The following is written by guest author, Tricia McCary Rhodes.
I have been a book lover from my earliest years, as are most writers. Weaned on classics like Gone with the Wind and Little Women, I remember often crawling under the bunk bed in the room I shared with my two brothers, flashlight in hand, so I could cherish the experience in private. On weekly visits to the Goodwill where we purchased our clothes, my older sisters tried on dresses and my brothers played with Hot Wheels, but I hid out in the book section, being transported to worlds I could touch in no other way. Books are like friends to me—some have come and gone, while others have endured the test of time. Here are five that I value for the life-changing impact they continue to have.
The first time I really understood the power of a book was when my ninth-grade American literature teacher, Mrs. Bloomberg, assigned To Kill a Mockingbird and asked us to write an essay on the most important lesson we learned from it. Mine came from a piece of advice that Atticus Finch gave his daughter, Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” While my faith had taught me the Golden Rule, this book showed me how to follow it—by trying to climb into someone else’s skin and walk around in it. That simple lesson changed me profoundly as a young teenager and continues to shape my relationships with others these many decades later.
While Richard Foster has deeply shaped my life by exposing me to many spiritual disciplines, this is the book that has had the longest practical impact. When overconsumption was fast becoming the shameful malady of our culture, Foster offered a different path. Like the minimalist movement of today, he challenged me to consider the values that were shaping my life, but from a deeply spiritual perspective. I pick this book up again every couple of years, knowing that I need help to reorient inner and outer worlds to the peaceful freedom of the simple life.
I think it is brave to title a book simply Prayer, and yet if someone were to ask me what one book they should read on the topic, it would be this one, written almost a century ago. In the seminary class I teach on practices of worship and prayer, I have students read the first chapter, knowing it will entice them to read the entire thing. Many years ago, Hallesby invited me to see prayer differently by demonstrating that it was truly for my benefit and not something I needed to (or could ever) get right. My neediness, this blessed saint taught me, qualifies me to pray more than any other thing, a lesson that has been incredibly freeing for me.
When I first became serious about writing, I read everything I could get my hands on about how to do it. I honed my craft by practicing every exercise in my monthly Writer’s Digest magazine. But it was this book that gave me the most practical handles. Interspersing tools and advice with his own story of alcoholism, cocaine abuse, and an accident that almost derailed his writing career, King captured my imagination, and I couldn’t put the book down. Who would have guessed that a spiritual formation writer could learn to write from the most famous horror writer of our day?
When I was nineteen years old, suffering from a broken engagement, an older aunt challenged me to fall in love with Jesus and then began plying me with books on the spiritual journey by saints of old. Madame Guyon, a seventeenth-century woman of passion and fire, became my mentor from afar and continues to be. When I picked up this little treatise, I was enthralled with how simple Guyon made the process of growing in intimacy with God. Imprisoned in the Bastille for writing such “heretical” words, Guyon has drawn people into the depths of knowing Jesus for more than three centuries, and I feel honored to learn in her shadow.
Tricia McCary Rhodes, author of The Soul at Rest
Many Christians today struggle with having a consistent or life-giving quiet time. They are looking for a form of prayer that doesn’t make them feel like they’re begging God or being judged by him. The Soul at Rest is a quiet time companion that introduces “inward disciplines” from throughout Christian history to those who hunger for greater intimacy with God.
The Soul at Rest is a 40-day guided experience of prayer that puts readers in the presence of God and allows them to enter and enjoy his rest. It guides readers into a rhythm of quiet, contemplative prayer, easing them into God’s presence and demonstrating how prayer is not so much a duty as it is a gift. By the time someone finishes The Soul at Rest, they’ll not only understand prayer better; they’ll be engaging in it as a regular rhythm of life.