Oh my poor bedside table. I think it might just collapse under the weight of the books and journals I’ve placed there. I used to be more adamant about my “one book at a time” rule, but I’ve thrown caution to the wind these days. When a book cries out to me from the library shelves or the thrift store pile (who can say no to 69 cents?!), I’m certainly not going to ignore its plea.
Autumn’s arrival has brought with it not only the red leaves and cool mornings, but the desire for learning. My faith feels hungry right now, a little bit like a fire that needs tending to. More kindling, a breath of air blown onto its hot coals, a log placed here and another there.
It’s been a time for thinking and reflection. Maybe there’s a way of seeing God and his presence in the world in a different way. Maybe there’s a way of seeing people and our connection to God in a bigger way.
When the feeling of uncertainty first strikes me, I feel shaky and uneasy. What I thought was solid under my feet all of a sudden gives way and I start to fall but have no idea where I’ll land. But then I take a stroll somewhere beautiful, I breathe in the birds, the ocean, the sunshine, and I remember Goodness. And I remember that when it comes to faith, there is always room for mystery and I must leave space for that.
We are seeking to know a Creator bigger than anything we can fully understand, and we will never reach a place of complete certainty and perfect, tidy answers. Sometimes learning is less about acquiring answers as it is the letting go of things we once felt so sure about. And if this new space invites more love and compassion into our lives, then I think it is worth the growing number of “I don’t know’s”.
Here are some books that have been feeding me lately, in no particular order:
It only took me two days to get through Harold S. Kushner’s book. He doesn’t fill the pages with answers, but encourages us to let go of the sometimes harmful beliefs we tell ourselves and those we love about God and suffering (e.g. “Everything happens for a reason”). I hope this book strengthens your trust in a good God who works through us to bring comfort and hope to those experiencing suffering (and isn’t that all of us in one way or another?)
Shaune Niequist’s beautiful book “Bread and Wine” is a re-read for me, and Fall is the perfect time to flip through these pages again full of life and faith and struggle and hope, and delicious recipes. I’m just waiting for the night when I can open up to her chapter on risotto, pour the wine, turn up the Jazz, and stir the night away.
I’ve been working my way a third time through Henri Nouwen’s “The Way of the Heart”. This book is a reread for me every year. His words encourage me to find time for quiet and solitude, where amidst the busyness of life and goals to chase and people to see, to let my soul be nourished just by being with God.
Okay, so I haven’t actually started reading this book by Barbara Brown Taylor but I am in line at the library for a copy. I became fascinated with her the moment I heard her on this podcast. I could’ve listened to her all day. She has had years of experience in the church as an Episcopal priest as well as a Theology professor and has so much wisdom to share.
I realize that this is a very controversial book in the Christian world, but reading through it has both challenged and enriched my faith. It’s one of those books that I’ll need to reread once I’ve reached the end because every page is so full of fresh insight. I might not agree with everything Richard Rohr says, but there are still so many ideas to ponder and put into action.
I cannot say for sure when my reliable ideas about God began to slip away, but the big chest I used to keep them in is smaller than a shoebox now. Most of the time, I feel so ashamed about this that I do not own up to it unless someone else mentions it first. Then we find a quiet place where we can talk about what it is like to feel more and more devoted to a relationship that we are less and less able to say anything about.Barbara Brown Taylor