In case you forgot, I love to read. Stacks of books seem to pile up all over the house — most of them half read. Other women buy shoes; I buy books.
I love chatting about books. Don’t you? For a couple of weeks now, I’ve wanted to share with you my most recent good reads — because a good book will change your thinking and transform your tomorrow. I’ve read several powerful books last year, and although this post is very tardy, I still wanted to share.
Here is a quick wrap up of what I read in 2016:
- The Rundown: Priscilla Shirer challenges her readers to create a personalized prayer strategy by selecting specific Scriptures to use for pinpoint petitions in the areas of their focus, identity, passion, family, past, fears, purity, pressures, hurts, and relationships. Just as a soldier needs a battle plan, we must create a blueprint for intercession that will empower us to prevail over the schemes of the adversary. By framing our supplications with praise, repentance, asking, and the yes promises of Scripture, we invite God to pour out His strength and position us for victory.
- Memorable Quotes: “Prayer is a reminder to yourself, as well as a declaration to the enemy, that you know he’s there. That you’re on to him. When you bring your concerns and fears and irritations to the Lord in prayer, you’re aligning your weakling spirit with the full force of God’s Holy Spirit. Instead of continuing to fail by taking the battle into your own hands–and taking the battle to the wrong people–you’re joining instead with all the power of heaven to take your fight directly to the source of the problem” (p. 44). “Unforgiveness is a strategic ‘design’ craftily implemented by your enemy to ‘outwit’ you, to cripple your effectiveness in prayer and your power to stand against him victoriously” (p. 153). “Prayer is what greases the friction between us, lubricating the grit and flecks of irritability that work themselves into the system, preventing the normal wear and tear of life from causing us to grate against or rub one another” (pp. 172-173).
- Biggest Takeaway: What struck me the most about this book was the importance of praying specific prayers for myself. I am used to interceding with intention for my spouse, family, and loved ones, but never spent a big chunk of time really praying a covering over targeted areas that impact my effectiveness. Shirer’s book made me think about how I needed to arm myself against the schemes of the enemy to defeat my passion and purpose.
- The Rundown: Beth Moore helps her readers put prayer into practice by pairing Scripture reading with prayer journaling. Each of the 70 devotionals is followed by a journal entry using the “P.R.A.I.S.E” format: Praise, Repentance, Acknowledgement of God’s authority, Intercession, Supplication for Self, and Equipping (asking God to empower you for a victorious day).
- Memorable Quotes: “Beloved, we’re living in the lions’ den. Victory is ours when we walk with God daily in habitual prayer, when we know His Word well enough to trust His sovereignty, and when we cast ourselves on Him and make an honest plea for help. He derives great satisfaction from shutting that lion’s mouth” (p. 41). “How we define and exercise faith makes all the difference in our lives. Believers in Christ must place their faith in one of two factors: either what God does or who God is. If we place our faith in what God is doing, we should brace ourselves for a lifelong roller-coaster ride. Our faith will be high and mighty one day and free-falling the next because it is based on the apparent activity of God in our circumstances…Many answers will never come; much of His activity will never be seen. Victorious faith walks evolve from seeking Him” (p. 112). “We have His thumbprint on us the moment we’re conceived and the imprint of His little finger the moment we leave. Every moment in between, we’re covered by His love. Every moment of our belief, we’re covered by His blood. And when the last breath is drawn, if we are His own, He wraps His arms around our lives and takes us safely home” (p. 209).
- Biggest Takeaway: “Be a neon sign” for God in this dark world: “We are stones rolled away, giving them [people who have given up on finding real life] a glance in the empty tomb. We provide evidence that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Do yourself and your neighbors a big favor. Don’t wait for death to really live. Tell God you want to be a neon sign of life–lingering proof of the resurrection” (p. 23).
- The Rundown: Mark Buchanan argues that setting aside time for Sabbath in our lives creates space for God to replenish our weary souls so that we can live full lives. He invites us to stop striving and start listening for God’s still small voice in the stillness. As we attend to the presence of God, we gain a fresh perspective on our lives and our place in God’s kingdom.
- Memorable Quotes: “The opposite of a slave is not a free man. It’s a worshiper. The one who is most free is the one who turns the work of his hands into sacrament, into offering” (p. 24). “The law of Sabbath is not legalistic. It is a command given to save us from ourselves. If anything, the Sabbath command breaks us of the prison of our own selfishness: it undoes our legalistic bent to go our own way” (p. 115). “A well kept Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for things above. In finding the rest of God now, we prepare for the fullness of God one day. In Sabbath, we anticipate forever” (p. 213).
- Biggest Takeaway: I need to purposefully listen for the voice of God during Sabbath moments: “…Sabbath is when we stop. We slow down We play, we rest, we dream, we wonder. We cease from that which is necessary and turn to that which gives life. And in that hush that descends, we listen” (p. 188).
- The Rundown: Deidra Riggs believes that every single person is designed to make a difference right where they are at this very moment. We change the world when we cooperate with God in seemingly little ways that make an eternal difference. She invites her reader to adventure with God by surrendering expectations to fully worship Him in every little thing.
- Memorable Quotes: “We build trust in God by putting matters back into His hands, one small moment at a time. We build trust in God by taking one small step in His directions and finding out He will always be there to catch us” (p. 73). “When we allow the wilderness experience to strip us down to ‘simply me,’ we are just the right size for God’s big plans” (p. 95). “You do not need to fancy up your life. You don’t need a bigger platform, or a more significant ministry, or a bigger house, or another circle of friends, or more members in your small group, or anything more than what you have when you lift your eyes from the page and take a good, long look around you. The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not need us to make it anything more than it already is. What the Gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to do is to be exactly who we are, in the places where we find ourselves, and to be infused with the salty goodness that comes when we surrender our lives, and our agendas and our hopes and dreams to the power and control of the Holy Spirit” (p. 140).
- Biggest Takeaway: My job is not to fix things. My job is to be faithful. “He calls us to faithfulness in both the miraculous and the mundane (p 56).
- The Rundown: Lysa TerKeurst provides a remedy plan for people pleasers who are too busy rushing today to sense God’s calling for their tomorrow. Rather than being carried away by unreasonable expectations, we must slow down and wisely recognize God’s assignments.
- Memorable Quotes: “Whatever attitude we bring into a situation will be multiplied (p. 58). “Our decisions aren’t just isolated choices. Our decisions point our lives in the direction we’re about to head. Show me a decision and I’ll show you a direction” (p. 68). “…even when we are in chains, God’s Word is still at work within us. In other words, when we tie our identities to God’s truth, God’s Word can and will lift us above the insecurities holding us down, taking us under, and threatening to drown us” (p. 200).
- Biggest Takeaway: “Strength and courage come from keeping God’s Word close” (p. 148).
- The Rundown: Jennifer Dukes is daring us to be happy. Lee created a Happiness Assessment tool for her readers to discover their happiness style: everyone is either a Doer, Relater, Experiencer, Giver, or Thinker. She argues that happiness and holiness are two sides of the same coin and gives us permission to be happy.
- Memorable Quotes: “Happiness isn’t unholy. It’s just misunderstood. What is we began to imagine Jesus with us when we are enjoying what we enjoy? What if, starting today, you tried placing a chair (or picturing one) in whatever room you’ve in and inviting Jesus into the chair? Imagine Him sitting with you. Imagine Jesus with you,wherever you are, not as watchdog for your behavior, but as a friend, delighting in what brings you delight. Share your Master’s happiness, and let Him share in yours” (p. 26). “Our collective happiness is elevated when we all live as our realest selves” (p. 107). “Some of the most stunning journeys toward happiness begin in the darkest dark. And the candle that lights the way out is this tiny, flickering flame of hope” (p. 236).
- Biggest Takeaway: You have to fight for your happy in the midst of sorrow: “Happy people don’t turn away. They sit right in the middle of our mess with us and they cup the broken pieces in their hands as it to say, ‘Here, maybe I can help you with this. And then they lift those broken shards up to God on our behalf because we don’t have the strength to do it on our own” (p. 229).
- The Rundown: Alli Worthington encourages her readers to get off the hamster wheel of busy and step out courageously toward the greater purpose God has created you to accomplish. She argues that God “promises us a spiritual sweet spot even within the crazy that surrounds us” (p. 37). We must learn to say no to the things that drain our souls and focus on what fuels our passion.
- Memorable Quotes: “If you stay focused on God, you will not miss your destiny” (p. 68). “In order for any plant to grow and produce fruit, it must be deeply rooted in good soil. We break busy and find our peace in a world of worry when we live our lives in the knowledge that God loves us and is in control of our lives. By recognizing and releasing our fears to god, bu letting go of our white-knuckled hold on the details of our lives, and by walking in the belief that He loves us and will provide for us, we find peace and comfort” (p. 117).
- Biggest Takeaway: My worth is not based on what I do but on who God is.
- The Rundown: Shelly Miller believes that Sabbath is a delight, not just a duty. She invites her readers to embrace the gift of rest by turning off the noise and tuning in to God. As we set aside time for the sacred, we will find renewal and greater passion for life.
- Memorable Quotes: “Sabbath provides space between you and your problems, enabling you to see from God’s perspective, often with surprising results, like a word breaking through your questions about life and awakening you to something more important” (p. 47). “Acknowledging rest is not a recipe with five easy steps, but a reorientation toward what makes me hungry in the first place. We must rest in order for Him to rise within us” (p. 183). “Sabbath is a holy writ–His love letter to us once a week. When we believe Him by obeying the commandment of Sabbath, His face shines upon us the same way it did on Moses. And everyone notices the brightness” (p. 202).
- Biggest Takeaway: Shelly started the book by sharing how her mother in law likes to say “I don’t do guilt” (p. 21). She argues that guilt is one of the main roadblocks to making Sabbath a reality.
- The Rundown: John and Stasi Eldredge challenge husbands and wives to fight together for romance and redemption in marriage.
- Memorable Quotes: “Marriage is going to ask everything of you, and that is why you must have a vision for it. (Why do you suppose God has us seal the bond with vows, for heaven’s sake?) So there you have it–we live in a great love story, set in the midst of war. We need each other–desperately. We have been entrusted with the heart of another human being. Our loving will prove to the world that love is real. We will play out before the watching eyes the Great Love Story of the ages” (p. 39). “Encouragement has got to be one of the greatest offerings of true companionship. You, better than anyone else, now your mate’s story, and you know where the enemy likes to stick it to them. You can see when they are down, and your words of encouragement can lift them up again” (p. 119). “A woman offers beauty when she offers kindness. The world does not provide tenderness or mercy on a regular basis and we all need it. Offering your husband a safe harbor for his thoughts, concerns, or doubts, and not giving way to your fear yourself is a beautiful expression of your love. Seeing your husband’s strength and telling him what you see feeds his soul. One of the most priceless gifts a woman can give her husband is the message that she believes in him; he is the real deal; he is a real man” (p. 182).
- Biggest Takeaway: I really appreciated the wisdom from experience shared by these 2 authors. They have fought for their marriage in the trenches and on their knees. Their vulnerability with each other and with their readers encouraged me to stay in the fight and to continue to prevail in prayer for my marriage.
- The Rundown: John Maxwell unpacks 15 rules to live by that promote growth and maximize our potential. He states: “Not reaching your potential is like dying with the music still inside of you.” The author challenges his readers choose to intentionally learn the laws and then live them.
- Memorable Quotes: “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time” (p. 73). “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” (p. 116). “Our choices will either lead us to the pain of self discipline or to the pain of regret” (p. 133). “Nobody admires average” (p. 162).
- Biggest Takeaway: Maxwell’s book is a must-read for anyone who feels stuck in a quagmire that keeps you from fulfilling your dreams. His book was like a swift kick in the pants, and I really needed someone to hold up a mirror to my mediocrity. I particularly resonated with Law 8, which he titled “The Law of Pain” and summarized with this wise tag line: “Good management of bad experiences leads to greater growth.” (Note: I read this book as part of an online John Maxwell Mastermind Group lead by my mentor, Craig Huston. The weekly conference calls to discuss our progress made me take a hard look at how this book applied to my life right now. I am so glad that I made this investment. If you are interested in joining an upcoming group, you can connect with Craig through his Facebook page.)
- The Rundown: John Bevere points out that the enemy of our souls is working overtime to keep us trapped in a prison of offense. We begin to filter all of life through the lens of hurt, and this negatively impacts our fellowship with God and others. Bevere encourages the reader to release the offense and walk in forgiveness so that relationships can be restored.
- Memorable Quotes: “If you have given yourself to Jesus and are committed to His care, you cannot be offended because you are not your own” (p. 87). “Our liberty has been given to us for serving and laying down our lives. We are to build and not to destroy. Nor was this liberty given to us to heap things on ourselves. Because we have used it in this manner, many today are offended by the lifestyles of Christians” (p. 117). “The love of God is the key to freedom from the baited trap of offense. This must be an abounding love, a love that continually grows and is strengthened in our hearts. So many in today’s society are deceived y a superficial love, a love that talks but does not act. The love that will keep us from stumbling lays down its life selflessly–even for the good of an enemy. When we walk in this kind of love, we cannot be seduced into talking the bait of Satan” (p. 163).
- Biggest Takeaway: This book was incredibly convicting. It caused me to take a deep look at my heart examine how my selfishness often causes me to be offended, when I should respond with humility and grace.
- The Rundown: Philip Yancey and Brenda Quinn have penned a devotional masterpiece that walks the reader through the “grand narrative” of the Holy Bible. Each day has a reading from Scripture in long story format without the verse divisions followed by a devotional and capped up with a question for “contemplation” and application.
- Memorable Quotes: “God sees each part of our lives as a puzzle piece in the larger picture of life that belongs to Him and is being mae ready for His purpose” (p. 129, Day 68). “Following God calls for hard work. His love and blessings may be easy to receive, but when obedience to God requires us to do something contrary to our human nature, a conflict sets in that tests our commitment. God desires His holiness to take root in us, and He can use precisely these trials of the will to make us more like Himself” (p. 273, Day 147). “Suffering changes my awareness… While being refined by God may be painful, it also points ahead to a better life that awaits me–a life with no need for songs about suffering” (p 665, Day 354).
- Biggest Takeaway: This wonderful devotional walked with me through 2016 like a wise old friend. I have purchased it as a gift for all my loves and count it as one of my favorite books of all time.
Well, there you go! I managed to finish this post before the end of January. I am counting that as a victory at this point. I would love to hear about what is sitting on your nightstand right now.
Q4U: Have you read any good books that make you think lately?
I am sharing “Read in 2016: Books That Make You Think” and joining like-minded sisters at Faith-Filled Friday, Fresh Market Friday, Blessing Counters, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Three-Word Wednesday, Purposeful Faith’s RaRaLinkup, Rich-Faith Rising, Testimony Tuesday, and Moments of Hope.