1. The Letter “M” – Six letters to missionaries published in the in-house magazine El Couffa
2. Heavenly Light on Daily Life – a series of devotionals for Arab women
THE LETTER “M”
Personal Note: Nowhere is Lilias’s counsel concerning ministry spelled out more clearly, with characteristic wit and humor, than in The Letter “M,” an open letter to missionaries, carried for eight consecutive issues in the in-house publication El Couffa (translated: open basket). While they reflect a particular time and place – and, throughout, a quaintness of illustration and turn of phrase – there is a universal quality to her advice that would profit any Christian worker – then and now. All eight editorials have been culled from these issues and printed in full. MHR
Table of Contents
Chapter I – Missionaries and Their Manners
Chapter II – Missionaries and Their Maidens
Chapter III – Missionaries and Their Musings
Chapter IV – Missionaries and Their Merits
Chapter V – Missionaries and Their Mates
Chapter VI – Missionaries and Their Miseries
Chapter VII – Missionaries and Their Muddles
Chapter VIII – Conclusion
THE LETTER “M”
Missionaries and Their Manners
We have all seen in England certain establishments in which over each bedroom is inscribed the name of a saint or of some virtue as an object of emulation to the inhabitant of that room. Would it be a good plan if we wrote over our door “No cats?” And in case you may not see at once the connection of ideas I hasten to remind you that at home, when anything goes wrong or is broken, it is apt to be attributed to the cat. Perhaps we ought to look to it that we do not keep in our “fort interieur” a little private kitty to whose charge we lay anything that has gone amiss between us and others.
There are different kinds of cats. One much in vogue is “the climate.” I knew a lady who threw a leg of mutton at her husband, and I was told it was the effect of the climate. Don’t let us throw even invisible cutlets at one another and say “the climate has such an unfortunate effect upon me.” It is unfortunate, but it is not irremediable. We are here by the calling of God in this climate, under these circumstances, in this surrounding to be to all around us, European as well as native, unblotted epistles of Christ. It is a high calling – but He is able. So when that well-known voice within tells us that by word or manner we have given pain, let us not allow ourselves a single excuse. There is one fact that does away with all self-excuse: “I have sinned against the new commandment of my Lord.”
There is another quite little kitty that we must not let creep in. It is called “Oh! It is a way I have.” Once, years ago, there was somewhere a very good worker who had a way of not responding to the salutations of her fellow workers or of the natives. It seemed much a little thing, but the natives could not understand it, & when this worker spoke at meetings I am afraid that in the hearts of some of her hearers there was an echo “Yes! That was the one who did not answer when I salaamed her.” So if we are conscious of having ‘a way’ however innocent, that rubs up our neighbours white or brown, let us give it up as St. Paul would have done. He says, “Let all that you do be done in love.”
There is another cat, happily of a very rare species, called “she is the only one I can’t get on with.” Can’t I? What a pity! That is just what the Arab women feel when they begin “douas” in their house. And we have come out here on purpose to show them how to be delivered from that as well as other sins – so we really cannot for very shame allow ourselves this excuse.
Often I find myself repeating Miss Procter’s most true warning.
“Judge not, the working of his brain
And of his heart thou canst not see;
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain
In God’s pure light may only be
A scar brought from some well won field
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.”
Missionaries & their manners! As I write a disagreeable question keeps posing itself before me as to whether I have always been as welcoming to the natives when their visit has been inconvenient as when it was convenient to me to receive them. And yet all was in God’s Providence and ordering.
Missionaries and Their Maidens
Some years ago there lived in Scotland two ladies, highly intelligent and very ferocious. When they were in good humour the flag on their castle turret would wave high, and neighbours knew that they could pay a very enjoyable visit: but when the dear ladies were in a bad temper the flag was only half mast high, and in all the country side there was not a soul who cared to brave the ill-humoured reception that awaited them.
There must have been something of the same spirit in the first maiden I heard of in Algiers, a young French girl. When she was in a bad temper, her whisk of hair was twisted into a defiant knot on the top of her head; as she felt gooder it gradually came lower & lower. On her best days it reposed on the nape of her neck.
After she left I joined my friends and our experiences were varied. Once we had nobody at all, and when the door bell rang we all three flew. What a pity we did not all three sit still and each one say, “I’ve been thinking that it is not my work to open doors.” There was only one door but the plural is always more touching.
Then we had an old Arab woman & a Kabyle lad. They got on very well together, & they spent their evenings, she in relating & he in listening to interminable & impossible tales of the olden time.
After a while we had two Kabyle lads. They worked well but were of different tribes, so not only did they fight but their friends outside fought over their quarrels. When we heard it was arranged that a pitched battle was to take place in an unfrequented part between their adherents it seemed better that one of the lads should go. I think his name was Said, and after he left a deputation of boys of his tribe came to know why we had sent him away. For any fault? for stealing? or such like? They were quite satisfied when we said it was his own wish to return home.
He was rather lazy and felt deeply the injustice of having to pay more by train than by diligence! By the latter he could not travel, for the drivers had an uncomfortable habit of making the younger passengers walk up the hills, & as he mournfully remarked, “The son of Adam does not like to walk up hills.” (Which reminds me that these young gentlemen being “sons of Adam” do not truthfully come under the title of “Maiden” – dear reader, please forgive!)
Later we had a dignified old Arab lady named Zehour. She was followed by a kind of kaleidoscope procession of Maidens, Swiss & French for the most part. One of the former was rather excitable and once “in anger wild” she desired to mount on the ballustrade round the gallery of Rue du Croissant – whether to address us from a superior height or not I cannot say – but as she was rather stout, and the ballustrade was, and is, rather rickety, we were glad when she was induced to abandon the idea.
I think it was another Swiss girl who had an extraordinary gift for Arab pronunciation, even of words whose meaning she did not know. One day she nearly got us into trouble with an old Arab gentleman who had come to complain of something and in reply to a voluble speech which she did not understand, she said to him what she had heard angry people say to one another in the street: “ouach andi fik,” to his almost speechless indignation.
These are all little ups and downs that come to my memory as I write. But there comes to me also a sense of many acts of unselfish kindness and thoughtfulness and high-mindedness on the part of those who through all these years have come to help us in the house. Personally, I have very pleasant and grateful recollections of Missionary Maidens.
Missionaries and Their Musings
How good and handy is a Couffa with its big mouth always wide open and ready to receive all that we want to put in. The only drawback is that some times things slip out for want of a top!
I remember long ago hearing of a nobleman who had an unfortunate habit of musing aloud. One of his beautiful properties was situated near a manufacturing town and he resolved to give a garden party to the neighboring magnates. Everything would have gone well if he had not walked among his guests saying “What a rum lot what a rum lot!”
On another occasion on leaving the House of Lords he was caught in a shower and a friend offered him a place in this carriage. He accepted but apparently repented for looking out of the window he said, “What a nuisance this fellow has taken me up. Now I must ask him to dinner.” His friend fortunately entered into the humour of the situation and looking out of the other window said, “What a bore to have taken him up. Now he will ask me to dinner and he has such an abominable cook!” At once the visitor recognized that he had mused aloud and after a hearty laugh the friends compromised matters by dining at the club.
That was a very good ending to the story but unfortunately we, if we hurt some strangers feelings by musing aloud, cannot so easily tie over our misdeed. I have more than once seen a French gentleman look annoyed at some remark made at the supposition that no one present in the tram or the train understood English.
I should not like to dogmatize so, but somehow I think that trains bought with French money and run on French lines do in a measure belong to French people, and that perhaps they are within their rights if they happen to travel on the same day with ourselves and if they are the first in the carriage. It is we who are crowding them up!
But this is only the topmost strata of my subject. As one looks back one realizes how must time some of us have lost in fruitless aimless musing.
The Lord of Heaven and Earth has taken our hearts with their thoughts as well as their affections for His Portion. What dusty, vapid apples of Sodom He has found there instead of the mind that was – and is – in Christ Jesus.
Yet our musings could be so glad and high. There is a Russian story of a poet who was ill treated in this world – oppressed and cheated and misunderstood. He made his appeal to Jupiter who said – “I will not alter the circumstances round you but Heaven is always open to you. When you will, you can come up here.” And the poet was satisfied. We too have an open Heaven above us into which we can ever enter, and in that Presence all unruly troublesome unworthy, all self-pitying criticising thoughts will be banished, and heart and spirit will be filled with the Vision of the Lord.
David must have had much to think of in the ordering of his Kingdom but it seems as if straight as an arrow his thoughts flew God-ward. “At midnight I will arise to give thanks unto Thee, because of Thy righteous judgments.” Before the morning watch, – out of the depth –
“My meditation of Him shall be sweet.”
Missionaries and Their Merits
“Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, he put in his thumb and he pulled out a plum, and said ‘What a good boy am I!’”
What a little prig that young man was! I suppose we have never felt at all as he did under the same circumstances??
I remember years ago meeting a missionary, who has since stood on many a hard fought and often unrecognised battle field, and he said to me, “When I was in England I worked a good deal amongst the poor. It was what I liked best to do and it was infinitely more interesting than staying at home. Every body said I was leading a most devote life and I quite believed them but when I came here and had really hard work and often failed, I saw my life in a truer light.” Ah! Mr Horner, come out of your corner and pull out a thistle or a thorn sometimes and see if you have the same view of your merit.
Do we not some of us know it? In the early years of our missionary work when the pleasant fiction of “a devoted life” and its merits fade, and we feel that we are coming perilously near to being a failure, we make mistakes, we find ourselves ready to become shirkers, we think that our fellow missionaries are judging our want of progress in Arabic, our way of managing the children, our power of comradeship with the natives, our housekeeping, attainments. No more plums followed by pleasant reflections! What are we to do? Let us do what the men in this photograph are doing. Climb! We find them in a strenous spot but we expect them to mount higher. We should have a sense of defeat if we heard that they had turned back before reaching the peak. Just because we too are in a strenous pace in our life, let us make sure that we are climbing upward. These men having obtained their object must come back. The Christian – never. He is led on from strength to strength until he comes to the very mount of God.
And what cause we have to go forward with a glad confidence, no matter how low down we start. On the Swiss mountains many a guide has perished with those whom he sought to lead but our Guide has never failed the souls that, knowing Him as their Saviour have trusted Him as Guide and Strength to bring them to the Heavenly Places. He never leads downwards. We need not look at ourselves or worry over our merits or demerits. Only let us be sure that we are with Him and we may be certain that He is leading us ever and through all circumstances, upwards.
A missionary in India wrote to a young Hindu prince who was at the eve of his baptism “keep close to the Lord Jesus, brother, and all will be well.” Great and special difficulties must have beset that young life and yet we feel how truly all must be well with him if, through grace, he has kept close to the Lord.
For us, to be with Him on battle field or lonely out-post, in desert or storm or heat, or mental and physical exhaustion, in light or thick darkness, so long as He is near it is good for us to be there, better far than in some easier post elsewhere.
“With Him.” How every thought of praise or blame, merit or demerit, success or failure, sinks into nothing beside those two mighty words. Words that replace human sin with the very righteousness of God, human praise with the “well done good and faithful servant,” earthly failure with the crown of glory and the song of Moses and the Lamb.
Missionaries and Their Mates
“First gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the Will of God.” A beautiful description of Christian fellowship. Weymouth translates the Apostle’s words a little differently and not less vividly: “First of all in the obedience to the Will of God they gave themselves to the will of God and to us.”
Do we think as we ought of the Divine Gift of our personal friendships? All that is of God must of necessity have in it an element of nobility and largeness, not to say boundlessness: So large, so boundless that it has no room for littlenesses.
I have seen friendships which reminded me of the little gourbis one sees on the Chelif plain, each one surrounded with a hedge of thorns and for further protection against any possible intrusion each little gourbi has a very large dog, whose sole duty it is to bark wildly at any one who happens to stray near, as if they were thieves. The thorny hedge keeps in as well as keeps out, and what cramped and stunted lives are lived behind those hedges!
We have never known anything like this in our own friendships? No thorny exclusiveness, no tiny little dog even to growl quite low but not very pleasantly? OF COURSE NOT!
So let us rather tun to look at the lovely large description of the friendship that God gives.
First, we have given ourselves to Him never to take back any portion of our being under any circumstance for anybody – our God-given friend included. And then, it is blessed to think of it in obedience to Him we give ourselves to the friends His loving Providence has brought to us.
I write purposely of “friends”, for it is very noticeable that the noblest friendships are those that are many-sided. We may indeed thank our Heavenly Father that even our poor human love is inexhaustible, like the Norse drinking cup of old that none could empty, for its base was open and reached to the sea. So the love we have to give to those among whom our Lord has placed us, if it is the true heavenly gift and not a shabby human imitation, is inexhaustible, for it too reaches a sea truly more “boundless than Ocean’s tide.”
Where Thou art most
Beloved, is room for all! The heart grows wide
That holdeth Thee, a heaven where none doth press
Upon the other.”
Missionaries and Their Miseries
How many of us have said and sung with all our hearts “Anywhere with Jesus,” but at the time we did not realize all that it meant for us. Indeed at home, and surrounded by all that home means we could not know. When the test comes we must not forget that “Anywhere” means for missionaries something different from life in England, and let us take very good care not to make a misery of anything that “anywhere” brings us.
To us in Algeria it must mean sometime or other, Arab food. Do we object to it? And mice, do we mind them? And mosquitos, do we think them dreadful? In some parts it means close contact with dirt and repulsive disease. Yet if Jesus is there what have we possibly to complain of? It means living among a stiff-necked and untrue people and struggling with a strange and difficult language. And yet let us evermore write over all our miseries, big, and for the most part very little, these transforming words “With Jesus.” And then the very breath of Heaven will breathe upon our whole being and we shall be glad.
I remember reading somewhere a most beautiful passage on I Corinthians 7:20-24. The writer described the transfiguring power with which the Apostle words “With God” must have fallen on the ears of the poor Christians slaves whose case he had been considering. “Therein abide with God.” “With God” in the midst of squalor and oppression and in justice, and sometimes cruelty unspeakable. “If thou mayst be made free, use it rather, not to escape discomfort but being the Lord’s free man, but if thou are called being a slave care not for it, but slave or free let every man wherein he is called therein abide with God.”
And what splendid examples of “Anywhere with Jesus” we meet with even in these earthworn days. How about that young married couple in China, who for six years never had a room not to say a house of their own but travelled constantly, and sometimes sleeping in an Inn with all the worse that that meant, sometimes sharing a room with the family of some poor adherent, often hunted out of a town with stones and jibes, but never faltering, always returning again & again to the hardest places until even their enemies were vanquished by their faith and patience.
What are our miseries? Shall we make a list of them and what shall we write opposite to them? Shall it be “this is very hard” or shall it be “with God?”
With Him in disappointments and troubled nights and much that perhaps we should shrink from if we had not meant it when we sang “Anywhere with Jesus.”
“With God” – these are the wonderful words, this is the wonderful fact that changes earth’s sordid surrounding into the heavenly places where we are seated with Him.
A friend told me that she knew an old charwoman who lived in a little garret in great poverty. One day speaking of returning to her rom after a day’s work she said, “And as I open the door I find the dear Lord waiting there for me, and I say to myself, “Can Heaven be better!”
Missionaries and Their Muddles
In one of her racy books Am Carmichael remarks that for a missionary engaged in evangelistic work there are few things so good as a turn at the educational. And she goes on to explain her thought. I quote from memory, by saying that from the very elastic nature of evangelistic work a missionary is apt to grow intellectually slack, whereas in a native school five minutes of inattention on the part of the teacher brings the prompt and patent punishment of inattention and turbulence on the part of the pupils. The teacher realizes that for every moment of her work she must be “all there.”
As we are commanded to love the Lord with all our mind, so we know we are to serve him with all that “mind” represents of thought and care and “gathered-up-ness.”
Perhaps for want of noting what passages we have read to such a one, we read and re-read the same, until the poor woman comes to think that the stories of the blind man and Zacheus are all we have to tell her of the Will of the Father.
Or perhaps we mixup our Arab friends and make a muddle of their family histories, which is very hurtful to their feelings.
I remember a young missionary who was much loved by the people, and part of her attraction for them was her wonderful mastery of their names, brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, children, maladies and everything that concerned them. I never knew her to make a mistake on any of these points.
And again, in the arrangement of our day I think we must try hard for “gathered-up-ness” and not leave the priceless moments just to the impulse of the moment.
There is a kind of amiable wandering round among the people which is not quite doing our service with all our mind, though it may well be with all our heart. Let us with prayer and thought seek to know where we are to go and what is to be our message, so that instead of “I thought I would just run around a minute” we may even be able to say “He that made me whole the same said unto me.”
And again there are other matters in our lives depending really almost entirely on this service of “with all thy mind,” as in the case of our room, arranging drawers and boxes so that we can lay our hand at once on any of our possessions without loss of time.
Our reports, have we not found that if we miss for a day noting numbers and visits, we find it quite difficult on the morrow to be sure that we are exact?
And our accounts! As I have been writing these lines I have felt that I ought to end each paragraph with “peccavi.” Here I think I should begin and end with that salutary confession. Yet I have tried, and all the harder after hearing Mr. Smeeton’s story of the trouble taken by hearing Mr. Hudson Taylor to rectify an error of a few pences in his yearly budget, for he felt a faulty report was not the perfect thing he wished to offer to his Lord.
Scientists tell us of many penetrating forces in this wonderful world but surely none is so penetrating as the service of our all-seeing Lord. “Not one poor moment escapes Thy Breast.” Not the smallest action but comes under the command, “Let all things be done in order.”
Missionaries and Their “Might have beens”
When I mentioned to a friend the title or this my last “M,” she said: “Oh! What a sad subject.” And there is indeed a sad side to it. It may be that during these weeks of rest the Holy Spirit has been so showing us what we might have been as to give new depth to the heart’s cry: “Forgive us all that is past.” But it is not of that side that I am going to speak except to quote some lines that I came across in Scotland.
“Give strength for this stern drama, Lord of Lords.
Blast in each heart the craven wish to yield,
Aye, let us burnish new our battered shield
That it may lack no lustre to the hordes
Which stand opposing us with tireless swords;
Safe are we only while our arms we wield.”
The “Might have beens” which are in my thoughts just now, are the loss and misery and sin from which our Lord in His ever watchful love and grace has again and again saved us. Do we not know it? What would have happened to us but for His Upholding when we walked amid the precipices in the thick darkness when the enemy camp in upon us like a flood, and we well nigh sank under his buffetings? When the discouragement nearly made us yield; when the subtle poison of unbelief threatened to sap our true life? When the bitter word that might have wrought untold harm was on our lips; when we took up our pen to write a letter of cowardly complaint? In what ruin of our lives it might have ended, but for the restraining, guiding, upholding of our redeeming Lord.
And then, on the physical side – journeys, illnesses, fears – how different they might have been! Through all He has brought us body, soul, and spirit, so let us go forward into the new season of work with a glad trust.
HEAVENLY LIGHT ON DAILY LIFE
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – The Lesson of the Looking Glass
Chapter 2 – The Lesson of Sweeping
Chapter 3 – The Lesson of the Loom
Chapter 4 – The Lesson of the Patch
Chapter 5 – The Lesson of Washing Day
Chapter 6 – The Lesson of the Broken Bread
Chapter 7 – The Lesson of the Coal
Chapter 8 – The Lesson of the Lamp
Chapter 9 – The Lesson of Spinning
Chapter 10 – The Lesson of the Mother’s Lap
HEAVENLY LIGHT ON DAILY LIFE
The Lesson of the Looking Glass
Wherever there are women there are looking-glasses, from the Sherifa with her great mirror framed in carving and gilding, to the tent of the Bedouin woman, who wears a little leather-covered disc among her many ornaments.
For all women want to see what they look like – what they look like to other people. And they know that the mirror gives to their view what they themselves would never see – the form and the tint of their features and the drapery of their headgear.
So far the mirror goes, no further, it can only picture the outer person. But there is another mirror that can shew thee thy inner person. That mirror is the Holy Book. In a mirror of glass thou canst see thy face as thy neighbour see it, but in the Word of God thou canst see thy heart as God sees it.
Our earthly mirrors sometimes shew things that make us sad. A woman may think her face still young and fair; but her mirror shews the wrinkles and grey hairs that have begun to come. It tells her the truth.
So also God’s Word tells us the truth about our hearts, that is to say that they are not good as we like to think them, but bad before Him.
For instance, thou thinkest perhaps that thou canst gossip all day long, without harm. See how that gossip appears to God. He says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.” “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
It may be, in thy mind are thoughts of pride, despising thy neighbour. Look in the mirror of God: He says, “He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth.”
It may be that thy heart harbours hatred against another, thou sayest, “I do well to be angry.” Look once more in God’s mirror and see how this hatred looks to Him: “He that hateth his brother is a murderer.”
Look, O my sister, in this mirror that tells thee the truth, and quickly thou wilt see that thou dost need a Saviour.
The Lesson of Sweeping
There are two ways of sweeping – a good way and a bad way. You can tell a clever woman from a foolish idle woman by the way she sweeps her room.
The foolish woman only wants to put the crumbs and the dust out of sight. She begins in the middle of the floor where the rubbish is easiest to see, and sweeps it all under the bed, or into the corners, and leaves it there.
The sensible woman begins in the corners and sweeps all into sight instead of sweeping it out of sight. She sweeps into the middle of the room, and gathers it into her shovel, and carries it away. Have I the truth?
This thing is a picture of the unseen. Our souls are like the room, and our sins are like the rubbish. If we try to forget our sins we are like the foolish woman who sweeps the rubbish into the corners and leaves it there, and next day covers it up with some more dust, till the day comes when the owner of the house is angry with her, and the whole must be turned out to her shame.
It may be, my sister, that thou hast told lies, and hidden those lies by other lies, and then thou hast tried to forget all about it. Verily thou art like the foolish woman who only sweeps the dust out of sight.
If thou wouldst be as the wise woman, look at thy sins till thou art ashamed of them, and dost long to be rid of them. Sweep them out of their hiding places in thy heart, tell God about them. Bring them out to the light before the great day of judgment comes when, if thou hast still hidden them, all will be brought to view to thy confusion.
God says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.” “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Take with you words and turn to the Lord, say unto Him “Take away all unrighteousness.” Take with you words and turn to the Lord, say unto Him “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously.” And this He will do for the sake of Christ the Lord.
The Lesson of the Loom
Wherever we go in the lands of the East there are looms. Some bear on their framework gay curtains and carpets, some black goatshair tents, some snow white haiks with stripes of shining silk. And most women know how to thread in the strands and beat them firmly into their places.
And, when a piece of work has been woven, it is, as you know, rolled up. No one can see after that the pattern of the carpet, or the stripes of the haik, only the last little bit remains visible.
And when it comes to the end, you measure the whole, and if it is too short on one side, you make it right as best you can, but the whole weaving is out of your power to change, and when it is cut you can add no single thread, good or bad.
Our lives are like the fabric on the loom, and each day adds a few threads. They are grey or gay, so to speak, with trouble or joy; they are black or white with sin or purity. Then night comes down like the beam, and shuts all back into the days of thy past; and soon it is rolled up and almost forgotten.
But the end of the weaving comes when life is done. In their last hours people try to set right what they can, saying to one and another, “Forgive me.” But this is only like the added threads that are meant to straighten the work that can change nothing of the past. Then death comes and cuts the whole. And it was said of old in the Book of the Prophets by a great king who saw death coming, “He will cut me off from the loom.” And as your life leaves the world, so must it be shewn in the day of Judgment.
In that day, my Sister, thou canst change nothing and add nothing. But now, thanks be to God, we can tell thee of a Saviour Who can take out the wrong thread as if they had never been, and give thee henceforth new and beautiful threads to weave into thy life. So wilt thou not be ashamed when it is unrolled before the Judgment Seat of God.
The Lesson of the Patch
Patching is poor work. We all know that, and you have often said when you have finished a bit of it, “It is the best I could do.” Your little son comes back from play with a great hole in his gandoura, past your power to mend. So you took out a bit of stuff and see that it covers the hole. But if does not match, and if it is a bit of new stuff and the gandouras is old , it soon tears into a worse hole than before.
And then perhaps the boy’s father comes back from a journey and says, “I am ashamed to see him like that,” and he buys him a new gandoura altogether. How gladly you put it on him and are done with the old patched one.
There is another kind of patching – People try to patch a bit of the new faith and life on to the old faith and life.
Do you do this my Sister? I know many women who like to come to the meetings and listen to the story of the Gospel and sing hymns they avow they believe it and receive it, but they go back to their houses and return to the old feasts and fasts and superstitions, and, worse than that, the old sins. That meeting once a week is like the little new patch on the old garment, and Jesus, who must have watched the women patching long ago, tells us that the rent is made worse. That means, it would be better for you in the end if you had never heard than that you should be content with the patching together of the new faith and the old life, saying, “It is the best I coud do.”
The patching may be the best you can do for your boy’s gandoura, but it will not do for your soul. Tell God it will not do and He will give you a new heart, a new spirit, and a new life through and through, because this is what Christ the Lord bought for you. If you delay, take care lest in the last day of account our Lord should look at the patch of the new faith on the old life, and only say, “The rent is made worse.”
The Lesson of Washing Day
It is a hard day, this washing day, to the dwellers in towns, who have to buy their water by the pot or skin, or who must draw it from the well in the court.
But is not a hard day to the women who live by a stream or a river, and it is to those that I write, for they will the most readily understand the meaning of the heavenly light on that work of theirs.
First of all the woman seeks out her soiled garments; if she is in any doubt, she brings all to the light of the doorway where the sun can stream upon them, and then, whether she finds them soiled much or little, they will go into the bundle that will be taken down to the river. For to leave anything behind would only be to fix the stain; time will not get rid of it, nothing but the water will avail.
Then she plunges each garment into the stream, and in some way that she does not understand, the water takes hold of the raiment and of the defilement that is in it, and the stains pass into itself, so that for the moment the clear water is stained, but the flood sweeps along, and it bears the defilement out of sight, where it can never be found again, and the garment is left as fresh and clean as if it were new, and the water runs as pure as ever.
So, long ago, our Lord the Christ took our guilt, and for those two hours on the Cross it passed on Him and was counted as His, not ours. God “made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin” and He took away the sin of the world – away where God would look on it no more.
My sister, here lies the one and only hope for getting rid of thy stains of thy sins. Thou dost not wait to take thy clothes to the river till thou dost understand how it carries away all the impurities, thou only knowest that it will be done. Come with same certainty to Christ our Lord bringing Him thy soiled heart and life, and the stains will go, thou knowest not how. Amen.
The Lesson of the Broken Bread
“Give me a ‘kesira'” (i.e. a little broken bit) – How well mothers know the word! How gladly your hand reaches to the shelf, and breaks and gives, if bread is there. What sorrow and pain they bring when there is none.
That loaf on the shelf cannot meet your boy’s need while it remains there. You have to bring it down to him, and you have to break it before his hunger can be stayed.
Christ our Lord said of Himself, “I am the Bread of God, which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world.” He was in truth the Bread of God up in Heaven – able to supply the need of every created thing, but He could not meet the needs of this earth of ours while He stayed up there. God brought Him down to us when He was born of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
And then at the end of His life down here His body was broken by His wounds on the Cross, and His Heart was broken for our sins – He was broken for you because God your Father so loves you, and He had no other way by which He could give you the Bread of Life.
And now, in that the message of his love has reached you, it is as if the hand of God our Father were stretched out to you, and He offers you the greatest thing that He has to offer, the gift of Jesus.
And on your side you have only to know that you need Him and his salvation – you need Him more urgently in your soul than your body needs its daily bread – that you cannot do without Him. If you have come that far you have but to stretch up your empty hand as it were to God, for the gift of His Christ. Say to Him, “I want Christ to be my Saviour.”
That is like your little boy when he holds out his hand to your for a “kesira.” As surely as you give it to him, so surely will God give Christ to you.
The Lesson of the Coal
If you were asked to name the blackest thing you know, the first thing that would come to your mind would be a coal; you could wash a coal till you washed it away, and the last crumb would be as black as ever.
Yet if you look in your kanoun next time you are cooking, you will see that black coal changed, through and through. It is glowing with light and heat, not a black speck is left, the fire has taken hold of it and transformed it. It is a new creature, it can shine, and warm and work.
Our hearts that we have from our father Adam are black and cold with sin, and useless before God. No effort of our own will make them worth anything. It is the fire of the love of Jesus Christ our Lord that can transform them.
Bring your heart to Him: tell Him that it is black with sin, and cold with lack of love, and useless for His service. Let Him take hold of your heart as the fire takes hold of the coal. Let the love of Jesus, who loved you and gave Himself for you, go deeper and deeper into your heart like the fire that goes deeper into the coal, till it possesses it altogether.
Then your heart will begin, as it were, to grow warm and shine, and those around you will share the blessing that has come to you. For those is whom the love of Jesus shines and glows, bring light and love to all who come near them. They cannot keep it to themselves, but “they that enter in may see the light,” for the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that is given unto us.
One heart really aglow can set on fire many hearts around. So bring your heart to Christ the Lord just as it is, and see what He can do with it!
The Lesson of the Lamp
Some people sleep in the dark all night. In other houses where there are sick people or little children, you see a light all the night through.
But what happens when the sky goes yellow with the dawn? The light of the little lamp was well enough for the night while it lasted, but already the flame was getting low, and now you have put it out, you have something better.
The world has pleasures that are like the tiny flame of the lamp – feasts and fine clothes, and jewels and such – like for those whose souls are still dark and who have nothing better, these things make a little light for a little while.
But Christ our Lord says, “I am the light of the world.” He is like the sun that shines,not for one room like the lamp, but for all lands and always. If your heart turns round to the sun, a new brightness will come to you like the brightness of the sunrise, and you will not care for these old pleasures anymore. They will seem as dull and meaningless as a candle in the sunshine.
This paper is meant for the younger women, to whom the fear comes about the things they may have to give up, if they surrendered themselves altogether to Christ.
Do not be afraid. You know the time for putting out the lamp. It is the time when the light of the new dawn has grown brighter than the light that you have had in your dark room all night.
So there will come a moment in the new life if your heart keeps turning round to Christ, when the new joys get brighter than the old joys, and to please Him becomes sweeter than to please anyone else. That is the moment to let all go for Him. It will not be really hard. Sacrifice is no sacrifice to those who in their hearts have seen Jesus!
The Lesson of Spinning
This lesson is about the fleece that you buy in the market, and how you get it ready to be woven into a burnous for your husband or your brother.
To begin with you wash it. But we have spoken already of that lesson; the mud is gone but there is still much work to do. You take the Kerdash, pass it through patiently till very knot and tangle is cleared, and it is soft as a little cloud, and then you take the spindle and twist the threads firmly together and each little strand helps the other to hold fast till they take their place in the garment you are weaving.
This is a lesson about living together in love. God has put us in families and often He wants us to be like the Kerdash that smooths out the knots of difficulties and the tangles of quarrels. For instance, if a neighbour gets a day’s work and fears to leave her children alone, cannot you say, “I will take care of them” and the knot of difficulty will be gone. Or if there has been a vexed feeling with another, you can say, “I am sorry about those words between us, let us forget all and be sisters again.” And when the children quarrel, do not slap them both, but try patiently to find out the cause and set it right. Then you will be like the Kerdash, and the tangles will be gone.
And thus, with loving thoughts and words, and looks we can as it were twist the thread of our lives with the lives of others, and especially with our sisters in Christ, that we may help each other to be strong, like the little strands of wool help each other, and so we shall grow fit for God to use us.
He has said, “Let all bitterness and wrath, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all male, and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
The Lesson of the Mother’s Lap
Can you not remember my sister, as if it were yesterday, the hour when your first born child lay in your arms, and how your heart glowed with such love and joy that all you had suffered in bearing it to life was forgotten.
And as it lay there, weak and helpless, its very need called to you all the time, so that you could not forget it for a moment because of the great fountain of loving care that had sprung up in your heart.
Even in the night you would wake at is faintest cry, and put you arms round and care for its needs. God created in you, my Sister, that wonderful Mother heart, and He loves you with the same strong tender love that He has given you for your little ones, only far more tender and strong and deep. He says in His Book, “Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb, yea they may forget, yet will not I forget thee” and again He says “As one whom his mother comforteth so will I comfort you.” So in all that love that dwells in your heart you can feel as if God stretched out His hands to your and said “That is a little like the way I love thee.”
And when your child gets a little older, your arms are still his refuge, he runs and hides his head in your lap if he is frightened and he sobs there if he is hurt.
“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ,” very little children and very weak, perhaps you have hardly yet learnt to speak to Him or to walk in His ways,. But before your little ones knew how to speak or walk they knew how to get comforted in your arms.
So if the new life has come to you by faith in Jesus Christ you have a place of refuge in God as safe and warm and beautiful as you have ready for your child. Come and hide your head there when you are afraid of what may happen and if you are troubled bring the trouble there as your children come to you, and when Satan tempts you or the world draws you run to your refuge like your children run to you if they see danger near. And if the night of death comes before Jesus returns He will take you in His Arms and hush your soul to sleep and you will know nothing more till you wake in the new day of heaven. Amen.