Monday, August 26, 2019

Sing! Conference, 2019 - Part 2


I decided a Part Two was in order so that I can give a few more specific takeaways from the conference.

On the first full day, Monday, I was busy directing people to the correct seats in the main session--my fellow volunteers helped out here, since the room was huge.  Then I joined them in sitting, and I was a bit sleepy and didn't have a paper to write notes on, so I forget much of what I heard at that time.

There was John Lennox, Kristyn Getty's uncle and a mathematician who had heard C. S. Lewis in person, there was J. A. C. Redman, composer for some Disney films, Avatar, etc. He said to him it's like any other job one might have in a secular workplace. He arranged and here conducted a song that Keith & Kristyn Getty had written, almost medieval-sounding yet with modern chords, I think surrounding the apostle's creed and/or Christ's incarnation. D. A. Carson spoke next, also on Christ's incarnation.  To wake myself up, I didn't stay for all of his talk, though I hoped to hear it later in a download.

I meandered through the exhibitors hall, buying some sale-priced books, such as John Lennox's book Have No Fear: Being Salt and Light Even When It's Costly, as well as some Christian postcards.

I ate lunch with strangers--but older sisters in Christ--outside.

The next day I heard Mark Dever teach on marks of a Christian church--and I actually took notes this time. ;)

1. Gospel preaching should be at the center of our corporate worship.

2. Gospel theology shapes our corporate worship.

3. Hearing from God/His Word is all a gift we don't deserve. Ez. 37 Deut. 33 - "Teach Israel Your law..."

4. Usually it is good for preachers to preach exegetically. Early teachers like Chrysostom preached through Bible passages.

5. Silence and reflection. Reading a Bible passage together (Mark Dever has his congregation read Psalm 95 together).

6. Prayers telling of God's greatness. Prayer of praise, confession, and intercession.

Allow time for reflection after the sermon.

Don't be afraid to read God's Word, even long passages!

7. Congregational singing--not overcome with accompaniment.

...So that was all very good. We had an interlude of hearing more music, including a guitarist who played a beautiful arrangement of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded," which we proceeded to sing.

Next John MacArthur taught on Christ's death. I missed the ending, but here are the sporadic notes I got:

How was Jesus' death different than others? God shows us without words in the darkness that came over the earth.  Mercy and love were in His words before that.

Jesus is the Light. Darkness for 3 hours. Supernatural. Passover Day.

Is. 13:9-11 - Fury & anger...punish the world....

Joel...Day of gloom and darkness. Great and awesome day of punishment.

Amos 5 - Darkness, not light; for your transgressions are many...

John 10:18 - A voluntary and sovereign sacrifice. He "gave up His breath."

Divine satisfaction is given without a word when the curtain is torn in two!

Haggai - He will shake the earth...

And there I left the room, thinking I had to be at a volunteer meeting to prepare for the Breakout sessions. They had changed the time on that, so I ate some snacks in the meantime, resting on a bench in the beautiful Opryland gardens, then getting some salad at the Quick Service Cafe'.

My "room host" assignment was thankfully not speaking in front of the group, as I had feared, but talking to individual people at the doors and making sure they were in the right spot. It was challenging enough for me, not known for my assertiveness.

I got to sit in on the session after it began, but was still to watch the side door and direct people to the back door.

Sandra McCracken sang and spoke, answering questions from the audience. Her music was soothing.

I stayed at the same place for the next two Breakout sessions.

The couple who spoke, the Michaels, talked about children's songs and literature, how it is often man-focused, not God-focused. They spoke with emotion and conviction, many good points.

I only stayed for the beginning of the next session, enough to get most people seated, then had to go to a volunteer meeting to prepare for our next assignment, which was directing people to the buses to go to Bridgestone Arena.

I enjoyed the concert/talks there very much, in general. It was quite awesome singing "Is He Worthy?" with Andrew Peterson and the thousands of people there, "Holy, Holy, Holy," and other songs. Joni Eareckson Tada talked about her thankfulness and wanting to kneel first thing when she gets to heaven. How often do I kneel in reverence? Not enough, though prayer, as she said, can still be done sitting, etc.

John Piper spoke about Paul in prison, after being beaten and put in chains, singing to God. And then witnessing to the jailer. What an example for us!

Next morning I got to listen in to part of a vocal trainer's talk, and she gave some good tips and demonstrations, even taking volunteers (or asking people to the front) from the audience.

In the last main session, we heard from Os Guiness about his family's mission to China--nothing deep stands out to me--more music, including the convicting, lovely "Give Me Jesus" sung by Fernando Ortega. Also heard a prerecorded interview with Anne Graham Lotz about singing and witnessing. We heard some beautiful, Classical violin, and a Skype video recorded earlier of a woman from China talking with Kristyn Getty--hard to hear, but a good reminder to pray for China.

All in all it was a great conference for the refreshing of the soul and pointing us to do something worthwhile to the glory of Christ, for He died for us and is forever worthy!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sing! Conference, 2019 - Part 1


Having grown up in a conservative homeschooling family--piano, violin, and maybe organ only for church services, please!--with limited styles of music, lest the beat and emotions overcome us and influence us badly, the Sing! conference with Keith and Kristyn Getty seemed a bit "wild" at first.

In particular, I had some concerns this year when we were at the Bridgestone Arena concert and the musicians took turns showcasing their instruments, sometimes dancing and playing flashy things. The crowd cheered wildly. "Are we worshiping Christ or the musicians?" I later asked my friend Michelle. And I believe this is a legitimate concern...but we must first wonder about our own hearts, not those on stage or others. They stand before God as their judge. Perhaps they are sincerely exhibiting joy in the Lord and having fun. Perhaps they are not proud at all, but inwardly groaning at their lack of proficiency, or hoping to help others...we don't know!

Michelle's answer gave me pause to think before I came to the above conclusion. She had likely grown up with more drums than I have, said she loved them, and had true joy, all while agreeing that the words shouldn't be obscured.

Michelle and me at Bridgestone (sorry for my cheesy grin)

Here's some of what I came away with from the Sing! conference....

I made new friends with roommates, who were found through a friend. Their joy, generosity, and instant acceptance of me made me feel welcome and desirous to be more like them. They felt like family, as they are in Christ!

Bridgette (one of my roommates) and me--sadly I didn't get a pic with my other roommate, Christianna, but here's her blog!

 Helen (another volunteer) and me

The music swelled along with the lyrics at mostly the proper times, giving testimony to God's grace, and in turn humbling me and pointing me to joy in the Lord's goodness.

The speakers, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, drew me away from a self-focus to a God-focus, to Jesus' complete work on the cross and the thankfulness that should always be with us.

He is worthy of some hand-clapping and holy dancing, isn't He? That vulnerability--of being willing to cry and loudly praise Him along with a supportive host of brothers and sisters--as well as my work as a volunteer, directing people to various rooms and making sure they were in the right place, searching places out for myself--helped me feel bolder. That coupled with the third day's teaching on witnessing. Women aren't to preach, but are we not to tell of God's goodness without fear? And I am far too timid most of the time.

I was also inspired to pray more, and live my life for Christ more heartily!

Then there were great books to buy in the exhibitors hall. Yes, we can buy online, but sometimes we don't take the time or know quite which books to search out.

And yes, we can listen to messages online for free, but sometimes being connected with people and having the freedom and focus of a conference is more helpful--at least to this distracted woman.

You have to decide whether it's worth it for you to go, weigh the pros and cons, but for me--especially as a volunteer--it was a blessing that I'll carry with me for some time to come.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Engraved on the Heart - Book Review


3/5 stars.

This gripping novel transports you into the life of a shy Southern young lady who is thought too weak to do much. Her epilespy causes shame even to her own family. But there is a young doctor who has been a friend since childhood, standing up for her against bullies. Soon, with his influence, our heroine, Keziah, is drawn into the heart-wrenching life of severely abused slaves.

Keziah determines to do something about it, despite her upbringing, her family's wishes, her social circle, and her fainting spells. She trusts that the Lord will keep her. I admired her bravery, but wondered if she was right to keep it a secret from her parents. In essense, she feels the need to live a double life to save the lives of others. In such a case, it may be necessary.

More trouble heads her way, as her parents desire her to wed someone she dislikes. She goes along with it for their sake, but secretly harbors feelings for someone else. This is where I have the most qualms. There are too many romantic feelings spelled out, especially in one passage. And are we not to honor our parents and be honest with them?

I like the Underground Railroad aspect, even if the Civil War wasn't so much about slavery as people may think. I do believe God used the Underground Railroad to save lives.

Overall it is an interesting, twisting tale that you will likely enjoy if you are into this period of history.

Thank you, Tyndale House Blog Network, for the chance to read this book! 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Quest for Leviathan Blog Tour - Review


Are sea monsters a real thing? What about fire-breathing dragons? According to the Bible, there is a fire-breathing sea creature who really existed: the leviathan. Amanda Tero brings this dragon to life in her newest short story, "Quest for Leviathan." Join Anath and his crew of ninety-nine rowers as they face the waves of the Mediterranean Sea and the power of Leviathan.

About the Story
Leviathan took the life of his father.

Anath has spent three years preparing for the voyage that will end the threat of Leviathan. Yet as the Valor launches into the depths of the Mediterranean, an inward quest also begins, taking Anath to depths he is not willing to face.



My Review
This is a well-written, gripping short story. I prefer longer stories in which you feel entirely submersed, but this does a good job of pulling you in, and it only gets better as it goes on. 

The characters speak with an old-fashioned feel, yet not so much that they are hard to understand. Miss Tero brings the Bible's description of Leviathan into her's, but winds a believable tale around it. You may be left wanting more, but there is also a satisfying conclusion.

I love the names, I love the details, and I love that God is pointed to so clearly.

Thank you for this story, Miss Tero! I was given a free copy in exchange for my honest review.


Purchase an e-copy on Amazon or order a paperback.
Add to your Goodreads shelf.



Giveaway!
Amanda is giving away TWO print copies of "Quest for Leviathan" to one winner -- one for you, and one for your friend!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


About the Author
Amanda Tero began her love for words at a young age—reading anything she could get her hands on and penning short stories as young as age eight. Since graduation, she has honed her writing skills by dedicated practice and study of the writing craft. She began her journey of publication with a few short stories that she had written for her sisters and continued to add to her collection with other short stories, novellas, and novels. It is her utmost desire to write that which not only pleases her Lord and Savior, but also draws the reader into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Connect with Amanda
Email: amandaterobooks@gmail.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandateroauthor/



Saturday, February 17, 2018

With Love, Wherever You Are - Book Review





What would you do if you just met a man and he persisted in asking you to marry him? What would you do if your parents thought you were crazy to think of accepting--and you had to agree with them? What would you do if you had to separate shortly after marrying, with a war tearing you apart?

Written with all the verve of most novels, this story is more poignant because it is based on true people (the author's parents) and includes actual letters from the author's parents. Their service was amazing among the horrors, fear, and the longing for their spouses or sweethearts. Though the book is long--460 pages--they go by quickly as the dialogue and characters pop with the tenor of the 1940s.

I find it interesting to see so many words blocked out by sensors in the letters. And the code used by the main characters is too fun!

The main characters fall in love almost from the beginning, at least on the man's side. This may seem unrealistic, but it apparently happened. I knocked off a star for a bit of shallowness in the romance, but overall it's a fascinating look at wartime romance, nursing, and more! You may also feel a touch of conviction over the kind treatment of "enemies"--both of the German variety and of the coworker variety. The characters are Christian and pray occasionally, but it is not a preachy book.

The end of the book tells the story behind the story, and how the author came up with it all.

I received this book from Tyndale.

Friday, February 16, 2018

They Say We Are Infidels - Book Review



It took me a while to get through this book, partly because I lost it, and partly because it is not as riveting as I was hoping for. With a subtitle like "On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East," how can one not find it interesting?  I did find parts of it interesting, but the author herself was not really on the run. The stories of many of the people were so quick and news-like that I could not enter into their lives. Statistics and numbers are good sometimes, but I prefer a deeper look into people's lives, like a biography or autobiography, and with more quotations. We get that with a few of the people, and I did feel the horror and sadness oft-times for their troubles . . . but it was simply not enough to keep me reading non-stop. Maybe it's just me and my over-stimulated mind.

However, I do believe it is a worth-while book to read--sad, informative, inspiring. We should be praying for our brothers and sisters in other countries, who are often being persecuted, run out of their homes, and more, simply for being Christians, or non-Muslim. Even some Muslims are persecuted for not adhering to ISIS principles.

There is a mixture of Catholic, Othodox, Baptist, etc., and while they can be mentioned and provide useful examples, I would not be so careless as to put them all under a Christian banner, as the author does on occasion. They may in some way all believe in Christ, but Catholics usually mix faith and works for a different gospel.

I did not know of what to make of the politics, but I believe the author mostly lays the facts out without giving too many of her own opinions, and that can be a good thing.

I was given this book in exchange for a fair review. Thank you, Tyndale House!

Friday, February 9, 2018

White Wolf and the Ash Princess - Book Review



{My apologies for posting a day late!}

Where to start?

Izzy, the main character, leaps off the page with her quirks, insecurities, and inner voice. I can relate to her insecurities, her feeling weak and helpless. She grows considerably over the course of the book, however--maybe a bit unbelievable at times, but inspiring.

Miss Margaret is straight-laced but kind, and hides a different side. She is a mother-figure to Izzy, who does not remember her birth mother.

Jonathan is a sweetheart; though a bit over-protective and secretive, he loves and gives time after time. He has a temper, as does Izzy, and that's where it threw me a bit. *slight spoiler ahead*  I don't quite understand Izzy's sudden anger and distrust of him--it seems incongruous with the deep friendship they have, even though she learns seemingly negative things about him.

Tubs is also a fun and sweet character: chatty, sunny, and adventurous. . . . He pulls her into the mystery surrounding Jonathan, but he has no evil motives. 

I love the old castle and all that it contains! I wish this section went on longer. The inventions of Jonathan are fascinating.

The story shifts gears midway and American Indians are introduced, as well as people from Jonathan's past. Izzy journeys because it is required of her and to find belonging. There are wild animals, cold waters, snow, legends . . . and the power of forgiveness and God's Word bundled into the story.  

The writing itself is first-person present tense and a sometimes wordy and confusing, but also often lyrical and delightful, such as comparing a man's sideburns to two bushy squirrel tails.  The first setting in England seems slightly out of its time period, and occasionally the present tense awkwardly shifts to past tense, but for a first novel, it's well-done, and truly a moving story of complexity and character.



Link to Author Central:
Link to White Wolf on Amazon:


Author Bio

Tammy lives in Lower Michigan with her husband and her three children. Izzy's
home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Munising) is where she and her family
enjoy exploring. Tammy enjoys hiking, kayaking, beach wandering, "hunting"
for birch bark and hopes to someday find a porcupine quill. White Wolf and
the Ash Princess is her first novel. She is published in Keys for Kids and has
been in children's ministry for over twenty years.


Book Description for White Wolf and the Ash Princess

Eighteen year old Izzy's limited world begins to feel cramped after she completes
her self-appointed book dare. After reading two-hundred and fifty books, a
thought that had been once tucked away as tightly as the books on her library
shelves becomes too irresistible to ignore..."Who am I?"
Memory loss prohibits Izzy from remembering her life before age seven when
she was injured in a fire. Jonathan Gudwyne and his head housekeeper rescued
her and took Izzy in as their own, but who did she belong to before they took
her in?

Crippling panic keeps Izzy from wandering beyond the stables but Tubs, the
Gudwyne's young stable boy, encourages Izzy to go beyond the property's rock
wall to a world that promises possible answers, but also great danger. A scorched
castle in the woods and a mysterious cellar filled with secrets sets Izzy on a
path to the New World, where she will not only have to face her own terror
but face the people responsible for her scars.

It is here, in the untamed wilds of the seventeenth century that she finds love
and a home in the most unexpected of places.

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

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?


Is 
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.