2022 Book Club Conversations

Lift Every Voice: Contemplative Writers of Color

Monthly Conversations on the Christian Mystical Tradition

Featured Book for December 2022

Soul Talk: How to Have the Most Important Conversation of All

by Kirk Byron Jones

“Though your soul may be more mystery to you than familiar reality, you are not a stranger to soul moments. When you smile for no reason, know something for sure without having learned it, or feel peace amid broken pieces, your soul is manifesting itself. Your soul is your pool of deep wisdom, peace, and joy within. Your soul is the part of you God held last as God released your free flight into the world.” ~ from Soul Talk: How to Have the Most Important Conversation of All.

Too often, the most difficult person to speak with honestly and deeply is yourself. And yet, if you are to live your finest, freshest, and fullest life, it is essential to maintain an empowering inner dialogue. Soul Talk presents 7 enlivening steps for creating and continuing soulfully satisfying self-communication:1. Be Still.2. Lay Burdens Down.3. Listen Deeply.4. Don’t Run Away.5. Be Honest.6. Be Gentle.7. Welcome New Truth.To Connect With Your Soul is to take Advantage of the Supreme Empowerment Opportunity of a Lifetime.

What if some of our greatest theologians wouldn’t be considered theologians at all? Kat Armas, a second-generation Cuban-American, grew up on the outskirts of Little Havana, Miami’s famed Cuban neighborhood. Her earliest theological formation came from her grandmother, her abuelita, who fled Cuba during the height of political unrest and raised three children alone after her husband passed away. Combining personal storytelling with biblical reflection, Armas shows us how voices on the margins–those often dismissed, isolated, and oppressed because of their gender, socioeconomic status, or lack of education–have more to tell us about Christian faith than we realize. Abuelita Faith tells the story of unnamed and overlooked theologians in society and in the Bible–mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters–whose survival, strength, resistance, and persistence teach us the true power of faith and love. The author’s exploration of abuelita theology will help people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds reflect on the abuelitas in their own lives and ministries and on ways they can live out abuelita faith in their day-to-day lives.

Featured Book for October 2022

This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories that Make Us

by Cole Arthur Riley

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – In her stunning debut, the creator of Black Liturgies weaves stories from three generations of her family alongside contemplative reflections to discover the “necessary rituals” that connect us with our belonging, dignity, and liberation.

“From the womb, we must repeat with regularity that to love ourselves is to survive. I believe that is what my father wanted for me and knew I would so desperately need: a tool for survival, the truth of my dignity named like a mercy new each morning.”

So writes Cole Arthur Riley in her unforgettable book of stories and reflections on discovering the sacred in her skin. In these deeply transporting pages, Arthur Riley reflects on the stories of her grandmother and father, and how they revealed to her an embodied, dignity-affirming spirituality, not only in what they believed but in the act of living itself. Writing memorably of her own childhood and coming to self, Arthur Riley boldly explores some of the most urgent questions of life and faith: How can spirituality not silence the body, but instead allow it to come alive? How do we honor, lament, and heal from the stories we inherit? How can we find peace in a world overtaken with dislocation, noise, and unrest? In this indelible work of contemplative storytelling, Arthur Riley invites us to descend into our own stories, examine our capacity to rest, wonder, joy, rage, and repair, and find that our humanity is not an enemy to faith but evidence of it.

At once a compelling spiritual meditation, a powerful intergenerational account, and a tender coming-of-age narrative, This Here Flesh speaks potently to anyone who suspects that our stories might have something to say to us.

Featured Book for September 2022

Art + Faith: A Theology of Making

by Makoto Fujimura

Conceived over thirty years of painting and creating in his studio, this book is Makoto Fujimura’s broad and deep exploration of creativity and the spiritual aspects of “making.” What he does in the studio is theological work as much as it is aesthetic work. In between pouring precious, pulverized minerals onto handmade paper to create the prismatic, refractive surfaces of his art, he comes into the quiet space in the studio, in a discipline of awareness, waiting, prayer, and praise. Ranging from the Bible to T. S. Eliot, and from Mark Rothko to Japanese Kintsugi technique, he shows how unless we are making something, we cannot know the depth of God’s being and God’s grace permeating our lives. This poignant and beautiful book offers the perspective of, in Christian Wiman’s words, “an accidental theologian,” one who comes to spiritual questions always through the prism of art.

Featured Book for August 2022

The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola

by Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J.

The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola uses Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises as a framework for discussing the spiritual challenges of antiracism. Each of the Exercise’s four weeks are applied in practical ways to the work of antiracism, combining history, present-day events and data, the life and teaching of Ignatius, prayer, and guidance for personal reflection and journaling. An excellent resource for both group study and personal meditation. Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J., PsyD, currently teaches in the psychology department at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he is also a psychotherapist. He enjoys jazz, traveling, and learning new languages; and he plays the guitar, harmonica, and drums. He also likes a cup of hot water in the morning.

Featured Book for June 2022

Staying Awake: The Gospel for Changemakers

by Tyler Sit

Jesus asks his followers to stay awake, which begs the question: stay awake to what?

Staying Awake is a practical exploration of Christianity for people who want to show up for justice and stay in the movement. Discover nine essential practices to transform you for transforming the world. Complete with stories, worksheets, poetry, original cartoons, and a commitment to centering queer people of color, this book is here to support you in staying awake: to God, to the evils of oppression, and to the world’s coming liberation.

What does it mean to become rooted in the land? How can we become better relatives to our greatest teacher, the Earth? Becoming Rooted invites us to live out a deeply spiritual relationship with the whole community of creation and with Creator.

Through meditations and ideas for reflection and action, Randy Woodley, an activist, author, scholar, and Cherokee descendant, recognized by the Keetoowah Band, guides us on a one-hundred-day journey to reconnect with the Earth. Woodley invites us to come away from the American dream–otherwise known as an Indigenous nightmare–and get in touch with the water, land, plants, and creatures around us, with the people who lived on that land for thousands of years prior to Europeans’ arrival, and with ourselves. In walking toward the harmony way, we honor balance, wholeness, and connection.

Creation is always teaching us. Our task is to look, and to listen, and to live well. She is teaching us now.

Featured Book for April 2022

The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton

by Sophfronia Scott

WINNER of the 2021 Thomas Merton Award awarded by The International Thomas Merton Society

What if we truly belong to each other? What if we are all walking around shining like the sun?

Mystic, monk, and activist Thomas Merton asked those questions in the twentieth century. Writer Sophfronia Scott is asking them today.

In The Seeker and the Monk, Scott mines the extensive private journals of one of the most influential contemplative thinkers of the past for guidance on how to live in these fraught times.

As a Black woman who is not Catholic, Scott both learns from and pushes back against Merton, holding spirited, and intimate conversations on race, ambition, faith, activism, nature, prayer, friendship, and love. She asks: What is the connection between contemplation and action? Is there ever such a thing as a wrong answer to a spiritual question? How do we care about the brutality in the world while not becoming overwhelmed by it?

By engaging in this lively discourse, readers will gain a steady sense of how to dwell more deeply within–and even to love–this despairing and radiant world.

Womanist Midrash is an in-depth and creative exploration of the well- and lesser-known women of the Hebrew Scriptures. Using her own translations, Gafney offers a midrashic interpretation of the biblical text that is rooted in the African American preaching tradition to tell the stories of a variety of female characters, many of whom are often overlooked and nameless. Gafney employs a solid understanding of womanist and feminist approaches to biblical interpretation and the sociohistorical culture of the ancient Near East. This unique and imaginative work is grounded in serious scholarship and will expand conversations about feminist and womanist biblical interpretation.


Featured Book for February 2022

The Wild Land Within: Cultivating Wholeness through Spiritual Practice

by Lisa Colón DeLay