Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving!

Happy "Day after Thanksgiving!" I am happy to say that there is just as much to be thankful for today as there was yesterday. We should give thanks every day!

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

Psalm 34

"I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!"
"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

Alice Henderson

Alice Henderson was the first person I had ever known with a meld of idealism with hard-headed realism. So she not only encouraged me to think, she demanded it.
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?

Outside Help
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.

Seek Truth
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.”

Your Input
There is so much else that could be said about the character Alice Henderson. What is your opinion?


For Further Reading:
Introduction

Note on Catherine Marshall

I do not see any reason to believe that Catherine Marshall was not a Christian. I believe she was. It is correct, however, that she "missed" many opportunities to share the full gospel, and I think many of us (including myself) would have written Christy differently. There are many areas where she didn’t exactly write the wrong thing, but she could have explained so much more. Also, it is important to note that Marshall's characters are vastly different from each other and in many -- if not most -- instances do not reflect the author's personal world view.

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?”

For Further Reading:

Thought Provokers

"'Trust-me government' asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man -- that we trust him to do what's best for us. Well, my view of government places trust not in one person or one party but in those values that transcend persons and parties."
Ronald ReaganPsalm 73:23-26 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
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.
1 Corinthians 1:9-13 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?


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

David Grantland

“Preacher, you’re not exactly lick-splittin’ through the Book, are ye?”
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.”

Lost
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.

Hope?
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?

Kissing?
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:

Introduction
Christy, David, Alice, Neil
Ending Note

Friday, November 10, 2006

Christy Huddleston

“You’re young. Impulsive too. When you feel something, you feel strongly, don’t you? I can tell. And you’ve made some sweeping judgments in those two months, haven’t you?”
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.

Her Mission
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.

Shaky Foundation
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?

The Answer
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.

Your Input
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 – A Character Study

Christy Huddleston is a typical if not slightly well-to-do 19-year-old of 1912 when she steps onto the train that will take her away from her loving family and comfortable home. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is headed into a life changing experience that will test both her physical limits and faith in God. Does God really exist? Does He really care about her, or is everything she ever believed a lie?

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?

For Further Reading:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

“You don’t need to be a grammar nerd to enjoy this one…Who knew grammar could be so much fun?”
~Newsweek

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.

Royal Grammar
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?