Books That Compel Us to Return


There are books that you read and, when finished, place back on the shelf to never again pick up.

There are books you read, find great enjoyment in them, and maybe have even sensed the words of impact upon the pages. Even as they sit upon the shelf, a glimpse at their spine reminds you of the lasting significance of those words.

Then there are books that you read, possibly shedding a tear or closing your eyes to soak in the content, sensing the voice of God himself ringing through the pages, but even more……you know you will, you must, dust off these works, returning to them again and again to feed upon the treasure at hand. To not do so would be considered a personal tragedy of the gravest kind.

One such book for me is Thomas Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion. It has had such an impact on my life for 12 years now, so much so that I listed it as one of the top 10 books that has impacted my life. I shall never be able to rid myself of this little work.
a testament of devotionI recently picked it back up because it relates to my doctoral dissertation. In particular, I’m looking at the role of missional formation on the holistic spiritual formation of young, creative Christians. Or, to break it down a little more, I’m considering how mission learning and practice in all its various ways (serving, social justice, evangelism, community involvement, etc) impacts the spiritual growth of creative types.

And, so, Kelly’s is a book that will play a role in my writing. It is one that focuses intently on spiritual formation. However, it also looks at the connection between spiritual formation and social concern (an aspect of mission). Hence its relevance to my own work.

It’s a simple little book. A total of 100 pages. An easy read, yes, but not one you want to rush your way through. Otherwise you’ll miss the depths of this Quaker’s words.

So, if you’re looking for a work on spiritual formation, one that is simple, one that isn’t packaged too much like most American spirituality books are, perhaps this book could be a well unto you.

I’m thankful for this little book.

Below I share a few of Kelly’s thoughts:

Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. (p3)

Let us explore together the secret of a deeper devotion, a more subterranean sanctuary of the soul, where the Light Within never fades, but burns, a perpetual Flame, where the wells of living water of divine revelation rise up continuously, day by day and hour by hour, steady and transfiguring. (p5)

Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power. If only we could slip over into that Center! If only we could find the Silence which is the source of sound! (p92)

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