermons helped me to understand equality, how the American Culture impacts Christianity, and pacifism. The greatest understanding I got out of this book was that love takes strength. It’s easy to hate when treated unfairly, it’s easy to gossip when someone is judgmental, it’s easy to get revenge when someone is cruel, and it’s easy to justify a war. It’s easy to forgive and be passive and it’s easy to hate and stand up for oneself. But to love while demanding justice in a meek and peaceful way… to turn the other cheek…. It takes a great amount of strength that only comes from God. I now understand love as a spiritual discipline. This book really opened my eyes to how much confusion and cloudiness I had been taught by our Christian culture when it comes to agape love. Anything you can get your hands on that is written by MLK Jr or teaches MLK Jr’s philosophy is great, but this is my favorite that I have read so far.
In conclusion, have you read any of these books? Do you have any thoughts on them? What are some books you are thankful for this Thanksgiving season? What have they taught you?
Added note: There are some books coming out at the end of this year and the beginning of the upcoming year that I think are worth mentioning, in case you are looking for books for your New Year’s goal. The first is “Muted Hosannas” by Major Jeff Carter and the second being “The Book of Revelation: A Non-Scary Approach” by Major Philip Davisson. So keep your eyes out for them as well!