November Reflections

November has been another quick and busy month. We’ve had some frigid days and frosty nights interspersed with temperate ones.

We started the month with a couple of big gatherings. The church we’re visiting had a joint service with a “sister church” in another area. It was a wonderful day of worshiping together. Then our neighborhood had its first big get-together in a long time, something we used to every year.

We were thankful for the privilege of voting earlier in the month. We had some fun get-togethers with the family, including some dry ice “experiments” that Timothy loved.

We got to experience a couple of Thanksgiving testimony times in the church we’ve been visiting. I mentioned last Friday that churches we’ve been in used to have testimony times regularly, especially right before Thanksgiving, and I have missed them. Especially being new to this church, we don’t know everyone’s backgrounds. What a joy to hear how God has worked in lives.

Then, of course, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with all the kids except our out-of-state one, and he had “piesgiving” with friends (all the food was in the form of a pie).

Creating

We had no birthdays this month, but I made these for a couple of friends going through different trials.

The message for both cards was made with a stamp. The leaf shapes were made with the Cuttlebug, which usually just does embossing. But I have a couple of folders which actually cut out shapes.

The strip of leaves is one of my favorite things. I have a square stamp with four leaves on it, and I use a multi-colored stamp pad and turn the stamp a quarter-turn each time. I didn’t come up with this idea; I saw it demonstrated somewhere.

I had wanted to use another leaf strip on this one, but the one I had got messed up when I touched it with damp hands. It takes a long time for that kind of ink to dry, so I looked for another idea to use instead. The roses were from a small embossing folder for the Cuttlebug. The color of the paper reminded me of some beautiful off-white roses I saw in a fall wedding once.

Watching and Listening

I enjoyed the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, though the player I was rooting for was robbed. You may have heard about the Bible question used for a final Jeopardy! round that the writers got wrong (if not, you can read about it here).

We enjoyed watching Disenchanted with the family, the sequel to Enchanted. In the first movie, an animated princess finds her handsome prince and is about to start her happily-ever-after when the stepmother of her groom-to-be pushes her down a well into the real world, which is quite a culture shock. The people in the real world don’t know what to make of her, either. But over time she discovers a handsome lawyer and finds that fairy tale love is shallow compared to the real thing.

In the sequel, the little daughter from the first movie is now a teenager, and daughter and stepmother clash. The stepmother, Giselle, thinks a move to a castle-like house in the suburbs will help. But it makes relationships with her stepdaughter worse. She finds the means to make a wish and desires a “fairy tale life.” Immediately, people are clothed with fairy tale attire and start singing and dancing in the streets. Giselle’s husband goes on a quest to find some way to display heroism. But Giselle forgot that stepmothers in fairy tales are evil. Her family and friends have to find a way to reverse the wish before it becomes permanent.

The second movie wasn’t as charming as the first, but I liked the twist on the usual fairy tale arc. I loved some of the nods to other fairy tale movies. But I thought some of the song lyrics were silly.

I’ve been listening to the Literary Life Podcast episodes on Dracula–not my usual fare, but I read it along with my son through Dracula Daily, which sent out the diary entries, letters, newspaper articles that make up the book on the dates listed. It was a fun way to read it, and the podcast has brought out much more than I gleaned on my own.

Reading

Since last time I have finished (linked to my reviews):

  • Three Fifty-Seven: Timing Is Everything by Hank Stewart or Kendra Norman-Bellamy. An elderly widow finds new purpose in making herself available to help various neighbors. This was a really sweet story but was marred by too much detail in a couple of the characters’ bedrooms.
  • Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Hazel’s little sister, Maggie, was lost when Hazel was ten, and Hazel has borne the guilt of that for sixty years. Her losses cause her to be perfectionist and anxiously controlling, which causes her daughter to rebel. She hasn’t told her daughter or granddaughter, but the latter accidentally stumbles across some old photos. The granddaughter, Meghan, is a cold case detective who investigates Maggie’s disappearance. This is one of Kim’s best.
  • Worthy of Legend by Roseanna M. White, the last in her Isles of Scilly series. Two background characters from the previous books come to the forefront in a race against another group to find a long-hidden artifact. Excellent.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker.
  • Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality by Warren Wiersbe. I reread the book this month, but the review is from a couple of years ago when I first read it.
  • Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth. A good book of a midwife’s experiences in the 1950s, but marred by graphic descriptions of a dancer in a brothel.

I read the section on Ezra in Be Heroic (Minor Prophets): Demonstrating Bravery by Your Walk by Warren W. Wiersbe. Ezra is usually grouped together with Nehemiah, which follows on its heels in history. Wiersbe put Ezra in with the minor prophets instead, since the timeline does fit there as well. I had read the rest of this book a while back when reading through the minor prophets–but didn’t review it then because I hadn’t read the Ezra section yet.

I’m currently reading:

  • Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback
  • Seasons of Sorrow: The Pain of Loss and the Comfort of God by Tim Challies
  • Writing for the Soul: Instruction and Advice from an Extraordinary Writing Life by Jerry B. Jenkins
  • Be Determined (Nehemiah): Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • Snowed In for Christmas by Cami Checketts (audiobook)

I’m looking forward to some Christmas reading in the next few weeks!

Blogging

Besides the weekly Friday Fave Fives, Saturday Laudable Linkage, and book reviews, I’ve posted these since last time:

  • Careful of Our Strengths as Well as Our Weaknesses. We’re often concerned about our weaknesses tripping us up. But we can fail in areas of strength as well. We need God’s strength and guidance for both.
  • You Don’t Have to Choose a Word for the Year. Many people benefit from the practice, but it’s not a must. What’s most important is regularly spending time with God in His Word, seeking His guidance for the day.
  • Hope in Darkness. The time change caused darkness to descend earlier in the evenings, which can be depressing for some of us. I did a quick Bible study on darkness and found the Bible had some encouraging things to say about it..
  • God Is Always Working Even When We Don’t See. It’s discouraging when we pray for a long time with seemingly no response, especially when praying for spiritual needs. But God is at work under the surface.
  • A Confession of Praise. One Hebrew word can be translated as either “confess” or “give thanks or praise.” When we thank and praise God, we’re confessing that He is who He proclaims to be.
  • Benefits of Giving Thanks. Our US Thanksgiving holiday reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing every day and how much we have to be thankful for. I found several other benefits to giving thanks as well. Let thanksgiving continue!

Writing

I dug into my work-in-progress a bit this month. I’m not sure there will be time to work on it any more through the holidays, but we’ll see.

I continue to enjoy our writing critique group. We’re about to take a break for the holidays.

Several months (maybe even years?) ago, I saw a free online conference for hope*writers, so I signed up for it. As it turned out, it wasn’t really a conference. It was a replay of some of their teaching videos. Since I was on their mailing list, I began to receive invitations to membership as well as more videos and even a free class. I decided not to join them, for several reasons. But I’ve been working my way through the things they sent me so I can clear them out of my box and then unsubscribe from their mailing list.

One common theme that emerged from the videos for me was that we can’t do everything aspiring authors are supposed to do all at once. One video encouraged us to just work on the thing at hand and take everything else as it comes. That was a help, as it’s easy to feel overloaded with everything else to the point that we can’t even make time for writing the book.

As we turn the corner into holiday season, may we each have some quiet moments to reflect on the greatest gift God could give: His Son.

Mixed Emotions About a Book

I’ve been conflicted about whether I should even mention a book I recently listened to. But I finally decided that others might appreciate being forewarned, as I wish I had been.

I have not watched the Call the Midwife series on PBS. I like period pieces, but I had the impression this would be something like a “birth story of the week.” Each birth is its own miracle—or tragedy if things go wrong. But I didn’t necessarily want to watch a show about births in the 1950s.

But when I saw the audiobook by the same name was in a “two books for one credit” sale for Audible, I decided to check it out.

As it turns out, the book is a memoir about the life of a midwife in the 1950s in London’s East End, based on Jennifer Worth’s experiences.

Jenny Lee, as she is known in the book, became a nurse and then a midwife in the 1950s. She worked with other midwives out of a convent though they were not Catholic. The East End of London was a poor area, with most of the men working at the docks. Though crime was common, the midwives were respected and untouched though they rode their bikes alone day and night.

In past millennia, women were helped in giving birth by neighbors or a woman who was a midwife by means of experience gained in helping with deliveries and not through formal training. Normally, such help was fine, unless there was a problem.

Infant and mothers’ deaths finally led to midwifery becoming more of a science. Births still took place at home most of the time. But midwives in the 1950s had more training and tools to handle problem situations.

Though all of Jenny’s clients were poor, they varied greatly. Some homes were cheerful and neat though bare; others were in terrible condition.

As you might expect with a book like this, a number of birth stories are shared, both the happy and the tragic ones. Jenny shares what happened in graphic clinical detail, so if such things make you squeamish, you might not enjoy this book. Or you might skip through portions.

But the book is not all birth stories. Jenny tells about the different nuns at the convent, one of whom was brilliant but whose mind was failing. She tells about some of her coworkers and friends.

In one lengthy section, Jenny tells of a teenager named Mary who ran away from an abusive stepfather in Ireland and ended up roaming the streets of London. Mary was fourteen and evidently either didn’t know about places like the YWCA, where she could find temporary shelter, or didn’t know how to find them.

One day while Mary was looking longingly in a bakery window, a handsome young man saw her and offered to buy her breakfast. He was very kind, and soon Mary’s story came out. The man told Mary his uncle owned a cafe where they had “the best entertainment in London.” Perhaps his uncle would give her a job running the coffee machine.

In her naivete, Mary thought this man was romantically interested in her. She went with him to his uncle’s cafe—which turned out to be a brothel.

I don’t have a problem with this story being part of the book, because these kinds of things happened—and still do today. Young people, particularly runaways or orphans who have no one to call for help, are either lured with promise of food and shelter or outright kidnapped. Then they are trapped in a system they can’t get out of.

What I did object to, however, was a graphic description of the “show” one of the dancers put on at the brothel. I was navigating across busy lanes of traffic when this part of the story came on the audiobook, so I couldn’t stop and fast forward. I didn’t have the presence of mind while watching several directions for oncoming cars to just turn the sound off.

The dancer’s act wasn’t told in an approving or tantalizing manner. It was meant to be shocking and disgusting (and it was). But it wasn’t needed. We already had a good idea what kind of place Mary was being taken to. Even if Worth felt the need to share what went on, she didn’t have to tell as much as she did as graphically as she did. I regret having those images planted in my mind.

I almost laid the book aside at that point. But then I figured that scene was probably the worst, and the rest would be better. And that turned out to be the case.

There were a few other smaller problems–a few bad words, a couple of bawdy crude references, mention of a mixed group swimming nude.

Jennifer wrote the book some fifty years after her experiences when she read an article by Terri Coates wishing that some midwife would “do for midwifery what James Herriot did for vets.” I think Jennifer could have achieved what Herriot did, but I think she missed the mark by including scenes like the one I mentioned. What was otherwise a great book was marred by these negatives.

But Jennifer’s book became a bestseller when it was reissued in 2007 after having been originally published in 2002. She wrote three more, and the Call the Midwife series began in 2012.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Nicola Barber. The narrator did a great job with the dialects. But she spoke almost in a whisper much of the time, making it hard to hear.

Benefits of Giving Thanks

Though our US holiday of Thanksgiving is over, giving thanks should continue. This year I saw some benefits to thanksgiving, some of which I don’t remember noticing before.

Thanksgiving reminds us what we’re supposed to be doing all year long. A man in our Sunday School class shared how the Lord delivered him from a life-threatening illness. Then he remarked, “I should be thanking and praising God every day, but I take this gift for granted.” We all do that, don’t we?

Thanksgiving reminds us where our gifts come from. We forget that even a good job, the availability of good food, clean water, warm beds, family, and so much more, are gifts from God. They could all be taken away in a moment.

Thanksgiving reminds us how God has led or provided for us in the past, through both good and bad times. As people shared testimonies in our midweek service, they tended to recall special moments in the past where God’s help was especially displayed. I call these “Ebenezer moments.” In 1 Samuel 7, after God delivered Israel from the Philistines, Samuel set up a memorial stone and called it Ebenezer, meaning “stone of help.” A few years ago, I was inspired to make a list of “Ebenezer” moments. Going over that list inspires love and praise to God for how He has worked in my life. “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

Thanksgiving needs to be intentional. Maybe some people are naturally geared towards gratefulness. But most of us notice the problems, irritations, and imperfections of life first. In Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback, she says this: “If we are not looking for the good things, we may fail to see them when they come. That’s part of why thankfulness is so important. Offering thanks to God, no matter what is going on in our lives, is a way of acknowledging that he knows exactly what he is doing and that we can trust him” (p. 28, Kindle version).

Thanksgiving isn’t always a feeling. Another quote from Lydia’s book: “Sometimes thankfulness is a choice we make rather than a feeling we have” (p. 28).

Thanksgiving leads to more thanksgiving. Once you start looking for things to be thankful for, your list keeps growing. At the testimony service mentioned above, after everyone had a chance to share, people started saying, “His story reminds of the time God did this. . . “

Thanksgiving melts away our worries. When we remind ourselves of the ways God has helped and provided for us in the past, we’re encouraged to trust Him for the present and future.

Thanksgiving recalibrates our perspective. I can’t find the source now, but I recently read of a woman who was having an awful start to her day. On her way to work, she began deliberately looking for things to be thankful for. By the time she arrived, her mood and outlook had completely changed.

Thanksgiving shared with others increases opportunities to glorify God. As we heard each others’ stories at our testimony service, we thanked God not just for what He did for us, but also for what He did for others. “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).

Thanksgiving shared knits hearts together. Testimony services leave us not only with warm feelings towards God, but also towards each other.

So let thanksgiving continue! Let’s make it a point to look for God’s hand and thank Him as often as we can.

Have you found these or any other benefits to giving thanks?

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

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

Peace That Passes All Understanding, HT to Challies. “Now what? I just tried one of the classic passages on anxiety and it didn’t work. A-ha, there is a clue. I was looking for a pill. I visited God-my-pharmacist and asked what to take for my anxiety. That’s not the way Scripture works. I should have noticed it when I reduced the passage to a formula.”

Trusting God Through Terminal Illness, HT to Challies. “I am very thankful that I have an eye-tracking device so that I can still use a computer and turn on the TV. When my voice gives up, I can use my eyes to slowly type a few phrases which my mechanical voice speaks out loud. It would be easy to look at me and feel that there was no purpose to my life, but that’s not what God says.”

To the Impetuous and Impulsive. “As people repent of their sins and profess their loyalty to him, he does not eradicate their personalities as if he created them wrong in the first place or as if there is nothing within them he can use or redeem. Rather, he channels their personality, he redirects it, masters it, perfects it. Though he does sanctify his people, he does not completely destroy and then recreate them in such a way that they are all the same.”

Four Practical Ways to Cultivate Personal Evangelism, HT to Challies. “Let’s be honest, evangelism can be intimidating. For most, it can induce certain anxiety that can be crippling. It is easy to leave this high call that every believer has to a select few – elders, extroverts, or “experts.” Where does this intimidation come from when it comes to evangelism?”

Can Christians Date Nonbelievers? HT to Challies. The author answers from passages other than the usual go-to verse on this issue.

Eleven Factors for Helpful Short Term Mission Trips from one who has been on both sides of such trips, HT to Challies.

Welcoming the World’s Oldest Babies, HT to Challies. “Three weeks ago—on Monday, October 31—Rachel Ridgeway gave birth to the oldest babies in the world. Nearly 30 years ago, Lydia Ann and Timothy Ronald were conceived in a fertility clinic. Hours later, they were frozen.”

Gray Hair Is a Crown of Glory, HT to Challies. “This age-group will never be the “target” group for church growth strategists. However, if you want a church that actually does the work of the church and gives back to you as a pastor and to the congregants on the whole – then pray for a group of elderly saints.”

How Jesus Cares for Caregivers, HT to Story Warren. “Caregiving is hard. Not only do we grieve the suffering of our loved one, but we also process our own losses. Caregiving requires us to lay down our preferences and plans and pick up the holy calling of meeting the needs of another.”

Chosen Isn’t So Special If You’re a Turkey, HT to Challies. “My kids used to say I should write a how-to-hide-the-turkey-recipe book. We ate a lot of turkey when we lived in Italy. Affordable and easily available, I disguised wings, thighs and breast, every possible way. But turkey, as often as it showed up at our house, didn’t come whole.” A fun story with a great application.

The quote above is from Joy: The Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback.

Friday’s Fave Five

Some weeks overflow with blessings. Other weeks, we have to be more intentional in looking for them. This week has been full, and it’s a joy to share with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story. Please feel free to join in!

1. Thanksgiving. I am thankful we have a day set aside to remind us to be thankful. We had a wonderful day with all the family except our out-of-state one, plus had an abundance of good food. We watched a couple of episodes of The Santa Clauses, though we each dozed in different parts. 🙂 We tried to play some Jackbox games, but the system kept crashing–probably a lot of other people had the same idea. We did our “Thanksgiving tree” throughout the day, writing on leaves the things we were grateful for.

I forgot to mention last week I’m thankful we found a turkey! I had heard they might be scarce and expensive, but we didn’t find that to be the case.

2. Testimony times. The church we’ve been visiting had an opportunity both in Sunday School and then in the midweek service to share what we’re thankful for. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a service given over to testimonies, and this one reminded me that churches used to do this regularly. It was such a joy to hear different ones’ stories of how God worked in their lives.

3. Bad news/good news from the dentist. I hadn’t had any dental problems for years and wasn’t expecting any. But at my regular dental cleaning, the hygienist found a cavity in a tooth under a bridge. She thought that repairing it would mean removing the bridge, and if there was not enough of the original tooth left, she predicted I’d need an implant. She went on and on about what getting an implant involved (a six-month process). I was pretty overwhelmed and discouraged. There are worse things to endure, but it was still dismaying to discover out of the blue that all this would need to be done. But when the dentist came in to check me, she thought she could patch the cavity with a regular filling. She said there was a small chance that, once she got in there, she’d find that more work needed to be done. But she felt pretty confident a filling would do what was needed. That was a relief.

4. A productive errand-running day. Whether due to age or physical issues–or both–it’s hard for me to be out all day. But while I had to be out to go to the dentist, I wanted to try to get as much errand-running done as I could so I didn’t have to go out again later in the week. I prioritized my list and got everything done except the couple of things that there was no urgency for. Those things could even wait til the new year if need be.

5. Safety. While out on those errands, I was trying to tentatively back out in a busy parking lot. It was nerve-racking because cars and people were coming from all directions, so I inched out a bit at a time while trying to look every which way. Then I saw in my rear-view mirror the car behind me was backing out quickly, coming straight towards me. God gave me the presence of mind to hit the brake and horn at the same time, and the other car stopped and then pulled back into its space.

Are you Black Friday shopping? We’re gratefully spending the day indoors, but we might shop online a bit.

Happy Friday!

A Confession of Praise

A study Bible footnote unexpectedly intersected with thoughts about Thanksgiving.

I’m not a Hebrew scholar by any means. But the ESV Study Bible noted that the Hebrew word todah could be translated as “make confession” or “give thanks or praise,” depending on the context. The footnote goes on to say, “Some overlap of these meanings is not surprising because rightful confession is itself a kind of worship of God” (p. 820).

We don’t usually connect confession of sin with worship and praise, but the one does lead to the other, doesn’t it? Once we’ve confessed sin to the Lord and rested in His grace and forgiveness, we overflow with joy and thankfulness.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

But I began to wonder at another connection.

I was taught that confession of sin means saying the same thing God says about it. In other words, we don’t downplay our sin. We’re honest about it. We don’t say, “Oh, I just told a little fib.” No, to adequately confess sin, we have to call it what it is and own up to it: “I lied.”

So I wonder if giving thanks or praise carries that same connotation. When we praise God, we’re agreeing with what He says about Himself. It’s not that He needs the affirmation, but we need to recognize Him for who He is. And when we do, we can’t help but praise Him. And the more we behold Him, the more our cares and concerns melt away, because we remind ourselves He is more than able to handle any need we have.

Confessing also seems to carry the connotation of personal experience. I might share or rejoice in what God has done in someone else’s life. But if I am confessing, whether it’s sin or praise, I’m sharing what God has done in my life.

In Psalm 95:2, todah is the word translated thanksgiving: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Many of the psalms combine confession of sin, thankfulness for God’s grace, amazement at His greatness, and confession of His people’s personal experience of His provision, protection.

Psalm 145 is a beautiful example of this. Part of it says:

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 65 does as well:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

These thoughts brought to mind Ron and Shelly Hamilton’s song, “Worthy of Praise”:

My heart overflows with praise to the Lord
I will lift up my voice to the King
He brought me out of the pit of despair
And taught my heart to sing


Worthy of all my praise
You are worthy of all my praise
I bow at Your throne
And I worship You alone
Lord You are worthy
Worthy of praise

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and praise for Him who is worthy.

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

God is always working, even when we don’t see

One morning last week, I was a little discouraged as I prayed for a long-term prayer request. I hadn’t seen any movement on that front in a long time. It didn’t look like anything was happening.

I felt sure that I was praying according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” That doesn’t mean He will answer everything in just the time and way we want. Sometimes He might even say no if that is better for us than a yes. Sometimes He has something different and better in mind. Sometimes He wants us to wait.

But as I was praying for His working in a heart to bring a person to faith in Himself, I felt sure that He would do all in His power to answer that request.

Sometimes sin can hinder answers to prayer, but I wasn’t aware of anything I needed to confess to the Lord or anything that would hinder answered prayer.

I’ve had enough experience with the Lord that I know He’s working, even if I don’t see any evidence of it. So I encouraged myself by reminding myself of times in Scripture or in my own life where I saw His answer after an extended period of seeming inactivity.

From the garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that a redeemer would come to defeat Satan. It was thousands of years before that redeemer came. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). God was at work all those years, preparing people for the coming of His Son.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years before the son God promised them arrived. Why did God make them wait so long? Perhaps to strengthen their faith.

David was anointed king years before actually coming to the throne. Meanwhile he had to flee for his life while the current king, Saul, sought to kill him.

Daniel and others were in exile in Babylon for seventy years before God brought some of them back to Israel.

Hebrews 11 lists several more who saw God do great things after long years. Some of them even “died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (verse 13). They trusted God would answer and bring about His will even though they never saw the answer in their lifetime.

In my own life, I remember aching over the breakup of my family and the loss of all that was familiar when we moved to a new city when I was a teenager. I clung with all my might to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I am not even sure I was saved then. I had made a profession as a young child, but had not been in church or in the Bible regularly. I couldn’t remember much about what I prayed when I came forward in a friend’s church in third grade. But I knew enough that I could go to God for help. After a very long and lonely summer, God led us to a school and church where I was regularly taught His Word and where I made sure of my salvation in my teens. God had been drawing me to Himself all the while, even when I felt so alone.

I didn’t have a long period of singleness, but it felt plenty long at the time. I spent several years in a Christian college with eligible young men all around me. But none of them seemed interested in me. Then after several years of praying for the right one, a friendship blossomed into something more. God had been laying the foundation and preparing both of us for each other, even when we were unaware of what He had in mind.

One of the biggest demonstrations of God’s unseen working occurred in my father. I knew my father loved me, but he also got angry easily. He was big on respect and authority, and he took any arguments or disagreements from his children as disrespect or “sass.” Consequently, I was afraid to talk to him about things he might disagree with. He had always believed there was a God, but as far as I knew hadn’t believed in Him in a personal way.

When I went off to college, I’d share verses at the end of letters to my father. I always wrote them out because I didn’t figure he’d look up the references. He never responded to them. I pictured him either skipping over them in disgust or shaking his head and thinking, “There she goes again.”

Several years after my husband and I got married and had a couple of children, my father came to visit us in SC for the first time. He wasn’t well. He had gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia not long before flying out, so we felt maybe he just traveled too soon. But on the day he was supposed to fly back to TX, he ended up in the hospital.

One evening as we came down the hospital hall to visit him, the nurse told us they had almost lost him, and he was in ICU. When she took us to him, he said, “I know one thing. When I get home, me and the pastor are going to have a long talk.” We asked if he would like our pastor in SC to come and see him. He said yes.

On an interesting side note, before he got so sick, he had come with us to the field day at my oldest son’s elementary school. He met my pastor and his wife there, as they had a child in the same school. My pastor’s wife was from west TX, as my dad was. She knew the little town he was from, a town most people had never heard of. I think that little detail drew him to them and caused my dad to be open to the pastor’s coming when he might not have been if he had never met them.

While my dad was in ICU, we could only visit with him 15 minutes at a time once or twice a day. My pastor came often—I think he may have come every day for a while.

Finally my dad was moved out of ICU into a private room. The first day we visited him there, almost as soon as we walked in, he said something like, “I just want you to know that the pastor came by today, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”

I almost fell over. To have my father express faith so clearly and openly was something I hadn’t expected.

Later, as we talked with my pastor, he shared with us some of the discussions he’d had with my dad. He said at one point, my dad talked about the verses I used to send him and said, “My daughter has been trying to get me to do this for years.” To my shame, I had been praying for his salvation but had not wanted to push. I think I might have written out the full plan of salvation once or twice. But mostly I just sent verses as a postscript without comment. All that time I thought my dad had just skipped over those verses, God had been using them to plant seeds in his heart.

He came with us to church before he went home. I wish he had lived closer, so he could have come with us more and we could have encouraged him spiritually. For some reason, he never got into the church back in TX.

So there wasn’t a dramatic change in his life. My pastor encouraged me that when someone is saved later in life (my dad was 61), they’ve had more years on the other side of things. It takes a lifetime to grow spiritually, and my dad had had more time on one side than the other.

But there were subtle changes. He liked to read, and he was open to my sending him Christian books. One of them was about Christians behind the Iron Curtain. On the phone we discussed the amazing ways God helped and encouraged those people in such hard circumstances.

As I hung up the phone, I thought, “I just had a conversation with my dad about the Lord.” A miracle.

When seeds are planted, they remain underground for a while before anything of the plant comes up. Different plants grow at different rates: some take a long time. The flat ground looks lifeless. But underneath, things are happening. Then that first green blade appears and rejoices the heart of the planter.

I love John Piper‘s quote that “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

Though sometimes we have to wait long, we can wait in faith and hope, knowing God is at work behind the scenes.

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

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the articles that resonated with me this week:

Love Is a Skill, HT to Challies. “Anyone who has tried very hard to love other people well will know that love doesn’t always feel very natural. A lot of times it feels more like hard work.”

The Problem with Reading the Bible Verse-by-Verse, HT to Knowable Word. The verses divisions, subheadings, footnotes, charts, etc., in most of our Bibles “break up the text into little chunks (often arbitrarily), and we do not naturally read in little chunks, we read in big chunks. You read ordinary books section by section, not word by word, but all the footnotes and verse numbers condition us to read the Bible verse by verse.” Those tools are good for study later, “but the first and most important rule for interpreting and appropriating any biblical book is to actually read the book.”

Dig Deeper, HT to Challies. “Think of the scriptures like a fancy layered dessert — maybe a cake or parfait. There are several layers, and each offers new delights. If you don’t dig down into all the layers, you’re missing out.”

A Call for Endurance and Faith, HT to Challies. “We are not without encouragement in times like these, and sometimes the call for endurance comes in ways that seem strange to the contemporary churchgoer who has enjoyed religious freedom all their lives.”

What Does God Want of Me? HT to Challies. “But what I do remember are the three questions that came out of this difficulty, questions that my husband raised in the midst of this trial to help provide us with direction and guidance. These questions have stayed with me ever since, and have given me clarity and lessened my burden in a wide variety of situations: problems with children or other family members, issues in my marriage, dilemmas in church, personal trials, and more.”

Is Your Way Really God’s Way? ‘While the Bible is heavy on function (what we are to do) it is light on form (how we are to do it).” This article helps discern between form and function and the errors of insisting on our form of doing things.

Protecting Your Teenagers Online, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “We have a pool in our backyard. We also have young children. What steps do we take to protect them? 1. A fence; 2. Swim lessons; 3. Supervision.” Kristopher Schaal then applies these three levels of protection to internet usage.

Cultivating Attention: The Challenge of Reading Great Literature, HT to Linda. “As a literary critic, writer, and professor, I have the great privilege of working with literature every day, and helping others to encounter the beauty of great stories as well. Evangelization and discipleship through beauty is vitally important for our modern culture, for God is perfect Beauty as well as perfect Goodness and Truth. Stories, poetry, and all the arts can help us both to grow in our own faith and to share that faith with others in a compelling way . . . But it’s not easy. Many readers find themselves discouraged, encountering a gap between their desire to engage with great tales and the rather more difficult reality of the experience.”

Why the World Needs Readers (Like You), HT to Linda. “I’ll be honest. It’s in my own self-interest to say that reading is important. I am the author of a book blog, after all. But I believe—passionately—that reading is more than your average pastime. Much more. Here’s why I think that readers, people like you and me, are critical to preserving civilization—and helping it flourish.”

How an Introvert Does Thanksgiving, HT to Linda. “As a large and diverse group, we introverts love our families and the holidays no more or less than anyone else. So the fear and loathing with which we sometimes face this season is not an intro-aversion to the whole concept of family or holidays. It’s more the specifics of the experience that exhaust us; many of us are right now anticipating Thanksgiving with equal parts of delight and anxiety. Yes, pie. But also forced togetherness, lots of chitchat, and old family scripts replaying again and again. It’s a tradeoff. So, before the holidays flatten you like a runaway truck, perhaps take a minute to sort through their delights and the stresses to sketch out some strategies for Thanksgiving so you can enjoy more of the former and less of the latter.”

I Could Never Get Grandma’s Dressing Quite Right—Until She Was Gone, HT to Linda. “Back then I hadn’t yet learned that the most important thing about cooking for other people is the joy your food can bring them. . . .that on Thanksgiving, it’s a waste of time to roast a whole entire pumpkin for pie (the canned stuff is superior anyway!), and that investing in six great dishes is far better than churning out 12 I’m too exhausted to actually eat, and that turkey tastes approximately the same no matter what you do to it.”

thankful heart

Friday’s Fave Five

Another week is almost in the books. How good it is to pause a moment with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story to remember some of the highlights and blessings of the week before they fade from memory.

1. Desk chair arm covers. I love my desk chair. It fits me just right, and everything is at the right height. The back is high enough, and the whole chair is comfortable enough, that I can lean back and take a power nap when needed. So I was dismayed when the armrests started cracking, then little bits chipped away, then the cracks started snagging my clothes. I started mentally designing a cloth that could wrap around the arm rest and keep in place with Velcro. Then—light bulb moment—I thought that somebody had probably already come up with a solution to this dilemma. I looked on Amazon and found arm chair covers at a really reasonable price ($8.95). They’re elasticized rather than wrapping around and look so much more professional than what I was thinking. I’ve found a ridiculous amount of delight in these things.

2. A meal together. It had been a few weeks since I had made a meal for the whole family (minus the out-of-state son). So I invited everyone over for spaghetti last Saturday night. We enjoyed some games afterward

3. Gluten Free cookies turning out well. I had been wanting to try one of my favorite cookie recipes with gluten-free flour. Since my daughter-in-law and grandson began having gluten issues, baked goods were the hardest things to make well–they usually came out very dense. I don’t know if the makers of GF flour have improved or what, but these cookies came out so well. I used King Arthur Measure for Measure flour. I don’t bake much any more with just the two of us home who don’t need the temptation of extra sugar around the house. But I just made one batch and sent some home with the kids.

These are Choco-Peanut Butter Dreams. The recipe is included with some of my other favorites here.

4. Unexpected help. My husband is a blessing to me every week. 🙂 But he outdid himself this week. He has a little sweeper/mopper/steamer gadget that he got out to use on a stubborn stain on our bathroom floor. Then he decided, while he had the device out, to go ahead and do the other bathroom floor. Then he decided he might as well do all the wood floors. What he didn’t know was that sweeping was on my agenda that morning. We have a pretty big expanse of hardwood floors, it was such a joy to come out and find them being cleaned. I was able to go straight on to the cookie baking mentioned above. Then I had time to rest for an hour before making dinner.

Then, just as I started making the cookies mentioned above, I realized I needed more brown sugar. Jim stopped what he was doing and offered to go to the store for me.

5. A dinner-making marathon. Jason and Mittu are painting their kitchen, and they asked if they could come over to make up a bunch of meals for the week so they could just warm them up in the microwave at their house. I mostly hung out with Timothy in the living room, and Jason and Mittu were in and out through the night. They also brought Mexican food take-out and left me with a few of the muffins they made.

I hope those of you in the US have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with loved ones and friends.

Worthy of Legend

Worthy of Legend is the third installment in Roseanna M. White’s Secrets of the Isles trilogy. The first was The Nature of a Lady; the second was To Treasure an Heiress.

The Secrets of the Isles involves two different groups in search of legendary pirate treasure. One loves “the hunt” and the thrill of archeological finds. The other wants the fame and fortune of such discoveries and employs underhanded means in the race to discover treasure.

Lady Emily Scofield is good friends with the people in the first group. But her father and brother are the primary instigators in the bad group.

Emily has lived her entire life in the background of her brother, Nigel. Nigel was her father’s favorite, and his misdeeds were excused away. Emily is expected to desert her friends and show loyalty to her family. But she can’t.

Instead of writing off her family completely, though, she tries to show love to them. Her friends fear she’ll be taken advantage of again.

Bram Sinclair, Earl of Telford, is the brother of the heroine in the first book. He has had an interest in the King Arthur legends since childhood. As he and his friends piece together clues to the artifact that both groups are pursuing, he realizes what they are looking for might be related to King Arthur. They try to keep this information secret from the other group.

As Bram and Emily’s group works together, Bram is concerned for Emily. He recognizes her conflict with her family and her lack of confidence and self-esteem from having been dismissed and overlooked for so many years. As he tries to encourage her, he discovers a true treasure in her character and heart.

A secondary plot line involves Emily’s maid, Thomasina, who has, unknown to Emily, been violated by Nigel. When a young man from the islands becomes interested in Tommie, she feels he would not be if he knew what had happened to her.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the book:

And if she lost everything all over again . . . well then, she’d just have to trust that the Lord could do more with her shattered than He could with her as she was now, barely holding together. That He meant her to be a mosaic instead of a whole.

Your worth, Thomasina, rests on no one else’s opinion of you. It doesn’t rest even on you. It rests in the Lord. He sees your heart, your soul. And that is all the approval any of us needs.

Bram and Emily were background characters in the previous books, and I enjoyed getting to know them better. I also loved the humorous bantering between Bram and his friend, Sheridan.

I especially liked the fact that these books were in a place I had never heard of, the Isles of Scilly. Now I feel I know the isles and the people on them. And the time frame of the early 1900s isn’t one we see often in historical fiction.

I enjoyed these stories very much and am going to miss these characters.