Read a good book and find a new perspective.
During the summer, many of us take a break from the regular routines. It’s a time to relax on vacation, to take life at a slower pace, and to enjoy the outdoors. It’s also a perfect time to settle into a good book. Drew+ and Anne+ have come up with a few suggestions for summer reading with a spiritual dimension. Take time to enjoy a change of exterior scenery and a new perspective on your interior self.
Rev. Drew’s Suggestions
Surprised by Hope by Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright is a somewhat academic but most engaging book, providing solid scholarship to our belief in the Bodily Resurrection. As many of you know, Tom Wright writes a biblical series called For Everyman. His writing style is such that one does not need to be a pure theologian to read him. This book has been most helpful in explaining things like: our final judgement and resurrection, what is the nature of heaven, purgatory and God’s ultimate plan for all of us (and it isn’t sitting on a cloud in heaven!)
Living Water by Brother Yun was a surprise read that came my way. It is a powerful testimony by a man who left the persecuted Church of China in the late 1990s to preach in the west. He speaks with power and conviction as one who has spent time behind prison walls because of his Christian faith. Interestingly, he preaches to us in the west almost like a missionary, notwithstanding that it was the Western Church that brought the Gospel message to the east. It seems that the roles are now reversed. This is an easy read as the words flow just like the title – Living Water. I wonder what we could all learn from his writing. Apparently, he has also written a book called The Heavenly Man. I think this might be next on my reading list.
For those of you who have a more political bent and wrestle deeply with issues of social justice, I might recommend Faith Beyond Despair: Building Hope in the Holy Land. The author is Elias Chacour, Archbishop of Galilee. He raises important and complex issues around the entire Palestinian–Israeli question. This is not an easy read as he raises some real questions about what he would call, “the guilt of the west” and what it really means to be called “the Chosen People” of God. Frankly, I am still wrestling with what I have read in this short but significant work.
Last of all, I might recommend a very inspiring secular work called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. The story of success may be more surprising than you think. Why does a community in Pennsylvania have no heart disease? Were the Beatles really an overnight success? What has work ethic really got to do with success? This book was given to me by a parishioner, and I devoured it. It is well written – in a style that makes it almost like reading the newspaper. As everyone wants to be a success, here are interesting facts on the mystery as to why some people seem so blessed and others, with possibly equal talent, just don’t seem to be able to put it all together. The power of community has more to do with our blessings than many might acknowledge.
Rev. Anne’s Suggestions
Life can seem overwhelming, and we can find many books to help us simplify. In her book Finding Focus in a Whirlwind World, Jean Fleming explains that we should be focusing our lives, rather than simplifying. The author shows us how to focus on Christ and lead a Christ-centred life. Our world and our lives are complicated, and seeking simple answers does not help. Instead we need to ask questions like: How can I experience Jesus in my situation? How would Jesus want me to cope in a difficult time? What can I do that will honour Christ? The Lychgate group of St. John’s will host an evening in the fall to discuss this book. The book appears to be out of print, but copies are available from resellers on Amazon.
This past year, Anne’s Compass group studied Grace by Max Lucado. Most of us have a textbook understanding of what God’s grace is. In his book, Max uses stories, commentaries, and reflections to help us find a deeper, personal understanding. God’s grace isn’t just an abstract promise; it is something that can drench our lives. Max tells of how people have been shaped by grace, strengthened by grace, soothed by grace, and brought to their senses by grace. This book itself is a worthwhile summertime read; a study guide is included at the end for those who want to go deeper.
Richard Rohr’s book Breathing Under Water is a thoughtful exploration of addiction, of personal strength and personal surrender to God, and how the twelve-step program built on gospel teachings can break us free from addiction. These principles apply to all kinds of addictions, not just to alcohol and drugs, but to other dependencies that are less obvious but ultimately just as harmful.
People strive to achieve success, be it with money, friends, self-improvement, or happiness. This striving burns us out: our accomplishments seldom satisfy, and our failures leave us devastated. In A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, Wayne Muller offers help and hope: how to have compassion for yourself, how to find the deep truths of who you are, and how to learn self-acceptance in all that you do. Know that the glass is both half full and half empty, that there will always be cycles of joy and sorrow, and that you can find your place in this world.
In Journey of the Heart: The Path of Conscious Love, John Welwood looks at couples in love and how they can turn away from rote formulas and toward deliberate steps to build a deeper, more spiritual relationship. Drawing from both religion and psychology, he shows how we can use conflicts in our relationships to expand our sense of self and to connect more deeply with our significant other.
Novels recommended by Rev. Anne
I found Philippa Gregory’s series on The Cousins’ War engaging for history from a women’s view as well as for the role of faith in a seemingly Christian world. These historical novels tell stories from the two houses of Plantagenet that ruled England in the 1400s, and that feuded with each other in the War of the Roses.
What was it like to be a morally conscious young woman in a society built on the evil of slavery? The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd based on a remarkable true story of faith, women and slavery.
The Canada Reads choice, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, tells the story of a spirited Iroquois girl, a Huron elder who kidnaps her, and a charismatic Jesuit missionary during a time of great upheaval. Although violent, for me it was quite soul stirring.