The Foolishness of God {Book Club}

It is poignant when books intersect with our lives, touching us deeply, instructing us, or helping to lighten the load. Thank you for your kind words about my family.

Dad’s burial was beautiful and sad in a good way. It was just our family and the cemetery allowed us to do whatever we wanted. While I know it is a bit odd to wait 2.5 years to bury someone, it does help you to know what it is you have actually lost. His death was rather unexpected and planning a memorial service is a bit like planning a wedding reception in under five days when you are exhausted and in shock and having to make a ridiculous amount of decisions. Here, we could focus on him. It was the good kind of grief because it is out of abundance: of his love for us, his enthusiasm for life, his being more interested in who we are as people than what we do, his love for the Lord, he is one of the most generous people I know. Granddaughter on the far right is holding the giraffe he gave her. Each girl sobbed (we all did), but I have feared they will forget him because of how young they are. And while they will, they can’t help it 🙂 . . . I can see that they will remember what is important.

Dad's burial

 

Unlike last week, today’s section of City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell didn’t startle my soul. I see now that in reading last week, I had forgotten that Will started the story from the vantage point of the end of life and many years after they had left China. I was prepared to read about a couple serving abroad, I wasn’t prepared for them not being on the field and one dead. 

Several commented last week how this reads more like a memoir than a novel and the two chapters we read for this week continue in that strain.

While I loved meeting Lilas Trotter and learning about her life, Bo Caldwell’s writing in on a different level. It is stunning. The emotions provoked as I read were deep! I was not merely reading about their lives, I was experiencing them.

Anyone else taken with the writing?!

Oh and the themes of this week! This is a book everyone on the field needs to read at some point.

When Katherine went into labor, Will’s response made me smile, “For a moment I was at a loss; the day had come a week sooner than we had expected. We had made plans for Katherine’s sister, Naomi, to be with us when Katherine’s time came, but that useless concern fell immediately away.”

You could taste their delight in Lily, couldn’t you? And then her death. Oh the weight of the loss.

It was powerful to read, because it rang true. I tend to avoid so-called Christian fiction because it is too neat and tidy. Too shallow. Too un-relateable. Not this.

Will, lost on the road, “Then I was angry that I was hungry, and that I was tired, and that I was alone. I was angry that I had not started for home that morning instead of pushing on, and I was angry at Katherine for not talking me out of this trip in the first place . . . I was angry at our constant struggles with money, . . . I was angry about our great loss, our daughter. I realized I was angry at God for all of it; I decided He had neglected us, and I felt betrayed.”

And after Katherine’s sister’s visit, where Naomi tended Katherine after Lily’s death, “If I don’t feel like myself, that is alright. I have hope that one day I will, and that is enough for now.”

So much was packed into these two short chapters! When Will was captured by Hsiao Lao and made to tend to his son and others . . . only to see all of the medicine that could have saved his daughter? It is easy to love those we have come to serve when they have not done us great wrong.

Then Katherine wearing herself out because the needs can be unending. We get that, don’t we?

I had to laugh when they got to Oklahoma and Will thought, “In Kuang P’ing Ch’eng, I shoulder responsibilities I had never imagined I could, but the moment I returned home, I felt like my old self, doubtful and insecure.” We also know the “on the field” self and the “back home” self. How can they be so different at times?

The famine was awful to read about. History can be told in such sweeping sentences. “This or that country experienced a famine in the year XXXX and X number of people died.” But then to read how it intersected with Will and Katherine’s lives. Horrible.

And the violence! Again, being familiar with China, I’ve heard about the bandits. But to have it fleshed out a bit more for both the Chinese and those who came to serve was impacting. I loved the conversation about the foolishness of God between Hsiao Lao and Will. I think we have all tasted the mystery of God’s foolishness.

I could go on and on. :), but will stop here.

Very fondly,

Amy

P.S. Reading plan for City of Tranquil Light: A Novel by Bo Caldwell.  

  • August 9—”Shepard-Teacher” to “Kuang P’ing Ch’eng”
  • August 16—”Firstborn” to “Famine”
  • August 23—”Civil War” to “Think and Want, Family and Home”

Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Used copies are available, $9.99 on Kindle, or this free PDF versionWe’ll read it August 30, Sept 6, Sept 13. Cool interview planned with this book!

7 Comments

  1. Jenilee August 16, 2016

    Oh, this sentence! “If I don’t feel like myself, that is alright. I have hope that one day I will, and that is enough for now.”

    I am there. right there. Not reading the book yet but I’m enjoying your walking us through it!

    1. Amy Young August 17, 2016

      That line really stood out to me too, Jenilee. So good to know that sometimes it IS enough to know that we will someday feel like ourselves. Praying for you as I type this :).

  2. Karen August 16, 2016

    I also haven’t read the book yet, but thank you for sharing about it :) And thanks for sharing your family’s picture and about your family’s journey.

    1. Amy Young August 17, 2016

      Happy to, Karen! This is probably one of the best books I’ve read this summer. I had forgotten how good it is!!!

  3. Spring August 20, 2016

    I too love the honesty. There is so much packed into each chapter. Years of experience and hardship. Being at home now I also struggle with figuring out who the “real” me,is.

  4. Hadassah August 20, 2016

    I’m sorry to be joining in the conversation so late this week, but I have to comment, cause as you all have said, it’s so good!

    The quote(s) that stood out to me from this week’s chapter have to do with the work that Will was doing. During the famine, when they were caring for all those people, Will said, “Each day I went out to oversee tasks about which I knew little and for which I had no training.” I feel like every posting I’ve had has stretched me in ways which I didn’t know I was capable of being stretched. We all know and understand what it is like to be called somewhere for a position only to find out once you arrive the small type: everything else that needs to be done…in addition! I remind our volunteers that the key to surviving is being flexible. Being ready to do those things for which we may have very little training, and yet God has called us to do. And at times, this may seem foolish to us or even to others. It did to Hsaio Lao as Will was caring for his men. It did to Will as he reflected on what God had asked him to do: “believing in me more than made sense, asking of me things I would not have thought myself capable of.” But how encouraging it can be, especially when we are experiencing the pinching of being stretched, to know that He believes in us! And it is because He does that we will see the other side and come out a better person for it. Lord knows I struggle, and ask “Why?” and “How?” way too often. Praying for the Lord to give me the perseverance I need to be able to say as Will did after-the-fact: “He has spoiled me throughout my life.”

  5. Kate August 23, 2016

    Thanks for recommending this book. It really moved me and made me reflect on my own life.

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