On the Bookshelf

My Top 6 Reads of 2016

how-toI absolutely love to read. Reading takes you to places & times you can never go in real life. When you have no money, it makes a great vacation. When you want to travel through space & time, it can take you there. Unfortunately…I have very little time to enjoy the benefits of reading & even when I do, I am an extraordinarily slow reader. Through high school & college I had little down time to read the things I wanted to & it was the same while I was teaching, but my job-change in 2016 gave me a lot more time. My reading goal last year was to read at least 10 books. Now…that may not sound like many books at all, but for me it was a lot. I pushed myself & was actually able to surpass my goal by reading 16 books before the end of the year. Again, that may not sound like a lot, but for me it was.

The books I got to read the last year:
The Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times, by Charles F. Stanley
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis
Revolution in World Missions, by K.P. Yohannan
Blood Orange Brewing, by Laura Childs
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1), by L.Frank Baum
George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles, by Basil Miller
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis
The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis
The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

All of these are great books. Some of these were challenging mentally or spiritually, some were just for fun, & some were just to mark of my list so I could say I read them. But out of the 16 I read, I fell in love with 6 of them. 6 of these books challenged me to grow in my walk with the Lord & grow as a person. To some, that may not be important, but to me it’s a passion that has been growing in my heart for a while.

My top 6:
The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times, by Charles F. Stanley- I started reading this book in 2015 & didn’t finish it until 2016 (if that tells you how slowly I read). My dad suggested this book to me when I had hit rock bottom emotionally, spiritually, mentally, & physically. I was burdened & stressed all the time. I was so overwhelmed with the situations around me that a lot of times I would just sit on the couch & vegg out. I’d watch hours of tv just for the sake of not having to think about everything else. Obviously, that only made things worse because stuff around me would just pile up & I’d get further behind & more stressed. He suggested this book to me when I had gotten to the point of realizing I couldn’t get out of my situation on my own. I needed someone to talk to so I started going to counseling & I began reading this book outside of that for my own sake. Maybe part of the reason it took me so long to read was the fact that I needed to process it. I needed to read it in chunks so I could think about & understand it…to let it marinate & sink into my soul. The book gave me a different perspective on my situations & showed me that there’s not any 1 reason why God allows us to go through hard times…it’s different for each person because God knows what each person needs. In my case, He was pushing me towards himself. He was pushing me to a place where I had to realize I couldn’t depend on myself & how hard I work or how well I do…but a place of reliance on Him. I will never master it, at least not until I see Him face-to-face, but that book was 1 of many very important stepping stones in my life leading me closer to Christ.

Revolution in World Missions, by K.P. Yohannan- This book was fascinating. It was an analysis of the American church, our heart for God & missions from an outsider’s perspective. It changed my perspective & gave me more of a heart for missions than I have had in a long time. It challenged me to check myself in a lot of areas- my relationship with God, our finances, what I need vs. want, how I relate to others, & more. If you read it, though, be prepared to have your toes crushed….just sayin’.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I really loved this book. I saw the older movie a long time ago & loved that. I’m one of those weird people who’d rather watch the movie and THEN read the book, that way I can enjoy both movie & book (You know, movie’s good but the book is better instead of the book being great but the movie not meeting my expectations…anywho). This book was fascinating to me. It reflects how the way we think of ourselves often affects our behavior. The transformation of Mary Lennox throughout the book is wonderful. She behaves badly in the beginning because everyone neglected her & therefore she didn’t think too much of herself. The more she got around other people, she began to notice their behaviors, the good & the bad, & compare those things to herself. She noticed the good & decided in herself she wanted to be more like that. But she noticed the bad, too, like what she saw in her cousin, & that changed how she behaved. It’s a good reminder we should constantly be reflecting on ourselves, our actions & attitudes, & look for ways to improve ourselves to get rid of & change the negative.

The Horse & His Boy, by C.S. Lewis- As you may have noticed, I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series in 2016. Surprisingly (& somewhat sad), this was the first time I’ve ever read the series. I loved it, though. The whole series is wonderful & is a fantastic way to make what is usually very difficult theology easy to understand, especially for children (which I guess was the whole point). But out of the whole series, I had 2 favorites, one of them being The Horse & His Boy. I love this story because it’s different than the rest. It’s the only book we get to see what the cultures are like OUTSIDE of Narnia. Also, sprinkled throughout the story the boy constantly notices large cats, or lions around. Some of them end up protecting him, some he feels threatened by. In the end, you find out it’s always been the One lion, Aslan, & that the moments He seemed threatening were moments he was guiding the boy in the directions he needed to go for his safety or as a way to escape. It’s a beautiful story of God’s protection, guidance, divine knowledge & will, & the fact that He leads us through things for our own good, even if it doesn’t seem like it or we can’t see where we’re headed at the time.

The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis- Again, another of the Chronicles of Narnia series…and again, 1 of my 2 favorites. You know, it was strange. I read a decent number of negative reviews for it on Goodreads. People talking about how they didn’t understand it, it was a horrible children’s book because (spoiler) they all died. As I read the book, I found their negative reviews to be incredibly telling. They didn’t like the book because they didn’t understand what it was really about. This story is a simpler version of the end times described in the book of Revelations. The donkey posing as Aslan representing the anti-Christ, the mixing of religious ideas…the idea that “all religions are the same” as a comparison to the growing culture in the end, the fact that they don’t actually win the battle in the end but all die trying representing the difficulties the saints will go through. Those that don’t understand the story stop there & think it’s terrible because they lose & all die. The problem, though, is that the story doesn’t stop there. They got to move on to a much better place, closer to Aslan, & ultimately, all those who were evil & set against Aslan in the world are completely wiped out & defeated by Him once & for all. It is a story of hope, ultimate, complete, & true hope, because even though the battle may have been lost, it was for the sake of winning the whole war.

George Muller: Man of Faith and Miracles, by Basil Miller- Last but not least, probably one of my all-time favorite books. It is a biography of an incredible man of faith. For me it brought challenge & hope at the same time. Prayer is something I struggle with because it often makes me feel very uncomfortable due to previous experiences. But it gave me hope. Hope, because it showed me prayer isn’t some mumbo-jumbo, that God is not my little convenience machine- pop in a prayer & out comes my wish. It showed me that I can truly have a communication with God- that I can pray to seek His will & He’ll lead me. And not only will He lead me, He’ll provide. Do you know how much hope there is in that? No longer having to feel like I’m wandering around in the dark, blind-folded, trying to guess what God wants me to do next. There’s hope because God has a plan for me to follow & that He’ll provide for that. There is so much hope in being able to see my prayers answered- maybe not always how or when I expect, but answered. This biography showed me prayer isn’t some 2-second thing I say or repeat every morning, but it’s regular communication with my Lord that requires discipline & perseverance. It also provided insight & ideas to help improve my prayer life. This biography showed me I don’t have to be a missionary in some developing nation to see God move in me & in the world…but that when I seek His voice daily his response is “Watch & see.”

Be blessed friends.

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