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Five Books That Shaped My LIfe
by Lieutenant Vanessa Coleman

 

1.  The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom

 

As a kid I loved reading biographies of missionaries and martyrs of the persecuted church. Maybe it was a morbid fascination, but they gave me a perspective outside of my comfortable Western 1990s one, that following Jesus is costly but precious, that I need to be prepared to pray hard, to know the Word, to count the cost, and preferably speak lots of languages.

But if I had to pick one out of them all, then it would be The Hiding Place. I read this over and over and over again as a kid. The stories of her life, her faith and resilience, the sheer sassiness of her righteous response to evil had me hooked, and sold me a picture of the kind of faith life I aspire to.

 

2.  Make My Life a Prayer to You, Keith Green

 

When I was 16 a friend, who was really into Keith Green’s music gave this to me as a Christmas present. It was in a season where I was pushing myself to read through the whole Bible, and I’d got to the book of Romans, and for the first time found the Holy Spirit interpreting the long, confusing theological sentences to my hungry heart. I soaked up the stories of radical mission and worship like a sponge. Reading this took me to deeper intimacy in my relationship with God, and made me dream of how I could live out a calling to love and serve the Lord where I was now, at school, in my normal life, rather than waiting until I was old enough to lead like I thought leadership was supposed to look like.

 

3.  Red Moon Rising, Pete Greig

 

I caught the 24/7 prayer bug when I was 14, and led my first prayer week then, and have been hooked ever since. By the time I was in my early 20s I’d been invested in regular non-stop prayer weeks, and was living in a community that ‘got’ the stuff that I’d dreamt of and longed for as a teenager. Reading Red Moon Rising gave me some of the bigger picture of what God was doing in and through this wild movement. It got me fired up, inspired me to press in, to pray harder, longer, more passionately, deeply and consistently. (If I can cheat and add a couple to the Pete Greig train, I also love The Vision and The Vow for the most compelling call to discipleship in one place that I know with some fun teaching on covenant from a non-Army perspective, and the lesser known Awakening Cry, which is brilliant if you’re looking for some history and energy to pour into praying for revival).

 

4.  Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission, Anna France-Williams, Joy French

 

When I had my eldest son Isaac I took 6 weeks maternity leave (in the UK as officers we get to pick between taking 6 weeks or 6 months), and when I started back at work with a 4 week old baby this book saved my life. Or my sanity, or something. It’s really down to earth, written by women who understand my paradigm, who get the women in ministry thing, who want to change the world and not be limited in that by kids, not relegated to the kids corner. It’s full of practical tips, spiritual wisdom, guest chapters from mums who are a few steps ahead on the journey (including none other than Danielle Strickland). It was an accessible read, I managed to gorge my way through it during middle of the night feedings with my eyes held open with match sticks. It continues to shape how I juggle 2 corps and 2 kids, and help me hold a healthy balance between the things I love most and also feel the most guilt about. I’ve bought this heaps of times because I keep giving it away and needing it again before it is returned. It’s a great baby shower gift too!

 

5.  Pioneering Movements, Steve Addison

 

When I was appointed to replant a dying corps last summer I had a lot of passion and enthusiasm but not a lot of idea as to how I should go about it. I stumbled across Steve and Michelle Addison, and their organisation Move, who manage to articulate in really helpful ways some practical steps for building missional communities in ways that equips disciples to make disciples who make disciples. So far so standard, but what I really love about this book is the scope of their vision is ridiculously, passionately faith-filled. It’s the first place I’ve seen (outside this notable journal), since the early days of the Army, that truly has not just a dream but an action plan to win the world for Jesus. I experience a culture of pendulum swing back in cringe against how unrealistic and na´ve that dream was for our spiritual ancestors, but Pioneering Movements is full of stories, from the developing world and the west, about how disciples of Jesus are replicating movements to leave no place unreached with the gospel. It’s full of diagrams, encouragement, challenges and the voice of the Holy Spirit spurring us on to dream, to dare, to do and to die. I’m sure this will continue to shape my ministry in the years to come. This is a vision that I had already sold my heart to, and I’m convinced this book is a helpful tool as we live out what it means to be The Salvation Army in the 21st century.

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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