Easter is a time for self-discovery and reflection on relationships, faith and the soul. Five new books offer fresh perspectives to help readers find God, themselves and each other, and renew their hearts for another year.
Rediscovering the meaning of the gospel is the soul of N.T. Wright’s Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good. Wright has a gift for cutting through religious dross to the essence of faith, and this book is no exception. Challenging conventional views of what is meant by “gospel,” Wright calls for an understanding of the Good News as just that: good and news. Like an ancient herald declaring “There is a new king—everything has changed,” so too is the gospel, and that change is as immediate and world-shaking today as it was on that first Easter morning.
Wright’s book is a call to stop defining Jesus by what fits our culture, but as the world-changing king He is, with believers as active participants in His kingdom, building it now, brick by brick. Fascinating and uplifting, Simply Good News is the must-read book of the year for every Christian. It will surprise you, it will challenge you, and it will make you see the world and your faith with fresh eyes—good news, indeed.
Discovering God’s kingdom is the theme of Chad Gibbs’ Jesus Without Borders: What Planes, Trains, and Rickshaws Taught Me About Jesus. A native of Alabama—“the buckle of the Bible Belt”—Gibbs grew up surrounded by the culture of the Christian South. While on a European vacation, he observed churches very different from those at home, prompting him to think about how Christianity itself must differ around the world. For more than two years, Gibbs hopped around the globe on a quest to see these differences for himself, calling on contacts everywhere from Africa to Australia. In all, Gibbs visited 12 countries, worshiping with Christians of all cultures and hearing their experiences of faith—often in lands where that faith was in the minority. The result is more than just a travelogue of sites and curiosities; it’s an insightful examination of the assumptions made by American Christians and a look at how much we can learn from other views of the faith. Gibbs has a gift for humor—Jesus Without Borders is a very funny book—but also a greater gift for exploring profound questions about how culture alters faith, and how what we think it means to be Christian is at least partially the result of the society in which we live. Enjoyable and eye-opening, Jesus Without Borders will take you on a journey you did not expect and change you for the better along the way.
Unexpected discoveries also lie at the heart of Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis’s House and Back Again, by Ryan J. Pemberton. A successful young marketing writer, Pemberton had his life spun completely off track when he was jolted by a profound certainty that God wanted him to leave his comfortable, well-paying job in Oregon and travel around the world to study theology at Oxford. Facing obstacles of financing and finding living space for himself and his wife, and of course the rigors of the most prestigious academic setting in the world, Pemberton found himself in an unexpected place, where he could only rely on faith to carry him through. Called is his account of those challenges, and of the surprises God had in store for him throughout—including the opportunity to live in C.S. Lewis’ Oxford home. Told in vignettes both simple and sublime, Called is a record of faith and revelation, and a reminder that life with Jesus will shake up all our expectations—but that upheaval will be worthwhile.
Sometimes discovery must come not only for ourselves, but also for others in our lives. Donald Miller, the best-selling author of Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, confronts this reality in his latest memoir, Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy. In his typically straightforward, revealing manner, Miller shares his difficulties with finding and keeping an intimate relationship, culminating in a year-long quest to change himself from an actor playing at love into a human being able to trust another with his heart. As with all his books, Miller’s faith lies at the center, guiding him through this journey of self-discovery. As Miller prayerfully lays bare his own habits of manipulation and deception, he exposes these same tendencies in the rest of us, pointing the reader and himself toward the openness and honesty that God intends for us to share with those we love.
Discovering the self is also at the heart of Jessica N. Turner’s The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. “Fringe hours” is Turner’s phrase for moments of unused time that pass unnoticed on the edges of a busy day, moments that can be redeemed to restore the spirit and pursue passions. Since Turner’s work is aimed at the busy American woman, I recruited the perspective of one I know well—my wife, Betsy. Reading the book with me, she offered her thoughts: “The Fringe Hours gives a lot of suggestions for ways to find and do what you love when you are limited by time, finances, job and family constraints. As a woman who measures herself against peers, this book helps me get excited about my passions (what makes me tick) and pursue what I need (rest and quiet time) without feeling guilty about what I’m not doing or being. Turner’s transparency about her life, as well as the survey comments from other women in the book, are refreshingly candid and compassionate. Her book extends grace, hope and inspiration to the reader. After reading this, I actually feel excited about my own fringe hours.” The book features short segments and brief questions, making it easy to glean inspiration and insight, even if the reader only has a few “fringe moments” to spend. If you’re feeling a bit lost in the whirlwind of daily pressures, The Fringe Hours can help you find yourself again.
This article was originally published in the April 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.