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Books Not to Miss for you or your gift list

It’s time, once again for my annual “Don’t Miss List,” the books I think you’ll love to read and/or buy for someone on your holiday gift list:

1. Bonhoeffer: pastor, prophet, martyr spy by Eric Metaxas. Good biographies inspire us as we see truth and virtue lived out with courage and creativity. As we see the real world consequences of bad theology. With Bonhoeffer I believe Eric Metaxas has stepped into the top tier of American biographers which includes Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage) and David McCullough (John Adams), with the significant exception that Eric studies his subjects from the core of their values and beliefs outward, especially their spiritual beliefs.

It’s time, once again for my annual “Don’t Miss List,” the books I think you’ll love to read and/or buy for someone on your holiday gift list:

1. Bonhoeffer: pastor, prophet, martyr spy by Eric Metaxas. Good biographies inspire us as we see truth and virtue lived out with courage and creativity. As we see the real world consequences of bad theology. With Bonhoeffer I believe Eric Metaxas has stepped into the top tier of American biographers which includes Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage) and David McCullough (John Adams), with the significant exception that Eric studies his subjects from the core of their values and beliefs outward, especially their spiritual beliefs.

As a believer, Eric writes about how Bonhoeffer's belief in God impacts everything about him. In Bonhoeffer we discover how the nation of Martin Luther could, a few hundred years later, embrace Hitler, how swiftly he could come to power in a “ Christian nation.” And how the German Lutheran Church embraced him. How the Confessing church split from the Reich church. The implications for our times are stunning. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. At www.ericmetaxas.com you can find links to his interviews on NpR and Glen Beck. I read this with a group and we all found it life changing.

2. Evolving in Monkeytown by Rachel Held Evans. Rachel writes a compelling narrative of her own spiritual journey. Daughter of a DTS grad and professor at Bryan College where whe honed her own skills in Christian apolgetics and worldview, Rachel experienced a crisis of faith her Senior year at Bryan. The full force of a young Muslim woman being executed in a soccer stadium on trumped up charges of murdering her husband shattered Rachel’s already cracking faith. Had she been born in pakistan instead of the US she considers the possibility that it might have been her. And while we condemn the savagry of the Taliban, what about God? They only took her life. God will, if she had not trusted in Jesus, send her to an eternity in hell, a fate that makes her execution pale by comparison. The girl who grew up knowing all the answers discovered all these questions, especially about the heart and nature of God. The book chronicles her journey back to a kind of postmodern orthodoxy that is shared by so many young people today. Great read to really understand the heart and mind of 20 somethings wrestling with God.

3. Perhaps not for this Christmas, but make a note for next November to order Come Thou Long Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie. Similar to A Faith and Culture Devotional, this book features readings (on Christmas) from great souls…Martin Luther, George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards from previous generations as well as John Piper, Tim Keller and Joni Eareckson Tada from ours. Wonderful insight into Scripture as well as the human soul. Best resource I have found to take me into the Larger Story of Christmas and reveal more deeply the beauty of what we celebrate.

4. Another book that has become essential for my own personal worship this year…31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers and Warren Myers. These beautifully articulated prayers of wonder, praise and thanksgiving have so focused my heart and soul on God’s glory that I feel like my daily experience of worship has been deepened significantly. An effective way to get our eyes off ourseves and our stuff and focus on the fair beauty of our God.

5. When life explodes and our hearts are overwhelmed with pain, we need a certain kind of voice to minister comfort. The best voice for Shattered Dreams I’ve encoutered is Larry Crab. A gifted healer when we need a new vision of life. New dreams of hope. When we have experienced loss, especially the loss of someone we hold dear, Dee Brestin’s book, The God of All Comfort: Finding Your Way into His Arms feels like a soft throw and a warm cup of comfort. Dee, a gifted author and speaker (The Friendships of Women), lost her beloved husband Steve, a physician, to cancer. This book traces the footsteps of their journey through prayers and belief in God’s healing to disbelief at Steve’s deteriorating condition and finally death. Keying off Psalm 42, he will give me songs in the night, Dee describes how when she could not think or pray she could listen to music. And through the words and emtionaly intensity of the Psalms she found a way to bear her sorrow and be loved more deeply by God in the midst of it.

6. Another book that ministers great encouragement and strength in times of trouble, Carol Kent’s Between a Rock and a Grace Place: Divine Surprises in the Tight Spots of Life offers real hope for how to endure and rebuild. In the middle of the night Carol and Gene received a phone call that changed their lives forever. Their only child, an honor graduate of Annapolis, had been arrested for the murder of his wife’s exhusband, whom he suspected of abusing his wife’s girls on the weekends their Dad had visitation. Carol chronicled the trial and JP’s imprisonment in her best selling When I Lay My Isaac Down. In this just-released book, for the first time, JP speaks, telling the story from his perspective. Comforting his mother with the comfort with which he has been comforted. Telling us all how to rebuild in a maximum security prison with no hope of release or recovery of a normal life. In a future blog Carol will share this book’s insights into fear, grace, gratitude and liberty.

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Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.