January 4, 2023
By Jo Wiersema
Midweek Musings is a weekly Covenant blog with a variety of authors and a variety of topics.
As many of you know, I am an avid reader. I’m grateful for most of the fantastic books I’ve read this year, but below I have my top 4 religious books that you might want to sneak onto your upcoming reading lists.
I want to briefly note that this is far from all the Christian books out there. There are hundreds of books that are valuable and lovely out in the world. On the flip side of that, there are many books written in the name of Christianity that are unkind and harmful to readers.
This is your reminder, that when your aunt or cousin or old college friend recommends a book, if that book is unkind or harmful, you can quit reading. There is some merit to reading things that challenge you, but there is also great harm in consuming a 200+ page manifesto that doesn’t lead with love. Maybe you have a book in mind, or maybe you haven’t come across a book like that, but know that if I book isn’t serving you, you can always place it to the side for another day or never again.
1. Coming in 1st place, I cannot recommend enough, is Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Sister Joan Chittister.
Sister Joan is a Benedictine Monk, but she uses her experience with the Benedictine Rule in how it applies to everyday. The Rule of Benedict is written in 516 AD by St. Benedict, who breaks the monastic day into sections or prayer and reflection. Throughout those 73 chapters (In The Rule, not Wisdom Distilled), it’s filled with nuggets about very practical things (don’t sleep with a knife in your pocket!), to deeper thoughts and ways of living a spiritual life. 1500 years later, Sister Joan approaches this rule in how it applies to the everyday. It’s a simple book, one that I absolutely loved, full of little pieces of information that gave me so much peace. I’m not a monk, I don’t plan to be, but wow can The Rule and Sister Joan teach me how to live a little bit more peacefully.
2. Next up is my favorite devotional: A Rhythm of Prayer compiled by Sarah Bessey.
This 40 day assortment of prayers and devotions is one of my favorite. I’ve used this in High School Youth Connection, in Student Council, and in Staff meetings. It’s appropriate for most people above the age of 14 or 15 and it’s written by a lovely variety of people. I keep a copy on my bedside, for those evenings when I want to scroll on my phone and sleep feels a million miles away, there is a devotion. I don’t have a lot of words to explain how it makes my heart warm, but it does. It’s diverse and written by so many different people, that I am grateful to flip through it and call it a resource of mine.
3. Next on my list is Fierce Love by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis.
I had the opportunity to see and meeting Dr. Lewis at a conference this year and she is a phenomenal person, presenter, and speaker. Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis is an absolute treasure. This book is for anyone who has struggled with God as a disciplinarian, with the church, or with complex family dynamics and feelings of guilt. Dr. Lewis writes in this part memoir, part Christian encouragement, the story of how God came to be Love and the importance of that title. Dr. Lewis shares the pain from her past openly, which allows for the story to unfold with raw emotion and careful refocusing on the importance of loving yourself, others, and knowing that God is a God of Love.
4. Last, but certainly not least, is The Little Monk by Harry Farra.
Written in the style of a children’s book, Harry follows the beautiful story of a Little Monk. I was asked to read this book as part of a faith formation class, and I am so glad I did. It almost feels like a fairy tale in the cadence of the story, but it is so rooted in real life. This book is filled with grace and understanding from a God who loves us no matter the misadventures and wrong roads we take. It’s short and sweet and worth the read.
This isn’t every great book I read this year, but it’s a dang good collection that might at least start you on the right foot in 2023. Let me know what you are reading! What is great, what is mediocre, what is the book that rocked your world?
God go with you, this day and always.