My Top Reads for 2015

The reason I haven't been very active on this blog in 2015 is because a great deal of my writing attention and online time throughout the year went to my participation in the CenterQuest School of Spiritual Direction. It was one of the richest experiences of my life–as I don't think I've had any previous year in which I was able to live so openly to God, to the people with me, to myself, and to this good world in which God has put all of us. 

Parts of my experiences through CenterQuest are sure to come out in the things I will write in the coming year, but for now, I wanted to highlight a few of the readings from the year that impacted me in profound ways, and which I think anyone who wants a fuller life with God–studying spiritual direction or not–could find really helpful.

Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation, by Martin Laird

This was the first book I read in our curriculum for the year–I was blown away by it, and continue to benefit from returning to it as I try to live into what it says. There are a lot of good resources available for what I characterize as praying without words (especially notable is Ruth Haley Barton's Invitation to Solitude and Silence), but this one is uniquely powerful in its ability to be both very practical while also exploring the depths of why this way of prayer can be such an effective means of God's grace into our lives.

Presence and Encounter: The Sacramental Possibilities of Everyday Life, by David G. Benner

If the essence of the Christian life is growing in our ability to love God and live others as we love ourselves, I've come to realize that a major obstacle to doing so for me is my lack of ability to even really be with God and with others–even perhaps really with myself. In these short readings and practices from David Benner, he has helped open up a new way of prayerful living for me.

The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit, by Gordon T. Smith 

For much of my life as a Christian, my devotion to God has largely taken place through my mind. Loving God with our minds is appropriate and necessary, but much of my growth in this year with CenterQuest has centered on learning to be more attentive to other parts of my experience as well–so that I can encounter God through them. As a theologian, Gordon Smith can certainly speak to my intellect, but this book helped me to engage whole other realms of my life to which I simply haven't known how to pay much attention (especially my "affections"), and how they are such important doorways to being able to identify God's voice.

Mere Spirituality: The Spiritual Life According to Henri Nouwen, by Wil Hernandez

This book wasn't part of the required reading for our program, but Wil is the founder of CenterQuest and has had a profound personal influence on me. This brief introduction to Nouwen's spirituality (which is very influential on CenterQuest's curriculum) is very helpful and accessible–both to those well-acquainted with Nouwen's writings as well as anyone encountering him for the first time.

(Plus, I was honored that Wil gave me the opportunity to contribute prayers written at the end of each chapter.)