From the Shelf: Christian Living


If you read any book on marriage, let it be this one.

Completely Christ centered, Gary Thomas doesn’t get caught up in the details. Without idolizing marriage, he is clear that it is a sacred commitment to another and the Lord. In each chapter he focuses on aspects of marriage like individual calling, creating a shared history, pursuing one another, sex, forgiveness, service, prayer and greater awareness of God’s presence.

The Biblical goal of marriage, he points out, is something much bigger than our happiness or comfort. It is a part of the calling we each have – to glorify, serve and grow Holy in the Lord. And when we focus on fulfillment in our Heavenly father, husband, friend, well… I’ll tell you in his words…

“…we will probably also have a happy marriage, but that will come as a blessed by-product of putting everything else in order.”

This is not a “how-to” style book, but it gives the big picture – which was convicting and refreshing to me at the same time.



From the Shelf: Current Events


The first book I read this year was Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson. A friend had sent it to me after Christmas, because the author lives and practices law in Alabama. In fact, one of his cases involved an accidental bombing in Dothan, 1977.

The main thread of this book explains the ultimate release of Walter McMillian, a man on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. As Bryan Stevenson works on this case, he uncovers many examples of a dysfunctional justice system. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and Alabama one of the highest in the country. This book outlines through many examples, some of the reasons why.

It was sobering to read the ways in which a zealous system misfires. Stevenson explains the role that politics play in election of judges, or even community pressure to lock someone, anybody, up for a crime. His stories talk about sloppy lawyers, unconcerned in defending the people who cannot pay and the resulting incarceration of innocent people. Stevenson tells stories of children prosecuted as adults receiving life sentences without parole, or those with severe mental disabilities who are imprisoned for life. He talks about all white juries in racially divided communities, perhaps not intentional but certainly unwise in the pursuit of justice. Prisons operating for profit, futile drug laws, the death penalty, the list goes on.

The question for me personally, is not so much if I should care, but how. I love my new home and state, but that doesn’t mean I have to blindly believe it’s the best at everything. Or that I can just assume every person on death row deserves to die. Loving is caring enough when things are terribly wrong and we should care when justice isn’t served. Or even when we should consider meeting justice with mercy.

I’m no opposer of the death penalty and those who pose a risk to society should certainly be restrained. Depravity is real and consequences of sin surround us. However, this book has made me think more deeply at least about my Christian response to the incarcerated, or those at risk to be. I want to be slower in talking about “those” people, the riff-raff, poor people, the ones who don’t look like me or make poor decisions. If I truly believe in the sanctity of life then there are no lines I can draw in the sand and I should certainly care about extending what Christ gives to me, ironically something like the title – just mercy.

*Bonus Read: Hillbilly Elegy*


I added this to my list on the basis of its title alone.¬† It’s the memoir and opinion of J.D. Vance. Now a successful lawyer and author, Vance tells his story of growing up in Appalachian dysfunction. He writes in a deeply personal voice that explores the ‘why’ of white, working class poverty. The attitudes, the cycle of abuse and many other factors that contribute to generations of disadvantage.

This was the perfect book to read as counter point to Just Mercy. No one group has the market cornered on sad stories. Together these books have broadened my horizons and compassion for the mission field at home. I think the best way to sum things up is found in Hillbilly Elegy (pg.255). In writing about a boy named Brian who Vance mentors, he says;

“Any chance he has lies with the people around him – his family, me, my kin, the people like us and the broad community of hillbillies. And if that chance is to materialize, we must wake the hell up…I believe we hillbillies are the toughest g*%@ people on this earth. We take an electric saw to the hid of those who insult our mother…But are we tough enough to do what needs to be done to help a kid like Brian? Are we tough enough to build a church that forces kids like me to engage with the world rather than withdraw from it? Are we tough enough to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?

Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us…These problems were not created by governments or corporations or anyone else. We created them, and only we can fix them.”

If nothing else, food for thought.





Count to Kefir

Most of the projects I have under way are not ones I’ve exactly chosen. Curiosity or necessity takes me there – or in kefir’s case – someone’s kindness.

After being gifted some grains I have a new morning routine. Get up, drink water, drain kefir. I keep my jars on top of the fridge to avoid cross fermentation with kombucha – as per the instructions of some internet cautionaries.

Am I in charge of this place, or is the good bacteria in charge of me?

Wesley carefully asked me last night whether it was a little more consuming than I anticipated. Maybe.

But these pancakes are a good argument for keeping fermented milk around a little longer….

1 c. oatmeal + 2 c. kefir +1 c. flour + 1 tbsp. honey + 1 tbsp. baking powder+ 1/2 tsp. salt + 1 tbsp. chia seeds + 2 eggs + 1/4 c. oil and maple syrup


Let it Snow

We woke up at 6:00 and looked out the front door. The cars were covered in a skim of snow and Wesley also claimed he could feel the flakes hitting his hand.

Our news feeds were filled with cautions and slippery road warnings. There were pictures of children, grumpy from bed and standing by nearly invisible piles. Other people bemoaning the lack of more.

And I love it. No matter how old, the promise of snow is so exciting. A snow day, the very best kind of day off from work.

I used to love the first snow fall in New Brunswick, and in Alabama it’s not different.

Snow means a clean slate, a new promise, a reason to smile. I’ll take what I can get.

From the Shelf: Book of My Choice

I doubt anyone would be surprised that a book of my choosing would be fiction. Especially not a novel like this one.


Our Souls at Night begins with an elderly widow approaching her similarly grieving neighbor and asking him to keep her platonic company at night. They hope to combine forces against loneliness and appreciate the joy of companionship again.

Of course what they end up doing is provoking gossip, getting a dog, taking care of a forlorn grandchild, tell their life stories, camping, cooking and falling in love. Even with all this, the ending manages to be bittersweet, thanks to a family crisis and distance.

I realize the list of activities in that sentence above could make the novel sound as if it’s merely a buzzy, quirky little story – but the style is particularly careful and somber. The absence of quotation marks (which I’ll confess to loving) makes you feel like you’re watching a silent film. This helps zero in on the theme of hope in the quiet, gray years of the old.

The author himself was battling lung disease as he wrote this book and it was published posthumously in 2015. Perhaps that is why he writes with compassion about the last years and how important it can be to share them.




From the Shelf: 2018

I have an aversion to New Year’s Resolutions, because I’m too well acquainted with my own failure.

Instead, in the same way I make to-do lists for my day, I write things I will probably do anyway. Like reading.

So this year I decided to challenge myself to read intentionally, and at least a little more broadly. A friend posted about this¬† challenge and so I decided to commit to the ‘light’ plan at least. Veering, I’m sure, into ‘avid’ if I get competitive with myself.

And for extra accountability, I will be reviewing what I read here! It’s been too long since I’ve been forced to funnel what I think about a book into something coherent and concise.

So there you have it! 13 books. 12 months. 2 eyes.

What are your resolutions?

Making All Things a New Year

Hanging at the front of every end, is beginning.

In the death of pat answers, safety nets and preconceived notions, we have the start of something else.

It’s a plan beyond our best intentions, beauty from ashes, a fresh start in it is finished…we sing…

“the lamb who was for sinners slain, is making all things new”

Death opening to New Life. Shaking ground becomes sure.

Resolutions that might fade into memory by February, instead become mercies new every morning. Safe in the Saviour of every failing.

And despite each pain of this year, the Puritan says…

“Nothing hurts the godly…all things…shall cooperate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.”

He is worthy and able to redeem 2017 – dead, buried and resurrected Jesus.

How much more can He benedict the days before us? The very Lord of hope and life.