Books, Music, Podcasts and Practices That Helped Me Grow Up in 2018

If 2016 was full of challenging and unwanted surprises and 2017 was full of struggle and hardship, 2018 may have been worse. But each moment of pain and disappointment was met with a moment of sweet discovery and refreshment from the Lord. God uses music to comfort and inspire me; he uses books to inject wisdom and awareness; and even technology to shape and structure my days. Here is a list of what God used this year to help me Grow Up.

Music

Waylon Live – Jennings was from the same home town as my parents, Littlefield, Texas. I have always been more of a Willie guy but this album is pure country rock and one great song after another. I can’t say any of the songs helped me Grow Up but each time I listened to it, I got a little buzzing in my chest and was able to break the scales off of some of my stress for the day. Music has the power to sooth and ease a burdened spirit, this album did it for me.

Podcasts

Renovare PodcastEpisode 111– I ended up listening to this podcast several times and even played it for my staff at a moment of deep despair and hurt. This episode is full of wonderful stories of the great saint Corrie Ten Boom. We can never be reminded enough that God is more powerful than our circumstances and deeper than our lowest points.

Things Above – I talked about this podcast recently and make a point of listening to it weekly. Hosted by AE creator James Bryan Smith, the focus is on mind discipleship, where we place our mind. Most episodes are less than 20 minutes and full of holy thoughts and keen insight to help with the spiritual life’s most difficult task – setting our minds on things above.

Tim Ferriss Show – Episode 319 – This is a special episode where Ferriss plays clips from the audio version of Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is The Way. I faced a debilitating fear during the summer that I desperately wanted to overcome. I listened to this episode over and over to help me to see that fear wasn’t going to win and if I could work through this, I would have a great sense of accomplishment and growth.

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Photo by Perfecto Capucine on Pexels.com

Technology

Kindle, Audible, Readwise – As a librarian, you would think that I would be partial to the printed work and in some ways I am. This year, though, I embraced eBooks and Audiobooks like never before.

Audible allows me to listen to books on my way to work, while Kindle allows me to always have books with me while keeping a better record of what stood out for me in the text.In addition, I discovered that my Kindle stores all of my highlights in one spot, so I can scroll through them without having to go page by page looking for highlighted sections. When I finished the Apprentice Experience, I went back through all of our readings and re-read my highlights using the Kindle. I don’t think I would have done this with paper copies.

Then, just last month, I discovered Readwise. This app accesses your Kindle highlights and sends you five randomly selected highlights in a daily digest email. I look forward to reading these everyday and have started to share some of my favorites on Social Media.

Practices

Miracle Hour – This manual for spending an hour with God has been exactly what I was looking for. Worship, scripture, confession, and surrender, it is all here. I have only done the full hour once but I will take one section a day and devote about 10 minutes to it as part of my meditation time. If you have the desire for a deeper devotional life but need structure to make it work, this practice is for you.

Small Group – God orchestrated the creation of a small group at my workplace with very little effort or organizing on my part. In fact, people started to approach me out of the blue to make it happen. This was a classic case of if it is to be, it will not be from me. I just facilitated what God was already doing and provided a little intention to it, God did the rest and our times together have been wonderful, convicting, encouraging, and Spirit-filled. This has been one of the great treasures of my year.

Books and Reading

Articles – I always think that I will have added time in my day to read articles that I have discovered while browsing the internet and social media. I often collect things to read that I never get around to. This year, I made a point to read one short article (about 3-8 minutes) and 10 minutes of a longer article on a regular basis (about 3 times a week). This has given me access to great stories, important issues, and helpful wisdom.

As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire, Eugene Peterson – A collection of Peterson’s sermons from his more than 35 years of pastoring a church, As Kingfisher’s Catch Fire helped me connect with scripture in new and fresh ways and helped me see God more and more in the day-to-day of life. I finished this just before Peterson died in October. I am glad I was able to appreciate him to such an extent in his final moments on this earth.

Becoming Dallas Willard, Gary Moon – I approached this book with caution. Being such a devotee of Willard, I was preparing myself to be disappointed or underwhelmed. Plus, I knew so much about him, I thought I would appreciate the book but not discover anything particularly new. Instead, I was transformed by the book and inspired to live a more personal, direct life with Christ. God working in and through Willard is miraculous and also rather ordinary, just they way all of us should want God to work in and through us.

Books, Songs, Podcasts and Practices That Helped Me Grow Up in 2017

I am indebted to the mentors, the muses, and the motivations I gained this past year from a wide range of areas. Each item is something that I was exposed to in 2017 that had a high impact on me changing and maybe even growing up.

Music

Band of Horses – Last January was so full of stress and tension that my only moment of respite would be the last 10 minutes of my work day when I would turn on two songs by Band of Horses. “In a Drawer” and “Casual Party” had the right mixture of triumphant rock and moodiness to break some of the tension and bring a little catharsis to my overwhelmed state.

Andrew Bird – My go-to reflective, relaxing, holding the tension between pain and praise music. Every drive back from Abilene, where my Dad suffered his last days, included a six song playlist from Bird.

Podcasts

Pray As You Go – A common companion on my runs, this app provides the listener with 10-12 minute meditations on scripture along with music and time of reflection. If you want to recharge your approach to scripture, this podcast will do the trick.

The Invitation – Josh Banner has the typical interview format but regularly will have 20 minute spiritual retreats that have been very meaningful to me. A recent one covered lament, which was very appropriate to my situation. Also, his 5-minute prayer episodes are great for making spiritual things more accessible.

Building a Storybrand Podcast – I re-listened to the first 6-7 episodes twice and was inspired each time. These Podcasts are helping shape me into the kind of manager I want to be as a director of a library.

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Photo by Ryan Searle on Unsplash

Books

Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd – I was inspired by the heart, intellect, and the spirit of God working in Zahnd’s book, Beauty Will Save the World. I heard him speak at the Apprentice Gathering and heard him mention his book, Water to Wine. This book chronicles his movement from a typical American pastor at a typical American large church to a more contemplative and spiritually rich pastor. His story is remarkable and his courage to transform his ministry after decades of doing it a certain way is inspiring.

Healing the Heartbreak of Grief by James Flamming – The author was a pastor at the church I grew up. Even as a kid, I remember his ability to mix the heady, the spiritual, and the practical in wonderfully concise and accessible ways. He is a great communicator. In this book, he does the same thing with the concept of grief. I have stepped away from this book with a better understanding of what grief is and how it works and also have been healed in the process.

Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen – I have given this book out to many people who are experiencing pain or struggle. In light of my own struggles, I began reading this again for myself. The entries from this book are taken from Nouwen’s personal journal when he was in a deep point of struggle. Not every entry applies to every person’s situation but the one’s that do are like they were written just for you.

Experiences

Running – The practice of running is so time consuming that in the past I have had to choose blogging or running because I couldn’t do both. But this year, I realized how much I love running and how helpful it is to me physically and spiritually. Running is such a good stress reliever and if I wasn’t running, I wouldn’t spend much time outdoors, which is not good for my mental state. When I think about the many gifts my Dad gave to me during his life, running might be one of the most meaningful.

Fasting – About a month after my Dad’s death, I took a day and a half and fasted. I wanted to give time and intention to my grief and all that I needed to do to move forward. This was one of the best decisions I could have made. This time was so rich with memories, nudges from God, insights from scripture, and healing. I have now committed to practice these fasts quarterly.

Examen – Our days just move along to their usual conclusion and then we reboot and do it all over again. There is often no time for reflection, for gratitude, for confession, for a challenge. Peter Scazzero, in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, lays out a simple method of what church history has called Examen. At the end of each day, you practice the following:

  • Be grateful for God’s blessings.
  • Review the day with openness and gratitude, looking for times when God has been present and times you may have ignored him.
  • Pay attention to your emotions in order to listen to God.
  • Express sorrow for sin and ask for God’s forgiving love.
  • Pray for the grace to be more available to God who loves you.

This practice has allowed me to not end my day with stress, anxiousness, disappointment, and guilt; which I am so prone to do. Instead, I place myself back into God’s hands and know that I can trust him with the outcomes and with the promise of the next day.

 

Book Review: – Invitation to Solitude and Silence – Ruth Haley Barton

silence One disturbing trend I have found in my long study of Spiritual Formation and discipleship is how quickly these ideas can be reduced to a listing of spiritual disciplines or a discussion on spirituality that seems very foreign and inaccessible.

Then someone like Ruth Haley Barton comes along and Spiritual Formation moves away from what normally gets presented. In its place is a life with Jesus that seems absolutely necessary for a truly Christian life. The practice of solitude and silence may be foreign to many people, but Barton explains why it is essential to her life and to every serious Christian.

I don’t know how she does it but her writing is always accessible, down to earth, and doable. She explains through personal experience and quality research, why solitude and silence are so needed. When you read this book, you are left with a glimpse into an inviting world of closeness with God. Solitude and silence may be awkward at first but Barton shows the reader why that awkwardness is worth it in the end.

If your exposure to Christian Spiritual Formation has left you feeling dry or guilty, give this book a try. You will be grateful you did.