Meet the Team: What’s On Our Shelves and Playlists

By The De Pree Center Staff

March 3, 2023

De Pree Journal

At the De Pree Center, we have an amazing staff. When we interview candidates for job openings, they often ask the hiring committee what they love about their jobs, and we can’t not talk about our team. We love working together and, when we have the chance, playing together. In our weekly staff meetings, we often have a check-in question that helps us get to know one another better. This time, we’re checking in with you to let you all get to know us by taking a peek at what’s on our bookshelves and playlists. Below are brief descriptions of what we are reading, written in our words.

Michaela O’Donnell, Executive Director

Michaela notes that she’s always reading multiple books at a given time. (“How very Enneagram 7 of me,” she told us.) Here’s what’s captured her attention:

  • Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More than They Expect by Will Guidara. Drawing on the fine dining world, this book is about going above and beyond for the customer experience. For me, this book has been instructive in my leadership, financial giving, and in thinking about the kinds of products and experiences we put into the world here at De Pree Center.
  • What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk with Howard Thurman by Lerita Coleman Brown. It’s a remarkable thing to have a guide like Lerita Coleman Brown help me experience the work and wisdom of Howard Thurman as I examine my own spiritual life. While I value going back to the original texts of Thurman, I deeply benefit from someone who can guide me through Thurman’s work, pointing out how it impacts my everyday life.
  • The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. After a decade-long drought of reading fiction, I have fallen in love with it again. The process of being whisked away to another world and invested in a character I’ll never actually meet is good for my soul. Though I’m only partway into the Parable of the Sower, it’s obvious why this book is such a classic.
  • The Best of You: Break Free from Painful Patters, Meet Your Past, and Discover Your True Self in God by Dr. Alison Cook, I have admired Alison’s work for years and loved her first co-authored book, Boundaries for Your Soul. I’ll be honest that The Best of You is requiring me to ask hard questions of my inner world (and inner critic). For me, and I mean this in a good way, this is a book I need to make my way through slowly.

Mark Roberts, Senior Strategist

  • This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite. An insightful, well-informed, and at times fiery indictment of ageism and its prevalence and perniciousness in our culture.
  • Cross Country by James Patterson. The cover says it all: An Alex Cross Thriller – A #1 New York Times Bestseller. I enjoy detective thrillers for end-of-the-day pure enjoyment reading. Won’t show up in Life for Leaders. Just for fun.

Paul Matsushima, Director of Operations

  • Spotlight of Robert B. Talisse’s book, Overdoing Democracy, on the Philosophy Bites podcast. Talisse argues politics in the US has become embedded in our lifestyles, like through the stores we shop at or the cars we drive (think about who tends to shop at Whole Foods vs. Krogers, or who tends to drive a Toyota Prius vs. Ford F-150). Literally wearing your politics on your sleeves signals who is or isn’t in your camp, which increases segregation from and demonization of the other side. I love Talisse’s solution to counteract this: engage in activities with others where the activity itself, not politics, is the point. For as you interact, you see others as decent human beings, making it harder to demonize them as a political enemy if you ever do discover their political beliefs.
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. I recently reread the second installment of Card’s Ender’s Game series because I love the concept of the “speaker for the dead.” Speakers were “priests who acknowledge no God and yet believed in the value of the lives of human beings. The speaker’s business was to discover the true causes and motives of the things that people did and declare the truth of their lives after they were dead.” Speakers eulogized not to condemn or forgive the deceased, but rather to understand their lives as they tried to live it. Makes me think how I can seek to empathize with or understand a person’s intentions and values before making judgments.

Meryl Herr, Director of Research and Resources

  • “Learning to Think Like an Adult: Core Concepts of Transformation Theory,” by Jack Mezirow in The Handbook of Transformative Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice. During my doctoral studies, I fell in love with transformative learning theory because of the connections I saw not only with my formative life experiences but also with the renewing and transforming work God does in the lives of those who follow Jesus. Jack Mezirow is considered to be the father of transformative learning theory. I went back to his writings recently for some language to describe what I had observed in our healthy marketplace leaders data.
  • The Book of Beautiful Questions: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead by Warren Berger. I purchased this book to help me develop a mentoring workshop that I led in November, but I drew primarily from Part III of the book where Berger discusses the types of questions that help us build relational connections. I’ve since started the book from the beginning and have been slowly working my way through it. The questions in Part I are helping me develop some new habits around checking my assumptions prior to going into meetings or tackling tough subjects.
  • The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict.  A friend recently introduced me to Marie Benedict’s historical fiction series chronicling the often-hidden lives of the women at the side of some of history’s most notable men. This book focuses on Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva, who was also a brilliant physicist. As a math major, I loved the math and physics references. I also felt a bit of solidarity with Mileva when I read that she was the only woman in her graduate program. Her story reminded me of several seminary classes in which I was the only woman.

Ryan Gutierrez, Program Specialist

Ryan is a Ph.D. student working on his dissertation right now, hence his current selections.

  • “‘The Christ must suffer’: new light on the Jesus – Peter, Stephen, Paul parallels in Luke-Acts” by David P. Moessner. This article argues that the literary parallels between Jesus, Peter, Stephen, and Paul develop from a Deuteronomistic view of history where stubborn Israel rejects its prophets, brings judgment on itself, then awaits God’s restoration. With the rejection of Jesus, this history is repeated and yet ultimately broken with Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. Moessner helpfully notes that Paul’s declaration that he is “clean of all blood” (Acts 20:26) reveals how Paul, after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and commission as a herald of the Gospel, now stands apart from the blood that will come upon this generation as Jesus declared in Luke 11: “So that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary” (vv. 50–51).
  • “Bloodshed and the Ethics and Theopolitics of the Jewish Dietary Laws” by Daniel H. Weiss. Weiss notes how Israel’s call to distinguish themselves from other nations mirrors their call to distinguish between clean and unclean animals that are fit to eat. While there have been many attempts to understand the underlying logic of the food laws, Weiss demonstrates how many of the forbidden animals are predatory animals—that is, animals that consume the blood of other animals. The prohibition of consuming blood is a pivotal moment in humanity’s life after the flood (Gen 9:4) and continues to be central in the Mosaic law. The commands for Israel to not eat animals that commit bloodshed, then, serve a reminder to Israel that their witness to other nations is to reject bloodshed in their obedience to God who is master over life and death.

Chelsea Logan, Content Assistant

  • Get Out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts by Jennie Allen. This book calls upon neuroscience and Scripture to show the reader how to interrupt toxic mental spiral with truth. More than a self-help tool, Jennie Allen seeks to educate her reader on the way our minds work — and how to be transformed by their renewal through the Spirit.
  • How To Ask Great Questions: Guide Discussion, Build Relationships, Deepen Faith by Karen Lee-Thorp. A small, easy to read book that serves to help leaders (at any level) learn how to ask more engaging questions, leading them into more meaningful conversations. It’s a helpful tool in considering how we engage in conversations with people in thoughtful, open-ended ways that solicit honest opinions and feelings.

What’s on your shelves and podcast playlist these days? Drop us a comment if you think there’s something we should read that would help us in our life, work, and leadership.

The De Pree Center Staff


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