Some time during Holy Week--maybe it was Sunday afternoon when the crowd was still cheering their Messiah--Jesus warned his disciples of his coming death.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:23-25).
Jeanette Windle’s books just keep getting better. I reviewed her Afghanistan series in the past. Her latest, Congo Dawn, is being released this week. It's set in the former Belgian Congo, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” Whether that darkness is local or colonial, Conrad leaves in doubt, and Windle picks up this theme in a thriller that will keep you up at night turning pages. The author knows Africa from the relief organizations and schools where my kids studied to the stamping of pestles and the singing of the locals. She shows African believers putting us Westerners to shame with their faith in the midst of a horrific situation. The book may be fiction, but the situation of brutal warlords and corrupt corporations grabbing what they can get at the expense of ordinary people is all too real.
This is not the first time that tragedy struck at Christmas. Two thousand years ago a psychopath who killed his wife and three sons, heard that his royal position might be in danger from a peasant baby. He wasn’t a pagan; he consulted Bible scholars to find out where this king was. When the foreigners he tried to dupe into spying for him didn’t return, he had no way of knowing which child. So he killed them all—every boy baby two years old and under in the whole village of Bethlehem. It wasn’t a large village. We don’t know how many children died that day.
The last couple blogs have been pre-scheduled. You aren’t supposed to announce on the Internet that you are away from home, your husband off in Africa and your house standing empty waiting to be cleaned out by some unscrupulous reader. But I was in COLORADO for my nephew’s wedding. (CONGRATULATIONS STUART AND EMILY!!!)
The first DVD my husband and I ever bought was The Lord of the Rings extended version, boxed set. I listen to the audio-book at least once a year (usually starting with The Hobbit and moving on through the trilogy). I have the soundtrack music to all three films on my ipod. The other day at the ice rink “Gollum’s Song” from the ending of the second movie, The Two Towers, came on. You may remember that Andy Serkis, the actor who voiced Gollum, won awards for his role that became far more than a voice-over of a computer-generated character.
In a grove at the bottom of the hill at the end of the subdivision where my daughter lives, there is a cemetery. I don’t know how many people even know it’s there. The way is overgrown with weeds (and full of ticks.) My daughter’s neighbor discovered it when her dog got away from her on a walk. The names on some of the gravestones match the name of the street where the subdivision starts. Was that the family who once owned this land?
The dates are mostly in the 1830s to 50s. The nearby town of Clarksville, Tennessee, founded in the 1780s, was already a thriving community on the Cumberland River with shops and schools. Confederate president Jefferson Davis was born nearby.
Rejoice for He is risen! I will not leave you this week in the darkness of Friday afternoon. After #18 ("Beneath the Cross of Jesus" in InterVarsity's Hymns) comes #19! Thine Be the Glory, Risen, Conquering Son!
I have been working on a short story about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that long ago Easter afternoon, immersing myself in their grief, trying to imagine its transformation into joy as they recognized Jesus. (The lane at the left is on the campus of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya, but I can easily imagine my disciples walking down it.) For that reason verse two of this hymn struck me especially. Verse three makes me think of Thomas. Maybe I need to write another story.
When I wrote a couple weeks ago about one of my favorite hymns, "For All the Saints", several of you wrote back with your own favorites or sharing your love for mine. (For some reason readers of this blog seem to prefer to comment in personal e-mails or on Facebook rather than on the blog itself. I guess they are shy. Or maybe FB feels more personal. Who knows? I’m just glad when you tell me what you think!)
My sister mentioned #3 and #7 in InterVarsity's Hymns , which we used in family worship growing up. She didn’t bother to give their titles. She assumed I too would remember them from the numbers. She sent me back, thumbing through the slim blue volume on the shelf by the piano, reading favorite after favorite and remembering precious times of worship.
I woke this morning with this hymn going through my head. It’s an old favorite going back to the summer at Cedar Campus in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when I met my husband. Cedar Campus is an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship training camp and mostly we sang from the organization’s Hymns, a collection I knew so well from family devotions that I could tell you number 27, number 36 or, my favorite, number 55, without looking. But that summer we also sang from a British hymnal, Christian Praise and “For All the Saints” became our theme song.
So how many New Year's resolutions have you broken so far?
I wasn't brought up to make New Year's resolutions. My parents taught me that if something was right to do, I should start now. If it was wrong, I should not wait for January 1 to stop. They had a good point, but the fact is that for many of us the new year is a time of thinking back over the past twelve months, noticing things we wish we had done differently and planning how to improve. As my husband and I approach retirement in a couple years, I find myself thinking back farther than the past year.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.