I recently shared a photo journal on how I spend alone time with God — in what I call “whitespace”.  These are the outdoor places I go to air my thoughts, pray and rest.  Things were different for me growing up as a kid.  I didn’t get the chance to explore nature that much, except for an occasional group hike with the church’s youth group.

Whitespace back then took place in a different locale.

I found soul rest in books.

I loved reading — engaging in unspoken conversation with authors I had never met in person, but found to be good companions between pages.

Whenever I felt stuck spiritually, I would hit the bookstore.  Just like I’d scan a room at a social gathering for a friendly face, I’d browse the shelves for a title that read like an invitation.

Just like meeting new friends don’t always work out, books were hit and miss.  But I always went back for more, no matter how many times I’d strike out. Because inevitably, something life changing always happens.

A book would speak to me.

Every time it happened, I’d be thankful God brought me such faithful friends as books.  I would find the exact comfort, encouragement or inspiration that I needed to get through a particular season. I could laugh, cry, or dream of new possibilities with a good book.

In celebration of some of the key books God has used to trigger change in my life, I’d like to share a faith “book journal”.  Here is a partial list of books that have refreshed and deepened my faith — along with a quote and reflection on it’s impact on my journey.

WayOfTheHeart 1.  The Way of the Heart- Henri J.M. Nouwen

“Because our secular milieu offers us so few spiritual disciplines, we have to develop our own.  We have to fashion our own desert where we can withdraw everyday, shake off our compulsions and dwell in the gentle healing presence of our Lord.  Without such a desert will lose our own soul while preaching the gospel to others.”

I was burnt out doing ministry and dealing with disappointment and stress.  I lost the joy of enjoying God’s presence.  This is the book that helped me find my way back to soul rest.  I read it, finding myself thirsty for a deeper experience of God.  Not just in my head, but in my heart.

ChangesHeal 2.  Changes That Heal: How to Understand the Past to Ensure a Healthier Future- Henry Cloud

“We sometimes think, however, that we can supply all of our needs without other people.  We think that, in a state of emotional and spiritual isolation, we can still grow.  This grave violation of the basic nature of theuniverse can cause serious problems.”

I was able to look back into my past without fear it would overwhelm me.  Instead, I was able to find healing , which in turn put me in a position to connect with others and also draw healthy boundaries.

FindingWillOfGod 3. Finding the Will of God- Bruce Waltke

“Is finding God’s will a Biblical idea? … Because God is far beyond what our finite minds can comprehend, we do not know everything about Him nor are we able to always discern His plan. Yet our faith should continue in Him…Rather than looking for some sort of wrapped spiritual package from the Almighty, I want to rely upon my closeness to Him.”

I was struggling with the lack direction from God, even though I had been praying for years, bumping into detours and dead ends.  This book brought a Biblical and practical perspective on what it means to know God’s will in my life.

TravelingLight 4.  Traveling Light- Max Lucado

“How do you embrace someone if your arms are full of bags?   For the sake of those you love, learn to set them down.  He wants to use you, you know. But how can he, if you are exhausted?”

Everyone has a Max Lucado book that brings God closer than before.  This was mine.  It gave me a picture of what I wanted to be a growing reality in my life.  Max makes it fun reading about it.

LivingByTheBook 5. Living By the Book- Howard Hendricks

“You may wonder how some people can percolate with enthusiasm over the  same passages you’ve read time and again  — unmoved. What’s their secret?  .. [It's] not secret at all. It is simply a case of practicing effective Bible study methods.”

I had enjoyed reading so many books from childhood, garnering the gems others found in God’s word.  This was the book that gave me the shovel to dig them on my own.  Since learning how to study the Bible inductively, my passion for hearing God speak continues to bring me joy.

LearningToTellMyselfTruth 6.  Learning to Tell Myself the Truth- William Backus

“God has a plan for you, and that plan includes emotional health, fulfilling relationships and freedom from the tyranny of overwhelming emotions.”

This was a book I avoided reading because it sounded too “practical”.  How can a single paper back book help deal with such a wide variety of emotions as depression, worry, anxiety and perfectionism?  I picked it up out of curiosity and learned how to change the way I feel by telling myself the truth.

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would- Pete Wilson

“If you’re in the midst of a Plan B situation or if you’re still reeling from one… you’re left with a choice.  The choice of faith.  God can take the hurt you’ve experienced… and mold your heart to reflect his heart. The question is, do you think you can sacrifice who you are today for who you could become?

I didn’t have this book when I went ran into my Plan B, but reading it gave me a confident conclusion and God perspective that freed me from the fear of encountering my next one (because they will come). I recommend this honest exploration through real stories and inspiring walk through the Scriptures.

I continue to be amazed how God breathes and speaks to me through strangers I’ve never met.  Actually, we have.  In many ways, it’s a lot more closer than seeing them with skin on.  That’s because we connect where our guard is down and we are listening.

What is a book that God has used to bring comfort or change in your life?

~~~~~

By Bonnie Gray, The Faith Barista serving up shots of faith for everyday life.

Affiliate links are used in this post. All proceeds go directly to Bloom (in)courage, to help fund the free books provided for future book studies.

Photo Copyright FreeStockImages.org.


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  1. 2

    Most recently, A Grace disguised by Jerry Sittser. I lost my nephew to suicide 6 months ago. Life in the present moment has become a gift to me.

    I too am a lover of Living by the Book.

    Also have loved Ann’s book One Thousand gifts and being a part of the Bloom’s book club! I am continuing to count.

    Blessings, Beth

    • 3

      My neice died is a car accident just 18 months ago and still we live from day to day. She was our maypole and without her we do not dance. But day by day we heal slowly. Our lives are shaped to a new normal.

      As for books – One Thousands Gifts – i to, am counting
      The Happiness Project – Gretchin Ruben
      The Road less Travelled – M. Scott Peck
      The Lively Shadow – Donald Murray

      novels –
      The Bonesetters daughter – amy tan
      Like bees to honey – Caroline Smailes
      After you’re gone – Maggie O’Farrell

      I have learnt that we only have this moment to live x

    • 4

      Beth, I can’t imagine the pain of your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for sharing a book and a piece of your story.

  2. 5

    I always love good book recommendations! Thanks Bonnie!

  3. 7

    Bonnie,
    This is a great list. I am going to be looking into many of these further. I greatly appreciated the last book, Plan B, that you gave me. It has spoken to me in so many ways. I highly recommend it to everyone out there. It is thought changing!
    Thanks again.
    Karen

  4. 9

    A book that really helped me through a difficult time of believing God for a miracle is If You Will Ask by Oswald Chambers. It’s an in depth and unique study on prayer that really helped me understand what it meant to petition the Lord for something. Asking does not always mean getting. But it does lead to changing your heart and turning it towards Him.

    Thanks for your recommendations!

  5. 11

    Recently I studied The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn. Life changing.
    Thanks for sharing your recommendations.

  6. 13

    I always enjoy reading book lists!

    The ones that come to mind for me are The Pressures Off by Larry Crabb, Streams in the Desert devotional, A Christian Woman’s Guide to Personality Types, Stepping Heavenward, and The Practice of the Presence of God. I know there are more but off the top of your head, there you go.

    Blessings…

  7. 15
    Michelle Franklin says:

    I have read and reread Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Waking The Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive by John Eldridge got me through a tough season. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, very enlightneing for people -pleasers like myself. I could go on and on…

  8. 17
    Tracy in NJ says:

    Wow thanks for this. Every single one looks good. I especially appreciate the combination of a quick passage plus your own comments!

  9. 19

    Books were my best friend growing up, we moved around a lot so they were my constant companions. I wish I had thought to do a book journal! I know there are books that had a profound effect on my and I can remember passages from them but not the titles.
    I have to be careful though, I have a tendency to read books about the Bible and neglect my actual Bible reading,
    There are several on your list I’m going to have to find, Plan B I think will be the first one.
    Thanks
    Kara

  10. 21

    Ooh, those all look good. The only one I’ve read is Changes that Heal. I think I need to do some book shopping!

  11. 23

    The Attributes of God vol. 1 & 2 – A.W. Tozer
    Crazy Love – Francis Chan (and the one about the Holy Spirit, I can’t remember what it’s called)

  12. 24

    Thank you so much for sharing! I love book recommendations…although I rarely get around to reading them right now. :(

  13. 25

    Honored to even be mentioned among that list!! Great list.

  14. 27

    Oh… these look good I will have to look for them. I have read most of the Max Lucado books, but I am not sure of this one without going to the bookshelf and looking. Books are such friends and escape for me…

    The most recent that I have read that has truly helped me it True Faced: Trusting God and Others with Who You Really Are. Here is a link http://www.google.com/products/catalog?q=true+faced&um=1&ie=UTF-8&cid=3793107263503938600&sa=X&ei=Xfe1TZoyydXRAdG9uZsK&ved=0CDcQ8wIwAg#

  15. 28

    Hi,
    I want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your posts lately! Keep ‘em coming!!
    I will certainly look for the titles you’ve mentioned- they do sound life-changing. In a time when maybe things weren’t changing fast enough, I found Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul. It is reassuring to read about another’s seasons- and sometimes I just “check in” to see if I’m still where I thought I was. All of it (yours, his, Ann’s) has been a real gift. Thank you.

  16. 29

    Two books, both by Eugene Peterson: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and Practice Resurrection. The first is one I’ve pulled off the bookshelf and read and re-read multiple times. The second is quickly becoming a favorite, one that is well underlined, highlighted and quoted.

  17. 30

    I really enjoyed reading “Radical” by David Platt. So life-changing and challenging! I have been convicted to leave behind much of the American dream I am so used to and start serving Christ in different contexts. Lord willing, my husband and I will be participating in a missions trip to Haiti come November. We are both really looking forward to seeing how God can use a couple of sinners (us) for His glory!

  18. 31

    Thank you Bonnie, I love hearing about books that changed lives.
    My amazon wish list has grown considerably bigger. =)
    One book that I read recently in the past few years was Richard Swenson’s book “Margin”. It taught me that I needed to intentionally slow down my life to make room for relationships.

  19. 32

    Love the book recommendations. Searched for many of them on PaperBackSwap. I also participated on my blog!

  20. 33

    I love Changes that Heal…I need to read it again! More recently, I have loved A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. :0

  21. 34

    In a serious time of persevering, I read God on Mute by Pete Greig. This is a book you cannot presume to know what it will say by just checking the cover. Also I have loved Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude and Philip Yancey’s What’s So Amazing about Grace? Good stuff.

  22. 35

    “Humility” by CJ Mahaney and “What’s So Amazing About Grace” by Phillip Yancey are two treasures. Oh! And “Happiness is a Choice” by Minirith & Meier

  23. 36

    So true. God speaks to me thro media I understand best – Books. For me, some of them have been ‘Love Beyond Reason’ by John Ortberg, ‘Light in my darkest hour’ by Catherine Marshall, ‘All the way to heaven’ by Elizabeth Sherill….and quite frankly, your blog entries :-) )), which are so pratically, many of which have ministered to me so personally. so THank you.

  24. 37

    Great blog as usual, Bonnie!

    Books were my friends, too. I had amazing adventures all from the top of the comforter in my bedroom, solving mysteries, and climbing mountains of my imagination. Reading saved me, too, in many ways.

  25. 38

    That’s just how I feel (about books being faithful friends). Andrew Murray has been one of the most influential authors in my life, especially through his Humility. I first read that in 2006, and it’s still right in front of me, great for going against pride, self-sufficiency, wanting the praise of people.

    Also, Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Lots in there about humility, too. And death to self.

    Also, The Homesick Heart, by Jean Fleming. That one really helped me with my nearly unbearable aches for Home. Such a comfort and a companion, that book.

    The books that deepest in that “friend” kind of way are, for me, fiction: David Copperfield, Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, Jacob Have I Loved, . . .

  26. 39
    Jennifer says:

    Loved Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”!

    Also, “Let Me be a Woman” by Elisabeth Elliot was so encouraging when I adjusting to married life.

  27. 40

    How do you choose? I read 80 books per year (give-or-take), and many of them have influenced me over the years!

    Favorites include: “Dare to Dream” by Florence Littauer, “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell, “Gifted Hands” by Dr. Ben Carson w/Cecil Murphey, and “A Scandalous Freedom” by Steve Brown.

    I would have to really sit and think for a while to come up with an answer for your question. But, I had to say that I just LOVED this article! Thanks for writing it! ((always love finding fellow avid readers! — and hearing their book recommendations, of course!)) ;)

    ~MizB

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