Here’s My Favorite Books I Read In 2017

Here’s my favorite books I read in 2017, in no particular order (not all of these books were released in 2017—some are much older… I just read them this year – also, click on the picture of the book to view on Amazon):

Barking to the Choir by Father Greg Boyle



Glory Happening by Kaitlin Curtice

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Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd



Peaches for… Read More

Advent Day 22 (Conclusion): Your Name Is Written On His Heart

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*photo above: Nolan Jones enjoying some time on stage after church one Sunday during Advent

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. —Titus 2.11

I believe Christ came for all.

Think about those who came to see the newborn child. Shepherds: these guys were the night-shift, minimum wage earners… they smelled like sheep, they hadn’t bathed in a while.

Then later you have the Magi. I mean… these guys are different. Certainly outsiders. Mystics. Star-gazers. Not exactly your typical church-goers.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, you see this same attraction… the outsiders were drawn to him. The misfits and weirdos. The outcasts. The sinners.

Yes, Jesus came for us all. I believe Christ went to the cross and took on himself the sins of the world.

And this is the Good News: we have been included.

And the angel said to them: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. —Luke 2.10-11

Good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

For unto you is born… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

We dream of a world where there is something for everyone.

A job. Healthcare. Food. Love. Family. Peace everywhere.

It seems like an impossible dream. Like, not in this world… but maybe in some other place, in a galaxy far, far away.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have healthcare for all. Wouldn’t it be nice to have housing for all. Wouldn’t it be nice to have peace for all. Wouldn’t it be nice to have food for all. Wouldn’t it be nice to have family for all.

Wouldn’t it.

But we easily dismiss these concepts as unrealistic. Beyond our reach. Fantasy. Something our world will never provide.

So when we start talking about God’s love for all, God’s gift of salvation for all, Christ’s arrival for all, and a table that welcomes all…

Well, it’s easy to once again dismiss the notion as… Read More

Advent Day 20: She Makes Oranges

The Christian religion asks us to put our trust not in ideas, and certainly not in ideologies, but in a God Who was vulnerable enough to become human and die, and Who desires to be present to us in our ordinary circumstances. —Kathleen Norris

In Phil Needham’s book When God Becomes Small, he shares the following…

I love the story Kathleen Norris tells about her three-year old niece. The girl’s father would drive her to day care in the morning on the way to work, and her mother would pick her up on the way home.

Often the mother would peel an orange and bring it to her daughter when she picked her up.

One day Norris came across her niece playing “Mommy’s office” on the front porch of their home. She asked her niece what her mommy (a stockbroker and financial planner) did at work.

“Without hesitation, and with a conviction I relish to this day,” says Norris, “she looked up at me and said, ‘She… Read More

Advent Day 19: The Darkest Day

Someone I enjoy following on Twitter is Robert Macfarlane. He’s written a book called The Lost Wordsand this is what I look forward to in his tweets as well… descriptions of old words used to describe things in nature.

Here is an example:

Word of the day: “midwinter” – the day of shortest sunlight, when the sun reaches its lowest maximum height in the sky, and after which the light begins its slow climb back. The winter solstice; the year’s true turn; my day of most hope.

Today is December 21, the darkest day of the year. It’s nice knowing that it can only… Read More

Advent Day 18: Game Changing Inclusion

*photo above: Ashah taking in the sights from the “Top of the Rock” (Rockefeller Center’s observation deck) on our recent vacation in NYC

The only thing more boring than being asked to look at someone else’s vacation pictures is…

Being asked to listen to a description of someone else’s genealogy.

Indulge me for a moment.

Most of us skip over the first chapter of Matthew because, genealogy. It’s a list of names.

And if you read it in the old King James Version, it uses that wonderful term “begat.” Abraham begat Isaac.

How’d he do that? Haha. OK, maybe that’s another post for another time.

Well, actually, it’s kinda crucial to the point of this post… so here we go with the procreating explanation:

Abraham did not begat Isaac by himself. No sir. He had some help. In fact, he did very little to begat. Sure, he contributed, but it was… Read More

Advent Day 17: A Word About Doubt… The Struggle is a Sign of Life

Not long ago, a friend corresponded with me—asking some questions about faith and admitting that they, for a while, had been struggling with doubt. To the best of my ability, I tried answering the questions posed. Then I responded to the part about doubt… this is what I said:

Just a word concerning doubt and uncertainty… the struggle isn’t bad, the struggle is a sign of life. Faith without struggle, without resistance, without doubt isn’t really faith at all.

God can handle your doubts and your struggles.

Certainty isn’t the goal. God doesn’t fit neatly into our theological boxes (He never asked us to put him in there anyway). Those boxes leave no room for wonder or mystery or “I don’t know.” I’m happy to hear that you are alive, struggling, fighting… it’s… Read More

Advent Day 16: Our True Height In Love

*photo above: kids at last night’s Toy Give at NWLife – over 400 children received Christmas gifts

Father Greg Boyle tells the story of a homie named Fili and a volunteer at Homeboy Industries named Ms. June…

One of our tutors at Homeboy, Ms. June, is managing a roomful of students, whom she is teaching to fill out forms. She is a tiny Japanese American woman, a retired teacher who volunteers once a week helping homies on their literacy skills.

One of the many homies she’s working with is named Fili.

When the form asks for his height, he doesn’t know how to answer; confined to a wheelchair by gun violence, he is about three feet sitting upright. Ms. June asks him to… Read More

Advent Day 15: Stay Close To The Poor

I tore through Father Greg Boyle’s new book “Barking to the Choir” in a couple of days (a healthier option rather than Netflix binge-watching). He’s part poet, priest, comedian, and master story teller. This book tops my list of favorites from the past year and it’s one that I will re-read a number of times.

Here is a quote from chapter 8, The Choir…

Dorothy Day, when asked how to live the Gospel, she simply replied: “Stay close to the poor.” She could have said, I suppose, help the poor, rescue the poor, save the poor. But no… Read More

Advent Day 14: Those Times When You Think You’re Being The Blessing And Then You Realize It’s The Other Way Around

Tomorrow is our church’s annual Toy Give. The presents are wrapped, labeled, and stacked. Nearly 500 kids will receive a gift at the party… and there will be prizes, a dancing panda, food, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a few surprises too. It’s one of those events that makes your face hurt because you smile so much.

snow at toy give for post

The Toy Give is a lot of work and we put out the call for “all hands on deck.”

We give and serve in various capacities—and at the end of the night we are all janitors… stacking chairs, vacuuming floors, taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

It’s one of those times when you think you’re being the blessing and then you realize it’s the other way around.

The children, and their families, (who many, if not most, are facing… Read More