Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Courage Found in the Little Things

June 17, 2024

Annie Nardone

The Cultivating Reader – Literary Leaf-Mould provides a fresh source of recommended books gathered from classic and contemporary Christian authors. I will introduce you to varied genres through the ages – classic literature, poetry, myth, and inspiring non-fiction. You will also find a good cookbook here and there, because breaking bread together over a good read builds fellowship. My prayer is for you to set aside time alone and with friends to linger over good words and good food.

“‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s . . .”

— C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 Greetings, faithful reader! I do pray that you are finding peace and rest in these sunny, summer months. For this edition of “Literary Leaf-Mould,” I bring to you tales of courage written by authors who span the centuries! 

C.S. Lewis encouraged us to read the old books and “. . . keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”[1] Summer is the perfect time to wrap your imagination in medieval tapestries and artist’s canvas, or lace up the newest white sneakers of a 1928 childhood—made possible by the following book suggestions. Amidst the knights and a fairy tale, you will find contemporary authors who share their personal stories about finding courage to meet life’s challenges.

 Roller coasters.

 You may love them or you may experience sweaty palms just watching the screaming riders dip and dive defying gravity and vow to never do such a thing. Until recently, I fell in the nope-never category. I always waited on a nearby bench for my family to finish one particular coaster that I truly wanted to experience, but I was scared. I could hear the excited shouts, watch the passengers enter (to my irritation, many of whom were decades younger than me), and exit with smiles. I studied the Point of View video of the ride on my phone, memorizing every inch of the track. So many baby steps. Finally, after years of sitting alone, I summoned all of my courage, trusted the engineering and equipment, prayed a bit, and joined my family! Sometimes courage is a long process toward one goal and that’s okay.

 God commands us to “take courage” and “be strong and courageous.” In fact, that phrase is repeated nearly 40 times in the Bible. “Be strong and courageous” is written five times in the book of Joshua’s account of Rahab’s bravery. Her resolute and frankly perilous act of defying the King of Jericho began with obedience wrapped in courage and was literally secured by a red cord. Courage is often found in that first, small step in faith.

 The Lord calls you to your own journey and will give you the courage to continue.

Do not look to the left or right, comparing yourself to another’s pace. Look forward while you run with endurance your race that has been set before you.[2] Others run their own race, at their own pace; do not compare your courage to what anyone else has accomplished. Follow the invisible thread of faith laid before you as Princess Irene did in “The Princess and the Goblin.” God will fortify you with the courage necessary for each step you take. That is His promise. May these books strengthen and encourage your heart.

  1. Reflect on the lifelong journey through trials of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in “Mariner” by Malcolm Guite.

Coleridge wrote the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which forms the core theme of the book, and Guite writes of the parallels of the poem to Coleridge’s life—from happiness and love to despondency and loneliness. Courage takes root when we finally pray in humility, handing control of our lives and destiny to God. Later in his life, while struggling with illness and addiction, Coleridge wrote, “Should I recover I will — no — no may God grant me the power to struggle to become not another but a better man.”[3]

  1. For a true tale of continued courage through many trials, read “Adorning the Dark” by Andrew Peterson.

We pray to find our calling, but what happens when we are met with endless difficulties in that pursuit? Do we doubt or give up? Peterson shares the story of his dream to write and perform music and the roadblocks overcome with faith and perseverance. This book is especially inspiring for those who are called by God as makers—musicians, artists, authors—with helpful advice on the craft of creating.

  1. When you need the assurance of another mother, read “A Mother Held: Essays on Anxiety and Motherhood” by Lara d’Entremont.

Becoming a mom carries with it mystery, beauty, and challenges, requiring renewed courage each day. Lara shares her experiences of overwhelming doubt and anxiety, questioning her worth as a parent, and how she came to know the security in the everlasting arms of Jesus.

  1. To see courage and beauty through an artist’s eyes, read “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh” selected by Ronald de Leeuw.

There is something magical about reading the personal letters of well-known people. We assume so much about them until we read their musings, struggles, and joys revealed through his or her own writing. This collection invites you into the beautiful imagination of Van Gogh and his thoughts about humanitarian work, love, his paintings, and his gentle spirituality.

  1. Reminisce about the courage we find during childhood in “Dandelion Wine” by Ray Bradbury.

This sweet, adventurous tale is my traditional summer read! You’ll begin the story with your first day of a small town summer in 1928 with two young brothers and an endearing cast of characters. The story will capture your imagination and rekindle memories of an innocent time. The courage? Do you remember stories you shared between friends about the odd and mysterious house down the street? The rumors of monsters in the woods at the edge of town? Or the neighbor who was a charming enigma? We become courageous a bit at a time, beginning when we are young and living in the moment.

  1. Read of a knight’s courage and virtue in the medieval tale, “Sir Gawain and The Green Knight” by Anonymous (written in 14th century), translated by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Journey back to the Age of Arthur and Guinevere, knights and castles. Sir Gawain meets the Green Knight, an uninvited guest, in Arthur’s court during the New Year’s feasting. Gawain accepts the Knight’s challenge that must be completed in one year, when he must summon all of his courage to stand against sin, temptation, and peril. Imbued with medieval imagery and ornamented with symbolism, Tolkien’s perfect translation embodies poetic and narrative beauty. A joy to read!

  1. Imagine the courage and innocent faith of little children in the perfect summer read aloud, “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald.

The story of the malevolent goblins who live in darkness underground and the sun dwellers who live on the land above reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair.” (MacDonald was a strong influence on Lewis’s writing!) This exciting tale was published in 1872, but the enduring themes of childlike faith, trust, and goodness over evil are timeless. “Princess” is a wonderful introduction to the fairy tale books by MacDonald, and I also recommend “The Princess and Curdie” for further adventures.

True courage, dear reader, is an inward conviction wrapped in the embrace of a heavenly Father who loves you beyond measure. He promises to never leave you. For the youngster, bravery comes with an earnest prayer in the dark. And for you, courage may be the faithful fortitude to get through the next hour, or the next day. I pray that these books help you in reflecting on your own journey.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

[1] C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 220.

[2] Hebrews 12:1 ESV.

[3] Malcolm Guite, Mariner (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017), 393.

The featured image, “Dickens Set at the Kilns,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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