A Good Day for a Mental Workout


“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” -Joseph Addison

It’s a good day for a good book. And judging by the weather, we’ve had dozens of quality reading days lately.

There are few things more enjoyable than having a good reason to bundle up in a chair or couch and to digest new ideas or be transported to a far-off land on some grand literary adventure.

Some have understandably scoffed at my affection for digital books. True, I love a good bookstore and yes, I love the smell and feel of an old book. But I’ve found that having a veritable library in my pocket or at my fingertips outweighs the sacrifices I make in feeling the weight and heft of a good tome. Proximity and accessibility win out over the touch and feel of physical pages.

I’m a techno-sell-out, I know.

The book—as a physical construction—has been heralded by historians as one of the greatest inventions in human history. Known early on as a codex, the book quickly became a cherished and treasured way to traffic in new ideas. Books would prove to be far more effective than cave writings or scrolls. A book could preserve histories, ancient thinking and fantastic story-telling. The book also enabled these ideas and teachings to be portable and to spread. Without the invention of the codex, the Good News of Jesus Christ might never have reached our collective doorstep. We are, after all, People of the Book.  

So, what are you reading?

For me, I find myself drawn to a variety of literature. Yes, I read a variety of translations of Holy Scripture each week. And yes, I also lean on the professional library I have in my study.  I am blessed with a hearty collection of books from seminary, and from the generosity of retired pastors that I’ve encountered along the way.

Additionally, I have to be reading fiction. I love a good story, and am partial to historical fiction, suspense and even a wee dram of spooky literature.

Since beginning my post-graduate work, I’ve added a daily dose of non-fiction, as well. My first semester was filled with reading that dealt with the modern-day challenges of the church and pastoral leadership. My classes this fall also reminded me how to be a student by reacquainting me with research methodologies (which didn’t exactly make my heart sing).

This semester, I’m doing a deep-dive in Irish Church history. I find the subject matter to be fascinating and insightful as the development of Celtic Christianity has many parallels to our current culture. I whole-heartedly believe that we can learn something from the way the Irish were faithful, even though our contexts are separated by a big pond and more than a few centuries.

Are you curious to discover why I’m so drawn to this time period? Why don’t you join in reading alongside me? I’ll even buy your coffee when we arrange to talk about what we’ve learned together.

Here are a few books that I’ve found to be particularly helpful:

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The Celtic Way by Ian Bradly

An excellent first-read, this book provides a thorough historical survey of the development of Christianity in the entirety of the British Isles. Bradley provides a condensed rendering of the Celtic Christian narrative.

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How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill

Cahill’s book makes a compelling case for how the Irish monastic community preserved the advances of Western Civilization when Rome’s demise gave rise to the Dark Ages. Cahill’s work lifts up Celtic Christianity’s impact on a much broader scale. Thorough, accessible and fascinating, Cahill highlights the role that the church on the periphery played to bridge the gap between the ancient classical world and the early stages of the enlightenment.

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Living Between Worlds: Places and Journey in Celtic Spirituality by Philip Sheldrake

This book occupies itself with a more particular element within Celtic Christianity. For those who are fascinated by the idea of ‘thin places,’ I think you’ll enjoy how this book zeroes in on the unique relationship that location and movement have within the Celtic Christian tradition. Using Celtic Christian history as a timeline, the author provides a compelling argument for why space and boundaries play such a significant role in the faith experience of the early church in Ireland.