Monday, June 26, 2017

Challenge Reads

I posted recently about comfort reads.  I also want to pay tribute to the "challenge reads" -- books that shaped my values and my heart for the vulnerable in this world.  One of the earliest and most lasting influences has to be Charles Dickens. His passion for social justice, his mockery of the pompous and selfish, his defense of the underprivileged and his idealism have always moved me.

That Dickens could combine his social vision with such humor and rattling good plots has always amazed me. 

Another powerful author who shaped my values is Camus. In his novel The Plague Camus studies people facing evil, making choices to act in solidarity with others or to protect themselves. He never offers easy or pat answers. Other authors I admire include John Steinbeck, Voltaire, the poets of World War I, and Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front. 

Many of these authors were not Christian, as I am. But their courageous confrontation of the evils of this world and their dedication to calling out the best in their readers resonate in my spirit. I would not want to spend my life only reading safe "Christian" books that may speak well of individual needs for faith or trust in God but refuse to address the injustice, the cruelties, and the failures of this world.  

I don't want to hide away in only books that comfort me. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Comfort Reads

I've seen a lot of references in blogs and articles to the experience of "comfort reading," and I wanted to pay tribute to some of the authors who have written books that brought me the most joy, peace, and comfort. They haven't all been escapist books by any means, although they have often taken me to another world and set me dreaming.  One of the earliest to grip my imagination and hold it through multiple readings was the classic, The Secret Garden. Its combination of mystery, nature, hope for individual positive change and restoration, strong story line and unforgettable characters hooked me for good.

Authors I always turned to include Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie. I devoured Jane Eyre and Catherine Marshall's Christie, different as they may be. For humor I can't get enough of Wodehouse,  Rex Stout, Douglas Adams or The Irish R.M. 

There are plenty of fine writers now, and I keep looking for comfort books that fill my imagination as well as bringing relaxation.  Not sure any can match the classics I've always loved, but it's fun to keep looking.

Monday, June 12, 2017

International Children's Day

June 12 is National Children's Day. It's also called the World Day Against Child Labor. While, as a mother and grandmother, I can celebrate the joys of childhood and its happy memories, as a Christian I also have to think about issues of justice and mercy. Every hour children bear the suffering of violence and injustice in this world, facing abuse, neglect, poverty and labor. According to the International Labour Organization, 168 million children are forced into work, often in dangerous conditions. That represents 100 million boys and 68 million girls. I invite prayers for these children and any contributions that support their protection, nourishment, health care and education.

Here's an old family picture of a protected, happy child.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Word Ladder

I've been working on a certain story off and on for twenty years, often with months or even years between looking at the latest draft. Obviously, its content means a great deal to me. Yet I keep needing to alter at least some element.  With each step, I feel I'm coming closer to its final version.

Today, as I completed the revision that makes me happy for now, I feel as if this story has become a sort of word ladder puzzle.  Do you know the mind challenge?  You've given a word -- such as foal  -- and you have to change one letter at a time until it becomes another word -- such as mare. (I just made that up, so don't strain hard to solve it.  But if you do, let me know.) Usually you have a strictly limited number of steps for the alterations.

I'm glad my writing hasn't been limited to five steps, because I'm well past that. And I'm glad there aren't limits in life, either. I've changed so much in the past years, yet I still feel like me.  Whether it's growth, redirection or even decline, I'm grateful for the push and the grace to change organically and with the time needed to absorb the transformation.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Whenever I travel, I pray for protection and blessings over the whole experience.  For this trip, I felt that I should also pray for patience, grace and good attitudes toward any difficulties of travel. There is always something: flight delays, last minute changes of gates at the airport, long lines, misplaced luggage. I try to be patient, but this time I felt I should pray for help in keeping up a good spirit. I won't say that I was perfect, but I think I did a bit better. Certainly the long flights and connections gave me opportunities to practice a positive attitude.

And the reward was: Scotland! A wonderful country.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Seeking Refuge

Just finished a wonderful book called Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. Published in 2016, it won an Award of Merit from Christianity Today in 2017. The work combines careful research, lots of statistics, and personal accounts.

Bill and Lynn Hybels wrote a compelling forward about their experiences oversees and work with churches in this country.  The three co-authors each provide unique perspectives on the plight of people fleeing violence and justice around the world. Stephan Bauman leads global operations for World Relief, a faith-based organization helping refugees, and he speaks of work internationally and in U.S. churches. Matthew Soerens works with local churches and explains immigration law. Dr. Issam Smeir, the son of a refugee, counsels traumatized refugees.

The book builds on a Biblical basis, citing the period when Joseph had to flee with his family to protect Jesus from Herod and detailing commands from the Old and New Testaments that require compassion and justice for foreigners and the outcast. It carefully delineates the process for someone to become officially recognized as a refugee by the international community and to be granted refugee status after clearing security and health checks for entry into the United States. The authors detail the process for settlement in the United States and the role that local churches may play in facilitating a successful adaptation.

The authors address concerns such as hesitation and fears in dealing with those of different cultures, as well as the challenges that face refugees, often coming to their new home with significant trauma after years of conflict. They point out that many refugees are displaced within their own countries or in a bordering country, often living years in a refugee or detention camp. A tiny percentage actually resettle in a third country, such as the U.S.

Seeking Refuge addresses root causes for crisis migration, delving into profound, complex and often international causes of violence and injustice. It ends with a plea for Christians to care for strangers, offering prayer, hospitality, mercy and justice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Earth Day

Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day.  It's a wonderful occasion to celebrate the beauty of our world and remember our responsibility to care for it with reverence and gratitude.  As Psalm 24:1 reads, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof."

Last year in April I was in Arizona, being overwhelmed daily by the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.  Our country is so rich in beauty, and I'm grateful for all of those who took the care to preserve these wonders and who still work to protect and maintain them. We are all stewards.