When I began this exercise back in January of recapping my favorite books, shows and movies for the month, I had no idea it would tell such a story of my general thought patterns and life events. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how the books I read were a reflection of the decisions I needed to make, the twists and turns of my life and the trajectory of my year.
September was no different. When I sent the kids back to school this month and dropped off Andrew for his first year of college, I finally had time for the first time in a long time to think about myself. What did I want to do with my life? Where did I want to focus my attention.
I noticed something about myself that was concerning. I was very inwardly focused. As I spent day after day at home, enjoying the great freedom of doing whatever I wanted with my time, I also was becoming overly obsessed with my own productivity.
In all of my years of working hard at my job and striving to be a good mom and trying to keep up with the housework, I realized that something inside of me had grown cold. I barely ever gave even the slightest thought to people in other parts of the world. Even when I thought about the people living right around me in my own community, my heart felt numb. I was so interested in using my time to accomplish all that I wanted to do in a day, that I rarely gave a second thought to the millions of hurting, suffering and hopeless people in the world.
I started praying that God would ignite in my heart a passion for people in other parts of the world. I wanted to force myself to care about more than just my own family and friends.
About two weeks ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, That Sounds Fun, with Annie Downs. She was interviewing a pastor named David Platt. He was releasing a book, and she said it was the “best book she had read all year.” I’m always looking for a good book recommendation, so before even waiting to hear what the book was about, I switched over to my Audible app to download his new book, Something Needs to Change.
I realized I had just used my last Audible credit a few days earlier, and I would have to look to my library. I knew the library wouldn’t have such a new title in audiobook, so instead I downloaded one of his other books, Radical.
This book is about 10 years old, and I’ve actually had the print version sitting on my shelf for a few years. I didn’t know what the book was about, but it was available. And since I typically have to wait several months to get an audiobook from the library, I hit the button to download it.
If you’ve read this book, you know where this is going.
Basically, this book makes you feel like you’ve taken your desires to live out the “Christian American Dream” and stepped on a landmine.
He talks about the evangelical church in America and how comfortable we’ve become in our consumeristic culture. We go to church in our plush, high-tech auditoriums and sing along with a worship team that performs at a professional level. We grab our free coffee in the lobby and send our kids to children’s programs and youth groups that are more about entertainment than spiritual growth. We critique everything about the service from the pastor’s message to the coffee creamer to the check-in system. (These aren’t the exact examples he gives in the book, but my own interpretation based on my experience.)
Meanwhile, people in Asia are sneaking into house churches under cover of night, knowing that police might come to the door at any minute and arrest them. People have had their tongues cut out for sharing their faith. He described people cramming into small rooms without air conditioning or cushioned chairs or a worship team and feverishly taking notes to learn everything they can about the Bible. He wrote about people giving up all of their possessions to travel to remote parts of the world and sacrifice their lives to tell others about God’s grace and mercy.
After going through a church merger this year, I have whined and complained about how “hard” it can be to go through change. This book made me realize what that word “hard” really means. It gave me a new appreciation for people who are truly doing hard things all around the world to tell others about Jesus. Meanwhile, those of us who have free access to a church on every corner complain about the preaching or the singing or the building or the youth ministry and all that’s not quite right. These things are not hard.
Anyway… I could write a lot more about this book and how it has impacted me this month, but I will stop there. If you haven’t read Radical, it should definitely be on your list!
I will quickly tell you about the other books I read in September!
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
So many people have recommended this book, and it was worth months and months of waiting to finally get the audiobook from the library. Where the Crawdads Sing is probably my favorite fiction book of the year.
I’m not quite finished reading Nice by Sharon Hodde Miller, but when I’m finished, it will deserve it’s own blog post. Miller challenges how we have become a society that is so “nice” that we have replaced courage with compromise, honesty with likability and conviction with cliches. She explains how we use being “nice” to keep the peace, win friends, gain influence and improve our reputations. But “nice” isn’t a substitute for building real virtues like kindness, honesty and authenticity.
BEHOLDING AND BECOMING
I was attracted to the incredible artwork in this book and wanted to read the words that went along with it. In Beholding and Becoming, the author, Ruth Chou Simons challenges readers that what they are beholding in the day to day will shape what they are becoming. Follow her on Instagram to see her gorgeous art!
THE GOOD PLACE
I watched the first two seasons of The Good Place a few years ago when it came out on Netflix. What can I say? It’s cute and funny and basically mindless. Unless you start thinking about it. And honestly, there are so many subtle statement being made about the meaning of life here. Don’t get me started. 🙂
In my personal life, September was the month I also started exploring some opportunities to go back to a real job (as opposed to my “fake job.”) The past four months have been an incredible time of rest and recovery. I was able to go to a retreat in Wisconsin the last week of September and spent time reflecting on what a gift I’ve been given! It seemed an appropriate way to wrap up a season of “learning to live freely and lightly” and praying for what’s next for me!
More on that later…
What was your favorite book, movie or TV show in September? I would love to hear!
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