I have certain books I cannot be without and I bet you do as well. For me, after the NRSV version of the Bible, my list includes The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis; The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown); The Practice of the Presence by Brother Lawrence; Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton; and The Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly.  I have many other beloved books in my spiritual library, but these serve as my cornerstones, my go-to’s, my playlist. They are inspired books meant to be reread; their words are living words that speak anew each time I read them.

For many years now I have The Testament of Devotion once or twice a year. Written in 1941 by Thomas R. Kelly, a Quaker missionary and scholar, this tiny volume of five chapters speaks to me as a newly received gift that I need from the moment I open it. There is nothing I can quote you from memory, there is no specific teaching I can espouse other than read it and be prepared to get closer to God!  Every time it washes over me with God’s truth and I am blessed by it.  

During my most recent reading I decided to read Richard Foster’s introduction of the book.  He shares a simple story of how reading this book opened his heart to God and gave him the courage to say no to an offer he would have otherwise accepted. He yielded to what Kelly calls the “Center”. He had gotten so used to saying yes, and to his rise in demand in the world of religion that he had lost God in the process. Sound familiar?

The final chapter entitled “The Simplification of Life” reminds us that our busy lives are not the problem; he describes busy lives in 1941 and they sound pretty similar to ours today but without computers and the internet.  He tells his readers in 1941 they were no busier than their grandparent’s lives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and you actually believe him. Kelly is convincing in telling us that we hold the keys, God was waiting for them, the same God is waiting for us if we give him some of our moments, even just a few.

What’s on your spiritual playlist?