If you have been in ministry for any length of time, you have probably learned some self-defense techniques to keep from being hurt and abused over and over again. But researcher-storyteller Brene Brown exposes the dangers of that mode of operating, and the power of vulnerability. It's worth your time. You're worth the time. I promise:
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Kasey Warren Hitt, M.Div., CSD, is a spiritual director living in Nashville, Tennessee. She offers individual and group direction, leads silent retreats, and teaches seminars on topics such as prayer, discernment, and Sabbath. To find out more, visit her website. Here are her "best" books of 2013:
What does my soul need? This was the guiding question in my choice of books, plunging me into art, poetry, dreams, even juggling (which became one of my spiritual practices this year!). Here are some of those memorable books in the order I read them:
Leap by Terry Tempest Williams
The House of Belonging by David Whyte
Unopened Letters from God: Using Biblical Dreams to Unlock Nightly Dreams by Rev. Robert L. Hayden, Jr.
The Soul's Religion: Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life by Thomas Moore
The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament and New Testament by Richard Rohr
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Although I've loved the above books, time after time I've returned to and drank deeply from these four:
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Poetry from mystics and saints such as Rumi, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rabia, St. Teresa of Avila, Hafiz, Meister Eckhart and others have offered me a well-spring of deep, playful wisdom. I have found myself laughing and crying within seconds of each other, speechless in holy awe of the living water found in their ordinary words.
Water, Wind, Earth & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements
Christine Valters Paintner
Observing and prayerfully interacting with the elements and rhythms of Creation has opened up a deeper wisdom which was well-known by ancient Christians. While most of us are now blind to the spiritual significance of things like wind or rain, this book invites us to go beyond weather. I am spending a lot of time meditating on water and wind, especially the gift of breathing deeply, which has become for me a prayer of trust.
Wonder, Fear and Longing: A Book of Prayers
Going deeper into one's own soul can be an intimidating experience which is why it is so easy to stay on the surface, going from book to book gathering good information about God, riding the wave of feelings or circumstances, and avoiding silence. Yaconelli is a wise and gentle guide offering simple practices and words (his own and the historical faith community's), that give courage to explore the dark, deep places of our own hearts and discover the love of God.
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
Nan C. Merrill
If the Psalms were written without a patriarchal or superstition-based lens or needing to focus sin and blame on external enemies, what kind of words would be given to the same age-old desires and emotions? This fresh reading of the Psalms continues to invite me into a deeper transparency and intimacy with God and an ever-growing kindness toward myself and others.
If you couldn't tell, my soul has been thirsty for depth! These books have offered me ways of doing just that—beckoning me to set them and all other books down, to look around and within, to spend time with and experience the created world, myself and God right where I am in the ordinary routine and stuff of life. Another way to say it is, these books have and continue to draw me deeper into prayer.
Scott E. Strissel is a pastor and Salvation Army officer currently serving in Brainerd, Minnesota. He blogs at Pastor's Ponderings. Here is his "ten best" books of 2013:
10. The Poor Will Be Glad
Peter Greer & Phil Smith
9. What We Talk About When We Talk About God
8. Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
7. Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II
This is a good daily devotional reader which shares personal stories from soldiers who endured and survived World War II. This devotional both inspires as well as challenges our faith and also provides evidence of God’s hand of protection and guidance to men and women of faith.
6. River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon
This is a historical look into the European Explorer Gonzalo Pizarro and his Lieutenant Franciso Orellana who made their way through the Amazon. I love historic non-fiction books and when you throw in the investigative style with the awe of mystery, you’ve got a good read on your hands.
5) The Way of Holiness
I received this book last year as a gift and I was blessed to pour through its pages! It speaks to the heart of our need for Christ-likeness in our lives, the process, and spiritual disciplines all the while personalizing it for the reader without making it read like a textbook. It is definitely worthwhile to read!
4. Odd Apocalypse
I will admit some of favorite novels are by authors who not only provide suspense and action but those who write about victory with an underlined spiritual theme. Dean Koontz is one of my all-time favorite fiction writers because of his knack for writing in a way that engages the reader with humor and severely likable characters.
3. Falling in Love with God
Every time I read the book of Hosea in the Bible, I am challenged by its words. Bob Hostetler presents the love of God for His people and their wandering ways in a very simplistic yet thought provoking manner. Falling in Love with God was a page turner which also challenged my faith.
2. Lincoln’s Battle with God
Lincoln has always been a figure in American history I have always admired. To read Mansfield’s biography on Abraham Lincoln’s light and his spiritual battles was a challenge for me but also very enlightening with much that I did not know about this famous president.
1. The Pursuit of God
A. W. Tozer
I must admit that this isn’t the first time I have read Tozer’s Pursuit of God, nor will it be my last. It has become a guiltless pleasure to re-read and seems to always find its way back onto my reading pile. Each time I read this book I am captured by God’s desire for us to know Him more deeply and this challenge to be like Christ in both word and deed. It is, without a doubt, my “go-to” book on the topic of spiritual disciplines.