“Hear, my child, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life” (Proverbs 4:10-13).

During these last few weeks, I was blessed with some time away for rest and renewal. It was good to reconnect with family from Texas and grandchildren in Columbus. We stayed up too late playing games. We worked together on some house and yard projects. Grandson George and I caught a nice mess of fish.

Unfortunately, upon returning from that time away, I tested positive for COVID.  During my 5 days of isolation, followed by 5 days of limited social activity, I had no symptoms whatsoever. It felt strange to clear my calendar and work from home, while feeling so well. But if that’s what it takes to keep others safe and well, I’ll do it. Thank you to all those who were so gracious with last minute cancellations and rescheduling.

So, it was during vacation and COVID convalescence, that I dug into some summer reading. And here are a few books that I have enjoyed. I commend them to you to add to your summer reading list. These include:

1.   The Book of Isaiah (New Revised Standard Version). I have been reading deeply through the Old Testament book of the Prophet Isaiah. After slowly reading through each chapter, I listen to the same chapter on an Audio Bible. I do this early every morning, and bits and pieces of the reading accompany me through the day. In Sunday morning’s reading from Isaiah 62, I was struck by the final words of the chapter, that the city of Jerusalem will become “A City Not Forsaken”. In God’s great plan for the renewal of all creation, nothing and no one is ever forsaken.

As I shared in my report at the Synod Assembly in June, there is something transformative about Scripture. Every morning of every day. I read it. I hear it. I ponder it. I love it. And over the decades God’s Word has transformed me. It grounds me. It gives me strength. It provides a path in the wilderness. How do you become a spiritual leader? 1 verse at a time. 1 passage at a time. 1 book at a time. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. In encourage you to make Daily Scripture a Holy Habit.

2.   Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace. This Pulitzer Prize-winning history (2022) transforms a violent event between two white traders and an indigenous hunter back in 1722 into a fascinating portrait of early America. Taking its title from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) metaphor for mourning, Covered with Night ultimately urges us to consider indigenous approaches to grief and condolence, to rupture and repair, as we seek new avenues of justice and reconciliation in our own era.

3.   The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt. This is a book about innovation. The authors argue that innovation ecosystems – what they call Rainforests – can only thrive when certain cultural behaviors come together to unlock human potential. The authors also provide practical tools for readers to consider for the formation of communities of innovation. The Rainforest might transform the way you think about discipleship, leadership, parish ministry, and forming new communities.

4.   The Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles. This is a fictional account of a perilous road trip from Nebraska to New York taken by a group of young people in the mid-1950’s. It reminds me of epic journeys taken by the likes of Ulysses, Huckleberry Finn, and Frodo Baggins. A nice summer read by a great writer, that I think you will enjoy.

5.   What is the Gospel? By Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. Though only 50 pages long, this small volume reminds us in a multi-faceted way that the Gospel is not a story about Jesus… it is the story of Jesus, who is crucified and risen for the world. A story that continues to grow as it enfolds in the lives of the people who hear it and tell it. For Bishop Kusserow the Gospel Is…

  • The Story of Jesus
  • The Power of God for Salvation
  • Inherently Elusive
  • The Gift of Life
  • Being Forgiven
  • Welcome
  • For the Poor
  • Love

The reflection questions at the end of each chapter are called Conversation Starters. What is the Gospel? is a great resource for a small group discussion.