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These are just a few of my musings about faith, formation, culture, and life.

 

Filtering by Category: Bookshelf

Recommended Advent Resources

Jen Michel

Advent Resources - Blog.jpg

By now, you know that I’ve written a free Advent devotional for subscribers to my regular content. The first day’s reading will arrive to inboxes on December 1, which isn’t, of course, the first day of Advent, but . . . (If you somehow missed the announcement about this free resource, you can subscribe here.)

There are many, many wonderful resources to use during Advent, and I’d love to suggest others to you. To curate the list below, I polled people on Facebook and Twitter, including the Facebook group associated with The Pelican Project. (If you don’t know what The Pelican Project is, you’ll want to learn, especially as one of our primary goals is to connect churches, lay leaders, and individuals with theologically rich content.)

Whatever you do, don’t let Advent pass you by as you keep yourself busy with shopping lists, holiday parties, and school concerts. As I write in the reading for December 1:

“If December has its way with us, it will leave us too distracted to look up, as the shepherds did, and notice the blinding glory of the Lord.”


For Purchase

Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge

Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camealy

God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Waiting on the Word: A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. A Collection by Malcolm Guite

The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey

Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems by Laura Fabrycky

Advent 2018 Study Book from She Reads Truth

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas by Nancy Guthrie.

Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany by Sarah Arthur

Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp

Celebrating Abundance: Devotions for Advent by Walter Brueggemann

Watch for the Light: Collected Readings for Advent and Christmas

Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson

Search “Advent” at Englewood Review of Books to find more titles!

For Children

The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman

The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas. An illustrated children’s book by Scott James

For Free 

The Advent Project by Biola University

Finding Holy Holidays by Ashley Hales

Advent—An If:Equip Study

Advent Devotional 2018: Blessed Son of God by Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College

Advent: Christ is Coming! Reading plan on YouVersion

Family Advent Scripture Readings by Courtney Ellis

#IsaiahChristmas: A reading schedule through the Book of Isaiah by Tony Reinke

Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus by The Village Church

4 Advent Readings by Rebecca Brewster Stevenson

 Advent Meditations by Shannon Baker

The best kind of parenting book

Jen Michel

I have been an avid reader of parenting books. When Audrey, our first child, was a baby, I wore out my copies of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The Baby Whisperer. Who knew that the simple task of helping your child fall asleep could be so difficult?

I've enjoyed others along the way, and I'm especially happy to tell you about Shelly Wildman's next book, First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship. Here's the blurb I wrote for the back of her book: "Shelly Wildman doesn’t offer burdensome to-dos or simplistic 1-2-3 formulas; rather, she calls parents to prayerful intentionality with their children. Warmly, wryly opening her own life to readers, Wildman allows us a window into godly parenting that happens in the thick of soccer season, basketball tryouts, homework, and Sunday morning worship. Despite her many exemplary qualities, Wildman never claims to be a perfect mom—which must be why I love this book so much."

Shelly has generously agreed to an interview here on the blog, so here we go!

Writing about parenting can be a powder keg—people have pretty strong opinions about raising kids. Why did you choose to write a parenting book?

I kind of feel like I didn’t choose to write a parenting book, but that the book chose me. (Sounds like a scene from Harry Potter, doesn’t it?) I fought writing it for a long time because I knew I wasn’t a perfect parent—I had messed up so many times that I didn’t feel qualified to write this book. I still don’t. But the idea kept nagging at me for so long that I finally felt like God might have been pushing me to do it.

I believe with all my heart that stronger families will make for a stronger society, which is so important today. And I believe that the strongest families are those that have Christ at their center. But so many parents today have lost their focus or their sense of purpose. They spend their time on meaningless, temporal things, when, really, the most important mission field is right in front of them. I’m hoping to encourage parents to look at the bigger picture, to ask why they are doing what they’re doing, and to think critically about God’s purpose for their kids and for their families.

I have three adult daughters now, and my hope is, now that my husband and I have raised them, that they will go out into the world and make a difference. And should they have children someday, that they would also make disciples of their kids. Instilling a Christ-following legacy is important work—I believe it’s THE most important work parents can do—and we’ve got to be intentional about it.

What makes your book different from other parenting books?

So many parenting books are “how-to” books. They seem to say, “Just follow these ten steps and here’s what you’ll get in the end.” But I don’t believe we can parent by formula. I think we have to look at our unique family and ask why

Why are we doing what we’re doing as a family?

Why are we emphasizing these spiritual values? And are there others we should consider?

Why are we even here as a family? What’s our purpose for being put together in this unique combination of individuals?

Asking why gets to the heart of the matter; it exposes our motivations and desires for our family. Asking why leads to intentionality. And asking why helps give our children a sense of purpose as we lead them. 

Why do you think some kids, even though they had Christian parents, don’t grow up to follow God? Is there anything Christian parents can do to ensure that their kids will choose to follow Jesus?

This is such a difficult question for me to answer because I honestly don’t know why. I know that parents can do all the right things—have time in God’s word together every day, take their kids to church regularly, pray diligently for their kids—and still have kids who struggle. I don’t believe there are any guarantees in Scripture that our kids will choose to follow Jesus into adulthood.

But I do believe that Scripture commands us to parent with the end goal in mind: having children who know and love the Lord. We are to be diligent in our calling to present our children to God, and we have to trust Him with the outcome. We have to persevere every day to show our kids that following Jesus is the path to true life, even though some days can be downright hard. 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 has been such a guide and encouragement to me as a parent, especially where it says, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your offspring may live.” We have a choice every day, and it’s our job to show our kids that choosing Christ is the only way to a fulfilling life.

What books influenced your husband and you as you raised your three daughters?

Honestly? Not very many. So many parenting books seemed to offer a formula—do this; don’t do that—and we weren’t looking for a formula. We knew that every kid is different and that every family has different needs, and most parenting books didn’t take that into account.

That said, there were a few that made an impact. Our pastor, Kent Hughes and his wife Barbara, wrote a book called Common Sense Parentingback in the ‘90s that, well, made sense to us. Some of the information is a little outdated today, but overall, it really helped us make good decisions about our parenting. And then there was James Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child, for the obvious reasons. I think the book that made the most impact, though, was probably Shepherding a Child’s Heartby Tedd Tripp. That book made me realize that my goal as a parent isn’t good behavior, but a changed heart. That, to me, was really impactful. If I were still parenting younger kids today, I’d also recommend Paul David Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Will Radically Change Your Family.

What was your lowest parenting moment? 

You mean besides that time I locked my one month old in the car? (True story!) 

I think my lowest moments were the times I let my daughters down. When I betrayed their trust by sharing too much with others. Or when I didn’t fulfill a promise I had made. Parents can feel their kids’ disappointment, which hurts so much. But more than that, too many disappointments lead to mistrust or a lack of respect, and I never wanted that to happen.

That said, parents are human. We do mess up. We do let our kids down. And those are the times we have to humble ourselves with our kids and apologize, sincerely. We need to let our kids know that we don’t always do things perfectly or say the right things or even parent correctly. But that we need grace and the help of God as much as they do.

Who do you hope will read this book and what do you hope they will gain?

I hope parents with kids of all ages will read this book, but especially parents of younger children. I hope grandparents will read this book. And I hope it sparks lots of discussion between husbands and wives, moms groups, or even small groups in churches. 

My hope is that parents will come away from reading this book with a stronger sense of their purpose as parents and that they might gain a couple of new ideas that they can implement in their own family. I also hope people will read the last chapter very carefully and prayerfully. The last chapter of the book is on letting go, and it’s a concept that I think is becoming lost a little bit today. It’s so hard, but it’s so important, even when your children are young, to start thinking about letting go. We’ve got to be parents who demonstrate faith in God’s sovereign work in the lives of our children.


First Ask Why.jpg

Shelly Wildman is a former writing instructor and author of the forthcoming book First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship (Kregel). Shelly holds degrees from Wheaton College (BA) and University of Illinois at Chicago (MA), but her most important life’s work has been raising her three adult daughters. She and her husband, Brian have been married for 32 years and live in Wheaton, IL. Shelly speaks to women’s groups in the Chicago area and spends much of her free time mentoring young women. When she has time, she loves to cook, read, and travel.

Connect with Shelly at her website or on Instagram and Facebook

Order First Ask Why at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kregel.com.

On My Bookshelf for 2018

Jen Michel

I mentioned in my 2017: Year in Review that I read less this past year than years previous. Although I haven't been able to figure out why, I do know it's true that the practice of regular reading requires forethought and intention. You have to keep a good list, order books in advance from the library, and turn deliberately to your book at the end of the day rather than Netflix. Good reading is like good eating: you'll feel better for having done it, but it's always tempting to steal a cookie before dinner. I don't want to be a fundamentalist when it comes to reading, but I do want to challenge myself to read more in the year ahead.

Reading is, of course, an important part of the work that I do, and gratefully, I have a well-established routine of morning reading. (Right now, it's the One Year Bible NLT, the complete collection of letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, and a book of poetry by Ross Gay.) I am also regularly reading on whatever subject I'm writing about. (Currently, I'm writing on the incarnation for book #3, and I'm reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Mark Jones's Knowing Christ, and Graham Cole's The God Who Became Human.)

I suppose that you could say that based on the reading I do in the morning and the reading I do for my writing, I'm READING! But I don't want to just be a practical reader; I want to be a superfluous one. I want to read beautiful, haunting novels. I want to savor poetry. I want to understand the world that's come before me. I want to pratice curiosity, develop keener habits of observation, feel and love deeply. I think reading helps with all of that!

In that spirit, I'm offering you the list of books I'm putting on my proverbial shelf for 2018. Truthfully, I know I won't make it through this list, but at the very least, it's a guide, a rudder in the shifting winds of mood. I'm not resolving to get through this list so much as read everyday. (I'm going to track my progress using this tool from Modern Mrs. Darcy, who's a great resource for the reading life!)

POETRY

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

, Ross Gay

Good Bones

, Maggie Smith

Second Sky

, Tania Runyan

The World’s Wife,

Carol Ann Duffy

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

(Translator, Anita Barrows)

The Jubilee

, John Blase

NON-FICTION

The Rise of Christianity

, Rodney Stark (220 pages)

Consolations

, David Whyte (247 pages)

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

, Christine Pohl (190 pages)

The Patient Ferment of the Early Church

, Alan Kreider (300 pages)

For the Life of the World

, Alexander Schmemann (151 pages)

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets,

Svetlana Alexievich (496 pages)

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

, Kate Bowler (208 pages)

Death by Living

, N.D. Wilson (208 pages)

Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World

, Tim Muelhoff and Richard Langer (219 pages)

Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts,

Marilyn McEntyre (208 pages)

FICTION

Can You See Anything Now?

Kate James (256 pages)

No Great Mischief

, Alistair MacLead (304 pages)

Little Fires Everywhere

, Celeste Ng (352 pages)

Sing, Unburied, Sing

, Jesmyn Ward (304 pages)

Autumn

, Ali Smith (288 pages)

Love Big, Be Well

, Winn Collier (176 pages)

Peace Like a River

, Leif Enger (320 pages)

WRITING LIFE

Walking on Water

, L’Engle (200 pages)

Words in Air

, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell (816 pages)

Art and Fear

, David Bayles, Ted Orland (122 pages)

MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jill Franklin

, Jill Lepore (270 pages)

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

, Caroline Fraser (515 pages)

Many of these titles come as recommendations from friends. Here are some other great lists to check out:

On My Shelf: Life and Books with Russ Ramsey

(The Gospel Coalition)

Ten Favorite Reads of 2017

(Trevin Wax)

Christianity Today's 2018 Book Awards

Englewood Review of Books

Best Books of 2017

(Fathom Mag)

Did you know that I write a monthly newsletter? I call it Miscellany because it's all the odds and ends of my life and work. If you're interested in subscribing, you can here. It arrives around the first of the month (ish).