Time is Nothing to God {Book Club}

Did any of you get to watch the movie Many Beautiful Things based on this book? I think I remember Sarah saying she’d seen it and I bet others have too. 99% of the time books are much better than movies based on them. I feel disloyal to books to say, this was one of the 1% for me.

I have enjoyed the book and am so glad to read it with you and see how much of what Lilias faced, we still face today. So, when I say I enjoyed the movie more than the book, I don’t mean I didn’t like the book. In part, what drew me to the documentary is the way it wove together the parts about Lilias with the parts about Miriam, the author.

{After I wrote this, I had a chance to rewatch Many Beautiful Things and in fairness, the focus of the movie was more on the tension Lilias faced between a call to service and her gifting with art.}

Often, documentaries recreating the past make my skin crawl in their cheesiness. This one, however, was lovely. Lovely. Since Lilias was an artist with a strong ascetic sense for beauty, I like to think she would be pleased. Also, as a Christain, I find that often I’m a bit embarrassed to recommend Christian movies to non-Christians because they are good, but can be a bit too cheesy and simplistic. Many Beautiful Things, is classy. If you haven’t been able to see it, you should. And this is a family appropriate movie—maybe a bit dull for those under 12, but no one died from boredom!

Today, we finish A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness. In this section, Lilias rounded a corner and ran towards the end of her leg of the race, getting ready to hand the baton off to future runners. 

I had two overarching thoughts as I read this section:

  1. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but how much I could relate to issues and topics Lilias faced.
  2. How much we live day-to-day when God “inhabiteth eternity.”

Broken Record Time.

Or, seen from another angle, how much Lilias has to offer as one who has been there. Reading her life story, I wondered why we haven’t listened more to those who have gone before us. Instead, we are bit too much like the toddler who insists—INSISTS—she can feed herself. Oh she can. But what a mess.

Topics I noticed in this section include:

  • Wrestling  with the need for training for local leaders—the subject of training seems to be as hot today as it was then.
  • Being delighted when her brother and sister finally visited and “fully appreciated Algeria.” Have you had family visit? If they “fully appreciated” your country of service, it is a gift almost beyond words because it goes so deep into our hearts.
  • The need for more men! This was repeated in several places. What do we often bemoan? The need for more men on the field to work with locals!
  • Lilias was on the path of helplessness. For her, it came in the form of health restrictions. For you, it may be in the season of young children needing so much attention you feel helpless to do anything “significant.” Or maybe you need to be off the field for a season as you help with a family need. Helplessness can come in many forms, it is not new.
  • Needing to let a piece of property go. In my former organization, we had a building that we needed to let go (um, because a court of law said we had to). It was an emotional several years as the process went on. Reading that Lilias and others faced a similar situation after years and years of loving a place, helped me.
  • About laughed at loud at the tension between the home office and field office and where to classify a particular work—underlying tones being “where will the power lay.” I wrote, “Same, same” in my notes :).
  • Looking for ways to contextualize the Good News. I thought it was brilliant to use John’s seven “I Am’s” to “explore how each offers the ‘secret’ for which the Sufi’s long: satisfaction (Bread), illumination (Light), access (Door), leadership (Shepherd), life (Resurrection and Life), progress (Way) and the ultimate union (Vine).”

I loved the quotation from her diary that started off the section we read today:

“We are proving these days that time is nothing to God—nothing in its speeding, nothing in its halting—He is the God that inhabiteth eternity.”

As I read about the latter years for Lilias, I was struck by how daily we are. I would imagine that Lilias herself was daily. I’m wondering how to be less concerned with time which seems to lull me to focus on progress and more rooted in presence. Over and over in the Bible, God seems to want our presence and out of that flows the “progress.” (Here I’m thinking of God’s frustration in Ezra and Nehemiah when the people stalled out on rebuilding the city walls and the Temple. They got enough done . . . but then focused on their own lives).

I’m a person of action and progress, so I’m not trying to bemoan activities or measurements. What I’ve been thinking about is priority of progress flowing out of presence. Rarely does presence flow out of progress. Progress seems to birth more progress.

These are the thoughts I’ve had in this section. What about you?

:), Amy

P.S. We will spend three week on each of our next two books.

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!


  1. Sarah Hilkemann August 1, 2016

    I thought the documentary was one of the best I’ve seen! I’m not sure if I could say I liked the book or movie better, but I thought it was neat how they emphasized different things, helping us understand different parts of Lilias’ life. So they work really well together! 🙂

    It was amazing to me how much Lilias was able to accomplish in her later years even while bed-ridden. I’m not sure I have the passion and drive required to live out all my days in my current country like Lilias did in Algeria, but it was also a great reminder that our work isn’t done even when we are not physically present or even able to accomplish all we might want to. She took her role as equipper, encourager and intercessor seriously and saw that as just as important as being out traveling. That was a good challenge for me, especially as I have had to take a slower pace the last few months due to health issues. It doesn’t mean God is finished using me or that my work is less important!

    I also loved the concept of “God’s Visible touches of poetry” and want to look for those in my own life. 🙂

  2. T August 2, 2016

    I’m a huge Lilias fan, but did not like the documentary! I didn’t want it to be about art and her decision to go to the field, I wanted it to be about her life ON the field! 🙂 oops. Like Sarah said, it is good to think about all Lilias did in bed, when I’m tired out or sick, or even just don’t want to see people. Praying from my bed is probably the most effective part of my day!!! If that is what He gives me to do, then that is what I should be doing! (race set before me stuff like you mentioned recently, Amy)

  3. Michele Womble August 7, 2016

    I was in bed a lot a few years back before we figured out my thyroid problem (or that I even had one). Part of what was so discouraging was I didn’t know what was wrong with me and felt like I was “being lazy” or should just be able to push through the tiredness, and all the random “minor” illnesses. When I found out that there actually was something legitimately wrong I felt bad for my “then” self – the one who had been so frustrated and felt so guilty about being in bed so much, I mean I felt bad about being so hard on myself about it. It’s so encouraging to know that Lilias was bed-ridden for so long – and also that even before that she had her boughts when she had to have rest – and yet, she was still used by God. I agree with Sarah and T that our work isn’t done just because we can’t be physically present and that praying from bed can be the most effective thing we do! And anyway, it’s HIS work and however He chooses for us to be connected to it or not is His choice.

    I read about Lilias dying earlier this week, – it was so beautiful! A chariot and 6 horses! “You are seeing beautiful things?” “Many, many beautiful things”…and then two days ago we learned of the death of a woman who has been in our church in Novosibirsk from the beginning – over 20 years. When we left in November I felt that I would not being seeing her again there – (she is 76 and her health was failing) – and yet it still stuns when it happens. Lilias’ “going home” scene comforted me as we mourned (and rejoiced) over the one that our fellowship had affectionately called “the grandmother of our church”. She, too, is seeing many, many beautiful things. (And meeting my grandparents and Joey’s dad – I like to imagine Jesus introducing them)
    It’s so hard to not be with the church family there at this special, precious time. And then – every time someone dear to us dies we’re on the other side of the world from them. We keep missing out on being able to be with others who are grieving the same loss and the comfort that brings – because we’re ALWAYS gone – from which ever place it is. So we grieve alone – but of course, never alone…but anyway, – I just wonder what God wants to say to us about that or through that?

    I guess that may seem kind of random, but in my world it was connected with the book.

    Haven’t seen the documentary yet, but it’s on my list.

  4. Kiera August 18, 2016

    I am late to the game this time since I didn’t get this book read in July. But I have just been reading during the past two-ish weeks and it was meant for me in this time. Lilias’ struggle and faithfulness through the struggle was such an encouragement to me. The years of “retrieval” are faith-building, even though they happened to someone else (Lilias) and so long ago. Thanks for picking this book.

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