Continuing my January tradition, I am sharing some of my favorite books with you, hoping that in the cold winter months they might bring you a little warmth, laughter, or food for thought.

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit: After our visit to the Holy Land in early 2014, I was hungry to deepen my understanding of that place by learning more and listening to more voices. Ari Shavit shares the history of Israel through the eyes of some of the men and women who have made the nation what it is today. A journalist for Haaretz, Shavit is deeply committed to both the Israeli state and peace with justice for Palestinians. As he tells the story of Israel’s past and present, the author finds himself alternately disturbed and inspired, confounded and hopeful. His telling refuses to oversimplify the challenges toward peace; such realism may be just what this troubled, holy land needs.

Eager to Love by Richard Rohr: This is the first book I have read by Rohr though I have long admired his commitment to simplicity, spirituality, and scholarship when I have encountered it in magazines or online articles. Rohr is a Franciscan friar, and this book is his introduction to the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Rohr endeavors not only to tell us about Saint Francis but to help us live as Francis did, even if we never join the Order. I was especially encouraged reading about Francis as one who lived “on the edge of the inside,” never too comfortable with the power of the institutional church but never ready to forsake the church altogether. In my own ministry, I hope to likewise live on the edge of the inside, serving the church in a way that stays connected with and makes space for those who remain on the outside. May we all hope to do the same.

The Sun: I discovered this monthly magazine while on study leave this summer at Oak Shade Farm, the retirement home of my childhood pastor and mentor, David Garth. The magazine is hardly new – it’s been around since 1974 – but it is wonderfully refreshing. There are no advertisements; just excellent writing, with each month loosely organized around a particular subject. Last month centered on family, a particularly meaningful topic as I traveled back and forth to Tennessee for my dad’s surgery and extended hospital stay. Each issue includes an interview and article with people like Barbara Kingsolver, Pete Seeger, Michael Lerner, and other less renowned activists, conservationists, poets, authors, and educators. Each month includes a few essays, a work of fiction, a work of poetry, and a delightful “readers write” section. Even if you are not an old hippie (like the magazine’s founder), you will find a friend in The Sun if you love the written word.