…the people you meet and the books you read.
What are the most influential and life-changing books you’ve ever read? I’ll list a few of mine here.
1. What’s So Amazing about Grace? by Philip Yancey
2. Night by Elie Wiesel
3. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken
5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
6. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
10. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Please let me know what your favorites are and why they influenced you. Was it the writing itself? The subject matter? The plot and character development?
In our culture, so filled to overflowing with noise and confusion, listening has become a lost art. Author Natalie Goldberg writes:
“Writing is ninety percent listening. You listen so deeply to the space around you that it fills you, and when you write, it pours out of you. If you can capture that reality around you, your writing needs nothing else. You don’t only listen to the person speaking to you across the table, but simultaneously listen to the air, the chair, and the door. And go beyond the door. Take in the sound of the season, the sound of the color coming in through the windows. Listen to the past, future, and present right where you are. Listen with your whole body, not only with your ears, but with your hands, your face, and the back of your neck.
Listening is receptivity. The deeper you can listen, the better you can write. You take in the way things are without judgment, and the next day you can write the truth about the way things are. Jack Kerouac in his list of prose essentials said, ‘Be submissive to everything. Open. Listening.’
Basically, if you want to become a good writer, you need to do three things. Read a lot, listen well and deeply, and write a lot.”
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Jesus pointedly asked Peter, “Who do YOU SAY that I AM?” How we answer that question reveals just as much about us as it does about Christ.
My friend Dave Sterrett is writing a fantastic book called Why Trust Jesus?. In the book, he presents a variety of intriguing dialogues he has had with people – rock stars, theologians, sports figures, professors, students, and ordinary folks – about who Jesus is. Check out this interview with Bono that Dave includes. I love his comments:
In a conversation with Michka Assayas, Bono, the lead singer of U2 observed this logic.
Assayas: “Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that far-fetched?”
Bono: “No, it’s not far-fetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of the other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me a teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please just be a prophet. A prophet we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know. We’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no, I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is either Christ was who He said He was — the Messiah — or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson…I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that’s far-fetched…”
From Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, 229.