Well, I’m not sure how it happened, because last month was crazy busy, but I finished reading 10 books in December: Don’t Lose Heart by Jason Meyers, plus 9 others.
I’m not gonna lie. It felt pretty good to mark all those titles off my reading list in one fell swoop. But I’ve drug my feet on posting this column, as I knew the reviews would take a while to write.
So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on all my most recent reads, in the order I finished them…
The 10 Books I Read in December
How Should I Think about Money by R.C. Sproul
This slim booklet consists of 69 tightly written pages setting forth a biblical concept of stewardship (which includes but is not limited to the way we handle money).
Writing in deep-thinking but accessible language, Dr. Sproul discusses our responsibilities as image-bearers of God to model His attributes of orderliness, care, and creativity as we wisely manage the resources He has placed in our care.
The short text provides a concise introduction to economics, covering a wide range of topics — poverty, wealth, inflation, interest, value, money, ownership, etc. — from a Christian worldview. It was one of several books on money I read last fall as part of a family financial competition one of my adult sons sponsored.
The Little Book of Christmas Joys by H. Jackson Brown
This little volume of holiday-themed life lessons is a quick, fun read. It abounds in ideas for making deeper connections with family, friends, neighbors, and the strangers you meet on the street during the Christmas season.
Some of the suggestions are silly. Others are thought-provokingly tender. All are guaranteed to make your holiday season more joyous and meaningful than it otherwise might have been.
The 5 Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids by Scott and Bethany Palmer
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The 5 Money Conversations to Have with Your Kids. The authors describe five common money mindsets: the spender, the saver, the risk-taker, the security-seeker, and the flyer. Most people can be characterized by one dominant and one secondary mindset, and the personality traits associated with these mindsets affect the way they handle and think about financial matters.
The authors encourage parents to keep these concepts in mind as they interact with their children (and with each other) on money-related issues.
Reading through their suggestions for effective communication (and their interpretation and explanation of underlying attitudes toward money for each mindset) was extremely helpful to me in understanding why family members with different mindsets act and think the way they sometimes do. The information in this book deeply resonates with my own personal experiences.
Glad Tidings by Jennifer Flanders
Doug re-reads all our old Christmas letters aloud to the family every December, twenty-five of which have been published in my book, Glad Tidings: The First 25 Years of Flanders Family Christmas Letters.
Our children enjoy hearing all these old stories as much as their parents enjoy telling them. We laugh and cry and discuss the antics recorded in each letter ad nauseum. The little ones get a glimpse of what their older siblings were like growing up. And the letters serve as a poignant reminder of God’s faithfulness to our family through the years.
If you’ve ever wished for a fly-on-the-wall view of what life in a large family looks like, this is a good way to get it. I compiled this printed collection several years ago, adding in several of our favorite Christmas traditions, recipes, and other “bonus material.” Volume 2 won’t be released until 2037. 🙂
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien is such a masterful storyteller, when my claustraphobic son freaked out about boarding an airplane to Hawaii a few months ago, I used the first book of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, to keep him distracted through the flight.
It worked beautifully! We shared earbuds and listened together all the way there and back again. The flights were not quite long enough to finish the book — it took a little more listening once we got home — but it definitely served its purpose for that little trip.
The courage Frodo showed during Tolkien’s saga was inspirational, and made it a bit easier for my son to face his own fears about flying. For that, we were all very grateful.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Another of our family’s Christmas traditions is reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, together each year. We love the story of how the crotchety old Scrooge’s curmudgeonly attitude toward Christmas is totally transformed after he is visited in the night by Marley’s ghost and three Christmas spirits. It never fails to move us to tears.
I used to read this classic aloud to the children myself, but ever since we met the incredibly talented Miriam Margolyes, we’ve opted to listen to a recording of her reading it every December, instead.
Sadly, Miriam’s CD is now out of print. But other audio versions aboud. Try listening to one as a family while traveling or wrapping Christmas gifts or decorating cookies.
Help Your Kids Learn and Love the Bible by Danika Cooley
In preparation for some New Year’s goals I’d be setting, I also read Danika Cooley’s Help Your Kids Learn and Love the Bible. It is full of practical advice for training children up in the honor of the Lord by studying His Word, beginning from when they are teeny-tiny all the way through their teen and young adult years.
If there is one area I don’t want to lose heart in as a parent, it is instilling in my children a love for God and His word and a willingness to talk about matters of faith both at home and abroad.
The author does a greatjob of making what might otherwise seem an arduous task feel entirely doable. The book is rife with examples of how to prioritize spiritual conversations, conduct family devotions, and encourage scripture memory in ways that are natural, fun, and don’t feel burdensome.
Don’t Lose Heart by Jason Meyer
Hebrews 10:23-25 has always been a favorite passage of mine: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering….” That is exactly the kind of encouragement and exhortation Jason Meyer offers in this slim volume.
I was deeply blessed by the reading of it, even though I’ve never felt particularly prone to lose heart. For those who face frequent or serious struggles with fear, anxiety, discouragement, or depression — or who’ve grown weary of the panic-inducing headlines that constantly bombard us these days — this book’s message should serve as a lifeline.
God is still in control. Daniel’s story didn’t end in the lions’ den, nor his friends’ in the fiery furnace, nor Joseph’s in the pit, nor Jonah’s in the belly of the fish. Jesus’s story didn’t end on the cross or in the grave. And your story isn’t finished yet, either.
The God who was at work in the past is still on the throne today, working all things together for His own glory and for the good of those who love Him and are committed to answering His call.
Grace from the Cross by Kyle Idleman
Grace from the Cross is a beautiful reminder of the finished work of grace Christ accomplished on the cross and the full forgiveness that is freely available to sinners as a result of His sacrifice. The book was intended to be read during Lent, but is fitting for Christmas, as well, since even the manger stood in the shadow of the cross. Jesus was born to die.
Idleman addresses two groups of readers: First, he writes to those who are so weighed down with guilt and shame that they question whether God’s forgiveness is truly meant and meet for them. And second, those who mistakenly believe their sin is either non-existent or not serious enough to require confession and repentance.
Both extremes lack a clear understanding of the holiness of God, the sufficiency of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and the unsearchable richness of the grace and mercy He offers to those who will confess with their mouths Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead.
It took me all year to do it, but I finished reading through the Bible on December 31, then turned right around and began another read-through on January 1. Here is the One-Year Bible Reading Plan I’ve been using for over a decade.
I’ve even created free printable bookmarks with each day’s reading passage listed, in case you’d like to join me in this annual tradition. I normally read the New American Standard Version (my favorite translation), but last year I used the King James Version for most of my reading. There is something to be said for the beautiful cadence of those Old English passages!
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