Beauty from Ashes

To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

I recently read the book Stormie – A Story of Forgiveness and Healing by Stormie Omartian.

In the book Stormie describes her troubled childhood, being brought up by an abusive Mother who would keep her locked in a closet & the cruel taunts, verbal abuse she endured all through her childhood, even into adulthood.

This is the moving account of her battle with depression, the occult, alcohol & drugs that were a part of her life as a young artist in Hollywood, often performing on the Glen Campbell Show. With a miserable first marriage that followed, which made a bad situation infinitely worse, the anxiety attacks & recurring depression…hers was a tragic life to say the least.

Stormie’s mentally ill Mother was later diagnosed with schizophrenia; the book painfully describes a mind that had simply become sick. Amazing is the steadfastness of her Father, who refused to have his wife committed & endured her insults & insane behaviour till the very end.

What comes out so powerfully is God’s deliverance of a life that was hurtling down the cliffs of destruction. It is a story of such amazing power – the incredible intervention of Jesus Christ as He entered the scene of a devastated life, how He delivered her & restored her to fullness…eventually. Jesus built something beautiful out of a life that was in ruins. It’s awesome what the Master Potter can do!

He has made all things beautiful in its time (Eccl 3:11)

Powerful & inspiring, this is one book which is a must read.

For more information visit her website.

The Power of Les Misérables

Found myself reaching out for Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables. Nothing wrong with that. Just that I was starting to read it for the third time. Again, not owing to a shortage of books to read. In fact many of my books have been lying on the shelves long unread…asking to be read. And I looked beyond the rest & reached out for this, one of my favourites.

It was plain obvious the book had been read a couple of times earlier, by the passages I had marked.

Jean Valjean is convicted for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread (with charges added on), the grace of the Bishop Bienvenu who offers him rest for the night he was out on parole when no one else would have him & the events which follow lead to his eventual salvation.

The Thenardiers, a vile & wretched couple  whose combined evil minds are always indulging in some mean scheme; little Cosette, the unfortunate little girl who became the target of the Thenardiers  greed & contempt; the rigid police officer Javert & his ruthless attempt to trap Jean Valjean  are characters that can never be forgotten.

The Bishop Bienvenu who opened his heart & home to Valjean to spend the night when he was out from prison, as a rule never locked any door in his house –

His view of the matter is conveyed by three lines which he wrote in the margin of a Bible: ‘This is the distinction: the doctor’s door must never be shut; the priest’s door must always be open.’

*  *  *

Jean Valjean was found guilty. The Penal Code was explicit. There are terrible occasions in our civilization, those when the Law decrees the wrecking of a human life. It is a fateful moment when society draws back its skirts and consigns a sentient being to irrevocable abandonment.

*  *  *

No one is more avidly curious about other people’s doings than those persons whom they do not concern.

*  *  *

About the crafty  Thenardier –

His tavern-sign bore witness to his feat of arms. He had painted it himself, being a jack of all trades who did everything badly.

*  *  *

In every small town, and this was particularly so in Montreuil-sur-mer, there is a class of young men who squander an income of 1500 francs in the provinces much as their peers in Paris squander an income of 200,000. They belong to the great species of nonentities who own a little land, a little silliness, and a little wit; who would look like clods in a fashionable salon but think themselves gentlemen in a tavern.

*  *  *

For those even considering Hugo, Les Misérables is a great place to start & it will not disappoint.

More to go, can’t wait to finish it !

Pip-Pip, it’s Aunt Agatha

I was thinking about Aunt Agatha recently. No relative of mine but as any PG Wodehouse fan will recall, Aunt Agatha is that fiercely formidable character who leaves a well…deep & lasting impression. While everyone will recall Jeeves, Aunt Agatha has her spot in the sun too.

This imposing dame was described by her nephew Bertie Wooster as “My Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth.” 

And elsewhere –

“Aunt Agatha is like an elephant—not so much to look at, for in appearance she resembles more a well-bred vulture, but because she never forgets.”

“My Aunt Agatha, for instance, is tall and thin and looks rather like a vulture in the Gobi desert, while Aunt Dahlia is short and solid, like a scrum half in the game of Rugby football. In disposition, too, they differ widely. Aunt Agatha is cold and haughty, though presumably unbending a bit when conducting human sacrifices at the time of the full moon, as she is widely rumoured to do, and her attitude towards me has always been that of an austere governess, causing me to feel as if I were six years old and she had just caught me stealing jam from the jam cupboard: whereas Aunt Dahlia is as jovial and bonhomous as a dame in a Christmas pantomime.”

You get the drift.

Some characters always make you compare them with people in real life who fit the job description. Aunt Agatha for example is the kind you either have within your own family or with luck, escape having.

P G Wodehouse is one of my favourite authors for that dose of subtle, wry humour & sarcasm that pricks. Reminds me, I got to pick up another PGW to read.

Persepolis

Persepolis is a brilliant illustrated autobiography by Marjane Satrapi.

Deep in its message yet wonderfully depicted through illustration, this is a must read. The author captures her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in a most endearing style. I am a fan of Marjane Satrapi & would highly recommend this book, which is sheer talent with a story.

Persepolis has also been adapted into a film but nothing like getting hold of the book!

Femina in 1960

A vintage copy of the Femina magazine from March 1960, which was found in our ancestral home.

I was fascinated to discover that Femina was launched in July 1959 , so this is the 8th edition of a magazine, now over half a century!

Femina is one of India’s most popular magazines, especially among women!

Heidi

Heidi by Johanna Spyri was my all time favourite book as a child.

I loved the story.

Over the childhood years I read the book 4 to 5 times.

The above picture is of my original book…rather worn out though it be.

Heidi & her life up in the Alps with her Grandfather have been etched in my memory.

Reading the book made me imagine her life in the mountains.

It was all so vivid.

I am grateful for reading which sharpened our imagination as kids.

Looking back I see the value of not having been brought up on  internet – youtube, google, wikipedia.

Instant information on any topic.

We had to imagine while reading. Period.

A few years ago I got an opportunity to visit Switzerland & see the Alps.

Such an incredibly beautiful country.

Yet it was not very close to my own dramatic imagination of Heidi’s life up in the Swiss mountains.

I am thankful for what we did not have those days.

 

Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives & Women Preachers

I stumbled upon the title of this book & was intrigued.  Written by John Rice & published almost 70 years ago, it’s not a book to be easily found, in India at least. I asked my dear friend in the US to get me a copy when she came to India. She faithfully did. Also with utmost sincerity & alarm in her eyes she wanted to check if all was ok. With me. Reading books such as these. Extremist she thought. She wondered if I had tipped the balance & gone on to become a fundamentalist Christian. I laughed. And I laughed. And I laughed some more. She was relieved. I reassured her this was just curiosity to read something I came across. Relief spread all over her face.

This book is written by a pure old time, fire & brimstone preacher. He advocates that we follow the scriptures that show a woman her place. He uses scriptures in defence of the same to richly admonish women who wear their hair short, are bossy halves to their husbands &  preach.  Rotten sinners, we.

 I must confess that having been saved by Grace, I found the book to be way too strict, almost legalistic & suffocating.

 I gave up reading mid-way through…