"Books That Have Influenced Me, My Thinking, and Beliefs"
Over the years people have asked me what experiences have most influenced me to think, believe and live as I do. To be sure, there have been a variety of experiences including the suffering of others, service opportunities with the disadvantaged, action/reflection, and the thinking of others as imparted by word of mouth and/or pen. I thought I would share in this blog post about some of the influential books.
When I was young my reading was limited to school subjects, the Bible, and books dealing with sports. While I now read a variety of books since my being diagnosed with ALS and having much more time for leisure reading, for many years my reading was primarily books dealing with spiritual/religious/church/psychology/sociology/marriage/personal growth subjects. It will become obvious as you continue to read what follows.
Your God is Too Small (J. B. Phillips) - I especially appreciated the first half of the book. I believe I read it the first time when I was in high school. It was most helpful in ridding me from those images of God as a policemen, Santa Claus or judge in the sky. It also freed me up from a human-like God with a long flowing white beard.
The Cost of Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) - Not an easy read but helped shape my views about how much more there is to Christianity than beliefs in one's head. Action - based on one's understanding of community, the church and acting on one's beliefs.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Rabbi Harold Kushner) - This is the one that helped reform my thinking around how God works or doesn't work, especially related to suffering. Read it and discussed it with a Sunday School class shortly after experiencing several disturbing losses.
The God I Don't Believe In (Juan Arias) At one point in the introduction to his book, Arias makes a comment something like this : "the god many atheists don't believe in is frankly the same God I don't believe in either." As I read his thoughts, especially some of the poetry that began several of the chapters, I came to the same conclusion and it is why I do not find conversations with atheists, doubters, and agnostics troubling but interesting and challenging.
The Dream of God (Verna Dozier) - This wonderful and easy read challenges us to consider whether the early church got it wrong when it chose the direction of the church based on the writings of some of the apostles and Paul rather than on Jesus' dream - - real challenge to conventional thinking - one of the Servant Leadership books.
Listening Hearts - Another Servant Leadership book inviting us all to consider call in our lives. One of the books I encourage people to read when they are contemplating doing something and wondering if it's what God is calling them to do. Not a typical chapter lay out. Great questions to ask oneself at the back of the book.
Cry Pain, Cry Hope (Elizabeth O'Connor) - In my opinion the key Servant Leadership book and the one that most inspired my interest in the Every Member in Ministry model for organizing the life of a local church. It also helps the reader look at the painful experiences of life in a new light.
The Hell Jesus Never Intended (Keith Wright) - The title says it all. A belief I've long held only the author provides much scholarship than I have used to come to where I am. A great help as one moves from a conventional faith journey and system of belief.
A New Kind of Christianity (Brian McClaren) This book pushes the envelope! I don't agree with everything but found it challenging, inspiring, and interesting all at the same time.
Christianity For the Rest of Us (Dianna Butler Bass) - A good read but a little repetitive. Basically allows for Christianity to grow with something other than a literal, narrow faith journey. Pop religion is my way of describing what she offers an alternative to.
StrengthFinders - I regret that I didn't happen on this Gallup work much earlier in my ministry. It's an excellent secular assist for understanding gifts/skills/aptitudes/strengths. I think this work is especially beneficial for those persons and organizations who would like to live out their existence from a position of strength.
Reaching Out (Henri Nouwen) - A really old book but one that helped develop my attitude toward our responsibility to be a hospitable people.
What's So Amazing About Grace? (Philip Yancey) - Great stories that really help make the point of just how expansive the concept of grace is.
Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God (Frank Schaeffer) - Shortly after a recent blog post a member of a church I served several years ago sent me a note suggesting I read this. It is a very interesting and helpful perspective.
Marcus Borg - Over the last few years I've read several books by Borg. As far as I'm concerned he's one of the more interesting biblical scholars. He uses biblical history and the scriptures to make his point. Challenging at times but very helpful.