Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#3: The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schwalbe)

Internet connection at home as been sketchy this week, so I’m a little late in posting. I’ll get back to the regular routine next week. I still wanted to make sure that I told you all about The End of Your Life Book Club. It was a tremendous read and one I highly recommend for other book lovers as well as those who enjoy stories about family relationships.

Will Schwalbe and his mother formed a book club of two people as they together faced the endless doctor visits associated with treatment for MaryAnne’s pancreatic cancer. Most of the discussions occurred in quiet corners of waiting rooms or while chemotherapy was being administered. The memoir is a beautifully written account of the books they shared while allowing the reader an peek behind the curtain into this debilitating disease.

I identified with the book because of my own passion for reading that I share with my mother. While we don’t spend lots of time talking about books formally, we are constantly sharing with each other what we’re reading and why we’re enjoying it (or not). It was somewhat ironic finishing the book in the waiting room of the Memphis Gastroenterology Group while Mom was having an initial consultation. (Thankfully, we are not concerned that Mom is struggling with a major health issue at this time….just some things that are making her uncomfortable.) As I read the honest account of MaryAnne’s final days, my heart broke for Schwalbe and his family. While tears rolled down my cheeks, others waiting for their loved ones to emerge from the examining rooms watched me with nervousness.

I can’t say that I fully understand everything Schwalbe expressed in his book. I haven’t experienced the loss of a parent. I haven’t sat at a bedside knowing that the end was coming soon. I can say that I feel as though I have been formally introduced to his mother, a woman with a beautiful spirit that impacted people around the world. My life has been made richer by meeting her on the pages of The End of Your Life Book Club.

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#2: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

I must admit that I am very excited that the first novel of the year was such a delightful read! The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the coming-of-age story of Charlie, a high school freshman who is incredibly gifted despite his own low self-esteem. Through a series of letters written by Charlie that are addressed to “Dear Friend,” we see the young man come to terms with his unique family situation while exploring relationships, sexuality, and the individual’s role in community. Just when the reader thinks he has figured Charlie out, Chbosky masterfully weaves new revelations into the novel’s fabric. (Now that I have the entire picture of what makes Charlie who he is, I’m excited to revisit the novel in the future to see how the book reads differently with these new insights.)

While written about a teen, this novel is definitely best suited for adults due to the frank discussions that are sometimes graphic.

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#1: Vertical Church (James MacDonald)

A new year has begun. In keeping with the tradition of the past few years, I decided to begin my year of reading with a Christian book.  Vertical Church is a challenging call written by the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel.  Essentially, the book challenges churches to make sure that everything they do has honoring God as its focus rather than relationship building (referred to as horizontal by MacDonald).  The first 4 chapters deal with the Biblical support for the vertical approach to church while the remaining chapters focus on the primary pillars of the vertical approach — worship, preaching, evangelism, and prayer.

I think this is a must read for everyone working in church ministry.  It refocuses our attention to what is truly important in all of our efforts and points out how the horizontal will be taken care of when the vertical focus is central.  The reverse situation, however, is not true.  For many churches in the West, we have spent our efforts building human relationships that we have called “discipleship” while allowing our impassioned pursuit of God’s presence in our lives and services suffer. This call to change business as usual will definitely challenge your thinking and cause you to examine your own leadership model. While the book’s basic premise is very elementary (“God first”), the ideas are developed deeply and will give the most seasoned minister food for thought.

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