Divine Spark Within

Divine Spark Within

Anna Dostoevsky, 1846-1918

“I’m glad to see you Fyodor, and in such a cheerful mood at that. Has something pleasant happened to you?”

“Yes, it has. Last night I had a marvelous dream.”

“Oh, is that all!” And I started to laugh.

“Please don’t laugh. I attribute great meaning to dreams. My dreams are always prophetic.”

“In that case, tell me your dream!”

“Do you see that big rosewood box? That is a gift from my Siberian friend …and I value it very much. I keep my manuscripts and letters in it, and other things that are precious to me for their memories. And so this is my dream: I was sitting in front of that box and rearranging the papers in it. Suddenly something sparkled among them, some kind of bright little star. I was leafing through the papers and the star kept appearing and disappearing. And this was intriguing to me. I started slowly putting all the papers to one side. And there among them I found a little diamond, a tiny one, but very sparkling and brilliant.”

(A few moments later, Fyodor continued…)

“I’ve been thinking up a plot for a new novel,”

“Oh tell me, do tell me about it,” I begged, very curious. And (then) a brilliant improvisation poured out. Never, neither before nor afterward, did I hear from him such an inspired tale as on that day.

—From Dostoevsky: Reminiscences by Anna Dostoevsky, his wife

One of my passions is exploring the elements that shaped people of great faith. I prefer the story behind the biography, digging deeper, past someone’s known accomplishments to the person they were when no one was looking. And particularly—what happened in their childhood.

So one April, at a writer’s conference in California, an editor asked me about heroes of faith. The topic was a regular feature in her magazine. A lot of big names easily came to mind, but I paused. What person really shaped my faith?

Fyodor Dostoevsky 1821-1881

“Fyodor Dostoevsky,” I said. “The great Russian novelist.”

Her face brightened with surprise. She asked if I would write a full-length article. Being a brand new author, I felt flushed with excitement. But I specified my interest: “I’d like to write about the man beyond his writing.”

I’d been a fan of Dostoevsky’s work since high school when I did my final English term paper on his novel, Crime and Punishment. In college I read The Brothers Karamazov. That story presented the human condition and the struggle of faith like no other, excepting Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. It moved me to the core as I wrestled with many of the same questions his characters asked.

For me, reading Russian literature was no small accomplishment. In junior high I had to go to Reading Lab because I was such a slow reader. Comprehension wasn’t a problem. I just wanted to read every single word. The funny thing is, it still takes me a long time to finish a book. But reading at a relaxed pace allows time to soak in a story, enter the conflict, and identify with the characters.

With a fresh writing assignment and the possibility of getting published I dove in. I ordered two books about Dostoevsky through Montana’s inter-library system. Anna, his wife, wrote one and his daughter, Lyubov, penned the other. I also read how his contemporaries felt about him.

Leo Tolstoy said, “To me, Dostoevsky was a precious person—perhaps the only person I might have asked about many things, and who might have given me answers about many things.”

Albert Einstein said,Continue reading



“Self-consciousness is the enemy of ‘interestingness.’” – Malcolm Gladwell.

iStock_000016049950SmallOne of the most beautiful things about small children is their lack of self-consciousness. They sing, dance, and whirl without pretext. Their shimmering self is uncloaked and skipping about with abandon. Spend some time with a three-year-old.

Jesus said we must become as children in order to see the kingdom. Yet, sadly, children are ‘older’ now at younger ages.

Author Marie Winn, in Children Without Childhood, wrote about the cultural changes and demands that put children at risk, causing them to grow up too early–things like family breakups, accessibility of drugs and premature exposure to sex and coarse language in books, movies, TV, and on the Internet.

I was privileged to be child for most of my childhood. In other families divorce happened, people drank too much, and sometimes adults fought. I remember the moment I heard JFK had been shot and watched Martin Luther King’s funeral. But those realities were mere shadows on the periphery of my otherwise sunny world.

HidingStill, sooner or later innocence is lost. And one kind of loss is the development of self-consciousness. While it’s good to know how your words and actions affect others, there is a dark side to self-consciousness that can become a lifelong tyranny.

Do you remember being unaware of yourself? A time when you didn’t know you didn’t have a hairstyle? A place of acceptance where any question could be asked? A season of dreaming and exploring and belly flops without embarrassment.

A shift comes.Continue reading

Stopping Dominoes

Stopping Dominoes

It all began with Duncan taking a bath. Seated nearby at a table, a small group of middle-aged women discussed how his great-grandfather’s health had deteriorated. In fact, he was about to die. Duncan listened intently—he’d never met the man and didn’t know he was even alive.

The scene changed. The setting was northern Ohio where his father’s side of the family lives and farms. Duncan challenged his father with burning questions:

“How come we’ve never seen him? Why didn’t we spend time with him?” Shocked and distraught, Duncan wept hard tears.

His father listened but failed to give any answer.

Then Duncan met his great-grandfather. The man was tender and kind. His presence radiated unconditional love. It felt like being with God.

Walk“I want to give you a gun,” said the great-grandfather. “It will be the best gun you’ll ever have.” He smiled. “Why don’t you come out to the place?”

“How far it is?” asked Duncan.

“Eight miles.”

Duncan turned to question his father in dismay. “And we’ve never been out there to see him?” A crushing sense of loss overwhelmed Duncan, and he wept for a second time.

So they traveled to the great-grandfather’s farm, and the patriarch showed them around. Though elderly and failing, his manner remained full of warmth and lovingkindness—soothing Duncan’s longing for a father’s love and acceptance. His father was there but remained a silent figure.

The great-grandfather spoke again to Duncan. “Now you pick out one of these guns and shoot it—any one you want. It doesn’t matter. And it will be the best gun you ever had.”

The dream ended there. Duncan gave me permission to share it with you.

This was a significant dream. Continue reading