Top Relationship Books of 2014

It’s coming to the end of 2014 and I’ve been reflecting on some of the top books and writings that I’ve enjoyed this year. This is a list of my favorite books on relationships of all types! I hope you get some ideas. Is there a relationship orientated book that you’ve loved this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.


Best Book on Relationship with God: With by Skye Jethani

This book wins far and away as my favourite book of 2014. Jethani is both engaging and penetrating as he looks at the false ways you might be relating to God. He takes on the false belief systems in Christian culture and our own individual lives, you will be left seeing things in new ways. The best part is that you are left with a deep and fresh hunger for Jesus. During a season of my life that I was struggling with stress, anxiety and fear… this book was a shining light in hard times.


Best Book on Marriage: Fun Loving You by Ted Cunningham

My husband and I both loved this book. A great read for those who have been married for a few years and need to re-focus on the fun and friendship that bring so much life to your marriage. As a bonus he gives a ton of practical ideas for dates, fun get-aways, and ways to just have fun together.


Best Book on Parenting: Boundaries With Kids by Cloud and Townsend

The “Boundaries” series is a classic in Christian and counselling circles. I had never read the parenting version and it came at just the right time for me with an 8 and 9 year old. There is a ton of helpful advice and practical tips. I think you could read this book at each stage of parenting and come away with key wisdom to apply.


Best Blog Post on Dating and Engagement: “Sex & Engagement” by Ron Smith

I haven’t read any great books on this topic this year but a great article is buy a close friend and mentor, Dr. Ron Smith. Ron and his wife did our own pre-marriage counselling. He is honest, straight forward and so excited to see people find their love for a lifetime partner. This article is honest and direct about the sexual relationship of an engaged couple.


Best Beach Read: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you read my husbands book list for 2014 you will see he also listed this book (along with 2 others I mention here!). I would just like to state for the record that I was the one who tipped him off to this great read. It’s the captivating story of ultra-marathon runners. You don’t need to be a runner to love it, though. It is a true-story adventure that takes you from the headquarters of Nike to a stone-age tribe in the hills of Mexico. The characters are funny and totally engaging, you will get sucked in. This is a great Christmas idea for someone that loves running, adventure or just a great read!


With-God-Devo-logo

Best Daily Devotional: With Daily Devotional by Skye Jethani

I recently had the privilege of meeting Skye Jethani. He was speaking out our Community Gathering at our campus in South Africa. I was chatting to him afterwards and told him that I was aiming to sign up as many as possible for his daily devotional, it is one of the best kept secrets on the internet. For $1.99/month you get a daily devotional e-mailed to you with scriptures to read and a prayer to meditate on for the week. It is short, engaging, challenging, personal and helps you focus on Jesus more than ever. This would be a wonderful gift idea for yourself or others!


Bonus: Favorite Music Albums

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Ok, little known info about me, I’m a huge Jazz, Black Gospel, R&B and Rap fan. I’m listening to one of these genres most of the time. My first CD was the Winans Brothers… not Bibi and Cici Winans, that’s black gospel for the masses. I was in to the real deal Winans. I seriously am tempted to do a whole post on my top ablums in these genres. But, it’s not the point of this blog… sigh. But, if you love any of these genres or want to love them, run, don’t walk, to your computer and buy this on Amazon or iTunes. Ok, you are sitting at your computer. So click on the link above. Do it. This guy is the real deal. Best relationship track on the album? “Heavy Love”. You will at least start chair dancing while he extols the beauty and power of love that lasts a lifetime. As he says, beautiful love is that “great-grand-mama and grand-daddy love ya’ll”.


The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

So now that you know my tastes, this album is out of my norm. Most worship albums I listen to involve Fred Hammond or Donnie McClurkin (if you just said, “Who?”, hang your head in shame and go take a time-out for 10 minutes). This album is minimal, contemplative and personal.  I found myself surprisingly drawn in. Steffany has an amazing voice, that is undeniable. But, it’s more than her voice that draws you in. Each song seems to be taken straight out of her personal journal in the best of ways. For those days when you need to hear the heart of Jesus more loudly, this album delivers exactly that.

The Road Less Traveled

Last week I left my house for a late afternoon run. I’m a hoofer who plods along slowly. Seeing me run would probably evoke less images of a light-footed deer and more images of a stray elephant looking for it’s herd. But, I digress.

road-less-traveledThat evening was beautiful; still, cool air and beautiful clouds. I love running at that time of day, the streets are full of people walking home after a long day at work. There are large groups of gossiping Mama’s noisily giving the updates of the day. Weary fathers, pushing their young daughter home from pre-school. Dusty men returning home after a hard day of manual labour.

That evening I took my normal route along the busiest roads, past the buzzing taxi ranks and weaving along semi-crowded sidewalks. The next morning I woke up to learn that 30 minutes after I had run, there was a shooting along my route, killing several. It was part of week of rising violence in our neighborhood.

I told several people how close I had come to witnessing the violence. Several replied, “Why do you run there? It is not a safe area!” I could choose another route that takes me through quiet and calm neighborhoods. But, here’s the deal. Those quiet and calm neighborhoods feel dangerous to me because I’m alone. There is safety and security for me as long as I’m surround by the noisy Mama’s, weary fathers and dusty laborers.

I have changed my running route for now, until the violence calms down. But I’m looking for other busy paths that take me along roads where others travel.

There is an old saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear.” It’s not in scripture but we like to think it is. It’s not even true. There’s five words missing. Those five words make it more close to what scripture says all the time. Those five words are: “with the help of others”.

“God will not give you more than you can bear with the help of others”

This idea that we are radical individuals who should do everything on our own is a lie. So many of us desperately cling to this lie as if it is a life vest or a badge of pride. The reality? It’s like trying to swim down a white water river while holding on to a boulder. This go alone strategy can become our undoing.

We need people. And with the help of others… together we can bear so much. With others holding us up, we exchange our individual weakness for the the strength of community.

Jesus did this. Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing his darkest hour, he asked the disciples for help. Think about that. The Savior of the world wanted friends to help him carry his burden.

Today we glorify the famous words of Robert Frost and seek after “the road less traveled.” While loneliness and difficult decisions are certainly part of our journey at times, going it alone should never be the ideal we praise.

Traveling on a road less traveled sounds so heroic. But I’m taking my strategy from Jesus. I’m choosing a road well traveled with people within shouting distance. When something feels too heavy to carry, I can bear it with the help of others.

In what areas do you need to reach out and ask for help? What’s stopping you from doing that today?

Give me Jesus.

“But it’s not my fault!” Words heard by parents around the world. Grating. Aggravating. True. So much of life is “not my fault.” It’s not just a phrase for kids, it’s true for adults also. Unfortunately the people who’s fault it is do not stick around for a cup of tea to discuss our emotional angst. So then what do we do?

I recently stepped back from many of my ministry responsibilities. I’d like to say it was simply in obedience to God (it mostly was). The fuller reality is that I was not able to cope with the sheer number of my commitments for much longer. If I didn’t choose to make changes then they would be forced upon me by my own inability to cope.

In these last few weeks, the fog of stress has been clearing. I’ve begun reflecting on the past years. I’ve looked at the glorious successes and the cringe-worthy failures.

When I reflect on the difficulties, failures and challenges of the recent past here are 3 things God has been teaching me. Especially in regards to things which I could say, “It’s not my fault!”.

More facts and information won’t help.

Very rarely does more information about a past situation help. It is so tempting that if only we truly understood what happened, then things would be different. This is a trap. We are trying to shuffle the facts of the situation to somehow come out with something other than what it is: a bad hand. Let a bad hand be what it is. I can’t be trapped into re-playing out each situation in my mind… trying to make the cards I was dealt into a full house.

It may not be my fault, but it’s now my responsibility.

Counsellors and authors Cloud and Townsend said,

This is the bad news in life: Even when we are unable to help ourselves, we still have a job to do. If you are hit by a car, you’re a victim- but you still have to hobble to the physical therapist and do the exercises. If your best friend moves away, it’s not your fault- but it’s your job to find other people of character in whom to entrust your heart. There are very few “boulders” in life in which you have no responsibility at all

These words both sting and bring comfort. They sting because what I want is to be a toddler who just dumps the blame on someone and walks away. I only hurt myself with this thinking. The comfort is that I am not stuck. Blame is a prison where my power is gone. The truth is I have power to deal with past and make changes towards the future.

I’m more deluded than I imagine.

The book of Isaiah get’s me every time. It is full of people falling down in front of idols saying, “You are so awesome!”. I feel deeply convicted of my own tendency to do this. In Isaiah 44, God hits gut level honesty about this tendency and says,

“Their deluded hearts led them to worship idols. Now they can’t get out of it by themselves. In fact, they have the idol in their right hand, they look right at it and say, ‘I don’t see a thing!'”
(My paraphrase)

This is me. I’m deluded about my own idols, sins, and flaws. I don’t see myself accurately in a situation. Even when I’m staring it in the face I declare, “I don’t see a thing!”

When reflecting on past situations and challenges I’ve been praying, “Lord, in what ways have I deluded myself? I need your light to see the light”.

Give me Jesus.

This is my biggest focus and prayer. When processing past challenges, stressful situations and hurts… Jesus is my biggest need.

  • I don’t ultimately need more information.
  • I don’t just need to take responsibility.
  • I don’t need to just own my junk.

I need to see Jesus more clearly

  • I need to know Him more deeply.
  • I need hear Him more clearly.
  • I need to know his grace beyond what I know.

That’s my prayer. “Give me Jesus.”

When I’ve let go of the details. When I’ve stepped up to the plate. When I’m ready to see things clearly.

Give me Jesus.

Let me see Him, know Him, and hear Him more deeply, clearly and truly. Just give me Jesus.

I shouldn’t have said that.

I was tired.
My husband was travelling overseas.
Both my young boys were adjusting to the start of the school year.
I had an incredible amount of stress I was dealing with.
I was carrying hurt.

healing
By: Paul Hudson

In the midst of this I was sitting in the front row of our local Civic Hall. About to get on stage to speak to a few hundred people, all I could feel was the swirling thoughts of all I was dealing with.

I did speak that night and it went ok. It wasn’t a disaster… in the eyes of most people. But, 9 months later I was still dealing with my sense of failure.

Why?

Because I was a people pleaser and was insecure? No. (Well, yes, but not the main issue that night.)
Because people threw rotten fruit at me and booed me off stage? No… thankfully!
Because people criticised what I had to say? A full 8 people came and felt to point out that I wasn’t my normal self when speaking. Although hard to hear, it wasn’t the main thing.

The main thing was this: I shared out of my hurt instead of my healing.

This was a deep lesson that I learned that whole year: there are different rules for hurt people and healed people.

Eugene Peterson powerfully said, “We are travelling in the light toward God who is rich in mercy and strong to save. It is Christ, not culture, that defines our lives. It is the help we experience, not the hazards we risk that shape our days.”

The journey of a whole person is moving from being shaped by our pain and wounding to being shaped by our healing and healer.

In this journey I must be very careful to know where I am along the path so as not to cause more wounding and hurt to myself and those around me.

Hurt and Healed people do three things differently because of where they stand.

Whom We Trust:
When we are actively working through our pain we need to be very careful that we walk with very trustworthy people. Our pain is precious, if we give it to people that do not treat it as such… we will only experience more pain. The slightest wrong response can prick us but it will feel like a mortal wound.

When we have experienced healing we are not in nearly as much danger. I have so much pain in my past, the kind that makes people respond with “scary eyes” (as I call them). You know the kind; their eyes get very wide, they look both shocked and horrified, you can see them trying to plan an escape route out of the conversation.

I am in a place of healing with so much of my past. Sometimes I entrust my story to someone who can’t handle it. They make a comment that is so insensitive that it defies reality. Because I have moved into healing it does not devastate me nor make me feel deeply wounded. I have grace for people who turn out to be untrustworthy (or just too immature to know what to say).

When We Share:
Timing makes a difference in our journey of being shaped by our wound to being shaped by our healer. I shouldn’t have gotten on stage that night. I shouldn’t have shared publicly about things which I myself hadn’t fully dealt with.

After that night a wise women came to me and said, “How are you doing? You looked so vulnerable that night. My heart went out to you.” She discerned that I was in a season of my life where I should not have gotten on stage and shared such vulnerable things.

In the Church it can be very common to encourage people to share publicly. But, if you haven’t experienced Christ as your healer, a public “testimony” could end up feeling more like a public shaming, violation or humiliation. It has nothing to do with how the group responded and more to do with the internal pain being worked through.

Even in a smaller group, I find I need to be careful to discern if the timing is right. Perhaps a group of friends is gathering to just have some laughs and fun. If you open up about something painful and they simply move on to conversing about the latest movie they saw… you will be left feeling vulnerable, exposed and unvalued.

How We Help:
Healed people can help. Wounded people can just further wound. It is not about intention as much as reality of our situations.

When we are healed it is because we have encountered our Healer. This is what we have to pass on to others, a revelation of Jesus.

When we are moving from being shaped by pain to being shaped by our Healer we should be extremely cautious about “trying to help others with my own experience”. One wounded person helping another wounded person so often does more damage.

From my experience, when someone is primarily defined by their healing and healer… they have a wise caution about jumping in to help other wounded people. They know that only Jesus initiates, shapes and enpowers this journey. My presence doesn’t necessarily help the process.

That night as I stood on stage I broke all three principals. I trusted a crowd of people I didn’t know (wrong people), shared my pain publicly and in a hard season (wrong timing) and tried to help them when I myself had not fully received help.

I found a wise friend that helped my identify all three. I cried quite a bit about the situation. I learned something that will only safeguard me in the future.

What about you?
In your life circumstances are you more shaped by your pain and wounding or your healing and healer?
How does this shape these three areas of your life?