It is in the stages of a plant’s growth, its budding and blossoming and seed-bearing that this lesson has come to me: the lesson of death in its delivering power. It has come as no mere far-fetched imagery, but as one of the many voices in which God speaks, bringing strength and gladness from His Holy Place. Parables of the Cross
I hold in my hands a facsimile copy of Parables of the Cross by Lilias Trotter. A dream come true. Leafing through the pages, I savor the exquisite paintings from nature perfectly positioned to augment the text: chestnut leaf and bud, flowering rush, golden blaze of gorse-bush, sunny buttercups, wild-rose pedals, dandelion seed-globe – among others. And I feel anew, the first thrill of opening this book in the original edition. Even more: the moment the seed was planted in my heart to see this book re-published in a facsimile edition.
Flashback in time to October, 1992. Place: Loughborough, England. My husband and I had scheduled our return trip from Israel, a 20th anniversary gift from our church, through London to accommodate a side trip to the Arab World Ministries Headquarters where the Trotter archives were housed.
Words fail to express my emotions as I opened a leather-bound page-a-day diary and saw, for the first time, her exquisite watercolors – a museum in miniature – flowers, landscapes, people, houses, sunsets and mountain ranges. I could only briefly browse diaries, journals, pocket sketchbooks that recorded her 40 years in North Africa. And there was much more: reports evolving in style and format, scrapbooks circulated amongst the mission stations, seed ideas for writing, booklets in French, English and Arabic for women and children as well as devotionals for the English speaking. I jotted down my observations in a notebook even as I vowed: I will return!
The day sped by all too fast, punctuated by a brief coffee/devotional time with the staff and a light lunch put together with gracious hospitality. At the conclusion of the visit our host and guide – “keeper of the archives” – Alasdair McLaren asked a simple question: “What is your purpose in coming here?”
How to answer? How to explain the powerful impact this woman had already had on my life and spiritual formation? How to put into words the driving desire to see with my own eyes the art mentioned only in footnote on a printed page of an out-of-print book? All I could say in answer was simply: “Pilgrimage. I’m here on pilgrimage.”
Upon return to the USA, I continued to ponder that question – and my answer. I realized that trip had put in my heart a desire to see her work re-issued in publications that contemporary readers could likewise study and ponder. So I wrote a letter (before the day of emails!) saying that upon further reflection, I did have yet another purpose: to see some of her out-of-print works republished – beginning with the devotional classic, Parables of the Cross.
With their blessing I began yet another pilgrimage to editors and publishers and other Trotter fans toward that end. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, in response to my query: “I have tried various publishers to see if I might persuade them to reprint the PARABLES. They say no – impossible to reproduce the paintings except at prohibitive coast. Alas. But I quote her and tell people about her whenever I can.” (She went on to write a book, A Path Through Suffering, meditations based on Trotter’s two books, Parables of the Cross and Parables of the Christ-life illustrated with sketches by her brother, James Howard.) And such was my experience as well.
Until a fortuitous meeting with Marj Mead and Lyle Dorsett at The Wade Center at Wheaton College. Dr. Dorsett, upon seeing the parable book, proclaimed this book publication-worthy but that it needed a readership acquainted with Lilias Trotter before such an undertaking – and went on to commission me to write her biography.
Fast forward 23 years from that first meeting in Loughborough: two books and a film later – A Passion for the Impossible: The Life & Legacy of Lilias Trotter; A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter; “Many Beautiful Things: The Life and Vision of Lilias Trotter” – my original dream finally has been fulfilled: the publication of a facsimile edition of Parables of the Cross. (http://www.amazon.com/Facsimile-Parables-Cross-Lilias-Trotter/dp/1938068076/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1444521970&sr=8-5&keywords=parables+of+the+cross)
This has not been a solo venture. Countless people have come alongside me during the past 2 decades supporting the vision of reviving Lilias’ legacy with encouragement, ideas, research, materials, funding. Others have caught the vision for republishing her parables, a wonderful contribution resulting from new digital printing options, resulting in at least 10 separate editions at last count.
Which raises the question: why one more? This is the only facsimile edition, copied directly by the Conservation Center of Chicago from the first edition published by Marshall Brothers and printed by E. Nister of Nuremberg (Bavaria). Faithful not only to text but the alignment of text to illustrations, it likewise reflects the advance in quality of color printing.
One might also ask, why another devotional book? And one written over 100 years ago? Bookshelves and catalogues are filled with all manner of devotional writing in up-to-date English with contemporary tone and examples. It must be acknowledged that the text reflects a distinct voice of the Victorian era and that the contents are not for the faint-hearted as deep and sometimes hard spiritual realities are stated and explored.
But the fact remains, this is a devotional classic, rare and true, composed of timeless verities tested by personal experience. It was written within the window of summer/fall 1895 at a time Lilias was taking an extended break in England. Her health, never robust, had been seriously compromised after seven years of unremitting labor in the testing climate of Algeria. The result was this book, born of her own spiritual struggles and tempered with her depth of life experience. It reflects her deep grounding in Scripture and is animated by her growing sensibility to God speaking through His natural world.
Parables of the Cross. Read for yourself. Read slowly. Read prayerfully. Read for insight into God’s Ways: the unchanging and inexhaustible truths of a loving Heavenly Father.