It’s beginning to look like Book Week here at Stray Thoughts, isn’t it? 🙂 Sorry about that. The last two I have just finished up in the last couple of days. I normally would have spaced out the discussion of them a little more except that the Spring Reading Thing Wrap-Up is today!
I had read Gracia Burnham’s In the Presence of My Enemies during the fall reading challenge, the story of how she and her husband, Martin, were captured by Islamic militants in the Philippines and held for a year, ending in Martin’s death during a rescue attempt. Gracia has written another book with Dean Merrill, To Fly Again, which kind of updates us on how the family is doing and shares more of what she has learned in the time since this ordeal. Actually, the whole title is To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life, using an analogy from her husband’s experiences as a pilot.
Gracia, as her name implies, is very gracious in her dealings with others, yet she doesn’t shy away from facing the hard questions and problems she has dealt with. She deals with many topics — faith, anger, confusion, impatience, forgiveness, contentment, praise, and so much more, sharing something of the wrestlings of her own heart and mind, always coming back to the God Who loves us and is trustworthy even if circumstances are excruciating.
This book is an excellent read, really, for anyone, but especially for those who have gone through a crisis and wrestled with some of these same topics.
I want to share just a couple of excerpts. In a chapter dealing with praise, she writes:
I am not claiming that the praise of Paul and Silas directly triggered the earthquake. But I do believe it is fair to say that affirming the goodness and power of God is always appropriate. It tells God we have not lost our bearings. We still know who is ultimately in charge of the world. And we invite his intervention in the midst of our trauma.
She refers to the battle King Jehoshaphat faced against overwhelming odds in II Chronicles 20 and is prayer that “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” The king then appointed singers to walk in front of the army to sing to and praise the Lord — and the Lord provided a marvelous ad unexpected deliverance. Later in the same chapter Gracia writes:
In the battles of our life, when we face overwhelming threats to life and limb, it is always good to praise the Lord. It states a higher reality than what we see with our natural eyes. It affirms our place in the hands of a loving and strong heavenly Father, who will never stop caring about our welfare. He is, indeed, worthy of every accolade we can offer, whether circumstances seem to agree or not.
In another place she quotes a poem by Annie Johnson Flint that I think sums up the experience of those whose lights are to shine in dark places, as the Burnhams’ did:
His lamp am I, to shine where He shall say,
And lamps are not for sunny rooms,
Nor for the light of day;
But for the dark places of the earth,
Where shame and wrong and crime have birth,
Or for the murky twilight gray
Where wandering sheep have gone astray;
Or where the lamp of faith grows dim
And souls are groping after Him.
And as sometimes a flame we find,
Clear-shining, through the night
So bright we do not see the lamp,
But only see the light:
So may I shine — His light the flame,
That men may glorify His name.