Sunday, February 01, 2015

Books that Shape our Lives - Eleanor Shepherd

Kathleen's blog post got me thinking about the books that have had the most significant influence on my life. I have not structured a list of my ten top books, but I have reflected about books and how they have shaped my worldview.

           I noticed that Kathleen started with the Bible and I recalled that even as a child I dutifully read a chapter of the Bible every night. Although being raised in the church as the child of clergy parents, I had been taught the content of the Bible from my earliest years, it was finally when I was a young adult that I began to really comprehend that the Bible had something to say to me. The event that brought about the change was receiving a gift from my in-laws.  They had made a charitable contribution to the Billy Graham Association.  As a result they received a copy of The Living Bible that they gave to my husband and me as they thought we would appreciate it.  When I opened this Bible and began dutifully to read it, I discovered that I had a hard time putting it down.  It was written in the language that we spoke every day and what it talked about made sense to me.  That was the day I began to fall in love with the Scriptures.

           There were other books that came along just when I needed them for my own spiritual development like Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall and Something More by the same author.  I received Beyond Ourselves as a gift shortly before I went into the hospital with a ruptured appendix when I was seven months pregnant with my first child.  After the surgery, I was not able to move around very much, because contractions started and we wanted to try and keep the baby from being born too early.  As I lay in bed and read some of the basic concepts of faith that Catherine Marshall had worked through during the months that she was forced into bed rest by an illness, I discovered that she had wrestled with many of the questions that I had and she had pursued the Scriptures until she uncovered some basic principles that she shared in her writing. These really helped me grasp some of the fundamentals of faith.

           A few years later, I again found myself in a new situation - in a new city, and now the mother of two children.  As I sought to become the kind of parent I needed to be for them, as well as a good wife, my faith was slowly grew. I was trying to learn how to discern the plans and purposes that God had for my life.  Once again, into my hands came the gift of a book written by Catherine Marshall.  This one was Something More.
 As I took the time to work through all of the material that she shared about the Christian faith in this book, I often found myself imperceptibly slipping from reading into praying.  She was instrumental in encouraging me to become the intercessor that I have been for the last thirty years.
Other books that have profoundly broadened my understanding of faith, the world and God were classics like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (of which I read the English translation Jean Val Jean), the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy and several of the books by Charles Dickens, as well as Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.
        As an adult I had the opportunities to read books for children that I had somehow missed.   They also have given me a deeper understanding of faith.  I think of classics like the C. S. Lewis book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  Good literature like good art has taught me that God speaks to us in many different ways and through all kinds of books.  When what the author says has the ring of truth we recognize it, whether the books are overtly Christian or not.  Have you discovered that to be the case? What books have influenced you?



Glynis said...

Goodness, Eleanor, some of those books you mentioned brought back some wonderful memories for me, too. It really is amazing how literature can influence a mind. Shows you, though, how important it is to fill our minds 'properly.' The Bible is the wisest choice - and I love reading from the different translations. :)

Peter Black said...

I've enjoyed reading your post and book mentions, Eleanor.
You reminded me of books from my childhood and youth that helped awaken me to wonder, and also to understanding of the human condition - books I hadn't thought of the when I responded to Kathleen's invitation. (Those I mentioned were of the more serious spiritual life kind that predominiated in my reading for a number of decades.)
Thank you.~~+~~

Ruth Smith Meyer said...

We must have shared the same era, Elenor! Catherine Marshall's books along with Elizabeth Elliot's were life changers for me too. Several more on your list were favourites of mine. How thankful I am for the continued work of the Spirit through God's children as they write about their relationship to the Saviour.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

I too loved Catherine Marshall. When I read of her passing, I felt the loss of a dear friend. I still have her books in my little library and take them out occasionally and read them.

Kathleen Gibson said...

My goodness...I'm tickled to have inspired you, Eleanor! I see some similarities in our lists, and note that others have also been inspired by those same books. We're not too different from each other, are we? Thank you for sharing some of your own favourites!

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