If you’ve seen me around, most likely you’ve seen me carrying a book. Night time is for Netflix when my brain checks out, but it’s in the margins of our daylight when I chisel away books in rotation, just a few minutes at a time.
Here are four of my favorite newly released in the genre of “Christian creative non-fiction” and we will forgive them for being sidled with such a cringe-y genre name (even though, indeed, it is the genre I mostly write and am drawn to read).
BEGIN AGAIN by Leeana Tankersley
First, let me start by saying Leeana has been my cheerleader for years now around writing and has offered her wisdom about the craft and encouragement about my words and even let me borrow her platform years before last night when I sat on the couch despairing to my husband (yet again) about how distant writing goals feel to me in this season.
Leeana’s work has always been a belly breath for women to pause and remember who we are. In Begin Again, Leeana is more vulnerable than ever before about the interior landscape, wordsmiths relatable vignettes about parenting and motherhood and womanhood, and offers accessible insight into the ways we are known and held by God’s love, even here. Always, we are given practical ways to be gentle with ourself in the renewal of starting over again.
Leeana is soulful and her work invites us to live soulfully as well. She offers us a way of untangling our striving from our known center.
“To begin again, then, is not to buy into this system with its try-harder, do-better, get-it-together culture. To begin again is to realize you are actually living in a completely different system altogether. Already. You have been jumping through one unnecessary hoop after another and it’s possible to just stop. Stand still. Be still and know, deep down – further down in a place inside you that hardly has words – that you are part of a different system.” (pg 119)
THE VERY WORST MISSIONARY – A MEMOIR OR WHATEVER by Jamie Wright
If you’re scared of words, this is not the book for you. But if you’ve lived some gritty, boots on the ground version of the gospel, or if you’ve spent any time calling foul on how we do evangelical missions, or have ever wondered what that try-too-hard-for-love period of your life was all about, then Jamie is your girl.
Having lived as naive and cynical missionaries ourselves, with big and unpopular thoughts about it, I have been drawn to Jamie’s blog for years and wasn’t going to pass by this book. It is both snarky and tender and self-aware and desires restoration for us all. She comes at missions. Weird Christians. Systems that are false and hurtful and our responsibility to change them.
Yes this book was both hilariously irreverent and cuttingly honest truth telling, but the thing I appreciated most about this book was the call to answer to ourselves daily about how we are living in a way that promotes or makes a mockery of “act justly, love mercy, walk humbly” which happens to be tattooed on Jamie’s arm.
“If I look in the bathroom mirror and I’m wearing a T-shirt that was made by slave labor over the words “Act Justly,” I have to answer to that. When I catch my reflection in a store window as I’m actively trying to avoid making eye contact with a mentally ill homeless guy who’s waving to catch the attention of the chick with “Love Mercy” written on her arm, I have to answer for that. When I see myself through the eyes of my family, friends, and neighbors, looking more like a powder keg full of outrage, impatience, and irritability, angry enough to punch puppies, I have to answer to the words “Walk Humbly” printed clearly across my very own bicep.” (pg215,216)
Everybody Always by Bob Goff
I mean, Bob Goff is just the guy you want to get into some good-fun-trouble with and listen to his life stories while doing it. He has the gift of going off-script with people and we get a glimpse into his mind and heart behind those actions within the chapters of Everybody Always.
This book is full of life stories that make you feel like you are on the Goff back porch crying and guffawing and crying from guffawing. Knowing the way he spends it all in relationships and moments with lots of whimsy & without reservation can only inspire the rest of us to live freely reminding others of their own value and love.
It is hard to imagine people just live this open and thoughtfully and courageously and light-hearted, but I’m so glad they do and Bob is one of them and writes about it for the rest of us to share in the stories and go make our own.
Also, I’m waiting for the day I have an accidental run-in with Bob Goff in town. It’s gonna be a scene.
“When we draw a circle around the whole world like grace did and say everybody is in, God’s love gives us bigger identities than we used to have. With our newer, bigger identities, we can draw even bigger arcs around people’s lives. We start to see that our time here isn’t meant to be spent forming opinions about the people we meet. It’s an opportunity to draw the kind of circles around them that grace has drawn around us, until everybody is on the inside.” (pg 113)
This Is My Body by Hannah Shanks
When I walked home from a liberation theology class in college sobbing because I was ashamed and angry I couldn’t convince my presentation partners the unspoken assignment was to present on the feminine aspects of God as Mother, I was waiting for this book.
When I held my third baby near and was in awe of how strong our mothering bodies are, and somehow still betrayed by how alien I felt in this (seemingly less capable, lesser) version of a body, I was waiting for this book.
Hannah lays out historical imagery of God as mother to the church, shares her own story of pregnancy and birth to highlight concepts of God’s love and grace, and encourages us in our own storytelling as women with physical bodies that hold past and future truths of the communal church within us. Plus, there’s a small group guide in the back. Grab your people and explore these deep waters together.
My copy looks like party from all the post-it tabs flagging powerful passages. In one of my favorites, Hannah dismantles mother-as-martyrhood by suggesting a motherhood of corpus – being with in presence and attention and celebration.
“Rather than a constant call to die, what if being shaped like Jesus means answering a ceaseless call to live a life of remembrance? What if, as an echo of that call, we expect to experience abiding joy and radical self-acceptance in motherhood as opposed to only self-sacrifice? What if when we attend to all the implications of Jesus offering his whole life for us, we hear more than a body breaking?…This is my body, no more and no less. This is what I am made of – my skin, guts, and bones. This is what bears children; this is what breaks for them. The visceral tissue gives way in order for new life to appear. This is the body I have been given, and I offer it without apology or reservation. It is sufficient.”
Which one of these have you read? Which one do you want to read? What also released in April/May from this genre with the bad name and best content that should have my attention?