Christian Practice and Spiritual Growth

two Classics: A 19th century Russian spiritual classic on prayer, THE WAY OF A PILGRIM  which  recounts the adventures of an anonymous Russian pilgrim who roams the vast Siberian steppes reciting the Jesus Prayer in order to obey Christ's injunction to Pray without ceasing. And PRAYING THE PSALMS by Thomas Merton who guides  the reader through the more representative psalms, while explaining why the Church also considers the psalms as the best way to praise God.

SURPRISED BY JOY: THE SHAPE OF MY EARLY LIFE, the classic by C. S. Lewis.  He identifies a quality which he calls "Joy," which occurs in what he describes as "a stab of joy." An honest and insightful observer of humanity, C.S. Lewis recounts his search for joy, a spiritual journey that led him from a traditional Christian childhood in Belfast to a youthful atheism and, finally, back to a confident Christianity.

JESUS FREAK - Feeding Healing Raising the Dead.. When a reporter asked author Sara Miles what it meant to her to be a “Jesus Freak” this was her response: “For me, it's about actually doing the work that Jesus gives his disciples: feeding, healing, touching the ritually unclean, forgiving, raising the dead. And entering into this work, following Jesus, allows us to believe what seems, on the face of it, ridiculous: that God has faith in us. That God trusts us -- people no better or smarter or more faithful than the cowardly housewives and fishermen he chose as his disciples -- to bear God in our bodies and do God's work in the world.” Sara Miles on what it means to be a Jesus freak

HANDBOOK FOR THE SPIRIT. A group of thinkers, including  and teachers celebrate their personal experiences of the divine. Each author shares what it is like to have a personal relationship with a higher spirit, how this relationship developed, and how it manifests in his or her life.

 EAGER TO LOVE The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr. The author is irked by what has jokingly been called "birdbath Franciscanism." Instead of the saint so often depicted in garden statues, he paints a picture of Francis as a religious genius who blended the new with the old and came up with "a sidewalk spirituality, for the streets of the world, a path highly possible and attractive for all would-be seekers." Rohr also has great respect for Francis's solidarity with those suffering in the world and his empathy for all people stuck on the edge and the bottom of society.

BECOMING WISE: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett.   In a thoughtful chronicle of spiritual discovery, broadcaster Tippett  draws on conversations with poets, scientists, theologians, and other seekers of truth. The author focuses on five concepts—words, flesh, love, faith, and hope—that she identifies as “raw materials” for the “superstar virtues” of “love, compassion [and] forgiveness.” Those virtues are undermined, she writes, by public discourse that “inclines toward despair,” fueled by journalism exposing only “what is inadequate, corrupt, catastrophic, and failing.” “Our world,” she counters, “is abundant with quiet, hidden lives of beauty and courage and goodness.” Tippett advocates “generous listening,” which she describes as “a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity” in order to generate salient questions that may elicit “honesty and eloquence.  Krista Tippett talks about her book Becoming Wise

PRAYING FOR STRANGERS: An Adventure of the Human Spirit by River Jordan.  In this memoir, Jordan recounts stories of a year in which, when both of her sons were deployed to war zones, she decided to pray for a complete stranger every day. The results were extraordinary, as time after time she was led to pray for the stranger who needed it most: a nurse whose husband just had surgery, a teenager with visible bruises on her neck and arms, a young soldier coming home to a newborn daughter. You may find hope and grace in this account of the blessings of a prayerful life.

PRAYERS TO SOPHIA by Joyce Rupp features fifty prayers drawn from Joyce Rupp's personal journal and shares with the reader her relationship with Sophia/Wisdom. Also featured are quotations from the Wisdom literature, questions for personal reflections, and suggestions for journaling combined to gently nudge seekers toward their own journey of discovery.

EAGER TO LOVE The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi by Richard Rohr. The author is irked by what has jokingly been called "birdbath Franciscanism." Instead of the saint so often depicted in garden statues, he paints a picture of Francis as a religious genius who blended the new with the old and came up with "a sidewalk spirituality, for the streets of the world, a path highly possible and attractive for all would-be seekers." Rohr also has great respect for Francis's solidarity with those suffering in the world and his empathy for all people stuck on the edge and the bottom of society.

KISSING THE LEPER: Seeing Jesus in the Least of These by Brad Jersak speaks about “eyes that see”.  Jesus once counseled us to "buy medicine for your eyes from me so that you can see, really see" (Rev. 3:18 MSG). This book asks encourages us to get our eyes repaired from religious and cultural prejudice so that we can see Jesus in others, especially those that our world discards as "the least."  Kissing the Leper is a collection of stories and essays by a variety of people who have practiced seeing Jesus in “the least of these.” The title comes from the story of Francis of Assisi, and a life-changing encounter he had with a leper.

PROCLAIM JUBILEE: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Maria Harris.  The biblical jubilee that was celebrated once every fifty years is referred to in Leviticus 25 as the "Sabbath of Sabbaths". Its requirements included that the land lie fallow, all debts be forgiven, captives be freed, and a celebration held. Maria Harris considers the implications of a living Jubilee for today and for the next century. She offers a compelling argument that a living Jubilee is a comprehensive spirituality that would have a positive political, economic, and moral impact on individuals, families, religious congregations, institutions, and nations.

CHRISTIAN PRACTICAL WISDOM, WHAT IT IS, WHY IT MATTERS has been described as” like going to the symphony.”  Christian Practical Wisdom" invites its readers to ponder deeply and live with greater intentionality. This substantive and beautifully composed book deserves to be read slowly, allowing the author’s insights to take root and germinate. This creative and compelling case for Christian practical wisdom practices what it preaches. The authors  show and tell how a more holistic kind of knowing beyond academic expertise is essential to an authentic and living theology.  

GENESIS, A LIVING CONVERSATION with Bill Moyers.  People need stories to make sense of the world--to hold their lives together, and to fasten on to those values that last. Acclaimed television journalist Bill Moyers brings together some of the world'ds liveliest minds for spirited round-table discussions of the ageless stories from the Bible's first, towering book. "Genesis" invites readers into an accessible discussion of the manifold meanings of these stories, and engages us in a fascinating exploration of the relationship between interpreter and text.

THE HEALING OASIS: GUIDED MEDITATIONS FOR MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT by Sharon Moon. Meditation is a common ground for healing and empowerment, struggle and joy, spiritual openness and seeking. Sharon Moon facilitates this journey with a series of guided meditations designed to connect us with the depths of our own experience in partnership with a loving, healing God. Complete guided meditations are accompanied by helpful preparation and leadership suggestions for any circumstance, from congregational use to personal reflection.   

WINTER GRACE Spirituality & Aging by Kathleen Fischer. This book reveals that aging is a process rich with joy and blessing, not something to dread. Moving readers into the heart of the Christian paradox of death and resurrection, the author shows how the losses that accompany aging can lead to freedom and new life.  “The later years take us into the heart of the central Christian paradox of death/resurrection. It is in living the pattern of that mystery that people discover the graces of life’s winter season and share them with all of us.” – Kathleen Fischer, author 

AFTER THE ECSTASY, THE LAUNDRY How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield.  Kornfield, has interviewed Western meditation masters, lamas, rabbis, abbots, nuns, yogis, teachers, and their most senior students and come up with a series of soul-expanding activities and exercises to do in the everyday world of work, family, and community relationships.  As Kornfield notes,  "No matter how isolated or embattled our lives, we need one another as family, we need each other's hearts and songs to help one another find the way."

MEMORIES OF GOD Theological Reflections on a Life by Roberta C. Bondi. In her introduction to this book, Bondi explains how she "finally accepted that the theological work of telling one another our stories, of talking about the ways in which our concrete and particular experiences intersected with the great Christian doctrines, was not private work, or work done only on behalf of us as individuals. It was a common work, real theology done in order to find a way to claim for our own time and our own generation what it means to be a Christian."  Certainly, there was no room in theology to raise any of the kinds of questions Bondi had, especially those connected with her experience as a  woman."

 Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer by Richard Rohr. Rohr explores the challenges, rewards, and possibilities of integrating the contemplative life with an active and engaged life. Rohr invites us to move outward in compassion, healing, and justice from a prayerful stance.Rich in poetry, scripture, and including the words of contemporary and ancient mystics, this new and updated version of A Lever and a Place to Stand shows us a vision of a life lived fully and authentically, one with divine Love.

A classic from Parker J Palmer, LET YOUR LIFE SPEAK:  Listening for the Voice of Vocation. In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this volume, Palmer suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially North American attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal." The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author's Quaker philosophy.

RICH IN YEARS: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life by Johann Arnold.    This faith-based book tackles tough issues such combating loneliness, living with dementia, reconciling with family, and making end-of-life decisions. Pete Seeger said of this book  "On these pages are wonderful words of hope. Savor them."

REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD: What can we Expect to Find by Philip Yancey who writes this book out of a thirst for God and a desire to point people to a faith that gives more than pat answers. He has clearly entered his own faith through the portal of doubt. But his doubts have moved him further, to probe into the deeper questions that most believers must come to terms with: How do we understand and live our faith during the times when God seems absent, indifferent, or even hostile? What does this relationship "do" and how does that come about? How does this relationship grow and transform us?  

FALLING INTO THE ARMS OF GOD Meditations with Teresa of Avila by Megan Don.St. Teresa of Avila was a Carmelite nun best known for her reform of that order and for her mystical relationship with God. Megan Don has taken Teresa's words and reflected upon them in this book. “We have long needed someone to bring Teresa of Avila out of the rarefied air and into the world that we all inhabit. That is where Teresa herself lived, where the Gospel lives, and where Megan Don is leading us!" ~ Fr. Richard Rohr

 THE COMMON HEART: AN EXPERIENCE OF INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE ed. Netanel Miles-Yepez.  For twenty years, a group of spiritual seekers from many religious traditions met in various places around the U.S. to engage in interreligious dialogue. When these encounters came to an end, it was agreed that reflections on what had happened emotionally, spiritually, philosophically, and theologically during the dialogues should be written down. The result is The Common Heart. Here is an exploration of the wealth of the world's spiritual traditions combined with conversations from the heart.  

THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION, described by authors Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham as “a spirituality of not having all the answers, stories convey the mystery and the miracle — the adventure — of being alive.” Though much of the focus falls on the Alcoholics Anonymous program, the book is really about cultivating our capacity for uncertainty, for mystery, for having the right questions rather than the right answers.