Saturday, April 6, 2013

Are We What We Read?

Mary Stewart to G. K. Chesterton, Louis L' Amour to Thomas Aquinas, L. M. Montgomery to Anne Graham Lotz, C. S. Lewis, Emily Bronte, Thomas Merton, George MacDonald, Jane Austen, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Chuck Swindoll, Saint Augustine and the list goes on and on, all authors I have enjoyed and felt kinship with in the reading of their books. I have my favorites. Who doesn't? These ones, however, stay with me.  Their writings occupy a space in my little den-office I am setting up. A few have been packed away and are seeing the light of day after a long season at rest, ready to be enjoyed once again.  They beckon me.  Read me!  And I'm sure I will.

I began my reading career with books for pleasure. Tom Sawyer with Miss Elliott in fourth grade; the class read together in old unabridged green hardbacks with a limited number of copies open on our desks, taking turns as chapter by chapter it consumed much of the year. The Yearling in sixth grade with Mr. Hibdon, a reading privilege given as a reward for we students who had reached an advanced level on our SRA tests. I managed to get there part way into the year gaining a bit of status in my own thinking. The years swiftly swept by, some books made their way to me but other years the offering was lean, life too demanding for time to indulge my interest. Books cost money and there wasn't always money for many a year. The county library became my weekly venture or as often as it could be visited. Scanning the shelves for just the right book could take many minutes. When a writer has that style that makes me want more, I read every one of their books, feeling sad on the day that there are no more to be read. Several authors took me in in such a way.

My reading career has spanned a variety of styles and subject matter.  Relaxers come in the form of mysteries, whether Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or Nero Wolfe, I've loved them all. But, much of my reading has been according to the themes in my life at the time. They leave their imprint and then I decide if I will revisit them again or let them go--their work as done. Purposes vary, books have been to teach me, others have been to entertain, still others have been to help me grow as a person with a psychological offering, some to guide me in spiritual paths, and some for just plain old fun!

Last night, or I should say, early this morning, I was unpacking boxes of books in my new home. Box after box, book after book, I plugged away. First I unpacked the little kid books soon relegated to the bottom shelf for when the grand kids come to visit. A top shelf has the classics, Jane Eyre, Black Beauty, Johnny Tremain, Moby Dick, Walden, hard back old copies loved by others before they became mine. Lots of boxed sets found their way to the book cabinet tops. Anne  with an "E" went there, Aslan and His adventures with some Kids in a land where the creatures talk,  and some well-loved books featuring a sixteen year old detective named Nancy, join my collection. Nancy's the  reason I became an independent reader. My best friend in fifth grade, Deborah, an only child, got the books brand new, one or two copies every month. Being a good friend, she always loaned them to me when she was done with her most recent copy.  I  would read them as late into the night as I could get away with, which wasn't too much when you share a room with two older sisters.

Another category presented itself as I emptied my boxes, what to do with my books on spiritual stuff, a collection that has grown vast over the years. They rapidly sorted into biographies, devotional-positive thoughts, books on the human stuff that needs dealing with--personal growth and emotional health, then some doctrinal, apologetics and study books. Eventually, I came to my newest pursuit, books that are about the human element who finds God in unexpected ways, and from that point begins a quest, a personal odyssey, looking, seeking, and finding a way to know God with their heart. The authors are more divergent in this group, from more than one viewpoint, but the flavor blends/ They are more alike that different if their pursuit of the Divine is genuine. Their writings have impressed me that God doesn't limit or put a boundary in His way of calling a person to Himself.

At three a.m. I knew I needed to stop even though the task was incomplete. I surveyed my books, considering the journey of my life.  It was an interesting enterprise. I thought of the people who might come into my room and read the book titles. Would they be compelled to slide open a glass door on the book cabinet to pull out a book? Will some wonder why I have extra copies, two, three or four of the same book?  Will I answer that I buy extras of books I think have something to offer because they  seem especially rich in content or depth, or warmth, their words relevant to the human experience, these books just waiting for their opportunity for to be given as gifts in future moments for people yet to be determined?

Yes, my books tell a lot about me, my life, my quest to learn and know, help and grow. And they speak to me of other people, who like me, have something to say as they pen the words or touch their IPad as I am at this moment. It would be cool if one of these days I learn that my book, The Meeting Place, has taken a place of honor on someone's shelf , someone I don't know and they don't know me, my book one that they can bring into their understanding, enough so that they don't plan to  give it away just like I have kept the books I like and want as part of my personal library.  I will just have to wait and see.

N. L. Brumbaugh Wieland
April 6, 2013

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