One of the principles of this space is that inspiration for the heart and spirit can be found anywhere and everywhere. Here are a few of my favourite places from which to draw comfort, strength and joy. Enjoy – I know you will!
I mean, if there’s a primary space for taking comfort and inspiration, arguably it’s inside the cover of a great book. Here are just a couple of the books which have had a lasting impact upon me spiritually.
- An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor
This book was gifted to me on my thirtieth birthday but one of the spiritual leaders in my life, a woman called Kat (I won’t say more out of fear of embarrassing her, but I wish you could know her). An Altar In The World is one minister’s reflections on several years in and outside of Christian ministry. In twelve chapters, Barbara reflects on different aspects of faith, from prayer to suffering, always highlighting the presence of god within the everyday. It will change the way you think about faith forever.
- If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
I’ve already mentioned this in my blog post about divine feminine leadership but this book, also a gift from a treasured friend, weaves together an understanding of the rich role the feminine divine plays in Celtic spirituality with the need for women to reclaim both their rootedness in the earth and their power. A powerful cry for women to come together as eco-heroines.
- To Bless The Space Between Us by John O’Donohue
If I had to pick one thinker who profoundly affected my spiritual outlook, it’d be Irish poet-philosopher and priest John O’Donohue. To Bless The Space Between Us is a collection of O’Donohue’s soul-pluckingly beautiful blessings for various threshold moments in life, from grieving a loss to starting a new job. Transitional moments in life deserve to be marked and blessed regardless of whether you have a religious roadmap for how to do so, and having a collection of such gorgeous blessings on your bookshelf will offer a starting point for any occasion, especially when you can’t seem to summon the right words.
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
A practical workbook into regaining access and relationship with one’s creativity, understanding all creativity as an outlet of the universe’s Good Orderly Direction – in other words, god. Will reshape how you think about, and relate to, your innate, god-given creativity.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A heartbreakingly beautiful memoir written by a passionate, kind neurosurgeon called Paul Kalanithi as he confronted his own impending death at the hands of metastatic lung cancer. Not for the faint-hearted, but for those who are ready to have more honest conversations about death, this makes for essential and surprisingly life-affirming reading.
- His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman
I could have selected so many works of fiction for this list (and can’t let this moment pass without simply mentioning Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) but I mention Phillip Pullman’s epic fantasy series because it grapples so directly with religion. The His Dark Materials, which is kind of a modern subversive retelling of John Milton’s classic text Paradise Lost and the tale of Adam of Eve, is often seen by people of faith as a hateful polemic against religion. But what I took from the series was actually a redemptive message that, while religions have not always gotten it right (understatement), they are attempts to express, channel and sometimes control, the powerful mystery at the heart of all life. Pullman and his flawed but courageous characters remind us that we all have the right to create new stories, drawing on traditions where we choose and dispensing with tradition where we want to as well.
- The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Another book pressed into my hands by my lovely sister-in-law (and brilliant coach and writer) Emma Ashru Jones. The Enneagram is a psychology-based tool for understanding, and going beyond, personality as a frame of defining our behaviour and needs. Often used as a tool by church communities to help people in their personal development, I have found the Enneagram a wonderful aid to other processes such as psychodynamic therapy which I’ve used to understand myself and others.
- Queer Theology
A wonderful space where hosts Brian G Murphy and Father Shannon ‘Shay’ T.L Kearns discuss a Bible passage (taken from the Lectionary, a four-year cycle of Bible readings which churches follow in their services) from a queer perspective.
- Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
Hosts Casper Ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan have been discussing the Harry Potter books chapter by chapter since Philosopher’s Stone, and now they’re onto the final book. They view and read Harry Potter as a sacred text, including applying sacred practices from different religious traditions to better understand the lessons and meaning of the text. I love the principle at the heart of the podcast – that inspiration can be found everywhere, including in the wizarding world. Casper Ter Kuile also writes a wonderful newsletter.
- Nadia Bolz-Weber
Ordained Lutheran minister and all-round badass, Bolz-Weber has written on dismantling the shame around sex which affects so many people of faith, and invites everyone to join her the ‘the Corners’ of faith communities. Where those who would traditionally be considered outsiders or rejects of faith – but whom she says have the most interesting stories. Bolz-Weber is an important figure in the contemporary reformation of American Christianity.
- Gail Love-Schock
An interfaith minister, Love-Schock provides lovely reflections on life from a perspective that, while undogmatic and open-minded, is in no way wishy-washy.
I’d love to hear what your go-to sources of inspiration are right now. Why not share them in the comments?