For me, daffodils and lenten roses are Mother Nature’s heralds of spring and the Easter season. Lent is a sacred segment of time, mirroring Jesus’s 40-day spiritual journey in the desert, whereby spiritual seekers give up or take on something in the hopes of experiencing a deeper sense of oneself and God. I confess with the recent loss of someone dear to me, the devastating reality erupting in Ukraine and the overwhelming need for basic necessities from the Afghan refugee community in Nashville, I am less focused on my own private spiritual growth. All of my energy is devoted to prayer and pleas for God to act in our world here and now. I feel the “Doubting Thomas” in me longing for signs of hope and proof of God’s promise that the light will not succumb to the darkness and the goodness of humanity will prevail. I believe we all have to dig deeper for the good and the hope in us and then speak it like never before into our hurting world. May Lent 2022 be the year we over-communicated hope and Easter was not just a tradition in the liturgical calendar, but our intimate and universal reality.
Following are a collection of spiritual books that I am leaning into for consolation, inspiration and hope.
Anam Cara opens with the most magnificent sentence: It is strange to be here. The Mystery never leaves you. O’Donahue is a beautiful spiritual writer. He brings to life the spiritual landscape that is available within and all around us. He’s convinced of the reality of our soul and the largeness of our human experience if we listen to its longings. Every time I read anything John O’Donahue I am affirmed that God is very much alive and present with us, the world is full of beauty, and if I only love, my life’s purpose will be fulfilled.
Although she doesn’t know it, Barbara Brown Taylor is a spiritual luminary for me. I love how she brings to life biblical narratives in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament and then invites them to speak into our present reality. In my favorite reflection, “Shock Therapy,” she says, “I do believe we can put ourselves into a cold storage any day of our lives by failing to live up to the love that is in us. A wasted existence is hell, no two ways about it. If we want to be whole, we can use our two good eyes to see the world the way God sees it and we can use our two good feet to carry us into it as deeply as we dare, and we can stretch out our still attached arms to someone in danger of stumbling so God can steady and save us all.”
I had the blessed fortune to participate in a retreat several years ago in New Mexico with Richard Rohr. He believes God has, is and will always be in the thick of creation beginning to end! Rohr is convinced there is a universal plan of goodness, love and redemption that is in progress and of which we are each a part. Everywhere there is Christ. I need to hear these words because sometimes it feels like God has pulled an Elvis and left the building.
Strange when you open a book and read a prayer, one that you actually wrote five years ago, and it feels so new and fresh and necessary for your soul. I rarely read again anything I have written but recently I am going back through my prayers in The Pocket Cathedral as if to pick back up the sacred thread that I have been missing.
If only I could share a cup of tea with Madeleine L’Engle and have a chat about the big questions that I wrestle with in my heart. What a blessing to discover Bright Evening Star where L’Engle ponders aloud who is Jesus, what is salvation, how do we pray, and what really matters here. She says, “One of the blessings of growing old is that I have finally moved past Thomas and his insistence on seeing the wounds to knowing the wounds are there, for me, in me, in you. Perhaps it takes moving through a great deal of chronology to know how thin the world of facts is, how rich the unprovable love which made it all. What I believe in lies in the realm of love, not fact.”
Right now it is her words, “Everything is always more than it seems with God” that is giving me hope!
My friend Dorothy gifted me with this gem! When the world feels turned upside down and sideways, we have to work harder to make moments sacred and holy. A liturgy-writer myself, I relished all the ways we can show reverence for the simple and ordinary events in our lives. My favorite liturgy in the book is for The Preparation of an Artisanal Meal! It opens: Is it possible that a meal might be so infused with a holy artistry, so thoughtfully prepared with intent to convey comfort and delight, as to make another remember again, even for a moment, that there is a God, and that his care for them is tender? Also included are liturgies for the Keeping of the Bees, Stargazing, and for Leavings.
Father Thomas Keating was a Cistercian monk, abbot, and spiritual advisor. He spent his life, “becoming a friend of God.” He is best known for his work with Centering Prayer. This treatise focuses on what is to be human and to be happy. Keating says our happiness depends on our answers to the following questions: Where am I? Where am I in relation to God, to myself, to others? The book helps you to dig in, reach out, and draw closer to God.
A friend dropped this one off to me! Always eager to learn something new about how to pray! Martin offers a multitude of creative ways to broaden your prayer life and move away from dry, rote prayers.
Thich Knat Hanh just passed away. He has spoken so many truths into my spiritual life. Silence is the cure for the internal and external chaos that plagues us all. All of us would love nothing more than to live more from a posture of peace. Thich Knat Hanh says the peace begins in the silence.