Sunday, July 28, 2013

5 books that impacted my life ... by David Underwood

Before we get started, there are a couple of things you should know about David Underwood:

1)  He’s an encourager.
2)  He knows books.

And speaking of books (tangent alert), I always get nervous when someone recommends something for me to read.  Or even worse, when someone hands me a book and says, “You’ll love this.  It changed my life.” 

So a few years ago, when David told me about some of his favorite books, I started whistling in my head.  But (fortunately) one of the titles he mentioned did penetrate my thick skull, and a good while later I picked it up … and loved it.  And then, David sent me a Facebook message about another good book, and I read that one on a trip to Japan … and double-loved it.

And so I asked David to recommend some more books, five of them that impacted his life.  And—as I expected—he had some trouble limiting himself to five.  But he did, and I’m glad for it.

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Books that impacted my life … by David Underwood, a family man from Searcy, Ark:

I learned to love to read while living in the bush of Nigeria in the mid-60’s.  “The Chronicles of Narnia” got me hooked, and that love born in the midst of a rainy season has never ever really left me.  I get apprehensive if I don’t have a couple of books waiting to be read beside my easy chair.  Sometimes it’s as many as 4 or 5 waiting on me.  My father was a good reader, and my father-in-law Virgil Lawyer was an AVID reader.  They both influenced me to be diligent about reading.  I appreciate the English teachers I had that encouraged us to read … Betty Hamlin and Mrs. Cleveland come to mind.  I try to be well-rounded in my reading, meaning I usually go back and forth between spiritual books and secular books.  The secular books I read usually have a connection with Africa, although in the past few years I have become addicted to Rick Bragg and his wonderful books about the South.  That guy is AMAZING!  I wish my dad could have read some of Rick’s books before he passed.  He would have devoured them!  Mike asked me to write about books that impacted my life, so I am going to honor his request because I love and appreciate him so much.  I am going to limit the list to 5 books (which is hard to do), and I am going to stick with books that were written from a spiritual perspective.

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior by Max Lucado

 In the early to mid-80’s somebody suggested I read this book, and it forever changed my life.  I can remember sitting there reading and thinking, “Where has this Jesus been my whole life?”  I had NEVER heard Jesus talked about like this.  For the first time in my life, I fell in love with my Savior.  For years I gave this book to folks who had just recently been baptized.  It is a timeless book, as relevant today as it was in the 80’s.  It’s my opinion that Max has impacted the lives of more people for the Lord than anybody else in this generation.  His books are read by millions, and what a blessing that is for the Kingdom!  Again, I credit this book and sitting at the feet of Mike Cope every Sunday as the catalyst for my developing a PERSONAL faith that replaced an INHERITED faith.  I am forever indebted to Max and Mike for that!

Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

 As I mentioned above, I am always intrigued by any good book I hear about that deals with Africa.  I first heard about this book through my good friend and brother, Don McLaughlin.  He was speaking at “Uplift” here at Harding University, and told this amazing story of a woman who came to faith in the midst of the holocaust in Rwanda in the 90’s.  That is all I needed to hear.  This is an amazing book of faith!  I won’t give away the best parts of the book, but I can promise that it will hold you spellbound.  One of the most amazing things about this book is that it’s non-fiction … this woman REALLY endured these kinds of trials and tragedies!!  You can read all kinds of books that focus on the millions of murders in Rwanda, but none of them will have the faith component that this one has.  I later saw Immaculee on C-Span speaking at a “Book Fair” in Washington D.C.  She was giving an oral review of this book, being very outspoken about the faith component of it.  I could be wrong, but I took it that she was addressing a very secular crowd of probably a hundred people or more.  When she finished, the crowd stood in unison and gave her a standing ovation!  This is an amazing book about an incredible journey of faith.

The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus

 I am not sure who told me about this book … but I will be forever grateful to that person!  I read a lot … a WHOLE lot.  This is the first book in my life that when I read the last page and finished the book, I IMMEDIATELY turned to the beginning and started reading the book again.  After reading this book, I wrote each of my two sons a letter of apology for some of the ways that I raised them.  Every Christian dad should read this book!  McManus has a gift that not many writers possess.  I love his passion, and I love his transparency.  He came to faith later in life than some of us, and he has a perspective about our journey of faith that is contagious.  This is just one of his many really good books.  In fact …

An Unstoppable Force by Erwin McManus

 Whereas The Barbarian Way had to do more with your personal journey, this book deals with the church.  OH MY GOODNESS!  Does it ever!  I am not one of these people who underline when I read, and I found myself underlining something on just about EVERY page.  McManus is not writing about “doing church”, but rather about BEING church.  I think it should be required reading for all of our church leaders … shepherds, ministers, deacons, youth ministers, etc.  In fact, author Leonard Sweet said, “If I could only recommend one book for every religious leader, this would be the one.”  That is a powerful testimony.  I would love to attend a seminar with him speaking about the concepts in this book.  If you are an institutional Christian, be ready to be challenged and stretched by this book!  If you are looking for encouragement to be a church that truly reflects Christ to a culture that so desperately needs Him, this is a book that will connect with you.

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

 If I could only take 5 books to a deserted island to spend the rest of my life, this would be one of them.  As far as instant impact on my life, theology, perspectives, and values … this book would probably be at the top.  Like me, Shane grew up in an institutional church in the South.  He knew there had to be more to it than what he was seeing and experiencing.  Hence him going to India to work with Mother Teresa.  He later went to Iraq to be light and salt amongst Muslim people who were being bombed.  Later he moved into a homeless community in Philadelphia, where as far as I know he still lives.  This book is revolutionary, and as the disciples of Jesus found out, this kind of faith is irresistible.  This book reflects the life of a disciple of Christ.  I was blessed to hear Shane a few years ago when he came to Searcy.  His talk was really good, but where he really captured my heart was during the Q & A time.  Some of the Harding University students were asking him soft-toss questions trying to bait him into telling them how they could start a revolution on our campus.  His answers were so humble and reflective of a heart that had been captured by Jesus; I think he caught them off guard.  He suggested that if they wanted to start a revolution on campus, they should go to the janitors and custodians on campus and ask them how they (the students) could make their job easier.  This is a disciple that walks the walk.  I wish we had more folks like Shane Claiborne in the world!!


Amen, David … and more people like you in the world!

Now, how about the rest of you … what makes your top-5 list?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

In a bit

I’m 7 years old and sitting in a powder-blue pickup truck in a driveway in Tucson.  It’s almost see-your-breath cold inside the cab of the truck.

I’m sitting by the passenger door with my gangly older brother squeezed in between my dad and me.  I should be sitting in the middle, but my brother and I have worked out a window-sharing deal.

I’m shivering.  The sun hasn’t been up too long, and we’re about to set out in a borrowed truck—pulling a borrowed boat—on a fishing trip to Mexico.  Or “Old Mexico” as Dad likes to call it.

I suddenly open my mouth to complain.  I can’t help it; the words just come spilling out.  “I’m freezing!”

Dad cuts his eyes over at me and speaks out of the side of his mouth, “I know, but it’ll warm up in a bit.”

In a bit.

And he’s right, of course.  Within in a few minutes, the old truck feels like the inside of a toaster.

Later—several decades later—I think back on that cold morning, and this idea floats to the surface of my brain:  Life may feel chilly now, but it’s sure to warm up soon.

And it will.  I know it.  I’ve seen it in Arizona and in at least half a dozen other states and countries since then.

Give things time.  Be patient.  And the warmth will come back.


Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. ~ Psalm 27:14