Ten Books That Changed My Faith

Sarah Bessey - books that changed my faith

Sarah Bessey – books that changed my faith

Sarah Bessey is currently running a series of posts on Ten Books A Day for a Week. I particularly enjoyed her Sunday post Ten Books That Changed my FaithSarah and I have obviously been influenced by some of the same books but I thought that I would put together my own list. To be honest it would be easier to list 10 authors that have influenced me because choosing one book from people such as Wlater Brueggemann, C.S. Lewis, John Stott and Henri Nouwen is impossible. However I have done my best.

Living Towards a Vision: Biblical reflections on Shalom. Walter Brueggemann. I love all of Bruggemann’s books but this was the one that started me grappling with a faith that not only embraced all of life for me as an individual but also God’s concern for the renewal and restoration of all creation.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. As for so many other evangelical Christians, this was the first book that opened my eyes to a rich array of spiritual disciplines that i had never encountered before.

Rich Christians In An Age of Hunger by Ron Sider. I read the original version of this book just after I had worked in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border in 1985. I had been exposed to depths of poverty I never realized existed. it turned my faith upside down. This book helped turn it right side up again challenging me to put concern for others and particularly the marginalized at the centre of my faith.

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison. This was the first Nouwen book that I read, this time after working with Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic. It is not always easy to act compassionately we we work with people in need. This book helped shape my responses.

One Thousand Gifts: by Ann Voskamp. The power of gratitude is a revolutionary discovery that has transformed my life over the last few of years and this is the book that has most helped me learn that perspective.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This is a Christian classic that was very influential in shaping my faith in my early days as a Christian.

Basic Christianity by John Stott. This was another of the classic books that shaped my early faith giving me a solid foundation in scripture and the principles of faith.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This may seem like a strange book to have shaped my Christian faith but I read it in the mid 1960s not long after I became a Christian and the concerns it raised about pesticides and pollution radically impacted me and initiated my concerns for the environment which gradually became an important part of my Christian world view and advocacy.

What’s Right with Feminism by Elaine Storkey. This was the first book I read that made me feel that being a Christian woman did not make me a second class citizen. It gave me the confidence to pursue what God had called me to be and to do.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright. Again here is an author who has deeply influenced my life and it is hard to choose which book has influenced me the most, but I think this one is at the top of the list. So I thought that I would end with a quote from the book

Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion… 

Practicing the Way of Jesus – Reflections on a book by Mark Scandrette.

Practicing the Way of Jesus - Mark Scandrette

Practicing the Way of Jesus - Mark Scandrette

I am currently reading Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life together in the Kingdom of Love.  It is a great book with lots of very practical suggestions on how to follow Jesus in every part of our lives.  Mark talks a lot about the physicality of spiritual formation.  This is a book about putting our faith into action in simple practical ways that are well within reach for all of us.

I particularly enjoy Mark’s “experiments” where he and friends read the gospels asking the question: How does what Jesus did and taught connect with the real circumstances of our lives and the needs of our world?”.  

Such a great question that all of us need not just to ask more frequently but also put into action.  I love the practical way that this translates into actions.  For example when Mark was a child his father would have them grapple with questions like “Let’s think who our neighbours are.   What can we do to love them?”  Listen to Mark tell the story.

Together we would generate a list of ideas to enact over the coming weeks: Invite neighbour Joe over for dinner.  Shovel snow for the elderly couple down the block.  Welcome a friend from school whose family is in crisis to spend the weekend at our house.  One memorable holiday season my parents created a project to help us learn how to bless our neighbours.  Over several nights we made Christmas decorations and cookies and then went door to door distributing them with an invitation to come to a holiday party.  A few weeks later our home was full of neighbours, many of whom were meeting for the first time.  The party really brought the neighbourhood together, and I still remember the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself.

I love this idea of taking the scriptures and translating them into concrete actions.  I have asked Mark to contribute some guest posts on his book that should help broaden this discussion, but my question for today is What would it look like in your neighbourhood to love your neighbours?   What are small practical things that you could do to be the love of Jesus to friend and stranger alike?  Watching this video may help you make some decisions