Book Review: Parables of the Cross


Parables of the Crossby Lilias Trotter

Isabella Lilias Trotter was born in 1853 to a wealthy London family.  Born with an uncommon talent for sketching and painting, Lilias forsook fame and renown in order to serve the Lord Jesus as a missionary to Muslim women in Algeria for 38 years.  She founded the Algiers Mission Band, which is part of Arab World Ministries today.  It was her affection for Jesus and the beauty of the Algerian landscape that inspired Lilias to craft hundreds of paintings and sketches and write dozens of books and pamphlets.  In Parables of the Cross, Lilias includes 16 watercolors that exhibit the smallest details in her subjects: flowers, plants, weeds and seeds. While her physical eyes noted the tiniest details for her paintings, her spiritual eyes saw profound parallels between the life-cycle of a plant and the power of death in the Christian’s life.  She explains, “It is in the stages of a plant’s growth, budding and blossoming and seed-bearing, that this lesson has come to me: the lesson of death in its delivering power.  It has come as no mere far-fetched imagery but as one of the many voices in which God speaks, bringing strength and gladness from His Holy Place.  Can we not trace the sign of the Cross in the first hint of the new spring’s dawning?”

Trotter divided Parables of the Cross with these headings:
Death is the gate of life
Death to sin’s penalty is the way out into a life of justification
Death to sin’s penalty is the way out into a life of holiness
Death to lawful things is the way out into a life of surrender
Death to self is the way out into a life of sacrifice

While reading, one can look to the opposite page to see exactly which characteristics of the plant Trotter is using to describe a spiritual truth. Similar to Parables of the Christ-Life, Trotter’s insight in Parables of the Cross is devotional and spiritually challenging.  She blends beautifully her observations, the spiritual truth, and God’s word.  I offer the following as an example: “We were created for more than our own spiritual development; reproduction, not mere development, is the goal of matured being – reproduction in other lives…The flowers that are bent on perfecting themselves, by becoming double, end in barrenness, and a like barrenness comes to the soul whose interests are all concentrated upon its own spiritual well-being, heedless of the needs around.  The true, ideal flower is the one that uses its gifts as means to an end; the brightness and sweetness are not for its own glory; they are but to attract the bees and butterflies that will fertilize and make it fruitful.  All may go when the work is done – ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

This book is for any thoughtful Christian.  The text is not difficult to grasp, but is not meant to be read with haste.  I can assure you that after reading this little book, you will hear every seed, bud, and petal encouraging you to be a living sacrifice for the glory of God.

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