My joyful sunflowers have bowed their heads in the garden, waiting for the long winter to begin, but I have picked my last tomatoes and green beans, dug up the beets with my grandkids, and all the pumpkins and squash can sit on the deck for a bit longer while we wait for the first frost. Storing the harvest in clear glass jars in my basement has been a long-standing tradition in my family, and the satisfaction of growing good food to share with family and friends is one of my favorite ways to celebrate summer and the rich fruition of harvest.
The numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t include all the big bowls of salad, snap peas and green beans, sunflower and zinnia bouquets, spaghetti squash, and the fresh cucumber sandwiches we enjoyed! This has been an abundant year in the garden, and we are grateful.
I’m also thankful for the rich harvest of encouragement I’ve received from my reading this fall. We’ve got lots of non-fiction this month and a heavy emphasis on practical theology with a touch of memoir thrown in just to keep it real. Now, let’s talk books…
This Book Is For You
The Bible is not an end in itself, but rather a big story that brings us to God, introducing us to his heart and reassuring us that he’s not far away at all. So, if you are one of those readers who has convinced herself that the Bible is only for varsity-level Christians, or if your only exposure has been chopped-up, cherry-picked stories, take heart because understanding the big picture changes everything.
In This Book Is for You, Tricia Lott Williford argues that the Old and New Testaments do their best work together, that the Bible is one big story of redemption with everything before Christ pointing to his coming and everything post-resurrection confirming his impact on our lives. With a few clarifying principles and a strong undercurrent of memoir, Tricia blazes a trail for women who want to become confident students of God’s Word—even when life crowds in and causes us to doubt our discipleship.
Never does she arrogate to herself the role of “Bible expert.” The voice that comes through is from a faithful traveling companion on the road of “long obedience.” Perhaps my favorite feature of the book is Tricia’s advocacy for the humble 3×5 card for carrying around meaningful verses to meditate on in the blur of real life.
Truth is big enough to change your life and small enough to fit in your back pocket. The Bible is for everyone. God is for everyone, and you can know God through his Word.
Holier Than Thou
Jackie Hill Perry has a compelling message, and she has dug deep in her study and preparation for Holier Than Thou. No reasonable person would argue against God’s holiness as a formative attribute, but most of us have an incomplete grasp of God’s infinite worth and how his holiness should shape the way we think about God, relate to God, and trust him in our everyday life.
In her stentorian writing voice, Perry helped me to see that God’s holiness is far richer than moral purity. Since the root of the word “holy” implies cutting or separation, it points to God’s complete other-ness. He is in a category alone in that he is uncreated, completely sovereign, and utterly immutable.
Every single attribute of God is infused with holiness, which is great news, for God’s holiness stands as ultimate reassurance that he will never sin against me. All his work is good, for “God himself is the standard by which all right and wrong is determined,” and in the moments when that does not appear to be so, it is my own perspective that needs altering.
The Hard Good
As a fan of all things paradoxical, I was captivated by both the title and the concept behind The Hard Good. Lisa Whittle frames her story around her rich and complicated relationship with her father through which she received the gift of a biblical definition of goodness—“centered not on us or our strength or capabilities but on God.” She challenges readers to view the events of our lives through the lens of our ultimate usefulness in his kingdom.
Since hard and good can live side by side, we become empowered to accept the things we wish could be different, we can be honest about the struggles that we’d rather hide, we can accept and extend forgiveness, and we can welcome whatever change God wants to initiate in our story.
Following God through the hard and the good leads us, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “along the best and straightest paths to [God] himself.” As we trust for faith to embrace the hard things in life as part of God’s design for good, we discover that our deepest longings often find their way to reality on the road that runs through the hard good.
Not Quite Fine
Author Carlene Hill Byron and I have a number of points in common: we are both Mainers, and we are both members of the Redbud Writers Guild. Even more significantly, we both have reasons to be concerned about mental health awareness. Carlene has turned her concern into an excellent resource for churches, families, communities, and friends who want to show up for one another in the day to day challenges of maintaining mental health. Not Quite Fine might be a title we can all embrace, particularly in this season of COVID concerns in which no one is really walking in equilibrium as we experience “normal responses to abnormal circumstances.”
Byron makes a strong argument that the alarming mental health statistics in 2021 have their basis in the unhealthy cultural waters we’re all swimming in these days. For instance, how’s a soul to find meaning, purpose, value, and hope in an environment in which “normal” has been curated to mean Pinterest Perfect? Her compassionate voice is a battle cry and a wakeup call to the local church, for we are empowered by God to be a healing community with resources beyond what professional medical staff can begin to provide for hurting souls.
Perhaps the best news of all comes directly from Isaiah 61 where the prophet extends hope for the broken, promising comfort, and casting them in the role of rebuilders and restorers. Even if you are not already alarmed by rising suicide rates, the opioid crisis, and the prevalence of anxiety and depression as chronic conditions, the clear and insightful way in which Carlene addresses current mental health problems and the need for supportive communities will inspire you to think deeply about the lessons of suffering, the meaning of “normal,” and how our expectations can actually undermine our own mental health.
Up From Slavery
Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington has been our companion in the truck throughout mowing season, a read aloud that won’t be safe reading if you want to hang on to preconceived notions of happy slaves living in well-fed comfort on prosperous plantations. Washington’s hardscrabble life began with a childhood that left no time for play, but he graduated from “the school of American slavery” in time to pursue an education that enabled him to extend that same offering to many other people of color throughout his life, first as a teacher or tutor and ultimately as principal of the Tuskegee Institute.
As a white woman in 2021, I found it hard to absorb and to identify with the positive spin he managed to put on the injustices he observed and experienced. Even so, this first person account of his life written in 1901 is rich with personal details and shared wisdom that shed light on a completely different era in our country’s struggle to embrace equality for all people.
One Last Thing…
Thank you to readers who have visited the Speaking Page here on my blog. It’s always a work in progress, but if you are in the process of planning an event and are looking for a Bible teacher to open the Word of God with the women of your church, it would be an honor to participate in the vision God has given you for your women’s ministry. Details are available via the “Speaking” tab in the menu at the top of the page, or simply click here to find a list of topics I’ve covered in the past. Of course, I’d love working with your unique theme, as well.
That’s it for another month! Thanks for your faithfulness and encouragement–always a blessing!
Holding you in the Light,
Mental health awareness, the holiness of God, a lot of practical theology, and a historic classic book make for a well-rounded October Book Talk. Join me there to talk books and to share what you’re reading!Tweet
My Gift to You!
I am committed to the truth that women can become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word. If that’s your goal, I’m creating resources to help you along the way, like the Guided Meditation I’m offering free to subscribers. Simply enter your email below for regular encouragement in your understanding and enjoyment of scripture:
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Many thanks to NavPress/Tyndale, NetGalley, B&H Publishing, Thomas Nelson, and Herald Press for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which, of course, are offered freely and with honesty.