Monday, 20 January 2014

My Life in Books

Shortly after becoming a Christian I was on holidays with my parents and the place where we were staying had some books for sale. I realized that one of them was a Christian book so I bought it with my own pocket money. It was Norman Vincent Peale's, A Tough Minded Optimist.

This is probably not the book you would recommend to a teenage girl who had just become a Christian. Yet it began a journey of reading Christian books. These days I wouldn't agree with all of Norman Vincent Peale's theology but back then I knew nothing about theology. I had not grown up in a Christian family but had come to faith through a church youth group.

The book, A Tough Minded Optimist, gave me the one thing I desperately needed at the time, hope. I was a deeply depressed teenager and I read and reread this book, filled with story after story of people who had turned their lives around by trusting God and changing the way they thought.

I had always been an avid reader; it was a way of escaping the real world and getting lost in another. Now I had found a whole new genre of material. I stumbled across John Powell, David Seamands, and when I had my children, James Dobson.

However the next life changing book moment came when a friend gave me a copy of Selwyn Hughes' quarterly devotional, Every Day With Jesus. For the next 20 years I read these devotions. I also read Selwyn Hughes' other books and went to one of his conferences when he was in Australia.

From Selwyn Hughes I discovered Neil Anderson who wrote along similar themes, then there was Larry Crabb, Dan Allender, R.C. Sproul and Mark Buchanan. I said to someone recently I can't give my books away because, although I won't read them again, they have sentimental value because they changed my life. They replied, "If you gave them away they might change someone else's life." Ouch!

I am grateful to each and every one of these authors yet none of them know they changed my life. It motivates me to tell my story through the things I write when I realize how much other people's stories have impacted me.

We may never know whose lives we touch, encourage and motivate with our writing. However if we seek God as we write we know that God will use our written offerings to bless others.


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at She is also a librarian.


  1. HI Susan. I enjoyed your post. Isn't it exciting how much a book can impact a life. I, too, read EDWJ for many years and loved Selwyn Hughes's conference. So much wisdom.
    It is exciting for me to plant God's love in a book. I feel as though I sow the seeds in the words I write, the reader takes it in and the Holy Spirit waters. The fruit depends on the softness of the heart, but fruit there will be.
    May all our books be as life changing for others as was the first one you read!

  2. I can totally identify with your post, Susan. I too discovered a whole lot of beloved writers after I became a Christian. I particularly loved Catherine Marshall and, yes, Selwyn Hughes. Every Day With Jesus cheered me and guided me for many a year. There are many others, and I still thank God sometimes for the impact other Christians have had on my life through their writing.

  3. I could relate to your post too Susan. My hubby and I only started doing the EDWJ devotionals about 18 months ago, but we're hooked. He's got a great way of bringing out some truths you haven't thought about before and those that you need reminding about. I've also been helped by books by David Seamands and Neil Anderson. Some other notable authors for me were Joni Eareckson, Corrie Ten Boom, Brother Andrew, Martin Luther King, and Cloud and Townsend. You're so right that we never know how our words will impact another. Even something small like a short devotion or poem can touch people. Thanks for the encouragement to keep writing :)

  4. Hi Susan, that was a lovely post. Thank you. I too have been an avid reader since I was little so reading Christian books once I became a Christian made my Christian walk bigger and brighter and opened a world of possibilities. Thanks for the encouragement that our words could touch and bless others. We all need that encouragement from time to time to know we are on the right track. So thank you.

  5. I too love Selwyn Hughes and also Joni, Corrie Ten Boom, Billy Graham, Packer and Stott.

  6. Hi Susan, I feel the same about my books and found a solution - I buy new ones for others :). That was a good point though.
    Selwyn Hughes has certainly had an impact on many people, myself included. And thanks for reminding us that our writings (although not as famous as the authors listed above) also influence the lives of others. Albert Schweitzer once said, "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." So let's be thankful for the sparks we have received and send many sparks to others.

  7. Oh so true, Susan. That is my constant prayer. When we think of the many folk who will never pick up a devotional or book on theology, we are called to shine the light of Jesus through the lives of our characters. It's a challenge to write so as to keep them turning the page, yet allow the message to be the foundation of our work.

    And yes my husband and I been daily blessed by several devotionals over the years.

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  9. Lovely post, Susan. Oh the power of the written word!

  10. Thanks everyone for your encouraging words. It was good to hear about other authors who have impacted lives.