‘Tis the season for book lists. I’ll join the party.
To be honest, 2022 wasn’t a great reading year for me. Maybe it had something to do with a major life change (retirement), but I had a hard time focusing and concentrating. Maybe it was because I kept picking bad books. All I know is, I gave up on more books than ever before. I managed to plow through 28 books this year, which is about half of my usual. Here are my top five.
5. Surrender to Love, by David Benner
My word for 2022 was “hesed”, the Hebrew word for love. I thought to myself, “I’m going to learn how to love. I’m going to become a more loving person. I’m going to get this love thing down.” Then I read Surrender to Love and everything shifted. My quest to become a better lover had to start with learning how to be a better receiver of the Father’s love. When I tried to imagine God thinking about me, I usually assumed He was somewhat frustrated and disappointed. I began contemplating the fact that God bursts with love for me, and that love swells in His heart when He thinks of me. I don’t know if I got any better at loving other people this year, but I did find a deeper appreciation for the length, width, depth and height of His love for humans, including me.
4. Reforesting Faith, by Matthew Sleeth
Trees were a major theme for me this year. I read books about trees, I listened to podcasts about trees, I listened to sermons on trees. And I spent a lot of time walking in the woods. I read Matthew Sleeth’s book in January and thought about it all year. He points out, “Other than God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing. There is a tree on the first page of Genesis, in the first psalm, on the first page of the New Testament, and on the last page of the Revelation. Every significant theological event in the Bible is marked by a tree.” His comparison of human lungs and tree roots still blows my mind.
3. Deeper, by Dane Ortlund
Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly was my 2020 book of the year, so I was eager to read his next offering. It did not disappoint. He addresses the broad idea of what it means to grow in faith and mature in Christ. Then he gives practical advice on how to do that without becoming formulaic. I turned many of his ideas into prayers: “Lord, help me to trade in my snorkel and face mask for scuba gear that takes me down into the depths I’ve never peered into before.” (I can’t find my copy. If I lent it to you, could I please have it back?!) 🙂
2. How It Went, by Wendell Berry
My absolute favorite fiction book series is Wendell Berry’s Port William novels. I read all of them in 2017 and it was pure joy. I’ve been thinking about re-reading the series, just because I miss the characters and Berry’s way of writing about them. So imagine my delight when I saw a new addition! I couldn’t push the “Buy Now” button fast enough. At 88 years old, Berry still has the ability to write words that make me ache and smile all at once.
1. The Songs of Jesus, by Tim Keller with Kathy Keller
My 2022 book of the year is The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. This book saved my life this year. I’ve never spent an entire year in one book of the Bible, but God knew this was exactly what I would need in 2022. The Psalms became my anchor, my refuge, my strength. Along with reading the short passage, reflection and prayer each day, I made notes and highlighted key words in my Illuminated Scripture Journal book. But mostly I prayed the psalms. They gave me words I didn’t have, expressed emotions I was afraid to feel, and taught me the language of praise.
As Dane Ortlund states in Deeper, “The Psalms are the one book in the Bible addressed to God. In it God takes us by the hand and gives us words to speak back to Him.” The Psalms did indeed take me deeper into the heart of God. They will continue to be my lifelong companions.
I discovered more resources that kept pouring the richness of the Psalms into my heart and mind.
- In The Lord I Take Refuge podcast, by Dane Ortlund
- Hidden Streams podcast, by Chad Bird
- Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms
- Music by The Corner Room, The Psalms Project, Poor Bishop Hooper and many others
“We cannot bypass the Psalms. They are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest. That’s it: open your Bibles to the book of Psalms and pray them — sequentially, regularly, faithfully, across a life-time. This is how most Christians for most of the Christian centuries have matured in prayer. Nothing fancy. Just do it.” — Eugene Peterson, Answering God
Here’s to a prosperous reading year in 2023!
Sing some songs of Jesus in the year ahead!
My Word for 2022
Be Like a Tree
Tree of Life
10 Things I Learned in January
The Bible Project, Tree of Life series: https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/tree-of-life/
Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, by Michael Card