First sentence: Reading and rereading Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery is a favorite tradition of mine—and I know I’m not alone. Anne Shirley’s story of adoption and belonging has delighted generations of readers from around the world for over one hundred years. Set in the fictional town of Avonlea, against the picturesque backdrop of Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables brims with charming characters and heartwarming moments. Anne’s story is beloved because it expresses some of life’s most universal longings and assures us that goodness and beauty still exist in this world. Anne’s character inspires us to love the loveless, see the good in others, give people second chances, dream big dreams, and embrace life with open arms. Her grit spurs us to press on through life’s challenges. We understand her feelings of rejection and loneliness, her longing for a family and a home, and her many trials and tribulations. And our hearts swell when Anne finds what we all want most: unconditional love, a safe place to dream and grow, and the freedom to explore her place and purpose in the world.
Premise/plot: The Anne of Green Gables devotional is a perfect companion to the classic children's novel Anne of Green Gables. There is one devotional entry for each chapter of the novel. The devotional takes one scene (or event or emotion or theme, etc.) and spins it into a devotional that would be appropriate for young(er) readers or those young at heart.
I say "spins" because that is how I see it. Montgomery didn't write the novel with the spiritual formation of readers in mind. If there are life lessons to be learned, all well and good. Yes, this is my opinion. Yes, I know some may disagree. But if you've ever been exposed to children's classics where the author intentionally and obviously had the spiritual formation of the readers in mind, you'd see a night and day difference, I promise you. The characters in Montgomery's books--whether her adult books, her children's books, whatever--have oh-so-human characters. Human nature and nature-nature can be found in abundance in Montgomery's books.
Each devotional begins and ends with Scripture verses. In between there are a few quotes from the novel, a brief commentary on that chapter, and a concluding lesson or moral that ties it to the Christian faith, also a prayer. The back of the book has a discussion question for each devotion for use in small groups or book clubs.
My thoughts: When I was in junior high and high school I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, CRAZY loved L.M. Montgomery. In particular I loved the Anne series, though I read them ALL. And reread them. And re-reread them. I read them obsessively and giddily. If you'd handed me this devotional book at that age, I would have been all over it. I would have thought it was the best thing ever. At that age, I wasn't all that big into devotional books or quiet time. I read the Bible. I did. I even memorized Scripture. Some. And to be honest I didn't have much choice in that. But I wasn't big into disciplines and routines. This devotional might have been a way to start a habit.
As an adult I am still not all that big on typical devotional books. I tend to like meatier more substantive sources for my Christian reading. (For example, this year I am reading Matthew Henry and J. Vernon McGee. Of the two, McGee is the less meaty and more accessible. But McGee's observations can punch you in the gut when you need it.) Fluffy devotionals are not my thing.
Is this one fluffy? I haven't made up my mind absolutely. I enjoyed the insight on the novel, on the characters, on the relationships. Some of the connections to spiritual lessons made sense; they still felt a little spun, mind you, but only a few of them seemed stretched too far. Without a doubt, it is reading INTO Montgomery's text and pulling out what you want and seeing what you want to see.
But overall I liked it. I could see mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, aunts and nieces reading this devotional book together and perhaps reading it alongside the original novel.
From Day 1 A Divine Detour The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. PROVERBS 16:9 NASB
She and Matthew thought they needed an extra pair of hands around the farm, but God knew they needed a daughter. Often God’s plans for us are unexpected. We anticipate one thing, and something else—or someone else—shows up instead. We plan, make schedules and lists, do our part to get the ball rolling, and then something akin to a girl instead of a boy comes waltzing into our lives. God is not surprised by our detours and delays. He works in and through them in divine ways. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us of God’s promise to direct and establish our steps. We can and should make plans, but God is ultimately in charge. When you allow Him to direct your life, He brings about things beyond your imagination.
From Day 4 Defender of the Weak A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families. PSALM 68:5–6 NIV
Matthew’s quiet intervention is a picture of God’s work in our lives, for our salvation and for our good. God is a “father to the fatherless” who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6 NIV). Before we knew Him, He knew us. When we were powerless to save ourselves, He intervened. While we were “still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). God invites each of us into His own family through faith in Christ, that we might know God personally and become children of God (John 1:12).
From Day 25 Abba, Father Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. PSALM 34:10 NIV
Matthew’s attentiveness to Anne’s needs gives us a glimpse into the overwhelming Father-love God has for us as His children. He anticipates and meets our needs each day, working behind the scenes in ways we cannot imagine. He goes further than our immediate necessities and does “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 ESV). He loves to give good gifts to His children and provides us with tangible reminders of His presence, protection, and love.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible