Sunday, January 25, 2009

Query #3

(This is the third post in my attempt to blog through the Advices & Queries of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.)
"Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God's guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God."

William Penn put it more succinctly and passionately when he wrote, "Therefore, O friends, turn in, turn in, I beseech you...."

You can't watch Christian television for long (say, oh, about five minutes) before you see some book or CD or DVD advertised which promises to show you how to "unlock God's miracle power in your life" or "walk in victory" or some such manifestation of what is considered to be a successful Christian walk. Likewise, your local Christian retail outlet is filled with tomes offering step-by-step guidance for living a satisfying Christian life.

With that in mind, I'm a bit reluctant to say this, but I think I've come upon a secret. It may not unlock miracles and prosperity, but it has helped me to walk daily with a deeper sense of God's love and purpose. It has made me more tender-hearted and patient and concerned for others. It has mysteriously given me strength and conviction to let go of bad habits and besetting sins. It has given me a lasting sense of peace. I only say that it's a secret because it's something I had never heard about in twenty-five years of being an evangelical charismatic Christian. It's not a complicated thing--in fact it's incredibly simple. It's amazingly easy yet, paradoxically, strangely difficult.

The great secret is this: Spending time listening to God in stillness and silence.

I have found that if I can spend one hour in the morning sitting in silence, it has a profound effect upon the rest of my day. This is a time of intentional stillness, the goal of which is to dial down and listen. That's the key: It is a time of listening and waiting for God.

Here are some of the difficulties one might encounter in doing this:

1. In our culture, where efficiency is paramount, it can be difficult to carve out one hour. For me, this means getting up earlier, which means going to bed earlier. I'm a night person, so this goes against my natural inclination.

2. It can also be difficult to find a place of uninterrupted quiet and privacy, especially if one has children.

3. It can be difficult to let go. We want to do something. Shouldn't I be praying to God, or reciting the Psalms, or meditating on the Lord's Prayer, or something? Obviously, none of these are bad things, but that's not what this time is for. The challenge here is to not feel the need to perform or initiate or do, but to simply wait and listen.

4. It can be difficult to still one's mind. Mundane and distracting thoughts come bubbling up. The harder one tries to suppress them, the more one finds one's attention focused on these thoughts, rather than on listening. I've read many suggestions on how to deal with this. What seems to work for me is to not fight the thoughts but to observe them, like I would clouds floating by while laying in a field looking up into the vast open space of the sky. The goal, after all, isn't to empty oneself of conscious thought. Rather, it is to open oneself up to hear God.

I must confess that I engage in this daily time of silent listening less than I would like. But when I do take the time to be still and "wait in the light" (as Quakers like to say), I find that I am deeply rewarded. It has become something that I hunger for.

To quote William Penn again:

"If you would know God and worship and serve God as you should do, you must come to the means he has ordained and given for their purpose. Some seek it in books, some in learned men; but what they look for is in themselves, though not of themselves, but they overlook it. The voice is too still, the seed too small and the light shineth in darkness; they are abroad and so cannot divide the spoil [In other words, they are outwardly focused and so miss the treasure. - DC]. But the woman that lost her silver found it at home, after she had lighted her candle and swept her house. Do you so too and you shall find what Pilate wanted to know, viz., truth, truth in the inward parts..."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Sweet Hollywaiians - Hula Girl

Things have been a bit heavy lately, what with Israeli war crimes, economic doom and personal tragedies visited upon friends and family. Sometimes ya just gotta lighten up though, because life is way too serious to be taken seriously.

And so I present to you, from Japan, the Sweet Hollywaiians performing "Hula Girl" (or as they pronounce it, "Hoorah Girl")

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Salvation on the Small Screen?

On Friday night Carla and I attended a small event at Mustard Seed House in Seattle. A dozen or so people gathered in a living room to sip tea, nibble shortbread and hear Nadia Bolz-Weber read from her book Salvation on the Small Screen?.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a tall, brash, heavily tattooed Lutheran pastor from Denver who speaks with the sarcastic delivery of a stand-up comic. It turns out she used to be a stand-up comic and her blog is entitled The Sarcastic Lutheran. She introduced herself on Friday evening by reading an unpublished essay about "the rowing club"--an AA recovery group she belongs to--and the slow, sad decline of one's of it's members. The essay (like Bolz-Weber herself) was smart, delightful, challenging, honest, edgy, gritty (replete with F-bombs and references to pornography), genuine and insightful. Her writing is in some ways reminiscent of Anne Lamott.

After the introductory essay she read excerpts from Salvation on the Small Screen?. We finished with a time of questions and discussion. I had not read the book, but was intrigued enough to purchase a copy. I've just finished it and found it to be a quick and entirely fun read.

The set-up for the book is this: Bolz-Weber, a blogger and essayist on Jim Wallis' God's Politics site, was asked by a publisher to watch TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) for 24 hours straight and then write about the experience. She asked, "Can I bring my friends?" and when the publisher agreed, she took on the job.

Nadia begins her journal of TBN watching at 5am and concludes at 5am the next day. Throughout that 24 hour period she is joined by a revolving cast of friends and strangers (ranging from seminary professors to gay community workers to her parents to an ex-boyfriend to a Jewish atheist to a Methodist pastor) who sit on her couch and provide running commentary--ala Mystery Science Theatre 3000--on what unfolds on the screen before them. She admits up front that not only has she never watched TBN (other than occasionally passing it while channel-surfing and thinking, "What the...?"), but that she also harbors deep feelings of derision towards Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity (originating, no doubt, from her upbringing in a Fundamentalist Evangelical home).

One expects snarkiness and mockery, and one is not disappointed. The surprise, however, is the author's chagrin/discomfort at her own cynicism, her willingness to examine her own attitudes, prejudices and shortcomings and her attempts to find something (anything) of value in the tepid swill served up on TBN.

Here is an example:

Best of Praise the Lord, 9:30am
... Praise the Lord is a Christian talk show, and today Mark Chironna hosts Dyan Cannon. I vaguely remember her; I think she was the judge on Ally McBeal.

The decorating is faux everything. Huge fake plants, enormous fake Louis XVI furniture, and white and gold walls. It's very Siegfried and Roy meets Tammy Faye--Absolute prosperity gospel heaven. Is there something righteous about the faux ornate, just as there seems to be an implied righteousness, here on TBN, to certain hair styles and music and manicures and decorating? There's an evangelical aethetic of righteousness. Even the music is faux: it's piped in.

Ted [her viewing buddy for this segment] notices, "The set looks like the shrapnel from a Hobby Lobby explosion."

John Hagee comes on the air, and she describes him thusly:
Hagee is jowly and angry and looks, though I'm no medical expert, like he may possibly be bloated on his own hate. ... In just five minutes we've gotten the crippling of the U.S. economy, nuclear holocaust in Israel and the United States, and the end of Western civilization. Is this guy available for children's parties? He's more terrifying than a birthday clown.

Other highlights include her description of the 700 Club (Pentecostal Romper Room) and Joel Osteen's ministry (McPreachy's good-time prosperity pinata).

There are moments, however, when she is genuinely affected by what she sees. After viewing a segment of PTL which features quadraplegic Joni Eareckson-Tada, Bolz-Weber gushes "She's beautiful and articulate and full of sincerity..." and is moved to introspection:
She's saying that God's work in the world can be done even through brokenness, not despite our brokenness. I tend to agree with her. I know for myself that the uglier things about me--my inordinate love of booze (before getting sober fifteen years ago), my sarcasm, the fact that I swear like a truck driver, and even the fact that I have tattoos all the way down my arm--these inelegant aspects of myself that would never pass TBN muster, that seem "non-Christian," are exactly the things that others in my community find compelling. These character traits are seen by nicey-nice Christianity as "worldly," but God still finds them useful.

While watching Creflo Dollar preach, Bolz-Weber admits:
I'm impressed with the fact that his whole congregation has open Bibles in their laps and all seem to be busy taking notes. Lutherans don't really bring Bibles to church. I'm not sure why that is. The lectionary texts are printed in most Lutheran church bulletins, and so if they want to follow along they only have to flip over the announcements, and there are the four texts, one each from the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms, the epistles, and the gospels. One problem this creates is that then no one opens up his or her own Bible. And in some churches when the lectors get up to do the readings, they don't open up a huge lectern Bible; they just read off the bulletin insert. We seem less like a People of the Book and more like a People of the Bulletin Insert.

Rather than walk away from her 24 hour ordeal with a smug sense of superiority, Nadia comes to the realization that her own faith tradition also contains plenty of holes and flaws. She wonders "...what the TBN folks would think of me, a heavily tattooed Christian progressive from a liturgical denomination. How would people in their theological camp respond to my preaching? Would they think, as I do of them, that I misuse scripture? Would they be offended at the aesthetic in the community I serve? Would they dismiss my years of theological education as silly and unnecessary? When it comes right down to it, so many of my criticisms of TBN could go both ways, and if that's true then could it also be true, despite us both, that God is at work in my community and (gulp) TBN?"

Thankfully, she also clarifies that "Allowing for the possibility that God may be at work in both my community and TBN is not the same as conceding that TBN's theology and methods are sound."

Throughout the book a tally is kept of the amount of money one would spend by purchasing the trinkets, teaching tapes, books, DVDs and other products hawked during each ministry's TBN segment. The 24 hour grand total, revealed at the end of the book, is flabbergasting. Bolz-Weber also ponders such inevitable questions as What is really being sold on TBN?; Are preachers like Benny Hinn sincere in their beliefs?; and What is the appeal of these ministries, particulary to the elderly and shut-ins? The answers to these questions are disturbing, not only because of what they say about those ministries on TBN but also about Western Christian culture as a whole (including you and I).

Salvation on the Small Screen? is put out by a small publishing company with limited distribution. You're certainly not going to find it at your local Family Christian Bookstore. I do hope that it catches on though because it conveys some great observations in a thoroughly enjoyable manner. It's gotten me to thinking that it might be really fun to have some friends over for a round of TBN viewing.

Or not.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Query #2

(This is the second post in my attempt to blog through the Advices & Queries of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.)
"Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the spirit of Christ. Are you open to the healing power of God's love? Cherish that of God within you, so that this love may grow in you and guide you. Let your worship and your daily life enrich each other. Treasure your experience of God, however it comes to you. Remember that Christianity is not a notion but a way."

There are six sentences in this query. Each one could stand on its own and provide rich food for reflection. This may be a long post...

We in the West tend to think in an Aristotelian way: We compartmentalize and catagorize. We view life not as an integrated whole but as discrete components linked together. Thus a man can be a devout and contrite Christian on Sunday but use predatory and deceptive practices to sell used cars on Monday. We can speak out against abortion but cheer as our military rains down destruction upon a foreign city. We can scrupulously pay our church tithes while doing little to help the poor.

One of the most thrilling and terrifying aspects of following Jesus is allowing His light into all of the compartments of our lives. The definition of integrity, according to Princeton, is "an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting". As the Spirit of Christ lovingly conquers and unifies my heart and life, I become more and more integrated and whole. My barriers and rationalizations crumble and I begin to see that theft is theft, lying is lying, injustice is injustice and murder is murder. It gets harder to dodge and hide from Truth. I find within me the conviction and strength to stand firm against the tendency to compromise truth. Order comes. The Kingdom of God is within and at hand.

There is a fanciful (and very unscientific) way that I picture human beings. It is difficult to describe, but I'll try: On the outside we are three-dimensional physical lifeforms comprised of flesh and blood and hair and bone, walking around on this planet Earth. But on the inside of each of us there is a window which opens to the vast spaces of another dimension: The God dimension. God's love-light shines into the inside of us through this window. We go through our days here on planet earth performing our various tasks with a window inside of us that opens to God. But there are shutters on the window. I think of them as the louvered shutters that you see on houses in Florida which can be cranked shut in case of hurricanes. Most of us go through life with the shutters closed. Still, as Leonard Cohen sings, "There's a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Some people's windows are clamped tighly shut because they were deeply hurt or because they have become acclimated to the darkness of sin. Other people's louvers are open a bit to allow some, but not too much, of the light in.

As we begin to accept the reality that God loves us with an eternal, unfailing and unconditional love, the louvers on our internal window begin to squeek open a little bit more. More light comes in. I think of the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the little boy is in the darkened house and the intense alien golden light is shining through the doorjams and keyholes and vents. His mother is terrified, but the boy fearlessly opens the front door and faces the probing light. I want to be that accepting of God's light to be able to fling open the door to my heart. But it is a long journey back to the innocence and purity of that child.

"Cherish that of God within you", says the query. This is a uniquely Quaker phrase. Early Quakerism was, in many ways, a reaction against Calvinism. Calvinist thought, which still permeates much of modern-day Christianity, views mankind as utterly depraved, separated from and despised by God and, by default, destined for Hell. The Quaker view, while not blind to the potential for wickedness within mankind, sees that God values and is at work within every individual. There is "that of God" in everyone. He has planted seeds in each of us and is gently drawing us towards Him. Those seeds only need to be nurtured. The more we begin to dwell upon His deep love for us, rather than our messed up condition, the more we naturally open up to God. One of my favorite sayings is by Philip Yancey, which goes something like, "There is nothing you can do to make God love you more than He already does. And there is nothing you can do to make God love you less than He already does." This is because God's love is perfect. And it's all about Him, not us. The more we grasp this the more our entire outlook on life becomes imbued with rich hues of God's lovingkindness. We find peace and rest and purpose. We become guided and motivated more and more by the sense of love that God has placed within us, rather than by negative motivators such as fear, revenge, pride and ambition.

Does our worship enrich our daily lives and does our daily life enrich our worship? In other words, are we integrated? Or do we subscribe to the artificial duality of sacred and profane, secular and religious? One of the great re-discoveries of the Anabaptists and Quakers was that we don't need to go to a special place and conduct special rituals performed by a special priesthood in order to interact with God. The living room and the office cubicle is as sacred as the cathedral. We can worship God in the way we do our work, drive our car and shop for our groceries. We may encounter God in these ways and in many other unexpected ways.

Christianity is not just a belief system or a set of rules and creeds. It is a comprehensive, all encompassing, integrated way of living.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Free album

Church of the Beloved, a hip & trendy post-modern emergent neo-monastic church community thingy here in Seattle has created an really nice album of worship music and made it available to download for free. You can get it by clicking here.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I sit
Still and silent as a stone
While waves of love crash over me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Query #1

"Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life."

As I find with many of the Queries, there is a lot packed into this brief statement.

Do I take heed (listen & act) to the promptings of love and truth in my heart? I know it is God who places those promptings there. But how often do I listen? I tend to be a very task-oriented person--sometimes to the point of tunnel vision. I can get so focused on whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish that I completely miss what is going on around me and within me. The promptings of love and truth are, I believe, two-fold: One part is God trying to make us more aware of His love for us and bring us more into comformity with truth. The other part is God wanting to express His love through us to others and have us stand as beacons for truth in the world. We listen and then we act. The first challenge for me, then, is simply to hear these promptings--to take the time to dial down, be still and listen.

The next challenge is to trust what I hear. How do I know that the promptings in my heart are from God? If they are contradictory in any way to love or truth, they are not from God. Or perhaps what was from God has become distorted by my presuppositions, biases, agendas and sinfulness. If the promptings in my heart serve selfish purposes; if they are self-aggrandizing; if they contribute in any way to the harm or marginalization or exploitation or oppression or denigration of someone else, then they are not loving and are not from God. If there is any hint of dishonesty or deception or obfuscation, then they are not truthful and are not from God. 1 Corinthians 13 is a good test to apply to perceived promptings.

The promptings of love and truth in our hearts reveal to us the darkness within ourselves. This is another reason why I sometimes find myself not wanting to take time to listen to God. Like a man who puts off going to the dentist for fear that a cavity might be found, I sometimes don't want to put myself in a position of listening to God because I know there is some darkness within me that I don't want to face. I already know it's there, but hope it will just go away of its own accord. Yet God changes our hearts through kindness. His goal in bringing our darkness into the light is not to criticize or condemn us, but to bring us life. This is a cooperative journey--us and the Holy Spirit within us--gradually increasing in light and life, both within and without. The paradox is that this journey will require letting go of things we hold dear but which aren't based in love and truth--our reputation, our position, our privileges, our ambitions, our toys, our addictions, our attitudes, our self-centered orientation--allowing them to grow ever weaker until they die.

Thus, day-by-day we are changed from the inside out and grow roots ever deeper into maturity, grace, truth and love and bear the fruit thereof for the benefit of others.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Advices & Queries

An elementary school teacher once told me that I'm a great starter. That was her nice way of saying that I'm not always great at finishing things. Case in point: My attempt to blog through the Beatitudes, which lost steam at about the halfway point (although I reserve the right to pick up where I left off at any time).

Having issued the above (dis)qualifier, I announce my intention to blog through the Advices & Queries of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.

The Advices & Queries date back to 1682 when a request went out from the Quaker Yearly Meeting in London. It had only been a few years since Quaker meetings had been organized into Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly. The request was sent to the various Quaker meetings in hopes of gathering a sort of census on who had died, who was in prison (for their faith), what the meetings had been hearing from God and how everyone was getting along. Over the years these queries were expanded and became more specific. They became less about gathering information and more about asking questions to prompt introspection within a meeting or individual. As Quakerism grew into various branches, each Yearly Meeting produced it's own Advices & Queries.

I like the Advices & Queries of the Britain Yearly Meeting and carry them with me in a little booklet that I bought for $2.00. I've found it handy, if I'm stuck in an airport or eating alone at a restaurant, to pull out my little booklet for a moment of reading and reflection. Somewhere along the line, the thought occurred to me that it might be interesting to blog through them.

As of 1994, which I believe is the most recent edition, there are 42 Queries. We'll see how far I get...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

True Religion

William Penn wrote, "The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious, and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another, though the divers liveries they wear here make them strangers."

Or, to put it another way, there is only one True Religion, and that is the religion of Love. Whether you call yourself a Christian or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Pagan or a Jew or something else, it is only to the extent that you practice Love that you practice True Religion.

Friday, January 02, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2008

Okay, another list. These are not books that were published in 2008. They are books that I read in 2008 and found to be particularly enjoyable, enriching, thought-provoking and, in some cases, life-changing.

1. The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium - Walter Wink
This book is a distillation of Wink's "Powers Trilogy" books (Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers and Engaging the Powers). Wink begins by identifying the systems of domination that have existed throughout mankind's history. He goes on to point out and explain the pervasive "myth of redemptive violence" in our cultures. I will never look at cartoons the same way again. Next Wink explores how Jesus interacted with the domination systems of His day and deconstructed the lie which says that violence can be constructive and redemptive. The book then moves into a practical discussion of how the spiral of violence and oppression can be broken by non-violent resistance (and explains why non-violent resistance is very different from pacifism). This book was a joy to read. It was eye-opening, paradigm-shifting and personally challenging. I previously posted an excerpt from The Powers that Be here. I intend to re-read the book soon in order to further cement the powerful ideas that Wink brings forth.

2. Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope - Brian McLaren
I read this book immediately after reading The Powers That Be, which was like receiving a combination punch to the psyche. McLaren was clearly influenced by Wink (to the point of citing him repeatedly and using some of Wink's terminology) and builds on the foundation that Wink has laid. Everything Must Change is a challenge to rethink what the Gospel of Jesus Christ means and then to act upon it. Here's an excerpt, which also explains how the book got its title:

"The second day of our gathering in Bujumbura came to an end. As the group dispersed for some free time before dinner, I noticed Justine, a Burundian currently living in Rwanda, sitting alone at a table. Her head was on the table, sheltered in her arms, and she was completely motionless. At first I wondered if she was asleep or maybe sick. I asked another woman who could translate to come with me to see if she was okay. The woman put her hand on Justine's shoulder, and Justine slowly raised her head. "Are you okay?" we asked.
She replied, "I'm okay, but I'm shaken up. I don't know if anyone else here sees it, but I do. I see it. Today, for the first time, I see what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. I see that it's about changing this world, not just escaping it and retreating into our churches. If Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is true, then everything must change. Everything must change."

This book may cause you to have a similar reaction. And that is probably a good thing.

3. The Shack - William P. Young
I resisted reading this book for a long time, assuming it was just another mediocre work of hack Christian fiction. I finally broke down and bought a copy. As I began to read, my assessment seemed to be correct until the book took an unexpected turn. To my surprise, it blossomed into an emotionally moving, deeply spiritual and theologically profound tale. Not bad for a $10.00 paperback. I think The Shack is the Pilgrim's Progess of our time.

In no particular order:

Friends for 350 Years
- Howard H. Brinton
Considered a classic amongst Quakers, and I can see why. It is more than just a history of the Quakers and an explanation of Quaker distictives. It is perhaps the closest thing to a Quaker Systematic Theology that I have seen. Observe Brinton's insightful description of what an individual encounters during a Quaker silent Meeting for Worship:
The worshiper sits down in silence. He seeks to compose his wandering thoughts. How shall he begin in order that his worship may not become a dreamy reverie? Perhaps by repeating a prayer, or a verse of scripture or poetry. As he progresses, he may be able to offer a prayer of his own which merges with thoughts which have to do with the routine problems of his daily life. He must not fear to express selfish desires, for, above all, he must be sincere. He may then find that these desires, when expressed before God, assume a different form, proportion and direction. After a time something may come before his mind, a past event, a future possibility, a saying or occurrence in the Bible or elsewhere on which his attention becomes fixed. This focus of attention is now seen, not in a secular, but in a religious context. It is viewed in its eternal rather than its temporal aspect.

The will and feelings of the worshiper become stirred as the thought before him glows with life and power. He no longer feels that he himself is searching, but that he is being searched through. There is a growing sense of divine Presence. Truth is not thought about, but perceived and enjoyed. It may be that a point is reach at which the worshiper finds that he must communicate to the meeting what has come to him. Or, he may resolve to act at some time in the future in accordance with the Light which he has received. If he waits quietly and expectantly with the windows of his soul open to whatever Light may shine, he may lose all sense of separate existence and find himself aware only of the greater Life on which his own is based. The sense of union with God may come unexpectedly. This occurs more often than is generally supposed for it is frequently not recognized for what it is. Such complete self-forgetfulness of sleep which cannot be remembered at all, and there is, at the opposite pole, the higher self-forgetfulness in which every faculty of the soul is intensely awake, with the result that consciousness is widened to include that which is beyond thought and memory."

A Quaker of the Olden Time, A Memoir of John Roberts - by his son, Daniel Roberts
I have been unable to find a hardcopy of this book, but have read through the online version a couple of times this year. The book was originally published in 1746. The online version contains a prefatory letter written by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1883. Holmes summed it up well when he wrote, "I have read the Memoir of John Roberts with very great interest and real delight. It is so comforting to meet, even in a book, a man who is perfectly simple-hearted, clear-headed, and brave in all conditions. The story is so admirably told, too, dramatically, vividly -- one lives the whole scene over and knows the persons who appear in it as if they had been his townsmen."

But I Tell You: Jesus Introduces a Better Way to Live
- Karen Oberst
This book was used by our Meeting for Learning (Sunday School) as a basis for discussion. Each time we gathered we would read a chapter (all of which are very short) and then reflect and dialogue upon it. The book, in which each chapter looks at a verse from the Sermon on the Mount, is perfectly suited to group discussion.

The Story of My Experiments with Truth - Mohandas K. Gandhi
This is not your typical autobiography. Gandhi was very selective about what he chose to describe in this work. As he explains in the Introduction:
" is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography. But I shall not mind, if every page of it speaks only of my experiments. I believe, or at any rate flatter myself with the belief, that a connected account of all these experiments will not be without benefit to the reader. My experiments in the political field are now known, not only to India, but to a certain extent to the "civilized" world. For me, they have not much value, and the title of "Mahatma" that they have won for me has, therefore, even less. Often the title has deeply pained me, and there is not a moment I can recall when it may be said to have tickled me. But I should certainly like to narrate my experiments in the spiritual field which are known only to myself, and from which I have derived such power as I possess for working in the political field. If the experiments are really spiritual, then there can be no room for self-praise. They can only add to my humility. The more I reflect and look back on the past, the more vividly do I feel my limitations."

What come across is a man who was exceptionally humble yet who also possessed a will of iron. He is unabashedly honest and freely admits his errors and shortcomings, including admitting how often providence or circumstance played a roll in events that involved him. Gandhi's great motivator was the Love of God. I can't help but think that Gandhi, Paul of Tarsus and George Fox would have liked each other immensely. The book can drag in places, especially when Gandhi describes in excruciating detail his various meetings with various Indian politicians and personalities. Overall though Gandhi's recollections affected, enriched and encouraged me.

Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America - Mel White
Mel White was an Evangelical insider who ghost-wrote books for Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and others while simultaneously traveling on a soul-wrenching journey of resisting and ultimately accepting his homosexual orientation. This book is harrowing, challenging and, at last, affirming. If you are gay, it will give you hope. If you are not gay, it will give you understanding and empathy. It certainly puts to rest the question of whether or not gay people can be Christians. The answer is yes, they can.

The Greek Word Aion-Aionios Translated Everlasting-Eternal in the Holy Bible Shown to Denote Limited Duration - Rev. John Wesley Hanson, A.M.
This is not so much a book as a lengthy and detailed tract, written in 1875, in which Hanson tackles the question of whether or not the Bible really teaches the doctrine of Eternal Punishment by examining the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible which are typically translated as "Eternal". This tract is as fascinating and provocative now as it was in 1875. See also The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott.