From time to time, I get asked about recommending books for people who are searching. Instead of just a random order, though, I thought I would put my recommendations in order of experience and transformation—one book leads naturally into the next. At least for me on my journey.
First on the list is The Secret Message of Jesus, by Brian McLaren. This is one of those books that I go to again and again and again. It’s truly a remarkable book. It brings home the clear message of Jesus about what needs to be done today. This book will change the way you look at your faith. It gets into your system and starts gnawing at you. It will change your life.
Next up is Simply Christian, by the Bishop N. T. (Tom) Wright. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Bishop Tom. I've read his stuff for years now. Simply Christian was very instrumental in my journey and solidified looking and listening to the “echo of a voice” within all of life. If you are looking for some good foundations for the Christian faith and how you fit within that story, you can’t go wrong with this book by Bishop Tom. Read this book in combination with The Secret Message of Jesus above, and you will have a very well rounded view of Christianity as a way of living.
Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity is the next book in this journey. I reference this book more than I thought. In it, Borg sets up the idea of two ways of Christianity and emphasizes that the “emerging” way is where a lot of people are finding hope and strength. It’s also about a way of living and not just a set of doctrines to believe. If you are finding difficulty with the Christianity that you encounter on television or the Christianity from your youth is not really fitting your experience today, check out The Heart of Christianity. You might just find it ringing true from deep within.
Christ of the Celts, by John Philip Newell, is a life changing book. No doubt about that. It was the linchpin that tied together all of the things the Spirit was showing me. It challenged me at deep, deep levels. It’s a book for anyone looking for a more holistic approach to things like the natural world and the spiritual world. I will say, however, that it’s not for someone with a weak constitution. It will make you question a lot of what one has been taught about Christianity.
The next book on this list, and it probably should have been the first book, is possibly one of the most important and the most powerful. It’s Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. When it was released in 2011, it caught all kinds of flak. And most of it was from the Christian community. Various church leaders were condemning the book and more than a few were condemning Bell! I had stayed clear from it for a while. When I eventually read it the following year, I had already started seeing some of the things Bell wrote about. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Bell’s book. But on page after page, Bell wrote passionately, gently pushing, gently prodding, into questions and responses that open up a bigger view of G_d than most people have ever imagined. Bell challenges us to see G_d is this bigger way, not only through stories and prose but also from an avalanche of biblical passages, showing, quite convincingly, that, in the end, G_d’s Love does win.
These last two books are submitted with humility. They come from the neo-monastic community through whom I’m a professed member and ordained priest. The Lindisfarne Community is an independent, ecumenical religious community in the Anglo-Celtic tradition with apostolic succession. We’re relational, egalitarian, contemplative, sacramental, and inclusive with deep roots in historical Christianity, yet are open to insights from other traditions.
The first book, The Way of Living, is our community prayerbook. In it we have our daily and seasonal prayers, a liturgy for Eucharist, Night prayers (Compline), meditations (including creation and bead meditations), the daily lectionary, the Rules and Understandings of the community, as well as our amended book of Psalms.
The final book, Secular Monasticism: A Journey, was released in the summer of 2012. In it we capture the beginnings of the Lindisfarne Community. Through the first part of the book, our Abbess and Abbot, +Jane Hall Fitz-Gibbon and +Andy Fitz-Gibbon, tell their stories of how they came to this country, struggled with their own changing views and how they were influenced and shaped from a variety of sources. They explain how they felt the need to create a place for others who felt similar callings. In the second part of the book, various members of our community tell their stories and how they eventually found their way to Lindisfarne. My chapter is called, “The Long and Winding Road.”
Well, there you have it! I’ve updated this list from time to time, so be on the look out for a post letting you when it’s been updated again.