Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Missing Matisse - Book Review



I really enjoyed this book, and am tempted to give it 4 stars, but there are a few things that bring it below my normal 4-star rating, which I will touch on later.

There is a fresh and lively feel to the book, as it is written in the first-person (as you'd expect), but also in the present tense. There are tidbits about art and famous artists, making for interesting reading to myself, as an artist. There are stories about WWII that are written not in a heavy, deep way, but in a boyish sort of way, with adventure around each corner--though with some sadness and shock, as well. There are illustrations in each chapter, as well as a section of photographs in the middle, which add a whimsical flourish and familial intimacy.

The author, grandson of more well-known Henri Matisse, has quite a fascinating boyhood, with mysterious family ties and underground activity (and the occasional theft). He knows God exists, and prays to Him when in distress, but it isn't until near the end of the book that he actually develops a love for Jesus. He is baptized, interestingly enough, by Willie Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. This is explained near the end of the book, too.

There are a couple of instances of the "h" swear word. The author marries (his fourth marriage) a woman without a ceremony at first, which I don't believe is a good example--plus she married him while she was a professed Christian and he was not. There is also a strange sort of dreaming and Spirit-led painting that makes me question a bit near the end of the book. Oh, and the talk of nude paintings/sculptures. These things are reality in his life, so I understand, but they need not be prominently or favorably included (and they aren't extremely so).

I received this book from the Tyndale Blog Network for my honest review.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Day!



Happy Thanksgiving Day, everyone! One of our traditions is to read Psalm 100, which we did this morning:

"Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations."


Despite difficulties, slow progress, and anxieties, God is there to still us with His peace and love, to give us hope, to give us His strong and reliable arm to lean on. We are not alone, and we can never be shaken or separated from the love which is through Jesus Christ! Blessed be His name!

PSALM 40:5: “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Day Before Thanksgiving


It was the day before Thanksgiving,
And all through the house
Everyone was stirring,
Even the odd mouse.

;)



Well, we did get naps in today after lunch, but otherwise it was
pretty busy, yet with a cozy and cheerful atmosphere. I made a
chalkboard sign for the mantel that says "Give Thanks unto the
Lord," (based on one I saw online) and we scattered gourds,
leaves, etc. up there along with it.
Mom had decided to have a simple Thanksgiving meal a day early.
We’ll have a dessert later in the week. We had a delicious turkey
that Mom cooked with a lemon and onion stuffed inside. And
mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans as sides. Oh, and the
old family treat: canned pears with peanut-butter, mayonnaise,
and maraschino cherry on lettuce leaf (I insisted on using cottage
cheese instead of mayo, and no cherry for me). We each said
something we were thankful for, which included Mom, food,
and children.
We're getting ready to watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes
for a relaxing (?) end to the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Revolt: A Novel in Wycliffe's England - Book Review


Five of five stars!

With vivid and tumultuous words, you are thrown into 14th century action. The story spans part of the life of John Wycliffe, but starts out with another character, a scribe, Hugh West'all, who is reporting on-location about the battle between France and England. He sees one of the archers with a father, worry creasing the son's brow, and the two young men's paths cross various times. Willard, the young archer, is full of bitterness and anger toward those of higher birth, and seeks revenge against greedy friars.

Hugh, meanwhile, becomes a scholar at Oxford. He and his friend Alfred are not much alike, but in one case Hugh and the new scholar, John of Wycliffe, turn the tables on prankster Alfred. The results are most humorous.

You get a slice of life as it might have been back then, with places, smells, characters, and jobs portrayed clearly, yet not ad infinitum. . . . It was not such a great thing that I happened to be eating while I read about the sheep being slaughtered. 

Hugh begins to hear of new things from John Wycliffe, of grace through Christ alone being able to save. Willard, also, hears the preacher and is amazed to hear him speaking against the friars who sell indulgences. 

The dreadful Bubonic plague spreads, and Willard's mother and sister are caught in its grip.

There is a bit of romance toward the end, but it is carefully done.

This is a story that teens and adults, male and female, will most likely enjoy--from battle to archery competition, from a woman tenderly caring for others (including a cat) to Wycliffe teaching and living out his gracious words with little fear of consequences.

Buy from bondbooks.net or amazon.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Weeds of the Soul

Our apple trees have weeds growing around the base like--well--weeds. Some are wiry grass, some are willowy. Even with wood chips put down last year, the weeds come. We are weeding and adding a heaping amount of wood chips this year.  While I was weeding I thought of some analogies of weeds to sins. I've thought of some of these before, and probably a million others have, too, but I think it is neat that God made His world--even the fallen world--to have correlations and lessons for our lives. Here are some possible correlations.
  1. Weeding takes strength, perseverance, and a desire to clean things up.
  2. Some weeds are more stubborn than others.
  3. Sometimes we have to dig deep.
  4. Some weeds are quite pretty . . . but sap strength and fruitfulness from the tree.
  5. Sometimes we have to use a sharp implement to cut or dig around the roots.
  6. Sometimes just a gentle wiggling and tug will get out a weed, especially if the weeds are surrounded by wood chips (like the Scriptures surrounding an individual).
  7. Sometimes our hands get dirty or we get hurt while weeding, especially if we aren't wearing gloves (prayer or Word of God to protect).
  8. Getting down closer to the roots helps in pulling out weeds.
  9. Pulling out just one weed or two at a time instead of a huge clump can be helpful, making others nearby come up more easily--the roots may be connected in ways we didn't realize!
  10. Weed control--constant upkeep--makes things easeasier.refreshing drink of water or encouraging word is always good.
  11. Sometimes we skip certain weeds because they are too hard or seemingly insignificant . . . but watch out--they will grow!
  12. The final results are beautiful and orderly, more pleasing to all around!
P.S. I don't always philosophize while doing yard work--usually I'm fuller of grumbling thoughts about the heat, bugs, or aching back. . . . There's one "weed" that needs to go!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Marry Wisely, Marry Well - Book Review


Coming from an ultra-conservative background, I had heard much of this before. I agreed with most of it, but didn't find a whole lot new.  But it was good, and helpful in that it made me take a deeper look at my heart and what I can do to help prepare for marriage now.

As someone pointed out on amazon.com, the statistics mentioned in the book may scare away someone from marrying unless they have a really good job, but as they were just facts stated from polls, and not harped on, I don't think this a big issue.

Each chapter ends with a set of questions to ponder/write out the answers to.

Overall it is a nice, concise book on marriage, wisdom, and loving God with all your heart.

Thanks to crossfocusedreviews.com for my free copy to review! My opinions stated here are in no way coerced.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Good & Angry - Blog Tour Book Review



I signed up for this book not knowing how helpful it would be. After all, I'm pretty even-keeled; I don't explode in anger like some people I know.  But, as I was soon impressed with, everyone has bad anger, whether it comes to the outside very much or not.  We all want our own way and complain at certain times.  Mr. Powlison helps us see the reasons for our anger, both good and bad anger, and how to direct it in the right way.  He helps us see that God is in control, and that our sinful anger is a slap in the face of God's sovereignty.  There is a correct anger--an anger at sin--and a proper desire for righting wrongs, but it more often goes bad and is founded in selfishness and pride.  I saw more clearly that my own lack of anger--my apathy--about certain things is wrong, as well.

There are many helpful examples in the book, and it is quite an easy to read--but convicting--book. 

One caveat: there are two or three uses of certain 4-letter words, one in a real-life example of an angry mother, the other a more legitimate use. 

I will likely be re-reading this book in the future--there is that much to take in and to apply at various times in life.

I'll leave you with a couple quotes:

"Think about this: mercy is not a nonreactive indifference--because it cares.  And it's the furthest thing from approval--because what's happening is wrong.  Mercy includes a component of forceful anger, but anger's typical hostility, vindictiveness, and destructiveness does not dominate."

"Major sins are only minor sins grown up. Complaining has the same DNA as violent rage."

Thanks to crossfocusedreviews.com for allowing me this book to review! My opinions are freely my own.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Having a Martha Home the Mary Way - Book Review


The subtitle of the book is 31 Days to a Clean House and a Satisfied Soul. . . . I took two months or so longer at reading this than I should have, and I didn't fulfill all the cleaning assignments, but I gathered helpful tips, plugged along at my little jobs and a few unusual ones, and tackled my monster of a closet once or twice. I like the focus on grace, though at times it seemed almost too lax. It is a book geared toward mothers, with assignments for kids, so that's not currently applicable to me, but I like that concept, and have seen it help in my sister's family. I also liked that it had Bible reading assignments and questions for thought, though I would have appreciated a little more explanation and depth. Overall I really liked the book, in that it gives things to shoot for, but not so strictly that it overwhelms.

Thanks to Tyndale blog network for allowing me this book to review! My opinions are freely my own.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lines Based on Isaiah 25

I wrote a poem/lyrics based on the chapter we studied in church today (Isaiah 25). Thanks to Mr. Douglas Bond for inspiring me in his Mr. Pipes series, my pastor for bringing the message, and, as always, to my amazing God and His amazing Word!

I'll praise You, O my God,
For wonders You have done;
Your counsels and Your faithful truth
Shall last beyond the sun.

You tear down bricks and stone
Of enemies so strong;
The nations see and fear Your name;
Your people join in song.

You are a refuge sure,
A shade from blast and heat,
A strength to needy in distress--
Your vict'ry is complete.

The mountain of the LORD
Will bring good things to all.
His people will rejoice at last;
He'll drink up death and gall.

No more of death or tears--
We wait now for this day--
We wait for Him and He will save,
And we'll rejoice alway.

With His hand stretched out wide,
He knocks down all His foe;
He brings down pride and trickery,
And to the dust they go.

- M.A.M.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Short Story - "Man's Second-Best Friend" by Melissa M.

There were no potatoes left in the bin.  George lifted the last remaining onion, turning it in his gnarled hand as if it might suddenly turn brown and sprout eyes.  Onion soup would have to do, though his stomach voted for meat and potatoes.

His eyes flicked toward the portrait of Phoebe--the copper frame was worn to a greenish hue on either side.  His wife didn't smile at him from the wall, but her eyes did, and he remembered the smiles of yore: her lopsided smile when she tricked him into thinking there was a skunk in the parlor; her full, heart-shaped smile when she laughed; her soft, barely-there smile when she viewed the flames of sunset. . . . An ache born not of hunger enveloped him, and he let out the breath he hadn't known he had been holding.

Phoebe knew how to peel a potato in ten seconds, how to chop an onion in perfect, tiny squares, all while her soup broth bubbled with aromas better than expensive town restaurants.

He dashed moisture away with the back of a knuckle.  "Can't blame it on the onion, now can I?"  He chuckled at the cat, a tabby with green eyes.  Phoebe had called the feline Sydney, after the sad Dickens character who'd given his life for a friend.  More often she had referred to the tabby as Syd or Syddy.  How he had scoffed at those names!

George and Phoebe did not have children, marrying after the time for such things was likely.  The cats were Phoebe's children, and last of all they'd had Sydney.

After slowly turning to the chopping board, he then impaled the onion.  His eyes were soon flooding in earnest.

~~~

A ball landed inches in front of George's feet.  He stooped and picked it up, his hands trembling, his joints popping like fragile strings breaking.

A snicker sounded.

"Good day, young man," said George, smiling at the boy who slouched amid the bushes.  "Your ball?"

"Yeah.  See if you can throw it here, old man."

Pressing his lips and brows together, George pulled his arm back to throw the pigskin.  His hand muscles gave a sharp tug and he felt the ball slip from his fingers.

The boy laughed, slapping his hand on his thigh.

Why do you even try?  George sighed.  You're not the athlete you once were.  Only the trophy in his bedroom evidenced that he had ever been able to play football.

George trudged the way he had come from.  He made sure he held his head high, even if his shoulders could not stay as tall as they once could.

To town he must go, but he would take the longer way around.  The pinch in his toes went unnoticed.

At the general store, he smiled at a little girl, who hid behind her mother's skirt.  The mother gripped the girl close and turned away abruptly.

Did he look like a killer, a madman?  George ran a hand over his bushy white beard.  It should make him look like Jolly St. Nick--all right, maybe not so jolly--but more often people seemed to think he was a shifty no-good, or worse, a disgusting piece of humanity.  He knew he was old, going on ninety-three, and his skin lined like the wagon-ruts to town, but was there no hope for human friendship at his age?

~~~

George set down the paper sack with a groan.  "Too heavy, Syddy.  But then, you wouldn't know about that."

The cat stared up at him, confirming the words as it remained sprawled out on the chair.

When George thumped a tin on the counter, Sydney sat up with a meow.  The meows grew more insistent when George pried the can open and the smell of tuna permeated the room.

"Just a minute, you vulture," George said with a chuckle.  Sydney was winding back and forth between George's legs.

The cabin was lantern-lit, the glow just enough to see by as dusk came on.  George sat against the quilted pillow on the couch and leaned his head back on the seat.  "I'll just rest here a minute, Syd.  Mebbe I don't need supper . . ."

A questioning meow from Sydney drew his gaze.  "Yeah, I know I should eat, like you, buddy--but this old body is tired."

Sydney jumped up on George's lap and began grooming his paws, rubbing them across his face--first one side, then the other, over and over.  George ran a hand over Sydney's fur, silkiest fur he'd ever felt, except maybe when Sydney had been a kitten.

The cat purred a raspy purr and closed his eyes.

A smile played about George's lips and his eyelids took the same downward direction; images of frolicking kittens and Phoebe's smile blurred and brightened.

~~~

Something woke him--probably Sydney's wild meow.  He never sounded like that.  What was it?  George sniffed, still groggy.  Did he burn supper?  And that crackling, that heat . . .  His eyes flew open.  Flames!  Big, larger than people, and performing a drunken dance.  George pushed himself to his half-numb feet, limping to the front door.  "Sydney!" he called.  The roof was about to cave in--there was no going back in.  He left the door open in case Sydney could come out.

George wrung his hands and squinted into the blinding flames.  "Sydney, come!  Come on, buddy--"  He choked on his words, on the smoke, on more than he could fathom.

Soon the whole cabin resembled a monstrous bonfire.  Boards fell and formed a twisted, fiery mountain.  The land was wet from recent rain, so there was no likelihood of the fire spreading.  But it had done its damage.  George fell to the ground, moaning.  "Sydney, my Sydney."

He bit his knuckle to keep from crying out.  But who would hear?  The owl?  No one cared, even if they did hear!  They had shown that time and again.  A howl escaped his lips.  He rocked back and forth, like when he was a child.

"No use.  No use."

~~~

A businessman and his wife found the body, cold and still next to the charred house.

The woman stared, not moving.  Only her skirt rippled in the cool breeze.

"Old Man George."  The businessman stooped and put a finger on the cold wrist, not expecting, or finding, a pulse.  "I wonder what happened."

The woman touched the pin at her throat.  "Why didn't I do it?  Ask him to our house?"

The man blinked at her.  "That may have done nothing.  You can't blame yourself."

A blackbird flew overhead.  "Can't I?"

Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Dad - Born Dead, Died Alive

On a little New York dairy farm, a boy named Keith milked cows by hand.  His dad had died years earlier, but with a dream of owning a dairy farm.  The mother of the house still lived, ruling with care and sense, but not with much time to spend at home with her brood of five boys and two girls.  Her new husband was not much help at first, for he was muddled with a mental illness.

Keith grew into a wild young man, empty and lonely, trying to escape his feelings with drink and parties.

One day, his brother Deryl became a new man, one eager to share the newness in Christ, one not afraid to say that Keith was on his way to hell if he didn't repent.  That rang true and somber in Keith's heart.  He accepted the urge to go to church, and there heard a prophecy message--something new to him, something that amazed him.  This old Book could speak to things today?  He talked with the deacon afterward and prayed a prayer, a shining look on his face, one woman said--the woman who would become his wife.  Keith went home, still uncertain, and broke down under his sin, asking for forgiveness, longing to change.

And change he did.  He sought eagerly to become a preacher, changing his major from engineering to Bible.  Though formerly shy, he faced this new life with courage, preaching to many by the grace of God, preaching in the same church he'd first attended as a lost man.

That woman watching in the church was Mary--my mother--who married him, loving his single-mindedness.  She helped him through Bible school assignments, typing for him in a pinch.

Along the way, Dad needed other work to survive, learning from the renovation of houses that he did and using his past of engineering.

He took a job with two of his brothers in a cable factory, and the asbestos flew heavy through the air.

Beneath a flimsy mask, he breathed them in, those dusty particles.  They entered his lungs with barbs that clung tenaciously to the lining for decades, hiding from us--but known to God.  Dad worked with them, joked with them, ate with them, but never invited them.

We went along, unaware that the disease was lurking in his lungs.

Dad preached with boldness, never shying away from a controversial topic, but truly wanting what was best for others, wanting the Way, the Truth, and the Life to be poured out in our lives.  He prayed on his knees with us on the living room couches, read from the Bible and Christian men often.

But as a girl of thirteen, I didn't know if he loved me.  He pointed out error, but didn't kiss us or tell us he loved us.  He joked to lighten things up, but they were just jokes.  I needed reassurance of his love--words of comfort and a hug, and time spent with me alone.

My loneliness prompted me to seek the Lord, or at least to read the Bible and pray to be saved.  Things would get better then, right?  I would have love at least from One, and maybe from Dad and others, too.

Dad questioned my faith, noting the tears in my eyes and perhaps the shifting of feet.

I fell back to what I did better than talking: writing.  I wrote a paper on how I'd ostensibly become a Christian--I thought I was, though some doubts lingered.  Without much thought, I wrote that I didn't know if Dad loved me, and that he'd examined me as if I were a bug under a microscope.

He came to me then, teary-eyed.  I learned how words in ink could hurt someone, even this stalwart man.  He'd try harder, he said, to show his love.

He said he loved me every night, and kissed me on the cheek.  At first I wondered if it was just to appease me.  Little by little, I grew to accept his love, to see his care, to enjoy time with him, though we were both a bit tongue-tied when alone with each other.  We shared music on the radio when he picked me up from college, guessing the composers.  He stopped for MacDonald's or other surprises, and I delighted in his spontaneity.

One day, the asbestos particles showed themselves on an X-ray . . . lungs quite destroyed, ready to breathe their last in just a year or two.

Now, were radiation or chemo to rob his strength, his hair, his joy?  No, he said, he'd fight for life using food and vitamins before any further invasion to his body!

And then there was a man we heard of named Burzynski, who ran a clinic in TX, with hope for patients with cancer.  Yes, he was expensive.  No, there was no cure for every patient.  But if there was a remote possibility, we wanted to try.  The doctor, accented in Polish, told Dad that he would not give us good odds on this cancer, this mesothelioma.  He had not treated much of it successfully, especially this far along.  Still, we pressed on, praying for the outcome mostly miraculous.

Dad had treatments in TX, then went home for a while.  There he and my sister Annie read books on cancer, natural remedies.  We juiced carrots laced with vitamins and minerals, which Dad drank till his skin was tinted orange.  He cut out refined sugar and most fatty foods, things he loved.   More treatments, home nurses, shots of vitamins.  We hoped and prayed.

But there was no positive change.  Instead, he coughed more, said less . . . and his legs and feet swelled tight and puffy, which we could only rub with ointment, a job I curled my lips at--God forgive me!

I watched a movie or two with Dad, neither of us saying much, reclining in the living room.  It was special, though, like old times, but different.  We watched Lassie Come Home, an old and quiet movie with a happy ending.  Dad said, "That was a good movie," with tears in his eyes.  Was he remembering the dog he lost one time?  Or thinking of heaven, where there would be no more goodbyes, no losses?

Things got uglier, harder to bear.  His breath came in choking gasps and rattles.  Not much time left, we knew.  It was a week, just a week, in which he suffered worst.  But still, as all along, he trusted God.  He asked Mom to read the Bible to him.  No, not the psalms, which he thought had little comfort for one going through disease.  He wanted Job.

And then the night came--he was really dying!  I could hardly face it, even then.  We stood around the bed and sang Psalm 23, those words of comfort, at least for him.  For me--I didn't know for sure if God cared, if He loved.  Such pain, inflicted on his own servant!  Why?

I didn't remember then the agony of Job, or the deepest anguish of God the Son.  And even then, my crazy mind went, why would Dad have to suffer if Jesus had supposedly borne his sin?

I remembered Romans 8:28, yet it still niggled at me, wondering if all this was really fair or helpful.

Just when we had been getting along better, understanding each other, loving more vocally, this had to happen!  Dad was reduced to a skeletal being, not at all like my big, robust Daddy!

I fled the room--he might linger a while longer with no change, we thought--and tried to sleep away the thoughts--cry them away.

And that morning he was gone.  Mom had been left alone with him, calling for assistance at the very last moment, when Dad clearly said he wanted to stand up, asking what time it was, and looking up.  He collapsed in Mom's arms, a dead weight, and she cried, trying not to let him fall, or bang his body on the desk.

She believes he saw an angel, or the very Angel of God, and wanted to honor His presence in standing salute.  Truly, it may be!  Dad had not stood or asked to get up for at least a week before that.

We went to the grave-site after he was buried, with no formal ceremony, just our family.  Mom's sister had also in the same week gone to heaven, so we remembered her, too.

Even in death, Dad's words honored God.  The grave-stone was carved, at his earlier request, "Born Dead Jan. 5, 1948 - Died Alive in Christ Sept. 9, 2006."

Raindrops fell onto our umbrellas.  But as we lifted our heads from prayer, we gasped--a double rainbow, brilliant and rosy, canopied over us.  God's reminder: God is faithful.  No matter what, He is faithful, knowing what is best, and carrying us through the waves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Portraits of Faith - Book Review



I waffled between giving this four or five stars, since it probably could have been developed a little more in certain areas. However, the concise length is also a plus in some ways.

This book addresses the faith of five different individuals and certain aspects of their faith: Adam & Eve's childlike faith, the Shunnamite woman's submissive faith, the Canaanite woman's mature faith, and Caleb's persevering faith. Each chapter has shorter sections, often with a modern-day example or two. I liked how clear things were, and how insightful and convicting. In the Adam and Eve section there is something I question, but could very well be true--I just wonder at his dogmatism.

Great Quotes:

"Believe [the Lord]! Believe that He will take all those impossibilities that are breaking over the gunwales of your life and bring them to a melodious whimper at your feet. They may alarm you, but they will not drown you. He will take care of you. Believe that!"

"Through afflictions God teaches us, says Thomas Watson, to treat the world like a loose tooth in our mouth, which, being easily twitched away, does not much bother us. Christ ripens us for glory by weaning us from this world."

"We forget that there are more than three hundred biblical imperatives commanding us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ."

"Unbelief is dreadfully contagious; it persuades people that the giants of Anak are larger than the promises of God; it eats away at the vitals of faith; it stunts spiritual growth. Every time you do not believe in the presence of God, your spiritual growth is bruised. But true faith turns giants into dwarves and shows God to be as big as He really is."


I received a copy of this book from crossfocusedreviews.com (thank you!), and was not required to give a positive review.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Short Story - "War Wounds"

I wrote this for a contest.  It has gone through a lot of edits, with help from my lovely, critiquing family.  I'm sure it is still not perfect, especially since I chose to ignore one of my brother's bigger quibbles with the "Lazarus" scene.  He gave me the idea I used for a major plot point, so I'm very thankful for that (it is a little out of the known historical framework, but not beyond the realm of possibility).  Hope you enjoy!

~~~

Reclining in a cane chair, Ethan closed his eyes and shooed a buzzing fly away from his head.  It was the hottest day he ever remembered in Tennessee, and even the shade provided from the sprawling oak only served to cut the temperature enough to allow him to breathe. He was recovering slowly from his war wounds, but this scorching heat was worse than the pain below his stump of a leg.  Tipping the last bit of water into his mouth, he only got a drop or two, and licked his lips, tasting tin.

He was about to prop himself up on crutches and replenish his water when he heard the noise: a boom like a cannon.  He froze, fingernails digging into palms, eyes wide, limbs trembling.  Firing all around; he must shoot!  General Lee was counting on him, as were his friends nearby—Tommy was moaning, his ear a bloody stub.  Asa was already dead.  Smoke, lots of smoke—where was his rifle?  He charged forward, stumbled, fire jabbing his leg.  Tears blended with the smoke, creating a distorted picture of a blue-clad soldier, peering down at him, saber in hand.  "God, help!" he pleaded.

Someone was gripping his arm, calling, "Ethan!  Are you all right?"

He smelled rose and lemon.  Above him was a woman, dark hair, gray dress, a comrade—but why out in harm's way?  He blinked, things becoming clearer.  His wife!  Why was she here? . . . But then, he was home, not on the field of battle.  Stillness reigned, not artillery fire.  "Rachel!"  His mouth wobbled, and he clung to her.

"Shh," she whispered, "you're safe. God brought you home.  The war is over."

Over in all but his mind.

Ethan's heartbeat slowed gradually.  "It felt so real—but I should'a known it wasn't," he said, grimacing. "It's happened so many times before."

"But not in a long while," Rachel soothed.

Ethan detected a pounding noise and lifted his head to see a horse and rider like a black bird of prey swooping in their direction.  The hoof-beats thundered, then quieted, dust swirling about the dancing legs near them.

"A cave-in!  There's been a cave-in at the mine!" the rider, Billy Alders, announced between gulps of air.  He rubbed a dirty hand across his sweating forehead.

Rachel gasped and held a hand to her throat.  "Was anyone inside?"

"Two dynamite men—the others got out in time.  One is Jim Lyle, the other is a Yankee, Daniel Compton."

A Yankee?  Ethan had not heard of him before, and could hardly comprehend it. This man had the gall to rub their faces in the Union victory by moving South and taking one of their jobs!

" . . . need yer help, Ethan.  We heard you say something about how you've tried shaping blasts, so the rocks scatter in one direction—?"

This Yankee was likely in the Union Army, taking away the lives of Ethan's friends!  He could almost see the man now, a gun gripped tightly beneath an angry mouth.  But there was another man in the mine, too . . . and he was a Southerner.

"I-I'll help, but I've no guarantee of anything," Ethan answered.  "I've only read about it and made some experiments that seemed to work."

"We gotta try—there's not much time to lose."

Ethan nodded.  "I have some powder in the barn."  He grabbed his crutches and tried to keep up with the fleet-footed Billy.

"This it?"  Billy pulled out a barrel marked with a large red X.

"Yep.  Now get my metal pieces—they're in a blue crate in the loft."

Everything went fast, but Ethan felt in a daze, moving by rote.  The wagon wheels bumped over ruts as Rachel gripped the reins.  He felt like half a man anymore, manhood taken along with the half of his leg, memories haunting many of his waking hours, sometimes seeping into his dreams, awaking him and his wife as he screamed like a baby.  The baby they couldn't have.

His mind was yanked to the present when, after arriving at the mine, men surrounded their wagon and recounted at a fast clip what had happened and the problems they faced.  Background noises of metal clanking on rock distracted him, but he strained to listen to their voices.

"That Yankee and Jim Lyle were working with dynamite—and wham—the whole back of it collapsed!  We were close enough to the entrance to get out . . ."

"We're tryin' to get 'em out, but it could take all day, and we don't know if they have enough air to live."

"That's why we need your help, to blast 'em out, but without hurting 'em!"

Ethan swallowed back fear and tried to speak with confidence.  "There's a chance I can do it, yes.  With God's help."

While some put their efforts into digging with shovels, picks, axes, and even metal buckets, Ethan pried the top off his crate.  Rachel came to his side, her eyes wide.  "Can I do anything?"

"Pray," Ethan returned.  "Pray hard."

Ethan took the pieces that made up his charge.  He filled the back with gunpowder, and inserted a hollow metal cylinder in the front. All the while, his thoughts whirled, each blow of metal ax nearby jostling his nerves, bringing to mind the crack of rifles, the blood, the screams, the homes destroyed by cannons.  He fought to breathe, to remember that there was one Southern man in that cave-in--one man with a conscience, protecting the innocent, protecting their state's rights and their homes.  This must be done for him! When Ethan was nearly done with his intricate work, he called a halt to the digging.

"I need to know what side of the cave-in they're on.  Can we listen a while between a few signal taps?"

The group consented, quieting almost instantly.

Ethan held his breath.  His ears picked up a faint pinging noise beyond the rubble.  "I hear something!"

"That's gotta be them!  Jim's alive!"  Billy whooped.

"They're on the left side," Ethan mused.  He bowed his head over his powder-filled charge, praying silently, Lord, make this work.  Protect the people inside.  A fuse snaked its way out the back of the metal charge.  He wedged the device in a small cavity in the piled-up rocks.

"Everyone stand back."  His voice was calm, but laced with enough volume and authority that the people scattered like crows scared off by a rabid dog.  They settled again on the hill opposite the mine.

Sucking in a breath, Ethan found the end of the charge fuse, some four feet from the cave-in.  A solitary match is all it would take, the difference between silence and blast, quiet and chaos—life and death.  Prayers resounded in his mind for Jim. The other man . . . he would deal with that later. He struck the match and touched it to the fuse.  It flared up like a mini fire-breathing dragon.  Fumbling to situate his hands on his crutches, he backed away--and tripped.  Rachel cried out.  He righted himself and hobbled as fast as he could toward the safety of his wagon.

Within a minute, the explosion scattered rocks.  Dust cleared, and a three-foot wide hole gaped up at them.

After a moment of quiet, the men descended, eyeing the jagged hole as if it was the pit of a fiery abyss which no one dared cross. Then, a man coated in dirt, limping slightly, clothes tattered, emerged from the tunnel, like the biblical Lazarus coming out of the tomb.

"Daniel Compton!" a man exclaimed. Then, "Where's Jim?"

"He's dead," Daniel murmured.  "From the initial blast."

Ethan clenched his fists.  And this Yankee had barely a scratch on him!  "Maybe you planned this in order to kill Jim and us Rebels!"  He couldn't seem to stop the accusation from coming out, no matter how illogical it might sound.

Daniel's mouth dropped open.  "Jim and I were good friends."  His face crumpled.  "I'd rather it had been I who died than he!"

Ethan swallowed a sour taste in his throat.  What if he wished this man dead?  It was wrong, dead wrong, but he could not force himself to continue the Good Samaritan role.  He closed his eyes.  God, how can I help this man?  How can I—love him?  Then he was struck with the thought, How could Jesus love me, I who pierced His hands and feet with my sins?  Tears dotted his eyes.  God, forgive me!  He knew what he must do.

Just a few steps over, and he was in front of Daniel.  After a deep swallow, he stuck out a hand and said, "Forgive me, Mr. Compton.  The War has messed me up some.  Yankees—" He shook his head and shrugged. "It'll just take time and prayer for me to get over.  We'll get you to a doctor."

Daniel smiled.  "I understand, and thank thee.  And thee may call me what some of my friends do: Quaker Dan."

Sunday, February 14, 2016

From the Pen of Pastor Paul - Book Review



I have only read the first 36% of the book (goodreads.com figures for me), but I can tell it's a keeper.  The author gives many pointed, convicting questions, yet is humble and encouraging, pointing to Christ's power.  I don't know where he got "Jameson" from in the book of Acts--it's Jason in all the versions I looked up--so that is one distracting thing, but probably a typo, though written two or three times that way.  Other than that and a few other possible typos, it's good enough that I want a pencil with me while I'm reading it, in order to underline or mark parts I like.  Here are a few of the quotes I've marked so far:

'Like those new believers in first century Thessalonica, what we know today is this: Jesus has utterly revolutionized our lives. To the world, we turn everything upside down. To the believer, God is making everything right side up. The world has fallen and it is God who is picking it up. The world is like a shattered vase and it is God who is restoring it. The world is like a filthy mirror and it is God who is renovating its luster.'

'We are to persevere in prayer that we might persevere by prayer.'

'Not to be totally sold out to the Word of God is to lack that joy, that fruitfulness.  Not to give yourself to it more than all riches is to lack, is to struggle, is to trip, and is to stumble along in our Christian life.'

'When people saw the Thessalonians, they saw love, zeal, and gospel. When the world sees you, what do they see?  Do they see arrogance?  Do they see you being stuck up?  Do they see you as too good for them?  Does the world see you projecting a "holier than thou," "I'm better than you," attitude?  Or, are you an example of a sinner saved by grace?  Do they see you as a jar of clay that has been broken into a thousand pieces that God himself is putting back together; and even as he puts you back together those cracks are still visible?  Our evangelistic zeal must be shown in our lives living amongst the world; in truthfulness of who we were; in honesty about what we are; in hope of what we will become.  Like a masterpiece of art shown in a window, show the world what God can do.'

He quotes from many good writers/preachers, including John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon, as here:

'Describing preaching, C. H. Spurgeon once put it like this: "when we speak as ministers, and not as men; as preachers, instead of penitents; as theologians instead of disciples, we fail."'

'The devil hid himself in the serpent with Adam and Eve so that he could distract them with the question, "Hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1; KJV). The devil came and tried to drown out God's clear command with his noise, speaking his own version of the gospel--a gospel of self-help and a gospel of your best life now.'

'We can praise God in the midst of being sifted, in the midst of being persecuted by Satan himself because we know that our faith is a gift of God and that as a gift of God it is unassailable, it is invincible, it cannot be destroyed, it cannot be snuffed out.  We can praise God for the Devil's temptations because they are signs to the true believers of true faith.  The Devil's temptations are signs to us that our faith is real. We can stand up in true confidence against the Devil. We know he wants our true faith to be destroyed, but it can't.'

I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

Thank you to crossfocusedreviews.com for a copy to review.  My review is honest and unbiased.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy Cooking - A Book Review


Giada De Laurentiis writes about her journey and health, but without smothering you in a horde of vegetables.  The desserts range from quite healthy to decadent.  I have only tried two recipes so far (a soup and a pasta dish), but they were good ones, even with a little tweaking out of necessity or personal preference.  I'm sure each recipe is carefully crafted by this TV chef.  The only downside to the book is that some of her clothing is a bit immodest (perhaps most would not think so, but a conservative homeschooling family would, likely).



I've tried this recipe on the left, though I used a different kind of cheese and didn't use fresh dill, or much dried dill, substituting basil for some of it. I added sausage, as well. Tasty!


With bright and colorful photos, this cookbook may make you feel happy . . . and eager to pull out a pan or mixing bowl.

Thanks to Bloggingforbooks.com for this book!  I was not required to give a positive review.