Friday, December 13, 2013

A year later

On December 14, 2012, I thought, "Maybe this is what it will take for things to change."  I had thought that after Virginia Tech and after Aurora and after Gabrielle Giffords and each time, I was wrong.  But this was a whole new level of horror and I thought, "Maybe now, we can at least talk about it."

I was wrong.

A few people tried to talk about it, tried to reach for solutions, offered to make common-sense compromises and they were punished by the zealots.  Everyone else retreated into polarized rhetoric.

A few people tried to change the subject.  "Let's talk about mental illness and mental health instead."  I welcomed that conversation but it never got very far.  Caring for the mentally ill costs a lot of money and requires a system overhaul.  In my red state, the politicians are so worried that the current occupant of the Oval Office might get credit for something that they are making sure that nothing about health care improves in our state as long as he occupies the office.  We have significantly less access to mental health care in my state than we did before.

But honestly, the blue and purple states didn't address it either.  And so here we are, a year later.  Almost 200 children under the age of 12 have been killed by guns this year.  Those who care for the severely mentally ill are a year closer to despair.

On December 14, 2012, we said, "This has to change.  Whatever it takes."  Then we said, "Well, anything except that."  Then we said, "Never mind."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our new church

We really like our new church.  I have to say, it's really different to join a church that isn't giving you a paycheck.  For one thing, this is the first time in our adult lives that we've joined a church and then not had a reception afterward.  Some people came and shook our hands and that was it.  No punch and cookies, no Q & A in the fellowship hall, no one asked us to share a few words.  Yeah, weird.  And nice.

It took us awhile to visit this church but once we did, we knew it was a great fit for us.  It's our neighborhood church, which is an extra bonus since we didn't have that in mind when we moved into this neighborhood.  It continues to feel really strange to go to church and not really know anyone.  I'm so grateful for all those years of friendship in the churches that we served--the way that people folded us into their lives and loved us so well.  Here, we're on the receiving end of hospitality and we've found the church to be really friendly but it's different.  We're actually going to have to make an effort to meet people and get involved.

Two things I really love:  One is the weekly children's sermon.  Oh. My.  I never knew that church could be so funny.  I laugh so hard I'm almost disruptive.  My favorite was the time the pastor did the sermon and asked the kids what they want to be when they grow up.  The first kid said "zookeeper" so then lots of kids had to say that but there were also the requisite firemen and policemen and teachers and doctors.  Then Matt said a little ruefully and offhandedly, "I didn't hear anyone say "pastor" and so one little boy who is always so earnest and tries so hard to give the right answers said eagerly, "Okay!  I'll be a pastor!"  So cute!

The other thing I really love:  for the first time in my life, I belong to a church where I am an equal.  Ontologically, functionally, you name it--gender equality is not an issue.  This makes me deeply happy and, I believe, represents the best reality of the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just a couple of stories . . .

There are two blog posts that are making the rounds this week, both heartfelt, both controversial.  One is about how poor people think and how that makes sense in context.  The other is about the behavioral differencesbetween poor people and rich people.  The first is the experience of one particular woman and speaks for itself.  The second is best addressed by my friend Nate Pyle and you can see what he has to say here.

I’m not going to weigh in on the controversy caused by either post.  I have opinions but I also have “on the other hand” opinions and so I’m just going to keep my opinions to myself.  But I am going to tell two stories from my childhood that really shaped me.

The first happened when I was about 9 years old and I came home from school parroting something I had heard my teacher say:  “Poor people might not can help being poor but they can help being dirty.”  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure she must have been shaming a particular child in my class but I don’t think I understood that at the time.  My usually easy-going mom became very intense and I could tell I had said something wrong but I couldn’t figure out what. 

She pulled me onto her lap and said, “I want you to think about that.  What if you didn’t have money to pay the electric bill?  You wouldn’t have hot water.  You might not even have water at all.  How would you take a bath?  What if you only had a few dollars and you could buy food or you could buy laundry detergent?  Would you feed your kids or would you buy soap?  How would you wash your clothes?  You could go to a Laundromat but how would you pay for it?  What if your mom was a single mom and had to work every night or what if she was gone in the mornings when you got ready for school?  How would you know how to get yourself ready and cleaned up and in clean clothes?”  Her voice was gentle but I got the point and I never forgot it.

I had a similar experience with my dad as a young teenager.  I had been over to a friend’s house and came home with questions.  Why did my friend’s family have such a nice car when they had a house that was falling down? 

Like my mom, my dad took the time to help me understand.  He said, “Imagine that you only make enough money for your family to pay your basic bills.  That’s a lot of people.  But you manage to save a few thousand dollars.  It’s not enough to really change the situation with your house—it might patch some holes or fix some things up but even a few thousand dollars won’t really make a difference with everything that’s wrong with your house.  But if you spend your money on a car, you have reliable transportation to get to your job.  You can feel like you’re keeping your family safer in a car that’s less likely to break down or have trouble.  You’re not spending a lot of money that you don’t have on constant car repairs.  And you can have a certain amount of self-esteem because more people will see you driving your car than will know where you live.”  Again, that made sense to me and I never forgot the conversation.

One more memory, this one from my college years.  I lived for a summer with a family in the church I served.  They lived in a white frame house built in 1900.  The floor in every room sagged in the middle.  The trees planted all around the perimeter (probably in 1900) shaded the house, which was nice since there was no air conditioning.  There was hot water in the bathroom and cold water in the kitchen which was much better than the other way around.   The money that the church paid them for my room and board covered their utilities for the summer but I know that in the winter, they sometimes couldn’t keep the electricity and water on.

The husband in the family had suffered a head injury working construction and was a little slow.  He could do odd jobs and tinker around on cars but he had trouble following through on a complicated project.  He worked all day every day but I’m not sure how much money he was able to bring in.  I suspect not much.

The wife, now married to a man very different from the one she said “I do” to, was an Energizer bunny of entrepreneurial energy.  She got up at 3 a.m. every morning and went into the little general store in our little town, having convinced the owner to let her set up a little kitchen in the back.  On a residential sized stove with one counter and one sink, she started making breakfast tacos and big eggs-and-bacon-and biscuits breakfasts for the farm hands and working men that came through, followed by the town’s old men and their bottomless cups of coffee.  

As soon as the breakfast crowd was done, she started on the best hamburgers in the county and fed more people than the little store could hold.  She worked until the kids got home from school and went home to her second shift.  I never knew anyone who worked harder.  Since she was the only one who staffed the little kitchen, she worked all day every day and worked through chronic back pain. 

At the beginning of the summer that I lived there, the whole family went out and purchased an old van—the first vehicle they had that could carry all three daughters and the baby granddaughter.  They all cried at the end of the year when the little store closed and the restaurant closed with it, forcing them to sell the van. 

The mom and the dad loved each other really well and I remember lying in bed listening to their distant voices as they sat each night at the kitchen table talking things through, teasing each other and laughing.  One night, though, I heard them trying to make a decision:  glasses for one daughter or a dental visit for another daughter.  How would you choose?  They chose the dental visit, fearful that infection would set in and create even more expensive problems.  The middle daughter went another school year with broken glasses.

In case you haven't figured it out, my stories aren't really about poverty; they're about empathy.  Empathy is the capacity to set aside my own point of view and to see a situation through the eyes of another.  An Other.  Many who have advocated for empathy for the poor have been accused of being immature and "making excuses."  The idea that we can't distinguish between empathy and excuses makes me really sad.

I’m also not saying that poverty isn’t sometimes partially the result of unwise choices.   I do know that not being poor has often protected me from the full impact of my own bad choices.  I also know that wealth and virtue must never, ever, ever be equated.  Jesus had a few things to say about that, as did his little brother James.  That may be the way of the capitalist system but it’s not the way of the Kingdom of God. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

The blog is back . . . I think

I know I haven’t written anything in awhile . . . I was pretty busy, what with moving and opening a new practice and all.  But I think it was more about running out of things I wanted to say, which you had to know would be a temporary state, right? 

So now I have a list of things I want to write about and a tiny little bit of time to write them.  Also, someone pointed out to me that the difference between authors and writers is that writers write.  So I’m writing again.  This isn’t the only place I’m writing but it’s a place I enjoy so I guess I’m back.

Quick update to start with.  We’re living in a new city now.  Actually, we’re back living in the same city we used to live in, the one we never stopped loving, go figure.  We feel like we’re home.  After living with C's parents for a couple of months, we finally found a home that we feel at home in, which--after all the imaging and wondering--is the point after all.

C is working for a nonprofit ministry now, meaning that for the first time in 27 years, we don’t get paid to go to church.  (More about that later.)  I’m still in private practice and found that the people who referred to me before are willing to refer to me again plus a few more so the transition has been pretty easy if by “easy” you mean “working more.”  There's also lots of travel--Michigan, Wisconsin, NYC, upstate NY, Ontario, CA this year--with the Ridder Church Renewal process, which continues to be a wonderful blessing.  

Mowgli is still in grad school and seems to really love it.  He spent the summer in China and just barely made it home in time to start the new school year.  I think he always feels torn between two worlds.  He graduates in May and when I find out what he’s going to do next, I’ll let you know.  It’s always interesting with that one.

Boo is also away at school, just now finishing the first half of her junior year, if you can believe that.  She seems to be really happy there and has changed her major to history, in part because of her new hobby doing genealogy research.  She also works with the children’s ministry at her church and gets paid for loving on littles which she would do for free. 

Now that you’re all caught up with us, I’ll be back tomorrow to tell you a story—two stories actually.  It’s good to be back.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The one that got away--part 2

Of course, it wasn't really the house on Lacyberry that broke my "wanter."  

Probably it was already broken by the time I started wanting the cereal with the toy inside instead of the cereal that I liked. What was I, five?  Definitely it was broken by the time I decided I HAD to have the white canopy bed with the pink satin bedspread in the Sears catalog.  I still remember the picture and how many times I was absolutely certain that my life would be perfect if I had that bedroom.  My mom handled it perfectly--no canopy because of my dust allergies and no satin because it wasn't practical--and I still got the pink and white gingham bedspread with the ballerina sheets and I actually was really, really happy.

Anyway, swimming in the water of consumerism broke my wanter long before the house on Lacyberry.  

Here's another example:  It wasn't until about the third time that I walked through our new house (the one we'll move into FRIDAY!) that I noticed that parts of it have a cottage-cheese ceiling.  For just a second, my heart sank.  Not because I hate cottage-cheese ceilings; I'm actually pretty neutral about ceilings.  I grew up with cottage-cheese ceilings and so did just about everyone I know.   And these ceilings are really clean, really white.  But they're . . . you know . . . dated.  I was disappointed in ceilings I didn't even care about because someone, somewhere decided that they were no longer stylish.  

Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived.  But that's what I mean when I say that my wanter has been broken for a long time.  

It seems to me that one big step is learning to see past the pages of magazines and the endless commercials and this season's "in" color and learning to see my broken wanter for what it is and to call it out every now and then.  Another step is cultivating gratitude and another step is learning to appreciate the non-consumer things in life which every generation has known are the really important things.  Another step would be learning to make do with what I have but I don't see that happening anytime soon.  But hey, I'm in love with a house with cottage cheese ceilings.  That's a start.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The one that got away

When we moved to Houston, we knew that we wanted to live in the city (as opposed to the suburbs) and we knew that we were committed to staying well within our budget and we knew that we wouldn't be able to find anything nearly as nice as the house we had in Austin.  And that really was okay, you know?  We had lived in smaller, older houses before and we were okay with doing that again.

And then there was the house on Lacyberry.

Oh, my.  You really can't even imagine how awesome this house was.  Perfect location to both our offices.  Brand new (meaning nothing would break for a long time). Dark, hard wood floors throughout.  Completely open floor plan (something I love but impossible to find with older houses in our price range).  Huge kitchen with tons of storage.  Downstairs master bedroom.  Amazing master bath with shower and tub and two sinks.  Exactly the top of our budget but not over.

There were multiple offers but we made the high offer.  And we still didn't get the house.

That was disappointing but that wasn't the big problem.  The big problem was that the house on Lacyberry broke my "wanter."

The houses that had seemed just fine before now seemed second-rate.  What had felt like contentment now felt like settling.  Nothing measured up to what we could have had.

My grandmother has told me about living in oil company camp housing for the first couple of decades of her adult life.  My father came home from the hospital to a one-room camp house where he slept in a dresser drawer (no, that's not just a cliche.)  At least once, they lived in a tent.  I asked her once about it and she said that she never minded because everyone else had exactly the same house, so there was no comparison to make her want something different.

I've done nothing but compare for two months now.  Of course, I can't help but compare every house we looked at with the house on Lacyberry, although that got a lot better with time.  But I compare the floor plan of this house with the floor plan of that one.  This one's yard compared with that one's indoor space.  This location versus that one.  The amenities of this house up against the different amenities of that house.  And, of course, we know that no one gets everything they want and we won't either.

As a marriage counselor, I strategically joke about that with couples all the time, trying to offer a friendly reminder that no one gets everything.  That you can't have the husband that is sensitive and compassionate and then have him turn into John Wayne when you want him to.  That you can't have the wife who is spontaneous and fun and also expect her to keep the house perfectly.  Once we know that we can't have everything, we can relax and enjoy what we do have, especially when it is what we fell in love with in the first place.

Anyway, I digress.  I'm not thinking about marriages so much these days.  Instead, I'm obsessed with houses.  And how you fix a broken "wanter."  By the way, gratitude seems to be as good as duct tape and spit for that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Well done, good and faithful servant

It's hard to imagine that Dallas Willard is no longer in this world, that his gentle smile and his brilliant intellect and his warm and loving heart are now part of the past.

Those who were with him at the end have said that his last words were "thank you."  If I could have been there, those would have been my words to him as well--words of gratitude for profoundly challenging my own spiritual formation and for making the evangelical milieu in which I live a kinder and gentler place.

There have been some wonderful tributes online.  This one is my favorite, I think, written by Dallas's dear friend Richard Foster.  It's hard to imagine that without Dallas there might not have been Celebration of Discipline or Renovare or any of the rest.  This one is by my dear friend Matt Rosine, and describes perfectly the gratitude of those of us who loved Dallas from a distance.

People have also been describing their memories online;  I personally have two.  One is from more than a decade ago, when we had all first read The Divine Conspiracy and were still unsure of what we had read.  My father and I attended a Renovare conference together and at the end, we stood in line to have our books signed, something that was uncharacteristic of my dad.  As I handed my book to Richard Foster, I glanced over as Dallas Willard put his arms around my father in a gentle embrace.

The last is especially poignant and is the first thing I remembered when I heard that Dallas had died.  Last year, my friend and I drove to Wichita again, this time to hear Richard Foster and others, and learned that Dallas was recovering from very serious surgery.  Richard said that he had visited with Dallas shortly before the operation and that Dallas had gripped his hand and said with his characteristic gentle smile, "Whatever happens, my friend, it will be glorious."

It seems that God gives every generation of his people a few of his servants they don't deserve.  Usually, it seems, they end up ignored or shouted down or martyred.  For some reason, though, Dallas made it easy for us to hear him even though what he was saying wasn't always easy to hear.  Here is a sampling:

We are becoming who we will be forever.

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God does not love us without liking us.

"It is not the rights of women to occupy "official" ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so: obligations which derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting. It is the good they can do, and the duty to serve that comes from that, which impels them to serve in all ways possible. Women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each to induce the Kingdom of God into their specific life setting and ministry. What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from "official" ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors which account for the astonishing weakness of "the Church" in the contemporary context."

"I am thoroughly convinced that God will let everyone into heaven, who, in his considered opinion, can stand it. But 'standing it' may prove to be a more difficult matter than those who take their view of heaven from popular movies or popular preaching may think. The fires in heaven may be hotter than those in the other place." - 

In the United States, of course, he would tell us about the “good Iraqi,” 
“good Communist,” “good Muslim,” and so on. In some quarters it would 
have to be the good feminist or good homosexual.... All of these break 
up pet generalizations concerning who most surely is or is not leading 
the eternal kind of life.  In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus not only teaches us to help people in need; more deeply, he teaches us that we cannot identify who "has it," who is "in" with God, who is "blessed," by looking at exteriors of any sort. That is a matter of the heart.... Draw any cultural or social line you wish, and God will find his way beyond it. "Human beings look at the outer appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart" (I Sam 16:7). And "what humanity highly regards can be sickening to God" (Luke 16:15).

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilirating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth an depth and richness." 

Repentance is thinking about your thinking.

Don't ask, "What would happen if you died tonight?"  Ask, "What if you don't die tonight?  What happens tomorrow?"

We are better at making good church members than we are at making disciples of Jesus.

Don't announce the revolution.

And then there's this (Scroll down to the video with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg and watch all the way to the end):

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Home is where the staging is

Today our house went on the market and we had our first showing this morning.  Getting ready for this day has been a whirlwind of painting, cleaning, packing and more painting--most of it done by C, honestly.  Even Chloe has been packed up and put into foster care for a couple of weeks.  (You may remember that we lost Jasmine when a realtor let her out during a showing.)

The most interesting part of the process took place Monday and Tuesday when the stager came over with a pick-up load of decorative items and transformed our house into . . . someone else's house!  When I came home Tuesday night, I discovered that we are the kind of family that keeps our fancy vinegars in a basket full of fake greenery on our kitchen cabinet.  We have not one but two open cookbooks in our kitchen (because you know, we are so culinary).  I learned that we are the kind of people who read really impressive looking books and leave them lying open on random surfaces, next to candles and fluffy pillows.   Apparently, we are people who tie our bath towels with ribbons and somehow live without bath mats or trash cans or most of our furniture.  Oh, and we leave the table set all the time with plates, bowls and little balls made of twigs.

The house has been transformed from a home that houses a loving family into a house that drips Pottery Barn and inauthenticity.  I'm willing to live like this for a little while if it will sell our house but I made a decision a long time ago that I won't live like this as a way of life--not literally and not spiritually.  Some of you know about my commitment to have no secrets--ever, about anything.  There is a corresponding commitment about trying to be as authentic as possible while not having everything on display.  Maybe sometime I'll write more about that, as it is an ongoing challenge.  But living in this house post-staging has just reinforced my commitment to the value of authenticity.  No one should live this way long-term and unfortunately, so many people feel like they have to.

Anyway, I'll do it for awhile because of this:

Wish us luck!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'm okay, you're okay?

Although I really appreciate the insight that many of you have had, here in the comments section and in the emails you’ve sent me privately, I still don’t know exactly what I believe about what trust is and what we’re trusting in or trusting for.

Having said that, though, I was reminded of something I say to clients at least once a week that goes back to some work I did on fear at least 20 years ago.  In helping people deal with fear, I became aware that there are really only two options for minimizing the experience of fear.  One is the conclusion that the thing we fear is unlikely to happen. The other is the conviction that if the thing we fear does happen, we will be okay. 

In the first case, we look at statistics or probability and figure out that our fear is mostly unfounded.   That’s what is happening when I get on airplanes (even though I am pathetically afraid of flying) because I know that there are staggering statistical odds in my favor.

In the second case, though, we have to rely a lot more on some kind of inner  confidence that we will somehow be—on a deep level—okay even if we end up facing our fear in reality. 

I found myself really connecting with this idea as I listened to a sermon by Dallas Willard.  I hesitate to paraphrase what he said but this is what I heard:  as he talked about the gospel story of Jesus calming the storm, he indicated that Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat during the raging storm because he knew on a deep level that he was safe no matter what happened to the boat. 

I was really intrigued by the simplicity of that idea:  that trusting God is not trusting the probability of a particular outcome (the boat reaches shore safely) but trusting the heart of a Person and believing that we are okay no matter what happens to the boat.

I guess then it comes down to what we mean by “okay.”  People sometimes tell me that they are most certainly not okay but as we talk about it, it becomes clear that what they really mean is that they are in terrible pain.  We then begin to talk about whether it is possible to be in real emotional pain and yet still—on some fundamental level—be okay.  For people who have that moment of understanding that for them, it is possible to be in pain and yet still be fundamentally okay, there is an epiphany that is life-changing.  They are able to authentically voice their very real pain and take it very seriously while at the same time experiencing that in this moment, they are still able to breathe and to love and to hold tight to life. 

On the one hand, I still question two things:  Are we actually okay?  And as human beings, can we really know that we are okay?  And I’m encouraged by my conviction that yes, this is the essence of the gospel and I’m encouraged by the stories of people I know and people I don’t know about their own profound sense of okay-ness in the face of much deeper suffering than I have ever known. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trust fall

Let not your heart be troubled.  (You) trust God; trust also in me.  John 14:1

I started this year with the question, "What does it mean to trust God?"

I didn't mean that I wanted to learn HOW to trust God--I'm not that stupid.  I just wanted to figure out what we mean when we use that phrase.

Does it mean that we trust God for a specific outcome?  To heal our friend, for example, or to keep us safe?  To answer our prayers the way we pray them?

Do we mean that, whatever happens, we can be confident that it was God's will (general, specific, permissive, whatever) and that he intends it for our good?

Are we trying to get ourselves to a point of surrender that can accept whatever comes?  Do we trust that God will be present and grieve with us if what comes is evil and not good?  When that happens, are we trusting that God will redeem it, eventually working it for our good?

I struggle with the concept of trust, in part, because I don't understand what exactly it means.  What does it mean in the light of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Sudan and schizophrenia and, for God's sake, the Cross?

When you say, "I trust God," (if you have the audacity to say that), what do you mean?  I really want to know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Second annual wonderfully flawed book awards for 2012 (memoir, poetry and professional)

As long as we're still on the subject of storytelling, we might as well move on to memoir, one of my favorite sections of the bookstore.  And we'll start with A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:  How I Learned to Live a Better Story.

Donald Miller isn't the first person to talk about our lives as narrative but something about this book really shifted something in me and the way I was drifting through life on autopilot.  I read it practically in one sitting on one of our getaways to San Antonio and promised myself that I would reread it right away, then loaned it to someone and then forgot who (so if you have my book, please tell me!)

My own story couldn't be more different than Miller's in most ways but I'm completely in sync with his realization that we each write the stories with our lives and we get to decide much of how the story goes, what kind of story it is, and whether it is interesting or boring, character-driven or plot-driven, beautiful or a waste of space.  The challenge to write a better story has stayed with me.

I also want to include Richard Stearns' book A Hole in our Gospel in this category.  Though not technically a memoir, the best parts of the book are the chapters in which Stearns becomes painfully aware of the tragedy of global poverty and decides to radically change his life in order to be part of the solution.  (Stearns is the new-ish CEO of World Vision.)  The stories made even this cynical do-gooder cry and some of them are unforgettable.  I'm hoping that a group of us will show up to study this book together at church this year.

You already know that I was captivated by Jen Hatmaker's books this year, especially 7 and Interrupted.  I've written about them already here on the blog.  I have never finished a year with more books that I want to RE-read as I have this year and these are both on the list.

For the first time, I'm giving an award for a poetry book.  It wasn't a hard decision, since I only read one poetry book this year, but the award goes to . . . drumroll, please, The Gift by Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi master.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Dropping Keys

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the 

Covers Her Face With Both Hands
We speak
Becomes the house we live in.

Who will want to sleep in your bed
If the roof leaks
Right above

Look what happens when the tongue
Cannot say to kindness,
"I will be your slave."

The moon 
Covers her face with both hands

And can't bear
To look.

You wouldn't mind if I posted a few more of these from time to time, would you?

And now, last but not least, the professional books I read this year that made an impact.  I know that most of you who read this aren't interested in this part, but some are, so here goes:

I actually read 4 or 5 of Ronald Richardson's books this year and could nominate any of them as a favorite but the one that I keep going back to, still on my desk, unshelved, is Couples in Conflict.

Richardson brings a family systems approach to all aspects of ministry; in this case, he addresses the work we do with couples.  While even experienced marriage counselors could easily be challenged by the approach he describes, the book is readable and easy to understand and is a great reminder that couples work is less about telling couples what to do and more about forming a therapeutic triangle and then managing that triangle well.  This is especially helpful since forming the triangle is inevitable and I was really appalled at the realization that I sometimes do not manage it well and when I do, it can be in spite of my best efforts, not because of them.  

One really brilliant thing I did this year was to find a counseling supervisor to work with.  He recommended the book Depth Oriented Brief Therapy.  

Oh, man, I. Love. This. Book.  I'm still not proficient at this way of thinking and doing therapy and I'm planning to do some continuing ed on it this year but the techniques he offers have already been helpful not only to my clients but to me in some of my own personal work.  

So, that's it.  You're welcome to browse the list of books on the sidebar of this page to see what else I read this year.  I'll take the list down in a couple of days and start over.  Just because it didn't get an award doesn't mean it wasn't a good book (although not all were).  Right this minute, there are 51 books sitting beside my desk in a stack, waiting to be read in 2013 and obviously that's not going to happen.  I'm going to sign off here and start culling through that stack and find a good home for about half of them.  

So . . . and I mean this . . . what have you read this year that I should read?  And what are you planning to read in 2013?