Top 14 books of 2014, part 2

This is part two of my countdown to 2015 in book list form. Read part one here (#s 14-8), and then follow along below for #s 1-7. Happy reading! Slide2

#7 The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom (2001) This book is quite simply a gift to therapists, counselors, psychologists, and all other helping professionals. Yalom draws on his vast experience, using stories and honest sharing to pass along what he’s learned to “a new generation of therapists.” His conversational tone makes it feel like you’re talking with an old friend, or better yet, a mentor who’s been there and will guide you in your practice of caring and counseling. 

#6 In Our Lives First by Diane Langberg (2013) Langberg is a professional long-distance mentor for me. Her work on helping victims of abuse and trauma has been formative for me as a counselor, and I’ve had the privilege to hear her speak a few times. She is a Christian psychologist in Philadelphia, and this book is a 6-week daily devotional written for helping professionals. It can be too easy to get lost in the problems of those I’m helping and neglect my own life and heart. Her words here called me back, with paragraphs like this one: 

Do we really believe we can lead another to freedom from bondage when we are enslaved to something ourselves? … How can we cultivate purity, holiness, patience, endurance, and self-control in the lives of those God brings to us when such things are not truly present in the recesses of our lives? .. We must be what we would have those who follow us become. … wherever you need to go, I must be willing to go first in my own life. If I do not, though I may bring skills and techniques that may be helpful, I will not bring them infused with the life of God.

The governance of our lives is not to be compassion, but rather the God who is compassionate. The difference is profound.

#5 Made for More by Hannah Anderson (2014) As my September book of the month, you’ve heard me rave about this book before. Her subtitle says it all: “an invitation to live in God’s image,” and her book delivers just that. I found on every page a call to reexamine what it means personally and relationally that we as humans are made to image God. To literally be a reflection of the divine. She takes what’s a basic theological truth and states it in new ways. 

…we are by nature image bearers. So when we turn from God, when we refuse to base our identity in Him, we are compelled to find it somewhere else because we must reflect something. … And as we image this false god, our very personhood crystallizes around it. … When we center our identity on these ‘lesser glories,’ we become defined by them, and we end up defining reality by them as well.

The paradox of personal identity is that once we accept that we are not what we should be, we are finally in a place to be made what we could be. … Once we admit the inadequacy of our lives, we are finally able to discover the sufficiency of His. And this is what Christ offers us. He offers us His identity; He offers us Himself. When we are joined to Him, when our lives are ‘hidden with Christ in God,’ we can finally die to our old selves because as His image bearers, we become whatever He is.

#4 Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung (2013) I picked up this book at the perfect time: in May of this year after an extremely season of being too busy. It is short, practical, and convicting. Full of zingers written not from “above” (meaning the place of “here’s my wisdom for all of you down there who struggle with overcommitment and lack of margin in your life”) – but right alongside. I found his honesty refreshing, and his insights convicting. For example, his one sentence diagnosis of the problem of our busy lives:

We are so busy with a million pursuits that we don’t even notice the most important things slipping away.

Not until they’re absent, that is. DeYoung speaks to this:

Most of us fall into a predictable pattern. We start to get overwhelmed by one or two big projects. Then we feel crushed by the daily grind. Then we despair of ever feeling at peace again and swear that something has to change. Then two weeks later life is more bearable, and we forget about our oath until the cycle starts all over again. What we don’t realize is that all the while we’ve been a joyless wretch, snapping like a turtle and as personally engaging as a cat. When busyness goes after joy, it goes after everyone’s joy.

He discusses the question of why with seven diagnoses, and presents  the quest to let go of “crazy busy” as a community pursuit. If you want 2015 to be less busy than 2014, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for you.

#3 Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (2009) Close on the heels of “Crazy Busy” is this book on the value of simplicity in parenting. I wrote more about it here in a post on “white space, children’s edition.” In our more, more, more! culture, we need to read more about the power of less. This book provides a good, do-able starting point for that journey. It has already shaped what I’m doing with my girls’ toys (purging and storing more of them); how we are rethinking our schedules moving into 2015; and helped me to re-focus on what’s most important to me in this unique, short season of parenting young twins. 

Having done the hard work of simplifying, you’ll see when ‘must-have’ things or activities are really just new variations of ‘More!’, bound to be quickly forgotten or discarded. … Rescue their childhood from stress, and they will inevitably, remarkably, day by day, rescue you right back.

#2 A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman (2013) Freeman continues to be a favorite author and blogger (see last year’s list – a previous book of hers was #1 for me in 2013), and this book was no different. She invites me to see myself as God’s poem – his artwork – and a fellow artist along with him in my world, whether my “medium” is setting the table, cleaning up preschoolers’ messes, counseling, writing, etc. All of us are artists, and our art will be expressed in “a million little ways.” 

Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways – through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack. … God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience – both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat. We must make art, even in our weakness.

Her teaching shaped and inspired my series that will be ongoing of “embracing imperfection.” Her 4-week art course based on this book is amazing, too, and available for free here

#1 Teach Us To Want by Jen Pollock Michel (2014) Desire and the life of faith – how often I’ve wanted a book that addressed this without minimizing the power of desire or God’s power to shape our desires. Enter this amazing book that is in my #1 place for 2014. She uses the Lord’s Prayer as a guide to discuss various aspects of, “longing, ambition, and the life of faith.” She does not shirk the hard, difficult parts of desire and faith, talking openly about her own struggles in her marriage and church, and her attempt to make sense of difficult tragedies in her life. She’s a brilliant writer, and I look forward to many more books from her in the future. I’ll end this incredibly long post (thanks for sticking with me!) with a few of the MANY underlined portions of my copy of this book:

Here is how desire becomes corrupt: wanting derails into selfishness, greed and demanding ingratitude when we’ve failed to recognize and receive the good that God has already given. Trust is at the center of holy desire: trust that God is good and wills good for his people.

And though it would seem that the forces of evil desire are strong, the Lord’s Prayer is one force of resistance: these words are the arms we bear, this prayer is ground we stand when the lure of east [of Eden] feels almost irresistible.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Unlike a prayer of moral resolution, this is our white flag of moral surrender. We face our depravity, even in the face of our desires — and we embrace the good news of first-century miracle. Jesus has exchanged death for life, love for indifference, sacrifice for selfishness, innocence for guilt, and looking back at the moment of historic exchange and his faithfulness, we learn to pray, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. To this prayer, Jesus joins his own faithful intercession: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they want. 

Our desires say something about us — who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.

*note: some affiliate links included (for the books – if you click on them and order them through Amazon, I’ll get a very, very small percentage of your order from Amazon)

7 thoughts on “Top 14 books of 2014, part 2

  1. Thank you for sharing your favorites reads of 2014. I blogged my way through Emily Freeman’s book this past year. It was so good. Happy New Year!

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