The other night, I pulled out a very well-worn book that I keep going back and back to. I have a few of these in my life. These are the books that stopped me in my tracks and opened my heart to the wonders of the world around me and also the world within me. They are the ones that I recommend over and over again to others who are struggling with life events, need some guidance in a particular area or possibly need a friend to remind them to keep their chin up and lean into hope.
I wonder if they might be just what you need in whatever season you are journeying through.
When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd About 12 years ago, I was going through a dark time in my life. I felt as if I was in a cocoon of sorts, not knowing when or how I would ever break free (become a butterfly) and enter into the full life I had waiting "just on the other side." A friend shared this book with me and as I read it, it felt like Sue Monk Kidd had become a companion to me, gently guiding me as I learned that I didn't need or want a hasty escape from my darkness, but that instead, I could yield to the discipline of "active waiting." "The soul is holy soil in which the divine life of God is planted for us to cultivate and experience." (Page 47)
Inspired, Rachel Held Evans I worked through this book slowly with a women’s group recently. It is brilliant. Evans, one of my new favorite authors, examines some familiar Bible stories, retelling them in new ways and drawing out ideas that resonated with me. As Amazon says, “Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world.” I couldn’t recommend this more.
“The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.” (Page 157) The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, Dallas Willard I don't even know where to begin with this book. It's rich. It's thought-provoking. It needs to be read slowly (it took me a year, reading just a few pages at a time). It is life-changing. After I read it, I found out that this gentle, gracious, author who oozed wisdom was coming to speak in New York City. My husband graciously got me (and the friend who recommended the book to me) tickets to see him and we sat in a room and just marveled and soaked up his goodness. I didn't want the night to end. When I heard of his passing a couple of years ago, I thought to myself, "What a gift he was to me and will continue to be for the rest of my life." I am so grateful to have taken the time to dive deep into the wise words of this brilliant author and am sure I will continue to do so. “We must understand that God does not "love" us without liking us - through gritted teeth - as "Christian" love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core - which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word "love".” (not sure which page) The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman
I am reading through this a second time. Slowly. And journaling. It’s that good. Emily’s wisdom and ability to communicate through story about how to make decisions (which we all do about 35,000 times a day) couldn’t be more effective. She is gentle and kind, strong and helpful. I’ve recommended this book to every single person I’ve come in contact with. Short, yet very packed-full-of-goodness chapters. Reading brings me to “far away” places including my very own heart! I am changed by what I read. I hope you are too. She also has a podcast by the same name that I listen to every single week.
“O God, I am open. The decisions I’m facing have become too much. Ease my fatigue with your presence and my hesitation with your peace. Here is an issue that has me tied up in knots. Will you begin to untangle me? What do you want me to know today? O God, I am open.” (Prayer at the End of Chapter One)
After living for many years running a hundred miles an hour, being everyone's savior, saying "yes" to everything that came along and then plummeting into the mental, emotional and physical consequences of such a life, I went to therapy with a loving, kind, warm Christian counselor. This was the book that she had at the very tippy-top of her list for me. Not only did I devour it in almost one sitting, I spent a whole year working through it slowly, one chapter at a time and then did it again several summers later. These experts walked me through determining what healthy boundaries are and how to change my patterns of thinking and then take action bit by bit in order to live a life that embraced loving and giving, but also my own limitations (because I'm a mere mortal). Whenever I find myself falling into bad patterns, I plunge right back into the book, soaking up the truths that are rife throughout it. "It takes wisdom to know what we should be doing and what we shouldn't. We can't do everything." (Page 27)
Since I am a teacher and I am ALSO a learner, I would love for you to send me note or comment below on what books have changed your life. I'm always on the lookout.