book review

5 Books That Helped Me Heal

As spring warms my skin, I am transported in my mind to last summer. I feel myself gently swing back and forth in my hammock while I think, aren’t hammocks supposed to be relaxing?

I was in my head a lot last summer. I was seeking anything that would heal my anxiety after finally admitting that it was more than a temporary problem.

Many things were helpful in getting to a healthier place: therapy, journaling, new boundaries, confronting my codependent tendencies, medication, and much needed changes. The thing that made all of these things more effective was reading books that helped me process these changes.

You may have different mental health concerns for yourself or a family member than I did, but all of these books will have good lessons for you on your journey.

Christian mental health books.jpg

1. All is Grace by Brennan Manning

 

Why?

This book isn’t a “self-help” type of book like the rest of the books on my list. It’s an autobiography of a deeply broken man. I cried tears more than once because of the incredible redemptive, redeeming, reckless love of our God. His trauma from disfunction was familiar even as it was far from my life experience. His tendency towards self-destruction and self-deception was familiar even though it was also very far from my life experience.

Quote:

My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.
— Brennan Manning, All is Grace

Other healing books by Manning:

Abba’s Child

Ruthless Trust

2. How People Heal by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

 

Why?

This book broke down how the ideas of Bible intersect mental health care in the simplest to understand way possible in chapter one. Even if you can only read chapter one, you’ll be better for it.

Quote:

I believed in the power of the Bible and knew that God’s truth could change any life. And I knew that if I could just teach others the same things and encourage them to know the truth as I was learning it, they would find the same kind of growth I discovered. Yet, at the medical center I saw people who had walked with God for years and many who knew more about God’s truth than I did. These people, laypeople and pastors alike, had been very diligent about prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Nevertheless, they were hurting, and for one reason or another, they had been unable to walk through their valley. The woman in the pink bathrobe was a missionary who had been called off the field because she was out of touch with reality — out of touch with who she really was and where she was in time. Although the realization I had had with this particular woman came in response to an extreme situation, I had the same realization over and over with hundreds of other more normal clients. To deal with marital, parenting, emotional, and work struggles, people had tried the things they had been taught, and they felt as though these spiritual answers had let them down. And I began to feel the same way. Again the realization hit me: This is going to be harder than I thought.
— Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, How People Grow

Other healing books by Cloud & Townsend:

Boundaries

Necessary Endings (Cloud)

3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

 

Why?

Peter, a veteran pastor in New York City, is so vulnerable with his own journey to becoming emotionally healthy, and he points out how damaging emotionally unhealthy people are in the local church. If every local church was proactive in making sure that discipleship that included emotional health was a priority, the body would be so much healthier and more whole.

Quote:

The problem, however, is that you inevitably find, as I did, something still missing. In fact, the spirituality of most current discipleship models often only adds an additional protective layer against people growing up emotionally. When people have authentic spiritual experiences — such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship — they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their interior world is disordered. Their apparent ‘progress’ then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing. They are deceived. I know. I lived that way for almost seventeen years. Because of the spiritual growth in certain areas of my life and in those around me, I ignored the glaring signs of emotional immaturity that were everywhere in and around me.
— Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

4. The Wisdom of You Heart by Marc Schelske

 

Why?

I met Marc at a writer’s conference in Portland when this book was just a seed. He was honest about his struggles with perfectionism and insecurities. Several years later, I read his book and it freed me from a lot of shame about my emotions. I’m an enneagram 3. If you’re an enneagram 3, 7, or 8, you are in the active triad that suppresses feelings by focusing your energy on other things. Becoming in touch with my feelings has been a process, and this book was integral in that process.

With emotions, God gave us a gift, not a curse, a small reflection of God’s own experience.
— Marc Schelske, The Wisdom of Your Heart

5. The Gift Of Being Yourself by David Benner

 

Why?

Knowing God is not something you can integrate into your life and actions fully until you know yourself. This book was full of “ah ha” moments about how the self relates to God. I flagged a third of the pages because it held an important truth.

Quote:

Self-deception occurs automatically. This is part of what psychologists mean when they say that the defense mechanisms operate in the unconscious. It is also part of what theologians mean when they speak of original sin. We don’t really have to choose self-deception. It is — to use contemporary computer jargon — the default option.
— David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

I listened to this a bunch last summer in the hammock. Still is a fav.

Book Review - Holy Hustle

I first was introduced to Crystal Stine when I signed up for my first Write-31-Days challenge back in 2015. She was our host, encouraging participants to keep going on our challenge.

This week, I was thrilled to read Crystal’s first published book that released today, Holy Hustle: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life. 

I’m here for the rest. This is a lesson I’ve been learning the past few months. After some serious burnout, our church sent my husband and me to a week-long retreat specifically to help us overcome our ministry burnout. The majority of our week was spent learning why proper rhythms of work and rest were extremely important in ministry. I had already begun learning some of these lessons as I hit a wall and wrote about my feelings towards good works and God in my 2016 Write-31-Days challenge.

Crystal has learned the importance of rest.

I’ve had to admit some prideful thoughts to God as He’s asked me to incorporate rest into my life. Thoughts like: No one else can do this as well as I can. If I don’t do it who will? If I say yes to all these projects I’ll have job security. I don’t have time to rest.

Whether it’s about the work I need to do to maintain our household for my family, the tasks on my freelance to-do list, or the commitments I’ve made to friends, my pride tells me I need to strive, work harder than everyone else, and prove I’m irreplaceable. In reality all that does is cause me to experience burnout and frustration.
— Crystal Stine, Holy Hustle

The idea that we can rest well as we do good work is so exhilarating.

I have to admit that I felt a little tension with the word hustle. I’ve been in urban ministry for twenty years, and for me, hustle has connotations related to selling illegal things on corners. I know that might not be the typical connotation for a middle-aged white Jesus woman, but it is. Rap lyrics are not a stranger to me.

Crystal lays out a beautiful case for redeeming the word hustle.

When we look at the dictionary definition of hustle, all it means is to ‘work rapidly or energetically.’ Doesn’t it remind you of Colossians 3:23? ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’
— Crystal Stine, Holy Hustle

Crystal spends the majority of the book telling what good work is not:

  • It does not bring guilt or shame you for resting.
  • It is not striving.
  • It isn’t bothersome or insignificant to God.
  • It can’t be too small to make a big impact in God’s Kingdom.
  • It isn’t born out of fear.
  • It doesn’t serve ourselves, instead it serves others.
  • It doesn’t shine a spotlight on ourselves, instead it illuminates God’s glory.
  • It isn’t work just meant for a few people, instead it is for everyone.
  • It doesn’t promote competition.
  • It isn’t limited to a few gifts, instead every gift is needed.
  • It doesn’t stop when failure happens, instead God can redeem failure.
  • It doesn’t keep going when it is time to rest.
Tucked into holy hustle is freedom that takes away the guilt of work and the shame of rest.
— Crystal Stine, Holy Hustle

Holy Hustle will change the way you live out your calling among the people in your lives. As you read and embrace healthy rhythms of work and rest, you can obey your commission well and have holier harmony in your priorities.

We can model rest to our families, we can prioritize people over projects, and we can enter our work ready to serve with our whole hearts. We can also create a sustainable model of holy hustle that allows us to do the best possible work for God’s kingdom as we choose to intentionally work hard, rest well, and repeat.
— Crystal Stine, Holy Hustle

4 Books You'll Love

I shared a list like this at the beginning of 2016, and it was fun.  When things are fun, sometimes you do them again.

The hero of this list is the Amarillo Public Library.  Of my four books, 3 of them were checked out from that wonderful place.  In fact, of the 54 books I read last year, 30 of them were loaned to me, physically or virtually, from the best-we-spend-taxpayer-money-on-in-my-opinion, the public library!

I said virtually in that sentence because, miracle of all technological miracles, I can check out e-books AND audio books on my iPhone.  Thank you Uncle Sam AND Steve Jobs!

The other hero of this list is the webpage Goodreads.  I love my little Goodreads app where I can keep track of what I read, because I know I wouldn't have remember all 54 of those books.  It helped tremendously in making this list.

I love me some goals, and Goodreads has an annual reading challenge.  Last year I set my sights on the goal of reading 52 books, and I crushed reading in December and surpassed my goal by 2.  Go me!

Here's 4 books that really got me in the gut, mind, or heart.  These books changed me a little, and I think they are well worth your time.

1.  Unashamed by Lecrae

 

I was touched by Lecrae sharing the truth about his childhood. I've been working in inner-city ministry for about 20 years. When you've had a middle class upbringing, you might read Lecrae's story and assume that he is the exception or unique. I think most of the kids I've encountered in our ministry would relate to Lecrae's early years, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, being handed off to grandparents for months, the hurt of being fatherless, and/or the pressure to find your place in a violent culture. There are kids just like Lecrae in your cities and towns, with just as much potential!

I also admired Lecrae's honesty about his early Christian years, becoming very legalistic. I recognize myself in that struggle. It just took me longer to figure out I couldn't be good enough, because I am such a good girl. 

I had made the same mistake a lot of Christians make: I saw my connection with God as a contractual relationship, rather than a covenantal relationship. All contracts have terms, but covenants don’t. They last forever. In a contractual relationship, you’re always worried about breaking the rules. In a covenantal relationship, you’re only concerned with loving the other party as much as you can.
— Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

I think the reason Lecrae has found an audience is because we all feel like an anomaly, we all don't fit in on this Earth. I look forward to Heaven, when we will all be fully ourselves and fully the Bride of Christ. On that day, I'll be happy to stand beside brothers like Lecrae as well as brothers and sisters from every nation and worship The Lord as one. Until then, we can learn so much from audio-biographies like this one that help us understand cultures different from our own. If you had a childhood similar to Lecrae, this story can help you process your own grief, but if you didn't it can bring you understanding. Either way, this book can lead us to be a better version of His Church while we are here on Earth.

2.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin

 

I thought I knew what to expect from this book because I had read quite a bit of Shannan's blog and listened to interviews from Shannan, but this book surprised me in all the best ways.  I didn't expect to be so challenged.  I had to rethink some ideas that I thought I had already pushed so close to Jesus, they had to be right.  Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike.  She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in.  All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  If you read it, like I did, I know you will love it.  My copy is getting a good re-read, as currently I am going through this book with a group of ladies who are meeting monthly to discuss it.  In re-reading this, the Lord has already used Shannan's words to push me farther into freedom and trusting Him.  

The chapter that has really was a lifeline for me during this crazy time of trying to climb the mountain of international adoption is chapter four, Unplan.  Listen to this quote.

He (God) chooses discomfort, challenges common sense, and promises pain in exchange for our very lives and all they harbor - our dollars, our hours, our homes, our families, our closely held dreams of a rosy future. This is the God we say we love. This is the God we signed up for. He kept nothing from us, made no false claims, hid zero agendas, and we said yes. We said we wanted the life he had to offer, and that we would follow wherever he led in order to find it. And yet we often feel all baited-and-switched when those dusty roads don’t lead us back to ourselves as planned.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

Yep.  That's truth right there.  And thank the Lord that he doesn't just lead me back to myself.  I would make an awful, horrible, no-good god.

3.  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

This book pushed me WAY out of my comfort zone, but I will never look at this country of ours the same again.  I thought the constitution protected our citizens.  Now I know it doesn't.  I know that sounds dramatic, but there is great misuse of the 4th amendment and abuse of the 13th amendment in our country right now.

I think stories speak louder than political debates, so I will share this quote with you.  It is a long one.

Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put into foster care. A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children. Now place yourself in the shoes of Cliffard Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl. This is the War on Drugs. The brutal stories described above are not isolated incidents, nor are the racial identities of Emma Faye Stewart and Clifford Runoalds random or accidental. In every state across our nation, African Americans - particularly in the poorest neighborhoods - are subjected to tactics and practices that would result in public outrage and scandal if committed in middle-class white neighborhoods.
— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

If these heartbreaking injustices don't hit close enough to home, I was not surprised to see that the Tulia drug bust debacle was mentioned on the first few pages of The New Jim Crow.

I know the idea that our wonderful, glorious country could have such a huge flaw in our justice system is extremely uncomfortable.  I know as a white girl, I have the luxury of ignoring the problem or believing the criminalization of people with brown skin is warranted by bad decisions and actual criminal activity.  It isn't always true.

I pray that our justice system becomes more just.  I pray we all will get past our preconceived ideas and just try to understand the ideas in this book. 

4.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

 

Ok.  That last book was intense.  Here's some fun, easy, enjoyable fiction.  I had way too much fun reading this.  I especially loved that the author cashed in on the nordic obsession starting to find its way into our culture (Ikea, hygee, biking, danish food becoming more mainstream.)

To be honest, this wasn't the best fiction book I read last year, but it was the most fun.  Sometimes when the world is a little dark, fun is just what we need.

I love ports. I love the smell of tar and sea air, and the scream of the gulls. Maybe it’s years of taking the ferry to France for summer holidays, but a harbor gives me a feeling of freedom in a way that an airport never does. Airports say work and security checks and delays. Ports say... I don’t know. Something completely different. Escape, maybe.
— Ruth Ware, The Woman in Cabin 10

I hope you found a book you want to add to your "to-read" list from my list.

If not, I'm on Goodreads updating what I'm reading all year long.  I'd love for you to be my friend on Goodreads.  Click here to view my profile, and click "add as a friend."


My favorite band had just released a new album when I did my "4 Books I Loved in 2015," and now one year later, they have another new album.  It feels like the happiest of accidents or just a mid-level band with incredible work ethic.

Book Review - The Gift of Second

In the summer of 2010, I lost my youngest brother to suicide.  That moment changed my family's life forever.  I have felt compelled to share about my experience of losing my brother in order to encourage people who are struggling with a similar loss.  I also have hoped to bring some understanding to my brothers and sisters in Christ who haven't dealt with this type of loss.

For the past year, I have had the privilege of writing a few blog posts for the website The Gift of Second.  It has been a great outlet for me to share some of my story.

I am thankful that Brandy Lidbeck began The Gift of Second as a safe place on the internet for survivors of suicide to connect and be encouraged.

Now Brandy has taken her own experience after losing her mother to suicide, her knowledge as a licensed therapist, and her observations found through running the site, and she has put all of this wisdom into a book also called The Gift of Second:  Healing From the Impact of Suicide.

The Gift of Second released on Amazon in mid-October, and I was so glad to read Brandy's kind and refreshing words around the subject of suicide.

Remember, there is no timetable or limit to grief. Be kind to yourself. Do not compare your grief to others’, as each individual person grieves each individual relationship differently. It is unique, and to shame yourself for not being ‘farther along’ in the grief process discounts the genuine feelings you have. Suicide is tragic, and we need to give ourselves permission to feel the enormity of all the emotions as they present themselves.
— -Brandy Lidbeck, The Gift of Second

Brandy writes about grief, guilt, shame, trauma, finding the right therapy, how to talk about the loss, and forgiveness.  As I read, I was so impressed how comprehensive Brandy's book was.  I couldn't think of a subject pertaining to suicide that was not covered.

After losing my brother, I read a half-dozen books related to suicide loss.  I was dismayed to find that many of the books were just plain weird.  Some of the books were overtly gory in the details they shared.

Brandy is very cautious about not sharing details that could trigger anyone into feelings of post-traumatic stress.  Her book is a safe place to process your feelings, and it is written in the voice of a sympathetic friend with professional, sound advice for healing.

I think we sometimes hold on to the guilt as our last sort of connection to our loved one. We often have a false belief that if we stop feeling guilty for not preventing the suicide, then we, by default, consent to it. It is simply not true.
— Brandy Lidbeck, The Gift of Second

If you have suffered a loss in your life through suicide, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.  If you know someone who has experienced this type of loss, this is a suitable, comprehensive book to gift them.  If you are on staff at a church, I would highly recommend keeping this book on your shelf to give families who come for funerals or counseling after a suicide loss. 

I would love it if you would comment below if you decide to purchase Brandy's new book and any thoughts you have about it.

I know this book will impact many lives, and I thank God that He lead Brandy to create it.


Review of Falling Free by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin has the kind of personality that makes you feel like a friend instead of a reader.  

Just look at this photo she posted on Instagram this morning, the day her book Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted released.  She doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body.  She’s going to set you down with a cup of tea and an fun, interesting conversation.

By reading Shannan’s blog and following her on social media, especially her dreamy Instagram feed, I keep finding these random things about her that make me say, “ME TOO!”

Number one is her infatuation with making salsa and late-night salsa binging.  Me too!  Number two is her love of vintage: dresses from decades past, the sweetly aged items that decorate her home.  Me too!  Number three is her addiction to gingham.  Gingham makes my heart feel warm.  Number four is her heart for adoption and her Jesus-fueled love for people.  Me too!  I could go on, but I don’t want to encourage a restraining order.

There is one important thing that I should mention that I feel I have in common with Shannan.  That is our life not lead.

Shannon begins her book with this phrase,

I’m suppose to be a farm girl. Right now I should be wearing a prairie skirt, traipsing barefoot to my gardens, staking my delphinium with vintage ribbon, catching raspberries in the bowl of my apron. That’s how I always saw myself. It was my secret dream, and I knew if I ever got there, I would have made it.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

It makes sense that the sub-tile of her book is “Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted.

That sub-tile has weight in my soul.  I feel it.  In high school I only dreamed of a big career.  I wanted a job that had a big paycheck.  I even dreamed of stressful deadlines, and knew that they would fill me with a sense of importance that nothing else could.  I watched shows set in offices and big cities and thought of all the professional clothing I would wear, lady suits and flowing blouses.  I picked the college major of accounting and set my sights on a big six firm.

As I was beginning school, God was writing another story.  My sophomore year of college, boyfriend’s dad, who would become my father-in-law, had a life-saving   liver transplant.  He had been a pastor for 25 years, and after coming so close to losing his life, he didn’t want to go back to usual ministry or normal church.  He moved into an old building in downtown Amarillo and started Citychurch, an inner-city ministry to children.

By the time I earned my accounting degree, God had changed my heart and called me to that ministry.  I never got to see what that life I thought I wanted looked like.

Shannan did.

SHANNAN MARTIN HAD THE PERFECT LIFE: A CUTE FARMHOUSE ON SIX RAMBLING ACRES, A LOVING HUSBAND, THREE ADORABLE KIDS, MONEY, FRIENDS, A CLOSE-KNIT CHURCH—A SAFE, HAPPY EXISTENCE.
But when the bottom dropped out through a series of shocking changes and ordinary inconveniences, the Martins followed God’s call to something radically different: a small house on the other side of the urban tracks, a shoestring income, a challenged public school, and the harshness of a county jail (where her husband is now chaplain). And yet the family’s plunge from “safety” was the best thing that could have happened to them.
— Nelson Books

Since I had already be rescued from the life I thought I wanted, I supposed that I had already learned all the lesson Shannan would share in her book.  As I read through the table of contents, I saw “Get Risky,” “Have Less,” “Unplan,” “Live Small,” ”Open the Door,” and other topics definitely related to.

I was wrong.  I may have lived through risky and small, learning heart-changing lessons as I transitioned from an ambitious college kid to a home school mom in urban children’s ministry, but Shannon had new insights.  She made me rethink things I had already wrestled through.

Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike. She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in. All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  I know you will love it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we all have lives that we thought we wanted that don’t line up with the better life that God has graciously planned for us.  God has a deeper, richer, more fulfilling life planned for you, and all you have to do is fall free.

God offers a better way: have less and do more. He inverts our plans, extending the option of total surrender like a May bouquet of decadent, gutsy, full-bloom peonies. It’s not some dreary prison sentence, meant for the poor souls commissioned to overseas ministry, or monks or nuns. It’s a hold-on-to-your-hat promise that life is actually far too long to risk squandering it on the wrong things. We’re offered the gift of becoming laser-focused on doing more for his kingdom.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

I’m recommending this book to you today, and I can’t imagine a day when this book will not be on my top 5 list of recommended books.  So either click this link to order it it or get in your car and head to the bookstore.  If you don’t, you’ll never hear the end of it.

Review of A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker

I love to read.  I’ve set my goal high this year, one a book a week, and I’m on track to meet that goal.  I almost always enjoy the book I’ve read (I did pick it, why wouldn’t I.)  But rarely do I not only love the book, but also feel jealous that I didn’t get to write the book I’m reading.  That is how I felt about Brandon Hatmaker’s new book that released this past Tuesday, A Mile Wide:  Trading A Shallow Religion For a Deeper Faith.  I wish I had wrote it.  It is just so good.  God forgive me of my covetousness.

The book is divided into two parts: The Gospel In Us and The Gospel Through Us.  Brandon encourages us to take our small view of the gospel and make it bigger.  As we grow our view of Christian life we can take that gospel and pour it out with a truer mission, seeking justice for our communities, full of grace and truth.

There is an idea in Brandon’s new book that I’ve been discussing with anyone who will verbally process with me, and that is the idea that discipleship happens during outreach.  (I even wrote a whole blog series on it called #servetogrow over the summer.)  Brandon illustrates this idea beautifully.

My favorite part of the whole book is in the chapter discussing discipleship called A Deeper Discipleship.  Brandon tells about an experience he had volunteering one Tuesday night with an organization called Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) with his friend Alan Graham.  After spending the evening handing out groceries, blankets, and clothing to homeless and working poor families, Alan fills Brandon in on his mission at MLF.

‘I’m making disciples,” he [Alan] said. ‘You see, we’re doing a lot of good here. But my job, and yours as a church leader, is to make disciples. My job is to get as many people out of the pews and onto the streets of our city as I can, because I know it’ll change them.’

This was paradigm-shifting for me. I’d served people before. I’d been on multiple mission trips and served in different environments. But this was different. This was in my hometown on a Tuesday night. It was something profound wrapped in something seemingly simple. Somehow what we had just done shifted my thinking from handing out a sandwich to learning a name, hearing a story, and connecting at the soul level.

And I heard the Spirit whisper, Remember what you’re experiencing. Capture how this feels, and help others feel the same. This is going to change you. It’ll change them too.

I’ve thought about that night a thousand times since then. It’s the moment when I realized for the first time that something was happening all around me that wasn’t about me but was changing my heart. After years of checking boxes and hoping for transformation, I could physically feel my heart being reshaped.

Everyday experiences become discipleship experience when we have the right attitude and perspective.
— Brandon Hatmaker, A Mile Wide

I’ve only given you a piece of the story.  You absolutely have to get this book and hear more.

There are other stories that are very touching.  When I first picked up the book to read, I found myself quickly in chapter two blinded by tears.  Brandon tells a poignant story of his encounter with an Ethiopian woman on his very first flight to Ethiopia.  I won’t retell it here, but I will tell you that you will be shocked at the reason for that this woman on Brandon’s flight spontaneously praises the Lord on that airplane.

All of these stories are so stirring to me and you as a reader because it is so evident on the page that these stories are not just cute antidotes to Brandon.  You can feel how life-changing these moments were in the writer’s sensitive-to-the-Spirit heart.

This book isn’t just about moving stories.  One of the things I love about A Mile Wide is how well thought out it is.  Every point has been considered and tested.  Every chapter has lists of helpful ways to proceed or recommendations for moving forward.  This isn’t a book that ends in head scratching and warm feelings.  This is a book that ends with action.  Each subject covered has so many layers for every Christian.

I hope I have convinced you how well your time would be spent on reading A Mile Wide.  I don’t over exaggerate when I say that you will be affected by this book.  Grab a copy and let Brandon lead you deeper into a faith that not only changes you, but leads you to change others.