GOING DEEPER: TOOLS FOR LEARNING
“Sweet holy change turns our old things to new.”
Lilias Trotter’s passion for teaching long preceded her years in Algeria. While still in London, she wrote History Lessons for Junior Classes in which the “Introduction to Teachers” reveals her devotion to strong pedagogical methods, explaining, among other things, “that the topics chosen have been those which would be likely to leave the most distinct impression on (the students minds), and in which the teaching is most plain.” She goes on to state the mission of such teaching: “our object as teachers is infinitely more than giving the children a clear knowledge of Bible history, being nothing short of pointing them, in God’s name, to the Good Shepherd, who ‘shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom.’”
This continued to be both her method and mission from the moment she stepped off the ship unto North African soil – her home for the remaining 40 years of her life. From the earliest days when she shared in local cafes scraps of Scripture written in Arabic (a language yet to be mastered) to the end of her life, while bed-ridden, writing The Way of the Sevenfold Secret, a sophisticated treatise for the Sufi Brotherhood of the Southlands, she was ever-seeking methods to communicate most effectively the Light and Life and Love of Jesus. (See Writing/Art for further elaboration)
And this is our challenge, today, as we continue to mine the richness of Lilias’ legacy through her life, her writings and her art: how to present, a century later, her legacy – both timeless and timely – in a way that best communicates with contemporary culture. As Lilias wrote in her 1918 diary: “. . . each generation must find out its own best ways of doing things unhampered by trying to keep to the conditions of the generation that went before!”
Richard Foster, in his Foreword to Parables of The Christ-life advises: “. . . I hope you will give careful attention to Lilias Trotter’s words. Oh, in the beginning you will need to become accustomed to the rather flowery Victorian prose of that day. But, on a more profound level note how her words have a way of drawing us higher up and deeper in.”
This page is devoted to providing ways to present Lilias Trotter’s life and work, to draw the reader “higher up and deeper in.” Toward that end, we are developing learning tools to use in personal devotional study and group settings: practical reflections and study guides from her writing and watercolors, Advent and Lenten readings, and personal reflections and discussion guides to follow up the film Many Beautiful Things. This is a work in process. We value your feedback and suggestions as we, like Lilias, embrace the “Sweet holy change that turns old things to new.”
Toward the close of Lilias Trotter’s life, she completed a work—arguably her magnum opus—written specifically for the Sufi mystics: The Way of the Sevenfold Secret. Lucid, elegant, and strong, it appealed to the common ground shared by Christian and Sufi alike: the purpose of discovering the secrets of divine truth and divine power. Addressing the Sufis’ means of seeking divine union through a succession of seven spiritual states, which in the end still may not please what they see as an arbitrary God, she presents an alternate path “wherein we have found joy and peace from the first step.” She takes the seven sayings of Christ about Himself contained in John’s Gospel and explores how each offers the “secret” for which the Sufis long: satisfaction (Bread), illumination (Light), access (Door), leadership (Shepherd), life (Resurrection and Life), progress (Way), and the ultimate union (Vine).
Lilias Trotter Legacy has created a study guide to use while reading The Way of the Sevenfold Secret. It is a wonderful tool for personal study, or can be used for groups as well. The Way of the Sevenfold Secret can be purchased via our website (click title above or link below). The study guide is available as a downloadable PDF, which can be accessed via the link below. For insight into the Sufi mystics, for whom The Way of the Sevenfold Secret was written, read the short description, “Mysticism in Islam,” by Lilias Trotter (link below).
Lilias observed the Eastern love of storytelling and realized if they were to hold the interest of the people, they needed compelling stories printed in their Arabic script and peopled with their own local characters in their regional habitats. This evolved into booklets – Story-Parables – an endeavor given a great boost by the collaboration of Lilias and colleagues with the Nile Mission Press at the invitation of Dr. Samuel Zwemer. Bonnie Camp Palmquist, a member of the LTL Board and life-time worker with the Arab people, has adapted eight of Lilias’ story-parables for potential use as supplemental reading material for ESL (English as a Second Language) for Arabic readers. Their value is not limited to a given people or time but, through their unique wording and settings, they provide a fresh glimpse of the Gospel. Click here, or on the Story Parables title above, to read this adaptation of Lilias’ Story Parables. Questions for each story can be found at the end of the document.
Parables of the Cross was written by Lilias Trotter in 1895, during a rest-break in England, seven years after her initial departure to Algeria. It was born of her own travail of soul and tempered with her breadth of life experience. The thesis of the book, Via Crucis, Via Lucis – “Death is the Gateway to Life” – is a comprehensive exploration of the great themes of God’s redemptive plan, illuminated by watercolors, exquisite studies of nature showing the parallels between the natural and spiritual worlds.
This study guide divides Parables of the Cross into twelve manageable sections and includes related scripture, readings, prayers, and hymns which magnify the content. Questions are included to help unpack the meaning of each section as well as to help identify personal applications. For group study or for personal study and reflection, this guide invites the reader to slow down, study, and ponder the “higher up and deeper in” insights expressed by Lilias Trotter in Parables of the Cross.
We invite you to consider Parables of the Cross for personal study or small groups. You can purchase a facsimile copy of Parables of the Cross in the Lilias Trotter Legacy revised edition (2021), which includes an added Foreword by Kathy Keller (MA, Gordon Conwell; currently working for Redeemer City to City and GospelinLife.com). Click here, or on the title above, to access the study guide and here to purchase Parables of the Cross.
This devotional is designed as an aid to help you and your family focus on Christ during Advent – a time of year often cluttered with distractions and busyness. Each week focuses on a particular aspect of the story of Jesus in anticipation of His birth: Week One – the prophets who foretold Christ’s coming; Week Two – the city of David (Bethlehem) where Christ was born; Week Three – the shepherds who first witnessed the baby Jesus; Week Four – the angels who heralded the Incarnation. The story culminates, of course, with the birth of Christ who is the Light of the world.
Each devotional introduces the daily topic, a painting and quote by Lilias Trotter, related Scripture with several thought/discussion questions, and concludes with a meditation. The daily readings gradually build a comprehensive picture of the Christmas Story, much like a jigsaw puzzle, taking shape with each added piece. Click here, or on the title above, to access this devotional.*
Many Beautiful Things