Thursday, 15 February 2018

Looking for God this Lent? Read a Book

Have you ever felt bored with God? Just sort of indifferent, wondering what all the fuss is about? Maybe you once had an experience of God, or even intellectually assented to the Christian faith, but life goes on, and now it’s just a not super-relevant part of your life or thoughts. People keep saying, “Pray! Read the bible!” And you try that too, but it’s all so boring, and you can’t stop your mind from wandering to more attractive avenues.
There may be a lot of reasons why you have reached this place. It could be that you are in a state of sin that has dulled your senses to God, and until you choose to face that sin, you’re stuck in this lifeless zone.
It could be that your life is too full of other stuff, fleeting pleasures, quick fixes, that you don’t know how to receive anything more fulfilling. You’ve been eating so much junk food that your body doesn’t remember how good a real meal can taste. (I was going to say a steak and a salad but not sure how that would be received in India.)
This is my theory: (It’s not exactly original, but anyway.) YOU ARE WHAT YOU CONSUME. Or even, you develop a taste for whatever you consume the most of. If you keep reading nothing but romance novels and Sidney Sheldons, your brain slowly turns to mush and can no longer accept anything more solid. If you spend most of your time watching TV shows, your mind will constantly be engaged by the drama you watch, and not have space for anything else. If your life is football, that is what you talk about, think about, fight about, and picture as you drift off to sleep. If you listen to The Greatest Showman soundtrack multiple times every day, you start picturing yourself as the star of a musical and practise dance steps in your head at every idle moment (this has NOTHING to do with my life). If you spend a lot of time talking to, thinking about and finding out more about a particular person, your relationship will probably go deeper.
Our minds are very connected to our hearts. Greater knowledge often leads to greater love. If you want to fall in love with God, you need to allow Him to capture your imagination again. Like Saint Paul said, be transformed by the renewal of your mind. How does that work? You, friend, are privileged enough to know how to read. The riches of the world are at your disposal! I refer, of course, to books.
Read a book! Read a good book about God! “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot.” I have been reading since I was five. But at the formational years of my life, I read books that captured my imagination, and opened my eyes to how big God is. If all we see of God is the external customs of our family’s religious traditions, no wonder we have grown bored of Him. If we don’t know what treasures are hidden in the Eucharistic God, if we haven’t caught sight of the grandeur and majesty of a Creator God, if we have not yet glimpsed the passionate tenderness of the Lover God, if we have not seen the intricacy and wisdom and faithfulness of the Scriptural God, if we have not seen the transforming power of the Saviour God in broken and wounded human lives, then how can we fall in love with this God?
So, friends, I beg you - read a book this Lent. Read MANY books if you can. Move some stuff out of your life to make room for this book-reading. Make a reading plan, and stick to it. ‘Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything… Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.’ Fr. Pedro Arrupe
Here are some great book suggestions:
Easy Level Reading
1. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
2. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom HIGHLY RECOMMEND
3. Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler* HIGHLY RECOMMEND
4. I Dared to Call Him Father: The Miraculous Story of a Muslim Woman’s Encounter With God by Bilquis Shaikh*
5. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis*
6. Mother Angelica: The remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo*
7. Death of a Guru by Dave Hunt and Rabindranath Maharaj*
8. Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis*
9. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
10. Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors
11. The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun
12. Catholicism for Dummies*
Medium Level Reading
1. Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert* HIGHLY RECOMMEND
2. A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn
3. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis HIGHLY RECOMMEND
4. Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots by Scott Hahn*
5. The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn
6. Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn
7. Let Go by Fenelon
8. Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe*
9. In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe*
10. Who Does He Say That You Are? Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels by Colleen Mitchell
11. The Apostasy That Wasn’t by Rod Bennett
12. You by Fulton Sheen
High Level Reading
1. He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek* HIGHLY RECOMMEND
2. Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux*
3. Sober Intoxication of the Spirit by Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa*
4. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade*
5. Catechism of the Catholic Church- Section on Prayer*
6. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (full disclosure, haven't finished this)
Books I’ve heard of and am waiting to read:
1. My Sisters, the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell
2. These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson
3. Confessions by St. Augustine
4. Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed
5. One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Personal Passions, Family Chaos, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler
6. Arriving at Amen by Leah Libresco
Of course just reading a book is not enough. Ask God to meet you when you read. Be sensitive to the ways the Spirit is working in you as you read. Dialogue with God as you read. And meet Him in prayer after you read.
Have you read any of these? What are some books that have been transformational in helping you encounter Christ?
*These are books that I own and would be happy to lend you if you live in my city. Most of these books should be available to buy as ebooks. Some are available at local Christian bookshops.

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