When a sunny and summery reprieve finally came a couple of eons ago, I dug out my garden gloves and headed outside to tend to our long-neglected lawn and garden. Even though I had cleaned it all up in the fall, a few months of snow and wind had left a mark. Sticks and leaves and trash had blown in, and even dog poo was left here and there, courtesy of our neighborhood pals. We weren’t paying attention and look what happened! Spring came and exposed a mess that happened gradually, all by itself. That’s a simple fact of life for you: things left to themselves tend to get messy.
You can’t expect good things to sprout without planting, or thrive without consistent pruning and care. Only weeds do that!
Yard work (and housework) has always reminded me of the work that we, as children of God, are called to do on our minds: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Without constant and ongoing transformation, our minds fall into default mode: we become world-admiring and God-forgetting. You can’t expect good things to sprout without planting, or thrive without consistent pruning and care. Only weeds do that!
Which is why I want to make a case for putting some good books on your summer reading list! Reading good books is a big part of transforming one’s mind. And by “good” I mean a book that will encourage you in your faith, help you get better at loving others, and help you grow in your knowledge of God.
Here are some ideas (along with a lot of helpful links!).
- Read Christian biography this summer. Looking at the life of someone who served God and finished well and seeing how God worked in difficult situations and “made all things work together for good” is incredibly encouraging. Reading biographies was helpful to me in our transition years when I didn’t have a mentor close by. I can still hear Amy Carmichael’s lessons in my head, 15 years later.
- Read books on Christian growth. There is never a point when anyone can say: I know enough about God and the Christian faith. Our minds constantly need the fertilizer of knowledge and the pruning of solid advice.
- If you are carrying some sort of ministry, summer is a great time to get refreshed and spurred on. As my husband says, “we’re not awesome”. We need constant input, new ideas and the examples of others. Ministry was never meant to be accomplished alone. Are you a Bible teacher? Pick up some books on Bible study this summer. Does your heart ache for the unsaved? Read books about how people from different worldviews think. Are you a parent who wants more ideas on how to instruct your children in the Lord? Read good parenting books written by godly and wise people. Do you find yourself in a lot of heavy conversations with people going through difficult times? Maybe a book on people helping or Christian suffering will help. Whatever your ministry – don’t do it alone, read a book. (Click here for a few other suggestions).
- Read Christian classics! Books become classics not only because their messages endure, but also because these books apply to so many different settings and cultures. There may be centuries between us and John Bunyan, but I promise you, your heart will resonate with his writing as if he is your best friend, no matter where you live – Africa or Nebraska.
“But I am not a reader”, you say, “where do I begin?” Here are a few tips:
- Very few people in our society are total “non-readers”. Most of us read something, and our brains are capable of learning new tricks. Find a 15-minute pocket of time in your day, and spend that time reading. You’ll be surprised how much you can read by reading only 15 or 20 minutes a day. What a great habit to form.
- Read and highlight sentences that will define the lesson you can take from that book. It is impossible to remember everything the author offers. What is the one thing that is helpful for you today? What resonated with you and encouraged you?
- Read and talk about it! Share at your dinner table, on a hike, on a playdate. You will be surprised at how this will enrich your fellowship. Remember that when you grow, others grow around you!
So this summer, instead of checking out mentally, how about nourishing your mind, tending to your soul, and planting good things in your garden by reading good books? Paul reminds us: “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
At the end of this summer, what will you be reaping?