This is the perfect time to curl up in our sweaters, snuggle under a blanket, brew a pot of tea, and cozy up with a good book or movie so let’s talk about what we’re into right now, eh? Can’t wait to hear your own faves in the comments!
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. This isn’t news for my email subscribers as we already talked about this book last month but for the rest of you, I must bring it up again… I’m already a big fan of Wendell Berry’s poetry so I decided to read his novel Jayber Crow over the summer, slowly, savouring every paragraph. I think I underlined something on every page. It was such a beautiful and good book.
I mentioned this to my friend Peri from Kansas when we were together at a conference recently and she immediately grasped my arm and implored me to read Hannah Coulter next. She promised me it was even better and ever since she direct messages me to say, “Are you done yet??” So after reading Jayber Crow, I picked up Hannah Coulter and …friends. There are no words. None. This book is so real, so true, so good, so dignified with humanity, it took my breath. I cried over it because it’s so life-affirming. I have a new favourite book. You’re going to want to read this one. (P.S. If you want to sign up for Field Notes, my monthly e-newsletter here’s last months’ edition – in the top left hand corner there’s a button that says “Subscribe”).
Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist :: I read this book on a plane and I totally cried in seat 30A. I can’t tell you how much I took this book to heart – I think Shauna might have written it just for me. (She’s cool that way.) I think her words here will stay with me and already we are making decisions as a family differently because of her influence. Also, I’ll just say for the record that she is an incredible writer and this is her finest work.
A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny :: The latest instalment in the Inspector Gamache series (which we discussed here) came out and you better believe I gobbled it up like steak frites from Olivier and Gabri’s bistro. It was SO GOOD. And I’ll also just go ahead and admit that I cried a bit reading the acknowledgements of this book – a better love story than most, just right there.
I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi :: Like millions of us, I’ve been a devoted follower of Luvvie’s blog and her Facebook page for a while now. She often leaves me guiltily cackling with tears running down my face with her smart political and pop culture commentary – she says what we’re all thinking, it seems. And her followers are hilarious – half the fun of her social media life is reading the comments. I really liked her book – it’s a lot like her online style – snarky, serious, funny, legit. In particular the chapters about race were perfect and I learned a lot.
Changing Our Mind by David Gushee :: I have had this book by one of evangelicalism’s leading conservative ethicisits (he wrote the best-selling text Kingdom Ethics) and his shift on GLBTQ theology for a while but just finally read it. It was a wonderful, accessible book but I think it’s particularly helpful to people who are still in process on this issue – just beginning to rethink it perhaps – as David clearly still holds to a conservative sexual ethic that eschews lust, fornication, adultery, and encourages marriage, covenant, commitment, family. He gave me language for how I was landing in this conversation. I learned a lot and will be recommending it often, I know.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly :: A big thick novel about three intersecting stories of women in World War II is pretty much irresistible to me. It was a hard read at times and I nearly put it down (I’m a pretty sensitive reader) but I’m glad I persevered through. I was surprised later to find out that two of the three stories are based on real women. I didn’t love it but I’m glad I read it.
Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty :: This author is one of my go-to favourites for a weekend read but I didn’t love this one. It wasn’t half as good as Biggest Little Lie or What Alice Forgot, but of course I finished it and of course I’ll still buy whatever she writes next.
Families Where Grace Is In Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen :: A very practical and helpful guide for parents. I liked it and took quite a few notes. I often read books that are more about the idea/theology of parenting and less about the practical tips and strategies and examples so this was helpful.
The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan :: My two eldest children devoured this series and so I wanted to read it to see what was going on. We all really liked it – it’s about a boy who discovers that the Greek gods (and later the Roman ones, too) are actually real and he is the son of one of them. Much adventure ensues. Anne and Joe have learned a ton of Greek mythology and it’s a thrilling adventures for sure but I think the big win is the trio of friends – their intelligence, loyalty, resourcefulness – at the heart of the story.
Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science by Mike McHargue :: This fascinating book is unlike any other I’ve read. One part story, one part science, one part theology, and taken altogether it sings of truth and wonder. Rather than placing facts and meaning at odds, Mike invites us into the freedom of both.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling :: This is actually a script for the play that continues the story of Harry through his son. I won’t give away any spoilers but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s not as magical as the books but it is satisfying.
I read quite a few other books these past few months but this is enough to share!
Monthly Theology Book
This month, I’m recommending the amazing Dr. Peter Enns’ latest book, “The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our ‘Correct’ Beliefs.” Pete Enns’ books have meant a lot to me during seasons of my faith shifts (my other two favourites among his many others are “Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament” and “The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It” – which I referenced often in my own book, “Out of Sorts.”)
Enns is brilliant at taking the big topics, those Christian ideas that usually scare us or intimidate us or worry us, and then make those very places a meeting place with a God who is bigger and wilder and more wonderful and trustworthy than we ever could have guessed. This book is accessible, freeing, empowering, and beautiful. I underlined almost every page. I only wish I had it in my hands fifteen years ago! I’m deeply thankful for Enns’s work and his new book is right on time for many of us.
TV & Movies
I have things to share! Get ready, my friends!
Poldark (BBC) :: I watched the first series and now I’m into the second series (which will be available in January on PBS). This is my Downton Abbey Sunday evening replacement and it just hits that period drama soap-y spot perfectly. A very satisfying show to binge!
Victoria (ITV) :: The first series just wrapped up in the UK but it will be on PBS this winter, I hear. Again, a perfect drama. When our Clara departed Doctor Who, I was properly devastated but she is anchoring this show now and let me just say, girlfriend has GOT THE GIFT. She is perfect as the young monarch.
Great British Bake Off (BBC) :: We’re into Series 7 now and I’m totally shipping Benjamina and Selasi. I am truly hoping the showstopper for the finale is a wedding cake now. With the tragic news that BBC lost the show and it is headed to Channel 4 without Mel or Sue or Mary Berry (Paul Hollywood followed the money, of course), I think we can consider this the final season of the most charming and delightful show. When else do you absolutely adore every single contestant on a reality show?
Love & Friendship (movie) :: I did manage to watch a movie at long last and this was sublime. Jane Austen’s unfinished novel is bitingly funny, smart, and fantastic on the screen and we loved it!
About Time (movie) :: This film is a few years old, starring Rachel McAdams. I watched it on Netflix while recovering on the couch and I really liked it. It’s sweet, romantic, lovely, ordinary life affirming, and satisfying.
These days we are listening to:
Poets & Saints by All Sons & Daughters :: I often write to their music and this one is lovely and meditative.
Seeds Family Worship :: I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of most music geared for kids especially Christian music. Basically it makes me want to rock in the corner and mourn for civilization. So we don’t listen to really any of it – the tinies just listen to what we listen to mostly. The only exception is Seeds Family Worship music. We discovered these albums a few years ago when my big three were just the only three tinies so we’ve been listening to them for years now. They are easy to listen to for everyone – I dig the music anyway – but the best part is that the words are just straight scripture. No weird theology, no scary reductionism, no big baggage that will have to be undone later. Just straight bible verses. We’ve been listening to these albums for years now and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it has helped me to memorize a TON of scripture my own self, let alone the tinies. It’s helped shape how we talk about our values as a family and given us a shared language for expectations or discipline even. Anyway, this morning we were listening to the Seeds of Courage one and I just remembered how glad I was when someone else told me about these CDs when I was a new-ish mum and so I thought I’d better do the same and pass it on.
I just can’t say enough – there are no words – for how dear my friend Megan Tietz is to my heart. We have been friends for many a year now – plus we’re both TOTAL Enneagram 9s to the core. And she just returned from a trip to Lebanon where she spent time interviewing Syrian refugees. Her three-part podcast series on her trip is legit some of the best listening I could recommend to you. If you’re at all discouraged about the tone of discourse or the state of the world these days, if you’re wondering if you’re alone in caring or in wanting to bring light, you’ll want to listen to her beautiful voice and the voices of these refugees because you’ll begin to believe in hope in the grief and light in the darkness all over again. This is fantastic work from Sorta Awesome and I am so proud of my friend!
I’ve been on a few more podcasts myself recently – you can check the full list of my podcast appearances right here.
Four years ago this very week, my own story began to intersect with the small island of Haiti when I stepped off a plane in Port-au-Prince to the sweltering heat of midday. That was the beginning of a whole new life for me in many ways, a complete turning point. Because of that week, not only was my own life changed profoundly through friendships and awakenings, but I’m proud to say that we – and I mean all of us because you have all walked this road with our family – we have partnered with incredible leaders to build a school for kids in earthquake ground zero Port-au-Prince (staffed and run by Haitians), supported a home-based village for trafficked children near the border, built a preschool for early support for these children, supported schooling and food programs in neglected villages decimated by the cholera outbreak, supported pregnant and nursing women with a fantastic maternity centre, and so much more.
So here we are, in the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, with the news slow to trickle out of the island we’ve all come to love. Our hearts are with our friends. And we want to help. I’m on the board at Help One Now and this is what our leaders in Haiti have told us they need so here is our Hurricane Matthew Relief and Recovery plan. The needs are great, but we know that our leaders will be able to guide their communities through the aftermath of this storm and lead them down the path of recovery and development! Rather than packing up a box of second-hand clothes, I’ve learned that the real need is money and quickly for immediate relief and then a strong plan for recovery and ongoing development. I know these leaders personally and this is good ground to sow into with your financial gifts. (Another two organizations I trust are Heartline Ministries – Haiti and Real Hope for Haiti – check both of their pages for relief plans and stories.)
Click here to give to Haiti’s hurricane relief.
I’d love to hear what you’re reading or listening to or watching as we head into summer, too! Always out for a good recommendation.
Warm sweaters and pumpkin chai tea,