Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Church Fellowship

I was given two topics as ideas to write about in a Reformed writers' group, so I thought I'd try to tackle this one:

"Write about social interactions within the Church laity. What does ideal fellowship look like?"

First I had to look up laity, because I'm stupid nerdy like that. Here it is:
1. the body of religious worshipers, as distinguished from the clergy.

This is a big topic. I'm no authority, no theologian in a trained sense, but it seems like one that I can at least touch on. (The other question given me is about Cultural Christianity v. Biblical Christianity, which is perhaps harder.)

Picture this: you are sitting in a pew, listening to the preacher, looking down and up, reading the Word, perhaps daydreaming from time to time. Your gaze flicks around the room, to the potted plant, to the girl's hair in front of you, to the dirt beneath your farm-girl fingernails. (Note to self: use a fingernail brush next time.) Yes, the message is good. Yes, the preacher is helpful.
But if there is no action on the part of the people to fellowship with one another, to step alongside and encourage, is there much impact?

Our family has had so many times of fellowship with the body. When we were moving in to our new home, boxes topsy-turvy around us, we had church friends help with the moving, bring us soup and rolls, and welcome us with open arms. We were even invited to someone's house for Thanksgiving, though we had only recently met them! They encouraged us in the Lord. Long will I remember that time with its singing, prayer, thanks giving, and the warm voice of their daughter saying, "I'm glad you're here."

We've had people help us after a tornado flattened our workshop. They moved boxes and cut trees vigorously, as well as supplied food, water, and tarps.

And not just warm and fuzzy things are to be modeled. There have been times we needed challenging. Times we've been touched by the strength of a person in pain even as we sought to strengthen them. Times we've seen hard work modeled and been ashamed at our own laxity. Times we've seen beauty, times we've seen laughter. Times we've been hugged, given a gift, given a Bible verse.

This is what the hands and feet of Christ on earth should look like.

And here are some Bible verses to consider (and I'm sure there are many more):
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." - Acts 2:1

"So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed." - Acts 16:40

"For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. - Colossians 2:1-3

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sing! Conference, Part 2

I think perhaps there was another Bach piece played (Arioso) before D. A. Carson spoke.

And here are my notes from that message, though I'm sure not half as full and accurate as the real thing:

Mark 12:28-34 (The first--and second--command.)

As people think in their mind, so are they. You are what you think.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

"Mind" is often the best translation of heart. Our text does not mean just more study. It is on loving God wholly.

"The Lord is One" (not many gods) - so we must give Him our whole heart. If we kept this one command, we'd never sin.

Lev. 19 - The 2 commands are intertwined.

Deut. 6 - Three "with" phrases - Matthew has 4. Heart and mind - Mind is added because it was bound up in Hebrew, and Greek wasn't the same.

Ps. 1 - "on His law he meditates day and night." 

Joshua 1 - Deut. 8  - More important than daily food.

1. Give a high priority of the reading of God's Word. Resolve to. . . . It's more important.

2. Give high priority to reading of Christian authors.

Section about music:

1. Remember that many Christians learn the structure of theology through music. 

We should be seeking excellence in music. And the best thing to be singing corporately.

Send writing for critique to 2 or 3 people who don't like you. 

2. Develop a list of songs that cover various periods of life and history.

3. Explicitly connect song, reading, preaching with singing.

4. Never think that because you're leading the singing that you are the worship leader.

5. Prepare your own heart with devotion.

I found Norah again, and since we both had some time off volunteer work, we went to a Breakout Session led by Matt Merker, on composing congregational hymns. It was quite good, though we had heard a lot of the info before. As it was only Part 1, I understand. Next we went to Piano Accompaniment 101, or something like that. It was fun, though I apparently missed the neatest part at the end, Norah said, when there was an accordion and harmonica duet (Jeff forget-his-last-name and Buddy Greene). I had to leave to go to help in the little bookstore.

There was a new man in a black shirt there (manager or assistant manager) named Will, who gave me a high five and was very chatty about family, hobbies, etc. He talked to a lot of the customers, too, asking about their last names and such. I wish I had some of that outgoing nature, but it doesn't come at all easily. Just smiling and speaking a few basic words is hard enough for me at this point. But I felt joy in breaking out even that much--out of my little-girl shyness that often goes with me, out of my place at the wall, eyes downcast, voice barely audible, scared to sound like an idiot, even if I am sometimes. That's not how I always feel--I've gotten better over the years, but there are still times like that.

"Good save!" Will said as I punched in a number to exit the wrong screen.

One good thing out of many bad things I'd done, yet it was commented on. How different would I have turned out if this had been the norm all my life instead of criticism and focus on my problems?  I think I would be more confident and willing to try new things--willing to fail in order to get things right. But I can't let myself dwell on that, be dragged down by it, when I know often such criticism is meant to be helpful . . . and I tend to over-criticize, as well. I have tried to be more positive and encouraging to others lately, but still have a long ways to go.

After a while, another manager/assistant manager said maybe I should go get supper, since it was pretty quiet at the moment and there might be a rush after supper when I'd be needed.

So I went, asking Norah when I saw her if she was getting a meal, too. She had heard the line was really long, so she didn't want to go. But I went, anyway.

This meal was different. We had meal tickets for the meal trucks outside.  I had chosen the Vietnamese meal truck, Bahn Mi. I found the right line by asking. A young woman with a baby in a stroller came behind me. She had wavy brown hair, big gold earrings, and a sweet air about her. I asked her name (Audrey), and we chatted for a while, having some things in common. She said she had been homeschooled for the first nine years, then went to public school. She was glad for the homeschooling, and thinks she would not have been as close to her siblings otherwise. That closeness was shown when she talked with her brother on the phone for the next twenty minutes or so. I felt a bit lonely at that point and worried about Norah. Then I looked at my schedule and realized I had something to be doing inside. But I was already over half-way through the line, and was hungry. The lady volunteer in front of me said most people were still outside, so it should be okay.

It was quite dark by the time we got our meal from the window of the truck. My meal was two shrimp spring rolls, rolled with edible rice paper, and with a peanut dipping sauce. I sat and chomped them down in a hurry, feeling guilty for still being outside. But the little meal tasted so good, so fresh and light and complimentary.

Inside, I tried to figure out the lanyard color code for the evening. Then I went to the front of the worship center. Probably three quarters of the people were in, already.

I saw Norah and asked if she had eaten. She had had a protein bar and was pretty exhausted. She had taken a bit of a nap earlier, though. After being such a trooper, she deserved it! She had driven for over an hour to get there, moved heavy boxes, run around the huge building, helped figure out the system and direct people, set out a lot of books, answered questions, and more. She asked how late I was supposed to stay for volunteer work, which was 10:00 pm.

In the meantime, we sat in the Worship Center--I spotted Norah later sitting in the back by the wall.

The meeting began with IJM talking about its outreach to kids in slavery around the world and the story of one little boy they had rescued.

We sang "Indescribable" with Liz Story playing the piano and leading.

Joni Erickson Tada

Then Joni Erickson Tada spoke. I didn't take notes, and there are no words that can really come close to seeing her in person. Her story--of depression, hardships, yet praising God for her trials and how it drew her to Him--so touching. Every so often she would ask if we could sing a hymn, one of which her friend had sung to her so many years ago, used by God to start to bring her out of her depression: Man of Sorrows. I sang it now with tears streaming. No accompaniment, just raw, pure voices with various vocal parts praising God all over the auditorium. What a glimpse of heaven it felt! Here my selfishness was seen in its ugliness; here God was seen in His infinite beauty and worth! How I wish that feeling would stay with me every day . . . !

We sang other hymns, as well, and it ended, by Joni's request, with "Blessings" by Laura Story.

They were soon to show the pre-release copy of Tortured for His Faith, but I had to go work in the break or later--so no movie. Would it even be bearable to see?

I headed to the bookstore, but things seemed to be wrapping up. I might have done a little more work, but can hardly remember. I asked if they would be all right without me tomorrow, since Norah wanted to go home--really needed to get some rest. They thought they could manage.

Norah was nowhere to be found. I waited and asked a few people.

The cashiers were covering the tables with black cloth, like death shrouds. They thanked me for my work and said it was good to meet me, which cheered me up a bit. Then they said good night and left.

I felt like my little-girl self again, ready to panic, feeling forgotten like that one time as a child . . . but Norah wouldn't forget me, I didn't think. No, she must be here somewhere, and it was usually best to wait in the place where someone knew you were, or else you'd end up both searching and not able to find each other. So I sat down by the wall, knees folded. Voices were muffled and far-off.

There went the young girl and her father, whom I waved to or said goodnight to. . . . But wait. The impulse struck me--they might have seen Norah. I jumped up and jogged after them, then asked. They hadn't seen her, but a short while later they came back to where I waited and said she was up by the Registration Desk. How nice to hear!

I headed that way and saw her stacking books on tables at the front.

"Another job, huh?" I asked, and lent a hand until it was done.

We picked up our bag of freebies and soon were in the car and headed out of the city.

I had to call home, as it was unexpected for me to be home that night. Matthew picked me at our prearranged place.

Volunteering for the conference, though not easy, was something I'll remember gratefully for a long time to come.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sing! Conference - Friendships, Flubs, and Freedom - Part 1

This post cannot convey all of the event, and some of the sequences may be out of place, but it will tell at least part of my experience....

I asked my friend, Norah, if she would like to go to the Getty's Sing! conference as a volunteer. A free event for a little work, right?  She said yes after some thought, and so I did a happy dance inside myself and waited for the event.

I was a little nervous, not knowing what part of the volunteering I would be a part of, but I was looking forward to the speakers and music. Then I found out author Douglas Bond would be there, and I wondered if I would get to meet him.

Norah was the chauffeur for the trip, and we arrived early for the training session on Lord's Day evening. We sat among the people, which was a buzzing hive, and we barely talked to one another. Two introverts among a cluster of mostly gregarious people. Eventually an Asian American woman sat next to us. Her name was Helen, and she smiled and shook our hands, asking questions. Our first friend was made.

Next we got in the line for our supper, which were beef and chicken tortillas with rice, beans, cilantro, lime, and onions--plus an odd-looking piece of corn on the cob coated in something fermented. It tasted good, however unusual and messy it was.

Then we listened to a young lady tell about the volunteer work and we were handed papers with our assignments listed. Not everything was clear, but things would probably be shown us. Near the end, they announced a special visitor to our little room, and it was none other than Keith Getty. He thanked us and told us the importance of music, gave a few funny stories about his kids and talking with John MacArthur.

I left the meeting a bit early to go to the bookstore downstairs. Most people helped set out books on the tables, but I was left without a leader, so I asked in the adjoining hallway what I should do, and the man there said I could help him set out T-shirts behind the counter. We grouped them by size, writing them on the boxes and all.

Once all that was done, I was free to go, and I went to find Norah. I think she had had another assignment that night like putting out giveaways for people on the seats (AKA chair drops).

It was pretty late when we left, and even later when we got to Norah's house.

We woke at 5:00 the next morning, Norah taking iced coffee along with us at 5:30.

Once we reached the big church building, I went to the bookstore, where they showed us various things about the cash register and how to put the codes in. It pretty much went flying over my head. I had to leave for another job, so I put my fears on hold, hoping cashiering would be easier than it looked.

The main bookstore--cash registers were outside the room.

I went to Hudson Hall, where an older man was sitting and waiting for our assignment. Finally I asked someone about it, and one of the team leaders, Matthew, came along. We went to get the items to be given out. I had been in the wrong room, since I was reading my chart incorrectly. They stacked and wheeled the piles of wrapped Bibles to the correct place, the Worship Center, and we began. Norah and a few others were there to help, but a few more would have been helpful. There was a teenage girl with pigtails and her father, there was an older man with a cane, and there was Matthew, Norah, and me. One or two others, as well. We began in the balcony, cutting boxes, ripping off the paper, stacking the Bibles, then distributing them to the seats. Up and down stairs, faster, faster. Would we finish in time? We felt bad for the man with the cane, who kept at it faithfully until he had to take a break. We had little time to talk, but we enjoyed hearing two excellent violinists practice Bach.

After all the pews were dotted with a Bibles and all the paper was tied up in plastic bags, Norah and I went up to the Volunteer Hospitality room to get a snack. Having had no breakfast and working hard made us hungry. I loaded up on fruit.

Then I headed to my other assignment at the cash registers in the hallway.

A tall, burly, and bald manager helped me get set up with my own number password, then helped me figure out what to do. Dozens of times I forgot the sequence, I forgot to hit enter, and I felt flustered. The manager (not sure of his name) said I was hurrying too much. Most of the people were patient, and one nice older lady said, "We're always new at something." Another said they knew how it was, having worked as a cashier. "Good luck," another said, smiling.

I worked until a bit after noon, and felt I was finally getting the hang of things. It was the debit cards that mainly got me off, since they weren't taking debit and the customer had to push Cancel instead of putting in a pin number, and then select Credit. If they started putting in their pin number, I had to tell them to cancel, then I had to select F4 again and they had to re-swipe their card. So it was probably frustrating to everyone in those cases. I did enjoy using the scanning gun, though it occasionally needed a whack on the palm to get it to turn on.

Norah came by and asked if I was going to get lunch. The managers said I could go.

Our lunch that day...I'm not sure what it was--I think perhaps a turkey sandwhich for me.

I wandered, not sure what to do next, then found myself sitting in another room watching the screen showing the meeting going on in the Worship Center. Keith Getty gave a similar speech to the one we'd heard the previous evening, but longer. Kristyn Getty/others sang a piece or two for us to sing with, and then we heard the gorgeous Bach piece with two violinists and accompanying strings. I wept at the sheer beauty and expression of it. No set of drums and guitars could come close to it, in my mind! Then Alistair Begg was introduced. The same Scottish brogue I'd heard on the radio emanated from the screen above me. He told a joke about Scotch vs. Irish authors, etc., but the message was about singing, focused on Psalm 100. Why this oft-used psalm? It was the last thing his mother ever wrote to him. My memory is hazy about most of the message, and I did not have anything to take notes on. But I remember he said that "making a joyful noise" was not any old noise. He recommended taking classes on singing if you think your singing may be disturbing those around you (spoken in a humorous way). I believe he also mentioned other psalms of David, songs of lament, saying we should sing such things today, but noticing that David resolved to praise the Lord at the end of the psalm--not because he felt like it, but because it was right.

At 3:00 there were more hand-outs to do. At first it was not clear what I was to do, so I looked around a bit. There I saw Mr. Douglas Bond standing inside the door, looking down at his phone. I took the opportunity to walk over and say hello, though perhaps it was rude of me to interrupt. I was too excited.

"Hello, Mr. Bond," I said. "I'm Melissa." The only one on the planet? I thought he'd recognize me, I guess, since we had conversed on Skype before--plus I was wearing a name tag, although it might have been turned the other way around.

He looked up. "I'm surprised you found me among all the people."

"I saw you at registration last night, too, but couldn't stop because I was busy."

He nodded and asked something like, "Have you enjoyed it so far?"

"Yes. Alistair Begg was really good."

He agreed and said his mother loves to listen to Mr. Begg.

"And the Bach was beautiful," I added.

"Will you get to sit in on any of the breakout sessions?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Still figuring it all out, huh?"

I think I smiled and nodded. If he only knew! I asked if any of his family was there.

"No, they couldn't make it this time. . . . Are you here with any of your family?"

"No, just my friend Norah."

He also asked how far I lived from there, and I told him, saying it was rough going back and forth every day.

Then I asked if he minded if I had a photo taken with him. I dug through my encumbered purse, pulling out a bag of potato chips and a zipper pouch. First I got out the phone, but remembered the battery was dead. I finally found my little camera, and asked a passerby if she minded taking a photo of us. She took a couple of blurry ones, and then I tried to turn the flash on. But in my haste I must have turned it off, and it must have been on auto to begin with. So the next one was blurry, too.

Mr. Bond said something to the lady like, "You probably have to be somewhere."

"No, it's okay," she assured.

Mr. Bond said to me, "Why don't we move over to this black background?"

"Yeah, that's better," I said.

Finally I got the camera setting right, embarrassed by this time. The kind lady took one more shot, which I looked at and said was better. Though it's not great (my smile slipped), I didn't want to take any more of their time than I already had. I hope I wasn't too much of a bother! Here's the photo.

He had to leave, but said maybe we'd meet again. I had thought of asking him about my last short story entry and what could have been better about it, but didn't have the time now, and I never saw him again.

Back to my job--I stood by the doors of Hudson Hall, smiled and said "You're welcome" a hundred times or so as the people took a magazine about congregational singing. I wasn't sure this was even what it was all about until later, and was unable to answer people's questions about it. There were two or so other ladies with me.

I got to sit in on that talk, which was by Matt Merker (whom I later found out is a lyricist and composer). He spoke of teaching new hymns to congregations, yet not so many that they can't handle it. I heartily approved of his suggestion that congregational accompaniment might want to tone down so that the congregation can hear themselves sing. I'm sure there was much more of value in his talk, but again my brain is fuzzy.

After it was over, I went out and asked if I could take one of the left-over magazines. They said, "Sure, take two--take five!"

So I did...but later lost them somewhere, sadly.

I'm trying to remember what I did next. Perhaps I went to help Norah, or perhaps went to eat supper. We had a delicious Greek salad, chicken, rice, etc. in the Hospitality room.

Though we had free tickets to go to the Grand Ol' Opry hymn sing, we decided not to go, since it was late enough, and we wanted to get a better night's sleep. It would have been neat, I suppose, to go, and I had been looking forward to it...but some things are just more important.

So we went back to Norah's house, chatting on the way about various things in our lives.

Mr. and Mrs. R. were sitting in their armchairs, and they asked about our time. Their son Caleb came and listened a bit, too. They looked at Norah's purchases of some lovely calligraphy prints of Bible verses and her new student hymnal.

I couldn't remember much about Alistair Begg's message, but I told about the Bach violin piece.

Another gorgeous sunrise

Next day I had two places to be in at once on my schedule, but as it was flexible according to the highest need, I went with Norah to help put out more books on seats. This time they were little green books by Alistair Begg about Christmas songs--ones from the Bible, like Zechariah's song. We worked with an older woman volunteer (forgetting her name) who very sweetly offered for us to stay at her place that night, since it was much closer. We planned to take her up on the offer.

We worked with other people in the main sanctuary (Worship Center), and got it done in a bit better time than before since there were more helpers.

I checked to see if I was needed at the small hallway bookstore, but most people were in the Worship Center meeting listening to David Platt, and they said I could go and enjoy. I didn't know if I could find a seat there, so I sat in a comfy chair and listened to the cashiers and one of the head honchos. They were talking about how many people were watching online, so it was interesting.

I did go and listen to the last five minutes of David Platt, but it didn't make much sense without the context of his story.

I listened to the next speaker, Paul Tripp, and enjoyed it. He joked about his mustache, but his message was very serious on the whole, and a great encouragement to sing to one another. His text was Colossians 2:12-16: 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (v. 16)

I did get notes for this:

The passage builds to a surprising crescendo. 'Put on...kindness, etc.' The character of Christ. At all times and places we are to represent Christ. Our relationships belong to Christ, that His purpose and presence would be known.

People are often at church for a show, not as a commitment.

We hear other people's problems for a purpose.

Represent to your children His grace and character. Not selfishness and anger.

Some people think only some go into ministry, or certain times. "Your. life. is. ministry."

The only place to find a true sense of identity/well-being is through Christ.

You never get your capacity to love from the people you are called to love.

People need more than your opinion. They need the Word. It's the truth that sets you free.

Does the peace of Christ rule your heart?

Are you better at declaring your own opinion than the gospel?

You don't need people around you to love you to cope.

Every believer has been redeemed to a teaching/counseling position. . . .You couldn't have a functioning army if only 5% worked as an army.

Look at things from the vantage point of the gospel.

If all your children needed is a set of rules, then Christ would not have needed to come.

Look at the world and yourself through the lens of the gospel.

We need a constant admonishment all our lives.

Stop asking your job or other people to give your worth and identity!

The method to do the admonishing here is through song! Thankful song. The soundtrack of your heart comes out.

Surrender the song of your heart to the greater song of the Redeemer.

Sad songs about sin, so kids know that true danger is in the heart.

Sing of God's grace and God's love to your spouse.

Sing of resurrection to those who lost a loved one.

Sing of God's provision to those in need.

Sing of hope to one who is ready to give up.

Sing! Sing! Sing

Many thought-provoking questions there, and things I needed to hear. Christ is sufficient! He ended the message in a touching way, telling about his mother's death-bed. She couldn't speak, and she had Alzheimer's, but she squeezed his hand when he sang Great is Thy Faithfulness. And then, at the last, her mouth was moving, mouthing the words but with no sound. Her singing was heard in heaven by God!

Norah thought I should stand by the doors at Baskin Chapel to answer any questions people might have and shut the doors after them. But later she came back and told me it was a greater need at the Worship Center upstairs. I was supposed to direct people to a different room if they were not wearing blue or gray lanyards--there were different rotations for each color.

I sat down on the floor by the doors, waiting for the correct time to open the doors. A talkative, curly-haired woman reading a red book stood there, helping me know the time and telling people we weren't open yet. I was so tired I wished I could take a nap and let the lady (Lisa) take over. She asked me questions and told about her music ministry. She was one of those sweet, never-met-a-stranger type of people, but she knew when to stop talking, as well.

I opened the door and let people in at half past, but they filed back out, saying they were told to wait outside for another 15 minutes. Oops! Finally, after most everyone had gone in, I went in to find a seat way up in the balcony. There were several places left.

Dr. D. A. Carson was the speaker here, which we heard after some singing.

I will continue on this later, so you don't feel too overwhelmed by my mini book. :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

London in the Dark - Book Review

I wasn't expecting too much from this new and young author--and, while there is room for improvement, I greatly enjoyed the story!

Cyril Hartwell, P.I., has new and unwanted responsibilities in the form of his younger sister, Olivia. She is puzzled and hurt by the change in his character. When they were children they played and laughed together, but now he is an iceberg, shutting her out.

The characters seem alive and varied: sensitive, aggravating, funny, sweet . . . and with often complex emotions and motives. There were times I questioned the reality of their behavior, but overall I was impressed. Cyril, in particular, stood out with a cold shell hiding a tender heart. When some of his demeanor began to thaw, I was moved to tears.

Toward the end of the book things picked up speed and suspense--I was practically biting my nails as our heroine, Olivia, was drawn deeper and deeper into trouble.

There is a gospel message included, and the Christian characters pray but are not perfect. Dr Dudley (a sort of Dr. Watson sidekick) comes the closest to that; he is almost too good to be true, sensitive to his friends' every need.

All in all a rollicking-good tale, and I am looking forward to the author's next book!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Short Story from Photo Prompt

Credit: This photo was from a writer friend's (Victoria Lynn's) pinterest board. If anyone knows the original photographer, please let me know--I will remove it if so desired.

Psalm 22 was written about by a friend, and it fit just right into this story. To God be all glory. Hope this is a blessing to you, readers!

P.S. I'm sorry about the font changing back and forth from type to type. It won't let me change it all, for some reason.


Mornings had always been special to Delia.  She used to tiptoe down the stairs and out onto their dock, feet bare, nightgown trailing on the wood.  There were the mists that rose off the lake like friendly apparitions--not that she believed in ghosts.  The crickets chorused and the bluebirds sang, and the sun rose--bit by glorious bit--beyond the pine trees. She used to sway and smile with a song in her heart, if not warbling on her lips.

But today . . . today she only felt numb. Today she stood frozen, with hands weighed down in her pockets like rocks. Today she looked away from the sun, into the murky depths.

A ripple coursed below her--then two.  It wasn't raining--only her eyes were.  Let tears fall as they may, she remembered her mother's sweet voice saying. Only the voice sounded like a distant echo.  And the words she used to end with seemed hollower still: They can be cleansing, and God sees them all and puts them in His bottle.

Those words used to sound lovely. But where was God now? Watching and collecting specimen tears, like an indifferent bystander? Why didn't the warmth of the words come down into her heart?

The sun was higher now, warming her back. If only it could do the same for her heart. If only . . . 

If only Mom and Dad hadn't gone to the prayer meeting that night.  Or if only she had gone with them.

Delia squeezed her eyes shut till they hurt.


"Come with us to church."  The words were said so piteously, Delia almost felt sorry for her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Rowley.

Delia shook her head.  "I can't. Not this week."

Mrs. Rowley squeezed Delia's shoulder. "Perhaps next week. I'm praying for you," she added in a whisper.

Delia felt a buzz in her throat and eyes and blinked.  She nodded, waving to Mrs. Rowley and willing her into the blue sedan.

Mr. Rowley tottered along behind her, waving to Delia as he got into the car.

Delia lifted a few fingers in a wave and looked down, back to the newspaper on her lap.

Her parents names were in the obituaries. That had been paid for by her married brother, and he had swung by to give her the paper.  As if a newspaper obituary would sooth her. She hadn't even gotten past the front page, with its jarring headlines about politics and a bombing.

This world was beginning to feel to her like an old, giant pressure cooker with the settings messed up, popping and ready to explode, flinging everything across the room.

That's basically what it was, wasn't it? God was going to destroy it and roll it up and start again. And she would see her parents again. Wouldn't she?

That old question of her salvation, again. But it seemed more pertinent now than ever. Things weren't adding up to her. She wasn't reacting the way she should. She was doubting the goodness of God, the reason for living, for going to church, for trusting a God who one minute seemed kind and loving, and the next . . . an abusive Father.

She blinked back tears. That wasn't right, it couldn't be. That's how it felt, but she knew there was more to it.  There in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had sweat drops of blood, had cried in anguish. He had gone to the cross even still, knowing what He would suffer, knowing He would be a sacrificial Lamb that took the place of the people like her who deserved that death. 

Why, now, did her parents have to go through suffering after that car accident, lingering in bed for days with their injuries, then dying?

that fair, God?

Shame burned her stomach. She shouldn't ask that question. Her mind grappled for words--Scripture words, God's holy Word.  There were many, but they were jumbled up in her mind.

She tossed the newspaper down and went inside to retrieve her Bible.

This Book, taught and believed by her parents, had sat under her bedside table for the last few weeks--or was it months? Not that she had stopped thinking about God or His Word, but there was no closeness anymore. She winced as she traced her finger through a layer of dust on the Bible cover.

Now where to start?  She opened it toward the middle, to her favorite book of Psalms.

After a bit of aimless flipping, her eyes fell on Psalm 22. 

'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'

Her heart clenched. God the Son had truly been forsaken at that moment on the cross by God the Father! She read on.

'Why are You so far from helping Me,

And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.'

Tears blurred her vision. This was her feeling, but One had gone beyond her own hurt before . . . and He did it for her?  So that she could be called a daughter?

Oh, God, forgive me! I am hurt, but am not forsaken. I have all but forsaken You in my thoughts and actions!

A few pages later, these words shot out at her:

'Do not hide Your face from me;

Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.'

David had felt the emptiness, too, and yet penned these words, and:

'Wait on the Lord;

Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!'

A verse memorized long ago came to mind: 'And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.'

She would wait. She would seek. And the Lord, in His uniquely loving way, would take care of her.

Pray About Everything by Paul Tautges

Pray about Everything: Cultivating God-DependencyPray about Everything: Cultivating God-Dependency by Paul Tautges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This short and convicting book points us to thankfulness and reasons for prayer--as well as reasons for suffering. There are reasons listed for hindered prayer. Details are given on some Scriptural word meanings, and sometimes a quote from classic theologians. But perhaps the most lastingly helpful are the appendices, where outlines for prayer meetings and Bible studies are given, including songs and Scriptures. If these are applied, they could effect the way a church runs, how fellowship grows, and how hearts are changed.

Here are a few quotes from the book that I like:

'Just as the expansion and contraction of our lungs in necessary for the continuance of our physical life, so regular fellowship with God in prayer is essential to our spiritual well-being. Without prayer our spiritual lives will shrivel up and return to an infantile state.'

'As long as the eyes of our faith are fixed upon our troubles we will not find joy. Until our minds consciously move the Lord from our peripheral vision into the narrow corridor of our focus, joy will elude us.'

'When we find ourselves praying for something that we want, perhaps more than anything we've ever wanted before, can we honestly pray, 'Lord, do what will bring you the most glory"?'

'If we regularly ponder the depth of our own sinfulness, like the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and consider the greater depth of God's forgiveness, we will grow in our love for him. It is when we forget God's benefits that our hearts become proud. If we are not careful, we who have been forgiven much can act like those who think they have been forgiven little and, consequently, become slow to forgive others who sin against us.'

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Secret Slipper Blog Tour & Giveaway!

I have the privilege of being a part of Amanda Tero's book tour.  Her stories are quite unique and lovely!

About the Book

Being a cripple is only the beginning of Lia’s troubles. It seems as if Bioti’s goal in life is to make Lia as miserable as possible. If Lia’s purpose is to be a slave, then why did God make her a cripple? How can He make something beautiful out of her deformity?

Raoul never questioned the death of his daughter until someone reports her whereabouts. If Ellia is still alive, how has she survived these ten years with her deformity? When Raoul doesn’t know who to trust, can he trust God to keep Ellia safe when evidence reveals Bioti’s dangerous character?

As time brings more hindrances, will Raoul find Ellia, or will she forever be lost to the father she doesn't even know is searching for her?

Buy on Amazon

About the Author

Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again – starting with some short stories that she wrote for her sisters as a gift. Her mom encouraged her to try selling the stories she published, and since then, she has begun actively writing short stories, novellas, and novels. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it!

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Connect with Amanda
Email: amandaterobooks@gmail.com

My Review

The Cinderella story as you've never before seen it!

Lord Kiralyn believes his daughter has died in a plague...but years later hears that she is likely still living. The search begins, and the impatient father forgets for a while that he should be seeking God's guidance. His faithful servant and friend, Jolin, lends gentle wisdom.

Will Ellia, on her own journey of hardship and bitterness, find rest for her soul?

This is a well-done story, with emotional twists, suspense, godly lessons, great characters, a refreshing lack of romance, and a satisfying ending. 4.5 stars.

Interview with Amanda

When did you begin to write stories and why?
I was definitely under ten when I began writing, just little scribblings that my sisters and I would put together for fun (or exchange in a secret sister mailbox). It is really hard to explain the “why.” It is just something that I’ve always enjoyed.

What was the inspiration for your current series?
Ah, “The Secret Slipper.” As funny as it may sound, it was just a question. I had finished “Befriending the Beast” (a spin-off of Beauty and the Beast) as a stand-alone when an author friend asked, “Hey, have you ever considered a father/daughter Cinderella story?” And that is exactly where the inspiration started. I prayed about it, and the Lord supplied the full story for book two of this series I hadn’t planned on.

Tell me a bit about your family. How do you schedule your time in order to finish your stories?
I am happily child #5 of an even dozen (ten of which are still home). We go around singing as opportunities arise (our sorely out-of-date blog: http://www.terofamilyministies.com), so that makes life quite busy. I’m also a music teacher (I currently have 30 piano/violin students), so writing is definitely more of a hobby. Some weeks I am able to write for several hours, other weeks, I can’t write at all. So scheduling time for writing is a hit-and-miss. As much as I’d love to be a full-time writer, it’s just not that stage of life for me right now. So I write when I can and by God’s grace, I’ve published three novellas in the past year.

Are your stories more plot driven or more people driven, or are they equally both?
Hmm…my stories are changing as I’m learning more about the writing craft. Initially, I would say that my stories are people-driven, though “The Secret Slipper” has a little more plot drive in it.

If you use outlines, how so?
I use a very loose outline—basically, I get a general idea of the storyline and go from there, changing it as I go. I’m more of a pantster than a planner.

How many books do you plan to write in the Tales of Faith Series?
Ah, THE question. Honestly, I have no clue. As I earlier mentioned, a few months ago, I hadn’t planned on anything more than a cute little stand-alone story, but God led me to continue with a book two. I have a book three mulling around in my mind, but I have absolutely no clue how many will follow. We’ll just see where the Lord leads!

Video chat with Amanda Tero, answering some of the same questions--and more!

Giveaway (Ends Soon)!

Click here to enter a giveaway for 1 paperback set of Befriending the Beast and The Secret Slipper.

Click here to enter an international giveaway of her two ebooks, Befriending the Beast and The Secret Slipper.

Also Touring with The Secret Slipper
May 25, 2017
Amanda @ With a Joyful Noise | Release Day, Giveaway
Leila @ Leila Tualla's Bookshelf | Spotlight
Faith @ Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections | Review, Giveaway
Leona @ Great Books for God's Girls | Review, Interview

May 26
Emily @ Zerina Blossom’s Books | Interview
Kendra @ Knitted By God's Plan (Spotlight) and O'Scarlett Reviews (Review) | Spotlight, Review
Alicia @ A Brighter Destiny | Review, Giveaway

May 27
Anika @ This Journey Called Life | Spotlight, Review, Giveaway
Katie @ His Princess Warrior | Review, Giveaway
Sarah @ The Destiny of One | Spotlight
Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen | Spotlight, Interview, Giveaway

May 29
Kate @ Once Upon an Ordinary | Review, Interview
Sarah @ Penumbra Reviews | Review
Dary @ Peculiar Miss Darcy | Character Interview
Julia @ My Joyful Journey with Jesus | Interview

May 30
Kenzi @ Honey Rock Hills | Review, Giveaway
Anita @ Christian Author: A.M. Heath  | Review
Judith @ JudithWNicholson  | Interview

May 31
Jesseca @ Whimsical Writings for His glory  | Spotlight, Review
Raechel @ God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae  | Spotlight, Review
Esther @ Purposeful Learning | Review, Interview, Giveaway

June 1
Kellyn @ Reveries Reviews  | Review
Victoria @ Victoria Minks Blog  | Spotlight, Review
Kelsey @ Kelsey’s Notebook | Spotlight

June 2
Hanne @ RockandMinerals4Him | Spotlight, Review, Giveaway
Erica @ Roxbury Books Blog | Spotlight
Janell @ Views from the Window Friend  | Review
Crystal @ Crystal’s Adventures for Christ  | Spotlight, Review, Interview

June 3
Alexa @ Verbosity Reviews  | Spotlight
Faith @ Chosen Vessels  | Review