11 May 2018

3 Books You Probably Should Have Read By Now

Everyone has formed their own paradigms about God based on how they were raised or personal experience.

While the Word of God needs no additional supplement, I keep coming back to several books in my own life that have helped shape they way I see myself before God and who God is. And then, what that means on my role in the world.

Most of all, they've helped me heal in my own false perceptions of who God is and know deeper my own dignity and worth before the Father.

Whether you read one or all of these, I hope they will do the same for you as they have for me. I hope they challenge and inspire you to wrestle with God like Jacob, ask lots of questions, and allow God to tell you how He see's you, the Beloved one.

Life of the Beloved
Henri Nouwen

Nouwen is one of the people I am most excited to meet someday in Heaven. I sort of stumbled onto his books in college, but didn't really start to appreciate him until the last three or four years.

While I love Return of the Prodigal Son and The Wounded Healer, I keep coming back to this book.  Nouwen writes this book for a friend who does not have faith. Many people walk around caring wounds, shame, and feeling less than, but Nouwen writes this book to remind his friend (and each reader!) that Beloved is our identity, the only possible way that God looks at each of us.

"From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are. Becoming the Beloved is the great spiritual journey we have to make. When our deepest truth is that we are the Beloved and when our greatest joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth, it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work."

It takes a lifetime to live and believe this truth. But this is a truth, a reality that so many women and men desperately need today.

Every time I come back to this book, there are fresh insights and realizations as if I am reading it for the first time.

The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way

This book a priest friend gave me after completing the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius during Lent one year.

The author is unknown. 

The book is the tale of an Orthodox Christian who is seeking what it means to pray, live a life of prayer, but specifically how to pray constantly. Coming from the Orthodox tradition, it keeps coming back to the simple power of the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on me a sinner). 

This pilgrim travels far and wide seeking out holy priests, spiritual teachers, and seekers whom will teach him in the ways of Christian prayer and meditation.

The pilgrim comes to realize one can prayer unceasingly at all times, particularly using the Jesus Prayer as a way to live prayer in all things.

I had heard of the Jesus Prayer before, but since then it has become one of my favorite ways to pray in the car.

On Becoming Human
Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier is new to me in a lot of ways, though I have heard of him before as the founder of L'Arche, an international network of communities for people with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. 

This is the type of book I think every human being should read.

Here, Vanier shares about his human vision for creating a common good in the culture that radically changes our communities, relationships, and ourselves. Vanier suggest to the reader that by opening ourselves up to outsiders, those we perceive as weak, different, or inferior, we can achieve true personal and even societal freedom.

He writes: "So to become human implies two realities. It means to be someone, to have cultivated our gifts, and also to be open to others, to look at them not with a feeling of superiority but with eyes of respect. It means to become men and women with the wisdom of love."

And later on in his introduction: "Peace will come through dialogue, through trust and respect for others who are different, through inner strength and a spirituality of love, patience, humility, and forgiveness.

What specifically is this book about? Vanier sums it up best when he says, "This book is about the liberation of the human heart from the tentacles of chaos and loneliness, and from those fears that provoke us to exclude and reject others. It is a liberation that opens us up and leads us to the discovery of our common humanity."

Like I said, just do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy.

What are books you think other people should have read by now? What would your top three be?

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