Monday, December 25, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
Thank you, Lord. Thank you for Jesus. He is the Emmanuel, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
"The dynamic of my life lies in knowing that I have a living Lord who is a very vital personality interested in all the details of my life and who has promised to guide me day by day."
"I am living proof that God fulfilled that dream [writing a novel]; living proof of the awesome power of a right dream in the heart of an individual who says yes to God’s plan."
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Christy Huddleston in Christy
Neil MacNeill is the Doctor of Cutter Gap. He was born there, his parents and grandparents were born there, and it was his ancestor – the first Neil MacNeill – who led the Scottish highlanders to the mountains of Tennessee more than a hundred years before.
Unlike the other mountain men, Dr. MacNeill is educated, and he has seen life outside of the mountains. He is not a simple country doctor; Neil has spent years studying medicine at college, and he would have had a promising career in the city had he not chosen to return home and serve “his people.” He feels an almost ancestral responsibility for the people of Cutter Gap. He understands them in a way outsiders never could, and he has devoted his life to caring for their medical needs.
Dr. MacNeill is perhaps my favorite character in the book Christy by Catherine Marshall. Why? It isn’t his Scottish brogue (he doesn’t actually have one, and he has never been to Scotland). The Doctor has immense strength of character. He is kind and sincere. He lets us know exactly what he believes without any apology, and you always know that his decisions are made thoughtfully and straightforwardly. Neil doesn’t try to hide behind incomplete ideas by saying, “Don’t think about it.” He encourages thought and is painfully honest while remaining compassionate and sympathetic. He also has a great sense of humor. Christy is the story of his spiritual transformation from complete rebellion against the Creator to… well, I will get to that later.
Death and Dying
In a revealing conversation with Christy Huddleston about his beliefs, Neil says:
“I believe in God, in the sense that I’m willing to admit some starter-force for the universe. And I believe that love is the most creative force in the world. Trouble is, I’ve seen so many diseased bodies, so much suffering, pain, hatred, death and dying. Alice Henderson is always talking about a loving God who’s concerned about people as individuals. I can’t quite go along with that, else He wouldn’t let our world be so awash in trouble and suffering. I suppose the truth must lie somewhere in between believing in nothing and the elaborate case that the Christians have built up.”
Neil MacNeill has seen a lot of suffering. The mountains are plagued by diseases of epidemic proportions and blood feuds. Neil is the one who cares for the sick and the dying. It is his job to extract bullets from the backs of his childhood friends and lay to rest the children that he has cared for and loved since their infancy.
Although he believes in some kind of creator, he doesn’t believe in a personal God that cares for His creation. Neil is full of pride at his own personal accomplishments, and he hates God for taking away his wife and infant son.
Once upon a time Neil was married to Miss Alice’s daughter Margaret. They were both in rebellion against God, and their marriage wasn’t a happy one. Margaret suffered from feelings of inadequacy, and she only married Neil because she considered him – a backwoods mountain man – as unworthy as herself. Neil loved Margaret regardless of this, however, and he was crushed when she and their premature baby died in a typhoid epidemic three years before Christy’s arrival at Cutter Gap.
Neil MacNeill is a “real” fictitious character. His emotions are shared by thousands of people who feel wounded by life and blame God for their sorrow. If not for the grace of God, MacNeill would be considered a hopeless business. His heart seems to be solid rock. God has a plan for Neil MacNeill, nevertheless, and He is working on this man’s heart. Neil is searching for answers, and this is evident through his questions to Christy about why Christianity is important to her.
Christy doesn’t do the best job answering his questions, but she does say one thing that I have to imagine he mulled over for months.
Christy: “You don’t consider yourself a Christian, Dr. MacNeill?”
Neil: “No-o come to think of it, I don’t suppose I do. It never seemed important one way or the other.”
Christy: But what if it turns out to be the most important thing there is?”
Christy’s first impression of Dr. MacNeill is not good. She blames him for not being able to do more for the mountain people – until she realizes how much he has given up for them. Neil holds nothing back but gives all his time, resources, and energies to the highlanders. Christy’s dislike gradually turns into an odd mixture of respect and frustration. This feeling gives way to compassion, and she begins to have feelings of care toward him.
When Christy first arrives in Cutter Gap, Neil probably thinks that she won’t be able to endure and stay teaching in the mountains for long. He is mistaken. Dr. MacNeill learns to respect Christy for her successes with the school children, her stubborn perseverance, and her growing love for the mountain people. Neil can’t help admiring her.
Dr. MacNeill knows he doesn’t have a chance with Christy. He is still fighting against God and is bitter about the death of his wife. Unlike David, Neil doesn’t try to drag Christy into his problems, and if not for a miracle of God, a close relationship between Neil and Christy would be both impossible and unwanted.
Everyone’s character is tested when another epidemic of typhoid sweeps through the community. Christy tirelessly cares for the sick alongside Dr. MacNeill before falling ill to the deadly disease herself. God will use anything to wake up a proud and arrogant soul, and God uses this experience to humble Neil. The climax is when Christy is at the point of death, and no human aid can save her. Neil becomes aware of not only his love for Christy but also his own stubbornness, pride, and need of the Savior.
Christy is near death when she feels someone calling her. She can hear Neil MacNeill crying at her bedside. He declares his love for her. He can’t have her die without knowing that he loves her. Recognizing that there is nothing he can do to save Christy, Neil is humiliated before God.
“God, I have fought against You because I have not understood. Not only fought, God, but cursed You. I did not understand why You let Margaret die – and our son. I did not understand anything about You. I still don’t understand anything – except that somehow I know You are love... “
“Lord God Almighty, Lord God of heaven and earth, I have been stiff-necked and proud, arrogant and stupid. I am not worthy of – of anything, least of all to ask favors of You. […] Lord God, You are the Creator, I am the created. I am helpless, as helpless as all other men. As a doctor, I thought I knew something. Now there is nothing more that I can do for Christy. Nothing at all. So I offer back to you this love that you gave. It’s all I have to give you, God. Here are our lives – hers and mine – I hold them out to you. Do – with us – as – You please.”
God alone can heal, and we are filled with joy as Christy feels His healing power enter her body and cure her from head to toe. She knows without a shadow of doubt that God has a plan for her life, and that plan includes Neil.
"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 10:32
We may presume that Neil went on to make a bold confession of faith in Christ. As I have written before, Catherine Marshall rarely writes the wrong thing; she just doesn’t go as far as I think she could. That said, however, I do not doubt the real conversion of Neil MacNeill’s heart, and this scene (in its entirety) is one of the most touching in all literature. I think I actually cried the first time I read it, and that is very rare!
Have I picked this apart too much? Is there anything you would like to add?
Note: Excerpts are taken from Christy by Catherine Marshall.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
In the mean time, my sister Susanna has updated My Father's Daughter, and I highly recommend that you take a look at her new post. I love reading her thoughts!
This is a fun photo that I have been meaning to post for a while now. It looks like the City Hall is exploding! In reality, we enjoyed a fireworks show.
Friday, November 24, 2006
I had a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with family, food, reading, games, and work. There was even time for me to finish reading Sense and Sensibility again. I love that book! It was a good Thanksgiving, and I was reminded of how much there is for me to be thankful for.
- God's Love
- God's Forgiveness
- God's Faithfulness
- God's Provision
- My Parents
- My best friends Susanna and David -- Life wouldn't be nearly as much fun without my sister and brother.
Don't worry. This picture is not of Thanksgiving dinner. We ate turkey -- not rooster. Perhaps he could make up Christmas dinner?
Next up: Neil MacNeill
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
"I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.""The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!"
"The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit."
"Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth."
"When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. "
"Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned."
I took these pictures on an afternoon bicycle ride around the lake with my mother.
Can you guess which state in the USA has the most shoreline? It is none other than OKLAHOMA!
Friday, November 17, 2006
Christy Huddleston in Christy
Miss Alice is the founder of the Cutter Gap mission and has long been the only “outsider” able to help the highlanders. What is her strength? What enables her to have so much patience, kindness, and genuine love for the people? What makes her accepted in the community while other outsiders are looked upon with suspicion?
Alice Henderson has a personal and intimate relationship with her Heavenly Father. She loves God above all else, and she places her security in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is her life’s goal to spread this love to the often superstitious mountain people who typically think of God as simply a cruel and vindictive kill-joy.
Humble and compassionate, Alice does not hold herself above the mountain people she has come to serve. Instead, she helps everyone unobtrusively with their individual needs using the Bible to encourage and correct. It is obvious that she has taken 1 John 4:7-8 to heart. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
The people of Cutter Gap know that Miss Alice really cares about them, and they can take what she says seriously. She is a living example that regardless of personal circumstances or tragedy, God has given us joy and peace in a relationship with Him. He loved us so much that he sent His only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. It is through Miss Alice’s influence that the people of Cutter Gap begin to forgive and put aside hate and ancient grievances.
A Stormy Past
Miss Alice has not had an easy life. Raped at the age of 16 by a man respected in the community and Henderson household, she was forced to raise her illegitimate daughter as a single parent. While this has enabled Alice to empathize with the struggles of the highlanders, it is also why I would not recommend Christy to young readers.
Far from being perfect, Alice Henderson made many mistakes when it came to raising her daughter Margaret. Her worst fear was that Margaret would feel unloved and unwanted, so she let her daughter have too much of her own way. As a result Margaret became strong willed and wildly independent. Miss Alice was forced to pay the consequences of her permissiveness when Margaret turned her back on her mother’s Christianity and attempted to cut off all ties with her family. Alice Henderson continued to suffer as she witnessed Margaret’s continued unhappiness and eventual death to typhoid.
Alice could have become bitter and angry over a disappointed life. What did she do to deserve so much hardship? Instead, she is full of joy. She is unwavering in her faith, as the Lord is her strength. Catherine Marshall often uses the character of Alice Henderson as the voice of wisdom to wake up the other characters and give much needed advice. While David tries to persuade Christy not to face the uncomfortable conclusions of some of his ideas, Miss Henderson always asks Christy to seek truth and deal responsibly with it.
“Go on, Christy […] ask questions, never be afraid of truth […] And ask God. Ask Him ultimate questions – about the why of things: about your place in the world, about life – and death. Ask, Christy, ask. Seek. You’ll find. The promise is sure.”
Using Bible stories and verses to bring instruction, Miss Alice's greatest advice to Christy is to search the Scriptures on her own as the answer to all her questions. She doesn’t give up on Christy, but encourages her to grow in the Lord.
Catherine Marshall does not quote directly from Psalm 36:7, but I think it defines Alice Henderson’s source of strength and comfort. “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
There is so much else that could be said about the character Alice Henderson. What is your opinion?
It is also probable that Mrs. Marshall did not intend her book to be an evangelistic work but a portrayal of sinful people with real problems that Christians should be able to identify. We probably meet people like Christy, David, Neil, and Miss Alice all the time, and Christy provides an in-depth look at their motives and thought processes. If nothing else, we can ask this question of ourselves: “How would I have handled this situation?”
Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
Alice Henderson should be ready later today, but I thought I had better post my autumn pictures before winter weather completely took over!
Monday, November 13, 2006
Aunt Polly Teague in Christy
David Grantland is the young minister at the Cutter Gap Mission. Why is he there? His seminary sent him. Why was he at seminary? His mother and sisters wanted him to be a minister.
At first, we expect big things of Rev. Grantland. He is young, handsome, and hardworking with a booming and authoritative voice. We expect (or at least hope) that he is a strong Christian saved by grace for the glory of God.
The more that you read about this character, however, the more you realize that this man, this preacher, is not serving the Lord’s work at all. He is a heretic and imposter.
A bit strong?
I don’t think so. Consider his words.
“I don’t believe it matters so much what you believe as how you live. Jesus was concerned with ending injustices, with people’s health, how they lived, whether they forgave one another – all that. Dogma isn’t important. It’s the results in the community that count. As for the Bible it’s an amazing book, the greatest book of wisdom we have.”
This is blatant heresy. Instead of building up the mountain community and bringing the clear and perfect gospel he brought confusion. Instead of teaching that Jesus is who He said He was – the Son of God who came in the flesh to live a perfect and obedient life and be killed in our place so we can be the righteous children of God – Rev. Grantland believes that the Bible is a “book of wisdom” and that Jesus was only a moralist.
Again, he expands his position on the Bible.
“I don’t believe that every word in the Bible is true like some fundamentalists do,” David continued. “At seminary most of us felt that the seemingly weird and mysterious happenings in the Bible have perfectly natural explanations – if we but knew.”
Honestly, I don’t know for sure if the author of Christy, Catherine Marshall, believed in biblical literalism and scriptural inerrancy. My impression tends to be that she did, and David is not expressing Marshall’s personal world view. On the other hand, Catherine Marshall never has this position intelligently disputed as it should have been, and the issue is left hanging without any Christian conclusion. This was unwise of the author at best and heretical if she was using the minister to express her personal beliefs. To me (coming from a Christian viewpoint), it appears that David Grantland represents the kind of sinner who thinks that he has it all put together but is really as low as the “worst” sinner in need of God’s grace.
As you might expect, Rev. Grantland’s ministry suffers. It is the Lord who saves, and David is trying to accomplish the impossible by making the mountain people moral without the foundation of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. David Grantland tries to do it by his own power, but without God it is a hopeless business. As a result, David becomes cynical and believes that the mountain people are hopeless, impossible to save, with hearts as hard as rock. Whose heart is really hard? It isn’t the highlanders who are impossible to save; it is David’s message that is dead.
Is there hope for this confused minister? I think so. David Grantland is not the main character in Christy, so Catherine Marshall does not entirely resolve his difficulties. It is impossible to say exactly if he will find the truth, humble himself, and accept Christ. We are given some hint, however, that he will.
Near the end of the book Miss Alice confronts David regarding his sincerity, motives, and position before God. At this point David is broken and humiliated, and Miss Alice helps him understand in her loving but very direct way that he has never really wanted God and that after being hen-pecked and controlled all his life he had seen the ministry as a chance to finally tell others what to do for a change.
“Could it be, David, that your deepest fear is calling anyone Master and Lord?”
David is humbled, and he acknowledges that he has been running away all his life. At the end of this lengthy discussion David walks out of the room (and the novel) saying,
“You’ve both made me look at myself and see things I hadn’t wanted to see […] I have some tough thinking to do. I’d better get on with it.”
I see hope for David Grantland. Don’t you?
Some attention needs to be given to the relationship between Christy and Rev. Grantland – as uncomfortable as that may be. There are several things that can be learned from them – if only what not to do.
Here are the facts: David feels insecure at the mission and believes that no one is on his side (he is probably right). In a moment of depression David tells Christy that he needs her, will always need her, and that he wants her to marry him. Christy feels sorry for him and almost promises to marry him. Something holds her back, however, and she tells him that she needs to think about it. He kisses her.
Hold on! Where is the logic behind that?
This book shows in a classic example that kissing before marriage only confuses the people involved. It is not good. The fact is: David Grantland is not the right man for Christy. Kissing him confuses her already confused emotions, and she begins to think that she loves him. He isn’t a Christian, and although Christy doesn’t know that at this point in the story, the Holy Spirit is trying to warn her against committing to David.
David distracts Christy at a time when her thoughts should be focused on God. His council was never beneficial. She was not brought closer to God by her relationship with David. If anything, his heretical ideas hurt her relationship with God and caused the doubt and confusion that followed Fairlight Spencer’s death.
Christy needs clarity of thought at this point in their relationship, and kissing doesn’t give her that. Swept away by the “romance” of it all she doesn’t even realize that at no point does David ever say that he loves her; he only needs her. This is a major mistake on his part (girls love to hear that they are loved), and I am happy to say that Christy comes to her senses before the end of the book.
By the ending scene Christy knows with certainty that David Grantland is not the man that the Lord has prepared for her. In many ways the Lord protected her, but she would have saved herself a lot of turmoil if she had only saved kissing for her wedding day. Emotions are tricky enough without kissing – you had might as well wait. You won’t regret it.
Do any of you have any thoughts about David Grantland?
For Further Reading:
Friday, November 10, 2006
Dr. MacNeill in Christy
Relaxed, laid back Christianity is a problem today, and it appears to have been an issue in 1912 as well. While Christy is a well meaning Christian – even a visionary who wants her life to make a difference – she is in essence a spiritual baby when it comes to understanding God or her relationship with her Heavenly Father.
Christy Huddleston loves children, and she has a soft, compassionate heart. After hearing a passionate speech about the mountain people and their needs, she feels drawn to help and promptly volunteers to teach school – before asking her parents. Her headstrong spirit is immediately visible as she envisions freedom from society, her parents, and the dull existence that has made up her 19 years.
Some things don’t change over time. Young people in 2006 continue to search for freedom and an opportunity to make their own way in the world. Like Christy, modern youth has a lot of growing up to do.
Having lived a life of luxury and ease before her arrival at Cutter Gap, she is in for a rude awakening in the small mountain community. Extreme poverty and filth startle her, and her first reaction is one of distaste. Christy wonders if perhaps her coming wasn’t all a mistake.
Miss Huddleston stays, however, and I think at first it is her stubborn nature as well as her love for the children that keeps her going. It is also something else. Christy feels drawn to the mission, and she knows that God wants her to be there. The longer she is there the more she realizes that it is for her own spiritual growth.
Christy’s Christian foundation isn’t very strong. She lacks the zeal to search the Scriptures on her own, and she feels uncomfortable praying in public. Christy has more questions than answers, and for the first part of the story, she doesn’t even realize that she has any questions.
Her spiritual awakening begins when Dr. MacNeill (more on him later) asks her what she believes about God and why Christianity is so important to her. Sadly, she doesn’t have any answers to this serious and critical question. She later tells Miss Alice, “That’s a horrid discovery to make.” Miss Alice counters, “That’s a great discovery to make.” She is right. You have to know there is a problem before you can fix it.
This realization startles her, and I am happy to say that it wakes her up out of her spiritual sleep. What is important? Who is God? How do we know Christianity is true?
Christy is still wrestling with these questions when the region is swept with a deadly epidemic of typhoid. The first victim is Christy’s best friend and mother of 5 children, Fairlight Spencer.
This tragedy throws Christy into spiritual shock. Reaching her lowest point she cries out to the Lord in her agony. Why could something like this happen? Why, Why, Why? She must have the answers. Is there really a God? Does He truly exist, and if He does exist, does He even care about her?
It is difficult for me to express her complete pain. You will need to read the book to fully understand the turmoil that Christy experiences. It is enough for this post to know that the answers did come. God did show Himself to Christy Huddleston. It wasn’t dramatic or loud. It was a peaceful realization of His eternal love. Peace finally came through reading His Word and falling in love with her Savior. Confusion, rebellion, and despair depart as she finally knows that God is.
“I had found my center, my point of reference. Everything else I needed would follow.”
As the epidemic worsens Christy is no longer left adrift without answers to her basic questions. She is able to put self aside and work tirelessly for others. Her problems are by no means over (more on that later when I write about David Grantland and Dr. MacNeill), but she knows that God is her help. She is no longer alone.
Putting Self Aside
Christy Huddleston is finally growing up. In a revealing statement to David, she says…
“You see, David, it’s just that when I volunteered to come to the mountains, I thought it was from really lofty motives – because I loved people and wanted to help them. But now I know that wasn’t the reason at all. I came for me. So – well, I can’t turn around and leave now for the same reason.”
Christy doesn’t live for herself any more. Her focus has turned to following God’s plan for her life and helping others.
What have I missed? Please give me your thoughts on the character of Chrsty. I couldn’t write everything, so please tell me your opinion of Christy and her motives, methods, and spiritual journey. What do you consider to be essential in understanding Christy?
For Further Reading:
Monday, November 06, 2006
Christy by Catherine Marshall is about a young schoolteacher trying to make a difference at a backwoods mission school in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. Loosely based on the actual adventures of the author’s mother, Leonora Whitaker Wood, the story is full of spirit, life, and a heavy dose of tragedy as Christy is forced to deal with the hate, extreme poverty, and superstition of the mountain people.
The schoolchildren fill Christy with joy as she comes to love their sweet spirits and hunger for knowledge. The mountain women also gain a place in her heart, and she comes to befriend many of them – especially Fairlight Spencer.
Among the pleasures of teaching the mountain children there are many difficulties to be overcome. Many of the mountain men are entangled by a seemingly endless cycle of murder and revenge. Family feuds trouble the region as well as disease and filth of epidemic proportions.
At the heart of this community are six or seven men and women. Christy Huddleston, Rev. David Grantland, Alice Henderson, Dr. Neil MacNeill, Opal McHone, and Bird’s Eye Taylor each play a pivotal role in this fascinating story by Catherine Marshall. None of them simple, they are each complex with individual spiritual struggles and desires.
In my next post I will be taking a closer look at Christy Huddleston and David Grantland before moving on to study Dr. MacNeill and Miss Alice.
Note: The novel Christy by Catherine Marshall inspired a well known TV series with the same name. Although the characters and story lines are similar, there are many differences. I am using the original story as intended by the author.
How many of you have read this book? What was your opinion?
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I like being right. Who doesn’t? Correct grammar is important, and I always try to do my best. Often, however, my writing is full of errors and punctuation misuses. No one knows this better than my father. He is my teacher and editor, and God gave him the eyes of an eagle when it comes to grammatical errors and typos. I often think I would be lost without his loving help with my articles for Study.Quiet. Thank you, Dad!
Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, sounds a lot like my father. Her book’s motto is, "Sticklers, unite!” and it is obvious that she loves punctuation – correct punctuation that is. Nothing annoys her as much as a misplaced apostrophe or comma.
Fun and Informative
This book tells a story; it is the story of punctuation. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is nothing like the simple list of rules I expected. We hear of punctuation's champions and villains. We learn about the men and women who impacted punctuation (for good or bad), who disliked it, and who used far too much. Lynne Truss entertains while teaching the historical and current uses of the punctuation marks.
I appreciated the plentiful examples of right and wrong punctuation usage. The book was also clear about explaining when a rule was subject to debate and could go two ways grammatically. Truss cleared up many of the questions and hesitancies that I had previously felt about my punctuating habits, and the author even gave me her blessing to disagree with a few of her rules. For you see, I am American, and Lynne Truss is British.
This is a British book, and you are never allowed to forget it. As the publisher wrote,
“Any attempt at a complete Americanization of this book would have been akin to an effort to Americanize the Queen of England: futile and, this publisher feels, misguided”
There is a difference between British and American punctuation, and I am very pleased to find that I like the American version the best. For example, I would never have named the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves (watch the commas.) It would have been Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. In England a majority of the people do not use the last comma in a list, and they are correct in England. In America most – but not all – people do use the second comma, and we are correct in the USA. It is mostly a matter of preference.
There are several other differences between American and British punctuation, and these instances are covered in Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I must warn you that the American rule is tacked on as an afterthought, and it is possible (in a few rare places) to learn a new rule before finding out that it doesn’t apply to you as an American.
Recommended with Caution
There is no evidence that Lynne Truss is a Christian, and a few of her references and examples do seem out of place. I wouldn’t have said everything exactly the way she did. Such moments are rare, however, and most of the book is fine. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is highly instructive while remaining to be entertaining. I recommend it to all who wish to improve their punctuation or enjoy a witty tale of the fascinating history of the English language.
Have any of you read Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Did you enjoy it, and how did it help you?
Thursday, October 26, 2006
This is Study.Quiet’s 100th post!
Saturday, October 21, 2006
- Blogging vs. Journaling
“There are more than 55 million of them [blogs] around the world, according to Technorati, and the total is growing by thousands every week.”
~New York Times
The blogosphere is growing by leaps and bounds. They cover everything from cooking to cars, space travel to sandwiches. It is the new media, and any average writer can have his/her own soapbox to preach, criticize or shoot the breeze with anyone who cares to listen.
For the most part, weblogs have become online journals. They do the same thing that diaries and journals have done for hundreds of years… or so we think. Are they really the same? Is journaling and blogging synonymous? Is one as good as the other?
Let's begin with a few brief definitions.
“Journal: 1 a : a record of current transactions; especially : a book of original entry in double-entry bookkeeping b : an account of day-to-day events c : a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use”
~Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (some emphasis added)
“Web log or Weblog: online journal where an individual, group, or corporation presents a record of activities, thoughts, or beliefs. Some blogs operate mainly as news filters, collecting various online sources and adding short comments and Internet links. Other blogs concentrate on presenting original material. In addition, many blogs provide a forum to allow visitors to leave comments and interact with the publisher. “To blog” is the act of composing material for a blog. Materials are largely written, but pictures, audio, and videos are important elements of many blogs. The “blogosphere” is the online universe of blogs.
~Encyclopædia Britannica (some emphasis added)
In short, journals and diaries are private while blogs are – for the most part – public.
It is my position that blogs do not serve the same purpose as journals. Don’t get mad at me. I don’t wish to step on any toes here. Consider as I give my reasons for thinking this way.
My journals are private, and I can write about things that would be unwise to share with my friends and the World Wide Web. For example, my family might be going through a transition. A change is being made. It would be imprudent to share on the web what we wouldn’t even be talking to our friends about right now. It is a family matter. On the other hand, my personal handwritten journal is a tool as I go through a challenging time. How many times has this happened? More than I can count. Discretion must be used on the web.
Prayers must also be dealt with correctly. A well meaning prayer for a friend or family member is appropriate and helpful in the closed pages of a journal. The same prayer would be considered gossip on your blog. Prudence is of the utmost importance.
Humans tend to be people pleasers. We want to be admired, commended, and approved. Will you use your space on the web to reflect on the real you? Can you deal with temptation, personal problems, and spiritual maturity accurately and helpfully on your blog? If so, you are probably revealing too much. Most of us, however, realize that there is a time and place for complete openness, and the blog just isn’t it.
The blogosphere can be a dangerous place if used incorrectly. There are predators out there, and they do use the internet. I won’t share all the horror stories, but you have probably heard some of them. Do you want dangerous men and women knowing where you will be at what time? Take for example this fictional blog post.
“Jamie and I had a great time at Jack’s Shack today! They have the best ice-cream! We go there every Wednesday right after school, and I like to try a new flavor each time. Today was Strawberry Swirl. Look at this cool picture of me and Jamie! ~Annie~”
In five sentences you have just alerted Mr. Dangerous of who you are, what you look like, and where you will be at what time. He also knows that you love ice-cream!
You could be just fine, and Jack’s Shack may be a safe place on Wednesday. You could live your entire life in peace and safety. The fact is, you might have just endangered Jamie and yourself in one short post, and you will never know for sure until it is too late!
A Waste of Time
Different blogs have different purposes, so please don’t think I am being legalistic on this next point. Blogs can instruct, evangelize, share literary analysis, recipes, devotions, and anything else. There are serious blogs, comical blogs, instructional blogs, and useless blogs. What is your genre? What is your blog’s purpose? Fun blogs have their place, but does a steady stream of diary-like entries benefit your audience? Does your blog waste people’s time?
Think about it.
Is there a difference between blogs and journals? I think so. They each have a unique place in your growth and devolopment as a Christian. Remember to give glory to God in everything you do. Happy Journaling!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
- What should I write? Part 2 of 2
My written prayers are usually found before an important event or on New Years Day with my annual resolutions. They are wonderful for looking back at how the Lord has provided in the past, and it encourages us in our faith. God is good!
There are many ways to remember prayer requests, and I have found that writing them in my journal works the best for me. In my current journal there are several pages in the back with my prayer lists. I have a page each for family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, and siblings), friends (past, present, and pen-pals), bloggers, leaders (everyone from the president and the supreme court to my music teachers), and other requests. In the past my prayers have included everyone from my best friend to the neighborhood bullies. As Christians we are called to prayer, and your journal can act as an important tool as a reminder and record.
Opinions and Musings
Where else can you safely voice your opinions and thoughts without fear of argument or laughter? We are all opinionated people, and a journal can be a fun place to communicate some of your musings. For example, I have used mine to write about how glad I am that I was born in America. I feel blessed that our president can have no more than eight years, while some countries have to endure the occasional embarrassing royal for decades.
Memories are extremely important, as they are made up of events that were important, dear, or frightening enough to be thought of again and again. Just as repetition helps us remember Bible verses, repeatedly thinking about an event will establish it in our minds.
The further away from an event you get, however, the harder it will be to remember accurately. Writing your memories down in your journal will help keep them fresh in your mind and provide enjoyment for you later as you reread your journals.
As an example, I reminisced one time about the night spent at my grandparents many years ago. I became afraid of the dark when my doll became lost. I remember with fondness how my grandpa came up and comforted me.
I like to write down little (and big) things that happened before I began journaling. It is also nice to go back and summarize series of events that are seen more clearly after some time has passed.
Victory! My mother started a journal this past week! She has been journaling in her photo albums for many years, but she has never kept a journal of current events until now.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
This insect loves roses, and he was created to blend in perfectly with his natural surroundings. I have "lost" him several times on the rose cutting that makes his new home. My caterpillar looks exactly like the withered end of the leaf he munches continually on, and his brown and green coloring camouflages him from the casual observer. A thorn-like bump on his back completes the illusion. God gave him precisely what he needs to survive.
I can hardly wait to see what his cocoon will look like.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
- What should I write? Part 1 of 2
Every journal has a different flavor – a style all its own. The personality of the writer is stamped on every page. No two journals are alike, because no two people are alike! You can’t cover everything, so what do you write about?
Events of the Day
Most of my entries consist solely of answering the question, “What did I do today?” I write about the day’s activities. My entries are sometimes chronological, and at other times I may mention the most fascinating event of the day first and move on to other subjects as they come to my mind. There is always something to write, and days that you consider uneventful now will one day be fascinating to read about.
Here are a few of the questions I answer.
- Did I go anywhere?
- What did I read?
- Who did I see, and what did we talk about?
- What was the weather like, and how did it affect me?
- What am I reading in the Bible?
- Did I receive any letters or important e-mails?
- What did I post on Study.Quiet?
- Did we eat anything out of the ordinary for dinner?
- Did anything surprise me?
My parents and siblings are not only very important to me, they are fascinating! I try to write about my sister and brother’s activities and note when my father has a great day at work. My mother loves God’s Word above all else, and I try to share about what a blessing she is. She has a servant’s heart and is constantly giving of her time and resources. It is family news that will captivate me in my later years and be a treasure to my descendants.
Local and World Events
World and local events can serve an important role in your journal. They act as reference points to the more personal events in your family history. As you cannot possibly write about everything, what you do or do not write will communicate a lot about you. Which news items affected you enough to cause you to mention it in your journal? Do you mention politics, elections, and economic theories, or do you just talk about the here and the now of your personal activities? Different people will cover the news to differing extents.
As a historical document my journal doesn’t always serve as well as I would like, but my journal is not supposed to have the same function as a newspaper. It only needs to contain the topics that I care about.
Part 2 of What Should I Write? will be coming soon. What do you write about?
Some people like to name their journals. The first three of my diaries each had a name. My sister Susanna, however, never changed her diary’s name. I don’t name my journals anymore; my sister still affectionately writes to “Eliza Jane Morris.”
Friday, September 29, 2006
The votes are in! I am happy to announce that Rooster Exhibit C (the white one) is the winner with 3 votes! He is also my family's personal favorite and will be staying with us. Exhibit A came in second place with 2 votes. Exhibit B is also a winner in a way. He was the first to find a new home with another family, so his life is (temporarily) saved. Thanks for voting!
Rooster Exhibit A
Rooster Exhibit B
Rooster Exhibit C
Rooster Exhibit D
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
- How often should I write?
A daily journal is probably the best. This is by no means the only “correct” method, however, and a lot depends on the personality and interests of the writer. Once a week can be more than enough for some people, and a skipped day might be unheard of for others.
I strive to write at least a little each day. This allows for the most detail and captures the reality of everyday life. Your journal can come to life with the consistent telling of events as they happen! Sadly, I am not always consistent – far from it!
Despite the enjoyment I receive from writing in my journal, it is easy to let a day slip by, and my journals are scattered with apologies. Here are a few.
“I am sorry I could not write yesterday. Let me tell you about it.”
Some days are simply too eventful or demanding. You can write about it the next day. Be careful not to fall too far behind!
“I am so sorry that I just said ‘Bye’ yesterday. As soon as I started, Dad came in the room and said, ‘Lights out.’”
Time management is important. Don’t delay until it is too late and you are forced to write later. This is one area that I struggle with, as I tend to write directly before going to bed. Write at a convenient time, and don't wait too long.
“I have not been writing. I am sorry. I do not think I can say I was busy. I just did not write.”
Laziness is something we all struggle with at times. We may not always feel like writing, and the longer you go without writing the harder it will be to pick up the pen again. Snap out of it, pray, and resolve to write at least a few lines. It will probably seem like less of a big deal once you get going.
“I am sorry that I have not written in a while, but I lost my Diary.”
It doesn’t happen often, but I have lost my journal a few times. One time I brought it on a campout trip and did not see it for weeks afterward. I imagined it lying out in an empty field being destroyed by the rain and blazing sun. Fortunately, I eventually found it safely sitting on a shelf in my room. Look for your journal meticulously, and write your entries on another piece of paper or on the computer until the journal is found.
“I have not written in such a long time. I am most terribly sorry.”
It can be difficult to start writing again after a long absence from journaling. The best method is usually to start with the present and reminisce as you have time. Write a quick summary if you like. The important thing to remember is to have fun journaling. You should not feel that journaling is a cruel taskmaster but a tool and valuable habit to be enjoyed.
Many famous and influential people are known to have kept journals. Included in this list are George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Adams. Other people are made famous by their journals. This would include Mary Boykin Chesnut, the wife of a Confederate Brigadier General and aide to President Jefferson Davis. Who else would you add?
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Imagine for a moment that you are on a visit to your great grandmother. You have a wonderful time hearing old family stories and getting to know your grandmother better. On the last day of your visit she brings you into an old-fashioned bedroom and directs you to a large cedar chest. “You might find something of interest in there,” she says before sinking onto the elegant quilted bedspread to rest. Kneeling before the chest, you lift the lid to be greeted by a colorful array of crocheted blankets. Pulling these aside you discover several carefully placed books. Gently opening the first book, you are surprised to find beautiful handwritten pages – dated seventy years ago.
- To whom am I writing my journal?
Me, Myself, and I
My journals are written primarily for an audience of one: me. They will not be of interest to publishers, and I rarely read any part of the journals to my family. They are for my personal enjoyment and growth, and though there is nothing written that I feel ashamed of, it helps me to be more open if I know that no one is going to be reading it in the near future. My ‘Elinor Dashwood tendencies’ make me naturally more private – even about everyday occurrences.
My Heavenly Father
My journals are also written to God. I do not need to show them to Him or read it out loud. He already knows every word I have ever written and every thought that has gone through my mind. I am always accountable to God for the content of my journals.
Some people write their journals as a letter or prayer addressed specifically to God. While I have never done this, everything I write is written in a conversational tone about things that I am praying and/or thinking about, and I do occasionally write an actual prayer.
I love genealogy, so it is natural for me to think multi-generationally. I want to know more about my ancestors than just the names, dates, and places. Were they Christians? What were their interests and concerns? For whom did they vote, and why? This is some of the information that cannot be found on any “vital record” in a courthouse. Only letters, journals, and diaries have this information. Only personal records can help me understand exactly who they were and what they stood for.
I have never come upon a discovery like the one at the beginning of this post, but I wish I had. Such finds are incredibly rare. Even if your ancestor wrote a journal, you most likely know nothing about it. Your 1861 soldier’s diary could be in your unknown fourth cousin’s closet!
Luke 6:31 says, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
The Bible teaches that I am to do to others as I would have them do to me. This can carry over to journal writing as well. I wish that my ancestor’s journals were available to me, so I want to do everything possible to ensure that my journals make it into the hands of my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. As a result I try to answer the questions that I would have liked to ask my deceased great-grandparents.
Here are some good questions. What did you do as a child? What are your hobbies? Why do you live where you do? What are your dreams for the future? What do you struggle with? Who are your friends? The list could go on and on.
I am currently typing my handwritten journals and storing them on computer CDs. This will ensure that there will always be enough copies to go around. It will probably take a long time to complete this task, but think about the reward! I anticipate giving a copy to each of my own descendants as well as my brother and sister’s children. Technology has made family documents more accessible. Take advantage of it!
Typing my edited journal has been a way to create meaningful gifts for my mother. So far I have given her copies of my first four journals. She enjoys reading what I wrote and thinks they are funny (they weren’t supposed to be). She also uses them to remember events that she is putting in the family albums.
So why am I writing my journals? I write them for my benefit and enjoyment in the presence of God with the far reaching benefit of blessing my family.
Many people think that journaling is primarily a feminine activity. This is false. There are actually more men who keep journals than women. It is my personal opinion, however, that girls usually start at a younger age.
Monday, September 18, 2006
You took the role of wife and said
Wherever you go
Sixty years later you're still
celebrating with Paul
Eighty years beautiful you've laughed through it all
You dance through life and give
everyone a song
I bet Marilyn wishes she had lasted this long
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
- Caution! Emotion Alert!
Caution must be used, however. Even while there is less chaos with the written word, it also makes everything feel more real. Do not record every passing feeling or thought, and always ask, “Is this something God would want in the personal record of one of His children?”
Journalists should prayerfully consider the content of what they write. It can be a good thing to record your feelings and thought processes, but your journal should not act as your private outlet to sin.
Write with purity and discretion. You won’t regret it.
Grumbling and Complaining
You all know that it is wrong to complain to your parents and friends, but is it not equally wrong to write down your complaints in a journal? God judged the Israelites for grumbling and complaining against His law, and He is just as displeased when we fail to trust Him. Use your journal to praise your Heavenly Father.
If you have a predicament that you are working through, by all means, write it out. Only do it courteously, and acknowledge that God loves you, has a plan for you, and will always care for you. He is our source, and grumbling has no place in a Christian journal!
Journal entries should never be written in anger. Anger passes, but you are writing a record that will last. You do not want a reminder of how wrongly you were treated (or thought you were treated) after reconciliation has been reached.
This is something that I have learned slowly and painfully. My first journal was full of arguments with my brother and sister, and I wasn’t always respectful of my parents. The pinnacle of my disrespect came one night in a way I will never forget.
I thought my father was being unfair, and although a lasting record of that night does not survive, he was in the right to reprimand me. I did not see it like that then, however, and after going to my room to wallow in self-pity a feeling of power overtook me. Justice could be done! I would write the truth in my diary, and for hundreds of years everyone who read it would know that Elizabeth had been wronged!
Bad idea. I wrote the hateful words and reread them to myself over and over again. Triumph was building up in me, and it had to be shared. With boldness not to be understood I marched up to my father and showed him the page from my journal.
You can only imagine what followed. Dad told me to mark it out, tear it out, or otherwise destroy the disrespectful page. I cried and begged. My beautiful book was to be marred! It would be ruined for life! With tears streaming down my face I scribbled over the ugly words until nothing could be deciphered through the mess. The revolting black blob of a page exists to this day as a reminder to always write carefully, prayerfully, and with honor.
God worked on my heart, and I have since resolved to never write anything that would dishonor my mother and father. I speak of my sister and brother with respect, and whenever possible fill the pages of my journal with their praise.
"Honor your father and mother" Ephesians 6:2
My journal is going to be the record of my childhood, my parents, and my family. I want it to reflect just how much I love them.
How do you write about your family?
Most journals written at a young age do not survive. Why? Their authors became embarrassed by what was written and destroyed all evidence! Even if you are not pleased by your past diaries, do not be quick to toss them out. Edit out the objectionable parts, and type out a God honoring copy of your journal!
Monday, September 11, 2006
Today a terrible thing has happened. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are gone. But that is an understatement. There were terrorist attacks today. Imagine that, in the U.S.A. Four planes were hijacked this morning. Two of them came from the Boston airport. I am not sure where the other two came from. The terrorists took over the planes using knives. Some people were stabbed.
One of the planes was flown right into one of the towers. A few minutes later the second plane crashed into the other one. Almost an hour later both towers went straight down.
These buildings were the 5th and 6th tallest buildings in the world. They had 150  stories each. There is no exact number of the dead. Later, the third plane crashed into the Pentagon. Uncle Pat works in and around the building. He was across the street working. It took hours to get home. I feel for Aunt Cindy and the cousins. They did not know where he was. Thank God he is safe. The fourth plane crashed 80 miles outside Pittsburgh. Its destination is still unknown.
Today thousands of people died needlessly. Everyone on the planes died, even the hijackers. This is a sinful world.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
“Dear Diary,Our family had moved from Massachusetts to Oklahoma only three months before. I missed my friends, and it was challenging for me to meet new people. As a result I grew closer to my sister and brother, got a cat, and…started a diary.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Elizabeth Ellen Moore.”
- Why should I keep a personal journal?
Records special events and improves memory
People keep journals for a wide variety of reasons. One of the most basic motives, however, is to keep a record of things we do not wish to forget. The human memory is faulty, and our brains blank out large amounts of information fairly quickly.
It always astonishes me to rediscover events, activities, and little details of family life that I had forgotten but were saved in the pages of my journal. Your memories will be retained forever as you relive them every time you read a past entry. I believe that rereading old journals could help fight Alzheimer’s and other mental loss.
A journal is a good place to reminisce about past events or deceased loved ones, record important family milestones, and talk about what is important to you and your family. It acts as a record when you read a book, meet a new friend, or take a special trip.
Records your walk with God
Journals illustrate what is important to the writer. Is your record full of the latest film you watched, or have you written about lessons the Lord is teaching you? Do you record His blessings or complain about how everything seems to go wrong?
Our minds are constantly being renewed into the image of Christ. We change over time. Priorities shift. A journal can capture this spiritual journey and show us where we still need to grow to become more like Jesus.
Your journal is a great place to write a specific prayer that is close to your heart. Remember to come back and show how God answered your prayer! It will increase your faith as you see recorded examples of His faithfulness in your life.
Also, resolutions are best placed in a journal. It makes them accessible for review, and you can later record how well or poorly you followed through on your resolve. It is certainly an eye opener!
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Journaling is commonly thought of as an adolescent activity. This is a myth. Most diaries and journals are actually written by adults.
Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven.