Best Books I Read in 2014


16 stonesBooks have enriched my life, changed my life, and enabled me to see the world through the eyes of others. So as we start 2015, here are the best books I read in 2014. Great leaders are continual learners and books are the entryway to learning. Enjoy!

1) With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God by Skye Jethani – A challenge to live with God instead of over, under, from or for God. It’s the kind of book you have to read a section of, reflect on, and pray over.

2) The Way Back from Loss by Wayne Hastings. This is a 60 day devotional written by a friend of mine who truly understands the pain and despair of loss. I have given it to friends, family members, and clients – may need to buy another dozen. It could be the next Jesus Calling.

3) 16 Stones: Raising the Level of Your Leadership One Stone at a Time, by Dick Wells. This was a challenging read – two of my favorite (and most convicting) chapters were “Wait” is a Four Letter Word and The Red Zone. Bonus: it’s written by a business leader here in Franklin.

4) Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant. This book is a fascinating look at business leaders who are on two sides of a spectrum – those that generously give to colleagues and even new acquaintances in business, and those who may initially seem generous but are out to get what they can. Grant helps you decipher between the two and understand why a generous heart in business is a research proven way of enhancing your bottom line.

5) A Severe Mercy – by Shelden Vanauken – It’s his life story of marriage, his friendship with CS Lewis, and his faith walk as he watched his wife die. I will remember his story about his dog, freedom and obedience forever.

6) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg – While I didn’t always agree with her, too often I found myself surprised that women were still struggling with things I experienced 20 years ago. It’s a challenging read for mean and women.

7) Wounded Tiger by T. Martin Bennett – This is the story of the man who led the air raid on Pearl Harbor and one of the Doolittle raiders who first bombed Japan and became a prisoner of war. Fascinating insight into the Japanese-American side of WWII and an inspiring story about how loving your enemies honors God.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”   Ray Bradbury

5 Best Books I Read in 2013

“There are worse crimes than burning books.  One of them is not reading them.”     – Ray Bradbury

Books have enriched my life, changed my life, and enabled me to see the world through the eyes of others.  So as we start 2014, here are the best books I’ve read in 2013.  Buy one, read it, then give it away.

I’ve Got Your Back:  Biblical Principles for Leading and Following Well by James C. Galvin.  This jewel of a book on leadership should be a must read for everyone.  Galvin creates a story of 4 young professionals who all work for bad bosses.  As he weaves the story, the 4 search out a Christian coach who helps them understand the concepts of how to follow well, how to lead a bad boss, and how to lead in ways that honor God. His insights into God’s original design for leadership as a dance between leadership and followership are powerful and life changing.

To Sell is Human:  The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink.  I have to admit that another book on selling was low on my radar.  But once I picked up this book and started reading, it was hard to put down.  His premise is everyone sells – whether we are in the sales profession or simply trying to “persuade, influence or convince others in ways that don’t involve making a purchase”.  Pink’s book includes practical ideas to improve our ability to “sell”, interweaving concepts of emotional intelligence, power, trust and integrity.

George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade.   I have always loved reading about American Revolution history and this book was a fascinating page turner.  I expected a historical fiction book, instead I got historical fact told as a story.  As you read about six unknown names of Revolution heroes, you’ll learn about leadership, community, commitment, and how pride can change the course of history.

Deep & Wide:  Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley.

The participants in our Pastors Leadership Academy will be reading this book.  Stanley gives us a painful glimpse into the politics of the church world, then provides a framework for keeping your focus on the mission and vision of Christ’s call to make disciples.  His insights on vision, change, and leadership are invaluable for anyone leading in a faith based ministry.

The Tortoise and the Hare , an Aesop Fable.  This one’s on my annual reading list.  It’s the best book I know to remind us of the importance of focus in our lives and our careers.  The Tortoise, who should have lost to the much faster hare, wins the race because he didn’t take his eyes off the goal line.

Blissful Reading!

Tough Sloggins

Years ago, my husband and I spent 3 weeks canoeing in Canada’s Quetico Park.  There were 5 of us, and we portaged 24 miles and paddled 150.  We went in to the park before it officially opened, so the ice had just melted.  It rained constantly for the first 10 days.  I would wake up each the morning, praying for sun.  By day five, the only way to cook supper was with our little cook stove since it was too wet to start a campfire.  On day eight, we arrived at a portage called Tough Sloggins.  In normal condition, it was a path of muck and goo that made the portage difficult.  With all the rain, we paddled through the portage, found a beaver slide to ride the canoes on, and went on our merry way.

Sometimes life seems like tough sloggins.  For us, the month of April was so.  Bill’s uncle passed, then my father graduated to glory.  He was the care giver for my mother who has dementia, so I spent a lot of time getting home health care lined up for her until she can get into an assisted living apartment. Our daughter has an inoperable brain tumor, and side effects from her medicine became apparent in April.  Driving home from my father’s funeral, I recalled the tough sloggins portage.  April was feeling like the muck and goo – except for the prayers and encouragement of our friends.  Those prayers saw us through.  Like the days of rain that filled the portage, the prayers made our way through April, and now May, easier.

So this is a thank you for your prayers, notes, flowers, and words of encouragement over the last several weeks. They have brought our entire family great comfort. Thank you for walking with us on this journey and for making this walk much easier.  In both word and deed you are Christ to us.


What Do Tim Tebow and the Indy 500 Have in Common?

I grew up in Indiana.  Every Memorial Day my parents washed the windows on the house and listened to the Indy 500 on the radio.  We wanted to know who would win.    The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was more exciting when cars, wall, and drivers collided.  Who was it? Was anyone seriously hurt? 

There’s a whole army of people out there just waiting for Tim Tebow to crash and burn.   Tebow is that rare person who is publicly living his life with integrity.  He lifts up his faith in Jesus, he thanks God for his blessings, he shares his wealth with others, and he helps those in need.  For many of us, he is an inspiration.  For others, he is “the greatest spectacle in football”.  They are waiting, like vultures, for the first mistake he makes so they can say “I told you so.  He’s a hypocrite like the rest of us.” 

The reality is – Tim Tebow will make poor choices.  He’s human, after all – we all make mistakes.  It will be in those moments that his character and integrity will be tested, refined, and strengthened. Will he be sincerely regretful and make amends as quickly as possible?  That is the mark of an ‘Integrity Fanatic’.  We don’t do everything right, we’re not perfect – in fact we screw up a lot.  But my prayer for Tim Tebow, myself, and fellow fanatics is that when we do, we’ll repent, sincerely apologize, and make amends. 

It’s the crashes of life that build character, integrity, and faith.

Churches aren’t sanctuaries for saints – they are hospitals for sinners.

Integrity Lessons in Slavery*

God builds our character and teaches us the importance of integrity, before He puts us in powerful roles of leadership.    A young man named Joseph faced several integrity forks in his life – some he failed, some he passed:

  • Joseph’s ego gets the best of him when he brags about his coat of many colors to his brothers.
  • Sold by his brothers into slavery, he chooses to serve Potiphar so well that he gets a promotion.
  • In a strong display of integrity, Joseph refuses to lay with Potiphar’s wife.  His faith is more important than pleasure.
  • He ends up in jail, falsely accused of rape.  He could have sulked and whined, but he serves well and is put in charge of the jail.
  • He interprets a dream and asks to be remembered and freed, but God decides to leave him in jail for a couple more years.

Obviously Joseph has learned humility and integrity since his youthful days of taunting his brothers; so why another two years in jail and slavery? Because God knows what Joseph doesn’t: that he is about to become Pharaoh’s right hand man.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43 ESV).

Can you imagine having that kind of power? It’s been said that God doesn’t always give us what we want because He knows we can’t handle it. In this case, Joseph had a little more character and integrity to develop before he could hold that kind of power – and before he could forgive the brothers who sold him into slavery.

Joseph is a beautiful example of how the interplay of power, integrity, and faith can enable leaders to have integrity of heart.   God shaped and molded him in order to build character and integrity – and to bring glory to God.

Integrity Forks in the Road*


There will always be decisions you have to make based on situations you face.  Having integrity of heart – wholeness in following God’s call on our lives – helps you make the right decisions and take actions that align with Jesus teaching.

Take a moment and read the account of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz in the Bible (Book of Ruth). Talk about a fork in the road! You and your family move to another country, then your husband dies. Not long after that, your two sons also die and you are left with two widowed daughters-in-law. So you pack up and move back to your homeland, and you encourage your daughters-in-law to return to their country since they would have no hope of marrying again if they stayed with you. One returns and the other—Ruth—chooses to stay with you. Ruth, in essence, says, “Even it if it costs me my future, I will do the right thing—I will not leave you”.  How hard it must have been for Ruth to leave her homeland, go to a strange country, and follow a God she did not know. But because of the testimony of Naomi’s integrity of heart, Ruth did so.

            Boaz also had a choice. He had heard all that Ruth had done for Naomi, and he praised her for it. Boaz was a redeemer—a close member of the family who, in that culture, could marry and redeem (or save) Ruth. But there was a closer relative who could have redeemed Ruth, so Boaz went to him and offered both Ruth and the land Naomi was selling. When that relative would not risk his own inheritance by redeeming Ruth and the land, Boaz became the redeemer.

            Boaz called Ruth a woman of character and eventually married her. Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz led with integrity of heart. They knew God and did what was right in His eyes. Ruth was rewarded for her faith and integrity, as God placed her in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

What integrity fork in the road are you facing today?  How will you lead with integrity of heart?

*excerpt from The Dichotomy of Power, by Nancy Reece

 * originally written for

Finding Your ‘True North’

Is the life I’m living worth what I’m giving up to have it?
    Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have – lots of times! It’s not easy, but I nearly always end up going back to my ‘True North’ and that enables me to reorient myself and get back on track.
    If you are looking at a correctly calibrated compass, it will always point north. No matter what direction you turn, the compass will remain true to north – True North. For me, ‘True North’ is the deeply-held values that form the foundation for how I live my life and the choices I make. They define my “rules of engagement” when I interact with the world. When I find myself asking the question above, I go back to my core values and align myself to what’s most important in my life – my True North.   
    Several years ago, I spent a lot of time writing my values vision statement. I prioritized the values that were most important in my life and defined those values with specific examples, thus, making my Core Values. From there, I was able to etch out what those values looked like in my daily life, again, with specific examples – this became my Values Vision Statement.
    I keep both of these in a frame on my desk as a reminder of what’s most important in my life. I’m sharing my Core Values and my Values Vision Statement with you as encouragement and in hopes that you’ll do the same.
Core Values
Faith – standing firm in Christ, seeking the things of God first
Integrity – matching my actions to my words and promises, holding myself accountable and making amends as quickly as possible when I fall short
Gratitude – taking time daily to be thankful and appreciate my blessings
Family – having quality time with Bill, kids, grandkids and extended family
Love One Another – seeing all people through Jesus’ heart and eyes, respecting all
Courage – mastering my fears through trust in God
Generosity – sharing my resources, time and talent with those in need
Creativity – innovation, play, balance, finding joy, weaving
Values Vision Statement
I will put God first in my heart and life. This is evident when I spend time in rest, quiet, in prayer and when I love others, treating them with respect and compassion. I will walk with integrity, matching my actions with my values. I will spend quality time with Bill and create opportunities to be with family. Whatever happens, I am thankful for all I have been given. I will share my time, talent and treasure to help people grow, deepen and reach their full God-given potential. I will trust God for holy courage as I live out His calling on my life with joy and creativity.

True North produces True Grit




Want to join me in being an integrity fanatic? Over the next two weeks, we’ll talk about what integrity fanatics do –  and how they practice hard call courage. 

 Since integrity is doing what you say you will do, (Kouzes and Posner), figuring out what’s most important to you so you can align your words and actions is key.  It involves some deep soul searching to determine what values are most important to you. Start by listing your top five values – then prioritize the list, so you know which of those values rises to the top.  Then write a brief description of what those values look like in action.  One of my core values is faith – and here’s what that means to me:

I will put God first in my heart and life.  This is evident when I spend time in rest, quiet, in prayer, and when I love others, demonstrating respect and compassion to all.

I look at this statement – in a frame on my desk -every week and ask myself – How did I do?   This and the other values vision statements are my “true north” compass points.   Then I can practice True Grit  – indomitable resolution to do what’s right.

What are your true north compass points?

P.S.   You can go to to download a free copy of the first chapter of The Dichotomy of Power.  It includes an exercise to help you determine your top five core values