A Visit with an Authentic Bibliophile

 A bibliophile is a person who has a great appreciation for or collects books.

A bibliophile is a person who has a great appreciation for or collects books.

The warmth of her smile, and the rich aroma of banana bread greet you as you cross the threshold of her home. She graciously welcomes you into her living room. 

She invites you to take a seat on the brown leather sofa. Before turning to pour two mugs of steaming black coffee, she lights a single candle in the brass holder, and you feel enveloped in the gift of her hospitality.

While you wait, you take in your surroundings. Surrounded by antique pine furniture, you can't help but marvel at the exquisite art displayed on the walls. You breathe deeply, relax, and feel you could easily stay here a week.

Then, it happens.

Your eyes land on an empty wingback chair, which stands like a sentinel awaiting the return of its frequent occupant. And beside the chair—piled high—is a daunting stack of books of varied shapes, sizes ages, and colors. Little do you know, but your hostess will likely read aloud from one or two of these volumes in the course of your visit together. This entire encounter holds great promise.

There you have it.

You have just been ushered into the life of my dear friend Diane, an authentic bibliophile. A bibliophile is a person who has a great appreciation for or collects books, and this definition is an apt description of this woman, who is a passionate Follower of Christ and lover of great literature. Furthermore, Diane doesn't just read books, she devours them. Her eagerness to consume the words on a page is matched only by her desire to share what she has learned with others. With a genuine interest in your well-being, my friend relishes the opportunity to quote, discuss, or review literary works. She particularly gains pleasure in actually placing one of her books into your hands for your own perusal.

Here it is.

To broaden our own reading horizons, Diane has provided for us a compilation of her treasured resources. 

Some of My Favorite Books

Diane Parker

I have read many wonderful books over the course of my life... But those listed below have, for one reason or another, deeply impacted my life.

Everything by C. S. Lewis

Everything by Elisabeth Elliot

Everything by Brennan Manning

The series called The Swans Are Not Silent by John Piper

Knowing God by J. I. Packer

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Mountains of Spices by Hannah Hurnard

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (Devotional)

The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitehall Smith

The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson (Spiritual Warfare)

The Adversary by Mark Bubeck (Spiritual Warfare)

Faith Is Not A Feeling by Ney Bailey

Between Walden and the Whirlwind by Jean Fleming

31 Days of Praise by Ruth Myers (Devotional)

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster

Prayer - Finding the Hearts True Home by Richard J. Foster

The Song of a Passionate Heart by David Roper

When Heaven Is Silent by Ron Dunn

The Fight by John White

Like Dew Your Youth by Eugene Peterson (on parenting adolescents)

The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (by far the most significant book I’ve read in the last 25 years) A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller

Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman (Evangelism)

Corner Conversations by Randy Newman (Evangelism)

God Space by Doug Pollock (Evangelism)

Psalm 23, The Song of A Passionate Heart by David Roper

The Reason for God by Tim Keller

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Heaven by Randy Alcorn

Happiness by Randy Alcorn

And...There are certain novels that I read over and over...

Everything by Elizabeth Goudge!

The Scent of Water (my favorite)

The Dean’s Watch

A City of Bells

The Rosemary Tree

The Child from the Sea

Green Dolphin Country

The Elliot Family Trilogy

The Bird in the Tree

Pilgrim’s Inn (first published as The Herb Of Grace in England)

The Heart of the Family

There are others... and I love them all... but if you don’t enjoy the ones listed above
(Elizabeth Goudge at her best), I doubt that you would enjoy the following: Gentian Hill The Little White Horse The White Witch The Blue Hills

Towers in the Mist The Castle on the Hill The Hawk and The Dove Trilogy by Penelope Wilcock (and all of the sequels)

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass by Adrian Plass (My all-time favorite “funny book”!)

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas

Ben Hur by Lew Wallace

The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain

Below the Salt by Thomas B. Costain

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

The Zion Covenant & The Zion Chronicles by Bodie Thoene

The Agony & the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

Almost everything by Jane Austin

Most of George MacDonald’s novels edited by Michael Phillips (Especially The Curate’s Awakening)

The Mitford Series by Jan Karon

The Brother Cadfael Series by Ellis Peters

Mister God, This is Anna by Anna Fynn

The Black Knight by Anna Fynn 

Living With Eternal Intentionality

How has God used books to enrich your walk with Him?

Do you find a personal favorite on the list above?

 

A Tripod of Faith

Blog.Tripod of Fatith.png

Her relevant and varied questions warranted careful attention. In this brief window of time, what should I say? How could I answer this Follower of Christ in such a way as to point her to the goodness of God, and simultaneously give her practical steps forward? Her assorted questions ranged From~ToFrom: What do you do when God doesn't seem to answer? To: How do you believe God when it is hard?

Aware that my responses for her needed to be customized, clear and concise—but most of all genuinely helpfulI silently prayed, “God, please help me. I do not want to bruise this true, tender disciple of yours, but, oh how I long for her to know You can be trusted!” I yearned for a connectivity that would bring her back for spiritual conversations again and again and again. 

In such a sacred situation, we must remember that the vulnerable heart does not need everything, but just the right thing. For this moment, I felt my answers needed to be easy: 

Easy to remember
Easy to apply                                                                                                                                  Easy to transfer to another life situation

Somewhere from within my depth of the reservoir of life’s experiences, God’s Spirit highlighted three principles, and formulated a Tripod of Faith.

With a brief explanation, here is what I carefully offered: 

A Tripod of Faith

Thank You.

In any and every situation, be quick to say to God, “Thank you. Thank you for this challenge, this problem, this pain, this gift.” A thank you offered in faith opens the door to usher in God’s supernatural resources at a time when you need them the most. (And, a grateful heart is a happy heart.)

I Trust You.

Be willing to tell God, "At this moment, I stop, and with all my heart, I choose to trust You. I trust You to be in control and to work this out. Here and now, I trust You."

Thy will be done.

Talk to God and say, "More than getting my way (the way I want this to work out), I desire for this to work our Your way. Just like Jesus, I pray, 'Thy will be done.'"

She listened, she smiled, and then she moved on...back into life, back into the battles of her world, back into a society that offers zero mercy for a Follower of Christ. Oh God, please protect her, and please use what I said to be remembered and to make a difference. 

Now here is the surprise. Since that conversation, guess who has benefited the most? Right; yours truly. What I shared with another came forward as God’s message for me. I found this crucial when Larry and I disagreed on an important decision. Tripod of FaithThank You, I trust You, Thy will be doneThen, I felt disheartened when a project seemed stalled. Tripod of FaithThank You, I trust You, Thy will be doneLater, a phone call heightened my level of concern for the one on the other end of the line. Tripod of FaithThank You, I trust You, Thy will be done

Thank You, Sweet Jesus. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name, a tried, tested, and true Tripod of Faith.


Living With Eternal Intentionality

How would you have answered the questions posed by this earnest Christ Follower?

Is there a situation you are facing where the Tripod of Faith can help you move forward?

 

Kwiaty, Flowers, Virágok

Blog.Virágok.png

In spite of the hot humid summer morning, the flowers at my front door needed attention. Donning work gloves, I grabbed my shears and walked out with my Ukrainian workbasket. I smiled to remember the foggy day my friend and I purchased the handmade basket from a hearty village woman selling her wares at the metro stop in Kiev. Today, no other basket would do; strong and sturdy, its no-nonsense functionality made it the perfect companion.

Blog.Flowers Ukranian work basket.JPG

Questions circled inside my head as I contemplated the joy at hand. Why would I choose—on this jam packed morning—to stop life, and spend time trimming my plants, potted hydrangeas at the front door and later, potted geraniums on the back patio? Why would I force my computer to take a backseat and hibernate? The answer lies within six letters: FLOWERS.

Why do I love flowers?

A long trail of life reveals my answers.

My mother taught me.

Growing up, a love for all things blooming was handed to me. My genetic makeup encompasses the DNA of women who valued the beauty of outdoors and specifically flowers.

My mother-in-law taught me.

Larry’s mother possessed in her yard her own greenhouse; her love for flowers permeated her many domestic skills.

My education taught me.

At university, my second favorite elective course was floral design (my favorite being Western equitation, aka horseback riding). Techniques learned from a botanical specialist infused me with confidence in decorating for bridal luncheons, dinner parties, and baby showers.

Eastern Europeans taught me.

Eastern Europeans loved their flowers, and my family joined their ranks. Swallowed up in a world of gray, these people surrounded themselves with the beauty of floral color. Always (always!), they presented flowers—one, two, or a bouquet—to a hostess upon entering her home.

Blog.Flowers Vendor.png

Each neighborhood boasted a kiosk to facilitate this convenience. Before getting onto the tram or upon stepping off the tram, one could easily purchase flowers from the corner flower stand.

The only time I ever recall flowers being unavailable occurred during the wake of the murdered priest, Jerzy Popiełuszko. (By kidnapping and murdering the priest, Moscow may well have wanted to deliver a blunt message to the Church as a way of forcing it to stay out of politics…. However, an estimated 250,000 Poles, appalled by the murder, attended his funeral in Warsaw a few days later. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/3234739/KGB-involved-in-murder-of-Polish-priest.html) Every citizen wanted to carry something to place at his casket, which rested in our parish church nearby, and literally, the flower stand in our neighborhood sold out of flowers.

Thinking back to the time we first established our Warsaw home, I remember corralling Larry into buying window boxes to place across our front balcony. The array of red geraniums seemed a marvelous way to fit into the culture.

We carried the tradition with us when we moved into our home in Hungary where the rituals of caring for the flower boxes fascinated us. At summer's end, year after year, the Hungarians removed the flower boxes from their balconies, and stored them inside in the family’s basement or barn. Here the plants waited out the winter.

Protection from the elements, combined with the natural aging, explained the indescribable beauty of the overhanging artistry painted throughout the country. (Once, we even tried to adopt the local habit by keeping them in our garage over the winter months. Suffice it to say, our results were not the same.)

The words of Corrie Ten Boom marked me. “Anyone who has flowers cannot be all bad.”  She referenced the flowers outside the door of the commandant of the concentration camp where she suffered, and Corrie connected flowers with decency and hope.

Aware of a friend needing hope, I followed Corrie's philosophy and unceremoniously purchased and planted flowers outside the door to my friend's apartment. I thought, "Perhaps the sight of beauty will allow her to smile in her pain."

Blog.Flower Peoney.jpg

Even now, the annual blooming of peonies in my yard brings a highlight to my calendar. Throughout the year, I save vases, and when the pink blossoms appear, I fill the vases. The blessing is all mine (!) when I quietly deliver bouquets to doorsteps, porches, kitchen tables and desks of friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers.

So, back to my opening question.

Why do I love flowers?

  • Flowers encourage me to meditate on God. His creative beauty is a gift to me through the bounty of botany. 
  • Flowers encourage me to forget myself. Whether I am snipping in the yard or arranging a vase, flowers tend to turn my thoughts toward others.
  • Flowers encourage me to remember the incredible people and culturally rich places which have punctuated my global sojourn. I am reminded—with gratitude—that colorful companions offered unique comfort along the blessed, and sometimes bumpy, road God had for us.           
  • In any language, in any location, in any culture, flowers encourage me to feel good

No wonder, outdoors in the hot sun and in smothering humidity, I exclaimed, "Boy, does this feel great!" Snipping dead leaves and trimming darkening blooms transported me on a nostalgic, global journey. Refreshed and ready to return to my desk, I pulled off my gloves and placed the clippers back into my Ukrainian workbasket. I prayed, Thank you, God, for the beauty of Your creation that brings both joy to my soul, and solace to my heart.

Living With Eternal Intentionality

What part of God’s creativity in nature ministers to your soul?

When did you last allow yourself the joy of spending time in that setting?