Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gift suggestion for an artistic friend

Lilias Trotter was a student and friend of John Ruskin in the 19th century, but she gave up fame and a sure career as an artist among his circle of disciples to become a missionary among Arabs in north Africa. But she never forgot the pull of her art, and continued to draw and sketch along with writing devotionals and travel diaries. Her small, hand size books beautifully illustrated were quite popular for over 30 years, then as missionaries and vision statements changed, she sort of dropped out of view. I discovered her this year in a recently issued book "A blossom in the desert," compiled and edited by Miriam Huffman Rockness (Discovery House Publishers, 2007). The author's preface of how she first became the recipient of Trotter's little devotionals and then tracked down her paintings and original manuscripts is a story worth a book in itself--at least a librarian might think so.

Fortunately for those of us with limited funds--or attention spans--the Gutenberg project has scanned one (or maybe more, I haven't looked much farther) so you can see her beautiful, delicate watercolors and read her words, Parables of the Cross.

Look at the beauty and message she finds in a humble dandelion:
    "This dandelion has long ago surrendered its golden petals, and has reached its crowning stage of dying--the delicate seed-globe must break up now--it gives and gives till it has nothing left.

    What a revolution would come over the world--the world of starving bodies at home--the world of starving souls abroad, if something like this were the standard of giving; if God's people ventured on "making themselves poor" as Jesus did, for the sake of the need around; if the "I"--"me"--"mine" were practically delivered up, no longer to be recognised when they clash with those needs.

    The hour of this new dying is clearly defined to the dandelion globe: it is marked by detachment. There is no sense of wrenching: it stands ready, holding up its little life, not knowing when or where or how the wind that bloweth where it listeth may carry it away. It holds itself no longer for its own keeping, only as something to be given: a breath does the rest, turning the "readiness to will" into the "performance." (2 Cor. 8. 11.) And to a soul that through "deaths oft" has been brought to this point, even acts that look as if they must involve an effort, become something natural, spontaneous, full of a "heavenly involuntariness," so simply are they the outcome of the indwelling love of Christ."
Trotter certainly offered up her own life for God, leaving family, friends and fortune to settle in Algiers not knowing a word of Arabic, and the next forty years established 13 missions, called the Algiers Mission Band. According to her biographer, "she pioneered means, methods and materials to reach the Arab people [now] considered to have been a hundred years ahead of her time."

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