You guys, these February reads. Phew! My goal for reading this year and from now on is to read and learn more from authors who do not look like me or have the same life experiences as me. I read a variety of literature, all non-fiction, but with diverse topics including personal essays, racial reconciliation in the church, historical occurrences, and psychological analysis. Here are some of my brief thoughts on each book:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

This. Woman. I didn’t think I could love her more and yet, I do. Reading her story was nothing short of powerful. She and Barack truly had a whirlwind of experiences from their childhoods through their time at the white house. The grace with which she approached her professional and personal life is nothing short of inspiring. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her book because I feel her words are so much better than my own:

“I’ve learned that it’s harder to hate up close.”

“Kids wake up each day believing in the goodness of things, in the magic of what might be. They’re uncynical believers at their core. We owe it to them to stay strong and keep working to create a more fair and humane world.”

“Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”

Read this if you love learning more about political leaders, public figures, and incredibly wonderful people because Michelle Obama is a national treasure.

Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894 by Daniel James Brown

Daniel James Brown did an excellent job of turning a historical occurrence into a page turner. Hinckley Minnesota went through one of the deadliest fires recorded in American history, but we rarely hear about it because the Chicago fire happened around the same time. Forest fires were incredibly common and because of this, when the fire descended upon these small, Minnesota towns, hundreds of people died because it was too late to flee. I learned a lot about fire survival by learning what not to do, which, unfortunately is why so many people died that day. The most impactful quote from the book was this:

“The fact is that confronted by an emergency, at the very moment when thinking ‘outside the box’ might pay the richest dividends, most of us, most of the time, think very much inside the box, paralyzed by our own expectations of how things should unfold.”

This is what happened to the residents of Hinckley and the surrounding Minnesota towns. While reading this book you cannot help but critique the decisions made by the townspeople at the time, however, this quote really helped me put things into perspective. Most of us, most of the time, have a set of expectations. And when those expectations are not met, even in an emergency, they can quite literally paralyze us by stopping us in our tracks, leaving us incapable of making more rational decisions. Read this book if you are interested in historical events, human psychology, and crisis response.

I Hate You–Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Hal Straus and Jerold Jay Kreisman

I have some people in my life that I believe might be affected by Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is diagnosed more frequently now that we know more about it. Straus and Kreisman do a great job of outlining the disorder with case studies on real people who have BPD. They also gave a handy tool for those of us who have persons in our life struggling with BPD:

SET: Support, Empathy, and Truth

There is so much to say about this tool and I do not have the words because I am not an expert in psychology. I do recommend your reading the book if you would like to understand the human condition more or if you think you or someone you love is affected by BPD. The SET section of the book certainly helped me in navigating relationships in my life affected by BPD.

Seeing Jesus in East Harlem: What Happens When Churches Show Up and Stay Put by Jose Humphreys*

This was my favorite book for the month of February. Since I am passionate about the church and racial equity this book spoke to my soul in some deep ways. I had the privilege of seeing Jose Humphreys speak at the Mid-Winter Conference for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He is exactly who our denomination, and the church in general, needs at this time and space in history. Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“In church specifically, we have deeply hurt others in the name of polity and policies and proof texted away God’s image bearers–and this can be a way of avoiding the true tension required to love well.”

“more embrace is the ultimate goal, and more embrace can hopefully lead to more mending.”

“We’re mindful of how whiteness has shown up, tainting Christianity, causing malformations in how we see ourselves as people of color, immigrants, and children of diaspora. The church must reclaim its role in honoring the image of God through minds and bodies of black, brown, and Asian image beaters, shining forth in cultural output and creativity.”

“The postures of humility, divestment, and learning are paramount for healing and real reconciliation. I have too many white sisters and brothers who are engaging the journey in this reformation to doubt a revolution of hearts and values is possible.”

I look forward to joining the pastoral call and lifting up the voices of my brothers and sisters of color like Jose Humphreys. All persons being made in the image of God is not something to take lightly, and so because our brothers and sisters of color continue to go through persecution in our country, I pray that I can rise up with them to make a difference. Thank you so much for your convicting words, brother Jose!

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