Women Heroes of World War II

Irena Sendler and her best friend, Ewa, were social workers in Poland when the Nazis took over. The Germans erected a nine-foot wall around the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. The women were then separated, because Ewa was Jewish.

But Irena used her position as a social worker to visit homes in the ghetto and then secretly make arrangements with parents to take their children to safety.

She was arrested by the Gestapo, interrogated, and beaten to the point of breaking her legs and feet in several places. They decided to execute her, but she was suddenly released due to a bribe someone offered an official.

Kathryn J. Atwood has collected several stories of brave women such as Irena in Women Heroes of WWII: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.

The women cover all ages, from teens on up. They ran the gamut from nurses to actresses, students to countesses, a pastor’s wife, a watchmaker.

Some were famous, like Corrie ten Boom, Josephine Baker, and Marlene Dietrich. Most were unknown.

Some hid Jews. Some were couriers. Some were saboteurs; some helped downed airmen get out of the country. One was an assassin. Some worked with organized resistance groups: some worked on their own.

What they all had in common was human decency, bravery, and a desire to help that overshadowed any reluctance or fear.

Kathryn gives an overview of the war in the introduction. Then she grouped the women by country, with a brief introduction of that country’s involvement in the war. I’ve read a lot of books about WWII, fiction and nonfiction (Irena’s story, mentioned above, sounds similar to the plot in The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke, making me wonder if that book is based on Irena’s story). But Kathryn’s summaries helped me see the bigger picture and taught me a few things I hadn’t known.

Each chapter is just a few pages, with a list at the end of other books, movies, or web sites featuring each person.

This is a YA book, but it’s not juvenile. It’s easily readable.

It could spark a lot of questions. What would you do in similar situations? Where is the line between helping and going too far? This is a secular book, so it doesn’t go into right and wrong. For instance, one dancer was required to wear skimpy costumes, but the author says this wasn’t “considered immoral but, rather, artistic and representative of the new Jazz Age” (p. 77). Nothing is said about whether the assassin was right or not. But if I shared this with a daughter, I’d want to discuss some of those issues.

There’s an updated version of the book: Women Heroes of World War II: 32 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. If I had known that before I started, I would have looked for this book at the library rather than the one with 26 stories.

But I am very glad to have read it the stories of these brave women. Thanks to Bev for the recommendation.

I’m going to count this book for the Wartime Experiences category of the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

From “What if” to “Even If”

What if this odd symptom turns out to be something serious?

What if I don’t get the job?

What if this investment fails?

What if I bomb this presentation?

What if the scan shows cancer?

We have so many things to be concerned about, both large and small. And some of us are “gifted” with the ability to imagine all the ways something could go wrong.

Ed Welch says in Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest, “Worriers are visionaries without the optimism” (p.50, Kindle version).

So we cycle through our worries, scaring ourselves to death, feeling trapped like a hamster in a continuous wheel.

Someone once said that if the thing we worry about doesn’t happen, we’ve wasted all that angst and energy and head space. And if it does happen, we’ve doubled the toll it would have taken by worrying about it beforehand. That helps me put aside worried questions and supposing.

But something else helps me even more: facing those worries full on. What if the worst possibility happens?

If the medical news is not good, some hard roads may be ahead. But God promised His grace and help. And if “the worst” happens, it will be the best—we’ll be with Him without pain and sin. We don’t want to leave our loved ones. But God will give grace for that if and when the time comes. He won’t give grace for illness and parting in this moment because it’s not needed yet.

If this job or investment falls through, God will provide for us in some other way.

We’ll do everything we can to be ready for the presentation and will pray about every aspect of it. God will give grace when the time comes. But if we still fall on our faces—maybe we needed the humbling. Maybe others needed to see our humanity. Elisabeth Elliot once wrote in Keep a Quiet Heart that her daughter, Valerie, got lost in her notes during a talk and got flustered. She finished as best she could and sat down, discouraged. But ladies thanked her for what she shared. She later told her mother that she had prayed beforehand that the ladies would see she was just an ordinary woman who needed His help, and she felt this stumbling was His answer.

When we face our “what ifs” full on instead of running from them, we deplete them of their strength. In every case, no matter what “the worst” is, God’s grace will be there. He may take us down paths we wouldn’t have chosen. But He has things to teach us there that we couldn’t have learned elsewhere.

In Daniel 3, three young men could not in good conscience bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, even when threatened with being thrown into a fiery furnace. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (verses 17-18). God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we’ll keep obeying and trusting Him.

One concern for many Christians these days is the increasing possibility of persecution. But Peter gives us encouragement:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:14-17).

God is sufficient for all our “What ifs.” I still pray and hope against certain things happening. But even if the “worst” happens, God will give grace and peace and enabling. Even if the outcome is not what we wanted, the better we know our God, the more we can trust Him.

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

Friday’s Fave Five

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

Is it Friday again already? This week has been a blur. Jim has been sick for around two weeks now, and I’ve been sick this week. We think it’s just a cold or maybe flu–we haven’t had the hallmark COVID symptoms of lack of smell or taste or trouble breathing. Still, it’s packed quite a wallop.

But there are always good things in a week, even when we have to look a little harder for them.

1. Soup and cookies. My son and daughter-in-law dropped off some chicken vegetable soup and peanut butter M&M cookies. Though she frequently makes meals for the family, it especially meant a lot this week when I had less energy.

2. Seeing our kids in person. We hadn’t seen them in a while, due to traveling for a memorial service and then being sick. We’ve Face-timed a couple of times, and though I enjoy that, I missed seeing them in person. When they dropped off the soup, we visited out in the front yard for a bit—like early pandemic days.

3. Naps. I can’t take decongestants due to heart rhythm issues, so I muddle through with cough drops, acetaminophen, and sleep. I’ve been letting myself doze off whenever the urge strikes.

4. Zoom services. Our church has kept the Zoom option open even when they resumed services. It’s been a help for those who are home sick or those who need to keep isolating due to heath issues. We’ve had four people in our small church test positive for COVID recently, so we’ve gone back to only using Zoom for a while. I’m glad that option is available. It’s more interactive for a small group than just using Facebook Live or YouTube, though I am thankful for those as well.

5. Jeopardy and AFV. America’s Funniest Home Videos just started their new season, and I am grateful for the laughs. And you may have heard of Matt Amodio’s 38-game winning streak that just came to an end. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and I really enjoyed watching him play.

How was your week?

Gift from the Sea

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was not only married to famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and a pilot herself; she was also a popular author—and not just because of her famous name. Gift of the Sea is probably her most well-known book, still read widely even today.

Anne was a busy mother of five when she had a rare opportunity to go to the beach alone for a couple of weeks. She took the time to reflect on her struggles as a woman, wife, and mother. Over eight chapters, she uses the metaphor of the sea, island life, and different kinds of shells to illustrate different stages or aspects of life..

For instance, the chapter on the channeled whelk, a shell once inhabited by a creature, speaks to her of “the art of shedding.” What she says in this chapter would fit right in with the minimalist movement of the last few years: the need to simplify and pare down not only our stuff, but our responsibilities and relationships.

The chapter on the moon shell speaks of needed time alone.

I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before (p. 42).

Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It need not be an enormous project or great work. But it should be something of one’s own. Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day–like writing a poem or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive (p. 56).

What Anne calls the double-sunrise is a bivalve that reminds her of early marriage, “two people listening to each other, two shells meeting each other, making one world between them” (p. 65).

What she calls an oyster bed has “small shells clinging to its humped back. Sprawling and uneven, it has the irregularity of something growing. It looks rather like the house of a big family, pushing out one addition after another to hold its teeming life” (p. 80). This speaks to her of the middle years of marriage.

I am very fond of the oyster shell. It is humble and awkward and ugly. It is slate-colored and unsymmetrical. Its form is not primarily beautiful but functional. I make fun of its knobbiness. Sometimes I resent its burdens and excrescences. But its tireless adaptability and tenacity draw my astonished admiration and sometimes even my tears. And it is comfortable in its familiarity, its homeliness, like old garden gloves when have molded themselves perfectly to the shape of the hand. I do not like to put it down. I will not want to leave it (p. 83).

I particularly liked this about middle age: “For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth” (p. 86) rather than the “false assumption that it is a period of decline” (p. 87).

One other quote that stood out: “Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after” (p. 102).

I thought it interesting that even in Anne’s day (this book was published in 1955), she felt the weight of what she calls “planetal awareness.” How much more would she feel it now?

The world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.

But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness? We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world, to digest intellectually all the information spread out in public print, and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelatedness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather—for I believe the heart is infinite—modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry. It is good, I think, for our hearts, our minds, our imaginations to be stretched, but body, nerve, endurance and life-span are not as elastic. My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds. I cannot marry all of them, or bear them all as children, or care for them all as I would my parents in illness or old age. Our grandmothers, and even—with some scrambling—our mothers, lived in a circle small enough to let them implement in action most of the impulses of their hearts and minds. We were brought up in a tradition that has now become impossible, for we have extended our circle throughout space and time.

Faced with this dilemma what can we do? How can we adjust our planetal awareness to our Puritan conscience? We are forced to make some compromise. Because we cannot deal with the many as individuals, we sometimes try to simplify the many into an abstraction called the mass. Because we cannot deal with the complexity of the present, we often over-ride it and live in a simplified dream of the future. Because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world. An escape process goes on from the intolerable burden we have placed upon ourselves. But can one really feel deeply for an abstraction called the mass? Can one make the future a substitute for the present? And what guarantee have we that the future will be any better if we neglect the present? Can one solve world problems when one is unable to solve one’s own? (pp. 124-125).

Her answer was to concentrate on “the here, the now, the individual,” “the drops that make up the stream,” “not as a retreat from greater responsibility, but as a first real step toward a deeper understanding and solution of them” (pp 127-128).

I mentioned when I read Anne’s biography that she seemed a very conflicted person. Probably most women struggle with how to best use their time, how to meet the needs of others and not feel depleted, etc. She had more pressures than many, dealing with the fame and lifestyle her husband brought to the family. But she seemed to struggle a lot inwardly.

I want first of all… to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact–to borrow from the language of the saints–to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and inward man be one.” I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God (pp 23-24).

I approached this book with some wariness, since Anne’s biographer said this book “is a journey infused with classic literature and Christian doctrine, yet rooted in teachings of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. . . . Camouflaging her Hindu and Buddhist sources beneath the words of Christian saints and modern poets and writers” (Susan Hertog, Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life, p. 429). I don’t know enough about Hindu and Buddhist doctrines to be able to discern those threads in the book, but I picked up on a bit here and there.

And there’s a lot of feminist thought, though Anne doesn’t take it as far as some. She does believe that marriage and family and even housework are worthy: she just struggles with how to meet the needs of all.

I identified with some of Anne’s struggle, though not all of her angst. I wouldn’t agree with all Anne’s philosophy, and I’d caution the need for discernment in reading the book. But I think one can take the Christian references and common sense passages at one’s own interpretation.

I’m going to see if Shelly Rae at Book’d Out will allow this book to count for the Oceanography category of the Nonfiction Reading Challenge. This is probably the closest I’ll get to that one. 🙂 If not, it would work for the Essays category.

Have you read Gift From the Sea? What did you think?

Catching the Wind

Melanie Dobson’s Catching the Wind made me want to lay everything else aside to read it. But I also wanted to slow down and savor it and hated to see it end

The story opens with two children playing in 1940 Germany. Brigette Berthold is ten and wants to play nothing but princesses and knights. Dietmar Roth is a few years older and tolerates the game because Brigette is his favorite playmate. Plus he promised her father that he would help take care of her.

When the children’s parents are attacked by the Nazis, Dietmar and Brigette run. If they can make it to the English Channel and get across, Hopefully Dietmar can find his aunt.

After a harrowing journey, they finally do make it to English soil. But then they are separated.

Over 70 years later, Dietmar is a wealthy old man who goes by the name Daniel Knight. He has hired several private investigators to try to find Brigette, with no luck. Now his hopes rest in a reporter, Quenby Vaughn. He has read her stories about refugee children and knows she searches with her heart.

Quenby is working on her own story about a wealthy English woman, Lady Ricker, rumored to have helped and secretly supported the Nazis in the 1940s. Understandably, the woman’s descendants don’t want the story to run and aren’t cooperating.

When Mr. Knight’s arrogant solicitor approaches Quenby with Mr. Knight’s proposal, he’s not forthcoming enough to interest her. But she agrees to meet with Mr. Knight. When she learns that Brigette’s story ties in with the Rickers, she’s hooked.

There are several layers to this story—what happened to Brigette and Daniel, what was going on with Lady Ricker, and Quenby’s family history of a mother who abandoned her, which has crippled her ability to trust.

As one character says, “I believe God uses our pasts, even our regrets to help us and other people find Him.”

I listened to the audiobook (winner of a 2018 Audie award) nicely read by Nancy Peterson. This is one of my favorites of Melanie Dobson’s.

How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively

I’ve always been a little amazed that people will plunk down good money to see a movie or concert or ball game that will last two to three hours, but then balk at paying $15 for a book that will give them 10-15 hours of enjoyment. Or they’ll shell out several dollars a week for expensive coffees which will give them a few moments of pleasure, rather than pay for a book that will feed the mind, imagination, even the soul for years to come.

I believe books are a worthy investment.

However, if we read a lot, $10-15 per book adds up quickly. I read 84 books last year and 76 the year before. That would be quite an outlay if I paid full price for each book.

I want to pay full price as much as possible to support authors. They work months or even years to produce one book. I’ve learned from the multiple writing blogs I follow that most authors do not make a living on their writing. “The labourer is worthy of his hire,” Jesus said. They can’t keep producing books if they don’t make enough to live on. And it’s not sin to pay full price for something.

But it’s true many of us could not read nearly as much if we paid full price for every book.

So how can we read inexpensively?

Public libraries. What a treasure trove! Print, audio, and ebooks are all available just for the trouble of registering for a library card.

Library sales. Many libraries will purge their shelves or sell donated books they can’t use, usually in a big sale once or twice a year.

Little free libraries. Some neighborhoods have mini boxes where people can leave books they are done with and choose others to take home.

Church libraries. Some churches will have a library of donated books, or may have a budget to stock new books.

Discount stores. Costco, WalMart, and other stores have books for lesser prices. Some online sites do as well. Feel free to share in the comments your favorite place for discount books.

Book exchange stores. There’s a big store here in Knoxville where you can trade in your used books for credits for more used books.

Project Gutenberg has many ebooks online for free. I thought they mostly did classics, but they have newer titles as well.

Kindle sales. Books for the Kindle app go on sale every day, anywhere from free to a few dollars. You don’t have to have a Kindle device: you can get the Kindle app and read on a tablet or even your phone. (It would be hard to read an entire book on a phone, but it can be done. It’s handy if you find yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly.) Some sites online curate Kindle sales almost every day. Tim Challies lists a few most days, usually Christian nonfiction and some classics. Inspired Reads lists half a dozen or so and Gospel eBooks lists several, but you need discernment with these two: I wouldn’t recommend everything they list.

Audiobooks. Audible.com has a few different plans for audiobooks. The one I’m on charges $14.95 a month, which gives me one credit, resulting in one audiobook per month. But they often have two-books-for-one-credit sales, and many of their classics are free or only a dollar or two. And some books are included free with membership. Librivox has audiobooks for free, but they have ads. Plus, they are read by volunteers who may or may not use any kind of inflection. And different readers might read different chapters in the same book. But . . . they’re free.

Free books for a review. Some sites or publishers will give readers free books in exchange for an honest review. The only one of these I tried was for a Christian publisher, but I quit early on. They sent a box of six books for one month. Not only was I not interested in all of them, but I didn’t want my “read for review” reading to take over all of my reading time. I understand there are some now where you can choose which books you’re willing to read and review. I know some of you do this: would you share what sites or publishers you work with in the comments?

Author’s launch teams. Publishers expect authors to do most of their own marketing and publicity these days. One way authors do this is to have a small group of people they’ll send a free copy (usually ebook these days) of an upcoming book before it is published. That way they can get reviews in right away. People are more willing to take a chance on a book that has some reviews. If there are no reviews, people are wary. I would recommend only doing this for authors you know and enjoy and want to support. It’s probably not fair to a new-to-you author to volunteer for his or her launch team if you have no idea about their style and whether they’ll appeal to you.

Gifts. Our family does “wish lists” for gift-giving occasions, and a few books are always on mine.

If your book budget is limited, there are still ways you can support your favorite authors. Word of mouth goes a long way. A review on Amazon or GoodReads or your blog helps more than you know. Even listing a book on GoodReads as one you want to read helps bring attention to it. So does posting a book cover on Instagram with the hashtag #bookstagram and hashtags for the genre, author’s name, and anything else you can think of.

These measures still help even if you get most of your books from a library. Also, a library is more willing to keep an author’s books if they’re being checked out. And asking your library to stock a particular book helps, too. Many have a form on their web sites where you can submit book requests.

Agents and publishers look at the number of a new or hopeful author’s followers on social media or in a newsletter list (one reason you see so many offering newsletters). So following an author’s social media accounts or signing up for their newsletters can aid them. If you’re like me, you can only do this for a few of your most favorite authors (or bloggers hoping to be authors), lest social media following takes up more time than you have. But if you’re active on social media, or want to give a boost to someone whose writing you like, these measures are helpful.

Do you have any other ideas for reading inexpensively? Do you have other ways of supporting authors?

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

I know God promised, but…

I know God said He’s always with me, but I just feel so alone.

I know God said He would enable me, but I just don’t think I can do it.

I know God said He would take care of me, but I fear what might happen.

I know God wants me to witness, but I just don’t think anyone wants to hear the gospel.

It’s possible to have the promises of God but still not move forward in our Christian lives.

How can that be?

According to one commentator, the difference between Israel’s failure to enter the promised land in Numbers and their success in Joshua was a matter of reckoning.

In the American South, the word “reckon” is sometimes used to mean “suppose.”

“I reckon it’s about time to go to bed.”

“Do you reckon it will rain tomorrow?”

But one American dictionary definition for reckon is “to count, depend, or rely, as in expectation (often followed by on).”

And the Greek word rendered reckon in the KJV lists counting as one definition, but also includes words like “consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on, suppose, deem, judge, determine, purpose, decide.”

In both Numbers and Joshua. God had promised to give Israel the land. But in the first case, they didn’t believe God and failed to obey. They spent the next forty years in the wilderness while all the adults except Joshua and Caleb—the only ones who did believe God—died off.

Hebrews refers of this period: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2, KJV)

Then in Joshua 6, “the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.'” God told Joshua this before the battle even began. Joshua counted on this promise as well as the one God had given him in chapter 1:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:8-9).

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work, says this:

Victorious Christians are people who know the promises of God, because they spend time meditating on God’s Word (1: 8); they believe the promises of God because the Word of God generates faith in their hearts (Rom. 10: 17); and they reckon on these promises and obey what God tells them to do. To “reckon” means to count as true in your life what God says about you in His Word. . . .

Christ has conquered the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and if we reckon on this truth, we can conquer through Him. It’s possible to believe a promise and still not reckon on it and obey the Lord. Believing a promise is like accepting a check, but reckoning is like endorsing the check and cashing it (p. 88-89, Kindle version).

If we say, “I know God said, but….” we’re not relying, or reckoning, on His promise. We’re looking at circumstances or our abilities or feelings instead, none of which are reliable.

But reading and meditating on God’s Word leads to faith in God’s Word, which leads to relying on God’s Word, which leads to obedience.

Relying on God’s promises doesn’t give us grounds for presumption. Israel got into trouble in the next few chapters of Joshua because they went forward presumptuously (in the case of Ai) and didn’t ask counsel of the Lord (in the case of the Gibeonites).

Relying on God doesn’t mean we follow a formula. We’re prone to seek three easy steps to handle any problem. God’s instructions for battling Jericho and Ai and other cities were very different.

We need to humbly seek God’s will and stay in His Word so He can guide us, show us sin in our lives that we need to confess to Him, and show us His promises to help us overcome for Him. But as we rely on His truth,

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

(John H. Sammis)

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

Interestingly, Adrian Rogers’ Love Worth Finding radio program touched
on “reckoning” today (Monday) in a sermon titled “How to Live in Victory.”

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some of the most noteworthy reads discovered recently:

Be a Peacemaker, Not a Peacekeeper. “For a long time, I thought that working for peace meant staying quiet – withdrawing from conflict, brushing aside whatever was bothering me, ignoring my own feelings and opinions to appease someone else, doing anything to avoid rocking the boat. It seemed like the nice thing to do, even the Christian thing to do. But then I realised that it is not really peacemaking, but peacekeeping.”

Things Revealed, HT to Challies. I was pondering this very concept recently. “A lot of us spend our time trying to read that book called ‘The Secret Things’ while all the time the book called ‘The Things Revealed’ is sitting right in front of us. God has given it to us and it belongs to us and to our children so we won’t just read it but also obey it.”

9 Wrong Ways to Read the Bible (And One Better Way). “When we yawn over the Bible, that’s like a severe asthmatic yawning over the free offer of a ventilator while gasping for air. Read the Bible asking not mainly whom to imitate and how to live but what it shows us about a God who loves to save and about sinners who need saving.”

Fading Joy: Am I Seeking an Experience or a Relationship? “Too often we value a feeling over the reality that would produce that feeling. We want to feel close to God without actually drawing close to God. We want the benefits of a close walk with God without the heart change required to walk with God. Many times, we want the outward trappings without the inward transformation. Our need for an experience can become an idol that dethrones God in our lives.”

Teach What the Bible Says First, HT to Knowable Word. “Sometimes, people who are teaching the Bible try much too hard to be brilliant, giving us their own insights into life rather than letting the brilliance of the Bible speak for itself. Let the Bible speak! I would rather hear one halting, inexperienced speaker show me God in a text of the Bible than hear 1,000 polished pastors give me their three-point, alliterated instructions for life, which are often only loosely based on the actual text.”

The Sin of Provoking. “It’s one thing, as Proverbs cautions, to recognize an angry person and beware; it’s quite another thing to provoke to the point of an angry response an individual who is seeking to do right (and then condemning the person for their angry response).” Yes! I am glad to see this addressed.

Bitter Roots, HT to Challies. “At some time each of us is affected by unfairness and hurt. Each of our stories would be, could be, maybe even should be different had people or situations not altered our path. . . . We can choose to replay wrong and rewind hurt. But when I read God’s Word, I come back time and time again to this.”

A Diligent Wife, HT to Challies. “So, I began to pray. For my marriage, yes. But, more than my marriage, I began to pray for my heart. The kids weren’t going to stop needing me. Giving up my role as a Mom wasn’t an option. But neither was quitting on my marriage. How could I be a wife and a Mom? Was it possible to be both? What could this look like, and where was I to start? What needed to change in me in order to invest more fully in my marriage?” This is the first of a 31-day series that looks great so far.

Wanted: Spiritual Mothers. HT to Challies. “The truth is, you’re never too old to no longer want your mom—the mom you may or may not have ever had. One who not only cares for you physically, but also speaks into your life with spiritual wisdom and comfort, who prays for you and builds you up with words of experience and knowledge, who reminds you of how much God loves you and desires a relationship with you.”

Fall color video, HT to Story Warren. If you need a dose of fall color, these drone shots of gorgeous autumn trees will feed your spirit.

Finally, these ceramic masters are amazing, HT to Steve Laube. They make it look so easy. Some years ago, a man demonstrated to our church what was involved in throwing and shaping clay. He and his wife were going as artists to a country that did not welcome missionaries. As he worked, he pointed our various parallels between what he was doing and what God does for us. Though the whole demonstration was wonderful, the one thing that stood out to me was the intimacy of what he was doing. The wheel is almost in the potter’s lap. He’s bent over it, his arms around it. That picture of God as being over us, surrounding us, carefully watching and shaping us, has stayed with me for years.

Something secondary came to mind as I watched this video: creating art is messy before it is beautiful. The artists aren’t bothered by getting their hands dirty or brushing away shavings. They have the finished project in mind.

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

I was so sorry to miss FFF last week. We were out of town for a memorial service. I took my laptop, thinking I’d be able to put together a post Thursday evening. But we arrived later than planned and went straight to bed.

Here are some blessings from the last couple of weeks.

1. Our short trip to OH. Jim’s former pastor from ID, the father of his best friend, passed away the week before. He was in his 90s and had been declining, so his passing was not unexpected. But it’s still not easy. The whole family is like a second family to Jim. He said he wouldn’t go to many funerals these days during a pandemic, but he would go to that one. I wasn’t sure about going at first, because I just don’t travel well. But I am so glad I did. Everything went well with safety on the roads. God gave me remarkable calmness. We had hoped to have time to visit with the family, and we did: we were able to eat lunch with them and then go to Jim’s friend’s house for a few hours after the service. It was like a family reunion in many respects. The service was a blessing—though we were sorry to lose this dear man, it was sweet to hear more about his testimony and life and to hear from each of his five grown children as well as a number of people he influenced. I shared more about it in Thoughts From a Memorial Service.

2. First night in the RV. Jim had heard that Wal-Marts will let RVs park overnight in their parking areas. He called ahead to the one where we’d be staying to make sure, and they told us where to park. I thought it would be noisy, but it wasn’t. The bed was pretty comfortable, though it was a challenge to get in it. 🙂 The shower—well, I wouldn’t want to use it often, but it was okay. The only meal we cooked was breakfast, but we had taken other food just in case. It was nice to have the bathroom with us everywhere we went. 🙂 And it turned out to be helpful in carting some of the floral arrangements (one of which was a tree) back to our friend’s house (a few were left for the church’s Sunday service).

3. Good doctors’ visits. I saw the cardiologist’s nurse practitioner rather than the doctor. I was a little miffed at that at first, but I guess that means I am doing well enough that he didn’t feel the need to see me. And I do like the NP. She said she really liked this kind of visit as well, with no problems to report since last time. I also had my yearly physical, and all my numbers were good. (Does it seem like physicals these days mainly just involve talking about lab work and have very little actual physical examination?)

4. Dinner and games with the family. The weekend before the trip, my son and daughter-in-law had us over for chili and cornbread and games.

5. Low carb tortillas. I had mentioned a few weeks ago that we were trying to lower (not necessarily eliminate) carbs. It’s been helpful–my husband had his physical this week, too, and his blood sugar levels have been back in good range, and he’s lost 30 lbs. I found some low carb tortillas at the store recently that were only 50 calories each. They tasted fine and worked well in a couple of recipes.

How was your week? I hope you’ve seen God’s hand of blessing in large and small ways.

Gentle and Lowly

When I first saw Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly, I thought the subject would be encouraging Christians to be humble and kind in their dealings.

But then I learned that the book explores the gently and lowly aspect of Jesus. Jesus described himself this way, but often when people emphasize His gentleness, they deemphasize His holiness, His righteousness, His anger at sin, etc. I wasn’t familiar with Dane Ortlund, so I wasn’t sure how he would handle this topic. I began the book warily.

I need not have worried. Ortlund takes great care to keep in mind the whole picture of who Jesus is.

Yes, he is the fulfillment of the Old Testament hopes and longings (Matt. 5: 17). Yes, he is one whose holiness causes even his friends to fall down in fear, aware of their sinfulness (Luke 5: 8). Yes, he is a mighty teacher, one whose authority outstripped even that of the religious PhDs of the day (Mark 1: 22). To diminish any of these is to step outside of vital historic orthodoxy. But the dominant note left ringing in our ears after reading the Gospels, the most vivid and arresting element of the portrait, is the way the Holy Son of God moves toward, touches, heals, embraces, and forgives those who least deserve it yet truly desire it (p. 27. All page numbers are from the Kindle version).

As we zero in on the affectionate heart of Christ, how do we ensure that we are growing in a healthy understanding of the whole counsel of God and a comprehensive and therefore proportionate vision of who Christ is? Three comments are needed here. First, the wrath of Christ and the mercy of Christ are not at odds with one another, like a see-saw, one diminishing to the degree that the other is held up. Rather, the two rise and fall together. The more robust one’s felt understanding of the just wrath of Christ against all that is evil both around us and within us, the more robust our felt understanding of his mercy (pp. 28-29).

In fact, Jesus’ holiness and righteousness makes it all the more a marvel that “The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ” p. 20). “This is deeper than saying Jesus is loving or merciful or gracious. The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it” (p. 29). “His holiness finds evil revolting, more revolting than any of us ever could feel. But it is that very holiness that also draws his heart out to help and relieve and protect and comfort” (pp. 69-70).

Ortlund reminds us that “’Gentle and lowly’ does not mean ‘mushy and frothy,’” and “This is not who he is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who he is for those who come to him, who take his yoke upon them, who cry to him for help” (p. 21).

What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him. Whatever our offense, he deals gently with us. If we never come to him, we will experience a judgment so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth at us (Rev. 1: 16; 2: 12; 19: 15, 21). If we do come to him, as fierce as his lion-like judgment would have been against us, so deep will be his lamb-like tenderness for us (cf. Rev. 5: 5–6; Isa. 40: 10–11). We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral (p. 53).

Even after so many years of walking with the Lord, we can feel that He gets tired of us falling, failing, begging for mercy again and again. But “He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people” (p. 36).

For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child. His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is (p. 66).

These qualities of mercy and accessibility and readiness to forgive come from the whole Trinity, the Father and Holy Spirit as well as the Son. ““Our redemption is not a matter of a gracious Son trying to calm down an uncontrollably angry Father. The Father himself ordains our deliverance. He takes the loving initiative” (p. 60).

A few more quotes:

Your salvation is not merely a matter of a saving formula, but of a saving person (p. 91)

The mercy of God reaches down and rinses clean not only obviously bad people but fraudulently good people, both of whom equally stand in need of resurrection (p. 177).

Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away. Raise no defense. Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of his own wounds. Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all his brightness and sufficiency (p. 94).

Nothing can now un-child you. Not even you (p.196).

I’m so thankful for Linda sponsoring a book club to read through this book together the last few weeks. I had seen the book mentioned and thought, “Hmm, I might look into that some time.” But the opportunity to read and discuss the book with others spurred me on to read it now. It will stay with me for a long time.

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