Unhurried Journey Book Suggestions

Soul Custody: Choosing to care for the one and only you by Stephen W. Smith.

This is a great book by Stephen Smith (I also highly recommend his Lazarus Life book as well). Steve and his wife Gwen run The Potter's Inn spiritual formation retreat center in Colorado! I'd love to go there some day - it sounds like our two ministries are simpatico! Soul Custody really is a great guide of how to create more unhurried soul space in your life/world - especially in light of the "violence" with which our souls are often confronted. Smith covers topics like stillness, simplicity, detoxing from stress, caring for your body, community, and removing false identity, among other things. Here's a sample snippet:

"We forfeit our souls every single time we choose to drain ourselves and not replenish ourselves; run on empty rather than stopping and intentionally doing the things that will bring us life; burnout rather than live meaningful, significant, and impactful live that are enjoyable and life-giving to others. We forfeit the life God intended for us when we lower our souls to functioning as machines rather than living as soulish marvels who require more than a quart of oil or a recharging of our batteries" (p. 29).

The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson

In short, I try to read everything Eugene has written. This is probably my favorite book of his - he challenges pastors and ministers (all of us really) to return to the true role of pastor - being "unbusy," "subversive," and "apocalyptic."  Here are a few choice quotes:

"...the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront" (17)


"And so pastors, instead of practicing prayer, which brings people into the presence of God, enter into the practice of Messiah: we will do the work of God for God, fix people up, tell them what to do, conspire in finding the shortcuts by which the long journey to the cross can be bypassed, since we all have such crowded schedules right now" (43). 
Yea, I know. He doesn't really pussy-foot around - I think that's why I like him! He is the King of "un-ning" (helping me unlearn, shake-off and re-center my soul and ministry on what is essential!)

The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg

Simple, profound, easy to read John Ortberg. The title originally made me think this was a health/wealth sort of book, but it is far from that. John does a great job of engaging and inviting the reader toward some spiritual disciplines like celebration, slowing, servanthood, confession, secrecy, and developing your own "rule" of life. The chapter on Unhurriedness (being ruthless to be unhurried) is worth the price of the book. And really, as you know by now, his quote re: love and hurry being fundamentally incompatible has sparked an unhurried revolution!

"For many of us the greatest danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them" (82).


Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for opening the gift of time by Dorothy Bass
 I read this book quite some time ago, but remember it made a big impact on me beginning to explore my relationship with time and why I was suffering from lack of peace. Receiving is a huge part of the gist of following after Christ (i.e. duh, that is the gist of grace, which is the gist of Christianity.) Bass gives a great historical overview of time, but an invitation toward learning to receive the day, versus get stuck in frenetic "making" of a day. Here's a review by Roberta Bondi - another great historian and follower of Jesus: 
"A profoundly useful book. . . . It reminds us forcibly that we are embodied creatures gifted by God with time too precious to fritter or work away. In its recommendations for healing our relationship to time it is often unsettlingly revolutionary, frequently subversive of our secular culture, and always full of Dorothy Bass's honest and generous reflections on her own life. It is a pleasure to recommend it." (Roberta Bondi, author, A Place to Pray: Reflections on the Lord's Prayer and Memories of God)



When the Soul Listens: Finding rest and direction in Contemplative Prayer by Jan Johnson
Do you want to learn how to lean in and listen? Are you hungry for a more intimate relationship with God - longing for Him to restore your heart and soul? As the back cover says, "If prayer has stopped working for you" then read this book!

"I'd been taught many methods of prayer, but most of them involved promoting my agenda. For many years as a Christian, I never sought God just for Himself...[but we resist a silent, agenda-less coming to God] because we're distracted by life's thousand demands and by our habit of filling in empty time slots with entertainment. Our mind flashes from one thing to another, always occupied. A weekly visit to church can't begin to penetrate this busyness. Contemplation reconnects us with God in the midst of this scatteredness" (18-19).
 
Invitation to Silence and Solitude: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton
 Read every book of RHB's - they are really good! But start with Silence and Solitude - a gentle, practical invitation to a deeper and more honest life and love relationship with God and self.
"Solitude and silence are the most radical of the spiritual disciplines because they most directly attack the sources of human misery and wrongdoing. To be in solitude is to choose to do nothing. For extensive periods of time. All accomplishment is given up...When we go into solitude and silence we stop making demands on God. It is enough that God is God and we are his" ~Dallas Willard in the introduction, 10-11.

"We are a very busy, word and heady faith tradition. Yet we are desperate to find ways to open ourselves to our God who is, in the end, beyond all our human constructs and human agendas. With all our emphasis on theology and Word, cognition and service - and as important as these are - we are starved for mystery, to know this God as One who is totally Other and to experience reverence in his presence. We are starved for intimacy, to see and feel and know God in the very cells of our being. We are starved for rest, to know God beyond what we can do for him. We are starved for quiet, to hear the sound of sheer silence that is the presence of God himself" (21). 

Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith by Mike Yaconelli
In a fun, playful and challenging manner, Yaconelli invites us to a more childlike faith full of wonder, risk, doubt, mystery, honesty and passion - Here are two quotes I like:

"The critical issue of Christianity today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn't change people into wide eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into 'nice' people" (23).
"The increasing crescendo of our possessions, the ear-piercing noise of our busyness, and the soul smothering volume of our endless activity drowns out the still, small voice of God" (14).

The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
This is a great book for any of us wondering how we might incorporate Sabbath practices and a Sabbath attitude into our way too overcrowded and burdened lives. Buchanan is an engaging writer who also adds a "Sabbath liturgy" at the end of each chapter for potential practical integration of rest into your days/weeks.

"A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea" (4). 


"In a culture where busyness is fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest we miss the rest of God: the rest He invites us to enter in more fully so that we might know Him more deeply" (3).

Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster
Before long in the unhurried journey, you realize that freedom, simplicity, unhurriedness and stillness go hand in hand. This book was given to me by one of my spiritual heroes: Grandma Claudia. She modeled and lived a heart and home of simplicity - incidently, one also of joy, freedom, and love.

"God never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness" (quoting Thomas Kelly in Testament of Devotion, 5).


"The joyful paradox in all this is that while simplicity is complex it is also simple. In the final analysis, we are not the ones who have to untangle all the intricacies of our complex world. There are not many things we have to keep in mind - in fact only one: to be attentive to the voice of the true Shepherd. There are not many decisions we have to make - in fact, only one: to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness. There are not many tasks we have to do - in fact, only one: to obey Him in all things" (184).

Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly
This is a Quaker classic - one of my top 5 favorite books on living a centered, fully obedient life with Christ. 

[Following the Lord fully] is something wholly different from mild, conventional religion, which, with respectable skirts held back by dainty fingers, anxiously tries to fish the world out of the mudhole of its own selfishness" (27).

"Instead of being the active, hurrying church worker and the anxious, careful planner of shrewd moves toward the good life, we become pliant creatures, less brittle, less obstinately rational...The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much sooner do we discover that our task is to call men [and women] to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine...well intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they don't hear Him asking that He might do something through them" (70-71).
 

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Not necessarily a "Christian" book - but a book that guides you on an inner spiritual formation journey! Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, working through this book will help you come to discover more of who you were intimately and intricately created to be as well as how to unleash your creativity (in cooking, event planning, artistry, music, writing, crafts, flower arranging etc.) with the world in need of such beauty! Most of this is done by thought provoking, practical exercises designed to help you learn how to listen - to pay attention to what God has put in you that is you!

"The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention...the reward for paying attention is always healing" (63)

In Praise of Slowness: How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed by Carl Honore
I actually just picked this up from the library but already in the first few chapters know I need to have this on my shelf. Honore is doing an amazing job overviewing how we've come to regard time in such a hasty, frenetic manner - he speaks of us suffering from "time-sickness" and "time poverty."

"Time-sickness can also be a symptom of a deeper, existential malaise. In the final stages before burnout, people often speed up to avoid confronting their unhappiness...speed helps us block out the horror and barrenness of the modern world: 'Our period is obsessed with the desire to forget, and it is to fulfill that desire that it gives over to the demon of speed..." (33).

 "Some argue that round-the-clock culture can make people feel less hurried by giving them the freedom to work and run errands whenever they want to. That is wishful thinking. Once the boundaries are swept away, competition, greed and fear encourage us to apply the time-is-money principle to every single moment of the day and night" (35).

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Perhaps a bit like a more modern day "Walden" adventure - Dillard invites us to open our eyes to the world around us. She speaks that "lovers" can see...but in order to see (and hence be a good lover) it takes intentionality to slow, wait, be patient and observe.

"There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand...It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. it is that simple. What you see is what you get" (22 - in Three by Annie Dillard)

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not really lived...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life..." (82).

What more needs to be said? Linger with Thoreau in this classic if you sense that you want to live life more deliberately.

How to live in Flip Flops by Sandy Gingras
Found this delightfully profound book in my friend Jannine's shop out at the coast. It really is a fun treatise on unhurriedness!

"A life in flip-flops is a cheery life (it's hard to take ourselves seriously when our shoes are making funny noises). It's a slow life (difficult to run in such flappy shoes). It's easy (slide in-slide out) and sunny (wear SPF on every toe). It's a life as casual and silly and colorful and sweet as the designs upon our feet...When we open up our feet to the sun, our lives seem to open up also..." (1-2).