29 March 2011

Amazing reads...

One advantage to living in an international community is exposure to things I might have never otherwise heard about. Recently a friend loaned me a book another friend had loaned to her, and no joke... I read it in a few hours in a single sitting. Last week, she passed along a second book, by the same author...

Again, same story! My Seventh Monsoon and No Ordinary View, by Naomi Reed are both award winning books in Australia, recounting the author's experience and the lessons the Lord is taught (and perhaps continues to teach) based on her tenure as a missionary living, serving and raising her three boys in Nepal. She lives an extraordinary life in what may seem to many, unimaginably difficult circumstances, sustained by an extraordinary God... but she writes and shares in such a real and authentic way - her struggles, her situations were much the same as my struggles and situations... just set against a different backdrop. I love the fact that as I finished the books, I was thinking, "I'd love to sit down for a cup of tea with her and just listen to her share her heart, the same way she shared her thoughts in these books... she seems like such a real person." (Not to mention the delight of listening to an Aussie accent!)

In the My Seventh Monsoon, Ms. Reed writes about parallels that she sees between seasons of the year, seasons of life... and particularly, the seasons that God walks her through as He does His work in her life, all against the backdrop of her mission work in Nepal. No Ordinary View continues where the My Seventh Monsoon leaves off, and both read like an adventure book crossed with a devotional as she shares the wonderful, the beautiful, the hard, the profound, the unfathomable things that God impresses deep within her soul.

I was hooked from the opening pages of the prologue, so I thought I'd share (from No Ordinary View) this small excerpt to pique your interest...
"Have a look over there," I said, pointing  to huge mounds of discarded dirt beyond the wire fence of the camping ground. "Rubyvale is an old mining town and it's well-known for its sapphires. And see that sign -- it's pointing to a working mine and some old miners' cottages." I watched thei rheads turn, but their expressions didn't change. So I increased my own cheerfulness. "We can go there tomorrow and look for sapphires."

Whether it was the appeal of the sapphires or Darren's timely arrival with the sausages, the subject changed and soon they were throwing the footy to each other near the barbecue area, laughing at the way it bounced off the dry ground.

Then the following day we joined the fossickers. We met up with a tour group and were taken all the way down an old disused mine. The stairs were rickety and the tunnels were long and damp. Jeremy kept stopping to look behind him and I kept bumping into him in the patches of dim light. At one point our tour guide stopped and began to explain the appeal and value of the gemstones. Then she turned off her torch and asked us to look in the direction where she'd been pointing. At first, it was merely darkness, the darkness of a tunnel twenty metres below the earth, a place where the sunshine had never entered. Then, slowly, as our eyes focussed, we began to see a line of sapphires, as blue and as brilliant as the sky way above us. Within the darkness of the tunnel they shone. They stood out amidst the mud of their surroundings. Their facets gleamed, almost incongruent in an otherwise earthen wall. It was, strangely, a completely unexpected sight. At the Whitsundays, on a tour of the Great Barrier Reef, we had expected beauty and had found it. But in Rubyvale, we had not particularly expected beauty and yet found it, in the darkness.

Later that morning, we bought a bucket of earth that had been extracted from a working mine and we took it to a table and a nearby water trough in order to search through it for the same kind of gleam... As I hunched over the wooden trestle, staring at the dirt and thinking about the treasures that might be hiding there, fragments of a long-forgotten conversation came back to me. Two years earlier, I had been walking with Gillian across the ridges near our home town of Dhulikkhel, Nepal. It had been pouring with rain and the sound of it splattering on our parkas and pelting through the nearby corn crops almost drowned out her words.

"The thing is," Gillian called across to me, "when the sun is out and the day is bright, everyone wants to walk. When the sun is out, walking is easy."  I peered through the stream of water that was running down my fringe and made vain attempts to redirect it from my chin. Gillian wiped the water from her face and continued, "Walking in the sunshine might be nice, but you don't find the treasures."

She told me of a time when she had been walking through the Canadian Mountians in pouring rain. She described the noise of the rain and the feel of being alone with the elements. Then, she told me about turning around and seeing a cougar right in front of her. "It stood there, stock still and I knew that it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen: him and me in the pouring rain." Gillian turned and smiled at me again. "You don't find cougars in the sunshine. You find them in the darkness."

That morning in Dhulikkhel, Nepal, I had returned home, rediscovered dryness and read from Isaiah 45:2-3;
"I will go before you and level the mountains. I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places. So that you may know I am the Lord, the God of Israel who summons you by name."
 I had sat there on the back porch of my home, stared at the clouds and wondered about treasures... (pp 7-9)
As I read, I was encouraged and challenged. Ms. Reed allowed many amazing as well as normal every day life circumstances to be filtered through the truth of God's Word, and then listened to her Lord and Savior as He spoke jewels to her... whether in Nepal or back in her home country of Australia. She was infinitely richer as a result and her willingness to share here experiences of God's grace and gleaming treasures from His Word has left me wealthier, too. And I absolutely loved how she returned to this topic of "searching for sapphires" at the conclusion of the book.

My Seventh Monsoon should be available via amazon.com May 1. My Ordinary View can be ordered, too - but is expensive as it comes all the way from that land down under...

Believe me when I say that I'm working to get my hands on copies for my own personal library! These are books I want my kids to read...

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