NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

2016 and Reading

A lot happened this past year. And since it’s the last day I thought I should write a post about it. I know there have been a lot of political and world issues that occurred. Several of my friends on social media have commented on how bad this year was. Lots of people died, many things did not work out the way people thought they would. And yet, life continues and 2017 approaches. I’ve also been lucky enough to have some friends comment about the good things that happened in 2016. I think it’s good to remember there will always be positive things to focus on, even if there is a lot of negative stuff going on in the world.

That to say, my post isn’t going to be about all those political things. Instead I’m going to celebrate something that I got to do this year and also encourage others to do the same. So at the beginning of 2016 I noticed that a friend of mine had a goal to read 50 books in 2016. I thought that sounded like a cool idea. I already love reading, but having a goal would help me get through some of those books I had on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read but just hadn’t gotten around to. So I joined in the challenge and also tried to read 50 books this year. It took some planning and I had to be intentional with my time, but I just finished my 50th book this afternoon! Yay! I didn’t read all of the books I thought I would and there are some I ended up reading that I didn’t even know existed at the beginning of the year. But overall, I’m glad I did it.

I saw an article the other day that said most adults once they are out of school, no longer read books. And it made me sad. I know that education forces people to read, but I had hoped that most people would still read just to enjoy and learn, not because a teacher requires them to. In fact that’s a big reason why I write. I want kids, when they are young to see reading as a fun thing, not just another school subject. Stories are powerful things and whether you’re reading or writing them, they stir your imagination and can help you look at the world in new ways.

So my little encouragement to you is to read something this next year. Maybe it’s not even a book, maybe there are newspapers, online articles, or magazines that you prefer. But take some time to read in 2017.

And as a Christian, I’ve found that reading other Christian’s books can really help me grow in my faith and maturity. A large portion of the books I read this year were written by Christians and helped me see God in new ways or get a better understanding of how I can live for Him now.

In case you want to read but you just need some recommendations (that’s usually how I end up reading a new book) here are a few books I read this past year that I would highly recommend.

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1. “Heaven” or “Happiness” both by Randy Alcorn
These books really helped change my perspective on how God wants us to live and what we can expect for our future.

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2. “The Gideon Trilogy” by Linda Buckley-Archer
This is a fun book series for younger readers that involves time travel, great characters and an awesome story. I really enjoyed reading this series and I highly recommend it.

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3. “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne
This book was very good to read and inspired me a lot, but it was also hard. I’m still wrestling through how God wants me to live differently in light of what this man has written. It was a very thought provoking book and I highly encourage any Christian to read it.

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4. “Keeper of the Lost Cities Series” by Shannon Messenger
I had not even heard of these books until this year and the series isn’t even finished. But boy are they fun to read. The action never stops in these high paced, interesting, and funny books. I’m sure they were written for middle school or even high school students, but I love these books. They are so engaging and I just can’t put them down.

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5. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This is a classic for Christian reading, and I really enjoyed getting to finally read this book. I would recommend it to any Christian. Though it may challenge you, it will be good for you.

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Why Do I Spend Time Alone with God?

Book, Bible, Old, Antique, Holy Scripture, Christianity

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Growing up in a Christian household and in a Bible church, I have learned from a young age to have a “quiet time” with God. As I’ve grown up this time has gone through the phases or being a chore, a learning experience, a comfort, and a joy. It’s also changed as I’ve grown and matured. When I first started having a time by myself with God, I was focused on reading the Bible. That seemed to be the whole point. I was supposed to read God’s word in a quiet place and maybe make some notes about what I had read. It was similar to doing homework that my teachers had assigned.

But I clearly remember one year in high school I decided to read the whole Bible in one year. My Bible came with a handy little reading guide in the back, and I used it to read the whole thing. Well, when January 1st came I had done it, I had finished reading the whole thing. I got out my Bible again and my little sister asked me, “Why are you reading that? I thought you finished it.” And I realized that reading the Bible is a lot more than just reading a book. The point isn’t to read the whole thing and then put it back on the shelf. It helps me get to know God, it shows me what He’s like:His character and feelings. And it shows me what needs to change in my own life.

Well, on top of this reading of God’s Word, I had the clear impression that I was supposed to pray, or talk to God during my “quiet time.” Kind of like God’s Word was what He said to me, and prayer was my response to Him. So most of my time with God involved me reading, then righting down notes, and then writing out a prayer to God.

I found that after that year of reading the whole Bible, that if I ever took a day off from reading, life just seemed more difficult. I didn’t have a good attitude about things, and I didn’t feel right. I also remember a few specific times when I was really upset about something and decided to pull out my Bible to read, and found a sense of comfort and peace.

Thus I learned that a time alone with God wasn’t so much a requirement to being a Christian, but a way for me to handle all that life threw at me. No matter what crazy project I had to finish, or big decision that had to be made, or drama that was going on with a friend, I could tell God about it in my time alone with Him and know that He was listening. He cared, and as His Word promised again and again:  I was not alone, He was in control, and He was going to work everything out for the best.

This past month, I have been learning more about spending time alone with God. Our church has been practicing the discipline of Prayer and Solitude. I might have thought that my past years of learning meant that I wouldn’t get much out of this discipline, but it has been exciting for me to see how much joy and happiness is found in God’s presence. During this month I got to spend 10 days setting aside 30 minutes to just talk (out loud, which is not normal for me) to God about anything and everything. It was amazing how much more at peace I felt and how much closer to God I was after these times. Then early one morning I got to go to a park and just sit in God’s creation, marveling at all He had made and what it showed me about Him. During this time I also read His word without being in a rush or facing distractions. I had no where to be, no responsibilities to be mindful of, and I truly enjoyed just being with God.

In addition, this whole month I’ve been reading a book called “Happiness” by Randy Alcorn. This book has been almost a daily reminder of how much God loves me, how He wants me to enjoy Him and be happy in all that He has made and given me. It was truly a blessing to be reminded constantly that God wants me to be happy and can actually give me that true happiness in Himself. And spending time alone with Him is a big way of how I enter into that happiness.

So anyway, that’s what God has been teaching me recently, and I thought I’d share it. Maybe this can inspire you to spend some more time alone with God and enter into His happiness and joy.

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