Book Recommendation – Everyday Justice

Micah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses: “He has shown you, oh mortal, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Acting justly sounds so appealing.  Acting justly means acting in an honorable, fair, and right way towards others.  Who doesn’t want to act justly?

I love how The Message puts ‘acting justly’ in it’s rendition of this verse: “Do what is fair and just to your neighbor“.  Again, this sounds so good, but if we start thinking about it, we start asking, well… who is my neighbor?  Where does this start and where does this end?  Our everyday choices affect our neighbors locally and globally.  What kind of justice are we talking about?  How does acting justly fit in my budget?  How does acting justly fit in my busy life?  What did Jesus really mean?

We aren’t the first to ask this question as we are figuring out just how big Jesus’ call is for us to join Him in His work of redemption and restoration in the world.  One of the smarty pants theologians in Jesus’ day was trying to figure this out too, and in response to Jesus’ teaching about loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves, he asked, “who is my neighbor (Luke 10)?”

And Jesus’ response?  The parable of the good Samaritan.  Who is our neighbor?  More like, who isn’t our neighbor? Our neighbor could be the person who lives next to us or works in the cubicle next to us, our neighbor could be homeless and walking our streets, our neighbor could be a family living in a different part of town than we do, our neighbor could live in Africa or India or Pakistan or in the country or the suburbs or the inner city.  We have neighbors throughout the world.

Our neighbors are in need of being treated justly, but this is a huge task.  I haven’t met many Christians who were disinterested in justice, but I have met many Christians who were overwhelmed with how to live justly.  Should we focus on modern day slavery, taking care of the earth, racial injustice, economic disparity, literacy, empowerment of women, equal opportunity…?  Should we focus on one street or one city or one country?  Should we picket or lobby or move or blog or give something up or plant community gardens?

There is so much injustice in the world, that it’s hard to know where to start.

I have friends that haven’t know where to start, and so they didn’t start at all.

everyday-justice-3628Don’t do that, for our neighbors sake, please find a place to start.  Recently, my friend recommended this book, and I picked it up and loved it, so I thought I would tell you about it.

It’s called Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices.  The author, Julie Clawson wrote the book to talk about how our Christian faith should inform our response to issues, and to discuss practical ways we can start working for justice in our day to day lives.  I love this book because it spoke my languages: rationale and practical.

She opens right out of the gate with some tough challenges:

“Our local everyday choices reverberate around the world and at the center, pushing and informing all of these choices is our faith… acting justly everyday means developing awareness around the problems in the world; it means changing how we shop, how we dress, and how we drive; it means starting to see our each and every action as an ethical choice.”

The author brings awareness to fair trade, modern day slavery, oil consumption, ethical choices, social injustice, environmental impact, the price of convenience, and debt of nations through talking about our everyday consumption of coffee, chocolate, gas, food, clothes, waste, and debt.  She brings some glaring issues of injustice into light.

The book is challenging, eye-opening, and incredibly practical.  Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about how I’m implementing some everyday justice into my choices because of this book.  I encourage you, if you want to do something good for your neighbors, and don’t know where to start, pick up this book from the local library or bookstore and dive in.  And then let me know how you’re doing everyday justice.

“Choosing to follow Jesus is more than just adhering to a set of beliefs; it is an invitation to an entirely new way of living in the world” – Julie Clawson

Book Recommendation – Just Lead

You all know my passion for members of the Body of Christ to decipher their callings, recognize their giftings, and serve out of their passions.  You all know that I especially have a passion to see my fellow female Christ-followers do this.

I recently read a book called Just Lead: A No Whining, No Complaining, No Nonsense Practical Guide for Women Leaders in the Church by Sherry Surrat and Jenni Catron.  I want all of you to go read it so we can talk about it together.  Blog book study: Who’s in?

Surratt_Just Lead_Cover

Jenni Catron is the Executive Director of my church, and I have had the privilege of getting to know her over the last year and a half.  Her leadership is a great inspiration to me and many other women (and men).  Because of her wisdom, strategy, and strength, she has been put into amazing leadership positions.  She hasn’t pushed herself into leadership positions through arguing and fighting gender limitations, but rather, she has risen into leadership positions because of her obvious strengths   She is humble and she just leads.  She embodies the title of her book.

Over the last six months, I’ve had the opportunity to do a study on this book with about 20 other women, and have been motivated, challenged, and called into greater leadership.  I was challenged to dream big dreams and to combat some forces that hold me back as a leader.

This book is a must read for women who lead inside and outside of a church, and quite frankly, I think it’s a must read for men who lead inside and outside of a church.  I know Adam has been clamoring to get his hands on this book because of how much I’ve talked about it.

The book tackles issues like criticism, comparison, conflict, and communication – with men and women.  It’s written by two strong women leaders who have paved the way for future leaders not with pushiness or brashness but with wise, gentle-yet-strong leadership.

As a young leader, I found this book to be and inspiration and a challenge, and I think you will too.  I feel like I was mentored as I read this book.  Let me know when you’ve read Just Lead and let’s talk about it!

Book Recommendation – Who Really Cares?

I’ve read quite a few books lately, but I haven’t been writing about them.  So get ready for an onslaught of book reviews in the next few days.  Ok, maybe just a few.

Since it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a book, feel free to take a look at my book review disclaimer.

A month or two ago, I started thinking about the upcoming election and started to ask myself some questions.  I starting wondering how many people who said they cared about a political party, or an issue, or a cause actually got involved with their time, talent, and resources in that party, issue, or cause.  I started doing some research, and all of the research pointed to this book as a fabulous resource.

So I went to my public library and checked out Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why it Matters.

This book was not what I expected.  I learned a lot about liberals and conservatives and myself, too.  It was a total gutcheck about the level of my generosity, and my real passion for causes.

The book looks at research and statistics about volunteerism and charitable giving amongst liberals and conservatives, amongst religious conservatives, religious liberals, non-religious conservatives, and non-religious liberals.  The book looks at who gives to what type of charities (and surprisingly, religious conservatives don’t give only or even mostly to faith-based organizations).

This book was a call to generosity and serving for all, regardless of political party.

I was fascinated from cover to cover, as the author (a self-professed  lefty) talked about America’s generosity divide, and why it’s critical to the health of our nation that we be a generous people.

Regardless of your political affiliation, pick up this book and give it a read.  It might make some sense about people who don’t vote the same as you.  It might cause you to rethink your free time and your spending.  Proceed with caution.

If you’re interested in my findings from this book and other research, check out this article I wrote for Reject Apathy entitled: Is Voting for a Cause the Same as Caring For the Least of These?

Flashback to Middle and High School

I remember really vividly what it was like to be a middle schooler. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with middle schoolers since I got out of college, or maybe it’s because the memories are just that emotional that they are forever etched in my brain. I remember wondering almost every minute of the day what everyone was thinking about me. I remember wanting desperately to blend in while wanting desperately to be noticed. I hated standing at least a head above every other student and most teachers. I hated that I had to wear dorky shoes because my feet were fully grown in 5th grade. I hated my chubby knees. I hated my huge nose.

I remember really vividly what it was like to be a high schooler. Maybe it’s because I work at a high school and daily take in the sights, smells, and sounds, or maybe it’s because they were really formative years that stick in the memory bank. I remember wondering almost every minute of the day what someone was thinking about me. I remember wanting desperately to be a Christ-follower while wanting to be accepted by the popular crowd. I remember wanting to make a difference in my world, but wanting to blend into the world. I hated my thighs. I hated my bra size. I hated that my huge nose hadn’t shrunken in spite of all my dieting.

Middle and High school are tough years for everyone. I know it’s different tough for guys and gals, but I can only speak for the gals. There is so much pressure to be the right size, dress the right way, be well-rounded, be smart… and the list goes on. It’s nearly impossible for girls to not be overwhelmed with fears, doubts, insecurities, comparisons, and often lies.

Girls (and guys, I don’t mean to leave you out) need a voice of reason and truth to remind them that they are loved, that they are amazing, that they have a purpose in this big world that’s bigger than their small worlds.

Sometimes that voice comes from a parent, a youth group leader, a teacher, a mentor, a friend. On rare occasions, it comes from an awesome book.

Today, my friend Annie releases an AMAZING book called Perfectly Unique that’s geared for teenage gals. This book is a reminder about how much God loves His creation. It is funny, wise, endearing, and full of truths that young women need to know. I waffled between being in stiches and being in tears while reading this gem.

I wish I’d had this book when I was younger. I think I would have felt more ok in my skin. I wish I’d had this book when I was in youth ministry, I think I would have had better language with which to talk to my gals.

If you are a mother to girls, a youth pastor, a teacher, a coach, a youth leader, a mentor, you should really get your hands on this book.

Because I feel so strongly that you should get your hands on this book, I’m doing a book giveaway (Annie will sign and send you her book). If you comment on this blog (this could be by sharing your most embarrassing middle school moment, or simply acknowledging that you want to be entered in the drawing), you get entered once into the drawing. If you share this post on facebook, you get entered once into the drawing. If you retweet this, you get entered once into the drawing. If you do all three, yes, you get entered 3 times, increasing the likelihood of winning. You are so smart!

So here’s the deal, if you have a middle schooler or high schooler in your life, give them a hug. Listen to their chatter. Earn the right to speak truth and goodness into their lives. They love attention, make sure you give it to them! And please, do get yourself a copy of this book, who knows what life change this could spark in the amazing young women in your life!

Ps, the drawing was completed 9/5. Grand prize winner was Ms. Karen McGee!

10 Books That Have Influenced My Faith

One of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, did a series a few weeks ago called 10 Book Week, in which she spent a whole week sharing her favorite books.  She wrote one post about the 10 books that changed her faith and I thought, “what a fun idea!”  So today, I’m stealing her brilliant idea and sharing not necessarily my most favorite faith books, but rather, the ones that have challenged, shaped, and inspired my faith.

(In alphabetical order by Author’s last name)

1.  Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell

I love Rob Bell’s writing style; understandable, creative, and deep all at the same time.   Velvet Elvis came into my life at a time when I had just left the safe haven of my Christian College after the safe haven of my Christian upbringing.  This book came when I was evaluating rules vs. theology. The chapter about being covered in the dust of my Rabbi still echoes in my soul.  That chapter sparked my favorite youth group lesson series that Adam taught, so it has sentimental value, as well (Koinonia, you remember that, right?).

Read all of Movement 5: Dust, that whole chapter is my favorite.

2.  If – Amy Carmichael

This tiny little book will kick your spiritual behind.  If you don’t know Amy Carmichael, you should read her biography written by none other than Elisabeth Elliot (See #4).  She was a missionary in India whose life was a journey of dying to self.  ‘If’ is a little book that questions our understanding of Christ’s love. 

“If monotony tires me, and I cannot stand drudgery; if stupid people fret me and little ruffles set me on edge; if I make much of the trifles of life, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

3.  A Tale of 3 Kings – Gene Edwards

My youth pastor had me read this book in high school.   At the time, I thought it an odd choice for high schoolers.  It’s an allegory about Saul, David, and Absalom.  It’s a story about brokenness, submission, and leadership.  It has come back to me in floods when I am in a leadership role and when I am in a subordinate role.

Just go ahead and read the whole book.  It’s a quick read.

4.  Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliott

My parents have always had a heart for international missions, so I grew up on stories of missionaries.  I had been told the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliott many times as a child, but I didn’t read Shadow of the Almighty, Jim’s biography, until last spring, when Adam and I took 40 days to pray and seek God about a big risky career change.  This story of devotion and ultimate sacrifice was the nudge I needed to say yes to Adam coming on staff as a full time missionary with Global Support Mission.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

5.  In His Presence – EW Kenyon

My copy of this book is well-read and well-underlined.  It’s an urge to pray, to read, and to believe.  It’s a faith-stirrer.

“Prayers should be as natural as breathing and as enjoyable as eating.  Prayer should be as unconscious as our communication with each other.”

6.  Theirs is the Kingdom – Robert Lupton

This book was one of the first books I read on God’s call to His people to care for the poor.  I read this book during the internship that changed my life in 2002, and it sits as an Ebenezer on my bookshelf; a reminder of my calling as a Christ-follower and as a Social Worker to care intentionally for the poor – particularly the urban poor.  All of his books are stellar, but this one was monumental.

“I cannot fully care for one who is suffering without entering into his pain.  The sick must be touched if they are to be healed.  The weak must be nourished, the wounded embraced.  Care is the bigger part of the cure.  Yet I fear contagion.  I fear my life will get out of control, and I will be overwhelmed by the urgent need of others.  I fear for my family.  I resist the Christ who beckons His followers to lay down their lives for each other…  The implications of entering this world of suffering as a “Christ-one” as yeast absorbed into the loaf of human need, are as terrifying as death itself.  Yet this is the only way to life.  The question is, will I choose life?”

7.  Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller

We have loaned out this book more than any other book on our shelf.  In fact, it’s not pictured above because we loaned it to someone and it never came back. This book came into my life at the cusp of adulthood, around the time when I read Velvet Elvis.  It came into my life when I moved from the East Coast/South to the West
Coast.  I needed this book to understand my new culture and to understand how to engage in faith discussions with people who had been raised with a different worldview.  I also needed this book to remind me that things are more often gray than black and white.

I can’t pick a quote, just read it, and then reread it, and then loan it out to everyone.

8.  Radical – David Platt

This book has sparked some of my favorite conversations with my friends.  It has inspired friends to adopt, to travel, to give sacrificially.  It has provided a common language for me to express some of my deepest passions, and I’m thankful for that.

“In our quest for the extraordinary, we often overlook the importance of the ordinary and I’m proposing that a radical lifestyle actually begins with an extraordinary commitment to ordinary practices that have marked Christians who have affected the world throughout history.”

9.  Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – Ron Sider

This book has been my textbook for learning about God’s heart for the poor, and His clear call for His followers to care for them; sacrificially, radically, and intentionally.  Care for the marginalized isn’t a common sermon topic, but it’s a consistent message throughout Scripture.  This book gives incredible Biblical foundation for this, as well as gives practical solutions for how to do this.

“In an age of hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists.  But nonconformity is painful. Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth, and poverty, will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”

10.  Serve God Save the Planet – David Sleeth

This book is a beautiful read on consumerism, gratitude, mindfulness, and simplicity.  It’s a practical and biblical view of stewardship, not just of the earth, but of resources.  It rocked my world and shaped my everyday behavior. 

“Comparing myself to my neighbor is useful, but to which neighbor?”

Your turn! What are the 10 books that have most influenced or changed your faith?

Otis Spunkmeyer Versus The Whole Grains

I was nearly my full adult height (5’10”) as an 11- year-old, and was terribly conscious of how much I stood out in the crowd (pun intended).  It didn’t help that I had exceeded my older sister’s height and weight by the 4th grade (did I mention she is three years older than me?), and because I stood at least a head over all my classmates in middle school, I was very self-conscious about all the things that made me different than everyone else.  I also had bigger hips than all my classmates.  And I had a big nose.  And I wore glasses.

Oh the mess that existed in my middle school head.  Eventually, I got contacts and embraced the fact that no diet would shrink my nose.  Thankfully, I had a hair stylist who loved me enough to tell me that parting my hair down the middle drew more attention to my schnoz and she recommended the side part.  By my shape, I could not come to terms with my shape.

Lunchtime during middle and high school was painful.  I would agonize over the fact that everyone else who was skinnier than me ate pizza and french fries and cookies every day, while I nibbled on my whole wheat sandwich and yogurt.  I exercised, I learned what foods were low fat and healthy (pretty weird for a middle schooler), but I still had those awful hips.

College wasn’t much better as far as my emotions about my body, and it certainly wasn’t better for the circumference of my rear.  I gained the freshman 15 (I blame the ice cream bar that greeted me before I got to the salad bar) and then dropped the sophomore 25, and continued to yo yo through the rest of college.  Throughout the course of college, I developed a full love hate relationship with food.

I waffled between turning to food to fill voids of sadness, happiness, and boredom and then denying myself of food to feel a sense of control.  I would crave food but as soon as I gave in and ate it, I would feel “insta-regret” that turned into guilt and self-loathing.  I felt jealous of my female peers who could eat whatever they wanted and not develop a double chin.  I coveted my friend’s bodies.

I knew for years that I had a problem with body image and eating habits, but I justified to myself that this was my plight as a female, and that I would grow out of it.  But I didn’t grow out of it.  The same thoughts about myself and others have been present as a full-grown adult.  I’ve tried diets and joined gyms and stuck with healthy-eating and exercise plans, but I haven’t kicked some of the scripts that have played in my head for years.

And those scripts have seriously affected my relationships with others and with God.  And this year, I decided I’d had enough.

A few months ago, I was looking for a new spiritual book, and I came across a book called Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Craving with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst.  I read the description and dismissed the book, reminding myself that I was looking for a spiritual book and not one about food.  I also told myself that my eating habits and self-image were emotional issues, not spiritual issues.  Furthermore, I decided just based on the title and description that it would be just another cheesy Christian book for women that I would hate because if I hate anything, it’s fluffy books written for Christian women.

But after a few more days of ‘feeling sorry for my unemployed self’ over-eating and subsequent self-loathing, I decided cheesy or not, I clearly needed some help.  So I found the book the library (I didn’t want to buy it in case it was terrible).

Turns out, the book wasn’t cheesy or fluffy.  And it has been rocking my world.  The author tackles topics like truly accepting how God made me, self-control and control issues, comparing self to others, filling voids with food and not God…  and the list goes on.  The book is all about letting God re-write those unhealthy scripts that have been running in my head for years, and about finding my fulfillment in Him.  It’s deep and it’s good and it’s hard.

After just a few chapters I bought the book because it’s one of those hilight and refer to often books.

So, if you are a girl who has ever struggled with any of those negative self-image, food guilt, unhealthy comparison scripts, this book might just be as freeing for you as it has been for me.  (Guys, I don’t want to leave you out, I know this isn’t just a female issue.  The book, however, will address you as a “Jesus girl” at times, so if you’re man enough to be referred to in those terms, I dare you, go for it!)

Thanks, Lysa, for writing this book!

Has anyone else read this book?  What were your thoughts?

Book Recommendation – Radical

(feel free to refer to my book review disclaimer before reading)

I picked up Radical by David Platt at the suggestion of my dear friends Molly and Nate.  This book is written as a challenge to the American Church to come back to the Gospel for our church strategy and methodology rather than looking to culture for our strategy and methodology.  The tone of the book reminds me of Paul’s letters to the churches in the New Testament.  Radical challenges the consumerism, materialism, and trendy-ism that exist in Christian churches and Christian individuals.  “We are fine with thinking of affluence, comfort, and material possessions as blessings.  But they can be barriers.  We think the way that the world thinks – that wealth is always to our advantage.  But Jesus is saying the exact opposite.”

The book gives Scriptural insight into how we should live our lives.   Platt asserts that Christian lives are meant to be a total sacrifice because Jesus is worth it.  Throughout the book, the author gives numerous examples of beautiful sacrifice from the scriptures, from Christian history, from around the world, and from members of his church in Birmingham, Alabama.

The chapter that really got me was, “How Much is Enough?”  Platt paints a startling visual comparison of international and national poverty and disease to American Christian individual and church affluence.   He challenges Christ followers to look at the Bible and consider how we save, spend, and give.  He writes, “Caring for the poor is one natural overflow and a necessary evidence of the presence of Christ in our hearts.  If there is no sign of caring for the poor in our lives, then there is reason to at least question whether Christ is in our hearts.”  The real gut check comes with the practical suggestions of sacrificial living.

Radical doesn’t just point out glaring needs and deficits in Christian culture, but also, it also gives practical ideas for change.  This is a worthwhile read, to be sure.  Read it, share it, and take the Radical Experiment.