The Second Mountain

By David Brooks

This is an unusual, surprising, compelling book!

I am tempted to turn back to page 1 and start over, because the book merits deeper thought.  (I will resist for now, but at some point I will probably re-read it.)

David Brooks is a prominent writer with the NY Times and a political commentator.  He is Jewish and for a good while agnostic.  But, over a long period of a time that included tough suffering, and through the influence of many people, Brooks has come to a fledgling faith in Jesus.  He considers himself a wandering Jew and a confused Christian.  (He means a Christian with doubts and questions.)  The focus of the book is not his faith journey, but he does include this story.

The book revolves around the need for relationships, rather than living a life of hyper-individualism.

In the first section of the book, he touches, insightfully, on a range of topics germane to a satisfying life:  the nature of joy, a life of serving others, the emptiness of material success, the rise of hyper-individualism in the 1960s, the importance of making commitments, and more.

Then, he turns to examine four topics in depth:  Vocation, Marriage, Philosophy and Faith, Community.  For the three sections on vocation, marriage and community, he has some of the best writing I’ve read on these subjects.  His writing is filled with interesting anecdotes and quotes.

For the section on philosophy and faith, he basically tells his story from the time he was a child growing up Jewish in New York City, up until the present time.  Though he is still on this journey, his story is fascinating.

Overall, this book is worth a reading and a re-reading.  And if you have Jewish friends you might consider giving them a copy of the book.

The Hobbit

By J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is the classic fantasy by J. R.R. Tolkien about the adventure of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, along with 13 dwarves.  In an adventure called by Gandalf, Bilbo goes on a journey that will encounter dwarves, elves, the terrible dragon Smaug, goblins, humans and hobbits.  A fun children’s tale.

Spirit Walk

By Steve Smith

The late Steve Smith, who is one of the foremost leaders of church planting movements in the world, often trained in walking in the Spirit.  This came out of his deep conviction that the mere process of church planting movements would not be effective without the power of the Holy Spirit behind it.

This book came after years of teaching about the Holy Spirit to missionaries and leaders all over the world.  It focuses on four key actions critical to being filled with the Spirit.  These four actions comprise the acronym SWAP.

S – Surrender to God completely.

W – Wait on God in prayer.

A – Avoid sin and ask God to root out all sinfulness.

P – Pursue the promptings of the Spirit.

The book is based on Scripture, even saturated with Scripture.  Steve is a good, clear writer. 

I could not say that this is a great book, but it is solid.  Certainly, this is a great primer in walking with the Spirit.  It has clear instruction, practical guidelines, and it all comes from a deep heart for Jesus.

Devotedly

By Valerie Elliot Shepard

This is the account of the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

I hardly have a bigger hero in the faith than Jim Elliot, and I have unbounded admiration for Elisabeth also.

This is the story of their courtship over a five-year period, beginning with their days at Wheaton until their marriage in Quito, Ecuador, in 1953.

They were both remarkable people.  Totally devoted to Jesus Christ.  They were also bright, gifted writers, and called to pioneer mission work.

Their story is told largely through their letters to each other, and through journal entries, along with comments by their only child, their daughter Valerie Shepard.

We see their journey from a tentative attraction to a growing love relationship and then to a passionate and holy courtship.  By the last year or so of their writings, they are both mad with love for each other.  It is quite passionate!

During most of these five and a half years they were apart, and they pursued their relationship by letters.  And could they write!

With such a devoted love relationship, it is poignant to think that Jim Elliot died so soon, after only two years of marriage.  But God is God, and God’s ways are not our ways.

The final photo of the book, on page 285, is somewhat emotional for me, perhaps because of the impact that he, and they, have had on me through their writings for the last 40 years or so.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me

By Ian Morgan Cron

This is Ian Cron’s powerful memoir of life growing up with an alcoholic, at times, abusive father, who worked on and off for the CIA for decades.

It is honest, at times hilarious, at times poignant, always well-written.  The book focuses on his childhood and adolescence, including his own battles with alcoholism during his college years and as a young adult.

Quite a moving memoir!