By Sarah Brown
Since I usually a lot of projects on my plate, I initially decided not to respond to Sarah’s request for book lists. Besides, I reasoned that I probably couldn’t ever come up with ten influential books. But after reading a few other submissions, I couldn’t help wondering what my list would look like, if I were to do one. So, I started to think about which books have really been life-changing and inspiring for me. It wasn’t long before I had a list with more than ten books! That wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected! I hope you enjoy and find a few new titles to try out for yourself.
- The Gospel of John/1 John by John the Beloved: Of course the Bible is the most influential book in my life, but I wanted to be a little more specific and tell you which Bible books are the most influential to me. I love the writings of John, especially The Gospel of John and 1 John. For one things, as far as writing standards go, John rates very high. Some Bible writers (e.g. Paul) sometimes ramble on and are hard to follow. John, on the other hand, has formatted his writings in easy-to-follow outlines with simple-but-profound themes woven in that he never deviates from. The theme of the Gospel of John is believe. The theme of 1 John is love. While the truths of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit, it’s still neat to see each writer’s individual style and personality coming through in the layout and use of the words themselves. John’s writings have always inspired me to pick a simple-but-profound theme for each of my writings and stick to it.
- Desire of Ages by E.G. White: This is one of the most beautiful commentaries on the life of Christ! From his birth to his death, this captivating commentary provides a Biblically accurate, behind-the-scenes look at the joys and sufferings of our Savior here on earth. It reveals that through His death, Christ gave us the gift of eternal life. It also makes it clear that Christ came not just to deliver us from death, but to live a perfect life as our example. I always come away from this book with a desire to be more like my Savior.
- Heidi by Johanna Spyri: Heidi is alone in the world, deserted and unwanted by her closest relatives. However, through her child-like love, trust, and acceptance, she wins the hearts of all she comes into contact with. Just when she has grown to love her grandfather and her new life with him on the mountain among the goats, her aunt returns with a plan to take Heidi to the city of Frankfurt to be a companion to a rich man’s little invalid daughter. Will Heidi ever see her grandfather, Peter, the goats, or the old blind grandmother again? And yet, wherever she goes, Heidi’s simple faith in God and sweet love always changes the hearts of those around her. Heidi inspires me to have the faith of a little child.
- The Man Who Couldn't Be Killed by Stanley Maxwell: The true story of a Chinese man behind the Iron Curtain in Communist China. Glorious Country Wong found Jesus from the pages of a Bible that he looted from a shop (for its high quality paper that could be used to make shoe patterns and roll cigarettes) and a set of correspondence Bible studies that a friend signed him up for as a prank. His life was never the same again. Soon he found himself in prison for his faith and his witnessing activities, but over and over again God miraculously spared his life and gave him opportunities to witness to the others in the concentration camp. This story helped me to realize that as long as I am abiding in Christ, I need not have any fear of man—no human being can end my life until God has determined that my work on earth is finished. No matter where I am, God will protect me and use me to bring Him glory—even if it be in the throes of a Chinese concentration camp.
- I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh: Before reading this book, I was a little frightened of Muslim people (you know, with all the horror stories of the radical Muslims). Bilquis’s story (written by herself) helped me to realize that not all Muslims are radicals. Bilquis was a normal older woman who had survived a few major crises in life, and was now living in the routine, peaceful stage of life. She had money, a beautiful home, a staff of servants who made it possible for her to take it easy, and a little grandson who was the love of her life. But something was missing. In her heart was an emptiness that only a God of love could fill. I loved this story because it truly was a woman who was led to God by God Himself. Many people come to the Lord because of the work of missionaries or other gospel workers. However, in this anti-Christian, Muslim country, God had to reach Bilquis’s heart in a different way. Through dreams and a little Bible that Bilquis bought (and later on through the help and encouragement of Christian friends), Bilquis came to know and love Jesus as her personal Savior and Friend. But Satan certainly wasn’t going to give her up easily…. This story inspires me to make Jesus my Best Friend, my Guide, the One that I trust, and the only One that I serve… no matter what the cost!
- Evangelists in Chains by Elizabeth Wagler: Based on true events, this story follows a young Hutterite man who has a secret hope to someday be a traveling evangelist like other great Hutterite leaders. But the Dark Ages are in full swing. Catholicism is the state religion and all those who teach different beliefs run the risk of imprisonment, torture, and even death. This colonies’ peaceful life comes swiftly to an end when they are suddenly rounded up by soldiers and put into prison. Then all the men of the colony are marched hundreds of miles from home. Along the way, they find many opportunities to witness for Christ—so Peter finds his secret wish fulfilled: He is a traveling evangelist… in chains. Each day brings these faithful men of God closer to their fate—war ships on which they will be made galley slaves, a punishment to be feared more than death itself. However, some in the colony still hold faith that God will deliver them. It is impossible to explain the way that this book thrills my soul with a desire to be faithful to God no matter the cost; to witness for Him no matter the outward circumstances.
- The Price of Peace and Other Stories by Mary R. Zook: Written and published by conservative Mennonites, this book does present some ideas that are unique to this denomination. However, I highly respect and admire the Mennonites for their stand for Biblical principles like honesty, modesty, nonresistance, separation from the world, evangelism, prayer, and many more. This book is a compilation of true, short stories that emphasize many different character-trying and character-building situations that young people in the church have faced. This book has inspired me to stand for Biblical principles no matter how different I may appear to the world.
- Paula the Waldensian by Eva Lecomte: Oh, what a beautiful story. I have never been able to verify this, but I do believe this is a true story, or at least based on a true story. Paula is a young girl who must come and live with her uncle and cousins after her Waldensian parents have both died. The difficulty: Her uncle has grown cold towards God since the death of his precious wife, and forbids Paula to pray—even going as far as to take away the Bible that Paula’s dying father gave to her and bid her to never forget to read. But Paula’s love for God is not based on her outward circumstances. Little by little, through daily self-denial and service, Paula changes lives through her unconditional love and understanding of the poor and outcasts. And in the end, Paula’s life becomes a seed that is planted and reaps a harvest in the lives of all around her—including her uncle and cousins. Paula’s story has taught me that true Christianity is more than just mere profession. True Christianity is how we live when no one is watching, how we treat the lowest in life, and how we esteem others. Paula inspires me to change lives simply by loving the unlovable.
- Lessons From a Sheepdog by Philip Keller: I’m a dog-lover (and Border Collies are my favorite). This book is such a beautiful object lesson of Jesus Christ’s love for us through the story of a rescued Border Collie who learns to love and obey her master. Having been neglected and abused for much of her life, Lass was not ready to trust even kind Philip Keller who rescued her from a life on the end of a chain. Slowly he must build her trust. After he has won her heart, he must train this wayward, wild creature to work with sheep properly. Through it all he learns lessons of Christ our master, and us his wild, wayward children. This true story really hits home the message of God’s love and tender compassion for me, how he wooed me and won my heart, and how patient He is with me when I fail. This story also inspires me to live in Scotland someday and train Border Collies to work with sheep. J
- Hope Rising/A Bridge Called Hope by Kim Meeder: I also love horses, and this is a rather recent addition to my “Top 10” list. Kim and her husband run a horse rescue ranch in Oregon called Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch. At this ranch, the Meeders and their staff pair abused and neglected horses with abused and neglected children in a program of healing and restoration. The horses help the children emotionally while the children help the horses physically. From their many years doing this completely non-profit ministry, Kim has written these two books packed full of stories—miracle stories, stories of restored children and horses, cute little anecdotes, answers to prayers, and personal testimonies. Kim is an excellent writer, to boot, and is able to paint the most beautiful word pictures on the page. Her stories will make you cry, they will make you laugh, and they will inspire you (as they did me) to love unconditionally.
This is just a few of the many wonderful, books out there that have changed my life and drawn me closer to my Savior. These books have also inspired me to write only true stories that will honor and glorify my King.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah lives with her parents and two brothers in the beautiful Minnesota countryside. She divides her time between college and her job, while trying to fit in reading, sewing, and her writing projects. Some of her poetry has appeared in different magazines, and one of her stories won first prize in a children's writing contest. She published her first book, Learning Lessons from Furry Friends in 2011, and her second, The Prodigal Pup, in 2012. She hopes that there are more to come! Sarah loves to combine her passions for writing, children, animals, and her Savior by writing true animal stories that will point children to Jesus. Find out more about Sarah, her books, and her everyday life on her blog: www.SarahEllenBrown.wordpress.com.