My Top Five Books of 2014

Someone once told me that a good leader reads at least a book a month. Seeing as to how this same person read a book a week on average and was a phenomenal leader, I figured I should give it a shot. Eventually, I started keeping a running list on what I read for future reference. These are the top five books I found most enjoyable to read (in no particular order). They’re not necessarily the “best,” only the ones that took me off guard with their goodness.

  1. The Lost World of Genesis One – John H. Walton

Every so often you stumble on one of those books that completely shatters your view Scripture in the best way possible. This is one of those books. In a time where many people are torn between creationism and evolution, it’s easy to wonder where you stand. While The Lost World of Genesis One doesn’t provide any clear answer (I personally walked away with more questions than answers), Walton does a great job at helping us understand the context in which Genesis One was written and how that context informs the passage.

  1. The God Ask ­– Steve Shadrach

If you’d told me six months ago reading a book on personal support raising would be fun, I would’ve laughed in your face. As much as I love my job there are some parts that are more challenging than others. Personal support raising sits at the top of that list. Between your loved one’s misconceptions of what you do and the lies you, as well as the enemy, tell yourself, support raising is tough business. This book not only gives you hope it’s possible, this book will convince you it’s a privilege.

3. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free – Tullian Tchividjian

A book about suffering an enjoyable read? Granted a large part of that probably had to do with my lack of affliction, I found this book to be refreshing. Tchividjian neither dismisses suffering as real nor does he allow us to remain so eclipsed we fail to see the hope. Like a true shepherd, he embraces us while helping us find comfort in Jesus. It’s not about understanding why but understanding who is with us in our suffering.

  1. Unlost – Michael Hidalgo

I honestly didn’t have high expectations for this book. I got it free courtesy of my job and it sat on my shelf collecting dust for months. But when I read it I was glad I did. Hidalgo is one of those people who just get it. He pushes past all the “religious” gunk so we can get to the core of the matter and in doing so he invites the reader into the joy that can be found in following Jesus. I want my students to read this book.

  1. Disunity in Christ – Christena Cleveland

I don’t know if there’s ever been a book that’s convicted me while simultaneously making me laugh but Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ did it. Drawing deep from her well of sociological and theological knowledge, she exposes the forces that are secretly destroying and dividing the body of Christ and gives us hope for better. You’ll walk away feeling validated in your expression of faith but also challenged not to look down on others for theirs. And might I add: black woman? Boo-yah!

Bonus: Paper Towns – John Green

In reading books that often pertain to God, it’s easy to read to attain facts or new ideas and forget how to read with the heart. While fiction isn’t always conducive to productivity, sometimes it’s nice to get lost in a story. And that’s what happened with Paper Towns. It’s got everything I love: love, misadventure, and black Santas. Only qualm I have with this book is that the second section of the book lags on a bit, especially in light of the first. But aside from that, it was wonderful. My favorite from him so far.

Honorable Mention (only because I’m not done): Bonhoeffer: Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas

Normally I rush through books like there’s no tomorrow but with Eric Metaxas’ sweeping biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’ve been taking my sweet time. As someone who didn’t pay attention in history class, this book is catching me up on all the things I missed. I love this book and so glad I saved this one as my last read of the year.

Day Zero: An Introduction

Here’s the deal:

Over a week ago I challenged myself to share my thoughts on an album I’m listening to every day for the next 30 days in December. Originally I was going to try to maintain my regular blog at the same time but writing a blog daily while trying to balance a weekly site hasn’t been going so hot. So for this week’s post I’m going to refer you to the introduction to my music blog. Hope you enjoy.

Albums I'm Listening To

When I was an undergraduate student I had a poetry professor who had us read particular poets each week. We’d come together to discuss the artist’s view on poetry, what ultimately made their style unique, and, in turn, we were asked to write a poem imitating their style. Though I wasn’t a particularly great poet and to this day don’t understand poetry for the life of me, it was in that class I came to appreciate the art form a little more.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of music. Since the tender age of seven, touring the world with my best friends, playing songs I loved was all I ever wanted to do. When I first started blogging I thought music was going to play a bigger role my entries but as it turns out a lot of my weekly musings center on Jesus (go figure). Nevertheless I…

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The Idol of Productivity

Don’t ask me why but I recently watched some Hallmark-esque movie about a hopeless romantic who meets the man of her dreams only to discover he’s not actually what she wants. More interesting than the story itself was its side narrative of the main character’s sister, the sister’s boyfriend, and their recent engagement.

The story goes as such: right when everything seemed hunky-dory, their relationship took a turn for the worst. The wedding was around the corner and the man was nowhere to be seen. Every time they planned to be together, whether for dates or wedding planning, he “had to work.” This practically persisted the entire movie until one day the girl vanished, ignoring his phone calls. When he finally got a chance to explain, it turned out he’d been working all those hours to get her a legitimate engagement ring. She took him back; they got married, and presumably lived happily ever after.

At the end of it, all I could think about was how 1) flashing some fancy ring would not have worked that easily in real life (most people would’ve preferred time with the person to some object) and 2) how I know that because I’ve been there before. Not just with my wife, but with God as well.

I worship the idol of productivity. That is to say, I find my worth in what I can accomplish; and because no idol is satisfied without a sacrifice, what gets sacrificed is my connectedness to God.

Most people, when I say that, will ask me if I’m having quiet times and refer me to the tail-end of Mark 1 but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about those tender, solitary moments with Jesus that happens in quiet and stillness, unrushed and unhurried, the kind of moments that teach you how to remain in solitude with God even when you’re not alone. Like the man in the story I get so caught up in doing things for God, I forget all he wants is me. The issue isn’t that I’m not having quiet times. The problem is that I’ve quarantined God to those one or two hours so that I can get stuff done.

Beneath all this is my desire to people please. I’m so terrified of being perceived as a dead-weight disciple I do my best to produce and perform, compromising my relationship with God as I work to find my value in work and other people’s opinions. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Sitting with God for extended periods of time feels counterintuitive.

But here’s the thing: in doing things by my own effort I’m wasting energy. Sitting in His presence allows us to discern his will and gain next steps. But more importantly, it allows us to separate who we are from what we do. We are no longer staff workers or leaders; we are His children whom He ransomed.

Working hard isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing. But too much of a good thing can become, as they say, a “God” thing. And that is idolatry, which I’ve been wrestling with for the past month.