The gardening challenge here on the hill every summer for the past twenty-seven years could be summarized in four words: Big Garden, Small Well. Watering the garden has always taken a back seat to laundry and showers, but this year, with our nest officially empty on the date of our son’s July wedding, I have planted a smaller garden–so small that I can give a thorough soaking to the entire crop with a hand-held hose in less than a half hour.
Going smaller had its challenges. I’ve traded the freedom of a wide-open field for the gift of manage-ability and restraint. Instead of a sunflower choir singing in rows to the blue sky overhead, we’ll enjoy a few quiet ensembles; and thirty tomato plants will provide more than enough full red jars to last us through a snowy winter–especially if I faithfully water those plants.
Rain is God’s faithful provision and partnership in this gardening life, and I enjoy the connection with his words to Moses in the wilderness: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day” (Exodus 16:4).
Did you notice that?
He sent it, but the people had to gather it.
We live a gathering life, whether it’s raspberries on a dewy morning or fresh truth from the sacred text. Like the mist in Eden watering the “whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6), we are watered as we gather our morning by morning manna. It will always be provided–and it will always be enough.
May we faithfully persevere in our gathering as we trust him for the watering.
Now, Let’s Talk Books!
I’ve got a biography for you this month–a bio with a twist because it’s really the story of a relationship. After that, there are two great non-fiction titles to challenge your thinking. If you read my post on going deep with your summer reading, you know I dipped my toe into some dystopian fiction, even though it’s not a favorite genre. Well, this month, I’m sharing a fiction title that could qualify as sci fi (another not-very-favorite genre) because of the setting and the protagonist, but the story line feels like something very inspiring and relational. I hope I’ve piqued your interest! Read on…
Yours, Till Heaven
We remember Charles Spurgeon as the Prince of Preachers, but few of his admirers realize that behind the great orator was a great relationship, a profound partnership with his wife, Susie. Yours, Till Heaven draws on original correspondence to chronicle the untold love story that unfolded against a backdrop of Christian celebrity 19th century style.
As the years passed, both Susie and Charles faced significant health challenges and suffered the acute ache of loneliness during their extended periods of separation. Revealing the story of the Spurgeons’ life of overcoming hardship to experience a thriving marriage, Ray Rhodes has gifted us a substantial motivation to persevere in faithfulness despite life’s challenges. Readers will discover a delightful narrative supported by in depth historical research from which they may glean sound principles for a long-lasting and God-glorifying marriage.
The Art of Dying
One final gift we can give to our children is our own good death. Granted, we have little real control over the timing or the cause of our demise, but in The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come, Rob Moll explores death from the perspective of the caregiver, the bereaved, and the dying, unaware that his own death in a hiking accident would be sudden and unexpected.
In an updated Afterword, his wife Clarissa Moll describes her bereavement and healing as a mending process, reassuring readers that grief is “a pain that cannot be fixed, only borne.” The book erases any question as to the importance of honest conversations about death and end-of-life wishes that happen long before the need.
In his extensive research, Moll discovered that before there was ever such a thing as palliative care or Western notions of “the good life,” there was the historic Christian tradition of the good death in which dying well required preparation and forethought. By contrast, our modern day practice of avoiding the topic, of delegating care of the sick and elderly to professionals, and of pushing our cemeteries to the fringes of the suburbs have left us tongue-tied with the dying and queasy with the dying process.
Preparing for death can become a normal spiritual discipline alongside fasting, prayer, and meditation, for the truth is that just as all believers will one day experience death, it is nearly as certain that we will all experience grief and mourning. Freely forgiving and offering prompt apologies prepare us for both. Ultimately, embracing the reality of our own death is solid evidence that we have believed what the gospel teaches about God at work in and through our own work, for true discipleship comes with a series of deaths that ultimately lead to life.
The Well-Watered Woman
With gardening season underway here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the perfect time to be reading wise words about the growing process, and Gretchen Saffles points readers in the right direction with her work in The Well-Watered Woman: Rooted in Truth, Growing in Grace, Flourishing in Faith. Watching the slow progress of early summer here in Zone 5b–and also in my prone-to-wander heart–I nodded my head and gave thanks for her reminder that “you don’t have to be blooming to be growing.”
Every spiritual journey starts at The Well where Christ supplies living water for the thirsty soul. The believer then matures through daily hydration from The Word.
Just as Jesus is the Well of living water that satisfies our thirsty souls, he is also the Word that speaks to us daily and grows us through his grace.”
Jesus is also The Way to a flourishing life, turned outward and characterized by service and self-giving. The well-watered woman has her roots sunk deep into truth, and her joy is contagious because it springs from her unwavering hope in God. Readers will be eager to follow up with Gretchen’s online ministry, Well-Watered Women, where they can access play lists, reading guides and many other resources including free printable journals.
Klara and the Sun
If you are finding time to connect with friends this summer, let your heart follow gratitude on the path to curiosity about the nature of true friendship and the qualities that characterize a faithful friend. Then, compare the best you have to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara in his latest novel, Klara and the Sun. The question that thrummed behind my enjoyment of the book’s narrative arc is this: Was it the author’s intent to inspire us to be better at friendship? Or was he warning us about how lost we have become at the art of self-giving?
Picture a future in which parents purchase Artificial Friends (AF) to be company for their children. Then imagine that the story of a real girl’s life could be framed in the words and through the impressions of her very perceptive AF. Klara (the AF), her manner of speaking, and her frequently jarring observations of people and events are tools Ishiguro has used to lend a restrained degree of other-ness to a human girl’s story.
Never mind that the human girl has been subjected to genetic modification. The issue at stake here is whether Klara’s human really needs something or someone to combat loneliness. The interpersonal conflict and much of what drives this book’s plot is lovely, old-fashioned story telling, filtered through the interior world of a non-human who somehow ends up feeling more perceptive, more selfless, and more clear-thinking than any other character in this (perhaps unintentional?) meditation on friendship and loneliness.
That’s it for the month of June! I look forward to hearing about what YOU have been reading this month. Be sure to share your favorite reads in the comments below, and until then…
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,
Many thanks to Moody Publishers, InterVarsity Press, Tyndale House, Knopf Doubleday, and NetGalley for their support in procuring copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which are, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
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