End-of-October Reflections

October tends to be a somewhat quiet month for us, with no birthdays or anniversaries in our immediate family (though there are a few in the extended family). I love our “birthday season,” but it’s nice to have a quiet spot between it and the holidays. My yearly physical in September usually sets off a couple of other appointments, but I am putting off some non-essential ones for now. I do have a sleep study scheduled for next week to test for sleep apnea, at home rather than the lab per insurance requirements. We’ll see what happens!

We had our annual pumpkin decorating last Saturday. We weren’t into that when our children were small, but our daughter-in-law requested it a few years ago. It has become a fun tradition. And since the places that would normally be open for safe trick-or-treating are closed due to COVID-19, we’re not only invited to a family get-together this weekend, but invited to dress up! I’m still contemplating what to do, but I have a couple of ideas.

Timothyisms

My little 6-year-old grandson is almost as tall as my shoulder now. I love how his mind works. He was making Lego creations, and had a flower on a lower level that was pushing over a column. His dad asked if he wanted to take the flower off so the column would fit better. Timothy said, “No, that’s the turbine,” and told him how the water flowed through his building.

A couple of texts my daughter-in-law sent:

Jason was explaining what herbivores and carnivores eat.

T- Yeah, cows don’t eat meat because they ARE meat!!

__

M- Timothy who did we talk about in Bible yesterday?

T- Zebra! Zebra?

M- Close. Her name is Deborah.

T- That’s a weird name.

He must not know any Debbies yet. 🙂

He texted me this: I think he made it himself:

I didn’t make any cards this month, but I’ve gotten lots of housework done and figured out the new WordPress editor (at least the features I use. It does a whole lot more than I know what to do with at this point). Here’s what else I’ve been doing.

Watching

While riding my exercise bike, I enjoyed an old Cary Grant movie, The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss. Grant plays an idle rich guy suffering from malaise who goes to the doctor, who challenges him to work for his living for the next year. After that I started the Lark Rise to Candleford series. Like anything else based on books, there are similarities and differences from the original. But I am enjoying it. It will keep me occupied for a long while.

Jim and I also watched The Current War about the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse. It was pretty interesting (warning: it includes a couple of instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain).

Reading

This month I finished:

  • A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (actually finished last month but had not reviewed in time for my monthly posts). LOVED this book and immediately sought out the sequels. A group of street kids formed themselves into a family in London just before WWI, and one is approached by a mysterious man seeking her help.
  • A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, sequel to A Name Unknown. Love this, too!
  • An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White, the third and last in this Shadows Over England series.
  • Termination Zone by Adam Blumer. A man with a brain implant eludes those trying to control. him. Very edge-of-your-seat reading!
  • Be Obedient (Genesis 12-25): Learning the Secret of Living by Faith by Warren Wiersbe.
  • True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal—and How Nearly Dying Saved my Life, by Kevin Sorbo. The actor shares a bit of his background and how he came to star in Hercules, then suffered an aneurysm and three mini-strokes that changed his life.
  • The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, first in the Codebreakers series, but a few characters from the previous series appear, too. Just finished last night but have not reviewed yet.

I’m currently reading:

  • In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple
  • Write Better by Andrew Le Peau
  • 1984 by George Orwell (audiobook)
  • Discovering Jesus and His Love by Scott Leone
  • Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque, recommended in a writing webinar by Steve Laube and Thomas Umstattd, Jr.

I started Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers, but just couldn’t get into it and laid it aside. I’d wanted to read something by her since seeing her mentioned in one of C. S. Lewis’s books, but will have to try another one. This book is in the middle of a bunch featuring detective Peter Wimsey.

Blogging

In addition to weekly Friday’s Fave Fives and occasional Laudable Linkages and book reviews, I’ve posted:

What Do You Look for When You Read the Bible? The Bible doesn’t just provide momentary fixes for the current need: it’s the means by which we get to know God better.

What Grace Does. Titus 2:11-13 about what grace teaches sparked a study of other activities of grace.

Alone with God. Community is an essential gift, “But some of the most poignant moments of life occur between the individual and God alone.”

A Christian Philosophy of Things. Finding the balance between being too careless or too possessive of our stuff.

Writing

I’ve had a few little sessions but need to dig in more.

And that pretty much wraps up October for us. Though we still have a few days, I wanted to post this before the weekend, as not many people come around then. I am looking forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend when we turn our clocks back! And the rest of autumn, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas season!

How was your October?

(Sharing with Let’s Have Coffee)

Book Review: An Hour Unspent

Barclay Pearce is the head of a makeshift family of orphans who found each other on the streets and put themselves together as a family. The only way the older kids knew to care for the younger was to become pickpockets. They became quite good at what they did, to the point that V., an enigmatic figure with some kind of ties to the British government during WWI, recruited some of them for some behind-the-scenes, off-record reconnaissance and information-gathering.

Now Barclay and his two oldest “sisters” have become Christians and turned the family from thieving. For now, V provides them with plenty of well-paid work. What they’ll do after the war, they don’t know—but they’ll trust God to lead.

Meanwhile, Barclay, the newest to become a believer, tries to learn how to walk by faith, find God’s guidance, and apply Christian principles to the work V asks of him.

His latest job is to get to know clock-maker Cecil Manning. Dr. Manning is something of a tinkerer, creating toys and other inventions. Rumor has it that he’s working on a synchronized gear that could help pilots in the war. If he is, the admiralty wants information: how close he is to completion, does he need anything to aid his efforts, would he be willing for the government to use the gear.

Evelina Manning Is the clock-maker’s only daughter. She’s close to her father and fondly tolerant of his eccentric habits. She’s less tolerant of her mother’s controlling ways. Evelina works with the suffragette movement, much to her mother’s dismay. Her childhood bout with polio left her with a leg that works most of the time.

But one time when her leg betrayed her, this Barclay fellow stepped in to help, unasked and unneeded. That set them off on the wrong foot. Finding out more about Barclay’s past and his unconventional but loving family doesn’t raise him in her eyes. But there’s something about him that piques her interest.

As the first zeppelins attack London and the Germans also learn of Manning’s gear, Barclay and Evelina will have to work together to escape the danger coming for them.

An Hour Unspent is the third and last in Roseanna M. White’s Shadows Over England series. As with the first two (A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard), I loved the story, the characters, and the realistic faith element. Thankfully, some of the characters from this series carry over into the next, The Codebreakers. I also love the covers of all three books. The fact that they were different from what I have seen before first drew me to them.

A Christian Philosophy of Things

My daughter-in-law recently shared a scenario I remember occurring with my own children. Her son, my grandson, accidentally broke something and was upset. In an effort to comfort him, his parents assured him it was all right, it was just a thing, it could be replaced.

Then the next time something broke, he nonchalantly said, “It’s okay, we can get another one.”

It’s been a couple of decades since my own were very young, and I can’t remember how I handled this with them. I think over time and experience, they learned that accidents are ok, but deliberate destruction is not; some things can be replaced easily, some things cannot.

I’m not prone to watch talk shows, but I caught part of one years ago in which a child said that when he got into trouble for jumping on the couch, it made him feel like his parents loved the couch more than him. I remember thinking, “It’s not unloving to teach a child to take care of property.” But perhaps the way the situation was handled added fuel to the fire. I remember a song my parents used to listen to told a story about a man getting after his daughter about not messing up the grass in the yard that he had worked so hard to maintain. Now he had a beautiful yard, but he was estranged from his daughter.

It’s possible to love our “stuff” more than we love people, or at least to give them the impression that we do. But teaching a child to take care of things in itself is not putting the things above the child. I’ve known adults with an “Oh, well” attitude towards things which they probably think is non-materialistic, but which seems careless.

How do we find that balance between not esteeming things too highly or too carelessly?

Here are some principles that help me.

Everything we have belongs to God. We don’t have anything that didn’t ultimately come from God. We’re just stewards of our possessions.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. (Job 41:11)

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Even if we grew, carved, crafted, or assembled something, the raw materials as well as the ability to do anything with them came from God.

We can’t take it with us. “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Ecclesiastes speaks often of the vanity of working for things and then leaving them behind to someone else.

We’re accountable for what we do with our things. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12). “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Good stewardship includes careful use of things. This verse always convicts me, and I like the way the KJV puts it: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious (Proverbs 12:27). According to the Pulpit Commentary at the bottom of this page, this could refer to someone who caught game but was too lazy to roast it, so it went bad (that’s the part that convicts me when I clean rotted stuff out of the refrigerator), or someone who catches game but then doesn’t attend to it, so it escapes. Either way, the slothful, or lazy person, doesn’t attend to what he has, but “the substance of a diligent man is precious” (some translations say “prized.”)

I hate to see people throw out perfectly good items just because they don’t need or want them anymore. Sometimes people will come by and take for themselves anything you have on the streets to be thrown out. Some people like to “dumpster dive” for treasures. So maybe people who take their unwanted stuff to dumps figure someone might find it there. But our local recycling and trash center doesn’t allow anything to be taken out, probably for safety purposes. I don’t like to mess with sales, but I like to take any unused items in good condition to the local thrift store.

Possessions are not wrong. I fear that some in the minimalist camp equate what they consider excess as sin. There’s nothing in the Bible that says we have to live as starkly as possible. We shouldn’t be covetous, and we have to understand that things cost money and take up space and time to maintain. But different people have different tolerance levels for “stuff.” I used to wonder whether it was wrong to want to wear pretty clothes or decorate my home. But I realized that God could have made the world just utilitarian, yet He didn’t. He created a wonderful variety of vibrant colors, animals, flora, etc. Edith Schaeffer made a strong case for this in a chapter on Interior Decorating in The Hidden Art of Homemaking. One of her quotes there:

If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation (p. 109).

Possessions are temporary. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(Matthew 6:19-21). 

Possessions can be idols. Jesus called one man who laid up many goods but did not prepare for eternity a “rich fool.” He reminded His listeners “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The “rich young ruler” came to Jesus once to ask what he needed to do to get to heaven. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Note: this is not something He says to everyone, but He knew that this man’s riches were an idol to him. The man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). Jesus went onto say that it is “only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). Paul writes to Timothy:

 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Possessions can be a distraction. Amy Carmichael told of a woman she was trying to share the gospel with in Japan. The weather was cold and Amy suffered from neuralgia, so she wore some fur-lined gloves. The women listened and seemed to be just about to turn to God when she noticed Amy’s gloves and asked about them.

She was old and ill and easily distracted. I cannot remember whether or not we were able to recall her to what mattered so much more than gloves. But this I do remember. I went home, took off my English clothes, put on my Japanese kimono, and never again, I trust, risked so much for the sake of so little (Frank Houghton, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, p. 59).

Similarly, in Isobel Kuhn‘s early ministry in China, she was a newlywed taking joy in setting up housekeeping. When a couple of Chinese women came to visit, she was thrilled to receive them. They were among the poorest people, and their culture was very different. One of the women blew her nose in her hands and wiped them on Isobel’s rug. The other held her child apart from her while the child wet on the rug. The women had dirt floors in their homes, so they were unaware they had done anything “wrong.” Isobel “managed to remain courteous” while the women were there. But once they left, “Hot resentment rose in my heart, and then there followed my first battle over things.” She concluded:

If your finery hinders your testimony throw it out. In our Lord’s own words, if thine hand offend thee, cut it off; He was not against our possessing hands, but against our using
them to hold on to sinful or hindering things.

So I faced my choice. In our first home—what was to come first? An attractive sitting-room just for ourselves? Or a room suited to share with the local Chinese?

Our engagement motto hung silently on the wall—God first. Mentally I offered that pretty rattan furniture to the Lord to be wrecked by the country peasants if they chose (Isobel Kuhn, Whom God Has Joined, pp. 21-22).

When they moved to their next station, she sold these items and bought easily washable furnishings like the Chinese had.

We’re commanded to be generous. It’s easy to look at millionaires and think, “Yeah, those rich people need to be generous!” But the Macedonians were commended for giving “according to their means” out of “extreme poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). We’re all richer than someone. What’s considered poor these days would be considered quite rich by people in some other countries or by people from a hundred years ago.

We only give back to God what is His. David and other leaders donated materials for Solomon to build the temple. David prayed before the assembly, acknowledging “all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)(See point 1). Then he said:

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you . . . O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16)

We hold possessions loosely. Rosalind and Jonathan Goforth’s lost nearly everything not once, but four times in their missionary experience: through fire, flood, the Boxer rebellion when they fled for their lives, and damage when they were on furlough and others moved their things to a leaky storage shed. Rosalind found this fourth loss “the hardest to bear,” possibly since it came about “because ‘someone had blundered'” (Rosalind Goforth, Goforth of China, p. 210).

When, in the privacy of their own room, the “weaker vessel” broke down and wept bitter, rebellious tears, Goforth sought to comfort her by saying, “My dear, after all, they’re only things and the Word say, ‘Take joyfully the spoiling of your goods!’ Cheer up, we’ll get along somehow” (p. 211).

Jonathan quotes there from Hebrews 10:32-35, where the writer recalls some of the sufferings the Hebrews had endured:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

We trust God for things we need. “Daily bread” is one of the things Jesus instructs us to pray for (Matthew 6:11). He also said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). He pointed out the birds and flowers that our heavenly Father feeds and cares for. Then He reminded His listeners, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (verses 32b-33).

God often provides through honest work: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes say much about diligence, hard work, and reward. The New Testament condemns “idleness” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10) and commends work:

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

We not only work for our needs, but to provide for our families. In the context of the church providing for destitute widows, Paul writes, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

So, though God usually meets our needs through providing opportunity and strength to work, when no work is available, or it’s not enough for the needs, we’re not to worry. We seek Him and trust Him to provide. I heard one preacher say that when his car had a problem and he didn’t have the money to fix it, remembering that all we have belongs to God, he prayed, “God, Your car needs work.”

It seems the more I search, the more I find in the Bible concerning how we should think about things. Other aspects include not stealing other people’s things, covetousness, and contentment.

But these prevailing truths help me. Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him. Some day we’ll give an account of how we handled what He gave us. Therefore we take care of them, use them wisely, hold them loosely, give generously to others, and trust Him to provide. He “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). It’s okay to enjoy the material blessings He provides. But we don’t set our hearts on them or esteem them more highly than we should. We understand that God, people, and eternal truths are more important.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Some good reads from this week:

Bible Study From the Outside In. How to work from the big picture to the smaller details.

The Wisdom in Restraining Our Lips, HT to Challies. When I respond in the heat of the moment, I usually regret it. “There is wisdom in letting our words slowly bake and simmer in our hearts and minds before making them known.”

Intellectual Disabilities and the Church, HT to Challies. I like the step beyond inclusion to integration.

Watching What I Invest in Evaporate, HT to Challies. So much of what we do is fleeting, needing to be repeated the next day or week. But “What you do—the conversations you have, the games you play, the emails you write, the projects you work on, the loads of laundry you do—are the strands of life that when woven together build into something larger than the fleeting moments they represent.”

A Wild Harvest, HT to Challies. Neat story of fruition during persecution in China and a daughter’s return to her roots.

The Word You Can Use Once a Year (and No More)

Two Truths and a Lie about Family Devotions, HT to Story Warren. In a recent radio program with Elisabeth Elliot, she said that when we feed children physically, it’s a messy process at first. And, she said, it’s the same spiritually. It’s not going to be perfect, but it is still useful.

I’ve seen a few of these videos with Olive and Mabel. Pretty cute.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

Here we are at another Friday, and another opportunity to recount the blessings of the week.

1. A big surprise. One afternoon, Jason texted to ask if he and Timothy could come over after dinner. Mittu had not been feeling well, and I assumed he just wanted to give her a bit of time to herself. When he came in, he handed me a card and gift bag but told me I couldn’t open them yet. I thought that was odd, as it’s not my birthday or any other gift-giving occasion. Then he proceeded to set up a FaceTime call with both Jeremy and Mittu, and then Jesse came in from his room. I wondered what in the world was up.

The package turned out to be an Apple watch that they had all pitched in to get for me. After my last afib episode, they discussed getting me an Apple watch because it has the ability to do an EKG reading and to alert you if your heart goes into an abnormal rhythm.

I was so touched by their thoughtfulness, and sad that I had made them worry.

Jason helped me get the watch set up and showed me the basics, and I’ve explored it more since then. I like it!

2. Flowers from Timothy.

3. Getting my fall decorations up, finally. I almost skipped it—somehow I just wasn’t as into it this year. But I do enjoy them, and I like decorating to some degree with the change in seasons. Once I got started, I got more into it, and I was glad I got them out.

Special thanks also to Jesse, who fetched the boxes down from the attic and put them back again. He joked that after he moves out, whenever he comes to visit I am probably going to ask him to take things to and from the attic for me. He might be right…:)

4. Discount prescription coupons. One of my new prescriptions came from the pharmacy with a note that a manufacturer’s coupon might be available for that medication. We investigated and filled out the information to receive the discount card. When I used it for the refill, it knocked our part of the payment from $60 to $10. It does make you wonder—if the manufacturer is willing to give out these discounts, why don’t they just lower the price by that amount? I don’t know, but I am glad I found out about them.

5. Roast. Jason and Mittu asked us to watch Timothy while they voted. She brought over a roast in the Instant Pot to cook while they were gone, and we all enjoyed it for dinner after they got back. Then she left a bunch of the leftovers with us. Yum!

That’s my week! What’s something good from yours?

Book Review: True Strength

I don’t read many celebrity biographies or memoirs. But we had seen Kevin Sorbo in a couple of things, then noticed he starred in Christian-based movies the last several years (he portrayed the atheist professor in God’s Not Dead). And he seems to have become more outspoken about his Christian faith on Twitter and Facebook. I became interested in his story. So when I saw his book, True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal—and How Nearly Dying Saved my Life, come out on a Kindle sale, I got it.

He grew up in Mound, Minnesota, with small-town values and a strong work ethic. He got some modeling jobs to help pay bills in college, then starting acting in commercials. Soon he got the starring role in three Hercules movies, which then transitioned to a TV series, becoming one of the top shows in its day.

Just as things were going well, Kevin noticed a lump on his shoulder. It turned out to be not cancer, but an aneurysm. A chiropractic maneuver released hundreds of blood clots in his arm and a few in his brain, triggering three mini-strokes. At first, the doctors’ main concern was saving his arm. But Kevin experienced a host of symptoms, from vision loss to lack of balance to buzzing and vibrating in his brain to headaches. The only treatment seemed to be physical therapy and time. Doctors called his health crisis “one in seventy-five million.”

Both because Kevin was a private person, plus he and the producers didn’t want his Hercules persona to be tarnished, the full extent of his condition was not made public. He filmed the rest of the series with minimum camera time, creative use of a body double, and plots that worked around his situation.

Kevin talks about faith in the book, but there’s no real conversion point or switchover. It’s more like he reached back for the faith he had been brought up with and started praying and relying on God to see him through. He rejected the “hellfire and eternal flames of misery on us sinners” that his childhood pastor preached. That in the Bible, but his pastor seems to have used it as a club to beat over people’s heads rather than an invitation. Kevin did believe in a “loving, forgiving God” and acknowledged that:

Before my illness I was fully preoccupied with the material side of life. Moving at the speed of light, I ignored the spiritual side, the unseen. God created this world, but I was determined to live in it to the fullest, to get the most out of it. I figured He would want that

Through his illness, he realized:

My illness made me special—in a way that I never wanted nor expected, yes, but if I was to be special, then I was going to do something with that gift. I wasn’t a half-god or any part god. I was a mere mortal, with human limitations and problems, but I was determined not to behave like a victim anymore.

His dear wife deserves an MVP award: they were engaged when Kevin’s illness struck, and she was his main support all through it.

There are some crude spots in the book, some sexual encounters (though nor explicit), and a bit of bad language (though some of it is disguised comic strip-style with keyboard characters).

Even though our situations were very different, my experience with transverse myelitis helped me identify with-some of the neurological issues and the long recovery.

It was also interesting reading about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film industry.

I appreciate Kevin’s sharing his story and wish him and his family all the best.

Book Review: Termination Zone

Termination Zone is the sequel to Adam Blumer‘s thriller, Kill Order (linked to my review).

In the first book, pianist Landon Jeffers had surgery for a brain tumor. After he recovered, he began waking up with partial memories of things he wouldn’t normally do. He found out an organization had implanted a chip in his head in order to control him and have him do their bidding. And he discovered he was not the only one.

Landon has been in hiding in the months since the last book, but he is discovered. His method of jamming his implant’s signals is no longer working. He’s on the run again. But an unexpected help directs him home: his mother is in danger.

Landon learns the organization behind the implants is called the Justice Club. He’s also told that a covert group is trying to thwart and disable the organization. His contact tells Landon they want him to work from inside the club. It’s a dangerous prospect, and Landon is not sure whom to trust. But he decides to work with the Justice Club’s hidden opponents. Landon tries to discern what the Justice Club is up to, but their aim is bigger than he imagined. Will he find out in time? Can he do anything about it? Will it endanger the woman he loves?

This sequel starts off with a bang and grabbed me from the first page. Fast-paced action and mystery kept me riveted.

Landon had become a Christian in the last book, and he struggles realistically in this book to learn to yield to God, to pray, to seek God for discernment and guidance.

Adam has pledged to readers to keep his novels clean. There are no sexual scenes, bad language, or gore. He proves that an excellent, thrilling novel can be written without all that. There are bad guys who are out for people’s lives, but there’s nothing gratuitous.

Once again, Adam has done a superb job. The fact that thrillers aren’t my usual reading fare, yet I eagerly await Adam’s every new book, should tell you something about his writing. I was privileged to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this one before it came out. Termination Zone releases November 2.

Alone with God

Community is a great gift. Many of us have come to appreciate it now more than ever, since gathering with others has been restricted for several months. There’s nothing like being with, singing with, exercising the “one anothers” of the Bible, encouraging and being encouraged by God’s people.

So many have fallen away from regular church attendance, leaders have stressed the importance and benefits of Christian community in the last several years. But as often happens, the pendulum sometimes swings too far the other way. Some admonishments have overstated the importance of community. In one tweet I saw, some advocated changing the pronouns in hymnbooks from singular to plural!

I believe strongly in Christian community, in gathering regularly together as believers. I wrote about it here and here and here and here.

But some of the most poignant moments of life occur between the individual and God alone.

Joseph spent years isolated from a believing community after he was sold into slavery before his family came. If he had not known how to walk with God alone, his story would have come out very differently.

Two of the major events in Jacob’s life occurred when God met with him alone. One was in a dream on his journey to his uncle’s house; the other occurred when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord on the way back home to face Esau.

Daniel had three friends, but he faced the lion’s den alone, received visions from God alone, and prayed for his nation alone.

David spent much time alone and used much of it to write psalms.

The psalmists speak of remembering God’s word, work, and character and communing with Him alone in the middle of the night.

Elijah met with God alone after the great victory over Jezebel’s priests.

Paul traveled and ministered with companions, at times he had to stand alone.

Jesus ministered to crowds, small groups, and individuals, but sought time with His Father alone.

One of the blessings of the Christian life is that we have access to God directly. “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). We don’t have to go through a priest or anyone else to get to Him. And, though sometimes we come with others, there are times we interact with Him alone.

God formed us individually. Psalm 139:13-16 tells about God forming us, knitting us together in our mother’s wombs, making us in secret.

We’re born again individually. Someone might be with us; someone might have explained what salvation meant and prayed with us. But we’re saved when we individually believe on Christ. No one can do that for us.

We’ll give account of ourselves. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

We have our own relationship with God. I wrote recently that the Christian life is a relationship with God, not a set of rules and rituals. We have a relationship all together as a family. But most families don’t relate to each other just as a group all the time. Each individual child has a relationship with the Father.

We meet with God individually. As vital as it is to meet together to hear God’s Word preached and explained, we need to partake of it on our own. Many verses compare God’s Word to food. We don’t eat just one or two times a week. We’d be pretty malnourished spiritually if we did. When I attended a Christian college, students were often reminded that it was an easy place to get away from the Lord. It was easy to coast on the atmosphere, to read the Bible for class assignments, to attend many Christian meetings, etc., without personally meeting with the Lord.

We walk with God individually. Just as we’re saved in a one-on-one exchange with God, so also our obedience, growth, and sanctification occur between us and God. Again, others help, teach, encourage. But they can’t obey and grow for us. They might help us resist temptation, but we need to apply the Word of God and yield to Him in our own hearts.

We encourage ourselves in the Lord. Other Christians are a great source of encouragement, and I have leaned on them many times. Yet sometimes we have to stand alone. David experienced one such instance when everyone was against him, even threatening to stone him. But David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6). So many of his psalms were written when he was alone, or at least they were written about being alone. Yes, the psalms were sung congregationally. Some dealt with God’s people as a whole. But many of the situations written about were experienced individually, written down, and sung with the congregation so that they then could individually be encouraged and apply the truth of them.

We can pray individually. Yes, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20). But He also said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6a). He’s not forbidding public prayer in the latter verse, but illustrating that it’s not something we do for “show” (compare with verses 1-5). I’ve often requested prayer from the whole church body or texted a Christian friend with an urgent prayer request. But have you ever noticed how many times in the Bible people prayed alone? Take as just one example Elijah, of whom James says “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18). Kevin Schaal says in This Is No Time for Timid Prayers:

Sometimes we minimize the power of the prayer of a Christian individual. We tend to view prayers like votes—ours is only one among many millions and God somehow looks at the collection of prayers before Him instead of the heartfelt cry of an individual. The Bible never presents prayer like that. James 5 does not say “the effectual fervent prayers of a large group of righteous people accomplishes a lot.” The individual prayer of one righteous person can change the world.

I’ve read in some missionary biographies of great victories that were followed a few weeks later by a note from some faithful supporter saying, “I felt strongly led to pray for you on this date. Was anything in particular going on?”

We worship God individually. Even when we’re worshiping with a congregation, we worship and praise in our own hearts. And we can and should worship and praise when we meet with God alone.

Meeting with God isn’t meant to happen either alone or with a group. We need both. Our time alone with God will inform and enrich our time with each other, and our time with each other should do the same for our individual walk with God.

I’ve appreciated the creative ways people have developed to keep in touch with each other through this pandemic. Let’s use all of those ways as much as possible. But be encouraged: you can pray, worship, serve, and walk with God in any circumstance, alone or with a group.

I could not do without Thee,
I cannot stand alone,
I have no strength or goodness,
No wisdom of my own;
But Thou, belovèd Savior,
Art all in all to me,
And perfect strength in weakness
Is theirs who lean on Thee.

I could not do without Thee!
No other friend can read
The spirit’s strange deep longings,
Interpreting its need;
No human heart could enter
Each dim recess of mine,
And soothe, and hush, and calm it,
O blessèd Lord, but Thine.

I could not do without Thee,
For years are fleeting fast,
And soon in solemn loneness
The river must be passed;
But Thou wilt never leave me,
And though the waves roll high,
I know Thou wilt be near me,
And whisper, It is I.

From “I Could Not Do Without Thee” by Frances Ridley Havergal

Psalm 62 God alone

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Selah, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads from the last week or two:

The Do Not Depart site is focusing on “Snap Shots of Bible Study” this month. Each writer will share the tips they’ve found most helpful. The two articles so far have been good.

How to Influence Your Teenager’s Quiet Time With God. Good tips here.

Small and Holy, HT to Challies. For those who lament not knowing the exact time of their salvation, “It is not only a beginning date, but our following, stumbling, and returning to God that matters.”

Don’t Quarrel Over Opinions but Welcome One Another, HT to Challies. “Our commitment to unity is only really put to the test when something comes up that we have different and strong opinions about. One way to maintain unity would be to eject the minority who think differently. That would leave a very united congregation! But it would be the artificial unity of the cults, where everyone has to think the same on every issue. Gospel unity looks very different – that’s where we bear patiently with one another, love one another and strive to think the very best of one another.”

FAQ: Aren’t Missionaries Really Just Colonists? HT to Challies. “It is more than a little ironic that the Americans leveling colonization accusations argue based on American presuppositions. They attack missionaries across an ocean, assuming they know what is best for the Africans. Were they to come, sit down, and discuss the issues with our neighbors, they would walk away with a very different perspective.”

Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now, HT to Rachelle. Many have mentioned kind of a listless, can’t get thoughts together feeling since the pandemic started.

This is a cute video about a baby who gets very excited about paint samples. (Maybe an HGTV show is in his future!) HT to Steve Laube, who said if books were substituted for paint samples, book lovers would have the same expressions.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

Somehow this week has gone fast. They all do these days, but this one got to the end much sooner than expected! Here are some highlights from it.

1. Our ladies’ Bible study met in a home rather than outside due to rain, but had a Zoom option for those who didn’t feel comfortable meeting inside. I was the only one to Zoom in, but it all went well.

2. Tutorials. I mentioned last week frustration with the new WordPress editor. After neatly pulling my hair out trying to do Monday’s post, I decided I needed to dedicate some time to figuring this out. I looked up a few WP articles as well as some tutorials from others on YouTube. And I told my brain that learning new things was good for it. 🙂 I got a handle on the basics, which is probably all I will need (I told my family it was like someone created a high end camera with ten lenses and scores of bells and whistles when most people just want to point and shoot). I especially appreciated finding out here that if I revert to a “classic block,” the beloved toolbar that I had been missing will show up.

3. Family time and games. My son and daughter-in-law invited us over Sunday evening for grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, chocolate cake, and games. One we tried was Pictionary Air, which integrates with an iPad. I don’t draw well on paper, so I figured drawing in the air would be even worse. But I found I was decent at it! It was a fun night.

4. Early voting. I appreciate the privilege we have to vote in our country. There was a long line, extending out the building and around the corner. But it moved pretty quickly, and everyone was masked and distanced. The time we waited outside, it was a nice temperature with a pleasant breeze. We had fill-in-the-box ballots rather than the usual electronic screen. But everything went efficiently and everyone was pleasant.

5. Takeout pizza. We got done voting right around the time I usually start dinner, and Little Caesar’s was on the way home. 🙂 And I had loaded and run the dishwasher in the afternoon, so no cooking or kitchen clean-up that night—always a fave.

I hope your week went well!