Sunday, March 27, 2011

At the Feet of the Smile Giver

I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light
 ~ J. J. Heller ~

- scribbled a while back -

I had been gloomy lately, played the victim.  Quite without reason, especially in light of recent pain in my church family.  

After all, I was not the parent whose little girl died suddenly of a common flu.  I was not getting a knee replacement or surgery to remove cancer and going through painful recovery. It was not I who sent my baby girl into intense surgery, and now face the challenge of learning to do basic care for her in the large, bulky cast.

My sorrows are not so huge.  But even patience, self-control, trying to trust God while life rushes by in a whirl - even these are burdens.  Sometimes I feel alone, and think I will never grow.  

But since this Sunday morning, the light of God's compassion and might have shone on all these, and reminded me of a secret too well kept.

Laughter in the dark.

This morning Tyler talked about the Abundant Life that Christ came to give.  Not a list of rules wherein misery means holiness.  Not a promise of more stuff or an easy life.

If I believe in Him, I have everlasting life.  Not "I will have."  It is mine now.  Will I act sad and dead with that gift ready to burst forth like a mighty acorn seedling? 

Then in Sunday School, Laynce Nix talked about discipleship - which is being an apprentice of Jesus. Sitting at His feet all the time. Someone asked for practical application - she knows He is God but the ice needs breaking outside, the horses fed, the chores done.

And Laynce suggested that in the everyday moment, hectic or mundane or ordinary, be a disciple.

That thought was not new, but somehow struck me new.  I can choose obedience, remember He is present, and just be with Him. Rest joyfully in my smallness next to His greatness.

"And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." ~ Matthew 23:10, 11~

I want that, Lord!  Awareness of You every moment.  Not focusing on my nothingness - You have made me something, and I forget! - but rather focusing on Your Muchness.

This excites me like being called on a great adventure with someone better than a Jedi master, better than wise Gandalf. Oh great Christ, I am choosing to be Your apprentice, to learn from You whatever the circumstances. 

Today, for instance, at the youth group Super Bowl party, which I would really rather not go to.  But You, Master, ask me to love people and make more disciples, and maybe this is part of that.  Anyways, if You will be there too, my complaints float away with that knowledge.

Teach me to pray without ceasing!

Help me learn from You, gentle and lowly of heart, and find rest for my soul.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:29,30


Cloudy, grey, and damp outside.  Cookies and spicy chai tea inside.  A finished, sealed letter to a friend waiting cheerfully plump on the shelf for Monday mail.  Cozy socks, pastel blue and over my knees.

Sitting at His feet that tread the dawn.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review - Jane Austen

Despite my love of her novels, I never read a Jane Austen biography until I recently thumbed back the cover of an almost-squarish little book by Peter Leithart - Jane Austen (Christian Encounters Series).

Numerous excerpts of letters fill these pages and give evidence for the portrait Leithard paints of Jane for us.  I imagine it might be easier when writing a biography to rely on previous biographies, but Leithart primarily sticks to original sources. And what better sources than words of Jane and those who knew her?      

Leithart is a good writer, painting a vivid picture of lively, childlike "Jenny" without getting bogged down in dull information (no offense meant, I hope, to those of you who love lengthy biographies - I tend to drown in seas of information). His words were a breath of fresh air and a pleasure to read after the last book I read.  And going from a fantasy tale to a biography, that's saying a lot for me.

By sticking to facts and making a few reasonable deductions, Leithart strikes a wonderful balance, both in showing Jane's flaws and fine points, and in giving a reasonable idea of her Christianity: 

"Early biographers often turned her into a model of Victorian Christian domestic femininity, and emphasized her Christian faith in an evangelical idiom she never used.  In reaction, many more recent biographers all but ignore her faith.  Both of these extremes distort Austen's life and personality."

And again:

"Biographers minimize Austen's Christianity mainly because they cannot believe that her acerbic, sometimes childishly cruel wit, her satires of the clerical imbecilities of Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton, and her playful silliness are compatible with deep Christian faith...The assumption that Christian faith is incompatible with a satirical spirit is entierly wrongheaded.  Nietzsche's lie that Christianity is a killjoy religion is a demonstratable falsehood.  English satire was, after all, the creation of clerics.  Austen was hardly the first Christian writer to look sceptically at the clergy.  Chaucer did before her, and so did a host of late medieval writers...And who can deny the combination of boisterous cheer and profound faith in Lewis and Chesterton?"   

Pleasing Design
A minor point, but my copy of the book is nearer to squareness than most.  Compact, small, and the cover has the delicious feel of textured watercolor paper.  Very satisfying to hold.

One of A Series
I may eventually check out more books in The Christian Encounters series, biographies of Christians across the ages, such as John Bunyan, Winston Churchill, and J.R.R.Tolkien.  Each is written by a different author, so they may not all be as enjoyable to me as this one.  But I'm especially interested in the one about St. Patrick which was written by Jonathan Rogers, author of the great Wilderking series and writer at The Rabbit Room.

Quite enjoyable.  If you want a well-written biography from a scholarly Christian perspective on Jane Austen, do check this out.  And then tell me if I'm silly for loving the compact almost-squareness of the book and the great feel of the cover's paper.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book for free from Thomas Nelson.
March of Books 2011 at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review - Dragons of the Valley

Last year, I read the first book of this series, The Vanishing Sculptor.  It was fun, but very meandering (especially for a fantasy/quest sort of tale).  When I got a chance to read the second book, Dragons of the Valley, I took it, though not quite as eagerly.  I expected it to be about the same, and I was right.  I am still sad, because this book has so much to like about it, and so much potential... but I found it rather tedious to read.

Good points:
- hilarious characters, like the wizard Fenworth and the little pixie-like Kimens.  And Bealamondore was a great hobbit-like artist character who has to learn to be brave.  
- clean and spiritually encouraging, for the most part (the Christianity felt a bit heavy-handed and pasted in, but it was a good effort)
- Great puns and odd descriptions 

- It had one of the most rambling, plodding, unorganized plots I've ever met. Some of the main huge plot points didn't make sense to me. 
- The writing, while it had it's witty and vivid spots, was often choppy and tedious.  I found myself skimming the last chapters, which I never do with fiction.
- It felt like the story couldn't decide to take itself seriously or not.  Often I felt I could hear the author laughing to herself.  Well and good!  I'm all for corny jokes and fun nonsense in their place.  But then it was hard to take seriously the threat of the world falling apart, or to reconcile it with the incredibly grim antagonist.

My concluding blurb for this book - Enjoyable in spots, but tedious and disjointed overall.

P.S.  -  Donita, K. Paul, if you're reading this (which in this internet world is quite possible), I want you to know that I do enjoy your lovely sense of humor!  :-) Lady Peg is quite fun. 

*Disclaimer -  I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Press to review in their Blogging for Books program. 
March of Books 2011 at

Friday, March 04, 2011

Book Review - God's Smuggler

Recently resolved to read more non-fiction, particularly biographies, and extra especially autobiographies, I finally took a reputed classic called God's Smuggler from my shelf and resigned myself to a "real life" story of facts and dull chapters.

But upon cracking the cover, I was sucked into a grand adventure.

From the time I first put on wooden shoes - klompen we called them in Holland - I dreamed of derring-do.  I was a spy behind enemy lines, I was a lone scout in enemy territory, I crept beneath barbed wire while tracer bullets scorched the air about me.

Andrew was a Dutch boy growing up durring World War II. He was actually very clever and ornery as a child.  As a young adult, after trying unsuccessfully to satisfy his longing for adventure and fulfillment, he became a Christian, and began an adventure greater than he ever dreamed.

He was struck with the hunger for God's Word in the Eastern European countries; churches in Russia, Hungary, Albania, etc, oppressed by the stifling darkness of Communism, were desperate for encouragement, and for Bibles.

And thus began Andrew's mission - to smuggle as many Bibles and as much fellowship, discipleship, and hope as possible to the Church behind the Iron Curtain.

As biographies go, this was a very exciting one! Coming from a novel-lover, that's saying a lot.  ;-) Funny in parts, moving, challenging.

I don't know quite what to think about his almost reckless way of daring God to provide (for instance, sometimes he would deliberately put a Bible in plain view on his car's seat, so if a border guard saw it and let him through anyway, Andrew could be certain of giving God all the glory).  But then, I have never done such risky things for Christ, so I don't know if my faith is small, or if God just calls different folks to trust Him in different ways.

"That's the excitement of obedience," he said. "Finding out later what God had in mind."

Highly recommended! Not only an exciting, hopeful, true story with a passion for God's might word and a heart for His church, but a look at the man who started Open Doors, and whose work is being passed on today. Soon after I read God's Smuggler, I learned of the connection to BEE World, a ministry my church is involved with, and it was thrilling to know... the story goes on.

March of Books 2011 at

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March is here!

Happy March!  

Redbud trees are blossoming, seeds are sprouting, projects are rushing along, and babies are growing. Look at this little guy, born around Thanksgiving last year! See his manly eyebrows, his strong grip, and that fierce intimidating stare! 
My little friend Isaac and me.  (Isn't he a cute little man?)

Upcoming Book Reviews: 
God's Smuggler - Brother Andrew
Dragons in the Valley - Donita K. Paul
Jane Austen - Peter Leithart