The Gift of Sex, by Clifford and Joyce Penner

This book was given to me by a friend at my bachelorette party. She called it a “classic” although it had only been published in 2003 and I’d never heard of it before. But the more I read, the more I could see how The Gift of Sex could easily become one of those “classic” books that get gifted at bachelorette parties, much like What to Expect When You’re Expecting being a staple at baby showers.

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Streams of Living Water, by Richard Foster

One of the most eye-opening books I’ve read about my faith is Richard Foster’s “Streams of Living Water.” In Streams Foster describes six different ways that Christianity has been lived out over the centuries, each of which he asserts is as biblical and valid as the others. This came as a surprise to me, as I’d grown up in one of the six that seemed to assert that it was the only right expression of Christianity.

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Suffering and Self-Sacrifice

There is a phenomenon among Christian activists that causes them to sacrifice so much for others that it hurts. Call it love, call it a sense of justice, or in some cases call it penance. These believers are motivated by their faith to right wrongs on behalf of others. Some feel they have been “called” by God to sacrifice in specific ways. Others feel no particular call but indiscriminately adopt the sacrifices they see other activists making because they believe that it will bring good to the world. I was in the latter group for many years, but after a while began questioning such haphazard self-sacrifice.

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Professional Christian

A friend teased me when I became a missionary, saying I was becoming a professional Christian. I knew my friend was joking, but the joke represented a mind frame among evangelicals that was deeply and fervently held: that pastors and missionaries and other ministers are (or ought to be) better Christians than everybody else. After all, they’re “getting paid for being a Christian.”

I don’t think it’s accurate, and I’m wondering how Christianity strayed so far from Jesus’s message that we all fall short of perfection and all need him for help.

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