Sunday, December 8, 2013

advent reflection 2013.2 Wait for it...
I'm terrible at waiting.  Waiting for a late bus, waiting in line anywhere, sometimes even waiting to fall asleep - these are not the parts of my day that I enjoy.  Yet whether I like it or not, there is a lot of waiting to be done in life.  Daily I must wait in both short and long time frames: 30 seconds for a light to change, or years for my self to change.  In fact, often my deepest desires require me to wait.

If time is money, then waiting is expensive.  Thus lack of patience is easily justified.  But focusing on the bad parts of waiting and becoming frustrated is the wrong attitude.  Perhaps that is why we need a whole season of the church to learn a better posture.

Advent is about waiting.  To anticipate a coming - or an advent - implicitly requires waiting.  Just as the people of Israel waited centuries in exile, longing for a Savior, for their God to remember them, so too Christians await the return of Christ.  During this season we deliberately place ourselves within both of these narratives.  We wait.

A few times in the last week Advent broke into my daily waiting.  "It's ok, Bethany," I reminded myself, standing in a coffee shop line, "it's ok to wait.  This is good practice."  A few seconds later, however, I found myself wishing I had picked a different time to get coffee.  Clearly I need to let the Advent mindset sink deeper.

It is in the long things, the big things, that I feel it most acutely.  For example, I don't feel I have "the gift of singleness" (whatever that means!), but here I am, quite unmistakably single.  Some days waiting - and trusting God that this timing is best - is difficult.

Trust.  Two people suggested to me last week that God uses the waiting in our lives to bring us closer in relationship to him.  In this way Advent is about a much richer waiting than we might first imagine.  During Advent we wait for something.  But I think we have reason to hope that there is also something to be gained through the waiting.

p.s. some interesting facts about waiting in line.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

advent reflection 2013.1

the road home
While driving this week to visit my family for Thanksgiving, I listened to a sermon from Church of the Resurrection in DC.  Preaching on Mark 1, Matthew Mason spoke of repentance as a turning in allegiance to Christ the King.  For me it was a fitting beginning to the season of Advent.

As we anticipate the coming of Christ, it is good to remember how Mark prepares his readers to receive the gospel of Christ:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 
 “Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
 who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
 ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
 make his paths straight,’”  
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. [...]
 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:1-4,14-15)
Why start this way?  This prophecy is a proclamation of a coming King, a King who is God himself.  As a messenger running before a victorious king, so John came to tell God's people the good news that their king had come.

It is good to reflect on this good news during Advent, and to prepare the way in our lives.

This repentance is a turning in more ways than one.  It is, in the sense above, a turn in allegiance.  If there was any previous sovereign, now that king must be turned away from, for now the true King of all kings has come.

It also involves a turning of the heart and mind.  We must turn from those things that once captivated, that held our love or fear or allegiance.  Turning, we hope to find ourselves facing Christ.

Each year I am grateful for this season of repentance and preparation.  For me this year it looks to be one in which I reflect upon my allegiance.  Am I living like the King has come?  Do I hope for his return?

I pray that God would graciously help to turn me.  Where I have false allegiance, that he would have mercy.  Where I need to change, that he would help to bring it about.

I return to the old favourite hymn sung in church this morning:
Come, thou long-expected Jesus...
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

are you ready?

Thanksgiving is over.  You are coming out of a turkey coma and perhaps thinking about some exercise.  Your next thought should be Christmas shopping and black Friday deals, right?

Wrong.  Your next thought should be Advent (this Sunday!).  Those who know me well have heard this before, but since I know some of you are saying, "what?!", I will explain.

In many ways, the first Sunday in Advent is like New Years day for Christians: it is the first day in the liturgical church year.  Every year the church walks through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and finally the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Sunday begins this cycle again.  Are you ready?

The celebration of Advent is so much more than an antidote to the frantic consumeristic culture around us.   To get you started:

An introduction to the season of Advent
An introduction to the church calendar
Until (a poem)
All my previous Advent posts

Last year I sat in this chapel with the others in my community, praying, singing, reading by candlelight, watching, hoping.  Each week we lit more candles, anticipating the coming of Christ.

This year for me, there will be different people praying in a different space.  But again we will wait and watch and together.  Again we will enact this story of the incarnation.  Again we will hope.

What will you do this year?

Monday, October 28, 2013

theology of reading

Why do you read?  How do you read?

I listened to a brief talk by Tony Reinke who called reading "a difficult pleasure."  He also wrote a book called Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books.

I think difficult pleasure is a good way to describe it.  For me I enjoy reading, but often it is hard to regularly make the time to do it.  And if I don't make the time, then infrequent reading becomes difficult.  Soon I find it's hard to get back into books, and they become items on a to-do list - which is not where they belong.

One could argue that every Christian who is capable should be reading regularly.  Their Bibles, yes, but also much more.

What do you think?  Do find reading to be a "difficult pleasure"?  Is reading a significant part of your life?  What patterns of reading have you found helpful?

p.s. If you're looking for some ideas of things to read, check out some of these posts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"community" vs "individual salvation"?

We in the church are fond of talking about "community".   (My undergraduate years at Houghton certainly taught me this: if there was one common theme to our discussions and chapel talks, this was it. ) Clearly Christian community is important.  Yet when we pause to consider why, do we find that our theology points in a different direction?  Too often I fear we preach both - community and individual salvation -  and manage to undermine each.
individual or community
photo courtesy of
Have you been there?  During announcements at church we are told of the important "community" building things in the church - small groups, outreach, service, joint prayer.  But then the sermon or even the first worship song is all about what I call "me-and-Jesus" Christianity.  Personally, I find such situations a bit jarring.  Which is it?  Can it be both?

Yes, and no.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Prayers for Syria

Prayers from the Book of Common prayer seemed especially pertinent as we prepared to pray for the people of Syria, and the decisions of world leaders.  I share a few with you, that they might also fuel your much-needed prayers.

To be prayed responsively:
V. Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R. And grant us your salvation.
V. Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R. Let your people sing with joy.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;R. For only in you can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under you care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.V. Let your way be known upon earth;R. Your saving health among all nations.V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R.  And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.
And these prayers, "for peace among the nations" and "for our enemies":

Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

sometimes we can't just learn from history.

Did I really just write that?  Me, who reads quite a few dead authors and is constantly bringing to the table the rich history and legacy of the Church?  Yes I did.
Part of the genius of genuine Christianity is that each generation has to think it through afresh.  Precisely because (so Christians believe) God wants every single Christian to grow up in understanding as well in trust, the Christian faith has never been something that one generation can sort out in such a way as to leave their successors with no work to do.  Like a young man inheriting a vast fortune, such a legacy could just make you lazy. (Wright, forward to The King Jesus Gospel)
So writes N. T. Wright, a man who no one could accuse of being lazy in this area.  This struck me as true when I read it, and has prompted a couple more thoughts:

First, this view of generational legacies is refreshing.  Rather than the older saying to the younger "Here is all that I must impart to you, for your own good", or the younger to the older, "I don't care what you have to say, because times have changed and I know better", we find something different.  We find respect in both directions.  "Thinking it through afresh" doesn't mean throwing out what was done before.  It also means that when the older generation expects the younger to do so - and to do so with capability and zeal - they are respecting their successors.

Secondly, this view lays a responsibility on each one of us.  We cannot be lazy.  Neither are we to be daunted (in this, we can be encouraged by the many who, empowered by the Spirit, thought and taught before us).

You and I need to ask the big questions.  It is vital to our own faith and to the Church.  We need to question our assumptions and our practices.  And we need to do it together.  Wright also writes: "The Christian faith is kaleidoscopic, and most of us are color-blind."  I look around me and realize that the people around me - yes you, too - are a gift to help us all begin to see in color.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Social Media, Henri Nouwen and Loneliness

This year I spent nearly every waking hour with the 11 other people in my
program.  Even my sleeping hours were shared, since I had two roommates.  It was likely one of the least lonely times in my life.

st anthony
St. Anthony
Those who led the program wisely planned days on the calendar for us to seek silence and solitude.  These were not days to "get away" from each other, but rather days to practice an ancient spiritual discipline.  I turned off my phone and computer (warning family beforehand) and sought to be alone before God for 9 hours.

Solitude?  Isn't that considered a punishment?  Only sometimes.  I would like to consider the relationships between being alone and being lonely and between solitude and social media.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the King Jesus gospel - some resources.

As you may have noticed, I've been doing quite a lot of thinking about church and the gospel.  On one level, it's all quite simple.  This is something I am reminded of time and time again when I celebrate communion.  This is why anyone - old and young, educated or not, rich or poor - can know and follow Christ.  Each one of us responds to God in our lives in a simple but profound way.

On the other hand, I know from experience that - paradoxically - beginning to understand this 'simple' Gospel is far from simple.  A couple of authors in particular have been very helpful to me in connecting the dots and helping me get a fuller understanding of who Christ is and how he fits with everything else in the Bible (or maybe how everything else fits with him!).

The first is N.T. Wright.  This New Testament scholar and prolific writer clearly loves Christ and cares deeply about his readers.  His writing is refreshingly good, and he makes efforts to speak to several different audiences.  I will note here two books I have read and one I would like to read:
The first is written to any Christian who is thoughtful about their faith.  The second two are more aimed at seminary students and pastors, I believe, but I think they are well worth the read.  I have only read the first two; Jesus and the Victory of God is on my reading list)

The second author is Scot McKnight.  On a recent family road trip, my dad suggested we listen to a series of talks McKnight gave at Regent College in 2012. (If you think this is a strange road trip activity, you don't know my family yet!  Now you can see where I get it from...)  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND listening to these talks.  Yes, you have to pay a little for them, but Regent is a great school to support.  Alternatively, you can read his book.  I haven't read it yet, so my recommendation is given cautiously.
Here is the link to his talks on the King Jesus Gospel.

Happy listening/reading!  If you do read/listen to these, I'm happy to discuss them with you!

Saturday, August 3, 2013


The thread of delight weaves its way through our lives, oft-unnoticed but essential.

Friday, July 26, 2013

what is the gospel? a question not so easily answerd

I struggled to decide what to share this week, and in the end decided to begin the dialogue about something that I've been wresting with, something that has been weighing heavily on me for some time now: the church's (mis)understanding of the gospel.
matt chandler

I know that is a bold statement.  It sounds arrogant to criticize the preaching found in so many pulpits.  (Although it turns out I'm not alone (more on that later).) I'm not claiming here that I've got it all figured out (my reading list grows longer by the day), but I do want to share with you this burden that I feel deeply.  I hope it will lead to some good discussion and maybe even some change.

My church small group is doing a study on Matt Chandler's Explicit Gospel.  I'm having a hard time enjoying the book.  So far it seems like a filled-out version of the four spiritual laws, mixed with the 'neo-reformed' (not sure what to call it) creation-fall-redemption-restoration explanation of scripture.  I don't have as many problems with the second emphasis as with the first method, but in both cases I have one big concern: it's not the gospel.

Friday, July 19, 2013

HOW do I pray? (Imagination and prayer)

You sit in your room and prepare to address the almighty God.  How will you begin?  Will you stand, kneel, lie down or walk around?  Will you look up, or close your eyes and look down?  The image your imagination forms of your relationship to God will play a large role in determining the how of prayer.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Good sermon! (by Rev. Dr. Mike Jordan)

Today I am thankful for the encouraging church service I went to yesterday.  Those of you who know me know that from time to time I get quite discouraged about sermons.  Not yesterday.

The scripture Mike was preaching from is 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; 2:17-3:10.  He has keen insight into both our culture and the scripture.  One of the challenges facing Christians in our culture, he points out, is not simply that we believe 'crazy' things.  It is that people have the perception that "I can't be a Christian and be nice."  So where do we go from there?

I'll let you listen for yourself:

Friday, July 12, 2013

not just child's play: Imagination

What does it mean to be a whole person, and to live in that fullness?  This past year, in the fellowship program I did, we all found Skip Ryan's tripartite model of a human person to be helpful:

We strive to live fully in each of these areas, to love God and others with each part of us.  I believe that the faculty of the imagination is crucial for uniting these parts of us.  Our imaginations link our heads and our hearts, leading to action.

Wait! Imagination?  Isn't that something for children?

Friday, July 5, 2013

church and chocolate (+ topic preview poll!)

Chocolate.  What feelings do you get when you hear that word?  Now compare them to what you feel when you hear the word church.  Yes, that might be a strange comparison, and yes, admittedly my brain may weirdly have equal amounts of both on its mind, but that is beside the point.

The point is that (unless you are part of that unfortunately minority of the populous who dislikes chocolate) you most likely had more positive associations with chocolate than with church.  Why is that?  Why is it that so many of us (myself included) have mixed feelings about the Church?

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Happy Independence day!  As the world watches the people of Egypt fight for the government they want, we in America are reminded yet again how much we have to be thankful for in our country.

Despite this, it often seems like the easiest thing to do is criticize our country.  In regard to this, I have two comments.

Monday, March 4, 2013

silence, slander, and authenticity

Authenticity can be considered a fairly neutral thing.  And it is not new to value it.  Shakespeare, mockingly, puts the proverbial words of advice, "to thine own self be true" in the mouth of Polonius.  However, it seems that now authenticity has been elevated in status, reaching levels paramount to truth in our vocabulary.

This may not be surprising, given the beating truth has taken lately, but I would suggest that our preoccupation with authenticity is reflective of an obsession with self, particularly self-image.  We must consider how important it really is that others view us rightly, that they know our "authentic" selves.

Monastic Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) writes:
A wise man remains silent when beset by evil; he turns to Me in his heart, and is untroubled by man's judgements.  Do not let your peace depend on what people say of you, for whether they speak good or ill of you makes no difference to what you are. (Bk 3, Ch 28)
This goes against the grain of our culture, does it not?  We who are so concerned with the right -or at least positive- impressions of others could hardly be content to remain silent while others slander us.  For while slander may sometimes be true about someone, often it is false.  All our efforts to present an authentic self-image crumble when we are falsely accused and do nothing to revoke it.

Our valuing of an authentic image can lead us to forget that we are not our image, however true it might be.  We are only ever truly ourselves before God; this is the foundation from which à Kempis speaks.  Perhaps this is the only type of authenticity that matters.

thoughts on monasticism

I recently wrote a piece for the Trinity Forum Academy blog that I thought you might like to read:
Bethany Little on The Monastic Life

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

authenticity and democracy

This week at TFA we have the honor of having Joshua Mitchell, author of Tocqueville in Arabia, with us.  While reading his fascinating book, one passage stood out to me on the connection between the democracy and our search for authenticity.  He writes:
To think of oneself as an individual rather than to understand oneself as a role is really a rather remarkable historical achievement [...].The latin term, persona, supposes a distinction between the actor and the mask he puts on. [...] In the democratic age, when everything is on the move, the mask seems ill-fitting and has the appearance of an awkward artifice. [...] In bemused movements it is treated ironically; when it appears grotesque to its wearer, a caricature of the beauty and purity of the individual behind the mask, the tender and never-ending search for "authenticity" commences. [...] That is why the language of "authenticity," so prevalent in America, is scarcely heard in the Middle East.
This rings true to me.  We throw off the prescribed roles of husband or wife, parent or child, even man or woman, of teacher or student (is school about learning from the teacher or are the students to teach each other?), even consumer/producer (customized consumption makes us the producer in some ways), just to give a few examples.   It is interesting to note that this throwing-off of roles and searching for the authentic self brings with it a certain shunning of responsibility and commitment.

What does this mean for institutions such as the church, which do not do away with roles?  One might argue that the roles nurtured by these institutions, such as roles in marriage, or even the role of worshiper vs the One who is worshiped, are actually more true to our intended self than bare individualism can ever provide.  To think that the truth could lie more in the role than the self seems almost blasphemous to claim in our culture of self-expression.

I find myself once again needing to distinguish between authenticity and truth.  Whatever they are assumed to be, they are not the same, as Jim Gilmore and Joseph Pine point out in their book, Authenticity.  Could assumed roles better lead us to truth than a search for authenticity?

This has implications not only for the church, but for understanding those from other cultures, as Mitchell points out.  We must seek to understand such basic underlying assumptions of those in another culture, and the reasons for them, before we can really begin to speak with them in a meaningful way.

(photo credit

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent - some thoughts to get you started

It is now the season of Lent in the church calendar.  I hope to write more about it, but in the meantime, here are two posts from the archive to get you started:

seasons of the church: Lent
lenten hymn

also - a short reflection by a friend, Sarah Ngu:
why the language of self-control falls short

Is there anything in particular you would like to read a post on, concerning Lent?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


“Made with REAL fruit” proclaim the labels.  “Vintage” says the shop sign or the web banner.  Much of today’s marketing makes use of our desire for that which is authentic.  And since nobody likes something that is fake, we by their more-real products.

The longing for and exploitation of authenticity has permeated much more of our society than just advertising.  The popular TV show “Girls” “strives above all else for authenticity,” according to Ms. Dunham, the show’s creator and lead actor.  (NYT1/2/2013 ) This is particularly reflected in clothing choices and in tag-lines such as “almost getting it kind of together”.

Politics also turns on authenticity.  At times it seems that the true character of a particular political leader is more important than his or her policies.  While it is nothing new that we want our leaders to have integrity and good character, perhaps the preoccupation with their “real” lives is ultimately unhealthy because of its high cost.

Social media, too, promotes a culture in which that which seems authentic is more highly valued.  Or at least, in an online culture where one can instantly age a photo through Instagram or selectively choose what part of your self you reveal, it creates a longing for authenticity.  

 Where does all this leave us?  As I considered these trends, I found myself asking a few questions.

First, has the very word “authentic”, in a self-defeating way, come to mean nothing at all?  In a NYT article by Rosenbloom entitled “Authentic? Get Real”, Jeff Pooley points out that you can’t “be told by a social media guru to act authentic and still be authentic.”  There is a deep irony here.  The more people value authenticity, the more it is manufactured, to the point where Pooley says “we want something real.”  This statement only makes sense if that which is real has become different from that which is authentic.  

Bound up in this question is the question of whether the term has become not only useless, but out-dated.  The quantity of books coming out this year which include “Authenticity” in their titles seems to belie this suggestion, but my survey of web articles seemed to be more concentrated in the 2007-2011 range.  Do you have thoughts on this?

Secondly, is the longing for authenticity in our culture primarily individualistic and potentially destructive of community?  Andrew Potter, in his bookThe Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves suggests that our obsession with authenticity is self-absorbed and competitive individualism.  One might think that acknowledging ones true self would promote open and honest relationships.  However, given the difficulty of knowing oneself to begin with, and our propensity to try to be more authentic than another person, there is reason for concern.  It is worth considering more carefully the degree to which individuals within a community, and the community as a whole, should strive for authenticity.

Finally, how are we as Christians to view all of this?  Certainly we value truth and honesty.  The issue becomes more clear when we consider choices that a church might make about its presence in a city.  How does it focus on the transforming power of the gospel: does it focus on the grace extended to weak and fallen people, or the hope-for result of that grace, and of sanctification?  

One might even argue God does not reveal himself as “authentic” (although the assumption is that he is, of course, real).  Authentic revelation implies a degree of disclosure that the infinitude and mystery of God’s personhood seems to make inadequate or false.  It also involves, to some extent, representation, which we must avoid in the worship of God.  We do not worship an authentic version of God, but his very self.

On a more positive side, I think we would agree that we want the church to be a place where people can come as they are.  This is how we come before God; should it not also be our posture before each other?  A more positive understanding of authentic christian community could come from this.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Questions?  Comments appreciated!

For your convenience, here is the definition of authentic:
authentic |ôˈTHentik|(abbr.: auth. )
1 of undisputed origin; genuine: the letter is now accepted as an authentic document | authentic 14th-century furniture.
• made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original: the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals | every detail of the movie was totally authentic.
• based on facts; accurate or reliable: an authentic depiction of the situation.
• (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do it again!

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon."
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

where is church going in 2013?

Curious about trends in the church for 2013?  I thought this was a helpful post: thirteen issues for churches in 2013

I am particularly interested in the points titled Heightened Conflict, Community Focus, Cultural Discomfort and Organizational Distrust.  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The year in books: 2012

Jeremy Myers pointed out on his blog that if you were to read a book a week, you could only read 4000 books in your lifetime.  That's a pretty generous estimate for a depressingly small number of books. It made me especially sad when I consider that I average more like a book every three weeks :(  It's a good reminder to choose my books well.  Do you have any reading ambitions this year?

Here's the roundup of books read this year.  Perhaps my comments on them will help you decide what to read this year!

  • The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  An enjoyable read (this is a children's book)
  • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.  This little book of letters is a spiritual classic worth pondering.  See my two posts on the book here on suffering and daily wisdom.
  • Desiring God's Will by David G. Benner (finished April 29 - or before!?
  • The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, by James Martin, SJ.  This is a good introduction to Jesuit spirituality.  Easy to read.  (Perhaps a little too easy?) Here's a post drawing on this book.
  • Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper.  This a good devotional-type book about the attributes of Christ.  Here's a related post  in which I talk about how we begin to believe and one about how Christ will not be put in a generational box.
  •  Tale of Two Cities, by Dickens - If you read any book by Dickens, read this one.  It is SO good!  Here's my post on it.
  • Life Together by Bonhoeffer.  I've read this one twice this year.
  • King's Cross by Timothy Keller (TFA*)
  • The Call by Os Guinness (TFA*).  This book refutes the idea that some people are called by God and other's aren't, and helps people think about God's call in their lives.  Personally, I found it too anectdotal, but if you can get past that there's a lot of good stuff to think about.  Here's a post on the practical implications for of understanding calling for our work. 
  • A Free People's Suicide by Os Guinness (TFA*).  I struggled with this book some, as the writing is dense and the audience somewhat ambiguous.  I also felt that Islam was not adequately addressed (thus weakening his argument).  That being said, if you get a chance to hear Guinness speak, or to talk with him, do it!  He is a fabulous speaker.
  • The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.  Yet another good book by Lewis.
  • The Fall by Albert Camus (TFA*).  This book gets into your head.  A fascinating reflection on the darkness of the human heart.  We read this in conjunction with Augustine's Confessions (one of my favorite books!). 
  • Candide by Voltaire (TFA*).  A humorous but unpleasant read.  If you've read it, you'll know what I mean.  Philosophy to ponder.
  • The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther (TFA*).  A short but brilliant look at the Christian life, and the role of grace and works.
  • Unchristian by David Kinnaman.  I read this book for background on my study of the church.  It was helpful, although I felt that it was difficult to sort through what the research was really saying.
  • The Tangible Kingdom by Halter and Smay
  • Quarks, Chaos and Christianity by Polkinghorne.  A fascinating look at matters of faith and their relation to physics.  He deals with such questions as prayer, miracles and free will, among other things.  As always, it is refreshing to read someone so knowledgeable in both areas.
  • Seeking God (The Way of St. Benedict) by Esther de Waal (TFA*).  This book is a gem.  Read it.  She challenges us learn from St. Benedict in very practical ways.  Although there is much to be learned about the rule in this book, her clear desire in writing is really that we learn about seeking God.
*books marked TFA indicate that they were required (or strongly suggested) reading for the program I am in this year