My Two Most Influential Books

At least among those I’ve read this summer. Waking Up White by Debbie Irving was a June read.

I heard of this book through colleagues earlier in the spring and was intrigued. And when I saw it on the bookshelf in the condo we lived in for a week, I quickly picked it up … and hardly put it down until I finished.

Saying it was one of the most influential books I’ve read recently might be an understatement.

Author Debbie Irving and I both grew up in the northeast, she in Massachusetts, me in New Jersey. We were both baby boomers. And that is just the beginning of all we had in common.

As I read her words story after story came to mind. Like the one when my friend Shira (not her real name) and I sat in the coffee shop across from each other. As ministry moms and moms with pre-school children, there was oodles to talk about. Then this stray thought almost stopped our conversation. Sue, you and Shira are sitting here like friends and Shira is African American! I’m ashamed that this surprised me. But until that point I never had a friend who did not share my race. Ouch!

In Waking Up White, Debbie candidly shares her journey. The short chapters ending with a few think about questions ministered deeply to me as I identified with so much.

One chapter, Intent versus Impact, both encouraged and left me feeling insecure. Debbie wrote about an event she was planning that she specifically invited some of her African American friends to participate in. Her intent was pure. However, at the evaluation she learned how the event impacted her friends … in a very negative way. She was shocked. I would have been too.

A few days later I sat on a plane next to an African American lady. I was scared! Not of her, but of how my intent to be friendly might be perceived by her. It took till the end of the flight for  conversation to happen.

My heart is to love well everyone God brings across my path. Waking Up White is helping me understand how important and how hard that journey is.

Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray is a 40 day devotional book.

I don’t do 40 day things.
I rarely use devotional books.

God broke through both barriers and I’m so glad he did.

Each short chapter is loosely patterned after the practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio is a practice birthed in the 1500’s to foster listening to God. It was designed to help God’s voice come alive in very personal ways. Bonnie’s desire is to “create space for your soul to breathe and revitalize you soul with God’s love.” p.xviii.

Bonnie also writes very vulnerably. Unlike Waking Up White her story is very different from mine. Yet her reflections and the offering of 2 or 3 questions in each short chapter guarantees the content has been personalized.

The scripture Bonnie highlights on day 3 is Mark 6:31, “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” That particular week, Bill and I were living in a dorm with 150 college students for a week. It was not quiet! But I found a delightful pond just down the street and I enjoyed the swing while sitting and reflecting. After a while, I penned these words …

I’m here with you God.
I’m here for you God.
I’m here to experience you God.
I’m here to be loved in a new way by you God.
I’m here to know you in a new way God.
I’m here for others God.
I’m here to be here God.

They became my prayer for the week.

“Come away with me by yourselves
to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
Mark 6:31

I love the reflections.

(I started this book on June 2. Today on July 12, I was up to day 21. LOL)



2 thoughts on “My Two Most Influential Books

  1. Sandy Carter says:

    Sue, thank you for sharing these titles! I’m also reading “Waking Up White” with a woman who works among the urban poor. I grew up in a lower middle class family; yet I shared many of the author’s perspectives. I do hope reading this book will teach me how to better love and respect others.

    I recently completed “Misreading the Scriptures With Western Eyes” by Richards and O’Brien. Great read! How much I miss because I’m reading the Scriptures from ‘my’ perspective!

    I read “The Nightingale” last year – loved it! I really enjoy historical fiction. A nonfiction book I enjoyed was “The Hidden Whitehouse,” a story of the deterioration of the White House and its rehabilitation during the Truman administration. I highly recommend the series, “The No. 1 African Ladies Detective Agency” series – sweet fictional stories, heartwarming characters, amazing insights into human nature and poetic, moving descriptions of life in Botswana.


    • says:

      Thanks Sandy,

      I always love hearing from you. I added “The Hidden Whitehouse” to my library list. I’m building my pile of books for our month at our Sanctuary.

      Reading “Waking Up White” also informed my prayer list for Bill as he headed to South Africa for a 2 week ministry trip.

      Emily Freeman pointed me to a blog, communicating across the boundaries of faith and culture. The July 13 post is titled ‘From Privilege to Responsibility’. There is a short video at the bottom called ‘Cracking the Code’.
      So worth listening to. The address is

      love, sue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *