We’re packing to move house. Now, I know wisdom is to purge as much as possible. These books, that I can hold in my hand, and recognize both intellectually and emotionally, are like old friends. Just looking at them on the shelf reminds me of the lessons God has taught me through them. It’s like the joke about the jokes that old men tell over and over around the wood stove in a country store. After years of telling the same jokes, (the joke goes), they just numbered them and call out the number of whatever joke they want to re-tell that day, and everyone chuckles, satisfied with the pleasure of remembering. That’s how these books are to me…just seeing them on the bookcase by my bed each evening reminds me of the great truths their authors have taught me over the years. Books are more and more electronically enjoyed these days, but I love to hold them in my hands, turn the pages, smell the paper…the older the better. Years of wisdom. Real life. Truth.
Biographies & Autobiographies – the story of a life is so fascinating. What were the influences? The relationships? The hopes and fears? The conflicts and challenges? What did they learn that they could teach us – decades or centuries later? McCasland’s Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God tells the story of the short, full life of the man who gave us My Utmost for His Highest. Most who know Chambers’ books know that he only wrote one, and his wife Biddy, a highly competent stenographer, compiled the 29 other books by Oswald Chambers. He spoke; she wrote. And we all have the rich fruit of both their labors. A favorite autobiography of mine is C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy – The Shape of My Early Life. To hear Lewis’ voice in this volume brings to life all over again his wit (Screwtape Letters) and wisdom as he marks how God drew him to Himself. You’ll see other biographical books in the picture, but I’ll close this section with Noel Piper’s Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. In her book, she gives the reader biographical sketches of 5 “ordinary” women who lived in different periods of the last 250 years. Ordinary women completely devoted to an extraordinary God. Their legacy includes us who are inspired to live like them…for Him.
Devotional Books – I mentioned Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which has been a companion to the Bible for countless Christians. A favorite of mine as well. Here, though, I want to mention four other devotionals. Two are authored/compiled by women. Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie) Cowman wrote Streams in the Desert (you can find a daily excerpt from this at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/charles_cowman.html). Mary Wilder Tileston gathered the writings of many great spiritual fathers and mothers of our past and presented them to the reader in Joy & Strength (her daily devotionals are also found at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/mary_wilder_tileston.html). One of the Puritan fathers, William Gurnall, wrote the classic The Christian in Complete Armour which focuses on spiritual warfare. All these books have several pages marked with bits of paper for me to return to as needed.
Relationship Books – Anything you ever discover written by Tom Elliff will be rich in humor, wisdom, and love. We’ve used his books on marriage/marriage preparation many times over, often having to replace them because they don’t always make it back home. Letters to Lovers and Unbreakable are two must-reads. Then there are books that have such a provocative subtitle that your horizon expands before you even make it to the first page. Such a book is Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage – What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? So many great books in this section I’d love to captivate you with but will close with Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings. This book is “a study in brokenness” (as the subtitle reveals), illustrated dramatically by the intertwined lives of Saul, David, and Absalom.
One book in my collection of favorites you may have as well, but maybe not in Arabic. It is The Bible. This book is the enduring Word of God. His Story. Over the last twenty years, during our time living in the Arab world, hearing the Word read or quoted in Arabic was a delight to my soul. My reading it aloud in Arabic sounds like that of a new reader, a child both new to reading and to the language. It’s all together a different experience to hear the Bible read by someone in his heart language who reads the same words, that opened life to me in English, but in Arabic. When I think of Heaven, it makes my heart glad to think that we might understand God’s Word in all languages. I won’t mind if there are no books there…but for me, here, they are a glimpse of Heaven…these stories of the saints, this great “Cloud of Witnesses”, spurring us on…to know God and to make Him known; to love Him and our neighbors as ourselves.
For now, for our moving day, these books go into a box marked “Open Early”.
What books are your old friends? I’d love to meet them.