Proclaim the excellencies of him who called you...

The April Book Talk Where We Read and Rejoice in the Light

“Spring is a promise in the closed fist of a long winter,” wrote Luci Shaw. Listen along with me to the sound of winter, unclenching!

Of course, the day after I shot this video brought snow flurries. Even so, we are celebrating the season of widening light here in the Northeast!

The end of April is the perfect time to reflect on our use of all this beautiful daylight! For instance, why has God put you where you are in this particular time? Peter, the fisherman turned apostle had some big thoughts on purpose:

 …that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

1 Peter 2:9

Let this season of early dawn birdsong and long, lingering sunsets inspire you to “proclaim” all that is excellent about God. How incredible that a high and holy Being has beckoned and drawn and CALLED us into relationship–not just for this fleeting spring, but for eternity!

Let’s Talk Books!

I have been in slow, savoring mode this month. A back injury put me on ice for a day or two, and it felt good to have some compelling fiction to keep me company. Then, you’ll see that I’ve been reading some great non-fiction, and even a short book written by a dear friend I’ve known since we were both teenage summer missionaries! It’s my hope that you will find something to add to your own TBR list, and while you’re here, be sure to share what you’re reading in the comments below!

Life Repurposed 

Thrift sale ninja Michelle Rayburn got her start in writing as a DIY blogger, repurposing her finds into home decor and then posting tutorials. It wasn’t long before she connected the dots between repurposed garden tools and the work God does when he renovates our broken lives into beauty.

As a work in progress myself, I was thrilled when I learned Michelle was collecting stories for a Life, Repurposed: Stories of Grace, Hope, and Restored Faith, a compilation of stories about the journey from grief to grace.

My story called “Finding the Road to Belief” sits on page 81, and it’s been a privilege to read everyone’s work now that I have a copy of the book in my hands. Whatever struggle you may be facing today, you’ll find a community of your people in its pages. Too, part of the proceeds from every purchase goes to Destiny Rescue, a ministry to victims of human trafficking.

When Faith Becomes Sight

Here in rural Maine, spiritual directors are scarcer than April beach days. We soldier on, fueled by grace and surprised when a friend comes alongside us to offer insight or counsel. To my delight, When Faith Becomes Sight offered the bookish equivalent of sitting with someone who could point out God’s presence and involvement in my life. Beth and David Booram frame the Christian experience as a looking life: as we look for God, we receive signs that he has been looking for us all along, that God is available, unpredictable, and committed to relationship.

Faith becomes sight as we realize that we are looking through both conscious and unconscious lenses. Our life on this planet is a process of correcting distorted projections of God and then confronting our assumptions and expectations. Looking within, we find that even in our swirling emotions and convoluted motives, God is at work.

The Boorams are particularly gifted in presenting scriptural characters in all their humanity. Too, as practicing spiritual directors, they shared client interactions to demonstrate actual A Ha! moments that have landed in the room. Because God is living and present, when seekers discover that they have been found, nothing is ever the same again.

Facing the Dawn

Just when Mara had decided life couldn’t get any more complicated, it did.

What, exactly, do you do when all your self-salvation strategies have failed and the problems you are facing exceed anything you’ve ever imagined? Cynthia Ruchti had my undivided attention as she wove the story of Mara’s gradual discovery of the fine line between sacred and scared. Accompanied by her optimistic and supportive friend Ashlee, Mara learns to say, “I am strong, but I am not self-sufficient.”

In Facing the Dawn, readers become witnesses to the beautiful unfolding of purpose in a troubled family and in a broken woman’s own spiritual formation. With her face to the rising sun, Mara experiences the mercy of God as it falls on her in brand new and unexpected ways.

Freeing Jesus

In this era of worshiping remotely, of going to church without actually going anywhere, many have found it easy simply to leave church behind. In doing so, sadly, they may also be leaving Jesus behind as well. Diana Butler Bass makes a strong case for Freeing Jesus, releasing him (and consequently ourselves!) from the false constraints that have put Jesus in a box. She invites readers to return to the Jesus stories for primary source materials straight from the four gospels.

It’s bracing to read in Acts about Saul’s life being transformed because he experienced Jesus on Jesus’s own terms, as a “blinding light, as the risen Christ, as healer of his own broken soul.” (175) Bass shares her experience of Jesus in six different ways, as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence. Coming of age as we both did in late 20th-century evangelicalism, our stories intersect at numerous points, and we share a disdain for the conflation of Jesus as Lord with a political church. Even so, it’s clear to me (and I thought it was interesting!) that we experience Jesus quite differently.

However, the point of our lives is to encounter Jesus–to be found by him and then to put his glory on display as we allow his ways to inform and to interrogate our ways. Freeing Jesus is an invitation to a deeper faith and to a wider practice of Christianity that aligns what we believe with how we actually live and work in this world.

Never Forgotten, Never Alone

If you have spent any time at all in church or if you have paid attention when you’ve opened the pages of our sacred text, you have begun to understand God as the source of all hope, peace, and courage. You have read his strong promises of comfort.

Sometimes, though, even the sturdiest of believers need ballast and safe harbor, and in days of turmoil on every front, Never Forgotten, Never Alone is a sound rope tied to the anchor of God’s steadfast love.

Photographer Judy Bowen has poured thirty years of clinging to that anchor on the mission field in Togo, West Africa into a resource that pairs meaningful scripture passages with stunning images. Crashing waves from the Maine coastline reinforce the psalmist’s assurance that “those that go down to the sea in ships…see the works of the Lord” (Psalm 107:23-24). If someone you love is feeling forgotten, let Judy’s brightly-colored feathered friends come alongside scripture to remind them, “God is aware of every bird and of you” (6). Fifteen pages of truth and beauty culminate in a clear gospel presentation, making the booklet a resource for ministry to believers as well as a tool for evangelism. Click here for ordering information and be sure to say hi to my friend Judy!

That’s it for another month! Thanks for meeting me here for thoughts on the books I’m reading and the grace I’m receiving. Everything is so much sweeter when it’s shared with friends!

Holding you in the light,

On the Third Thursday of every month, I send biblical encouragement and newsy insights to newsletter subscribers. You can sign up using the handy (and only slightly annoying) pop-up form or simply click here to subscribe.

Let this season of early dawn birdsong and long, lingering sunsets inspire you to “proclaim” all that is excellent about God. How incredible that a high and holy Being has beckoned and drawn and CALLED us into relationship–not just for this fleeting spring, but for eternity!


I have been invited to write for The Joyful Life magazine on a topic I’ve been doing research on for 27 years:  Parenting Boys!  I’m honored to be part of the team who provides quarterly online content as well as occasional print articles for such a beautiful and Christ-exalting publication. Click here to subscribe or to check out their shop, which is full of gift ideas and resources to enhance your own walk with God.

And as always, you can also subscribe to Living Our Days blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox twice a week. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page. If you’re encouraged by what you read here, be sure to spread the word!

Many thanks to Revell, InterVarsity Press, Harper Collins, and NetGalley for providing copies of these books to facilitate my review, which is, of course offered freely and with honesty.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

48 thoughts on “The April Book Talk Where We Read and Rejoice in the Light”

  1. Hope you are feeling much better, Michele! Thanks for all these wonderful recommendations here. I keep seeing the book “Freeing Jesus” being mentioned in several posts I follow. That’s my signal to go ahead and get the book for myself. One I recently read, and highly recommend, is “The Women of the Bible Speak” by Shannon Bream. Think you would enjoy it.


  2. These books all sound fantastic. I am particularly interested in Freeing Jesus and the Cynthia Ruchsi book. Thanks for the recommendtions #WWBlogHop


  3. Love the bird sounds, Michele. Hope your back is much better now. I appreciate reading your review of Freeing Jesus. I continue to think about the book even though I’ve finished it. I always enjoy seeing what you’re reading!


  4. I am so sorry to read about your back injury, Michele. I am not surprised that you used your healing time for good purposes. I have heard so many good things about Freeing Jesus. I must add it to my TBR list. And I am curious about your story in the “Repurposed” book. That one goes on as well!


  5. Love your thoughts at the beginning about spring and proclaiming His excellencies.

    I’m sorry about your back! Hope it’s on the mend.

    I always enjoy seeing your eclectic mix of books. I’ve enjoyed a couple by Cynthia Ruchti, but hadn’t seen that one.

    I listed my books read this month on my end-of-month post, but I’ve enjoyed discovering new-to-me author Joanne Bischof and classic author Anthony Trollope.


  6. So sorry to hear about your back, Michele. I know it was a long winter for you hauling wood and other chores … here’s trusting that the weeks ahead give you time to heal … with a stack of good books to savor.

    Be well, friend.


      1. Black flies! Oh I do not miss them!! We had a small farm in Limington, surrounded by woods and the black flies were wicked:)


  7. Sorry about your injury, but being down and out is a great chance to read!! Thanks for linking up and have a great weekend.


  8. Another interesting collection of books, Michele! Congrats on your inclusion in “Life Repurposed.” 🙂 I haven’t read “Freeing Jesus” but was wondering what you would think of it … I always appreciate your thoughtful perspectives, and this was no exception!


  9. This is a great selection of books! All of them sound good in different ways. I’m sorry about your back injury and hope you recover soon.


  10. Thanks for linking to An Open Book! I love the cover of Life Repurposed – it definitely makes me want to pick it up! I’ve read a couple of Cynthia Ruchti’s books, and her stories are powerful.


  11. I’m always so amazed at how many books you get through Michele. What an accomplishment. I do love the Spring months. They always feel like the promise of more to come, and so inspiring. Thank you for joining us for #mischiefandmemories


  12. The UK weather doesn’t seem to know it is spring yet as we had snow too recently! It makes me appreciate the unpredictability of life and the beauty of our world. Thanks for linking up with #MischiefAndMemories


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