A Southern Season: Stories from a Front Porch Swing

I picked up A Southern Season: Stories from a Front Porch Swing because I liked the title and concept. Plus, I had read several books by one of the authors, Eva Marie Everson, and heard her speak at a writer’s conference I attended virtually.

The book contains four novellas written by different authors. Each story takes place in the South in different seasons.

the first is Ice Melts in Spring by Linda W. Yezak. Since her husband’s drowning, Kerry Graham had avoided the coast. But now she has been requested by a reclusive author to come and catalog the items the author is donating to the museum Kerry works for. As the author lets down her guard and shares from her life, Kerry finds they have more in common than she knew.

In Lillie Beth by Eva Marie Everson, Lillie Beth was overjoyed not only to fall in love, but to escape her abusive home life. After she married David, Lillie Beth lives with David’s Granny while he goes to Viet Nam. But David doesn’t come home: he is killed in action.

Meanwhile, a Dr. Gillespie comes to town to help and then replace the town doctor. Dr. Gillespie’s wife had died, and he feels God has abandoned him. As the doctor helps Lillie when Granny is dying, he sees Lillie Beth’s simple faith and strength of character.

In Through an Autumn Window by Claire Fullerton, Cate returns to her Memphis hometown after her mother passes away. Her brother perpetuates their sibling rivalry until the two of them face a common enemy.

In A Magnolia Blooms in Winter by Ane Mulligan, Morgan James is living her dream as a Broadway actress. It was harder to break in than she thought. While waiting to hear whether she got her first leading part, her mother calls her home. The man leading the Christmas play has been injured. Since Morgan wrote the play, and her mother is responsible for the man’s accident, her mother asks Morgan to come help out. Morgan finds unexpected joy in directing the play and helping other young actors. When she reconnects with an old flame, she struggles with the thought of giving up what she thought was a God-given dream to act on Broadway. But could God have given her that dream for a specific purpose and season?

I enjoyed all these stories. Some were sad, some were funny. All were poignant and hopeful. The title fit well: this was a good book for summer evenings.

Out of the Shadows

In Sigmund Brouwer’s Out of the Shadows, Nick Barrett’s life has been shaped by two abandonments. His mother left with his trust fund before his tenth birthday, and there had been no word from her since. And as an adult, his wife of four days betrayed him.

Nick’s mother had been a waitress when a war hero from one of Charleston’s elite families saw her and fell in love. They married, but Nick and his mother were considered outsiders, especially after his father died. When his mother left, he was begrudgingly taken in by his father’s relatives. But he was still always on the outside. Just four days after he married the girl he loved, an accident cost him his leg, his marriage, and his Charleston residency. He signed an agreement to leave and never return.

Nick has been away from his native Charleston, SC, for fifteen years. He’s bitter against his mother, his relatives, and God. But a mysterious unsigned note has brought him back, promising information about his mother. Looking not only for information, but also revenge, Nick is led through a winding path of revelations. But what will they cost him in the end?

In defense of the stubbornness of my soul’s early flight from God, there were all the events before I left Charleston—events that seemed totally bereft of the touch of a God of love. God, however, as I was about to discover, is a patient hunter. I can now examine my years of exile and see earmarked on the pages of my personal history the times he beckoned, times that I resolutely turned aside to my own path. I imagine that in a way, I was like Jonah, determined to head in the opposite direction of God’s calling. For Jonah, the city he desperately wanted to avoid was Nineveh. For me, it was Charleston.

I picked up this book on a Kindle sale partly because I love Charleston and partly because I had read something of Brouwer’s in the past. I remembered enjoying it, though I couldn’t remember what it was.

This book was fascinating. There were several jaw-dropping surprises or twists, but not too many to seem realistic. I love the Charleston history and setting. I loved the irony of the Old South incongruity of using the most polite language while doing the most awful things. A couple of my favorite characters were a gossipy pair of elderly twin antique owners.

I didn’t know at first that this book was the beginning of a series. But now I look forward to reading the rest.

The Summer Kitchen

The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate opens with SandraKaye Darden meeting a realtor at her Uncle Poppy’s house. Poppy had been tragically killed in a robbery just a few months before. The police had no new leads in his case. It was time to sell the house and move on.

The house was old and had not been well-kept due to Poppy’s advanced age. But SandraKaye can’t quite let it go yet. This house was a safe haven for her as a child when her mother’s mood swings and substance abuse were too much to bear. Though it doesn’t really make sense, Sandra decides to paint the kitchen cabinets. But she doesn’t tell her family or her pushy best friend.

Though outwardly Sandra looks affluent, she feels her world is crumbling. Her husband, a successful doctor, is rarely home. Neither is her youngest son, Christopher, who is struggling but won’t open up to her. And her oldest son, Jake, fled after Poppy’s funeral. Jake blamed himself: if Jake had been with Poppy, as he usually was that time of the week, perhaps Poppy would still be alive now. Jake’s car was found at the airport, and they suspect he went back to his native Guatemala, from which he had been adopted as a young boy.

As Sandra works in Poppy’s house, some of the neighborhood faces become familiar. The pre-teen wanna-be thugs who roam the streets. The disabled elderly lady. The kids who run around unsupervised. The family of Hispanic people across the street. And the teen girl who looks 13 going on 30.

The teen girl, Cass, lives with her brother, Rusty. Their mother died, and they didn’t want to live with “creepy Roger,” their mother’s boyfriend. So they ran away. Rusty, age 17, finds work to support them, and Cass tries to make ends meet in their cheap apartment. They lie about their ages so that social services won’t find and separate them.

One day when SandraKaye chases some young children from the dumpster, she realizes they were probably scavenging for food. She decides to bring peanut butter sandwiches the next day. That starts a regular routine. Cass begins helping, mainly in order to have access to those sandwiches. The two women form a relationship that changes both their lives.

I picked this book up on a two-for-one audiobook sale because I loved Wingate’s Carolina Chronicles series so much. This book, however, started extremely slowly. Then a crude reference and a bad word caused me to set it aside and listen to another book instead. I decided to come back to it later, and I am glad I did, because I enjoyed the latter half much more.

The slowness was not just the beginning plot. The narrators also seemed slow. The point of view goes back and forth between Sandra and Cass, and the story is set in Texas. I grew up in TX and don’t recall anyone there speaking as slowly as these narrators. It finally occurred to me to speed up the audiobook to 1.2. That helped a great deal without distorting the voices.

I was very disappointed to see the crude reference and bad word in one of Lisa’s books. I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Both were quite unnecessary. I got from the rest of Lisa’s description that the neighborhood Poppy and Cass lived in was seedy. There was no need to throw those elements in for realism or grit.

But I did appreciate SandraKaye’s realization that she didn’t have to retreat into a shell. It was good to see her world opening up to see the needs of others, not just as statistics, but as real people.

I especially liked how Sandra went from asking herself “Aren’t there programs to help these people?” to doing what she could personally.

I was also very satisfied with how the story ended. There were a couple of ways it might have that would have been nice but implausible. I think Lisa ended it the best way possible to be both realistic and gratifying.

The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith

I have not seen the James Bond films, but evidently the supplier of his cool spy gadgets is someone known as “Q.”

“Q” is based on a real person: Charles Fraser-Smith.

Charles started out as a British missionary in Morocco. One day he spoke at a church about his “pioneer missionary work in Morocco and the often unorthodox methods I had used to keep my various projects alive” (p. 22).

Sitting in the audience was the director of the Ministry of Supply, who chatted with Fraser-Smith afterward. The next day the director asked Fraser-Smith to meet him at the ministry headquarters and offered Fraser-Smith a job.

Outwardly, Fraser-Smith was a civil servant of the Ministry of Supply’s Clothing and Textile Department.

In reality, he procured or developed an astonishing numbers of gadgets and supplies for the Special Operations Executive during WWII.

Fraser-Smith and most of the people he dealt with had to sign an Official Secrets Act, requiring thirty years of silence about their wartime activities.

Some time after that thirty years, Fraser-Smith wrote The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith, the “Q” Gadget Wizard of World War II along with Gerald McKnight and Sandy Lesberg.

The “Q” designation came from “warships disguised as freighters and unarmed trawlers” during WWI which were known as “Q ships” (p. 10).

Some of what Fraser-Smith supplied were kits to go with soldiers in case they were captured: miniature maps and compasses hidden in hairbrushes, pipes, pens, even dominoes. Sometimes these included a flexible surgical saw with which to try to cut through bars to escape. Fraser-Smith also supplied spies and other soldiers.

He had to take great care that nothing would alert a casual observer—or a sharp-eyed prison guard—to anything that was hidden or unusual. One trick Fraser-Smith often used was to thread a screw-on lid or top in the opposite direction, so if anyone tried to unscrew it in the usual way, he’d actually be tightening it.

Hairbrushes had to be made with bristles native to the country his clients were going to. Sometimes he had to supply uniforms from other countries for men to go undercover. Fraser-Smith had to make sure the fabric was the same type and quality. In one of his first attempts, the manufacturer he used made the uniforms too well and had to redo them.

Sometimes Fraser-Smith came up with ideas himself. Other times, he had to consult with experts and convey what he needed without giving away too much information. And in either case, he had to employ manufacturers to produce what he needed in sufficient quantity. He had to swear many of these folks to the Official Secrets Act. Most of them rose to the challenge admirably. A few dragged their feet, not wanting to vary what they did for their own profit.

One of the most interesting parts to me were miniature cameras which were used to take pictures of the terrain of certain areas. These pictures would be smuggled back to photographic interpreters who would project the height of hills, depth of crevices, etc., so invading soldiers would know the lay of the land exactly.

Another fascinating section told of the S. O. E. employing an illusionist to disguise things, like making a military base look like a working farm.

Fraser-Smith had to come up with various ways to get his supplies to people, particularly POWs. He never used food packages like the Red Cross sent, because he didn’t want to risk those packages being refused if someone found one of his gadgets in them.

Fraser-Smith wrote that he “slightly” knew Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. But he said Fleming misused one of his ideas of hiding things in golf balls. Fleming’s golf balls would not have performed as golf balls and “wouldn’t have fooled an Irish farmhand let alone the lynx-eyed prison officers and S.S. of the O Flags” (p. 128).

Fraser-Smith also wrote of the “everyday people,” from resistance fighters to sympathetic citizens, who would pass on vital information or supplies at great risk to themselves. “Day after day these men and women continued against the greatest odds with no one present to encourage them. Seldom was it possible to let them know if their arduous and perilous work was successful. Much of it went unrecognized. Those who fought in the services were spurred on by team spirit, e’sprit de corps. The S. O. E. agent and the resistance fighter were alone. This was the highest order of heroism” (pp. 152-153).

I was surprised that some of these tricks would be revealed even after thirty years. Maybe most of them had been discovered by then. I’m sure the types of things that are hidden and disguised now are much different from what they were then.

I first heard of Fraser-Smith in this post, and I was so intrigued, I had to look up his book. It’s long out of print now, but I found used copies on Amazon. He reminded me of other pioneer missionaries, like Nate Saint, who devised ways to carry sheet metal strapped under his small plane or to drop a bucket to people below while flying in a circle. John Paton once had a major spiritual opening with a tribe after building a well. God doesn’t just use preachers and scholars, speakers and writers: He uses people He has gifted in various ways.

This was quite a fascinating book. I read it for pure interest, but I am also counting it towards the Nonfiction Reading Challenge. It would fit equally well for the Inventions or Wartime Experiences category, but I think I’ll count it for the former.

Ten Words to Live By

The Ten Words are the Hebrew designation for what we know as the Ten Commandments.

In Jen Wilkin’s book, Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands, she cites a study showing that more Americans could name all the ingredients in a Big Mac than the Ten Commandments.

“When the Ten Commandments are not forgotten, they are often wrongly perceived. They suffer from a PR problem. They are seen by many as the obsolete utterances of a thunderous, grumpy God to a disobedient people, neither of whom seem relatable or likeable” (p. 12).

Even when people accept that these commandments come from a righteous God, they set them aside because they think they don’t apply since we’re under grace. “Thus, law and grace have come to be pitted against one another as enemies, when in fact, they are friends. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New have been placed in opposition, when, in fact, they are one and the same” (p. 13). Christianity is based on relationship with God rather than rules, but “rather than threaten relationship, rules enable it” (p. 13). “Without rules, our hopes of healthy relationship vanish in short order. Jesus did not pit rules against relationship. It was he who said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) (p. 14). We see this even in our earthly relationships: there are none without boundaries and preferences.

Though we rightly want to avoid legalism, the Bible also condemns the other extreme of lawlessness. “Legalism is external righteousness only, practiced to curry favor. Legalism is not love of the law, but its own form of lawlessness, twisting the law for its own ends” (p. 14).

By contrast, “Obedience to the law is the means of sanctification for the believer. . . . not out of dread to earn his favor, but out of delight because we already have it” (p. 15).

“The Ten Words show us how to live holy lives as citizens of heaven while we yet dwell on earth” (p. 17).

The Ten Words are an expression of love. When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus said, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:30-31). A former pastor used to say that if our hearts were right, these two would be all we needed. But they’re not, so we need things spelled out for us. “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).

With these premises in place, Jen devotes a chapter to each of the ten commandments. She argues not for a letter-of-the-law merest obedience possible, but for an expansive obedience of the spirit of the law. She employs Jesus’s explanation that the law doesn’t cover just outward action, but our hearts.

Take, for instance, the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill,” literally, “You shall not murder.” Most of us would say we’re safe from transgressing that one. But Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Is Jesus adding to the law by broadening our attention from murder to anger and contempt? By no means. He is pointing out the seedling that grows into the thorny vine that chokes out life. He is appealing to us to fastidiously weed the garden of our personal holiness. He is teaching that if every person dealt with anger quickly and rightly, there would be no need for the sixth word at all (p. 94).

Jen also points out the progression of thought from anger to devaluing another.

First, I am angry with you in response to a hurt. Next, I begin to question your character with an insult. Then, I begin to question your worth as a person. As anger degrades into contempt, the personhood of another is devalued (p. 93).

But an expansive obedience “will not be content to simply be not-murderers, or not contemptuous, or not angry. We will not merely refrain from taking life—we will run toward giving it. Let us read in the sixth word’s prohibition of murder the exhortation to take every care to preserve life. Let us run to be life-protectors and esteem-givers and peacemakers” (p. 96).

Thus Jen couches each commandment in its initial setting, then examines how it applies today, then explores not just the letter, but the spirit of the law from the rest of the Bible.

I have markings on most of the pages, but here are just a few other quotes from the book:

Every transgression of one of the Ten Words begins by transgressing the first, to have no other gods before him (p. 34).

When we look to Christ, imitating him, we begin to see restored what sin has diminished. Bearing the image of God does not mean we look like him in physical terms but rather in spiritual terms—not so that others may worship us, but so that they may worship him (p. 42).

Our patterns of work and rest reveal what we believe to be true about God and ourselves. God alone requires no limits on his activity. To rest is to acknowledge that we humans are limited by design. We are created for rest just as surely as we are created for labor. An inability or unwillingness to cease from our labors is a confession of unbelief, an admission that we view ourselves as creator and sustainer of our own universes (pp. 64-65).

No one ever set out to sin against God or neighbor without first desiring something out of bounds (p. 140).

Our actions are the incarnation of our belief (p. 135).

My recent post A Better Blade for Killing Sin grew out of Jen’s comment on what Jesus said about cutting off whatever tempted us to sin. As Jesus always went to the heart,  not just the outward actions, so this admonition shows us something: even if we could cut off the lusting eye or the stealing hand, we’d still have a problem in our hearts.

We need a better blade than any formed by human hands, one aimed at ridding our hearts of disordered desires.

Praise God, we have one. The blade that slays the beast is the word of God, made living and active by the Spirit of God, dividing thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). By the word of God we learn to delight our hearts in the Lord, and the outcome is that which the psalmist predicts: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4) (p. 106).

That blade doesn’t just lop off offending members until there is nothing left. It transforms us as we delight in Him. “The antidote to the lust of the eyes is not self-inflicted blindness, but seeing as God sees (pp. 106-107).”

I wish I could share some of the core truths of each chapter, but that would make this post too long. Instead, I encourage you to read the book. It’s one that I probably need to revisit regularly. I was convicted in each chapter.

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Three Shall Be One

Francena Arnold was one of the first—if not the first—writers of Christian fiction. Her first book, Not My Will, was published in 1946 and became a classic. I read it at least twice and its sequel once. I wasn’t aware (or had forgotten) she had written other books until I saw her Three Shall Be One on a Kindle sale.

In this story, Linda and Tony are a young couple with two little ones. They don’t have much, but they’re happy—at least until Tony’s controlling mother comes for an extended visit and moves them into a nice place with better furniture.

Linda is furious, not only at her mother-in-law, but at her husband for not standing up to her. But Tony has learned through long years of experience that he never wins with his mother, and it’s easiest just to let her have her way.

Linda learns to be quiet for the most part when her mother-in-law is there, despite constant criticism. Occasionally Linda will let slip a sarcastic remark, exasperating Tony.

When Tony’s mother leaves, he and Linda have it out. Tony had thought couples argued when they no longer loved each other, and he is “troubled by the realization that ugly quarrels could come even when they loved.” But after a day apart, they regret their harsh words and make up.

Both Tony and Linda had rejected religion of any kind as a sign of weakness.

Life goes on much the same—until the next mother-in-law visit. An incident then sets off a chain of events none of them could have anticipated.

There are a couple of implausible plot twists in the book that take away from the story, but I can’t go into them here without revealing too much. And this book suffers from the same problem a lot of early Christian fiction had: the main character(s) come to a crisis which leads to their salvation, and then all their problems are solved. Of course, problems don’t go away when we become Christians, though at that point we do have His grace and help and wisdom for them.

If you can look past those issues, though, the book is a sweet, old-fashioned story. I liked that the book didn’t end with Linda’s salvation and showed some of her growth afterward. Also, Linda’s friends’ care for her was a great example. The author shows good understanding of the psychological factors involved in the couple’s troubles.

I looked at Amazon to see what other books they had by Francena Arnold. The Kindle versions of some of them are 99 cents as of this writing, including this title. I’m glad to see someone made them available for the Kindle app, though they are still available in paperback as well.

Have you read Francena Arnold? What did you think of her books?

Heaven Sent Rain

In the novel Heaven Sent Rain by Lauraine Snelling, Dinah Taylor is a scientist who started her own company of food supplements to improve health. Her job, her life, her all-white condo and wardrobe are perfectly ordered.

One day at her usual breakfast stop, she sees a small boy and his dog sitting out in front. They look shabby, but not dirty. Dinah offers to buy the boy, Jonah, breakfast, and he accepts. Then he’s at the same place the next day, and then every day thereafter. Dinah tries to find out his background, imagining everything from a drug-infested home to neglect. But Jonah evades her questions.

Then in the middle of one night, Dinah receives a frantic phone call. Jonah’s dog is badly injured. Can she help?

Dinah isn’t sure what she’s getting into, but she can’t refuse. Searching for an emergency vet clinic open that time of night, she takes Jonah and his dog in. They are met by veterinarian Garret Miller, who seems warm and kind toward Jonah and the dog, but icy toward Dinah.

As Dinah continues to help Jonah, she gets in over her head. As she, Jonah, and Garret interact, their lives change.

Most of the other books I’ve read by Lauraine were historical fiction about Norwegian immigrants. I didn’t think I had read any of her contemporary fiction, but then remembered I had read Someday Home a couple of years ago.

I loved the way Dinah’s story unfolded, with the author revealing just a bit at a time until the whole picture came into view. Garret is an enjoyable character, too, after getting past his initial standoffishness, which is explained later.

Dinah is not a Christian, having rejected her parents’ teaching and beliefs. The details of that situation are gradually revealed, too. Garret and Jonah are both believers, as is Dinah’s receptionist. But the faith element felt very natural and not forced.

I thought the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly, and I had a theological quibble with one sentence. But overall I really enjoyed the book.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

In Kim Michele Richardson’s novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Cussy Mary Carter was one of the Pack Horse Librarians. A Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative by FDR during the Depression employed librarians to bring books to people in the Appalachian mountains. Books were donated, and the Pack Horse Librarians sorted, distributed them, and made scrapbooks for residents which included recipes and tips. The librarians, mostly women, rode hundreds of miles.

Many of the residents were eager for books and magazines. Some were suspicious.

Cussy Mary had to fight more than the usual amount of suspicion and superstition because she was colored: blue.

A family line in Kentucky produced people with a blue tint to their skin due to a recessive gene, though the cause wasn’t known at the time. Some people treated the “blues” like anyone else, but negative reactions ranged from a desire to keep a distance to fear of disease to superstitions to hatred. “Blues” were included in “No coloreds allowed” signs and laws.

Kim Michele Richardson ties together the blue people of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Librarian initiative to create unusual and interesting historical fiction.

The story begins with Cussy Mary’s father trying to arrange courtship for her, though she doesn’t want to be married. He has worked in the mines all his life, and his lungs are affected. He wants to make sure Mary is provided for before he dies. But no one is interested until he offers the deed to his land. A disastrous wedding night leaves Mary a widow.

We follow along with Mary on her travels, meet her patrons, hear their stories, see her interactions with townspeople, encounter the dangers on the trail.

The town doctor has always wanted to take blood samples and study Mary and her father, but they’ve resisted—until the father has a secret he needs the doctor to keep. The only way the doctor will agree is if Mary’s dad will let him take her to the hospital in Lexington for tests. Against Mary’s will, she’s subjected to all kinds of indignities. When the doctor finds a temporary “cure” for Mary’s blue skin, she enjoys being white at first. But the side effects and the lack of change in how people treat her leave her wondering if the change is worth it. The author says in her notes that the study and treatment she described didn’t actually occur until about thirty years later.

Mary’s courage and determination shine throughout. She remembered being read to by her mother, who passed away. That hunger for learning stayed with Mary, and she wants to help those with the same hunger.

I first became aware of this book through reviews by Susan and Susanne.

There is a smattering of bad words, and Mary’s wedding night is told with more detail than I’d like.

But otherwise, this was a fascinating story.

I listened to the audiobook, which I was pleased to get for free–it was included with either my Audible subscription or Amazon Prime, I forget which. Katie Schorr did a wonderful job with the narration. I checked out the book from the library to read back matter not included with the audiobook, including a nice interview with the author.

Had you heard of blue people or the Pack Horse Librarians? Would you be willing to brave mountainous trails in the back woods on a mule to get books to people?

Be Diligent (Mark): Serving Others

The gospel of Mark is a book of action. Many of the verbs are present participle, indicating continuing action: saying, going, teaching. The word “immediately” occurs in Mark 35 times (in the ESV), more than any other book, though Mark is the shortest of the four gospels.

In Warren Wiersbe’s short commentary, Be Diligent (Mark): Serving Others as You Walk with the Master Servant, he says:

Mark wrote for the Romans, and his theme is Jesus Christ the Servant. If we had to pick a “key verse” in this gospel, it would be Mark 10: 45—“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

The fact that Mark wrote with the Romans in mind helps us understand his style and approach. The emphasis in this gospel is on activity. Mark describes Jesus as He busily moves from place to place and meets the physical and spiritual needs of all kinds of people.

Mark does not record many of our Lord’s sermons because his emphasis is on what Jesus did rather than what Jesus said.

Mark was written by a man known elsewhere in Scripture as John Mark. He and his mother were among the early disciples. When Peter was supernaturally released from prison, he fled to the house of Mark and his mother, where a prayer meeting was held. Mark left early from a mission trip with Paul and Barnabas for unnamed reasons, causing Paul to decline taking Mark along the next time. But later on in 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul asks for Mark to come, “for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” So they must have reconciled. Peter calls Mark “my son” (1 Peter 5:13), indicating Peter was probably the one who led Mark to the Lord. Most of Mark’s material came from Peter.

A few more observations from Wiersbe:

Jesus placed a great deal of importance on the hearing of the Word of God. In one form or another, the word hear is used thirteen times in Mark 4: 1–34. Obviously, our Lord was speaking, not about physical hearing, but about hearing with spiritual discernment. To “hear” the Word of God means to understand it and obey it (see James 1: 22–25).

Faithful women were the last at the cross on Friday and the first at the tomb on Sunday. What a contrast to the disciples, who had boasted that they would die for Him! The church of Jesus Christ owes much to the sacrifice and devotion of believing women.

The world’s philosophy is that you are “great” if others are working for you, but Christ’s message is that greatness comes from our serving others.

Because Mark’s gospel was so jam-packed, it was a little hard to discuss in our church’s Bible study time. But the study of Mark was profitable, as were the insights offered by Wiersbe.

Review and Giveaway: The House at the End of the Moor

Michelle Griep’s novel, The House at the End of the Moor, is set in England in 1861.

A woman known as Mrs. Dossett lives at the title house with only a sheepdog, mute maid, and a manservant. It’s obvious she’s in hiding, but we don’t know from whom at first.

So when she finds a severely wounded unconscious man on her property, she’s torn. It can only mean trouble to bring him home. But she can’t leave him to the elements.

As the man, Oliver, heals and his head becomes clearer he and the woman are wary of each other. He’d like to leave, but he’s too injured.

Just as the two are beginning to trust each other, Oliver opens the door to a room where a beautiful gown is displayed along with a gorgeous red jeweled necklace–the very necklace he was falsely accused of stealing and for which he was thrown in prison.

The mystery of who each of the characters are, where the jewels are from, and what the characters decide to do all make for an interesting read. The faith element is naturally woven into the characters’ makeup and thinking.

A secondary character, Barrow, is the constable seeking Oliver since his escape from prison. Barrow is similar to Javert in Les Miserables but is much more cruel. His motivation is seeking justice for righteousness’s sake. But he has to learn what justice truly is and who is supposed to mete it out.

Somehow I ended up with both a Kindle and paperback version of this book. So I’d love to give away the physical copy to one of you. I can only offer it to someone in the US due to mailing costs. If you’d like to enter the drawing for this book, just leave a comment on this post before Wednesday, June 30. I’ll draw a name then from among the entries. I’ll count all comments on this post as entries unless you mention that you’re not interested in winning the book. Also, I must have a way to contact you to let you know you have won. If I don’t hear back from the winner within a couple of days, I’ll draw another name. Best wishes to each of you!

(Update: I originally scheduled the contest to end Saturday, but decided to extend it to Wed., June 30.)

The giveaway is now closed. The winner is Paula! Congratulations!

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