What can we say about 2016?
On the one hand, there’s been a lot of great discussion at The Red Couch. It’s given me hope, time and again. On the other hand, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world. It’s hard to know how to feel about 2017.
And yet, I believe in the power of a good book. Books change us and heal us. They stretch us and they affirm us. They can galvanize us into action and they can comfort us in our sorrows. The way we interact with a book says a lot about us. That’s one thing I love about The Red Couch community: we come with open hands, ready to learn and receive from one another.
As usual, a lot of thought and discussion has gone into what we should read in 2017. I hope you’ll love the six selections.
There’s a special announcement at the end of this post so be sure to read the whole way through.
Prophetic Lament: A Call For Justice In Troubled Times– Soong-Chan Rah
Synopsis:When Soong-Chan Rah planted an urban church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his first full sermon series was a six-week exposition of the book of Lamentations. Preaching on an obscure, depressing Old Testament book was probably not the most seeker-sensitive way to launch a church. But it shaped their community with a radically countercultural perspective.
The American church avoids lament. But lament is a missing, essential component of Christian faith. Lament recognizes struggles and suffering, that the world is not as it ought to be. Lament challenges the status quo and cries out for justice against existing injustices.
Soong-Chan Rah’s prophetic exposition of the book of Lamentations provides a biblical and theological lens for examining the church’s relationship with a suffering world. It critiques our success-centered triumphalism and calls us to repent of our hubris. And it opens up new ways to encounter the other. Hear the prophet’s lament as the necessary corrective for Christianity’s future.
Synopsis: As a child, Elias Chacour lived in a small Palestinian village in Galilee. When tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and nearly one million forced into refugee camps in 1948, Elias began a long struggle with how to respond. In Blood Brothers, he blends his riveting life story with historical research to reveal a little-known side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, touching on questions such as:
•What behind-the-scenes politics touched off the turmoil in the Middle East?
•What does Bible prophecy really have to say?
•Can bitter enemies ever be reconciled?
Now updated with commentary on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a new foreword by Lynne Hybels and Gabe Lyons, this book offers hope and insight that can help each of us learn to live at peace in a world of tension and terror.
Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, And Truth In The Immigration Debate– Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang
Synopsis: Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable.
In this book, World Relief staffers Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang move beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response to immigration. They put a human face on the issue and tell stories of immigrants’ experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, they debunk myths and misconceptions about immigration and show the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately they point toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible and just, as they offer concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.
Synopsis: This enthralling story of the making of an American is also a timely meditation on being Muslim in America today.
Threading My Prayer Rug is a richly textured reflection on what it is to be a Muslim in America today. It is also the luminous story of many journeys: from Pakistan to the United States in an arranged marriage that becomes a love match lasting forty years; from secular Muslim in an Islamic society to devout Muslim in a society ignorant of Islam, and from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; from student to bride and mother; and from an immigrant intending to stay two years to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.
Beginning with a sweetly funny, moving account of her arranged marriage, the author undercuts stereotypes and offers the refreshing view of an American life through Muslim eyes. In chapters leavened with humor, hope, and insight, she recounts an immigrant’s daily struggles balancing assimilation with preserving heritage, overcoming religious barriers from within and distortions of Islam from without, and confronting issues of raising her children as Muslims—while they lobby for a Christmas tree! Sabeeha Rehman was doing interfaith work for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center at Ground Zero, when the backlash began. She discusses what that experience revealed about American society.
Synopsis: The managing editor of Christianity Today and founder of the popular Her.meneutics blog encourages women to find joy in vocation in this game-changing look at the importance of women and work.
Women today inhabit and excel in every profession, yet many Christian women wonder about the value of work outside the home. And in circles where the traditional family model is highly regarded, many working women who sense a call to work find little church or peer support.
In A Woman’s Place, Katelyn Beaty, print managing editor of Christianity Today and cofounder of Her.meneutics, insists it’s time to reconsider women’s work. She challenges us to explore new ways to live out the Scriptural call to rule over creation—in the office, the home, in ministry, and beyond.
Starting with the Bible’s approach to work—including the creation story, the Proverbs 31 woman, and New Testament models—Beaty shows how women’s roles in Western society have changed; how the work-home divide came to exist; and how the Bible offers models of women in leadership. Readers will be inspired by stories of women effecting dynamic cultural change, leading institutions, and living out grand and beautiful vocations.
Far from insisting that women must work outside the home, Beaty urges all believers into a better framework for imagining career, ambition, and calling. Whether caring for children, running a home, business, or working full-time, all readers will be inspired to live in a way that glorifies God.
Sure to spark discussion, A Woman’s Place is a game-changing look at the importance of work for women and men alike.
Making Room: Recovering Hospitality As A Christian Tradition– Christine Pohl
Synopsis: Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Making Room revisits the Christian foundations of welcoming strangers and explores the necessity, difficulty, and blessing of hospitality today.
Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to contemporary Christian communities–the Catholic Worker, L’Abri, L’Arche, and others–this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.
I just scrolled through my archived email back to July 2013 and found the one from our Idelette asking me if I’d help start a book club for SheLoves.
I didn’t even hesitate before replying YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Even now, three and a half years later, my book nerd heart still goes pitter-pat over the invitation. It practically dances when I recall how excited everyone was when we announced The Red Couch a few months later.
I have loved watching this community interact with our book selections. We’ve read 29 books together over three years, covering all manner of genres and topics. We’ve agreed, we’ve disagreed, we’ve been encouraged, we’ve been challenged.
It’s everything I hoped The Red Couch would be.
That’s what makes this announcement bittersweet: I’m stepping down as the editor of The Red Couch. As much as I’ve loved being at the helm, my life is going in varied directions these days. I’ve moved to a new state for the second time in a year and a half. I’ll be going back to school to get my MLIS degree this coming summer. (I’m going to be a librarian, y’all!) It’s time for someone else to take the reins.
Idelette is working on finding my replacement. Stay tuned for that announcement. In the meantime, we have a solid Red Couch writing team and everyone is excited about our 2017 selections.
Thank you so much for being a part of The Red Couch with me! It has been pure joy.
Our January selection is around the corner! Come back Wednesday, January 4 for the introductory post for Prophetic Lament. The discussion post will be up Wednesday January 25. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.
You can see all of the books the Red Couch has discussed here.