A Quote Off My Shelf

These are more and longer quotes than I typically post but they were too beautiful to abbreviate or reduce. A.S. Peterson’s concluding sequel met and exceeded all of my expectations. The book will shatter your soul then gently, tenderly mend it together again.  The motif of music is strong throughout the book and captures best the book’s themes of redemption, of beauty coming out of suffering and sin, and of longing for home and a Love that conquers all.

“Turn it all to beauty.

She walked to the rail. When she turned and sat upon it, she heard a sailor in the crowd murmur that she might play them a tune. She hoped he was right. She needed the voices to be wrong. Fin raised the instrument to the cleft of her neck and closed her eyes. She emptied her mind and let herself be carried back to her earliest memory, the first pain she ever knew: the knowledge that her parents didn’t want her. The despair of rejection coursed through her. It fathered a knot of questions that bound her, enveloped her. Waves of uncertainty and frailty shook her to the bones. Her body quivered with anger and hopelessness. She reeled on the edge of a precipice. She wanted to scream or to throw her fists but she held it inside; she struggled to control it. She fought to subjugate her pain, but it grew. It welled up; it filled her mind. When she could hold it no more, exhausted by defiance and wearied by years of pretending not to care, Bartimaeus’s words surrounded her.

Got to turn it beautiful.

She dropped her defenses. She let weakness fill her. She accepted it. And the abyss yawned. She tottered over the edge and fell. The forces at war within her raced down her arms and set something extraordinary in motion; they became melody and harmony: rapturous, golden. Her fingers coaxed the long-silent fiddle to life. They danced across the strings without hesitation, molding beauty out of the miraculous combination of wood, vibration, and emotion. The music was so bright she felt she could see it. The poisonous voices were outsung. Notes raged out of her in a torrent. She had such music within her that her bones ached with it, the air around her trembled with it, her veins bled it. The men around fell still and silent. Some slipped to the deck and sat enraptured like children before a travelling bard.

…It throbbed and pulsed, channeled by elemental forces of fear, love, hope, and sadness. The bow stabbed and flitted across the strings in a violent whorl of creation; its hairs tore and split until it seemed the last strands would sever in a scrape of dissonance. Those who saw the last fragile remnants held their breath against the breaking. The music rippled across the ship like a spirit, like a thing alive and eldritch and pregnant with mystery. The song held. More than held, it deepened. It groaned. It resounded in the hollows of those who heard. Then it softened into tones long, slow, and patient and reminded men of the faintest stars trembling dimly in defiance of a ravening dark. At the last, when the golden hairs of the bow had given all the sound they knew, the music fled in a whisper. Fin was both emptied and filled, and the song sighed away on the wind.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pgs. 79-81, Rabbit Room Press.

 

“What do you know of the Knights?” he asked.

Fin shrugged. “I thought knights were only in children’s stories until a few days ago.” Jeannot smiled.

“A man could do worse than to live in the stories of a child. There is, perhaps, no better remembrance.”

“Until the child grows up and finds out the stories aren’t true. You might be knights, but I don’t see any shining armor,” Fin said.

Jeannot stopped near the gate of the auberge and faced her. “Each time a story is told, the details and accuracies and facts are winnowed away until all that remains is the heart of the tale. If there is truth at the heart of it, a tale may live forever. As a knight, there is no dragon to slay, no maiden to rescue, and no miraculous grail to uncover. A knight seeks the truth beneath these things, seeks the heart. We call this the corso. The path set before us. The race we must run.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 147 Rabbit Room Press.

 

She chased the song like a hound fast upon a scent. She pursued it through a forest primeval: a dark land planted with musical staves and rests and grown thick with briars of annotation. On she went and on still until she caught sight of the song ahead of her, fleeting and sly. “I see it,” she said aloud, though she didn’t mean to.

…And then she caught the song. She fell upon it and music poured from the fiddle’s hollow, bright and liquid like fire out of the heart of the earth. Pierre-Jean drew back and stood mesmerized. The room around Fin stirred as every ear bent to the ring of heartsong. It rushed through Fin and spread to the outermost and tiniest capillary reaches of her body. Her flesh sang. The hairs of her arms and neck roused and stood. She sped the bow across the strings. Her fingers danced on the fingerboard quick as fat raindrops. Every man in the room that night would later swear that there was a wind within it. They would tell their children and lovers that a hurricane had filled the room, toppled chairs, driven papers and sheets before it and blew not merely around them but through them, taking fears, grudges, malice, and contempt with it, sending them spiraling out into the night where they vanished among the stars like embers rising from a bonfire.

And though the spirited cry of the fiddle’s song blew through others and around the room and everything in it, Fin sat at the heart of it. It poured into her. It found room in the closets and hollow places of her soul to settle and root. It planted seeds: courage, resolve, steadfastness. Fin gulped it in, seized it, held it fast. She needed it, had thirsted for it all her days. She saw the road ahead of her, and though she didn’t understand it or comprehend her part in it, she knew that she needed the ancient and reckless power of a holy song to endure it. She didn’t let the music loose. It buckled and swept and still she clung to it, defined it in notes and rhythm, channeled it like a river bound between mountain steeps. And a thing happened then so precious and strange that Fin would ever after remember it only in the formless manner of dreams. The song turned and spoke her name—her true name, intoned in a language of mysteries. Not her earthly name, but a secret word, defining her alone among all created things. The writhing song spoke it, and for the first time, she knew herself. She knew what it was to be separated out, held apart from every other breathing creature, and known. Though she’d never heard it before and wouldn’t recall it after, every stitch of her soul shook in the passage of the word, shuddered in the wake of it, and mourned as the sound sped away. In an instant, it was over. The song ended with the dissonant pluck of a broken string.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 174, 175 Rabbit Room Press.

I noticed that Goodreads only had one quote from this beautiful book. That simply wouldn’t do, so I added 22 more. 😉 You can see more quotes here. 

A Quote Off My Shelf

“…time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to bring them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those who call it home, call it an adventure.” –The Fiddler’s Gun, A. S. Peterson

This book is breaking my heart already, but I trust the road to lead me home.

Rereading a Childhood Favorite

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It’s both a wonderful and frightening thing to reread a book you loved as a child. It’s been ten years since I read Anne of Green Gables. It was one of my most favorite books of all when I was entering my teens but I’ve put off rereading it because I was afraid I’d find I didn’t like it anymore, or that it no longer holds the magic for me as it did when I was a child.

For a long time I felt cheated somehow, like the stories I loved so much as a child had lied to me about the world. I still loved Anne but had this nagging sensation that her optimism was nothing more than glorified naivete. But rereading the book I found the opposite to be true. Anne was an orphan, before she came to Green Gables–/all/ she knew was adversity and she continues to face harsh realities even in her new life such as estrangement from her bosom friend and the death of someone she dearly loved.

It was /because/ of the world’s brokenness that she turned to imagination. She had the miraculous gift of finding beauty everywhere, even in the darkest of places. As an adult, I appreciate that far more than I did as a child because I now understand how dark the darkness really is. At 11, even being an orphan sounded romantic. At 21, I hear all the things Anne /doesn’t/ say when she describes her life as an orphan. I now can sympathize with and smile in a different way at Anne’s lament, “It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”

Contrary to my fears, I find I love the book more than ever now. I’m not the same person as when I read Anne of Green Gables the first time. It’s so strange and wonderful at the same time to be able to reread the book and find both my 11 year old and 21 year old self between the pages. Finding Anne grown up and changed at the book’s end was painful to relive because I felt more keenly the pain of change in my own life in the ten years since I first fell in love with Anne, yet that makes the book’s hope-filled ending all the more dear to me now:

“Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

“God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,'” whispered Anne softly.”

The Soul You Loved

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“I know a man in Hell now.” That’s what the Preacher should have said if he were honest. But no one wanted an honest preacher today. Instead he talked of the good parts of the man’s life, how generous, and kind and caring he was, and what a shame it was he died young–all the things everyone wanted to hear. Old women daubed their eyes and a young lady softly whimpered.

The funeral home was unbearably warm, the small room packed. The preacher loosened his neck tie for the third time and talked of heaven and angels, hoping no one noticed the abrupt transition. He didn’t say the man was there, exactly, but he didn’t say he wasn’t there either. Best to let people think he might be.

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To Imitate the Strains I Love

THE REDBREAST AND THE SPARROW

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As a Redbreast was singing on a tree by the side of a rural cottage, a Sparrow, perched upon the thatch, took occasion thus to reprimand him: “And dost thou,” said he, “with thy dull autumnal note, presume to emulate the birds of spring? Can thy weak warblings pretend to vie with the sprightly accent of the thrush and the blackbird, with the various melody of the lark or nightingale, whom other birds, far thy superiors, have been long content to admire in silence.” “Judge with candor, at least,” replied the Robin, “nor impute those efforts to ambition solely which may sometimes flow from love of the art. I reverence, indeed, but by no means envy the birds whose fame has stood the test of ages. Their songs have charmed both hill and dale, but their season is past and their throats are silent. I feel not, however, the ambition to surpass or equal them; my efforts are of a much humbler nature; and I may surely hope for pardon, while I endeavor to cheer those forsaken valleys by an attempt to imitate the strains I love.”

Long before I had the desire to write well I had the desire to sing well. I wanted desperately to sing with an enchanting, ethereal, soprano voice that soothed, uplifted, and inspired all who heard. No other activity made my heart swell like singing.

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I received many compliments on my voice as a child. Certain it was a gift, I sang confidently and with gusto whenever asked. But when I grew a little older I came into contact with girls who sang better than me. Girls in my church’s children’s choir. Women on the radio. As I began to understand music theory and vocal control my own inadequacies were revealed to me as I’d never seen them before. Suddenly my “gift” seemed a lot less extraordinary.

I looked around me at all the world’s talent and a tightness crept into my throat. I became cripplingly self-conscious about my voice. I demurred when someone asked me to sing and squeaked an off-key tune if I gave in. Compliments unnerved me because I felt them to be either ignorant of the true talent there is in the world or else to be insincere, the kind of compliments people feel obliged to give when someone has presented some trinket they’ve made. I cycled through emotions of jealousy, discontent, shame, and a “why-bother?” attitude. I had swallowed without knowing, the lie that the gift that is not great is no gift at all.

The reproofs of the Sparrow are not unknown to us. We are spurred on by ourselves and our self-centered culture to gain a step ahead of the rest whenever we can. We are bombarded by comparisons on social media–an unspoken, sometimes even spoken, contest for who is the prettiest, the hottest, the sexiest, the smartest, the wittiest, the most pious, the coolest, the nerdiest, the craziest, the most sold-out for God. And it’s a contest, no matter how hard we try, that we are always losing. It doesn’t matter how much you are these things, there’s always somebody out there who possesses them more.

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Reading “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” by Edith Schaeffer helped open my eyes to the beauty hidden in small gifts, expressed in unassuming ways.

“…be satisfied” she writes, “with the fact that although your art or talent may never be accepted by the world as anything ‘great’, and may never be your career, it can be used to enrich your day by day life: enrich it for you, and for the people with whom you live.” (pg. 48)

“Even as the edelweiss which grows unseen by human eyes beside some distant mountain rock, or the violet under a fern at the edge of the wood, is unappreciated by any human being because it remains unseen, yet still has purpose because the living God sees and appreciates each blade of grass and each flower as well as every sparrow; so the lovingly prepared meal which may not seem to find any response or appreciation from any human being is being shared by Him in a very real way.” (pg. 127)

“…one does not need a degree, nor even a tremendous talent, to enjoy and bring enjoyment to others through gardening.” (pg. 85)

“If you feel you have an unrecognized talent for writing, or if you simply love to write and want to do it, my advice is write. But write without ambitious pride, which makes you feel it is a ‘waste’ to write what will never be published.” (pg. 136)

Pursue excellence, be the very best you can be, but remember our standard is not notoriety, power, or wealth. Our standard is not entrance into the Guinness Book of World Records. We can and should admire those of spectacular gifting but not to covet them. Let efforts of excellence be not for “ambition solely” but “flow from love of the art.”

My daddy didn’t have to be born with the eloquence of Apollos to become a Pastor. He doesn’t have to be the next Martin Luther or Charles Spurgeon to craft sermons every week to feed the sheep entrusted to his care, sermons rooted deep in the springs of the Word, enriched by his study in the stream of historical orthodoxy and by his love and understanding of metaphor and story, weaving a message I am on the edge of my seat every week to hear and drink from that fountain of grace.

My mama didn’t have to have to be uniquely innovative or revolutionary in her methods of education to homeschool me and my five siblings. She didn’t (and doesn’t) have to be the next Charlotte Mason or Susan Wise Bauer to give me and my siblings a rich childhood full of memories of cardboard igloos and log cabins in the dining room, hotel-room forts where we did our school in between a move, spontaneous raccoon dissections, endless read-alouds and field trips, a love of stories, a love of discussion, a love of learning, a love of God.

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I don’t have to be the next Norman Rockwell to illustrate fun taxonomy flash cards to help my siblings and I learn about the marvelous creatures God has made.

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I don’t have to be the next Rachel Ray to give my mom a break from cooking now and then or labor alongside her to prepare a meal that is both flavorful and nutritious, a facilitator of memories and meaningful conversation.

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I don’t have to be the next Carol Klein to cultivate a small butterfly garden to delight my younger siblings and my family’s guests.

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I don’t have to be the next Martha Stewart to upcycle glass bottles and jars into works of art to make a sick friend smile.

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I don’t have to be the next Shakespeare or Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald to write reviews and stoems that are beautiful and useful to my friends and family.

I don’t have to be the next Robin Williams to kindle a love for stories in my younger siblings by reading aloud to them with the couple of voices and accents I have taught myself over the years.

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I don’t have to be the next Shin’ichi Suzuki to teach children the basics of piano and instill in them a love for music.

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I don’t have to be the next Steve McCurry to capture through film the little joys that make up my family’s memories and the life of our church–moments, that if I waited for greater talent to come along wouldn’t be captured at all.

I don’t have to be the next Alison Krauss to sing a lullaby to sooth a crying infant or help teach my younger siblings to sing praises to their Creator or join my voice in harmony with my church congregation.

I don’t have to be the best the world has known and neither do you. We just have to find a way to use the measure of gifting God has given each of us. Stop trying to determine how great your gift is and instead, use it greatly. Even a small gift is still a gift, a gift to give as well as receive. Will you join me in saying with the Robin of Aesop’s Fable, “I feel not…the ambition to surpass or equal [the great singers]; my efforts are of a much humbler nature…I endeavor to cheer…forsaken valleys by an attempt to imitate the strains I love.”

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Miss the previous posts? Catch up here:

An Introduction to Aesop’s Fables

The Man and the Lion – Revisionism and Reductionism

The Snail and the Statue – The Injudicious Eye

Wisdom, Virtue, and Reputation – The Guardians of Reputation

Reviewer’s Digest//Fantasy and Sci-Fi

The Book of Dragons, selected and illustrated by Michael Hague

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Read August 24th-31st

This collection features several delightful dragon stories I’d never heard before or heard only in part. My one critique is that the illustrations didn’t always fit, the dragons often being more cartoonish and whimsical than fierce and magnificent as the stories describe them.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wordsworth Classics)

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Read from October 20th-27th

The featured and famous short story “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is refreshingly Calvinistic in its eloquent and provocative portrait of human depravity. I give it five stars. The other short stories in this collection range from 1 star to 4. One crossed the line into useless and awful horror for its own sake (“Thrawn Janet”), several were dull and dragged, lacking the refinement of Stevenson’s later mastery of the short story form but still containing several lines worth underlining, and two stories, “The Merry Men” and “Markheim”, I found almost as riveting and intellectually stimulating as “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

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Read November 6th-8th
5 Stars

The story opens and moves with the kind of childish silliness that makes you purse your lips, roll your eyes, shake your head, then smile despite yourself. Despite my grown-up sensibilities I caught myself laughing at wandering mangrove trees, giant poison-tongued tortoises that drop out of willow trees on unsuspecting victims, an imaginative girl determined to save the world (from–whatever it needs saving from!), a 12-year-old King who works to tears the citizens of the Island-At-The- Center-Of-Everything to provide a steady supply of pepper to satisfy his inordinate appetite for the spice, a man so long accustomed to shrinking from danger that his body has begun to shrink inside his now-oversized clothes and–of course, at a giant that is asleep under the island and may at any point wake up. Especially if the Leafeaters keep digging around his toes.

But underneath the ridiculous is a current of serious thought that will take you by surprise. You never stop laughing but somewhere along the way, so subtly that you don’t know quite when it began, you start thinking as well. You think about bigness and smallness. Of fear and adventure. Of strength and weakness. Of mystery and life’s frailty.

Life is both more terrifying and wonderful than we realize. It is “a mess and a miracle. So pick up a broom and dance.”

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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Read October 30th
The first couple chapters were exciting. I loved the style of narration and was immediately draw into the unfolding story. But in the end, the story left me burdened by the sadness dystopias always bring me.

I am increasingly leery of the dystopian craze among my own peers. I think that the occasional dystopian novel is helpful to the Christian because of its unique ability to explore the implications of secular worldviews in a way abstract arguments can’t. Instead of telling you that communism is a dead- end road, they make you feel the oppression, ride the roller-coaster, and recoil in horror as the oppressed pigs of Animal Farm come to take on the likeness and behaviors of the Farmers they overthrew; instead of telling you that Darwinian evolution offers a hopeless future, they make you feel the coldness, the despair, and the emptiness of a godless universe deep down in your bones.

I need these reminders now and then, of just how hopeless the world is without Christ, of just how hopeless the espoused beliefs of many of my neighbors are. But I also think that if this kind of literature and film becomes our main staple and dominates our minds and affections, despite our cognitive disagreement with the worldview presented, the coldness and darkness of it will still subconsciously creep into our own worldview. We’ll begin to accept their view of reality as congruent with our own. I see it in young people of my generation manifested in a profound skepticism that there is hope for the world on the horizon, forgetting that Hope has arrived and He’s coming back and that that has profound implications for humanity. The future we face is neither dark nor cold nor uncertain and we need to be reminded of the hopefulness of our faith at least as often as we are reminded of the hopelessness of all others.

Other Fantasy and Sci-Fi books read in the second half of 2014: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, the Harry Potter books 1-4, The Hobbit (again)
Other General Fiction books read in the second half of 2014: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (click for review)

Gratitude and Ann Voskamp

With the holidays rolling around again, especially Thanksgiving, the topic of gratitude is a hot topic. My Facebook feed is already flooded by posts and book recommendations on gratitude. One book in particular took the market by storm three years ago and its author has continued to hold a steady and devout following ever since. That book is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. I published a review of it here before my blog went public and I thought it would be an appropriate time to repost it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310321913/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0310321913&linkCode=as2&tag=livinheassha-20

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Whale-Lines, Foolish Elves, and the Faith of Laughter

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When you think about it, death is never more than one false step away.

One run red-light.

One moment of distraction while driving on the highway.

One minute a child is left unattended.

One tree that fell the wrong way.

One plane ride that fails to reach its destination.

One stray bullet in the bunker.

One unexpected hold-up at a grocery store.

One explosion at a fertilizer plant.

One shooting at an Elementary School.

One visit to the wrong place at the wrong time.

One doctor’s visit.

One CT scan.

One dial on the stove you thought you’d turned off but didn’t.

One case of faulty wiring in the attic.

One lightening strike.

One flash flood.

One tornado.

One heartbeat that doesn’t come when it should.

One breath you’d never thought you wouldn’t have.

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