Holy in the Daily

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Consumed by Formational Reading

old library for Consumed by formational reading

I consume a lot of books. There are bookshelves in nearly every room of my house and extra book stacks on the floor for easy access. Some books provide me important information, like how to cook chicken with goat cheese and balsamic syrup. Others mess with my insides and meddle with my thoughts long after I’ve finished reading.

In Living Prayer, Robert Benson refers to the latter kind of book reading as formational reading. It is “reading that is not about our working on the stuff that is written on the page, it is about the stuff on the page working on us.”

Books that form me become my mentors and friends. Their authors can be blamed for much of the change that the Spirit works within my damaged soul, altering me more and more into the image of Christ. This renovation process is not comfortable, but one I suspect the writers of the books I read have already been through themselves.

Robert Benson is one of those authors. I’ve read most of his books—laughing, crying and arguing with him all the way through each of them. Mark Buchanan is another mentor that interferes with my sainthood by humorously peeling away my smug assumptions and leaving me clinging to Jesus. Then there is Joan Chittisterwho sometimes causes me to wonder if she is a Christian, then sneaks up behind me and knocks me down with wisdom culled from her relationship with Jesus.

Someday, in eternity future, I intend to sit down with these authors and thank them for their contribution to my spiritual development. We’ll drink coffee with heavy cream in the Great Library of the King, and eat chicken with goat cheese and balsamic syrup while discussing the Spirit’s work of using words to transform us. I hope you’ll join us. If so, I’ll introduce you to Robert, Mark, Joan, and many others.

What book are you currently reading that is working on you—a book that is messing with your insides and meddling with your thoughts?

In Him together, Susan Gaddis

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Dani

    I started to comment yesterday, but it was so long, I made it my blog post for today. =)

    Thanks for being inspiring!

  2. Maureen Steger

    You asked what book is working on you… I believe I have food and books somehow reversed in my mind. I devour food and slowly, slowly, every so slowly read books.

    I eat like I haven’t had a meal in weeks; typically inhaling my food. I have to be aware if I am eating with my mother, as she is the slow eating advocate… perhaps that is why I eat so fast!

    Sometimes It seems like I am just getting it over with, even though I love food and eating. (I love reading recipes, and can sit with cook books having a cup of tea and visiting the pages. Most of the time I don’t even utilize the recipes, I just love reading them.)

    And, with books I almost drip feed the words to myself. It is hard for me to let friends and adventures in novels go, and I will sometimes linger on a last chapter or two for ages.

    Becoming a believer has opened up such a whole new world for me. Now when I read I tend to choose books that teach me about our faith, that deepen my relationship with God.

    I am currently digesting (slowly, very slowly) Seeking the Face of God, by Gary L. Thomas. When I stop at a page I usually go back and re-read the previous couple of pages to refresh myself.

    I often get down on myself for the slowness of my reads, and that I don’t read more books than I do. Yet at the same time, I love to ponder the words of authors. I truly enjoy slowing digesting and working the images and concepts over in mind and heart. And, just like in reading and pondering writing this has allowed me to ponder my workings. Slow as they may be with books, I guess it is just the right speed for me now.

    Thank you for asking the question!
    love m

  3. Susan Gaddis

    Thanks for sharing, Maureen. I think there many who can relate to your style of reading. I’ll bet you retain far more information then others who devour books.

  4. Cathy Davis

    I so related to this blog, Susan. I have for many years longed for a mentor to physically walk this journey with me. It hasn’t happended. You know when you read stories about people who have this amazing spiritual person who is just always there for them. I think of C.S. Lewis and the way he taught. Can you imagine being able to go into his office and have an hour a week with someone like that? But, alas, not to be our experience I fear.
    So books are my mentor. They are 99% of my formation. I’m thankful that I have access to not only people like Benson and Chittister but also to those who are no longer with us. In reference to what Maureen said I have figured out I don’t need to remember everything. I have come up with a system to help me refer back to particular things in books I read but I have decided that part of my daily prayer is that there is so much to read, so much to learn but it is only the part that transforms me that is important right now. This is also why you can read these types of books over and over again (which I love by the way because when reading them the authors become my friends and I miss them when I finish the book).
    I often think “I would love to go hear so and so speak”. Benson will be in Seattle (wouldn’t you know it….why not 4 months ago) at a mini- spiritual academy. I was trying to count the costs and decided whether to go. But, I have much of him in his books and I can take more time “listening” by reading.
    Anyway, now I’m rambling so off I go. Blessings once again.

  5. Susan Gaddis

    Deep thoughts, Cathy, and ones I can relate to. I appreciate your comment about not having to feel obligated to remember everything you read. You are right, the point is transformation, not a memory drill. Plus, it makes a good excuse to use as I age and find my memory is not as sharp as it used to be. 🙂 I take it you’ll be joining me in that Library Dinner sometime in Eternity Future. I’ll look forward to the conversation.

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