Tag Archives: Madeleine L’Engle

Missing the Point

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to figure God out.  What are His plans for my life?  What is He thinking as it relates to my situation?  What in the world is He trying to teach me now??? 

I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Penguins and Golden Calves, and what she writes reflects my thoughts on the reading I’ve been doing in the gospel of John.  John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was thoroughly misunderstood by people.  They all had their agendas and tried to figure out how His ministry might help them achieve their own desires or do the things they thought the Messiah should do.  In fact, the only ones who had the right idea were the religious leaders.  They feared He’d replace them or make them irrelevant.  They were correct!  If only they’d become His followers, their lives would’ve radically changed for the better.

But back to my point…  Even Jesus’ closest followers misunderstood Him and tried to get their own way, expecting to become rich and famous (in this world or the next) through their relationship with Him.  He tried to share Himself with them, but they were so busy trying to figure out how His words affected them that they missed the point entirely! 

How often do I do that very thing?  God reveals a little of Himself to me, wanting me to know Him more intimately, and all I can think about is how that information might impact my future.  But maybe He just wants me to know His heart, His desires, and to answer my recent prayer, “Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”  What if this isn’t about ME at all, but about God’s desire for me to know Him?

I write all this because of the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on for the last few months.  God has been changing me, making radical shifts in my heart and mind.  As many of you have noticed, my physical body has begun to reflect those inner changes.  I’ve lost over 50 pounds and have made tremendous changes to my eating habits.  I’ve allowed God to be my Comforter (rather than food), my Protector (rather than my excess weight), and my Provider (rather than trying to provide for myself).  All these things were “head knowledge” before, but now my HEART knows.  I couldn’t hide the change if I wanted to.

So then the obvious question is WHY?  Why now?  What is this transformation for?  Obviously God must have something BIG for me next!  How exciting!

I’ve taken my closest friends and family on an emotional roller coaster with me, trying to “interpret the signs.”  I’ve been all over the map, thinking one day that I’m to become a career missionary to a third world country, the next that I’m to remain right here in Nashville, and every other option in between (at least it’s felt that way).  Which has left my head spinning – especially with the news that my job at my beloved church is ending with a lay off of 25% of the staff.  WHAT????

As I continue my walk with God, I see a choice before me.  I can continue spinning in circles in an attempt to figure it all out, OR I can simply thank God for revealing a little more of HImself to me and drawing me deeper into intimacy with Him.  To know the heart of God and serve Him is my greatest desire.  What else is there?  And to know His heart is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.

I plan to spend the next few weeks praying specifically for what God has laid on my heart – which at this time is that He will miraculously take care of our church’s $12M building debt.  That debt has led to the lay offs and many other challenges.  It is a dark cloud over our heads.  I believe God will do it.  I’m not going to try to figure out what that answered prayer might mean for me.  I’m just going to listen to the heart beat of my Savior and pray as He’s led me to pray.  I’m going to ask Him to reveal to me more of His heart regarding the debt we’ve incurred and how He feels about it.  I’m going to try to get to know God more through this challenge and leave the results up to Him. 

Do you think you ever misunderstand what God is doing in your life?  Maybe if we all followed Him obediently (instead of trying to figure out WHY He’s asking that of us), we’d truly be able to call ourselves the FRIENDS of God.  What do you think?

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Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L'EngleMadeleine L’Engle is an author I believe I will enjoy all my life.  I was introduced to her through a devotional book called Glimpses of Grace.  It was on our resource table at a seminar I did.  One day I was bored, so I picked up the book and flipped through it.  I was hooked.  I bought it and used it as my devotional guide for several years.  It opened my soul to the presence of God, ignited something new inside me, and caused me to think in a different and delightful way.  The book is made up of excerpts from L’Engle’s various works.  She was a prolific author.

The first book of hers that I read was chosen because I so enjoyed the excerpts in the devotional book.  It was titled A Circle of Quiet.  My family made fun of me for reading it because it wasn’t some kind of romance novel and it took me quite awhile to work through it.  The ideas she presented were so new and fresh and beautiful to me that I didn’t want to miss anything.  She writes about truly being yourself, what that means, and how to find out what makes you come alive.  She writes about not being embarrassed by who we are and the things we are gifted to do – how to accept our own creativity and joy.  I didn’t agree with everything she wrote, but I loved the parts I did agree with so much that I couldn’t get enough.  A Circle of Quiet is the first book in the Crosswicks Journal Series.  I went on to read the entire series and thoroughly enjoyed them.

She wrote her first novel as a young woman and out of curiosity, I read that.  It’s titled A Small Rain.  It was fascinating and moving.  When she was much older, she wrote a sequel to it titled A Severed Wasp.  I immediately purchased that book and read it as soon as I was finished with the first one.  Her books are life-changing in the way she uses stories to present ideas and concepts.  I am forever changed by the stories she tells.  For example, she writes of a long-term marriage and the love between the two people.  There’s nothing easy about their love for one another and it takes work every single day.  They make interesting compromises and struggle with terrible challenges, but they work it out every day.  How much different than our fairy tales that tell us “they lived happily ever after,” yet you never get the idea that her characters aren’t basically happy people with real lives.

A Wrinkle in TimeShe wrote the popular children’s book A Wrinkle in TimeI read that as an adult and devoured the other three books in the series that came after it.  I can’t wait to read them to my own children one day.  They are creative and imaginative and wild.  Space and time travel, other creatures, and stories that present truth to children – what can be better than that?

She has a book on writing titled Madeleine L’Engle Herself, which is another collection of excerpts from her writings and lectures.  It is full of advice on how to become a writer and the writing process.  I read a little bit here and there and have been working on it for a few years.  I love how she has encouraged and shaped me as a writer.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her book of poetry titled The Ordering of LoveShe writes religious poetry, love poems, and many other types of poems.  She uses words in such an amazing way, you can read her poems over and over and still find new and wonderful things in them.  There are poems about her husband that take my breath away.

Tonight I was looking at amazon.com and imagining buying all her books now so I’ll have them when I’m ready to read them.  I already have a few that I haven’t had a chance to read yet.  I decided not to buy them all up now, but to wait and get them here and there until I have all of them.  I can’t imagine anything that she’s written that I wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy.  You all really ought to check her out.  She’s amazing.

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My Book

I’m writing a book.  I feel like I’ve been working on it all my life – and I probably have in some ways.  It is far from finished because I stopped writing it for a while. 

 

I’ve been asked many times what it’s about and have had difficulty answering that question.  The reason I think it’s been hard is because I haven’t been quite sure myself.  I’ve subjected my book to the thoughts and criticisms of a few people and that’s changed what I wrote.  It changed it so much that I lost the joy of writing it and stopped  for a while.  Those ideas and suggestions were really good, and I’m glad I requested them, but I allowed them to have too much influence and get me off track. 

 

I’m ready to write again now because I’ve rediscovered my vision. 

 

The book is a collection of stories.  It isn’t a book that will tell anyone how to live, how to lead, or how to succeed.  Who am I to tell people those things?  It is a book of stories – the way I experienced things that happened in my life and how they impacted me. 

 

I truly enjoy telling stories.  I hope the inherent lessons in those stories will be understood by the reader.  But it exhausts me to think about telling the story, then trying to explain the meaning of it and telling readers what they should think or do as a result of that story.  If they can’t figure out what they think or can do as a result of the story, then I’ve probably failed as a story-teller…

 

It’s fun to me that sometimes on my blog comments other people do me the favor of explaining the lesson in my story to me.  Or maybe they’re explaining it to others who read the comments on my blog?  (I like to read the comments on other blogs, so I guess this is possible.)  Either way, it’s rewarding in a way to get to read the revelation they had through my story.  I try not to imagine that they don’t think I realize the moral of my own story.  J 

 

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite writers of all time.  I think I like her so much because she loves to instill ideas and concepts in the mind of the reader through stories.  If you read A Wrinkle in Time, you will probably never have the idea that people can be governed through mere brain power alone.  You will recognize that people are all different, they need different things, and compassion (heart) is essential in leading others.  One of the characters in the book is a large, disembodied brain who rules with rigid laws about conforming to ridiculous rules.  L’Engle doesn’t have to explain this concept to the reader.  It’s understood. 

 

This realization about my book just really hit me recently.  I was reading L’Engle’s thoughts on writing well in a book called Madeleine L’Engle Herself in which she repeatedly writes things like – I don’t write my books; my books write me.  She makes it sound like she has very little to do consciously with the writing of her books.  It’s a practice of her sub-conscious.  When she’s writing, something totally outside of herself happens and the words on the page are often far different from what she thought of before the pen touched the paper.  As a writer, this makes sense to me.  I have also experienced this phenomenon many times and have been amazed by it.  If I have a problem to figure out, the surest way to do it is to put pen to paper and write until it’s solved.  And it works.  It’s like the pen allows me to tap into a place in my soul that my verbal communication skills can never reach.  It’s admittedly weird, but it happens. 

 

The point of explaining all that is to say that when I first started writing my book, it flowed naturally.  As I wrote about my past, things came to light in my mind, fit together, and finally made a little sense.  I trust that process now so much that I have no doubt the things I write are truth.  But this ability to write truth suddenly stopped in regard to my book.  Instead, I was trying to force myself to write out “lessons” after each story.  Yuck.  I’m done with that.  Let the reader figure out the lesson – I’m on to a new story! 

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What I’m Reading

Currently, I’m re-reading (or rather, listening to the audio book) “Live, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a totally non-Christian book about spiritual things. I completely disagree with the conclusions she comes to about God, but at the same time I love the way she writes. I love her observations about life. Something about the book makes me feel happy and peaceful. I can’t explain it.

I’m also reading “Herself” by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s a wonderful collection of snippets from her work over the years as it relates to the writing process. It’s the perfect book to inspire writers.

I just finished the fourth book in Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings” series. It was a pretty depressing book – everybody dies! But I thoroughly enjoyed the first three books and I think the fifth one in the series will be excellent as well.

I also just finished a fluffy little romance novel not even worthy to name here. Every once in a while it’s nice to read something that I don’t have to think too hard about. Plus, my sister demanded that I get something fluffy with the Barnes and Noble gift card she sent me…

I am ABOUT to read a book called “Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner. It’s about a Jewish girl’s journey toward Christ. This one I’m reading for work, but also personally interested in.

Thoughts? Comments?

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