Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows

“Because I live, ye east to westshall live also.” — John 14:19

When God puts a broken life back together, He removes the scars because He builds from the inside out. And when God steadies a faltering life, He puts you on His footing.

God is in the shadows in many ways, but He is also in the bright light of what His servants do every day.

T.S. Eliot once wrote:
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Life is not merely a geographical journey–not just east to west, or north to south. There is also an up and down–God’s way, or our way… There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny. – Ravi Zacharias

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This is the first autobiography I’ve ever set my heart on reading, and it surprised me in many ways. Ravi is one of my favorite authors, and knowing how God has woven his story together has made me appreciate the work that God has done and is still doing in my life as well.

If you’re feeling like you’re in the shadows where the darkness seems unbearable, God is there with you. And when you’re in the light, when there’s joy and peace in your heart, God is also there, rejoicing with you. In every circumstance, trust in Him.

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A SATIRICAL BOOK: The Screwtape Letters

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“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” 

Been wanting to read a C. S. Lewis classic since I’ve completed The Chronicles of Narnia (which I will soon be reading again), and last Christmas I was blessed to receive a compilation of all his classics as a gift. The Screwtape Letters is the first book that I’ve finished from the collection.

What it’s about: 

The book is a series of letters written by Screwtape, a senior demon in service to “Our Father Below”, to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter.  The letters are to mentor Wormwood into ensuring the damnation of a British young man that Screwtape referred to as “The Patient,” who was relatively new to Christianity. Each letter features a phase in the young man’s life and whether or not Wormwood was successful in luring him away from “The Enemy,” and into their wicked ways.

My Rating: 

5 I-didn’t-see-this-coming stars 

This book was honestly a surprise. I was preparing for a lecture-type narrative from C.S. Lewis, but instead I got a trip inside the head of a devil (which should not be assumed to be true even from his own angle as C.S. Lewis mentioned in his Preface). The letters were very convicting, that they made me stop and reflect at my own life. Though the tone was humorous, each letter tackled serious issues about a human soul, which should not be left unchecked.

The author also gave glimpses of God’s character through Screwtape’s reminders. I have highlighted a lot of statements, but this one is my favorite:

“…the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best… He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

There will be times that we’ll feel as if God has withdrawn from us, but rather than feeling scared and defeated, we must see these moments as opportunities to cling onto His character and draw closer to Him in prayer. Because the truth is He will never leave our side. And that sometimes He allows moments of desperation to teach us how to decisively seek Him with all our hearts.

 

 

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

 

Recapture the Wonder

recapture the wonder

For the category “A book with a blue cover” in my 2016 reading challenge, I chose Recapture the Wonder by one of my favorite Christian authors–Ravi Zacharias. I have always loved how Ravi is able to connect with the senses everytime he writes, and this book is one of those that make you see everything in a different light after reading. Rather than detaching you from the world, as some books would do, Recapture the Wonder connects you to it, and in turn making you appreciate its Creator.

As I’ve done with Don’t Waste Your Life, below are my favorite quotes from each chapter, followed by my thoughts:

 

1. We Miss It, but What Is It?

Wonder is that possession of the mind that enchants the emotions while never surrendering reason. It is a grasp on reality that does not need constant high points in order to be maintained, nor is it made vulnerable by the low points of life’s struggle… Wonder knows how to read the shadows because it knows the nature of light. Wonder knows that while you cannot look at the light you cannot look at anything else without it… It is a journey like a walk through the woods, over the usual obstacles and around the common distractions, while the voice of direction leads, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21 KJV).

How I wish my life would consist only of high points all time, but that would never happen. There will always be highs and lows. This is why maintaining a sense of Wonder in every situation, the good or the bad, is really challenging. But how can we successfully “read the shadows?” How will we be able to confidently say that we trust God, even in the dark?

2. The Rules of the Game

God’s commands are there to protect what life is truly about, not the other way around.

As G.K. Chesterton said, “before you remove any fence, always first ask why it was put there in the first place.” To develop a sense of wonder even when we are struggling, we must understand that life is meant to be lived God’s way. The rules He set are for our own protection, and our ultimate gain. We may not understand everything now, but God always sees the bigger picture.

3. Passionate Pursuit, Misdirected Search

There are some bitter long-term disappointments in short-term indulgence.

Pursuit of the wrong things always leads to bitterness. Tried and tested. But the good news is, you can always bounce back. His grace will always be sufficient.

4. Wonder Unwrapped

At the cross Jesus gave the final and ultimate gift of unmerited favor… If this were not sufficient, nothing would be.

Because, really, what more could you ask? We can never out-give the Lord. And we must never think that anything or anyone can replace this kind of Love.

5. Wonder Consummated

There is no such thing as free love; love is the most costly expression in the world. But the wonderful thing is that it has already been paid for.

They say you can’t buy love… but it you think about it, loving always has a price, right? And Jesus paid with His life. Greater love has no one than this (John 15:13).

6. Forward to the Past

God is like the light. Wonder is like the shadow. If you chase the shadow you will never catch up to it. It might even disappear. If you walk toward the light, the shadow will always pursue you. That is when the heart sings with gladness. 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me

all the days, all the days of my life.

 

Stop chasing shadows. Set you eyes toward the light, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the start. Because when you focus on the light, you will see this same light in everything else as well.

A BOOK BASED ON A FAIRY TALE: Uprooted

Uprooted-Naomi-NovikOne.of.the.best.fantasy.stories.ever. Naomi Novik‘s “Uprooted” was way way more than I expected. I thought it’s just another Beauty and the Beast retelling (well I haven’t really read one to be honest, but I’ve seen how they turn fairy tales into movies nowadays, so I thought this would be just like one of those, and by the way, nothing against Beauty and the Beast, it’s my favorite that’s why I chose this story), but this is a tale that is worth its own recognition.

The Story:

Agnieszka (pronounced as “ag-NYESH-kah”) was a simple girl from Dvernik, a village protected by a Dragon from the place that everyone was afraid of–a corrupted place called the Wood. But the Dragon’s protection came with a price: every ten years, he would choose a young woman from Dvernik to live with him in his tower and serve him. And so Agnieszka feared for her best friend, Kasia, for everyone in their village knew that the Dragon would choose her. Why wouldn’t he? Kasia was the most beautiful young woman in their village.

But to everyone’s surprise, the Dragon did not choose Kasia.

My Rating:

5 I-wish-I-can-pluck-all-the-stars-in-the-sky-and-give-them-to-this-book stars!

And no, I am not exaggerating. “Uprooted” was everything I wanted in a story, and more. It was able to enchant me from the first chapter to the last. I honestly could not stop reading. The mystery behind the Wood was gripping, and the development between Agnieszka and the Dragon was so exciting to read. Yes, just to spoil you a little, this is a love story 😉 And I really wish I can tell you more about it, but I think you have to read it for yourself.

Packed with lessons you won’t easily forget, I highly recommend this book for my fellow fantasy lovers. You won’t be disappointed.

 

My favorite quotes:  

“She’d remembered the wrong things, and forgotten too much. She’d remembered how to kill and how to hate, and she’d forgotten how to grow.”

“I don’t want more sense! Not if sense means I’ll stop loving anyone. What is there besides people that’s worth holding on to?”

“He loved his magic, and he would have shared that love with me.”

“It was a slow and dreadful death, if the corruption wasn’t purged. The Wood consuming you like rot eating away at a fallen tree, hollowing you out from the inside, leaving only a monstrous thing full of poison, which cared for nothing but to spread that poison onward.”

 

A YA BESTSELLER: The Rose Society

rose society

The first book ticked off from my 2016 reading challenge (yes, last year’s failure won’t stop me from challenging myself again) is the latest YA Bestseller by Marie Lu (she’s one of the best!)–“The Rose Society.”

This book is the much-anticipated sequel to “The Young Elites,” which I grabbed from the bookstore (yes I paid for it!) right after finishing her very beautiful and unforgettable LEGEND Trilogy (you should really read this if you haven’t, especially if you’re into YA).

The Story:

After the death of her beloved and the Dagger Society’s betrayal, Adelina Amouterou resolved to find other Young Elites and form her own army of allies to help her exact her revenge against the Daggers, the Inquisition Army, and the throne with the help of her sister, Violetta. Known as the White Wolf, Adelina has the power to weave powerful illusions to cause pain, terror, and death to anyone who wishes to stop her from ploys. But great power comes with a price, and Adelina slowly finds herself being consumed by the darkness inside of her.

My Rating: 4 i-need-light-on-this-story-please stars

Yes, I know the author intended this to be a very dark story, but I hope the last book will not leave me staring into space with a heavy feeling in my heart, as this one did. I love Adelina, but I hope she finds it in her heart to give it all up. I don’t want her to end up all alone. She’s suffered to much for her story to end like that. And Magiano–he’s my only joy in this story. I hope to read more of him in the third book. And I hope he doesn’t die. Because everyone in this book does.

So, I don’t know if this short review made you want to grab the book or not, but what I can assure you is that this is a very engaging read, that would haunt you even after you’re done reading.

My favorite quotes: 

“The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.”

“Sometimes, love can bloom like the tiny flower hidden in the tree’s shadow, found only by those who know where to look.”

“You are living in a world of illusions, of your own creation. You are in love with something that no longer exists.”