A Note from Beth Richardson: In The Uncluttered Heart, I've picked a favorite quote on which to anchor each day of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Following are the books these quotes came from. I hope I might introduce you to some of these beloved books and writers.
Discipleship Resources published a series of three Africana Worship Books. Each book takes the scriptures of one of the lectionary years (A, B, or C) as the inspiration for prayers written by a group of talented writers. The litanies and prayers in each book speak with the truth of the African American experience in the world. And they call out the human experience as brothers and sisters who stand before our God in worship. I'm honored to have been able to use one of these prayers in The Uncluttered Heart. More about the book.
I have a very fond place in my heart for Alive Now. I learned how to edit under the care of Alive Now editor, Mary Ruth Coffman. Mary Ruth took a chance on me and let me work with the magazine as a summer intern during my divinity school days. That was when I discovered that I loved editing and began taking the steps that led me to where I am today. I spent my first ten years at The Upper Room as the Associate Editor of Alive Now and the next 14 years in The Upper Room's web ministry. Now I'm back at Alive Now -- this time as the editor. This resource is the heart of creativity at The Upper Room. I hope you'll check it out. More about this resource.
I guess this particular listing comes with the warning, "Shameless self-promotion follows here." Child of the Light was my first Advent book for Upper Room Books. In this book, I focus on the music of Advent and Christmas. Each week of Advent takes its inspiration from a different Advent hymn. Daily meditations are written about the themes from that week's hymn. Once Christmas day is reached, there's a hymn or carol, along with a meditation, for each day. The title of the book comes from the hymn, "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" by Kathleen Thomerson. It's one of my favorites. Learn more about this book.
This is the first of Daniel Wolpert's two books on developing one's relationship with God. The subtitle says it all: "The Call of Ancient Prayer Practices." Wolpert takes twelve prayer practices and makes them accessible to a regular person like me. The Appendix to the book presents step-by-step instructions for one of the prayer practices featured in each chapter. I'd recommend this book for the shelf closest to the place where you have your quiet time. Learn more about this book.
Julian of Norwich is a hero of mine. She lived in England during the Dark Ages. And she wrote a book -- Showings -- one of the few books by a woman from that period that has been preserved to this day. She was a mystic who dedicated her life to God. Even in the midst of the plague and all the hardships of living, she spread the word of God's love. God said to her, "All shall be well." This booklet is a modern translation of some of her writings. Learn more about this book.
Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey
Flora Slosson Wuellner
Flora Wuellner is a wonderful writer and pastor, a healer by nature and vocation. This book on forgiveness is a precious gift to the world. Flora desribes forgiveness in this way, "Forgiveness is not a goal to be reached or a summit to be attained. The road itself is the goal!" She is a gentle companion on the way of healing. Learn more about this book.
My copy of this Forty Days is heavily highlighted. It is a book about Centering Prayer, the practice of contemplation, being open and silent before God. Each day's reading moves the reader deeper into the practice of prayer. My favorite part of the book is a daily "Prayer Practice" that helped me actually experience what the earlier content was talking about. This is another "must have" for my spiritual development shelf. Learn more about this book.
Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck's Guides to Prayer have been spiritually helpful and inspiring to many people, including me, through the years. The original book was A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants. This second one, All God's People, includes daily prayer, scripture readings, quotes, and an outline for monthly personal retreats. More about the book.
This third Guide to Prayer by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben Job opens up the spiritual journey to "All Who Seek God." It's my favorite of the three Guides to Prayer, partly because of its accessibility and partly because the voices of Job and Shawchuck speak more clearly through their written contributions. More about the book.
I found this book to be very helpful as I struggle to focus on the important things in life. The author found himself in a crisis of faith and decided to try to answer the question, "What did Jesus consistently say and do during his public ministry that would be instructive for us?" His journey of exploration led to this book. Each chapter looks at a different "Jesus Priority" such as Heal, Love, Pray, Spread the Word, and Accept Children as Precious. More about the book.
This book for spiritual leaders inspired me so much that I wanted to give a copy to all the pastors I knew. Wolpert does a great job of identifying spiritual practices that help create and nurture leaders grounded in spirituality. As Wolpert concludes, "The spiritual life is way too precious to keep to ourselves but rather is a banquet to be shared." Learn more about this book.
When I was a young adult, somehow I got my hands on a box set of Great Devotional Classics published by The Upper Room (1952). (In fact, it's still on my shelf.) The box was filled with 40-page booklets of writings by some of the great leaders in Christianity. Only thing was, the language was so archaic that I couldn't understand much of what it said. More recently, The Upper Room has published a new series of Spiritual Classics including this one -- the writings of Catherine of Siena. More about the book.
On the Way to Bethlehem
I'm sorry to say that this book has recently gone out of print, though you might be able to find it for sale on the web. Through stories and meditations, McDowell brings to life the story of Jesus' birth.
I used this book for several years in my morning devotional time. Each day includes a saint, a psalm (along with some reflections on that psalm) and information about a prayer practice. As I moved through the book, Larry introduced me to some ordinary people whose lives became blessings to others (saints). I learned more about ways to deepen my prayer -- from breath prayers to lectio divina to discernment. Each morning, I sat in my chair in the corner of the living room, lit a candle, and followed Larry's gentle leading into my day. I'm sad to say that this book has gone out of print, but it is still available used. More about the book.
This is a great book by my friend, Mary Lou Redding. Mary Lou is the retired editor of The Upper Room daily devotional guide -- and a great writer. This is one of several excellent books by her. In The Power of a Focused Heart Mary Lou takes a look at the "8 Life Lessons from the Beatitudes." The eight chapters of the book deal with real-life themes such as poverty, grief, power, and being satisfied. She writes, "The spiritual life is not about rules; true spirituality is about relationship. It's not about how well we pray or how many Bible verses we can quote. It is about living in relationship with God, depending on God daily." More about the book.
This is one of my favorite books by Flora Wuellner. She guides readers to a place where we can look at our wounds and begin to, little by little, offer them to God for healing. Wuellner says, "God does not send us pain. God is not a wounder or punisher. This is important to understand as our trust in God grows. But neither does God let our wounds be wasted. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will not remove the lines of hard-won experience from our faces. A new power of light, the light of the divine passionate compassion, will shine through those lines on our faces." More about the book.
Provacative Grace is the second of Morris' offerings from Upper Room Books. He writes with a powerful, authentic voice about his own spiritual journey as he has struggled with "The Challenge of Jesus' Words." Reading Morris's words helped me realize that I'm not alone in my struggle to live the Jesus way. More about the book.
I'm a big fan of Patricia Wilson's. 1. She's a great writer in the area of practical spirituality; 2. She's from Nova Scotia. (I just think that's cool.); and 3. She's really funny. You'll have to check out her other books, including, Why Pray when You Can Take Pills and Worry? This book is one of her "tamer" offerings -- a daily meditation book for women. More about the book.
How cool is it that we have writings by Saint Francis -- the saint of garden statues and animal blessings. This booklet is one of the Spiritual Classics. It contains collected writings by Francis of Assisi and his female sidekick, Clare of Assisi. More about the book.
Setting the Christmas Stage
John Indermark is one of The Upper Room's most prolific authors. In this Advent book, he looks at the Christmas story as a pageant, reminding us of holidays past and present. He provides a dynamic view of how Advent gradually moves the drama forward to the climax of Christmas. I'm sorry to say this book is out of print but you can find copies at Amazon.
My good friend and colleague, Pam Hawkins, wrote this lovely Advent book. Pam and I share a love of Advent, and I fell in love again with Advent when I read through the pages of her book. The themes of the book are anticipation, hope, patience, and obedience. More about the book.
Evelyn Underhill was a twentieth-century British spiritual writer and retreat leader. Her writings are lovely, powerful. Here's one of my favorite quotes by her: "Faithfulness is consecration in overalls. It is the steady acceptance and performance of the common duty and immediate task without any reference to personal preferences -- because it is there to be done and so is a manifestation of the Will of God." The Soul's Delight is from one of The Upper Room's Spiritual Classics collections. More about the book.
Another book from the Spiritual Classics collections. (Yes, I'm into these!) Teresa of Avila lived in sixteenth-century Spain. She was a Carmelite nun and was friends with another mystic from that time, John of the Cross. She was a writer and a Doctor of the church. You can get this book as a part of The Upper Room Spiritual Classics series. More about the book.
I got to study under Glenn Hinson a few years ago when he was a presenter at my Academy for Spiritual Formation. I had always loved this book, but hearing him speak brought the pages of the book more alive for me. In this book, he examines the spiritual preparation of the ordinary people who were invited to become Christian leaders and saints. The quote from Spiritual Preparation that we used in The Uncluttered Heart is one of my favorite Upper Room gems. I'm sad to say that this book has recently gone out of print. More about the book from Amazon.
The Upper Room Disciplines 2013
The Upper Room Disciplines is full of treasures. Fifty-two writers (leaders from today's Christian world) each write a week of meditations based on the lectionary scriptures for that week. Previous years have included such great writers as David Buttrick, Grace Imathiu, Don Saliers, Roberta Bondi, Martin Marty, Marjorie Suchocki, Mark Yaconelli, and Will Willimon (and, of course, Beth A. Richardson). It's a great way to really sink into scripture in a daily way. More about the book.
This book is part of the Companions in Christ series published by The Upper Room. Trevor Hudson has been in the Methodist ministry for over thirty years, spending most of this time in and around Johannesburg, South Africa. I've gotten to know him through his work with The Upper Room. Most recently, I had the honor of introducing Trevor to the strange American tradition of Halloween when he had dinner at my house this past October 31. Trevor is a powerful writer and a humble, authentic leader. More about the book.
Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life brings together a community of some of the greatest voices in Christian spirituality today. (And I work just down the hall from the place it's edited!) In its pages you'll find such voices as John Mogabgab, Marjorie Thompson, Parker Palmer, Henri Nouwen, and Wendy Wright, just to name a few. The journal has just gone through a change and sports a new, more colorful look, as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. More about the Journal.
I love this little book -- about tragedy and the way that God is present through all difficulties. Greg Clapper wrote the book after his 1989 experience of being the chaplain on the scene after the crash of United Airlines flight 232. Still today we need these words about God's comfort in the midst of every tragedy. More about the book.
In this Advent book, my friend, Mary Lou Redding, helps connect us with the Advent and Christmas story at a deeper level. Mary Lou has allowed for journaling space with each chapter and offers leaders an excellent study guide to go with the book. I really love the cover of this book -- a piece of art by Natalie Cox Jaynes. Here's my favorite quote from Mary Lou's book: "We have hope not because we are powerful or smart or resourceful but because of who God is. And as we test our hope by acting on it, we release God's power into our circumstances. Our 'hope muscle' grows stronger and our desire for God more compelling, just as exercising strengthens our physical muscles." More about the book.
The subtitle says it all: "A Spirituality for the Rough Edges of Daily Life." This is Morris' first book with The Upper Room. In it, I learned a lot about Robert Morris; I learned even more about me. This is a book for ordinary Christians who want to learn to be better -- more connected, quieter inside, facing the internal challenges of depression and anger. I'm grateful to Bob Morris for this gift in the pages of a book. More about the book.