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I highly recommend these seven books that most encouraged and enlightened my faith journey in 2021.

The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation 

by A.J. Sherrill

Every personality and enneagram number has a healthy, bright side and a darker, more problematic side. We are all fallen creatures. Sherrill helps us “excavate” the darker sides of ourselves, helping us reveal more and more of our true identity as children of God, and “to be made in God’s image is to be agapetos—beloved.” The subtitle describes the benefits of the book perfectly: “How Knowing Ourselves Can Make Us More Like Jesus.” No matter what kind of personality we have, it’s possible to be transformed and more deeply rooted as God’s beloved child. (Brazos Press)

The Spiritually Vibrant Home 

by Don Everts

As I read this short book with lots of colorful pictures and graphs, I grew more excited about the possibilities for increasing the spiritual vibrance of my home through three main practices: “messy prayers” (making prayer and Scripture a regular, organic part of our daily lives), “loud tables” (engaging in spiritual conversations about anything and everything), and “open doors” (going from isolated, private “submarine life” to becoming more of a “rescue ship” via hospitality). Weaving original research from the Barna Group, candid and relatable anecdotes, and keen insight, this book offers households (a term mentioned 2,100 times in the Bible) a practical blueprint for becoming “warm, beautiful outposts for the kingdom of God.” (IVP)

7 Ways to Pray 

by Amy Boucher Pye

This book is a wise and comforting spiritual companion for anyone who wants to elevate their prayer life, grow closer to God, and transform. It’s ideal for individuals and small groups. Prayer changes people, and through 7 Ways to Pray, we as readers are changed. “He takes those of us who are scared, anxious, bitter, disappointed, and vindictive,” Pye writes, “and morphs us into brave, loving, hopeful, generous people.” (NavPress)

Threadbare Prayer 

by Stacey Thacker

The idea behind this devotional is that we can sometimes have no words to express what we are feeling or going through. Thacker, who has been through some deep personal crises, including her husband nearly dying, where the only prayer she could utter was “help,” guides the reader into putting their groanings into words. Even though the subtitle: Prayers for Hearts that Feel Hidden, Hurt or Hopeless, suggests the reader is in the middle of a crisis, I found the devotions incredibly relevant and timely for “everyday” bouts of anxiety, fear, or frustration that is endemic to life in a fallen world. We all feel “threadbare” all too often.  Here are 100 simple yet wholehearted devotions to guide readers when they feel worn out, burned out, worried, or in need of encouragement. (Abingdon)

This Book Is for You: Loving God’s Words in Your Actual Life 

By Tricia Lott Williford 

What I like most about author Tricia Lott Williford is her gut-level realness. You won’t roll your eyes at any platitudes or spiritual bypassing in her books. That quality of genuine grappling with life and faith, with her hallmark flourishes of humor and winsomeness, are richly present in her latest release, This Book is For You. It’s a short, snappy yet substantive guide to falling in love with Scripture in a new way. I was a bit resistant to reading a book about getting into the Bible–it seemed obvious I should just start another Bible study or something, right?–but Lott took me places I didn’t expect. As the back cover copy says, “She invited me into a dialogue about things I didn’t know I wanted to learn.” There are manifold takeaways here, but this is the one I thought about the most: “The main character in the Bible is God,” she writes. “As tempting as it may be to read these stories and ask, ‘What does this tell me about me?’ we must first stop to think about what these stories reveal to us about the character and nature of God.” (NavPress)

Designed to Heal: What the Body Shows Us about Healing Wounds, Repairing Relationships, and Restoring Community 

By Jennie A. McLaurin and Cymbeline Tancongco Culiat 

“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred,” said Henri Nouwen, “we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.” This year has brought about more divisions and wounds than ever before, with entrenched views on vaccines, racial justice and other hot-button issues. Therefore this singular book, a debut book by a medical doctor and a scientist, came as a healing balm. McLaurin and Tancongco Culiat bring their vast knowledge of the body’s healing processes and apply them as a metaphor for healing emotional wounds. I’m telling everyone I know about this wise, beautiful book, which gave me a much-needed model for healing and reconciliation in truly toxic times. “Our wounds don’t have to have the last word,” the authors write. Here is a hopeful vision we need more than ever. (Tyndale)

The Deeply Formed Life 

by Rich Villodas

I loved this book by debut author Rich Villodas and soaked in all he had to teach me about being formed in Christ through experiences, relationships, communities, and slowing down the pace of my life. I especially appreciated that racial justice was one of the five “transformative values” to root readers “in the way of Jesus.” As reviewer Kristyn DeNooyer said in her review, “This ties in with his later discussion of the value of missional presence, which digs into what it means to practice justice and hospitality in tangible ways.” Kristyn’s review introduced me to a book that did what I hope our book reviews can do—”guide readers closer to the heart of God.”  (Waterbrook)

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