Recommended Reads: What I read since I no longer read the bible

It was hard to pick which books to share because February is an interesting month. It’s the Love Month. It’s when all the lovey-dovey cards, heart-shaped chocolates, tacky and sexy lingerie, sidewalk-chalk-flavored candy, and cheesy-cute stuffed animals have an entire grocery store aisle all to themselves. But it’s also the beginning of Lent, which is a more serious, introspective, faith-focused season for the faith-communities and individuals who observe it.

I was torn between whether or not to share a few favorite romance novels or more Lent-appropriate works. And I decided that, instead, I’d recommend two books that are a part of my own self-care time (which relates to love and spirituality, or at least it does for me).

For years the quiet of the mornings was my “quiet time with God” or “daily devotions.” My mornings were severely regimented and there was often a lot of guilt hanging in the morning air, but there was beauty and introspection, too. However, thanks to my serious case of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome I have a complex relationship with the Bible these days, so we don’t spend our mornings together. And for a while it felt like there was a hole in my day. Something was missing, that time to reflect. These books have helped fill that hole; they inspire me, remind me what’s truly important, make me feel less alone, and leave me feeling more grounded for spending a morning with them. They’re also beautiful. And that’s a good reason just right there.

1. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott is my personal patron saint, and I feel like her books were the first spiritual life rafts that my fingers, out of sheer luck, managed to grab. She was the very first person to give me a glimpse of the reality that Christianity could taste differently than the particular flavor that I’d been raised with.

She introduce me to freedom. She introduce me to hope. She showed me that it was okay to be honest, even about hard things and the feelings you weren’t “supposed to” have. She showed me that I could be snarky and spiritual at the same time. She made me laugh out loud and she told me it was okay to grieve and that it was okay to take care of myself. She made me feel less broken, and more just messy. And that messiness was okay.

When I saw Lamott speak last year she described Small Victories as her “best of album” (but there are still some new essay additions). And I think that’s the perfect way of describing it.

It was hard to decide which quotes to share with you since there are so many sticky notes in my copy, but this is one that resonated the most deeply with me.

 I told them about my most vile behavior, and they said, “Me, too!” I told them about my crimes against the innocent, especially me. And they said, “Ditto. Yay. Welcome.” I couldn’t seem to get them to reject me. It was a nightmare, and then my salvation. [p. 22]

Crimes against the innocent — me. Within the pages of her book I feel welcomed, safe. And on the next page she continues:

This welcome towards myself took adjustment, a rebalancing of my soul. There had been so much energy thrown into performance, achievement, and disguise. [p. 23]

A rebalancing of my soul. That is exactly where I’m at.

I read through this slowly, one essay a morning, the way I used to read through daily devotionals. And I’m planning on rereading it during Lent (a time in the Christian year that I have reimagined, reclaimed for myself as a time of more focused, more intentional self-care).

2. Dream Work by Mary Oliver.

Poetry, like music or ice cream flavors, really comes down to personal taste. But I’m madly, deeply in love with Mary Oliver’s words. (I’m also dead jealous.) This is what I’m currently reading through in the mornings, just a poem or two at a time. I feel like it helps my mornings to be reflective, peaceful, and spiritual. And perhaps most importantly of all, it’s a time of self-care.

Although, Oliver’s poems certainly touch on a wide variety of topics and emotions I feel like this would be the perfect book to give to anyone who said they didn’t like poetry because it’s always sad.

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I think The Journey might be my favorite of her poems that I’ve read so far. Sometimes, when I read poems like this one, I feel as if she’s writing directly to all of us who have made or are making the long, hard journey out of religious fundamentalism; those of us who grew up believing for so long that we were responsible for the entire world — every person, every soul. Here’s a small excerpt:

as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save the only life you could save.

Oliver’s poems aren’t religious-y, I’m not honestly sure that she’s even religious herself, but I found this section of Morning Poem beautiful.

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

If you want something reflective and beautiful to read that will help care for your soul, these are the books. (Or at least they are for me.)

What books feed your soul? And my fellow Religious Trauma survivors who also can’t read their Holy Book of Origin, what do you read now that’s adding light and life to your life?

20 thoughts on “Recommended Reads: What I read since I no longer read the bible

  1. “Sheer luck”? Bah! The universe loves you more than you can imagine, Kelsey. You might consider adding “The Jihad of Jesus” to your list. I think you will like it.

    Meditation is always a great way to spend a quiet morning. 🙂

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    • I’m reading the description of “The Jihad of Jesus” right now on Amazon. Sounds interesting! What did you like best about this book?

      Random off-topic thought: In the book “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” the author coins the term “Godiverse,” which she defines as being larger than the Trinity than she was raised with but more personal than the Universe. I’ve started using it a bit lately, myself. And it seemed like a term you might like, C. 🙂

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      • Interesting term! I don’t know if it fits me, though. 🙂 As far as the book goes, I have not made it past chapter 1. I’ll post my review of it when I finish it, hopefully before March 1.

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  2. For me, since I can’t read the Bible, I love either Eat Pray Love from her section in India, or Pablo Neruda. Every once in awhile I’ll pick up Anne Lamott, also, or some poetry from Hafez. I like books written by mystics, too… one of my favorites is an Islamic mystical book (anathema in my previous life, haha) called The Fragrance of Faith.

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    • Eat Pray Love is on my to-read-nearly-immediately list, so I’m glad to hear you liked it so much, Laurie! I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m not familiar with Pablo Neruda, so I currently have a tap with Google open in order to look him up. And “The Fragrance of Faith” is a great title. Anything specific that you really like about Neruda, Hafez, or “The Fragrance of Faith?” (Or all of them … I’d be happy to hear about all of them depending on how long of a comment you feel like writing, haha.)

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      • I loved it! I know some people hated it, but it really resonated with me.
        Pablo Neruda… the very first time I read his words, I felt like I knew him down to his soul. I have this silly idea (maybe true, maybe not, I don’t really know and I don’t care) that I’m his reincarnation haha. I joke about it a lot, just because I get his words so damn much.
        The Fragrance of Faith is one I adore, because it’s a Muslim mystic’s take on faith. It’s a series of lessons he learned from his father. I love that it gives a deep view into Islam that most people reject because of what they think Islam is. I also really resonated with the entire book and its lessons.

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  3. Kathy Parker

    Ahhh yes, agree. I’m often plagued with a horrible quote that was up in our church for a long time, “Dusty bibles make dirty lives”. If that’s the case, then I’m in serious trouble. Thankfully I don’t believe it is the case.
    I’ve always found comfort in the His Princess series by Sheri Rose Shepherd, specifically Love Letters from Your King. Interestingly enough, I read the younger series one to my daughters and found that ministering to the broken child within me, which sometimes I think can be needed before we can heal the broken adult. Love your blogs.

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    • If having a dusty bible is bad that I’m in serious trouble considering I tore one up a few months back, haha.. http://kelseymunger.com/2015/10/26/the-day-i-ripped-up-my-bible/

      I still have a bible around the house, the addition is called “The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation” or something like that. It’d be less triggery than probably any other, but it’s still tucked away out of sight gathering dust.

      You said: “… and found that ministering to the broken child within me, which sometimes I think can be needed before we can heal the broken adult.” That is so, so true. My counselor actually recently gave me an assignment to write about my child within — basically what broken little Kelsey felt and, because she’s still a part of a me, still feels. I haven’t done it yet because as someone with complex trauma, it sounds more than a little intimidating. But I finding that healing the child within is where I need to start.

      Always love your comments, Kathy. ❤

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      • Kathy Parker

        Ahhhhh yes, the child within. I did some training with Elijah House Ministries a number of years ago, and this came up. I think I couldn’t face it at the time for myself personally, and I’m pretty sure I’m still not quite there yet. The inner child is so much more vulnerable and doesn’t have the self protecting armour that the adult does to protect. Which I guess is why she needs so much more love, nurture and care.
        As for the dusty bibles, I’m not too concerned. One day maybe I’ll pick mine up again… and even if I never do… I’d like to think that on the day I die God will just hand me a copy and wink at me and we’ll have our own little private joke about it!

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        • I like that you’re not concerned about it, and that your goal isn’t to get to the point of reading the bible again. It isn’t my goal, either. Maybe at some point that will be a healthy step for me (who knows, I never thought I’d stop reading it so anything is possible), but for now I’m not reading it and I’m not trying to get to the point of reading it again.

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    • Unfortunately Philip Yancey was very popular within my ex-church, and my youth pastor’s favorite book was “What’s So Amazing About Grace.” So I wouldn’t be able to read them because of personal associations. But I’ve heard that some people that they’ve found both of those books by Yancey in particular helpful and healing. 🙂

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      • I understand. And empathize. Just want you to know that I love reading your thoughts, and I thank you for talking so honestly and openly about your wrestlings with our faith. You are kind to respond to me despite the fact that I seem to raise unpleasant personal associations. 🙂

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        • Jeff, I really enjoy interacting with fellow bloggers via the comment section. And honestly sometimes it’s nice to see that other people haven’t been hurt in the same ways as me — and that other churches, even if they had some favorite books in common, weren’t as toxic. I appreciate your comments. And thank you. I’m glad you’re enjoying my little corner of the internet. You’re very welcome here. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Three-Fourths Out of the Dark: Candles, Rocks, And the Spring Equinox – Kelsey L. Munger

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