jarsTitle: Christmas Jars

Author: Jason F. Wright

Date Started: December 7, 2014       Date Finished: December 9, 2014

Number of Pages: 122      Total for 2014: 15,400

What It’s About: A young journalist, who has recently lost her mother to cancer, arrives home on Christmas Eve to find her apartment burglarized–items, emergency cash, sense of security all stolen. As the police are collecting information for their report, she spots a jar of money left just inside her door. It is filled with coins and a couple $20 bills. She begins and investigation into who might have left the jar and what it means. Her search leads her to the Maxwell family and a beautiful story about generosity and hope.

Why I Read It: For book club tonight!

You can find more information about the fun project this novel has begun at christmasjars.com


copyright Jason Durham 2014

You may or may not know that my husband Jason is a writer.

He’s decided to start publishing some of his work online at his new site.

He’ll mostly write about his adventures on the trails he hikes and bikes, but it will also be filled with life lessons one can learn on such trails…or the people one can meet in some pretty amazing places…or the pictures one can take in the great outdoors (sometimes while trekking off the trail to pee, he likes to remind me)…or the funny things that happen when you venture out where most people won’t.

Take a moment and check out his site!


poehlerTitle: Yes, Please

Author: Amy Poehler

Date Started: November 7, 2014    Date Finished: November 12, 2014

Format: Audio Book

Number of Pages: 328

What It’s About: This is Poehler’s memoir and it’s fantastic! She writes about everything from her start in improv comedy, to her time on SNL, to her character on “Parks and Recreation,” to her divorce, to her Smart Girls At The Party project, to her children, and about everything in between. She’s witty and fun and fierce all the way through and listening to her read the book is way better than reading it.

Why I “Read” It: I had an Audible credit and really wanted to hear this book!

gaffiganTitle: Food: A Love Story

Author: Jim Gaffigan

Date Started: November 5, 2014    Date Finished: November 10, 2014

Number of Pages: 352   Total for 2014: 15,278

What It’s About: Food. So much food. Everything from specific types of food to fast food brands to special food occasions. Jim Gaffigan writes from experience in his hilarious manner. Favorite line: “I don’t know much about grammar, but I think ‘kale salad’ is what they call a ‘double negative.'”

Why I Read It: My brain needed a break.

newbiginTitle: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Author: Lesslie Newbigin

Date Started: September 15, 2014     Date Finished: November 16, 2014

Number of Pages: 276   Total for 2014: 14,926

What It’s About: How can Christians relate and share the gospel in a pluralist society? Lesslie Newbigin Christians understand how they might be able to practice and confess their faith within the current cultural context.

Why I Read It: For my Missions and Evangelism class!

ValhallaTitle: Invitation to Valhalla

Author: Mike Whicker

Date Started: October 17, 2014   Date Finished: November 11, 2014

Number of Pages: 492     Total for 2014: 14,650

What It’s about: Erika Lehman is a cold-hearted, cold-blooded German Spy and family friend to Adolf Hitler during World War II. She’s sent on a mission to Evansville, Indiana in the middle of the war, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor. FBI agent Charlie Pulaski is sent to stop her. German Agent Axel Ryker is sent to kill her. Local Jewish Mettalurgist Joe Mayer just wants to date her.

Why I Read it: Book Club!

Did I like it? Yep! It was a great book!

I bet you thought I forgot about Empty Shelf! I did not. It’s just that this semester, I’m reading pretty much only books for class (there’s so much reading) and I’m about halfway through the semester. This is the first book we’re finishing!

SannehTitle: Whose Religion is Christianity: The Gospel Beyond The West

Author: Lamin Sanneh

Date Started AND Finished: October 25, 2014

Number of Pages: 150   Total for 2014: 14,158

What it’s About: Think Christianity is a dying religion? It’s not. It may be struggling in Western nations, but it is thriving in the global south and east. Christianity has become a worldwide religion. In this work, Sanneh uses the form of self-interview and explores themes such as inculturation, language, and translation of Scripture and how these have moved the gospel beyond the Western church.

Why I Read it: I’m taking a Missions and Evangelism class and right now we’re studying cultural contextualization and how the gospel is shared in a way that crosses boundaries and respects culture.

The Narrative

October 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

If there’s something I have learned from watching politicians and various media sources during my adult life it is this: how you tell the story changes how people understand events. The narrative that is presented determines a lot about how people will react and respond. News agencies can tell a story in a way that creates sympathy for one entity and disdain for another…or they can spin it completely the other way! Agencies determine which story they want to tell and they share and highlight the pictures, facts, and anecdotes that tell that particular story. You can flip to another news channel to see a different telling, usually.

For my Spiritual Formation Group this past August, I read a book by Donald Miller called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned To Live A Better Story. It wasn’t my favorite book of all time, but it did get me doing some thinking about story and about inviting the people around me to live a better story, even as I try to live the best story too. It has me thinking a lot about how my story will be told and how people will understand my life’s purpose through that telling.

image1The Psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 139 reminds me of this:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
   Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well. 
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
   when none of them as yet existed.

Psalm 139:13-16

God and I are writing a story together and we have been for 36 years. Oh, I reach out and bat at the pen sometimes because I’d rather something different be written. And sometimes I go off script and make a mess of things. Sometimes a tragedy appears on the page and needs to be navigated. And sometimes other people, even people I love, change the story for the worse.

This world is a broken place and we are all in it making decisions. Some decisions are for the better and create hope and love, and some decisions hurt others and change their stories in a tragic way.

I don’t always have control over my story, but I can always choose how I react to the events that happen and I can often choose how my story is told. My actions and attitudes will determine the narrative.

That narrative could be “Look at the terrible things that happened in her life and what a mess it is. She deserves to be angry and depressed. How is she supposed to deal with that? It’s no wonder she’s having trouble.”


That narrative could be “Look how she overcame when she was faced with terrible circumstances! She dealt with the bad choices of others by trusting God and living her story in the best way. She’s strong and  inspires others!”

(Forgive the slight amount of hyperbole in the above examples.)

If MSNBC and Fox News can do it, so can we. We don’t always get to choose the story we’re telling, but we can always choose the way we tell it and teach others to tell it.

And I have to believe that no matter how the world (or the main character) jostles the author’s pen, God will continue writing until all of those unexpected plot points turn into the very best ending eventually.


October 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

It’s October 1.

Friends, I need to be honest about something, kind of ironically. I have to be vague about the things that are happening in my life for awhile. This is a time of uncertainty and transition.

If you pray, please add me to your list.

Over the weekend, one of our Scripture passages from the Revised Common Lectionary began to find good soil in my heart and I reflected on some things.

Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’ But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ The Lords aid to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

What an impossible situation! Moses and the whiny Israelites were in the desert and they were thirsty. Nevermind that God had taken care of all of the other needs they had–they needed water and so what did they do? They complained to Moses about it, rather than seeking God.

But Moses knew where to go. In the middle of what probably felt overwhelming and impossible, he hit his knees and turned to the one who had called him.

And God had a very strange answer for Moses. Water would flow from a rock!

When Moses prayed to God, I know he wasn’t even considering that as a possible answer to his prayer. Who would have ever thought that a rock would be the resolution? It wasn’t even in the peripheral when it came to considering solutions to the thirsty people problem.

God leads us on the strangest paths in times of uncertainty. The answers and good gifts of God may come in ways you would never have imagined.

One other thing I cling to in light of this Scripture. As Moses prayed, God promised, “I will be standing there in front of you on the rock…” What an important reminder for Moses! When you get there, I’ll be there already. Walk confidently, Moses, because you’re headed in my direction! I won’t let you down.

I’m in search of the rock that is higher than I am. I’m praying. I’m seeking. I’m looking for God’s resolutions to come in unexpected ways, through unexpected people, in unexpected places. I’m glad to remember that whenever I arrive wherever that place is, God will be there, too.

Here are three additional books I read for my Foundations of Worship class at UDTS.

intro to worship#42

Title “Introduction to Christian Worship”     Author: James F. White

Number of Pages: 326    Total for 2014: 13,661

What It’s About: Surprisingly enough, this book is an introduction to Christian worship! How did the early church worship? How did worship change through the centuries? What about sacred music, baptism, and communion? Why are there so many different traditions? This book is a great primer for understanding Church worship and it was the basic text for our class discussions.




Title: Eucharist: Christ’s Feast With The Church  Author: Laurence Hull Stookey.

Number of Pages: 211    Total for 2014: 13,872

What it’s About: The traditions, practices, and understanding behind how the Eucharist is celebrated in the  Church. This book gives the history of practices around The Lord’s Supper and table fellowship.


worsihp wars#44

Title: Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship   Author: Thomas G. Long

Number of Pages:  136   Total for 2014: 14,008

What It’s About: It’s not about traditional vs. contemporary or old vs. new. It’s about worshiping well and strong leadership. In this book, Long looks at 9 characteristics shared by vital and faithful congregations practiced by churches that have moved beyond the debates many of us are still having. He gives practical advice for churches that want to put them into practice. This is a great book for worship leaders and worship planners!