Musings: August 2018

One true gift of God is the tension of struggle:

challenges that come out of nowhere just when you think the coast is clear;
the demon Comparison that threatens to anchor you always in the Desert of Lack;
besetting sins that cycle and re-cycle in a life that resembles an on-going game of Whack-a-Mole.

Up close, the struggle feels overwhelming, but taking one step back so the light of Truth can fall upon the day’s page, it becomes clear that struggle is evidence of life. Paul knew this in his bones, following up his Romans 7 howl (“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”) with a Romans 8 rallying cry (“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”).

The struggle is not for nothing.
Watching my grandson’s fervent pursuit of the ducks on Damariscotta Lake is a study in futility, for he is still learning that his feathered friends have the secret weapon of flight –which is not available to him. By contrast, the believer’s pursuit of righteousness is supported by every weapon in the Spirit’s arsenal.

Your struggle is exactly fitted to your soul,
your soul to it exactly fitted.

The mark of a sincere following life is struggle, but we do not struggle alone, and we do not struggle in vain.

The World of Words

Five books read and five books reviewed!

 

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Of course there’s always reading going on behind the scenes, and the number of books that have shown up in my mailbox this month tells me that this must be book launch season! I’ve been sharing my meandering through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community over on the Living Our Days Facebook page (which, by the way, passed the 500 followers mark this month, so thank you to everyone who gathers there!).Bonhoeffer Listening

Now I’m moving on to C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, and the edition I’m reading includes an introduction by Walter Hooper, Lewis’s assistant during his final days. He shares biographical insights I have not read elsewhere, and then, of course, Lewis’s incredible essays follow.

Capture

Desiring God very graciously shared an article that I wrote from the gleanings of one of our more challenging seasons of parenting. Based on John 17, it’s a call to prayer for our teens, and a reminder that when parents pray over an open Bible, the words of Scripture wrap themselves around the desires of our hearts and give us the words we don’t have. While you’re there, be sure to take advantage of their many helpful resources.

The Gardening Life

My basement shelves are filling up with shiny jars of spaghetti sauce, pickles, relish, green beans, salsa, and canned tomatoes. Much to the delight of our adorable grandson, we’re growing a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year, and in addition to squirreling away the bounty, it’s been a delight to have plenty to share with family and friends.

Around the Dining Room Table

The youngest son and I have already resumed the daily routine of homeschooling. This will be my last round of algebra and chemistry, and since he’s taking his English at the local community college, someone else will be singing the praises of the Oxford comma with him this year. God has used the rhythms and routines of homeschooling to speak patience into this flibbertigibbet of a soul with the reality that school happens one day, one subject at a time, and the thick textbook that looks so intimidating in September is conquered by showing up and doing the few things required on any given day.

Standing with you in the freedom of the struggle,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this recap post, simply click on the image below, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Do Stories Increase Your Empathy for Others?

Time has a way of eroding the sharp edges of a story. Details become foggy and the setting becomes indistinct. Fully alive, three-dimensional characters may lose their identity in stereotype, becoming mere placeholders in their own story.

This was the case for Lucy Walter, the heroine in Elizabeth Goudge’s Child from the Sea. Born in 17th century Wales, Lucy met the young prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and young love blossomed. History has cast Lucy in the role of Charles II’s mistress, but Goudge dove into the historical record and reached a different conclusion:

What if the lore that Lucy and Charles had been secretly married is true?

In a context in which the dalliances of royalty were accepted as a matter of course and the marriage of a royal to a commoner was so unthinkable that Lucy would have been without recourse if the young king had been advised to renounce the connection.

Read New Books. Read Old Books.

Published in 1970, The Child from the Sea is part of my 2018 intention to read more fiction and to make time for older books alongside the new. C.S. Lewis offered this advice to readers:  “I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.” Clayton Kraby of the Reasonable Theology blog has applied that advice to his own personal formula:  “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

Without sounding like “an old book” author, Elizabeth Goudge has anchored Lucy’s story in a Christian world view against continually shifting geography and through the introduction of well-developed, often deeply flawed, but heart-warming characters. Vivid description and dialogue, and the use of charming Welch terms transport the reader to the banks of “Brandy Cwm” as characters breakfast on “a bit of bara ceich and a drink of buttermilk.” Superstition and the darkness of theological error plagued clergy and laity alike in this era when religious loyalties shifted according to who was on the throne, and citizens did time in The Tower for landing on the wrong side of the high church/low church see-saw.

Every Life is Shrouded in Mystery

Blogger Jody Lee Collins has written a biographical post on Elizabeth Goudge and shared what I also noticed — that “sacrifice, kindness, faithfulness and selflessness are just a few of the many biblical themes woven through the characters and story in Goudge’s work.” And while exploring the thought-provoking and inspiring elements of story-telling, Elizabeth also included intriguing descriptions that set the story firmly in time and place. For instance, did you know that the winding staircases in castles at that time were built with a “trip step,” a step that was “shallower than the rest so that a man running up the stairs with evil intent would stumble at it and give warning of his approach.” Goudge won the Carnegie Award in 1947 for The Little White Horse, J.K. Rowling’s favorite children’s book, so even though I am arriving late to the party, clearly others have been enjoying Elizabeth Goudge’s considerable writing talent for a long time.

With careful research and considerable grace, Child from the Sea is a masterful tale woven around a life that was shrouded in mystery. The words of Proverbs 14:10 are undoubtedly true:  “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” And yet, through skillfully written stories, we are able to inhabit the heartaches and the joy of an other person to a small degree, and perhaps, through this, we are better equipped to face our own real-life sorrows with greater grace and to celebrate the joys that come with greater gratitude.


Many thanks to Hendrickson Publishers for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Child from the Sea, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Thank you, as always, for reading and for your continual encouragement,

 

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.