Sparks from the Flint
The Book Edition -- Deb's Top Picks for 2019
Dear Friends,

Advent Blessings!

Regardless the length of a drive or the challenges of a day, my life is always made deeper and wider by books! Books are my soulmates, serving as prophet and pastor alike.

I hope you’ll enjoy some of these "top 10 picks" as much as I have. Consider this my Advent present to all of you as together we prepare our hearts to swaddle Jesus with tenderness and hope .

In Jesus’ Joy,

P.S. The summaries in italics come directly from the book's cover. The rest represents my particular view of the book.
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Big Magic

I f you or someone you love would like a thoughtful, inspiring, and easy read about the ways in which creativity comes to us as sacred gift, then this is your book! (*This book was one of two picks among our clergywomen who discussed this at their first annual retreat.)

Elizabeth Gilbert takes the work of creativity seriously, while taking herself very lightly indeed. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, she encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. A fun read with some great reminders for us all as it cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
Generational IQ

This is THE book that I would love every ruling elder to read in the next year so we can lead our congregations to a deeper appreciation of our differences as well as strengthen our witness to Jesus Christ.  (*Would you and/or your congregation like to host a cluster event focused on this book in 2020?)

  • Is Christianity really going to be dead in three generations?
  • Why is my twenty-something still living in the basement?
  • How do I pass my faith to my children when they don’t respond to the things I find most meaningful?
  • How can our church keep all the generations engaged?
If we don’t have generational intelligence, we overreact to the small things, ignore the big things, and do the wrong things, making our relationships worse. This book brings the best of generational research close to home, to help you find a way to dispel generational tensions in your family and church community. 
Quietly Courageous: Leading the Church in a Changing World

THIS is the book I would love for every pastoral leader to read in the next year. For those of you familiar with  Canoeing the Mountains , this book addresses similar concepts and takes them to the next level from a variety of historical and social perspectives. Throughout this work, we are encouraged to acknowledge assumptions, face temptations, and walk through the mess of it all with—  you guessed it —  quiet courage!

For the past two decades, organizations have been grasping for ways to deal with the alarming rate of change they are experiencing, both internally and in the marketplace. We have developed countless methods for managing change and despite a completely abysmal record of results, we continue to see that the issue is not one of method but of mindset.  
Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World

Do you ever want to pull the plug on your schedule? This book shows you why you should and how you can; it will fundamentally change your life. It is a total reconstruction of America’s frenzied, frenetic lifestyle, offering the ultimate regenerative alternative. 

(*This book was one of two picks among our clergywomen who discussed this at our first annual retreat.)

Beautifully arranged by topics such as Sabbath for Us, Others, Creation, and Worship, this book is a deeply Biblical reflection on the most overlooked of the 10 commandments. Reflection Questions at the end allow congregational groups to use this easily for weekly or monthly discussion. 
The Ragged Edge of Night is one of two novels I am including in my picks because of its unusual slant and powerful reflections around the presence of God, hope, and good and evil in a challenging time. Great for book club discussions around ethics and theology,

It is Germany 1942. Fransiscan friar Anton Starzmann is stripped of his place in the world when his school is seized by the Nazis. He relocates to a small German hamlet to wed Elisabeth Herter, a widow who seeks a marriage — in name only — to a man who can help raise her three children. Anton seeks something too — atonement for failing to protect his young students from the wrath of the Nazis. But neither he nor Elisabeth expects their lives to be shaken once again by the inescapable rumble of war.....
Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Sou l was the book chosen for use during a (largely) silent retreat in which I participated this summer. I absolutely LOVED this resource!

Almost 20 chapters of colorful pictures, wide-ranging ideas, and very accessible writing creates a range of connecting points so that, whether you struggle regularly or pray with ease, there’s “meat” for everyone to savor and digest. This is another great book for groups to use to deepen their lives of prayer and broaden their practices. 
My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging is one of the books that both Elizabeth Cantrell and I keep by our bedside. The stories are short and luminous, offering our hearts large, consoling, and memorable blessings before bedtime.  

Naomi Remen, a cancer physician and master weaver of tales, uses her stories to remind us of the power of our kindness and the joy of being alive. As she writes, she often remembers the wisdom of her grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, who saw life as a web of holy connections.
The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief is a book I would love to give to every person I know who has experienced loss of some kind. The blessings were written by a woman whose young husband unexpectedly died and topics range from “blessing the brokenhearted” to “blessing the anger” and “blessing the questions”. 

A blessing meets us in the place of our deepest loss. In that place, it offers us a glimpse of wholeness and claims that wholeness here and now. A blessing also helps us to keep breathing — to abide this moment and the next moment, and the one after that….
To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

These Celtic blessings range from the traditional offerings for beginnings and endings, mornings and evenings, as well as fresh ones for one who is an addict, or lonely, or exhausted, or needing to make a necessary decision. The language is lovely and always leaves me feeling larger in hope and deeply connected to Jesus. Another one of my bedside favorites!
Radiance of Tomorrow is the second of two novels I am lifting up because it was written by Ishmael Beah, who spoke movingly at a past Montreat College Conference about the devastating civil war in Sierra Leone. This story shares the tale of two longtime friends who return to their hometown after a devastating civil war. It is not a light read, but it is full of strength in the midst of so much sorrow. I love the way that the African language, Mende, is translated into English, opening up an entirely new world for our Western sensibilities. For example, what we we may call "monkey mind", when our mind is not resting still, Beah describes as “a mind becoming an anthill filled with smoke”. As disciples of Jesus, this novel reminds us of our global neighbors and the world that needs our care.
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