Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads found this week.

From Meat to Meta: Facebook’s Disincarnate Dreamworld, HT to Challies. “For those who labour under the Enlightenment (and latterly Zuckerbergian) prejudice that ideal reality is immaterial and universal, the notion that God could have a body is quite a scandal. But it is deeply, deeply good news that the Word ‘became’ flesh.”

Life Beyond the Spiritual Shallows. “There is a depth to God’s character that cannot be assessed with quick glances and fleeting thoughts. We will never become the kind of women who face the lion’s den without a deep understanding of God’s character. We will never know that depth if we cannot find ways to circumnavigate our brain’s wiring and study God’s Word for longer than eight second bursts.”

Should We Pursue Self-Love? HT to Challies. “God acknowledges the reality of self-love, but He certainly does not teach it as a Christian virtue to be cultivated. Rather, it is an existing reality, necessary for our survival, in some respects healthy, but in other ways very much tainted by our sin. Our instinct to take care of ourselves is something we are to extend to others, that we might lovingly take care of them.”

When You Are Wrongly Accused: 5 Things to Do. “What can we do when we are wrongly accused? Either directly or indirectly? When someone we know is telling us we are a bad person, exhibiting bad behavior that we are not responsible for, have ruined something way beyond our control, or have a pattern of wrong deeds and we feel it simply is not true. Before you start responding to their accusations, you want to ask yourself a few questions.”

Two Important Principles for Trusting God: Commas and Periods. “Clearly, punctuation matters when giving instructions. It’s even more important when it comes to trusting God. Understanding and embracing the principles of God’s punctuation can give us peace—and even joy—in the waiting.”

Night Watch, HT to Challies. “Night watch. Our God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). And sometimes He wakes us in the night. To watch and pray. I remember when the two emails arrived. One after the other. To our inbox in Karachi. Same time. Same message. Traveling across the world. From opposite sides of the United States.”

Dividing Lines: Beware of “Us vs. Them.” “The Bible separates people into just two categories as well: those who are in Christ and those who aren’t. But this important distinction does not give us permission to attack people who don’t agree with us. In fact, Jesus told a parable about a religious person who did just that.”

This moving video, shared by Lisa, is titled Before You Call the Cops. This man had an experience when, just seeing him, a woman reacted in fear. He encourages us to get to know each other and not fit everyone into stereotypes.

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.

Can you believe we’re more than 1/3 of the way through November already?

This has been kind of a strange week. By Thursday afternoon, I didn’t have anything in mind for today’s FFF. But that’s one reason I love this exercise: when I stop to consider, there are always blessings. Some might be overlooked if we don’t pause and think.

1. Veteran’s Day. I’m abundantly grateful for those who served our country and defended our freedoms and those who still do so today.

2. Finding a recorded program. I caught part of Elisabeth Elliot’s Gateway to Joy radio program while driving on Wednesday. BBN Radio plays her old radio programs at 11:15 a.m. weekday mornings. One thing she said really struck me, and I don’t remember hearing her say it before. The foundation that set up her web site has included many of her talks and writings, so I searched there, but couldn’t find the one I was looking for. Finally I looked up the program on BBN, and discovered they have the audio of her programs for the current week on their site. I was so glad I got to hear what she said again, and in context this time. (The episode was titled Reflections of a Granny #3: The Secret of Tranquility.)

3. Recording apps.Since the above-mentioned program was only going to be online this week, I wanted to record it in case I wanted to listen to it again later. I found a recording app in the app store and figured out how to use it.

4. Lunch with a friend. It had been a long time since we’d met for lunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up.

5. Timothy seeking me out. I try not to spend time off in the kitchen when the family’s here, and everyone is good to pitch in and help when we eat together. But sometimes when I’m in the kitchen tending to something, Timothy will come in and see how I am doing or tell me something about his day. That touches my heart so much.

Bonus: I used to go fancy for holiday celebrations. The last few years, we’ve decided to simplify and decrease the work load. Many places have pretty and inexpensive holiday paper plates. I had found dessert paper plates and napkins for Thanksgiving at one store, but there were no dinner-sized plates. Then, when Jason and Mittu came over, they brought some dinner-sized Thanksgiving paper plates, but said their store didn’t have the smaller dessert plates. It was neat how it worked out.

Hope you’ve had a good week!

What Kind of Roots Are You Growing?

I am guilty of negligent planticide. Multiple counts of it.

Houseplants rarely survive my care . . . or lack thereof. I forget to seek out their specific needs. I just stick them in front of a window and water them . . . when they look a little droopy. Turns out, that’s not healthy for them. And not all of them require full sunlight. And fertilizer? You mean there’s not one generic plant food for them all?

My hanging baskets outside fare better since my dear husband has taken it upon himself to keep them watered.

But plants in the ground or big planters do best for me. At least they get dew every morning and enough rain to keep going, and they have enough room for a deep root system.

Occasionally, though, I’ll do battle with a plant that not only survives my neglect, but actively thrives despite my attempts to get rid of it.

Once I had what I thought was a pretty kind of ivy. I think it may have come in a mixed basket of some kind. I planted a few strands along the front edge of of two outdoor planters so they would spill out over the front, making a pretty foreground to the begonias and petunias behind it.

The only problem was, the ivy took over. It stretched over the other plants until eventually it was the only thing growing in the planter. It took all the nutrients so there was none left for anything else. Despite my frequent trimming, the ivy grew so fast that it began to attach itself to the ground around the planters. I pulled up several cords of ivy vines, but in a few days there would be new shoots. I thought we’d never get rid of it.

When a book I read recently mentioned a root of bitterness, some of a root’s imagery came to mind. The phrase comes from Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Deuteronomy 28:18b warns: “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit.”

Despite my botanical ignorance, I know a few things about how roots function.

Roots need room to grow. We planted two crepe myrtle trees at the same time in different parts of the yard. One did well and is now as tall as the house. The other is only about three feet tall. The latter is in a small area between the sidewalk and house, where there must not be enough room for it to spread its roots out.

Roots anchor the plant to the ground. Plants could easily blow over or be dug up without a sufficient root system. Somehow weeds seem to have the strongest or deepest roots, making it difficult to eradicate them completely. Some taproots can grow 200 feet downward according to this article.

Roots take nutrients and water from the soil and feed the plant. Some roots even store food for later use.

Roots help some plants reproduce in other areas. And weeds return unless you dig them up or kill them at their roots.

A root of bitterness will act the same way as a persistent plant’s root system. If we’re not careful, that kind of root will anchor itself in our souls. We can’t easily brush it away or dig it out. It will spread so it takes over our thinking. It will leach nutrients away from other areas of life, so we fail to grow spiritually while the bitterness increases. Eventually we plant bitterness in others as we spread our discontent.

I need to frequently examine my heart. Even when I am not aware of any deep roots of bitterness, I often find seedlings of grudges, resentment, or irritation. I need to avoid giving these roots room to grow. If I don’t dig these up right away, they can send their roots deep and cause bitterness.

Instead I want to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).

I want to be like the blessed “man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

I pray “ that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

I want to be anchored in Jesus, the “root of Jesse” (Romans 15:12-13), the “root of David” (Revelation 5:4-6), the “root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:15-17).

Guarding against spiritual weeds takes diligent care. While we pull out weeds by the root, we plant in their place the right kind of roots. The verse just before the one that mentions the root of bitterness says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Even those of us without a physical green thumb can carefully tend our hearts, pulling up weeds, planting good things, sinking our roots deeply into Christ.

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

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some of the most noteworthy reads discovered recently:

We Are All Cultists On the Inside. “Yet a little honest self-examination will probably reveal that we all have a cultist lurking within ourselves. We may pay lip service to diversity, but when it comes down to it we find that our natural instinct is toward uniformity—a uniformity to our own emphases, our own convictions, our own preferences.”

How to Prepare for the Metaverse, HT to Challies. The first time I encountered the term “metaverse” was in the animated film Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. But lately I’ve caught snatches of news that indicates the metaverse is, or will be, a real-world thing. This article explains what it is and what its impacts might be.

5 Takeaways from the Facebook Papers, HT to Challies. One of them: “A 2018 presentation from internal Facebook researchers, as revealed by the WSJ, showed that divisiveness and polarization increased the time people spent on Facebook, which in turn generates more money for Facebook.” It’s not just our imaginations that FB has turned into a place for arguing rather than socializing.

Does It Really Matter Whether Adam Was the First Man? HT to Challies. “The simple aim of this article is to show that, far from being a peripheral matter for fussy literalists, it is biblically and theologically necessary for Christians to believe in Adam as a historical person who fathered the entire human race.”

Loving the God of Little Things, HT to The Story Warren. “It’s troubling, this idea that one should be cut off from joys of all kinds if one hasn’t achieved the joy of having a family. It suggests both a lack of trust in God to have every person’s best interests at heart, and a lack of the imagination to comprehend all the different kinds of joys God offers us.”

I’m not sure who alerted me to the artistry of Tanaka_Tatsuya on Instagram, but I’ve enjoyed his creations quite a lot. He takes everyday objects and reimagines them in miniatures. He usually shares an overview photo and then one or two zoomed in to the intricate detail. Here’s one of my favorites:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

It feels like we had a short autumn and dived right into winter, with nights in the 30s and days in the 40s. But I’m hoping fall isn’t done yet.

Here are some favorites from this week:

1. Family costume party. My son and daughter-in-law used to take my grandson trick-or-treating in public places like the zoo or mall. But then Covid came, and this year and last we got together as a family and dressed up in costumes. Here’s this year’s array:

We have Captain America, a cute fox, a mini Darth Vader, a pirate, a . . . he was going for a Mandalorian storm trooper, and Cyclops.

Pirates had grandmas, too, right? 🙂 I gave Timothy my pirate accoutrements after we got done.

2. Tilapia. I’ve only had it twice, and my daughter-in-law made it both times. Good stuff.

3. Fall color has finally come in the neighborhood trees. So pretty.

4. Light kitchen duty. Jim had a company dinner to go to one night and was out of town for two evenings. I made frozen pizza the first night he was away, got take-out Mexican food the second night, and Jason and Mittu brought hamburger pie over the third. Now that I think about it, I didn’t make dinners over the weekend, either: we had the tilapia with the family one night and got fast food Friday night and Sunday lunch. So I probably better come up with something good for dinner tonight, huh? On a side note, it’s amazing how many dishes get dirty even without making dinner and with using paper plates.

5. A party at Grandma’s house. Mittu texted me a conversation with Timothy. She mentioned that Granddad was on a work trip. Timothy said, “So we’re having a party at their house tonight?” Mittu commented, “Glad we have a child that thinks visiting Grandma by herself is a party.” Me, too.

Happy Friday? What’s something good from your week?

The Devil in Pew Number Seven

“The story you are about to read actually happened, every last detail of it. As the plot unfolds, my hunch is that you’ll need to remind yourself of this reality more than once.” So Rebecca Nichols Alonzo opens her book The Devil in Pew Number Seven.

Her hunch was right.

Rebecca tells the story of a man who harassed—no, terrorized her family for several years as she was growing up.

Rebecca’s father was the new pastor of a small church in Sellerstown, NC, in 1969. He found that one man, a Mr. Watts, held key positions in the church even though he was not a member. Recognizing Mr. Watts’ “stranglehold” on the church, Pastor Nichols “made changes to end his dominance” (p. 48).

Mr. Watts did not take his loss of position well, nor the pastor’s difference of opinion over issues like the style of the new church roof. Mr. Watts started acting up in church from pew number seven, making faces at the pastor while he preached, tapping on his watch, walking out and slamming the door loudly before the sermon was finished.

The Nichols family started receiving threatening anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night and unsigned letters. One letter promised the pastor’s family would leave “crawling or walking, running or riding, dead or alive” (p. 54).

Then followed several incidents of escalating attacks: home invasions while the family was away, which one time included water in the fuel tank and oil in the water pump; shots fired at the outside walls; dynamite set off near the house.

The Nichols family, the neighbors, the church, and even the police knew who was behind these attacks, but no one could prove it. Some of the incidents occurred while Mrs. Nichols was pregnant and then while the family had a newborn.

Finally events came to a tragic head. (It’s no spoiler to say this since it’s mentioned in the first chapter).

The rest of the book tells of the long-term effects these years had on the family and the necessity of learning to forgive those involved.

Rebecca was a child when much of this happened, but she read her parents’ journals, newspaper reports, court documents, and interviewed several people from the town.

It’s hard to fathom how far this man went to drive out the pastor. Rebecca’s father felt he couldn’t leave, because that would mean Mr. Watts would again assert his dominance over the church if Pastor Nichols left. The pastor and his wife also believed and modeled for their children “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

I first heard of this book from my friend Lou Ann. But I kept passing it by on my TBR list because I thought it might be too hard to read. I finally listened to the audiobook nicely read by Pam Ward. Then I checked the book out of the library to see the pictures and read the afterword.

The book was not hard to read or listen to. Rebecca doesn’t sensationalize the violence. She begins with the climactic incident, but then backtracks to tell how her parents met, were called to the ministry, how they came to Sellerstown, and other “normal” occurrences.

Some of my favorite quotes:

With a few rare exceptions, everyone in Sellerstown was related to one another in some way. Which is why at times, shotguns in hand, they watched out for one another. The Sellers kin are true salt-of-the-earth people . . . although some were saltier than others (p. 31).

I knew [God] said in the Bible that He’s a father to the fatherless and to the brokenhearted. I was both, so we had a perfect fit. There was one more insight I came to embrace. I needed God more than I needed to blame God (p. 235).

I didn’t ask for this abrasion on my soul to be a part of my life; it just is. Now, day by day, I have the choice to forgive the two men who took so much from me, or I can choose to wallow in a toxic brew of bitterness. True, I forgave . . . a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have to forgive him again and again . . . (p. 250).

I’m the one who remains in jail if I withhold God’s grace by failing to forgive when wronged (p. 251).

My one critique is that the author seems to belabor some points overmuch. For instance, with the first threatening phone call, a little more than a page is spent on describing what happens inside the phone when it rings, explaining how phones in those days didn’t have optional ring tones and couldn’t be left off the hook without setting off a warning tone, how her father couldn’t take the phone off the hook anyway because a country pastor was “on call” 24/7 just like a country doctor was. Maybe this was supposed to build suspense with three rings leading up to the first threat, but it just seemed extraneous and a touch irritating. But, this is a minor criticism and for the most part doesn’t hinder the story.

Sometimes the circumstances were hard to read about and illustrated how “truth is stranger than fiction,” But I highly recommend this book. Ultimately it’s about God’s grace and strength through the most difficult of times.

Is This the Right Way?

“I hope you know where we’re going.”

My mother-in-law would say this whenever I drove her anywhere.

Ten years before my mother-in-law passed away, we moved her from her long-time home in Idaho to be near us, then in SC and later in TN.

For the first five years, she was in an assisted-living facility. She was still mobile (with a walker) and verbal then.

When she first came, we had to gently insist that she needed new hearing aids. We could yell right next to her, and she’d encourage us to “just speak up.” When we finally got the new aids, she could hear much better and didn’t fuss about them any longer.

The new hearing aids required that we visit the audiologist’s office every few months for a tune-up and tube replacement. It was my responsibility to chauffeur Mom to these appointments.

Mom had never driven. She had several physical issues as a result of being born two months premature in the days before the streamlined NICUs we have today. She was used to her husband driving her wherever she needed to go. And she was used to the familiar roads in her small town in Idaho.

She did not have Alzheimer’s, but she had a degree of dementia that flared up most often when she was nervous or agitated.

So on our drives, in a place and vehicle and with a driver she wasn’t used to, she would frequently express her hope that I knew the way.

I would reassure her again and again. Once I teased, “No, I thought I’d just get in the car and drive around until we found it.” But her uncertain look told me that teasing probably wasn’t wise.

Later I would learn that when we’d get in these repetitive conversational loops, logic didn’t work. It was best to respond factually and then divert her attention. Trying to keep up a conversation kept her mind from reverting back to wondering where she was going . . . most of the time.

Her repeated question often reminded me of a poem I saw in one of Rosalind Goforth’s books. She and her husband were ministering in China when “foreign devils,” as they were called, were not welcome. They were staying in a “barn-like room” with paper windows full of holes. She couldn’t get warm. She got sick. She cried out, “O Lord, have you no pity? Oh, help me! Why should I suffer so?”

Just then someone brought in two baskets with a letter from two missionaries who had stayed with them the day before. The missionaries saw the Goforths’ meager accommodations and must have sensed that they had used most of their supplies to serve them. So the caring guest missionaries sent an assortment of food. Rosalind rejoiced at the kind provision. “But the most timely and precious evidence of God’s love and care came, when tearing paper off a bottle of grape juice,” she noticed this poem:

Is this the right road home, O Lord?
The clouds are dark and still,
The stony path is hard to tread,
Each step brings some fresh ill.
I thought the way would brighter grow,
And that the sun with warmth would glow,
And joyous songs from free hearts flow.
Is this the right road home?

Yes, child, this very path I trod,
The clouds were dark for Me,
The stony path was sharp and hard.
Not sight but faith, could see
That at the end the sun shines bright,
Forever where there is no night,
And glad hearts rest from earth’s fierce fight,
It IS the right road Home!

The poem was from an English paper printed in 1914, four years earlier, with no author listed. Who knows how it “happened” to find its way to Rosalind right when she needed it. She read the words over and over and finally prayed, “O Lord, if this is the right road home, then I will not murmur!”

Two days later, Rosalind returned to their home in Changte while others went on with the tour. Noting that she looked like a ghost of herself, friends cared for her until she recovered (Climbing, pages 118-120).

Even those of us who know the “prosperity gospel” is false sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the Christian life is akin to the “American dream.” When troubles come, we’re dismayed, because this isn’t what we thought the Christian life would be like. Did we take a wrong turn? Did God really mean for this to happen?

But He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Yet He sandwiches that truth between two promises:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Several people in the Bible must have wondered if they, too, were on the right road:

Abraham and Sarah waiting long years for the son God promised.

The children of Israel wandering for forty years in the desert.

David, though anointed as the next king, hiding out in a cave from Saul.

John the Baptist in prison.

Peter when he heard Jesus speak of suffering and dying.

We’ve had friends who also must have wondered at times why life looked so different than they thought it would: a couple on deputation for the mission field when their son was diagnosed with leukemia; a young man in seminary who was in a car accident which left him paralyzed; a woman who is still alone though she thought she would have a husband and children; another woman who had to leave her beloved mission field due to her husband’s sin.

The Bible tells us often that trouble is part of life here. But the Bible also assures us time and again that God will be with us and help in trouble. God tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust God (Proverbs 3:5).

He promises that when—not if—we pass through deep waters or fire, He will be with us:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).

What’s the best way to stay on the right path? “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). If we’re seeking Him day by day, step by step, we can be assured we’re on the right path even if the circumstances are confusing.

What if we do stray from the path of God’s will? Sometimes trials are God’s chastening or His attempt to get our attention. Jonah went the opposite direction God told him and ended up inside a big fish. The prodigal son deliberately walked away from his father and ended up in a pigsty. Most of us don’t have one dramatic turn, but we gradually drift. We miss a few times with the Lord until we get out of the habit. We make excuses for a sin instead of killing it. Then we find ourselves either lukewarm and apathetic like the Laodicean church, or in a tangled mess. God issues many invitations in the Bible to repent and turn back to Him. One is Isaiah 55:7:

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

A beautiful song based on this passage:

And I love this new version of the old hymn, “Coming Home”:

We can trust that God knows the way home and is with us every step.

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

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest list of thought-provoking online reads:

Meditation. “We have an advantage over Joshua in that we have the completed Word of God. God’s inspired instruction to us goes far beyond the Law of Moses. Joshua had a record of the past works of God, His requirements of Israel, and His promises to them. As Warren Wiersbe once noted, ‘If Joshua was able to conquer Canaan having only the first five books of the Bible, how much more ought we to overcome now that we have a complete Bible!’”

Back to the Word, HT to Challies. “I’m just about ready to give up the rational conversational approach to social intercourse and to start quoting straight Bible to people. The further we go, the more reason isn’t working anymore. In these sputtering last gasps of the Enlightenment, language itself is deconstructing before our eyes.”

Sin Coddlers Are Not True Friends, HT to Challies. “The affirmation-only style of friendship looks good on the surface, and no wonder it’s become mainstream. But the result is a reduced understanding of friendship.”

Prayer for the Unconverted. I love this old prayer.

Social Media’s Anger Problem, HT to Challies. “Someone says something online that we find offensive, and we retaliate with a harsh word, a quick jab, or a joke at their expense. What we have done at that moment is allow them to steal our blessing of a quiet and gentle spirit to pay them back for their worthless words.”

I Can . . . Except I Can’t, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “If ‘I can’t’ paralyzes people, ‘I can do it all’ sends them off pursuing the wrong things and forever wondering if they missed their passion.”

How Does God Equip Us? “It’s said that God doesn’t call the equipped, but he equips the called, and, as we reflected earlier in this 31 Day series, everyone is called and everyone has a part to play. So, how does God equip us for what he is calling us to do? The New Testament highlights three main ways.”

An Unexpected Way to Teach Our Children to Pray, HT to The Story Warren. “After years of praying about whatever her eyes land on, she’s getting her first glimpse of the struggle to come to God in ‘the right way.’  And how do I teach her when it’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn myself? Teaching our kids to pray can seem so daunting when we don’t know what to say too. But the beauty of our gracious God is that he doesn’t need our perfectly crafted words. Growing in our own prayer lives has the ability to speak volumes to our kids.”

The Purpose of Christian Books. “Christian books have a distinct purpose in today’s world and throughout history. What some might call ‘preaching to the choir’ is really ‘reminding the disciples about who God is and what he has done.’ Certainly, the Bible is the greatest example of God reminding us. The choir is a forgetful group.”

This is pretty neat: a piano-like instrument made from Popsicle sticks.

(For some reason, the video won’t play here. But if you click where it says, “Watch on YouTube,” you can see it there.)

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

October is almost over. It seems like it has been a long month in some ways but has flown by in others. On Fridays I stop for a moment to remember the good things of the week lest I forget them in the blur of passing time.

1. A family outing. With various ones of us being sick and our traveling before that, it had been about three weeks since we had all been together as a family (those of us who are local). That’s a rarity for us. So it felt good in a number of ways to have an outing Saturday. It was good to be together and do something fun and get out. We visited the Pinta, a life-sized replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship (I wrote more about it here.)

Then we went out to eat, another thing we hadn’t done in a long time.

2. Grilled burgers. My husband had stopped at the store for me Saturday morning and noticed ground chuck was on sale. So he bought some and grilled hamburgers for us for Sunday lunch, then invited the kids for burgers Sunday evening. So we had a second family get-together last weekend.

3. My husband not only grilled twice on Sunday, but he loaded and ran the dishwasher, unloaded it, and reloaded it all in one day. He regularly cleans up the kitchen after Sunday morning breakfast while I get ready for church, and I appreciate that so much. But it was also a joy to come into the kitchen after dinner and find everything done.

4. A radio interview. I mentioned this unexpected opportunity last week. Thanks so much to those who prayed. It went well, and I felt God gave me the words to say. Some of you mentioned you’d like to hear it. My oldest son recorded it and made a link to it it here, if you’d like to listen.

5. Dinner and company. Jim had to go out of town overnight Wednesday, and Jason and Mittu offered to bring over some Mexican food for dinner. Then last night, Jesse brought over some peanut butter cake, the first cake he ever made from scratch.

Thus ends another week, and almost another month. I hope your October is wrapping up well.

October Reflections

We’ve had some quite pleasant days this month. Full fall color still isn’t out yet, at least in the few places I have been. We’ve gotten down in the forties a few nights, but no frost yet.

We’ve had a pretty full month. We started with a trip to Ohio for the memorial service of my husband’s former pastor and father of his best friend. This was our first overnight trip in the RV, which went okay. I don’t think I’d want to take long trips across the country in it, but a night or two is fine. This was also the first time we had seen some of these folks in years, so it was a little like a family reunion. Though we were sorry to hear Pastor Bob was gone, we’re glad he’s with the Lord, united with his wife, without discomfort and dementia. We rejoiced in his testimony and his life. And we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with his five adult kids and their families.

Then Jim, Jesse, and I were sick, and that took up the bulk of the month. Jesse’s Covid test came back negative, and we think our illness came from him, so we didn’t get tested. Some have told us he may have received a false negative since he was vaccinated. But we pretty much isolated as if we had Covid anyway–even if that’s not what we had, we didn’t want to spread it to anyone else.

Our church went back to Zoom meetings only for a few weeks because several people in our congregation had Covid. I think we’re going to try to meet in person again this week.

So in some ways, we felt as we did at the beginning of the pandemic.

We finally felt well enough for a family outing to see the Pinta, a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship, last weekend. It was the first time we had been all together as a family for about three weeks, and it felt so good to be out and to see each other. We topped the day off by going out to eat.

I had another interview with the very kind and gracious Kurt and Kate of the Moody radio station in Florida. I am not quite sure how they discovered me, but this is the second time they’ve invited me to their program. All went well—thanks so those who prayed about it! My son recorded the interview and made a link to it here, if you’d like to listen.

One big change this month makes me a little sad. We have one of those big, unsightly transformer boxes on the corner of our property, right as you turn into the driveway—so it’s the first thing you see when you approach our house. I don’t know why they didn’t put it on the other side of the driveway or property, which has open grassy areas. Anyway, the previous owners had planted some little trees around the box. There was a sign on the box saying not to plant any vegetation that would obscure access to the box. But since the plants were already there, we figured we’d leave well enough alone. If the utility company had a problem, they’d let us know.

The trees were the same height as the box when we moved in. Now, after 11 years, they were six or seven feet tall.

We enjoyed putting lights on them for Christmas every year, and sometimes wrapping the box up for Christmas.

From Christmas 2011

But we finally heard from the utility company. They have to replace all the lines underground. And they had to take out our little (now big) trees. Our front corner looks all shaven and shorn.

Some time after they’re done, we’ll have to figure out a way to make the corner more presentable. And I know there are bigger concerns in the world, but I am going to miss that corner Christmas display.

As a aside, these guys only seem to work Tuesday through Thursday. No wonder these things take so long to complete.

Creating

I didn’t make any cards this month—no birthdays or other occasions for them. We didn’t do anything in the guest room since neither of us was feeling up to it at the same time. But I should be able to finish it out soon.

Reading

Since last time I finished:

  • Only Glory Awaits: The Story of Anne Askew, Reformation Martyr by Leslie S. Nuernberg, a fictionalized account of Anne’s testimony, life, and death.
  • Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund, an interesting and helpful study of Jesus’ assessment of himself as meek, or gentle, and lowly which does not de-emphasize his righteousness and holiness.
  • Woman Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood, short true accounts of several women and their activities during WWII.
  • Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, musings about finding balance.
  • Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work in Your Life by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson, audiobook, a touching time slip novel. One plot takes place in WWII, when two children try to escape Germany on foot. They make it to the English Channel, but are separated. In modern time, one of them hires a reporter to search for the other, who finds unexpected links to her own past.
  • Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson, audiobook, another WWII time slip novel about a group of friends in the Resistance in Amsterdam and their modern-day descendants trying to research what happened to them.

It wasn’t on purpose that I read so much about WWII. I love that era, and some of my favorite authors write almost exclusively of that time. There’s plenty of scope for drama from that period. But I’m ready to read of another time for a while.

I’m currently reading:

  • Be Right (Romans): How to Be Right with God, Yourself, and Others by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, audiobook, true account of a pastor’s family terrorized by a disgruntled member of their congregation.
  • Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women by Sharon W. Betters
  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan, first in a series of novels about friends in a small town in GA.

Blogging

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

  • Thoughts From a Memorial Service, ponderings about life, what we can learn from the end of it, realization that the “old guard” is slipping away and we’re supposed to take up their banner.
  • I Know God Promised, But . . . Having God’s promises but not relying on them doesn’t get us anywhere.
  • How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively. Books ARE a worthy investment, even at full price. Authors and publishers work long and hard to provide books. But for some who like to read beyond what we can afford, here are some ways to read more inexpensively and still help authors.
  • From “What If” to “Even If.” We can scare ourselves to death with “what ifs.” But when we face them full on, we realize that even if the worst happens, God will provide help and grace.
  • What Light Reveals, two childhood stories when light helped distinguish between reality and imagination. We need the light of God’s Word to do that in our hearts as well.

Writing

There has not been much going on in that area, with everything else going on. I did make one decision, though.

I had been considering changing my “official” author name for a long time. There is another “Barbara Harper” who writes about water birth, something I know nothing about. I had thought our content would be different enough to distinguish between us. But people continually link to or follow my Facebook author page when they meant to link to hers. Plus, one article I read suggested looking up one’s name, which a potential agent or publisher is sure to do. When I did, it was six pages into Google results before anything of mine came up—all the rest were this other Barbara. So, to avoid confusion and distinguish myself, I decided to add my middle name and go by Barbara Lee Harper instead.

Some have mentioned the similarity to Harper Lee. That wasn’t intentional. My parents didn’t know I was going to marry a Harper when they named me Barbara Lee. 🙂 But if the name is associated with a good author, well, I don’t mind. 🙂

Another decision I’ve been pondering: I have a Facebook page for the blog here, and all my blog posts automatically go there for those who prefer to follow in that way. Then I created a separate Facebook author page (maybe prematurely? I’ve read different recommendations), which was meant for writing-related news and updates. I post my my devotional blog posts there as well and occasionally others. I’ve considered merging the two, but keep going back and forth.

There’s a writer’s group I looked into, but decided not to join. Their fee was pretty expensive, plus I didn’t feel their services were worth the price. But since I had registered for a free seminar, I still get occasional offers from them. Last week they offered a “summit” (which turned out to be some of their older recycled videos, but they were new to me). We could listen to them free, but the free link was only good for a day—unless I wanted to pay $67 for lifetime access! I didn’t, so I listened while resting or cleaning and sorting.

In one of those videos, an agent said that for a new author to be considered by a publisher, they needed to have about 10,000 followers with about 10% engagement—meaning at least 1,000 of those followers comment, “like” posts, etc.

Well. I have nowhere near 10,000 followers. And the necessity of “seeking followers” seems a wrong emphasis, though it also seems a reality the way things are set up in the business of publishing today.

I’ve considered self-publishing, if a publisher wouldn’t be interested in me due to a small “platform.” Plus, it takes a year or two for a manuscript to be published from the time it’s accepted. And I am not getting any younger. 🙂 Self-publishing would be quicker, though I would still want to pay for an editor and have the highest quality end product I could.

On the other hand—I’ve heard that if you self-publish and your book bombs, that pretty much guarantees a publisher will not be interested in your future books.

So, if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your prayers for some of these “behind the scenes” decisions, as well as for wisdom in carving time to actually finish writing the thing.

And I hope you’ll forgive this longer than usual monthly round-up. 🙂

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