Benedict of Nursia. The Rule of Saint Benedict. Various editions.
Written by the father of Western monasticism, this “little rule for beginners” is a challenging and insightful path for following Jesus and growing in Christian love.
Cook, Jeff. Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2008.
Cook’s accessible study contrasts the Christian tradition of capital vices (habitual sins that destroy the with-God life) with the growth of virtue as expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is a valuable and insightful introduction to how believers can cooperate with God in becoming more like Jesus.
DeSilva, David Arthur. Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2008.
It’s a common joke in post- and sub-Christian cultures that many people only want Jesus and the Church in their rites of passage: “hatching, matching, and dispatching.” But more important than the emotions of those days or the beauty of the rites is the framework for living that the Christian story provides. As many people ask, ”what on earth am I here for?” DeSilva demonstrates that the answers can be found in the sacramental rites of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, marriage and burial, as he explicates the implicit theology offered by the services in the Book of Common Prayer.
Homan, Daniel, and Lonni Collins Pratt. Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2002.
This short book looks to the Rule of Benedict to provide balance between ministry to others (both at work and at home) and the inner life. I highly recommend it.
Kinnaman, David, and Gabe Lyons. Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity-- and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2007.
For Christians who grew up in deeply religious environments in the American South, it can be shocking to discover what outsiders think of Christianity, and what their experiences with Christians have been. This book can offer a stark challenge for disciples to reach out to their neighbors with creative and sacrificial love, while avoiding some of the hurt that our co-religionists have caused.
Marin, Andrew P. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2009.
Andrew Marin grew up religious and homophobic – but after three of his best friends came out to him, he started to reconsider his unChrist-like treatment of gay people. This book doesn’t revisit the normal arguments about the Christian Bible and sexuality, nor does it argue for a revisionist ethic; instead Marin shares his journey as a missionary of Christ’s love to gay people, and offers suggestions for moving the discourse to a place of understanding and common ground. Here's a good introductory video at his blog. Andrew writes graciously and with humility, and his book is a must-read for anybody struggling with Christian sexual ethics and the challenge of loving broken people.
Mathewes-Green, Frederica, and Andrew. First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey Through the Canon of St. Andrew. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2006.
We are often tempted in the Christian life to minimize and excuse our own sins, while remaining quick to name those of others. Praying through the Canon of Saint Andrew, an ancient litany of repentance, is a wonderful (and at times difficult) antidote to this tendency. Mathewes-Green provides insightful and accessible commentary, as well as a hagiography of Mary of Egypt, an important figure in Eastern Christian penitential literature.
Mathewes-Green, Frederica. The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer That Tunes the Heart to God. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2009.
Mathewes-Green invites us to meditate upon and rest in the Lord’s presence by praying without ceasing: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Nouwen, Henri J. M. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.
This short and outstanding essay explores the challenge of living deeply with Christ in the midst of the world.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
This is a book-length meditation on both the parable of the prodigal son as found in the Gospel of Luke and depicted in Rembrandt’s painting. Nouwen invites us to deeper intimacy with God as he helps us identify with the father, the wayward son, and the older brother of the story.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. Show Me the Way: Readings for Each Day of Lent. New York: Crossroad, 1992.
This is a daily devotional taken from the writings of one of the twentieth century’s most beloved Christian writers.
Pennington, M. Basil. Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.
The only people who find prayer easy are those who never do it. Prayer is challenging, and meditation can be a great struggle, especially for the beginning. Pennington’s book offers a great place to start as he teaches readers to meditate upon Scripture and wait in silence upon the Lord.
Sweeney, Jon M. The St. Clare Prayer Book: Listening for God's Leading. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2007.
This short book for daily prayers (called a breviary) is inexpensive, attractive and easy to use, and each day guides believers through seven themes in spiritual discernment and listening prayer.
Sweeney, Jon M. The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life. Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2004.
This short book for daily prayers (called a breviary) is inexpensive, attractive and easy to use, and each day guides believers through seven themes in Franciscan Christian spirituality.
Volf, Miroslav. Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.
What is it like to forgive others of the most heinous crimes? What is it like to seek forgiveness for deep wrongdoing? How can we begin to forgive people who hurt us, and seek healing? Volf refuses easy answers and cheap clichés as he walks through the challenges of forgiveness, mixing personal narrative with good theological thinking.
Williams, Rowan. Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another. Boston: New Seeds, 2005.
It is often said of the ancient Christian spirituality of the east, that those believers knew how to judge their own sins harshly, but to show unending mercy toward the sins and weaknesses of others. In four accessible lectures, pastor and theologian Rowan Williams walks us through the thoughts and prayers of the mothers and fathers of the desert.