What we read or meditate on deeply affects how we think and ultimately, who we become. As the year ends, I’ve been thinking about what reads have most shaped me over the last year. The following is a list and brief explanation of some of the most perspective-changing books or blog posts I have read this past year. (I would love to hear what books or blog posts have most influenced you this past year! Please share in the comment section!)
1. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
A great read if you need help loving sinners (and realizing you are one.)
This book was single-handedly THE most influential read of the year for me. Because: it demolished my pride. And showed me my desperate need for Jesus. It’s a short simple book based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. What I most enjoyed is that the book is written for the (moral/rule-keeping/law-oriented) “older brother,” more than the (rebellious/prodigal/stray sheep) “younger brother.” I had no idea how closely I would identify with the “older brother.” But the more I read of his pride and arrogance and anger, I couldn’t help but whisper, “That’s me, that’s me.” I also felt more love, and mercy, and grace for the “younger brother” figures in my life, and saw them in a totally new light. I saw us as being not so different from each other, really quite the same, because we both are desperate for Jesus. A favorite quote: “The gospel is distinct: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change.”
A great read if you want to see God everywhere, and see His hand in all things.
This was some of the best writing (in a Christian book) I have read in…well, ever. Voskamp writes beautiful, poetic prose–but there is a heartbeat behind it too. This book is about being radically grateful for your everyday, messy, chaotic, seemingly train-wreck life. Voskamp was dared to come up with 1,000 things she was thankful for, and in the process, she takes her readers on her journey of her transformation. To be honest, I was annoyed with it at first. It seemed too sticky-sweet to me. But the further I read, I found out, this is the secret to joy–and there is no other way to get it. Readers are challenged to start their own joy-journey of making a list to one thousand. (I’m only on #86) but I can testify to the power and release of joy in naming the gifts God has given me. If you want to slow time down, be happier, and cherish the life and people God has given you, I suggest reading this book, and actually taking the challenge. It could literally change your life. It’s beginning to change mine.
3. Mom vs. Mom: The War I Didn’t See Coming by Jeanne Harrison, Loving My Lot
A great read if you are a new or experienced mom who needs to stop comparing with other moms and permission to be yourself.
This was the blog post that first welcomed me into motherhood (and blogging) as I know it. It is an honest, and hilarious account of one woman’s attempt to try to keep up with all the other mom’s. I first read it when my daughter was just months old, and it just made something break in me. I could suddenly breathe. (I was set free by a blog post. Hallelujah!) But it’s true, a giant weight was lifted off of me, and I could suddenly be myself, and start to enjoy motherhood as the woman God created me to be, and not as the one I thought I needed to be, because “she” was.
4. The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
A great read if you want to shirk your household duties, get lost in a futuristic world and become perplexed over the realities of where our culture is heading if we don’t pay attention.
I think it must have been in response to reading #3 that I even picked this up at my library, and gave myself permission to enjoy something that was…for once, fiction. I was so gripped by this story that I burnt every meal for a week (my husband can testify) and became so consumed with thinking about it, I was even dreaming about it. (I admit, it was slightly dangerous for me, and turned me into a horrible home-maker.) And yet, it also opened up my eyes to life outside my home and my imagination of what our culture could be like someday. It is an intense story, if you don’t know it, and I believe is meant to show us a picture of what our world could become. It certainly shaped my outlook on the culture and vanity and excess we have in our country.
5. “Ten Big, Daily Reminders” by Matt Reagan @ Desiring God
A great read (daily) if you need to need help remembering what is true and not being swept away by your emotions or circumstances.
Sometimes I lose my bearings. I am a small-picture person, and I quickly lose sight of God and the big picture. Going through this list tremendously helps me get my focus back on God and reality. It’s just ten simple truths that give me solid framework for how to think, and help direct my thoughts away from fear, anxiety, or distraction. I can’t tell you how this has set me free from self-pity, expectations, and joylessness. Reading this list, (especially #5), made me realize I don’t deserve any of the blessings I have, not one. Thank you God!
6. Six Lessons In Good Listening by David Mathis @ Desiring God
A great read if you need to become a better listener, spouse, or friend.
This is about how to listen well to people. Because when you listen well, you know how to love better, and speak better, too. I printed it out and highlighted all through this one. And then I realized I was actually a horrible listener. It made me start to think about what my marriage, and relationships would look like, if I really listened more carefully. I plan to take this one into the new year, as one of my goals is to be a better friend. And to listen well.
7. My First World Problems by Sasha @ MomLife Now
A great read if you haven’t thought about life outside America for awhile.
I didn’t realize how powerful this was the first time I read it. But days, weeks, and even months later, I still find myself thinking of the message: Am I complaining about a “first world” problem, when there are millions suffering in much worse conditions? I am sure there is much written on this subject, but this was the first that made me start to really think. Now, when I begin to open my mouth about a problem with my cell phone, or that the grocery store was out of the toothpaste I like, this little voice comes back: “Is this a first world problem?”
Okay, now what what reads have most influenced, or changed your perspective this year? Anything you plan on reading this coming year? I would love to hear! (And I’m sure other readers would be glad for the referrals as well.)
Happy New Year and Happy Reading! May this year’s reading, whether fact or fiction, book or blog, or anything else you put before your eyes, shape you more and more into the image of Jesus. And may your eyes open further to His light, and your heart move closer to His warmth.
“May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing in Your sight. O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14