Growing up, books were a constant companion for Tyler Nordstrom. They were with him on car trips or errands with his mom. They were with him on vacation or at the doctor's office. Family time often involved reading out loud from a book. Most times it would be stories of missionaries and leaders in the church. Tyler will never forget listening to the lives of William Carey, Adoniram Judson, or Hudson Taylor. It was as if those people were a part of their family. Maybe that was it. Books were filled with friends, adventures, new ideas, and circumstances.
There was a book that would specifically remind Tyler of truth, acceptance and of a specific friend...The Bible. The Bible was a staple in his family’s home and scripture was put to memory. As a five year old, reading the Bible gave Tyler the awareness of sin and hell and knew that was his default destination. This consumed his mind. He would pray Romans 10:9 and waited for the feeling of assurance and safety. As an eight year old, when he wrestled with salvation, or as a fifteen year old struggling with sickness and then mental health issues from there on, Jesus leaped out of those pages of the Bible and became a friend and Savior who held Tyler together in moments where it felt he was coming undone.
In his twenties, walking in addiction, darkness and through a crisis of faith, the compilation and weight of all the books and all the pages that were filled with words of hope and light and Jesus and the faithfulness of God broke through and covered the lies in Tyler’s soul and held his hand.
“Through that time, I wouldn’t have made it through without God,” Tyler reminisced solemnly. “The past five years I have seen a ton of growth. I can always be better and I have aspirations. Like, I want to be someone who is an earlier riser, who leads my wife spiritually, who memorizes scripture and thrives. But, life can be tiring and busy. Reading is still a part of my life. A book called “Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering” has been valuable to me. The intimacy with the Lord has been so sweet. I’m thinking through ministry and missions and God is stirring things in me. I am eager to become more and more transformed and more of a leader and a man of God. I am open handed. I am reminded and I pray to God that I want to be the clay, and You the potter. I just want to be what He wants me to be.”
The love for books has continued on for Tyler. Recently, Tyler completed a Master’s in Library Science and works at a library. At the end of 2022, recognizing his strengths and gifts, Citylight invited him into a new project. After launching Discipleship Equipping the year prior, an additional need was determined. What would it look like to have a library with curated books that covered many categories and subcategories that reflected what was being taught in studies and in sermons, but also, topics that equipped and helped with difficulties people go through such as adoption, grief, divorce, missionary, finances, parenting, etc.?
“It’s nice to go to a pastor and ask for prayer,” Tyler shared. “But how great to be able to have additional help that can be given with a book. Books in the library can be used by the pastors and leaders as tools to shepherd people.”
With this vision, Tyler accepted the challenge and has since been meeting with several leaders to begin the process of curating, organizing, cataloging, training and preparing the Citylight Library.
The vision of the Library is this: “to cultivate wisdom in our church members and staff by curating and making visible excellent and accessible resources, for biblical, theological, and cultural knowledge and for spiritual growth." This is a highly selective and deliberately curated collection of books housed at our Midtown Location.
“The posture is to put less emphasis on entertainment and more on education,” Tyler offered. “We look at the mission of the church, and we want the library to reflect that. The idea is if you are interested in popular reading and fiction, the public library is a good resource for that. The library we are building is making and equipping disciples to get resources to sharpen their faith, to know the Lord deeply, and to make disciples.”
As the team began curating books, so many authors and titles Tyler didn’t even know existed started coming in.
“I want to read them all,” Tyler said with excitement “The fun part is cataloging and problem solving. It’s been time consuming and challenging, with many ups and downs, but the project is still fun.”
What Tyler is even more excited about and has fueled his enthusiasm for the project, is the hope that what God did through books for him, the same will be for others. Especially for those who might not call themselves ‘readers.’ A whole new world and discipline will now be offered through the library.
“Here’s the thing, if you haven’t read, it’s just a muscle you haven’t stretched,” Tyler explained. “It’s a habit and it takes a little bit to get it going but once you get going, you can’t stop. There’s entertainment in reading. There’s creativity. As a homeschooled kid, we would read a book and make note cards of the words we didn’t know and look them up (you can do this as an adult too). I have found the more well-read you are, the smarter you are. Books made me feel a delight and I think it can for others too. It’s hard to replace what you find in books with anything else. You have the fantasy in some books and that’s fun, but then there’s The Bible. If you have this love for reading, and you can train yourself to grow in this love, and then have a guide toward these books through Citylight’s library, it’s like the best of everything. Just dive into it.”
So where does one start? Tyler recommends books in the spiritual formation section.
“Those tend to be more accessible,” Tyler shared. “You are not reading deep theology on one verse, or Greek translations. But instead, you are reading a book with practical help and encouragement. Such as Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund or Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt...there are some practical books like these that you can be blessed by. There are books that will help you answer questions like “What do Christians believe? What does it mean to be a disciple? How does prayer work? How do I read the Bible? There are also books for families and children that will captivate their attention and give hope and enjoyment.”
Set to open in February with a collection of over 900 books (and growing) and for all Citylight attenders, there is still a lot of work to be done. Volunteers are needed to help catalog books, with check out and check in of books to members, and to serve in the library during Sunday gatherings. Tyler’s hope is that the library can become a ministry of outreach and equipping to all.
“There’s a book for everyone,” Tyler concluded. “If you say you don’t like reading, you are wrong. You just haven’t found the right book. The library and those who are serving in it are here to help find the right book. The volunteers who are helping have had the books in their hands and they know the collection and will help. There’s a quote that I heard a long time ago that still rings true to me now, “books don’t change people, sentences do.” So finding the right book can be transformative for your faith but also finding the gems within that book. When you find those, and you will, you’ll hold on to those the rest of your life.”
God used books in Tyler’s life in a mighty way. Not necessarily the book, but the sentences that then pointed Tyler to The Word. The Word being Jesus Christ who provided saving grace and true companionship. Tyler now feels and is walking in acceptance and is serving and equipping others with this Truth that can be found in books.
For more information on Citylight’s Library, visit citylightomaha.org/library.