Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Stories

I am convinced that the books on a person's shelves can tell you a lot about that person.

I was thinking this the other day, while at my parents' house feeding their cats while they were away. I was wondering how it is that my mom and dad, with whom I share pretty similar spiritual beliefs, could have such vastly different books on their shelves than the ones on my own.

I am a huge book-lover. As a child I was what the teachers would call "a voracious reader." I used to go over my friend Brie's house (she also a bookworm) and we'd spend hours in her room, not speaking, devouring books. I'd check books out the library and read them while walking home. To this day Dan and I love nothing better than spending vacation days in cute bookstores. Anna is quickly following in our footsteps. Who knows? Ethan may not be far behind.

The books on my shelves reflect various stages of my life. There are the "so you want to be a writer" books...the travel collection...the classics I should have read in college that I stocked up on to get to, someday. There are my Red Sox books and photographic essays and yes, my September 11 collection and disaster phase (Night of the Grizzlies, the Worcester tornado, and so on). There are my Oprah's book club novels and other acclaimed current offerings, all of which seem so bleak to me that I have trouble digesting them. There are the Christian fiction books that irritate me due to their hokey-ness and sometimes, to be blunt, just plain bad writing.

Then there are the Christian non-fiction books I've bought in the last five years. These are the ones that give me pause. These are the ones that I hold up to my parents' book collection and have to laugh. My parents have many books by Glen Beck and Bill O'Reilly. They have numerous others on prayer, intercession, spiritual warfare, Israel, and the coming Armageddon. They are strong and sure of their specific path of their Christian walk and they prefer to dwell on battles, good and evil, justice.

My books? Well, here they are, my recent favorites; books I've devoured over the last several years that have had a lasting impact:

There is one notable book missing, and it's one of my favorites (I lent it to someone awhile back). It's called Your God is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can't Control, by Mark Buchanan, a book that was life-changing and in part inspired this blog.

Two of the books that went straight to my heart are Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, about her loss of a child, and Lessons Learned in the Dark by Jennifer Rothschild, about her loss of sight. Sometimes in our darkest moments we actually finally have our eyes opened and see.

The Shack blew my mind with its very unconventional view of God. Donald Miller's books challenge Christians to live and think in a way I'd not been challenged before. Patsy Clairmont talks about her very real struggles with fear and anxiety, something I could relate to whole-heartedly. Soul Survivor -- How My Faith Survived the Church...well, I guess the title says it all. Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus is written by brilliant man who has spoken at our church, Guy Chevreau, and really helped clear up some confusion I had about the lack of balance I feel some Christians have when it comes to satan and demons. And C.S. Lewis, well, is C.S. Lewis. Enough said.

My collection seems to represent more of a quest and of lots of questions, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I think we all have to find God for ourselves or our relationship with Him is flimsy and of little value. I don't think God minds questions but rather encourages them.

I think one theme that unites all the books is that they were written by people who think and feel deeply and who tire of Christian cliches with no meanings behind them, or of Christians who don't act much like Christians. I'd (obviously) highly recommend any of them, but more than that, I'd encourage those out there seeking a deeper relationship with God to seek God for yourself. Don't accept things sight-unseen, search the scriptures and ask God what He's saying to you. Ask for wisdom to walk the right path. And then don't look to the left or right. Just start walking.

I don't know how all of that came from me pondering over books, but there you have it, my sermon for the day. I make light of it but I'm serious. I've spent a lot of time trying to walk other people's spiritual walk, when I needed to set out on a journey of my own.

The books on our shelves tell our very human stories. And I wonder: what stories are your books telling?


rhemashope said...

your parent's collection sounds a lot like my husband's. =)

and i've read a number of the books you mentioned. love Philip Yancey. LOVE C.S. Lewis. i had a lot of trouble with The Shack - even had to stop reading it for a time. right now? i admit it, i'm finishing the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy. ugh.

Deb said...

I just finished the triology. Everyone talks about how dark the books are, and it's true, but there was something else that appealed to me, too. I guess I see them as a sort of...warning.