Two sweet missionary friends (one who lives right next door, and one who lives halfway around the world) have been telling me for quite awhile that I absolutely had to read Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. They weren’t wrong! This fantastic book, first published in 1869, is a coming-of-age story – journal style – that traces a young girl’s life as she grows up, starts a family, and deals with life’s various hardships and struggles. Prentiss so artfully shares how Katherine falls more in love with Jesus each day. The language and cadence may be difficult to grasp at first (it’s a 150-year-old work after all), but I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
I also worked through The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. The authors, Lukianoff and Haidt, while operating from a pragmatic point of view, make some excellent points about the culture of “safetyism” that is overtaking America today. As far as I can tell, these two gentlemen are not believers. While they’ve missed the wonderful difference Jesus could make if He were invited into the conversation, they do a great job identifying problems and trends in our country, and they recognize that, as a nation, we must value truth more than comfort.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a birthday gift! This story falls into my favorite genre. I finished the book contemplating the various decisions each of these characters was forced to make to stay alive. Are there any instances when compromise is OK? What happens when personal decisions affect the lives of others? This story is certainly not a pretty one, but I continue to be drawn to the experiences of those who lived through the atrocities that Hitler unleashed. (From a writing standpoint, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m old-fashioned. Novels written in the present tense usually tend to annoy me. Overall, I was much more impressed with the survival story upon which the book was based than the actual writing. Five stars for the storyline, 2 stars for the delivery.)
Below are some favorite excerpts I read this month!
We are all very happy together when nothing goes wrong.1 I came away, and all the way home I fought this battle with myself, saying, "He loves me!" I knelt down to pray, and all my wasted, childish, wicked life came and stared me in the face. I looked at it, and said with tears of joy, "But He loves me!" Never in my life did I feel so rested, so quieted, so sorrowful, and yet so satisfied.1 Then I began to hem those handkerchiefs Mother asked me to finish a month ago. But I could not think of anything to do for God.1 I see that if I would be happy in God, I must give Him all. And there is this wicked reluctance to do that. I want Him--but I want to have my own way, too. I want to walk humbly and softly before Him, and I want to go where I shall be admired and applauded. To whom shall I yield? To God? Or myself?1 I wish I did not take such violent likes and dislikes to people. I want my religion to change me in every respect.1 "...the first thing you have to do is learn Christ." "But how?" "On your knees, my child, on your knees!"1 If Christ do all, what am I to do?1 It is easy, in theory, to let God plan our own destiny, and that of our friends. But when it comes to a specific case we fancy we can help His judgments with our poor reason.1 Instead of fancying that our ordinary daily work was one thing and our religion quite another thing, we should transmute our drudgery into acts of worship...1 ...if I had been told what I was to learn through these protracted sufferings I am afraid I should have shrunk back in terror and so have lost all the sweet lessons God proposed to teach me. As it is He has led me on, step by step, answering my prayers in His own way; and I cannot bear to have a single human being doubt that it has been a perfect way. I love and adore it just as it is.1 We can all be more thoughtful about our own speech, but it is unjust to treat people as if they are bigots when they harbor no ill will.2 "I don't want you to be safe ideologically. I don't want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong. That's different. I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity."2 ... Americans are now motivated to leave their couches to take part in political action not by love for their party's candidate but by hatred for the other party's candidate. Negative partisanship means that American politics is driven less by hope and more by the Untruth of Us Versus Them. "They" must be stopped, at all costs.2 Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.2 Having people around us who are willing to disagree with us is a gift. So when you realize you are wrong, admit that you are wrong, and thank your critics for helping you see it.2 ... thinking is social. As lone individuals, each of us is not terribly smart, for we are all prone to cognitive distortions and the confirmation bias. But if you put people into the right sorts of groups and networks, where ideas can be shared, criticized, and improved, something better and truer can emerge.2 He must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below, of which we have the honour to be the faithful servants.3
1Stepping Heavenward, Elizabeth Prentiss
2The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
3Churchill: The Power of Words, edited by Martin Gilbert