8 Must Read Books

by Mark Votava

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1. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz.

I love this book!  One of my favorites of all time.  Phileena takes us on a journey to become contemplative activists as she draws from her experience of serving the world’s poor and walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

“The spiritual journey is an invitation to know God and to be known by God, which necessitates that one finds and knows oneself.  Intimacy is something that either saturates our life or leaves us craving more.  Awakening to deeper intimacy with God fuels the growth of intimacy with others, vice-versa.  When we pursue intimacy and our awareness is heightened to our limitations in intimacy, we are en route toward growth and transformation.”

2. Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission by Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl.

Friendship has seemed to be a lost way of life and is extremely countercultural in our time.  This book brings together a sense of justice, hospitality and friendship within the context of service.  Mutuality, solidarity and compassion toward those who are on the margins of society is the central theme.

“This is challenging terrain.  But we can ask ourselves as we seek to change our orientation: Could I invite my friends who are poor into my home and lifestyle and have a good time with them?  Would I be ashamed of my comforts or expenditures?  Is the embarrassment I feel an expression of my conflicted commitments and divided loyalties?”

3. Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine D. Pohl.

Making Room is all about recovering hospitality in our culture.  Hospitality is one of the most subversive practices in regards to spirituality and is very uncommon today.  Christina D. Pohl focuses on how this needs to become a recovered practice in our way of life together.

“Although we often think of hospitality as a tame and pleasant practice, Christian hospitality has always had a subversive, countercultural dimension…  Especially when the larger society disregards or dishonors certain persons, small acts of respect and welcome are potent far beyond themselves.  They point to a different system of value and an alternate model of relationships.”

4. Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World by Christopher L. Heuertz.

Simple Spirituality is a book that helps us to understand if we do not know the poor, oppressed and marginalized there are aspects of God we will never know.  Christopher says that we learn to see God through: humility, community, simplicity, submission and brokenness.  This is an excellent book that will open your eyes to God in a world of pain, suffering and poverty.

“It’s humility that opens our eyes to the discovery of God…”

5. Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us by Christine D. Pohl.

Living into Community presents us with practices that will help us to sustain our connection to one another: gratitude, making and keeping promises, living truthfully and hospitality.  This is a very practical book with much wisdom.  These practices are simple and accessible to all of us to create a better way of life in the world.

“Dissatisfaction as a way of life is encouraged by a consumeristic culture that feeds notions of entitlement…”

6. Unexpected Gifts: Discovering the Way of Community by Christopher L. Heuertz.

Christopher L. Heuertz’s book focuses on the practice of community in everyday life together with others.  He takes us through several stages of community: failure, doubt, insulation, isolation, transition, the unknown self, betrayal, incompatibility, ingratitude, grief and restlessness.  Ultimately, this book is about practicing something that has unexpected gifts within it – life together with others.

“Community is an incubator in which faith and doubt can coexist.  In tension and in safety, community is a place where we are free to ask tough questions.  And when we don’t have good answers or the doubts start to take us to dark places, community is there to remind us of God’s faithfulness.”

7. Strangers at my Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Guests by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Strangers at my Door is all about hospitality to the stranger.  This book shares the stories of how Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and his family and friends have practiced hospitality for over a decade at the Rutba House in Durham, North Carolina.  It is all about learning to see Jesus in the poor, oppressed and marginalized as they are welcomed and embraced with love.

“…there is a risk in welcoming people…”

8. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne.

Shane Claiborne’s book is such a good one!  He takes us on a path of advocating for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  Embodying a life of interdependence, community, hospitality and social justice are all a big part of this wonderful book.

“I read a study comparing the health of a society with its economics, one of the things it revealed is that wealthy countries like ours have the highest rates of depression, suicide, and loneliness.  We are the richest and most miserable people in the world.  I feel sorry that so many of us have settled for a lonely world of independence and riches when we could all experience the fullness of life in community and interdependence…”

Which books look like ones you might want to read this year?