#Keyword Reading Challenge March: C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet”

Hello, everyone!

So March is over…and due to a nasty infection (not to mention a painful visit to the orthopedic surgeon) I am a little late getting my #Keyword Reading Challenge post up.  But I did actually read a book with a variation on one of the March keywords in its title, which included  Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga.  I got a book I’d first read as an early teen, and thoroughly enjoyed dipping into again:  C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet.

 

 

Out of the Silent Planet is Lewis’ tale of Dr. Elwin Ransom, philologist, who is kidnapped by the amoral Professor Weston and Ransom’s old (yet not very much-liked) schoolmate Devine.  Ransom is manhandled into a spaceship, and the three leave earth for Malacandra, a planet that’s in our own solar system.  Neither man is willing to admit to Ransom exactly why he’s been brought along, yet he discovers on the journey, via overheard conversation, that he is actually intended to be a human sacrifice for the Malacandrians.  He makes mental plans to try for an escape as soon as they land, and he’s successful.  Ransom leaves Weston and Devine behind, and sets off on his own.

Ransom meets Malacandrian residents of three distinct (yet interconnected) species, each of which has a particular set of gifts and talents.  There are the hrossa, the poets; the seroni, the wise ones; and the pfifltriggi, the miners and engravers of Malacandra’s metals.  Because he is a philologist, he is able to build a bridge of language with them all, and even develops deep friendships with some.

Ransom discovers that Weston and Devine have (of course) terrible plans involving Malacandra.  He also learns that he is from the planet Thulcandra, the silent world or planet; and that there are other beings, which aren’t sometimes quite visible; the eldil.  The hrossa plan to take Ransom to Oyarsa, who seems to be some sort of keeper or ruler of Malacandra.  But before they leave, a tragedy occurs.

Out of the Silent Planet is the story of Ransom’s fight against the plans of evil men, his hearing of Maleldil, and an incredible tale of a fascinating world out of C.S. Lewis’ own imagination.  Anyone who’s read the Narnia books won’t be in the least surprised at this.

What may come as a surprise, however, is Lewis’ astounding way with words, and the level of scholarship and intelligence from which he writes.  The Narnia books contain Christian truths within their fantastic stories.  So does Out of the Silent Planet; but the brilliance with which they’re expressed here reminds the reader that Lewis was not only a Tutor and Fellow of Magdalen College of Oxford, but a professor at Cambridge University as well.

Out of the Silent Planet is fantastic fantasy/science fiction; but it’s also a beautiful reminder of the eternal truths of the Christian faith.  Oh, and also here’s a fun fact:  Lewis may have patterned the good man Ransom’s character after that of his dear friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings books (and others).  What a compliment!

I’m linking this up with the #KeywordReadingChallenge from the My Soul Called Life blog.  Hop over there by clicking on the button below to find some fascinating reads from other bloggers containing this month’s keywords list in their titles!

Enjoy!  –Wren

#Keyword Reading Challenge February: Michele Phoenix’s “Of Stillness and Storm”

Today, I’m sharing a most unusual book for my February offering in the #Keyword Reading Challenge 2017, hosted by My Soul Called Life.  For the second month of the year, my challenge was to find and read a book with one of the following keywords in its title:  And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing.  My selection?  Michele Phoenix’ thoughtful and heartrending Of Stillness and Storm.

 

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Of Stillness and Storm

Of Stillness and Storm is the story of Lauren and Sam, missionaries called to Nepal, and their 13-year-old son Ryan.  After Sam receives the “call” to go to Nepal, the family spends years praying, building a financial support base, and preparing to go.  Sam is fully convinced of their need to go (and of course the need is great, whether it’s medical care, physical assistance, or the gospel) but Lauren isn’t quite so sure.  And Ryan, who’s a kindergartener at the time Sam hears the call, doesn’t want to go at all.  The years of preparation time, however, only solidify Sam’s certainty that they should go to Nepal.  But during those years Lauren continues to question whether it’s best for their family to go, and as Ryan grows, his mind doesn’t change at all.

Finally, Sullivan, an old friend of Lauren’s and Sam’s provides the final bit of financial support that’s missing, and the family heads off to the mission field, with the same feelings and attitudes they’ve carried for years.  I’d call Sam something of a “visionary builder;” he heads off into the mountains and villages of Nepal with his Nepalese friend and co-worker for weeks at a time.  Lauren and Ryan stay in Kathmandu, in their home which has a few Western amenities (electricity for half a day at a time, fans, a water filtration system).  Sam has rejected most other amenities for his family, however; he wants their own missionary life to be as similar to those they’re serving as possible.

Sam’s not really in Kathmandu that much; he’s generally off trekking and ministering.  Lauren and Ryan have attempted to build a life there for their family, though.  Ryan’s on a soccer team; Lauren teaches English at a semi-local school.  They connect with some other English-speaking families and build relationships with them and with the local Nepali.  They’re managing; but only just.  The weeks of original culture shock have passed by; but each family member is becoming more isolated.  Ryan barely speaks to Lauren anymore, and has become quieter and somewhat surly.  Lauren is worn down and exhausted.  Sam whirls in for a week every now and then, then heads off again.  He can’t see it, but his family is breaking down.  Lauren tries to tell Sam how his family is suffering; but all he can see is The Call, and the great need of the Nepali he’s serving.  He’s just not aware, or willing to be aware, of the struggles of his own family.  And then he’s off again to serve.

Into the empty space where their vibrant family used to live comes a Facebook request from a school friend of Lauren’s; Aidan, her high school best friend (and maybe first love) who’s an incredible artist.  The renewed acquaintance brings joy and life to Lauren.  Yet it may just end up being a catalyst for disaster not only for Lauren and her marriage, but for her entire family as well.

 

So what did I think?

Years ago, as a single young woman, I was privileged to serve overseas as a missionary for several years.  I vividly remember during our pre-departure training, that one speaker stressed the importance of families caring for their children; specifically, that the mother’s chief ministry was her own children.  I remember thinking “poor them!  They don’t get to work with the nationals!”  Of course as a single woman without kids with the life experience I’d had at that point, there was no way I could have perceived then just how vital it was for missionary families that one person was there providing love, connection, and stability for children who were still growing up themselves.

Of Stillness and Storm really speaks not only to that, but to how we as human beings interpret that call to serve.  For Sam, The Call is the most important thing, his purpose for living, the reason he’s working among the Nepali.  Lauren loves her husband and certainly cares for the Nepali, but she questions why they’re there and is worried about the fragmenting of her family and certainly, her son Ryan.  Ryan hates Nepal, hates being away from home, and is turning into someone Lauren doesn’t seem to recognize.  And trouble, for all three of them, is just a few missteps away.

So what did I think?  I loved this book; this hard, beautiful, disturbing, heart-aching read.  I loved the characters (though I wanted to shake Sam at times).  I grieved over what I perceived as unteachability and ears that would not hear.  I wished for the very best for them when sometimes what they were getting was the worst.  I appreciated the way that Michele Phoenix grapples with the questions about missions, callings, marriages, families, and children with heartrending prose.  I’ve seen Ted Dekker and others do the same thing.

It can be so hard for us as humans to get it right.  We seek to hear God’s leading and follow it, but when we follow it, it’s from our own finite and limited understanding.  Of Stillness and Storm not only is a beautiful, disturbing story; but a reminder of how to love, to walk in humility, and who “the least of these” God has given us can be.  I definitely recommend this book; it is worth your time.  Just be prepared to leave a bit of your heart behind!

 

My Soul Called Life
Be sure to visit My Soul Called Life for more February book experiences!
Enjoy!  –Wren

#Keyword Reading Challenge January: Charles Martin’s “Long Way Gone”

It’s time to check in with the #Keyword Reading Challenge 2017!

 

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I’ve just finished my first book of the year:  Charles Martin’s Long Way Gone.  I recommend it highly!

I discovered Charles Martin last year when I read his phenomenal Water From My Heart.  He’s an incredible storyteller with a wonderful voice.  Mr. Martin deftly unfolds a story to take you places you never imagined that you would go.  His characters, and their stories, are captivating.  January’s #Keyword Reading Challenge 2017 keywords are Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand.  Lots of books out there with those words in the title…but I was thrilled when my copy of Long Way Gone arrived from the library.  Perfect timing for sure.

The story:

Long Way Gone is the story of accomplished musical prodigy Cooper O’Connor.  Raised in the Colorado mountains by his widowed father, Cooper spent his early years traveling around with his dad and Big-Big (their friend and coworker who’s also a former convict).  His father, an honest and godly man, preached the gospel in and around Colorado, and they traveled in the family pickup, listening to and singing along with the radio.  One night, during a service held under a terrific thunder and lightning storm, they discovered that Cooper was enormously and amazing gifted as a musician.  He joins in playing for the services with his dad and Big-Big, and life is good.  He revels in the opportunity to play with his dad, hone his abilities and skills, and praise God.

Yet as he grows up, he notices that he is the really talented one of the trio; the one that people really come to see.  He wants to sign with one of the agents who approaches him, but his dad tells him to wait til he’s older, and to know that the agents really just want what they can get out of him.  Rebellion grows in him, til the day that he takes his dad’s pickup, his favorite guitar, and all the money they have, and heads to Nashville.

Like the prodigal son, Cooper has a hard road ahead of him.  Poverty.  Digging in the trash.  Loss of the things he holds most dear.  But he also has opportunity, in the form of another singer who’ll be the song to his instrument, and he meets her in the form of Daley Cross, up-and-coming star.  The two of them together might just change the music world forever…if Cooper can survive what’s coming.

What I thought:

I was hooked on this story from the very first chapter, where an older (and somewhat wiser) Cooper sees an older Daley (in the form of a hitchhiker).  Life has left a mark on Cooper, and it’s a mark that seems very likely to steal that life from him.

It’s not just Cooper’s story, though.  We come to know his incredible, faithful, loving father.  Big-Big, who got a second chance from Cooper’s dad and held onto it with both hands.  Delicate, trusting Daley, who’s enormously gifted but oh-too-malleable in the hands of others.  Is redemption possible for all of them?

You’ll have to read Long Way Gone to find out.  But I can tell you that I would read this book again and again.  In fact, I blew through it so fast the first time, because I just couldn’t put it down, that I’d read it again just to lovingly wander through Cooper’s story once more.

I think, when you read it, you’ll feel the same!

Hop over to January’s #Keyword Reading Challenge 2017!

Scores of other bloggers will be linking up and reading other books that have this month’s keywords in it.  Click on the button below so you can find some more awesome reads to add to your own list!

Enjoy!  –Wrenkeyword-challenge-january