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Wednesday was quite a cluttered day here in the Vicarage. Jolly left for a new safe home, and the Vicar spent the morning with him, the Hope for Justice team, and CID. As you do. Meanwhile, I was with the team running our monthly soup lunch. For a chilly February day we served Melrose lentil soup and an approximation of Spiced Root Soup. There were also whole orange cakes for afters. And then our dear friend Song came to spend her day off with us and so Wednesday disappeared with rather a lack of attention to the mess.

Pleasingly, today’s rummage in the boys’ bedroom meant I could knock out 3+4 items easily. Look! Lots of picture books that haven’t been read for quite some time. And I’m not even going to hold some of them back for later in the month – I’ve barely started with the book shelves in there.

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The Engineer is in Year 6 and his class does this ace thing every morning: 20-30 minutes of silent reading before the register. As I reflected on 2015 and my plans for this year, I was struck that I’d not read much other than detective fiction last year. Of course, good fiction is a great thing and I find it very helpful for relaxation. But I thought that I might have not had my reading balance quite right. And I wondered whether I needed to do some silent reading of my own.

And then I came across Canadian blogger Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge. And THEN some clergy wives in a Facebook group I’m a member of started asking if anyone was doing the challenge.

So I’m going to have a go with Challies’ list. Being realistic, I’m going to try out the challenge for a Light Reader – 13 books over the year. And then if I manage them more quickly than I expect, I’ll move to the next level. So it means that I’m going to try and read the following:

  • A book about Christian living
  • A biography
  • A classic novel
  • A book someone tells you ‘changed my life’
  • A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • A book about theology
  • A book with the word ‘gospel’ in the title
  • A book your pastor recommends
  • A book more than 100 years old
  • A book for children
  • A mystery or detective novel
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book about a current issue

I’ve got a few already about the house (am already reading a detective novel, of course, and am using a commentary in my devotions) but I’d love any recommendations you could make in these categories. Particularly a book that changed your life. And I’m going to see if I can manage some silent reading most days. Join me?

web-2016-reading-challenge-red

Tim Challies’ Reading Challenge – the Big List

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The turn of the year brings suggestions of bible reading plans, especially whole bible plans, all over social media. I’ve tried a bunch and usually fail to complete them. But as I take a more eclectic approach to my bible reading this year (I’m with Warren Wiersbe in Matthew at the moment), I’m going to keep track with this chart from Visual Unit – and maybe ensure that as 2016 progresses I read some books of the bible that I have neglected in recent years.

bible_reading_chart

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I have just got round to putting a direct link to my publisher, IVP, on the blog. It’s at the top of the right hand column. If you click through you’ll get to the ThinkIVP website, where IVP books (and books from other Christian publishers) are available at great discounts. You can get The Ministry of a Messy House there for only £5.99 and the e-book version at £5 – the cheapest pretty much anywhere. ThinkIVP donate 20% of all spending on the site towards Growing Timothys – providing books to leaders in Africa and across the majority world. So if you’re wanting a copy, you know it makes sense…

IVPheaderNB This makes me an IVP affiliate, so I receive a fee for referrals. If you buy a few books I might buy a takeaway and save on the washing up one night. Or do something more godly with the money – I shall have to think of a creative giving idea to go with the book.

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My kitchen sink can be a holy place. It certainly doesn’t look like it at the moment. But Tim Chester’s excellent new book from 10ofthose reminds me that it can be if

… [I] offer up [my] washing of the dishes to God as a sacrifice of praise, sharing his delight in creation and serving others in love.

In The Everyday Gospel, Chester helps me to see that everyday activities, like washing the dishes, can be made holy because of the saving activity of Jesus. This extended meditation on a mundane task points me to remember that God orders chaos and that God serves his people. So when I turn a basket of crumpled clothes into a neatly ironed and folded pile, I am being like God by ordering the disordered and by serving my family by providing them with wearable shirts.

Chester also points out that I can use these times of everyday activity to trace God’s handiwork – to contemplate how He has worked to create the pans in my sink, how he made my food, traces of which I am washing away. I can use washing up time to talk to my children, or visitors in my home – for pastoral care. These times are not the bits in between time for God. All of time, however inconsequential it seems, can be holy.

A short and accessible read, this book would be brilliant for anyone who ever has to do anything boring. So I make that everyone.

A Holy Place?

A Holy Place?

NB This review has also been posted on 10ofthose – they sent me a review copy. No illustrative pic of my kitchen sink over there though.

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Still bogged down in book writing, so just a few things that have been on my mind this week:

  1. It’s about time to fetch the Resurrection eggs out. Don’t worry about doing the dozen. If you manage half of that you’ll doubtless do better than the Vicarage. Do some – it’s fun, a great way to prepare for Easter and an excuse for early Easter chocolate, unless you’re Lentenly fasting, of course.
  2. I’m loving the music from Ordinary Time – folky acoustic adaptions of traditional hymns. Mellow and lovely.
  3. I ordered a bunch of copies of The Mystery of the Empty Tomb for our toddler group for Easter – it has lovely pics and a really clear story. 10ofthose do very fast delivery if you want some too. And give you a one hour delivery time slot. Magic. I clubbed together with some other clergy wives on the conference to get a good price. on a bulk order. Perhaps you could do a joint order with other local churches. You could make a couple of calls and save everyone money.
  4. I have about 3 weeks to finish 2 chapters, edit everything to some sort of coherence, write a final chapter and send to my editor. Messy Meals and Messy Celebrations are next week’s challenge. Am currently wondering how many easy peasy meals I can plan for the coming weeks to allow more writing time. Macaroni cheese again anyone?

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So, having analysed what sold well last year, and what appeals to 11-14 year olds on a Pathfinder Venture, I also have a list of new books to stock this year. Having bent publisher Jonathan Carswell’s ear off about this (and I guess someone’s been doing the same to Tim Thornborough), both 10ofThose and The Good Book Company have published books for teenagers this year. It’s great to see some new Christian books for young people published in the UK. And some of them are particularly suited to the younger end of the spectrum, where the selection seems weakest.

I’ve just discovered that The Good Book Company’s camp page has lists of suggested books for camp, many of which I already knew about, but which also has some new ideas for me. You may find it helpful if planning your own bookstall!

So this year, I shall be supplementing last year’s favourite books with the following – and others if you have any good suggestions…

Lost by Jonty Allcock (£3-4) – A retelling of the Prodigal Son suitable for young people, challenging them to meet Jesus.

 

True by Sarah Bradley (£4.50-5.50) – A book encouraging girls in their Christian lives

Genuine by Cassie Martin – a series of studies of young people in the Bible aimed at older Pathfinders

Bibles – This year we’ll be stocking pricier ones (I rather like the patriotic Union Jack one) but also More Than Gold’s On Your Marks edition of Mark’s gospel, which is only 60p.

No Girls Allowed/Friends Forever – Undated gendered devotionals (different from last year’s) from Scripture Union which may appeal to some.

Puzzle Book – this seems like a fun way to get younger or reluctant readers to grapple with some systematic theology!

Bible from Scratch by Simon Jenkins – this fun cartoon bible overview was a favourite of mine when I was a teenager and hasn’t dated – great to see it available again.

YP’s Guide to Starting Secondary School – We’ll have a good few Year 6s with us on camp this year, so I thought it might be worth stocking a few of these.

The Back Leg of a Goat by Penny Reeve – The Queen enjoyed reading this a while back and I’d forgotten about it when I was planning last year’s bookstall. Penny Reeve has written a couple of other books for this age group which I thought I’d try out too this year.

I am also going to read through a few more of Kathy Lee’s books to work out which would be good to stock to ensure we have a good fiction range, alongside some Patricia St John and any other Christian fiction that I can find and think might work for lovers of stories.

Any suggestions and ideas will be gratefully received. I will be ordering our bookstall over the next couple of weeks and will blog the final order so you can see what I’ve ended up with. I am also starting to think about advertising the bookstall. As we’ve an Olympics theme this year (suspect this will be the case for every activity for young people this summer) I am planning on promoting ‘Training Manuals’ and using the Joker and the Engineer as Fit and Flabby who train with contrasting equipment eg Nintendo DS vs Bible etc.

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