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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Books that Influenced How I Live

Books are like good friends who influence us to live better, fuller, richer lives. I enjoy reading. I enjoy hearing the voices of others and I am delighted when those voices have something so valuable to say that it changes how I live. Here are 8 books, other than the Bible (which deserves a post all of its own), that have impacted how I live.

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence taught me to avoid getting trapped in guilt. Brother Lawrence describes how he deals with sin. He acknowledged his sin to God, accepted God's forgiveness and moved forward in obedience seeking to honor God in all things. Rather than wallow in guilt, trapped and hindered, he accepted and trusted in God's forgiveness and grace and lived in freedom and love. 
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken tells the story of a young man and woman in love unwilling to consider Christ or Christianity until they meet C.S. Lewis. They come to faith in Christ, yet Sheldon refuses to put Christ before his beloved wife. When she is taken from him, he grieves deeply for her. He showed me how to grieve purposely, how to honor the one lost, grieve the loss, and move forward. 

A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser describes the day tragedy struck his family and left him bereft of his wife, mother, and daughter. He taught me how deeply loss impacts our identity. We derive much of our identity from our relationships and when they are lost we must look deeper into our own soul to discover who we are apart from those we have loved and lost.

Men are Like Waffles – Women are Like Spaghetti – Pam and Bill Farrell's description of the ways men and women think differently changed how I related to men. I learned that things that seemed unbelievable to me were reality (like men can turn off their brains or when they say "I forgot" it's not merely an excuse, but often the truth). I learned to stay on topic more especially in a serious, problem-solving conversations.

Henry Virkler describes how we relate to one another in Speaking Your Mind without Stepping on Toes. Sometimes we manipulate, sometimes we become aggressive, sometimes we become passive, however the best way to relate is assertively. When we approach another person in an assertive manner, we remember that both ourselves and the other person matter. We seek to find solutions that express respect for both people.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by well-known author and speaker, Steven Covey, contains a treasure box of life changing ideas: seek first to understand then to be understood, work through difficulties until you find a win-win solution, and prioritize based on what is important rather than what is urgent.

How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership by Alan Johnson is an anthology of reputable, conservative Christians who seek to live according to Scripture and who have also come to recognize the freedom that women have in Christ to exercise their gifts.

The Youth Builder by Jim Burns taught me to establish boundaries that protected my ministry and personal life. Ministry is emotionally and spiritually draining which can also impact us physically. Jim Burns recommends, among other things, limiting the number of nights out each week and taking retreats to focus on God and be refreshed. His advice led me to begin having "Solo Days" - a day set apart every three months to seek God and recognize His direction in my life.

What books have influenced how you live? What lessons have you learned from your favorite authors?