The Body Keeps the Score

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

“In this inspirational work which seamlessly weaves keen clinical observation, neuroscience, historical analysis, the arts, and personal narrative, Dr. van der Kolk has created an authoritative guide to the effects of trauma, and pathways to recovery. The book is full of wisdom, humanity, compassion, and scientific insight, gleaned from a lifetime of clinical service, research, and scholarship in the field of traumatic stress. A must read for mental health and other health care professionals, trauma survivors, their loved ones, and those who seek clinical, social, or political solutions to the cycle of trauma and violence in our society.”
–Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neuroscience; director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York

Life’s Golden Ticket

Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard

What if you were handed a golden ticket that could magically start your life anew?

That question is at the heart of Life’s Golden Ticket. Brendon Burchard tells the story of a man who is so trapped in the prison of his past that he cannot see the possibilities, the choices, and the gifts before him. To soothe his fiancée Mary, clinging to life in a hospital bed, the man takes the envelope she offers and heads to an old, abandoned amusement park that she begs him to visit.

To his surprise, when he steps through the rusted entrance gates, the park magically comes to life. Guided by the wise groundskeeper Henry, the man will encounter park employees, answer difficult questions, overcome obstacles, listen to lessons from those wiser than he, and take a hard look at himself.

At the end of his journey, the man opens Mary’s mysterious envelope. Inside is a golden ticket—the final phase in turning his tragic life’s story of loss and regret into a triumphant tale of love and redemption. (Amazon description)

Living in Christ’s Presence

Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard

In these pages Dallas Willard explores what it means to live well now in light of God’s kingdom. He reflects on the power of the Trinity in our lives, the meaning of knowledge, the importance of spiritual disciplines, and much more. Dallas Willard offers poignant thoughts about what it will be like to transition into the very presence of Christ in heaven. This book is adapted from the talks given at the February 2013 Dallas Willard Center “Knowing Christ Today” conference in Santa Barbara, California. Each chapter is followed with an illuminating dialogue between Dallas Willard and John Ortberg. The book closes with the theme of offering a blessing to one another. These reflections form an apt conclusion to Dallas Willard’s public ministry. It is a gift of grace. (Amazon description)

Rising Strong

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.

It is the rise from falling that Brown takes as her subject in Rising Strong. As a grounded theory researcher, Brown has listened as a range of people—from leaders in Fortune 500 companies and the military to artists, couples in long-term relationships, teachers, and parents—shared their stories of being brave, falling, and getting back up. She asked herself, What do these people with strong and loving relationships, leaders nurturing creativity, artists pushing innovation, and clergy walking with people through faith and mystery have in common? The answer was clear: They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort.

Walking into our stories of hurt can feel dangerous. But the process of regaining our footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Our stories of struggle can be big ones, like the loss of a job or the end of a relationship, or smaller ones, like a conflict with a friend or colleague. Regardless of magnitude or circumstance, the rising strong process is the same: We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness. It’s the process, Brown writes, that teaches us the most about who we are. (Amazon description)

Best Books for Boys

We could barely turn the page, knowing it meant accepting the reality that Little Britches would lose his father.  At the vulnerable age of eleven, it was more for young Ralph Moody (whose cowboy mentors had nicknamed Little Britches) than losing his dad.  It was losing the epicenter of his reality, the well from which he drew life-sustaining water. It was losing the bedrock upon which he could laugh, play, and have wide open spaces to make the big mistakes every boy must make. It was losing his True North.

Joshua, my own little nine-year old, and I were snuggled up together on his bottom bunk, both of our faces wet with tears. The story of this young boy had transported us from our suburban 21st-century life to an early 20th-century homestead on the arid plains of Colorado, just a stone’s throw away. More than that, Little Britches’ story was transporting us into a Greater Story more poignant, valiant, and beautiful than we had words to describe. And because of his story, we could see and feel this Greater Story more vividly than we ever could have without him.

Our shared tears proved testament to the unspoken reality tugging at both our souls. Our hearts were breaking for young Ralph and his family, but there was more to our feeling than empathy.  If Little Britches could lose his dad to a tragic accident, what do our hearts do with the fact that Joshua is just as vulnerable to losing me? In that sacred moment after finishing the story, we held each other tightly in the silence of his small bedroom under the cover of night, receiving comfort and assurance from our Father in Heaven whom we can never lose and who has promised us that the day will come where Joshua and I will be together with Him in His Kingdom, inseparable forever.

Heaven touched earth in that moment.  As Jesus describes it, “The Kingdom of God was at hand.” All through the power of reading aloud a great book together.

It wasn’t the first time for us.

Thanks to several mentors (chiefly the directors of Preschool Partners, Jim and Mary Kretchman) who urged us to cultivate a culture of reading aloud daily with our kids, we have regularly been swept up together into stories of Kingdom proportions. And these stories have served as both compass and manna for us as we travel together this unchartered, narrow road of sonship and becoming good soil.

One of our covert missions as parents is to invite our kids into the Largest Story of all. Yet there is a natural law that holds sway for us and our kids alike: we will all gravitate to the largest story we can find. Therefore, we must be fiercely intentional about the stories that both we and our kids encounter. Particularly, we must take responsibility for the scale, heroism, and richness of the version of God’s story we are sharing with them. Our goal is to show them that only God’s Story is colossal enough to contain the breadth and depth of their hearts and desire.

Preparing For Heaven

Preparing for Heaven by Gary Black Jr.

C.S. Lewis once said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often, I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”

In his acclaimed books, renowned writer, speaker, and philosophy professor Dallas Willard explored the nature of Christian life in God’s Kingdom. Yet one topic remained undisclosed: Willard’s understanding of heaven and eternal life. In the months before his death, Willard engaged in moving and insightful conversations about the meaning of life and the life to come with close friend and theologian Gary Black Jr. These inspiring dialogues were steeped in biblical theology as well as practical wisdom grounded in the here-and-now.

In Preparing for Heaven, Black reveals not only Willard’s profound and liberating vision of life after death, he also deftly unpacks the implications these realities hold for our lives today. Black shows how Willard understood our mortal lives as preparation for what comes next—that death is not the end of one life and the beginning of another, but rather a transition through which we continue the transformational work begun on Earth. Informative, challenging, and poignant, Willard and Black’s conversations and insights challenge us to reconsider our beliefs—that perhaps the line separating the afterlife from this life is not as absolute as we think, and that there is work to be done both now and in the glorious life to come. As a result we will find that our faith is more vibrant—and eternal—than we have dared to imagine. (Amazon description)