Best books of 2016

I spent a lot of 2016 with books in front of me.

Here are ten books that stand out among the many. If you’ve been following me on here, you know I’ve been quoting much from Fr. Richard Rohr. A few of those book are listed here. Here’s ten books that had a profound impact on me this year.

10. The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, E. Allison Piers translation. (A humbling poem and commentary about the separation the soul feels from God and the journey and what I would call “ego-transformation” that leads and prepares towards that divine reunion. )

9. How to Be Here by Rob Bell (A book on building your life and presence to the fullest. Bell shares numerous personal accounts of his successes and failures and the truths he found through them. )

8. Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage of God in America. by Jeff Chu (The title says it all. Chu interviews people across the country to get to the heart of his question. What you find is deeper than just a book on homosexuality but rather how do churches across the nation see the Divine and express the conception of his Love. )

7. Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich (An intellectual book of semantics that tackles very specifically what faith is, and what it isn’t. A deep book that discusses how we talk about divine mysteries and what is actually happening behind our certainties that we place our faith in. Really recommend the third chapter “Symbols of Faith.”)

6. Simply Good News by N.T. Wright (Easily one of the best and most accessible books on what the Good News of Jesus Christ is. Getting back to the source of this proclamation in the face of a world that’s chased after other messages that they’ve called Gospel. Here’s a teaser: “Someone will object, “My church hasn’t forgotten the good news! We know that Jesus died for our sins! He took our punishment so that we could go to heaven! Isn’t that the good news? If you thought you were destined for hell and suddenly someone told you God had done something about it, wouldn’t that be good news?”
Well, yes, it would. But-and this is the shocking and difficult thing for many people- that isn’t exactly the good news Jesus and the early church were talking about…”)

5. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr (A look at the moments that often lead people to transcend the former while taking those experiences with them. Often it is the people who fall hardest who understand “Up” clearest. The book explores that we grow spiritually much more by “doing it wrong” rather than “doing it right.” The book is more for an older audience but it carries spiritual truths that are deeply impactful for any age. I’ve probably recommended this book more than most this year.)

4. The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns (What if God uses our doubts to lead us out of beliefs that limit His full glory? Sometimes certainty contains God in shallow ways. We protect our certainty even in the midst of deeper truths because we are afraid of leaving behind what we were told to hold certain from birth. What if even our most important beliefs wobble in ways that lead us to greater understandings…we just have to be willing to explore. And what if God is completely okay with that? Perhaps God wants our trust more than our “correct beliefs.”)

3. The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr (A book that tackles our notions of God and Trinity and begins with the important observation: If we were to drop the doctrine of the Trinity tomorrow, most Christian’s lives wouldn’t change at all. Shouldn’t that give us pause? Rohr discusses the powerful world altering reality of the Trinity and why seeing God as “loving relationship” changes everything. What is happening inside the Trinity is like a dance. How can we understand God outside of exhausted and outdated metaphors. In the way that Tillich discusses “What is Faith?” Rohr perfectly asks and for me answers an impossible question: What is God? Without question one of the most important books I believe released this year. Would greatly shape Western Christianity if we all could just read this beautiful short book.)

2. Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (A personal account of how one man deconstructs his faith, has a mystical experience, and reconstructs his faith through science. What happens when you see beyond evangelical certainties? When all the ways you were taught to see God actually lead you to atheism. And then as an athiest….you have a mystical experience with God? How would you return to the faith? You know you can’t see through the lenses you once had? Those don’t work anymore. You left them for a reason. How can you find that faith again? One of the best and most honest books about the relationship of science and faith. I’ve found few authors that help us navigate deconstruction and reconstruction as well as Science Mike.)

1. Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr (Maybe one of the greatest tools I’ve ever found to understanding my life. Here’s a crazy question “How do we think about things?” Often we make things good or bad, right or wrong, republican, democrat, Christian or other. What if all if this strips things of their universal purpose and truth? Even if it’s a partial truth? How can we see the world in non-dual ways and instead see that “Everything Belongs.” Rather than categorizing all things as they pertain to you…enjoying and learning from the mystery. “We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out. We collapse back into the Truth only when we are naked and free – which is probably not very often. We do not think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into a new way of thinking. In other words, our journeys, around and through our realities, or circumferences, lead us to the core reality, where we meet both our truest self and our truest God.”

Here’s a link with each book.

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