Summer is for Reading

“The heart has its own time. How incredibly fleet are the happy hours, and how leaden slow the sad ones.  The clock cannot hurry the sorrowful minutes a jot, nor clip the wings of the joyous ones!”

Gladys Taber, Stillmeadow Seasons

When I was twelve years old I ran away. Well, not literally; I just hid in my room away from my four brothers and sisters and all the noise of summer.  I wanted a quiet place alone, an escape from my all-too-ordinary life, into another more peaceful one full of beauty and kindness.

Not that my siblings were markedly mean in anyway, but when I was in charge, as I often was, there were a lot of moving parts—we didn’t always fit each other. I, the bossy big sister (a ‘grown up’ 12 years old) and my younger charges—ages 7 to 11–were always getting into one scrape or another. All I wanted was peace and quiet and a place to feed my soul instead of making bologna sandwiches to feed everyone else.

The best place to find my escape was in the pages of a book. 

I can still remember lying on my bed with “Little Women,” Louisa May Alcott’s story written (I thought) just for me. Why? The heroine-Jo (my mother’s nickname for me) was not only the oldest, but  the bookish one—we were exactly alike. Well, except for the long dresses and bustles…

The pages of “Little Women” afforded me a get away like no other. Lying on the bed in our humble Southern California house I was transported to a world of make believe and dress-up, parties, plays, and my favorite—for I wanted to be a writer,too—the pages of the Pickwick Portfolio.

Alcott’s “Rose in Bloom” caught my fancy next, a story of a young girl and her beaux, a coming-of-age story that resonated with my almost-13-year-old soul.

Gene Stratton Porter’s  “Freckles” was another favorite; I still have my copy, Joanna Lee Ohlsen written in cursive on the right inside cover. My own father left us when I was 5; we were being raised by my stepfather at the time. I think there was something in my spirit that was looking for a place to belong, a connection of sorts that Freckles needed as well. And of course, there was his ‘cathedral.’ All these years later it’s clear there were many sacred echoes in that story.

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This summer is no different. I have my bookstacks all ready. The ‘vacation’ pile—for our 2 week trip to see relatives in New York (but who am I kidding? Will I even have time?)

And there’s the California stack for my week with my sisters…a little more low key; plus, there’s beach time, hence book time.  I might make more progress.

Whether I read these choices in the next summer-y months or into the Fall, the lure and escape of  good literature is always there. My favorites are authors like Elizabeth Goudge, George MacDonald, Gladys Taber, writers from over 60 years ago who somehow seem to mine deeper and richer words than those writers of today.

Someone has said that all good stories lead to God, which is why I still like to get lost in the pages of a book, listening for those sacred echoes.

What are you reading this Summer?

The Most Remarkable Missionary You’ve Never Heard Of

The eyes of the world have been watching Arab refugees pour into Europe the last several months. Fear has fueled many of the reactions of folks across the continents as there has been talk and concern about the people flooding Europe–they are Muslims and could therefore possibly be terrorists.
Because of this fear many countries have said to the refugees, ‘You are not welcome here,’ leaving Muslim as well as Arab Christians abandoned and exiled, fearful of ever returning home, trapped in a life-changing limbo.

The country of Germany, however, has said, “Yes. Yes, you are welcome and we will help you.”
And miracle of miracles, many of those same Muslim people are coming to Christ.
Story after story is coming out of a church work in Germany recounting just that; using no real names, only initials–“A” was baptized, “C” received Jesus, and so on–I have personally read of the move of God changing the lives of these desperate people.**
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“Trained faith is a triumphant gladness in having nothing but God–no rest, no foothold–nothing but Himself–a triumphant gladness in swinging out into the abyss, rejoicing in a very fresh emergency that is going to prove Him true–The Lord Alone–that is trained faith.”  Lillias Trotter’s diary, 1894

 

The work of evangelizing the Muslim people may well have begun at the end of the 19thCentury when a brave, young lady left a world promising her fame and fortune and decided instead to follow God’s call to bring the Gospel to the Muslims in Algeria.
Lilias Trotter(1853-1928) was that daring young woman. She defied all the norms of Victorian England by winning the favor of England’s top art critic, John Ruskin. In an era when women were thought incapable of producing high art, Ruskin promised her work could be “immortal.” But with her legacy on the line, Lilias made a stunning decision that bids us to question the limits of sacrifice. As Lilias journeys to French Algeria in the late 1800’s to pioneer missionary work with women and children, (film) viewers are left to wonder, “Could you abandon a dream to pursue your true calling?” (from ‘Many Beautiful Things’ website).
                                                
Lilias’ biography, “A Passion for the Impossible” by Miriam Huffman Rockness, recounts the tale from Lilias’ British childhood of privilege, filled with art and leisure, to the sands of North Africa where she laid down her life for forty years. 
Her story was recommended to me by my friend Kimberlee, who insisted I’d be carried away not only with the heart of the book’s message but by the beauty of the language as well.  She was right.The text is rich and deep, full of Lilias’ observations not only of God’s faithfulness but her own deep abiding in the presence and power of God. The miraculous tales of God’s intervention and move among the Muslim people in Algeria are stirring as well as inspiring.

In 1888, without knowing a speck of Arabic and without the sponsorship of any organization, Lilias left her London home of comfort for a modest dwelling in Algeria. From the courts of their headquarters at Rue de Croissant in Blida near the North African Coast, Lilias’ love of literature and art became dynamic tools for evangelism. Many of her hand painted illustrations and sketches were part of the printed work that went into the Arab world of that day; her compassion and enthusiasm carried off the page.
“The pebble takes in the rays of light that fall on it, but the diamond flashes them out again: every little facet is means, not simply of drinking more in, 
but of giving more out.”
(letter from Lilias to her friend Blanche Piggott, 1894).
Today, over a century after John Ruskin’s encounter with Lilias, many of her exhibition paintings, along with thirty-four other leaves from her sketchbook, are buried in the Print Room of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, a hidden testament to “potential recognized, promise unrealized,” as the Lilias Trotter website declares.

Although I dream of seeing these works in person some day in England, I am thrilled to tell you that a glimpse of Lilias’ life will be available soon via film. “Many Beautiful Things” releases on March 8th on DVD.

The film has been playing to private screenings across the country and will now be available to the general public.  The movie features the voices of Michelle Dockery(Lady Mary of Downton Abbey) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings).
 
In Dockery’s words from the film’s trailer, “Even though I’m a Brit, I had never heard of Lilias Trotter. Now I think the whole world should hear of her and see this film.”  
 
Why? Because the legacy Lilias left is continuing to this day–barriers she crossed in the frontiers of Northern Africa in the 1900’s paved the way for many to hear the Gospel of Christ for the first time. Her artistic vision and the work of words and paintings she left the world are inspiring treasures and a testimony to God’s love and creativity.

 
“Things still look dark and heavy all round–but “when the clouds be full of rain they empty themselves upon the earth”–it is better to wait as the parched ground waits here, for the torrents that will set life going.  
And I am beginning to see that it is out of a low place that one can best believe.
It is water poured down into a low narrow channel that can rise into a fountain–
faith that comes from the depths has a spring in it! (10 July 1896)
 

Old Tables and New Life {Roots & Sky Edition}

I pour lemon oil onto my dust rag, massaging the small table’s worn and chipped surface. No amount of elbow grease or lemon oil will cover up the wear and tear–scuffs from an old plant container, water rings from one too many glasses of iced tea, the solitary black circle from a dropped cigarette.
Simply an every day side table, no precious wood or dovetailed joints in its construction.  Made of common mahogany, one small drawer holds the flotsam and jetsam of my living room, a shelf underneath supporting a large basket of books.
There is an angry spot on the bottom shelf where some rubbing alcohol spilled. I thought it would come off with the lemon oil, but the surface’s finish prohibited such repair.
Chips, scratches, streaks….the wood is far from perfect, but no matter. We will keep the table, hauling it into and out of the garage each Christmas making way for our holiday tree. Repolish, re-oil and sift through the drawers contents as needed.
Why? This piece belonged to my mother and my mother has been gone for over 30 years. I have so few of my mother’s things in my home; this little table is a daily reminder. Its value is only in the eyes of the beholder—and I am thankful to behold its glossy, worn presence.

In Christie Purifoy’s new book, “Roots and Sky” she ponders the power of every day wonder in simple things, viewed through the lens of the Seasons.  I asked a friend if I could begin reading “Roots&Sky” with the ‘Spring’ section, skipping over Fall and Winter. She counseled me to begin at the beginning, explaining there was a reason for the Autumn backstory.
I’m very grateful I started with Fall. Christie’s journal chronicles the trials and triumphs encountered when she and her husband purchased a very old farmhouse high on a hilltop in Pennsylvania. Old, like built in the 1880’s old.
 Dreaming of a grand future—flowers, farming, fellowship with neighbors–Christie and her husband begin the daunting process of reclaiming the old and worn and broken down.

Without the dark and empty slate of Autumn/Winter, 
we cannot appreciate the riot of new birth in the Spring.
What a parallel for life.  As I sit here typing on this rain-soaked day, the old, tired earth is waking up. There are signs everywhere.  Although the mantle of ground has been beaten down, grass browned and soggy, leaves laying in saturated piles scattered about, the scilla and tulips are peeking out. The Crocosmia are threatening to invade the vinca, my Pink Viburnum puts on its saucy show.
Viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’
Why do we tend the earth? Why do we tend anything that we hope will grow and yield a present joy or future beauty in our lives? Perhaps it is a statement about our confidence in the future.

From the ‘Autumn’ chapter:
“This house is deteriorating. My body is dying. We are subject to the same terrible decay.  But worth is not measured in such terms.
Once upon a time, God called his creation good.  And no curse of sin unwound those words. Gnarled maple trees. Plaster walls. An ordinary woman’s ordinary body.  All good.
To care for these is to say to death, “You are not the end.” p. 55.
This is why we care for the earth, care for ourselves, care for our homes. 
Death is not the end, but a beginning, we know, to another life with our Saviour.  The physical earth mirrors the spiritual, the cycle of seasons death/life/care, death/life/care ultimately mirror the power of God’s saving.
purple scilla
red flowering quince
From the ‘Spring’ chapter:
“To remember as the earth remembers is a powerful thing. 
Winter remembers death and spring remembers life…”  p. 121
‘Death’ is a near naked lilac bush with bare bumps of buds threatening to bloom.
‘Death’ is an old, worn table or a scuffed threshold or a broken down fence.  

We repair, we replace, we rejoice when the new comes and the old holds. When life stirs in the ground and in us we remember—what we love will hold us until that final day we see our Jesus.
But for now we plant, we tend, we care.  Spring is coming.  
Winter Hazel (smells like honey!)

What to do When Your Pants Don’t Fit, and other Resolutions

http://www.centralparknyc.org

It’s the beginning of a New Year, a new start, a fresh beginning. 

Are you making any resolutions?  I’ve made only one. It’s like the over arching bridge that supports all the rest of my year. 

My resolution? To remember whose I am.  

I have the privilege of Guest Posting over at Jennifer Dukes Lee’s place today for her Preapproved series. She’s asked several bloggers to weigh in on how God spoke to them through the book she wrote last year, “Love Idol”.

The book is about understanding whose and what we are. Loved by God.

Because I am.  Preapproved.

Click here to read about how I dealt with an annoying 15 extra pounds and a new pair of jeans. I’m guessing maybe you can relate.

And you might find a way to make a resolution of your own.

Sabbathing

This post is second in a sporadic series on a book I’m reading that is changing my life: God in the Yard, by LL Barkat. I will post my discoveries as I process them. This is not a book review, per se, but perhaps a book invitation…
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I watch the clouds drift by on this sunless day, pushed by the wind.

The only reason I notice they’re moving is because I am sitting still.

I think about the children of Israel being led by God’s presence in a cloud by day and I think:
The only way to know if God is moving in your life is to be still.

God made the Sabbath for a reason.

It makes sense that the only way to know there is a pattern or a cycle in your life is to do the same thing
once a week-take a Sabbath–to mark your days.

Light a candle, make a circle around a day, a time. Be purposeful to take a forced stop.

In your intentionality, you can say, “This is the marker where I made time to remember God.”

Otherwise, life goes in a straight line, back and forth, back and forth, 
and all we end up with instead of rest, is a rut.

I want rest.

I’m choosing Sabbath.
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This Sunday, on purpose, I will go nowhere in my car……… (other than to church).  
Seems like a small thing; but that’s my first start at stopping. How about you?
Linking with Shelly,  Sandy and Deidra this weekend.