We spend a lot of our life in transition, and wherever we are there are people we love dearly and others we miss terribly. Life in ministry is often a unique mix of incredible joy, restless nights, and lots and lots of prayer.
One thing that God used to anchor us through seasons of transition is a good book. Actually, there have been several!
If you’re in a season of transition, looking to deepen your walk, or just want a good read, consider checking these out. There are tons of great titles out there, but these have been really meaningful to us.
Book #1 – A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada
A book that I’ve found tremendously helpful is “A Place of Healing” by Joni Eareckson Tada. One of my favourite quotes from it is, “God’s plans for us really are full of hope and a future. Even when that path leads through pain.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with pain or chronic illness, I highly recommend this book. Get it on Amazon, Kindle or check your local Christian bookstore.
Book #2 – The Biggest Estate: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
Bill Gammage’s book, The Biggest Estate: How Aborigines Made Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2012) radically changed how I see and understand the Australian natural landscape as well as my understanding of Australian history.
Gammage shares of a number of early European landscape paintings of the Australian bush and matches it with written descriptions of the day as well. As Gammage observes, these early artists provide very clear evidence that Aborigines had sophisticated and intentional farming practices. Aborigines cultivated and sculpted the landscape in order to preserve, encourage and enable more efficient harvesting and hunting. In some places they worked gently with the landscape, fauna, and flora, but in other places, stronger steps were taken to reshape the land to fit their needs.
Gammage argues that for indigenous land management practices, “Mere sustainability was not enough. Abundance was normal. This was a tremendous advantage. It made plants easier to concentrate, to burn, to let fallow, to make park-like, to share. It made life comfortable … people generally had plenty to eat, few hours of work a day, and much time for religion and recreation.”
The Biggest Estate on Earth has challenged me, who has spent a lifetime outdoors, to see and appreciate the Australian landscape in news ways. It has highlighted to me that I need to be aware of the assumptions that shape how I perceive the world and those around me.
Book # 3 – Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby
A book that God has used to help me recognize Him personally in my life is ‘Experiencing God’ by Henry and Richard Blackaby. I love how Blackaby highlights the ways God is at work in and through us to accomplish His good and loving purposes. As he says,
“God wants a watching world to come to know who He truly is. He does not call you to get involved in His activity merely so people can see what you can do. He will call you to an assignment that you cannot accomplish apart from His divine intervention. God’s assignments have God-sized dimensions. This does not mean God does not ask us to undertake mundane, seemingly ordinary tasks. But when God is involved in anything, there are always eternal divine dimensions, implications and possibilities.”
If you are longing to experience more of God in your own life, or if you are wondering how He may be guiding you, I recommend this book. Available on Kindle or at Amazon.
Book #4 – The End of Memory by Miroslav Wolf
What do we do with our hurt and especially our memories of hurt and pain? ‘The End of Memory’ by Miroslav Volf has been a pivotal read for my own processing, and has continued to inform how I think, share, and pray about forgiveness.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is, “being in God frees our lives from the tyranny the unalterable past exercises with the iron fist of time’s irreversibility. God does not take away our past; God gives it back to us – fragments gathered, stories reconfigured, selves truly redeemed, people forever reconciled.”
It is one thing to know that we are called to forgive, but working out how to live in forgiveness, whilst struggling with the unwelcomed pangs, flashbacks, and hurts which can resurface without warning, is often a very complex reality. Volf digs into these questions and more as he processes his own experiences of marginalisation and persecution.
Volf suffered at the hands of his persecutor, and we too, in life, collect hurts and pains, which can take on the form of a shadow in our minds, hearts, and lives – always there, even when we turn our back and try to walk away. How many times must be bend in repentance, asking that God removes the pain and the stain? Volf answers this in an unexpected way. He moves beyond simple piety and Sunday School lessons, and builds a coherent and holistic picture which includes our physical responses and the ways that the brain cycles to work through difficulties, our thought-life, emotions, and our faith. This approach fundamentally makes sense. We are wounded as embodied beings, and so our memory and so too our understanding and praxis of forgiveness need to account for the reality that we are whole beings.
If you want to think more deeply about walking in the way of forgiveness, we recommend this book.
Book #5 – Destiny by David Gibson
Graham introduced to us a great commentary on Ecclesiastes when we studied Ecclesiastes at church last year – ‘Destiny’ by David Gibson. It is full of gems like this quote,
“When life ends, or is about to end, absolutely everything else comes into focus. The things that don’t really matter, but which we gave so much time to, now seem so empty and pointless. The lives we touched and the generosity we showed and the love we gave or received now mean so much more. That’s what the Teacher is saying: a coffin preaches a better sermon than a cot. ‘Look forward,’ he says as he grabs us by the shoulders. ‘Don’t be a fool! Stop trying to escape life’s agonies by drowning them away, by laughing them off and pretending they don’t exist. Look forward to the day of your death and ask yourself, what kind of person should I be? For one day I will be dead.'”
If you would like to study Ecclesiastes more closely, or if you are preaching or teaching from Ecclesiastes sometime in the future, or if you are contemplating the point of life, or raging against illness, suffering and death – then we highly recommend this book. It has deeply blessed us and we pray that God will use it to bless you too. Check your local Christian bookstore, or order it from Amazon.
What are some of your favourites? We’d love to hear them — especially if you’re in a season of transition. Leave a comment below!