My favorite books to read - fiction or nonfiction - are ones that stir up lots of thoughts and ponderings, ones that direct my thinking to things about God, ones that lift my eyes to look upon Him and worship. I've read several books this year (enjoying our public library!), and this one has to be one of the top two so far: Crusade of Tears, by C D Baker. Set in the 13th century, the reader pilgrimmages with two brothers, their young, handicapped sister and an old, wandering priest who befriends them (as well as several other children)as they take part in the "Children's Crusade." Terribly sad, yet ultimately hopeful, this book (rather eloquently, I believe) tackles head on the issues of suffering and injustice in this world... I'm including a small excerpt below - one of my favorite conversations in the book. If you want to know more, find a copy and read it for yourself. I highly recommend the book, and... be sure and let me know if you do!
"...hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perserverance we wait eagerly for it."
~Romans 9.24b - 25
EXCERPT, from pages 360-363
Pieter leaned hard on his staff and turned a sincere eye toward his new friends. "I simply cannot grasp this God of ours. My mind fails me oft, for at one moment I see His love in bounty all about me, and on the next, it is as if He abides neither in this place nor any other. He seems, at times, to be the most intimate presence in all the kosmos; at others, the most distant." "Ach, my soul is anguished and aches. It cries out in sunlight and in darkness, for my mind is tangled and woefully weak. I have roamed this troubled world for some seventy-seven years and have seen much. But surely, the more mine eyes do capture, the less I discern. I have labored to comprehend that which I encounter so that I might be more certain of what I do yearn to hold... but I have failed to understand and my faith does fail me often." The two men listened carefully, even sympathetically, as Pieter lamented the confusions of his life and the vexation of all efforts to snatch meaning from the chaos all about. Pieter finally quieted and sat with his silent friends to watch the sun crest the craggy summits. Jean filled his lungs with the mountain air and broke the silence with a calming confidence. "Mon ami, Scripture teaches us that when times do well we ought to be happy, but when times are not, to consider that God has made the one as well as the other." "Ja, ja," answered Pieter, a quality of impatience rigning in his tone. "I am not ignorant of such counsel. Ach. But why... why does he allow evil to fouls us, why such pain and misery? Why does his love fade and wither like a weak bloom in autumn?" "Ah... 'tis a fair challenge," observed Philip. "Might I ask if strong faith is a good end?" "Ja, so it is. And...?" "And has struggle with hardship brought you increas or want in your faith?" Pieter paused. "Surely both, it would seem." "Then, good fellow, beg my leave to ask how you are so certain such suffering is by His failure? Could it not be a mysterious blessing from the only One who knows what Pieter... or Jean... or m'self... must needs endure to grow in faith?" Pieter hesitated. "Might I pose another question? When have you wrestled most with your Maker? When have y'shook your fist or fell, despairing, to your knees?" "In times of sorrow and pain," answered Pieter slowly. "Oui. It seems we creatures are always wont to drift from the One who longs to but hear our cries... or see our face turn even an angry eye toward Him. 'Tis sad, but as we are we've little interest to look to Him for any cause save when we've suffered loss or blundered our way." Pieter stiffened. "Misery seems an odd way to draw us... yea, perhaps even a cruel way, methinks. I've yet to understand such as He." Jean smiled kindly. "It is not the heart of God that lacks, but ours. He is not a hard taskmaster; we are stiff-necked students. And you shall not know the mind of this God ours, brother, not ever; 'tis not meant for us to know the why. Such a thing would leave little room for faith. We would soon only trust in our own understanding." Pieter stood to his feet and protested, "Nay, we ought be able to know His ways so we might know what to expect. I wake by lauds and tremble to imagine which of my children I m ight lose this day or which might be spared! I know not whether He's a mind to feed us or tear our bellies with hunger again, or whether some mischief shall pounce upon us or whether mercy shall lead us. If I could but see His mind... have a sound hold of His ways..." Jean took the old man by the shoulders and faced him squarely. "Though our faith be reasonable, we are clearly instructed, nonetheless, to 'lean not upon our own understanding,' but rather to allow for the mysteries of a God who owes no debt of explanation to His creatures. You, priest, by your own words do toil to deny such submission. Pity, indeed to waste a life in such futility of effort." Jean signed and narrowed his eyes at Pieter's. He spoke gently, but firmly, "Brother Pieter, hear me say this: 'Tis plain that you are a most arrogant and prideful man." Pieter was startled by the charge and stood hard-faced and flushed in the early light. Philip set an affectionate hand on his shoulder. "It is love for you that draws truth to my lips. Jean is right to say he sees a haughty spirit shadowing your mind. I discern you to be beset by a sinister, subtle pride, a wily and elusive pride that keeps you in bondage..."