6 Books That I Highly Recommend!

by Mark Votava

images (23)

1. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar.  Faith Shift is a wonderful guide to help those who are shifting, unraveling and rebuilding in the twenty-first century. This book has deep wisdom as Kathy Escobar takes us through the negative emotions of pain, anger, loneliness, shame and loss that one might feel as they become disillusioned with the whole church system.  She encourages us to leave unhealthy systems that do not foster authentic relational connection and community.

“It is incredibly tricky to live together in community under one big tent called love.  But we are learning how to respect that everyone might not see what we see, but it doesn’t make us right and them wrong – or vice versa.  The art of loving each other well is letting people be where they are and not trying to convince them to be where I am.”

2. How to be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community by Kelly Bean.  This book explores alternatives for those who are disillusioned with traditional forms of Christianity and are wanting to be the church in community.  Kelly Bean presents us with different expressions of faith that don’t fit in the box of what is typically called “church.”  How to be a Christian Without Going to Church is one of the best books I have read in a long time!

“…we were not made to go it alone, and the body of Christ cannot be the body of Christ if we give up on each other.  But what happens when the structures, institutions, and forms that exist now – even innovative new forms – are no longer working for a growing number of people?  New questions become important…”

3. The Unkingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance by Mark Van Steenwyk.  Repenting of our ways of Christianity in the imperial West is a prominent theme that comes across clear in The Unkingdom of God.  This book will awaken us to a subversive spirit in our troubling times.  Mark Van Steenwyk calls us to look at the plastic Jesus we have created and the gospel according to the empire.

“If we are to challenge imperialism, we must not only try to disarm the deadly idea that the supremacy of Christ legitimizes the supremacy of Christians.  We must also, I believe, disarm the idea of the supremacy of Christ.  And we must learn from those movements and traditions within Christianity that have rejected different forms of domination.”   

4. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz.  After working with some of the most marginalized people throughout the world, Phileena took a sabbatical and walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.  She relates her pilgrimage to 7 movements of the soul: awakening, longing, darkness, death, transformation, intimacy and union. Phileena Heuertz’s book shows us how to develop a contemplative spirituality in an active life in the world.  One of my favorite books of all time!

“Contemplation is the development of one’s relationship with Christ to the point of communing beyond words, thoughts, feelings and the multiplication of particular acts; it is a process moving from the simplified activity of waiting on God to the ever-increasing predominance of the gifts of the Spirit in one’s life.  In the broadest sense, I understand contemplation to mean creating sacred space to be still, to rest in God, to attend to the inner life, to simply be with God in solitude, silence and stillness.”

5. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton.  In this book Merton emphasizes how God’s revelations are all around us.  As we awaken to these seeds of revelation in everyday life, we learn to be receptive to God.  We develop a contemplative spirituality in all of life.  A must read for everyone!

“My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life.  And such a self cannot help be an illusion.”

6. Imagination in Place by Wendell Berry.  These collection of essays are filled with a concern for what is local in our culture.  Wendell Berry’s book reflects on prominent writers who have influenced him over the years: Wallace Stegner, Earnst Gaines, Donald Hall and Gary Snyder.  This book is a great one!

“The problem is that there can be no general or official or sectional or national imagination.  The chief instrument of economic and political power now is a commodified speech, wholly compatible with the old cliches, that can distinguish neither general from particular nor false from true.  Local life is now a wen’s egg brooded by an eagle or a buzzard…  Every place must anticipate the approach of the bulldozer.  No place is free of the threat implied in such phrases such as ‘economic growth,’ ‘job creation,’ ‘natural resources,’ ‘human capital,’ ‘bringing in industry,’ even ‘bringing in culture’ – as if every place is adequately identified as ‘the environment’ and its people as readily replaceable parts of a machine.  Devotion to any particular place now carries always the implication of heartbreak.” 

What book looks most interesting to you?