Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.
Lately, I’ve been researching the 1870’s as background material for my upcoming novel,”By Streams of water”. I’ve been struck by how that time laid the groundwork for issues that have carried forward to today. I won’t go into a lot of detail about that. You can them through their various points of view.
Here are some things I personally learned by vicariously living through those times with my characters.
1) The hanging chads of a few elections ago were nothing new. The compromise of 1877 was due in part to disputed election results from where? From my beloved birth state of Florida. Other returns in dispute came from South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon. The election confusion was not solved until the March after the November 1876 election, and during the intervening months, the country was without a clear executive leader. America survived in the 1870’s just as it did during the Bush/Gore election dispute.
2) When Rutherford B. Hayes came to office, his presidency was controversial. Even today, historians debate whether his presidency was legitimate and whether or not he was an effective president. We can’t expect that politics will always run smoothly or assume that controversy means our country is doomed to fail.
3) Failures, misunderstandings, and even corruption among Republicans, Democrats, northern, southern, whites, blacks, farmers and businessmen set up a political and social climate that still haunts us today. We still debate many of the same issues. How far should the federal government intrude into state government or even into an individual’s personal life? we ask. How do we ensure the rights of minority groups without curtailing the rights of majority groups. Not only that, but we are all more affected by 1870’s stereotypes of what it means to be a native American, a Southern white, a black person, a Northerner, a conservative, or a liberal than we realize. We are rightly appalled by the racism intertwined in 19th century society, but we still react to certain groups for what their ancestors did or didn’t do in the nineteenth century.
4) We are fortunate to live in a society in which we, as citizens, can be part of the governing process. There are positive things that can come from a representative form of government.
5) Having said that, it’s time to acknowledge the limits of government, science, and business to provide the deep answers to life’s problems. Individual and group sin really does interfere with our ability to understand each other and to deal with each other in an equitable, just, and beneficial way. Thus, Reconstruction era politics could only do so much, and the country abandoned the effort. Likewise, the Progressive era that followed failed to achieve its objectives. To be properly related to others, we all need divine grace and wisdom. We need our Savior, and when we reject his ways, we suffer. Only Christ’s kingdom stands when human kingdoms falter.
I love this quote from Samuel Johnson: “Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.” Ouch!
It seems to me that in days past, there was something of an art and a science to convalescing. The definition of to convalesce is to recover one’s health and strength over a period of time after an illness or operation. In the days before antibiotics got people up and running quickly — in those days when people often died of sinus infections or strep throat — it was imperative that a patient fully recover from an illness to prevent relapse. This was especially true when it came to diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis. In our modern culture, however, we expect to be back at work within 24 hours of coming down with nearly anything.
In an article on her journey back to health after an illness, Johanna Fitzpatrick writer, “At first it (convalescence) seemed an agreeable idea. As a teenager, I had quite fancied myself as a tragic 19th-century heroine – usually consumptive – whiling away my time in a sanatorium in Switzerland. But this wholesome image of convalescence belongs to a gentler time, when getting better was an accepted part of being ill. That has been lost as modern medicine came up with magic bullets – antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc – that seemed to cure instantaneously. It has altered our perception of illness, and now a period of convalescence does not translate easily into our frenetic pace of life.”
I am currently recovering from a bout of pneumonia. This began with an ordinary virus that inflamed my asthma, which I tend to neglect when I am feeling well, and then progressed into a bacterial infection in my lungs. I am, for once, sufficiently sobered by how sick I was to know that I need to get fully well before resuming my usual pace of life. However, I have discovered that I — like most Americans — am not good at convalescing.
As Jane says, “at first, it seemed like an agreeable idea.”
Here are the hours to read, to write, to watch movies, and to sew and not feel guilty for whatever else I might be neglecting. Here is the time to write real letters and also to catch up via email, texting, and the like. Here is my time to recover as a Jane Austen heroine would, with hours passed in gentle pursuits. Yet, my tired mind and a tired body wearies easily of even these pleasant things. I also fret that I’m not “accomplishing anything constructive”. The agreeable idea becomes a little less agreeable when you long to be out and doing.
I remind myself that it’s also a time to spend more time reading scripture and praying, and these things are nourishing to my health. I also consider that to convalesce is a blessing, considering the alternative, and that just a week and a half ago, I’d have been delighted to be as well as I am now.
I also remind myself that one of the best medicines is that old tincture of time.
“The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is to see the cracks?
The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps.”
In Proverbs, the Lord tells us that “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” I’m pondering that today.
I greatly treasure those friends who speak aptly to me. Some have the gift of knowing when to encourage, when to challenge, and when to simply listen. Some are able to help me put my life, with all its joys and problems, into perspective. Well-spoken words have the power to convey hope, faith, and love.
Many people have left a beautiful legacy in my heart by speaking beautiful words to me. A friend of mine posed the notion that a person who becomes richer, rather than bitter, as they age has chosen to absorb what was beautiful and godly from people in their lives and to let go of what was not. There is a skill to hearing aptly, as well as speaking aptly.
Conversely, words poorly spoken and poorly timed can do great harm. These are the words that often haunt us. Why is it so easy to remember the words that cripple our hearts?
I know that I have often wounded others with my words. Sometimes, this was through the actual words that rolled off my tongue. At other times, the problem was not with the words, but with the timing. I have blurted something out when the hearer was not in a position to truly hear and consider my thoughts. In order to use words skillfully, we have to discern when to speak as well as what to speak.
Since, as Jesus tells us, we speak out of the overflow of our hearts, the ability to use words wisely comes from staying close to God. Whatever our hearts are full of will spill out in the words we say.
This applies to writing fiction, as well. Whoever the author is as a person shows up in the work.
Oh, to be able to speak and to write words that are well chosen and well timed! That is a prayer of mine.
Greater love has no woman than this:
That someone lay down her life for her Friend
I know that to some this level of commitment may sound strange
So it’s definitely a subject we must entertain
We may be accustomed to
A backbiting cussing fighting
Argumentative jealous friend
That’s competitive and comparing
Always taking more than sharing friend
Lying stealing wheeling and dealing
Total disregard for your feelings friend
Callous and disrupting friend
And maybe that’s what some of us were
We were confronted with the blood and cried out to be born again
Never to be alone thru the storm again
Transformed by the renewal of our hearts and minds
No longer spiritually malnourished
Hunger filled by the spirit Quenched by the living water
With the responsibility to Slaughter the myths that tell us
“Women are hard to get along with!”
“Never trust your girlfriends further than you can see them!”
No,no, no! We can switch
To honest from godless
From heathen to goddess
From tactless to modest.
The “church” is just brick and mortar.
The CHURCH is within her.
Her house in order
A scripture WALKING not just talking
Money lending or just giving friend
Seeking to amending
Apologizing for offending
Anniversary remembering friend.
Hand in hand ascending
And that’s what we all can be for our friends.
True friends. Girlfriends.
Or simply SISTERS.
And yes Christ’s blood IS thicker than water.
I hope you enjoyed this poem for the spoken word by my friend, Imani Rhema (Glenda Toliver). Here’s what she has to say about her writing:
“I was born and raised in East Nashville. I was restored back to God in 2009. Imani is a name with East African/Middle Eastern origins that translates into Faith, and strong belief. Rhema means prophetic spoken word, or literally the words of Jesus. Since my poetry is primarily inspired by God’s Word, I did some research, and discovered that these were the names I want to represent me as a writer! Glenda Toliver is my given name. I started writing short stories, poetry, and songs at age 12. My father encouraged me to read and write as a small child. I had to read 4 books a week growing up, and had to write down, or tell my dad a chapter of a book I was reading everyday before I could go outside to play. I’m inspired by my experiences as a Christian single woman to write about pieces of my life journey, hoping to encourage other women. I have a collection of poetry on various topics including surviving domestic violence, being a being godly friend, and Christ’s crucifixion. I am releasing a spoken word album, “My Sister’s Keeper”, on 12/12/12″