“Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading – that is a good . . . life” Annie Dillard. That is so true! The following are my recommended top 10 picks from this past year: 1. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk This is a critical, important read for every one of us wrestling with discipleship in the church. Bessel van der Kolk , medical director of the Trauma Center in Boston and one of the foremost authorities on trauma in the world, offers innumerable insights on how to serve the increasing number of people in our churches stuck due to trauma. I continue to prayerfully read and study this book weekly. 2. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie This timely book gives us insight from the perspective of a Nigerian immigrant who comes. Read more.
The Emotionally Healthy Leader was my most challenging writing project to date. It required 6 ½ years of journaling, pondering, and prayer, and 1½ years of intensive writing itself. By the time it was over, I wondered if I would ever write again. (My first draft of over two hundred pages, for example, ended up mostly in the trash. So I reread two of my favorite books about the art and vocation of writing– Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the Vocation of Writing and The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard. Their insights offered me, once again, both perspective and vision. They put words on the complexity of the writing experience for me. My top learnings: Why do I write? I write to become clear (Merton, 10). I find that it (writing) helps me pray because, when I pause at my work, I find the mirror inside me is surprisingly clean and deep and serene. Read more.
I finished Elie Wiesel’s memoirs last night. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate who lived through the horror of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I find his writing a sharp, challenging contrast to the kind of sanitized spirituality found in most Christian leadership bookstores. We had an inexplicable confidence in German culture and humanism…We kept telling ourselves that this was, after all, a civilized people, that we must not give credence to exaggerated rumors about an army’s behavior. (27) Moshe the beadle… madness in his eyes. He talked on and on about the brutality of the killers. “Listen to me!” he would shout. “I’m telling the truth. On my life, I swear it!” But the people were deaf to his pleas. I liked him and could not bring myself to believe him. (29) Yet we practiced religion in a death camp. I said my prayers every day. On Saturday I hummed Shabbat songs at work. I. Read more.
Augustine once said that God is always trying to give good things to us but our hands are too full to receive them. Roslyn H. Wright, a Director of Field Education at Whitley College in Australia, visited me in NYC recently. The following are reflections out of her work with seminary students around “Incarnational goal setting”: 1. God’s calls us to courageously lead out of our ‘true self.’ “The problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self” (Thomas Merton). God gives to each of us a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” with a unique working out of that gift in the Body and the world. The forces, internal and external, that move us away from that place of leading from within are enormous. 2. Prayer, particularly the Examen, along with a trusted community, is the foundation for. Read more.
At the end of my summer vacation each year, I take a week for a retreat on the lovely grounds of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. About 60-70 men live there, dedicated to a life of prayer. I love the silence, the singing of the Psalms, the beauty of the landscape, the contrast to my life in New York City. One of the highlights for me continues to be a growing relationship with Father Dominic. He his a former Dominican priest with a PH.D in Thomas Aquinas.He taught at Georgetown University before sensing a call to a greater life of prayer. This led him out of the Dominican order to become a Trappist. He now serves as the prior of the monastery (i.e. the COO, or#2 person). We met each day for spiritual direction and a “conference.” He is engaged in many “un-monastic” things, such as strategic planning, running a business, dealing with. Read more.