I just recently finished two books. One was an autobiography and the other fiction. But they were both captivating, inspiring, and in my category of, “I can’t put this book down!”, sort of books!! Literally. Last night I was up until wee hours in the morning reading. I only stopped because I was getting uncomfortable and my eye was twitching. But it was worth it!!
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. ~Sir Francis Bacon
I learned from these two books. It might not be a learning as in something new, rather penetrating thoughts that lead to more exploration and deepening of faith. I usually don’t write reviews on my Good Reads, because even if it is a fantastic book, I sometimes do not have the words to describe all that I read. I know with these two books that I must get over that obstacle. Not that I have to write little reviews for all the books I read, but for me, it will help gather my thoughts together. I think these books, which are so different and yet follow a parallel path, need to be chewed and digested. I do not want to read just for a hobby. I want to read in order to learn, to grow, to process lingering thoughts, to share, to encourage others, to come closer to God.
God Smuggler by Brother Andrew
Brother Andrew’s story reminded me a bit if George Muller’s story. Both men of deep faith with no income, who trusted God for their needs and never went hungry, unclothed or in any financial trouble. They were men of prayer. Muller ran an orphanage–Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles to countries behind the Iron Curtain in the 50’s-70’s at the height of the Cold War. He shared his story of his younger years. His father was a deaf, hard-working man. His mother was frail and set in faith. Brother Andrew lived through World War II and all the oppression during the scope of the war. He joined the Dutch army and set out for the East Indies, only to return as a wounded man, not just physically but spiritually. When Brother Andrew turned to Christ, his life changed drastically. He went to school to be a missionary and then God sent him on a mission of sharing God’s word and encouragement to a widespread of areas: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (before 1993’s peaceful split), Germany, Russia, China, Cuba and a few others. He even had to go through Greece on one of his trips and drove past Phillipi. I have been there!!! I could see it in my mind as he talked about the ruins. Very neat.
Brother Andrew asked God to make seeing eyes blind. God answered his prayers. This book reached my heart to show me that I can pray for the impossible. God answers impossible prayers…in his own time, with his majesty and power. To be blunt, I do not pray for my own healing. I stopped in high school. In college when I finally accepted who I am regarding everything, I figured I did not have to pray for healing, because I knew that this was the road in which God was leading me. Only one friend in my life has ever questioned me about this subject. He could not take an “I don’t know why I don’t pray for healing” for an answer. I had to dig deep. His words cut through my heart, but what he was saying to me in love was the truth–I could trust God with the impossible. I still do not pray for healing as if it were a huge portion. I pray in smaller, bite-sized portions. God is amazing me with his timing and mercy in the smaller things. I know that my faith can deepen still, so when the time comes, I too can pray for a miracle.
Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers
I usually shy away from Christian fiction. Only up until this year did I start picking up a few that actually caught my interest as they were intertwined with historical places and people. Ok, if you want to know it was the Winslow Breed Series by Gilbert Morris. I was more interested in them because they were storied around the time of King Henry VII, Queen Elizabeth, and King James. But they turned out to be greater than I expected!
I found River’s book on the bookshelf in the study room. It was thick. Four hundred and twenty-three pages. It was not even the cute cover or the summary on the back that made me want to read it. I just wanted a good thick book to take on our travels, so I could read on the airplane rides and in the cabin we are staying at in the mountains. 😀 Just looked like that style of book fit for a vacation. I opened it just casually and read the first few pages. Two days later the book is finished! Guess I need to find another good book for our trip. I should put a lock on the next one. 😉
I really, really enjoyed this book! Francine Rivers seems to bring in an array of aspects of our society into one book. I will try to do my best of explaining without spoiling anything. There are many characters in this book. Anne-Lynn, or Annie, is eighteen and desires to follow God but is living with a verbally abusive mother who is in her third marriage. Corban is in a big league college studying Sociology and needs to finish his term paper, but needs a case study. Leota has a broken family. She is old and lives alone in the ghetto neighborhood in Oakland. Her garden has not been touched in years and only talking with the Lord keeps her company. Through the course of the plot these characters start on a new journey. Each character that Rivers writes brings in another aspect to the bigger picture. Annie’s friends, Leota’s neighbors and children, Corban’s girlfriend. Each person has their own personality, worldview and problems. As the story progresses, you see that their paths were not just coincidence. They were God designed.
The story touches subjects that are hard to embrace: poverty, abuse, AIDS and cancer, hatred and grudges, pride, selfishness, war, abortion, euthanasia injections, benefits and burdens quarrels, money (rich and poor), power and greed. It showed the sinful nature. It showed our human nature. The situations these characters live through are not just fiction…they are things that go on in the world we live in…and only God can fix the mess. He already did fix the mess. The light of salvation is what shines in the darkness. The story that started as so painful turned into something beautiful. Rivers wrote about the hard subjects…I think it made it so real. By the end of the story, I thought I knew how it would end. “Typical Christian fiction” ending I thought. It did not. It ended even better than I imagined. It was a story of truth and forgiveness. A story of hope.
This book would be a great recommendation for any ladies study group. My mom had read the book (and loved it), so I had some discussions with her and I was so thankful for that! It left my mind so open of thoughts that I needed to share them with someone who knew the story. The book sparked a few memories of my past. Things I said in anger, things I regret. God’s love holds no room for guilt and shame. I must forgive myself, because I have asked for forgiveness from those I hurt and from God. It is like weeding the garden. Taking time to prune, to moisten the hard soil, to nurture. The fruit we bring forth is a reflection of how it is planted, grown and nurtured. I want to grow good fruit. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:5.
If anyone has read Leota’s Garden or even Brother Andrew’s book, I would love to hear your thoughts about them!