Friday, August 10, 2012

Lettie Cowman's Writings

I pulled a devotional book off a shelf at the missionary guest house where we were staying in Burundi and thumbed through it -- Springs in the Valley by Mrs Charles Cowman, a personal favorite of mine. Turning to July 9 I read a remarkable story about reindeer of Lapland who, "a hundred miles from the sea, at a certain season, in the midst of the Laplander's village" will stampede to the sea to drink the sharp salt water. The story is told compellingly and I found that my eyes were wide as I sensed the urgency of the herd. Mrs Cowman ends her story with these words, "Once in its life the reindeer must taste of the sea in one long, satisfying draught, and if he is hindered, he perishes! Neither man nor beast dare stand between him and the ocean, in the hundred miles of his arrow-like path!" And then she quotes a verse of one of my most beloved hymns:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live!"
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my should revived,
And now I live in Him.

I grew up on Mrs Cowman's devotional books, Streams in the Desert, volumes 1 and 2, and Springs in the Valley. Sometimes the wording throws me a bit for its old English -- she published them in 1925 and 1939 -- but the message is always uplifting and full of truth.

A story that always blesses me is found in Streams in the Desert, Volume 2*, dated March 4. It talks about an American soldier who, along with five pals, was captured by the Japanese. His captors killed the others one by one and he knew he would be dying soon. He began to whistle the hymn "We Gather Together" and before long his captor was whistling along with him. They talked about their faith as they walked, and he learned that the Japanese soldier had studied English at the mission school to which he had contributed money during his Sunday school days. Eventually the soldier led him to several other Japanese Christians who asked him to take them as prisoners. They shared their faith with one another and prayed together. He marched them into camp, gun in hand. He was hailed a hero. But the passage ends with the words of the young American soldier, "So you see I don't deserve a medal for the most wonderful experience in my life."

You can read about the life of Lettie Cowman here. (It's a short but very well written piece.) Her devotionals are still very popular and are available at Amazon and CBD or online here.

*Streams in the Desert, Volume 2, was published in 1966, after her death, a compilation of many of the articles, clippings and writings she had collected but not published in her lifetime.

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