I have always felt the urge to use words to express myself. As a child this was spoken word. My parents only worried when they couldn’t hear me chattering away. As I grew older, I discovered the beauty and spark of the written word. I read voraciously. My summers involved packing a drawstring backpack with a can of Sprite, snacks and a book; I would carry this bag up a large pine tree, getting it sticky with sap along the way. I would then spend hours up that tree reading. In college, I had an odd realization that, unlike a lot of my classmates, I actually enjoyed writing papers. I enjoyed the focused typing, creating, using words to communicate a variety of ideas.
In this initial post, I wanted to honor those whose words have, in many ways, made me who I am today. Books, both fiction and nonfiction have shaped me in ways, I am sure I am not even aware of yet. I want to honor these people who have worked magic with words, as I endeavor to use my own words to communicate about God, theology, personal experience, and reflection.
This. Woman. She has been a breath of fresh air to me. In her books, Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts as well as her blog, her words have reminded me of the life I have chosen to live, for Jesus, but have somehow lost sight of. When Out of Sorts Came out, I read it and listened to the audio book a total of four times in three weeks. I could not handle the wisdom she bestowed. I love the positive freedom in Christ she displays. This is a woman who is confident in who she is in Christ. She sees and actively participates in the Kingdom the Holy Spirit is actively building here on this earth. And most importantly, Sarah Bessey is a woman head over heels in love with Jesus. A woman I look up to. I have told friends in vulnerable moments, when I speak out loud the dreams of my heart- that I want to be a writer, a believer and a woman like Sarah Bessey.
This man has been a huge part of building my faith into what it is today. He framed my theology. I have read his blog and many of his books as I try to dig through and articulate my own beliefs and faith in God. He has helped me in times when I have been tempted to blame and turn from God to see that God is good and trustworthy with my life. I attended the Church in the Cities where Greg Boyd is a teaching Pastor- Woodland Hills while I was in College and attending Seminary. I have also found his teachings in writing to be incredible helpful, particularly his take on Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God in the book, Present Perfect. His view on God’s goodness, centered on Jesus dying on the cross has become central to me. Other theological pieces of influence you may notice in my writings/beliefs that come from learning from Greg Boyd include: Anabaptist beliefs, Spiritual Warfare, a cross-centered-and-focused hermeneutic, and cultivating a deep desire to continue learning in a community of other believers.
I was the kid that would play hide and seek and almost every time, my go-to hiding spot was the wardrobe in my bedroom. I would crawl in and shove the hanging clothes in front of me so that even if the seeker patted down the hanging clothes, they wouldn’t be able to detect that I was there. I’d wiggle to the back of the plain wood cabinet, believing that perhaps, this time, I would be swept away to a magical land of adventure where I would play the hero and royalty. This, of course, never happened, but it did allow me to win numerous games of hide-and-seek as a kid. The magic of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series was a part of my childhood imagination and the theological truths embedded throughout the stories have, in hindsight, been integral in the foundation and exploration of my own faith journey. Some of the greatest truths are told in allegory and parable, something Lewis does not only in his Narnia tales for Children but also in his other works. The Screwtape Letters in particular began an understanding for me in the area of Spirtual Warefare; The reality of a non-flesh-and-blood enemy seeking to destroy good relationship with God is something I wish to delve in deeper to here in the future.
Brennan Manning is famous for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. This is a book that I have returned to over and over again as it grounds me in certain central truth about who God is and who I am in relationship with God. This world tends to (at least feel to me) demand perfection, maybe more so in circles of faith. Brennan Manning’s writing, to me, has been an honest, authentic cry from a real soul that knows, on a very deep level, that he is not perfect- as he openly and heartbreakingly struggled with alcohol addiction, but who knows, on a deep level, the love of his savior is more than his shortcomings. Manning’s writings, for me, have influenced and in some ways, heled pieces of my image of God that were broken and called me into a braver, more authentic way of living. He calls believer to acknowledge that they are, in truth and reality, wildly loved by God, that truth prompts a change in us and how we live. As followers of Jesus, there is something of a call on our life, in how we live in this world. One of my favorite quotes is this:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Her writing makes me laugh. She helps me appreciate the humor in the absurdity of the world we live in. In addition, thrown in with the humor and personality that I only wish I had, Jen Hatmaker weaves in heart-truth that reminds me of why I do what I do- Love. God’s love for me and for people. Out of that I love people. That’s what I am called to, despite people also being the single most aggravating this that annoys me on the daily. To be honest, I am a new Jen Hatmaker fan, so despite her having a number of published works, I only have actually read two of them- For The Love and Of Mess and Moxie have been fun rides both and I hope to read more of her work in the future!
Honorable Mention: Shauna Niequist, Rachel Held Evans, Ted Dekker, Wendell Berry, Henri Nouwen, Brian Zahnd, Shane Claibourne, Jane Austen, L. M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, J. R. R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling, and Charles Dickens. And so many others!