Friday, February 17, 2012

Lenten Reading

    The season of Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday on the 22nd. Lent is a season to assess what needs sweeping out; in our habits, schedules, and lives. But Lent is not a celebration of emptiness for emptiness' sake, it is a time to fill up on what truly matters. We give up food or films or facebook with the intention of deepening our faith, and our connection to God and to humanity. 
    One of the practices many churches and Christians embrace is the reading of a specific book through the season of Lent. Needless to say, it is a practice that I fully embrace. So, for those of you looking for Lenten reading; here are a few suggestions:
  • Free of Charge by Miroslav Wolf. Wolf's underlying thesis is that we are at our most human when we are giving and forgiving. His book is about how to be more gracious in a culture stripped of grace.
  • The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Warning; this is one dense read. That said, it is also one of those "besides the Bible" books that changed my life. Bonhoeffer lays out what it means to follow in the way of Jesus, a way that always comes with a cost. 
  • Our Sound Is Our Wound by Lucy Winkett. Winkett's book on contemplative listening helps to clear up the misunderstanding of stillness as time wasted and then fleshes out what active listening can mean for a world filled up with noise.
  • Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. Barton explores the spiritual disciplines not as a set of rigid rules, but as activities that open us up to God's transforming love. Her Invitation To Solitude and Silence is also excellent.
  • New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. I'll let Merton speak for himself; "Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love."
Other favorites include N.T. Wright's Simply Christian and Surprised By Hope, Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer and In The Name of Jesus, Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel and The Importance of Being Foolish, Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, Elaine Heath's Mystic Way of Evangelism, and Esther de Waal's A Life Giving Way. Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Laird, John Howard Yoder and Dorothy Sayers, Karl Barth and Simone Weil; I recommend them all. If yours isn't necessarily a Christian leaning (and even if it is), you're sure to enjoy David Foster Wallace's This Is Water or Annie Dillard's Pilgrim At Tinker Creek or Ralph Waldo Emerson's Walden. Regardless, pick up a book this season that will call you to use up less time, space, and resources on those things that matter less so that you can commit them to those that matter more. Something that will help you to remember and to celebrate what is best about being human.


  1. That is a great list, Kester. I'm wrapping up Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" this weekend. My Lenten reading this year is "Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distraction," by Arthur Boers.

    I haven't read any of Boers other work, but what commends the book to me are the foreword by Eugene Peterson and blurbs from Norman Wirzba, Lee Camp, and Albert Borgmann.

    I'm also going to be reading Christine D. Pohl's most recent book "Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us."

  2. At church, I am part of a group reading thru Chris Seay's new book A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor

    Personally, I am hoping to finish Catherine Keller's The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming

  3. Bob, did I hear something about Chris coming to BP or is he doing an Austin event that BP is providing books for? I know we're carrying a bunch of copies in the store.

    John, I think I'm going to make the Boers' book my Lenten 2012 pick.

    The Keller and Pohl books look great as well. Thanks for posting!

  4. I have a copy of Free of Charge the we used in 2007 @ St. David's during the Lenten Season. Great material and willing to share book.

    i'm sticking with my old standby's this year. A guide to prayer & Show me the way.