Book Review: Rain Song

In Alice J. Wisler’s debut novel, Rain Song, Nicole Michelin was born in Japan to missionary parents. Her mother died in a fire when Nicole was two. Her father brought her back to America, where she was cared for largely by her maternal grandmother in Mount Olive. NC. He was a broken man forever after, and would not answer any of her questions about her mother’s death or their time in Japan.

Now Nicole is in her early thirties and teaches high school English in Mount Olive. She has a slew of quirky Southern relatives and regularly makes pineapple chutney with her grandmother. She keeps saltwater fish in her aquarium and writes columns for a fish web site. And she battles anxiety and bites her fingernails. She has three resolves. She will never ride a motorcycle. She will never fly in an airplane. And she will never go back to Japan.

An email question about koi from her fish column leads to a correspondence with a man who seems nice. He even sends her a poem that she can’t get out of her mind.

There’s only one problem. He lives in Japan.

And then—he reveals that he knew her when she was a child in Japan.

My thoughts:

I loved this book. I can’t believe I’ve had it in my Kindle app for years and just now got to it.

I loved the Southern flavor. I loved Nicole’s grandmother’s Southern Truths. I loved Nicole’s faith journey. And I loved Alice’s writing. Here are some samples:

I threw my head back and laughed like Uncle Jarvis. Swing your head back, open your mouth, and let laughter flow like a rushing waterfall in the North Carolina mountains. It sounds like sunshine in your ears.

We’d like to think we are brave, capable, and strong. But the minute we lose our luggage or are delayed, we’ve been known to break into pieces.

You are a gutless one, Nicole. You have never watered your gift of faith. It is so small; it’s still a seed in the ground.

I thought the author must have actually lived in Japan by the way she wrote about it. She did: she was also the child of missionary parents there.

This book is the first in her Heart of Carolina series. I don’t think the characters carry over from book to book: at least, it doesn’t seem like it from their descriptions. But it looks like they all take place in NC.

I found this book both funny and touching. Have you ever read any of Alice J. Wisler’s books?

When others don’t do their part

When others don't do their partYears ago, it dawned on me that when Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20-21 teach that children should obey and honor their parents, it doesn’t add any qualifiers. Those passages, as well as the ten commandments in Exodus 20, don’t say “Obey your parents if they are Christians” or “if they are perfect” or “if anything.”

Some time later, I noticed that these passages mentioned responsibilities on both sides of relationships.

  • Wives submit to husbands as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18); Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19).
  • Children, obey and honor your parents (Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20); Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
  • Servants, obey as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25); Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). (I wrote about slavery in the Bible here. Generally we apply these verses to employee/employer relationships these days.)

Beyond these, the Bible speaks of relationships between people and rulers. When Paul in Romans 13:1-6 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17 spoke of obeying and even honoring rulers, do you know who their ruler was? Nero, one of the worst rulers ever.

Then, most of the epistles speak to how we’re supposed to act towards our fellow church members.

Now, as an aside, we know from other passages of Scripture that we obey authorities unless they ask us to do something sinful. Then we have the right to refuse. And this passage does not give parents or spouses or anyone else the right to be abusive. If you’re suffering from abuse, please let a trusted teacher, doctor, neighbor, or someone know.

But for the purposes of this post, we’re just talking about everyday normal interactions.

In all of these pairs of relationships, it’s easier for one side to do their part if the other person is doing theirs. It’s generally easier for a wife to submit to a husband who loves her like Christ loves the church. It’s easier for a husband to love a wife who isn’t always at cross purposes with him. It’s easier to parent cooperative, obedient children; It’s easier to obey parents who are loving and nurturing. And so on.

But the Bible doesn’t say to do your part only if the other person does his.

It just says to do your part as unto the Lord.

That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss what’s wrong in a relationship. That’s healthy to do, even to call in help when needed.

But sometimes the grace shown by doing our part even when the other person doesn’t can lead to conviction, restoration, and encouragement.

We’re not only to love and do good to our friends and closest loved ones. Jesus said we’re to love, pray for, and do good even to our enemies.

God exemplifies this for us. In most of His relationships with His people, they fail. There are a very few people in Scripture against whom no sin is recorded. That doesn’t mean they never sinned, because we’re all sinners, except for Jesus. It just means their wrong-doing wasn’t pertinent to the narrative about them. It may mean they sinned less than others. But the point is this: there is no fault, no failing, on God’s side. We fail Him often. But He doesn’t stand apart, arms folded, rescinding His promises because we didn’t keep ours. He pursues us in love, drawing us to Himself, leading us in His goodness to repentance. Jesus died for us when we were His ungodly enemies. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act first. He knew that was impossible. Yes, God disciplines and chastens, but in love. He’s always faithful to His own.

And, by His grace, He calls us to be faithful to Him and to the others we have relationships with.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25, NKJV).

It’s natural to want to strike back or withhold love or respect or obedience when the other person fails to hold up their end. Doing so only widens the chasm. And as Christians, we’re not called to react naturally, but supernaturally—something we can only do with God’s help. We seek His grace do the right thing. “Do not be overcome by evil,” or failure or disappointment, “but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14, NKJV).

Romans 12:21, overcome evil with good

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon,
Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some of the thought-provoking reads I’ve found over the last couple of weeks:.

Choosing Our Battles Biblically. “This is a time for careful, clear thinking, and not for fed up emotional responses.”

Why You Should Never Take the Mass, HT to Challies.

How to Root Out Apathy with the Power of Habit, HT to Challies. “Practicing spiritual disciplines may feel like work at first. Establishing new habits always presses against our apathy in uncomfortable ways. But one day your heart will catch up to the regimen. One day you’ll look back and see growth.”

When Cancel Culture Comes to Newsrooms, HT to Challies. “We’re cowering under the sick mutation of Andy Warhol’s famed prediction—soon everyone will be canceled for 15 minutes. It’s one thing for cowardly corporations to choose the path of least resistance. But it’s a fresh horror when members of the only profession the Bill of Rights mentions shuck off their solemn responsibility to champion free speech and instead serve silence.”

Why Some Christian Leaders Don’t Post About Current Events on Social Media, HT to Challies. “Our culture appreciates ‘Hot Takes,’ but the Bible values takes that are truthful, thoughtful, helpful, and edifying, all of which cannot happen when you’re not slow to speak (James 1:19).”

Pastors on Social Media, HT to Challies. Though this is written to pastors, the advice is good for us all. Especially the guidelines suggested.

How to View Claims About Dreams and Visions, HT to Challies. “Some seek dreams, visions, and other mystical experiences constantly yet don’t even know their Bible. Others dismiss every supernatural claim and prefer rationalism at all costs; unwilling to even accept any possibility that supernatural experiences could either be demonic or that God could providentially use a very normal dream to move someone into realistic action once they wake up.”

Cheap Knockoffs, HT to Challies. When Christian ideals mix with a pagan worldview, they turn into counterfeits of truth.

Five Lessons I Learned From a COVID-19 Spike at Our Church, HT to Challies. “I’m convinced that one of the reasons the virus hasn’t spread faster and farther is that we have been following procedures designed to isolate sick people and keep everyone else socially distanced. At the same time, we had gotten comfortable, and on a few occasions we were a little lax in those policies. We can trace almost all of the infections back to one of those times.”

4 Reasons to Wear a Mask, Even If You Hate It, HT to Challies. I agree, the science is contradictory. I’ve seen people on both sides of the issue posting opposing data. But these are good reasons to wear one.

Learning From History and Sharing Hospitality. Loved this.

Happy Independence Day!

God's truth will set you free

Friday’s Fave Five

2020 is half over! Yay! I started to say that hopefully the second half will be better. But with the election coming up, and as much vitriol as there has been between sides, social media may not be a pleasant place for a long time to come. But for now, I enjoy this pause on Fridays with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story to recount some of the blessings of the week.

1. Timothy’s first camping experience and brunch. His parents wanted to set up camp in their yard before trying it away from home, so that if Timothy woke up in the middle of the night upset, they could take him right in. He did great. Jim went over to “camp out” with them. The next morning, Mittu made a hash brown casserole and bacon and biscuits for the campers and invited Jesse and me as well.

2. Gifted produce. Our neighbor has a good-sized garden and always shares from his bounty. He brought over some zucchini this week.

3. A brief visit with another neighbor. We happened to be taking mail to our mail boxes at the same time and visited across the cul-de-sac for a bit.

4. Menu planning is something I know how to do, but I just don’t often do it. I’ll have a few meals in mind, but then I keep a lot of staples on hand to throw together. I don’t like to try to decide on Monday what I’m going to want to eat on Friday. 🙂 But, for some reason, I made up a list of meals for this week. I didn’t assign them for certain days: I decided on a daily basis which to do. But it was nice to choose from a list of meals that I knew I had the ingredients for rather than racking my brain to figure out what to make each day.

5. Timothy’s second camping experience! Everyone in the family had today off for the Fourth of July. So they decided to camp out here last night. Jesse and I slept in our own beds, but Mittu joined the campers this time. Timothy spent the night in Granddad’s tent instead of his parents’ and did fine.  I figured some time during the night he’d want his mom and dad, but he slept straight through. Then Jim made “camp breakfast” on the grill this morning. So good!

Belated Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends! And I wish my fellow Americans a happy Independence Day.

Book Review: Monday’s Child

Monday's Child novelIn Linda Chaikin’s novel, Monday’s Child, Krista von Buren models jewels across Europe from Gotthard Enterprises in Zurich. Her fiance, Paul, is Gotthard’s nephew. Recently, Gotthard’s has started helping Interpol in small matters, sometimes involving Krista.

When a new client suddenly comes to town and asks for a private showing and for an opportunity to speak to Krista alone, everyone’s suspicions are up. The meeting doesn’t go as planned, and Krista suspects this woman and her lawyer are not who they appear to be.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile, an investigation has been opened into Swiss banks which were trusted to care for some of the riches sent ahead by European Jews before WWII but which have never been returned to the families. Could the strange happenings Krista encounters be tied at all to the banking scandal? One Mossad agent thinks so. But perhaps Krista is not who she appears to be, either.

It took me a few chapters to get into this novel, but wow—all of a sudden I was riveted and couldn’t read fast enough.

This is the first book in Linda’s Day to Remember series. Each of the books is based on a line of the poem that starts, “Monday’s Child is fair of face.”

Krista is a fledgling believer at first, but learns through her experiences to trust in God and not her “fair face.”

An excellent, clean, very exciting story.

End-of-June Reflections

End of June ReflectionsJune has been another challenging month for our country. I continue to pray that God will use all that’s happening to draw people to Himself.

Personally, we’re doing much the same as we have been the last couple of months. COVID-19 cases in our area have been rising steadily, so we’re still sheltering in place. We did have one excursion to a state park. Not many people were there, and they stayed pretty much with their own groups.

My husband has been doing the grocery shopping since all this with the virus started, but I took a couple of turns doing it this month for various reasons. I had my first experience wearing a mask, and found it hot and stuffy. I was self-conscious about trying to speak with it on, but overall people seemed to understand each other. I kept forgetting about the 6-foot distancing—odd, because I’ve been extremely conscious of it elsewhere. I got too close to a guy and his mom a couple of times, and he was really jumpy. But he didn’t have a mask on.

We’re still finding what we need, if not the brands or sizes we want.

I also had a doctor’s appointment. I appreciated the doctor’s office taking extra precautions to try to keep anyone with anything that might be contagious separate.

Creating

I made three cards for Father’s Day. The first was for my step-father, who is a fan of a certain sci-fi show’s original series. 🙂

I adapted the idea from something I saw at Pinterest.

This one was done on the Cricut for my husband, Jim.

The challenge with this kind of design is gluing all the little pieces down without glue showing somewhere.

This was for my son, Jason, also done on the Cricut:

I loved this design because Timothy loves to explore. This looks just like him saying, “Look at that!” or “Let’s go over there!”

I also learned a new skill with Jason’s card. The figure and the words were from two different designs. I wanted to cut them out of the lighter shade and then lay that over the darker shade. But the Cricut automatically defaults to cutting a design out of the far left corner in order to save paper. After searching around, I discovered how to do what it calls attaching, so it would cut out the designs right where I placed them.

Watching

Summer TV is kind of a wasteland, with nothing much on besides a lot of celebrity game shows. I don’t even know who many of the celebrities are any more. We watch America’s Funniest Home Videos every week—even if they are reruns, we’ve forgotten enough of them that they are still funny to us. We also enjoy for the most part America’s Got Talent, though occasionally they’ll have an act we have to mute or fast forward through.

While riding my exercise bike, I watched a movie called Wish You Well via Amazon Prime about a family who goes to live with a great-grandmother the children never knew in the 1940s. The father just died in an accident and the mother is in a catatonic state. The daughter is navigating getting used to a new situation, grieving her father, blaming her mother, and getting to know a great-grandmother. The daughter’s father was a writer, and she likes to write as well. I think it had a “damn” or two in it, but otherwise it was a sweet, clean story.

Another I watched while stationary bike-riding was Under the Greenwood Tree. It’s based on a book by Thomas Hardy. I’ve never read Hardy, but evidently this is one of his few novels that isn’t tragic. A new schoolteacher comes to a village and is wooed by the the richest farmer in the area, a serious-minded vicar, and a poor but handsome young man. There are class and education differences, so the teacher has to decide whether to make “a good match” or follow her heart. There’s a subplot with what’s called a choir (but different from what we think of as a choir today) which the vicar wants to replace with a harmonium. According to Wikipedia, Hardy originally wanted to focus on the motley choir (or quire), but then decided to play up the romance instead. This was enjoyable and clean as well. It was also on Amazon prime.

My husband and I watched The Aeronauts on Amazon Prime. I had thought it was about the first people in a gas balloon, but it wasn’t: it was about the first people to break the height record for such a balloon and the man who thought they could be used for weather prediction. It’s based on true events, but some parts were too fantastical to be real. But it was an enjoyable, clean film.

We also finally watched last year’s movie version of Little Women., rented from iTunes. They changed a few things up from the book, but overall it was well-done. The cinematography was gorgeous. They went back and forth in the timeline instead of following a linear pattern like the books does. If I hadn’t been so familiar with the story, I would have found that confusing. But overall I enjoyed it very much.

Reading

Since last time, I finished (titles link back to my reviews):

I’m currently reading:

Blogging

Some of my posts this month, besides the weekly Friday’s Fave Fives and occasional Laudable Linkages:

Writing

I had a guest post accepted this month for Almost an Author titled Publishing Dreams Can Come True. I share a bit about the immense obstacles one author overcame to write what’s now considered a beloved classic. I want to encourage authors (and others!) to pursue their dreams and overcome their own obstacles with God’s help.

I also had a devotion accepted for Christian Devotions, but that won’t be published until September. I’d like to write for them more, because they allow for a smaller word count and require that you use just one verse. When I write on a topic, I tend to feel I need to study all the verses to make sure I’m balanced and accurate, and then I feel I need to somehow include all of that study into one blog post. That can make for a lengthy and maybe overly full post. The requirements of this site will help me simplify, hone in on one main thought, and cut out wordiness.

I was grateful and encouraged that these two sites accepted my submissions. I also did get some editing and revising done on my book. Yay!

I just realized I didn’t have any Timothyisms this month! I’ll have to do better at writing them down for next time.

The Bible says we never know what a day may bring forth, but that seems to be even more the case this year. Whatever is ahead, God knows and will give us grace to deal with it. We can go forth in confident expectation.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragement, Worth Beyond Rubies, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon)

Psalm 91 and COVID-19

Does Psalm 91 protect from COVID-19?When COVID-19 first broke out, a lot of Christians posted verses from Psalm 91 on their social media accounts. Several verses sound like God will protect people who believe in Him from pestilence:

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you (Psalm 91:3-7).

A friend said in an email recently that some psalms seemed to provide blanket protection, yet she didn’t think that’s what was meant. Therefore, she was having trouble knowing quite how to apply them.

Psalm 91 is one of those passages for me, so as I responded to my friend, I looked up commentary on it. One interpretation said we may have to face these trials, but we don’t have to fear them. That conclusion was based on verse 5: “You will not fear the terror of the night, . . . ” the arrow, the pestilence, etc. Another spiritualized it: we may have to face physical trials but we’re safe spiritually. The ESV Study Bible notes said on these verses:

Pestilence (Psalm 91:3, 6) and destruction are diseases that God sends on his enemies or his unfaithful people (cf. Ex. 5:3; 9:15; Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:42, “plagues”). The terror and arrow, together with a thousand may fall, envision God’s people under attack. If the psalm were describing every situation of danger, it would clearly be untrue: faithful people have fallen prey to these and other perils. It is better to allow Psalm 91:8 to guide the interpretation [“You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.“], pointing to cases in which these events (plague, battle) are sent as God’s recompense on the wicked (whether Gentile or Israelite); in such cases, the faithful can be sure of God’s protection (ESV Study Bible, p. 1054).

As much of a stickler as I am for context, somehow I had missed the importance of verse 8. And though I’ve read these comments before, I didn’t remember them.

So this psalm isn’t blanket protection: it’s not saying that God’s people will never suffer from disease or attack. But if God is sending disease or an invading army as a punishment or judgment, those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High,” who “abide in the shadow of the Almighty,” and who trust in the Lord as their “refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2) will be safe.

However, not all plagues and diseases are sent as judgment on God’s enemies. Sometimes He allows His own to get deadly viruses, to suffer attacks. Hebrews 1 speaks of some who “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38). They were commended for their faith (verse 39) just as much as those who “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (33-34).

A missionary in Colombia takes issue with the phrase, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” He has amended that statement to say, “The most fulfilling, joyful, and peaceful place to be is in the center of God’s will. But it is not necessarily the safest.” After citing Scriptural examples, he says, “Most prayers in Scripture focus not on the personal safety and benefit of believers but on the power, majesty, testimony, and victory of God over his-and, of course, our-enemies.” He asks supporters to pray for their faithfulness.

If you’re like me, it’s unsettling to know that anything could happen to us. Does that mean we can’t trust in God’s protection?

We can. We can pray for it. We know that nothing that happens to us comes as a surprise to Him. We know He loves us and He is good: in Him is “no darkness at all.

In Daniel 3, everyone was called to bow down to the king’s idol. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused, even in the face of the fiery furnace and the king’s threats. They stood firm, saying, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). They were thrown into the furnace, and God manifested His presence to them, and to the king, in a marvelous way.

As Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

If God allows disease or trauma to come into our lives, He promises His presence:

I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him (Psalm 91:15).

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b).

He promises His strength and help:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. . .For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you. (Isaiah 41:10, 13).

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

He promises His love:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).

He promises His peace:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

He promises His purpose:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-4).

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

We can rest in the hollow of His hand, knowing that nothing reaches us there but what He allows. He provides His grace to deal with anything that comes our way.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7).

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Hearth and Soul,
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Friday’s Fave Five

Here we are at the last Friday of June. I enjoy this pause on Fridays with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story to recount some of the blessings of the week.

I’m running a little late today due to an appointment this morning.

1. Father’s Day. We had a nice time with the family, eating ribs and cheesy potatoes and apple pie.

2. Father’s Day breakfast. Jason and Mittu brought over quiche, hash browns, and sausage for Father’s Day breakfast, and then stayed for our church via Zoom and dinner and presents afterward.

3.Sewing buttons on is not a favorite activity, which is probably why I had a stack of items needing that attention. I determined I was going to take care of them this week. Once I got set up, it didn’t take very long.

4. Lactose-free ice cream. I don’t have ice cream much through the year, but it often hits the spot in the summer. Once I became lactose intolerant, I didn’t have ice cream for a number of years. I’m thankful there are lactose-free versions now.

5. Naps. I think I’ve had one every day this week.

How has your week been?

Book Review: Eight Cousins

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott was published in 1875.

Rose Campbell is 13 and newly-orphaned. Her mother had died when Rose was young, but her father just recently passed. She’s sent to live with several aunts (their house is known as the “Aunt Hill”) until her appointed guardian, her father’s single brother, comes home from sea.

Rose had never met her father’s family. The aunts embody the truism of too many cooks spoiling the stew, with their different and sometimes opposite views on how she should be raised. One, something of a hypochondriac herself, has Rose almost convinced she has “no constitution.”

When Dr. Alec finally arrives, he puts his foot down with the aunts that Rose is to be raised his way for a year without their interference. Then they can evaluate how she’s doing and whether they need to make a change. The aunts can’t help but share their opinions occasionally, but they abide by Alec’s wish.

Alec starts slow with Rose, changing her diet and activities to healthier ones, not by decree but by persuasion. Rose regards her newfound uncle kindly because he is so like her father and seems to care greatly for her, so she acquiesces for the most part. She struggles to give up her little vanities, like wearing her belt so tight she can’t take a full breath so her waist looks smaller.

Much of the book involves Rose’s interactions with her seven boy cousins. She didn’t think she would like boys: she had never been around any. But she soon grows to love them. They all inadvertently teach each other lessons.

Alcott gets in a lot of opinions about what’s good and bad for young people. Some of the fashion sense Alec prescribes, we would consider common sense today (like doing away with corsets and having clothes loose enough to move comfortably in). Some of the vices her characters try to steer each other away from might sound funny to modern ears (like slang. Or maybe it’s that slang in that day is acceptable now.)

Wikipedia says Rose’s instruction and training for the wealth she will one day come into was “revolutionary” for the times, because women didn’t have much control over their own “money, property, or destinies” then.

Alcott uses the adjectives “good, old-fashioned” often, and this is a good, old-fashioned tale. Through “frolics” and “scrapes,” gentle admonition and learning by experience, the young people grow and develop good character.

A  couple of quotes I especially liked:

When Uncle Alec tells Rose he wants her to take up something special, housekeeping, she says, “Is that an accomplishment?” He replies: “Yes; it is one of the most beautiful as well as useful of all the arts a woman can learn. Not so romantic, perhaps, as singing, painting, writing, or teaching, even; but one that makes many happy and comfortable, and home the sweetest place in the world. Yes, you may open your big eyes; but it is a fact that I had rather see you a good housekeeper than the greatest belle in the city. It need not interfere with any talent you may possess, but it is a necessary part of your training, and I hope that you will set about it at once, now that you are well and strong.”

When one of the cousins takes Rose on her first pony ride, he chooses a gentle one named Barkis. Then the book says Barkis was “willin’,” an allusion to David Copperfield in which a man named Barkis lets Peggotty, David’s nurse,  know that he’s interested in marrying her by sending the message, “Barkis is willin.'” Hearing that phrase made me smile.

I listened to the audiobook at Libravox, a site for free audiobooks. The last time I used them, there was some disruption in the loading of individual chapters. That process went smoothly this time, but they’ve added some annoying ads every few chapters. The narrators at Libravox just read the books: they don’t put inflection in them like those at Audible. But sometimes a book is short enough that I don’t want to use a full Audible credit on it, and I am thankful for the option of Libravox. They also have some books that Audible doesn’t have.

Rose in Bloom is the sequel to this book, and that’s next on my reading list for Tarissa’s Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge this month. I had read both books years ago and enjoyed revisiting them.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved)

Philippians 4:13 is for losers, too

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens meTwo rival Christian school basketball teams get revved up for their annual match.

All day long they hear Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (KJV).

Someone quotes it at the pep rally. Both coaches share it in the locker room. Some players repeat it to themselves. Some write the reference on their person.

Both teams hit the court trusting God to help them win the game.

But one will have to lose.

Did Philippians 4:13 fail the losers somehow? Did they not have enough faith? Did God not hear their prayers?

Have you ever read Philippians 4:13 in context? Switching to the ESV now, here’s the rest of what Paul said:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Notice, Paul wasn’t just trusting God for grace in abundance and plenty. He also relied on God’s strength when brought low, in need, in hunger.

Hunger? Wait—doesn’t God know we need to eat? He made us to need food. Why would He let people hunger for a time?

Well, in one case He said:

And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So He might let us suffer need or fail in an endeavor to humble us. Sometimes not getting what we want or need causes us to do some soul-searching. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Perhaps a victory would have done us more harm than good.

He might be bringing sin to our attention. Israel faced a stunning defeat at Ai, which they should have won easily, because there was “sin in the camp.”

He might be working to make us more dependent on Himself. Sadly, when things are going well, we tend to forget we need him. We lean on our own strength instead of His.

He might be trying to help us remember that everything we have comes from Him. In order to strengthen our faith, sometimes God has to put us in situations requiring faith.

He might be teaching us to lose graciously. To honor others. Not to envy someone else’s success—especially when we think we deserved that success.

He might be spurring us to work harder or better. Our salvation depends on God’s work in us and not our own efforts. And He miraculously delivers us out of some situations. But in others, He wants us to trust Him and put forth effort. Someone said, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw food in their nests.” We can’t ace the test without studying. We can’t lose weight without exercising and making wise food choices. We can’t grow in grace without spending time in God’s Word and obeying what it says. Paul said, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).

He might be drawing us closer in our personal relationship with Himself, reminding us that that’s more important than whatever it is we’re hoping for.

He might be reminding us that His Word is not a talisman or good luck charm.

There are a number of reasons why God might say no to our prayer or expectation.

I’m thankful Paul that he learned contentment in any situation. That tells me that contentment doesn’t come naturally, that it can be learned, and that it is a process.

Yes, it’s good to rely on God for strength, to remember that without Him we can do nothing. When a situation doesn’t come out like we hoped, when we have legitimate unmet needs, we can go to our good Father in faith, ask Him what He wants to teach us through the situation, and rest in Him to provide in His good time.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Home,
Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Legacy Link-Up,
Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)