Best Books of 2018

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Since we’ve been talking about books that changed us, it seems appropriate to do a book wrap up blog—not an unheard of thing in the blogging world, and you’ve probably read a few already.

Usually, when I consider writing about the books I’ve read in the past year, I think, no one on earth except the nineteen other people in your doctorate class care about the books you read all year. And maybe not even them.

Truth, most of my reading is tuned to the thesis-writing channel these days. That might be over this year. It might not. Professional reading is fun to me, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I do a lot of it. It’s a blessing to love to read about what you do.

Nevertheless, here are some reads from this year I’ll pass on. I think you’ll find something you like. Maybe we can talk about it!

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The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis, Patrick  Kingsley

Yes, it’s heartbreaking to read. I’ve had it on my list for a while. The author takes us on the journey of one refugee, while bringing together the tales of other men, women, and families, as well as facts about the refugee crisis. It’s riveting, horrible, and hopeful, all at once. It’s also the sort of book I’m working on right now, so stay tuned.

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All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way, Patrice Gopo

I heard Patrice at Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference and knew from the first night I would like her. When I listened to her teach about memoir, I had already picked up her book the night before. It’s a treasure of one woman’s learning how to navigate growing up, race, marriage, family, and not belonging anywhere yet finding grace. It’s beautifully written and relatable. I loved meeting her and hearing her heart. Also, that cover.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown.

What can I tell you about this one you probably don’t know? I read it on a plane in a few hours. It was painful, arresting, and true. There are so many things I don’t know about being someone I’ve never been. It is so helpful to read about others’ experience so we can open our eyes wider at the world and our space in it. There is no fear in knowledge—especially if it makes us better able to love our neighbor as ourselves. There is never anything lost by hearing another story.

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Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, Rachel Held Evans

I got to be on Rachel’s launch team for this book, so I got to read it before the world! There is poetry, drama, logical analysis, theology, and story, all woven together in this ode to scripture and our use or misuse of it. If you want to look at Scripture with fresh eyes and maybe see it in ways you haven’t, check out Rachel’s writing and her way of bringing love of the Bible to reading of it.

Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, Frank Viola

Why do I seem to like unsettling books? There is a trend here. I love a willingness to deconstruct church and its practices and not fear imagining something else. Not everything he suggests might work, but the candor to say it is refreshing. Viola offers a model for church that pulls us away from American cultural church and toward its roots. He dares to say that what we practice might be closer to our own preferences and heritage than to Jesus. It will make you think, and that’s the goal of all good books.

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Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People, Bob Goff

I wanted to preview this book because Bob raises a question I struggle with—how do we really love people who try their hardest to be unlovable in today’s political and religious climate? Bob manages to open eyes to not only how we do that but, of course, how we sometimes are those unlovable people to someone else. His striking humility and hands-on personal testimony about how this works are enough to sell his authority.

One of my favorite quotes right off was: “I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.” Knowing it’s many of our struggle, not just mine, was a great start. It’s a daily thing, not a one and done. We have to resist that bait every single day it’s offered. And believe me, it’s offered a lot. Needless to say, I bought the whole book after being on the preview team, because I needed the rest of the story.

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Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin.

Full disclosure—this is my second read of this book. I love Rubin. She is a soul mate in some ways. Her work here on how we form good habits is perfect because it takes into account the many different people we are and that what works for one utterly fails for another. A great choice if you want to create better habits for 2019. I’m eagerly awaiting her next book.

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, Ian Cron, Susan Stabile.

OK, I’m late the the party on this one, but it was so helpful. Learning I am an enneagram 5 is a life-changer. I understand my motivational forces so much better, as well as the poor directions they could take me if allowed. Knowing why I have to feel so capable has led me to be able to put down some of those burdens and let myself be questioned and taught. I also understand my loved ones’ motivations and needs so much better. We have two 5’s, two 6’s, and one 4 in the family. It’s fun.

Books I am looking forward to in 2019:

Dare To Lead, Brene Brown. Enough said. It’s Brene. Also, I just got this one for Christmas, so maybe I’d better finally read it first.

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Outer Order, Inner Calm. Gretchen Rubin. Same. If it’s hers, I’ll read it. Also, that title. Who doesn’t need that?

Can We Trust the Gospels, Peter Williams. Just found this today, and I think it will be a valuable resource as a pastor. I like to discuss the hard questions with the congregation, especially the younger members, and this promises to be easy to understand and interact with.

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The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom, Helen Thorpe. How did I not know about this one? It’s recommended by Malcolm Gladwell, and that’s enough for me. Also, I volunteer with refuge high school students, so this is needed reading for me. Can’t wait.

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Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. This beauty. It came to me on my birthday . . . I cannot wait to be unbusy with doctorate stuff long enough to dive in. The illustrations alone are stunning enough to buy the book, if you’re a Tolkien fan (um, fan might not be strong enough a word) like me.

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Small Church Essentials, Karl Vaters. I read his blog very day because I need all the wise info on how to lead a small church and love it. Another Christmas present I need to find the time for soon.

What about you? What was your favorite read of 2018? The one you most look forward to in 2019?

Clearing the Path

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My goal for the winter is to clean out the basement.

Our mutual packrattish tendencies have produced a lower floor filled with boxes, bags, and random loose “treasures” that all impede access to the freezer, shelves, and back room.

Too many hobbies have given us too much stuff. A love of sentiment precludes jettisoning of old school projects, artwork, and memorabilia. It’s even possible that my Christmas addiction has resulted in a few too many boxes of decorations.

I’ll bet you have a room like this.

Unfortunately, it’s been my winter goal for the last eight years to clean out the basement. Somehow, it never happens. The mess still keeps me from getting to the things I really need.

Continue reading about new year hopes over at The Glorious Table, one of my favorite places to have you visit!

Reminders of Where We’ve Been

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We arrived early for our boat trip to search for white-tailed eagles. Rain fell steadily (it always did on that trip), so we popped into a small gift shop uphill from the docks. I bought a wispy green fairy tree ornament, noting that fairies are part of the culture on the Isle of Skye, so she seemed an appropriate memory of our week there.

I’m not much for collecting tchotchkes on our trips, preferring a practical shopping bag and an ornament as my takeaways. Every Christmas, we dig all the boxes out of the basement and uncover anew treasures that remind us of places we’ve visited and experiences we’ve had.

The puffin kayak speaks of our Nova Scotia adventures. The Eiffel Tower, Chinese cloisonné ball, and German castle reflect places we never thought we’d visit. The glass orca from Seattle and painted victorian home from San Francisco recall memories of watching the Pacific Ocean and dancing on Fisherman’s Wharf. I love our tree of travel memories and the stories it reminds us to tell as we hang our beads and baubles.

They are reminders of where we’ve been.

Pop over to The Glorious Table to discover more about the word “remember” and enjoy coming closer to God this Christmas Eve.

Workplace Bullying

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Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

This week, I’m taking a short break from the books theme because, well, Christmas. And being a pastor at Christmas. And . . . that.

But today, we’re fortunate to have some expert advice on a topic I’ve long championed. Bullying. (Meaning, I champion not bullying, not bullying. Just making sure that’s crystal.)

Bullying happens to adults, too. In fact, adult are the ones who teach the kids, am I right? Adults do it better, and sneakier. But there are laws, and there are alternatives, and if you or someone you know is being bullied, please read on to see what your options are. Feel free to pass this information on–whether it’s on the playground, at the workplace, or in our national ethos, bullying is against everything we know about treating others as we would like to be treated.

(From Hogan Injury, with permission)

Bullying in the workplace

which includes yelling, insulting and belittling comments, teasing, threatening, and name-calling – often goes unchecked and overlooked. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work interference—sabotage—which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse.

What the law says

Bullying among schoolchildren and cyberbullying have been widely talked about; and legislation and programs that address the problem continue to be developed. To date, there is no federal law that would definitely make workplace bullying illegal. There are laws that protect employees from being mistreated based on gender, race, age, national origin, or disability; therefore, bullying becomes illegal when it violates federal or state laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment of those in protected status. However, there is still no law that protects an employee from mistreatment where the mistreatment is not based on a protected characteristic.

Despite the lack of a comprehensive federal legislation on bullying, many states have introduced anti-bullying bills that have similar and consistent themes. Members of state legislatures have sponsored versions of the Healthy Workplace Bill and at least three states have passed laws that regulate workplace bullying: Utah, Tennessee, and California. Utah and Tennessee laws are focused on public employers. The California law applies to companies with more than 50 employees, and it requires them to train managers on preventing abusive conduct at work, even if the harassment or abuse is not based on a protected status. Abusive conduct would include verbal abuse, threats, and efforts to sabotage or undermine someone’s work performance.

The Healthy Workplace Campaign, through the bill, pushes for strong legislation that prohibits workplace bullying and protection for employees who experience abuse at work on a basis other than a protected class. The bill does the following for workers: allow them to sue the bully as an individual, hold the employer accountable, provide an avenue for legal compensation in case of health-harming abuse at work, seek restoration for lost wages and benefits, and require employers to take corrective actions and prevent future instances.

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Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

What to do if you’re bullied at work

Even if the bully is not breaking the law, it is in your employer’s best interest to address and stop bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying has many detrimental effects such as decreased productivity, performance, and morale. Therefore, if you are being bullied at work, file a complaint with your company’s Human Resources department.

Keep tabs of all the instances of bullying. Take note of the dates, times, and those who may have witnessed the incidents. These information are necessary should there be an investigation. Keep records of how the bullying has affected you – stressmedical problems, missed workdays, etc.

In case your company does not take your complaints seriously, it is time to talk to an attorney. Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

 

 

Hope in the Dark In-between

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this_ The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is

My hair is growing back. Little wisps have suddenly appeared around my face, darker brown than the rest of my hair, like someone accidentally scuffed a marker across my temple. I didn’t see them a week ago, but now they are there, and I wonder what else might be being restored.

The hair began falling out in clumps last winter, long strands whirling around the shower floor and clogging up my detangler brush. I finally went to the dermatologist; she asked if there had been any stressors in my life a month before this began.

Maybe . . .

Please join me today over at (in)courage to hear the rest of the story. We all need wisps of hope sometimes.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends; his mercies never cease.”

How to Protect Your Family from Screen Addiction

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Photo by Hannah Joshua on Unsplash

Command or Option?

A few months ago, my phone required a reset in hopes it would respond better to its master. Afterward, I realized that all my notifications had been turned off.

No little red bubbles reminded me that someone had liked my Facebook post or retweeted my genius. I started to turn them on again, but then . . . I didn’t.

And I haven’t since.

I realized I was tired of 24/7 availability.

Interested in learning how to “turn off” in this world–for you and your kids? Finish reading my post on A Fine Parent now!

Time Enough and Goals

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I just celebrated my birthday, circling ever closer to that 60 mark. So I thought it might be a good time to revisit that 60 before 60 list. How’s that going? What’s gone down in the last year? What have I learned from it?

I’ve learned that I was wildly optimistic about how much I’d be able to travel. 🙂 Still, it’s good to have goals.

Ah yes, goals

Yesterday, my daughter went out the door to work, listening to me talk about book proposals and agents and all that jazz for the upcoming writers conference at which I’ll be teaching.  She sternly reminded me—“Mother, you’re working on your doctorate. And you have a job. Do not start any new projects. You will be insane.”

I agreed.

And then promptly wrote three book proposal one-sheets.

Time is Wibbly-wobbly

Because you see, new projects, book proposals and travel all work kind of the same way. I can say I don’t have the time for them. This could be certifiably true. Yet if they mean something to me, I will find a way to make them happen.

I realized as I sat there contemplating whether or not I should propose anything that the mere act of doing it makes me more likely to follow through. Not doing it means that, for one more year or more, my ideas will sit around collecting cat hair (that’s our form of dust around here) and come no closer to reality.

Will it be hard? Insanely so. Will I still have the same amount of time if I don’t try? Yep. Will I probably fill too much of it with meaningless time wasters if I don’t have a goal and a plan?

Definitely.

I want to complete that #6 on my list—publish three more books before I’m sixty. I can tell myself I don’t have time. Or I can choose to risk putting the idea out there and commit myself to finding the time.

Just like that travel list

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I can tell myself I don’t have time to see all the places I want to see. Or I can put them on a list and see my goal in front of me, waiting to be attempted.

So have I knocked some of those travel goals off the list? Yep. #29, a big one. Last month we went to Scotland, land of (at least some of) my ancestors. We spent five glorious days on the isle of Skye.

Is it in our blood?

I’ve learned in the past few years that my dad’s heritage is Scottish and that his name most likely belongs to the McDonald clan. What I find absolutely fascinating about this is that, upon arrival on Skye, I also learned that the McDonald clan were the lords of Skye, and their nickname was “Lord of the Isles.”

I love islands. I love islands with all my passionate little soul. Not just any islands. Rocky, wave crashing, cool wind islands. The kind you find in Scotland. Islands like Skye, which I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.

Do you think there is something in our blood that calls us to places our forebears began? I didn’t know any of this when I planned the trip. Yet it’s called to me for decades.

God made us so complex, and we haven’t explored the depths of what makes us who we are or what our minds and hearts are capable of. That the “land” calls so many in history might be more a part of us than we know. It’c certainly a big theme in Scripture. I don’t know. I just find it interesting that this girl who loves these places so deeply is descended from the Lords of the Isles. And didn’t even know it.

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Tally?

So in the past year, I’ve completed #s:

1. Go sailing. Done. In Santa Barbara while at school this summer. My instructor said that I seemed to use these class times as mini-vacations. I just looked at him like that option should be obvious to anyone. Because why not see what there is to see in a new place?

29. Go to Scotland. Joy.

39. Stand up paddleboard. In Michigan. On Lake Chalevoix. Did I fall in? Of course. But it was fun. I learned something from this, too. It’s OK to try something and decide you don’t love it. Like broccoli, at least you tried. It was fun, but I don’t think I have the stability to make it a thing.

54. See the Tolkien exhibit in Oxford. Original manuscripts. Watercolors of his artwork for the books. Artifacts he touched with his actual hands. Handwriting–that thing modern authors will never leave behind, and it’s sorrowful. My life is complete now. I can die happy.

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Also, I was sure punting was on that list. I find it is not. I think we’ll have to make a pinch-hit substitution somewhere. Because we did punt in Oxford, and this man was GOOD at it.

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That’s only ten so far. I have a long way to go. But it’s ten more than I might have done if I hadn’t made a list and a goal. Some of them will not come to pass in the next few years. Some of them never may. (Sadly, I found after I made this list that #47 is no longer possible. I’m despondent. Maybe they’ll make an exception if I show them my list.)

That’s OK if some never happen. They’re goals, not mandates. But goals keep us intentional, and that’s a good thing.

So now I think I should go read some classics. Or plan karaoke. Or. . . . #48. There will be no pictures of #48.