Every time I take a step back from the busyness of our lives and look at where God has brought me from, I am at once profoundly grateful and humbled and amazed. I love seeing the ways that He has been leading us step-by-step to where we are. And I'm thankful that He takes me one step at a time. Because if you had told me at the beginning of this journey that I'd end up living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Atlanta, I might have ran screaming in the other direction.
I realized the other day that, because I'm a big reader, the Lord has often used books to mold and shape my ideas and heart. Of course the only book that really has the power to transform is His Word, but there have certainly been some specific books along the journey that have challenged my beliefs, stretched my faith, convicted me, and taught me. And I thought y'all might like to know what those books are. But seriously, don't read them unless you're ready to be changed.
1-The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. I know, I know, I've already told y'all about this book a time or twenty. But this is where it all began. Shane lives in intentional community in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. His ministry is about serving the poor and loving his neighbor. And when we read the book on our first wedding anniversary (almost 4 years ago!) our heart couldn't stop repeating the questions he pose: what if we REALLY believed what the Bible says? How would our lives look different?
And you know what? We asked ourselves that question . . . and we answered it - we DO believe the Bible. And now our lives look dramatically different than they did just a few short years ago.
2-Radical by David Platt. If you've spent any time around here, you've probably noticed that I have been re-reading this book and posting some chapter re-caps. You may also have noticed that I've totally slacked on the last two chapters, and there's a good reason for this: I gave my copy of Radical away because I was so excited about the message and sharing it. But then I realized that I now have no way to complete my chapter recaps. Blog fail.
Seriously though, Radical is another one of those books that will make you ask questions. About your faith. About your possessions. About American Christianity.
3- Some time after we started working with inner-city kids, I stumbled upon Theirs is the Kingdom, by Robert Lupton. Lupton has a ministry in Atlanta that we respect, and his vision for the city is just like ours . . . so we picked up the book. And it turned out to be this amazing, eye-opening look at the lives of our kiddos and their families downtown. Asking hard questions, while helping us understand where they are coming from and how they got there - I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in inner-city ministry. I even forced all our counselors to read it as part of their training for camp this summer. Or rather, I made Adam and "Coco" (the director) do it, so I could hold onto my reputation as the nice one :-)
4- Love Mercy - by Lisa and Ty Samson. Lisa Samson is one of my favorite fiction authors (I especially loved Quaker Summer), so I was excited to read her book about Mercy and the poor. She co-wrote it with her daughter (Ty). The first half of the book was moving and fascinating for me, because she wrote about their move into, and life living in, intentional community in an impoverished area in Kentucky. The second half of the book is about their trip to Africa, and is every bit as heart-breaking and moving as the first half. I really loved reading about their hearts, and was stretched to expand my vision even beyond my obvious "neighbors' in the inner-city to include our brothers and sisters who are suffering (beyond belief really) in Africa.
"Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" -Micah 6:8
5- Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. I just finished reading this book, and immediately started re-reading it so I can underline, highlight, bookmark etc. Because it has been a long time since I read a book that made me laugh and cry all at once. It was an easy, interesting read - but one that I couldn't blow through in one sitting, because sometimes I just had to put it down and let things "marinate." Father Boyle's homily is a beautiful and moving account of the work that he does with the "homies" (gang members and ex-gang members) in LA. He reminds me that, on the most basic level, what every kid (and adult) we work with in the inner-city needs is to truly believe in their own identity as a beloved child of God. Because "as misshapen as we feel ourselves to be, attention from another reminds us of our true shape in God" (55).
At it's core, this is a book about compassion. About how we are called to be in the world who God is. And God is compassion. Period. Regardless of whether that compassion is towards the kid who has been abused and hungry and left alone and neglected, or the one who left him that way.
"The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place - with the outcast and those relegated to the margins."
"Compassion is always, at its most authentic, about a shirt from the cramped world of self-preoccupation into a more expansive place of fellowship, of true kinship."
I just picked out about 27 more quotes and points that I'm still mulling over from this book - but then i realized I should save those for another day, and get to the giveaway already . . .
Knowing my own journey, and how often we're asked "how did you get there?" I thought it would be a good idea to give one of YOU one of these books. Because if you read it, and it softens or changes your heart for the better, even just a little bit - then I will feel like this whole blog was totally worth it (even though it took me hours and hours to write because Jayci's little 3 year old friend was over and I have to break up fights over toys every 27 seconds. . . ).
So here's the deal: leave a comment on this post (or on facebook) and let me know what book I should read next. What's the book (or books) that have changed YOUR life? Then, in a week, we'll randomly select a winner who can choose which of these 5 books they would like to receive in the mail (because everyone loves getting stuff in the mail right?!)
-VOTE for my sweet friend Amanda's video on Dave Ramsey. Because she's amazing just for putting it together and for thinking of us when she thought of what she would want to do with $5000. Just be sure to leave a separate comment letting me know you voted!
-Spread the word about this giveaway. Tweet or blog or post on facebook for an extra entry -- not because I care so much about people reading THIS as I do about people reading these books, and having their hearts moved to compassion for the poor and hurting among us! *leave a comment and let me know if you did this too!