Updated: Jan 14, 2022
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us - This book was a gift from a lovely friend and was just that - a gift and wonderful way to begin 2021. A work that magnifies the attributes only a perfect, holy God can possess, it is also a much needed reminder that our sin often stems from striving to emulate the parts of God we were never intended to.
It's broken up into 10 chapters full of Scripture, practical examples, stories, and exhortations for us to worship our Maker and not ourselves. This is one I continue to be convicted by and definitely want to re-read in the coming year.
In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls us to Reflect His Character - Penned by the same author as the volume above, this "sister" book highlights aspects of God's character that we are called to emulate as His image bearers.
It brings to mind the fruit of the Spirit, and the weight of that key phrase "of the Spirit" because we are incapable of mirroring these parts of God on our own. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Until Unity - A timely book in the face of a Church wrought with tension and division. Francis Chan's best words in this book are not his own - they come in the biblical passages he writes out in full. It is as if he is saying, “Since you’re willing to open up this book, let me point you to the truth you really need” because ultimately the call to unity is not a call from Francis Chan but from Jesus Christ.
He not only commands our unity. He alone is the source of it. And in His last days, it's what He prayed for us.
Moving Mountains Without Muscles - I'm a bit partial to this book because my Uncle Tom wrote it in his final years, finishing it just before he was called home in November 1999. It puts readers in his shoes, and eventually his wheelchair, tracing the story of himself and my Uncle Steve facing a tough diagnosis. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This disease would ultimately lead to the deterioration of their muscles, the inability to breathe on their own, and the paralysis of their bodies, putting their feet out from under them and placing them in electric wheelchairs.
He is painfully real about the implications this disease had for his family and on his own life. Though he was frustrated by his disease, it ultimately led him to saving faith in Christ and a yearning for heaven that made his death - while full of great sadness for those who would miss him - also replete with great joy for we knew he was with the Savior he longed to meet face to face. In the words of my four year old self to my mom upon receiving the news of his death, "He can walk now?!" Actually better than that - he is walking with Jesus.
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers - This book is the only one (other than the Bible) that I've ever read which focuses so intently on the heart of Jesus. What I am most grateful for is that it models the practice of slowing down to meditate on the character of Christ in our own Bible reading.
It took me a while to get through it, reading only a chapter each time I sat down because I wanted to study, take notes, explore the words and stories of Jesus, and dive into the discourse included in its pages. Two thoughts: (1) Books like this should always be read with a Bible in the other hand and (2) My only note is that it had less Scripture in it than I would have anticipated.
A New Name: Grace and Healing for Anorexia - This personal narrative is real about how this disease of the body, mind, and heart enslaves you. It reflects all the conflicting emotions and things that don't make logical sense. And it's redemptive - not in the sense of healing on one's own strength or modifying behaviors - but healing because of an encounter with Jesus who changes hearts.
If you've ever struggled with this or know someone who does, I would definitely encourage you to give it a read. It shares the good news we're all longing for, ultimately pointing to the One who broke His body for ours, bringing healing for all eternity.
Innocent Witnesses: Childhood Memories of World War 2 - For my final read of 2021, I returned to my History major days. Comprised of various excerpts from memoirs, this book takes you into the lives of seven children who grew up during World War 2. It's unique in that you read the memories of a child in wartime, with reflections and various gaps filled in from their adult selves.
All the accounts are different but these themes prevail in each story: children growing up without their fathers, families separated for years, constant movement and displacement, unimaginable cold, immense hunger and food shortages, bombing raids where children grew accustomed to being dragged from their beds into rat-infested cellars, along with the constant horrors of prejudice and hatred.
The author, while not a follower of Jesus, takes a moment in the final chapter to reflect on each person's faith. It's unclear if any of them would have claimed a personal relationship with God at any point in time, but by the end of their lives, most renounced Him altogether and others clung to a solely cultural version of faith. This grieved my heart because in the face of such brokenness, the grossness of which many of us have never borne direct witness to and can scarcely fathom, we are confronted with the truth that the gospel is truly the only hope our world has.