This is My Father’s World

Ahhh… today is the first of October. And in Canada, fall is beginning to show itself in full colour. With it, comes the sigh of satisfaction at a bountiful harvest, and the joys of quieter days. (We are going to ignore the fact that the weather can’t make up its mind and both snow and 30 degree celsius temperatures happen all in the same time frame — just work with me and my idealized vision of autumn, okay?!). I wasn’t sure what to muse about this week, and was going through the things that have been recently on my mind: Greta Thunberg and her fight for global change, aboriginal celebrations of strength, fall fairs, baked warm apples and pumpkin spice lattes, and for some reason, this old hymn popped into my head:

This Is My Father’s World (Lyrics)

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world,

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!

“This is My Father’s World”, was originally published, posthumously, by the author’s wife in 1901, in a book of his poems. Maltbie Davenport Babcock, was a New York minister who frequented the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, simply to marvel at “His Father’s World”. I think he was close enough to Canada to appreciate the true beauty displayed, especially during autumn. The popular hymn was adapted from Babcock’s poem by his friend and musician, Franklin Shepherd, in 1915. (The original poem contained 16 verses of 4 lines each).

I was reminded of the hymn back on my travels to Wolfville, Nova Scotia this summer, (you can read about that adventure here) and discovered it is also themed in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. As the camera pans the rolling hills of the Shire and all the familiar simplicity of a hobbit’s homelife, we are reminded that despite this era of evil, this is My Father’s World.

So, as our sunflowers begin to droop from faces ladened with seeds, as the leaves change colour and eventually die, as fall mums and ripe apples display their ruby redness against a backdrop of golden hues, I hope you relish the thought that this is my Father’s world. Perhaps you’re off to drown your troubles in a quiet coffee shop with a “grande PSL”. I’m here to remind you: That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet. Happy first of October, my beloveds!

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

It has been a crazy few weeks! Busy spring schedules means my house is a mess, I’m tired, the laundry is backed up, and things are just a tad bit grumpy around here. So, there is really no time for casual reading, despite my comfy couch calling my name as the sunbeams warm the spot! But before the chaos hit, I had the chance to finish up a book entitled “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend” by Matthew Dicks. (FYI – Apparently the author goes by Matthew Green in Australia and the UK). I picked it up in one of the thrift shops we stopped at on our girl’s getaway a few weeks back. (You can read about those adventures, here).

The reviews label it as a “psychological novel”… and I am not quite sure what that means. But it’s good. It is also an auditory book, so if you prefer that, it might be a cool one to listen to on a car trip this summer? Personally, I loved it as a great read, and couldn’t put it down. It tells the story of Max, an elementary school-aged boy with some special needs, and his imaginary friend, Budo. Budo, although imaginary, and only seen and heard by Max, is quite “real” for an imaginary friend. (He has eyebrows!) He is also quite “old” for an imaginary friend (More than five years old — most imaginary friends get killed by kindergarten says Budo 🙂 ). He discovers, through twists and turns in the book, that the more he learns, the more he dislikes reality. Budo’s biggest reality? Imaginary friends do not last very long. And Budo has to make some tough decisions in order to help Max, which in turn, may bring about his own demise.

I’m not a “fluffy” book reader… I like some interesting (and slightly dark) twists in my novels — and this one had just enough to keep me up at night. It boasts of sacrifice and internal struggle and pushing forward. Budo has to face his fears. Ultimately, his friend, Max, does too. The author has made it quite creative, almost whimsical — there are some other meritorious imaginary friends described in the book, and a few teachers who tickled my funny bone, as well.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is not considered a “spiritual” book by any shape or form, but I couldn’t help but see the parallels it has to our own faith journeys. Faith being the operative word here. Have you ever felt like an imaginary friend? Heard and seen and understood by only a very select few? You struggle to “do the right thing” but it may mean sacrificing your friendships, or even your very own existence? Do you have to rely on the strength of others to get you through a challenging trial?

Recently, I discovered our youngest had copied out a verse on the chalk board hanging on her wall. It struck me how we have been developing her faith by our family choices, our encouragement, and our example. In turn, she is beginning to live out her own faith in Christ. And we see it reflected in the doodles and drawings on her chalk board. What a scary privilege we have as parents!

Oh friends, after busy spring weeks like these past few, my faith is weak. I want to achieve big things, but I struggle with simply keeping things at the same, comfortable and re-assuring spot. I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone, into the “real” world and face challenges that might be too hard for me. Sometimes I am barely keeping a float where I am right now! Can I get an Amen? Anyone out there feel the same?

Perhaps, Budo, Max’s imaginary friend, could take notes along with me, from 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT), where we learn that there is someone very real we can count on to strengthen us in our spiritual journeys. Someone who can truly help us step out in faith.  “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. “ So be it.

Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne

My youngest received a boxed set of the Canadian classics: The Anne of Green Gables Series, for Christmas this year, and she just recently cracked it open. As the first book sat there on the couch, I smiled as I glanced through a few pages and read some of the infamous dialogue of the beloved “Anne”. Melodrama becomes the little orphaned girl who was supposed to be a boy helper. I was a big fan of the books when I was my daughter’s age, and was an even bigger fan of the 1985 Canadian television mini series starring Megan Follows.

Anne — with an “e” — is the delightful character created by Canadian author, Lucy Maude Montgomery. Her never ending chatter and imagination (and “horrid” red hair) won the hearts of many a young girl, and Montgomery’s novels became international best sellers. I’ve claimed her in this week’s muse, in honour of International Woman’s Day (recently celebrated back on March 8th). The research I discovered marks L.M. Montgomery as an even more interesting Victorian lady than I had once thought.

She was raised by her grandparents, and although her Anne books were very successful, she struggled with depression and angst. She seemed complicated… a spiritual woman who questioned her faith and the church, and was often angered at political agendas and the atrocities of war. Her journals and diaries contain her grief stricken outcries at things that she saw in the daily news, as well as in her own day to day duties. Her love life was confusing at best, and she although she seemed to follow the suit of marriage perfectly (as befitting the times and her strict Presbyterian upbringing) she did not seem happy in it. Her “fleshly” desires seemed to get the better of her and she longed for a bit more of the wild side.

Even her death seems somewhat of a mystery. The official books say she died of a blood clot in her heart, but there are rumours that her bouts of depression may have lead her to take her own life via a drug overdose. This complicated woman appears so far drawn from the character of Anne… the whimsical red-head that seemed so innocent despite her strong willed nature. But such is the escape of a good book, eh? Especially one that I am encouraging my youngest beloved to fall in love with ….

And so I muse about the complexity of this wonderful creation that God has given us as women. We are delicate and yet bold. We are strong and yet weak. We are certainly complex. I think of the short glimpses of the biblical women we see: Women like Mary, Esther, Ruth and the woman who wept at Jesus’s feet. The woman at the well, who questioned. Rahab who risked much to save others. These women lived in a time so unlike ours. They had no International Woman’s Day to celebrate their gender equality. They were the lowest of the low… and yet stood in honour in the eyes of their Saviour.

They were bold and courageous. Certainly, many were not perfect. In fact, most of them made some very poor life choices. But God used them mightily despite their gender — and despite their lot in life. He used them to move the events of time. To change history. To further His plans.

Perhaps, Lucy Maude Montgomery’s, Anne, is no real comparison to the biblical characters. Perhaps I have no business equating one story to another, but it did make me muse a bit about what makes women so special? Why does there seem to be a balance between fragility and boldness in the lives of women? Why do we fight to have gender rights when we already seem to have such a strong presence in this world already? Has Satan so deceived us (like he did Eve) with his smooth talking, leading us to believe that we are somehow less special to God and His plan for the world?

I really don’t have the answers. I’m just as complicated as the next chick. But for now, I will encourage my girls to delight in being daughters of the King, and to enjoy a good novel about a feisty little red-head, with a wild imagination, who gets into just a bit of mischief, and changes the lives of some people — simply by being who she was created to be.