Faith in Literature: Contemporary Writers of the Spirit


This past weekend was one that was filled with gratitude and inspiration: gratitude for friends in my life and inspiration from listening to writers who use the written word as a way to express spirituality.

My friend Rick Chess is a poet and professor at University of North Carolina in Asheville, and he was one of the organizers of the Faith in Literature festival. He graciously invited my wife and me to attend some amazing sessions, including two conversations hosted by Krista Tippett that were recorded for possible broadcast on her “On Being” radio show, as well as an intimate luncheon with Krista and other distinguished guests. I am extremely grateful to Rick and thankful that he is a part of our lives.

The first conversation occurred on Friday evening, between Krista and poet Marilyn Nelson. One of the themes of the discussion that resonated with me was about the connection between poetry and silence. Marilyn explained that poetry taps into the silence within us, that it comes from silence and evokes silence. This strengthens the importance of poetry in an age where people are increasingly afraid of their inner silence and attempt to escape that silence through technology. Marilyn and Krista also discussed poetry as a form of contemplation and how poetry can help individuals rediscover reality.

On Saturday afternoon, my wife and I attended a luncheon at the chancellor’s house where Ms. Tippett and the other writers were in attendance. The food was delicious, and it felt nice to be included with such talented and spiritual individuals.

After lunch, we attended a conversation between several writers, which was very inspiring and prompted us to purchase several books and get them signed.

Finally, the closing event on Saturday evening was a conversation between Krista Tippett and Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson, discussing Wilkerson’s book The Warmth of Other Suns, which details the Great Migration through the lives of three protagonists. This was such a powerful conversation, particularly in regard to current racial tensions, the ongoing refugee crisis, and the need for “radical empathy.” I loved the way they described empathy as “not pity or sympathy, but the ability to get inside another person and understand how they feel.” I think if we all started practicing radical empathy, the world would be a different place.

Needless to say, my pile of books to be read has increased over the weekend. Here is the list of books I bought, all of which were signed by the authors. I hope to share my thoughts on these in the near future.

  • Tekiah by Rick Chess
  • The Beautiful Possible by Amy Gottlieb
  • Kohl & Chalk by Shadab Zeest Hashmi
  • Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson


Filed under Literature

9 responses to “Faith in Literature: Contemporary Writers of the Spirit

  1. Beautiful, Jeff. Thanks for writing about the gathering. I’ve really appreciated Krista Tippett’s OnBeing show, and quite a few of the conversations. Radical empathy … that surely changes things! And what a beautiful book title – The Warmth of Other Suns. Lovely. I’ll look for it.

    • She was so inspiring! I really felt blessed to be a part of this. I’m really excited to read all these new books. Hope you are doing well, and thanks for your comment!


  2. ah, krista tippett takes me back…i have been following her since waaay before the show name was changed and her guests and their work inspired many of my early posts. alas, like going down a rabbit hole, i seem to have migrated off in other directions. how wonderful this must have been (i am empathising and it sure is easy 😉 ). i am particularly drawn to the title, Kohl and Chalk, and look forward to hearing what thats about.

    • Nothing wrong with exploring other directions. 🙂

      I attended a reading by the poet who wrote Kohl and Chalk, which inspired me to buy her book. She had a few, so I opted for this one because it was her most recent. Hopefully I can get to it soon.

      Have a wonderful rest of your weekend!


  3. I think in some instances tech can be part of the contemplative life. I know that fixing up a computer or working on a digital project can be very peaceful. I sometimes see it as an extension of the medieval scriptorium. But not always! 😊

  4. Pingback: “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living” by Krista Tippett | Stuff Jeff Reads

Leave a Reply to Jeff Japp Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.