Autumn Soul Care

Over the past two months (and on through November) as I head toward the release of Handle With Care, I wanted to quiet some of the unrest and unhealth in my soul. There have been some patterns of anxiety, ignoring my gut sense or intuition in favor of what seemed “right” or obligatory, and a general passive engagement with the Lord. In laymen’s terms, I was “going through the motions.” So, in true form, I sat down, made myself a curriculum, and set myself on it. It was robust, full, ordered, and I knew it would jar my spirit and soul in the ways I needed.

I know so many authors who pour their hearts and souls into their books and then into the marketing process, so much so that they’re always one step behind a burnout or selling themselves out just to get the book sold. I absolutely do not want this. I love writing and I want to write for a long time, so that means recognizing that I am not primarily a speaker or a marketer or a podcaster or an expert in any way. I am a writer. I will do my best not to sell this book, but to be faithful to what God is asking of me each day. Part of that, for today, is making sure my soul is well-cared for and not going into the release on empty.

This was a long way of telling you that I have been eye-ball deep in soul-care material this fall. All my prioritized reading is related to the care of my soul and I am not feeling one bit guilty about the pile of other books waiting to be read. I thought I’d share a few of the books, links, podcasts, and exercises I’ve been working through in this time. My homemade curriculum is 16 weeks and specifically tailored to areas where I needed to grow, but perhaps some of it might be helpful to you as well. I’m just sharing source materials below, the course itself has practices, written reflections, and writing exercises built into it as well. It has already been so hard and so good for me.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.54.46 AM.png

My texts for these 16 weeks are:

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton. This is my third time through her easy to read book on Spiritual disciplines and it’s my favorite Spiritual discipline book.

Who God Says You Are, by Klyne Snodgrass. My friend Mason King recommended this to me last winter as a resource for Handle With Care, but I’ve been working my way slowly through it all this year and it will probably be my book of the year.

As I Recall, by Casey Tygrett. One of the main works of the first month of this time has been working with my own memories of blessing and memories of trauma. Casey has been a good leader for me.

Holy Noticing, by Charles Stone. Again, working with paying attention to memories, histories, circumstances, and not letting those things terminate on themselves.

Soulful Spirituality, by David Benner. I haven’t gotten to this one yet in the course, but I’ve paged through it and really enjoyed The Gift of Being Yourself by Benner in the past.

The Relational Soul, by James Cofield and Richard Plass. This one has been on my to-read list for a few years now and I just haven’t prioritized it. It comes highly recommended by people I trust.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.31 AM.png

I do not listen to many podcasts. Maybe because I am a little over-stimulated by them, or because I find it hard to follow when there are multiple voices involved. But I have really come to appreciate Adam Young’s podcast, The Place We Find Ourselves. I recommend starting at the beginning of the first seas onand working through it all slowly. It has been tremendously revealing for me in my own lack of emotional health.

I also appreciate Potter’s Inn Podcast on Soul Care. These are longer listens, so they just require more time for me.

Last week Mike Cosper released his episode of Cultivated with Chuck Degroat (who you should absolutely be reading) and I listened twice. I am deeply grateful for his work. Here are two recent posts he wrote (first and second) and a class he offers on contemplative prayer. In fact, it was Chuck’s words that helped me to realize that if I kept going at the rate I was, without stopping to care for my soul, I was headed for some destruction, either of my own or others.

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.05 AM.png

These aren’t included in my Soul Care Curriculum, but they’ve been helpful pieces or videos for me to mull on in a deeper, more reflective way the past few weeks. Perhaps one or two will bless you.

The Hazards of Online Faith Writing

On Living

Every Idle Word

What does it mean to pay spiritual and moral attention to the conflicts of our lives?

When Dreams Die

Tools for the Art of Living from OnBeing

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 9.55.17 AM.png

Finally, as I do this work, here are the two playlists I’ve been listening to:

Autumn is for Reading

Whenever the days get shorter and the nights longer, I want nothing more than tea after dinner and to wear wooly socks. I bought a puzzle from the 1960s at a thrift store for one dollar and twenty-five cents last week and it is 1500 faded, musty pieces. We began working on it a few nights ago, with intermittent trick or treaters, and it will probably take us all winter if we let it. Another short day, long night pastime I love is reading, which I suppose is no secret. Here are some we've been enjoying in our home: Hannah Anderson sent me the manuscript for this last spring and I read every word then, but having the real book in my hands made me want to give another go at her new book, Humble Roots. Attention to creation, the care of it and the learning from it, is something I think we in the church need more of. A pivotal time in my faith was when a friend taught a four week class at my church in New York on creation, the New Heaven, New Earth, God's role in it, and our role in it. It was deeply formative for me. Writers like Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Walter Bruggemann, and more began to inform my concept of the land, the food we eat, the way we produce it, and the care we give to the people walking on it. Hannah's new book is now added to that section of our bookshelves because she takes lessons from the earth, much in the same way Jesus taught through parables, and teaches her readers about humility, peace, worship, and community—all through the lens of the gospel and scripture. When I wrote my endorsement for it, I said, "This is the book I've been wanting on the shelves of Christians everywhere," and I meant every word. If you have a longing in you for roots and a certainty in you of the hope of the new earth, I highly recommend reading Humble Roots.

Until my friend Katelyn Beaty sent me her new book, A Woman's Place, the book I most recommended to men, and male pastors particularly, was Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. Now I will add A Woman's Place to my list. Katelyn was specific in her research, articulate in her communication, and impassioned with her cause in this piece and I love this book. She not only showcases the various ways every woman works, she makes a case for a "cross-shaped ambition" much needed in the work of women today. "The ambition God invites us to is a cross-shaped ambition: to embrace our inability to have it all so that he be our all. Likewise, the contentment to which God invites us is a cross-shaped contentment: to choose to say "thy will be done," to willingly embrace our own constraints, because it is often through human weakness that God most clearly displays his power and glory." If you care about women and want to see the work of women flourish—both inside and outside the church—I recommend reading A Woman's Place.

Another thing we love to read are novels, particularly long ones. Nate had recommended a series to me which, based on the covers, I had no interest in. Call it snobbery, call it whatever, they looked like cheap beach reads for nerds. But they were also thick, 600+ pages, and that's my favorite quality in a novel, so I picked up the first one. It is called The Passage, by Justin Cronin, and I couldn't put it down. For the next few weeks I read all three every night before bed and during our Sunday sabbath time. The writing was captivating, the story was surprisingly good, and the character development was solid. I was sold. I've had a few people ask if these are "clean" and to be honest, I don't know what that means. If you want a book without any coarse language or the brokenness of humanity, these aren't the books for you, but if you want to read a compelling story of good versus evil where every good is touched with evil and every evil began as good, this is a solid series. The conclusion at the end of the third novel had me in tears. It was, without question, the best last 100 pages of a story I've read in a long time. There are three in the series: The Passage, The Twelve, and The City of Mirrors.

Happy reading!

book recommendations

This post contains affiliate links, so if you buy any of these books (or anything on Amazon after clicking on them), you help contribute to keeping Sayable alive and functioning.