Five Books That (Re) Shaped My Spirituality

I don’t know if you’re looking for something to read (I know I always am), but I thought I’d share some reads that have been pretty foundational in my life.

These five books really were responsible for some “left turns” in my life. They marked pretty large “sea changes” in my spirituality and belief. If you’re looking for something to challenge (and maybe even change) you, maybe pick them up and give them a read. Let me know what you think.

  1. Signature of Jesus. This book really changed the whole game for me. I’ve written about this before, but I just can’t begin to describe how much this book impacted me when I first read it. It called me deeper, beyond merely nodding “yes” (or shaking my head “no”) on a Sunday to a life of pursuing the rabbi from Nazareth. (Note: I’m still stumbling along.)
  2. Adam’s Return. I actually just read this a couple years back, but this was one of my initial exposures to Richard Rohr. More significantly, however, this was a powerful description of mature, Biblical masculinity. Though I read a lot of the popular evangelical attempts at this (Wild at Heart being the most popular), there was something in them that didn’t ring true to me. I could understand the barbarian/warrior metaphors but I also felt like they had a tendency to be destructive in my life. Rohr takes masculinity to the place where it most needs to go: to the cross and into the baptismal waters with Christ, and shows how our masculinity needs to be transformed—particularly in the vein of ego surrender and death to self—so that we can grow (old?) gracefully.
  3. The Illumined Heart. This little book was my introduction to the Eastern Orthodoxy. It was also a pretty significant step forward in my quest for a practical spirituality, an approach to faith that can be lived out in every day life.
  4. Surprised by Hope. Though I’d read a couple NT Wright books before, this was really the first one that catalyzed my understanding of his theology and started to re-shape my own. To be brief, Wright refutes the “practical gnosticism” in the church today that states that our ultimate destination is some kind of disembodied heaven. Wright reminds us that the Biblical view is that of resurrection. Our bodies matter; this world matters. When you understand that the point is not for us to be burned up, or that God’s just not going to throw the earth onto a trash heap, you realize that what you do now—whether it’s justice or art, discipleship, or service—has implications into eternity.
  5. The Divine Conspiracy. This book is a bit deep, and not always the easiest read, but this book planted inside me the revolutionary truth that Jesus wants to live his life through me. Spirituality is not “out there”, and Christianity is not something that is only lived through “special people” or “holy lives.” Rather, my life, right now, is where God wishes to take up residence.

So there they are. If you’re looking to open yourself up to some new ideas and/or new approaches to God and spirituality, I challenge you to dig into one (or more) of these.

Let me know how that works out for you…

I am NOT a “Book Guy”

Contrary to popular perception, I’m not a book guy.

Honestly.

<glancing nervously>

No, really I’m not…

… I don’t have a problem.

Okay, let me defend myself. I’m not a book guy; I’m an idea guy.

I’d actually like to think that I’m a growth guy.

I’m hungry for growth—maybe desperately hungry—and to my mind there are two ways to grow.

The first way is organic and incremental. “Slow and steady wins the race.” You get up and do the same things repeatedly, in order to feed yourself and feel yourself (though actually you don’t always perceive it) steadily growing and changing.

(I am lousy at this.)

Don’t get me wrong: I try. I have disciplines in my life, and I do my best to establish healthy rhythms and practices of grace and growth. But it is a consistent struggle.

The second way to grow is punctuated, evolutionary. It can occur when something—an idea or thought—enters a system that forces that system to change.

  • a thought
  • a concept
  • a belief
  • an action

Sometimes, we can look for experiences to introduce variables: concerts, art galleries & installations, conferences, etc.

But sometimes funds and time prohibit these experiences. In this case, we can turn to shorter-term, less demanding “variables”, like movies (documentaries, please), television shows…

… and books.

Books are not the point. Growth is.

If I recommend—or give—a book to you, I don’t want you to read it. 

I want you to grow.

What about you? How do you introduce new “variables” into the system of your life? When is the last time you allowed yourself to experience something new in order to grow?