So Black Friday isn’t quite your thing, or maybe it is, but this latest must-have electronic gadget was sold out before you even stood in line.
How about an old-fashioned book, with a spiritual message, instead? Books, wrapped in shiny Christmas paper and tied with a ribbon, topped with a bow, never go out of style. Here are some suggestions from local contributors. You may know some of them. You should know them all.
They are all great people, avid, spiritually focused readers:
- Sara Core, member of First Central Presbyterian Church, retired veterinarian and spiritual director;
- Susan Payne, Acting Pastor of First Christian Church;
- Cliff Stewart, pastor of First Central Presbyterian Church;
- Mark Hamilton, Old Testament professor in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University;
- Glenn Dromgoole, author whose father was a Baptist pastor.
Their suggestions cover a variety of book types, “Confessions of St. Augustine,” written between AD 397 and AD 400 as a young man returning home after the Korean War.
Books are different, but they all have one thing in common: they carry a spiritual or moral message, which makes them the perfect Christmas present. Here is what they say:
► “Streams of Living Water” by Richard Foster (Harper San Francisco, editor)
This book describes the “essential practices of the six great traditions of the Christian faith”, such as the contemplative tradition, the tradition of holiness, the tradition of social justice, and so on. For each church “flow”, Foster includes a person who is a classic Christian example, a Biblical example, and a more modern example of people who are part of that tradition. This book helps us see the great breadth of the Body of Christ, and that the church is more than any set of doctrines.
► “The Last Arrow” by Erwin McManus (Waterbrook, editor)
The premise of this autobiographical book is based on the story of 2 Kings 13, where the prophet Elisha tries to get the king of Israel, Joash, to rise up and be strong against the enemy by the prophetic act of hit the ground with his arrows. The potential victory for Israel is great, if the king hits the ground enough times. But he only hits the ground three times and then stops, so their victory is only partial. McManus’ point of view is that we should all live the life we were born to be, and when we die, be able to say that there is nothing left out. Very difficult premise that makes you think.
► “Good God, Lousy World, and Me” by Holly Burkhalter (Convergent Books, editor)
This book is a fascinating look at a woman who has worked in the field of human rights for decades. Her faith was lost in early adulthood, when she saw the ravages of injustice, human trafficking, greed and genocide in the troubled nations of the world. How could a good Lord allow all of this? But God kept pushing her back, and one day she met other activists who loved God and showed her a side of God she had lost – a God who also hated injustice. This is not a light read, and some chapters are hard to hear, so it might not be an ideal gift – unless it’s for someone who has struggled to find God in our sometimes hard world.
Reverend Susan Payne
One of my favorite books of all time is “Let your life speak: listening to the voice of vocation” by Parker J. Palmer (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000). Our vocation in life is much broader than what we are paid for. The two can be one and the same, but often they are not. In this small volume, Palmer paints a picture of our best selves: when we live harmonious lives, when our direction in life recognizes both God-given talents and limitations, and when we are genuine to who we are. really. How many of us live lives where work is in one compartment, spirituality in another, personal life in another? Through his perspective of Quaker faith, Palmer weaves stories of his own journey in seeking purpose and direction wisely for others who listen to the whispers of God.
One of my favorite authors lives here in Abilene, Texas. Glenn Dromgoole’s latest book is called “The guy from the book.” This is an easy read outlining the backstory of Dromgoole’s 30 books. The son of a Baptist preacher from Sour Lake, Texas, he shares a zest for life with his readers. Reading this book will lead you to other writings by the author that reflect values we should all cherish. Here is a poem called “In The Spirit:”
“A spiritual life,
it was shown
does not require tomes
of a doctrinal plan.
It’s just trying
in all things be kind
and do to others
all we can.
A few things come to mind: the classics.
“The Confessions of Saint Augustine” is still a must read after 16 centuries. It is still the greatest Christian autobiography ever written, and the first true autobiography.
I also like the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis. Sometimes you have to read beyond medieval culture and theology, but the exploration of the soul and its relationship to God is quite extraordinary.
And more recently, Anne Lamott, “Hallelujah anyway”, a real, grainy but hopeful vision of the possibilities of a spiritually rich life in a difficult world.
The novels by Abilene author Charles Lynn Russell all have a spiritual aspect. He wrote five, the last being “Go home” on a 21-year-old man returning home from the Korean War. It’s a positive story of good people facing awesome challenges and hardships as they try to make the most of their situation. ($ 15 pocket.) Russell will be signing books at the Texas Star Trading Company, 174 Cypress St., from 10 a.m. to noon on December 1.
“Play for more: trust beyond what you can see” is an inspirational book on faith, family and football by Case Keenum of Abilene, now the Denver Broncos quarterback ($ 22.95 hardcover).