Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nourishment: Chewing on Words

Have you ever just craved nourishment?  How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment.  Will you come along for the journey?  We will meet here every Thursday until the posts  run out.  Have something to share about nourishment?  Contact me and we will set a date!  
Meet Diana.  Can I just say that from the moment I met her, I have loved her?  She is intentional, she is wise (oh-so-very-wise), and love spills out from her heart as she responds to me and to others.  My life is richer because I know her.
From my earliest memory, I have loved books. All kinds of books. I love the sight of them on shelves. I love the sound a new book makes when you open it for the first time. I love the smell of ink on paper. I love books. This love is an inherited one - my mother was a reader, a lover of words. And she encouraged me to love words, too. Especially words that might make me think, that would encourage my imagination, that might open a window into a different space, time, or way of thinking. (She introduced me to a lot of great authors, including C.S. Lewis and Paul Tillich when I was an early teen.)

When I was an elementary school kid, we had a mobile public library - a big van, filled with books to peruse. I was the first person in line from about 2nd grade on, checking out the legal limit every time. I read books about people and about animals. I read books set in faraway times, fantastic places, and usually peppered with unforgettable characters. From Nancy Drew to Anne of Green Gables to Sherlock Holmes, I particularly enjoyed serial collections, reading every volume produced by favorite authors, finding nourishment for my spirit and my imagination with each new edition.

When I was in high school, my mom discovered the writings of Catherine Marshall and Elizabeth Goudge, the former writing Christian commentary on life and the latter, beautifully crafted novels with discernible spiritual depth to them. When we found it tough to communicate verbally with one another (as teen girls and their mothers often do!), we still shared our love of reading with, often leaving notes about what we had discovered on pillows or dresser tops.

The snapshot above shows just a small portion of one of several bookcases in my home, each of them filled with volumes that have proven edible, digestible and nourishing to me. Some of them are fiction, some of them are not. All of them speak to me of beauty, truth, grace - and the power of the written word. And most of them, adhering to that serial-loving-tradition begun in childhood, belong to a group of favorite authors. If you have not dipped into any of this writing, may I encourage you to try a little of this, a little of that? When life feels overwhelming, when the baby won’t sleep, when the boss is demanding, when television is SO old hat - falling into the well-written words of one of these authors will offer you a taste of something rich and satisfying. I list them, in no particular order, with a title or two and a little bit of annotation.

Madeleine L’Engle - especially the non-fiction, but I adore the fiction as well. If she is new to you, begin with the Crosswicks Trilogy (non-fiction) or the Wrinkle in Time series (fiction).

Frederick Buechner - especially love his memoirs and non-fiction - a personal favorite? His sermon collection, entitled, A Room Called Remember. Fab.u.lous.

Eugene Peterson - anything and everything the man has ever printed, with a special note for his last 5-volume set. The easiest of those to enter into is Eat This Book, a magnificent portrait of why and how to read scripture.

Anne Lamott -again, especially the non-fiction. Bird-by-Bird is a superb book about writing/creativity and her memoirs paint a lovely portrait of the way in which she discovered that she belonged to God. (Allow room for 4-letter words here and there.)

Kathleen Norris - poetry and non-fiction which is soul-stirring. Dakota, The Cloister Walk are 2 favorites.

Marilynne Robinson - only 3 novels in 25 years, but - they are grand, especially Gilead.

Barbara Brown Taylor - one of the outstanding preachers of our generation (meaning 50 and older here…), her sermon collections are just wondrous to read. And her memoirs are also excellent, beginning with Leaving Church.

Henri Nouwen - anything and everything. Really, truly. Same for Brennan Manning.

Ian Morgan Cron - 2 volumes thus far - both superb: a memoir, Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me,  and a novel that brought tears at multiple points for both my husband and me as we read it aloud from my Kindle on a recent car trip: Chasing Francis.

Parker Palmer, Gerald May, Richard Rohr - an educator, a psychologist and spiritual director, and a priest, respectively - each of these men has written remarkable volumes about authenticity, spirituality, faithfulness over time. Try: Palmer - Let Your Life Speak, May - Addiction and Grace,  Rohr - Falling Upward. Amazing, thought-provoking, even if you don’t agree with every single word. Each of these was life-changing for me in some way.

Luci Shaw, Wendall Berry, Mary Oliver, Paul Willis, Rainer Maria Rilke - poets all. Multiple books for each, all of them food for the soul.

Want to read more of Diana (oh, yes you do!)?  Click here to follow/subscribe to her blog, DGRT/Just Wondering.


  1. Those are some great resources! She sounds like an amazing woman:) Thanks for this encouragement today!

  2. Diana, I want to fall into your library and not get up...

  3. I used to participate in a women's Bible study which met in the church library. I had such a hard time focusing on the lessons because my eyes kept wandering across the titles on the bookshelves. I felt the same way about seeing your picture. I wanted to enlarge it and snoop around at the titles on your shelves. Love, love, love the Crosswicks series, Frederick Buechner, and Wendell Berry. Thanks, Jen, for hosting Diana here.

  4. ooo I love books too and have many that are mentioned in this post. My hubby has limited my bookshelf to NO MORE so I have to be careful- one reason I am downloading more to my kindle. I find the words of others do nourish my soul. Great post

  5. Some of my favorite authors present! I'll add one: Phillip Yancey. His book "What So Amazing About Grace?" changed my life.

  6. Thanks for you kind words, friends - and thanks for any further recommendations you might care to make. (Thanks, Gaby, for reminding us of Yancey - his stuff is great, too.) Now I must confess to a bit of an addiction where books are concerned. (a BIT - who am I kidding??) I have WAY too many on the bedside pile now - and yet... and yet... I always see just one more. Pray for me, will you??? (I'm using my Kindle a lot, too, Jean - but for those I want to dog-ear or mark up a lot - it just isn't quite the same.

  7. I need more shelves!

    Diana, if you like fiction,may I suggest Francine Rivers? She writes stories that show what Jesus' love looks like in action. She used to write secular romances. After she found Jesus (or let Him find her), she wrote a book called "Redeeming Love". It is awesome. It has some references to Hosea and how God showed His people through Hosea how He chased them down with His love. It is awesome. She also has a trilogy called Mark of the Lion. It is set about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion/resurrection. I love how she has one character model Jesus in the most humble of ways. I re-read these three books often. And it still touches me. :)

  8. Jen... Hi, it's nice to meet you and I am going to love becoming familiar with you.
    Diana... first your pic is stunningly beautiful and Jen's description of you is spot on...
    "She is intentional, she is wise (oh-so-very-wise), and love spills out from her heart as she responds to me and to others. My life is richer because I know her." I still remember feeling exactly like that when I realized I was sitting across from you at the retreat. Did you feel my heart beat thumping against the table? =)
    I love this list and we share many favorite authors. I'm keeping this list as a reference nearby. Hugs to you dear one.

  9. I have read Francine River's novels about women in the OT but not the Mark of the Lion series you mention. I'll check it out. And Patricia - I had the same sense when I put the pieces together about you - oh, yeah - the butterflies (which we love because we have a sanctuary 15 minutes from our home) AND the gorgeous singing voice. But I did not know about the warm and wacky sense of humor, which was a delightful surprise. :>)

  10. Thanks for that inspiring list, Diana. I'm a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables,too, as well as Elizabeth Goudge, Marilynne Robinson, and Eugene Peterson. I look forward to reading "new" (new-to-me) books I discovered on your list.

    Linda Thomas

  11. Diana,
    What a great idea for Jen's series. I can't tell you how much I like reading lists like these.

  12. Wow... what an amazing collection of books. Love it! Thanks for the list of wonderful authors. So many great ones! Such a neat idea for a series Jen. I know I love finding sources of nourishment like this! Thank you.

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  14. How do I contact you about posting on nourishment?


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