The highlight of our week around VantagePoint3 was Wednesday’s online conversation, Spiritual Formation: What Matters Most? Dr. Keith Anderson joined Pam Edwards and me as we explored, along with 90+ other friends, the topic of the Spirit’s forming work in our lives and our communities.
In preparation for this time I asked Keith for five recommendations of books relevant to our formation conversation. He sent me the list, I put it on the handout for the participants, and then I realized that I wanted a little something more.
Keith is a reader and a writer. He loves words and stories and context. I love to hear him talk about the books that are currently capturing his attention or the writers whose words are giving him hope. Over the last 20 years, his books and his book recommendations have provided fruitful paths for my reading and thinking, my wrestling and making sense of life. Names like Wendell Berry, Barbara Brown Taylor, Anne Lamott, Walter Brueggemann, and many more are conversation partners on my journey because of Keith.
So when our conversation finished up on Wednesday and we didn’t have the space to talk about his recommendations, I knew I wanted to “hear” a bit more from Keith about “the why” of these particular books.
Here are the recommended books on the topic of Spiritual Formation: What Matters Most? along with a little bit of Keith’s commentary. Take up and read…
Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning (1994)
“What happens when life falls through the cracks?” Brennan’s life was sometimes like that but he taught me that “God calls us to stop hiding and come openly to him. God is the father who ran to the prodigal…” He taught me that God loves me just as I am, not as I wish to be someday.
To Be Told by Dan Allender (2005)
My colleague and brother, Dan Allender understands story better than most. “Let’s engage the Author of our story so we can enter into the joy he holds before us if we live out our story for the sake of others. If we come to know our story and then give it away, we will discover the deepest meaning in our lives. We will discover the Author who is embedded in our story and we will know the glory he has designed for each one of us to reveal.”
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan Chittister (2009)
Benedict lived in the 6th century. His community looked to him for guidance so he wrote “The Rule of Benedict” for his lay community. Nothing I know transfers to spirituality today as simply and compellingly as this. “…if we are not spiritual where we are and as we are, we are not spiritual at all. We are simply consumers of the latest in spiritual gadgetry that numbs our confusions but never fills our spirits or frees our hearts.” “All in all, the Rule of Benedict is designed for ordinary people who live ordinary lives…it is wisdom distilled from the ordinary.”
When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd (1990)
I first read this book by Sue Monk Kidd in the early ’90s. I bought copies for my entire staff because I found a woman’s voice speaking “spirituality” to me in ways I didn’t often hear from my own or the voices of other males. Hers is a story of pain and deep life challenges without the easy answers of too many. “I was standing on the shifting ground of midlife, having come upon that time in life when one is summoned to an inner transformation, to a crossing over from one identity to another. When change-winds swirl through our lives, especially at midlife, they often call us to undertake a new passage of the spiritual journey: that of confronting the lost and counterfeit places within us and releasing our deeper, innermost self—our true self. They call us to come home to ourselves, to become who we really are.”
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (2000)
“Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons.“ Enough said, almost. Jayber Crow was a barber in a small town, orphaned twice as a child but embraced by a community of finite, flawed, and failed beautiful people. If the following words don’t call to your soul, then wait and read this book when you’re ready.
“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out – perhaps a little at a time.’
And how long is that going to take?’
I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.’
That could be a long time.’
I will tell you a further mystery,’ he said. ‘It may take longer.”
“Hold a book in your hand and you’re a pilgrim at the gates of a new city.”
Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
Spiritual Mentoring: A Guide Seeking and Giving Direction, coauthor Randy Reese (1999)