New Friends and Old

This week I have been sick, for the first time since the stroke (thank you, God!). It has been kind of the same as being sick with babies, still having to do a lot for other people. Had some good help from my adult children, but knew I was “well” this morning when the crusty dishes all over the cabinet wouldn’t be ignored by me any more. As a result, I am writing this “on the fly” and it will probably seem as disjointed as I am at the moment.
My friends this week are not the human kind (and lest those of you who know me are beginning to worry if I have finally cracked, they are not animals either). Well, I guess I should say they are not humans I know personally. I feel like I know them through their written words, but I can’t really call them friends. Throughout this journey I have been encouraged by many different books that have been given to me, recommended to me, or have found me in less obvious ways. Here is a quick review of some of them:
1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This book was initially given to me by my dear sister-in-law who first encouraged me by her example to find things in each day to be thankful for. She sent it with a note that said, “You probably aren’t ready for this yet…” and she was right, I wasn’t. I read it, agreed with it, but could not bring myself to apply it with much success. Then a month or two later my oldest sister sent it to me. I took this as kind of a nudge from the Lord that I needed to quit feeling sorry for myself and get to the business of being thankful. The book is a beautifully written account of one woman’s journey from a life destroyed to one redeemed through the learning of gratitude for all the good gifts given to us by our Father in heaven.
A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card. This is a book about the “lost language of lament”. It points to several scriptures that deal with an open lamenting before the Lord, and takes the shame out of grief. I have to be honest and admit to not finishing this one, yet. But it has given me “permission” to lay my heart out openly before the Lord and express my grief to Him in the example given to us by Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus.
The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives by Ravi Zacharias. This is a beautiful reminder of the sovereignty of God in the midst of a broken world. Zacharias starts with a description of how the material for saris is made in India and compares that to the way God weaves our lives. Several of his examples come from his experiences in India. This appealed to me especially since my East African upbringing was laced with a fair amount of Indian influence.
A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada. I have always admired Joni since first hearing about her years ago after the diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. I am blessed by her ability to embrace life and continue to cheerfully serve God when from a worldly perspective she certainly has a “right” to curse God and die as Job’s wife suggested for him. She is such a juxtaposition to the “Million Dollar Baby” perspective on life that our culture is full of. This particular book is written as she faces new pain and difficulty. It is an honest look at the question, “haven’t I suffered enough already?”
The Vow by Krickitt and Kim Carpenter. This is the book on which the recent movie by the same name was based – might I add very loosely based. It isn’t really all that well written, in my humble opinion, but it is a book filled with the testimony of God working in the lives of these two individuals. I have to say that I am glad I saw the movie first, because if I had read the book first I probably would not have been able to sit through the movie. Much of what is good about this story was edited by Hollywood, and things were added in that painted family as being something they most decidedly were not. But this is about the book, not the movie. I was encouraged by the determination of a spouse to be committed to his vows even when the person wasn’t really even the same person any more.
Knowing God by J. I. Packer. When I was much younger, I read this book over the course of about a year, and it was very helpful to me in thinking through some key issues. I picked it up again at the suggestion of one of my pastors, and it was like coming home. It was encouraging to me to be able to read not only Packer’s words, but my notes in the margins, and see how I have grown, how God has been faithful, and how what was true is still true. The final chapter is a wonderful summary of Romans.
Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles Cowman. This is a compilation of mediations on suffering and struggles in the Christian life by one who knew of these things first hand. This daily devotional has been a great encouragement to me. My sisters gave it to me for my birthday last year, and I have taken the words as balm to my weary soul from their loving hands. I must confess that on occasion I have found myself thinking, “wow! that was particularly great today!” only to find the author is none other than my dear Charles Hadden Spurgeon. I have a very worn out copy of his Morning and Evening devotional.
The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook by Diana B. Denholm. My middle sister sent me this one. It is not theological, but it is quite practical. It gave me perspective – unlike the husbands mentioned in this book, mine is not belligerent, berating, or noncompliant. He voices appreciation for me regularly and complains sparingly. This is the book that gave voice to many of the things I was feeling but couldn’t quite find a way to express. It is the book that gave me “permission” to hire someone to sit with my husband one day a week – whether he liked it or not. I realized that making sure his needs were adequately met did not mean that I had to be the one to meet them always. Paying someone means I don’t have to be worried about whether I am imposing on them and their time.
A Discourse on the Goodness of God by Stephen Charnock. This is not technically a book, but a section in a two volume set. Strokeman and I read from this together over breakfast. It has been helpful both in reminding me of all the ways God is good, but also in getting Strokeman and me back into the spiritual part of our relationship.
Woven in and out around these books have been a number of others read just for pleasure. Another day I will tell you about some of those. I would just say in closing that I have found that choosing the kinds of friends you surround yourself with is a serious business, whether the flesh kind or the book kind. You want to find the ones that are going to really help you get by!

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7 Responses to New Friends and Old

  1. Nice list of wonderful friends….I often think of my books as friends. Nice to know I’m in good company! 🙂

  2. tinuviel says:

    Some of my best friends are books, too, and some of them are on this list. The Grand Weaver and the Stephen Charnock sound worth adding to the list, though. So many books, so little time! 🙂

    During PT homework, I’m listening to and relishing Les Miserables in a contemporary English translation. On my Kindle, I’ve just barely begun The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and am already highlighting.

    My experience with Streams in the Desert aligns with yours. God knows the truth, but I’ve generally interpreted such moments as a mark of the Spirit’s activity in the writer and on my behalf.

    I’m so sorry you’ve been ill, but I’m glad you’ve been in good company. Love you!

    • I feel I must warn you that Charnock is not easy reading. He thoroughly exhausts a subject, and with us only reading a few paragraphs a day it will take us a long time to finish this one section. I can’t imagine how long it would take to read the whole two volume set. Les Miserables is on my list of books to read, and Rare Jewel is one I have read repeatedly – great choice! I am on the mend, but won’t be singing for a while. Love you too!

  3. Cindy V says:

    Always love a good book recommendation, and the ‘back story’ of how & why they were nourishing. Sorry you’ve been ill but glad you are on the mend & in time for the weekend festivities.

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