For the past two seasons we’ve done a relational gift exchange with our community group. Here’s how it goes:
- Everyone thinks about and writes down something they want to do/a way they could be served/something relationship building that isn’t too weird (i.e. ‘a date’). Gifts have been anything from borrowing someone’s favorite book, to help with shopping, to a plate of brownies, to jars of soup, to collaborative painting, to watching sports. Be creative, and be relational!
- The gifts are then shuffled and then randomly passed out to everyone in the exchange.
- Gifts are written anonymously but read out loud so that everyone knows what is available.
- Starting from the youngest the game then revolves around typical “white elephant” rules: stealing gifts (up to 2 or 3 times depending on the size of the group), or standing pat, until the last person has gone.
- Set a time line for when the gifts need to be “given” (a couple of months is probably a good idea…people get busy and things can be forgotten).
- Have fun, make memories, take a picture, and get more creative next year!
Normally at the end of the year I post a series of top 5 lists: my favorite books, music, and movies of the year. However, I have been in a sort of media fast: one part self-imposed, the other part new-dad-reality. I have no idea what the kids are listening to (I guess Beyoncé just dropped a huge surprise album), and who has time for movies?!
But I still read books (I should get to 40 for the year with some vacation time upcoming), and so I thought I’d share some of my favorites (in no particular order).
- The Fault In Our Stars: I lied, there is a particular order. This was my favorite book of the year, hands down. Brilliant dialogue, never-forget-them characters, and a gut-wrenching story. Absolutely fantastic, but make sure you find a quiet, lonely place to read where you can be alone with your tears.
- Barak Obama: The Story: History will determine how we think about our first African-American president, but that’s not the aim of this book. Instead we find out about Obama’s grandparents and parents, and the circumstances that shaped our current president. David Maraniss is a great biographer, I’ve read several of his works and he has a gift.
- Every Good Endeavor: When you think of Tim Keller you probably think of Prodigal God and his great work with the parable of the prodigal son. Or maybe you think about his apologetics masterpiece: The Reason For God. Or maybe you think about great preaching and/or a city-centered church. More and more, I am grateful for what I would call Keller’s “practical theology” books: his work on marriage and now this book about work are absolutely fantastic. We gave this book to graduates this year and if there was a way to get it cheaply we would give it again!
- Does Jesus Really Love Me: A Gay Christians Pilgrimage in Search of God in America: Jeff Chu writes as one who has had to wrestle with his own sexuality, but also as one who has honed his craft as a reporter. So, this work is part personal journey/memoir, part investigative journalism. You might not agree with everything he has to say, or the conclusions he draws, but if you are in ministry with people who are working through their sexuality (i.e. anyone in ministry) you should read this book for the perspective(s) it provides.
- Raising Great Kids: I am continually impressed with Cloud and Townsend, and this is one of their oldest books, but one that has become quite pertinent to me. There are A LOT of crazy parenting books out there. A lot. This book is reasoned, biblical, and level-headed. Thank you, John and Henry, for providing some sanity is a sea of crazy.
- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess: I bought this book for my wife because she likes Jen Hatmaker and she’s been leading us in our own mutiny against excess. I have never heard her laugh or amen at a book the way she did with this one, so I gave it a read. Hatmaker has a very strong voice, a great sense of humor about life and herself, and some pretty convicting insights. A lot of the “justice” literature can come off very sanctimonious and self-righteous, so what I love about Hatmaker is she makes it clear that anyone can do these things, and you can HAVE FUN DOING THEM. God bless her.
- David and Goliath: Per usual, Gladwell packs this book thick with disparate anecdotes and ideas and somehow ties them all together into a can’t-put-it-down narrative. The thesis of the book is that the things we often think of as hindrances can actually be our greatest strengths, and the conclusion will blow your mind. Attention pastors: the final two chapters of this book contains some of the finest writing on forgiveness you will find anywhere.
To see what else I read this year, check me out on good reads. Happy reading in 2014!