Five Books That Have Shaped My Life, and Would Make a Great Read This Summer
We are offering a series called “Summer Reading,” with assorted Stream writers and contributors offering what they’ll be toting in book bags this vacation season or their reflections on summer reading. See the rest of the series here.
Too many books, too little time. That’s the problem I often face. Case in point — or, rather, no (book)case — I have a medium sized Lowe’s moving box full of books I have yet to read. So if I’m going to read a book, I want it to give me a new perspective or expand my understanding of a life issue. If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with this summer, here are five books that shaped my life.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
To start, here’s a short, and free, read. The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of letters from a man who spent much of his life in service at a monastery in Paris. These were compiled by a man named Joseph de Beaufort after Brother Lawrence’s passing in the 1600s. De Beaufort also included four conversations he had with Brother Lawrence.
When de Beaufort, a representative of the local archbishop, found him, Brother Lawrence was a humble sandal repairman. De Beaufort describes him as “gentle in grace” and devoted in his pursuit of God’s Presence. The fruit of the Spirit are certainly evident in his life and insights. And in 40 short pages, this work will encourage and inspire you in your walk with God.
The Practice of the Presence of God is available in several formats through Project Gutenburg. They have an online version as well as EPUB, Kindle, and plain text downloads. There’s also a free audio version available at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (or Captivating for Women)
In his bestseller Wild at Heart, John Eldredge, a Christian author and counselor, explores men’s desire for adventure and success. While society bottles masculinity and sticks it behind a desk, he shares the freedom he has found hanging from the rock face of a cliff — the delight he has in tackling natural challenges. He also shares the misperceptions of life and manhood that he was taught as a young man.
Reading Wild at Heart helped me put words to a lot of the things I’ve thought throughout my life. What does it mean to be a man? Let’s look at Jesus’ life and see what examples we can find. I’ll give you a hint: it looks a lot different than what modern culture says.
Though Wild at Heart is written specifically to help men work out the desires in their own heart, the women I know who have read it say they found it insightful as well. Eldredge also worked with his wife, Stasi, to write a book helping women understand their heart desires. It’s called Captivating. Both were available for around $10 on Christianbook.com at the time of this writing.
Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Since Love & Respect is a marriage book, I must say upfront that I am not married and have never been married. But I talk to a lot of people. Or, more accurately, I listen. And in every marriage I know of, where both the husband and wife are faithfully devoted to God and to each other, the issues and disagreements they face boil down to the issues covered in this book.
In Love & Respect, Eggerichs shares from his experience in his own marriage and from counseling innumerous other couples through their marriages. Everything he’s learned clicked one day when he read Ephesians 5:33: “Let each of you love his own wife as himself, and let the wife respect her husband.”
The premise of this book is that women primarily require “love” in relationship, while men are more in need of “respect.” Both should be given unconditionally. Without respect, man’s fleshly response is to act in a way that is unloving. Without love, woman’s fleshly response is to act disrespectfully. As you can imagine, this creates a horrible cycle of arguments. But, remarkably, the opposite is also true. When a woman feels loved, she naturally wants to be respectful. When a man feels respected, he naturally wants to be loving.
Even though I’m single, I’ve learned and practiced this concept with the women in my life. I know these lessons will one day be invaluable to me in marriage.
Right now, you can grab a copy on Christianbook.com for around $15. I bought mine at a local used book store for $7.
Heart of Praise by Jack Hayford
The only devotional on this list, Heart of Praise was written by Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California.
Coming through the pen of a man who has composed some 500 hymns and choruses, Heart of Praise captures worship well. In just a few pages every day, Hayford leads the reader through such concepts as worshiping through loneliness and through seasons of heartache. Other topics include “How to Know God’s Will for Your Life” and “Understanding the Heart of God.” I also found Hayford’s “Keys to Sustaining Faith in Difficult Times” particularly helpful.
If you decide to read this book, I’d recommend you start with the “Suggestions for Your Daily Devotions” section in the back of the book. I didn’t find it until I’d already finished the devotional, and wish I’d seen it earlier.
The price of this book varies quite a bit. But as of this writing, you can pick up a hardback copy from Amazon for just over $6.
After many years working as a pastor, David Murray ended up in a hospital bed with blood clots throughout his lungs. You’d think he’d have learned his lesson. But just a few short years later, he ended up in the hospital again with the same condition. Murray describes this as the grace of God — grabbing his attention, and showing him the importance of slowing down and taking care of himself.
In his book Reset, he explores the epidemic of burnout in our fast paced, technology driven world. The relatable writing style and profound insight in this book will quickly pull you in. The pages seem to meld into one continuous flow, with nary a thought of the time spent turning them.
Though Murray puts a special focus on Christian men in ministry, he has written this book in such a way that any man can learn from his experiences. Murray hopes other men can glean from the knowledge he’s gained and learn to recover from burnout — or avoid it in the first place.
Reset is another book with a counterpart for women. Murray says that in his experience of counseling both men and women, the common themes of each gender vary just enough to merit separate books. So he worked with his wife, Shona, to make a book specifically for women. It’s called Refresh.
Bonus Round — The Bible
All these great books were inspired by the same source. I think of it like the food chain diagrams used in grade schools, which show that even apex predators ultimately depend on the sun as the source of their energy. We should receive truth from others. But we should also receive nourishment directly from the source.
Jesus taught the disciples to pray for their daily bread. And that word “bread” applies both literally and figuratively. Take some time each day this summer to read the Bible. Even if it’s only a chapter each day. Get quiet, read the words of our God, and see what change He might bring within your heart. And journal about what you’re learning. It’ll help you remember and give you something to look back at when you’re feeling low.
Don’t know where to start? Maybe try one of the Gospels, like John.