About pmgilmer

I am a happily married Christian woman with 5 kids that I homeschooled. I recently received my masters in library science from East Carolina University and am now writing some great stories that I trust will bless and encourage others in the near future. I read books of all genres, but my favorite is historical fiction. I am also writing historical fiction, so I will be posting reviews and news in that area. Happy reading!

Season of Hummingbirds

My first full season of feeding and watching hummingbirds is coming to an end. I thought I would get tired of cleaning out feeders on a regular basis, but, no, all I did was add a couple of more feeders. I’m not enough of an expert to be able to give an accurate count, but I did have at least two adult males on a regular basis and probably a couple of females. In the middle of the season, several more hummingbirds began to come regularly. At least three of them are juvenile males making me assume the females had a successful season with hatching and bringing out their young. It will be interesting next year to see how many of these males show up to stake out their territory.

The tongue is out!

Any time I interact with nature–whether through observation or studying the life cycles of plants, birds, or animals–I am reminded anew of God’s majestic, artistic creation and His unmatched imagination in creating both the hummingbird and the woodpecker; the whale and the seal; the butterfly and the daylily.

“Some people, in order to find God, will read a book. But there is a great book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice?” Augustine of Hippo

Birds of a Feather

For anyone who innocently believes you can just call a flock of birds a “flock of birds,” I’m here to enlighten you. All birds are not alike and neither are their group names. Some of these names are as charming as some minor league baseball team names (looking at you Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp) and others are, well, for the birds. (Sorry!)

So, how did these different names come about and why? Isn’t enough to know those are robins gathered round? Or do we need to know they are actually a ’round of robins’? (Though others state it is a ‘worm of robins’.)

As with many odd questions that pop in my mind, this is one that led me down a few rabbit trails, but, fortunately, others have already been down those trails and have done the necessary research to discover the origin of these terms, most notably James Lipton in his book, An Exaltation of Larks.

First, these are called “terms of venery” or “nouns of assembly” and these collective nouns don’t just pertain to birds but also animals and groups of people.

In the late Middle Ages, inventing animal group names started as a game, soon became a fad, and turned into a challenge which lasted a couple of centuries. (Please remember there were no entertaining blogs such as this one to read in those days).

As James Lipton put it in An Exaltation of Larks, “What we have in these terms is clearly the end result of a game that amateur philologists have been playing for over 500 years.”

To organize these terms and to make them more official, they were gathered together and published in works that the upper classes used to make sure they did not embarass themselves by using the wrong terms. (For example, it was considered bad form to call a “scurry of squirrels” a “bunch of squirrels”).The first of these was The Egerton Manuscript published in 1450.

“The terms were codified during the period when the river of words was approaching its greatest breadth, beginning in about 1450 with The Egerton Manuscript.” (Lipton)

Then came the The Book of St. Albans (also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms) published in 1486 and containing 164 terms. Many of these terms were not for animals but groups of people and were meant to be humorous (“a sentence of judges”, “a melody of harpers,” “a gagle of women”). However, the book’s popularity caused them to become part of the Standard English lexicon.

But I digress. Back to the birds. Here are a few examples:

Group of hummingbirds: Charm (Not sure where this could have come from. The only groups, sorry, charms of hummingbirds I see are chasing each other wildly in what seems to be a pretty selfish defending of territory).

Woodpeckers: descent (Some say this is because they start at the top of a tree and come down, but I have definitely seen them ascend as well as descend).

Descent of Downy Woodpeckers

chickadees: banditry (This is seems oddly appropriate).

A pair of bandits

cardinals: college, deck, Vatican (Several choices here. I prefer a “Vatican of cardinals.”)

finches: charm, trembling

doves: cote, dole, dule, bevy, flight, and piteousness (We always call the ones at our feeder “the drama queens”).

Ducks: Ducks on the water are called a “paddling” or a “raft.” (Mallards have their own terms and as the different writers seem to disagree on this, I will not distinguish between the different types of ducks. This has become confusing enough as it is).

Flamingoes: flamboyance. A flamboyance of flamingoes. This is not easy to say (or spell). Go ahead. Try it a few times.

Hawks: kettle

Eagles: convocation

Owls: parliament (I would love to see a parliament of owls but I don’t really think they hang out together too much).

Crows: murder (This may be a bit unjust but still amusing).

Grackles: plague (We have definitely been plagued with these at our bird feeders).

plague of grackles

But what if you see a group of birds that are a mixed bag of bird types? Is there a correct nomenclature for that? Perhaps “bunch of birds” would do just fine in such cases.

Nuthatch trying to get in a party (or charm) of finches who have a chickadee as their bouncer.

As I mentioned, the naming of groups of birds is only one part of these fascinating collections or terms of venery. We also have a month of Sundays, a mountain of debt, a rash of dermatologists, a cackle of hyenas, a mass of priests, and (one of my personal favorites) a prophet ( or profit) of televangelists.

So, if you want to make sure you are calling all groups by their proper term of venery, check out Lipton’s book though you may be accused of telling a pack of lies if you try to open such a can of worms.

Reading Around the World: Korea

In March, #readingtheworld21 took me to Korea.

Upon my daughter’s recommendation I read In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. a memoir by a girl who fled communist North Korea to China and eventually made it to South Korea.

‘I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.’

Yeonmi Park had no understanding of freedom or what it would be like to live somewhere where you had choices and could make decisions. She grew up being told what to do, what to think, and that their “beloved leader” was not only a political leader but their god. However, in spite of her family’s firm belief in their leader, starvation and the hope that life was better across the river (in China) led Yeonmi and her mother to escape their country, following her sister who had left earlier.

Unfortunately, though there was food in China, it was not quite the promised land they had hoped to find. Sex trafficking was rampant and left the two without many options. Still, with grit and determination, Park and her mother found ways to survive and eventually make their way to true freedom.

Park has since come to the U.S. and has become a leading human rights activist. If you want to hear more of Park’s story, there are several places to hear her on YouTube.

The Last Exiles is a work of fiction and could be considered a companion book to In Order to Live. Suja, a young journalist from an important family, meets Jin at the university in Pyongyang, and they fall in love. Though Suja realizes Jin is from a small village, she does not realize the depth of poverty and hunger his family (and others) face there.

When Jin is arrested and taken to prison, Suja is confused, sure there has been some mistake. When she hears of his escape, she determines to find a way out of North Korea to go and look for Jin.

Both of these books tell a grim story of life in North Korea, a life hard to imagine for those of us who live in freedom.

For another book that tells of a different time in the history of Korea, I recommend a past read, Pachinko. I wrote about this one in an earlier blog post: https://pmgilmer.com/2020/08/29/books-im-reading-august-2020/

How about you? Any books you can recommend about Korea or by Korean authors?

A Week at Hilton Head

Pod of Pelicans
horseshoe crab

Fish Haul Beach Park

Harbour Town Lighthouse
sand dollar
Pair of Pelicans
Side trip to Savannah

Beach read

Sunrise

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise Yahweh’s name because

it is he who commanded and they were created.

And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise Yahweh from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,

fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints;

for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 148

The First Temptation

Have you ever thought about the conversations between Jesus and Satan when Jesus was living in a physical body on this earth? We get some hints of what this may have been like from the book of Job where a conversation between God and Satan is recorded, but other than knowing that Jesus was indeed tempted, we don’t have much to go on. Some years ago, I wrote an epic tale of the Christ and his struggle with his Adversary, Satan. And, yes, I used The Odyssey as a model for my format (not the content). Divided into “Books” (the first being an introduction) the second Book is entitled The Wilderness Temptations. Here is an excerpt which I hope you will both enjoy and will provoke some thought concerning the Christ and his earthly life.

The First Temptation

On that forty-first day, the God-Man woke

to hunger pangs and discovered his body

had become weak from that month-plus trial.

As his eyes focused to face the day,

he saw his Adversary standing at

his feet, smiling a crooked smile and shining

bright as the desert sun. “Good morning,

old friend,” he said. “Surprised to see me? But

didn’t I promise to come back? You will

find that I, unlike some others, keep all

my promises and will never forget

you or leave you for too long, for I am

concerned about you and how you’re spending

your life and squandering your potential.

I suppose with all this time to think and

consider, you’ve come to realize that you

could not possibly be the Son of God?

Since I am the one who has come to check

on you and see if your needs are being

met, it is obvious,” and his eyes swept

the horizon and the God-Man’s surroundings

and came back with a look of distaste, “that

your Heavenly Father,” and he spat the

two words out, “has not been by or if He has,”

and he smiled a sinister smile, “He has

done nothing to secure your belief that

you are His Son, has He?” Unperturbed, the

God-Man rose to his feet and answered, “Quite the

contrary. He has been here in many

wonderful ways–ways you could never see

or understand–and He has only confirmed

my belief and my profession that I Am

His Son and His Chosen.” Satan attempted

to mask the furious anger that welled up

within him with a strained smile which truly

appeared as a grimace. Then with eyes ablaze,

he said in a voice dipped in honey,

“Of course, you are. Whoever said you weren’t?

But, tell me, have you had breakfast yet?” As

if in answer, the God-Man’s fleshly insides

began to grumble, bringing delight to

his Antagonist though he tried to cover

this with a false look of concern and

pity as he waited for an answer. “No,

there’s been no breakfast here. Only rocks and

dust, as you can see.” And Satan nodded as

if in sympathy but then he appeared

to have an idea and said with great

enthusiasm, “But you are the Son

of God, remember? If you are the Son

of God, you should have no problem coming

up with a substantial meal and then we

can talk over some business.” Eyebrow arched,

the God-Man gazed at his rival and said,

“I was not aware we had any business

to discuss.” And Satan again smiled that

patient smile. “Of course, but how can you think

on an empty stomach? An empty

stomach causes the head to be light and

the heart to be weak. Come, you say you are

the Son of God, let us see you come up

with some breakfast. The Son of God shouldn’t

be out here in this wilderness where the

wild beasts are quite well-fed, yet here he is,

his guts crying out in torment, as he

stands by, as if helpless. You say you

are the Son of God but for thirty years

you have lived in practical poverty

submitting yourself to the surroundings

into which you have been thrust and now you bow

to the elements. To the things which you,

yourself, claim to have created. How can

you possibly allow yourself to be

subdued by the works of your own hands? Come,

if you are the Son of God, tell these stones

here to become bread for your breakfast. They

will be glad to be of service to their

Master, for isn’t that why they were formed?

To serve their Master and obey his commands?

In fact, I daresay that your creation

has been watching you in wonder and has

been speculating as to why you have

not called on them earlier. Can you not

see their eagerness to serve you? Come, Son

of God, call on them; exercise your power

and authority. You say God has now

anointed you to be King, so be King.

Prepare your breakfast so we can discuss

deeper matters.” Folding his arms, Satan

stood back and waited, his impatience

obvious, but the God-Man refused to

make a hasty decision knowing well

this was not as simple a matter as

his Adversary portrayed it. He

also knew the power he possessed had

been given to him by his Father, so

consideration of his Father’s will

must be made. But he was hungry and his

insides churned once more as if to remind

him of his responsibility to

them, too. He gazed on the stones and easily

imagined them as loaves and could almost

smell them baking in the sun and taste

their flaky crusts and their soft middle–

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. His

Adversary watched him intently, though

he tried to appear both nonchalant

and impatient. Impatient as in:

‘This is no big deal, you know, get on

with it.’ And nonchalant as in: ‘But then

again, it is no matter to me, one

way or the other.’ A faint smile played on

the God-Man’s lips as he read all this in

his Opponent’s face which caused that angel

to simmer. He managed to keep his

temper in check and gazed calmly back at

his prey as he waited for an answer,

a decision to be made. Then Satan recalled

another king he had tempted, that first

king of Israel whom he convinced that

waiting for God’s provisions and living

strictly by His rules was not only

unnecessary but also senseless

when you could take care of the matter

yourself. So, Israel’s first king bent the rules

of a God of no compromise–not once

but twice–and he who was to be a

great king and leader was instead a

failure and died a scorned and rejected

king and man. Satan knew he did not need

to lead this present and final king

to compromise more than once for once

would be enough. Now he almost became

excited before the deed was done, smelling

the sweet smell of such a victory, and he

trembled but caught himself when he saw the

curious look from his prey. “Come on,”

he snapped. “What’s taking you so long? You act as

if you faced a monumental decision.

I only want you to eat, so we can talk.

Sustain yourself, my friend,” he added

more gently, his words becoming

like honey at his command, causing

the God-Man to once more remember his

hunger. Again, he looked at the stones, but

this time they brought to mind days of old,

and he saw the children of Israel

led into a similar desert and

led into a similar temptation

to be taught . . . what? Obedience. Yes, that

was it–obedience. Now he recalled

they had failed their test and he reflected

on why. He remembered their grumbling

and identified their discontent as

an expression of their lack of trust

and confidence in God as their provider.

Knowing himself to be the new Israel,

he realized if he treated himself to

breakfast (as his Adversary had so

artfully suggested), he would be

expressing the same lack of confidence.

So, summoning up the Scriptures in his mind,

he recalled God’s word on it all: ‘Remember

how the Lord your God led you all the way

in the desert these forty years, to humble

you and to test you in order to know

what was in your heart, whether or not you

would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing

you to hunger and then feeding you with

manna, which neither you nor your fathers

had known, to teach you that–‘ and he stopped and

smiled as the answer was there and the

clarity in his mind shone on his face,

and Satan inwardly recoiled as he

caught a whiff of the air of defeat.

But stiffly he waited and then it came

as in a clear and steady voice the God-Man

said in his new-found strength, “It is written:

‘Man does not live on bread alone but on

every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.'”

Now Satan cringed outwardly and the

rocks trembled and the heavens smiled and the

God-Man waited, but not long for Satan

knew this was a small defeat and the day

was young with boundless opportunities

and uppermost in his mind remained the

refrain: ‘It will only take one. Once will

be enough.’ With this thought, Satan

recovered his poise and said, “Very well,

you do not wish to eat; that is your privilege.

I was only thinking of your comfort.

You are too quick with your suspicions, but

come, ‘Son of God,’ (for you have yet to prove

to me that you are such) and let us go

to Jerusalem, that ‘holy city,’ and

there you can show me whose son you truly are.”

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo gloria

Reading Around the World: Mexico

I read two books from Mexico in the past few weeks for the #readtheworld21 challenge, but I am only going to review one here (I did write about both on Goodreads). The first one I enjoyed; the second I wanted to throw against the wall when I finished. I refrain from reviewing books I don’t like because I’m not interested in reading reviews of books not recommended by the reviewer. I find that a waste of time. This book has been popular and even made into a movie, so I’m doing it no harm in not recommending it.

Now on to my recommended read.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea is a story of legend combing historical fiction and magical realism. Urrea heard stories of his ancestor, Teresita Urrea, while growing up; the fantastical stories of her life and miracles. How much was true and how much legend, he set out to discover and spent some twenty years researching and writing her story.

Teresita was the illegitimate daughter of a young girl called Hummingbird and wealthy rancher, Tomas Urrea, during the late nineteenth century in Mexico, a time of unrest and the beginnings of a civil war. Abandoned by her mother, Teresita brought herself to the attention of Urrea and Huila, a curandero. Seeing Teresita’s gifts and potential, Huila teaches Teresita of herbs and healing and promises to help her cultivate her gifts. What leads to Teresita becoming the Saint of Cabora is told in dramatic fashion. Don’t be like me and miss the family tree in the front of the book until you’ve almost finished the book. I would have find this more helpful at the beginning when I was trying to keep names straight but somehow overlooked it.

In lieu of the book, I can’t recommend, let me do a repeat and make a case for one that was on my favorites’ list of 2020–The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia, translated by Simon Bruni. Another story of magical realism and family, the tale begins when Nana Reja finds an abandoned baby under a bridge, covered in a blanket of bees. Though some are horrified both by the bees and the baby’s disfigured face, Simonopio is adopted by landowners who love him as their own. Simonopio soon becomes special, not only to his family but to the whole town. This one is also historical fiction taking place during the Mexican Revolution as well as the influenza of 1918.

I’m sure there are many books about and from Mexico that I need to add to my TBR. If you have any suggestions, please share!

Bird Watching: Beyond Quarantine

Much has been written about the hobbies people have started while in quarantine– everything from raising chickens to baking to bringing home a new puppy. Few of these hobbies are anything new and maybe some of us would have started them at some point in our lives anyway. We just needed a nudge to make us use our imaginations That many people will continue with these hobbies–finding a new joy or way of entertainment that doesn’t involve a screen–is one of the pluses of being forced to entertain ourselves. Much like when our parents told us to go outside and play, we found we could actually find something new thing to do without someone giving us a script.

male and female American goldfinch

Whether because of the enforced quarantine or because my kids are mostly grown and out of the house, I have been baking more (with some success and not a few disasters), and also have picked up birdwatching as a daily obsession. Last summer I bought a pair of binoculars and a North Carolina birdbook and began observing more closely all those feathered creatures around me. I could recognize a robin and a cardinal; knew the difference between a bluebird and a bluejay; but who knew there were several types of woodpeckers living nearby? And why had I never seen a goldfinch (which according to my birdbook is fairly common)? How could I have missed such a bright yellow color?

Male & Female Cardinals

Besides gazing with my binoculars and snapping some pictures, I’ve also been enjoying a few books (of course!) concerning birdwatching. I recently finished A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson, a charming work of fiction that had me googling different birds (in Kenya) as two men had a contest on who could identify the most birds in a certain period. The winner would be able to ask a certain lady to a dance. I’m now reading a memoir, Field Notes From an Unintentional Birder by Julia Zarankin. Long before Covid, Zarankin discovered birdwatching in the midst of some other life-changing events. Though at first reluctant to align herself with this strange group of people who all seem to wear shirts decorated with birds as well as multi-pocketed vests and have an abnormal interest in the various optics of binoculars, Zarankin soon enough found herself enthralled with learning about the birds around her and what they could teach her about herself and her own migratory habits.

In my own backyard, we have several trees, but there is also an empty lot next door, our own little forest. But, as progress would have it, the lot has been sold and now trees are coming down. Trees which surely house some of these birds I’ve been watching and feeding. Yes, I know. I’m living in a house on land that also once held a small forest, and I go to stores where a forest along with its birds and other animals used to live, so I’m trying not to be hypocritical here. But I have learned a few things both in my birdwatching and hearing the crunch and crash of trees. I’m learning to be more observant of my surroundings and more aware of the details in God’s creation. After all, they’re not my birds or trees; they are His.

I’ve also enjoyed observing the response of these birds as parts of their world comes crashing in. At first, they were quiet and out of sight, but soon, even with a bulldozer ramming its way through, they continue to come to the feeders; first the courageous chickadees and titmice, followed by the downy woodpeckers and then even the hummingbirds. A chickadee even put up a vocal protest, chirping above the crunching of branches before he grabbed his share of seeds and flew off.

So, post quarantine, I will continue to watch and observe the birds around me, and I will even try another new baking project.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Jesus in Matthew 6:26-27)

male downy woodpecker

Reading Around the World: Southeast Africa

In February, #readtheworld21 took me to southeast Africa which includes several countries. The countries I read from were Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia.

First published in 1959, The Flame Trees of Thika is a memoir by Elspeth Huxley who moved to Kenya in 1913 with her parents. Huxley’s unusual childhood with her optimistic and idealistic parents is described with the eyes of a child though also with the benefit of an adult’s hindsight. Her parents’ attempts to make a go of a coffee farm was interrupted by war with Germany, but before that Elspeth grew to love the country and it became her home. She learns about the different groups of people–their customs and bits of their history–and makes friends as a child in an adult world. Huxley’s beautiful descriptions of this country, its people, and the nature surrounding them made this a classic book.

“. . . when the present stung her, she sought her antidote in the future, which was as sure to hold achievement as the dying flower to hold the fruit when its petals wither.”

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is another memoir. Noah was born during Apartheid in South Africa. Having a white father and a black mother made his existence a crime, hence the name. I listened to Noah read the audio and found it an excellent read. I had heard this was pretty funny (he is a comedian by trade), and there is humor (I love the way he mimics his mother and grandmother), but the story is much more than humor. It is about growing up poor in a country undergoing growing pains of its own. It’s about the fierce love of a mother who works hard and does not put up with anything including Noah’s many antics.

“My mom did what school didn’t. She taught me how to think.”

“Comfort can be dangerous. Comfort provides a floor but also a ceiling.”

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is one of those books where you become invested in the characters, their lives and how they interact with each other and to their surroundings. I loved everything about this book which takes place in Ethiopia during a time of unrest and revolution. The story begins in 1954 when twin boys are born in a missionary hospital (known as Missing) to a British surgeon father and a mother who is a nun and a nurse from India. Their mother dies and their father disappears but the boys (Marion and Shiva) are raised in love by two other doctors and they both become fascinated with medicine. When Marion is betrayed by both his brother and the girl he loves and then is accused of a terrorist act, he flees to America where he studies medicine but also runs into his biological father. Not someone he had ever wanted to meet but life does not always take you where you want to go.

“You are an instrument of God. Don’t leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play! Leave no part of your instrument unexplored. Why settle for ‘Three Blind Mice’ when you can play the ‘Gloria’? No, not Bach’s ‘Gloria.’ Yours! Your ‘Gloria’ lives within you. The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you.”

On deck: The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia) and A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson (Kenya).

Reading Books Around the World: Japan

Though traveling is at a minimum these days, traveling through books is still a great way to view and learn of other cultures. This year I’ve been making a conscious effort to read books around the world by jumping into the #readtheworld21 challenge.

January was #JanuaryinJapan. I’ve read three books from Japan and have several more on my TBR. In fact, at this point, I could have just made the whole year “reading in Japan.” However, I have been trying to keep up with the other months as well, which I will discuss in future posts.

For Japan, I’ve read Before the Coffee Gets Cold, The Housekeeper and the Professor, and The Great Passage.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi takes place in a cafe where if you sit in a certain chair, you can go back in time to a certain time of your choosing. You will be poured a cup of coffee before you leave and you must come back before the coffee gets cold. Also, you must understand that you can change nothing. So, why go back? Four different people with four different reasons take the challenge to see someone one more time even if nothing can be changed by it.

“I was so absorbed in the things that I couldn’t change, I forgot the most important thing.”

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is a small but beautiful book of how a housekeeper and her son care for a mathematics professor whose memory has been impaired by an accident. After eighty minutes, his mind “refreshes,” so every day the housekeeper has to reintroduce herself to the professor who always asked her for her birthday and tells her the importance of that number. Though he keeps sticky notes on his jacket to remind him of important facts (like the name of his housekeeper), it is a constant challenge to both of them. The professor becomes very fond of the housekeeper’s son, calling him “Root” because his flat head reminds him of a square root. They both love baseball, so there’s the added bonus of reading about baseball as well as prime numbers.

“he seemed convinced that children’s questions were much more important than those of an adult. He preferred smart questions to smart answers.”

In The Great Passage, Araki has been working on a new dictionary (not for the faint of heart!) and is about to retire, so when he hears about the odd man in sales who sounds like the perfect man to help him continue his project, he snatches him up. Majime, who never seems to fit in with his love for antiquarian books and his linguistic background, finds that working on a dictionary is exactly where he needs to be.

You will not be bogged down with the details of making a dictionary though there are some interesting insights into what goes into tracking down words and their meanings. And what if you leave out a word? Disaster is always just around the corner. But it’s the characters, their relationships, and how they come together in spite of their differences that make this an enjoyable story.

“Any dictionary, no matter how well made, was destined to go out of date. Words were living things.”

“Reading the dictionary could awaken you to new meanings of commongly used words, meanings of surprising breadth and depth.”

This is just a small slice of Japanese literature. What these three books have in common (besides their Japanese culture) are their quirky and charming characters who are going about every day tasks and learning more about themselves as well as others.

On deck: A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino and Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami.

Any suggestions? What parts of the world would you like to travel to?

Road to Emmaus–An Easter Story

Road to Emmaus

I could no longer bear the crowds, the sounds,

the smells. Jerusalem had become a place

where dreams were killed and hopes destroyed by

bloody Roman soldiers and godless

religious leaders. Both had lost their

humanity and become void of

compassion. Power and might were all they

desired and sought. Neither could accept

God’s gifts of love and mercy–so, love

and mercy they could never provide.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do,

my friend, Cleopas, and I took the road

back to our home in Emmaus. Our walk

took longer than usual for we were

in no hurry. Where did we need to go

after all? What did we need to do?

While we walked–we talked, we argued, we laughed,

we cried. Had we been foolish to put our

trust, our hopes, our dreams, and yes, our faith

in this one man? Had we only hoped he

had been sent by God? Had we only dreamed

he performed miracles? We marveled at

his teaching but had it all been just a

mirage? Had we been swayed by his

kindness? His mercy? His love?

For if it had all been real, how could he have

let himself be killed by such a mob? How could he have

been treated in such a cruel and shameful way?

“Jerusalem has always killed her prophets,”

Cleopas reminded me. “Yes,” I agreed.

“But didn’t we think Jesus was more than

a prophet? Didn’t he have the power

to heal? To raise the dead? How could such a

one be arrested as if he were

a common criminal? Worse than a

common criminal! More like a

dangerous lunatic! Was he mad?

Or is it we who are mad?”

So wrapped up in our thoughts, our questions,

our despair and our arguments–which all

ebbed and flowed like the Sea of Galilee–

we neither heard nor noticed a man

behind us until he caught up to us

and began to walk by our side.

“What are you talking about?” Such

impertinence coming from a stranger seem to

nettle Cleopas, but with feelings raw,

I felt compelled to share our story with

someone who might give us a new perspective.

But before I could speak, Cleopas

blurted out, “Have you not just come from

Jerusalem yourself? How could you not

know what everyone is talking about?

Perhaps you’ve been living under a rock?”

I nudged my friend and told him not to be

unkind. “Perhaps this man can’t understand

why we are so upset. After all, men

are crucified every day by the Romans.”

“Yes, but not usually innocent men.

Men like Jesus who never harmed anyone.”

“Then why was he crucified?” our new friend

asked. “What brought him to the Romans’

attention? And why are you so distraught

over his death? Were you very close to him?”

“We were more than close,” I affirmed. “We

honored him, we–yes, we worshiped him.

We thought he was truly the One, the

Messiah we have been waiting for–

but now, now he is dead.”

The man nodded as he pondered my words,

his eyes set on the horizon as if

he could see what I could not. I wondered

if he thought us foolish. Foolish to place

such hope in a mere man. Foolish to

believe in his teaching, his miracles,

his love.

Then his pace quickened. “Let me explain the

Scriptures to you. Scriptures about the

Messiah. Then perhaps you will better

understand what has happened and why.”

He then began to expound on the

Scriptures beginning with Genesis and

continuing through the Law, the Prophets,

the Psalms. He explained the prophecies

of the Messiah in a way I had

never heard before, and I felt my heart

burn within me. Even Cleopas

remained silent as we took in the words

of this stranger who now seemed both familiar

and comfortable as an old friend.

Before we knew it, we had reached my home

in Emmaus. Our new friend did not stop

walking but continued on past my door.

Neither Cleopas nor I could bear the

thought of being parted from him so soon.

Please, we begged him, stay and eat with us.

We would hear more of your teaching.

We will fix you a meal

and you can even stay the night.

There is plenty of room.

He seemed reluctant, and perhaps he

had more pressing things to do, but

when we convinced him we truly

wanted him to stay and dine with us,

he agreed, and I made haste to

go in and tell my wife of our guest

and our need for a quickly made meal.

Once seated, we served our guest and waited

to hear more of what he could teach us.

Though sorrow still enveloped our souls,

somehow this man had wrapped us in a peace

and filled us with a hope that our faith in

the man Jesus had perhaps not been in vain.

What happened next remains the most

astonishing of revelations given

to simple men such as ourselves. One

minute we were waiting for our guest, this

stranger in our midst, to further enlighten

us, and the next, our eyes were opened to the

true identity of one we had taken

to be unknown and unfamiliar

to us. When he stretched forth his hand

to pass the bread to Cleopas on

his right, we all saw the round scar–bright and

shockingly white–on his wrist. A scar

so fresh it was scarcely healed and

almost glowed there in the dusky light.

The sight of that scar caused the scales

to fall from our eyes. It was Him!

Jesus! The One we had followed and

seen crucified. The One we thought to see

no more on this earth. What Peter and John

had said was true. He had come back to life!

Then just as quick as our eyes had been

opened, he was gone–along with our

despair and grief, leaving us with joy

and excitement instead. He was alive!

Truly alive! We had seen him in the

flesh. I remembered now. How my heart

had burned within me as he spoke to us.

Spoke truth to us. Now, without

speaking, we knew we must go back to

Jerusalem. And we could not delay.

We had to go back that very night.

My wife protested. We would be tired,

she said. We had only just gotten home.

But even she knew we could never

sleep and we could almost run back to

Jerusalem. To go back and tell

our brothers and sisters the Good News.

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo Gloria