Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book Review: Stone Crossings

I don't think I could have chosen a more appropriate book to begin with during my reading time at camp. Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, by L.L. Barkat, was a breath of fresh air to my soul.

In this book, L.L. Barkat, tells the story of her difficult past and the way God's grace has ebbed and flowed around each and every step of her path. I appreciated the fact that the author didn't tread into her past with the hope of drawing a picture of how bad things were for her. She didn't dwell on wrongs or injuries, but didn't shy away from revealing them as well. Instead, she used the stories (sometimes mere hints at difficult situations from her past), to illustrate and compel the reader to trace God's movements on her (and our) behalf.

There were several discussions I could whole-heartedly relate to. In a chapter on doubt, she shared:

"People in the 'borderlands of belief,' as Philip Yancey puts it, are vulnerable to attack. They are not prancing through the forest with the whole armor of God but have left the shield of faith in a shady glen and the belt of truth beside a fallen tree. This can be an honest, necessary course of action in the journey of faith, but things can happen in the meantime.... The dangers of doubt are real. We can get injured and suffer loss. The entire direction of our lives can change."

I also enjoyed the fact that her book hugged so close to the metaphor and images of stones and rocks. It was like observing a painting. Each chapter gave a glimpse of the whole picture and in the end, like a talented artist, the author directed our gaze up to our creator. The chapters are brief and discussion questions are offered at the end of the book.

But, I must go further. Beyond being a delightful read, I have discovered that this book was merely a portal. In searching for the cover image, I discovered L.L. Barkat's several blogs. The one I spent the most time at is Seedlings in Stone, but I am hoping to delve into her others in the future.

Her blog was attractive on so many levels. I discovered that she offers up poetry and gives a prompt to readers, so that readers can participate and link back. I don't write poetry often, but I did find myself wanting to write a poem and "join in the reindeer games."

She also has several posts dedicated to writing and blogging. She strikes me as a writer's writer. What do I mean by that? Well, I guess, I'm considering her to be the kind of writer who often stirs other writers to pursue their craft more diligently or with fresh vision.

Moreover, I can't wait to head back to her blog and make some lists of books to read. As I was reading Stone Crossings, I noticed several books mentioned which I have recently read. In fact, I was tickled to find a reference to Roxaboxen, a children's book I recently read to my boys. Then, when I viewed her blog, I noticed several other books I have read (and she even quoted Richard Restak - author of one of the first books I read this year). I have a feeling the books on her shelf are books I would equally enjoy on my shelf!

To end my review of her delightful book, I want to pull a story from within her 12th chapter. This story reminded me that I must tend the talents I have been given and leave the results to my Maker. I must write honestly, not in an attempt to curry favor. She retells a Chinese tale, The Empty Pot, about an emperor who is looking for his successor.

"He sets a contest - to see who can grow the most beautiful flower. But he provides the seeds. One child, Ping, has always excelled at making things grow. But his seed doesn't germinate. He waters it, puts it in the sun, feeds it good things. His pot remains empty.

"On the appointed day all the children of the kingdom bring their pots to the emperor. Out of bold porcelains rise white daisies, purple pansies, fuchsia zinnias and red poppies. Yet Ping comes downcast, holding an empty pot. The emperor takes an interest in Ping, listens to his story of woe, then turns to the other children and says, 'Where you got your seeds from, I do not know. For the seeds I gave you had all been cooked. . . . I admire Ping's great courage to appear before me with the empty truth, and now I reward him with my entire kingdom and make him Emperor of all the land."

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