Weekend Daybook: so many reading recommendations to celebrate the first weekend in autumn!

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week


My thoughtful and generous parents drove to Connecticut (from central NY state) just to have lunch with us and take a walk in the September sunshine. They also delivered some bedroom furniture that my grandparents no longer need that will eventually go into Kendra’s home after she GETS MARRIED next spring! We managed to fit in a first-look in real life of the stunning engagement ring, a visit with the engaged couple, lunch around the table, and a walk at Seaside Park. Family is a good gift and I’m so, so grateful to God for my parents.

(2) posts in the second-annual Work Stories series

  1. More Work Stories: bringing back a favorite for Ordinary Time - This year again, I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey of living out their callings one day at a time. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

  2. Matt Evans' Work Stories: One Job, Many Titles (including "the worst") - Here’s a teaser from a day in Matt’s life as a “husband, a father, a small business owner, equine veterinarian, amateur painter and uber-amateur stand-up comedian”. It’s a pretty great kick-off to this year’s series!

    “…here we are, smack in the middle of Ordinary time again like we mostly are, and Tamara asked me to write a bit about what I fill my Ordinary time with, my Vocation if you will (you will.) Vocation seems to be a popular buzz word among the liturgical thinking community just now. Our church has hired a Director of Vocation recently and while I’m not any more sure of what he does than the Canon, I haven’t seen him at my office helping me extract a horse tooth as of yet, so I’m guessing Vocation is a term that, like Ordinary, is used to encompass that part of the Christian life that is, well, most of it.”

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Matt Evans' Work Stories:

One Job, Many Titles (including "the worst")

(3) links to reorient our concerns about the border

  1. “If we aren’t showing up for immigrant families before the raids happen, we’re already too late.” Jessica Courtney shares her experience I’m an Immigrant in Another Country. I’ve Been Arrested and Separated From my Children. Here’s What I Want You to Know via Preemptive Love.

  2. When a small town loses 100 people in just a few hours, kids come home to find their parents missing. In Sudden Departure, This American Life producer Lilly Sullivan talks to people trying to make sense of where they went and if they’ll come back.

  3. One of the voices I continue to appreciate most on the subject of immigrants and refugees in the United States is Sarah Quezada. Over the past month, she’s invited her weekly newsletter readers to join her in prayer for Stephen Miller, immigration policy advisor to the president. Because Miller’s strong anti-immigrant sentiment is woven throughout each of the policies he writes, Sarah Quezada encouraged her readers to pray for the Lord to soften Miller’s heart. Read more about The Adviser Who Scripts Trump’s Immigration Policy, join us in prayer, and subscribe to Sarah Quezada’s weekly newsletter.


Sarah Quezada’s newsletter

The Road Map is a “weekly digest navigating faith, justice and culture”

(4) bits & bobs related to work

  1. Plough’s autumn quarterly just released and - fun surprise! - it’s on the subject of Vocation. You can browse the articles online here (or better, yet, subscribe to the print version): Plough Quarterly No. 22: Vocation.

  2. Hear! Hear! It’s Time To Destigmatize Service Industry Jobs via The Urban Phoenix - “With a changing economy and a “new normal” when it comes to making ends meet, we must begin to accept that service jobs are opportunities for growth and stability, not evidence of an unsuccessful life."

  3. Something I’m pretty sure many of my teacher friends and family would endorse, a new monthly column, In Praise of the High School English Teacher via LitHub. “In order to survive as a high school English teacher, you have to be an idealist and a realist in equal parts.”

  4. A sweet and poignant gift from my friends at Think Christian, A Theology of The Office. “In six funny and relatable essays, an array of TC writers break down your favorite episodes, characters, and moments from The Office to unveil the way God’s story can be seen even in Dunder Mifflin's Scranton branch.” (Don’t miss the companion-themed Work Playlist on Spotify!)


A Theology of The Office

Free Ebook from Think Christian!

(5) links to celebrate the beginning of Autumn!

  1. For my local friends - 15 Places To Get Apple Cider Donuts In CT

  2. For my regional friends (and everyone else who wants to visit NYC at this exquisite time of year!) - Where to see fall foliage in NYC: 10 of the best spots for leaf-peeping in the five boroughs

  3. From our Canadian neighbors: The science behind the smell of fall

  4. For my reading friends: Weathering the Books by Rebecca D. Martin via The Rabbit Room

  5. For all of us: 3 Autumn Poems by Jane Tyson Clement via Plough


3 Autumn Poems by Jane Tyson Clement

image: Swamp In the Forest, detail, by Fyodor Vasilyev

(6) personal favorite book recommendations for atmospheric autumn reading

  1. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

    My first rapturous words for this book and author are written in this post all the way back in 2007. While the Pulitzer-prize winning title chronicles the author’s entire year exploring on foot the Virginia region surrounding Tinker Creek, my imagination has always been captured by the autumn Monarch butterfly migration. This work is nothing if not an atmospheric depiction of the life (and death) cycles of nature.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  2. September: A Novel by Rosamunde Pilcher

    “September...when the heather is in full flower, the first chill of autumn cools the air, and the countryside stirs with the hunt, balls, dinner parties, and dance.” A simple, cozy read which requires a mug of tea and a fluffy quilt.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  3. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis From A Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll

    The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi is October 4! Hug your pets and buy Abigail Carroll’s warm, lighthearted and substantive book. Interwoven through the letters, we get a glimpse into the life of the infamous saint, the author's life, and our own lives as well. This book is an autumn fixture on my nightstand since my first read back in 2018.

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  4. Still Life: An Inspector Gamache Novel (Book 1)

    Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal just after they celebrated a Canadian Thanksgiving (always the second Monday in October). As they go traipsing through the woods to discover clues around the dead body, they kick up loads of autumnal chill and intrigue. If you’re knee-deep into the bestselling series, this first story is worth a re-read!

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  5. Harry Potter: The Illustrated Collection by J.K. Rowling and Illustrated by Jim Kay

    Since the entire series revolves around the rhythms of a Hogwarts’ school year, autumn is the perfect time to re-read or dive in for the first time! I’m planning to borrow the gorgeous illustrated full-color editions from my children who’ve been pestering me to finally, and for Christ’s sake, finish reading this series!

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

  6. The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

    If your typical fall reading includes a couple spooky tales, Flannery O’Connor’s got you covered. Our church’s reading group read the entire collection of short stories together last autumn and it reminded me just how chilling and grotesque O’Connor draws her characters. If nothing else, read her masterpiece A Good Man Is Hard To Find

    Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers


(7) posts from the archives

  1. Related to the Work Stories series and highly recommended! 5 of my favorite authors on discovering & honoring our calling (2018)

  2. What would you say? If you could talk to the world right now (2016)

  3. Still one of my favorite stories from our newlywed days. The time we got mac & cheese as a wedding gift [a mini story] (2013)

  4. Always a needed reminder for me! Becoming forgiven [imperfect prose] (2011)

  5. Last week I was trying to describe to a friend my favorite childhood place. Here are the best words I’ve been able to write so far. On the Subject of A Place: an essay, imperfect prose: a Place for rest, pondering words and pictures on a Wednesday morning (2010)

  6. I’ve never forgotten this epiphany. As through a glass: trying to imagine myself a young widow (2009)

  7. The years I was learning what it meant to make friends as an adult - the good, bad, and the ugly. Good medicine & Bad medicine (2007)


12 years ago

An ordinary weekend overflowing with the good medicine of friendship and beauty.

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: the what-we-did-this-summer edition

A curated list of what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

I’m happy to be back sharing some of my favorite things. It was a hard and good summer, and we’re celebrating the kindness of God and our community in walking through some hard things. Thank you, too, friends, for your encouragement. I’m grateful

(1) photo from this week

Walking with a friend around the pond at  Grace Farms  in New Canaan, CT.

Walking with a friend around the pond at Grace Farms in New Canaan, CT.

I adore the end-of-summer’s overgrown wildflowers and vegetation. It feels like the entire earth (at least in the Northeastern United States) gave up mowing the lawn in favor of snoozing in a patch of sun. Last week a friend and I drove to one of my favorite spots in Connecticut for a writing day. We managed a little bit of writing, a lot of life-giving conversation, and a sweet ramble across the meadow and around the pond at the always-gorgeous Grace Farms. Along the way we met a robust cricket, comical praying mantis, and debated picking apples off the bulging trees that didn’t belong to us.

This is the way to spend a day in September, friends. I hope you’ll get a similar opportunity this weekend wherever you call home . Here’s some of my favorite good things for your browsing enjoyment.

(2) non-nonsense literary women, I kind of adore but who also intimidate me

  1. The Woman Beside Wendell Berry: The Most Important Fiction Editor Almost No One Has Heard Of via Yes! Magazine | On women’s work, small-town living, and editing Wendell. “I brought in a review, somebody praising my work, and I said, ‘Look at that.’ Tanya said, ‘It’s not going to change a thing around here.’”

  2. Flannery Film from filmmakers Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco and Produced with the support of the Mary Flannery O'Connor trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Emory University, and the Georgia College & State University. | We zigzagged through the Deep South on our route from Austin back to Connecticut this summer. Imagine my delight when we realized Milledgeville wasn’t too far off the beaten path!

(3) photos from our tour of
Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, GA

I seem to be especially drawn toward authors I’d be afraid to actually visit in real life. Brian and I were the first ones to arrive and managed a private tour of the home Flannery lived with her mother from 1951 until her early death in 1964 at age 39. When Flannery died from complications of Lupus, her devoted mother left the house untouched. Georgia College (formerly Georgia College for Women), O’Connor’s alma mater, has meticulously recreated the property. I found her bedroom especially meaningful as all of the furniture collected near the doorway to accommodate Flannery’s increasing immobility. Her bed, dresser, desk,, typewriter, and aluminum crutches cluster around a large Bible and simple crucifix. Other than the peacocks, ducks, and chickens wandering the grounds and the visitors who kept company with Flannery and her mother on the screened-in front porch, this bedroom contained O’Connor’s universe. Such a small, tightly-gathered space for the imagined characters that still haunt Flannery O’Connor’s readers today.


(4) helpful resources to ground your days in a meaningful way

September and January. These are the months I feel like I get a second chance to order my days. Here’s some of the resources that are helping me frame my life with intentionality this fall.

  1. Common Rule Fall Reset via The Common Rule | I’ve been reading this book slowly and am grateful for this two-week Scripture-reading plan to help me dig in more fully. The tagline “habits of purpose for an age of distraction”? Yes, please.

  2. My Daily Bookends via Art of Simple | Tsh Oxenreider’s been sharing her morning and evening routines for years and I’m always glad for her reminder. If nothing else, we can all join her in the first thing she does each morning after turning off her (non-phone) alarm.

  3. Start With This Simple Rhythm via The Next Right Thing podcast | Emily Freeman shares a basic structure for her morning that looks and feels the most like my own.

  4. Crafting A Rule of Life | Steve Macchia’s book is the guide given to me as part of my spiritual direction certification process. I’ve been revising my own Rule of Life for the past two years and hope to share it with you in the near future. For now, enjoy browsing through the posts to see different examples from differing people hoping to live by a “well-ordered way”.

(5) excellent articles on the Gospel implications of our daily work

Read this first: More Work Stories: bringing back a favorite for Ordinary Time

Last fall, during the waning weeks of Ordinary Time, I invited a dozen or so friends and acquaintances to share a day in their work-life as a contribution to a weekly written series called “Work Stories.” In all my years inviting stories on diverse subjects ranging from lament to favorite hobbies, I’ve never had an easier time finding willing participants.

As I began to have more volunteers than weeks left in the series, I recognized the benediction I’d inadvertently conferred on each guest. The invitation to present a snapshot of their weekday work life in a space committed to liturgy and sacrament helped the contributors rightly frame their livelihoods as participation in the kingdom. The guest contributors seemed energized by the opportunity to share a bit of their everyday occupational lives, and in turn, told me they’d received a renewed sense of gratitude for the community with which they spend the majority of their lives—their colleagues.

This year again, I’m delighted to share some stories from a few friends who are on the same journey of living out their callings one day at a time. I’ve asked them to give us a one-day snapshot into their work life that will help us see what they know to be true right now about who they are made to be. Some live out their callings in a way that they get paid to do the thing they’re most uniquely suited to be in this world, others work jobs that pay the bills so they are able to pursue those callings. Most are a combination of the two.

Here’s more encouragement to view your work life through the lens of the Gospel:

  1. Our Work, God’s Work by Bill Haley via In the Coracle | “Our work in the world was designed to be and continues to be how God does God’s work in the world.”

  2. Finding Christ in Our Work by Dallas Willard via Renovare | “If one will simply learn from Jesus how to do our work we will find the promise, “I am with you always,” to be the sure basis of abundance of life, whatever the “job.”

  3. A World Without Work? by Steven McMullen via Comment Magazine | “Our true challenge is not to avoid work but to figure out how to do the most good possible as we participate in commercial life.”

  4. Thinking And Writing About Your Work by Nancy Nordenson via The Livelihood Project | You’ve probably heard me reference Nancy Nordenson’s beautiful book, Finding Livelihood (which was recently republished by Metaxu Press). In this post, Nancy offers a free journal download to accompany the book or use it on its own. The guided journal that you can download, print out, and write in offers 18 excellent writing prompts to help you think well about your work life.

  5. Christianity and Labor – Essential Books for a Deeper Understanding via Englewood Review of Books | On Labor Day weekend, ERB shared a list of some very helpful books for Christians that reflect on the virtues of labor and its role in flourishing human societies. Some of the books explore the relationship of Christianity to organized labor, others explore crucial facets of vocation and work. (And here’s a counterbalancing list of books on Sabbath, rest, and recreation.)

(6) photos from our visit to The National Memorial For Peace and Justice

Speaking of books we’ve read with our church friends, Brian and I we detoured into Montgomery, AL to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum (created by Bryan Stevenson’s @eji_org) on our drive from Austin back to Connecticut.

I don’t have words yet for the entire experience yet, except for this: Go.

The emphasis the museum makes on the progression from the slave ship to the auction block to the plantation to the back of the bus to the prison cell underscores everything Bryan Stevenson has spoken and written in an unforgettable, multi-sensory experience. The lynching memorial itself - each metal block representing one COUNTY in the US where lynchings occurred (as recently as 1950) - left us speechless.

May God’s Spirit open our eyes, hearts, minds, hands, and mouths for Peace and Justice.

7 years ago2.jpg

7 years ago

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

Part 2 of What I Read January - June: Spiritual Direction and Prayer category [from the book pile 2019]

As we enter the last few weeks of summer, I’m sharing the rest of the books I read the first half of 2019. (You can see Part 1 here.)

Part 2 of my reading list includes all of the titles I read for my Spiritual Direction certification as well as a few other titles on spirituality and prayer that I added on my own.

Hope you enjoy the micro reviews + publisher blurbs! Let me know if you add anything from this list to your book pile!

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You can see my 2018 reading list here. | You can see all my reading lists since 2006 here.

One other note: A couple years ago I began using Amazon affiliate links as a way to bring in some pocket change from the books I share on the blog. I was challenged by an independent bookseller to reconsider this strategy as Amazon has a horrible reputation in its dealings with authors and other members of the book industry. I want to champion local business and humane working relationships and so I've included an IndieBound link that will direct you to purchase any of the following books from an independent bookseller near you. I've also included the order link for one of my new favorite booksellers, Hearts and Minds Books.  Using the link I've provided you can order any book through heartsandmindsbooks.com, a full service, independent bookstore and receive prompt and personal service. They even offer the option to receive the order with an invoice and a return envelope so you can send them a check! Brian and I've been delighted with the generous attention we've received from owners Byron and Beth Borger. We feel like we've made new friends! (I also highly recommend subscribing to Byron's passionately instructive and prolific Booknotes posts.)

Spirituality / Prayer / Spiritual Direction

17. The Practice of Spiritual Direction by William A. Barry, William J. Connolly

(HarperOne, 240pp. June 2, 2009)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“The classic work on helping people become closer to God. Fathers Barry and Connolly see the work of spiritual direction as helping people to develop their relationship with God. In thinking and practice they have absorbed the insights of modern psychotherapy, but have not been absorbed by them. This highly practical book reflects the authors' experience at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where spiritual direction is available and where directors are trained.”

Micro Review: In Barry & Connolly’s Practice of Spiritual Direction I was struck with encouragement that spiritual directors should possess a kind of love the authors called a “surplus of warmth” in order to foster relationships with the various personalities and life circumstances. I appreciated the additional insight to that surplus of warmth as the three attitudes: commitment, effort to understand, and spontaneity. The attitude of spontaneity as defined by the authors felt especially encouraging to me as I’ve wondered about what it means to be myself in relation to those I direct:

“Spontaneity means that spiritual directors are themselves, not controlled and inhibited by their role as spiritual directors, but able to express their own feelings, thoughts, and hopes when expressing them will be helpful to directees. Without spontaneity, ‘commitment and effort to understand will appear cold, impersonal, and stereotyped’.”

Another favorite quotation that describes so well the qualities of a spiritual director that I’d hope to describe me:

“The kinds of men and women most likely to engender trust in others are those described in the same study as developed persons. They are not perfect, but they are relatively mature. They show signs of having engaged in life and with people. They are optimistic, but not naive, good-humored, but not glad-handers. They have suffered, but not been overcome by suffering. They have loved and been loved and know the struggle of trying to be a friend to another. They have friends for whom they care deeply. They have experienced failure and sinfulness - their own and others' - but seem at ease with themselves in a way that indicates an experience of being saved and freed by a power greater than the power of failure and sin. They are relatively unafraid of life with all its light and darkness, all its mystery.”

Barry and Connolly offered some helpful insight into the realm of entering into prayer with those who may experience God, prayer, church, and spirituality in ways that differ from my own experience. They recommend that spiritual directors possess a knowledge of diverse Christian religious experiences in a posture of empathy and awareness of non-Christian religious experiences in order to “transcend...personal absolutes” and remain open to a “sense of wonder” toward the capability of God to communicate with people through a variety of experience.

In this way, I’m becoming less fearful of the more abstract terms I’ve read in my study of spiritual direction. For example, the following explanation of God as Mystery felt helpful to me:

“The Mystery we call God is just that - mystery; not mystery in the sense of an unknown, but eventually knowable, stranger, but mystery in the sense that God is too rich, too deep, and too loving to be knowable and is, therefore, God. Spiritual directors can be only helping companions to those who travel the way of such a God.”

Another paragraph I found especially helpful as I consider offering spiritual direction as a wife of a parish priest was Barry and Connolly’s description of “working alliances” and “conflicting loyalties” in chapter 9.

“Spiritual direction, therefore, explicitly acknowledges what is often only implicit in other forms of pastoral care: that the directees' desire for more life, more integration, more union with God is grounded in the indwelling Spirit and that God is an active Other in the relationship. The working alliance is thus grounded in mystery and explicitly acknowledges that the way, too, is mystery.”

18. Holy Invitations: Exploring Spiritual Direction by Jeannette A. Bakke

(Baker Books, 288pp. October 1, 2000)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Directors and directees helped write this evangelical guide to the ancient spiritual direction process..”

Micro Review: Using the reflection questions at the close of each chapter helped me thoughtfully apply the themes of faith stages to my own spiritual journey. In the various timelines I sketched out from my individual experience, I was able to bring some painful patterns into the light. Some are fairly current experiences with loss and disillusion, some from childhood, but the most significant as I enter spiritual direction seem to be surrounding some difficult pastoral relationships from about ten years ago. Reflecting on the lifeline of friendships I drew in response to chapter 1 in Holy Invitations, one plain observation is that relationship - specifically those formed in family and church - mark out the ebb and flow of my journey. The stalls, sputters, and carefree cruising through my faith journey are most impacted, for good or ill, by my relationships at every point throughout my life.

The other theme in my reflections is the question of trust. In chapter 4 of Holy Invitations, I answer the question, “Do you see yourself as a predominantly trusting or untrusting person?”. My answer: “There’s definitely a paradox here!”  In the overview of my lifetime, trust swings like an overwound pendulum. In one season, the trust pendulum swung full-force one direction toward a wholehearted trust and belief in the best of people. In another season, the trust pendulum swung in the opposite direction toward a cautious, slow discernment before investing trust into others. When the pendulum gets stuck on the trust-at-all-costs side, I’ve lived out of an idealistic, romanticized, and boundaryless view of others. On the other extreme, I’ve operated out of a fearful, critical, hyper-vigilant suspicion of people and their motives. Neither extreme is actually a place of wholeness and openness. In the healing light of openness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, both extremes are actually acts of relational sloth and self-protection, fueled by a kind of relational “cruise control”. 

I drew this paradox into my journal as an actual line with the extremes labelled at each end, and then marked over the middle the words “Freedom to trust people appropriately”. This sort of balance of the trust pendulum is weighted by the belief that the Holy Spirit instructs and nurtures my ability to give and receive trust. He is the source of true wholeness, and will lead and protect through, and, sometimes, in spite of, my relationships with others.

In some ways this observation is the pivotal point for my entry into spiritual direction training. While my non-denominational church upbringing included many blessed opportunities to give and receive formal and informal spiritual counsel, my understanding of the classic definition of spiritual direction came through the back door of my conversion within the last ten years to the Anglican communion. This is no small order of events, as the call to Anglican worship was, in part, my response to a truncated appreciation for the historic and universal Church which permeated everything from corporate worship to individual spiritual counsel and discipleship from pastors in the non-denominational congregations I’d worshipped in for the first forty years of my life.

 While the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide and heal us is not limited by our theological depth, the way we practice listening to the Spirit within our church communities impacts our Christian journey profoundly. In my experience in a church environment that preached the Gospel with clarity, but practiced it as a separate identity from the worldwide communion of saints, I found myself deeply wounded by an overemphasis on the authority and counsel of individual leaders. Even the pastors with gifts of discernment and an appreciation for the active presence of the Holy Spirit were limited in their ability to bless because there was a lack of accountability to a community of believers throughout the world and across time. I see this deeper dive into a classical understanding of spiritual direction as an important companion to my learning of the liturgy and theology of the ancient church. In the course of learning, I hope to grow deeper in a trusting communion with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May it be so.

19. Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther

(Cowley Publications, 160pp. January 25, 1992)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Guenther uses the images of the spiritual director as host, teacher, and midwife to describe the ministry of spiritual direction today. She pays particular attention to spiritual direction for women, and addresses such down-to-earth questions as setting, time, and privacy. The stories of real people bring the practice of spiritual direction alive. "In the pages that follow, I will attempt to describe the shape that spiritual direction might take for people of our time, aware that the subject is an elusive one. I am speaking to the beginner, those persons lay or ordained, with or without formal theological training, who find themselves drawn to this ministry. Perhaps they feel the stirring of their own unacknowledged gifts. Or perhaps they wonder about receiving direction, whether it is a ministry available to 'ordinary people' or reserved for the especially holy. I hope some dark corners will be illuminated and some questions answered.”

Micro Review: I’ve read and re-read many of the insights she shares in chapter 4, “Women and Spiritual Direction”, including the following:

 “Maternal conversation is an appropriate mode for spiritual direction. The director is willing to listen and to be present to the directee where he is. By the very nature of the relationship, the director has been given tacit permission to ask questions. (This is in contrast to  polite conversation, which forbids asking anything that really matters.) But they must be the right questions, asked in a spirit of attentive love.”

“In the meantime, [women]  must still work to be taken seriously - especially lay women, whose gifts in spiritual direction are often unrecognized or undervalued. It is easier for directors who are ordained or are members of a religious order: a clerical collar or a religious habit makes a statement of authority. While academic courses or an impressive certificate cannot form a director when the innate gift is not there, seminary study, programs of certification, or a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education can set a woman director free to acknowledge and claim her authority. This is not to minimize the importance of formal study or supervised work, but the chief value of training is to legitimize this ministry in a time obsessed with credentials.”

Guenther’s insight into the potential overlaps between spiritual direction and motherhood provoked another whoop of “Amen!” later in the same chapter:

”While I haven’t yet reached this state of detachment, I have spent too long with the day-to-day realities of mothering to be sentimental about it. If I am now perceived as a motherly person, I would prefer to be seen as desert amma rather than a Hallmark mommy. Most important, for good or ill, I know that my own experience in mother colors the way in which I  do spiritual direction. And lest it sound as if I am excluding a large segment of the population, Meister Eckhart reminds us that we can all be mothers. While the experience of bearing nurturing a child is unique, maternal ways of being are available to all of us, men and women.”

20. Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color by Sherry Bryant-Johnson, Therese Taylor-Stinson, Rosalie Norman McNaney

(Morehouse Publishing, 158pp. March 10, 2013)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

• A solid new addition to the Morehouse collection for spiritual directors

• First book addressing the concerns and issues of people of color in spiritual direction

• Wide ecumenical appeal

“These essays speak of how we have incorporated our contemplative practices into our family life; our urban, non-religious background; how we have been nurtured in struggles for health and life through our contemplative prayer practices and our courage to survive and even thrive in the midst of dire circumstances. We speak of the unfolding bridge between faith and culture; our conflicts with an Interspiritual journey with a Christian foundation; our sexuality; our journey to healing and authenticity; and how we are taking this practice that began in the
first centuries of the church with the desert mothers and fathers to the present and into the future with spiritual direction through the Internet across the world.” ―from the Introduction”

Micro Review: Editors Sherry Bryant-Johnson, Roslie Norman-McNaney, and Therese Taylor-Stinson and provided a literal fleshing out of the exhortation that spiritual formation is for the sake of others. In the context of the themes of the Releasing Rhythm, highlighted the historical experience of the African American church as an entire community shaped by a wilderness experience of marginalization, poverty, and loss.

Within the context of relational dynamics and tensions within spiritual direction relationships, I continue to appreciate readings from Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color. Sherry Bryant-Johnson, in chapter 3, gave me greater insight into the loneliness of shared experience that persons of color find in texts for spiritual direction training. I’m grateful to Selah for introducing us to a few teachers who can provide a first-person witness to an experience other than my own as a white woman. I noticed with admiration Bryant-Johnson’s generosity to receive the wisdom of those who do not share her story, and feel called to do the same in searching out and listening to the wisdom of spiritual teachers from backgrounds different than my own. 

 I was drawn deeply to the short video of Sherry's conversation with Francoise Mbazoa, a spiritual director Sister from Cameroon. Their conversation gave me a greater sense of the rhythms of an African contemplative, and am grateful for the increased awareness of the ways in which cultural context affects how direction is explained and offered and experienced. I will carry this learning with me especially as I head into a second summer providing spiritual direction within an explicitly multi-cultural context. 

21. Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings by Janet K. Ruffing

(Paulist Press, 183pp. June 1, 2000)

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“Explores issues that arise in the advanced stages of spiritual direction from both a practical and theoretical perspective..”

Micro Review: Ruffing provides great insight into the ongoing work spiritual direction offers as we seek to help others draw closer to God. I found her insights on the subconscious phenomenon known as resistance that almost everyone naturally experiences at one time or another in response to God’s relentless pursuit of intimacy with His children.

For example:

“...Most of us are engaged in endlessly inventive evasion not only of the implications of spiritual experience, but often, and more confusingly, of the experiences of God that we claim to desire. God gently lures us into intimacy and unexpectedly explodes us into mystery. Such encounters with mystery are simply too much for most of us until our capacity expands and our tolerance increases over the course of our spiritual development. Most of us lose our nerve somewhere between the lure and the explosion. As T. S. Eliot wrote in the Four Quartets, “...human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.” Paul Tillich put it slightly differently and sympathetically: “If you’ve never run away from your God, I wonder who your God is.” Evasion is directly related to both the closeness of God’s approach to us and to our instinctive withdrawal from God’s presence. Experiences of God as mystery evoke awe, even fear, in the face of the numinous and uncontrollable otherness of God.”

22. The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith (Second Edition) by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich

(Sheffield Publishing Company; 2nd edition, 268 pp. December 31, 2004)

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“Guenther uses the images of the spiritual director as host, teacher, and midwife to describe the ministry of spiritual direction today. She pays particular attention to spiritual direction for women, and addresses such down-to-earth questions as setting, time, and privacy. The stories of real people bring the practice of spiritual direction alive. "In the pages that follow, I will attempt to describe the shape that spiritual direction might take for people of our time, aware that the subject is an elusive one. I am speaking to the beginner, those persons lay or ordained, with or without formal theological training, who find themselves drawn to this ministry. Perhaps they feel the stirring of their own unacknowledged gifts. Or perhaps they wonder about receiving direction, whether it is a ministry available to 'ordinary people' or reserved for the especially holy. I hope some dark corners will be illuminated and some questions answered.”

Micro Review: I found the sum total of the parts of each book I read for my certification a helpful clarification to some ambiguous feelings I’d harbored about the use of the word “journey” when describing one’s faith. In a recent conversation with my sister, I mentioned this dissonance and she said, “You’d better get use to that word because it’s going to come up all the time in spiritual direction training!” 

With special attention to The Critical Journey by Janet O. Hagberg and The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, what became clearer for me are the concrete mile markers that flesh out the more abstract notion of a journey. It’s the abstract that felt a bit dangerous to me, too open for individual interpretation and, therefore, a false understanding of Christian faith and discipleship. With more clarity (heightened by the overlap of agreement among the various readings) on the universal stages of a faith journey, I can now understand the term better as an individual timeline within a communal pathway (most simply described by Christ in John 14:6). I have a better appreciation for the Holy Spirit’s leadership to initiate and fuel the stages along the journey which creates a Christian counter to the nebulous journey of self-actualization described in the dominant culture.

“The Wall, a dark and sacred place, reeks of God. In the Wall we are vulnerable enough to listen to what God says - whether it is in the guise of other people’s voices, God’s voice, or serendipitous experiences. Once we believe that God is in the midst of the darkness with us, it can be a transforming place. We don’t necessarily get cured or erase our pain or become saints, but we learn how to embrace our pain, how to stay with it and learn what it is trying to teach us, how to look fear in the ace and keep moving into it. The Wall invites us each to heal.”

“The Wall invites us to integrate our spiritual selves with the rest of us. And that involves facing our own and others’ demons. We must face that which we fear the most, and that is why it is fo unsavory, and why so many people only enter the Wall under duress. At the Wall we are usually asked to embrace our illnesses and addictions and to relinquish that which we’ve clung to our which we worship. We encounter oceans of unresolved grief covered by anger, bitterness, martyrdom, hurt, or fear. The Wall is a place where we confront the desire to deny or disguise the inner self and begin to mentor the true self - the self God intended for us - and to recognize the meaning of our shadow.”

23. Care of Mind/Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction by Gerald G. May

(HarperOne, 256pp. May 8, 1992)

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“Although secular psychology addressed a great deal about how we come to be the way we are and how we might live more efficiently, it can offer nothing in terms of why we exist or how we should use our lives," writes Gerald May in this classic discussion of the nature of contemporary spiritual guidance and its relationship to counseling and psychiatry. For millions turning for answers to the world of the spirit, May shows how psychiatry and spiritual direction are alike, how they complement one another, and how they ultimately diverge.”

Micro Review: In the realm of learning discernment as I encounter various spiritual experiences among those I direct, I was grateful to Gerald May’s description of “unitive experiences” in chapter 3, and later about “excessive preoccupation with psyche and evil”.

And also:

“Excessive preoccupation with psyche and evil - either from supportive or antagonistic standpoints - fosters a degree of self-consciousness and self-importance that is very likely to eclipse the ever-present mystery of God's truth. Discernments are essential, but it is not at all necessary or helpful to become attached to making them. If possible, it is best to see psychological phenomena such as dreams, fantasies, images, and thoughts as manifestations of God's potential in the same way that nature, art, relationships, and all other phenomena are. Gazing into an empty, blue sky, kneeling in prayer in a cathedral, and recalling memories associated with a dream can all be worthwhile spiritual explorations. They can also all be distractions from spiritual exploration. The beauty of the sky or the cathedral can create an absorption with sensate experience, just as dream analysis can create ego-absorption.”

My personal experience growing up around a variety of church denominations with various understandings of the role of the Holy Spirit through a variety of natural and supernatural pathways has left me a bit skeptical of the experiences that fall on the more supernatural end of the spectrum. At the same time, I’ve experienced some of those hard-to-articulate connections with God and I long for a better understanding of what it means to discern those kinds of encounters. I found Dr. May’s encouragement to “test the fruits” enlivening and confidence-boosting: 

“The importance of experiences lies not so much in their precise nature as in one's response to them. In part this represents a harkening back to an old principle of discernment...of evaluating an experience in relation to its fruits. More deeply, however, we are speaking of remaining attentive to the mystery and reality of God behind all phenomena, refusing to allow superficial appearances to distract us from this central concern. We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we allow our interest in the nature of a phenomenon to obscure the mysterious wonder of the very existence of that phenomenon.”

And also:

“In spiritual direction, however, there has to be an ongoing awareness that anything can happen; that the Holy Spirit is already affecting the person; and that one must participate in this work through careful discernment and support. here again, it is necessary to walk the fierce path of free will and dependence. We must always claim the freedom we have been given; to do otherwise would devalue our humanity. But at the same time, we will increasingly recognize the extreme inadequacy of personal will and knowledge in figuring out what life is or how we should live it. As we grow in wisdom, we also grow in the realization of our utter dependence upon the Lord in all things. it seems to me, then, that in its purest human form spiritual direction is a journey towards more freely and deeply choosing to surrender to God.”

24. Armchair Mystic: Easing Into Contemplative Prayer by Mark E. Thibodeaux

(Franciscan Media, 180pp. April 1, 2001)

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“This user-friendly book blends theory and practice, gently and concretely taking the reader through the first steps of contemplative prayer. Armchair Mystic begins with the necessary details of time and place to pray, then presents the maturation of the prayer life in four stages: Talking at God, Talking to God, Listening to God and Being With God. Each chapter begins with an Orientation and ends with a concluding summary. Step-by-step exercises throughout the book provide concrete examples of how to use the concepts discussed. Armchair Mystic will prove invaluable to individuals and small groups who are new to contemplative prayer, or who wish to deepen their experience of it,”

Micro Review: Easily accessible insights into the practice of contemplative prayer.

A few favorite quotations:

“This is what actually distinguishes a mystic from a novice pray-er. Mystics often have as many distractions as novices do, but the difference is in their perception of and their reaction to them….”

Chapter 13 “Why I’m Bored With God: Hints of an Explanation”

“There is a common strand in the images presented thus far. All of them imply that there is great value in self-sacrifice. The relationship images, in particular, seem to indicate that this sacrifice may be a necessary element of mature, intimate relationships. Perhaps this is what God is up to when he allows dryness in my prayer: God sets up a situation that allows me to make a sacrifice for our relationship, thereby strengthening the bond between us.”

P. 151

“Specifically, I define prayer as recognition of God, transformation by God and union with God.”

P. 159

“So then, when I pray I become attuned to the presence of God in my everyday life (recognition of God). I also begin to surrender all of my life to God’s lordship during prayer (transformation by God). Finally, when I pray I come into mystical union with God, a oneness not severed when I rise from my prayer time (union with God). These are the three most important qualities of prayer.

Note, however, that the three are really one and the same quality. The transformation that takes place in prayer is ultimately a transformation of perception. What is surrendered in this transformation - my lordship and my separateness from God - never really existed in the first place? They were only illusions and mirages, smoke and mirrors. God has always been God and has always carried me in his bosom (see Isaiah 40:11). From the moment of my creation, God and I have always been together in mystical oneness. I just didn’t know it until now.”

P. 162

“The Bible warns time and again against the fallacy that holds that I can be close to God without being close to God’s people. It condemns any sort of God-and-me spirituality that does not result in an outpouring of love toward others: (Is. 58:5-7).”

P. 168

“Any prayer life that does not make me an instrument of God's saving action in the world is an inauthentic one. Even cloistered monks, who live lives of solitude, do not view their vocation as being set apart from the world. Trappist contemplative Thomas Merton writes:

‘One of the worst illusions in the mystical life would be to try to find God by barricading yourself inside your own soul, shutting out all external reality by sheer concentration and will-power, cutting yourself off from the world and other men by stuffing yourself inside your own mind and closing the door like a turtle...We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them.’”

25. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (Modern Library Classics) by Bernard McGinn

(Modern Library, 592pp. December 12, 2006)

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“This clear and comprehensive anthology, culled from the vast corpus of Christian mystical literature by the renowned theologian and historian Bernard McGinn, presents nearly one hundred selections, from the writings of Origen of Alexandria in the third century to the work of twentieth-century mystics such as Thomas Merton.

Uniquely organized by subject rather than by author, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism explores how human life is transformed through the search for direct contact with God. Part one examines the preparation for encountering God through biblical interpretation and prayer; the second part focuses on the mystics’ actual encounters with God; and part three addresses the implications of the mystical life, showing how mystics have been received over time, and how they practice their faith through private contemplation and public actions.

In addition to his illuminating Introduction, Bernard McGinn provides accessible headnotes for each section, as well as numerous biographical sketches and a selected bibliography.”

Micro Review: Of all the required reading for my spiritual direction certification, the mystics challenge me the most. Their ardor and affection for the triune God reveals layers of 21st-century cynicism that cloud my ability to adore God.  For example this stunning exclamation from St. John of the Cross  

“O sweet burn!

O delicious wound!

O tender hand! O gentle touch

That savors of eternal life,

And pays every debt!

In slaying you have changed death into life” 

In Thomas Merton, I feel like I’ve found the most helpful guide in holding together the two ends of one rope - contemplation and obedience (or surrender).

“Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him who has no voice, and yet who speaks in everything that is, and who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of his. But we are words that are meant to respond to him, to answer to him, to echo him, and even in some way to contain him and signify him. Contemplation is this echo. It is a deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life loses its separate voice and re-sounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Living One. He answers himself in us and this answer is divine life, divine creativity, making all things new. We ourselves become his echo and his answer. It is as if in creating us God asked a question, and in awakening us to contemplation he answered the question, so that the contemplative is at the same time, question and answer.” ( Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

In Merton’s call to both hold closely our contemplative encounters with God and our desire to share the joy with everyone we meet, I heard a beautiful echo of what I believe to be God’s calling on my life:

“At the same time [the contemplative] most earnestly wants everybody else to share his peace and his joy. His contemplation gives him a new outlook on the world of men. He looks about him with a secret and tranquil surmise which he perhaps admits to no one; hoping to find in the faces of other men or to hear in their voices some sign of vocation and potentiality for the same deep happiness and wisdom. He finds himself speaking of God to the men in whom he hopes he has recognized the light of his own peace, the awakening of his own secret: or if he cannot speak to them, he writes for them, and his contemplative life is still imperfect without sharing, without companionship, without communion.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)

Among the other highlights from reading this anthology, I appreciated learning the influence of John Cassian on the prayers we use in the daily offices (“O Lord, make haste to help us”) and his teaching emphasis on “puritas cordis” (purity of heart) and “oratio ignita” (fiery prayer). I’m always encouraged by Julian of Norwich, and in this reading it was hearing more about her teaching on the “motherhood of Jesus”. Julian of Norwich provided me with what I’d love to be my own eulogy: “I wanted to live so as to love God better and for longer, and therefore know and love him better in the bliss of heaven...Good Lord, may my ceasing to live be to your glory.” (p. 239)

Amen. May it be so!

26. The Spiritual Life: Four Broadcast Talks by Evelyn Underhill

(Martino Fine Books, 142pp. February 5, 2013 reprint of 1937 edition)

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“Evelyn Underhill was an English Anglo-Catholic writer and pacifist known for her numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism. This book contains in an expanded form the four addresses on the Spiritual Life which were given by Underhill in 1936. The are published in response to numerous requests from listeners and in the hope that they will be found suitable for Lenten reading. The spiritual life is here considered, not as an intense form of piety peculiar to saints, but as the living heart of all religion, and therefore of vital concern to ordinary men and women. Its essence is held to consist in a growing communion with God, a growing cooperation with Him, inspiring and transforming every kind of action from the most routine to the most heroic. Essays are: What is the Spiritual Life The Spiritual Life as Communion with God The Spiritual Life as Co-operation with God Some Questions and Difficulties.”

Micro Review: I’ve been meaning to read more by Evelyn Underhill for a long time and was thankful for this opportunity. These transcripts from four of Underhill’s radio broadcasts pack much depth and mystery in concise paragraphs surrounded, aptly, by a lot of white space on each page. This is the perfect book to read and re-read devotionally for those who wish to grow closer to God within the paradox of His mystery and His invitation to intimacy.

Highly recommend!

27. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

(IVP Books, 352pp. November 19, 2015 reprint of 2005 edition)

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“In Spiritual Disciplines Handbook Adele Calhoun gives us directions for our continuing journey toward intimacy with Christ. While the word discipline may make us want to run and hide, the author shows how desires and discipline work together to lead us to the transformation we're longing for--the transformation only Christ can bring. Instead of just giving information about spiritual disciplines, this handbook is full of practical, accessible guidance that helps you actually practice them. With over 80,000 copies in print, this well-loved catalog of seventy-five disciplines has been revised throughout and expanded to include thirteen new disciplines along with a new preface by the author. Mothers, fathers, plumbers, nurses, students--we're all on a journey. And spiritual disciplines are for all of us who desire to know Christ deeply and be like him. Here is direction for our desire, leading us to the ultimate destination: more of Christ himself.”

Micro Review: Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is a Selah faculty member, and I had the privilege of hearing her teach during one of our residencies. The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook provides an index of spiritual disciplines from millenia of Christian practice and, in the process, gave all of us a rich gift. Calhoun orders 75 disciplines within the framework of the acronym WORSHIP:

  • Worship [Celebration, Gratitude, Holy Communion, Rule for Life, Sabbath, Visio Divina, Worship]

  • Open Myself to God [Contemplation, Examen, Iconography, Journaling, Pilgrimage, Practicing the Presence, Rest, Retreat, Self-Care, Simplicity, Slowing, Teachability, Unplugging]

  • Relinquish the False Self [Confession and Self-Examination, Detachment, Discernment, Mindfulness/Attentiveness, Secrecy, Silence, Sobriety, Solitude, Spiritual Direction, Submission, Waiting]

  • Share My Life With Others [Accountability Partner, Chastity, Community, Covenant Group, Discipling, Face-to-Face, Connection, Hospitality, Mentoring, Service, Small Group, Spiritual Friendship, Unity, Witness]

  • Hear God’s Word [Bible Study, Lectio Divina/Devotional Reading, Meditation, Memorization]

  • Incarnate the Love of Christ [Blessing Others/Encouragement, Care of the Earth, Compassion, Control of the Tongue, Forgiveness, Humility, Justice, Solidarity in Jesus’ Sufferings, Stewardship, Truth Telling]

  • Pray [Breath Prayer, Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Conversational Prayer, Fasting, Fixed-Hour Prayer, Inner-Healing Prayer, Intercessory Prayer, Labryinth Prayer, Listening Prayer, Liturgical Prayer, Prayer of Lament, Prayer Partners, Praying Scripture, Prayer of Recollection, Prayer Walking, Welcoming Prayer,]

    Calhoun’s work to not only define the various practices but to order them in a way that orients us toward the entire goal of our spiritual journey - to worship God and enjoy Him forever - is a gift within a gift. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It should be a mandatory reference book for everyone who wishes to not only be a Christian, but a disciple of Jesus.

28. Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God (Transforming Resources) by Ruth Haley Barton

(IVP Books, 144 pp. September 18, 2018)

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Come away and rest awhile." Jesus invites us to be with him, offering our full and undivided attention to him. When we choose retreat we make a generous investment in our friendship with Christ. Truth is, we are not always generous with ourselves where God is concerned. Many of us have done well to incorporate regular times of solitude and silence into the rhythm of our ordinary lives which means we've gotten pretty good at giving God twenty minutes here and a half an hour there. And there's no question we are better for it! But we need more. Indeed, we long for more. In these pages Transforming Center founder and seasoned spiritual director, Ruth Haley Barton, gently and eloquently leads us into an exploration of retreat as a key practice that opens us to God. Based on her own practice and her experience leading hundreds of retreats for others, she will guide you in a very personal exploration of seven specific invitations contained within the general invitation to retreat. You will discover how to say yes to God's winsome invitation to greater freedom and surrender. There has never been a time when the invitation to retreat is so radical and so relevant, so needed and so welcome. It is not a luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual life.”

Micro Review: Many people I know interested in the work of spiritual formation cite Ruth Haley Barton frequently. I’m new to her work and enjoyed this book. While I didn’t need to be convinced of the renewing power of the spiritual discipline of retreat, I was grateful for the practical suggestions and itineraries she offers in this easy-to-read book.

29. Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram by Alice Fryling

(IVP Books, 180pp. July 14, 2017)

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"Who in the world am I?" The Enneagram is like a mirror, reflecting dimensions of ourselves that are sometimes hard to see. In this helpful guide, spiritual director and Enneagram teacher Alice Fryling offers an introduction to each number of the Enneagram and their respective triads. More than just helping us discern our number, this book relates the Enneagram to our spiritual journey, as a way to identify our gifts as well as our blind spots. With Scripture meditations and questions for reflection and discussion, Mirror for the Soul offers a new perspective on our unique temperament so that we might know and extend God's grace more fully. Knowledge of the Enneagram leads us into more authentic self-awareness, richer relationships, and deeper places in the soul where we can worship God in truth and grace.

Micro Review: I’d already read several of the books at the top of the Enneagram suggested reading list and while this accessible work from Alice Fryling probably wouldn’t be my first recommendation for an introduction to the Enneagram, it definitely would be what I recommend for those wanting a theologically and biblically-oriented viewpoint. Of the Enneagram books I’ve read written for the Christian reader, this might be my favorite because it provides a bit more substance and integrates some of the common language of Christianity with specific application points with the Enneagram.

I also appreciated the author’s value for honoring the mystery inherent to each of us as made in the image of a mysterious and always-revealing God even as we try to know ourselves in a deeper, God-honoring way.

For example:

“So how do we learn our number? This is another great puzzle. There are many online tests and in-book inventories, but often they give suspicious results. This is because it is so very difficult to uncover our blind spots. We respond to inventories with what we know about ourselves, which is often an incomplete picture. The Enneagram describes motivation rather than behavior, and most tests ask about behavior, or our answers reflect our behavior.”


“I have found that the Enneagram respects the observation that the soul is shy, like a wild animal. Parker Palmer says that ‘if we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for it to come out.’ Instead, we need to ‘walk quietly into the woods and sit silently’ until ‘out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.’ Palmer is not writing about the Enneagram, but this is a good reminder that we dare not crash through the woods of the Enneagram yelling for our soul to come out. The Enneagram is much more likely to give us ‘glimpses’ into our souls. The process may be painful, but it is gentle.”

30. Self to Lose - Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil

(Redemption Press, 208pp. June 3, 2016)

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“Self to Lose-Self to Find examines the invitation of Jesus to lose yourself in order to find your true self, and presents the personality system known as the Enneagram within this biblical framework. It will guide you toward liberating self-awareness by detailing nine distinct personality patterns, each with particular gifts and challenges. By learning about your type, you will: -Embrace the truth about your God-given identity -Uncover your deeper motivations, longings, and ways of suffering -Discern between the self to lose and the self Jesus invites you to find -Enhance your relationships by appreciating others more -Own-up to what keeps you from possessing the abundant life Jesus offers. Marilyn Vancil, a spiritual director and certified Enneagram professional, weaves three threads - the biblical story, the Enneagram wisdom, and real-life experiences - into this compelling and essential resource for those who long for a more free and fruitful life. Dr. David Daniels, co-author of The Essential Enneagram, describes this book as "a thoughtful and ground-breaking analysis of the Enneagram system and its valuable contribution to the work of development in the Christian life.”

Micro Review: Another Christian perspective on the Enneagram that I found helpful in more of a devotional than academic sense.

My favorite description from the author for the Enneagram Type 5 (me!):

“Type Fives will experience more generosity, community, and trust when they release their insatiable quest for the knowledge they believe will protect and save them from being swallowed up by a demanding world. They will no longer fear being depleted, but will experience a new freedom to give away what they have. They will offer their gifts of time, energy, and talent with faith in a God who is generous and will meet their needs. In this way, they will become an available resource so people can access their wisdom and expertise.

Fives will become less driven to be self-sufficient and will seek out and enjoy the companionship of others with whom they can share their lives and learn together. Their need for time alone will change from a survival tactic to a desire to contemplate and connect with their own heart and God’s presence. When they shift their focus from trying to make sense of things, they allow for mystery and the unknown. Spiritual truths will be experienced as living realities rather than examined as abstract concepts. Their divine gift of inner knowing will equip them to listen for the nudging of God’s Spirit and bring their gifts of perception and insight forward to help others know and experience His deeper truths and wisdom.”

31. What's Your God Language?: Connecting with God Through Your Unique Spiritual Temperament (Nine Spiritual Temperaments--How Knowing Yours Can Help You) by Myra Perrine

(Tyndale Momentum, 229pp. August 1, 2007)

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“In What's Your God Language? Myra Perrine describes nine types of spiritual temperaments and suggests disciplines and faith expressions that fit best with each unique temperament (or blend of temperaments). Drawing on her doctoral research that built on the work of Gary Thomas and others, Perrine calls readers to stop fighting the way God wired them and to experience a deeper intimacy with Christ by embracing their unique "spiritual circuitry."

  • In-depth analysis of nine categories of spiritual temperaments

  • Spiritual temperament assessment tool for assessing one's individual temperament

  • Biblically supported and thoroughly researched

  • Written in a friendly, anecdotal style

  • Foreword by Gary Thomas

  • Web site with additional intermediate and advanced exercises

The 9 Languages:

  • The Activist

  • The Ascetic

  • The Caregiver

  • The Contemplative

  • The Enthusiast

  • The Intellectual

  • The Naturalist

  • The Sensate

  • The Traditionalist

Micro Review: Full disclosure: This is the final book I read for my certification and I needed to kind of skim through it. While I’m always grateful for vocabulary to help us know ourselves in the light of God’s creation of us as humans, I found the construct distracting to the work I was already doing learning the language of the Enneagram. I’d especially recommend this book for those who don’t find the Enneagram helpful in their spiritual journey, but wish to understand the abundance of unique expressions Christ’s followers embody in pursuit of knowing and enjoying life with God.

Books I read for spiritual direction certification that I’ve shared previously:

Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2018 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are you reading these days? 


p.s. This post includes affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: the evil, tragedy, memorials, and common grace edition

A week of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

You can consider this late from last week or early for next! We’ll be gone for the next couple of weeks and I look forward to catching back up with you in September, friends!

(1) photo from this week

A common grace found in Kennebunk, Maine: The MOST delicious lobster roll I’ve ever eaten + fresh squeezed lemonade. I will never forget this meal.

A common grace found in Kennebunk, Maine: The MOST delicious lobster roll I’ve ever eaten + fresh squeezed lemonade. I will never forget this meal.

(2) helpful podcasts covering the subject of gun control

As with most other important policies, gun control is complicated. It feels hopeful we may finally move to more common sense in regulation, but we need wise governance to navigate all the complexities. These two podcasts helped me think through this issue with more knowledge and nuance.

  1. Trump Says He’s Ready For Gun Measures | via KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center

  2. Constitutional Primers: Second Amendment | via Pantsuit Politics

(3) links remembering Toni Morrison

I’ve not yet had the courage to read her work. I keep waiting for the “right moment” to engage emotionally and intellectually. In the meantime, I’m grateful especially to one of my favorite writing peers, Allison Backous Troy, for pointing toward Morrison as “a powerful witness, Toni Morrison's God Help the Child brings us into the work of reconciliation, the work of the Cross.”

  1. Toni Morrison – Remembering the Award-winning Novelist [NPR] | via Englewood Review of Books

  2. The withering witness of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child and The rough redemption of Toni Morrison’s Home by Allison Backous Troy | via Think Christian

  3. How Toni Morrison Countered the Canon by Karen Swallow Prior | via Think Christian

(4) beautiful examples of the Church responding to evil and tragedy in Dayton and El Paso

Slowly, slowly - and, sadly, too late for many - a few voices from the American Church are more clearly demonstrating a public response that sounds like what Jarvis J. Williams and Curtis A. Woods describe in the CT piece linked below : “We believe in a Savior who redeems, a Spirit who reconciles, and a gospel that is the antithesis of white supremacy.”

  1. Context for El Paso mass shooting from Sami DiPasquale, Executive Director of Ciudad Neuva

  2. Returning to the Lord in Times of Evil and Tragedy by Fr. Peter Coelho, Church of the Cross, Austin, TX

  3. A Litany of Lament and Repentance For Our Treatment of Immigrants and Refugees | via Caminemos Juntos

  4. Jesus, Deliver Us from This Racist Evil Age by Jarvis J. Williams and Curtis A. Woods | via CT

(5) remembrances on the 5th anniversary of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson

Jemar Tisby’s piece reminded me that it was not only Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent protests in Ferguson that began to wake me up to my own racist complicity, but more specifically a question I asked an Intervarsity leader friend of mine after he returned from Urbana ‘15. I heard my own racism more clearly than ever and began to confess, repent and hope for reconciliation with my Black neighbors.

  1. Michael Brown Jr.’s Sisters Remember Their Brother on the Fifth Anniversary of His Police Shooting Death | via StoryCorps

  2. Five Years Later, Two Ferguson Protestors Reflect on the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photo that Captured their Anguish — and Connection | via StoryCorps

  3. How Ferguson widened an enormous rift between black Christians and white evangelicals by Jemar Tisby | via Washington Post

  4. I’m a Shooting Survivor. If You’re Going to Pray for Us, Here’s How. by Taylor Schumann | via CT

  5. Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, 2015 by Mark Dukes

Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, Mark Dukes   Source

Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, Mark Dukes


(6) photos from my first week participating in #AugustBreak2019

I’m always ready by August for a little daily prompt to keep paying attention to the beauty of summer, aren’t you?

There is much to be cynical about—and it is a good answer if there has not been an incarnation. But if that has happened, if the Word did become flesh, and if there are men and women who in and through their own vocations imitate the vocation of God, then sometimes and in some places the world becomes something more like the way it ought to be.
— Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good

(7) links featuring first-person narratives expanding our understanding of the Imago Dei

I hope you’ll take the time to read through this list I’ve curated. It covers an expanse of people and places, held together by the thread of society’s outliers. May reading the words translate into real-life noticing in our everyday lives.

  1. Confessing My Racism by Anna Broadway via Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places at CT | How forgiveness could transform us all: “But insofar as we can call racism a blind spot (by which I don't in any way mean to absolve people of responsibility), Jesus taught a very different process for correction: start with your own sin.”

  2. Introducing: Mockingbird, History Lessons For Adults via Black Coffee with White Friends | "What if, all those years ago, when I asked Mrs. Jacka, “what should I be,” she’d been able to tell me, “Well, your people were the great pharaohs who were already here. They were from distant lands like Egypt and they arrived with gold spears to trade with the indigenous people who allowed them to stay and exchanged land for goods”? See a sample lesson here: Gimme shelter

  3. Christ in the Camps by Caitlin Flanagan via The Atlantic | Migrant children are suffering. Christians need to help: “But the Beatitudes come at you sideways sometimes, and that’s when you’re really in trouble. It occurred to me this morning that maybe as a Christian I’m also supposed to be meek.”

  4. My time with Jean Vanier and his mom, the grandmother of L’Arche by Ellen Rahner via America Magazine | "My time with Jean Vanier and his mom, the grandmother of L’Arche."

  5. The Fruits of Your Suffering: A Letter to My Refugee Mom by Adrienne Minh-Chau Le via On Being | "I have grown up so comfortably eating the fruits of your suffering."

  6. Going Home with Wendell Berry by Amanda Petrusich via The New Yorker | The writer and farmer on local knowledge, embracing limits, and the exploitation of rural America.

  7. The McDonald's Test by Chris Arnade via Plough | Learning to Love Back Row America

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: the Engagement edition

A week of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

Our daughter Kendra got engaged! We’re so happy for her and her fiance, Jordan, and we loved celebrating with them this past week!  Many more photos and exclamation marks to come!

Our daughter Kendra got engaged! We’re so happy for her and her fiance, Jordan, and we loved celebrating with them this past week!

Many more photos and exclamation marks to come!

(2)-part article published for The Telos Collective

We live in a culture of workism where people both define themselves by their work and struggle to find its meaning and purpose. In this two-part series, I explored a missional approach to the areas of identity and vocation.

  1. In Part 1, she shares how listening to the 9-to-5 stories of her community has opened a path for blessing and connection: Why Am I Here?”: A Missional Approach to Identity and Vocation

  2. In Part 2 of her blog series on vocation and mission, Tamara Hill Murphy of Church of the Apostles shares firsthand experience that offices can double as confessionals and work-related prayers as benedictions: The Workplace: America’s New Church?

(3) sweet videos about fathers and sons

  1. Can’t get enough of this adorable father-son conversation.

  2. This son reminds his dad and the rest of us what matters most!

  3. Negative Space is an Oscar-nominated short film animation that depicts a father-and-son relationship through the art of packing a suitcase.

(4) rubrics for a Christian political imagination

  1. The Grey Area is Holy Ground by Marilyn McEntyre via Comment Magazine | "The bottom line for great compromisers: "It's not that simple."

  2. The Christian Mandate to Subvert Tribalism by Judy Wu Dominick via CT | From 2017 and more important to read than ever: "Our call to pursue nuance, a love-infused, subversive force."

  3. Against Nationalism: A Reading List for Christians via Englewood Review of Books | “How do we balance our biblical call to love, care for, and seek the welfare of our neighbors with our identity as followers of Jesus, whose reign was not of this world?”

  4. The Economics of Love by Peter Mommsen via Plough | Beyond Capitalism – and Socialism

(5) books I’m reading right now

  1. One Blood:Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  2. A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership by Wendell Berry - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  3. The Heart’s Necessities: Life in Poetry by Jane Tyson Clement with Becca Stevens - Plough | Hearts & Minds Bookstore | Amazon

  4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  5. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

(6) posts from the archives

  1. 2017 - All Who Enter Here [writing at Art House America] (This is an essay I keep writing and re-writing, and it feels meaningful again this year as my Grandfather’s health steadily declines. “Year by year, we formed a kind of family liturgy, a joyful way of being together that transcended the reality of the modest little cabin and weedy pond. The liturgy expanded to jubilation… underneath Grandpa’s homemade picnic pavilion, eating Grandma’s macaroni and potato salads.”)

  2. 2014 - Orange (August is a good time for paying attention to the daily things, don't you think? Sometimes these prompts feel a little self-indulgent for me, but I think it’s a really good time to participate with #AugustBreak2019 again!)

  3. 2012 - My life as a rabbit (“People called me, emailed me and sought me out after church to share great part-time job ideas: personally assist a speaker and life trainer, copywriter for a sales company, provide childcare. All I wanted to do was to get paid for reading books all day.”)

  4. 2011 - Saying good-bye hurts like hell OR How My Husband's Personal Trainer Taught Me About Love (“When talking with people about this fact, my husband has taken to quoting a well-loved line from Christmas Vacation, " If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.")

  5. 2011 - Farewell Gifts (“We're still licking our wounds a bit, I'll admit. Still in mourning over lost dreams. Still shaking our heads at the lunacy of leaving behind these once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendships.”)

Natalie at camp.jpg

4 years ago

2015 - Natalie the fire-keeper. This will always be one of my favorites!

(7+) photos from our little celebration for Kendra & Jordan’s engagement!

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!