Archive for November, 2009

From the Preface by the Writer in The War Romance of the Salvation Army, by Grace Livingston Hill, c 1919, J. T. Lippincot Company (online here):

After the privilege of close association with them for some time I have come to feel that the most noticeable and lovely thing about the girls is the way they wear their womanhood, as if it were a flower, or a rare jewel. One of these girls, who, by the way, had been nine months in France, all of it under shell fire, said to me:

“I used to wish I had been born a boy, they are not hampered so much as women are; but after I went to France and saw what a good woman meant to those boys in the trenches I changed my mind, and I’m glad I was born a woman. It means a great deal to be a woman.”

And so there is no coquetry about these girls, no little personal vanity such as girls who are thinking of themselves often have. They take great care to be neat and sweet and serviceable, but as they are not thinking of themselves, but only how they may serve, they are blest with that loveliest of all adorning, a meek and quiet spirit and a joy of living and content that only forgetfulness of self and communion with Jesus Christ can bring.

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… is up and growing at Semicolon.

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Yesterday, while shifting books around to freshen up the display at the check-out counter, I decided I needed a mass market Christian novel to round things out. So over I tootled to that section, and dug around – and picked out a book by Grace Livingston Hill, who still sells well decades after her death. But… After I got it spotlighted in a primo location, the book kept catching my eye (always a hazard if you’re a booklover working in a bookstore), and so I brought it home to read (always an option if you own the bookstore). It turns out to be not a romance novel after all, but a history of the Salvation Army in World War I, co-authored with Evangeline Booth. Although I’m only to page 22 in my copy of the book, it’s looking very much like I’m going to be able to recommend The War Romance of the Salvation Army to history lovers (whether Christian or not) as well as Christians (whether history lovers or not).

Here’s a taste (via GraceLivingstonHill.com, and Project Gutenberg):

The advance guard of the American Expeditionary Forces had landed in France, and other detachments were arriving almost daily. They were received by the French with open arms and a big parade as soon as they landed. Flowers were tossed in their path and garlands were flung about them. They were lauded and praised on every hand. On the crest of this wave of enthusiasm they could have swept joyously into battle and never lost their smiles.

But instead of going to the front at once they were billeted in little French villages and introduced to French rain and French mud.

When one discovers that the houses are built of stone, stuck together mainly by this mud of the country, and remembers how many years they have stood, one gets a passing idea of the nature of this mud about which the soldiers have written home so often. It is more like Portland cement than anything else, and it is most penetrative and hard to get rid of; it gets in the hair, down the neck, into the shoes and it sticks. If the soldier wears hip-boots in the trenches he must take them off every little while and empty the mud out of them which somehow manages to get into even hip-boots. It is said that one reason the soldiers were obliged to wear the wrapped leggings was, not that they would keep the water out, but that they would strain the mud and at least keep the feet comparatively clean.

There were sixteen of these camps at this time and probably twelve or thirteen thousand soldiers were already established in them.

There was no great cantonment as at the camps on this side of the water, nor yet a city of tents, as one might have expected. The forming of a camp meant the taking over of all available buildings in the little French peasant villages. The space was measured up by the town mayor and the battalion leader and the proper number of men assigned to each building. In this way a single division covered a territory of about thirty kilometers. This system made a camp of any size available in very short order and also fooled the Huns, who were on the lookout for American camps.

These villages were the usual farming villages, typical of eastern France. They are not like American villages, but a collection of farm yards, the houses huddled together years ago for protection against roving bands of marauders. The farmer, instead of living upon his land, lives in the village, and there he has his barn for his cattle, his manure pile is at his front door, the drainage from it seeps back under the house at will, his chickens and pigs running around the streets.

These houses were built some five or eight hundred years ago, some a thousand or twelve hundred years. One house in the town aroused much curiosity because it was called the “new” house. It looked just like all the others. One who was curious asked why it should have received this appellative and was told because it was the last one that was built–only two hundred and fifty years ago.

There is a narrow hall or court running through these houses which is all that separates the family from the horses and pigs and cows which abide under the same roof.

The whole place smells alike. There is no heat anywhere, save from a fireplace in the kitchen. There is a community bakehouse.

The soldiers were quartered in the barns and outhouses, the officers were quartered in the homes of these French peasants. There were no comforts for either soldier or officer. It rained almost continuously and at night it was cold. No dining-rooms could be provided where the men could eat and they lined up on the street, got their chow and ate it standing in the rain or under whatever cover they could find. Few of them could understand any French, and all the conditions surrounding their presence in France were most trying to them. They were drilled from morning to night. They were covered with mud. The great fight in which they had come to participate was still afar off. No wonder their hearts grew heavy with a great longing for home. Gloom sat upon their faces and depression grew with every passing hour.

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This winsome post by Angie Smith (House of Mercy, at Bring the Rain, Nov. 1, 2009) begins:

I have long been fascinated by the questions that the Lord asks in the Bible. It started when I was reading through Genesis (one of my favorite books of the Bible, seriously) and I came to the part where Adam and Eve had sinned and then decided it would be a brilliant idea to run from Him.

Because God isn’t really that great at finding people, you know.

So anyway, God asks, “Where are you?”

And I think that’s kind of funny because when I read it years ago I thought maybe He was serious. Maybe He was thinking He had added a little too much of the landscape and now He had gone and lost His very first man. And instead of reconsidering that, I thought that instead of asking, He should have just made it so they couldn’t hide, or better yet, just fire up his powers and hone in on them.

Or, maybe He knew where they were the whole time.

Due to the fact that He is all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe, I’m going to stick with B.

But why would He ask if he knew the answer?

Read the rest. Do.

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The following is from a letter Donald J. Boudreaux sent to the Washington Post:

Speculations centered on party struggles are tiresome.

The real struggle is between persons who love liberty and persons enthralled with power.  A liberty lover refuses to exercise power over others and, therefore, has solid principles upon which he can stand when defending himself against those who would exercise power over him.  In contrast, someone enthralled with power – by endorsing its exercise over others – kicks out from beneath his own feet the principles he will need to stand on when the time comes for him to defend himself against the power of those who would force him to submit to their will.

Full letter here.

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Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, is one of the few people out there who can do a book review in one or two sentences. (OK, up to four, in some cases.) It’s an interesting book list he just put out, if you are interested in religion, politics, or effective compassion.

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David Pryce-Jones remembers the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago, with some behind-the-scenes reporting.

Meanwhile, “President Barack Obama has RSVPed “nein” to Chancellor Merkel’s invitation to Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. National Review Online asked a few experts what this snub reveals about our current president.” Well, I certainly wish they’d led off with someone who wasn’t quite so openly… uhm… happy that Mr. Obama might have made a stupid move politically. But some of the commentators have more worthy things to say.

I wish I could remember which Charles Colson books have some good chapters on life behind the Iron Curtain, and the role of Christians in overcoming that particular cluster of tyrannies. I think the quiet, heroic perseverance of the faithful is not as much acknowledged as it should be, considering the impact they had. At any rate, most of Colson’s books that I’ve read feature a good look at history that, for the most part, didn’t get reported in the secular press at the time. I recommend reading his books to round out your understanding of world events.

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