The sun rises and sets on January 1 like every other day, but opening a new calendar still inspires us to begin again or begin anew. That’s why there are new faces at the gym in January!
John Wesley offered good New Year’s advice for us in his letter to John Trembath:
“O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days. … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer…Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you.”
Turn Off the TV and Read!
My contemporary version of Wesley’s challenge is, “Turn off the TV and read!” At the risk of sounding like the “Shameless Commerce Division” of NPR’s “Car Talk,” I will shamelessly suggest some books I wrote along with three of the best books my wife and I read last year.
Read for Your Soul
If you’re ready to begin daily scripture reading and prayer, it’s hard to beat the The Upper Room Daily Devotional. It’s available both in print on online.
Again this year, I’m one of the writers for The Upper Room Disciplines. My wife and I have used it for many years. Spend some time on The Upper Room website and you’re sure to find something that will feed your soul.
Read for Your Heart
As United Methodists anticipate General Conference, it’s a good time to remember what Wesley called “the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists; and for the sake of propagating this chiefly God appeared to have raised us up.” (Letter to Robert Carr Brackenbury, 1790.) He was talking about sanctification or Christian perfection. That’s why Justin LaRosa and I wrote A Disciple’s Heart. I’m convinced it can be the key deeper discipleship that can unite us around our common faith.
Read for Resurrection
With Christmas over, Lent can’t be far behind. Easter Earthquake takes a unique approach by centering our Lenten journey in the resurrection. It invites readers to discover how the resurrection of Christ shakes some of our most basic assumptions about God, ourselves, and our world. It was released for Lent 2018 but is still available this year
Read for the Sake of our Nation
Three books by historians are among the best books Martha and I read this year.
Jon Meacham gave us a powerful reminder of hope from our past and a challenge for our future in The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels.
In Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kerns Goodwin provided one of the best books I’ve read on leadership by looking at the way four of our Presidents led the nation in challenging moments of our history. In these difficult and dangerous times, remembering some decisive moments and courageous leaders of our past can give us hope and guidance for our future.
Isabel Wilkerson tells the big story of the Black migration to the North through the individual stories of three families, one of them from Central Florida in The Warmth of Other Suns. It’s a story that white folks like me need to know; a story from our past that, like the books by Gilbert King, continues to have a formative impact on our present.
So, my challenge to all of us is to read! In Wesley’s words, “It is for your life…Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. O, begin!”
Happy and hopeful New Year!