Forgotten

Have you ever revisited a story you read as a child and found parts you didn’t remember?

One example might be Felicity Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Valerie Tripp. Within the pages of this short chapter book, the reader finds reminders that even if the land in which we live is ruled by an earthly king we also live in God’s kingdom.

This truth is easy to forget – just like it may be easy to forget the five-pointed star hidden within an apple (a little wonder used to illustrate a point for Felicity). But sometimes these forgotten things can have huge impacts on our lives.

This week much of the world is thinking of Halloween or its variations like Día de los muertos. However, October 31 marks the 500th anniversary of an event that has had a profound impact on human history. 

That event was the start of the Protestant Reformation. 

It certainly hasn’t been a perfect movement. No movements made up of imperfect people will get it all right. But at its core, it gave light to a few powerful thoughts:

  • No one can be saved from the penalty of sin (death) by their works…and definitely not by the indulgences that some were trying to sell at the time! (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for us through His death on the cross and Who conquered death in His resurrection.
  • The Bible should be available to the people to read for themselves.
  • “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (I Timothy 2:5, ESV).

These truths – like the points of the star hidden within an apple – are easy to forget. But what impact would they have on our lives if we remembered them?

  • What if we lived remembering that we can’t earn our salvation?
  • What if we lived remembering that the price has been paid for us – that eternal life is a gift to us – and lived in the reality of this grace? This saving grace is free to us, and yet it changes everything of who we are, doesn’t it?
  • What if we lived remembering that the Bible is the Word of God and read it for ourselves often?
  • What if we lived remembering that Jesus is our advocate and that we have direct access to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Day of Encouragement – 4 Ways to Encourage Others

With all the recent happenings in our world, we could all use a Day of Encouragement. Here are 4 things we can do to spread a little encouragement today. 

  1. Say “Thank you”. Maybe you still know the teacher who made all the difference for you in high school. Perhaps a friend of yours has really been there for you. Was there a doctor who gave you or your loved one from-the-heart, skillful care? What about the author who’s been writing that series you love? Even if the act was done years ago, take a moment to write, call or in some way express your thanks.
  2. Ask a simple question to show interest in others. Let’s face it, we all like to be valued as people. Waitresses, retail staff and others often ask “How are you?” but may not be asked the same question back. A little courtesy can go a long way in brightening someone’s otherwise dull day.  
  3. Send a text or write a snail-mail letter just to put an little extra sunshine in someone’s day. Let the recipient know you are thinking of them and share something particular you appreciate about them. Perhaps you can let them know you are praying for them and share an encouraging Scripture as well. 
  4. Commend someone on a job well done. Do you see someone living well? Life isn’t easy – we all know what it’s like to have bad days. But let’s make sure we notice when people are doing well, too. That Mom in the grocery store with a toddler and a baby who is juggling her life (fairly) gracefully? She could probably use a compliment as much as anyone. And the nine-year-old who’s putting effort into learning good habits and multiplication tables? Definitely. 

And, in the spirit of the day, thank you to all of you who follow and read A Storyful Life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments over these couple of years. Thank you for “liking” and sharing posts on Facebook. Know that you are being prayed for today. In the words of Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV):

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

 

 

Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day is September 10th! Here are some ideas of how to celebrate and make it a “storyful” day. (Think of the acronym T.E.L.L.) 

  1. Take time to be together. This may look like reading a picture book together or it may look like talking over cups of coffee or chatting over the phone. A truth is time is one gift none of us can ever get back or get more of and so when we share it with someone, we are, in a sense, sharing one of our most valuable treasures.
  2. Enjoy something yummy together. What’s your favorite treat? Chocolate chip cookies? Ice cream? Whatever it is, enjoy it together. The smells and tastes of our favorite foods are often connected to sweet memories that make for great stories. 
  3. Look back at the past together. Grandparents are a living connection to history, a real gift to grandchildren. Why not look back over family photo albums, visit a local historical site, or watch a history-focused show together? However you do it, ask questions, share stories and listen. Sometimes grandparents are shy of talking about the past. We obviously don’t need to know or share everything and can let some topics stay silent. But an encouragement for grandparents is that their stories may be just what a grandchild needs to be inspired and connected. Many of us these days need new connections, not only to people but also to hope. And stories from previous generations about overcoming struggles, seeing how life’s pieces came together and learning lessons may be the best way to give those connections. 
  4. Laugh together. It’s been said that “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV), so in your “storyful” day silly stories and jokes are welcome! 

May you have a blessed and “storyful” day!

P.S. What if you don’t have grandparents with whom to celebrate? Well, like Andrew in My Own Grandpa by Leone Castell Anderson you may find an older person who needs a “grandchild”, too.

For a few recommended children’s books about life with the elderly, see this post

Photo credit: Adobe Stock. 

Of Solar Eclipses, A Story Weaver and Sunlight

On August 21, 2017, much of the world focused on the total solar eclipse. Then Hurricane Harvey happened and the eclipse was, well, eclipsed. 

I’d like to take us back to the eclipse for at least a moment. 

Did you experience the darkness of totality? Or did you see it on TV? 

It begs the question, what would life be like without the light of the sun? 

Of course, this is a reality blind people experience, in a sense, every day. However, while they don’t see the sun’s light they still feel it.

One of the greatest story weavers of the 20th century, if not of modern times as a whole, was C.S. Lewis. This quote from him is rather enlightening on the topic of the sun,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1}

Something to think about when we get up in the morning and see the sun shining. And perhaps it’s on purpose that the sun rises every twenty-four hours. After all, events seem to get eclipsed in our minds rather quickly, don’t they? 


[1} C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: Macmillan, 1980), pg. 92; quoted in W. Gary Phillips, William E. Brown and John Stonestreet, Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview, 2nd ed. (Salem, Wis.: Sheffield, 2008), pg. 114. 

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

A Birthday Worth Remembering

On August 30, 1923, a baby boy who came to be known as Nate Saint was born. That day no one except God knew what would happen in his life story, but all these years later we can look back and see it, and it is worth remembering. In honor of the day, here’s a lightly edited repost of a piece I wrote about Nate Saint some time ago. 

I first “met” Nate Saint through the pages of The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee by Dave and Neta Jackson, a book my dad read to me. Later, I discovered more about Nate when an excerpt from Jungle Pilot appeared in my school reading book. I savored that story and years later tracked it down to read it again. Combine those experiences with stories from my dad about working at a mission hospital in Ecuador, and Nate was stamped on my hero list!

However, it wasn’t until this past month that I actually read all of Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Witness of Nate Saint, Martyred Missionary in Ecuador by Russel T. Hitt. It lives up to the “gripping” claim and is worthy of a post.

The story of Nate Saint is a love story. Or maybe it’s actually a loves story. Let’s look at these “loves” one at a time.

Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved to bring others into his corner of the world through writing. “I don’t want to be a great writer but I long to express myself…I want to share the stories that are unfolding all around me. Mine would only be attempts, to be sure, but these attempts plus helpful criticism from others may help me eventually to be able to tell stories with the flavor that can only come from an eyewitness.” (pg. 11) This love poured itself onto letters, journal entries and articles. What a mercy that it did because these words eventually formed the structure of Jungle Pilot

Early on in Jungle Pilot, we see that Nate’s story is also the story of a man who loved flying. After his first experience behind the controls with his brother Sam, “he never could get enough of airplanes,” (pg. 46). Speaking from personal experience, it is a thrill to hold a plane’s controls! Nate possessed a keen mechanical ability as well. His sister-in-law once said, “I wearied of nuts and bolts for dinner” of the dinner table conversations they shared (pg. 52). As Nate worked his way through Army Air Corp training, it seemed that he was made to be a pilot. Then – just as he was about to start flying – his childhood nemesis osteomyelitis returned. Although he stayed in the Army, he would never fly there. “I was heartbroken,” Nate reported (pg. 66) about his shattered dream. However, he soon got back on his feet. It’s a good thing he did, too, because within a few years, Nate found himself flying as much as he could. No, he wasn’t dodging or dropping bombs with the Army, but flying with Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) had plenty of dangers lurking in short runways, unexpected downdrafts and more. Thankfully, he had people around him to help him bear the load of work and worry. Of those people, a few stand out, especially his family.

Undoubtedly, Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved his family dearly. You’ll have to read how Nate and Marj met for yourself. (God writes the best love stories, doesn’t He?) The love evident at their wedding only grew deeper with time. Once Nate wrote to Marj about their wedding: “If I had known you before as I know you now, I would have answered the preacher with a shout instead of a quiet ‘I do’.” (pg. 183) This real-life love extended to their children as seen in Nate’s response to the news that Kathy was born. (He was in Panama at the time for medical care while Marj was in Ecuador.) “Thank God for the wonderful news in the telegram…Honey, don’t be afraid to give that little gal lots of loving. She’ll need the practice for when her daddy gets home…I can hardly wait to see our precious baby.” (pg. 139). Later, Stevie, and Phil joined the family.  Amidst all the demands of pioneer missionary work, Nate made time for talking with his little ones, sharing Bible stories and praying with them (pg. 180).

But Nate’s love extended beyond his family making his story that of a man who loved others, even the unloved. He showed love for the the missionaries in his daily service as a pilot, mechanic, handyman and friend. He loved the native Ecuadorians and the Shell Oil workers as he used his skills to help them as well. Then his love reached beyond the jungle barriers to the unknown tribes, even the “Aucas” – known as killers – who could give him nothing in return. After his death, his wife Marj wrote to their children, “For a long time you children have prayed for the Aucas…Daddy would want you to love them and thank our heavenly Father that our prayers for these Indians are being answered,” (pg. 286).

Yes, Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who loved writing, flying, his family, and even strangers. Yet there is one more love left and it’s the greatest love of all. Jungle Pilot is the story of a man who both loved God and trusted God’s love. Of one life-threatening experience, Nate wrote, “I wasn’t afraid to die…And more important, I knew that God loved me like a son. The proof of His love was His real Son who suffered in my place on a Roman cross at Calvary,” (pg. 91). If you read Jungle Pilot, I think you will agree that it was this love that fueled everything else Nate did. This was the love that compelled him to say, “May His will be done,” (pg. 66) when he realized his Army pilot life was grounded. This was the love that inspired him to have engraved on his and Marj’s wedding bands Psalm 34:3: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” It was this love that emboldened him to serve the missionaries under hazardous conditions to help them in “giving the Word of Life” (pg. 35). Lastly, it was this love that enabled him to live out this verse: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13, KJV) on January 8, 1956 when he gave up his life for the Aucas because “they too were men for whom Christ died.” (pg. 35)

There’s so much more I could say, so many stories I didn’t share. I hope you’ll get an opportunity to read Jungle Pilot for yourself and be able to feel like an eyewitness to Nate Saint’s story. May we all know what it is to love to do good things and to love people. Even more importantly, may we know the love that the heavenly Father has lavished on us – both today and every day – and may it be the fuel for everything we do.  


* Russel T. Hitt, Jungle Pilot: The Gripping Story of the Life and Witness of Nate Saint, Martyred Missionary in Ecuador, with an epilogue by Stephen F. Saint (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1997), 122. All quotations are taken from this book unless otherwise noted.

 

Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce

Have you ever wondered how you could accomplish something considering your weaknesses and limitations? If so, then you have something in common with the key figure of this story. 

Let’s go back to 1807 in England. That year, Parliament chose to take a stand against one of the greatest evils of the day. In fact, Parliament voted to make that evil illegal even though some people really wanted to keep it going and giving it up meant losing both power and wealth.

That evil was the trafficking of human beings known then as the slave trade.

Through the radio theater drama Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce, you can meet William Wilberforce. As a young member of Parliament, he has what many people long for – wealth, popularity and position. He chooses to risk it all when careful study brings him from skepticism to personal faith in Jesus Christ. 

Soon he is confronted with the realities of the slave trade – a trade that greatly benefits his country economically and is considered unchangeable. Others are speaking up, but Wilberforce’s gifts and position make him the obvious choice to lead the cause in Parliament. 

After prayer and seeing God work, Wilberforce becomes convinced that taking on the slave trade is something he must do in spite of the cost…

While William has position and a penchant for public speaking, one thing he does not have is good health. Throughout his life, he is plagued by poor eyesight and what may have been ulcerative colitis. (Note: Information on his exact ailments seems to vary.) But he presses on.

Grace Victorious leaves you with the story unfinished, a reality to which we can all relate. After all, that is how our stories are (for anyone reading this blog) – unfinished. We may be facing challenges, questions, unknowns….Just like William Wilberforce when he began his campaign against the slave trade. 

One of William’s last statements in Grace Victorious is,

“I expect a long and arduous fight. But as I lie here, I wonder how I will fight – how this frail and feeble body will ever rise against a mountain of hatred, cruelty and greed.” [1]

The response?

“The only way such things are ever done, William – by the grace of God.”

If we choose to live like William Wilberforce, we may live to see challenges met, questions answered, unknowns discovered. And we may be used in ways we never expected.

After all, it’s unlikely Wilberforce thought someone would be writing about a radio theater drama featuring his story 210 years after the abolition of the British slave trade, much less that the writing would go on a blog accessible to the world at the push of a button. 

[1] Paul McCusker, Grace Victorious: The Story of William Wilberforce, audio CD disc 2, track 8, 6:28.

Aspire to The Heavens: Mount Vernon Love Story

Their love story begins simply but has the makings of a fairy tale. She is a widow with two young children. He is somewhat of a military legend. She shows interest in what is dear to his heart, his home Mount Vernon. He wins the hearts of her son and daughter.

A fairy tale would end there with a “happily ever after”. But their story isn’t make believe.

This is just a taste of Mount Vernon Love Story – A Novel of George and Martha Washington. Within its pages, Mary Higgins Clark presents a personal view of America’s first President and first First Lady. She shares their struggles and heartaches. Whether the story strictly follows the record of history is a subject for further study, but if you read it, you will have the chance to get to know these more distant figures as well as you might know close friends.

You’ll also find that their story illustrates two interesting points.

1) No matter how much two people love each other, they can never love each other perfectly. No matter how well suited two mortals are to each other, they will never be able to meet all the other’s needs nor fulfill all their dreams. 

See, loving perfectly and meeting every desire are God-sized jobs. And, well, God-sized jobs are just too big for mere men and women. Even if those men and women stand among the “greats” of history.

2) As life goes through seasons, so does love, and growing love through those seasons can take intentional effort. For George and Martha in Mount Vernon Love Story, the War for Independence and a personal grief could tear them apart, but they each come to heart-deep realizations and take action. That season gives them the depth they need to lead a nation. 

In I Corinthians 13, we find God’s standard for love. Just like George and Martha, we can’t obtain it for ourselves. But we can look to Jesus, the One Who seeks to lavish it on us, and, as the motto of George’s mother’s family said, “Aspire to the heavens”. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV)


Note: This book doesn’t make it onto the “favorites” list for a reason or two, but was worth sharing because of the above points. 

Not The End of The Story…

All of us have faced or will face chapters in our stories that may seem like they could never bring a happy ending. Elisabeth Elliot and Marjorie Saint both could have felt that way in the second week of January 1956. 

That was the week they found out their husbands had been brutally killed by the men they were trying to reach with love, hope and God’s gift of eternal life.

That was the week they learned that they were now widows and that their children would never see their fathers again. 

But that wasn’t the end of the story as you can learn for yourself in this recent BBC report containing thoughts from Elisabeth’s daughter and Marjorie’s son and through Jungle Pilot and children’s books like The Fate of the Yellow Woodbee and Pilipinto’s Happiness (written by Elisabeth’s daughter, Valerie).

Sometimes we’ll get to see more of the story. Sometimes we may not get to see every chapter. Still, when we face tear-filled times, may we have the grace to remember they are not the end of the story…and it could very well be that the best is yet to come.

A Chance for Change

“Every day of her life and the years she had yet to live people would be changed because of her story. Her life story.” ~Karen Kingsbury, Remember Tuesday Morning

Are stories just for entertainment, not changing anything about how readers live? If the true answer were “Yes”, most writers would lay down their pens and let dust settle on their keyboards. 

Why?

Writers scribble to bring joy, give direction, shed light, build or tear down barriers, cause tears, heal hearts and change cultures. Just ask Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis and Karen Kingsbury if you get the chance. 

Isn’t it remarkable that each real-world life is its own story – a subplot of the grand Tale of Time? And each real-world life is written for change just like the make-believe lives. 

Each life brings a chance for change but not just for itself. It’s a chance to bring change to someone else. Of course, those changes may be harmful or helpful. As we step into this chapter called 2017, let’s ask ourselves, what changes will our life stories bring this year as they intersect with others’ stories?

A kind word well timed?

An offer of grace?

A sacrifice of love?

A safe, warm place?

May we look to the Author and Finisher of our faith – Jesus – and take our cues from Him, asking Him to make the changes in us that need to happen so He can use us to bring good changes to the other stories He is telling this year.

Five Favorite Books from 2016

Here are five favorite books from 2016. If you haven’t read these yet, perhaps you can check them out in 2017. Happy New Year and happy reading! 

Children’s Picture Book: Tea with Lady Sapphire by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick              A children’s picture book full of beautiful photographs and a whimsical yet educational story. Introduce little ones to the feathered friends and other critters of the winter forest with this delightful book. Just the thing for a parent (or grandparent) to share with their wee loved ones!

Middle Reader: The Discovery (Book #1 in the Santa Fe Years) by Nancy Rue                           Will Hutchinson’s world is reeling. Since his father has been fighting in the Pacific theater of WWII, Will and his mom move to Santa Fe. There Will is the only “Anglo” kid in his class at school, meets a Native American girl named Fawn…and discovers something that threatens everything he believed about himself. An engaging way to learn about WWII and Native American life in New Mexico. 

Biography: Jungle Pilot by Russell T. Hitt                                                                                               January 8, 2016, marked the 50th anniversary of the death of five missionaries in the Ecuadorian jungle. Nate Saint was one of those five. Within the pages of this book, you will find his life story, including excerpts from his own letters and journals. You can read more thoughts on Jungle Pilot here.

Novel: As Waters Gone By Cynthia Ruchtia                                                                                         Emmalyn knows her husband will soon be free to come back…from prison. The problem is, she isn’t sure he’ll be coming back to her. With dwindling savings and evaporating hope, Emmalyn heads to Madeline Island where she intends to renovate their hunting cabin into her – or possibly their – new home. What she discovers on this island in Lake Superior will change her life in more ways than she ever expected.

Audiobook: Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon, read by John McDonough                  The tale of the beloved Mitford characters continues with Come Rain or Come Shine. The main attraction? Dooley and Lace are tying the knot! They’re doing everything they can to have what they really want – a simple country wedding – but has planning a wedding ever been simple? Full of the heart, hope and hometown feel that Mitford fans love. The voice of John McDonough brings the story and characters to life. 


What were your favorite books from 2016? Leave a comment with your thoughts!