Toward Wholeness Blog

Habits, Endings, and Heights – Three great reads for the end of summer


Life’s more than full this week, and next, so I probably won’t be writing much for a few days.  In the meantime, I’ve wanted to  review three favorite books from the summer in hopes that some of you might find one of them helpful, or just plain fun: 

Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud has been a wonderful balance to my studies in the book of Hebrews, because the latter is all about endurance, pressing on when you feel like quitting, being heroic in your steadfastness, that sort of thing.  It’s marvelous to be reminded that there are also times to walk away, times to bring an end to things: programs, relationships, personal goals.   He talks about the necessity of pruning and the reality that life creates too much life, as I recently posted.  The book is filled with encouraging stories about people who faced reality honestly and had the guts to make hard changes.

My favorite part of the book is chapter 4, because that’s where the author talks about the needed paradigm shift most of us need to make so that we can come to view proper endings as normal and good rather than viewing every ending as necessarily a failure, or viewing all pain as bad.  We have internal maps that sometimes cause us to resist initiating endings and I’ve read Cloud’s discussion of these faulty maps several times this summer, each time learning something new about my own heart.

This isn’t about any particular element of my life in the moment.  It’s about the a maturing of my way of looking at the world so that I’m less threatened by the reality that nothing – nothing – lasts forever, and that sometimes God asks us to lead by saying no and saying enough.

Starlight and Storm is a classic mountaineering book written in 1954 by the famous French Mountaineer Gaston Rebuffat.  One of the things I love about earlier mountaineering works is the understated eloquence with which they write about things that those who climb get sweaty palms just reading, let alone experiencing.  He writes for example, of climbing 65 feet without placing any protection:

“The rope is a wonderful thing for the feeling of unity that it gives, and yet up here, attacking this crack and climbing it, I felt quite alone.  There was my companion, sixty-five feet below me.  What a fall I would have if I slipped.  For the rope behind me, splendid as it was, would be useless.  But I could not climb without it, without the friendliness it transmitted.  It gave me courage.”

Rebuffat is also a lover of beauty, and writes of the enchantment of the mountains, not as an adversary to be conquered, but as a lover to be explored, caressed, and enjoyed.  This is as it should be.  The blend of understated courage and the capacity for seeing and expressing the beauty of nature are precisely what I seek from my Cascade friends on a regular basis.  Rebuffat inspires to do it better.

Finally, don’t miss The Power of Habit:  Why we do what we do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  The story of Lisa in the introduction is nothing short of remarkable as she transforms herself from a wholly undisciplined person to one who gets a graduate degree, loses weight, gets out of debt, quits smoking, starts an exercise program, and runs a marathon – all because of the power of habit.

There are many gems in this book, including a chapter on discipleship, drawn from the work of Rick Warren.  Most significant for me, however, was the notion that to the extent that we can build some habits into our lives, we free space for creativity, growth, and transformation.  Since I’m looking for more space these days, I’ve begun to refine morning habits and some weekly routines so that I’ve the band width for creativity where it’s needed.

What are you reading?  We’d all like to know!

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