A Gift Prepared Ahead of Time

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (I Timothy 1:17, ESV)

It was a work of Providence I might have missed. I have no idea how long the book sat on the shelf waiting for me to buy it. But I do know it was there just for me, for us, just for the moment we would need it.

That moment would be one every mother who has watched her son go to war knows. It’s an indescribable emptiness. But an almighty God can reach down to fill a heart’s void. And He can use any little nook or cranny to do so.

My daughter and I were in an antique store passing time as we waited to see my son off. He was deploying to Iraq.

While we shopped, his unit was on base packing equipment. Families would see our soldiers later that evening for a short time before they left for their departure point.

A yearlong deployment lay ahead.

But there on the shelf sat his favorite book. It cost only a couple of dollars. The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. How good it would be to give him a book he loved.

But there was more.

As we were helping him pack later and preparing to say farewell, my daughter picked the book up and read the back cover flap.

“This book can be sent to a serviceman anywhere in the world for the price of a postage stamp.”

The book was copyrighted in 1942. Published for soldiers during World War II–when my father served–it landed in the hands of my soldier son decades later.

I wondered where it had traveled and who had already read it.

Buck’s masterpiece is about a man who battles hunger and injustice. Not quite war–rather wars of a different sort. He had moments of glory, times he didn’t do the right thing.

He was, in short, like all of us.

Even before my son read it, it was a book I had come to love. I’d read it because it was my husband’s favorite book. Paper ideas about important things in life. Paper becomes glue connecting those who’ve read a book and discussed its meaning.

When my son left for war, he carried a piece of home and history with him.

I still had moments of emptiness, moments of worry during that year. But a great God had put a book on a shelf for us to find that day–to remind us that He sees. He cares. He loves.

This time of year is when we celebrate His coming.

He came to give us more than “chance” literature on a shelf. He came to give Himself to us and for us.

Emmanuel—God with us.

Merry Christmas.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduIce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Providence of a “Circumstance”

Imagine that you’re walking home as twilight descends. You’re tired after spending a day caring for a sick neighbor. And you’ve made the mistake of staying too late. The walk home is three miles long. Darkness descends.

You’ve walked through a stand of trees and are about to cross a meadow and enter a forest. The gray sky lifts your gaze to a supernatural vision. Four hands hold a sheet over a corpse. You hear a voice saying, “The Lord have mercy on the people. The Lord have mercy on the people. The Lord have mercy on the people.”

That is the situation Harriet Prescott Spofford sets up in her 1860 short story “Circumstance.” Spofford based her work on an incident that happened to her great-grandmother during America’s pioneer days.

The story is worth a look in these days of turmoil.

Spofford’s story features an unnamed protagonist–an everywoman walking metaphorically through life where she faces the challenges of ministry, peril, and darkness to emerge into a new day.

The woman in the story shakes off her vision. She is not prone to fear. But fear soon overcomes her when a panther–an Indian Devil, in Spofford’s words–grabs her, hoists her into a tree, and makes clear his intentions to enjoy her as a meal.

Instinctively, she yells. The animal pauses. She calls to her husband realizing he is too far away to help. But she notices that her vocalizing has caused the panther to stop chewing on her.

She begins to sing, regaling the panther with a range of songs through the night. The songs begin close to home. She thinks of her husband, her infant in the cradle, starting with nursery and dance tunes.

But soon the music shifts to that of a Methodist hymnal. That’s significant because John Wesley organized his song collection differently from other hymnals.

Most church songbooks follow the Church calendar. Wesley’s follows the structure of The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s account of an everyman’s journey from conviction to confession to Christian journey, ultimately to the Celestial City–Heaven.

The woman sings through the night. She’s exhausted. She’s in pain. As morning dawns, her voice begins to fail. She hears noises she at first thinks an animal is making. But she comes to realize they are human steps.

Her husband, having become concerned about her extended absence, arrives carrying their child and his musket. She continues to sing with a raspy voice.

He takes aim at the cat but can’t get a clear shot. Her voice continues to falter.

It’s only when she stops, when she can longer connect words and melody, that the animal pauses. He’s enjoying the music and wants it to continue.

The cat shifts his position. The man shoots. She is saved.

Spofford brings a clear picture of salvation–not by our own work. The woman’s own work only delays inevitable death. His work after hers ends rescues her.

It’s a wonderful story, and the man and woman think it’s ended. It has not. (Full spoiler ahead.)

The man carries the child and the weapon. He carries the future and the means of protection.

His wife follows as they head home. He reaches the top of a hill as she notices a footprint on the ground. As she rises to stand next to him, they survey the results of an attack that annihilated their community.

All who stayed behind in what they thought was a safe place are dead. All that remains are smoldering cabins.

The attack of the devil animal in the dark was hard and horrible. But the attack was a gift that saved their lives.

We live in a time where things look bleak. It’s dark outside. Many of us feel under attack.

A new day will come on this shore or on the other. We can have hope. Perhaps the panther that wants to eat us is, in reality, a means of protection.

We don’t know what is happening on the other side of a hill where we thought it was safe.

We can trust the providential God who leads us into the woods. And back out again.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Boatload of Hope

Work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God. Dorothy Sayers

He was not a student I expected to see years later sitting across the desk in my university adjunct office. When I was a brand new teacher, he, like many middle school boys, had not been a highly motivated student.
Back then, I held little hope that he might simply fulfill his potential.
But here he sat.
So he told me his story. Continue reading “A Boatload of Hope”