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Books I Read in 2022 You Should Read in 2023

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 BY BENJAMIN R. LEE, Associate Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian  

     Well, another year has passed and another reading goal is in the books, so to speak. Every year I set a new reading goal intending to stretch myself, continue to learn, and Lord willing, grow closer to Christ. At the beginning of each new year, I like to reflect on the books I read during the past year as I set my goal for the upcoming year. I’ve found this to be both encouraging and motivating. I’m encouraged as I reflect on the great books I encountered and the many things I learned during the year. It’s motivating because the list of books looks so much smaller when it’s written out, and that makes me want to read more in the future!

     I’d like to share with you some of my favorite reads from 2022 and encourage you to add one or two of them to your own book list.

     As many of you might remember from the previous post about books, I love the Harry Potter series and I’m almost always reading (or listening to) one of the volumes. I did read some of those books this year, but I’m going to add a different work of fiction here. Somehow 2022 reignited a childhood love for The Lord of the Rings. Maybe it was the new Amazon series, but whatever it was I made my way through the entire series, and I found The Fellowship of the Ring to be a particularly beautiful read. I also read Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien, and oh man, is that a fantastic piece of literature! If you’ve never encountered Tolkien’s masterpieces, make 2023 the year!

     I always love a good book recommendation and Sue Johnson’s book Created for Connection; The ‘Hold Me Tight’ Guide for Christian Couples is one I’m thankful came my way! I’ve read many books on marriage over the years, but this one might be the best. It is without a doubt the most practical marriage book I’ve read. Sue Johnson helps you to see the ‘why’ behind so much marital conflict. And she has more to say than “you fight because you are sinners” – as true as that is. Much of our sin and subsequent conflict arises, according to Sue, when the thing which marriage is designed to provide (and for which we all long) is interrupted: intimacy, not merely physical intimacy, but deep connection. I highly recommend this book.

     Another top book from 2022 came by way of recommendation from Pastor Dan: Be Thou My Vision; A Liturgy for Daily Worship by Jonathan Gibson. This book is just what it sounds like: a month’s worth of daily liturgies designed to facilitate private and family worship. Each day you’ll find a call to worship, prayers of adoration, confession, and assurance, creeds and confessions, scripture readings, and guides for intercessory prayer. This is a wonderful aid for daily devotions!

     Last year Carl Truman published an academic work entitled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. It was an instant classic written to explain how our culture has arrived at our present cultural moment. It’s a worthwhile read, but it’s a bit of a slog. Thankfully this year Truman published the every man’s version of the book called Strange New World; How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution. This is essentially a scaled-down version of his earlier work. Those if you interested in the development of western culture, and in thinking about what it looks like to be a Christian in western culture, will want to grab a copy.

     I try to choose a few biographies off the shelf each year, and in 2022 I stumbled across Peter Stark’s volume on George Washington entitled Young Washington; How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Fathers. This work was different from other biographies I’ve encountered on my favorite president. Stark covers only Washington’s early years focusing particularly on his experience as an officer in the British Royal Army. If you’re a history buff this is a book worth picking up.

      Finally, if you’re like me and tend to be an anxious sort of person, maybe especially anxious when it comes to your practice of the Christian faith, you’re going to want to read Phillip Carry’s book Good News for Anxious Christians; 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have To Do. Carry helps us to think more deeply about some of those things that tend to make anxious Christians anxious; finding God’s will, discerning motivations, experiencing joy, being transformed, and much more. He’s trying to help Christians shift from an inward-focused, experienced-based Christianity to a Christ-focused, gospel-based Christianity. I loved it!

     Here are a few others you might want to check out:




Posted by Rev. Ben Lee with
Tags: books, 2023, 2022

Reflections on our trip to West Africa

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BY JEANNE HOUSTON, West Africa Team Member

     When I was eight years old my family took a trip to Montreal. While we were there, a little girl came up to me and started speaking to me in French. I couldn’t answer her and was dumbstruck and sad. I came back home with a determination to learn French (and other languages), which I began learning in middle school. That was a pivotal time that sparked my interest in other cultures.

     As a Christian, that interest has extended to seeing the church which crosses all borders, established in other cultures, and especially to see it as it is expressed in Presbyterian churches. This form of church government is not imported from our Western Christianity, but comes right from the New Testament passages describing the characteristics and mandates for leaders and disciples and rightfully belongs in all cultures.

     During our recent trip to West Africa where our team helped with the Safe Girls Home camp, I appreciated how much integrity and respect pastor Mamadou and the other teaching elders and their families have among the people there, and among the girls from the Safe Girls Home, as they live out this understanding of their ecclesiastic life.

     One of my particular interests cross-culturally is examining where the gospel has gone and looking at how it has affected the status and treatment of the weak and downcast- especially women and girls in society. We have seen the fruits of the gospel in Western culture and cultures where the gospel has gone to unreached people and how these societies have changed, sometimes radically, to benefit women and children. Looking at West Africa I wondered how the gospel might affect the culture for the girls and women we interacted with?

     On our trip, Jim told us of the need to “withhold judgment” of cultural norms and practices that we see there, both in and out of the church. I think that is important advice. But there still exists the tension of when to intentionally apply the gospel to speak into a culture in areas that seem disturbing or troubling by our Western sensibilities. I knew something about the culture in West Africa from supporting and talking to our partners and others there. I knew it is 95% Muslim. I knew its expression of Islam was not as extreme compared to many Muslim-majority countries. But its effects on the status of women and girls are still evident as they disproportionately bear the burdens of family and life and yet are restricted in freedom of movement. I didn’t see women out on the street enjoying open comradery the way men did. If women are out, they are working hard as vendors with several small children in tow. Often the husbands are not at home for months at a time, in order to find work in a far-off city, while the wife (or wives) lives elsewhere and may not even know her husband’s whereabouts. So, is this a neutral cultural expression and just one way among many to order family life? You can imagine these examples compounded in all sorts of lifestyle examples. And navigating this as an outsider to the culture can be very tricky.

     Also, we learned there is really no option for a woman to be single there. Marriage is the culturally expected and necessary way to survive. We learned that even for those women going to university, their education will not be very useful to them because of the lack of jobs and opportunities. They need skills and they need practical training on how to market those skills.

     As I reflect on what we are hoping to see accomplished in West Africa, I see it being a whole big complex set of factors that need to work together in church planting. These girls will need to be entrepreneurs. So, business development is crucial. There needs to be a corresponding set of young men to be raised up as Christians for them to marry! Where will these young men come from? They will also need jobs. The farm is also very important with its agricultural component. The RUF fellowship at the University will be connected too. It was amazing to see how much thought they have put into all of these endeavors to work synergistically together, and like the pieces of a puzzle, no one piece can stand alone or make sense without all the other pieces. It really hit home to me standing in the field, where the new village is to be built. There with just a well, a pump house, and some crops, I tried to picture the safe girls living in community there and how long this may take; maybe 10,20, or 30 years. I pray toward the Kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in Heaven to West Africa.


Posted by Jeanne Houston with