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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The Shirt Off My Back

One of my favorite shirts

One of my favorite shirts I’m wearing while in Mozambique

Have you ever heard the expression of “giving someone the shirt off your back”? I have and I think that when I heard it I smugly thought yeah I’m that kind of nice person, I’d totally give someone my shirt if they needed it. But as I was reminiscing today about a mission trip I took last year at this time, I realized that I have actually had an encounter with just such an opportunity and I haven’t been as generous as I thought I would be. In fact this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. Twice now, both while on a mission trip no less, someone has asked me if they could have my shirt. And it threw me off both times.

The first time I was in Haiti and a little boy with not much as far as possessions go sparked up a conversation with me in Spanish, since I know a lot more Spanish than Creole. And as we were parting, he asked if he could have my shirt. I think he knew that visiting Americans often left their clothes for the village children at the end of the trip. I can’t remember now if I said yes or no or that I was planning on leaving some shirts but not that one in particular. But the short of it is that no, I did not leave my shirt in Haiti for that boy. I kept it. And you know why? Because I was attached. I really like that shirt, it’s soft and reminds me of a lot of cool moments from my childhood. And you know what the ironic thing is? It has a cartoon that explains the gospel on it; how Jesus died for us and gave up everything so we can know Him. And I wasn’t willing to give it up. Yeah… so turns out I can be a hypocrite.

Well fast forward in time to last year and as we were moving through the airport in Johannesburg the lady in the airport security uniform suddenly said she liked my shirt and asked if she could have it. She said I could change into a different shirt from my bag. I was thrown off, partly because I didn’t know where I could change in an airport security line, and also because this lady who obviously had a job and seemed to be able to provide for herself was asking for my shirt. I said I didn’t have another shirt and went on my way. (I meant another of the kind I was wearing, I had plenty of other T-shirts, just not one that looked and felt like the one I was wearing). For again someone had asked me not just for an old shirt I didn’t want anyway, but for one I treasured and valued and didn’t want to give away.

So now I’ve been reading a very compelling, and convicting book called “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. He writes a lot about how Christians give to charity or even go on mission trips to help themselves not feel guilty for not loving the poor. But he says that what’s really needed is for us to know and be friends with poor people. Because then when there is a need, we want to meet it, and we’ll sacrifice to help our hurting brothers and sisters, instead of living for ourselves and our own comfort and merely giving to charity the things we don’t want anyway. One part in particular really hit me, he wrote “I heard that Ghadhi, when people asked him if he was a Christian,would often reply, ‘Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.'” It struck me that a true follower of Jesus should be known as someone who joyfully gives away what they have.

Through all of this God has been teaching me that He doesn’t want my stuff or my things, He wants me. He wants me to give Him everything: my time, talents, treasures and heart. So I’ve discovered one of my treasures that I tend to value above Jesus and above the people He’s asked me to love, are my clothes. And I don’t want that to stay true of me. So that’s part of why I’m writing this. I want to change, to be okay with giving away things that are precious to me, and to do it joyfully. So hopefully the next time someone asks me for the shirt off my back, I’ll be able to say yes and give it with a smile.

Well there’s my thoughts for the day. I highly encourage you to read Shane’s book too. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s really good.

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