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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Puritans

Can you imagine such a book title attracting my attention? My only knowledge of the Puritans is that they were a group of uptight people who took scriptures and distorted them so that there was no fun, no freedom and no peace in their daily life.  I thought they were another religious group who worried more about rules than relationships.

To begin with, it's the first in a series subtitled "An American Family Portrait."  I love series' book just whets my appetite and I always wonder what happens next. It was the last line of the brief description on the cover that made me give it a try.  

Trace this unforgettable adventure of one of America's first families of faith, the beginnings of a vibrant spiritual heritage that will span generations.

That was enough to get me to try it.  I really enjoyed it and hope you can find a copy.  A little bit of everything -- romance, adventure, intrigue and suspense.

What I learned, if this historical fiction tale is accurate in any way, is that the Puritans began out of a desire to follow the Bible more closely than what the Anglican church at the time was doing in England.  They didn't think it mattered where the communion table was railed off in church.  They didn't think reading a sermon someone wrote hundreds of years earlier necessarily spoke to the reality of the days' struggles. They felt there was power and life in the scriptures to speak to them directly, not through someone else. They wanted to follow what the Bible said and not follow the whims of the current king. (What the Puritans ended up like is a different book all together.)

I've simplified it greatly, so read the book, but I marked two passages that jumped off the page to me.  The story was all told through one young man's life.  He wanted adventure and the honor and glory of the king and the court -- like the knights of centuries before.  The first poignant moment for me came at the denouement -- the turning point of the book, when he got what he thought he wanted and it left him empty. He only recognized it as empty after he witnessed a family who had passion and love and energy in their daily lives, yet they were virtually penniless.  They had the respect of their friends and the deep loyalty of their families.  I read on page 211:

He had no cause and he knew not love.

Have you ever read anything so sad?  I felt empty for him.  Do you have a passion for what you do?  If not, MOVE ON!  You were created to fulfill a specific purpose and if you don't know what it is, please take the time to figure it out.  Live life abundantly, not without cause.  I want my children to be passionate about whatever their cause and to know genuine, selfless love.  I can't pass that onto them if I don't have it in my own life.

The next passage came a few short chapters later when his new-found love was sharing her hopes and dreams.  They were, in the context of this book, dreaming about the New World. Dreaming about it is, of course, easier than trying to build it or even coming to terms with what it is today. Here is part of what she hoped:

I dream of a place where people can speak without fear of being killed for expressing themselves. I dream of a country where honesty is the national heritage, where people spend more time amassing friends than they do amassing wealth.

That sure doesn't describe the America I know.  But that last line about amassing friends...that gets at the heart of life.   I'm honored to know a wealthy lady in town.  She drives a fantastic SUV and has a gorgeous in-ground pool in her lusciously-landscaped backyard.  If you ever hear her name brought up in a conversation, though, you don't hear people talk about the rich lady with a pool.  They talk about how sweet and generous and caring she is.  How she always smiles and has kind things to say about everyone.  She has wealth and yet the focus of her life has been amassing friends.  

A little selfish of me to desire both, I know, but if I succeed on one side alone, please let it be amassing friends.

I'm off to read the next book in the series called "The Colonists" by Jack Cavanaugh.  Read one and tell me what you think.


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