The Power of Three

Here’s a timely reminder for myself from my favorite Elizabeth Goudge novel; maybe it will encourage you as well. One of the book’s highlights is a set of simple prayers shared by an aged Anglican vicar to a young woman who struggled with a lifelong ailment that looks strikingly like bipolar disorder. She certainly had a mood disorder that caused devastating periods of not being able to function as usual that caused some of her family to think she was “mad.” This dear woman received life-sustaining words from the vicar and I have found them to be both a lifeline and a balm when I struggle myself.

“My dear, he said, love, your God, is a Trinity. There are three necessary prayers and they have three words each. They are these,

‘Lord, have mercy.

Thee I adore.

Into thy hands.’

Not difficult to remember. If in times of distress you hold to these you will do well.”

Later the young woman, Mary, writes in her diary:

“I shall live and die here. Perhaps I shall never be well but this place will give me periods of respite that I would not have found in any other, and though I am able to do nothing else in this life, except only seek, my life seeming to others a vie manquee, yet it will not be so, because what I seek is the goodness of God that waters the dry places. And water overflows from one dry patch to another, and so you cannot be selfish in digging for it. I did not know any of this when I began this diary and I don’t know how I know it now. Perhaps it has something to do with the old man.”

 “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant.

Job 14:7-9

The Scent of Water, Elizabeth Goudge

May we find periods of respite as we seek our eternal destination in this earthly journey. We all struggle with something.

Dog Days of Summer

“But life is glorious when it is happy; days are carefree when they are happy; the interplay of thought and imagination is far and superior to that of muscle and sinew. Let me tell you, if you don’t know it from your own experience, that reading a good book, losing yourself in the interest of words and thoughts, is for some people (me, for instance) an incredible intensity of happiness.”

― Isaac Asimov

I am looking forward to kicking back this afternoon with a favorite book. In my case that is Elizabeth Goudge’s The Heart of the Family, the third book of the Eliot family trilogy. If you haven’t given yourself permission to get lost in a good book lately, why not do that today?


Epiphany & The Well of the Star: A Review

Elizabeth Goudge vs Tolkien vs. Lewis vs. L’Engle vs. Jan Karon: whose fiction would I want if I could only have one of these cherished authors’ works–or even only one work of theirs? With no disrepect to the others, it’s a no brainer: Elizabeth Goudge, especially The Scent of Water. But I digresss…

Today is the traditional day for the feast of the Epiphany and this novella published in 1941 is a delightful read for any age; in fact, it only improves with the reader’s age, in my estimate. In Miss Goudge’s story the Magi arrive simultaneously with the shepherds instead of when Baby Jesus was actually a toddler, when Herod’s infamous slaughter of the innocents (all boys two and under) was carried out and the Holy Family makes their flight into Egypt.

Her writing, as always, clearly conjures up the physical and emotional geography; the vivid imagery of both the external and internal worlds of her characters abounds. The feast of Epiphany is the penultimate one during Christmastide before the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of our new liturgical year’s Ordinary Time the Monday after that. This story, in its simplicity and earnestness, encapsulates both the Ordinary Time of the church year–the normal day in, day out life of a shepherd boy–as well as its times of celebration (wise men bringing three significant gifts to celebrate the birth of the most important person in the world). Learning to accept that our life “is what it is” at any given moment but that we are not without hope–as the appearance of an extraordinary guardian angel reveals–reminds us that times of suffering will not usually go on forever without respite, that even the most grim of outcomes may be reversed through unlikely means, and that even a simple shepherd boy may get to count himself friends of a wise man (although not his surly camel!).

This book is an expensive out of print title and is a relatively hard book to find in a library but well worth checking for (or obtaining via ILL) and/or keeping an eye out at used book stores for a copy, for those who find themselves smitten by it as I did several years ago. My copy comes from a nearby regional library’s book sale table. I was horrified by how little it had been checked out after the mid-50s, even though it is a small town library. What a waste!

Again, although most Christians in the U.S. who celebrate Epiphany did so on Sunday, here’s to a blessed remembrance of that feast. If you have a favorite short story, read aloud, novella, or even novel involving Epiphany, I’d love to hear about it.






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