Friday, February 28, 2020

A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

I do not come from a tradition of written prayers, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this devotional classic. A Diary of Private Prayer, written by Scottish theologian John Baillie (1886-1960), contains a month of heartfelt prayers, one for each morning and evening. Frankly, the humble, submissive attitude of these prayers was a welcome change from much of modern Christian literature.

An example from Day Four: Do not let me embark on anything today that is not in line with your will for my life, nor shirk from any sacrifice that your will demands.

Mingled with the prayers of surrender to God's will are praises for His goodness and power. On Day Twenty-Two, he writes, O Lord, my God, I kneel before you in humble adoration as I set out to face the tasks and interests of another day. Thank you for the blessed assurance that I shall not be called upon to face them alone or in my own strength, but that at all times I will be accompanied by your presence and strengthened by your grace.

One final favorite prayer: O Holy Spirit, visit my soul and stay within me all day. Inspire all my thoughts. Pervade all my imagination. Suggest all my decisions. Make your home in the most secret place of my will and inspire all my actions. Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my hurry and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in the comforting mystery of your companionship.

My only quibble is the occasional general prayer for "all the workers in the world," or "all who suffer." I have a hard time understanding how God is supposed to answer such non-specific petitions, but I may be underestimating His far-reaching grace.

It's hard to imagine that anyone could read this book every day and not be changed by it. My edition, with updated language by Susanna Wright, was very readable. The hard cover and ribbon bookmark guarantee its use for many years to come.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Five Windows by D.E. Stevenson

I've been plowing through D.E. Stevenson titles since taking advantage of the Kindle Unlimited deal that I got in December. The most famous books (Miss Buncle and Mrs. Tim) are not free through KU, but there are over a dozen lesser-known novels that I've been enjoying. Five Windows is one of my new favorites.

David Kirke, the only son of a vicar and his wife, grew up in a quiet country town in Scotland and moves to London to begin his career. Each of the windows in the title describes the view from his various places of residence. In each location he learns a valuable lesson. There are delightful characters such as Teddy (a girl), Barbie, the decorator, Mr. Coe, the book store owner, and Malcolm, the shepherd. There are despicable folks such as the residents of the boarding house. Because of his unfailing kindness and good manners, David gets mixed up with them, but through those relationships, he learns to be a better judge of human nature and to stand up for himself.

What I loved most about the book was watching David "make do" on very little money. Instead of complaining or borrowing, he made a game out of his poverty to stretch every penny. It is a hobby my own mother taught me and I was tickled to read of some of his tricks.

In addition to the delightful literary references sprinkled throughout (from Pilgrim's Progress, the Bible, Wordsworth, and Dickens), there were several very funny sequences. One described the literary efforts of David's friend, Miles Blackworth, who assumed that just because he had read a lot of thrillers, it would be easy to write one. Another humorous situation was when David's mother came to visit him in London and his office colleagues assumed he was making her up so as not to have to admit to having a girlfriend.

This is a book about second chances. For people and for houses. (If you know anything about Stevenson's books, the houses are almost human!) I thoroughly enjoyed this new-to-me book and look forward to re-reading it in the future.


Friday, February 7, 2020

Life as a Work of Art - quote from Sarah Clarkson

To be truly faithful isn't merely to endure; it is also to create. That kind of faithfulness comes with the choice to fix our eyes on the beauty promised (and already present in Christ), and to let that drive our actions rather than despair. To be faithful means taking the musty clay of ordinary days, and molding them it into hours of laughter, landmark feasts, and the making of music and memories. To be faithful is to love, yet again, in the face of rejection, to pour another cup of tea, or set another place at the table. Faithfulness is to live in such fidelity to our hope that what we hope becomes visible, enfleshed in the words and actions with which we meet the darkness. A life so formed becomes a piece of art that illumines the ordinary and transforms the mundane with its beauty. (p. 89 of Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson)

Sarah writes that all of her favorite heroines have this quality. Mine too!