Book Wisdom, Inklings, Love and Faith

“But no living man am I! You look upon a woman.”

A tale of adventure, friendship, love, and courage, The Lord of the Rings is a timeless gift. One of my favorite characters is Éowyn. As a shieldmaiden of Rohan (one of the lands in Tolkien’s Middle Earth), she defies her uncle, King Théoden, when he commands she stay in Rohan, and follows the troops into battle against Sauron’s army. As all the others headed into battle, she simply wants to do all she can to help defend her land.

“No man am I!” is one of her most iconic lines from the movies. There’s no doubt it is one of the most cheer-worthy scenes. For those not familiar, this takes place during a battle in front of Minas Tirith (in the land of Gondor) in the last film, Return of the King, when Éowyn takes down not only a Nazgûl (a dark beast with wings), but also the leader of the wraiths, the Witch-King of Angmar.

After giving the King Théoden a death blow, the Witch-King leads his Nazgûl towards the body with the permission to “feast on his flesh.” It is then that Éowyn jumps in front of her beloved kin, threatening to kill them if they touch King Théoden. 

After warning her not to come between the Nazgûl and his prey, the creature goes for Éowyn’s arm and sword, but instead she beheads the foul beast. Picking up a small wooden shield, she holds her place defending her uncle while the Witch-King rises up. With his enormous mace, he swings it toward her. Screeching with each miss, he finally succeeds in destroying her shield. All looks lost, as he grabs Éowyn by the neck hissing “You fool….no man can kill me…die now.” But there is hope yet! Merry, her hobbit friend, comes through and stabs the monster’s leg.

As he falls to his knees, Éowyn stands up, takes off her helmet and says the ever famous line “I am no man!” while stabbing him in the face, thus destroying the Dark Servant of Sauron. 

While I love the movies dearly, this is one scene that is especially more profound in the book. In the book, no one knows she is in the fight (not even Merry) and we also see more of the darkness she was up against. From the book we read: 

‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!’

A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.’ (Emphasis mine)

A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’

Éowyn’s character continues to be worthy of admiration and one to look up to in literature. It makes me wonder if the women in Tolkien’s life influenced Éowyn’s role, much like his wife inspired the story of Beren and Lúthien in The Silmarillion. I have a feeling they may have. 

After watching/reading scenes like this, I often think of the brave and strong women throughout history and legacies of women who have gone before us. The women who used their lives, gifts, talents, and skills to make the world better. What does it mean to be brave like Éowyn, even when it won’t look like facing and taking down a Witch-King and his Nazgûl? 

For women, our legacy can and should be as diverse as those who came before us. When I think of the women I want my nieces and nephew to look up to, admire, and respect, it’s women who served others and were brave in all circumstances (whether they were well known or not).

The Bible never fails at providing examples of women like this. Women like Ruth standing up for herself to go with Naomi – though poor, she was brave and not helpless. Like Deborah who bravely led the men of Israel’s military and served as a judge to Israel. Or Esther, who willingingly walked to what she must have thought her death to do all she could to save her people. Or Rahab, who hid spies of Israel, knowing if all failed, it too meant her death. Like Anna, who suffered greatly at a young age, losing her husband, but didn’t let society dictate how she would spend her days. She chose to worship the Lord through it all, being named a prophetess (and the only one in the New Testament) and was able to witness Simeon bless baby Jesus. Or Lydia, whose work ethic and business skills helped support the early church in Acts. 

In 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV), we are reminded that one of our callings in following Christ is that we use our God-given talents. Peter wrote, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

“Whatever gift”…such freedom and encouragement in those words.

Throughout history, there have been endless women who have shown us what being a brave and bold woman of God looks like. To name just a few:

  • Mahalia Jackson, who became known as the Queen of Gospel music and a Civil Rights activist
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, who fought for Black women and women’s right to vote
  • Corrie ten Boom, who courageously defied the Nazis to save Jews and was sent to a concentration camp after being betrayed
  • Pandita Ramabai, who dedicated her life to fighting on behalf of millions of childhood widows in India
  • Sabina Wurmbrand, who along with her husband founded Voice of the Martyrs to support Christians around the world after experiencing Nazi occupation (and losing several family members to a concentration camp) and communism in her home country
  • Phillis Wheatley, who became the first African American published, even while unjustly enslaved in 1773
  • Jane Austen, who wasn’t afraid to write when society dictated otherwise, leaving books millions have enjoyed since her death
  • Catherine Booth, who started the Salvation Army with her husband
  • Dora Yu, who was a medical missionary in China and preacher in the early 20th century
  • Fanny Crosby, who was blind and in the 1800s penned thousands of poems and hymns including Blessed Assurance and was also committed to Christian rescue missions
  • Josephine Butler, who fought for reform, women’s suffrage, better education for women and fought for the abolition of child prostitution in Victorian England
  • Rosa Parks, who sparked a movement by refusing to give up her seat
  • Mary McLeod Bethune, who fought for education, starting what would become Bethune-Cookman College, and eventually became the Vice President of the NAACP
  • Helen Keller, who became blind and deaf at only 19 months old and went on to graduate from Radcliffe college, wrote an autobiography, and spent her life advocating for those who were differently abled as she was, changing laws and breaking down barriers.

I also think of so many other women who are unknown to history, yet their legacies continue to have ripple effects even today. One of the most important things I have learned from so many women, is that they didn’t let their status define them. They used their gifts and boldly followed what God called them to.

They fought for what was good. They stood up for the vulnerable. They used their talents to bring beauty to the world. They loved deeply. They were a light to the world. As Micah 6:8 guides us:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

    And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)

As you think upon your legacy, I encourage you to pray and seek His wisdom and guidance. And above all, be guided by love:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Be bold, be brave, and live the life God has called you to. When you, when we all do, the world will be brighter. 

Book Wisdom, Love and Faith

The Bold and Brave Rebuke of the Slaveholder’s Christianity – What We Can Still Learn from Frederick Douglass

I recently finished a re-read of THE NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS: AN AMERICAN SLAVE for The Musings of Jamie Book Club (you can join here on FB or sign up here for updates via my newsletter) and because it had been so long since I’ve read it, for much it was like reading it for the first time. One quote I’ve always remembered is one you’ll also see below:

“What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

A powerful quote indeed, but I had forgotten the rest of the Appendix, which is a fearless and fiery rebuke, that makes me want to stand up and applaud. Douglass wrote this nearly 20 years before the Civil War would start. His words, his direct call out of the hypocrisy of “Christian” slave owners must have inspired so many to continue the fight. As it is public domain, I am sharing the rest of it here. May we all live with such boldness.

From THE NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS: AN AMERICAN SLAVE:

I FIND, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation.

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.

I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.

The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me.

He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.

We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the churchgoing bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heartbroken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together.

The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

“Just God! and these are they,
Who minister at thine altar, God of right!
Men who their hands, with prayer and blessing, lay
On Israel’s ark of light. “What! preach, and kidnap men?
Give thanks, and rob thy own afflicted poor?
Talk of thy glorious liberty, and then
Bolt hard the captive’s door? “What! servants of thy own
Merciful Son, who came to seek and save
The homeless and the outcast, fettering down
The tasked and plundered slave! “Pilate and Herod friends!
Chief priests and rulers, as of old, combine!
Just God and holy! is that church which lends
Strength to the spoiler thine?”

The Christianity of America is a Christianity, of whose votaries it may be as truly said, as it was of the ancient scribes and Pharisees, “They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. All their works they do for to be seen of men. — They love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, . . . . . and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. — But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides! which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but within, they are full of extortion and excess. — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches? They would be shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and at the same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen. They love the heathen on the other side of the globe. They can pray for him, pay money to have the Bible put into his hand, and missionaries to instruct him; while they despise and totally neglect the heathen at their own doors.

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by the religion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, and yet in union with slaveholders. It is against religion, as presented by these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify.

I conclude these remarks by copying the following portrait of the religion of the south, (which is, by communion and fellowship, the religion of the north,) which I soberly affirm is “true to the life,” and without caricature or the slightest exaggeration. It is said to have been drawn, several years before the present anti-slavery agitation began, by a northern Methodist preacher, who, while residing at the south, had an opportunity to see slaveholding morals, manners, and piety, with his own eyes. “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”

A PARODY.
“Come, saints and sinners, hear me tell
How pious priests whip Jack and Nell,
And women buy and children sell,
And preach all sinners down to hell,
And sing of heavenly union.

“They’ll bleat and baa, dona like goats,
Gorge down black sheep, and strain at motes,
Array their backs in fine black coats,
Then seize their negroes by their throats,
And choke, for heavenly union.

“They’ll church you if you sip a dram,
And damn you if you steal a lamb;
Yet rob old Tony, Doll, and Sam,
Of human rights, and bread and ham;
Kidnapper’s heavenly union.

“They’ll loudly talk of Christ’s reward,
And bind his image with a cord,
And scold, and swing the lash abhorred,
And sell their brother in the Lord
To handcuffed heavenly union.

“They’ll read and sing a sacred song,
And make a prayer both loud and long,
And teach the right and do the wrong,
Hailing the brother, sister throng,
With words of heavenly union.

“We wonder how such saints can sing,
Or praise the Lord upon the wing,
Who roar, and scold, and whip, and sting,
And to their slaves and mammon cling,
In guilty conscience union.

“They’ll raise tobacco, corn, and rye,
And drive, and thieve, and cheat, and lie,
And lay up treasures in the sky,
By making switch and cowskin fly,
In hope of heavenly union.

“They’ll crack old Tony on the skull,
And preach and roar like Bashan bull,
Or braying ass, of mischief full,
Then seize old Jacob by the wool,
And pull for heavenly union.

“A roaring, ranting, sleek man-thief,
Who lived on mutton, veal, and beef,
Yet never would afford relief
To needy, sable sons of grief,
Was big with heavenly union.

“ ‘Love not the world,’ the preacher said,
And winked his eye, and shook his head;
He seized on Tom, and Dick, and Ned,
Cut short their meat, and clothes, and bread,
Yet still loved heavenly union.

“Another preacher whining spoke
Of One whose heart for sinners broke:
He tied old Nanny to an oak,
And drew the blood at every stroke,
And prayed for heavenly union.

“Two others oped their iron jaws,
And waved their children-stealing paws;
There sat their children in gewgaws;
By stinting negroes’ backs and maws,
They kept up heavenly union.

“All good from Jack another takes,
And entertains their flirts and rakes,
Who dress as sleek as glossy snakes,
And cram their mouths with sweetened cakes;
And this goes down for union.”

Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something toward throwing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds — faithfully relying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts — and solemnly pledging myself anew to the sacred cause, —

I subscribe myself, FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
LYNN, Mass., April 28, 1845.

From: Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.

If you haven’t yet, please take some time to read the full Narrative. It’s available online and at any book store!

Book Wisdom, Inklings

Once a King or Queen in Narnia, Always a King or Queen

At the end of C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, after all the adventures, battles, brave acts, and sacrifice, Aslan leaves the four siblings with this exhortation:

“Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!” said Aslan.

The calling Aslan has given the siblings doesn’t change when they leave Narnia (although at the time, they don’t realize they will), just like our calling as Christians doesn’t change with our life circumstances.

Kind of a relief right? What a gift this truth is. For those of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ, our whole identity changes. We are no longer lost, searching for purpose. We have encountered peace, hope, joy, and most important, Love.

The Pevensie children each had titles bestowed to them, along with their King and Queen status. Peter the Magnificent, Susan the Gentle, Edmund the Just, and Lucy the Valiant. While we may not go around using such titles, what if we started living by their truth more?

What does it mean to be The Magnificent?
Philippians 2:1-4 reads, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)

Humility. I think that’s one of the biggest parts of being magnificent. It’s not about who only cared for themselves, it’s about caring deeply for others. When we take a quick glance at historical kings and queens, the ones who inspire us the most? They are the ones who did the most for their people. But the moving stories don’t stop with kings and queens of old, but the people who lead by example and who show us a life well lived, one full of generosity and caring for others more than themselves.

And what of our gifts? 1 Peter 4:10 draws us again to that of a servant: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)

What does it mean to live a life as one who can be called The Gentle?
How do we live up to such a calling and one of gentleness? It would be easy to pass it off as being a “pushover,” but that’s not it. It always comes back to love. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians brings to the forefront what that means: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

What does it mean to be The Just?
I can speak on justice, and our calling to lead this charge as Christians, for hours, but I’ll start with this quote from Timothy Keller in Generous Justice. I highly recommend the book and I love one of his early quotes: “God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”

Isaiah 1:17: “Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.” (NIV)

Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (NIV)

Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)

What does it mean to be The Valiant?
And finally we come to courage. There is so much pain, so much hurt, and the world needs the Church. May we find the courage to keep on fighting for what’s right, even when the hits keep coming. And the good news? We don’t have to do this on our own. We can trust in the promise that Christ is with us and on the side of Truth.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

What a holy calling we have! The world needs it now more than ever before. And if 2020 has taught us anything (I mean it has, I have a whole list), it has reminded us that life is so very short. Don’t waste these titles, don’t waste this calling.

This life isn’t meant to be boring, no matter what path your life follows, for we are Kings and Queens. When we follow Christ, when we live to make His Name famous, it’s a wild ride.

“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

Book Wisdom, Love and Faith

Living Life Without the Worry

Last year I read The Heart Between Us: Two Sisters, One Heart Transplant, and a Bucket List by Lindsay Harrel for one of my book clubs. It’s the story of a woman, who after having a heart transplant, hasn’t quite lived up to her potential. After meeting her donor’s family, she decides to set off on an adventure, finishing her donor’s bucket list. Most of the list includes travel and unexpectedly, her sister joins her on her trip.

I liked the focus on the two sisters and their relationship (and the work they have to do on their relationship), but while it may not have been the main focus of the book, there was another unexpected reminder that came from the book: how much worry can take away from living.

I had some short and random notes from reading this book in a draft, long before a pandemic took over the world and 2020 decided to act the fool. Only recently did I stumble upon them. But, how not so surprisingly, it turned out reading about worry is something I needed. Here’s the quote that stuck out from the book:

“When I worry, I am telling God I don’t trust him. I fret about things I can’t control. I used to think worry was just part of my emotional DNA, something I couldn’t change. But the Bible tells us not to worry. It’s an actual command. Your father reminded me of that. Gently, of course.” A soft laugh. “If we’re told not to worry, then there’s got to be a way to make it happen.”

How easy is it to blame our worry on it being “just who we are?” How quickly are we prone to excusing behavior instead of the hard work of changing it?

In John 14:1, Jesus speaks these words to His disciples, but they have just as much meaning to us as well: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” What is it you find yourself worrying about? What do you try to control most?

When friends from high school started planning our 20th high school reunion (it was going to be this August, but has since been postponed until next year), they created a Facebook group. There’s been plenty of chatter and it’s been fun to think about high school days and see what folks are up to. What has been incredibly sad though, is talking about all of the people we’ve lost since high school. I don’t know if there’s an average number for a school my size, but we’ve lost quite a few. Just recently someone shared about a friend who passed away the previous year. I had absolutely no idea and it was a punch to the gut. He was someone I was looking forward to catching up with.

And once again that age old reminder hit: we aren’t promised tomorrow.

So what do I have to gain by worrying? Trust me, I know it’s hard. I know parents worry about their kids until, well, their whole lives, but is it normal parent concern or unhealthy all consuming worry? If you’re single and dating (or not dating), does finding someone consume what your thoughts, what you talk about with friends? Are you dating someone just for the sake of dating, even with the red flags flying? Are you always thinking about work?

I know there are so many more examples of worry to choose from. But one I know we are all experiencing is with COVID-19 dominating the world. Do you find yourself online reading news every spare second? Hoping somewhere or someone online will make sense of all the mess?

It’s hard. I know. We worry about things we care about. There are many times when the Lord gently reminds me of when my worry starts becoming more than my faith. But hang on to the truth Jesus has left us in His Word.

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31 (ESV)

When I’m in a rut, I try to ask myself these questions: Is my worry stopping me from God’s call on my life? Is worry causing unnecessary tension in my relationships? Am I spending more time worrying about the situation than in prayer and reading the Bible? I encourage you today, to give whatever worries you might have (whether big or small) to the Lord. That’s the best place it can be.

And know I’m there right along with you.

Book Wisdom, Inklings, Love and Faith

Wisdom from a Marsh-Wiggle

From the 2002 Edition from Harper Collins

One of my favorite characters from Narnia is the Marsh-Wiggle Puddleglum from The Silver Chair. He’s such an endearing doomsdayer, who is also quite brave, even if he doesn’t think he is. If you aren’t familiar with this Narnian story, it’s the tale of Eustace and his school mate Jill Pole as they are called to Narnia to help find King Caspian’s lost son, Prince Rilian. Before the adventure in Narnia starts, Aslan shares four signs Jill must remember, the last one being “you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”

As are all the Narnian tales, it’s fantastic and has one of my favorite scenes of all the books. It’s when they finally encounter the lost prince. But they don’t realize it at first, due to the enchantment. When he is tied up for the night (he was tricked into believing it was for his own good) on the Silver Chair, it is the only time he is in his right mind and free of the enchantment and so beseeches Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum to free him from the chair. They hesitate as they have no reason to believe him and think he really will harm them if they do.

I love this scene. As Rilian cries out Aslan’s name, Jill and Eustace still aren’t sure if they should free him, even though it was the last sign given by Aslan. Puddleglum’s response?

“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.

“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.

“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.

“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign.”

For Puddleglum there is no question as to whether or not they should follow through with Aslan’s instructions. What comes after isn’t their concern, but only that they follow Aslan.

I can’t help but relate this to my life. When God calls us to do something, He doesn’t show us what will come after. He simply calls us to obedience. We see this throughout the pages of the Bible. Abram being called to a distant land, Moses called to go before the most powerful man in the world at that time, Daniel and the Lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, Jesus’ disciples leaving family and security to follow a man who called Himself the Messiah.

What God calls many of us to today looks vastly different from these stories from the Bible, but He is still calling his Church to share His love to those who don’t know it, to stand up against injustice, to be bold in our convictions, and fight for the least of these. How that plays out looks different for each of us, but when God calls you (and me), may we remember Puddleglum and that no matter how scary something might look (“that fellow will be the death of us”), may we trust in God’s sign more than the unknown.

Book Wisdom, Bookish Radness

What Book Made You a Reader?

Do you remember the first book that made you a reader? People might guess that mine would either be The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia, but I didn’t encounter Tolkien or Lewis until much later in life (after college). Although, there is a very vague childhood memory of the epic 1970s epic Hobbit cartoon and the most terrifying Gollum to ever be on screen, but I didn’t make the connection until after watching the LOTR movies.

Anyway, there are two books I think of from childhood that I claim as those that made me a reader. One I have no clue the author or title and it was published in the late 80s/early 90s. So good luck finding it – haha! All I can remember is that it was a fantasy book about a young girl who had to leave her castle (I think), go on adventures, and save her family. The cover had her (I think she had a brown braid) and a mountain on it. Possibly included animal sidekicks. If you can help me find that book, I promise to send you every fiction release I’m working on this year.

The other book? The Land I Lost by Quang Nhuong Huynh

I still have my original 1986 version.

I read this book so many times when I was young! I was completely fascinated by Huynh’s stories. How different they were from my own. I loved the stories of his animal encounters (even the scary ones and, after reading it again recently, some violent ones), his pets, the adventures, and the love of his home country. It was so exciting exciting to learn about a culture millions of miles (at least it felt that way to young Jamie) away from Southern California.

I didn’t fully understand all that it meant at that age, but I knew it made me want to learn more about other people, places, and lives. Isn’t that one of the greatest gifts a book gives us?

I’d love to hear from you! What book made you a reader?

Also, if you have kids in your life, GIVE THEM ALL THE BOOKS! You never know which stories will impact them.

Book Wisdom

Back to the Basics With Hugo Cabret

“If you lose your purpose…it’s like you’re broken.” Hugo to Isabelle (page 374)

This quote is from a scene in The Invention of Hugo Cabret, where the main character Hugo is figuring out why the various toys he has encountered were made – they all had a reason for existence. As I was thinking more on the quote, the reminder became clear. We all have a purpose on the Earth.

This isn’t earth shattering news, I know. I bring up this truth though, because in a culture that seems to scream that our value alone comes from what big thing we’re doing, our side hustle, how busy we are, our platform (and to be clear, these aren’t bad things), I don’t ever want to forget the basics. Our purpose is living out a life of love. Loving God, loving others. Our purpose is that we each can bring faith, hope, and love to every human we encounter. For some, that will be on a big platform, book, public influence, but for many, it will be on a smaller stage. One isn’t any better than the other.

So never forget that you were made for a reason; that simple beautiful purpose of bringing hope to the world.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Greek poet Sappho once penned: “Become a voice.” I encourage you today to continue to be a voice for what matters, because there’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for (#SamwiseGamgee).

Book Wisdom

A Few Lessons From Stuart Little About Life, Family, and Friendship

I recently got back into puzzles. Yes, this is also a very random way to start a blog post, but I blame Target. While Christmas shopping, they had puzzles on sale (it was of a tiger) and for reasons I still don’t know, I thought “that sounds fun, I’m going to buy myself a Christmas gift.” It’s been at least two decades since I’ve done a puzzle, but I enjoyed it and found it relaxing, so I bought myself another one. This time featuring covers of famous children’s books. After I finished that one, I did what any book nerd would deem necessary – decided read all the books featured in the puzzle throughout the coming months (It’s gonna be such a struggle when I have to re-read The Hobbit and the two books from The Chronicles of Narnia).

Thus bringing me to a little mouse named Stuart Little. I have a small collection of children’s books and since I already owned this one, it’s the one I started with.

While not Charlotte’s Web nor E.B.’s best work, I think it’s still a fun read for children. It’s a random collection of Stuart’s adventures, with only a few tied together. It ends without some answers, but there are plenty of takeaways. I thought the end quote was quite fitting for life.

We always don’t know what the outcome will be (in Stuart’s case, if he will find his best friend, Margalo), but that shouldn’t stop us from moving forward:

“Stuart rose from the ditch, climbed into his car, and started up the road that led toward the north. The sun was just coming over the hills on his right. As he peered ahead into the great land that stretched before him, the way seemed long. But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.”

Just like a life of faith. Sometimes it’s enough to know you’re headed in the right direction, even if you don’t know the final destination.

Stuart also teaches us how fulfilling life can be when we live it to the fullest, whether that’s seeking adventures in our own backyard or taking some steps a bit further away. He was always up for trying something different or something new.

We also see his love for home. Never is his family and home far from his thoughts, wherever he finds himself and of course there’s friendship. True friendship is one that loves at all times. We see that in his final quest to find his best friend Margalo.

If you haven’t read a children’s book in a while, I invite you to. There’s always something to be gleaned and as my friend C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Finally, if nothing else, how about these life rules? While “substitute teaching” Stuart asks the class what is important:

“A shaft of sunlight at the end of a dark afternoon, a note in music, and the way the back of a baby’s neck smells if its mother keeps it tidy,” answered Henry.

“Correct,” said Stuart. “Those are the important things. You forget one thing though. Mary Bendix, what did Henry Rackmeyer forget?”

“He forgot ice cream with chocolate sauce on it,” said Mary quickly.

“Exactly,” said Stuart. “Ice cream is important.”

I’m good with that.

Book Wisdom, Changing the World

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Book Review

Bringing up issues remotely related to politics is always a tricky situation. It’s hard. It isn’t easy. But, my call to be the light is far more powerful than the fear of anything else.

Because I believe story is powerful and if we aren’t willing to talk about these stories, especially as believers, we are missing out on being leaders and light to the world.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

So with that, I present a book I will recommend to anyone and everyone. You know those books that light, stir or blast full flames onto an already existing fire? This is one such book. I’ll warn you, a lot of this book doesn’t leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but instead lots of anger at injustice. (And if you read it and it doesn’t, then that’s another conversation for us to have)

But.

This is a story too important not to tell, to read and to pass along because there is good and hope in this world.

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” Reinhold Niebuhr

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The story itself will captive your attention, with Stevenson deftly weaving history, the case and other important stories. The story of Walter McMillian feels like a novel, that it couldn’t possibly have happened how it did, but this story was true and you’ll be inspired by the work and hope that comes from Stevenson. There’s a lot of work to be done, but stories like this encourage to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

When blatant corruption exists, mentally ill aren’t given treatment (and instead jailed), when states can legally try 13 year olds as adults and give them life in prison without parole (example, by 2010, “Florida had sentenced more than a hundred children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime. All of the youngest condemned children – thirteen or fourteen years of ago – were black and Latino. Florida had the largest population in the world of children condemned to die in prison for non-homicides.”), there is something desperately and morally wrong.

“Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis of our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Thomas Merton

Here’s a few more quotes:

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

“The true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

“It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.”

“We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent.”

And in case you’re wondering if I’m exaggerating at how important/excellent this book is, here’s a quick list of the awards won:

  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, Time
  • Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize
  • An American Library Association Notable Book

Also, if you’re interested in checking out more, here’s the link to the Equal Justice Initiative.

What’s a recent book (either nonfiction or fiction) that had a dramatic impact on you?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Wisdom, Inklings

Kicking it Off With Some Clive Staples | A Look at Mere Christianity

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. His creativity and writing style captivate me. I love reading the Chronicles of Narnia at least once a year. Powerful themes of life and love, yet incredibly enjoyable too.

I first read Mere Christianity when I was a teenager and while I remember enjoying it, I don’t really think I grasped a majority of it. So I figured it was time to read it again. I should have a better understanding at 30 right? I’m glad I did. While written in 1943 (and in Britain no less :)), there’s still so many provoking thoughts and ideas.

I’m not sure how any of these blog posts will go (let’s be honest, this is my second post), but I’m sure each one will look nothing like that last. So to kick off my first official “book review,” here’s some of the quotes I thought were worth highlighting.

“Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out—as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you. It is not a question of a good man who died two thousand years ago.”

“It is a living Man, still as much a man as you, and still as much God as He was when He created the world, really coming and interfering with your very self; killing the old natural self in you and replacing it with the kind of self He has. At first, only for moments. Then for longer periods. Finally, if all goes well, turning you permanently into a different sort of thing; into a new little Christ, a being which, in its own small way, has the same kind of life as God; which shares in His power, joy, knowledge and eternity.”

“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also that only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next, the Apostles themselves, who set foot on the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

“If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”

What’s your favorite(s) of Mr. Lewis?