We recently asked CCEF faculty members the following question: “What book have you read recently that has impacted you?” Here are their answers.
Laura Andrews: I’m currently reading The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (TarcherPerigee, 2016). I am increasingly looking for resources to help me grow as a writer, and a friend who swears by Cameron’s approach recommended this book to me. I saw this quote in the reviews and was sold: “Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.”
Cecelia Bernhardt: Recently, I read Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop (Crossway, 2019), which is about biblical lament. I picked this book because, as a counselor, I wrestle with the seeming contradictions of God’s faithful promises and the level of horror that women face in the experience and aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. Vroegop shows how lament creates room for honest communication with God, which is the foundation for a real and growing relationship with him. This doesn’t answer all the questions these women struggle with, but it does show them how to move toward the Lord in their pain. And that movement makes room for hope and trust to be reborn.
Mike Emlet: I am currently reading theologian Kelly Kapic’s You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News (Brazos Press, 2022). The fact is, we generally don’t think our human finitude and weakness are good news. We often live harried, hurried, and restless lives trying to squeeze an extra hour into God’s gift of a given day. This insightful and convicting book is teaching me more fully how to number my days so that I might get a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12).
Alasdair Groves: I’ve known for a long time I needed to read Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier (Regenery Publishing, 2021). It is just as gut-wrenching in its stories about anxious young women being convinced to assault their own bodies as it is sobering about the seductive power of “comforting” voices offering explanations for our distress. There is much in Shrier’s anthropology I disagree with, but her ear for the specific contours of female teenage confusion and the intensity of the social pressures upon young women is unmatched. Reading this book confirmed for me the importance of a biblical view of people and how they function. It is also heartbreaking to read about the answers the world offers to assuage the pain people feel. Only the hope of a Lord who knows us, loves us, and guides us beyond our instinctive desires can ever hope to satisfy us!
Esther Liu: I am currently reading Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Eerdmans, 1987). The book shares the reflections of a father who lost his son in an accident, and it is both beautiful and heart-wrenching. I have been so moved by and thankful for the ways he is able to capture a life experience that so often defies words and explanations, and for his raw honesty. I imagine many fellow sufferers would feel “understood” by him. It is a short book with short chapters, but it has been rich, meaningful, and profound. Here is one of many quotes that gripped my heart: “How can I be thankful, in his gone-ness, for what he was? I find I am. But the pain of the no more outweighs the gratitude of the once was. Will it always be so?”
Julie Lowe: I am reading Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP Books, 2010). The author walks through her journey of finding God in the midst of the stress, pressure, and busyness of life. She then offers guidance to others, equipping them with ideas and suggestions for how to practice slowing life down by listening, waiting, and being present with God.
Aaron Sironi: Every year there’s one book that comes as a surprise to me. This year it was The Way of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Bruce K. Waltke (Zondervan Academic, 2000). This well-known book focuses on Wisdom Literature but was simply never on my radar. Mike Emlet commended it to me, and I’m so glad he did. My favorite chapters are no surprise, given my interest in marriage counseling: “The Terrors of the Night: Love, Sex, and Power in Song of Songs 3” (Iain Provan); “True Marital Love in Proverbs 5:15–23 and the Interpretation of Song of Songs” (Walter Kaiser); and “The Wisdom of Marriage” (Roger Nicole). Thanks, Mike! I find my mind straying while working on other projects, wondering when I’ll be able to read the next chapter.
Darby Strickland: I have been working through Divine Providence: A Classic Work for Modern Readers by Puritan theologian Stephen Charnock (P&R Publishing, 2022). Charnock has offered me tender reassurance that God’s plans are always for the good of his people and the glory of his grace. His exposition of Scripture has been a great comfort and is helping me as I encounter difficult situations and minister to counselees wrestling with the Lord’s plan for them.
Todd Stryd: For a second time, I’m reading through Binding the Strongman by Chad Myers (Orbis Books, 2008). It’s a thick, dense, and yet refreshing work that opened up the Gospel of Mark to me in new ways. As I begin my second reading, what strikes me so far is how Myers characterizes Mark’s Gospel as a “manifesto of radical discipleship” expressed in “repentance” and “resistance.” This repentance and resistance are about turning away from, and standing up to, the idolatrous kingdom-building taking place inside us and outside us. I’m reading it again for the same reason others re-read certain books over and over again. It’s because they meet us in a special way and capture something important to us, and we need to be refreshed and reminded of these essential truths. As a result, the Gospel of Mark has fast become my close spiritual companion.
Ed Welch: J. I. Packer died in 2020, and he has been my companion ever since. How could anyone not want to carefully read someone who wrote, “Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart”? Through 2022 I read Keep in Step with the Spirit (Baker Books, 2005) twice, slowly. I had almost finished it once when I left the book on top of my car and then drove five miles. The book nestled under my roof rack for a secure ride but not before the pages of notes I had written blew away. So I decided to read it again. The book is exegetical, theological, and profoundly devotional. The main point? The Spirit’s role is a “floodlight ministry.” His work is to shine on Jesus in a way that we know Jesus truly, love him more deeply, and follow him with greater purity. Spiritual gifts, therefore, show us Christ in a way that we are edified. This means that counseling might give helpful direction about dealing with anger, but such direction is not spiritual unless it is compelled by Jesus Christ crucified, risen, reigning, and present by the Spirit. When I read Packer, yes, I want more of the one whom the Spirit delights to give.
Lauren Whitman: This past year my daughter and I read together The Talk: Seven Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2014). I appreciate how Gilkerson guides parents on how to wade into conversations that can be intimidating to initiate. He provides a balanced discussion of both biological facts and a biblical worldview, ending each lesson with a prayer for the adult to pray with the child. I was very thankful for the book’s help in raising important conversations and providing the opportunity for children to experience that it’s normal and good to discuss matters of sexuality with a trusted adult.