Directions for life's journey
The silence after the holiday rush gives us an opportunity to reflect and review the year that was. These new books offer spiritual insight from a variety of perspectives sure to enlarge our own.
FOOTBALL AND FAITH
From a storied run in college football to difficult times in the NFL, Tim Tebow has weathered his share of setbacks, all made that much harder by being in the public eye. In Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms, Tebow shares stories from his life, then offers parallel tales of friends who have overcome adversity and lessons from Scripture that point toward a relationship with God as the bedrock of true character. He’s a very affable guy, and the book, co-written with A.J. Gregory, is both personal and uplifting. Shaken is a perfect read for someone in need of a latte-sized shot of courage.
COMPANIONS IN JOY
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have had a long and deep friendship, though health issues and political interference have intervened to keep them apart over the years. The two were able to meet for a week with writer Douglas Abrams, and they spent the time discussing the sources of and obstacles to joy. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is the result of those talks. Combining Tibetan Buddhist thought, Christian wisdom and science that shows the benefits of faith and meditation, there’s much to consider here; the truest moments, though, are scenes of the two men together, holding hands or touching one another’s cheeks in deep affection, and constantly joking, teasing and laughing. The analysis easily takes a backseat to their demonstration of joy in action.
Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life opens with a scene of such arresting violence it’s impossible to turn away. The bestselling author makes a proposal many will find uncomfortable: Maybe the only way to find union with God is to become fully broken. That doesn’t mean self-harm, but looking at the ways life is already breaking us daily and instead of resisting or turning away, moving into the brokenness. Her vivid descriptions of farm life portray God as manifest in open spaces, but the smallest human interactions ripple outward among others as well; as a result, Voskamp reads like a heady cocktail of Cheryl Strayed and Strong’s Concordance. We can’t have communion without threshing grain and crushing grapes; a hard truth, but through it, so much is possible.
RETHINKING THE TRINITY
Many churches suggest a hands-off approach to the Holy Trinity on the basis that it’s an unknowable mystery. Richard Rohr is having none of that, thank you. The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, co-written with Mike Morrell, posits a Trinity that has more to do with science, the natural world and our increasing need for human connection than the two guys and a dove (or wind or tongue of flame) many of us know. Rohr’s insistence on God’s total inclusion of all beings would be radical enough, but he goes so far as to bend the three faces of God from a triangle into a spiral, a regenerating force. He writes, “In the eternal scheme of things, we discover that all God wants from you is you.” And you are, in fact, the fourth chair in this bridge game; Christian or not, faithful or not, like it or not, that force is a part of us, just as we are of it. Read The Divine Dance, and be prepared to lose a little sleep; it’s that exhilarating.
THE WISDOM OF THE STOICS
If the word “stoic” conjures up images of living on crackers and water, think again. The Stoics were philosophers dedicated to the study of self-mastery, not self-abnegation. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with the tenets of Stoicism, and you’ll find advice that’s shockingly contemporary. Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman’s The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living is a daily reader; each page offers a quote from Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius or a second string of their predecessors, followed by tools for reflection and action. Perception, Action and Will are the three disciplines the Stoics focused on, and they are the focus here as well. Many successful people have cited the wisdom of the Stoics, with its intensity of focus and discarding of the unnecessary, as key to success in life and business. Mastering one’s emotions is hard enough without trying to do it on an empty stomach; put down the Saltines, have a decent meal and see where this ancient yet still relevant philosophy leads you.
This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.