The Shack by William Young and What's so Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey.
If you have any free time this summer, please please PLEASE read The Shack. It is mind-boggling, controversial (I want other peoples' opinions on God and the way He manifests Himself), and touching. I've always struggled with the concept of God's love for me; I grew up in a Christian home doing the "right" things all the time, so I think that I subconciously developed legalistic tendancies. Along with that, I have perfectionist tendancies, so to think that God just LOVED me...that He was head-over-heels in love with me....that He made Himself foolish in the eyes of men to love those who mocked Him...I couldn't grasp that. And two different people fight inside me: the proud, arrogant one who is "good", who doesn't want to accept that she is just as messed up as everyone else, and the timid, scared little girl who so desperately yearns for her Father's unconditional love but just can't believe its for her. The picture that the book painted was so poignant, so utterly packed with LOVE--pure, beautiful, patient love--that I could hardly stand it. But I'm praying constantly that He would LET me get that love, to relish it.
What's so Amazing About Grace? is another book that follows up on some of that love stuff. There was a quote that Yancey borrowed from Lewis Smedes that I loved: "Guilt was not my problem as I felt it. What I felt most was a glob of unworthiness that I could not tie down to any concrete sins I was guilty of. What i needed more than pardon was a sense that God accepted me, owned me, held me, affirmed me, and would never let go of me even if He was not too much impressed with what He had on His hands." Those words capture my feelings PERFECTLY! And the book is chock full of beautiful examples of His grace that I am trying to cling to.
More than that, however, that book opened my eyes to some of the harsh judgments I've been allowing my mind to form. For example, the author spent half a chapter on the subject of gay people. I was expecting him to say, "Love the gays, give grace, but know that it is a horrible sin." That's what I've always thought about it, you know? But I was hit with a harsh, gut-wrenching reality: I sin. They sin. They continually live in that sin...but so can I. And I realized that I have formed opinions of people off the way that they dress; they just want attention. But what right do I have to judge? Do I not have struggles, issues? Do I not sin? Could I be judging before knowing the story behind what I think is "wrong?" *Nods* Another quote (I'm paraphrasing here) from the book said something like, "the amount we love God is reflected in the amount of love we show to the person we love the least." Eek. So needless to say, I've got alot of loving to do...and to accept from Him.
Long story short...read the books!! They are awesome =D