Spiritual Formation Classics and Theology
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson, 2000. Peterson’s decades of following God and leading others along the way is an encouragement to persevere in pursuing the deep life with God and not give in to our culture of instant gratification.
Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, M.D., 2010. I was floored by the connections made between neuroscience, attachment and bonding, and our relationship with God and others. One of the most life-changing books I’ve read.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, 1998. This classic fleshes out a variety of spiritual disciplines and their integration in a whole-hearted transformation of self and community.
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr, 2011. As the title suggests, Rohr investigates the paradox of finding life just as we feel we are losing it. He illustrates the spiritual needs of the two halves of life with depth and wisdom.
Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman, 1996. From a spiritual mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a profound theological work on what Jesus means to those who are oppressed (disinherited).
Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster, 1992. For those who want to grow in prayer, understand and experience God through prayer, this book is essential.
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton, 2006. This book is a great primer on a well-rounded life with the Spirit and the choices we are invited into to live well. It covers solitude and silence, honoring the body, discernment, sabbath, a rule of life, and more.
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, 2018. For anyone who is a Christian leader, this book looks especially at the needs, pitfalls, and provisions for leaders’ souls. She offers practices and reflections to ground you as you lead.
The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy by Susan S. Phillips, 2015. Presenting the journey of spiritual formation as one of cultivation as opposed to the hustle of a circus, Susan Phillips guides you through ways of being refreshed, attentive, attached, and a friend to Jesus and others. She incorporates practices with metaphor and teaching so that you can grasp these essential lessons.
Surrender to Love by David G. Benner, 2003. This is the first in the series of Benner books I have listed. He explains so well the ramifications of really knowing that you know that you are a beloved of God, and invites us into this knowing.
The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery by David G. Benner, 2015. I have read this four times already, and every time the Lord has something new to say. Christians often equate self-awareness and introspection with selfish self-help rather than a way to encounter the Holy Spirit within us. Benner gracefully and excellently unravels these tensions and walks you into the freedom of knowing yourself as God knows you.
Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction by David G. Benner, 2004. This book propelled me to act on the call of God to attend seminary and become a spiritual director. He beautifully illustrates what spiritual friendship is, why it’s important, and how to cultivate it.
Memoir and Personal Growth
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle, 1972. This is the first of four books that are part of her Crosswicks Journals, and in it she reveals in her life deep humanity and deep divinity.
A Good Way Through: My Journey with God from Disappointment to Hope by Kristen Leigh Kludt, 2017. This is a memoir of Kristen’s spiritual growth that came from the pain of infertility. She is a highly creative person and encounters God in nature and art expression. I especially liked how she has reflection questions and creative practices for seasons of life like disappointment, disillusion, and hope.
Every Body Matters: Strengthening Your Body to Strengthen Your Soul by Gary Thomas, 2011. A big part of my spiritual growth has been through learning to love and care for my body as God does. This was one of the first books that helped me make those connections.
Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman, 2011. This was another pivotal read for me that began to free me from “the try hard life” and find freedom in Christ, not in goodness!
Penguins and Golden Calves by Madeleine L’Engle, 1996. Her interplay of observation, reflection, and stunning correlation always opens windows for me to better see God. In this book she shows how ordinary things can become icons—windows to God.
Self-talk, Soul-talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild, 2007. This book broke open my path forward when I was stuck in my twenties. It helped me recognize what was going on in my head, what was my talk and what was God’s.
True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created by Michelle DeRusha, 2019. Using the art of fukinaoshi, Japanese open-center pruning, as an overarching metaphor, Michelle demonstrates the steps toward living your life as God intends. She weaves in science and Biblical lessons to create a gracefully compelling invitation to you to do the same. At the end of each chapter a questions for personal reflection.
A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen by Jim Manney, 2011. Don’t let the title scare you! It’s a tiny, easily accessible book that really helped me move from a self-condemning account of wrongs to receiving love and guidance through this excellent practice of the examen.
Champagne for the Soul: Rediscovering God’s Gift of Joy by Mike Mason, 2003. In 2015, Jesus ushered me into a year of quiet rest with the sole focus of seeking joy. This book was my companion and guide for the first ninety days, and one I return to frequently. He has delightful meditations that reveal the deep truth that joy is present always, even and especially in suffering.
The Artisan Pace by Jeana Saeedi, 2018. This is a 14-day devotional intended to draw our hearts into the gentle rhythm of God’s love. Along with each reflection she provides a botanical drawing that you can color while you consider what the Lord is saying to you through the devotional.
Traveling Light: Modern Meditations on St. Paul’s Letter of Freedom by Eugene Peterson, 1988. Peterson walks us through Galatians and into real freedom.
Field Guides for the Way, by Kristen Leigh Kludt. I have not done these yet, but would very much like to! She has created kits for each season of the year in which are supplies for artistic creation and reflection as a spiritual practice. If you are one who likes to create then these would be a good fit for you.
Cobbleworks: Tools and Tales for Humans on a Soul Journey by Jennifer Willhoite. Jennifer makes artful booklets, cards, heartfelt dolls to aid in spiritual practice rooted in Ignatian spirituality.
Kutsu Companions makes tactile tools for spiritual practices.
For Groups and Kids
How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, 2001. We used this in a small group and were challenged to grow in deep ways.
Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community by Ruth Haley Barton, 2014. One of the temptations of our current cultural take on spirituality is to be private and isolated about it. Ruth Haley Barton has done a stellar work of explaining the crucial role spiritual community is to our growth and to God’s kingdom. She guides you and your group into deep, essential areas, that, if entered together, is transformational.
Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for your Child’s Spiritual Formation by Jared Patrick Boyd, 2017. This book engages children and adults at the heart and imaginative level with Jesus, slowly building attachment to God through meditations built on Scriptural and theological foundations. It was a lovely Sabbath practice for us for a year. All ages can enjoy this!
Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together by Lacy Finn Borgo, 2020. Lacy is one of my teachers and mentors, and she has brought her expertise and self into an easy to understand guide to accompanying children in the growth of their souls.