In her book, Mrs. Graham writes from the heart of a mom who knows what it is like to have a child stray from home, and our speaker shared how the book...moreIn her book, Mrs. Graham writes from the heart of a mom who knows what it is like to have a child stray from home, and our speaker shared how the book had been an encouragement to her as she experienced something similar with her son. At this time, my three children are young adults and thankfully they are all professing Christians. But I have more than one close family member whose spiritual condition I am particularly concerned about, so I set about getting my hands on a copy of Mrs. Graham’s book. It wasn’t what I expected: I was hoping for instructions on how to correct the situation (anyone who knows me, knows I’m a “fixer”), but it turned out to be better than that.
Of course most of us are familiar with Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, in which the younger of two brothers demands his father for his inheritance, then goes away from home and wastes it all in selfish, debauched living. Because of our familiarity with the New Testament story, when we hear the word “prodigal” we often think of a loved one, usually a child, who has left home and family under unhappy circumstances, or one who has in some way strayed. In her book, Mrs. Graham shares true stories about prodigals, including St. Augustine and the hymn writer John Newton. Interspersed between the stories are poems and memorable quotes that express the heartfelt concerns and prayers of those who have a loved one who is lost. This poem by Mrs. Graham is a reminder that there is more than one way in which a parent may mourn for a child:
Be tender with, O Lord, we pray the one whose child lies dead today.
Be tenderer, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.
But tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares, is out of reach.
Of course every Christian parent’s greatest desire is to see their children walking with the Lord, and their greatest grief is to see a child turn their back on all that they have tried to provide and teach them. Mrs. Graham says that the term prodigal “suggests wastefulness, a squandering of life, time, abilities, talents.” As a mother, it is very painful to pour my love, time, energy, and resources into the lives and well-being of my children, and then see them waste what I have invested in them. Am I a perfect mom? Of course not. Perhaps I couldn’t give my children everything I wish I could have, and I definitely made mistakes and have some regrets. Graham shares these words from Colleen Evans’ book Start Loving: The Miracle of Forgiving:
"Our failures. That’s the hardest area, especially when they have affected the lives of our loved ones. As our children step out into the adult world…it hurts to see areas of need and struggle that stem in part from ways we have failed them…[but] even these areas are part of the ‘all things’ which God will use to make a man and a woman who will accomplish His unique purposes. So when thoughts of my failures push their way into my consciousness, I let His total forgiveness dissolve my regrets, and go on to praise Him who accepts us just as we are and lovingly works to make us more than we are."
As I carry out my role as a mom, I need to be sure I am doing it first for the Lord, in obedience and honor to Him, not for what I expect to get in return. Mrs. Graham quotes Samuel Rutherford, “Duties are ours, events are God’s. When our faith goes to meddle with events, and to hold account upon God’s Providence…we lose ground.” I must believe that God is sovereign in the life of my child, and that He has her on the path He has marked out for her and is working His will in her.
If you are a parent whose child appears to be on a path that is leading him or her away from God or who is living in blatant sin and rebellion against God, keep praying and never give up hope that God may one day bring the lost one back to Him and to you.
After reading my review of the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the author of Archibald Zwick asked me if I would read his book a...moreAfter reading my review of the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the author of Archibald Zwick asked me if I would read his book and write a review of it, so I agreed and he sent me a copy. Like the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Palmer’s story is a Christian allegory that uses the characters and events to symbolically convey spiritual truths to the reader. As others have pointed out, the story is similar to the C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series and I think this book would appeal especially to teenagers (and adults) who enjoy that kind of fantasy. The story follows sixteen-year-old Archie, who finds himself in a fantastical floating island kingdom reminiscent of medieval England, except the people are smaller than the average human and have green-tinted skin, and the knights ride dolphins instead of horses. Archie cannot figure out how he ended up in K’truum-Shra, a city which apparently doesn’t exist in our world, and he is determined to get back home. As it turns out, Archie’s adventure is a two-fold journey: a physical journey toward home as well as a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
Shortly after Archie’s arrival, the Elders of K’truum-Shra tell Archie about the city’s ways and people, and before he realizes it, Archie is commissioned to fulfill a vague quest, which he is told will eventually help him to find his way home. A situation arises which leads to Archie receiving the opportunity to train for knighthood, which involves developing physical skills, like using a sword and riding a dolphin, and learning about the city’s history and teachings from the sacred scrolls. Then, while in the midst of his training, a civil war erupts, and Archie finds that his new skills and leadership qualities will be put to the test.
The most important things Archie learns during his time in K’truum-Shra concern his own character, and the keys to this process are the city’s eight towers and the inscriptions on them. When he discovers the inscription on the first tower, “Humility is the path to freedom,” Archie determines to discover all of these cryptic statements and to learn their meaning, with the hope that they will eventually show him how to return home.
Throughout the story, events occur which cause Archie to visit each of the towers, and at each one he learns something about himself and grows emotionally and spiritually as a result. Among the various characters Archie gets to know is one individual, an “old bearded knight,” who serves as his trainer, instructor, counselor, and guide. The old knight is the one who teaches Archie and helps him to understand what the inscriptions on the eight towers mean. While the story itself is engaging, for me it's the discussions between Archie and the knight that add the rich "meat" and valuable lessons that make the book a worthwhile read. Here are just a few examples of the wise advice the old knight imparts to Archie:
"When anger, like fire, is not controlled, it is very destructive and consumes everything in its path. Love and hate are not mere feelings, they are choices…Feelings follow actions. If you practice love, you will soon feel love, and if you practice hate, you will soon feel hate, with all its consequences."
"Love does not require us to surrender to evil, and even when we strike the enemy down, it should not be done in anger or with hatred in our hearts, but only to resist evil. And we should mourn not only our fallen but also the enemy fallen."
"Fear…reduces our intellect, and it is the enemy of trust. And without trust, there is not peace…You will always have conflict, but to have peace in spite of conflict, you must learn to trust. And to trust, you must become obedient. You must, therefore, surrender your will and accept your circumstances, whatever they may be. When you can do that, peace will reign in your heart."
Archie experiences much and learns lessons about humility, compassion, trust, submission, and sacrifice – even to the point of death - before his adventure comes to an end.
Mr. Palmer has written a compelling story that communicates Biblical truths in an interesting and creative way. Palmer uses the themes of pride, betrayal, rebellion, hatred, revenge and war to illustrate the Christian traits of humility, forgiveness, obedience, love, compassion, and sacrifice. With the exception of the unusual names of the characters, the reading level is fairly easy. The plot includes unexpected twists and thought-provoking dialogue, and the ending provides an opportunity for further discussion and study. Palmer has written a companion study guide, Truth in the Eight Towers, which is useful for explaining the Biblical truths behind the symbolism and names used in the story, including Scripture references, and is a good accompaniment for personal study or to facilitate group discussion with young people.(less)
Anne Bradstreet originally intended to share her verses only with her family and close friends. Without her prior permission, her brother-in-law John...moreAnne Bradstreet originally intended to share her verses only with her family and close friends. Without her prior permission, her brother-in-law John Woodbridge took them to England and published them in 1650 under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America. Apparently, Mrs. Bradstreet anticipated the skepticism with which her poetry might be received. In her Prologue (above), she apologizes for her lowly attempts and begs the reader to forgive her for her simple verses. While she admits her poems cannot compare with those of the Greeks or other great poets, she humbly asks to receive due credit for her efforts. I imagine Mrs. Bradstreet would be amazed to know that her humble expressions of devotion for her family and her God are still read and admired today, since she didn’t initially intend to publish them at all.
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was America’s first female poet and is considered one of the two greatest New England poets of the 17th century. Written in the frontier wilderness setting of colonial America, her poetry shows a balance of Puritan thought and feminine feeling. In spite of challenges of raising eight children, suffering economic hardship, fighting recurring illness, and having a frequently absent husband, Bradstreet managed to find time and energy to produce a collection of poems that have endured over three centuries.
When twelve-year-old Hans Dunne’s father dies suddenly, it looks like he will be forced to drop out of the monastery Latin school. As it turns out, hi...moreWhen twelve-year-old Hans Dunne’s father dies suddenly, it looks like he will be forced to drop out of the monastery Latin school. As it turns out, his father was in debt, so now his mother cannot pay the tuition for school. Hans feels he should learn a trade in order to help his family. But his secret ambition is to one day make copies of the Bible, and if he doesn’t become a monk, how will he ever be able to achieve his goal?One day Hans and his mother discover that his father went into debt because he had loaned a large sum of money to support a project he believed was very important. Hans’s mother tells him, “I remember now that your father kept talking about some man who was doing important work for the glory of God…He kept saying this man was being blessed and inspired by God to perfect his art.” When he heard this, Hans thought to himself, “God is inspiring me, too. Copying the Bible is important work – maybe the most important work in the world.”
When the opportunity arises for Hans to become an apprentice to Johann Gutenberg, a thought suddenly occurs to him: “God had not withheld the means by which he could copy the Bible but instead had provided an entirely new way. Even Father’s death, so painfully hard to understand, had its place in God’s greater plan.” As Hans becomes more involved with Gutenberg and his work, he sees how much the man is willing to sacrifice to turn years of effort into a reality.
I liked the emphasis this story placed on the value of God's Word, as for example is expressed in this quote:
"Hans recalled with painful intensity his vow to make the man who had borrowed Father’s money return it all. Here it was – but now he did not want the money, and he knew Mother would not want it either. The printing of the Bible must come first."
Today, we take our copies of the Bible for granted. In many homes, multiple copies in various versions can be found. The Bible is readily available in stores and online, in many choices of format and color, to buy or download, and for a reasonable price. Most people don’t ever stop to think about how the Bible has come into our hands. (less)