Five Guys for the Soul

I was asked again the other day to recommend a good daily devotional book, and I am happy to oblige. Sometimes we all need to hear a fresh voice. Our spiritual disciplines can easily become routine. Our prayers lose their punch. Our thoughts wander from the scripture reading. Daily devotions can get stale, like crackers left out on the counter.

After all, we are busy people with demanding schedules and honestly, some days it feels like our time with God is wasted time. So, if you need to change things up or if you've lapsed and need to get started again, here are some resources that have been a great blessing to me. I offer these with a disclaimer. We are not all wired the same, nor are we all at the same stage of the journey. So what works for me may not connect well for you. Just try it and see. 

So here's my top five devotional books with a little explanation:

1. "Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner" Hulitt Gloer introduced me to Frederick Buechner back in seminary days and I have been reading Buechner ever since, eleven of his books on my shelf. This is a collection of his writings arranged for daily reflection. It is set up for one year, but I never put it down. I use it constantly, always fresh and helpful.

2. "I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology" by Abraham Heschel. One of the great spiritual teachers of the 20th century, Rabbi Heschel has much to teach us about the life of faith and personal piety. His description of "The Pious Man" has so moved and challenged me, that I read his words regularly, over and over, to reset my compass, a course correction for my soul. These brief excerpts from Heschel's writings can be used day by day, though it is organized by subject, rather than the calendar.

3. "The Way" by E. Stanley Jones. An old classic of devotional material, but still in print. Dr. Jones was a wonderful missionary and spiritual guide to thousands seeking the deeper life in Christ. More than any other writer, Jones helps me get over myself and understand the meaning of surrender, of winning by losing, gaining by giving up. His language is a little dated by now, but still clear and strong. You cannot read this book and not be changed. (I love this copy because it has my dad's notes in the margins.)

4. "A Diary of Private Prayer" by John Baillie. Another classic, this book was a gift from a fellow pastor and friend, Bill Curwood. Baillie simply shares morning and evening prayers for thirty-one days, with some blank space for you to add your words. His profound and yet personal prayers have helped me connect with Christ in my waking moments and my fading moments, beginning and ending each day in communion with God. A wonderful guide to prayer.

5. "A Year with Jesus: Daily Readings and Meditations" by Eugene Peterson. A scripture reading, a brief reflection, and a prayer for each day. What more can be said about Eugene Peterson? Profound insights that speak to our life and times.

Honorable Mention: "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers, "Measuring the Days: Daily Reflections with Walter Wangerin, Jr., "Celtic Devotions: A Guide to Morning and Evening Prayer" by Calvin Miller.

Why all men? No women on my list. That's not intentional on my part. I love to read Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Barbara Brown Taylor, Rachel Held Evans, but I haven't yet found or connected with a devotional resource of theirs, so, I go with what I have.
Also, it occurs to me that all of my favorite devotional writers are dead or almost. Why do I just like the old stuff? To tell you the truth, I began with these guys and I have never finished with them, or rather, they have never finished with me. Not sure I will ever graduate from their school of spiritual growth. So, I'll just keep getting up and going to class day by day and hope to learn something from these old saints.

That's what works for me. Find what's right for you. It's the one connection we can't live without.


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