As part of my “Favorite Books” series that’s been running, I’ve asked some other bloggers to share some of their favorite books. Today’s guest post is by Darcy of Message in a Mason Jar. She’s become a friend-in-real-life, and if you didn’t read her 31 Days to Preserve Your Story series, you really should.
When evil shows its face in the world like it did at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary last Friday, I slip in to seeing the world in shadows. Waking up in the night, I can almost feel the dark. When I talk it out with those around me, I gain insight and perspective, not necessarily in making sense of the tragedy itself, but in turning my focus to the redemptive stories that show up in the midst. This happens when I read good books, as well. Below are a few of my favorite books of hope and redemption. I hope they’ll encourage you in these dark days to look for every good and perfect gift “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
This novel tells the story of two fathers, one a Zulu preacher and one a white South African, each of whom has lost a son. Reverend Stephen Kumalo, travels from his crumbling countryside town to Johannesburg to find his prodigal son, Absalom. James Jarvis, prejudiced father of white racial justice advocate, Arthur Jarvis, travels from his rich landscape to Johannesburg to investigate his son’s death. The two fathers meet by accident and work through the layers of loss and grief from their two unique angles culminating in Absalom’s trial for the murder of Arthur Jarvis. Using gorgeous prose to describe the changing physical and political landscape, this heart-wrenching story of 1940s apartheid in South Africa, weaves hope, redemption and resilience into the dark tapestry of racial tension and personal anguish. Alan Paton’s novel is “lovely beyond any singing of it.”
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
I’ve known many who were so heartbroken by the grief of the first chapter of this book that they couldn’t move on to the rest of it. Ann starts with the childhood trauma of her little sister tragically being hit by a delivery truck and the faith of the survivors being crushed in the aftermath. But if you haven’t read on, you’re missing out on this remarkable narrative of Ann’s transformation as God leads her out of a nightmare to the everyday “eucharisteo,” the deep heart-knowledge that “thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.” The prose is breathtaking. You’ll feel like you’re right there sharing the journey with Ann, all the “aha!” moments and the deep wisdom and beauty encountered. If you’ve read the whole thing already (or read it twice like me), I’m guessing you’ll agree that this book is worth all of the attention it’s been getting.
Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot
I had heard the story passed down two generations to my ears, the sacrifice that five missionaries made to take the message of Jesus to one of the most violent people groups in the world, the Aucas of Ecuador. Using rich gleanings from Jim Elliot’s own journals and letters, Jim’s widow Elisabeth lays out the story of her husband’s deep devotion to God throughout youth and young adulthood, including a few escapes from accidental death and much foreshadowing of how God was preparing him to give his life for a grand purpose. While still in college, he prayed about going to the mission field: “God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.” My husband and I were so moved by the life and writings of Jim Elliot that we named our son after him. This biography will challenge you out of complacency to true discipleship. You’ll be spurred on in bold faith, despite the threat of violence in the world. And at the end, you’ll be amazed to see how God uses the terrible tragedy on the Cururay River to turn a violent tribe into people of peace.
I Would Die for You: One Student’s Story of Passion, Service and Faith by Brent & Deanna Higgins
As I’ve watched news coverage over the last few days, reporters have noted that in both of the recent shootings, the perpetrators were in their early twenties. In a generation addicted to violent video games and social media that makes the world more connected but less personal, young people are in danger. And as we’ve seen with the recent violence, the surrounding communities are in danger as well. This book, detailing the legacy of BJ Higgins, a personal family friend, shows the impact of one young person who embraced suffering, trusting God to use him for good, whether in life or death. I prayed hard for BJ’s healing after he contracted an infection on the mission field in 2005. When he passed away six weeks later, just shy of his 16th birthday, I was traumatized. But as I began to take a closer look at his journals and the stories of his faith compiled on the family’s blog and in this book, and as I watched 100 students come forward at his funeral, dedicating themselves to take BJ’s place on the mission field, I came away encouraged about the potential in today’s youth. This book is a great read for students, parents, youth workers and anyone looking for hope for this troubled generation.
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