Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Christian Focus - Elizabeth Prentiss : More Love - A Crew Review

"More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make,
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

Are you a churchgoer? If you are, and if you attend or have attended a more traditional denomination, chances are that you have heard this beautiful hymn referenced above. More love to Thee was penned by Elizabeth Prentiss, a name that in all likelihood, is largely unknown today. Our family was given a copy of Elizabeth Prentiss : More Love, from Christian Focus , to read and review.
I've said it so many times, even here on my blog, that I love biographies. I love to hear a person's story, where they came from, their life experiences, and how those events shaped their character. I suppose that my fascination comes from a basic human longing to know and be known. I find a person's history particularly compelling when discovering the inspiration behind a song, or a story. That background information provides a rich context for the words, particularly when the author has known suffering. Such is the case with this account of Elizabeth Prentiss. I will never read or sing her words of praise to God again, without considering the faith of this woman. Pull up a chair, and let me tell you about her.
When I was about to begin this book, I must confess that I was preparing myself for flowery language, lofty, pious tones, and a general dryness. Simply put, I was wrong, and happily so. The older that I get, I find that I have less patience for Christian platitudes, and a holier than thou faith. I want transparency. I desire honest connection with a person, or people. It is an encouragement to discover that my struggles are not unique, and that there are those that would come alongside so we might walk our spiritual path together. I found those characteristics in Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love. 
Elizabeth, if I can be so informal, was born in Portland, Maine on October 26, 1818. The first part that stood out to me was that she was loved well. I feel like I've read so many biographies where the subject was abused and/or cast aside, so it was a joy to read that she was genuinely valued by her family. The second, and probably most important trait of their family that stood out to me, was the emphasis on God. In everything, her parents pointed Elizabeth to the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. HE was the focal point of their family, but not in a legalistic, fearful way. They emphasized the relationship with Jesus, and they seemed to effectively implement Deuteronomy 6:6-7 which says:
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."

Elizabeth knew suffering from an early age. Her beloved father passed away from tuberculosis when she was not much more than 8 years old. Her loving mother carried on and cared for their family, with their faith in Christ ever before them.
Prentiss was a woman that I would loved to have met in person. She was known for her kindness, especially with children. I enjoyed reading about her move to Richmond, Virginia, where she taught young girls for a time. Her love and servant's heart was apparently evident to all, because the girls flocked to her, and thrived under her instruction. 
I was even more impressed with Prentiss' view of marriage. She had purposed in her heart that she would not settle for marrying a man because it was expected of her. She would only marry for true love and devotion. Elizabeth found her love in a wonderful man named George. This is one of my favorite aspects of the book, their love and care for each other. They were soon blessed with children, but it was tinged with sadness. Although they had six children, two of them died. Their life was not easy. Illness took its toll on the family time after time, at one point requiring a quarantine that required Elizabeth to be separated from her husband for forty days while she was confined, with her children to one room. I cannot even imagine the stress of those circumstances. 
From the time that she was young, Prentiss had a talent for writing, and it was her outlet for the pain and suffering that she experienced. Her trials resulted in many children's poems, stories, as well as that famous hymn that I first referenced in the first paragraph. Interestingly enough, that was not the central theme of this book. What stands out to me the most is the way that Prentiss approached her troubles. She did not hide from them, or become bitter, rather she seemed to expect them as part of this earthly life. It is a big contrast to the way so many of us, myself included, handle our struggles. Our modern culture avoids pain, runs from it, self medicates it, while Prentiss embraced it not only as a reality of this life, but as a tool in preparing us for Heaven. We could all use more of that perspective.
Elizabeth Prentiss died on August 13, 1878, at 59 years old.  She was dearly missed by her husband and children, but oh what a legacy she left behind. Oh, that we would follow her example, and seek as hard after Jesus. 
This softcover book has 13 chapters and is a fairly fast read. I finished it in one day, but I do read quickly. My 13 year old and 15 year old daughters took it at a slower pace, and completed it in a couple of weeks. We read the book separately, and then discussed. It was interesting to find that we all had basically the same thoughts. We all enjoyed the way that this biography is told as a story, that is, in a conversational tone. We also found ourselves reading bits, then backing up a bit, because the style in which it's written jumps around somewhat. You need to pay attention, because one minute you're reading of her early childhood, then in the next paragraph you jump to her adult years. It was a small issue though, and once you get accustomed to the writing style, it's not a big deal.

When you come to the end of the book, there are some pages titled, Thinking Further Topics. These consist of some passages from the book, and then questions and a "Challenge" for readers to consider. These make excellent talking points, and can be used in a variety of settings. You might use them with your family, small group, youth group, Bible study, or co-op/classroom. You will also find a timeline of Prentiss' life that will be helpful in tracking the events of her life.However you choose to use this book, it is a valuable addition for your personal, classroom, or church library. I will leave you with some more lyrics from the beloved hymn:
"Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the song, this is lovely, reverent version of the hymn, sung by  Fernando Ortega that I really like. Enjoy.

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Big Bible Science, Elizabeth Prentiss, God is Better than Princesses,  God is Better than Trucks. {Christian Focus Reviews}

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