When asked a question, I may not know the answer but I often suggest a helpful book. I read a lot and love to recommend books to others. So, why not share? Here are my favorite books for summer of 2013. They are not always religious but they are interesting. The list is in no particular order. With each book there is information provided by Amazon.com followed by, “Why I recommend this book.”
“Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence and Power” by N. Graham Standish. Standish describes how a church that is open to God’s purpose, presence, and power can claim God’s blessing. Standish shares the story of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and its journey to become a spiritually deep congregation, one that is inwardly and outwardly healthy: spiritually, psychologically, physically, and relationally. Becoming a Blessed Church will help you discern God’s purpose and the path God is calling your congregation to walk. This book will help you find Christ in your midst and become aware of the many ways the blessings of God’s Spirit flow through your congregation.
Why I recommend this book: “Becoming a Blessed Church” challenges every church to rethink their definition of what it means to be a church for God. The Prologue says it best: “With the concept of the blessed church, Graham Standish brings us back to an understanding of what it means to be the church that experiences God as well as serves God. A blessed church is a glimpse of what a church can be. It is a vision, a glimpse of a healthy church uniquely grounded in a relationship with God that allows blessings to flow through it.” Every church leader should be encouraged to read, study and pray over this book.
“Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence” by Sarah Young. Jesus Calling is a devotional filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year. After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages. They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.
Why I recommend this book: “Draw near to me with a thankful heart, aware that your cup is overflowing with blessings. Gratitude enables you to perceive Me more clearly and to rejoice in our Love relationship.” This excerpt is a sample of how each daily devotion utilizes Scripture to creatively allow you to imagine the voice of God whispering in your ear. My wife, Mell and I read “Jesus Calling” for our daily devotion and prayer time. Our marriage and our lives have been enriched through this book.
“The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan At A Time” by Bob Harris. Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the leading portal through which individuals make microloans all over the world: for as little as $25-50, businesses are financed and people are uplifted. Astonishingly, the repayment rate was nearly 99%, so he re-loaned the money to others over and over again. After making hundreds of microloans online, Bob wanted to see the results first-hand, and in The International Bank of Bob he travels from Peru and Bosnia to Rwanda and Cambodia, introducing us to some of the most inspiring and enterprising people we’ve ever met, while illuminating day-to-day life-political and emotional-in much of the world that Americans never see.
Why I recommend this book: Can a donation of $25 really make a difference? Yes it can and Bob Harris clearly illustrates one way that has proven to be helpful: Micro loans made in third world countries to people who would likely never be helped by a bank. Through his travels, Bob illustrates the personality and the depth of world-wide poverty but in the midst of the poverty we see how lives are being transformed. Through their very real stories, we experience the power of helping others help themselves. “In the center of India’s flag there is a wheel. For Gandhi, it was a simple spinning wheel, the kind that turns wool into thread for making cloth. This spinning wheel has become a symbol of self-reliance.”
“The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” by David McCullough. “Not all pioneers went west.” In The Greater Journey, he tells the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work. What they achieved would profoundly alter American history. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America: Samuel Morse not only painting what would be his masterpiece, but also bringing home his momentous idea for the telegraph. Telling their stories with power and intimacy, McCullough brings us into the lives of remarkable men and women who, in Saint-Gaudens’ phrase, longed “to soar into the blue.”
Why I recommend this book: “They spoke of it then as the dream of a lifetime, and for many, for all the difficulties and setbacks encountered, it was to be one of the best times ever. They were the first wave of talented, aspiring Americans bound for Paris…” David McCullough has a gift for helping us enjoy and appreciate the stories of history. This particular story is about Americans who journey to Paris during the 1800’s and later return to America transformed. Whether the field is art, medicine or politics, America is enriched by the experiences and lessons of this adventurous group of men and women.
“This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers” by Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver. Two people still pastoring reflect honestly here on both the joys and the challenges of their vocation. Anecdotal and extremely readable, the book covers a diversity of subjects revealing the incredible variety of a pastor’s day. The chapters move from comedy to pathos, story to theology, Scripture to contemporary culture. This Odd and Wondrous Calling is both serious and fun and is ideal for those who are considering the ministry or who want a better understanding of their own minister’s life.
Why I recommend this book: I first experienced “This Odd and Wondrous Calling” at a leadership training event when one of the teachers read a short excerpt about shaking hands. “’Welcome. So good to have you here.’ I think, focus on their names. Catch the names before they simply drop to the floor. But while I am chatting with the new couple I see out of the corner of my eye, next in line, someone whose grandmother just died…” If you want to know what preachers actually, think, feel and experience then you will appreciate, “This Odd and Wondrous Calling.”
Next week: Five more books to recommend. Meanwhile, send me your comments or suggestions for other books to: LarryDaviies@PrayWithYou.org