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Book Reviews

Amy Carmichael by Iain MurrayAmy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Iain H. Murray. Banner of Truth. 192 pages. 2015.

I have read several fine books by Iain Murray, the most recent being a biography of John MacArthur (whose wife Patricia wrote the Foreword to this book). I also saw him speak on revival several years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed this short biography of Amy Carmichael, someone I was aware of, but did not know much about prior to reading this book.

Amy was born in 1867 in Ireland. She would meet Robert Wilson, who Murray writes gave Amy a closer knowledge of overseas missions. Amy left for Japan with the China Inland Mission in 1893, where she stayed fifteen months. Some of her experiences during this time would mark the rest of her life.

On October 11, 1895, she left Britain at the age of twenty-seven never to return. She moved to serve in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). She responded to an opening in the work of the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society in India. She would need to learn the Tamil language.

Murray writes of Amy meeting Thomas Walker, a clergyman of the Church of England, working with the Church Missionary Society in the Tinnevelly district of south India. The Walkers invited her to join them in Tinnevelly, to study the language. By the end of 1896 Amy was with the Walkers, beginning one of the strongest influences in her life.

Murray writes: “In 1900 Thomas Walker had decided that a disused Church Missionary Society mission station at a place thirty miles north of Cape Comorin—India’s southern point—would be a better and quieter site for the ordination classes he took for divinity students. This was Dohnavur, a ‘Christian’ village which he had first visited in 1886. The strength of Walker’s leadership in the early days at Dohnavur was vital but, before 1904 ended, Amy had to take on that role herself. Walkers left for England in December 1904.”

Carmichael’s most notable work, beginning in 1901, was with girls and young women, some of whom were saved from forced temple prostitution. By June 1904, seventeen children, six of them former temple children, were in Amy’s care, and even when the number was depleted by the death of three babies, Murray writes that it was clear that her evangelistic travels had to end.

To all the children Amy was known as ‘Amma’ (mother). The children came to nick-name her ‘the Hare’. She would use a tricycle to move even faster between the various buildings. Not a child went to sleep at night without a kiss from Amy.

Murray writes that Amy Carmichael’s life was one of times of refreshing and then of trials. In part she explained that demonic activity follows the work of the Holy Spirit.

Through the years of the First World War, and on into the 1920s, the work at Dohnavur grew, more land was bought, and by 1923 there were thirty nurseries, each with a mother for the children. By 1926 there was to be a boys’ compound with some seventy to eighty children. By the 1940s there were some 900 children and grown-ups, including between forty and fifty helpers. The hospital work grew to such an extent that a medical superintendent was needed, as well as three doctors.

Murray writes about Stephen Neill, who in 1939 would become Bishop of Tinnevelly. Neill didn’t adhere to the inerrancy of scripture. As a result, he was asked to leave by Amy.

At the age of sixty-three Amy broke her leg, dislocated an ankle and twisted her spine. After this time, her life would be spent very largely in her room. Through most of the years which followed she wrote a short daily message to the whole family with some scriptural truth and often bearing on the necessity of unity. Amy was a gifted writer who produced many books and hundreds of hymns and poems. Among the thirteen books Amy wrote after her accident, seven were on what it means to live with Christ in all the circumstances of trials of life.   Murray writes that in these she wrote not of her own experience but out of it.

A fall in her room in 1948 meant a virtual end of movement for the last two and a half years of her life. She turned 83 on December 16, 1950 and died on January 18, 1951. She was buried according to her instructions in the garden beyond her windows. It was ‘God’s Garden’, for here were buried the babies, children, and grown-ups who had gone before. There was to be no memorial stone.

Murray does address some possible concerns with Carmichael. One of them was in taking direction from a single verse of Scripture, rather than guidance from general scriptural principles and prayerful reflection.

Murray writes that two main features stand out both in Amy Carmichael’s life and in her writings. The first is the place of quietness in the life of the Christian. The second feature of her life was love.

Murray states that today, while rescue from temple prostitution in India is no longer needed, 15 million women in India are still living in slavery. As a shelter for needy children, Dohnavur continues its work, on the same principles with which it was founded, and is led entirely by Christians of Indian nationality. No appeal has ever been made for money, only for prayer, but many, through the years, have sent sacrificial gifts. Never has an unprotected child been refused for lack of funds: never has a patient needed to be turned away because he or she could not pay for medical help. You can find out more about the Fellowship and Amy Carmichael at the following sites:

 Prayer by Tim KellerPrayer Book Club

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Tammy and I are reading our fourth book since I graduated from seminary, one of Tim Keller’s most recent books. We’ll start by looking at the Introduction:

  • Recent writers on prayer tend to have one of two views on the subject. Most now emphasize prayer as a means to experience God’s love and to know oneness with him. They promise a life of peace and of continual resting in God. Other books, however, see the essence of prayer not as inward resting but as calling on
  • God to bring in his kingdom. Prayer is viewed as a wrestling match, often—or perhaps ordinarily—without a clear sense of God’s immediate presence.
  • What accounts for these two views—what we could call “communion-centered” and “kingdom-centered” prayer? One explanation is that they reflect people’s actual experience.
  • However, theological differences also play a role.
  • Which view of prayer is the better one? Is peaceful adoration or assertive supplication the ultimate form of prayer? That question assumes that the answer is completely either-or, which is unlikely.
  • Besides looking at the actual prayers of the Bible, we should consider also the Scripture’s theology of prayer—the reasons in God and in our created nature that human beings are able to pray.
  • Thus the Bible gives us theological support for both communion-centered and kingdom-centered prayer.
  • A little reflection will show us that these two kinds of prayer are neither opposites nor even discrete categories.
  • We may pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, but if we don’t enjoy God supremely with all our being, we are not truly honoring him as Lord.
  • This book will show that prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. These two concepts give us a definition of prayer and a set of tools for deepening our prayer lives.
  • The traditional forms of prayer—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication—are concrete practices as well as profound experiences.
  • We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.
  • Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. These will not happen every time we pray, but each should be a major component of our prayer over the course of our lives.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

One thought on “Book Reviews

  1. Great reviews. I hope to read both books.

    Sent from my iPod

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