I got an email from our landlord the other day. The subject was “Wash exterior window sills” and the email read,
Hello Mrs. Bethany on Thursday morning ie. Oct. 16. 2014 at home?
You will need to wash again sills and you have a lot of work with children, so I ordered the lady who would at 9.30 pm. Washed it in the apartment.
Greetings to all .Thank you.
What a great email. Not only is she very nice in how she words everything, but she paid for a lady to come and wash the window sills for us. I’ve shared before about the window sills, but they are big and there are a lot of them. With everyone not feeling great it’s been hard to get them cleaned. We were so thankful for the kindness of our landlady to do that for us. The only tricky part was the 9:30pm part. I assumed it was AM, and I was actually right, but she came today around 11. No biggie. We were home and she did an awesome job.
For lunch today we decided to get pizza to-go from a local place here in town. To give Bethany a little break, I took the kids with me. It’s a walkable distance, but with Titus and Avery it pretty much doubles the length of time I’m going to be gone. It was raining lightly when we left so I brought umbrellas which quickly turned in to “bumper umbrellas” as the kids kept running in to each other and laughing. The pizza guy speaks great English so I ordered and I told him we would be back in a few minutes and off we went to the bookstore.
I needed to look for some new Czech language books as we are pursuing a new teacher and she goes through different material. I was able to find the books after going through the store two times over. The only problem was they only had 1 set of the books in stock (there are 3 books in the series). When I got the checkout it proved very difficult to communicate that I needed another set. After a few minutes of trying to speak and trying to use my phone to translate I kind of got the gist: I think they needed to order more and would arrive in the future, maybe next week? Another lady in the store overheard me and the clerk trying to communicate and walked up and said, “Do you need help?” in perfect English. Score! I told her I think I know what’s going on but she was able to tell me that they are ordering the books and they will come tomorrow. Ah! “Tomorrow…” — that’s the word I confused as “next week.” Now they know why I need the books.
Tonight we got a babysitter and had a date night. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten away together just Bethany and I, so it was a blessing. We had originally planned to go to dinner with friends but I felt like we just needed some time to ourselves tonight. A girl from our church watch our kids and she was great. Bethany and I went to the mall in Ostrava and had–wait for it–Burger King for dinner. Don’t judge us. It actually sounded really good, is cheap, and just the small taste of America, fast food or otherwise, is a blessing. After dinner we just walked around and relaxed and ended up leaving earlier than we expected. It was a fun night together and I’m thankful for the focused time with my wife.
Every night I sit down to write about our day here in Czech. Most days have at least one event that I can expound on in this new place, but today was just normal. I say normal because we had a nice breakfast together as a family, I worked at the JV offices most of the day and we spent the evening having dinner with some of our teammates. For the most part, that’s pretty normal. So in lieu of trying to find something exciting (besides the amazing Swedish pancakes my wife made for breakfast today), I thought I would answer a question from my friend, Scott.
He recently asked me to put together a list of my ten favorite books, so I’m publishing them here for everyone to see. As I looked back at the books I’ve consumed it becomes very apparent the genre that I tend towards is Christian theology. I didn’t really become an avid reader until the past eight years and I try to read twelve books every year. I’m sure this list could and will change in the future, but here are the books that I would say have had the most impact on my life up till this point (these are listed here in no particular order):
Holiness By Grace by Bryan Chapell – This book radically changed my understanding and view of God’s grace. It has influenced my reading of Scripture and my view of God in general. In fact, “it’s all grace” (the name of this site) was a phrase that kept coming to my mind after I read this book. As someone who struggled greatly with legalism, and still do, knowing that there’s nothing I can do to earn more of God’s favor is freeing and produces joy. Christ finished it all on the cross.
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure by Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Why don’t Christians have joy? Are not Christians supposed to be the most joyful people in the world? These are the questions Martyn Lloyd-Jones wants to answer and they are questions that are just as relevant today as they were when this book was written 50 years ago. It’s a book the is saturated in God’s Word and so helpful in thinking through why we lose our joy in the Christian life and how to get it back again.
The Bible – I wonder sometimes why people don’t put this in their book lists. Maybe we just assume Christians like the Bible, but I really do like to read the Bible. Currently, I’m reading 10 chapters in 10 different books every day and have been for almost two years now. It’s an incredible book filled with amazing people, amazing stories, and an amazing God who loves us! The picture we get of Christ in the gospels, watching the transformation of the disciples and the new church beginning in Acts, reading the creation story in Genesis, and even listening to the prophets–it’s all in the Bible! Even though I’ve read through the Bible multiple times, I’m still amazed at what I think I’m reading for the first time. This book is amazing but the God of in the book will make it worth the read.
Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer by Grant Horner – Written by one of my professors at The Master’s College, I think this book stands alone as the book on film and how to watch movies to the glory of God. This is not a book about which movies to watch, but a higher level book on how to watch movies with a focus on Christ. You’ll be amazed at how Prof Horner helps you discern through the different film genres and what you can be thinking about as you watch. Over and over he says, “God makes us in His image, we make movies in ours.” It’s a book worth reading if you’re ever going to watch another movie!
How To Read a Book by Mortimer Adler – The title really tells all on this one, but this book, originally published in 1940, is still the book on how to read. It walks through all the different genres of literature (including a section on reading the Bible) that will help you read better, take better notes, and just think better as you read. I never read a book without a pen now, and I’m constantly writing in the margins and trying to find the key phrases from each author. It’s worth at least one read in your life time and maybe a couple more.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes – This is a 600+ autobiography that reads like a thriller. I plowed through each page of this book just waiting to see what happens, even though the author tells you the ending at the beginning of the book. This book gives you an inside scoop into what was going on in Germany during the reign of Hitler and provided me a perspective I had never heard before. And as a Christian, seeing Bonhoefer’s life and the way he thought was compelling and challenged me to think about the cost of follow Christ. We can learn a lot from the life of Bonhoeffer and this book will help.
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – It’s still hard to believe this book was written in 1985. This book on the age of the television and the effect it has had on our culture is enlightening and helpful. Neil Postman is basically prophetic in his view of what the future holds for a generation of people who only watch moving pictures and rarely read. It’s a book I think of often as I think about technology and culture and probably change the way you watch the Nightly News.
Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler – I’ve read a lot of leadership books, but if I had to pick one this would be it. Al Mohler, who we listen to daily on his podcast, absolutely nails the essentials needed for leadership today and writes with the authority of many years of experience and results. I believe his 25 leadership principles combined with his theme of conviction are crucial no matter what capacity of leadership you might be in. As a bonus, his comments on television and social media in the later chapters are worth the entire book!
The Hole in Our Holiness, What is the Mission of the Church, or anything by Kevin DeYoung – I can’t say I’ve read everything by Kevin DeYoung, but of the four books that I’ve devoured from him I can honestly say I can’t get enough. The Hole in Our Holiness is a book I read with a group of men and one that I think often when I read about “the high places” in the Old Testament. It’s a book that focuses on God and helps us genuinely think through what’s missing in our understanding of holiness. What is the Mission of the Church is a book that helps us look at what the Bible says about the church and what it doesn’t say. Both reads have been crucial in helping me think Biblically about their respective theses. Kevin DeYoung is a great writer and his pastoral heart will leave you feeling well cared for.
One of my favorites sites right now is Goodreads. Their “About Us” page describes the service this way:
Goodreads is the largest social network for readers in the world. We have more than 5,200,000 members who have added more than 160,000,000 books to their shelves. A place for casual readers and bona-fide bookworms alike, Goodreads members recommend books, compare what they are reading, keep track of what they’ve read and would like to read, form book clubs and much more. Goodreads was launched in December 2006.
I’ve been using it for about a year now and I’m really starting to understand why I like it so much. The above image is data that Goodreads provides me about the books I’ve read over the past few years, with specifics to the amount of pages. In 2010 I read 1047 pages. So far this year I’ve read 861 pages. I can set goals on the number of books I want to read in a year (I’m hoping for 12 this year), and I can update my “current page” any time I want to see progress percentages and other info. You might be thinking this is pretty nerdy, and yes, it is. But the fun part about Goodreads is you can keep track of the books you own, get recommendations on books from friends, and kind of keep yourself accountable to a good reading schedule. I normally use their iPhone app to update my pages when I finish reading for the day and it’s quick and easy. Also, if you’ve never seen my “Bookshelf”, it’s a complete list of my books embedded in to my website that is automatically generated from Goodreads. Go see for yourself. So if you’re a reader (and I hope you are), then definitely check out Goodreads.
*UPDATE: Joshua Harris was kind enough to read and link to my post today on his own blog. He’s a very humble man and he’s written some clarifying words on why he’s the “P. Diddy of Christian writers”. Here’s a link to his post.
I own two Joshua Harris books: Not Even a Hint and Stop Dating the Church. One of them is out on loan to someone, and the other I have two hard cover copies of just so I can give one away sometime. Both books are excellent in their subject matter and I regularly recommend them to people. And for that matter, both have great titles and great covers…or at least they used to.
Not Even a Hint is a book on sexual lust. It’s probably one of the best books on the topic both for the Biblical view it presents, and for it’s balance in handling a sensitive subject matter. I will often recommend it to young people, especially the college students I work with because it was in my own college life that I read it for the first time. Unfortunately a few years back I called the local Christian bookstore to find a copy for someone and they had no idea what I was talking about. I said, “I know it’s by Joshua Harris, and I know it’s called Not Even a Hint. I’m looking at my own copy right now”. The nice clerk responded, “Yeah, I don’t see it. Are you sure it’s still in print?” “It’s gotta be there!”, I said. She could probably tell I was annoyed. “The only thing on that subject I see is a book called Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)“, she explained. My jaw dropped. Are you serious? I mean, I get the point, but that’s part of the problem. What college student is going to get comfy at their local Starbucks with that title staring everyone else in the face and basically exposing their own struggle to the entire room? Not a single one I know, that’s for sure.
Bethany informed me tonight that Josh Harris was re-releasing my other favorite book of his Stop Dating the Church under the new title Why Church Matters. Boring. Sounds like a theology book title, and is pretty generic to boot. But it’s not just the title he’s changing, look at that cover (below)! Did we just go back to the early 90’s? Is this some kind of joke? This is hands down (no pun intended) the best book on local church purpose and involvement and now they’re going to lose their audience (which I believe is a younger audience) to the hands of wonder. The font is old, the yellow line is out of place, and the hands…oh, the hands.
Now you might be thinking, “oh come on Shay, don’t judge a book by it’s cover–it’s an age old adage.” I know, I know, and for the most part I agree. It’s just I don’t have time to double check that the book I’m recommending my lust filled, church hating friend has the same title it did when I read it last week. I think Joshua Harris and his marketing team need to stop having second thoughts about each one of their covers and titles. Stop dating your book covers and commit already!
Literally every book I got for Christmas (2010). 2011 is shaping up to be the year of “input” (and if you don’t get that reference, go watch Short Circuit). I haven’t decided whether or not I’m going to try and read all of them this year. That would basically be one book a month and a few them are in the 500 page range. If I can resolve to read twenty minutes a day, I think I could it–the real question is do I want to? The verdict is still out on that. Either way you can expect reviews on everything I read.
All the books listed from the top of the stack to the bottom (in the above photo):
Though many have already read this 25 year old book, I just recently finished Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death “. I need to write a full review of this book sometime, but for now I’m going to leave you with this cartoon a friend forwarded me this week. I can’t stop talking about this book–it has opened my eyes to a lot of different culture influences. This cartoon does a great job of summarizing some of Neil’s larger points as he compared the philosophies of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.
“Ask for books.” Maybe not the most exciting advice to give a bunch of college students who were drowning in a sea of reading in the middle of the semester, but that’s what my professor commanded in class one afternoon. He continued, “For every Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Father’s Day, or whatever…I ask for books.” I remember thinking that seemed pretty boring and lame. “Ask for books for Christmas?! Yeah, right!” was my first thought, followed by, “he must be joking.” But he wasn’t, and I knew it. Why? Because we knew he wasn’t talking about text books for class. He was talking about the books that would further our education and growth beyond the walls of the class–the books that would shape our lives and learning for the years beyond college. And it wasn’t until I was ripping the snowflake patterned paper from my Christmas presents this year that I realized how important that advice was, and how in many ways I’ve wasted valuable time and resources.
For Christmas this year I got books. My family usually asks me for my “Christmas list” so they can go out and purchase the things that I really want–at least what I think I want, and even though I provided a small list of things it wasn’t like past years. For the past few years I’ve asked for electronics, gadgets, and games, but this year I referred them to my Amazon.com Wish List which is appropriately titled “Books, Among Other Things”. That wish list has become a collection of books (among other things) that I would one day desire to own and obviously read. Anytime my pastor or a speaker I hear mentions a book he’s read, I add it to my list. Any time my wife says she “heard about this book,” we add it to the list. Any time I read about a book or a friend mentions a book, I usually add it to the list. Sometimes I just purchase the book right on the spot because I don’t want to forget it. This practice, combined with generous friends and family, has allowed my wife and me to receive at least a dozen or more books in the past year alone. These are the books that are continuing to teach, grow, and shape us by great thinkers and minds that we would otherwise be unable to communicate with.
Books are tools in an ever growing toolbox of literary helps and guides for the growth of our hearts and minds in a world that would just rather sit back and lazily learn about the world passively on a television screen. It’s because reading is hard–it’s not an easy task. It takes patience and practice, and in world that wants everything NOW, it just doesn’t have the right marketing “buy in.” When was the last time you saw a commercial about a book? Probably not that recently unless you were watching the “Oprah book club channel” (doesn’t exist), and even then I wouldn’t recommend them. That same professor who advised us to build our personal libraries would often boldly exclaim that “the world belongs to those who read!” It’s 100% true–no doubt about it. The world will never belong to Suresh Joachim and Claudia Wavra who “achieved” a Guinness World Record for the most time watching movies, unless of course they can learn to spend their time a little more wisely–like reading maybe? Books will take you beyond the limits of a ninety minute film and give you a breadth of information to which you can actually use your mind to work through. If it’s a good book, it will take you to places you’ve never been, meet people you’ve never met, and introduce to a world that is definitely bigger than the planet that your probably living on now if you aren’t making a regular practice of reading.
Don’t sell yourself too short because life is already short enough. Find something your interested in and read about it. Set a goal or two, make a schedule, and be a little disciplined in your reading in 2010. A great way to start and finish books is to simply read twenty minutes a day. In the grand scheme of the day that’s a very small percentage of time. I’ve read enough to know that I need to be doing the same thing, and the more I read the more I realize that I don’t read enough. Had I actually taken to heart what my college professor was urging us to do that day, I probably could have read a hundred more books between then and now. I could have learned any number of a million subjects, but I have only just begun to apply this simple advice. But you gotta start somewhere, so why not start today? As usual, I’m writing this for myself than anyone else, so if you need someone to join you at the library (yes, they still exist) then I’ll be ready with my library card and a good book in hand.
P.S. I’ve mentioned this topic before, so if you’re looking for “further reading” (hint, hint) then my post titled “The Way I See It #111” might interest you.