Your reading group needs this. And you can even get it for free.

As Lorraine Caulton writes on the IVP website:

Reading is a solitary act. For many of us it is a form of retreat—a welcomed silence and deserved rest from our demanding routines. We have our favorite spot in the house: the unmade bed, the couch long enough to doze on, or maybe the off-limits living room. Wherever it is, when we are there with book in hand and maybe our favorite cup of tea (my favorite is anything peach) all who encounter us know to “shush.” It’s reading time.

But when you read a really good book, aren’t you just dying to talk about it? Halfway through or maybe even in the introduction, who comes to mind? There’s always someone we can’t wait to share our newfound knowledge with, or tell of our disbelief of an author’s opinion. We can agree or disagree with the author, and he or she is none the wiser. But our dear fellow reader is always eager to hear our perspective. Or at least we hope so.

In reading groups we don’t have to hope someone wants to hear our opinions—it’s expected! And even better, the idea or concept that we missed in our reading is often what our fellow readers will discover and share with us. Our “aha” moments are multiplied in conversation. Even in disagreement—maybe especially when we disagree—there is opportunity to learn from one another as we seek to understand different points of view.

"Book Club Discussion," by Alpert Cugun. Photo courtesy Alpert Cugun via Flickr Creative Commons.

“Book Club Discussion,” by Alpert Cugun. Photo courtesy Alpert Cugun via Flickr Creative Commons.

In the end, our shared conversation becomes another welcomed respite as we glean wisdom and receive understanding from one another. My hope is that the diverse assortment of titles in this first volume of Read Up will provide you and your group with books that lead to both stimulating reading and meaningful conversation.

Whether you’re looking to read contemporary issues, history, fiction, memoirs or even humor, Read Up has you covered, with descriptions, discussion questions, author conversations or excerpts for more than 30 thoughtful books. Bring Read Up to your next book club and get the conversation started.

I’m thrilled to announce that my book, Eat With Joy, is one of the books featured in Read Up. Order your paperback copy (or enough for your whole book group!) here (and you can get the paperback free when you order, oh, say, MY BOOK from IVP!)– or download your FREE e-version here.

Not Laughing at #SochiProblems: Some People Have to Live There, You Know

from my most recent post at Religion News Service…

Look, I get it: people don’t go to the Olympics expecting to endure what seems to them like developing-world problems. There are serious concerns and controversies about the winter Olympics at Sochi, and it’s hard not to see the ridiculous mishaps as a humorous end to so much arrogance mixed with incompetence on the part of the government. But from where I sit (literally), most of the jokes about the conditions at Sochi just make me cringe; the Instagrammed ‘hilarity’ strikes me as so much poverty porn. Because a lot of people actually have to live under such incompetence, and not just for a few weeks. And that’s not easy.

"Babushka Lives Here," by Anton Novoselov. Courtesy Anton Novoselov via Flickr Creative Commons.
"Babushka Lives Here," by Anton Novoselov. Courtesy Anton Novoselov via Flickr Creative Commons.
“Babushka Lives Here,” by Anton Novoselov. Russia, 2013. Photo courtesy Anton Novoselov via Flickr Creative Commons.
{read the whole post at Religion News Service here.}

Grace for the tired out parent

Our first child opened his eyes on this world for the first time at the beginning of October in Northern California. I was on my feet minutes after his delivery, and out walking with him in the sunshine two days after that. Although I had been ambivalent on learning of my pregnancy – we’d been married barely a year and a half; I’d just turned 23, and we hadn’t planned this – every cliché in the book applied: my son was astonishingly beautiful and I loved him fiercely. My grandmothers’ genes made it such that I was immediately back in my regular jeans, and we seemed to be off to a great start.

That is, until our son reached the ripe age of two weeks and decided that he wanted to bail on the whole ‘being a baby’ thing. I have since encountered other babies and children who matched his distinct set of characteristics. Rather than lulling him to sleep, the baby swing wound him up, as did going for car rides. Even rocking and nursing were more stimulating than soothing for him. He was too awake, too alert; too full of desires he was far from being able to communicate to us, or, better, to fulfill on his own. The very day he was able to grasp a butterfly rattle and shake it in front of his face – all by himself! – he fell asleep right there on the floor, contented and happy.

One of the most oft-repeated bits of unsolicited advice proffered to new mothers is “sleep when the baby sleeps,” which is all right when it’s your first baby and you’re not suffering from an anxiety disorder. I never could sleep when the baby slept, because it took such monumental effort to get him to sleep that every little squeak and murmur in our old house or outside it jolted me awake, worried that I’d have to start the whole going to sleep process again: the diaper change, the super-tight swaddling, the strategic pacifier insertion method, the pediatrician-approved wedged-in side sleeping position, and the little womb-sounds device we affectionately called “the swooshy.” After three months of this, I was a sniveling wreck of mature theological insights such as

 “They say children are a blessing from the Lord but I think they’re wrong!

People would ask me how many children we’d like to have in all and I’d just stare at them. Our son was two and a half when his brother entered the scene, and although little Graeme was a textbook ‘easy’ baby, in the weeks and months after his birth I began a slippery slide into postpartum depression. I couldn’t explain what was wrong; why I was so anxious, sad, and scared. And that, too, scared me. I don’t think I even had the energy for immature squabbles with God about whether or not children were really the blessings the Bible made them out to be. I just felt closed off from God, and almost everyone else, too.

"First Time in the Grass," by SurlyGirl. Photo courtesy SurlyGirl via Flickr Creative Commons.

“First Time in the Grass,” by SurlyGirl. Photo courtesy SurlyGirl via Flickr Creative Commons.

{Excerpted from my review of Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s memoir of having two kids — and then twins! — and a bit of a faith crisis in the process. Read it all at Englewood Review of Books — here.}

Weirdest Search Terms of The Past Quarter.

It’s been a long time since I posted–or even looked at–some of the search terms that landed people on this site, and, as always, it is a bizarrely fun little experience. Below are some favorites, with my responses.

“How do I reply if someone say happy guy fawkes day?”

You could always go with a friendly, “same to you!” or “likewise!” or “thanks, but actually I’m terrified of fireworks, they make me lose control of my bladder.”

“Edith Schaeffer doesn’t read what her son writes” 

Considering that he spilled all sorts of family secrets and more or less painted her as pathologically obsessed with keeping up appearances, consistently oversharing about her and her husband’s intimate moments and neglecting her children for the sake of their father’s voracious sexual appetite? I hope not!

(Besides, she’s dead, and while I certainly hope that heaven has a well-stocked library with good lighting and comfy chairs, I certainly wouldn’t while away eternity reading Frank Schaeffer. No offense. Okay, maybe a little. Sorry.)

“someone hurting another cartoon”

Someone either needs to work on his/her grammar or else has very strange taste in cartoons…

“weight loss product ads lies”

You needed to Google that? OF COURSE THEY LIE. They all lie.

“Jesus knows you don’t repost this status”

He’s like Santa Claus in that way, knowing at all times whether you have been bad or good and whether or not you have committed the unpardonable sin of not making room for him on your Facebook wall.

(used under fair-use conditions of US copyright law)

(used under fair-use conditions of US copyright law)

Just be glad there was no Facebook at the time of the Inquisition:

By my awesome dad.

By my awesome dad.


“the kinfolk dinners are fake”

Yes and amen, my friend! Thanks for getting straight to the point. If you want to know what I really think about that, click here.

“david and goliath precious moments”

Somehow I don’t think this is exactly what you were looking for, but okay.

Screenshot 2014-01-29 12.47.02



“lego breasts”

I have no response to that.