Best of ’17

The past few years, at the end of the calendar year, I’ve posted a list of my favorite books read, blogs read, and blogs written. But I’ve been less actively blogging in 2017 and more actively writing other things (because, well, grad school!), as well as pretty actively living, learning, serving, and so on.

So, this year I’ll try something a little different. I could be super cool like Barack Obama and share my favorite books and songs. But, let’s face it, his musical tastes are hipper than mine. So here’s 17 books I’m glad I read and 17 things I’m glad I experienced.

17 Books I’m Glad I Read:

  1. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
  2. The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman
  3. Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression and Faith by Monica A. Coleman
  4. God of the Oppressed by James Cone
  5. A Womanist Pastoral Theology Against Intimate and Cultural Violence by Stephanie M. Crumpton
  6. Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by Kathryn Greene-McCreight
  7. Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines
  8. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith L. Herman
  9. Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma by Teresa Pasquale Mateus
  10. Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church by Carol Howard Merritt
  11. Counseling Women: A Narrative, Pastoral Approach by Christie Cozad Neuger
  12. Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri Nouwen
  13. Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
  14. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu
  15. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk
  16. Broken by Ryan Casey Waller
  17. The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. Yalom

17 Things I’m Glad I Experienced:

  1. Decorating funfetti cupcakes with friends around a backyard firepit on my birthday
  2. Giving a eulogy at my Grandma’s memorial service after she passed away this year
  3. Having friends and priests and mentors who let me cry — when it was finals week and Grandma died, when it was Holy Week and Jesus died, when it was an ordinary week and sometimes my hope and joy had just up and died
  4. Having strong faithful older women in particular who prayed for me and with me and over me
  5. Disconnecting from one church & connecting with another (the six-word memoir version of a whole spiritual saga, friends)
  6. Making a home in a place I’ve only known for 1.5 years
  7. Wading in a creek in Bryson City, NC surrounded by fireflies and distant children’s laughter and sweet summer stillness
  8. One word: therapy
  9. Canoeing on the Eno River with an old friend — even if that included dropping my phone in the river bank, fishing it out with the assistance of humorous yet helpful bystanders, and resurrecting it to full functioning
  10. Attending my 1st Summer Institute for Reconciliation, where I got to manage the social media
  11. Attending my 2nd regional conference of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, where I got to be on the worship service planning team
  12. Researching theology, trauma, the problem of clergy-perpetrated sexual assault, and possibilities for pastoral care & counseling in light of sexual assault
  13. Being even a tiny, tangential part of the cultural dialogue around the #MeToo movement and #ChurchToo movement
  14. Sitting down in a couple of rocking chairs at church to talk with a homeless veteran
  15. Taking Eucharist to a remarkable older woman from my church who lives in a memory care facility — and who thought she was living in 1960’s Washington DC the last time I visited (while in fact it was the 2010’s in Chapel Hill, NC).
  16. Attending my first Blue Christmas service
  17. Preaching my first sermons — even if the congregation was a classroom of 12 seminarians, I had a blast!

Best of ’16

16 books I recommend:

  1. Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide – Sarah Arthur
  2. A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World – Katelyn Beatty
  3. Garden In the East: The Spiritual Life of the Body – Angela Doll Carlson
  4. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery – Ian Morgan Cron and Susan Stabile
  5. Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch
  6. Spiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad – Elizabeth Esther
  7. Parables and Paradox: Sonnets on the Sayings of Jesus and Other Poems – Malcolm Guite
  8. Assimilate Or Go Home: Notes From a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith – D.L. Mayfield
  9. Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People – edited by Charles E. Moore
  10. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living – Shauna Niequist
  11. Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption by Emily P. Freeman, Sarah Bessey, Trillia Newbell and More – edited by Cara Sexton
  12. Original Blessing: Putting Sin In Its Rightful Place – Danielle Shroyer
  13. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit – James K.A. Smith
  14. The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life – Ann Voskamp
  15. Out of the House of Bread: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines – Preston Yancey
  16. Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark – Addie Zierman

8 blogs posts I enjoyed reading:

  1. Beauty will save the world – Andrew Petiprin (The Living Church, January)
  2. When Beauty Strikes – David Brooks (New York Times, January)
  3. I want a religion – Mac Stewart (The Living Church, April)
  4. Dear church: An open letter from one of those millennials you can’t figure out – Jonathan Aigner (Patheos, May)
  5. God Needs Women – Rachel Held Evans (July)
  6. Only the dumb ones go into parish ministry – Sarah Condon (The Living Church, July)
  7. And on the seventh day, many don’t rest at all – Lisa Wangsness (Boston Globe, November)
  8. Her Loss – Lindy West (New York Times, November)

8 blog posts I enjoyed writing:

  1. Happy (Still) Easter (April)
  2. Where Are All the Women? (May)
  3. Hey. Thanks For Caring. (May)
  4. From the Other Side (June)
  5. First Things First (June)
  6. Carry Each Other (July)
  7. Why Seminary? (August)
  8. Sacrament at the Soul of Me (September)

annual stack of (most of) the books I read this year

On Grandpas and Books and the Ministry of Presents

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about visiting my maternal grandma in the hospital. In today’s similarly-titled post, we get the story of visiting my paternal granddad at his home near Oklahoma City last weekend. (The significance of attending to the illness and aging of family alongside the joy and birth of the Christmas season has not been lost on me. Perhaps a post for another day.)

Granddad is the kind of relative I don’t know well and only see sporadically, the last time being 5 years ago at a family wedding. But, 5 years makes a big difference, especially for the elderly, and in recent months he’s experienced rapid weight loss, no appetite, and significant weakness.

While visiting, my family and I set out to help him eat a little something 2-3 times a day, do household chores, and do some ministry of presence. Along the way, Granddad gave me an unintentional surprise: the ministry of presents.

Years ago, he attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and served numerous churches as a Baptist minister. I knew this. To this day, he has a sizable theological library collecting dust in his home. I did not know thisIMG_1754.

And let’s just say around a theological library, I act like a puppy in a pet store.

After perusing the shelves, I removed two intriguing volumes, took them to the living room, sat on the floral-patterned couch next to Granddad, and said, wide-eyed: “Your books. They’re amazing.”

“You can have them,” he said. “Any of them.”

FLASHBACK: As a high school student, I sat on the same couch and told Granddad that I wanted to pursue theological studies and work in vocational ministry. He promptly suggested that I can’t preach because I’m a woman. He might have been alright with women in other, non-preaching roles (e.g. children’s ministry, youth ministry). But the conversation ended there. If he was proud of me, I couldn’t tell. END FLASHBACK.

This time around, I know he’s proud of me. I know because he offered me his theology books. And because they used to mean a lot to him, and now they mean a lot to me. And because his 1938 anthology Christ and the Fine Arts showed us that we have some things in common — two things, to be exact: Christ and the fine arts. And I know he’s proud of me because he said so.

In what might be one of our last conversations this side of heaven, Granddad said in a weak, raspy voice, rather like a weary Jesus talking to a wary Peter, “You want to work for the Church?” (Peter, do you love me?) 

“Yes, I do,” I said. (Yes, Lord, you know I love you.)

“That’s real good,” he said. “I’m proud of you.” (Then feed my sheep.)

He didn’t mind that I’m a woman. He didn’t even know that I’ve become an Episcopalian in recent years. He knew that, in the end, we all alike hold fast to “the holy catholic church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” (to quote the Apostles’ Creed). And what a present that is. 

Best of ’15

15 books:

  1. Scary Close: Dropping the Act and IMG_1700Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller (February 2015)
  2. Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Finding God by Lauren Winner (February 2015)
  3. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans (April 2015)
  4. If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski (May 2015)
  5. Can’t Not Do: The Compelling Social Drive That Changes Our World by Paul Shoemaker (August 2015)
  6. Accidental Saints: Finding God In All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber (September 2015)
  7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (September 2015)
  8. Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong (September 2015)
  9. Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines (October 2015)
  10. Felicity: Poems by Mary Oliver (October 2015)
  11. Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution by Diana Butler Bass (October 2015)
  12. The Story of Joy: From the Bible to Late Romanticism by Adam Potkay — one of my undergrad English professors! (October 2015)
  13. Your Vocational Credo: Practical Steps to Discover Your Unique Purpose by Deborah Koehn Loyd (October 2015)
  14. Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey (November 2015)
  15. The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam McHugh (December 2015)

10 blogs I enjoyed reading:

  1. Post-Evangelicals and Why We Can’t Just Get Over It by Rachel Held Evans (January 2015)
  2. Easter Vocation: I Have Seen the Lord by L. Gregory Jones (April 2015)
  3. The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks (April 2015)
  4. How to Find Your Place in the World After Graduation by Pamela Druckerman (May 2015)
  5. Is Anyone Listening? by Matt Boulter (July 2015)
  6. All Our Crooked, Half-Healed Places by Addie Zierman (August 2015)
  7. Promise Me Tomorrow by Fortesa Latifi (September 2015)
  8. When the Stories Stop by Anna Tesh (October 2015)
  9. Begin Again: On Getting Unstuck by Parker J. Palmer (December 2015)
  10. Precious Things Come From Staying by Alissa Wilkinson (December 2015)

5 blogs I enjoyed writing:

  1. I Am Understood: The Spirituality of Reading (January 2015)
  2. The necessity of Sadness: A Reflection on Disney-Pixar’s Inside Out (July 2015)
  3. The Divinity in the Details: What I’ve Learned From Working at a Church (July 2015)
  4. You (Almost) Lost Me: Why This Young Christian Is Somehow Not Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith (September 2015)
  5. On Grandmas and Hospitals and the Ministry of Presence (December 2015)


Reading List

Spiritual Memoirs:
  1. Augustine’s Confessions
  2. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint
  3. Frederick Buechner’s Now And Then: A Memoir of Vocation
  4. Rachel Held Evans’ Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
  5. Susan Isaacs’ Angry Conversations With God: A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir
  6. Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
  7. Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain
  8. Sara Miles’ Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion
  9. Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
  10. Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life
  11. Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk
  12. Henri Nouwen’s The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery 
  13. Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
  14. Phyllis Tickle’s The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape
  15. Matthew Paul Turner’s Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess
  16. Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God: A Memoir
  17. Preston Yancey’s Tables In the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
  18. Addie Zierman’s When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Fire, Tangled Love, and Starting Over

(Current completion rate: 50%)

On Prayer:

  1. Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible
  3. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
  4. Bill Hybels’ Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God
  5. Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God
  6. C.S. Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
  7. Paul Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World
  8. John Shelby Spong’s Honest Prayer
  9. Evelyn Underhill’s Essential Writings
  10. Hans Urs Von Balthasar’s Prayer

(Current completion rate: 30%)