Book Review: Chapel Springs Revival

In the Chapel Springs Revival novel by Ane Mulligan, best friends Claire Bennett and Patsy Kowalski meet with other friends weekly at Dees ‘n’ Doughs’ bakery in their small Georgia town. Most of the ladies are also entrepreneurs. As they discuss the diminishing tourist trade, the newest resident points out the shabby fronts of most of the main street businesses.

Claire, “with all the subtlety of a charging water buffalo,” makes it her mission to revitalize the town—or at least encourage all the business owners to spiff up their places and the town council to spring for repainting and flower baskets.

Patsy, for all the time she has known Claire, has helped helped rein her in and bail her out of trouble.

Both ladies are experiencing trouble in their marriages, which need revitalization more than the town does. They had married men who were also best friends, but now one is grouchy and the other is absent more often than not.

A series of “mishaps and miscommunication,” according to the Amazon description, gives the ladies sometimes comedic trouble. But the book isn’t all comedy. The characters learn and grow and have some touching moments.

This book wasn’t quite my cup of tea, so I don’t plan to read any more of the series. Claire never quite resonated with me. And one or more characters had a penchant for saying “Van Gogh’s ear!” when they were exasperated, which made no sense to me. But if you like I Love Lucy-type comedy with a Southern accent, you’d probably like this book.

Celebrating His Coming by Neglecting His Presence

Several years ago, a couple from our church invited us to their home for dinner.

I had long admired the wife. She was one of those people about whom I wondered, “How does she do all she does?” She had the same number of children I did, close to the same ages. She was active in several church ministries. She sewed for herself, her daughter, her home, and for other people. Her home was not only clean every time I saw it, it was nicely decorated.

Meanwhile, I felt I was barely keeping my head above water as a wife and mother. I concluded that God gave people different capacities. Maybe she was a ten-talent person, while I . . . was not.

As we enjoyed our visit at this couple’s home, the wife often popped up to go check on or do something. I understood that. As a hostess, you have to check on the kids or the potatoes or whatever. But her forays away from us seemed excessive. I wondered if we caught them at a busy time, and if so, why they didn’t reschedule. I mused that maybe she was the type of person who couldn’t sit still for very long, and maybe that’s how she got so much done.

I am not so needy a guest that I want 100 per cent of the hostess’s time and attention. But I confess to feeling just a little neglected.

As a child, I often saw a plaque in peoples’ houses which contained words about Jesus being the unseen guest of the home. Some time after I became a Christian, I understood that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He is not just an occasional guest. He is with us all the time. He is Lord. It’s His house.

Through our church’s Bible reading program the last few years, I’ve particularly noted God’s desire and effort to be with His people. First, He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned, they broke fellowship with Him. When He delivered Israel from Egypt, He instructed them to build a tabernacle. Later, after they settled in the promised land and David was king, he wanted to build a temple. Both tabernacle and temple had a heavy curtain between the holy place and the most holy place. No one could just barge in there. Only the high priest could enter once a year with a sacrifice for the people’s sins. When Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was torn in two, signifying that the ultimate sacrifice had been made and the way was now open to God. His kingdom was within those who believed on Him. Someday, when He comes again, we’ll dwell with Him as we never have before.

God desires our fellowship, to the point of sacrificing what was dearest to Himself. This season of the year, we run amok doing so many sweet and lovely things fraught with nostalgia, ostensibly for the sake of remembering the birth of His Son. Yet, in a sense we leave Him sitting at the table, neglected. It’s not that He needs us. He loves and and desires our fellowship. And we need Him.

Yes, He is with us all the time. With even our closest human relationships, much of our time and conversation together occurs while doing something else: shopping, cooking, working in the yard, etc. But even in those relationships, we sense a need to sometimes just stop, lay everything else aside, focus on and listen to each other.

How much more should we spend that focused time with our Lord? Yes, we can talk with Him all through the day, thanking Him for a good parking place or a good sale or a beautiful sunset, telling Him the concerns on our hearts, singing along with the hymns on our playlist. But sometimes we just need to sit with Him, spend time in His Word, listening, learning, worshiping. loving.

We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here. We need wisdom in the use of our time, simplifying, maybe laying some things aside. But most of all we need to remember who and what we’re actually celebrating. Let’s not neglect His presence. Like Mary, let’s choose the good portion, sitting at His feet and listening.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

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I’m behind in my blog reading this busy week, but here are some noteworthy reads I found:

No, We’re Not All God’s Children, HT to Knowable Word. “We ARE all God’s children in the obvious sense that God created every single one of us. We all exist because God made us. So in that sense, sure, everyone is a child of God. But Scripture also uses this notion of being a child of God in a different sense – a different spiritual and theological sense. That is, only those who are in a right relationship with God are seen to be children of God.” Bill Muehlenberg discusses the context of the main passage that is misunderstood.

Focusing on the Heart of the Matter. “Those who believe the Bible should not be surprised that our problems are primarily an inside job because Scripture says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus said, ‘Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them’ (Mark 7:15).  And yet all too often our focus is on circumstances or people.”

Spiritual Swashbuckling: Dealing with Demons, HT to Challies. “C. S. Lewis warned in his Screwtape Letters, ‘“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils: one is to disbelieve in there existence. The other is to believe and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.’ The face of evil may look less like a tormented cat than you think; it may be the clean-cut cult leader or the esteemed seminary professor who is propagating godless arguments that fortify the strongholds of demonic influence in society and the church. This threat should not be ignored. It is as devastating to impressionable minds as demon possession is to a body.”

The Monday After, HT to Challies. “The Bible describes praise as a sacrifice, in a culture where sacrifice meant the slaughter of an animal. Sometimes giving our praise requires a death as well – a death to self-will, wrenched out of our very soul in surrender to the power of a love that gave itself to rescue us from hurtling headlong into the prideful abyss.”

7 Tips for Celebrating Christmas as a Family. “I’d like you to consider approaching this Christmas a little more like your family is going to see everything for the first time. They are probably familiar with it, and your neighbors probably are too, but I want you to consider that most of us, like it or not, are so used to the consumerist Santa-centric celebrations that a distinctly Christian celebration—a truly Christ-centered holiday season—could be a real shift from what they expect. And it would be greater in all the best ways!”

Project Gutenberg. On the 50th anniversary of the project, Dan Barlow tells how it came to be and muses: “I find it interesting e-books are characterized by many literature and publishing purists as something less than a real book when the format was founded by literature-loving people with no financial interest, rather a driving passion to make classic works available to all, no matter where they live and regardless of their ability to pay.”

And though I like to say “no” kindly, sometimes you need to insist:

Happy Saturday!

Literary Christmas 2021

I enjoy reading Christmas books after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts a Literary Christmas challenge for that purpose. You can find the details here, but the basic idea is to read Christmas books and write posts about them.

I have several unread Christmas books in my Kindle app. Here are a few I’d like to get to:

A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas, set during the Civil War. I am listening to it currently.

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson. This appealed to me because I grew up on the Texas coastline, so my early Christmases were more seaside than wintery. I had this on last year’s list and regretted not getting to it.

Expecting Christmas by multiple authors, a daily devotional. Free for the Kindle as of this writing.

The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson, contemporary fiction about a couple separated after 20 years of marriage (99 cents as of this writing).

The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin, an author new to me. A woman in the 1890s who helps people behind the scenes may be in need if help herself.

I have eight more, but we’ll see how I do with these first.

Do you like to read Christmas books in December? What’s in your stack?

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Here we are in the first week of December with Christmas preparations in full swing. We’ve made a significant dent in the Christmas shopping and wrapping, have the first draft of our Christmas letter waiting for revision, purchased Christmas cards and stamps. Yay! I’m enjoying Christmas music both on my phone plus on BBN Radio.

This week I have ample candidates for a favorites list. I’ll try to narrow it down to five.

1. Post-Thanksgiving blessings. I forgot to mention last time being thankful for my husband and daughter-in-law’s help Thanksgiving Day. My husband tidied up the bathroom while I cooked. My daughter-in-law made several dishes. It helps so much to “divide and conquer” on a busy day. My husband traditionally picks as much meat off the turkey carcass as he can and then cleans the roasting pan for me. This year, he did that and went ahead and loaded the dishwasher. We had used paper plates and plastic utensils, do the main dishes were serving bowls and platters. And he made his traditional turkey salad that we spread on rolls or crackers. Then, the day after Thanksgiving I found an unexpected note from my husband thanking me for all my hard work and “homey touches” for the day.

2. Christmas decorating. This year we chose our tree alone, because of either sickness or scheduling among the kids. But the family came over to decorate. I’ve always been thankful that we do this together as a family and it’s not just my “job.” It helps to “divide and conquer” again—we get it all done in a few hours. But it’s fun to do together, to comment on the ornaments or decorations, bring up memories, etc. Mittu made chili and cornbread for dinner, and we ended the evening with a few games.

3. A new figurine. I saw someone mention receiving a gift of a miniature typewriter with the words, “Have courage and be kind” on the “paper” in the typewriter. I thought that was so neat, I googled to see if I could find a similar inexpensive one—and I did. I have it sitting just under my computer screen as a reminder.

4. Hanging up wall decorations in the guest room. They had been sitting around for weeks due to our sickness or busyness. But Saturday Jim hung up several items for me. Th

5. Power restored. I mentioned a few weeks ago that the power company was replacing some lines in our neighborhood. We had gotten a notice that the power would be off for several hours on a certain day while they finished up. Somehow, we noticed the alternate date and planned for that.

So we were surprised when someone knocked on our door yesterday to say the power would be off from 9 to 3. And that was a day I happened to go back to sleep for a bit instead of getting my shower. So I made a quick breakfast before they turned the power off and and jumped in the shower just after. I did have enough hot water to finish. Then my husband started up the generator in the RV so I could blow dry and fix my hair, and we used the microwave there to make lunch. We spent the rest of the day in the house. He was able to make a hotspot with his phone for internet access, so he was able to continue working. My laptop was fully charged, so I started on our Christmas letter. The weather was comfortable, so it wasn’t a problem that the heat was off. We could have spent the day in the RV if needed, but I am glad we didn’t have to. I’m sure we also could have gone to our son and daughter-in-law’s house, but we didn’t want to disrupt their routine or ours if we could help it. Despite the surprise and lack of preparedness, it was actually better day for the power to be out than the one we had originally thought. And there’s nothing like the power being off for a while to appreciate it even more.

I hope you’ve had a good week as well.

Book Review: The Nature of a Lady

In The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White, Lady Elizabeth Sinclair prefers microscopes to ballrooms. She never feels she fits in with her peers. Her best friend is her maid, Mabena. Libby’s brother wants to marry her off to Lord Sheridan so she’s “taken care of.” Sheridan would at least tolerate her eccentricities. But is that she can expect out of life—toleration?

Libby decides to take Mabena on a summer holiday to the Isles of Scilly, where Mabena is from. While she’s away, Libby hopes Sheridan will see that they can’t possibly get married. She rents a cottage and discovers the previous occupant had also been named Elisabeth and had left suddenly with no explanation.

Then Libby begins receiving packages and notes that must be for the other Elizabeth. But one contains a cannonball, of all things.

Then a young man shows up at her doorstep demanding to know where his sister is. And this young man somehow knows Mabena.

Oliver Tremayne is a vicar and a gentleman, but most of the family’s wealth was spent on his brother’s illness. He’s exasperated with his sister, Beth. She was supposed to write him twice a week, but he hasn’t heard from her in two weeks. He’s afraid Beth’s absence is aggravating his grandmother’s dementia. He’d told Beth he’d stay away and giver her her freedom while on Holiday, but he has to make sure she is all right. Imagination his surprise, then, when someone other than his sister opens her door at his knock—someone he has met before, someone with Mabena.

Besides the mysteries of what happened to Beth and how everyone knows Mabena, other unexplained happenings include strange noises on one of the islands, a white figure, odd notations in an old book, pirate treasure, and past princes.

Meanwhile, Libby feels more at home in the isles than she has ever felt in her life. But can she ever convince her brother to let her stay?

One mystery to me: why the cover portrays Libby as dark-haired, when she’s repeatedly described as blonde and fair in the book.

I had never heard of the Isles of Scilly before listening to this book, and I enjoyed learning about them. The puzzles and mysteries in the book were intriguing, though I think I lost a couple of the threads before it was all over–probably a result of listening to the audiobook rather than reading the book, which made it harder to go back and trace some things. I liked the threads about being who God created you to be and the fact that science and faith aren’t enemies (though Libby seemed to accept evolution as fact, which I would disagree with).

I can’t say I enjoyed this story quite as much as Roseanna’s other books I’ve read, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. And I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

November Reflections

It seems like we had a very short autumn. It wasn’t just that time appears to be flying by ever faster. But our moderate fall temperatures gave way to winter-like ones seemingly sooner than usual. I enjoyed the fall color and crisp air while we had it.

Family news

We’ve all taken turns being sick, and we missed out on pumpkin decorating with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. They sent pictures, though. I went very super simple with mine and my husband’s.

We did get together for early Christmas cookie baking and Thanksgiving feasting and Christmas decorating. Another round of colds started up before the last two, so we’re hoping they don’t spread through all of us.

I’m so thankful that everyone except our out-of-state son pitches in to decorate here for Christmas even though they have their own places to decorate. All together, we get it done in a few hours. If I had to do it myself, it would probably take me several days. It’s fun to go through all the familiar things and stories.

Creating

I made this card for our pastor’s wife’s baby shower.

I knew she was using blue, tan, and brown with a Noah’s ark theme in the baby’s room. So I wanted to do something with those colors and baby animals. These animals are just stickers, but I loved their expressions and the way they’re drawn and colored. I couldn’t find anything else I liked nearly so well in the Cricut images. With the ark theme, I should have put a rainbow in as well, but didn’t think about it.

I also made a card for a friend, but since she hasn’t received it yet, I’ll have to wait to show it til next time. 🙂

Reading

Since last time I finished:

  • The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, a true story about a disgruntled man terrorizing a pastor’s family and their struggle to love and forgive him as well as protect themselves from him.
  • Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, Christian time slip novel about a timid bookstore owner whose research of a name inscribed in one of her books leads to surprising connections to her adopted mom.The historical time line takes place in Austria as WWII is closing in. One young man hides his Jewish friends’ treasures, helped by the caretaker’s daughter. She’s in love with him, but he’s in love with a beautiful Jewish violinist. Excellent–will probably be one of my top ten of the year.
  • Be Right (Romans): How to Be Right with God, Yourself, and Others by Warren W. Wiersbe.
  • The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White. Just finished this one over the weekend and will review it later this week.

I’m currently reading:

  • Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women by Sharon W. Betters
  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety
  • Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis. I always enjoy Lewis, but this one is particularly challenging. I may set it aside for now.
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan, first in a series of novels about friends in a small town in GA.
  • A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas (audiobook)
  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler

I’m looking forward to some Christmas reading in the days ahead.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage, I had these posts on the blog this month:

  • Is This the Right Way? Sometimes the Christian life doesn’t look like we thought it would, and we wonder if we missed a turn somewhere.
  • What Kind of Roots Are You Growing? Good roots are nourishing and supportive. But bitterness can take over like a stubborn ivy and crowd out healthy growth.
  • Don’t Reject God Because of His People. Those “deconstructing” their belief system often point to the failures of other professing Christians as part of the reasons for walking away. But we’re responsible for the truth we heard from others, even if they don’t live up to it themselves.
  • A Perfectly Ordinary Thanksgiving. In trying to come up with a new angle with which to write about Thanksgiving, I realized Thanksgiving doesn’t need an angle. And we can give thanks even if we don’t feel thankful.
  • Your Soul Needs Food Even If It Doesn’t Want It. When our appetites are off, we don’t want to eat much. Bur our bodies need food to function and heal. The very food we don’t have an appetite for will not only help, but will create an appetite. The same is true spiritually with God’s Word.

Writing

Once again, not much has been done on the book project, though I did have one really good session where I think I got my opening chapter nailed down. I have three different sections to it, and I think I’ve had each one at the beginning at some point. With all that’s involved over the next month, I’ll probably have to wait until January to get back to the book. But then I need to make revising and finishing this book a higher priority!

As we transition into the Christmas season, may we not leave the spirit of thankfulness behind. May we remember to spend time with the One who went to such great effort to be with us.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Your Soul Needs Food Even When It Doesn’t Want It

Your Soul needs food even when it doesn't want it

You’re sick. Your sinuses are inflamed, your throat is raw, your nose is red, drippy, and chafing. You have a fever and ache all over. And you don’t feel like eating.

But you do eat. Nothing sounds good (except maybe the proverbial remedy for a cold, chicken soup). But you eat because your body needs it. And the very food you don’t have an appetite for not only nourishes you, but helps your body fight infection and get well.

The same is true spiritually. When something is wrong in our lives—someone has hurt us, we’ve given way to some sin, we don’t feel we fit in at church, maybe we’re even a little malnourished from lack of time at church or in the Bible—we tend to put God’s Word aside. Our appetite for it has waned.

But we need the Bible now more than ever. We may not be able to keep up with our usual routine or an intense study. But we need to keep sipping and tasting. We might spend more time in the Psalms or the gospels than some of the other books. We might listen instead of read.

And the very Word we don’t have an appetite for not only nourishes us, but helps us heal. It will strengthen us and help us fight spiritual infection.

So when your appetite for the Word of God is off, keep partaking. Your soul needs it. You may not feel instant refreshment. It may seem a little dry. But ask God to open “the eyes of your heart” and minister to you.

Often a subdued appetite can be aroused by tasting food. It didn’t sound good, but once we had a few bites, we wanted more. We may feel like reading the Bible is the last thing we want to do. But it’s been my experience, many times over, that once I start reading it, I want more.

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways (Psalm 119:36-37).

They loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

(Psalm 107:18-22)

Jeremiah 15:16 Partaking of God's Word

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some helpful posts found this week:

Advent–Opening Again to Wonder. ‘Advent is here. Glorious Advent — one of the best times of year to be completely filled with awe. But what do we do when, no matter how many times we toggle the switch, our desire to marvel, or even care, doesn’t turn back on? How do we come to the age-old story grateful and amazed instead of distracted and numb?”

How Much Does a Good Deed Weigh? HT to Challies. “How much does a good deed weigh on the scales of perfect justice? How many good actions does it take to balance against a bad one? What about bad attitudes? If I do a good deed with mixed motives, does it still count as good, or have I ruined it with my divided heart that hides so much selfishness and pride and envy right alongside whatever good I’m trying to do?”

Helpful Things You Can Say to Grieving Parents. “I recently consulted with a few other parents who have experienced the loss of a child and want to offer a few things you can say to grieving parents that may prove an encouragement to them—a flicker of light in their time of deep darkness. These phrases may be helpful to people experiencing other forms of grief, but I offer them particularly for those grieving the loss of a child.”

What the Gospel Says About Your Child’s Learning Differences, HT to The Story Warren. “Reading levels are just reading levels. They are temporary. Learning differences are just learning differences. They, too, are temporary. But our identity in Christ is eternal, and to this we must cling when we are tempted to believe that our academic accomplishments are all there is to life.”

It’s Too Loud in Here, HT to Challies. I love the subtitle: “I feel screamed at all the time.” I love the conclusion.

Two Different Prescriptions. “The Bible draws a distinction between works of the flesh and works of the Spirit. Like our Ivermectin prescriptions, we need to use the correct form of anger, or the consequences can be deadly. Here are three ways to tell which prescription of anger we may be using.”

Does Mathematics=Western Imperialism? HT to Challies. You wouldn’t think so, with math being the most objective of subjects. Nancy Pearcey explains why some think it is and what’s wrong with that thinking. Her explanation of critical theory is one of the clearest I’ve seen.

Thanksgiving Myths Old and New. Some are trying to rewrite the history of the early pilgrims, but original sources tell us about their first Thanksgiving with the Indians and their intentions.

praise, thanksgiving, C. H. Spurgeon

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

It must be Thanksgiving after-effects: I fell asleep in my desk chair early this morning and napped much longer than intended! But here are some favorites from this week:

1. Supplies. It seems like every grocery store online order or visit results in several unavailable items, necessitating a visit to another store to fill in. But we’ve not lacked anything major, even if it takes more effort and time to find supplies.

2. Thanksgiving Day, of course, with feasting and time with family.

3. A successful pie crust. I may have made pie crusts from scratch in early married life, but then switched to either frozen or, more recently, the Pillsbury refrigerated ones. Since my daughter-in-law and grandson have developed gluten intolerance, we’ve used frozen GF crusts, but they’re not very good. Sometimes they’ve bought fresh-made ones from a GF bakery, but the prices have gone up and they’re a distance away. So this year I tried a pie crust mix made by King Arthur flour. I didn’t roll the dough out—I just pressed it into the pie pan with my fingers. It held up well, and most important, tasted good.

4. Thanksgiving place mats. These were cute and entertaining. I set them around the table before everyone got here along with some crayons. Different ones gathered to color, solve puzzles, place stickers, etc., while we talked and prepared the meal.

5. A Thanksgiving tree. I did this a couple of years ago. Then I didn’t last year, and a couple of people mentioned missing it. So it made a return visit this year. 🙂 I taped several sheets of brown card stock together and then cut out a tree trunk and taped it to the pantry door. Then I used the cut-off portions for branches. I set out a package of leaf cut-outs from Hobby Lobby along with masking tape and a marker, and added a few leaves to start everyone off. Throughout the day, people would write or draw things they were thankful for and tape them up. It was fun.

Happy Friday!