Words to Live By

29 01 2017

readingEvery writer is influenced not only by his life experiences, but also by who he reads.

In a recent fun and fascinating interview on Carrie Schmidt’s wonderful blog, I was asked if I could only read 5 books (besides the Bible) for the rest of my life, which would I choose? Which would you choose?

After wrestling with that tough predicament, I decided to make a Top Ten List of those authors that have influenced me the most. For some of them, one sentence or one paragraph or one story has touched my heart so deeply that I’ll never be the same. And from others I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the craft of writing.

As I share my Top Ten List with you, I’d love for you to comment below if any of these authors have also influenced you. Or go one step further and share YOUR Top Ten!

Here we go!

  • Mother Teresa
  • Khalil Gibran
  • Jalaluddin Rumi
  • Rabindranath Tagore
  • Ted Dekker
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Gregory Boyle
  • Dick Francis
  • David Baldacci
  • Richard Rohr

I imagine some of these may be new names for some of you. You may recognize the three novelists: Ted Dekker, David Baldacci, and the British mystery writer Dick Francis. But if you haven’t read any of the other Magnificent Seven, you’re missing out!

These seven amazing people have given the world what might be termed “Wisdom Literature,” for the depths of their understanding of God, life and the universe. For me, the truest test of wisdom is whether or not the words inspire me to love. I can safely say that all of these seven authors have lifted my love-life to a higher plane, and I’m incredibly grateful.

Yet as I reflected on this list of seven names, I was shocked to discover that none of them are from my stream of faith. I consider myself a Protestant, but have found the sweetest water to come from the wells of 4 Catholics, a Maronite Christian, a Muslim Sufi, and a Hindu mystic.

Some of my Protestant brothers act as though we have ALL TRUTH, the Catholics may have partial truth, but the other religions have none at all. How arrogant we are! As though God would answer every seeking heart by saying, “Join the right religious group first, then I’ll begin to reveal Myself to you.” As someone who is a true Seeker of God, it’s not hard for me to recognize that same Seeking in others, no matter what background they come from. And since God promised, “All who seek me will find me,” (Proverbs 8:17), I can also recognize the Finding when I see it.

Here’s what I’m talking about—which of these quotes comes from the Christian, the Muslim, and the Hindu?

  1.  “In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.” 
  2. “When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” 
  3. “Give Me Strength–


This is my prayer to thee, my lord—strike,
strike at the root of penury in my heart.

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.

Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.

Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.

Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.

And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.”

What is your guess? (Answers at the end of this article.)

Those Seekers of God who have gone before light my path with their words. I hope that my life and my writing, in some small way, will do the same for others.

I want to join Henri Nouwen’s questthe ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.”

I welcome you to search with me! And to comment on YOUR favorite authors!

[Answers to quiz: 1) the Muslim Rumi; 2) the Christian Gibran; 3) the Hindu Tagore]

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2 responses

29 01 2017
nickarm1

Yes, we had four in common. Thanks for sharing your heart through words.

Your brother on the journey,

Nick Armstrong

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29 01 2017
Jim Baton

Thanks Nick! I’m curious which four?? And can you tell us 1 favorite author of yours who’s not on this list?
Thanks, Jim

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