Books and Conversation Partners on the Journey

I want to share some of the dialogue partners who traveled with me during the six-month sabbatical journey.

Soul of Shame - This book, by Dr. Curt Thompson, served as a new interpretive lens to discern how thoroughly shame has been wound around so much of my thinking about myself, others, God, my vocation, my decision-making. I probably need to go through the book once again slowly with a trusted mentor, friend and/or spiritual director. Shame is clearly one of the most unwelcome participants in my story as I look backward, and I believe Jesus is wanting to bring new wineskins for how I relate to him, myself and others.

The Gift of Being Yourself - The title sounds self-helpy and pseudo-Christian, but this book is rich and is the type of message I certainly did not hear for the first three decades of my life. David Benner has penned a very accessible guide to help disciples receive - not discover - their identity and true self in Christ. Two helpful practical take-aways were to take regular time to imaginatively meditate on Jesus stories from the gospels. Secondly, to utilize the Enneagram as a tool to help avoid and heal from the pitfalls of our particular type.


The Enneagram and Spiritual Formation - This Enneagram field guide for Christian spiritual formation is an indispensable tool for disciples of Jesus who wish to utilize the Enneagram wisdom for their spiritual journey. I’ve read a few books and attended a couple workshops on the Enneagram, and I really liked AJ Sherrill’s writing style and personality that came through in this book; he has a shepherd/s heart to help shape the reader into the likeness of Christ. He shed light on some things I hadn’t encountered before, helping me to see with greater clarity the ways that I get tripped up by the pitfalls and motivations of my own personality (which is a strategy we each develop for relating to and coping with a broken world). The Enneagram is not biblical, or Christian, or a silver bullet, but is a worthy dialogue partner for any disciple of Jesus who wants to intentionally pursue transformation in partnership with the grace of God.


Chasing Francis - This was my second time through Ian Cron’s fictional memoir of an evangelical pastor who takes a leave of absence and embarks on a pilgrimage to discover the hidden treasure in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Chase Falson, the protagonist, has a crisis of faith as a nondenominational church planter and mega-church pastor in the northeast; he recovers a richer, deeper faith by looking into the way Francis followed Jesus in his own day. The parallels between 21st century America and the medieval age Francis found himself in provide a parable for the American evangelical church.

Jesus, My Father and the CIA - Cron does a masterful job telling the story of his life in a captivating, whimsical, and sincere manner that will leave you laughing and crying.


The Other Half of Church, Joyful Journey, Renovated, and Four Habits of a Joy-Filled Marriage - Simply stated, the material of Dr. Jim Wilder (a psychiatrist and neurotheologian who provides an important building block on the foundation of Dallas Willard's teaching on discipleship and life in the kingdom) is life-changing for today's church - Western Christians, especially, who have been formed in very left-brained patterns of discipleship, relationship and community, rather than the whole-brained, joy-fueled, relational patterns God designed us for (he dispels the myths associated with traditional left and right-brained stereotypes). Life Model Works (founded by Dr. Wilder) hosted an online small group this winter which I joined where we engaged in individual and community based practices toward a more joyful attachment to God, others, and more whole-brained discipleship. The ministry is very church-oriented - they are seeking to help churches form multi-generational communities who live out the implications of this material. 


Reading for the Sake of Others - I joined a reading group in which we are reading a selection of books authored by women and BIPOC authors only. Not all the books are by Christian authors, but all are speaking to history and contemporary issues from their perspective as minority voices. The group was started by and for people who've sensed that their theological and literary formation has been almost solely shaped by white male voices. The first book, I Bring the Voices of My People, written by a Black, female, Christian theologian and social scientist was very engaging and illuminating toward a more holistic and compassionate understanding of the complexity of racial reconciliation in the Church in America. Other books we are reading include: Shalom and the Community of Creation, Joy Unspeakable, Beloved (Toni Morrison), My Grandmother's Hands, and several other titles.

Vincent and Theo - The life of Vincent Van Gogh (and his brother, Theo!) contains such tragedy, beauty, agony, sincerity, and passion. I enjoyed this fast-paced look at the life of these two brothers, their family of origin, and the friendship and art that bound the two.

Glorious Dark - I appreciate how A. J. Swobada thinks and writes. This book is framed around the three final days of Jesus' passion week: Good Friday, Dark Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday. Where many Christians tend to be either Friday Christians or Sunday Christians, there are some of us who wrestle with doubt, darkness, and silence. Swobada invites the reader to consider how God is present and active even in the "glorious dark."

Books I am currently savoring include Eugene Peterson's Practice Resurrection (his words get into my soul like few other writers!), Esau McCaulley's Reading While Black, Alan Kreider's Patient Ferment of the Early Church, and the juvenile fiction series, Wings of Fire.


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