As some of you know I spent all of last year studying and writing about the book of Nehemiah. Well, I did other things like eat and sleep and complain about how “hard” this all was. I traveled some and cooked as many meals as time would allow. I spoke a lot and met a lot of people which was fun, but I discovered after all these years that I might be a bit of an introvert. I realized, while sitting in the midst of my bible, commentaries, laptop, and utter silence, that this space made me very happy. More than all these little joys however, steeping myself in Nehemiah has changed me, and I hope it will do the same for you. The study and videos release on Feb 1st, but more about all this in the next few days…

In addition to what I’ve been writing, I want to share with you what I’ve been reading. *First, a little disclaimer. Throughout 2012 I really want to share with you the books I come across and love, even if I don’t mesh with every word. So, in the spirit of “Hey, we may not all agree on every page or idea, but the overall message is absolutely riveting and I understand the author to be sincerely biblical,” here are two must-reads:

First up, 7 by my friend Jen Hatmaker. I say friend because we’ve talked maybe twice since we met 6 years ago while at an event where we may have conversed for all of 10 minutes. I say friend because I follow her on Twitter and now FB and we occasionally write warm and/or sarcastic notes to each other. Mostly, I say friend because Jen is the wife of a pastor, has adopted two children from Africa, written a book about mission and sacrifice, and has done so because of Jesus. See? She and I are tight.

I highly recommend this read. It will stretch, challenge, and prayerfully sculpt you more closely into the image of Christ. And, her writing is so full of humor you may find yourself laughing while all this gut wrenching conviction is taking place. She’s sneaky, that Jen. To find out more about 7 click here and/or to check out her hilarious and extremely challenging blog click here. If you read and love it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next Up: Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker. This is a book on prayer that I haven’t even finished yet, but I can’t possibly recommend it more highly. His stories of what God has accomplished through the church he pastors, National Community Church in Washington, D.C., are utterly mind blowing. God has been teaching me more and more about prayer over the past couple years and this book reminds me that we haven’t yet scratched the surface of what God desires to do in our lives when we petition, throw ourselves before Him and seek His face. Mark is a down to earth, accessible writer, though his stories are anything but ordinary. This is a great book to start off your new year. You can check out The Circle Maker by clicking here. I think it’s already on The New York Times Best Seller List.