If you’ve ever come into my family’s home, you probably had two initial thoughts:
1.) “I have never seen a couch like that before.” (the crown jewel of our family room)
2.) “These people have a lot of books.”
Other than the bathrooms, and kitchen, there isn’t a room in our house where you won’t find rows of bookshelves, towering with books. I have a strong feeling when I move into my own place I’ll become a book hoarder if I’m not careful.
It’s not a surprise that I’m an English major considering I taught myself to read at four and my mom read to my sisters and I every night for almost my entire childhood. I write some fiction as well, and once told my sister, “I think my author’s voice is a combination of all of my favorite authors.”
Since starting this blog, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ministers and Christian authors that have influenced me in my teaching style. Who are the ones that have influenced my Christian walk? Who has inspired me, taught me and changed the way that I look at things?
Answer: so. many. people.
I like to talk a lot but I honestly prefer to listen. For the past 21 years I’ve been listening to the words of so many wise men and women, absorbing their insight and ideas, and formulating my own. #hencewhyIgotablog
Not only have I been listening to the people around me, I’ve been listening to sermons at my church, sermons on the radio, podcasts, YouTube videos and reading books. Books are my special favorites because first, they smell good, second, they make incredibly convenient household décor, and third, I get to write, highlight, circle, star and underline all over them. Flip through any of my favorite books and you’ll see countless places where I’ve tattooed their pages with notes in the margins and underlined passages I liked.
Recently I was going through my prominent stack of “tattooed” books and started thinking about the ways that many of them had influenced my own writing as a Christian and realized that many of their “voices” had contributed to my own.
Author note: I credit all of my abilities to write (as well as my ability to breathe, walk, eat and think) to God alone. There is no formula to what I do, no checklist that I work through when I write. It’s simply me using what talents God has given me and dedicating them to His glory.
This week’s blog post isn’t as emotionally provoking as previous ones have been, as well as being a lot more informal, but I’m really excited to talk about these books as well as offer the opportunity to give two of you a copy of one of these books for yourselves (keep reading to the end for details). These aren’t just book recommendations, but also, your opportunity to learn a little bit more about me and the things that have “built” me.
Without further ado, here are six books that have helped grow me into the Christian that I am.
- Paperdoll: What Happens When an Ordinary Girl Meets an Extraordinary God. Written by Natalie Lloyd, I first read this book at sixteen years old, and still refer back to it when I need a “boost” of remembering Who God is. Many of you reading this are smiling and rolling your eyes because you know how much I love this book. I taught a women’s Bible Study based off of it last fall. (Shout out to my ladies that let me work through the nerves of teaching my very first on-going study.) Paperdoll is written about the Samaritan woman that Jesus met by the well from John 3. Natalie Lloyd reminds us that we are all the woman at the well – empty, and waiting for someone to remind us of our purpose. Sometimes we are filled with regret over our mistakes and our past, forgetting that Jesus paid the ultimate price so that He can carry our burdens. One of the fantastic points that she made, and has stuck with me is that “Jesus didn’t give you the grace of eternal life so you could simply live. He did it so that you can live aboundingly.” Reading this book made me think about how much we accept the “mediocre” when it comes to our relationship with Jesus and challenged me to think outside “the box”. The book is geared toward young women but honestly, I think anyone of any age or gender can glean new perspectives and thoughts from this book. Natalie is known for her fictional writing, and I think you’ll see a lot of her style influence on my work after you read her words – she speaks like a poet and thinks like a philosopher. She’s one of my goals as a writer.
- Uncompromising: A Heart Claimed by a Radical Love by Hannah Farver. Hannah Farver is actually the author that first inspired me to want to start writing more about my Christian journey, and deeply pursue my relationship with Christ. I was most impressed because these words of wisdom weren’t coming from a middle-aged woman, they were coming from a woman only seven or eight years older than me. Hannah wrote this book while she was in college. Throughout the book she talks about all of the “little ‘c'” causes that we tend to wrap our lives around rather than focusing on the “big ‘C'” cause that gives our lives more purpose than any other “cause” ever could. I read Uncompromising at thirteen and was blown away by the incredible wisdom pouring forth from this woman in her 20’s. I still go back and read portions of this book when I feel myself getting weighed down by the different causes of this life that are laid on my shoulders. My heart gets filled up with the toxins that the world has become, but reading Hannah’s words helps me remember to put everything back into perspective, like starting fresh with a brand new filter.
- Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Lewis wrote this back somewhere between 1941 and 1944. C.S. Lewis has been a lifelong favorite fiction writer of mine, but when I first read Mere Christianity I fell head-over heels with his writing skills. I cannot speak enough of the depth of his thoughts and insight. I read Mere Christianity when I need to be reminded of the awe surrounding Who God is. I think we get a little bit de-sensitized to how majestically above-adjectives God really is. As Christians, we should be the ones that are the most amazed by God. C.S. Lewis was such a deep thinker and feeler, that I don’t think he ever really lost sight of God’s majesty. “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” C.S. Lewis takes a thoughtful and critical view of the world that I not only appreciate and respect, but can greatly relate to, as I’m sure many of you can as well. Mere Christianity is an “Oldie but Goody” that commonly gets referenced and then overlooked…don’t do that. Check it out, at least the quotes – you’ll not only be amazed by Lewis’s intellect, but also at the way he constantly submitted his thoughts to God and turned everything over to Him.
- Forgotten God by Francis Chan. Many of you have heard of Chan’s incredibly famous Crazy Love, but not as many have read Forgotten God. Don’t get me wrong, Crazy Love is a magnificent book that has done so much to change people’s lives in how they view God. But Forgotten God has personally touched me in a way that Crazy Love did not. Written with Danae Yankoski, Forgotten God is about reclaiming the power of the Holy Spirit. Chan makes the point that the Holy Spirit that indwelled the members of the early church (causing them to be able to heal people, cast out demons, etc.) is literally the same Holy Spirit that is in each of us upon joining the family of God. And yet, so many of us continue to live like nothing has changed after becoming saved. Our lives look just like the rest of the world. Chan proposes that there is something fundamentally wrong in our lives if we have this incredible power indwelling us, and yet continue to live unchanged. I picked up Forgotten God out of curiosity. I have often felt like we talk extensively about Jesus and God, but never have much mention of the Holy Spirit unless we are exploring the Trinity. The Holy Spirit really seems to be the “Forgotten God”. I’m not sure if it’s because we fear a radical life, or fear it’s opposite that maybe we are destined for mediocrity. These are the questions and ponderings that I wrestled with while reading Forgotten God, and I really can’t encourage you enough to do your own exploration as well. I promise it will be worth your while.
- Wreck My Life by Mo Isom. This is actually the most recent book that really sank into my heart. My next door neighbor/good friend went to LSU with Mo back when she was a soccer player, and recommended the book to me several times before I finally took her up on the offer to borrow her copy. (I now own mulitple copies of this amazing book) Oh my goodness. My mind was blown. I sent Mo a three-column message after I finished the book thanking her for writing this incredible love letter from Jesus to her heart. In Wreck My Life, Mo shares her deep and awe-inducing testimony of the ominous bottom of a dark well that she found herself in after her father’s tragic and sudden death. Rachel (my neighbor) had told me many times that she thought I would appreciate Mo’s words, but never specified why. As I read her honest and vulnerable words, I felt like she was writing about my own life – while the events differed, the “heart thoughts” she struggled with were identical to my own after my sister died. Mo describes the way God’s loving hands lifted her from her despair and breathed new purpose back into her life, leading her to live one of the most beautiful and radical Christian lives I’ve heard of. Wreck My Life is much more than this woman’s story of Christ’s redeeming grace in her life, reading it is like listening to Mo sing an anthem; her love-letter to Christ that she wants to share with the world. It’s an anthem that, once you hear it, you can’t help wanting to join in with your own chorus. Mo Isom reminds me of John the Baptist, a dedicated servant of Christ, a voice crying in the wilderness, “May straight the way of the Lord!” (John 1:23) Reading Wreck My Life re-ignited a hungry fire for Christ within me, and freshly reawakened my love for Jesus.
- The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The most impactful part of Purpose is the very first line of the entire book: “It’s not about you.” In that one line, Rick Warren sets the stage for the rest of the book – your life will not have any purpose is all that you do is focus on yourself. As a young person in my early 20’s, this is a frightening and sobering thought – my life will be completely wasted if I spend it focused on only myself. I’ll say this because it makes people laugh, but it’s true: I first read The Purpose Driven Life when I was fourteen. My dad has read it multiple times throughout his walk of faith and I’d heard him speak highly of it to others, so one day I wanted something new to read, picked it up off the shelf in his office and started to read. My fourteen-year-old mind was blown by quotes like “You weren’t put here on earth to be remembered, you were put here to prepare for eternity.” My “history” with this book began long before I personally read it, my father read it when my siblings and I were very young, and it greatly contributed to who he is as a father and Christian. I’ve actually recently gone back and started re-reading Purpose and found that many of the concepts that Rick Warren discusses have become engrained in me – I hadn’t realized their source was this book.
I’m currently reading about four other books, including Sex, Jesus and the Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom, Desiring God by John Piper and A Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George, so it is not unlikely I’ll be writing another “Book Post” in the future. Also, on a side note, I’m always looking for new book recommendations so if you have some that have especially impacted you, please let me know so I can look into them!
Final Call/Exciting News: I’ll also be posting about this on my Facebook page and Instagram story, but I am hosting a give-away! I have TWO copies of Mo Isom’s Wreck My Life that I am giving to TWO readers, at random. All you have to do is comment with your name as well as one word that describes your interaction with this blog to qualify! The winners will be receiving a copy of the book along with a personal letter of intent from me that you can, idk, use as a bookmark or something. Results will be posted to my Facebook page and Instagram story, by Sunday night.