The School for Contemplative Living
Friday, December 03, 2021
Listening in Stillness, Serving in Joy!
Breaking Night: A Memoir
Servant Leaders, Servant Structures by Elizabeth O'Connor
Servant Leaders, Servant Structures tells the story of The Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC from its inception in 1953 until the time the book was written (1991).  In this church, spiritual formation is not simply about growing in biblical and theological knowledge but a means to be transformed so that Christ is first priority in every aspect of living. Placing Christ first in their lives compels these Christians to care for the needy in society, especially the poor. Significant issues that are described in this narrative include: the de-centralization of leadership; the importance of holding in tension inner spiritual formation with outward engagement in the community; the value of forming church members around an annually renewed covenant; the importance of "Schools of Christian Living" for Christian formation (the church's in-house seminary); and the need to allow spiritual formation and engagement with the community to trump church structures. For those especially desiring to move their church toward engaging their community and acting upon their faith, this book will provide plenty of thought-provoking material.
 Breaking Night , by Liz Murray

"As much as it is a memoir, Breaking Night is a primer on how poverty and drug abuse create a heartbreaking underclass of children, one that goes largely unnoticed. By the truly uplifting ending, Liz Murray has shown us the worst, and the very best, of America."
--Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch

 The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith
Smith cogently argues that "we live at the mercy of our ideas and our narratives," and it is through this lens the content of our spiritual lives is examined and then challenged. Each chapter within this installment presents a common narrative that many people hold that leads to anger, lust, lying, vindictive competitiveness, vainglory, avarice, worry, or judgmentalism, and then challenges that narrative through the life and teachings of Jesus. Smith relies on Jesus's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount as paramount for instilling the virtues that oppose these vices, reinforcing the Jesus narratives with an accompanying spiritual practice. In this book, those practices are writing a letter to God, play, hospitality, keeping the Sabbath, a media fast, silence, praying for the success of competitors, secret service, deaccumulation, prayer, a day without gossip, and living one day devotionally. The practices are simple, yet powerful, and the instructions Smith provides are very easy to follow.

 Longing for the Holy by Ronald Rolheisner 
Longing for the Holy is ideal for all who want to enrich their sense of the presence of God. It concerns the way we channel the deep longing at the core of our beings and addresses the implications of the central mysteries of faith for spirituality: the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the Paschal Mystery. Acknowledging the cultural challenges that keep us from realizing our true desire, readers explore important themes of Church community, justice, sexuality, the practices of the spiritual life, and being a mystic of the everyday.


Jesus Freak by Sara Miles

 In this new book, Sara Miles tells what happened when she decided to follow the flesh and blood Jesus by doing something real. For everyone afraid to feed hungry strangers, love the unlovable, or go to dark places to bless and heal, she offers hope. She holds out the promise of a God who gave a bunch of housewives and fishermen authority to forgive sins and raise the dead, and who continues to call us to action. And she tells, in vivid, heartbreakingly honest stories, how the ordinary people around her are transformed by taking up God's work in the world.

Sara Miles offers a fresh, fully embodied faith that sweeps away the anxious formulas of religion to reveal the scandalous power of eating with sinners, embracing the unclean, and loving the wrong people. Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead is her inspiring book for undomesticated Christians who still believe, as she writes, "that Jesus has given us the power to be Jesus."

 Interfaith Heroes by Daniel Buttry
Produced for the 1st Annual Interfaith Heroes Month in January 2008, these 31 stories highlight men and women who took the risk of making new spiritual connections in their lives to promote peace. The stories can be read anytime -- AND there's an open invitation in the book to nominate future heroes who'll be honored in future Interfaith Heroes Months! 

  The Naked Now by Fr. Richard Rohr
This is a lovely book, deep in the Christian tradition of direct connection to Spirit. The pages are filled with phrases and sentences that explode into your consciousness.
I loved sentences such as: "We already know far more than Jesus or Buddha ever knew, but the great differrence is that they knew what they did know from a different level and in a different way."
Or "the brilliance of a God who creates things that keep creating themselves."
Or "Theism believes there is a God. Christianity beleives that God and humanity can coexist in the same place! These are two utterly different proclamations about the nauture of the universe."
I didn't want the book to end, but it did. And I am richer for it. Thanks, Father Richard!

Love Has A Face  by Michele Perry
"I would like to take a moment to clarify what Love Has A Face is and what it is not, from an author's perspective. Love Has A Face is not a standard story-line driven linear missionary biography (no matter how it is classified). It is more along the lines of a collection of autobiographical memoirs, like a photo exhibition or art gallery where each chapter is the frame for an image to be portrayed. The images do not tell a linear story (as in a time lapse series of events) but rather probe into a thematic question. What does it mean to be live in God's love and give it away to the world around us...

I did not write this book to give anyone answers. The most valuable tools are those that lead us on a quest to find the answers for ourselves: to find THE answer in the person of Jesus. It is not written to be an apologetic on the christian faith, nor is it a treatise on appropriate missiology practice. It is simply an invitation to embrace a journey. It is meant to leave you more questions than answers...

Oswald Chambers wrote: "Faith... can be turned into personal possession only by conflict."
Faith is of no value unless becomes it our own. This book is designed to leave you with questions that should provoke an inner conflict where you lay hold of a deepening desire to truly know who Jesus is and to be known by him; to become the expression of His heart in a hurting world..." excerpts taken from the author blog of Michele Perry.

Have A Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom
This is a remarkable, true story of contrast, of two men of God; one an aging rabbi, and the other, an African American pastor working in a ghetto. Two men---two different faiths; two entirely different backgrounds. In the end, the message is clear: Faith ties us closely together and can give us the chance to accomplish things we never dreamed possible.   

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
From simple practices such as walking, working, and getting lost to deep meditations on topics like prayer and pronouncing blessings, Taylor reveals concrete ways to discover the sacred in the small things we do and see.

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor
What is greater than losing your faith and then finding it again in a completely different light? Barbara Taylor's beautifully written memoir leaves nothing out as she leaves the church to find her faith again. She begins her story sitting in a field in Kansas and falling in love with God. From there, you are part of her journey as she empties herself into her work as a parish priest and then discovers that her faith is waning. She is honest and open with herself and the reader as she bravely tells her story. Whether you are a believer or not, this book asks some tough questions and helps to separate religious dogma from true faith. 
"In the spring of 1973, a handful of seekers came together for a retreat. A weekly contemplative prayer group grew out of this retreat. A community of pilgrims was born and given the name 'Shalem,' a Hebrew word meaning wholeness. This is the story of Shalem’s first 20 years, told in the voices of those who have gathering in this graced community."

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
"Parker Palmer's writing is like a high country stream-clear, vital, honest. If your life seems to be passing you by, or you cannot see the way ahead, immerse yourself in the wisdom of these pages and allow it to carry you toward a more attentive relationship with your deeper, truer self."—John S. Mogabgab, editor, Weavings Journal


Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan
Discover the wisdom of an ancient culture. Whether one chooses to believe that this fictional account actually happened to the author or was pieced together from Aborigine folklore, one must accept that she has portrayed a powerful image of the powers of the original people of a great continent--powers that we can discover in the Real People in every one of us, if we dare to look within.

Open the Door by Joyce Rupp
Joyce Rupp brings new life to the ageless spiritual image of the door, weaving insights from East and West with the wisdom of contemporary spiritual writers, poets, and novelists in a practical format that is just right for contemporary readers. Structured as a daily prayer guide for everyday use over six weeks, each day offers a thematic reflection, a guided meditation, an original prayer, a thoughtful question, and a related scripture quote. A built-in guide for use by small groups makes this the perfect resource for groups of all kinds, as well as for individuals.

The Reflective Executive  by Emilie Griffin
...for businesswomen and businessmen who wish to integrate spiritual values with day-to-day decision-making, tight scheduling, and high-pressured management of multi-million-dollar responsibilities....

Take This Bread  by Sara Miles
As a fan of Anne Lamott and unusual conversion stories, I came to Sarah Miles's story with expectations and was not disappointed. This is a fresh, humorous, passionate, and unusual look at a change of heart--from a left-wing, secular journalist to someone caught and held by the mystery and grace of the Eucharist in St. Gregory of Nyssa's Episcopal Church in San Francisco. Her journey--her insights along the way--and her strong committment to feeding others as she is fed by God makes for a remarkable and inspiring story. This is well worth reading.