Finding my path is not something I have been working on alone. I have been pointed in the right direction, helped, inspired, and kicked in the pants by many brilliant people. I often have to remind myself not to take anything but the Bible as Gospel, but reading other people’s interpretations are important in getting your own thoughts flowing. Just make sure you hold their thoughts (and your own) up to God’s Word. Here are a few authors, books, and blog suggestions to get you started (and help me remember!), and if you have any recommendations, please share!
Books that are changing my life:
- THE BIBLE continues to be the most fascinating collection of books I have ever encountered. It speaks directly to me every time I read a passage. Every topic I have ever struggled with is addressed. (A word of caution here. There are many difficult and controversial passages in the Bible. For those verses, it is wise to dig into the original languages to ensure translation doesn’t muddy the waters. Even our beloved English doesn’t mean what it used to mean sometimes. I like to Google the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek versions of confusing terms. And I trust the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible most for capturing original intent. You can get to it on http://www.biblegateway.com.) If it seems overwhelming, don’t try to tackle the whole Bible all at once. Break it up in to manageable pieces. I started really connecting with the Bible by simply reading Proverbs in the Old Testament, and the books of Matthew and James in the New Testament. And if you’re struggling with reading the Bible at all, because you’re more of a “movie person”, try the book of Esther. There were actually a couple of movies made based on this book – it’s that good. This is our instruction manual from the Creator. Be motivated to pick it up, read it, and live by it every single day. You won’t regret it.
- Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is a classic must-read for all people. Whether you are already a Christian who needs a refresher on why we believe, or you’re not a Christian and want to know why the Christians are crazy, or you need to know how to explain Christianity to others – this book explains it in the most simple, straight-forward, easy to understand way. The pure logic of it quieted all of my “but whys” in one reading. I pull it out every time I start to get confused again and all is made clear with Lewis’ no-nonsense analogies.
- Do you still have questions about this Christianity stuff? Big questions that are holding you back from really living this out? Me, too. All the time. Try reading Lee Strobel‘s book, The Case for Faith. Evil and suffering? Miracles? Evolution? All the killing in the Bible? Jesus is the ONLY way? Hell? It tackles all of them (and a few more) from a straight-forward perspective, asking experts who have spent their lives researching them. Every time I start to wonder about things, this book helps me get back on track. Wrestling with this stuff doesn’t mean you don’t have faith. If there were no doubts there would be no need for faith. Doubting and questioning, yet staying with Him through it – that’s the very definition of faith.
- Francis Chan doesn’t sugar coat it; he tells it like it is. He backs it up with scripture. And he is totally in love with Jesus, which has totally inspired me to get passionate about my own faith. I am so grateful to him for waking me up and kick-starting my real Christian life. Start with Crazy Love to get out of a lukewarm funk. His message is important, especially in Erasing Hell*.
- Once I fell crazy in love with Jesus, I wanted to know Him better. The first book that got me closer was The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Until this book, I had been skimming the surface, staying safely in the warm and fuzzy parts of Christianity. Kempis helped me understand the deeper truths – humility, passion, suffering, fear of the Lord, devotion. I like to underline important sentences in books so I can reference them later – this one has every page dog-eared, highlighted, and underlined. Read it to learn how to go beyond watching Christ and start following (and yes, imitating) Him. Re-read it anytime you start to get too comfortable.
- Curious about the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism? You should be! It’s so important to know why you believe what you believe. I highly recommend Scott Hahn. His book Rome Sweet Home details his conversion to Catholicism, which highlights many of the big questions. I also really enjoyed Reasons to Believe, and his book The Lamb’s Supper gave me a whole new perspective on the book of Revelation and the Catholic Mass. Even if you don’t agree with him, you’ll now understand where everyone is coming from.
- Continuing on my quest to understand the history of Christianity, I’m reading and re-reading The Faith of our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons. This is not a boring history textbook. It is a straight-forward, easy to understand, no nonsense explanation of the Catholic Church. It’s geared towards Protestants, to answer the most common, well, protests. So I read it before I converted, looking for anything that didn’t make sense, any reason I should not go through with it. On the contrary, logic and truth are oozing from this book. I’ve been carrying it in my bag ever since.
- Do you ever look around and wonder what is wrong with this world? Why is everyone so confused about who they are? Why is sin running rampant? How did society change so much in so little time? All I could come up with is that humanity has forgotten about God. And while that is true, there is so much more to the story. A dear friend gave me a copy of Dressing with Dignity by Colleen Hammond. Far from a simple guidebook on fashion, Colleen summarizes the role immodesty has played in the degradation of humanity. I have long believed that women are the driving force behind every society – turns out the enemy realizes this, too. This book gave me the knowledge to stop being manipulated. The changes it has inspired have lifted me higher than I thought I could go. I highly recommend it.
- While I’m all fired up about the power of women, I also have to mention The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand. I wish I would have learned sooner to embrace the power that God has given me by creating me female. And I wish I would have learned earlier that true power is in living out our true roles as He intended it. This book makes me want to take back everything I gave away in trying to be treated the same as men. I’m finally ready to accept the privilege He has always wanted me to have.
- I spend a lot of time reading the Bible, and it remains my favorite book. But sometimes I’m left wanting more. What were their lives like? What happened next? What happened first? Then my brother introduced me to Anne Catherine Emmerich. She was a nun who received detailed visions of the life of Christ, His Mother Mary, and many of the other people we meet in the Bible. I started with The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which explained in intricate detail the events surrounding Christ’s birth and childhood. There are even more details about His death in The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (which later provided inspiration for the movie The Passion). This is not Gospel. But it fills in gaps where I just wanted to know more about these amazing people. Understanding what they ate, how they traveled, what it might be like to see an angel…it all makes me feel closer to the Holy Family.
*When you’re ready for a real challenge, read Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell in tandem with Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Then get your hands on The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven by Martin Von Cochem. Have your Bible handy, and also some ibuprofen. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a good friend on speed dial. Eternity is serious stuff.
1. Minimalism is something I’m still learning about, but desperately want to embrace. Getting back to simplicity by removing all the clutter – physically, emotionally, and throughout my relationships. Living on purpose, not driven by “just in case”. These guys called The Minimalists have taught me how to get started, and even the small steps I’ve taken have been transformational. http://www.theminimalists.com/ Note: They are not Christian, so I do not endorse everything they say. But they provided the “how to” when I needed to get out from under the mess.
2. Deep study of Christianity is bound to lead to questions about how our churches originated. I have been relying heavily on the Coming Home Network to explain the whole Catholic vs Protestant debate. Even if you don’t agree, it’s worth finding out. Know where you stand and why. http://www.chnetwork.org/
- Bible Gateway is a great way to carry the Bible with you everywhere. I use it to search for certain verses, and I like the daily verse. There are also reading plans that give you various ways to read the Bible in it’s entirety over a certain amount of time. It will even read the Bible to you. No more excuses!
- The First 5 is an app that Lysa TerKeurst and the crew at Proverbs 31 recently launched. It’s a perfect way to get started on the pattern of giving the first moments of your day to God. It’s amazing how differently my day goes, in the best way, when I start it off with Him.
- IF:gathering has an app that provides productive Bible studies. They challenge me to stay real. IF this thing is real, like we say it is, THEN it should change your life. They walk you through how, they don’t shy away from the tough questions we all deal with, and it all comes together with beautiful writing and short, meaningful videos.