Rev Dr. Robert Ryland
During my research of the Prayer Meeting Revival, I came across this letter from the pen of Reverend Dr. Robert Ryland which he wrote to his son upon his joining the Confederate army. It contains so many interesting and powerful statements that I had to share some highlights with you!
At Home, July 17, 1861
My Dear Son:
It may have seemed strange to you that a professing Christian father so freely gave you, a Christian son, to enlist in the volunteer service. My reason was that I regarded this as a purely defensive war. Not only did the Southern Confederacy propose to adjust the pending difficulties by peaceful and equitable negotiations, but Virginia used again and again the most earnest and noble efforts to prevent a resport to the sword. These overtures being proudly spurned, and our beloved South having been threatened with invasion and subjugation, it seemed to me that nothing was left us but stern resistance or abject submission to unconstitutional power.
After going on to further explain his reasons for joining the cause, he proceeds to give his son a few pointers about his life in the army. Firstly, he told him to take special care of his health. Second, that he should obey his authority promptly and unquestioningly. His next point is a beautiful illustration of the usual perception (or rather condition) of the military. He continues:
3. Try to maintain your Christian profession among your comrades. I need not caution you against strong drink as useless and hurtful, nor against profanity, so common among soldiers. Both these practices you abhor. Aim to take at once a decided stand for God. If practicable, have prayers regularly in your tent, or unite with your fellow-disciples in prayer-meetings in the camp. Should preaching be accessible, always be a hearer. Let the world know that you are a Christian. Read a chapter in the New Testament which your mother gave you, every morning and evening when you can, and engage in secret prayer to God for his Holy Spirit to guide and sustain you. I would rather hear of your death than of the shipwreck of your faith and good conscience.
What great advice! There are a lot of other great tidbits in the letter, which I might include in a future post. But from this letter you can see the wickedness that the army was known for and how adamantly this father is exhorting his son not to fall prey to its vices.
The second book of Moses continues the story of God’s chosen nation. We can still see the style set forth in Genesis, but Exodus adds a certain degree of difficulty as it contains a lot of law. How does Moses hold the attention of the reader?
Holding Reader’s Attention
1) Peak their interest before the long discourse.
The writer does a magnificent job at building the story to a point, he peaks the reader’s interest before diving into the lengthy explanation of laws. He could have compiled a book of only laws & ordinances, but few people would ever read that. So instead he brings us up to the mountain top with Moses where no other man could go lest he be slain; a mountain shaking with thunder and billowing smoke. The readers fear for Moses’ life as he ascends the mount to face a holy God. And only after we understand the great power of God do we hear His voice giving Moses the Ten Commandments and laws for the people.
2) Intermingling Laws with Stories
After the Lord finishes giving His commands to Moses, we are instantly taken back to the story and the rebellious children of Israel. Another enthralling story is the reader’s reward for hearing the commands of the Lord. This is the first time that we are really aware of the righteousness that God requires of His people. And we see the Israelites fail again and again as God passes judgment on them, and then offers grace when they humble themselves and call upon the Lord.
This is the best kind of story. A story that is not only interesting, filled with action, adventure, good vs. evil; but it also shows us that God is holy and requires the same of us, yet not neglecting to leave the Jews a roadmap of how to get there. This should serve as a model to all Christian Authors as to what a good story really is.
Every writer has a unique way of expressing themselves. This is called their ‘style’ or ‘voice’. In Genesis & Exodus we hear a masterful storyteller who gives us many brief stories that are really just overviews, yet are descriptive and fascinating.
I love the way the personalities of the characters shine through as the story unfolds! For example, in chapter 19 verses 17-19, Lot is being led away from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by two angels of the Lord. They have told him to flee to the mountains, but here Lot begins negotiating with them.
18 And Lot said unto them, “Oh, not so, my LORD”
19 “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die:”
20 “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”
“Is it not a little one?” Lot mentions for the second time. You can see that Lot is afraid of the wilderness (which probably contributed to his staying so close to the wicked cities) and he is pleading and persuading the angels of the Lord. This brings Lot alive in our minds, makes him truly ‘human’ and interesting.
2) Use of Dialog
Genesis is mainly composed of dialog between characters with as little narration as possible. I prefer this style as I think it is more interesting and gives more of a feel for the characters. Here is an example from Genesis 22:1-8.
1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, “Abraham” and he said, “Behold, here I am.”
2 And he said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, “My father” and he said, “Here am I, my son.” And he said, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” so they went both of them together.
3) Use of Dialog to convey emotions.
Also in the verses above, notice that Isaac calls Abraham “My Father” to which Abraham replies “Here am I, my son.” With phrases like this we can see how close Abraham and Isaac are. These types of terms of endearment and emotion tug at the heart strings as Abraham is about to sacrifice his only, beloved son. It makes for a beautiful story.
My favorite thing about the Bible is that it holds great stories that are absolutely true. Not just “based on a true story” but the real thing put together in a fascinating, beautiful narrative.
Genesis holds some of the greatest stories in all of history, from the beginning of time, to the beloved story of Joseph and his Brothers. There is much we can learn from the studying of God’s Word.
I hope that this has encouraged you, to look at the Bible in a new light. It’s so much more than just a story, history or even spiritual guidance.
Next week we’ll talk about Exodus, also a book of Moses.
The Bible is the best piece of literature ever written. 40 authors writing down the mind and words of God without a single contradiction. It has had a resounding impact throughout all cultures, in thousands of different languages, and over thousands of years. So in my study of writing, English and story-telling, I figured this would be a great place to start.
At least 21 of the 39 books of the Old Testament are stories. That's more than 50%! And the first 5 books of the New Testament are stories as well and there are many more mixed in with the epistles.
During the course of this study, I'll be outlining the different books of the Bible, one by one, and bringing to light the things I'm learning about writing, story-telling etc. I'm hoping to have a post every week, but forgive me if I miss a few, I do lead a very busy lifestyle. :)
Stay Tuned for more!
A Father's Joy
By Amber Schamel
I was in the hospital nursery the other night when a nurse came in followed by a new father holding a small bundle in his arms. I could not help but watch as one of those small everyday miracles occurred.
The nurse unwrapped the child and set it beneath the warming light. The father sat down in a chair next to the little bed and stared at his newborn son. Even I, as a spectator could feel the awe that this new father felt as he looked upon his child. There was something in his face, something he had not known before tonight. Ever so gently, he placed his finger inside of the little hand. It was as if this small little creature, harmless as it may be, had cast a spell upon this large man. Before long, soft sniffling sounds came from his corner of the room as gentle tears trickled down his cheeks. He sat there for several minutes in silence, so many emotions running through his young mind. He felt responsibility he had not felt before; he felt a love he had never before experienced. This small little baby, who seems to anyone else no different than any of the other babies in the nursery, means the world to him now. You can see it in his face, that mysterious glow that says “I would give my life for this little one.”
As if he had completely forgotten about the outside world for a moment, the father suddenly came back to himself and pulled out his cell phone and the awaited announcement was made to all the world “I have a son!”
Watching this all unfold gave me a warm feeling in my heart. Tears nearly came into my eyes as I watched the indescribable joy of a father over his newborn child. For it is a beautiful parable of Christ’s love for us. The same type of miracle takes place in heaven as the Father looks down upon a newborn Child of God. The same joy and love, gentleness and care, provision and protection are all given to the child. There may be days where the Father must chastise the son, but it is out of His unspeakable love that this chastisement comes. The cross stands as an everlasting proclamation, resounding through the heavens and earth, “This is My child, and so great is My love that I will give My own life for theirs.” To think that the Lord of the Universe could have such a love for us is more than my human mind can comprehend.
In honor of my new little brother and sister, here is an old favorite that I was reminded of this week. :)
When Life Gets Stinky
By Amber D. Schamel
Of course we've all heard about every little thing that can go wrong in changinga diaper, but have you ever heard of the struggle of throwing them away?
Growing up in a family of eleven children, I have changed many diapers in my career. But until that fateful night on Sept. 25, 2007, I never thought disposing of the diaper could be so difficult.
My family has one of those nifty little Diaper Genie canisters that are supposed to keep the smell down, and has those special little bags you buy for them. Little did I know, changing the canister, would be a nightmare!
There I was, about to change my little brother's diaper when I realized Ben (my younger brother) hadn't taken care of the last one he had changed. But as we tried to push it down into the can, it wouldn't budge. "Of course," I thought, "it's full. All we do is simply empty it." The problem was, my mother was out of town and I didn't know how to do it. "It can't be that hard. I can figure it out." I was thinking while I tried to remember how mom had done it. I now understand the importance of Titus 2:3-4 which instructs the older women to teach the younger women!
First I tried unsuccessfully to cut the endless bags so I could take out the ones being used. I did finally get them cut, but that was only the beginning of my tussle. After that, I proceeded to pull the dirty bags up out of the canister. I hadn't realized how many diapers can fit into such a small can!! As I pulled diaper after diaper after diaper out the canister, Ben began to laugh hysterically at me. That's when Josiah began yelling "Amba, boo-poo! Boo-poo!" When I finally got to the last one, someonehad put more than one diaper in before twisting the bag to keep them all in a row. The last pair was stuck and wouldn't come out! That's when I noticed the latch on the bottom of the pail. "I think you’re supposed to take them out through the bottom" Ben managed through his laughter. I opened the bottom and peered in. BIG MISTAKE! I recoiled at the overpowering smell that met my nose.
After recovering from the suffocating gas, I then began stuffing all of the diapers back into the can. With that done, I pulled all of the diapers out of the bottom this time, and thought that I was finally almost done. Wrong again. During my struggle getting the diapers out, the canister had somehowdisassembled itself. Now I had to figure out how to put the thing back together!
I started by latching the bottom, and then tried to put the top part back together. You see there was this little white thing that is supposed to fit into this other little white collar thing and then is covered by the green little bags. (It didn't make sense to me either!) There, all done. I put the diapers that had fallen out of the used bags during the struggle into the canister, and began to twist. But the thing kept unraveling!
That's easy to fix," I thought. "I'll just smash a little piece of the bag in between the latch and that will hold it still so that I can twist the little white thingy with no problem."
Once again battling the baby-gas-chamber, I began to pull the bag downward so I could fix the problem. AGAIN another problem arose! The bag wouldn't come down! I opened the top again. "This doesn't look right. I must have done it wrong." I said to Ben, [who be the way was still laughing at me and calling the (almost) endless string of diapers ‘sausages popping out of a machine!’]
So I once again took the silly thing apart and tried again.
After fighting with the diaper canister for thirty minutes (Three-Zero, 30 minutes of my precious life!!!!) I finally managed to get it right. "I am the champion!" I thought to myself. "Wait, of what? The diaper canister?!" By now I was laughing at myself almost as hard as Ben was. “Boy, I sure feel like an idiot now.”
So if all things have a reason, and a lesson... what is the lesson here?
I am reminded of Romans 8:28 " And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Even if life gets messy and very stinky, in the end, we win. Because Jesus already played the game, already bore our struggles, and already won the victory. We are truly champions in life because our Champion paid the price.
Thank you Lord, for using stinky diapers to strengthen and encourage me!
© 2007 Amber D. Schamel
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Amber Schamel was born in Littleton, CO and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. She was raised in a family of 11 children, home-schooled through education and currently works with their 10 family businesses. Amber is a multi-published author and currently lives with her family outside of Colorado Springs, CO..
(c) 2013 Amber Schamel