Hello, my name is Laurie Alice Eakes and I’m a coward.
Whew, that’s out and now I can sit down and say nothing more. My heart can stop pounding and I can surreptitiously wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt. Eventually, the nausea will recede, but I may never get over crying in front of everyone.
That’s me—the coward. No, it’s not fear of public speaking. I’ve been up in front of fifteen hundred people with only a tremor in my knees and on TV without a blink. Put me in a small group or crowd, however, and I want to run like a mouse for the nearest hole. James 5:16 is inconvenient to me. I have to confess my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my sins to others? I want to vaporize.
I can’t admit to weakness. I’m supposed to be perfect. People will stop liking me if my hair isn’t so and my clothes just right, my words witty and my prose exquisite.
Worst of all, God won’t like me if I’m not sinless.
Wait. Something is definitely wrong with that picture.
Once upon a time, I joined an organization of women. They were kind to me, but not friendly, except for one woman. She was downright. . .spiteful. I couldn’t figure it out until it all came out over a seating issue at a banquet when I had to stand up in that crowd of women and say, “Hello, I’m hurting here.”
It was one of the hardest things I ever did, and one of the most rewarding. I learned why these women were standoffish with me. My formal dress at meetings turned them off, made them feel inferior because I came from an office job and they came from home. I could have changed my clothes, but I’d put on my armor of sophisticated professional. Armor so powerful it fended off friendship. I didn’t have the courage to be vulnerable, expose my flaws, my weaknesses. Weaknesses are weapons others can use against you.
They are also a gift. Psalms 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
I have to step back and think about that one. God doesn’t despise my weaknesses. God uses them like a sacrifice. He wants my brokenness. Does that mean if I am too much of a coward to admit my weaknesses, if I don’t have the courage to be vulnerable before God, I am denying Him something he wants?
Well, duh, if we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God’s grace, now would we? Of course He wants our brokenness. We are human. And, although some people are ungracious enough to use our vulnerabilities against us, most want to be connected with people who have the courage to stand up and say, “Hello, my name is Laurie Alice Eakes and I have the courage to be flawed.”
Christine here--Dear Laurie Alice, how your words have encouraged me today. Thank you so much for sharing this on my blog for my readers. And now I want to share what I thought of your latest novel, which was also of apt spiritual blessing to me exactly when I needed it. God truly does use your writing.
Whether a book is a huge omnibus or a slim volume, good writing rises to the top like cream. Or should I say, with the clarity of unsullied glass. This is the case with anything Laurie Alice Eakes writes, but today I'm focusing on her latest novel The Glassblower, newly released by Heartsong Presents.
With the universal truth that there's nothing new under the sun, I get excited when an author comes up with a totally fresh concept. This is true of the gentle hero, Colin Grassick, a master glassblower. In 1809, Colin comes to New Jersey to make his fortune so that he may eventually bring his impoverished mother and siblings over from Scotland.
Colin's heart is soon captivated by the daughter of his employer. The lovely Meg Jordan's soul is as transparent as the purest glass Colin has ever crafted. Their hearts are quickly melded together as Meg tries time and again to open her school for the poor children of the area. Colin works overtime to craft windows for her school, but vandalism continues. And suspician grows in Colin's mind. Who is trying to shatter Meg's hopes, and arrange the accidents meant to bring him harm?
But as love develops between these two young people, they must not declare their mutual feelings to each other. Meg is promised to a wealthy landowner. But Meg never made the promise; her father made it for her. However, it soon becomes apparent to Colin that the man Meg is promised to does not deserve her.
The stakes are high enough in this gentle romance to keep me avidly turning its 170 pages. This is a book I can pass on to a girl or a woman of any age who prefers a story without any disturbing or graphic images. I found the historical detail mesmerizing. The author has the nack of invisibly setting the historical details of the era and of the craft of creating glass into the story.
In addition, Laurie Alice Eakes encourages me in a scriptural truth without the slightest trace of preachiness. On days when my life feels dark, the characters of The Glassblower allow light to penetrate.
If you'd like to purchase this book, click hereThe Glassblower,
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Our team spends a long time unwinding on the beach of Chennai. In a few hours we'll head to the airport. I'm tired, yet I can't help my writer's imagination taking flight on this my last night in Tamil Nadu, in the southern tip of India. I watch the breakers surge, retreat, and surge again in an endless rhythm onto the shore.
Over the past 12 days I've ridden railway tracks that missionaries like Dr. Ida Skudder travelled on hundred years ago. Many times I was only a few miles from where Amy Carmichael raised her family of rescued Indian children. People like these two heroines of mine gave their lives and hearts to the people of India.
I've seen the amazing work that God is doing through the people of India Bible Camp Ministry. My mind works overtime. How can I transport my impressions into writing that will honor the God I serve, and serve the Indian people that I, too, have come to love?
That's what being a writer is all about—seeing what is there. What used to be there. What could be there. Just like faith. As a writer, a story takes on wings when I touch my setting, smell the fragrances, taste the spices of life in that world.
There's a jade cast to the evening sky as we leave the beach just after twilight. We make our way to St. Thomas on the Mount. This Basilica is where the Lord's disciple, Thomas is traditionally believed to be buried.
In silence we enter a room where a large copy of Caravaggio's The Incredulity of St. Thomas hangs on the wall. My weary soul is drawn to the image of the Lord Jesus opening his garment to show his wounds to a distraught, oh-so-willing-to-be-convinced Thomas. And there, just like me, is Thomas reverently, fearfully placing his finger into the wounds.
If it weren't for Thomas I would despair that my God might lose patience with me. But Thomas needed to physically touch the Lord in order to fully understand. This painting captures the truth of the biblical account, because on Christ’s face is perfect patience.
In my writing it's necessary for me to search for the proof, dig out the details. But my need to be convinced that everything-is-going-to-be-all-right follows me into my faith. I wish it didn't. I wish my daily faith would stand like a stalwart rampart no matter what the circumstances. I wish I didn't sway like the coconut palm trees of India with each overly stiff breeze.
But then...that coconut palm close to the sea withstands the gales because it has stood through countless raging storms. Maybe I need constant reassurance from my God that I'm on the right track in the various aspects of my life. I may receive those assurances from Him, and maybe I won't. Maybe I do sway, emotionally, with the howling wind at times. But I'm still planted firmly in the one thing I know for sure, Jesus saved me from my sins. I belong to Him. One day I'm going home...to Him.
Just like He was with Thomas, my Lord is so infinitely patient with me.
And like St. Thomas---the apostle God sent to India---I too say in awe, “My Lord and my God.”
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Life isn’t easy. Even for people who are closely yoked to Christ, life isn’t easy. If it’s not us, it’s someone else whose struggles feel like a riptide has snatched them from the safe shore and is carrying them off.
The 2004 tsunami hit a lot of coastlines, India being one. The earthquake that started that killing wave had the energy of 23,000 atomic bombs. The wave—insignificant at first—roared out with centrifugal force at the speed of a jet plane until it escalated into something monstrous when it neared land. People, human beings, didn’t have a chance.
Five years after the tsunami some of our visiting team sat out on a hotel veranda overlooking the Bay of Bengal. The sun shone. Soft breezes played like silk in the air. The scent of tropical flowers teased our senses. Part of our team was involved in a meeting. They had bibles open on their laps, and at times they bowed together in prayer. Anyone walking in the hotel courtyard below, or standing on another veranda could see them.
An Indian lady climbed the stairs to the team’s veranda and asked to speak to them. She could see that they were Christians and wanted to tell her story.
She had seen firsthand what the tsunami did that December day. All her life she had been a Catholic Christian, but when she saw the devastation and the staggering numbers of the dead, she raised her eyes to heaven and asked what we all ask. Why?
There had to be answers, yet the local clergy had none. Nor did her husband have answers to this horrible question of devastation and loss.
Just after the catastrophe, this lady had picked up her Bible and began to read. She began to pour out her heart in honest prayer. Slowly, she realized God did not answer her question as to why He allowed the disaster. What she did find was a God calling her to a deeper relationship with Him. All her life, she had thought she knew the One who hung on that cross for her sins. But in reading her bible, for the first time she realized it was a personal letter to her from God. A lot of people died the day of the tsunami, but from that day God called her to a newer walk with Him. He comforted her with His own presence.
She told her husband about her new relationship with Christ based on nothing but faith in what Christ had done on the cross. But her husband wanted nothing to do with this Jesus. He believed the prosperity of his business was tied up with the way he had always worshipped. He certainly didn't want to follow this Jesus who demanded everything from His followers and who did not guarantee a life of wealth and ease on this earth. The husband ordered his wife to stop reading her bible and praying. She didn't. To this day she continues to worship the Jesus of the Bible in secret with a few others who also must hide their faith.
Everyone I know has some kind of pain in their lives. We are either hurting with sickness or someone we love is. We struggle with the loss of a loved one or the lack of a loved one. We often don’t know which road to take in life. God seems to call us in a certain direction, we take a step of faith . . . and yet the expected outcome falls far short.
Is God in any of this? Was He in the tsunami?
When my life becomes chaotic with struggle, worries, and my thoughts swirl with confusion,words to an old hymn stream into my mind.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Take comfort in these selected thoughts. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind . . . "Who enclosed the sea with doors? When bursting forth, it went out. . . . I placed boundaries on it . . . I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther. Here shall your waves stop'. He makes the depths boil like a pot; He makes the sea like a jar of ointment.
Behind Him he makes a wake to shine.”
Saturday, April 03, 2010
Greg and Oonaugh Wood on our 6 hour train trip in India.
Upon first meeting, you just never know how deep a person or persons will nestle into your heart.
I sat with our team in a restaurant at the Vancouver airport. From the booth I watched passengers stream past. A rather tall man stopped, his eyes lighting with recognition as he peered over the crowd. He nodded and quietly spoke to someone shorter whom I couldn’t see. A couple gingerly wove their way through the tables. Greg and Oonaugh Wood had arrived.
Greg is a person who gets right to the point. In a few minutes he told me he was an entertainer, more accurately an illusionist. As staff with Power to Change, the Woods have for the past 18 years travelled around the world putting on shows and presenting the gospel of Christ. They are part of the Film & Variety Arts ministry who use variety arts to reach those who would not normally attend a Christian event.
But over the years they've worked with almost every denomination and groups such as MAGI (Ministry Arts for Global Impact), Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus On the Family, Athletes in Action and many more. They've gone out with CCI a number of times.
I was intrigued. I always am when the conversation turns to taking a risk for God. Greg loved what he was doing, even though I sensed weariness in him. They had already flown for 4 hours, had no proper night’s sleep, would fly for 11 ½ hours with a 4 hour stopover in Hong Kong, then fly another 5 ½ hours to India. Greg is way over 6 feet. And he’s no Slim Jim. I imagined him in those skinny airline seats with no room for his knees or his size 16 shoes. He and Oonaugh were already tired.
But behind Greg’s glasses his eyes lit up when he talked of God’s calling.
Oonaugh was hard not to love, a smallish woman with bright brown eyes. Like Greg, her eyes twinkle, but behind their smiles is intelligence. Behind their joviality is an iron hard commitment that will get them through the next 12 days and a gruelling pace.
On our first day in India, the Woods presented at a meeting for 200 pastors. Grown men laughed with child-like awe as Greg did his slight-of-hand. The trick they liked best was when Greg supposedly morphed a 10 rupee bill into a hundred rupee bill.
Then Greg crumpled the money in his hand, dropped it to the floor, stomped on it, ground it with his shoe, and held it up to them. “Do you still want it? Does it still have value?”
The pastors nodded their heads, comprehension dawning.
In his deep baritone voice, Greg boomed out, “It’s the same with you. You may be beaten up, put down, dirty from past sin, but God still wants you. He can still use you.”
Greg and Oonaugh’s agenda diverged from the rest of the team. While we observed what CCI and India Bible Camp Ministry were doing, Greg and Oonaugh served.
At St Francis School of 130 students they did their show, and over 60 children made responses for Christ. At St. John’s School of 800 students, more than 500 children raised their hands they wanted to believe in Jesus as savior. At one orphanage of 1 140 kids, 30 kids wanted Christ. And the list went on for each of the 12 days in India.
In the mornings during our devotions, Greg and Oonaugh would often fold their silks for that day’s shows. Most days they barely had time for lunch or dinner before being rushed off to the next show.
At one school they entertained 200 children, and every child wanted to invite Christ into their lives. At a large public school with Hindu statues all around it, Greg performed in front of a large picture of an Indian man who claims to perform miracles and is a self-made god.
Each time Greg performed he carefully explained to the children that he does not do magic. “No one can do miracles,” he said. “Only God can do miracles.” He goes on to tell them that he does slight-of-hand, a trick.
Perhaps in North America the implication of what Greg said wouldn’t carry the same weight. But in the eyes of these children, I could see understanding. They knew very well there were men who said they did magic, and who had thousands of followers believing they were a god. Even their Hindu priests could frighten them with threats of witchcraft and magic.
Greg Wood goes on to tell these children of the miracle of the son of God, Jesus who came back to life 3 days after He died. At that school almost all the children wanted to invite Jesus into their lives.
For ten days the Woods presented their evangelistic comedy show to over 10,000 people in 24 shows with over 2400 children responding to the Gospel. As the days wore on the physical toll began to show, the weariness in Oonaugh especially. On the last day as some of our team rested and others went sightseeing, Anthony asked Greg and Oonaugh to perform a number of extra shows.
Their driver tapped on their hotel door that morning, worried the answer to Anthony’s request might be no.
Greg opened the door with a smile. Oonaugh stood behind him with the suit cases packed with their silks and props. They were ready to go. They had a show to do. The kids were waiting.
If you'd like to see Greg in action click on this link.
If you'd like to see Greg in action in India, click on this link. It may be a little slow, so be patient.