Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. – Matsuo Basho
My original thought was to simply identify five books reflecting my area of expertise by naming recent books that I’ve enjoyed reading. On reflection, I decided to be a bit vulnerable and offer books that significantly impacted my soul-journey.
Each of these books opened new vistas for my understanding of God, grace and hope for the human condition.
To Thine Own Self Be True: The Relationship Between Spiritual Values and Emotional Health – Lewis M. Andrews
Andrews opened a middle ground between a pastoral counseling/spiritual care model that was anything except the “value free” approach then current based on a medical model. In fact, my old model depended upon bringing judgments into the sessions.
His’ “ethical” model embraced traditional values of honesty, tolerance and self-reliance as part of people-helping process. Without judgment, he opened a way to understand “very few psychological maladies… are natural states, nor need to be endured…. each of these negative states has roots in a particular judgment or manipulative habit; and it is through understanding the proper connection and by taking some simple remedial steps to correct our conduct that many of our emotional troubles can finally be alleviated.”
The Denial of Death – Ernest Becker
Although Baker’s book won a Pulitzer Prize, its value has been significantly under appreciated. His thesis is that “the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity — activity designed largely to avoid the totality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.”
He opened a doorway to understand the impact of shame on human behavior which he understood as the fear of death and the fear of life; the needing courage to be heroic in some way to justify a place in creation in the face of reality that is overwhelmingly fearful and the use of illusion to cope with the dilemma.
Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self – Donald L. Nathanson
Nathanson builds on Silvan S. Tomkins’ innate affect theory research. My fascination was on the concept of internalized-shame. He answers the fundamental question “why do we do such things to ourselves and other people?” by identifying four clusters of ineffective life-patterns that we unconsciously choose to defend against more personal shame. He outlines a global understanding of internalized-shame as lying behind the cultural, social, religious and political dysfunction in the world as we know it today.
Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus – Robert Farrar Capon
Capon, a feisty, humorous, out-of-the-box Episcopal priest, began the process of helping me redeem a gracious understanding of the Christian view of God and a healthy view of grace. Using the Gospel parables with expert precision, he exposes a view of God 180° different from the traditional Western view of an angry God. His writing allowed me to live within a Christian paradigm with intellectual integrity.
The Inescapable Love of God – Thomas Talbott
Talbott’s book, while very controversial from my background, opened another door to a gracious understanding of God within the parameters of the Christian faith that has drawn me deeper into the faith. It challenged many of my unquestioned assumptions about the nature of God, grace and has allowed me ways of speaking about hope, courage, emotional and relational healing to those within the Christian community.
Likely, these books tell you more about me and my journey within the Christian faith that most anyone wants to know. It was refreshing to me to review my journey and remember that at “just the right time” these significant books changed my life.