Spiritual Health Month

I’ve been on a health kick recently (and not just because my antidepressants are making me fat.)

After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I retooled her basic premise: What if I pursued not happiness, but health?

In June, I worked on my physical health, prioritizing yoga, meditation, and meal prep.

In July, I focused on finding comfortable, work-appropriate clothing that looked good on me.

This month, it’s time for spiritual health. I’m spending the month of August growing closer to God by asking big questions.

I initially balked at my own imposition. I dreaded doing “intense” Bible study involving maps of Israel and historical commentaries. I despised most of the theologians my friends and family loved. What else was there for me to do?

Read books. Obviously.

Instead of forcing myself to read “spiritual” tomes (C. S. Lewis is great and all, but he’s not for me), I checked out books by authors I respect on topics that interest me. For once, I’m excited about theological exploration. This never happens.

Here’s my August book list, with brief explanations behind each choice:

  1. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
    Justin Lee fascinates me. He created the Gay Christian Network as a space where those who believe in monogamy and those who support celibacy can dialogue. In my experience, genuine dialogue between different camps has been rare. I’m used to Christians “standing up for the truth” by digging their heels in and refusing to listen. I’m excited to hear Justin’s story and learn more about his mission.
  2. Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Through Science by Mike McHargue
    Many of the churches I’ve attended believe that faith and science are incompatible. In college, it was a shock for me to meet dedicated science-lovers who called themselves Christians. I’m more inclined to encounter God in art instead of science, so I’m interested to see Mike McHargue describe his experiences on the other end of the spectrum.
  3. Rising Strong by Brene Brown
    So…apparently Brene Brown is great. I’ve seen her quoted in plenty of depression studies and namedropped by Liz Gilbert. Her writing process is pretty unique – she records brainstorming sessions with friends, then writes her books using the transcripts. THAT’S NUTS. Also, SHE ARGUES ON BEHALF OF QUALITATIVE RESEARCH. THAT IS A DREAM COME TRUE FOR ME. This book explores vulnerability and failure, two areas I struggle with. DON’T LET ME DOWN, BRENE.
  4. Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son by Brad and Drew Harper
    How do one’s beliefs change when a family member comes out as gay? I WILL FIND OUT.
  5. Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell
    Confession: I chose this book because of its controversy. At some point during my college years, my then-church deemed Rob Bell a Bad Christian. My crew nervously accepted this idea without knowing exactly what Bell had done. At the time, I heard that Bell no longer believed in Hell. Just recently, I read the perspectives of several pastors (including my boy Greg Boyd) who came to Bell’s defense. I want to see what all the fuss is about.
  6. The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage by Rob and Kristen Bell
    A marriage book about give and take written by a husband and wife team; in other words, an egalitarian’s dream. Gimme.
  7. The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
    A few years back, I had a traumatizing experience with some traveling missions recruiters that put me off missions for good. I bristle when missionaries return home and demand their fellow Christians move with them to rural Mongolia. It’s hard to express these feelings when many of my friends dream of sharing the gospel overseas. I want to see if Jamie Wright feels the same way I do.
  8. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
    I love punky little misfit churches that don’t fit the nice, religious image of what a church “should” be. I want to read about the places freaks and oddballs call home.
  9. Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach
    I’ve wondered how new Christians deal with this exact scenario many a time. In the past, I’ve asked a number of specific questions about the LGBTQIA community that no pastor has felt comfortable addressing. CALEB KALTENBACH TO THE RESCUE.
  10. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again by Rachel Held Evans
    The aspect of my former Bible study that really rankled was its adamant focus on history. Other interpretations and lenses were dismissed or ignored in favor of yet another examination of ancient warfare. Calling attention to writing style or poetic language (WHICH I HAVE A DEGREE IN) prompted hardened, “NOPES,” and hasty returns to Pre-Christian Jewish culture. I thought, If this is the only way to read the Bible, I’m no longer interested. That Evans wrote an honest examination of the variety in Biblical texts gives me hope that my interpretations are valid. If what she says is true, I’m not limited to poring over maps of Israel or cross-referencing historical events. Thank God for that.

 

Update: I couldn’t wait for Spiritual Health Month to start, so I dug into my book pile four days early and ended up finishing two (going on three!) books. Luckily, the authors recommended additional books for my ever-expanding list.

New books include:

  1. Sex God by Rob Bell
    A look at the relationship between sexuality and spirituality. I can’t find a print copy at my local library, so I may have to PURCHASE this one. Desperate times, fam.
  2. Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
    My friend Stacia, knowing how much I love personality tests, recommended this one. In it, De Bono describes the six roles small group members can play (I already know I’m the red hat.) I’m a little skeptical due to De Bono’s cheesy website (it takes a special kind of Christian to make a website that lame), but I’m trying to keep an open mind.
  3. The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr
    A liberal theologian explores the advantages of a scarily-accurate personality assessment!? OH. HELL. YES.
  4. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill
    Hill details his experiences as a celibate, gay Christian in an effort to encourage other gay believers. I’ve heard good things and I needed a wild card.
  5. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin
    Apparently this is THE book to read on relations between the church and the queer community. Andrew Marin seems both passionate and sincere concerning this topic, so I’m on board. Also, this book won awards, and that fact has never once betrayed me. Never.
  6. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
    Come on, it’s IN THE TITLE.
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