Thursday, June 09, 2011

Summer Reading: Some Books by Deep People

Munson Park, across from my house.
When I teach my Spiritual Formation classes to seminary students I tell them that I'm not interested in hearting from a preacher if they do not have a deep prayer life. Imagine this scenario. Pastor X stands before his congregation on Sunday morning and states "Like many of you, I can't find time to pray. But I've got something to tell you this morning." That is exactly the kind of preacher who has nothing to tell me. I don't need or want to hear more words from some out-of-touch "great preacher."

This is why I read the words of people like Thomas Merton. Do I agree with everything Merton says? Of course not. I don't even agree with everything I say. But Merton runs very, very deep. Merton spent much time actually praying (as opposed to writing about prayer, or telling people they need to pray).

Get a deep prayer life. It will cost you something. What we need, and always have needed, are not people who have more information, but deep people. People who slow-cook in God's presence. People who have and make time for God and cultivate the God-relationship. People who don't just occasionally tweet or text God, but people who dwell in God's Grand Narrative. Immersed people. Spirit-baptized people. Aflame people. People who see things sub specie aeternitatis. Meditative people. Contemplative people - people who behold God. Unitive, abiding, dwelling people. People who talk within God and listen to God. People who pray, and understand prayer as: talking with God about what he and I are doing together.

Here are some books by spiritually deep people who spend much time with God and hear from God. They are to be read slowly. These are some of the God-mediated voices I attend to.

Seeds, by Thomas Merton. This is the book to read to get into Merton. It's an edited selection of thematic readings. I've read it more than once.

A Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. I read this book in 1983. God used this book to transform my spiritual life.

A Testament of Devotion, by Thomas Kelly. I underlined so much in this book that a friend once looked at it and asked, "Why didn't you just spray-paint every page?"

Abba's Child, by Brennan Manning. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth, by J. Keith Miller. Deep, blbical thoughts on repentance, healing, and renewal.

In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen. The best single book of Christian leadership.

The Inner Voice of Love, by Henri Nouwen. Entries from Nouwen's spiritual journal as he was bringing his struggle with low self-worth to God. This was a book I had to read very slowly sicne it seemed every sentence was speaking to me.

The Contemplative Pastor, by Eugene Peterson. I have read this book two or three times. It always reminds me of my priorities in pastoral ministry.

Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, by Lewis Smedes. For me, a beautiful book on overcoming self-condemnation by a deeper understanding and experience of the grace of God.

Jesus and the Disinherited, by Howard Thurman. If you’re going to read one book by Thurman this is the one to read. He is brilliant, insightful, and extremely relevant for even today. There s a timelessness about Thurman’s writings. On what it means to have a heart that loves one's enemies.