Books I’ve Read
I am leading a 4-week class in May called ‘Living Prayer’ about the prayer of St. Francis, so I thought I would highlight this month the books I used to prepare for this class.The preparation has been exciting, fun, and instructive. It has taken me down many roads and side streets leading me into all sorts of places and thoughts. I thought of doing the class in one way than some new insight would strike me leading to change something about the class. The class as it is now doesn’t resemble my original vision for it, but I think it is good. As I get closer to actually teaching the class, the more nervous and excited I am. I am nervous because I have not done this kind of thing before and I am excited by the subject matter. I think it will be a good, growing experience for me and I hope it be more of help than hindrance to those who attend.
Now to the books.
The way of St. Francis by Murray Bodo challenges the reader with a renewed understanding of Saint Francis. St. Francis shows us a way of life both stimulating and troubling; he asks us to look again at the possibilities within us and around us; and to whom we turn repeatedly in interpreting our own human experience of God. The Franciscan way helps, transforms and renews us. The book is composed of small chapters on ways of letting go, of achieving poverty, simplicity and nonviolence. Each of the small chapters has a fresh insight or an added depth from a previous point that you find yourself ripping through the pages as fast as you can. I read this book twice and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about who St. Francis was and how his spirituality can influence and deepen our Christian walk.
Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace by Kent Nerburn is a book length treatment of the Prayer of Saint Francis. While not about Saint Francis, Nerburn shares touching, inspiring stories from his own experience and that of others expanding upon each line of the St. Francis Prayer. He reveals how each of us can make a difference for good in ordinary ways without being heroes or saints. Struggling to help a young son comfort his best friend when his mother dies, moved by the courage of war enemies who reconcile, being wrenched out of self-absorbed depression by responding to someone else’s tragedy, taking a spirited old lady on a farewell taxi ride through her town-these are the kinds of everyday moments in which Nerburn finds we can live out the spirit of St. Francis. This small book helps to put flesh on this prayer and gives meaning to each line of the prayer. While not an explicitly Christian book, it can help us understand what we pray for when we pray this prayer.
Answering God by Eugene Peterson is for Christians who realize the necessity for prayer and yearn for it, but who find their prayer unconvincing and unsatisfying. Addressing the causes of this dissatisfaction, Answering God offers guidelines for using the Psalms as dynamic tools for prayer. I was surprised by how well this exceptional book is; it’s not a detailed critical commentary about the Psalms, but a beautiful introduction to their usefulness as prayers. I found this book to be thoughtful, provocative, and very well-written. A must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about prayer and how the psalms can be tools to bring us closer to God.
Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster a compelling treatment on prayer. I have enjoyed all of his books that I have read and with this book he helps the reader to understand, experience, and practice prayer in its many forms. He clarifies the prayer process, answers common misconceptions, and shows the way into prayers of contemplation, healing, blessing, forgiveness, and rest. Foster shows how prayer can move us inward into personal transformation, upward toward intimacy with God, and outward to minister to others. He leads us beyond questions to a deeper understanding and practice of prayer, bringing us closer to God, to ourselves, and to our community. If you are like I am and need help with praying this would be a good book to start with. It may be the only book on prayer you will need or it could as if often with books I read lead you onto other fine books.
The Lessons of Saint Francis by John Micheal Talbot demonstrates the enduring significance of Franciscan wisdom. Organized by topic, such as simplicity, humility, compassion, solitude, service, and prayer, each chapter includes excerpts from the writings of St. Francis, and of his followers and biographers. Combining deep spiritual insights with the offer of a saner, less chaotic way of living, this book offers wise advice on how to incorporate these virtues into our own lives today. If we were to mold our lives around the habits of Saint Francis than our life would slowly smell and look more and more like Jesus. Saint Francis is one of the very, very people who have successfully molded their lives (every part of life) around Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection.
These are just a handful of the books that have helped me in preparing for this class. I have learned more about prayer, Saint Francis, living a truly Christ-filled life, and that no matter how small you may think you are there is something each of us can do and be to help the world smell and feel and look more and more like Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Just because you won’t be able to finish or do your task alone, does not free you from doing what you can. We should do what we can and eventually you may be doing the possible, but not you but Christ working through you will be doing the work. To spread Jesus and His Gospel of Grace needs to be our only mission and goal in this life. Everything is secondary to following Jesus on the way to the Kingdom of God.
My Prayer as usual is that you, I can and will be able to walk more and more in the light, hope, joy, love, and grace of God found only in Jesus. May you know what it really means that Jesus lives! May our world smell and feel and look more and more like Jesus Christ, Our Lord!
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