Well, I can’t say enough good about Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen was smitten by Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, and springboards from it to Christ’s parable of God’s great love for us, and then back again to Rembrandt’s own spiritual journey. He looks at the perspective from the Prodigal, the Older Son and the Father, and how at times, we may be like each of them. It is a beautifully written book and its message of the Father’s love for us is timeless. (incidentally, it is a pretty book too, with Rembrandt’s rendering on the cover—one you could feel good about giving) 1992, Doubleday.

A totally different read that impacted my thinking is The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard and S. Truett Cathy. What might appear to be a nice little allegory is actually a real life story of a man’s discovery that true joy flows out of generosity. Followers of Christ know they are to be generous with time, talent and treasure, (at least we say we know it… but are we?) Blanchard adds a fourth dimension of personal generosity, and I shan’t spoil it here—also starts with a “T”--rather novel, and a mind blower for me.

The Generosity Factor discusses the different between a Successful person and a Significant person, between Driven people and Called people … both meaningful for consideration. The book is quickly read, (just 109 pages), but on the other hand, there is quite a bit to highlight for further reflection. A great gift for the businessperson in your life, but truly worthy of anyone’s time! 2002, Zondervan.

My friend loaned me an incredible book called Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. Oh, my goodness, where do I start? This book really captured my attention, both head and heart, because it takes a Christian pastor’s honest crisis of faith and juxtaposes it with his journey into St. Francis of Assisi—his works, his own journey, including where he walked and taught.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (A quote from Marcel Proust, cited in the book) This book could give any honest seeker new eyes. It is artful, provocatively-deep, and cathartic as well. I highly recommend it. 2006, NavPress.

A long-time fan of John Ortberg, I have read just about everything he has written. He is clever, honest, and well read—he quotes a lot of the classic writers of Christianity, like Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, and Martin Luther; he also references contemporaries such as Lewis Smedes, Frederick Buechner, Elie Wiesel, and Dallas Willard. The insights from these men alone are worth the cost of my favorite Ortberg offering, Love Beyond Reason.

My Women of Passion have been reading and discussing this book, and even longtime believers of Jesus Christ, have gained new understanding of how God loves us, and how we can in turn love others. “God’s heart is filled with tenderness and delight at the mere thought of you,” an Ortbergism. Perhaps it is just the book that will move God’s heart from your head to your heart! 1998, Zondervan.

For me personally, being on the New York Times Bestseller list doesn’t guarantee that a book will interest or move me; however, Same Kind of Different as Me did both. First of all, there are so many parallels to the subject of the book, Denver, and my Long Beach bodyguard, the Duke of Earl—between the passionate woman, Deborah, who embodies the different one person can make, and me, (so many as to be almost eerie!)

The author tells the story, switching off between the real-life characters. It is at once engaging and eye opening as well. Typically, if a book moves me to tears I put it down, (because everyday life has enough to contend with, without voluntarily reading something that makes me cry!) but this book did not allow me to put it down. I loved it! Thank you, Eric. 2006, Ron Hall, Nelson Publishers

The continuing story is captured in What Difference Do it Make? also by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. It is ‘the rest of the story’ and includes some of the stories of people who have been moved to action by the first book. Quite inspirational, it sparks ideas for getting off the church pew and out where Jesus would be—with the poor and disenfranchised. 2009, Thomas Nelson.

Riveted... intrigued... challenged... all words I would use to describe about how I feel about Timothy Keller's "The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism." It is so much more than an apologetic work, yet Keller's book certainly addresses some of contemporary man's greatest 'excuses' for keeping God at bay, for instance, "How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?" Read anything compelling that addresses that question lately? Keller cites some of the literary greats and religious giants, such as C.S. Lewis, to support his well-written treatise, which really makes it a wonderful read. The chapter "Christianity is a Straitjacket" is worth the cost of the hard cover book. In it, he stretched my mind about community, boundaries, love and freedom. Keller knows of which he speaks, pastoring Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan--a multi-ethnic, multi-generational church, numbering about 6,000 people weekly.

I love the Holy Spirit! Francis Chan, a Southern California pastor, has an easy-flowing writing style, and challenged me to think more, and think differently on the subject of the Holy Spirit in his book, "Forgotten God: Reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit," 2009. Yet, he gives the biblical basis for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and how he functions within the trinity and within our lives.

Food for thought... Are you lacking power in your spiritual life? Are you wondering why you lack intimacy with God? Perhaps you have forgotten the Holy Spirit in your life. I really loved Chan's book.

"Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God"
was also written by Francis Chan, 2008. Chan sets up each chapter with a video-clip that readers can watch on the crazylove.com website. Clever. This book reminded me of how big, how mighty, and how utterly good God is. I love the way Chan writes because I sense his urgency in living out our one and only life with passion for Jesus Christ—as though our days really matter—because they do!

Both of Chan's books are quick reads and are published by Cook Publishing. You should have them on your shelf.

One other book that caught and held my attention is Timothy Keller's "Counterfeit Gods," 2009. It helps us identify the constant temptation in this life to make gods of things—particularly those things that are highly esteemed in our contemporary culture, like careers, success, money, relationships, etc. Keller writes with an insightful wisdom born out of years of working closing with people. In his "Love is Not All You Need" chapter, he wrote "We maintain the fantasy that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed. But when our expectations and hopes reach that magnitude, the love object is actually God. No lover, no human being, is qualified for that role. No one can live up to that. The inevitable result is bitter disillusionment." Hmmmmmm . . .

Keller talks about the high price of idolatry, including hidden idols in our lives, and the toll they exact. Thought provoking indeed. I have a LOT highlighted in this little book.

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