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Monday, December 30, 2019

Ring Out, Wild Bells: Books & Questions for 2020

I don’t  know about you, but I am a woman in constant need of regrouping. We all have these reasons that our brains sway off track. Without vision, I spend my time reacting to life instead of acting on the hopes of my heart. I have found that the little things matter most. They are generally why I spend my time doing bigger things. Cultivating home for people. The simple, quiet behind the scene things are the richest treasures. Everything revolves around that for me. The books I read, the questions I ask myself, the recipes I make, the classes I take, the friends I have, and the people we feed. It all comes back to loving well. In doing all of these things, Jesus is ever healing my heart. I am increasingly discovering God’s grace in the spirit of hospitality.

I wanted to share a few things with you to kick off your new year. I try to steadily read 52 books a year (not more or less to keep balance). Books offer my heart some quiet therapy. I must have needed a bit of extra therapy this year because I accidentally read 78 books. I went through and picked out my ten favorites for you.

A few years ago, I started going through Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide. Writing out the things I hoped to change and work for became a prayer of my heart and took on a life of their own. I came across three distinctly different sets of questions to evaluate and help restructure your mind for 2020. I am praying for you to have renewed hope and a great sense of purpose in the year ahead.

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
—T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Life without revision will silence our souls.
—Sleeping at Last, Snow

Let’s start with a poem.

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

 - 1809-1892
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

This is a reflective and fun list for summing up your year and thinking about what you might change. It’s good for me to remember the highlights. I tend to forget the wonderful things and get bogged down in the muck of each common day. I forget the beauty there. 

This list is about addressing your heart and how you might like to change what is happening inside yourself. Most of our lives are lived internally. It’s good to be introspective.

Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide helped me to keep some things God put in my heart at the forefront. Writing vision and hope out on paper has truly given me a jump start where I was lying dormant. I print it out and fill it in.

Top Ten Books Of My Year (not listed by rank)
1. The Second Mountain by David Brooks *(the first half and the section on building community are primo). His insight into human resilience is fantastic. 
2. Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson * This is a deep, thoughtful look inside the creative life. It made me feel more alive and more creative. 
3. Miracle on Voodoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux *If you enjoy the God of the impossible, this is a true story for you. It’s set in my beloved Haiti. 
4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson *This book shook me. Black history is fascinating to me and the true crime that white men waged on them is excruciating to see. See the movie too. 
5. Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder *Wow. The life of Paul Farmer and his life of service to eradicating disease around the world and to the poorest of people is inspiring. Tracy is a phenomenal story teller. 
6. True Grit By Charles Portis *I loved the writing. The story is great and Charles Portis wrote in a way that transported you back in time. 
7. Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher *This was a fascinating read on the intrepid nature of women by a sociologist. 
8. Crescendo by Allen Cheney *This true story spoke deeply to my heart about healing and valuing the simple things in life. It surprised me. 
9. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann *It is hard to believe this story happened to the Osage Indians. True crime and devastation. 
10. You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy *Oh my word. I loved this book. Y’all. Read it. Kate is a journalist for the New York Times. This is a must read for the boardroom or the home. Fantastic. 

I also listened to Where the Crawdads Sing while I sanded our bedroom floor. Great story telling.

Share books with me on Goodreads.
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/70094937-steph-cherry

           


Thanks for giving to the homeless this year at
The Boho Table




Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Faith of Queen Elizabeth by Dudley Delffs


I didn’t really like this book, but hats off to the Queen. She seems like a woman rich in character

The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the CrownThe Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown by Dudley Delffs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hate to say it, but this was a “meh” read for me. If you have watched the Crown and done a little Google search, you’ve read this book. It’s a recap of her life and how the author believes the Queen operated in faith in certain situations. There were a few things I learned about her, but it was largely a so so read. The story drug along and jumped around. It’s like a fan letter with people the author ran into that knew the Queen. He did not speak to her. The closest he got was thinking he saw her majesty along a trail once. The book lacked depth. It’s sad to me because her faith seems to be a driving force in her decisions.


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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Spreading Joy: A Homeless Tale at Christmas

A few nights ago, I was walking along the San Antonio Riverwalk and came across several homeless people with their blankets laid out on benches. I often feel like my heart is going to come clear out of my chest when I see people sleeping on the streets. I’m sure it’s a mixed bag for them down there. The people make them feel safe and I’m sure they equally want us to go home so that they can go to sleep. 

People coming together as a community gets to me. People making a sacrifice for the common good is a powerful beacon of hope. It made me cry in Frozen 2. It made me cry on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Twice I saw restaurants feeding the homeless. When we were walking by a pizzeria, one of the employees called out to a homeless man by name and said he had his food waiting. He put his arm around him and walked him to the counter. 

The reason I was with my two friends on the Riverwalk was another story all together. My friend Kenny in his early 40s and has cataracts so bad that he cannot see to read, drive, or work. Dr. Mike Tschoepe has graciously donated surgery for Kenny who was sitting around waiting to go completely blind. He had lost all hope. Mindy, our volunteer coordinator, has donated her time to bring Kenny to at least 6 appointments. That’s six hours of driving and overnight stays here at our mission house.

 It’s beautiful to me. I see the community rising up to meet needs. The amazing part is seeing the givers effected and changed as much as the receivers. Standing near the broken hearted as God binds up their wounds seems to have a spillover effect. My wounds are being bound up too. 

I want to invite you into my community. Be a part of us. Receive the spillover. Follow our non-profit story at The Boho Table (thebohotable.org)

Help us throw a Christmas Party for our Homeless Small Group:

Read a little thing I wrote about joy:


Thank y’all. You build up my confidence in humanity and the powerful work of God in all of our lives.









Monday, November 11, 2019

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson


Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of MakingAdorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew       Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot put into words how inspired I am by this book. Andrew Peterson’s writing is more wonderful than I can say. It has encouraged, inspired, and challenged me as an artist and creator. He walks you through the process of the rise and fall and rise of his music as well as the details of his personal life. I am thankful for his humility to share what actually happened in his life and how he has proceeded on through trial. The allure here is that he overcame through building a community of people who resonated with and encouraged each other in their craft.

For me, the story was encouraging because I could see myself in it. The rebuilding of a house. Overcoming self to be creative. Pushing through toward the thing we yearn for. He shared such depth ad insight that went along with his life. The book is full of inspiring beauty. I feel like it gave me six months of homework. Honestly, I can’t wait.

I do not read many books twice, but I will definitely read this again.











Check out Is He Worthy? By Andrew Peterson https://youtu.be/OIahc83Kvp4

Thanks to Andrew’s publisher for generously providing this book for me to review.



Wednesday, November 06, 2019

I Give Up by Laura Story


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was completely amazed by the depth of LauraStory’s music when I heard Blessings. Coming to know that it was inspired by her husband’s brain cancer made it l the more powerful. This book touches on that. The parts where she shares her personal struggles and howGod helped her through each hard season really spoke to me. This has been a hard walk for her. Her husband is still disabled and not driving and she has several children and a set of twins. I enjoyed reading her storytelling so much.

The part I had a hard time with was what felt lie regurgitated Sunday School lessons. It felt like a stretch to include these stories in the way they were told. The style changed. The storytelling stopped. It was awkward to me and I had a hard time getting through those sections. It was transference of facts.I wish she would have told it in the same way as the rest of the book. This was a huge chunk of it though.

Her story itself is worth reading. New Christians could get something from her sharing about the Bible stories.


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I did enjoy her white flag prayers at the end of each chapter.




Monday, November 04, 2019

The Complicated Heart by Sarah Mae

I held my breath through some of this book. It was incredibly raw and real. Some of it brought up things from my past that I had tucked away. We often never realize how much we tuck away and internalize until someone else’s story brings it back in the light. When we grow up with an alcoholic or abusive parent, we tend to blame ourselves for everything and then heap ourselves with shame over our reactions. Most of the time it wasn’t about us. It wasn’t our fault. Even the things we ended up doing to ourselves or others are not meant to be hidden under shame. They are meant to be brought into the light for healing. Sarah Mae has done this and modeled it for all of us. She has shown us the beauty of wrestling through trauma with Jesus. It is often hard to read, but it’s worth the struggle. 


The Complicated Heart: Loving Even When It HurtsThe Complicated Heart: Loving Even When It Hurts by Sarah Mae
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think for a long time Christian women wrote books that were ridiculously fluffy. They talked about Jesus, of course, but never shared much meat from their lives. There has been a shift in this area over the past few years. Women are coming out humbly recounting deep trauma, sin, and healing. It has been the most refreshing thing to see. I had wondered if this book would be more of the old type of book, but when I dove in I was blown away by this woman’s candor. She told some hard stories of abortion and abusive relationships. She recounted history that would lock most women in shame. Her backstory with her mama is one for the record books. It is told in the most interesting way. She came across her mother’s journals and put the timeline to what she was going through at the time. You can see both sides. If you have ever struggled with your relationship with your mom, I recommend this to you. It also leads you through a trail of what trauma can do to you and cause you to do to yourself. Read it. I found healing I didn’t know I needed locked in it’s pages.


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This book was graciously provided by the publisher for review.



Saturday, October 19, 2019

Healing Together by Anne Marie Miller

Trauma is a powerful thing. It can be suppressed and repressed and change a person’s behavior in unimaginable ways. There are tragedies and horrors in the underbelly of society and church that we cannot even wrap our minds around. Anne has written an incredible work to equip us as to how to begin caring for those who have been abused and assaulted. We can be trauma informed. We can stop blaming women for their dress or location or any other means by which we write off these terrible offenses. This is why people do not come forward. Those of us who should be clothed in compassion are heaping shame on others. Otherwise, we end up like the people writing adult Anne and telling her she should have known better. She was a child at the time of her offense. Her abuser was an adult pastor. He was more than 10 years her senior. Clothes yourself in compassion, my friends.

Healing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse SurvivorsHealing Together: A Guide to Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors by Anne Marie Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been following Anne’s writing for over a decade. I have been on several of her launch teams and I can unwaveringly say that she has a voice we need to listen to. This book is no exception. She has given the church a gift.

In the first section we learn about trauma and hear about her own trauma. She has had quite a bit of pain turning in her abuser. Well-meaning Christian women basically called her a tramp and said she should have known better...even though she was a child and her abuser was an adult. It is no wonder that people do not come forward after trauma. The people who should offer healing heap them with shame.

The second section of the book is a fantastic resource to anyone who is in trauma care or looking to help someone who has been abused. So often, we look like a deer in the headlights when this sort of thing happens. We are completely unequipped. Anne has clearly laid out scientific and emotional data and strategies for us. The research and thoughtful care she has put into this book is easily seen. Even though I have been helping people navigate trauma for many years, I found some powerful reminders here. I am reminded of my own needs as I address others needs.

Thank you for your powerful work, Anne. It leaves us without excuse in helping those around us.


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 This book was graciously provided by Zondervan Publishing and Anne Marie Miller for review.  






Monday, October 07, 2019

Crescendo by Allen Cheney


Crescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern TownCrescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town by Allen Cheney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book appealed to me because it looked soulful, creative, and deep. I did not know anything about the story beforehand. First, I'll tell you that this was a well-crafted story. Being able to tell history in such a powerful way is a gift. Allen Cheney is a gifted story teller. Second, this is a story that will make you gasp and bring you to tears. I do not want to share any spoilers, but I want you to experience this man's story.

You can read the info about the book to see that this is a book that tells the story of a man that was a musical genius. He had risen to the top of his game as a producer when he came face to face with a mental breakdown brought on by the trauma of his childhood. That caused him to wrestle with some huge decisions in his life. You can see how that all played out in the subtitle. He changed the lives of countless people with his passion, gifting, and by sharing his healing.

The words in these pages shone like a bright light in my heart. Our healed hurt is the richest of gifts when we share it with others. It was a good reminder for me. I am grateful to have read it.

Some favorite quotes:

"When someone we know starts to forget they have something to offer, it's our job to remind them."

"It's about the light you shine for others, not the light that shines on you."


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*This book was graciously provided by the publisher for review.