As a companion to our spring book issue, we asked our bloggers about their experiences of writing as a spiritual practice. Here are their blogs.
How has my faith been inspired by other writers? I’m sure some pastors would start their answer with a Grammy Award disclaimer here. You know, the part where the artist slips in that little piece about it not being possible to thank everyone that has gotten them to that moment? Well truthfully, my list probably is the opposite. Full disclosure: I was not crazy in love with reading for most of my life. In fact, you could’ve said I was crazy in love with avoiding writing; I opted for numbers before going into seminary (I was a math major in undergrad). But, I have grown to love it as a pastor because I am always searching to get to know God better and for others to do the same through my writing and teaching. Yet, I’m also not easily impressed. For better or worse, it takes a lot for me to highlight a line in a book or save a quote. I see other people with an entire book highlighted and don’t get it; I’ve never done that.
So, when I say these four writers inspired my faith, they’ve probably done far more than just inspiration. And when I say they’ve influenced my faith, it’s more like I wouldn’t know how to understand God without them.
- I don’t often re-read books, so at #1 is Phillip Yancey’s “Meet the Bible,” because I am currently doing just that: re-reading it. Growing up, one of my youth pastors told me that you can just pick up your Bible and let it open up to a page and read what God wants you to hear. That suggestion is a nightmare for a Type A kid. “Meet the Bible” attempts to let us Type A people get through the Bible in a year in a way that pushes us outside our Type A comfort zone. Yancey explains God in an everyday and out-of-this-world way all at once. A lot of the “read the Bible in a year” books fall flat because the challenge of the Scripture is so massive, but Yancey’s reflections leave me understanding Jesus better and wanting to read ahead.
- Next is Ellen Davis’ book “Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament.” My twin (also a pastor) gave me this book when I finished seminary, and it is the one book I give to people starting out their ministry… or to anyone who makes the comment that they dislike the Old Testament, think the God of the Old Testament can’t be the same God of the New Testament or wrestle with God’s wrath in the Old Testament. Reading Davis’ exploration of God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac opened my eyes into who God is more than any other book ever has. Her dedicated study of the Hebrew language and culture allows us to understand God more intimately.
- I found a falling-apart copy of Harold Blake Walker’s devotional “Faith for Times of Tension” in my office closet at the church. I bought another copy on a used book site a few years ago, but it is tough to find (it needs to be reprinted!). I love this writer because he is so unlike me, and thus, has expanded my faith because God is truly beyond just the way each of us would choose to think of the Almighty. For example:
When cancer takes a man or a woman in the prime of life there seems to be no reason in logic. “My God why?” springs to our minds. I do not know the answer. But I do know there is no healing save in the acceptancy of agony in trust. Irrational? Perhaps. Tender-minded? Possibly. But no matter what we call it, acceptance of grief is redemption and healing.
- Although not explicitly Christian or by a writer of faith, “Once a Runner” and its sequel, “Again to Carthage” by John L. Parker Jr. have confirmed my spiritual experience in running. If you are a runner or want to be or live with one, these books are beautiful stories that explore the depth that there is to running. When I was struggling to solve a complex math problem in college, I would go running and the solution would seem to pop into my head out of nowhere and now, when I run, my sermons seem to write themselves. I could revel in the mystery or I could wonder about the One behind the mystery; I have chosen to do the latter.
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.