Five Tearfund staff members share about a book they’ve read recently that has challenged their thinking and prompted them to reflect on the many ways God’s love can be seen in action in our world.
Ben Clarke, SA
By Aunty Revd Dr Denise Champion (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, 2021)
Aunty Denise Champion is an Adnyamathanha woman, theologian and Uniting Church minister. Her new book Anaditj is a sweeping yet grounded theological journey through landscape, story and time. The cover image, depicting a scene from the Adnyamathanha creation story, drops us right into this story of epic scale.
As I have travelled in Adnyamathanha country, in and around Ikara (the Flinders Ranges), I have seen how the landscape can be viewed at different scales. Large and small are mixed up as rocks viewed up close resemble the broader landscape and vice versa, like some mind-bending geometric oache fractal generator! This dual sense of scale is reflected in Aunty Denise’s theology and her approach to story and time.
For example, we are taken from a broad and encompassing discussion of colonisation to the pain of a softly-spoken man describing his experience of being abused on a mission. We move from discussions of the naming of God to a story of Aramburra, the trapdoor spider. From the nesting habits of the willie wagtail to the profound grounding centrality of the resurrection and incarnation.
One passage that for me summarises the book is when Aunty Denise is reflecting on some of her friends’ excitement at walking in Jesus’ steps in the Holy Land. She asks: “What would it mean to follow in Jesus’ footsteps here in Australia and on my own Adnyamathanha country?”
The scope of this short (80 page) book is both grand and humble. Grand in that Aunty Denise challenges the notion of what it means to know God and understand anaditj (the way things are), and humble in that she draws on the very placed and grounded knowledge of her people and country.
Ben Clarke is Tearfund's First Peoples Supporter Engagement Officer.
Jo Knight, VIC
By Hannah Anderson (Moody Publishers, 2021)
Hannah Anderson's Turning of Days has helped me to slow down and give thanks to God for all creation. God has taken me on a journey over the years to grasp some of his broader plan for the restoration and renewal of all things. This inspires me to a bigger vision and action, but I have learnt that I need to temper my activism with contemplation. God has taught me much through being in creation.
Through a collection of essays with artwork and Scripture, the author (whose other books include Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul) transports you to her local Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, guiding you to tune in and notice God’s revelation in nature. Anderson is a beautifully vivid writer, bringing peace and a new way of seeing God at work as you walk with her in her local natural world, season by season.
“The heavens are declaring. Are you listening?” Anderson writes. “God chooses to reveal Himself through both the natural world and the Holy Scriptures. He chooses to make Himself known through both the universal and the specific. He is the God of both common and particular grace.” She continues, “Perhaps you’ll ask, ‘What can nature teach me about God that Scripture cannot?’ or ‘If I can meet God on a mountain top, why should I worry about a book?’ But let me suggest different questions: ‘What will you miss if you don’t encounter God in all the ways He chooses to reveal Himself? What will you miss if you don’t embrace the paradox of revelation?’”
From the wonder of mushrooms, tree frogs, peach blossoms to the signs of the turning seasons, I encourage you to join the author with this book to discover fresh revelations from our glorious God.
Jo Knight served as Tearfund’s Advocacy Director for seven years. She was recently appointed CEO of Anglican Overseas Aid.
Phil Lindsay, WA
Chris Lowney (Loyola Press, 2003)
You wouldn’t think that investment banking and the life of a monastic priest would have much in common, but Chris Lowney, who is both, points out in his book how the influence of one could answer weaknesses in the other. It comes down to leadership. The hard-nosed, profit-driven, corporate world of banking is confronted by a different worldview; one that Lowney suggests would benefit not just the banking world, but the world in general.
Lowney writes of his own experience as a Jesuit priest, and the history of the Jesuits, to draw out four key themes of leadership: knowing oneself; understanding and responding to a changing world; love; and envisioning others. God doesn’t appear explicitly in the book much – yet His influence is through it all. The core of the leadership approach is knowing one’s place in the world and our need of salvation as revealed by God’s goodness. Once this discipline is completed, the focus turns from inward examination to outward and the world around us. “First, love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.” A reflection on the reality of divine love in the world, indeed in all of creation, drives one towards action.
Reflecting on one’s own state of being loved by God leads one to realise that the rest of creation is also loved by God, and therefore our response must be to see it realise its God-given potential. Lowney’s purpose in this book is to teach about leadership. The bigger picture behind it shows God’s own love and vision for the world, and our role in reflecting that in our own actions and engagement in our work, our communities and throughout our lives.
Phil Lindsay is Tearfund’s International Program & Effectiveness Co-ordinator.
Karen Quast, VIC
Tim Keller (Hodder & Stoughton, 2016)
I’ve recently been reading Tim Keller’s Prayer with friends. It explores briefly why people pray and what prayer is (unsurprisingly, a conversation with God); why we, as Christians pray; and to whom we pray and how we might approach prayer. I appreciated Keller’s digging into the Lord’s Prayer and the importance of this prayer given to us by Jesus himself and how Augustine, Calvin and Luther used this in their own prayer lives and encouraged others to do similar.
The book provides the theory as well as practical steps for prayer while helpfully acknowledging that there is no one “right” way or “special key” to praying. Prayer will look different in different seasons of our lives but, as disciples of Jesus, prayer is (or should be) a fundamental part of our walk with him, and not just as individuals but as a collective. Praying with others provides us with the beautiful opportunity to expand our understanding of God and helps shine a light on the different aspects of prayer that we might otherwise too easily neglect or overlook.
One of the key takeaways for me has been a reminder of the importance of Scripture in prayer – if prayer is a conversation with God and, like a toddler, we only learn to speak by being spoken to, we need to learn God’s language through what He’s given us in Scripture. Also, we pray knowing Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Each time I picked up the book and read a bit, my thinking clarified and I came away feeling uplifted and encouraged by being reminded of the gift that God has given us, His children, in prayer. The opportunity we have to draw close to our loving Father and be reassured of His love for us and all of creation, and the hope that comes with this certainty for today and also eternity. It's a book I'm certain I’ll turn back to and also use as a stepping stone to continuing my journey in prayer.
Karen Quast is Tearfund’s Executive Assistant to the CEO.
Gerry Joeng, VIC
Rich Villodas (Waterbrook Press, 2020)
What are five transformative values every Christian needs in order to be rooted in Jesus, find their purpose and be God’s agent in bringing peace and hope to the world?
The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas answers this important question through five key values: contemplative rhythms, racial justice, interior examination, sexual wholeness and missional presence.
A lot of books tend to emphasise one area of spirituality and ignore or undermine the other. This book masterfully integrates different streams of Christianity – contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and incarnational traditions – and offers a holistic view of spiritual formation.
Without a holistic view, Villodas – the Brooklyn-born lead pastor of New Life Fellowship in New York – argues that we are formed by the culture for shallowness. Bold in spirit, but lack of compassion for injustice. Strong evangelistic focus, but living at a frenetic hectic pace. Like an iceberg, we need to look beneath the surface of our lives to live free and love well, not just the tip that’s visible for others to see.
This book will not only help you to be rooted firmly in Jesus, but also to find the balance, focus and meaning you need to live out your faith in a real way – Christians who are not just loving their God, but also moved to action to bring peace and hope to the world.
Gerry Joeng is Tearfund’s Digital Marketing Manager.