Faith

Favorite Faith Resources from My Personal Journey

The following post is a reflection of my personal journey and is not meant to make anyone feel defensive about their own beliefs.  Please know that I share these faith resources with great respect for every person and their personal journey with God.   By publishing this, I hope to provide resource suggestions for Christians who find themselves asking similar questions to myself.  I am not trying to influence people or change their minds with this post.

First, a little bit of background: I was raised in an Evangelical Christian home and have never really waivered from my faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible.  In fact, theology and faith have always been of utmost importance to me.  Throughout my 20’s and 30’s, I pursued the development of my theology through reading and discussion.  Admittedly, I enjoy challenging my own thoughts and exploring various opinons on matters of faith.

Last year I began to research women’s issues through the lens of the bible. Do wives have to submit to their husbands or should our marriage be more of a mutual submission?  Why do we (many evangelical and conservatives) support careers for women in all areas except in the area of church leadership? As I began to read The Bible, I observed that the verses about submission in marriage were found in the same section as verses about slaves obeying their masters in the books of Ephesians, Colossians and I Peter. Why?  How are these ideas connected in the bible and why do we only “obey” one of them in modern times?

I began to find answers (this one in particular) that made sense to me and then I began ask more questions about women’s issues, violence in the old testament, and many more.  Thus began my current stage in my journey with God which continues to this day as I ask questions, seek answers, and then ask more questions.

Of course, my new conclusions are quite a change from my original stances.  My faith has evolved over many months to this new place and I struggled through this change immensely. It was difficult mentally and socially to feel very alone in my faith circles. I wasn’t sure who to talk with and how to process my new interpretations without making someone defend theirs.  It was not my intent to change someone else’s mind, but I felt passionate about my new conclusions and wanted to talk through them with others who were considering the same ideas.

Thankfully, my parents and 2 very close friends were walking through many of the exact same questions so we could enjoy exploratory conversation.  I also formed  a small group of women online who were researching similar issues in theology.  We were able to discuss our thoughts freely without judgement.  I feel very fortunate to have had people alongside me in this journey.

In addition to the people in my life that I could talk with, I found many authors who walked alongside me. They share their personal journeys of faith, their questions and their theological conclusions through their books.

Today I’d like to share some of the book titles and podcasts that encouraged me in hopes that might be a source of encouragement for others who are travelling a similar path.

Resources from my personal journey of faith.

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The following faith resources either challenged my way of thinking, encouraged my soul, or both. Of course, my recommendations don’t mean that I agree with all of the author’s conclusions, but that I did enjoy reading and considering the material. Be sure to do some research and draw your own conclusions about which titles might be beneficial to you versus a source of frustration.

1.  I spoke about the book, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart by Kathy Escobar, in detail on my blog previously.

This book came at a perfect time and was very instrumental in helping me sort through the feelings I experienced during this dramatic shift in my beliefs.

2. Malestrom: Manhood swept into the Currents of a Changing World by Carolyn Custis James.  (Christianity Today Award Winning Title)

I came across this title as I was googling information about submission in marriage as taught in the Bible.  Years ago I had read Carolyn Custis James’ book, When Life and Beliefs Collide, and I enjoyed it immensely so I was eager to start this one.

This book takes a very straightforward approach to scripture and explores a biblical view of manhood, which also engages a view of womanhood as well.  She argues for an end to the patriarchal influences in the church because they were never God’s intention for his people.  This book would be a great read for anyone in my personal opinion.  It was the winner of the 2016 Hermeneutics Award from Christianity Today and there is a great summary on their site.

Carolyn Custis James writes often about the roles of women as well as various issues important to women.  She has many books and she also writes on a personal blog.  Her thoughts were very valuable to me as I began my research.

3. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. (Christianity Today Award Winning Title)

Since we are talking about winners of the 2016 Hermeneutics Award from Christianity Today, I will mention this gem which received the Award of Merit in the Hermeneutics category.

I have to admit that I never thought I would be a fan of Rachel Held Evans because I used to disagree with so many of her conclusions.  But as my faith was evolving, I found her experiences and thoughts to echo so many of my own.   I enjoyed the organization of this book as she organizes her personal stories, thoughts, and reflections around the sacraments of the church.

4. Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans.

Since we are already talking about Rachel Held Evans, I’ll take the opportunity to add this title to the list.   She had me at the title on this one!  I WAS the girl with all of the answers and I suddenly was asking all of the questions.

(This book was formerly titled, Evolving in Monkeytown: How a Girl Who Knew All the Questions Learned to Ask the Answers, and has been reprinted under the new title.)

This book is the story of Rachel’s personal faith journey as she began to ask some tough questions and seek the answers. It was extremely similar to my own journey and I felt like I had a friend to walk along the path with me. Of course, she grew up with a much more conservative faith and it was eye-opening for me to hear about life in a conservative town.

Personal stories are one of my favorite types of books and this book was no exception!

5. Tattoos on the Hearth: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle.

This book was a collection of personal stories by Gregory Boyle. He shares amazing and heartbreaking stories of his work with gang members in a ghetto of Los Angelos, CA. He is the founder of Homeboy Industries and shares his “hard earned wisdom” with the reader.

I highly recommend this beautiful book to everyone!

I did not read this book to research my theological questions. Instead, it was a title recommended to me in the last year during my journey as I was looking for stories of people living out their faith. Gregory Boyle is living out the love of Christ and had much to wisdom to share.

6. Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey.

Sarah Bessey was a new name to me when I found discovered this book. In it she shares the story of her evolving faith in a gentle, humble and heart-felt way.

(Can you tell I enjoy personal stories?)

Sarah comes from a charismatic background with a husband who was in full-time ministry. While I didn’t relate as much to the specifics in her story, it brought me great peace to read about someone else clinging to God while their faith seemed to be “falling apart”.

In particular, Sarah shares how she handled coming to different conclusions than her husband in the area of their faith.  They were able to walk through the journey together, respecting the space each person needed for faith exploration as well as respecting their differing points of view. The beauty of their marriage and respect for one another was comforting to me as my husband did not share all of my changing viewpoints either.

Today I picked up another book by Sarah Bessey, The Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, and I can’t wait to finish it!  I’m already reminded of the gentle way that Sarah approaches topics.  I know I will enjoy this one.

7. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Even if I didn’t agree with her, I have always appreciated Glennon’s heart for loving God and loving people. Her thoughts challenge, encourage, and inspire me. This book was a collection of her blog posts over time and I loved it!

I am waiting on my signed copy of Love Warrior: A Memoir that should arrive next month.

8.  One of the books I read early on as my views were changing was, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable To Read It by Peter Enns.

Without a doubt, this was one of the more controversial authors I have learned to appreciate.  The first time through this book, I actually tossed it aside and debated if I was going to continue.

I did NOT agree with much of what I was reading and I wasn’t sure what to do with that.  But this was the book that my two very good friends were reading and I wanted to engage the discussion with them, so I continued.  I am forever grateful that I did.

In the end, he opened my eyes to a new way to read The Bible.  I may not agree with all of his conclusions, but his approach came at the right time in my life.  This book was written for the general public as opposed to his previous more academic titles.   It was very easy to read, but the casual tone occasionally had a snarky edge.

By the end, I was much more open to what Dr. Enns had to say.  In fact, I discovered that he was speaking at a college in the area and I contacted the college and attended his seminar there.  When I met Dr. Enns in person he was not snarky at all.  He acknowledged that some of his thoughts are in opposition to what many believe and he was very respectful of that.

I also read his book, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t say about Human Orgins.  This book helps those who want to reconcile their belief in the Bible with their acceptance of evolution.   This book is not written in a casual tone and it is very academic.  It contains a very in-depth look at the interpretation of the Bible that Enns has come to accept.  He acknowledges some of the problems with his own conclusions, but encourages Christians to enter the discussion.

This was a great selection for someone  struggling to reconcile their acceptance of evolution with their belief in the Bible.  Evolution was not one of my recent questions, but I found the book very insightful.  Of course, it took many weeks for me to process through the heavy amount of information.

His most recent title, The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires our Trust more than our “Correct” Beliefs, is on its way to my house through Amazon Prime right now!

In addition to numerous book titles, I discovered the world of theological podcasts and devoured episode upon episode!  My two favorites are:

1. Rob Bell and his Robcast.  Full confession.  I read his book, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, the year it was released and I didn’t care for it.  I was open to his viewpoint, but I wasn’t convinced.  At all.  Fast forward to the present and I have discovered that Rob Bell is much better (IMO) at speaking than writing.  He discusses current events, theology, parenting, and conducts fantastic interviews.  If you are a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, you can check out his interview with her!

2. The Liturgists.  I adore Science Mike and Michael Gungor.  My husband became a fan as well on our trip out west.  It has been a great experience to engage in deeper thoughts about modern science and theology with these two guys. Episode 5 on Spiral Dynamics was so fascinating as we drove along the highway.  The beautiful integration of science and religion on this podcast is engaging and thought provoking.  These guys are fantastic!

If you are in a place where you find your beliefs shifting in a similar fashion, perhaps you can find support and encouragement in some of these sources.

(NotBefore7 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)

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Mary Wilson

Mary is a writer and mother to four kids ranging from elementary to high school.

She believes that creativity, laughter, and fun are the backbone for engaging and inspiring homeschools. You can find her encouragement and tips on this blog, Not Before 7.

She is an enneagram 7 and an extrovert. She enjoys traveling, tea (iced or hot), good conversations, and books. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
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