In the wilds of New Mexico you step outside at night, feel
the cool dry swirling round you, and stare up at a heaven filled with tiny dots of
glorious white light. But this year I’ve moved to the big city. I knew that nightly
experience was one of the things I would have to give up; what star can shine
through the din and lights of seven million busy people all conglomerated in a
clump in the middle of Texas? But in a large way, I was wrong. When I step
outside my door at night now, a warm blanket enfolds me, and there is something
shining through the dark veil of the heavens. Always, there is something. It
may only be two or three planets peeking through the clouds, but they are
there, breaking past the blackness. Last night when we took our four dogs
walking, the moon stared at us just like the Cheshire Cat’s grin the entire
time. It was so bright it was almost disconcerting, I kept expecting it to
start singing nonsensical songs and fading into a striped, fat cat. Sometimes,
the lights are even manmade here, and nearly as beautiful as the glories set
forever in the heavens. There is a certain awesome beauty in watching a ball of
light cross your sky, and knowing there are souls up there, people headed
somewhere in their planes and helicopters, busy with their own lives and likely
looking down on our own pinpricks of light shining up from the darkness on the
ground. The dark isn’t nearly so dark as I expected.
Sometimes the soul can make a move like that. Even those of
us with the Son shining in our lives have moments of darkness. It can be true
darkness, such as depression, or mourning for a loved one that seems to shade
over all of life. Or, it can be the daily grind and monotony clouding over the
joys and lights without our even noticing it. The wear and tear of every day
spent in this broken world can begin to tell on us. It is too easy to fall into
the trap of thinking this place is all that is, to forget where we actually
belong. To forget there is a better land, and even this world will be renewed. To
stop along the path, forgetting for a moment as the darkness closes in, that we
were even headed to higher ground and a Celestial City. Pilgrim, you need to
Stars can rekindle your joy in the quest. The lights
sprinkling the darkness are nightly, visual guides to a better, truer thing.
They stay there, unwinking, slowly rotating as our globe moves, telling us
plainly that the darkness cannot last. That there is more out there. More to
“There, peeping among
the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star
twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of
the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold,
the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing
thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach[1].”
There is an awe-inspiring wonder in staring up at the
heavens. Our age isn’t the only one to feel it.
“When I consider Thy
heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast
ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou
visitest him[2]?”
But there are moments when even the stars have no ability to
kindle our hearts back to the light. When our souls are so deadened, so used to
what they see around them, that the head never even lifts to the heavens. Night
comes and we close the blinds, and shortly after head to bed, to get the rest needed
for yet another day. Is there a method to reaching such a tired, blackened,
bewildered soul as this poor pilgrim? God has many ways, dear friends, and no
despair is too dark for Him to penetrate. But there is one method I would
mention, that perhaps you should be cultivating as a habit in your life, just
in case such a situation arises, and you need that pinprick of light to awaken
your soul back to the realities of the deeper realities than what the blackness
whispers to you exists.
Read books. Make it a habit to pick up a book and read a bit
every day. Not only blog posts and articles, but an actual book. It might be a
history book, filled with stories of peoples in past eras and deadly and heroic
deeds. It might be a theology work, extolling the glory of the thrice holy God.
It might be poetry, lines of alliteration lilting off the page to burst into
song in your heart. It might be a simple work of fiction, just a good story you
pick up for fun. But I’ll tell you something, dear readers.
Words have light.
They can act as pinpricks in the dark, just like a star. A
book is one soul pouring their thoughts onto a page in printed words, words
that your soul responds to. We recognize the acts, emotions, cares, and truths contained
in the books we read, because we are all fundamentally the same. We are souls
created in the likeness of God, vessels made either for honor or dishonor,
every one of us with the sacred and the earthly stamped upon us. And in an
amazing stroke of awe-inspiring wonder, we are all a little different too. Books
have a way of sparking into us partially because of that sameness, and that
differentness. The author of the book on your shelf knew many of the same truths
as you. But they have a different way of stating it. Sometimes a truth stated
in a different way can spark through every black cloud and shine a white light
straight into your soul.
Reading a book is a perilous business. It is opening a door
to hear someone else’s thoughts, to let in their light. Or their dark. Be
careful which books you choose, be very careful. There are some works out there
that spread the dark of their authors, not the light of any sort of truth. But
there are other books that have beauty and joy that wrenches you free, that
startles you into remembering the world is more than the black cloud, that make
you leap out of bed and step outside to breathe the air and stare up at the
Cheshire Cat moon.
Words can awaken you. They can inspire and spark and sizzle
till you simply have to do something, if only laugh at all the world’s black
The darkness is only a passing thing, after all. The war is
already won. Yes, we have many skirmishes still to fight, and the miles to the
Celestial City can seem very daunting some days. But there is always a light
along the way, guiding our steps.
“We have also a more
sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light
that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in
your hearts[3]:”
There is one book in particular you must make a habit of
reading on your way. God has given you a sword that pierces through anything the
devil may throw. When the darkness presses and life itself seems to be smothering
you, remember the one book that God has given us as a weapon, that He has
promised will always be here, till the end of time. Never neglect the Bible.
Always study the Word. Never let the habit drop, no matter how busy life gets,
or how dull you may feel. God will use that weapon mightily if you let Him.
And while the Bible is like a searchlight suddenly searing
through every cloud wrack and dissipating the darkness as if it never was,
other books can be pinpricks that help the searchlight sputter into life. Keep
reading. Let the words tell you the colors of the gates leading to heaven[4],
of the real world that only keeps getting bigger the farther you go into it[5],
of the Mended Wood[6],
of the laughter and freedom in creating the lights right here on earth even if
that creation starts as nothing but a chalk dragon[7].
Words have power. Cultivate the right power inside you, and
let the light in. Once the light is in you, and in you firmly, that is when it can
start to shine out and prick the souls of those you come in contact with.
Everyday isn’t a grind, not really. It is an opportunity. An opportunity to
brush up against another soul and maybe kindle a spark through their darkness
with a word of your own.
But that’s a whole different post for another day. Right
now, remember to look up. Hold your head high, pilgrim, and keep watching the
stars, like the dreamers and poets. And when you come inside, let your hand
stray to that dusty book. Keep reading.

J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Return of the
(Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993, page 957)
Psalm 8:3-4 (KJV)
[3] 2
Peter 1:19(KVJ)
[4] “He
stood a moment with erected brows,
In silence, as a creature might, who gazed:
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majestic eyes
Upon the thought of perfect noon. And when
I saw his soul saw, – ‘Jaspur first,’ I said,
‘And second sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order,…last amethyst.’” –,Elizabeth Barrett
Browning, the last lines of Aurora Leigh (Academy
Chicago Limited, 1979, page 351)
[5] “But
for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this
world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title
page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no
one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better
than the one before.” –C.S. Lewis, from The
Last Battle
(Harper Collins, 1984, page 211)
[6] “The
song had gone on for a while, lamenting verses, offset by the hopeful refrain ‘It
will not be so in the Mended Wood.’ She thought of all the times she had heard
rabbits in this community counter a despairing word with this phrase. She had
thought it was only a word of encouragement. She hadn’t realized they were singing
to each other a song of hope.” –S.D. Smith, from The Green Ember (Story Warren Books, 2016, page 313)
[7] “Henry,
let your imagination be as wild as the spinning universe. Let it be beautiful
and adventurous and even terrifying. Let it go free. Don’t be afraid. But remember
that art does things you don’t expect. Remember that it can hurt people, but
remember that it can make them happy as well. Remember that it can break things
and stomp on things sometimes, and that’s where chivalry comes in…” –Jennifer
Trafton, from Henry and the Chalk Dragon
(Rabbit Room Press, 2017, kindle location 1645)

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