Louis

A curious boy – his name is Louis,
Born 1809, just east of Paris;
His father a tanner, Simon-René,
Whose workshop becomes a place to play:
Off Louis toddles as soon as he’s walking,
To the place where his father makes tack for the horses.

Quick as a flash in his three-year-old fervour,
He picks up the awl to puncture the leather;
Drives it down hard – his gaze intent,
And yelps with a sudden stab of pain:
The tool he’d played with so many times
Had struck him a blow; he was blind in one eye.

A child leaving home – his name is Louis,
His parents have far outdone their duty;
His father the tanner made canes for a change,
Walked round the village and taught him the way:
But to further expand his ten-year-old mind,
A school in Paris – the first of its kind.

Every pupil with aspirations –
All of them blind, they craved education;
The school’s founder, who saw the need,
Had a system in place to teach them to read:
He gave it his name and called it Haüy;
It talked to the fingers in the language of the eye.

Raised print on wet paper, pressed against wire –
Though helped by the books, you’d quickly tire;
What they contained was scant at best,
And how could a blind person write for themselves?
Surely a better system was plausible,
And Louis determined to make it workable.

A youth with a purpose – his name is Louis;
From his own words, we can tell he’s displeased:
“We don’t want to be patronised by condescending sighted people,
We don’t want to be reminded we’re vulnerable”;
He yearned for the blind to be treated equally
And in his mind, communication was the key.

Through the news or in person we can’t be sure,
But Louis learned of an officer
Whose ranks of soldiers, there on the ground,
Could talk to each other without light or sound:
Just dots and dashes indented on paper,
That’s all it took to share information.

From that time on, the idea was sparked;
Now he had something to make a start:
Twelve dots became six, and he worked on the shapes –
Ten different ones, from A to J;
Add an extra dot for the following set,
And another to end the alphabet.

A Catholic by profession – his name is Louis;
I see the Bible there in his story:
All works for good to those who love their God;
The same tool that blinded him was used to make those dots:
In 1824, at just fifteen,
His very first prototype came on the scene.

A Frenchman with a legacy – his name was Louis …
Louis Braille.

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Shamelessly Living the Adventure: “Brazen” Book-Review

I signed up to review this having wanted to read one of Leeana’s books for a while, but I must admit I found the subtitle off-putting. “Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding” sounded weird to me. I might have gone for: Shamelessly Living the Adventure. Leeana’s taught me that brazen means ‘Without shame’, and we don’t always have to follow brazen with hussy.

Do you follow authors on Twitter? If you’re reading their book, it’s a great way to send a thank-you note at the end, or if you weren’t overly impressed, find a quote that did resonate and tweet it to them. Revell Books tweeted a link to this podcast with Leeana, which will give you an idea whether you’ll like “Brazen”. It’s a book about returning to who you are deep-down inside, and unashamedly being that person. There’s good advice about recovering and finding your voice.

I appreciated Leeana’s writing style; short chapters with storytelling woven in. I might recommend “Brazen” if a person was lacking in confidence. My only major struggle was with chapter 9 where, because she grew up without a man around, Leeana talks about finding an image of God we’re comfortable with and refers to Him as a matriarch. I know Jesus wept over Jerusalem and wanted to gather her people like a hen gathers her chicks, but Jesus didn’t ever say: “Our Mother in heaven”, so I don’t think we have a license to mess with God’s gender. There are those people (a good friend of mine being one) who don’t have brilliant relationships with their earthly fathers, yet they can look at God and acknowledge Him as their perfect Father – the One they lift their eyes to and can’t help but smile. I’d rather follow their example than try to turn God into a matriarch, but on the whole, “Brazen” is an encouraging read.

A Letter from Jesus

It’s awhile since we’ve had a Compassion-related post, so if you’re new to this blog, you might wonder why ‘Compassion’ features in the title. Compassion as an organisation seeks to bring children out of poverty through child-sponsorship. Maybe you’re sceptical about child-sponsorship and thinking: How would they make sure my money got to the right place? To answer that, Compassion is Christ-centred, child-focused, church-based, and committed to financial integrity, so Compassion’s centres are run by local churches – those on the ground, who are best-placed to know the specific needs of their communities. My own Compassion-family are all around the world and I love them dearly.

One area I’ve never sponsored in though is South America. I’m delighted to be a Compassion-blogger and this week, some of my fellow-bloggers have gone to Ecuador. They’re there primarily to put their experiences into words – to share with anyone who’ll listen what it’s like in one of the 26 countries where Compassion works. Perhaps their posts are aimed at newbies, but as a seasoned sponsor myself, I find them just as encouraging. Ashley met a man whose sponsor had asked what his dream was (I think I’m going to ask my eldest that), and Ruth’s post on the theme of letters reminded me of something Paul said in the Bible.

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone,” says Paul. “You show that you are a letter from Christ sent through us.” Every time we show love to someone, we’re a letter from Jesus straight to them. My fellow-bloggers get to show that love in person this week in Ecuador; I get to do it through child-sponsorship.

And the exciting part?

You can too. Bri wrote that she waited too long to sponsor her first child. I know it takes some thought because it’s a long-term commitment, but please, don’t wait too long. Maybe now’s the perfect time to choose a child and start writing those letters of love, from your heart to theirs.

Being a Christian – What’s it Like?

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a Christian? If you’re reading this blog wanting to find out more, today, I’m featured in Holly’s ‘Testimony Tuesday’ series. I wrote about when I became a Christian and how God changed my outlook on life. Come and have a read, and I’ll try to respond if you want to leave a comment.

Very Like a House Group: “The Beauty of Grace” Book-Review

Imagine for a minute that friends from all over the globe have gathered in your lounge (there probably aren’t enough chairs). There’s Joy Forney, the one who lives in Uganda; Annie Downs, who turns 35 this year (like me) and lives in Nashville; Kristen Strong, whose daughter’s accident gives her authority to write on sacrifice; Maggie Whitley, who’s focused on Compassion; Emily Freeman, author of “A Million Little Ways” and more; Holley Gerth, the one you feel like telling all your problems to, to name a few. You’ve handed out the cookies and mugs of coffee, picked up your pad of paper to make notes, and you go round the room asking each one to share their thoughts. Very like a house group your church might have midweek, and just as in a house group you’re faced with different personalities, you are here too. Perhaps you’ll like the hard-hitting style of Melanie Shankle, who maintains it’s too easy to sit on your couch and let life pass you by, or you might prefer a gentler voice – someone you sense has endured through tough times.

‘Stories of God’s love from today’s most popular writers’ is a lofty tagline. Really it’s a selection by a bunch of folks you will have heard of if you regularly visit the (in)Courage website. I would have preferred it if the contributors’ bios had been at the tops of their first posts. It would have given Sara Frankl’s added poignancy if readers could have seen at a glance that her illness was over and she was now with the Lord, but overall, I would recommend “The Beauty of Grace”. Many of its writers are familiar to me. It’s what my mum would call a ‘Coffee table book’ – one you can dip in and out of, and keep going back to … and I might do just that.

Now October is Over

Can I start by saying a huge thank-you if you’ve read my life-story throughout October? Every like and comment was appreciated, and a special mention for Melissa who commented so regularly. Space didn’t permit, but what I’ve really missed has been giving a shout-out to others who were also writing for 31 days. That’s why I thought I’d highlight some posts for you now:

I’ll start with Robyn. I’d never read her blog before, and she’s written what’s been my favourite series of the whole month (well done Robyn). Here’s a post from her adoption adventure.

Not surprisingly, my blogger-friend Becky’s also included. She and her pastor-husband and four children make me smile through the videos she shares on Facebook, and having grown up a pastor’s daughter and become a pastor’s wife, who better to write 31 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor? Way 3 was one of my favourites.

You’ll know from last month about my South African friend I’d love to meet. Because of her I have a growing interest in the country, so enjoyed Kate’s 31 Days of Life in South Africa. Who knew traffic-lights were called robots?! Kate also added an extra dimension to her challenge and wrote every post in 5 minutes, as did several others.

Here’s a taste of the most honest series I’ve come across – Caiobhe’s 31 Days of Hope for a Messed-up Marriage, and the most fun? Definitely Caroline and Greg’s on Truth or Dare.

I enjoyed these posts by Tobi and Annie in their series about books.

Several bloggers featured people who’d impressed them, like Joseph or the 31 Dayers Facebook-group, but let me really recommend Barbara’s Inspirational Biography series. I love snippets about Christians from of old, and this post about Susannah Spurgeon made me smile because of the lovely quote from Charles about his letters to her.

And the series I haven’t got around to but am looking forward to getting into? 31 Days of Writing as Worship.

Hopefully, in amongst all those, there’s something you’ll enjoy too. Happy reading, and if I’ve missed you out and you think I might enjoy your series, please tell me in the comments.

5-Minute Friday: Reach

Kate Motaung has got me writing again with her Five Minute Friday prompt, and my 5 minutes for this week starts with an unusual question:
* * *
Who remembers S Club 7? When I was in my early 20s, they released the song “Reach”. It wasn’t a Christian song, but its message is optimistic:
“Reach for the stars;
“Follow that rainbow,
“And your dreams will all come true”.

For some strange reason, that song was the first thing to come into my head when I saw this week’s prompt, maybe because I’m in a good mood (Friday’s a favourite day of the week for me), so why don’t we ... reach for the stars?

What’s the big dream in your life – the thing you would reach for, if only ... I have lots of them. I’d love to go up Table Mountain in a cable car with my South African friend; to take my Filipino boy to a theme park in Manila called Enchanted Kingdom; to record more of my songs professionally; to have a paid job; to ...

But it’s good to have those dreams. When you want to do something, it’s good to be able to ask yourself: "Why not?" Sometimes answers to that question aren’t slow in coming, but when we still dream, when we still ask, it means there’s a part of us that’s alive – that’s reaching – that’s trusting for better things around the corner.

“With every step you take, think about what He wants, and He will help you go the right way” (Proverbs 3:6).

Out of the Box

I had some great feedback about the series on Proverbs I did last month, so I thought we could try a shorter book this time – the book of Amos.  Are you with me?

* * *

“These are the words of Amos, one of the shepherds from the town of Tekoa. …  ‘The pastures of the shepherds will become dry, and even the top of Mount Carmel will dry up’” (Amos 1:1-2).  This is an encouragement to all of us not to keep God and our work separate.

 

I wrote a song once, prayed and really felt I should sing it somewhere.  I shouldn’t have been surprised when the leader of the meeting told me afterwards that someone had really been helped by my song; that’s what God can do.  If you’re a shepherd (like Amos), He’ll talk to you about the pastures of shepherds.  If you’re a singer, He knows who you’re singing for and what you should sing.  If you’re a writer, He wants to inspire your words.  If you’re in an office, He knows all about it.  I remember a Christian friend telling me she left the office one night, not knowing what to do about a certain problem.  She mulled over it all night and still nothing.  Then she went to work next morning, switched her computer on and the answer just came to her.

 

What’s God like for you?  Is He distant, maybe someone you feel looking down when you’re singing hymns on a Sunday, or have you asked Him to be part of your everyday life?

5-Minute Friday: Mercy

Who’s ready to write for 5 minutes without worrying whether it’s just right?  This week’s theme is mercy and I was a bit stuck initially, but then I was thinking about Habakkuk and the word ‘Mercy’ came back into my mind, so I read it (only a short book) and then wrote for 5 minutes:

* * *

Who do I think of when I think of mercy?  Today I thought of the one who told God:  I have heard of Your fame, I stand in awe of Your deeds …  In wrath, remember mercy, but that wasn’t the beginning.

 

That prayer was a response – to God’s response – to this same man who poured out his heart to Him.  He wasn’t afraid to say what he thought.  “How long do I call out for help?  And You don’t listen!”  So God answered that the Babylonians were coming.  Most people might have said fair enough, but he argued.  “Are we only fit to be caught and killed?” so God responded again.  Had He not promised?  It might seem slow in coming, but wait patiently.  He was giving reassurance that He was in control, and that’s when Habakkuk said:  “In wrath remember mercy.”

 

Are you trying to pray the right prayer but not really feeling it?  Maybe it’s time you were honest with God.  If you feel like He doesn’t listen say so, because maybe you won’t be able to pray the right prayer until you’ve had His reassurance.

5-Minute Friday: Red

Oh yes, it’s 5-minute Friday time again – a time to write for 5 minutes without worrying whether it’s just right, and this week’s theme is ‘Red’, so why not go to Lisa-Jo’s blog and join in for yourself?  And don’t forget to visit the blogger whose post’s before yours and leave them some encouragement:

* * *

Dresses and strawberries and people wearing plastic noses, wanting to do others good.

A feel-good colour.

The cord that hung out through the window to rescue Rahab and her family.

Red is for rescue:  Because Jesus died on the cross, and His blood was poured out for us.  That wouldn’t make you feel good unless you knew the end of the story.  But when you know the end, when you know He’s won and it’s finished and He’s praying for you and cheering you on, doesn’t that make you feel great?

Thank You for the blood; thank You for brightness.  My bright future.  Sometimes the clouds of life hide it from view, but it’s there.  Help me to break through the clouds and take hold of it.