My 12 Best & Brilliant Books of 2014!
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
I probably read almost 100 books in 2014. Seriously. Many of them were novels from the library that I read for fun (as opposed to watching TV) and I have a whole list of favorite authors for that kind of recreational reading.
But I also voraciously read books that have the potential and power to change my life.
Here are some that actually did just that! Click on Book Cover for Order Information. I’ve included either a favorite excerpt or a published endorsement I wrote for the book. Enjoy!
12 Books I Highly Recommend (alphabetical by author)
“…I have learned one thing. He has not abandoned you, Ruth. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. God may not always answer our questions, but He walks with us in the midst of them, lest we get lost in the wilderness of our minds. Invite the Lord into your pain. Invite Him to be your sufficiency in the midst of it. I promise, He will sustain you.”
“That isn’t enough, Naomi. I don’t want to be sustained! I want to be healed.”
Naomi gave a gentle laugh, “I understand. You want what you want, not what He is willing to give. It’s an awkward spot….Sometimes out of the delays of life, He calls forth a blessing.”
When Naomi left Ruth decided to pray…This time, she prayed with her hands open, willing to let Him choose her destiny for her. “Sustain me, Lord, through the best of life and the worst. Help me cling to You. Help me to remember that although my flesh and my heart may fail, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Carry me and rescue me even when I fight You. Overcome my struggles. Quiet me until I become like a weaned child with his mother.”
For the first time in months, Ruth experienced peace. Her storm-tossed thoughts grew still and she felt quieted. The assurance, when it came, was inward, more a sense than words. And yet she knew that the Lord had spoken to her. I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” – Tessa Afshar
“We could all learn a lot about listening from author Lynne Baab. While it seems simple (close mouth, open ears) there are actually specific skills that can help transform us into people who help build the kingdom because we heard what God and others were saying. I have come to expect wisdom from the author of Sabbath Keeping and Fasting, so I was especially grateful that The Power of Listening included a section on how to listen to God through spiritual practices. And the “Toolbox” chapter, which gives practical application and explanation of listening styles and opportunities, is simply invaluable for any of us in ministry, or in life for that matter. So listen to me: ‘Read this book and share it with your church leaders!’ You’ll be glad you did.” (endorsement by Lucinda Secrest McDowell)
“One of our fundamental spiritual problems is this: we want God to do something new while we keep doing the same old thing. We want God to change our circumstances without us having to change at all. Change is a two-sided coin: Out with the old is one side. In with the new is the other side…
The anointing is the difference between what you can do and what God can do. It’s the place where the power of God and the favor of God intersect. It’s the difference between the natural and the supernatural. It’s the difference between the temporal and the eternal. It’s the difference between success and failure.” – Mark Batterson
“It took a few months for me to realize how much the doctors hadn’t told me about my daughter. They hadn’t told me she would have black eyelashes that curled as though she had spent the afternoon getting her makeup done. Or that, like many people with Down syndrome, her eyes would have Brushfield spots — flecks of sparkling light, drawing me in like jewels shimmering in sunlight…
I could name the attributes that made Penny beautiful. I could defend her beauty against any list of physical features that might imply otherwise. But she wasn’t beautiful because of her features. The other thing the doctors hadn’t told me was that I would love her, and that we can always see beauty in the ones we love. I saw Penny’s beauty from the moment she was born, and I saw it as she grew. I just hadn’t realized she saw the same thing when she looked at me.” – Amy Julia Becker
“Are you still writing?” is what they always ask me.
…No one ever asks an architect if he is still designing buildings or a teacher if she is still going to school every day. No one asks a pastor if he still drops by church from time to time or a doctor if she still sees patients.
Writing a book is so foreign to many folks it is evidently hard for them to grasp the notion that one might do it more than once. Whether working on a book at the moment or not, a writer should always be writing. …
When the question comes, “Are you still writing?” I hope your answer will always be, “Of course I am writing. I am a writer.”
Tomorrow the sun will rise, God willing, and it will be time again for us to go to our tables. It will be time to pick up the pen or turn on the machine or take up the colored pencil. There are stories that must be told and must be heard, stories waiting on you and me to do the telling. Tomorrow we will write, write and not waste time. We will make dark marks on the page, the gift to which we have been given, the gift that has been given to us. Tomorrow we will go dancing again. Dancing on the head of a pen.” – Robert Benson
“Making consistent time for the Word of God and prayer is the place to start because being with Jesus is the only thing strong enough to pull us away from our busyness…
It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.” – Kevin DeYoung
Unquenchable by Carol Kent*
“Is the reality of your life different from what you hoped it would be? Do raging storms of tragedy threaten to douse the flickering flames of your once-strong faith? Someone understands. Carol Kent and countless others have walked treacherous paths through fiery furnaces and have chosen refinement rather than ashes. Unquenchable is full of real stories. Real pain. Real hope. Reading it may just park a wildfire in your own faith journey. And you will never be the same.” (cover endorsement by Lucinda Secrest McDowell)
Called by Mark Labberton*
“It is our voice and touch, in mutuality and in individuality, lived and offered, that can make God’s presence tangible to others. We are God’s plan. As the body of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to be the primary display of God’s character and of God’s purposes in the world. God uses all means God chooses, but God’s people are those upon whom God vests the most….
Stepping into our calling means living in a fresh daily encounter of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Following requires staying in close touch. It means keeping our sights clear when so much can distract us. But it also means living into the adventure of abundant life that Jesus longs for us all to have.” – Mark Labberton
“How good are you at doing nothing? We’re generally quite good at doing something, but we’re really bad at doing nothing. Solitude provides a shelter from noise and distraction, and that can be scary. We have become almost addicted to both. Being completely alone with nothing but our thoughts can be frightening, so we will use anything to distract us from experiencing the soul-healing that comes in solitude…
When your soul is at rest, it occupies the throne of your life. Your will is undivided and obeys God with joy. Your mind has thoughts of truth and beauty. You desire what is wholesome and good. To remain healthy, our souls need solitude with no agenda, no distractions, no noise. If someone asks you what you did in your ‘time apart,’ the correct response should be, ‘Nothing.’ Doing nothing does wonders for the soul.” – John Ortberg
Stones for Bread fiction by Christa Parrish* (2014 Christy Award for Contemporary Novel)
“She loved me so much, my father told me, she chose adoption so there was no chance I would inherit her illness. But she didn’t love me enough to stay… I know all the psychological explanations, that she was unable to reason such things in the throes of her depression. But what does reason mean to a twelve-year-old with a broken heart? Which is why I hide in the bread and have refused, until now, to open myself up and be vulnerable with another person. Which is why I am afraid to marry Seamus because, what if he, too, decides I’m not enough? What if, in all my brokenness, I can’t be enough?
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Then why can’t I feel it? ‘Oh, Jesus, I want to believe. Help my unbelief.’
There is no sudden crash of peace over me, no tongues of fire, no physical sensation of the Spirit coming over me. Not even a still, small voice. I sit on the bed, rocking gently back and forth, humming, and cautiously I allow my mother’s face to come into my mind. ‘I forgive you,’ I think, and I exhale until my lungs are so empty they hurt. Then I stand and finish dressing. I have dough to prepare for tomorrow and a plane ticket to buy….” – Christa Parrish
“Sometimes I want to sit down with a cup of coffee and listen to a friend who is witty, smart, spiritually astute, and totally gets my life because she too relies daily on grace and mercy. Well, author Lori Roeleveld has become that person for me through her new book Running from a Crazy Man. Each of these seventy musings grabs you from the first word and carries you through a story that leaves you somehow better equipped to handle your own questions and quandaries. Don’t read it unless you are open to change. I have three words for this talented first-time author: provocative, practical and profound!” (cover endorsement by Lucinda Secrest McDowell)
“Every year I use an Advent devotional for the days preceding Christmas, and this year it will most definitely be my friend Jane Rubietta’s Finding the Messiah. Each day’s selection is a well-woven story featuring the unpredictable cast of characters and events chosen by God to play a role in the coming of the Christ child. Though familiar, these vignettes are fresh and vibrant in the retelling, with definite parallels to my own twenty-first century life. My favorite part might just be the daily benediction – words of God praying over me. Thank you, Jane, for keeping the meaningful and magnificent in our Advent journey.” (cover endorsement by Lucinda Secrest McDowell)
******Believe it or not, 9 of the 12 authors are actually friends* of mine. But hey, if you know someone personally and you love what they write (because they live the words they write) then that’s a double endorsement!
I hope you will try these wonderful books and their authors. I would also very much love to hear your recommendations of books. If you are an author, feel free to send me a book and I will try to read it!
And if you are a book reviewer or blogger, let me know if you would like a copy of my new book “Live These Words” – it’s a 40-day devotional and works perfectly for Lent. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep reading, friends!