The Wisdom of Each Other: Book Clubs

When I was first married, Jim and I got up early one morning a week to meet with three other couples at a local bagel shop.  The wives sat together while the husbands met on the other side of the cafe.  We all read the same book and discussed it chapter by chapter.  What a blessing this was.  As newlyweds, stumbling our way through this season of life, it was such encouragement to share openly, “No!  You too?!”   The book provided the insight of an older, more experienced point of view.

If you’ve been reading these blogs for any length of time you’ve probably realized how passionate I am about older women investing in younger women, but that’s not to say there isn’t a ton we can learn from peers – and even from books!  Put the two together and can it ever be life-changing!


When my son was in high school I was blessed with two women who would meet me at Starbucks weekly.  It was our mom’s night out. All of us were mothers of boys and struggling to figure out how to best parent them during this perplexing season of life.  Up to this point we’d enjoyed close relationships with our sons.  Suddenly those boys became distant strangers!  We each brought a copy of Paul David Tripp’s book Age of Opportunity (which I highly recommend if you have adolescents in your home!!!). Since this was a very full season of life we would read one chapter while we were together and discuss it.  Did that ever help me learn how to parent (and love!) better!

Fast forward a few years, my husband and I were traveling four days a week.  I was so blessed to be invited to take part in an online book club where the members, about seven of us, were spread across the United States but would gather at a chat room (yes, they can have incredibly great uses! ;0) via and discuss different books.  Granted, I much prefer face to face book clubs, but can I say, I was so blessed during this season by this group of professional women who I never would’ve met otherwise!  We would read a chapter or two each week and discuss it, sharing our hearts and lives as well.

It’s one thing to read a book in seclusion, a whole other to process with a group.  It gets you thinking about what you’re reading in a deeper way, you have the opportunity to glean new insights from the thoughts and experiences of others and best of all, there’s opportunity to be spurred on to act on what you’ve been reading.  I find when I’m part of a book club the book being read is much more likely to become an active part of my journey – and transformation!

And this isn’t just true for non-fiction!

I have so loved getting together with friends to discuss fiction too!  What a wonderful way to learn from the character’s examples!  A few years ago I stumbled on a book entitled The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton.  This is a delightful story about a group of women who start a writing group.  I found a bunch of used copies online and gave them to a number of friends who also like to write, then we gathered at my house to discuss what we learned from their experiences… and our own writing group was born!  Were we ever light years ahead benefitting from the ideas (both good and bad) gleaned from the characters!

And I know of no better way to enjoy the classics than sharing them with a friend.  My last book club consisted of my neighbor and myself.  Due to my hearing loss I’m no longer able to enjoy large group discussions so having just the two of us was such a blessing.  First, it got me through books I never would’ve survived otherwise – like Middlemarch!  It took me 250 pages before I even got into that story!  But oh!  What a story!  My life was so enriched because I persevered through this!  I never would have finished that book without the accountability of our next meeting!

Also, sharing books with my neighbor got me reading books I never would’ve known about, as we alternated selecting books. Plus, I so loved hearing the thoughts and treasures that stood out to my friend.  I cannot recommend highly enough getting together with friends to discuss books!

I find it helpful to purchase a copy of the book so I can freely underline what stands out to me. (Used copies can often be obtained inexpensively online.)  This helps me remember what I’d like to explore more with my friends and can help to focus the discussion.  But if you’re going to be discussing multiple chapters or even the whole book, can it ever help to take time to write at the end of each chapter a brief summary as well as jot down thoughts on how what you’ve read applies to your life.

If you’re discussing an entire book, it can be helpful to go back through what you’ve underlined and write up key notes (or place post-its in the book that stick out featuring one word summaries) regarding the things you want to discuss.  In the beginning I borrowed books from the library to save money but found I usually benefitted so much more and was prepared for a richer discussion when I was actively underlining and writing notes in the margins.  And since the books I put this effort into became such a special part of my journey, I usually wanted to have a copy – especially as I frequently share with others the treasures that impact me!

And as I mentioned above, you can also read the chapter when you get together and discuss it as you go along!  During busy seasons of life this was much more do-able for me and still powerfully impactful!

And have I ever benefitted from the one chapter rule.  If you or someone in the group isn’t into a book by the end of the first chapter, dump it and go for something else!  There are too many amazing books in the world to waste time with something that doesn’t captivate you!  (note:  we extend that for classics as they often take more than the first chapter to even figure out what’s going on!  ;0)

But be careful if you do participate in a book club you don’t let books take the place of The Book!  All too often I see book discussions offered as “Bible studies.”  And indeed with all my heart I believe the Bible is The most important book you could ever read and discuss!  It’s the one book we are commanded to not only read but let dwell in us richly (Colossians 3:16)!  Don’t let reading someone else’s thoughts on the Bible or any other topic take the place of diving into it directly!  This needs to be a regular part of every believers life… for life!  And don’t just take my word for it!  Howard Hendricks left a wonderful series of videos on YouTube, and his first video gives compelling reasons for why this is so vital.  I highly encourage you to check this video out!

So don’t go from WOW (being a Woman of the Word) to DRAB (Damsel’s Reading A Book)!  Check out Psalm 19:10-11, Psalm 119:105, Isaiah 55:2-3, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Peter 2:2… there is nothing like The Word of God to ignite your heart and keep your light shining, and bring life to your life!

But in their proper place, as additional supplements, book clubs can be a great source of nourishment for your heart, soul and mind… and provide delightful life changing fun!

Have you ever taken part in a book club? Do you have suggestions you’d like to share?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

Why I am Not a Fan of Using Devotionals for Quiet Times

I love books! As a voracious reader, I learn so much from the things people have written.  Just this past week I discovered a new Christian used book store here in town on my date with Jesus and I was like a kid in a candy shop!  I bought three books after putting four back (had to limit myself because I was on my bike with only a small backpack!) and devoured the first one that night!

So please understand… I do believe there is much value in reading the thoughts of others – but not during a quiet time!  With all my heart I believe this should be a sacred time, enjoyed daily, directly with the lover of your soul.

Yes, the Lord can and does speak to us in a number of ways.  He is an incredible communicator!  But I have found keeping my quiet time limited to the Lord, His Word and me during that special time makes such a difference in my life!


a.  Enjoying a quiet time this way is relational!

Now I’m well aware there are many who will disagree with me regarding the use of devotionals for Quiet Times.  And that’s totally fine! (I am not at all saying I think it’s wrong to do this, just not generally wise if its taking the place of you going directly to God’s Word – though if Jesus leads you to do this, by all means follow Him!!!)  But I know my dates with my husband wouldn’t be the same if someone else came along and I just listened to this person, no matter how wise or eloquent he was, tell me what he thought about what my husband said.  For a counseling appointment or at a dinner party that’s fine, but on a date I want to hear and experience Jim directly! :0)  And it’s the same in my times with the Lord.

b.   Enjoying a quiet time this way promotes growing in dependence on the Lord… not other people

I believe this is especially important when following up a new or young believer. Remember how 1 Peter 2:2 talks about how key “pure spiritual milk”  (or as the KJV says “the sincere milk of the Word”) is for growing?  A daily quiet time is a prime time for taking this in.

It’s so easy for young believers to develop a dependence on other people, to let others do their thinking for them, and then to be intimidated by how well written or how brilliant the thoughts in the devotional are and think, “I could never come up with anything like that.” So instead of directly learning to listen to the Holy Spirit teach them from His Word, they become dependent on people.

c.  Enjoying a quiet time this way helps people grow in valuing God’s Word

The Bible is not another book among books.

2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

And we’re told in Hebrews 4:12 “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.  It penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

And in 2 Peter 1:20 we’re told, “But know this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

And in Isaiah 55 the Lord himself pleads, “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” and then He compares His Word to the rain watering the earth and promises, “So is my Word that goes out of my mouth it will not return to me void, but will accomplish the purpose I have for it.”

What other book is like this?!!!

As I often say, my words are like .5 cents compared to God’s Word being a million dollars.  So let’s say the words of the most eloquent, mature Christian writer are worth $20.  What’s that compared to God’s Word?!  If I really care about someone don’t I long for them to maximally be enriched?!!!

d.  Enjoying a quiet time this way can help us learn in small bites to meditate on God’s Word and apply it

It’s work learning to meditate on God’s Word and diligently apply it.  This is why a daily quiet time is a discipline and as Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who’ve been trained by it.”  Did you catch that?  No discipline! Not one!  So this is not an easy thing to integrate into your life.

Reading a book can be a whole lot easier!  For me, reading is like a sweet reward.  It’s what I do to relax, refresh, recharge.  It’s all too easy to take the easy route – and really miss out!

Remember for growth you can’t “just read.” There also needs to be meditating on what you’re reading and then application.  Otherwise you end up like the foolish builder in Matthew 7 whose house came crashing down because it was built on sand.  This foolish man heard the Word, he just didn’t do anything in response to it!

It’s so easy to just read books and not do anything with what you’re reading.  (Granted, it’s easy to do this with God’s Word, too.  I can’t stress enough how vital practical application of God’s Word is!  So I will concur someone who takes whatever morsel of God’s Word they find in a devotional and meditates on it and actively applies it in a life changing way is better off than someone who reads multiple chapters from their Bible each day and does nothing with it!  But why settle for this when you can go directly to God’s word and reap maximum benefit?!)

e. Enjoying a quiet time this way becomes a time of experiencing the Lord!

Just as when I meet with someone, it’s so much more valuable if they discover something rather than me telling them – so I want them to experience the joy of God opening their eyes so they can see wonderful things in His Word!  This is a powerful way of experiencing the presence and wisdom of the Lord.  He really is an amazing communicator.  What a difference it can make in our relationship as well as our lives when we experience this first hand!

f.  Enjoying a quiet time this way is transformational not simply informational!

In America, we are so caught up with knowing information.  And sadly it’s so easy to mistake knowing something in our heads with truly being transformed by it!  God’s Word has such power to transform our lives as we live it out.  Far better to have a simple thought from God’s Word that you live out and changes you, rather than the most brilliant thought that simply fills your brain.

Yes, there are many devotionals that contain incredible thoughts.  I have benefitted greatly from the writings of Oswald Chambers, especially.  But please note he didn’t deliver these as quiet time material.  His wife faithfully wrote down what he shared in messages!

It’s fine to read writings like these and you may benefit greatly from them – but I highly recommend reading them as you would any other book and saving your quiet time for special time enjoying and interacting directly with Jesus through His Word!

(NOTE:  for more information on a simple but highly transformational way of structuring quiet times with an emphasis on meditation and application, check out the article “The Treasure of Shared Quiet Times” found in the “Helps!” section)