31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Thy List Be Done

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This is another of Elisabeth’s quotes that comes back to me often, especially the last line, especially when my careful plans get disrupted:

I am a list-maker. Every day I make a list of what I must do. I have an engagement calendar and an engagement book. I have a grocery list on the wall beside the refrigerator, last year’s Christmas list in this year’s engagement book (so I won’t duplicate gifts), a master list for packing my suitcase (so I won’t forget anything), a prayer list (a daily one and a special one for each day of the week), and several others.

Recently a wholly unexpected minor operation badly interrupted my list of things to be done that week. But because God is my sovereign Lord, I was not worried. He manages perfectly, day and night, year in and year out, the movements of the stars, the wheeling of the planets, the staggering coordination of events that goes on on the molecular level in order to hold things together. There is no doubt that he can manage the timing of my days and weeks. So I can pray in confidence, Thy list, not mine, be done.

From A Lamp For My Feet

To see all the posts in this series, see the bottom of this post.

Why Read Biographies?

You would think a post like this would come at the beginning of a series titled 31 Days of Inspirational Biography rather than the end. That would have been more logical – but I didn’t think of it then beyond the few remarks in my introductory post. However, having been steeped in biographies all this month, I have been reminded of several good reasons to pursue them.

I’ve always been interested in people’s stories, in what makes them tick. The very first book I remember checking out at my school library in first or second grade was a biography of Martin Luther (that may not have been the first book I ever actually checked out, but it is the first I remember). I’m sure I read more through my school years, but it was at college that an older woman spoke to a group of us involved in praying for missionaries about her years of reading missionary biographies and the benefit they were to her. That got me started reading Christian and missionary biographies, and that practice was reinforced at the first church we attended after we were married, where a part of the monthly ladies’ meetings included a book report by one of the officers from one of the books in the group’s lending library. So I have been purposefully reading biographies for some 35+ years.

The first benefits that come to mind from reading biographies are the same first benefits gained from reading anything: learning about other places, times, cultures, people, gaining empathy for the people in the story, and understanding how other people think and react.

While you can derive these benefits even from fiction (I have another post in the works about the benefit of reading fiction), biographies and “true life” stories have the advantage of being real. Though spiritual truth can be conveyed even in fiction, in a biography there is no arguing with how the story should have ended or what directions the plot should have taken. If you believe in God, as I do, part of reading a biography is tracing His hand in people’s lives, even, perhaps especially, when the circumstances are different from what we would have thought they would or should be. Though I primarily read Christian biographies, I enjoy some secular ones, and it is interesting to see not only what has influenced them, but they also often have some brush with spiritual truth (Robert Burns‘ story, for example).

We learn history for a number of reasons, among them: to better understand our current times, to appreciate our heritage, to avoid repeating mistakes. There are heroes in our national history who inspire us to a love of country and duty and courage. There are heroes of our spiritual heritage who inspire us in love and dedication to God and to greater faith in remembering that the God they served and loved and Who provided for and used them is the very same God we love and serve today and Who will provide for and use us. Though times and culture change, human nature at its core doesn’t change much, and God never changes.

For me the primary  reason for reading Christian biographies is to follow others as they follow Christ, as Paul said. No, they won’t be perfect, but we can learn from their mistakes just as we learn from David’s or Peter’s in the Bible. Missionaries would never want to be thought of as super-Christians or a step above anyone spiritually, but by and large there usually is a seriousness and maturity in their walk with the Lord, some wrestlings and overcomings, if they have gone through everything they need to in order to get to a mission field. Even though I am not called to “the” mission field (it’s my belief that every Christian is called to “a” mission field, whether on foreign soil or in their own homes and neighborhoods), I can still learn much from what Christians who have gone before me have learned and experienced.

Some people, including a former pastor of mine, don’t like to read older biographies because they made the subjects seem almost too good to be true. Even Isobel Kuhn, whose writing I love, put Amy Carmichael’s books, which I also love, back on the shelf because she thought she was too high and unattainable (I think Amy would either be highly dismayed or would laugh that anyone thought such about her). Admittedly some older Christian biographies can seem unrealistically perfect. I think there are several reasons for this: I think a “warts and all” type of biography was not the fashion in older times like it is today, even in secular biographies, and since Christians are generally instructed to give each other the benefit of the doubt, love each other, overlook each other’s faults, and not gossip or “backbite,” I think that would come into play in writing a biography as well. Yet the Bible shares people’s faults and sins in a realistic and not malicious way. I think we relate to people better when we can see that they are as human as we are, but they acknowledge their faults and are growing in sanctification. I think many of them would probably blush to read the glowing reports people wrote after their deaths.

Let me share, as well, some points to keep in mind when reading Christian biographies.

When reading any book, of course we filter everything through our own frame of reference. But an author can’t possibly know what every reader’s frame of reference will be even in her own time, much less hundreds of years later. So it is the reader’s responsibility to try to figure out the author’s frame of reference or at least to give the benefit of the doubt.

Different times and cultures will yield different practices. It’s fairly common in older missionary biographies for them to speak of servants. That doesn’t mean they were living upper class Western lifestyles while ministering to more primitive people. In more primitive cultures especially, sometimes they would hire help in the kitchen or for certain household tasks so the couple, particularly the wife, could teach or minister in other ways. (Even in modern times I had a missionary friend who mourned over having to spend so much time in the kitchen instead of  in ministerial pursuits: if that is so today, imagine what it would have been like 100+ years ago). Too, in some cultures where becoming a Christian could cost someone their job or family standing, sometimes missionaries would hire them in order to help them out.  Today they might say they hired help or employed someone; likely no one would use the word “servant” today. Another example would be schooling situations. In a lot of older biographies, missionaries sent their kids off to a mission school at a fairly young age because there was no appropriate school available and home schooling as it is known today was unheard of.  Often it was agonizing for both parents and children, and some stories share how God gave grace for the parents to cope. We can’t really hold it against parents then for sending their kids off if that’s all they knew to do at the time. I think the hardships involved as well as the realization that educating and raising their kids was a part of their ministry and testimony led to the changes we see today, where most missionaries home school and some send their kids to public schools in town. But we can understand that God could give grace to people who sent their kids away to school even while that is not a choice most of us would make today.

Even in the more glowing missionary books, you won’t agree with everything. You likely wouldn’t agree with everything even in a biography of your best friend or closest loved one. No two of us is going to agree on every little point of faith and practice. One of the things that stood out to me in 50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe is that a lot of those people would be on opposite sides of certain fences from each other, yet God used them all. That doesn’t mean the fences and sides don’t matter: each of us is responsible to search out issues and take the stands we feel most faithfully represent Scripture. There are fundamental or foundational issues on which we cannot budge, but there are some beliefs and practices where we can give each other room to differ.

On the other hand, there are those foundational issues to consider. If someone is preaching a false gospel which is going to lead his followers to hell, we need to be aware of that and even warn people about it even though some of what they might say sounds compatible with Scripture, which tells us to “rebuke them sharply,” “mark them and avoid them,” “receive him not. ” Even the devil uses Scripture and appears as an “angel of light.”

I think to sum up what I have been verbosely trying to say in the last few paragraphs, we need to be discerning but not critical.

On the other hand, you might find practices you want to emulate, but don’t feel you necessarily need to change everything with every biography you read. In my early years of reading them, I might be inspired by how one had their time in the Bible, and in the next book I’d see a different way and wonder if I should try that. Feel free to try some of those things and glean what works best for you, but don’t feel tossed about or feel you have to do something just like they did.

Instruction. Encouragement. Inspiration. Illustration of the Christian life in action – overcoming difficulties, growing, seeking God’s wisdom, help and grace. Comfort from that which has comforted others. Warning from their mistakes. These are among the many reasons I enjoy reading Christian biographies.

I’ve often said that reading Christian biographies has been the most influential impact in my Christian life, next to the Word of God itself. I’ve posted this poem before, discovered by an unknown author in the first pages of Rosalind Goforth’s Climbing, but I post it here again as it embodies what Christian biographies have been to me:

Call Back!

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill.
He bore you up and held where the very air was still.

O friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your face;
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky-
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back-
It will cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.

Robert Murray McCheyne said of Jonathan Edwards, “How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me.” May we learn from these “borrowed lights” to seek the same Light they did.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I have been sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in this series here.

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: A Short List of Several

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

As we near the end of the 31 Days writing challenge, I find I have many more inspirational biographies I’d like to share than days left in the month, so I’d like to share a short list of the ones I didn’t get to with a few comments on each.

Last year I wrote about 31 Days of Missionary Stories and ended with a list of the favorites I had read over some 37 or so years. In addition to those, plus the ones I have listed for 31 Days of Inspirational Biography this year, I can recommend these (those with links are ones I have reviewed and linked back to):

Kitty, My Rib by E. Jane Mall is story of the wife of Reformer Martin Luther. He was a former priest, she was a former nun. She was a well-suited complement to his personality.

Ida Scudder: Healing Bodies, Touching Hearts by Janet and Geoff Benge. The Benges actually have a series of biographies aimed primarily at younger people, but I have enjoyed the ones I have read. Ida was a daughter of a missionary doctor in India and had absolutely no plans of being a missionary herself until one night when three different women died whom her father could have helped but who were not allowed to be seen by a male doctor. She eventually became a doctor herself and went back to India.

Bruchko: The Astonishing True Story of a 19-Year-Old American, His Capture by the Motilone Indians and His Adventures in Christianizing the Stone Age Tribe by Bruce Olson. I really wanted to talk about this one this month, but it has been too many years since I read it and I did not have time to reread it this month. I do remember thinking he was perhaps a little headstrong, but overall it was a great book.

Dorie, The Girl Nobody Loved by Dorie N. Van Stone. It has been years since I’ve read this one, too, and I’d like to reread it some time, but the story of a grueling, abusive childhood overcome by God’s grace was very touching.

Gifted Hands by Ben Carson. I’m not sure if Dr. Carson is a Christian, but this is a great book about overcoming difficulties in childhood and changing direction in life. He grew up in poverty, did not do well in school, and had a horrible temper, but ended up being a pioneering neurosurgeon.

The Valley Is Bright by Nell Collins, the story of her salvation, her training as a nurse and plans to go to Africa, and the disruption (as it seemed) of her life by a serious cancer diagnosis. Part of her testimony is here.

Walking From East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias. You may have heard his radio broadcasts or benefited from his apologetics ministry. This is the story of how he came to the Lord and some of the difficulties in doing so for those from an Eastern mindset.

The God I Love by Joni Eareckson Tada. I’d also recommend When God Weeps by Steve Estes and Joni, not a biography but a book about why God allows suffering, and Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada.

The Titanic’s Last Hero about John Harper, who told people about the Lord while clinging to debris from the ship. A testimony of him is here.

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. How one man’s reluctant service in a homeless shelter led to a lifelong friendship. This was riveting.

Heir to a Dream by Pete Maravich. I mentioned in an earlier post that I wasn’t really a sports fan, but I loved this autobiography of “Pistol Pete.” His dad groomed him to play basketball, even tucking a basketball into his bed instead of a teddy bear. He achieved great success and acclaim, but it was all empty until he found Christ. I first heard a bit of his testimony on some news show – 20/20, I think – and he seemed so genuine that I had to read the book. I could not find that interview online, but I did find this one:

The Autobiography of George Muller. Wonderful testimony of his rescue from a debauched lifestyle to an exercise of faith in supporting orphanages by depending on God alone.

Mistaken Identity by Don & Susie Van Ryn, and Newell Colleen & Whitney Cerak. Another riveting story of two girls in a horrific accident, and the surviving one was identified as the other.

In Trouble and In Joy by Sharon James, short biographies of Ann Judson, Margaret Baxter, Ann Steele, and Frances Ridly Havergal.

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper, short biographies of Sarah Edwards, Gladys Aylward, Lilias Trotter, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare.

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson

50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith by Warren Wiersbe

Infinitely More by Alex Krutov, about an abandoned orphan in Russia whom God brought to Himself.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, about his relationship with his wife, their conversion after originally having no interest in Christianity, her cancer, and his letters to C. S. Lewis.

The Reel Story by Larry D. Vaughn. Wonderful story about how someone outside the “bubble” of the conservative Christian world ended up a Christian. Larry was a film buyer, and his pastor and almost everyone else said he should continue in his job to be a witness to the film community, but Larry felt his conscience pricked and provoked enough that he finally had to leave the business.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom about her family’s involvement in helping to hide Jews during WWII and the consequences.

More Precious Than Gold, the Fiery Trial of a Family’s Faith by John and Brenda Vaughn. A garage fire had devastating consequences for Mrs. Vaughn and her young daughter. This book details the circumstances and how God helped the family through this trial.

As I have shared biographies that have inspired me this month, I tried to include some from people of various walks of life and some that were older as well as some modern ones. I hope you’ve found something to inspire you in some of these posts as well.

Tomorrow I want to write about “Why Read Biographies.” I know, a post like that should probably have come at the beginning of this series. I didn’t think about it then, beyond the remarks in my introductory post, but as I have been steeped in biographies this month, some thought came to mind I thought I’d share.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity

SeekingIn Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity Nabeel Qureshi first gives a window into a loving and devout Muslim home, with all its practices, disciplines, and teachings, as well as a peek into the perspective of growing up Muslim in a non-Muslim culture.  Wanting to be a faithful representative of Islam, having been taught critical thinking in school and having a mind geared for it, he often turned the arguments of some of his Christian classmates on their heads, bringing up aspects they had not thought about before and were not ready to defend.

In college God brought to him “an intelligent, uncompromising, Non-Muslim friend who would be willing to challenge” him, someone who was “bold and stubborn enough” to deal with him but also someone he could trust “enough to dialogue…about the things that mattered to [him] the most.” Nabeel and his friend, David, were both on the forensics team and knew how to get to the heart of an argument and draw out and refute key points. For the most part they did this with each other’s worldviews good-naturedly, but when a given topic became too heated, they’d table it for a while. Muslims particularly have trouble with the reliability of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the connection between Christ’s death on the cross and how it atoned for others’ sins. For three years Nabeel studied the Bible and its claims and others’ claims about it, fully confident that he’d be able to disprove those claims, and then to study the history of Mohamed and the claims of the Quran, fully confident that Islam would be justified. Though he was obviously biased toward the Quran, he really wanted to know the truth. He discovered the Bible’s claims were justified and Islam’s to be on shaky ground.

For some time he resisted acting on this knowledge. Being a Muslim was a matter of identity as well as religion: his whole life, everything he had always believed, his relationship with his family and community, everything would be turned upside down if he became a Christian. Yet he could not continue on, knowing what he now knew. In one of the most beautiful and touching passages in the book, he was seeking time to mourn before making the decision he knew he had to, and he opened the Bible for guidance this time, not simply to look for information to refute. He came to Matthew 5:4, 6:

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Nabeel writes further:

There are costs Muslims must calculate when considering the gospel: losing the relationships they have built in this life, potentially losing this life, and if they are wrong, losing their afterlife. It is no understatement to say that Muslims often risk everything to embrace the cross.

But then again, it is the cross. There is a reason Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).

Would it be worth it to pick up my cross and be crucified next to Jesus? If He is not God, then, no. Lose everything I love to worship a false God? A million times over, no!

But if He is God, then yes. Being forever bonded to my Lord by suffering alongside Him? A million times over, yes!

All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing.

I feel I must comment on one aspect of the story that I questioned at first and I am sure other readers might as well: When Nabeel mentioned early on being “called to Jesus through visions and dreams,” I admit I inwardly winced and wondered what kind of story I’d be reading. For reasons too long to go into here, I am of those who believe that once God gave us His completed Word in writing, then dreams, visions, tongues, and the like fell away as unneeded.  The few modern instances I have ever heard or read of that seemed most in line with Bible truth were in cultures which didn’t have the Bible, often didn’t have a written language at all. Another problem with relying on dreams Nabeel discovered himself: one questions what it really means (his Muslim mother and Christian friend had completely opposite interpretations for what Nabeel’s dreams meant), wonders how much was due to wishful thinking, asks “Could I really hinge my life and eternal destiny on a dream?” etc. If that’s all he had to go on to become a believer, I would question what he was really trusting, but these dreams came after years of intense searching and study. In an appendix by Josh McDowell on this topic, he states, “Dreams and visions do not convert people; the gospel does,” but he explains, “In many Muslim cultures, dreams and visions play a strong role in people’s lives. Muslims rarely have access to the scriptures or interactions with Christian missionaries.” As in Nabeel’s case, “the dreams lead them to the scriptures and to believers who can share Jesus with them. It is the gospel through the Holy Spirit that converts people.”

One of many passages that stood out to me was in the chapter “Muslims in the West,” which described how Muslims view the West and Christians and, because they think both have corrupting influences and Westerners they are against Islam, they tend to keep to themselves. “On the rare occasion that someone does invite a Muslim to his or her home, differences in culture and hospitality may make the Muslim feel uncomfortable, and the host must be willing to ask, learn, and adapt to overcome this. There are simply too many  barriers for Muslim immigrants to understand Christians and the West by sheer circumstance. Only the exceptional blend of love, humility, hospitality, and persistence can overcome these barriers, and not enough people make the effort.”

I didn’t agree with everything Nabeel’s Christian friend said in the section about the Bible, in regard to believing some sections in the Bible were added later and not part of the original canon, but I do acknowledge that some do believe that.

There are multiple good aspects of this book: the window into another culture and mindset and the understanding of the difficulties a Muslim would have in coming to Christianity; the example of David and other friends who shared truth kindly and politely rather than belligerently or condescendingly, who genuinely cared about Nabeel as a friend rather than a “project”; the  wealth of information Nabeel found and shared from his studies which give a valuable apologetic (supplemented by several appendices>); and the touching yet agonizing conversion of a soul truly hungering and thirsting after the one true God.

(Reprinted from the archives. I hope regular readers will forgive my doing so with so recent a post. I was going to just summarize but then didn’t feel I could leave anything here out.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Charlie Wedemeyer, a Motivational Speaker Who Couldn’t Speak

Charlie's VictoryI have never been a sports fan (except during the Olympics), so I don’t remember what first brought Charlie and Lucy Wedemeyer’s book, Charlie’s Victory, to my attention. But it has been one of my favorite biographies.

Charlie grew up in Hawaii, where he was a star athlete and quarterback. He went on to play football for Michigan State University and eventually ended up as the head football coach at Los Gatos High School in CA. (His brother, Herman Wedemeyer, was an actor and played Duke on the old Hawaii Five-O series.)

When Charlie was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he began to lose the use of his body bit by bit, and he was originally given one year to live. He wanted to keep coaching as long as possible. PBS made an Emmy-wining documentary about Charlie and Lucy called One More Season, which documents the time up until Charlie had to retire, his very last game closing with an almost fairy-tale ending.

After retiring from coaching, Charlie and Lucy began public speaking, even though by this time he could not speak much. Lucy “interpreted” for him.

The courage of both of them on this journey was inspiring and heart-warming. Lucy told him early on, “This isn’t your disease, it’s our disease.” One incident that stood out to me was when Charlie began to feel he was being a burden and it would be better for his family if he had died. Lucy said, “We’d rather have you this way than not at all.” Another incident was when Charlie was rushed to the ER, unable to breathe. A nurse told Lucy that this was the natural path with ALS patients, and she needed to be willing to let him go. Another nurse told her about portable respirators (like we saw Christoper Reeve and others using years later). When Lucy asked the first nurse about them, she actually got angry with Lucy, but Lucy prevailed, and Charlie had several more years on the portable respirator, even traveling to see his family in Hawaii.

One of their main goals in the years since Charlie’s diagnosis was to give others hope. One of Charlie’s nurses was able to show him and Lucy how they could invite the Lord Jesus Christ to be their own Lord and Savior, and not long afterward a friend came for a visit and spent some time of intense discipling, which Charlie soaked up like a sponge. They are very honest in the book about the struggles they endured as well as the faith that sustained them.

A short video about them is here:

What made the biggest difference in their lives was their faith, which is discussed here:

Charlie lived over 30 years with ALS, far beyond the original one year diagnosis.

A news report at his death in 2010:

See also the Charlie Wedemeyer Family Outreach site.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: The Last CIM Missionaries in Communist China

In 1950, Arthur and Wilda Mathews and their 13 month old baby, Lilah, traveled to Hwangyuan, China. China had fallen to Communism, and other missionaries were leaving, yet the Chinese church had invited them to come, with the approval of the Communist government. They felt this was a miraculously opened door God would have them go through. Yet, when they arrived, they could sense that all was not well. The Christians pastors who met them were strained, and they discerned that between the time of their invitation and arrival, the Chinese learned that association with the white people would be a liability under Communism, not a asset. The Mathews then thought perhaps, if they could not be a help to the church, they could endeavor to evangelize the unreached Mongols in the area and nearby. They had a few weeks in which to minister, but soon found that they were restricted in ways they could help. They endeavored to set up an inn with which to reach the Mongols, but Chinese troops took it over the day before it was to open. Arthur protested, but soon found it would have been wiser to have said nothing. In two days a policeman came to the mission compound to announce that no one there could do village work without permission, and the white people were forbidden everything: they could not have meetings outside the compound, they could not give out tracts or dispense medicine. They were restricted to the mission compound.

They finally decided that since they were more of a hindrance than a help, they would apply for exit visas. They thought, since the government did not want them, they would be allowed to leave quickly, and so gave away or sold dishes, curtains, etc., keeping just the bare minimum to function until they could leave. Arthur was summoned to the police station and asked to sign a statement that he was for world peace. He had heard of another missionary having to sign some document before leaving, so he signed without thinking much of it. The government official then asked what contribution Arthur was then willing to make toward world peace, outlining a plan in which Arthur would go to India and essentially be a Communist spy. Arthur realized that the Communist definition of world peace was a world dominated by communism, and of course could not consent.

A government official called Arthur in and promised his exit visas if he would do something for them, like write a report of five other missionaries. At first Arthur did write glowing reports of the missionaries in question, but someone told him he dare not turn that in: the Communists would change what he had written but keep his signature. So Arthur threw his report in the fire and told the official he could not be a Judas. The official then told him that he could have given him a pass, if he had cooperated, but now a charge had been laid against him which must be investigated, and “investigations take a long time.”

Thus began a two and a half year ordeal. Their provisions from their mission were frozen by the government, which made Arthur submit a report of what he would need, and then they doled out to him much less than what the report said he needed. Every victory they mentioned in a letter seemed to be immediately challenged by the enemy of their souls: once when they wrote what a blessing Lilah was, she then came down with scarlet fever, and they almost lost her. All of them had turns being ill. Eventually they were told that no one could speak to them, and they could only leave home to draw water from the creek and get food.

They wrestled with the “what-ifs” and the frustration of what they called “second causes,” finally coming to the conclusion that they had to trust that the Lord was in control and had them there for a reason, though it was hard to discern that reason when they were so restricted. Yet the Lord did use them even when they could not speak to the people. The few weeks they had had to minister before restrictions set in, people knew their hearts and saw their love. When the Mathews could no longer speak openly, the people saw them in tattered clothes, persecuted, attacked by illness without much medical aid, laughed at, jeered, humiliated, doing menial, degrading work just to survive, tantalized by the government offering release and then not giving it or doling out money that was theirs in the first place. They saw the Lord provide miraculously for them in many ways. Yet more than that, they saw them endure graciously and joyfully until, finally, the Mathews became the last CIM missionaries to leave China.

Green-Leaf-in-DroughtHow the Lord provided for them and ministered through them in unexpected ways are some of the most exciting parts of the book Isobel Kuhn wrote of their story titled Green Leaf in Drought. She says,

But most amazing of all was their spiritual vigour. Whence came it? Not from themselves: no human being could go through such sufferings and come out so sweet and cheerful. As I was in a small prayer meeting… one prayed thus: ‘O Lord, keep their leaf green in times of drought!’ I knew in a moment that this was the answer. Jeremiah 17:8: “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” That was it! There was an unseen Source of secret nourishment, which the Communists could not find and from which they could not cut them off…That is needed by all of us. Your drought may not be caused by Communism, but the cause of the drying up of life’s joys is incidental. When they dry up — is there, can we find, a secret Source of nourishment that the deadly drought cannot reach?…Is it possible for a Christian to put forth green leaves when all he enjoys in this life is drying up around him?

The answer, by God’s grace, is yes!

(Reposted from the archives.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biographies: Rosalind Goforth Learns Submission

I mentioned in yesterday’s post a little book by missionary Rosalind Goforth called Climbing, one of my all-time favorites. She and her husband were missionaries to China from1888-1936. She had written his biography, and then by request wrote Climbing about missionary life and furlough from her perspective. I think one thing missionaries would want us to know is that they are not “super-Christians,” but rather people “of like passions” as we are, and this humorous incident in Rosalind’s life illustrates not only that but also the importance of being consistently in God’s Word so it can speak to you.

The following is the most notable incident connected with this habit of memorizing Scripture. I give it, for, judging by the effect it has had upon men and women to whom I have told this story, it touches a vital point in the relation of husband and wife. It certainly brought to my husband and myself a lesson never forgotten.

Our children were all away at school. We were together carrying on aggressive evangelism at a distant out-station. The room given to us was dark and damp, with the usual mud floor. The weather, had turned cold, and there was no place where one could get warm. I caught a cold. It was not a severe one, but enough to make me rather miserable. The third or fourth day, when the meetings were in full swing and my organ was taking an attracting part, I became possessed by a great longing to visit my dearly loved friend, Miss H., living at the Weihuifu Station, some hours run south on the railway. But when I told my husband what I had in mind, he strongly objected and urged against my going. I would not listen, even when he said my going would break up at least the women’s work. But I was determined to go and ordered the cart for the trip to the railway. As the cart started and I saw my husband’s sad, disappointed, white face, I would have stopped, but I wanted to show him I must have my way sometimes!

Oh, what a miserable time I had till my friend’s home in Weihuifu was reached! Miss H. gave one glance at my face and exclaimed: “Whatever is the matter, Mrs. Goforth! Are you ill?”

My only answer was to break down sobbing. Of course I could not tell her WHY. Miss H. insisted on putting me to bed, saying I was ill! She made me promise to remain there until after breakfast.

The following morning, while waiting for breakfast, I opened my Testament and started to memorize, as usual, my three verses. Now it happened I was at that time memorizing the Epistle to the Ephesians and had reached the fifth chapter down to the twenty-first verse. The twenty-second, the first of the three to be memorized that morning, read: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord.” I was, to say at the least, startled! Somehow I managed to get this bravely memorized. Then going on to the twenty-third verse, these words faced me: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Saviour of the body.”

For a moment a feeling of resentment, even anger, arose. I could not treat this word as a woman once did, putting it aside with the remark: “That is where Paul and I differ.” I believed the Epistle to the Ephesians was inspired, if any portion of Scripture was. How could I dare cut out this one part to which I was unwilling to submit? How I managed to memorize that twenty-third verse I do not know, for all the while a desperate mental struggle was on. Then came the twenty-fourth verse: “Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

I could not memorize further: my mind was too agitated. “It just comes to this,” I thought, “Am I willing, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, to submit my will (in all but matters of conscience) to my husband?” The struggle was short but intense. At last I cried, “For CHRIST’s sake, I yield!” Throwing a dressing gown about me, I ran to the top of the stairs and called to my friend, “When does the next train go?”

“In about half an hour,” she replied, “but you couldn’t catch it and have your breakfast.”

“Never mind; I’m going to get that train!”

My friend insisted on accompanying me to the station; we ate as we almost ran. With what joy I at last found myself traveling northward!

On reaching my destination, imagine my surprise to find my husband, with a happy twinkle in his eye, standing on the platform!

“Why, Jonathan,” I cried, “how did you know I was coming?”

His reply was simply a happy, “Oh, I knew you would come.”

Later I told my husband frankly all I had passed through. What was the result? From that time, he gave me my way as never before, for does not verse 25 of the chapter quoted go on to say: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” A new realization of the need of yieldedness came to us both, which brought blessed results in our home life.

I don’t think she is saying at the end that her little adventure “paid off,” but rather that God used the incident and their conversation together to open both their eyes to each other’s needs.

Though I am sure it wasn’t funny at the time, I always find this story humorous and I am glad she “told on” herself in her book. But beyond the incident itself, it shows how the Lord can guide and correct us when we are regularly in His Word.

(You can find this book on sale at Amazon and various places, but the text is also online here.)

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Young Mother Trying to Find Time For Bible Reading

The following is another excerpt from Climbing by Rosalind Goforth, which I have mentioned the last couple of days and  many times before. This book shares a very human view of a woman after God’s own heart who also was “of like passions” as we are.

A devoted Christian missionary, Mrs. S, was holding a series of special meetings for our Christian women at Changte. On one occasion, this dear woman, who had no children, told me that I could never have the peace and joy I longed for unless I rose early and spent from one to two hours with the Lord in prayer and Bible study.

I longed intensely for God’s best — for all He could give me, not only to help me live the true Christian life but also for peace and rest of soul. So I determined to do what Mrs. S. had advised.

The following morning, about half-past five o’clock, I slipped as noiselessly as possible out of bed. (My husband had already gone to his study.) I had taken only a step or two when first one and then another little head bobbed up; then came calls of, “Mother is it time to get up?”

“Hush, hush, no, no,” I whispered as I went back, but too late; the baby had wakened! So, of course, the morning circus began an hour too soon.

But I did not give up easily. Morning after morning I tried rising early for the morning watch, but always with the same result. So I went back to the old way of just praying quietly — too often just sleeping! Oh, how I envied my husband, who could have an hour or more of uninterrupted Bible study while I could not. This led me to form the habit of memorizing Scripture, which became an untold blessing to me. I took advantage of odd opportunities on cart, train, or when dressing, always to have a Bible or Testament at hand so that in the early mornings I could recall precious promises and passages of Scripture.

In another place she writes of finding at the last minute that the woman who was supposed to speak at a certain function couldn’t, and she was asked to. She nursed the baby with one arm while looking through her Bible and jotting notes as she could with the other. When Jonathan came through and saw her, he wondered how she could possible get ready for a meeting under such conditions in so short a time. She replied that if she’d had hours to work on it, she would have taken it, but she trusted God would give her just what she needed in the time available.

A few pages later she writes that sometimes she got out a concordance and her Bible to study out something which she needed help on at the time. She ended up with forty outlines resulting from her studies which the Lord used first in her own life, and then in talks to other ladies.

I expanded on this theme of trying to have devotions with young children in the house in an earlier post titled Encouragement For Mothers of Young Children. I went through quite a spiritual slump at one point due to a lack of spending time with God, and He showed me some ways to do so at that super-busy time of having little ones that wasn’t my usual routine, wasn’t even a setting where I would normally “get anything” from his Word, but He enabled me in those times. I hope perhaps it will be an encouragement to some of you in that stage of life – or any stage.

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

Book Review: How I Know God Answers Prayer

How I Know God Answers PrayerI think I first read Rosalind Goforth’s first book, How I Know God Answers Prayer, maybe in my twenties, so about 30 years ago. I don’t remember how many times I have read it since. It is a testimony of how God has answered prayers both small and great in her life through the years, spurred by people’s occasional response that perhaps what seemed an answer to prayer was just a coincidence that would have happened anyway. She wanted to demonstrate through a lifetime of her walk with God that prayer is just a child of God asking her Father for what she needs, and seeing Him answer – not always just the way she originally wanted, but with love and wisdom nonetheless. Of her three books, including Goforth of China (a biography of her husband) and Climbing (a book she was asked to write concerning some of her own experiences and perspectives), Climbing is my favorite, but this book is very good as well.

Since I was reading it this time for Carrie’s  Reading to Know Classics Book Club, I tried to view it as others might who have not read it before.  For the first time I thought perhaps a little of the effect of what she relates might have been lost by the description of events taken out of context. For instance, when she writes near the end about finding “that the Lord could guide me even in trimming my hat to his glory,” some people might think, “What?” In Climbing, one of the difficulties she underwent was criticism of her dress when she would come home on furlough. There was no Internet, Facebook, or even Wal-Mart in those days to keep up with what was going on in the fashion world back home, and she had no idea what would be stylish or out of style or different from the last time she had been there. It is really ridiculous that people would criticize under such circumstances, but they do. Once when a lady offered to get new outfits for her when she was home, she was relieved, until the lady brought her garments entirely in black, which she evidently thought was appropriate for missionary ladies. Jonathan told her she looked like she was in mourning, but she felt she couldn’t refuse the gifts without causing offense. She didn’t necessarily want to be up-to-the minute in the latest styles (in fact, when Merry Widow hats were in style at one point, she thought they were ridiculous and tried to find a way not to wear them), but she didn’t want to be a distraction, either, as they visited churches and conferences. In that book she relates some of God’s leading and answers to prayer regarding that whole issue, represented here just by the sentences, “I found the Lord could guide me even in trimming my hat to his glory! That is, so that I could stand before an audience and not bring discredit to my Master.”

She mentions the anti-foreigner sentiments and some of the dangers involved, but I don’t know if readers will understand just how pervasive and dangerous it was. China was a very closed-off country then, and anything “foreign” was suspicious (one reason why Hudson Taylor advocated dressing like Chinese rather than British). She does mention here that one of the ways she and her husband tried to combat this was to hold “Open House” where they’d let their neighbors come in and tour the house so they could see there wasn’t anything dangerous about them. In one of her other books she writes that one of these times, someone saw her daughter’s dolls in her bed and spread the word that the Goforths kidnapped children and shrunk them. It seems ridiculous now that anyone would think that, but it was a very superstitious and suspicious time. Rumors like that could at the very least cause people to avoid them, and at the worst set off a powder keg of anger. Sudden mob violence was not uncommon, especially leading up to the time of the Boxer rebellion. I remember reading in another book (I forget whose) about a missionary having in her school a skeleton for educational purposes, and then trying to decide how best to dispose of it so people wouldn’t think they had killed someone. Trying to preach a gospel that the people were probably going to react negatively against at first in such a setting indeed required a lot of prayer and faith.

But even with some events taken somewhat out of context, she presents a testimony full of grace in how the Lord dealt with her. Some of the answers she relates were major –  a sudden breakthrough in her husband’s grasp of the language when he was discouraged and near giving up, found later to have happened right at the time that a group in his old college had met to pray for him, response in meetings found to have happened when others were praying (incidents that should remind and encourage us to pray for others), healing when all other help had been exhausted, protection from danger, especially in their escape during the Boxer rebellion. Of the last, she was asked why God spared them so miraculously but not others. She responded:

Truly a vital question, which could not lightly be set aside! Humbly and prayerfully we pondered this “Why” in the light of Scripture. In the twelfth chapter of Acts, we read of Herod’s succeeding in putting James to death by the sword, and directly after comes the story of how Herod was hindered in carrying out his intention to kill Peter who was delivered by a miracle. Then who could read that marvelous eleventh chapter of Hebrews with its record of glorious martyrdom and miraculous deliverances without being thrilled? In face of these and many other passages, while still unable to answer the “why,” we saw our Almighty God used His own prerogative to glorify His name whether in the glorious martyrdom of some or in the miraculous deliverance of other.

I referenced this a few months ago in a post on our pastor’s cancer, how God heals some but not others, for reasons only He knows.

Such big and dramatic answers to prayer can be thrilling, but what touched my heart even more were the smaller, “everyday” answers: a lost key found, provision for clothes, a gift of fresh fruit, the need for a telephone and a coat and help during a speaking engagement when she felt ill.

Some of the incidents were deeply personal, such as the time her husband wanted to go touring out among the people, and she said no at first, for the safety of the children (smallpox was rampant and the Chinese then had no thought of keeping sick people home). She had to learn that “‘the safest place’ for myself and the children ‘was the path of duty.'” Though several of her children died from other causes, none died during this time in their ministry once she yielded to the Lord about it. Another personal situation was finally understanding what it was to rest in the Lord and trust Him for salvation from the power of sin and not just the penalty of it, after feeling like she had been on something of a roller coaster spiritually for 40 years.

Something else I thought some people might have a problem with in reading her book were the times she mentioned prayer being hindered by a wrong attitude or bitterness on her part, or, in one instance, the fact that she felt God allowed something to bless her for responding in a right way. These days what we often hear is that God deals with us on the basis of His grace, not our “performance.” That is true. Yet there are instances in Scripture, even in the New Testament, of disobedience hindering. We’re told that some people are sick and some have died because of partaking of the Lord’s Supper in a wrong manner, that we should reconcile with our brother before offering a gift to God, that confession of sin is a part of praying for healing, that we can’t expect forgiveness if we don’t forgive. We’ll never be perfect, but we can’t expect the Lord’s blessing if we are hanging on to known sin. As to the other, does God ever do a special little something for us when we obey in some area or do the right thing? I don’t know – I can’t think of a Scripture reference that deals with that exactly in the New Testament. We tend to think, especially when reading the Old Testament, “Be good and God will bless me, mess up and He will come after me hard.” But even there Job experienced great calamity even though he was doing everything right, and the wicked seem to prosper even when they are not obedient. Ultimately everything that God allows comes from His wisdom, love, and grace. But I have felt at times, especially in my very early days as a Christian, that some blessing or answer to prayer came just after taking an important step in the right direction, not as a reward or as God patting me on the head for doing right, but just as a little encouragement from a Father to His child. Don’t we do the same for our children? When we see them struggle in an area and do the right thing, don’t we give them some kind of encouragement, even if it is just a smile or a nod or a thumbs up or a “Well done”? Of course, we need to do right even if no one seems to notice or care or no “blessing” comes in response. I don’t think this nullifies the fact that it all comes from God’s grace because we can only obey and make right decisions with His grace. (I’ve written earlier that grace does not nullify the need for obedience but rather enables it. See Of grace, law, commandments, rules, and effort and What grace does not mean). God blesses us far beyond our ability to obey as it is, and obedience should be an outgrowth of love and reverence for Him rather than a “work” to “earn” blessing. This is too involved a topic for this post, but I feel sure she isn’t advocating that prayer and obedience are like vending machines where we put in out part and then expect God to do His – not at all.

Since this is a testimony of answered prayer, naturally most of the anecdotes involve those answers. Yet she also shares some times when God didn’t answer, at least not in the way she prayed for. In one instance, years later she could see and was thankful for the fact that He hadn’t granted a particular request, one that would have changed the path of her life away from China. In other instances, like healing that did not come and the deaths of several of her children, she continued to trust even though she couldn’t understand.

I don’t think Rosalind shared any of these answers to prayer with the attitude, “Look at me and my wonderful answers to prayer. Aren’t I special?”  I think she would have been horrified that anyone would think that. I think rather, she just wanted to show forth His provision and willingness to take care of His dear children’s needs, like the psalmists, whose testimony was, “Hear what great things the Lord has done and how He delivered me.” Every Christian walking and talking with God would have a record like this whether written or not, though admittedly probably not with situations like being delivered from an angry mob on the list. But like the Ebenezers I mentioned a few weeks ago, we should all be able to look back on those times where God met with us, provided for us, and answered prayer for us in a way that only He could. It’s good to share things like this with our families, so they know God didn’t just meet people’s needs back in Bible times, but He still does today. Such things redound to His praise and encourage us in the Lord when “when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

Reading to Know - Book Club

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon

Some years ago a friend mentioned that she had never read anything by C. H. Spurgeon because she thought his writings would be over her head. Her husband, a student in Bible college at the time, assured her that would not be the case, so she began to read some of his books. She was happily surprised to find that he was very readable and down to earth. Her remarks intrigued me because I had felt the same way about Spurgeon. I began to read some of his books and made the same happy discovery myself.*

spurgeonmrsSome years after that I came across a biography of his wife titled Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon by Charles Ray. It is out of print, but used copies are available online, and it looks like the text is online here. Originally published in 1905, the language is very old-fashioned to modern ears, but it is easily readable and gives a sweet picture of a godly lady well suited to her husband as well as glimpses of their home life.

Susannah wasn’t impressed by Spurgeon at first, though. She had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ but was in a state of coldness and indifference when she first heard him speak as a guest at her church. She had heard good things about him, but she was shocked at his youth and “countrified” manner. She wrote later:

“Ah! how little I then thought that my eyes looked on him who was to be my life’s beloved; how little I dreamed of the honor God was preparing for me in the near future! It is a mercy that our lives are not left for us to plan, but that our Father chooses for us; else might we sometimes turn away from our best blessings, and put from us the choicest and loveliest gifts of His providence. For, if the whole truth be told, I was not at all fascinated by the young orator’s eloquence, while his countrified manner and speech excited more regret than reverence. Alas, for my vain and foolish heart! I was not spiritually-minded enough to understand his earnest presentation of the Gospel and his powerful pleading with sinners; – but the huge, black satin stock, the long badly-trimmed hair, and the blue pocket handkerchief with white spots which he himself has so graphically described, – these attracted most of my attention and I fear awakened some feelings of amusement.”

He was called to be her pastor, and she kept going to hear him. Eventually she changed her mind not only about him, but about the spiritual state of her own heart.

Not many months later they were with a large group of friends watching the opening of the Crystal Palace, he pointed out a passage in a book he was reading and asked her what she thought. The title of the passage was “On Marriage,” and the quote:

“‘Seek a good wife of thy God, for she is the best gift of His providence; Yet ask not in bold confidence that which He hath not promised: Thou knowest not His good will; be thy prayer then submissive thereunto; And leave thy petition to His mercy assured that He will deal well with thee. If thou art to have a wife of thy youth, she is now living on the earth; Therefore think of her and pray for her well!’

“‘Do you pray for him who is to be your husband?’ said a soft, low voice in my ear, – so soft that no one else heard the whisper. I do not remember that the question received any vocal answer; but my fast-beating heart, which sent a tell-tale flush to my cheeks, and my downcast eyes, which feared to reveal the light which at once dawned in them, may have spoken a language which love understood. From that moment a very quiet and subdued little maiden sat by the young Pastor’s side, and while the brilliant procession passed round the Palace, I do not think she took so much note of the glittering pageant defiling before her, as of the crowd of newly-awakened emotions which were palpitating within her heart.”

She did have to learn how to share her husband with an adoring public and how to encourage him when public sentiment turned against him, how to respond well when he was sometimes distracted or busy with sermon preparations and other duties.

They had twin sons, Charles and Thomas. Susannah never regained her strength and at times was pretty much an invalid, unable to go with Spurgeon to his speaking engagements. In one sweet testimony of one of her sons, he said,

“I trace my early conversion directly to her earnest pleading and bright example. She … taught me to sing, but to mean it first, – ‘I do believe, I will believe, That Jesus died for me; That, on the cross, He shed His blood From sin to set me free.’ My dear brother was brought to Christ through the pointed word of a missionary; but he, too, gladly owns that mother’s influence and teaching had their part in the matter. By these, the soil was made ready for a later sowing.”

One of her major ministries was a book fund for preachers. It came about this way:

Incredible as it may seem, the state of things revealed when the Book Fund was started was so bad that many ministers had been unable to buy a new book for ten years. “Does anybody wonder if preachers are sometimes dull?” was C. H. Spurgeon’s comment on this fact. Like most other important works, the Book Fund grew from a very simple beginning, and there was no idea at the first of the wonderful way in which the movement would develop. In the summer of 1875 Mr. Spurgeon completed the first volume of his “Lectures to my Students,” and, having given a proof copy to his wife, asked her what she thought of the book. “I wish I could place it in the hands of every minister in England,” was the reply, and the preacher at once rejoined, “Then why not do so: how much will you give?” This was driving the nail home with a vengeance. Mrs. Spurgeon was not prepared for such a challenge, but she began to wonder if she could not spare the money from her housekeeping or personal account. It would necessitate pressure somewhere, she knew, for money was not plentiful just then. Suddenly a flash of memory made the whole way clear. “Upstairs in a little drawer were some carefully hoarded crown pieces, which, owing to some foolish fancy, I had been gathering for years whenever chance threw one in my way; these I now counted out and found they made a sum exactly sufficient to pay for one hundred copies of the work. If a twinge of regret at parting from my cherished but unwieldy favorites passed over me, it was gone in an instant, and then they were given freely and thankfully to the Lord, and in that moment, though I knew it not, the Book Fund was inaugurated.

In the next edition of his publication of The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon mentioned the need, and people began to send in both donations and used books (the latter not always of use to preachers, though, like French Grammar and Exercises).

She was also a skilled writer and wrote a variety of things in her later years, including a biography of her husband.

One delight in this book are the many excerpts of letters between the Spurgeons. Here are a few:

“God bless you,” wrote the husband on one occasion [when he had to travel for rest}, “and help you to bear my absence. Better that I should be away well, than at home suffering – better to your loving heart, I know. Do not fancy, even for a moment, that absence could make our hearts colder to each other; our attachment is now a perfect union, indissoluble for ever. My sense of your value and experience of your goodness are now united to the deep passion of love which was there at the first alone. Every year casts out another anchor to hold me even more firmly to you, though none was needed even from the first. May my own Lord, whose chastening hand has necessitated this absence, give you a secret inward recompense in soul and also another recompense in the healing of the body! All my heart remains; in your keeping.”

“I had two such precious letters from you this morning, worth to me far more than all the gems of ancient or modern art. The material of which they, are composed is their main value, though there is also no mean skill revealed in its manipulation. They are pure as alabaster, far more precious than porphyry or verd antique; no mention shall be made of malachite or onyx, for love, surpasses them all.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon looked upon the writing of these letters as more than a loving duty to, his wife. Knowing how pressed he was with other correspondence that had to be attended to, and with literary work, she often used to urge him to write less often to her, so as to get more rest for himself, but this he would not hear of, and except when taking a long railway journey, he used to write a letter to his wife every day that he was absent from her. “Every word I write,” he says in one note, “is a pleasure to me, as much as ever it can be to you; it is only a lot of odds and ends I send you, but I put them down as they come, so that you may see it costs me no labor, but is just a happy scribble. Don’t fret because I write you so many letters; it is such a pleasure to tell out my joy.”

At another time, when sending some pen and ink sketches which he had made of the women’s head-dresses in Italy, he writes, “Now, sweetheart, may these trifles amuse you; I count it a holy work to draw them, if they cause you but one happy smile.”

This note seems to sum up his estimation of her value to him.

“None know how grateful I am to God for you. In all I have ever done for Him you have a large share, for in making me so happy you have fitted me for service. Not an ounce of power has ever been lost to the good cause through you. I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship”

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For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

* Though I have benefited very much from reading Spurgeon, I am not a Calvinist, so would differ from him on some of those points.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)