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Asking the clergy: Books that nourish the soul

So often, a stroll down bookstore aisles in search of a good read can be daunting when there are so many selections. Going on the Internet in search of reading material multiplies the choice astronomically. This week's clergy share some books and other sources that provide inspiration and edification.


Cantor Lisa Ann Green, Temple Beth Emeth, Mount Sinai:

I turn to several recent books for spiritual support and enrichment.

"Making Prayer Real: Leading Spiritual Voices on Why Prayer is Difficult and What to Do About It" (Jewish Lights, 2010, 320 pages, $19) by Rabbi Mike Comins is filled with essays on how prayer works and different ways of thinking about prayer that help me toward a deeper connection with God.

"Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah" (Workman Publishing, 2013, 384 pages, $18), edited by Roger Bennett, is a compilation in which each section is preceded by a brief, conversational synopsis of the text. For each one, there's a summary followed by a creative piece, from fiction to photo essays to comics to poetry, based on the rabbinical idea that we all stood at Mount Sinai when the Torah was revealed, and each person "saw a 'different face' of the text."

Alden Solovy's "Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing" (Kavanot Press, 2013, 242 pages, $25) is filled with prayers that touch on life's joys and sorrows. It includes blessings for new love, for grief at a child's depression and self-inflicted wounds, for the hope of fertility treatments and for mixed happiness and sadness when a child leaves home.

My very favorite spiritual writer is Stacey Zisook Robinson, whose blog, "Stumbling Towards Meaning" (nwsdy.li/staceyrobinson) calls itself "One woman's search for God, community, and a decent cup of coffee in a really hectic world." Her experiences as a single mother and a spiritual seeker fill her inspiring essays and poetry, as she wrestles with God, doubt and joy.

 

Samantha Tetro, Samantha's Lil Bit of Heaven, East Northport:

What I love about the Lord is how he created in each one of us a vacancy in our hearts that only he can fill. His greatest desire is to have a personal relationship with us. The beautiful part is that God says in his word . . . "You will find me if you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). He wants to be found.

Sometimes that quest for truth begins with books other than the Bible. It did for me. "The Case for Christ" (Zondervan, 2013, 320 pages, $16) by Lee Strobel is a journalist's personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus. There is also "The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict" (Nelson, Thomas, Inc., 1999, 816 pages, $30), a power-packed book by Josh McDowell that delves into the question "Was Jesus a liar, lunatic or Lord?" (joosh.org/liar-lunatic-or-lord-2/).

There's also "Betrayed!" (author Stan Telchin, Chosen Books, 2007, 160 pages, $18) which shares the personal journey of a man's search for truth about the Messiah.

All these books can lead you to discover the one who loves you with an everlasting love and can transform your life in ways you could never dream of.

 

Sister Kathryn Madden, community leader, Ronkonkoma Cenacle Retreat Center and Convent:

In "Essence of Prayer," (Hiddenspring, 2006, 210 pages, $18) Carmelite spiritual writer Ruth Burrows, OCD, frees you and me from a huge misconception that prayer is about what we do, our words, our efforts. For Burrows, the essence of prayer is essentially what God does, how God addresses us, looks at us. She says that when we enter into prayer, whatever our practice, it is not something we are giving to God, but what God is doing for us. And what God is doing for us is giving the divine self in love.

Burrows asserts that we must abandon our preoccupation with our efforts, methods, success and good feelings in prayer. The only thing that matters is that we believe God is truly the doer and giver in prayer, and that we stay there with Him, regardless of how we feel or don't feel. As a spiritual director, I concur with Burrows that the most profound expression we can give to faith is to set aside an inviolable time each day, no matter how short, when we deliberately affirm God's, Jesus' absolute love for me here and now, and that we stay there in blind trusting faith, receiving it.

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