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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Port Yonder Press (September 23, 2009)
C. Maggie's articles have appeared in numerous magazines since 1995. She is a prolific writer and blogger, and has a special appreciation for the home education movement. The author loves nature in all its wonder, and enjoys the mountains almost as much as the sea. She lives with her husband in the midwest. This is her debut title.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Port Yonder Press (September 23, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also.
Faith for some is like being rescued from drowning. For others, it’s simply yielding to the Master Helmsman when offered a cruise on His one-way vessel to paradise. It’s a far less harrowing experience to surrender willingly – and early on – especially since we face such a determinedly loving Captain.
I knew, as so many of us do, that if I yelled loudly enough when the flood waters were imminent, He would hear and most likely come to my aid. (I dismissed the idea that He might not choose to rescue me from my folly.) I also knew that calling out to Him meant I would owe Him my all thereafter. The only other option was to drown, which wasn’t an appealing notion.
In other words, in my mind I was rescued not by Someone who loved me, as much as by the only One strong enough to do the job. I turned to Him out of desperation, not truth or love or any other high and lofty ideal.
He dragged me to the safety of the shallow water then picked me up and carried me farther up the sandy beach. Laying me down on the warm, white sand, He began the resuscitation process, breath upon breath, heart massage upon gentle heart massage – and I revived. The rescue was instantaneous, my appreciation for my Rescuer great. Still I did not love Him as I would learn to love Him later. He was only my Savior. My life was His, yet my love was bound in a selfish and worldly heart and it would take years to manage it loose.
But He never gave up, never faltered. Year after year, He held and pressed and moved and worked. He knew how I felt: I would always serve Him. He wanted me to love Him.
The transition from rescue, to learning His truths, to knowing and loving Him as Friend, is illustrated in the story that follows. I have chosen the mountain and (to a lesser extent) the sea as vehicles of expression.
I hope you, too, will come to see that a life lived with Jesus Christ is an adventure of love, no matter how it is told, or by whom. And even more so, that His greatest desire is for each of His children to not merely serve Him, but to love Him with all their being. It always takes time; He’s willing to wait.
ON THE PLAINS OF HUMANITY: FROM VALLEY TO HIGHLANDS
Sojourners all begin their trek somewhere at the base;
In time a few will dare to roam out of their slotted place.
Noble souls, they boldly choose to go against the grain
Of earthly desert wanderings that very soon prove vain.
Instead, they scale the alpine path, a narrow way and long,
And chance the hazards on their way to sing the alpine song.
Every journey starts from where you are. For the complacent or fearful, it ends there, too. But for those who seek treasures beyond Here and Now, no cost is too great, no sacrifice too unreasonable, to commence the search. The course is set, the way determined: they must find that which they lost – or never had. Whatever “it” is, for they may not know what to call it, it must be found. And if it is indeed immortal treasure they long for, they will find it.
Journey begun, the noble seeker will proceed down one of two paths. Either he will be ecstatic with his life-discoveries, even to the point of tossing bits of newfound gold to those around him, or he will turn away in disgust and chide himself back down the mountain for wasting his precious time on something as intangible and unsatisfying as “it” was.
That’s the game and every sojourner must play, or stay home and miss out completely.
Here is where my trek begins. Travel with me as I muse on the alpine path, for “In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also.”
You see, travel and reflection must come in that order: we roam a great while on our earthly journey thinking of nothing – absolutely nothing. Then for some usually undefined reason we actually begin to think, to reflect, on what we see, hear, and feel, and as most would admit, traveling takes precedence over reflection far too frequently along the way.
But one cannot journey far without an occasional glance around, then it’s there! – that which He said would first point us to Himself: His unmistakable fingerprint in what has been made, revealing the reason for our being and Object of our praise.
I am able, then, to resume my travels, more sure of my direction, more confident of the path ahead, knowing Who guides, urges, and pleads me to think, to reason, and then to seek Him whom I can no longer deny.
A journey never starts at the end, but the beginning. In the case of our alpine travels, though, it must of necessity begin at the end: the end of self: self-knowledge, self-satisfaction, self-worship. And the end comes only through the discovery of something, Someone, outside of self. Discovery of a world outside our cocoon of inwardness is the first step of meaningful discovery, the first bit of truth that may eventually lead to ultimate Truth – God Himself.
In finding answers, how assuring it is to know that truth-discovery does not demand intellect, only desire. A babe in intellect may know truth. But for a reasoned, seasoned faith, intellect must be engaged. Genuine intellect may not always have the right answer, but it will never ignore solid evidence. For where human reasoning and discernment are present, so is the capacity for human error and misjudgment.
Intellect draped with integrity, though, will always listen, learn, and attempt to find a viable solution to the inquiry at hand. Existing evidence for or against a specific question may not bring all the answers, it may even require a degree of faith to embrace, but solid evidence cannot be ignored or minimized as one might ignore a hungry cat at the back door, calling for sustenance and attention.
I must not fear to have more questions than answers, but to have more answers than questions. For when the questions stop, previous answers may not have been satisfactory. Or, maybe they have. There, too, comes a time to rest from questioning; a time to relax and let the answers, the lessons, permeate the soul. A time for peace.
In a journey of discovery, experience is but a tangible substitute for intangible truth. But truth combined with the experiencing of it is the reason we exist. Experiencing truth is the undeniable answer that speaks beyond “seeing” to “knowing”. It speaks to the “why” questions we all ask at some point in our pilgrimage. Finding not just answers, but truth, and fulfillment in that truth – the experiencing of that truth -- is God’s intent for His creation.
Any answer, conclusion, or theory a person comes by through self-discovery or the teaching of another, though, is not to be unthinkingly accepted without question, but questioned for the sake of discovery. Even the seemingly easy and traditional answers – on God, faith, love – may be handily received in the mind, but Spirit of Discernment must have free reign as He matches concept spoken with concept written in the Rule Book for all God-seekers.
The thought, the muse, invades the mental process, imposing and confident. One, dull of heart and slow of mind, acknowledges the flash but credits it to nature’s course, a sort of cerebral lightning, an electrical storm in the passage of life. He is amused, albeit, bored. Or, maybe, distracted by the touchability of “real” life surrounding him.
Across the way, or pew, or book, another realizes he has just privileged a glimpse through the curtain of status quo into the arena of Truth. Scrawled across the dividing shroud are the words:
ONLY THE BRAVE ONLY THE BOLD ENTER HERE
And he does.
And he is never the same.
In Greek Mythology, the Muse referred to any of nine goddesses who presided over literature, the arts and sciences: Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Melpomene, Terpsichore, Erato, Polyhymnia, Urania, Thalia.
“Musing” involves engaging our innate sense of inspiration or genius. But today, musing – thinking deeply and at length for the purpose of discovery – is an almost forgotten concept. Time is too scarce in our hustle and bustle society to allow for questionable extravagances such as … musing.
Who has time to think deeply and at length? But it’s only as I take time to ponder written revealed Truth – the Christian Scriptures – in a more than cursory fashion, that its meaning becomes clear and its message becomes real. Romans 12:2 refers to this as the “renewing of the mind” concept, and fallen mind needs renewing! The Psalms call this God-ordained “meditation”.
I can expect difficulty with this truth-musing or internalization process, for embracing ideas – especially God-ideas, which react so violently against my darkened understanding (the reason He gave us the Spirit of Truth who bears witness to His Word) – is more than mere mental assent of truth or a brain-filling storage of facts; it encompasses the entire process of chewing, swallowing, digesting and incorporating that truth into our spiritual cell structure.
Truths are for digesting, not just consuming. Undigested truth is like a lunch that’s been packed and taken along on a journey but never eaten. It begins to rot. And stink.
So, when bits and pieces of truth are uncovered, a discovery made, we are called to be Berean-ish as in Acts 17:11. Firmly clasp the piece of Light – catch it; then slowly release your fingers, using care not to allow it to slip away or be snatched by the cunning Truth-Robber. Once command has been established, begin to turn it this way and that, viewing and re-viewing, neglecting no angles. Let nothing rush you; you are in the process of unraveling an eternal, unchangeable maxim from the mind of the Infinite Creator. No trifling with details here, only grappling with Divine Utterance.
Remember, there are no fast food spiritual truths. Quick fixes are few. Genies in bottles, like Greek mythology, make for good fairy tales, but poor theology. Sovereignty condescended to provide our senseless lives with meaning – and abundance. The act of salvation is instantaneous, but real heart-deep growth takes time. Musing – thinking deeply and at length – of the Word God has revealed, against the backdrop of the world He has made, is one of God’s provisions for growth, fullness of life, and a faith that is so integrated into our spiritual cell structure that we can live it out in our daily lives for all to see, for God’s ultimate glory.
With King David, let us proclaim, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy works; I muse on the work of Thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto Thee: my soul thirsteth after Thee, as a thirsty land.”
A pathway through
So again, we question not for the sake of questioning, but to discover. The trek of discovery, however simple, is not easy and not to be underestimated. Fraught with adversity at every turn, old paths must be unearthed, the conventional and well-worn surrendered. For though there are many passages leading into the valley of the Forest of Deep Shadows, where opportunities for true discovery abound, only one leads out to a better, higher place. It is the path from Here and Now to Then and There.
To the left of the entry to the grove, you will notice a large, hand-crafted sign which reads “Everyman’s Land.” As we proceed down the great thoroughfare there appears another, smaller sign, partially obscured by moss and fallen leaves, obviously neglected and seldom accounted for. It reads: “CAUTION - Travelers be advised: Take up your scythe, with cutting edge sharp and keen, before embarking on your unearthly journey!” Through the bleakness and tangle of treetops, a stream of sunlight shines directly onto the little sign and clearly illuminates it. Its words show forth as a beacon at night.
Traveling on, we eventually reach a Cross-Road – the first of many encounters for some, and at least the once for all. The question is posed, “Here, now, what?”
Slip into the shadows for a moment with me and observe the procession to follow. Many, as you will see, have no heart for discovery. Truth-musing is foreign to them and they offer no apology.
UnPrepared is startled by the suddenness of his Cross-Road meeting. He shrinks away from the much-too-illuminated lane and plods along his dreary, weary way. Unmoved and unmovable, he is settled, secure and too happy to need either adventure or advantage. The comfort of conventionality suits him; he suffices with a measure of peaceful existence. He is Here and Now with no thought or care of Then and There.
Next, Self-Confident boldly approaches the insistent thoroughfare. Undaunted, he assesses present and future cost. He determines greatest value in waiting, in returning to this passage at the eclipse of his life-tour. Sights and sounds of existing surroundings press him and he cannot refuse. There is, he insists, much time to reevaluate and ford, if necessary, intervening bogs on his later trip to Then and There. He assures himself the signs will be in place, the back-trekking unhindered. He has little concern or time to ponder deep forest mysteries. He progresses on his carefree, confident way.
Book in hand, Reasoned Philosopher broaches the junction as if in a duel, rationale flying and doubts whipping the air. “Where can one find significant scientific and experiential evidence to even consider Then and There? Can man embrace a belief of this magnitude and maintain allegiance to critical thinking?” Reasoner reflects, only too little, and rejects.
The line of wayfarers continues for many days. For eventually all sojourners must visit this sun-dappled, opaque land, and travel the well-trod path that lies before them. Now it intersects with and forms a Cross-Road. At a later, indeterminate time, it will be the sole trail out of the forest, when dawn will break. For some.
But first, all must confront the Forest Keeper. Trembling at the radiance of his face, all will bow, and listen, while their quests are addressed. With fury as fire and love as light, Keeper will reveal the unseen and reward the unashamed.
Indifferent, Lazy, and UnPrepared disgrace knowing they unwisely used the Forest Map entrusted to them. They had directions within their grasp (made available to them at their first Cross-Road encounter) but deemed map-savvying unworthy of their effort, unnecessary to attain their destination. They were right. One doesn’t need a map to stay lost.
Self-Made falls on bended knee as the shadow of that very Cross-Road reveals not a monument to self, but a memorial to selflessness. The vertical path that flows from the mountain steeps where Then and There dwells, back to the valley of the darksome forest, intersects with the horizontal path of Here and Now. All becomes transparent; self-confidence melts, only too late.
Doubtful, Shrewd, and Reasoner stand gazing upward as faithless rationale and dubious intellect are whirled heavenward, consumed as if by a devouring beast, then ejected as ignoble fodder not worthy of royal domain.
Each now has their answer – answers tossed away at an earlier juncture. Each is reminded of the placard that began their journey: “Take up your scythe....” In front of them the Forest Keeper holds a rolled papyrus which, the instant it is gazed upon, turns into a great, metallic, keen-edged weapon of war. For some, it is a victor’s saber; for others, the blade of a guillotine.
And ringing within the ears of many as they are marched back into the Forest of Deep Shadows, now become the Forest of Destruction, is the chilling reminder that centuries ago it was said, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
And the Forest Keeper wept for sadness – then joy, as his pathfinders worshipped Him. And among that number I stood with great awe and gladness. After what seemed like hours, I turned and began to walk the road that led from there.
Others had preceded me; the path was noticeably trampled and worn. Trailblazers! – etching edges, clarifying boundaries, determining direction. Even so, I realized each traveler must tread the way himself, and I did.
The voice of love
“I wonder what Your voice will sound like, Lord, when I hear it for the first time. These many days You have loved me, whispered to my heart, at times reproved me, but never audibly; always in quietness.
“Never in a train sweeping by but in the peace which follows the last car rumbling into the distance. Never in a din of voices clamoring to be heard but in the solitude and stillness after the crowd has dispersed. And never in frantic attempts to accomplish or succeed in my own strength but in fully resting in You.
“Then You speak softly, gently, with assurance and great affection.
“But what does the voice of love sound like? I listen to people speak, and think, ‘Does Jesus sound like that? Will His voice have that steady, calm air that brings repose and comfort?’ I’m sure it will be all that and more, Lord. And for whatever it will be that I can’t imagine, I know it will be the Voice of Love.”
Just then, I was startled to find Him walking beside me, smiling. “Well, what do you think? Does My voice fulfill your expectations?”
“Ever so much,” I said, trembling. Kind and soothing, yet constant and courageous, it was all I had dreamt of and more. He continued, “Keep firmly in mind what you have learned thus far. You’ll need it later as you begin your trek up the mountain. You will, at times, lose sight of Me, but I am aware of all that happens. I am only a thought, a word, a desire away. I can promise you that.”
And then He walked toward the sunlight and bade me follow. He led me out of the valley of the Forest of Deep Shadows to the base of the Mount of the Lord and said He must journey another way.
“But, remember My Words, young one, and you’ll scale the heights in safety.”
Waving farewell, I began to walk. I opened the Parchment He had given me in the forest and began to read from a book called Isaiah.