“Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle Is Rocking My World

Anybody else read this book?
How have I lived this long without it??

“Reflections on Faith and Art,” she calls it.

3/4 of the way through the book I looked in a mirror:

“Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night, to eat anything without indigestion, to feel no moral qualms, to turn off the television news and make a bologna sandwich after seeing the devastation and death caused by famine and drought and earthquake and flood.

“But the artist cannot manage this normalcy. Vision keeps breaking through and must find means of expression.”

A whole series of posts will be coming out of this one. I think I am even going to give myself time to write them over the next few weeks!

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Book Review: Thomas Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES

Published in 1891, this book by British author Thomas Hardy has been on my list of “wanna reads” since high school.  A guy I was dating my sophomore year was in a different English class than mine, and I remember his class read Tess while my class did not.  He mentioned it, I asked what it was about, and he said, “Nothing.  It’s not about anything.  It’s a total waste of time.”

That immediately piqued my interest!  This guy was not a book lover, so if he thought this book was pointless, there was likely something rich just below the surface, and I was curious to find out what it was.
Apparently I was not THAT curious, because it took me 28 years to get around to actually reading Tess, but I finally did.  And I was right!  There was, indeed, something rich just below the surface.

I really liked this book, but it was also a gut-wrenching read at times.  Hardy’s writing style is lovely.  Of Tess, he writes:

…there behind the blue narcotic haze was potentially the ‘tragic mischief’ of her drama — one who stood fair to be the blood-red ray in the spectrum of her young life.  She had an attribute which amounted to a disadvantage just now; and it was this that cause Alec d’Urberville’s eyes to rivet themselves upon her.  It was a luxuriance of aspect, a fulness of growth, which made her appear more woman than she really was.  She had inherited the feature from her mother without the quality it denoted.  It had troubled her mind occasionally, till her companions had said that it was a fault which time would cure.”  (Phase the First, ch. 5)

When Tess meets Angel Clare, his loving and tenacious pursuit of her almost restores her hope for the future, but even so she cannot shake the feeling of unworthiness she carries.  The other milkmaids who work at the dairy alongside her, and who have each hoped to have Angel for her husband, wish her well:

When they were all in bed, and the light was out, Marian whispered across to her: ‘You will think of us when you be his wife, Tess, and of how we told ‘ee that we loved him, and how we tried not to hate you, and did not hate you, and could not hate you, because you was his choice, and we never hoped to be chose by him.’

  They were not aware that at these words salt stinging tears trickled down upon Tess’s pillow anew; and how she resolved with a bursting heart to tell all her history to Angel Clare, despite her mother’s command; to let him for whom she lived and breathed despise her if he would, and her mother regard her as a fool, rather than preserve a silence which might be deemed a treachery to him, and which somehow seemed a wrong to these.” (Phase the Fourth, ch. 31)

Tess is what the story is about.

Thomas Hardy’s full title was:  Tess, of the D’Urbervilles: a Pure Woman.

Tess is betrayed by a man who violates her while she is still almost a child, and later betrayed by the man for whom she holds the utmost love and respect when he cannot accept her as a pure woman in spite of the crime done against her.  She is pure in her heart, in her desire to do what is right (as puzzling as it can be to discern the right again and again in her life).  She is held unjustly accountable for someone’s sin against her, and yet she refuses to pity herself.

She is also PURE WOMAN.  She is beauty, hard-work, loyalty, stubbornness, and intelligence without the benefit of education.  She is independence longing for someone to rely upon.  She is nurturing even when it costs her everything and she receives nothing in return.  She is eager to please, and tragically quick to believe that she will never measure up no matter how hard she tries.

She is fascinating, and I loved her story.

I find it amusing that my high school boyfriend thought it was a story about nothing.  Hardy was almost 50 when he wrote Tess; perhaps 15 years was not enough time on earth for a male to understand the richness of her story!

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Book Review: Katie Davis’ Kisses from Katie

The subtitle of this book is “A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption.”  That captures it.

Kisses from Katie is the autobiographical account of Katie Davis’ decision to take a year after high school to serve in missions at an orphanage in Uganda, and of God’s call on her life that became clear during her time there.  Now, at the age of 24 she lives in Uganda and is Mommy to the 14 orphan girls she has adopted.  She also runs a non-profit ministry called Amazima that provides food, medical care and school to over 400 other desperately needy Ugandan children.

I highly recommend this book — for you and for your children.  I just finished it a day ago, but I’m excited to share it with Jonah (my 14 year-old) who has gotten very interested in figuring out how to make a real difference in the world, and just baked his first batch of 75 brownies for our church’s homeless-feeding ministry last Sunday.  I know the story of the work at Amazima will encourage him and illustrate for him that God is calling each of us as individuals to say, “Here I am, Lord;  what do You have for me to do right now?”  When we are willing, He can accomplish amazing things.

Check out Amazima‘s website and find out how you can get involved in the work in Uganda, and pick up a copy of Kisses from Katie.  It will warm your heart, and put you on your knees, reminded again to say, “Here I am, Lord; I’m listening to You.”

 

 

Book Review: AJ Jacobs’ THE YEAR OF LIVING BIBLICALLY

AJ Jacobs, editor-at-large for Esquire magazine, has an interesting approach to life. He uses his life as an experiment. He takes on various projects to see what effect they will have on him, then he writes about it. I imagine that his wife must be a tremendously flexible person.

His book The Know It All chronicled his decision to read every word of the encyclopedia… …all 44 million of ’em.

Here’s what Jacobs’ website says about The Year of Living Biblically:

The Year of Living Biblically answers the question: What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers. A.J. Jacobs’ experiment is surprising, informative, timely and funny. It is both irreverent and reverent. It seeks to discover what’s good in the Bible and what is maybe not so relevant to 21st century life. And it will make you see the Good Book with new eyes. Thou shalt not put it down.

I LOVED this book.

Can I just say that again, please?
I LOVED this book.

I was raised in a Christian home. I have always been very involved in evangelical Christian churches. I homeschooled my kids and have been an active part of a thriving Christian homeschool community. Now that my kids are mostly grown, I have had some pretty challenging conversations with them as they have moved into adulthood and encountered lots of folks who don’t see things from a Christian worldview. I’m in that season of life where the rubber meets the road. I trained ’em up in the way they should go; now I have to take my grubby little paws off of ’em and trust that God is as faithful as I’ve always said He is.

The Year of Living Biblically was recommended to me by my son-in-law, Casey. Here are a few reasons why I got such a kick out of this book:

* It gave me a fresh look at the Bible. I got to see it through the eyes of someone who hadn’t ever read it before, who doesn’t believe that it is bedrock truth, and who is trying to figure out whether or not God is even real. It took me out of my bubble and reminded me of the millions of people who are intelligent, searching for truth, and hungering for the things of God, whether they can articulate it that way or not.

* It gave me a lot of chuckles. Jacobs is a very witty writer. He treated his experiment with great respect and also a sense of humor. Sometimes we take ourselves awfully seriously as Christians. The Year of Living Biblically reminded me that some of the stuff I understand and know to be true SOUNDS absolutely wacky, and it’s okay to chuckle about it. It will help me have more grace and compassion toward others.

* It renewed my awe for the complexity of the mind of God. If I thought I had the Bible all figured out (I didn’t really think that, but IF I thought that…) I wouldn’t any more. God’s plan is mind-bogglingly complex. I’m more thankful than ever that He is God and I am not; I would make a royal mess of things if I were in charge.

* It showed me one more way in which the Word of God changes hearts. Jacobs was still undecided at the end of his year of living Biblically. But he had clearly been changed in myriad ways by his obedience to the Bible, even though it was obedience without understanding. If God can impact an agnostic this mightily with His Word, how much more can He do with it in my heart and life?

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