Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning

Dear Friends,

As I write this, it is 2:15 am Christmas Morning.  St. Nicholas has come and gone leaving behind a bulging stocking, an empty glass, and one half-eaten cookie, as though he just didn’t quite have time to finish.

I sit in my living room in the glow of the Christmas lights.  To my right the mantle holds a beautiful Nativity scene lit with shining white.  Mary and Joseph hover near their precious charge.  Shepherds, complete with following sheep, file in from the west.  The Wise Men and their loaded-down camels carry from the east the gifts they bring for the King of Kings.

To my left a lovely tree glows in rainbow colors. It is decorated by loving hands with treasured ornaments.  Below there is simply not room for all the gifts, so they spread out around it. 

 The tableau displayed on my mantle plainly tells the story of that long ago day.  The tree, with its decorations and gifts reflects the same message. And though that message is not always so plain in our modern trappings, it is no less powerful today than it was then.

The ever green of the tree shows the eternal life Jesus brought us, and even its shape points our eyes toward Heaven.  The gifts we give our loved ones represent not only the gifts brought by the Wise Men, but also the greatest gift that God himself gave us on that day.  As the gifts overflow the space under the tree, I am reminded that God sent his Son to bless my life and fill it with His love to overflowing.

As for the decorations…There are lights, to represent the Light of the World.  There are angels, calling to mind the messengers God sent to tell the shepherds of Jesus’s arrival.  And high atop the tree, let us not forget the star.  For it was with one such bright beacon that God drew the Wise Men from their homes, and brought them into the presence of his Son that they might worship Him.

Wishing you all a very blessed Christmas, and praying you are able to see Christ in every piece of your day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flash Fiction...Saturday?

Technically, we did the Flash Fiction late Friday night, but I didn't get around to posting it until this morning, so here it is...


He leaned forward in his chair, raised a crooked finger to my face and said, “You’re gonna wanna hear this.” 

His breath smelled vaguely of liquor, and I began to doubt if he would be much of a source.  But he came highly recommended.

“The Congressman and his secretary take a cheap room across the street now and then…”

“Really? That’s your big news?” I interrupted shortly.  “I don’t want to break his carreer, I wanna make mine.  I couldn’t care less where or with whom the Congressman “takes a cheap room.”

“It’s not what it sounds like at first,” he began, rising from the seat. “But if you don’t want the scoop, you’re not the only cub I know. I’ll find me someone else.”

“Oh, alright! I’ll listen, but not for long this better get good fast.”


I haven't decided if the Congressman is doing something scandalous or if he's anonymously involved in some sort of altruistic inner city improvment endeavor.  Somebody run with it...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everyday Life

I'm afraid I may not meet my twice a week posting goal this week.  I've done the Bible Study, and made notes, but haven't had time to do the post (or, more probably, used my time wisely enough to get it done).

As you know if you've read my profile, I am a pretty lousy housekeeper, and my husband really enjoys a clean house.  This difference is often the source of tension for us, though he is very patient with me, and tries not to complain.  He really is wonderful.

Well, I've agreed to put forth a great deal more effort in the homemaking department.  I am doing a lot more domestic work and a lot less reading, writing, and blogging (that is until today).

I know that writing is an important part of my life, and God wants me to place some of my focus on it.  I also know that I have to give Him the pen and let Him write my list of priorities if I want to be successful as a wife, mother, or writer.  So, I beg your patience and your prayers (especially your prayers) as I work on this. 

I have plans for a "Christmas Memories" blog like some I've been reading.  And I haven't given up on the Christmas Bible Studies.  But, I'm not making any promises on the scheduling of any of these things.

Thanks so much for sticking with me.  You're a great audience.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: Yuletide Cowboy by Debra Clopton

From the Cover:
            After three years in Mule Hollow’s women’s shelter, single mother Lynn Perry is finally spending the holidays in her own house.  And then the town’s matchmakers send over a hunky cowboy to hang Christmas lights…Lynn hopes there’s no mistletoe around.  With her painful past, how can she trust another man? Especially former bull rider and current pastor Chance Turner, who isn’t planning on sticking around—or ever preaching again.  Unless Lynn, twin boys and the matchmakers help her yuletide cowboy see he’s the answer to a family’s—and a town’s—Christmas prayers.

            This is the “umpteenth” installment in the Mule Hollow series (Seriously, I would have to count them, there are so many) It’s the third, and final, installment in the “Men of Mule Hollow” miniseries. 
            Let me start by confessing my bias.  You see, I own every Mule Hollow book. The Trouble With Lacy Brown caught my eye, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love some more than others, but they are all permanently on my keeper shelf.  Also Debra Clopton is on my “must buy” list.
            That said, I feel I can impartially review this book.  So here goes.

  1. Lynn’s independence:  She said, “I won’t be railroaded.” And she isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the matchmaking Posse, but they’ve been known to get pushy. With the Turner clan adding fuel to the fire, they are a powerful force.  I was glad to see Lynn hold her ground.
  2. Lynn’s wisdom: She wants to be everything for her twin sons, but she knows they need a father figure.  She comes to the realization that her boys would “suffer in the long run because she couldn’t let go of her past” (pg. 121)
  3. Chance’s flexibility: He comes home to “fill his tank,” so to speak. He and God disagree about how to do that. Chance fights it at first, but he finally yields graciously. A pivotal scene is when the church is without a preacher because the fill-in gets sick. Chance, the only preacher for miles around, tries to shrug the duty off on Sheriff Brady. “Lynn’s mouth fell open, ‘Seriously.  You seriously just said that?’” (pg. 159). I love that line! This scene is the beginning of Chance’s return to, shall we say “active duty” in the Lord’s army.  It seems he overcomes his hang-ups just in time to help Lynn overcome hers.
  4. Chance’s patience: When he finally takes the lead in moving their relationship forward, he knows he needs to wait on Lynn to be comfortable. He does that very patiently. He also seems to know just when to push, and he does that too.
  5. Jack and Gavin: With lines like, “Are you gonna fill the puppet?” and “But you’re a girl, Momma,” these two boys had me in stitches again and again.

I hate this part…
  1. Lynn’s stubbornness: This is the other side of that “independence” coin I love so much.  She refuses to accept God’s blessing.  She knows her boys want and need a father figure.  She knows she'd love to have a man she can depend on.  But when God drops one in her lap and says, "Yes, Lynn. This is a man you can trust," she stubbornly insists she must go it alone.
  2. Lynn’s presumptuousness: This is wrapped up in her stubbornness.  She presumes to decide where Chance belongs, as though she has any say in the matter. Then she latches onto the idea like a life preserver, to put distance between them.  Thankfully she comes around just in time to give them all a Merry Christmas!

LOL moments:
  1. Page 15: Gavin asks Chance, “Are you gonna fill the puppet?” Out of the mouths of babes….  Even my husband (who is my pastor) laughed at this one.
  2. Page 149: “Her nerves kicked up in panic and she jabbed herself in the eye with the mascara wand….” What woman hasn’t done this?
There were others, but those were my favorites.

Over all:
            This is a lovely story.  The characters’ motivations are realistic.  Their hang-ups, though sometimes frustrating, are understandable given their experiences. Their Happily Ever After is heartwarming and sweet.

**** 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Boat Again

Okay, that was a bad Willie Nelson joke.  Moving on, I’ll warn you there’s a lot in these 21 verses (at least it seems so to me)

Now, back to Paul.  After wintering in Malta, he and his associates were indeed aboard ship again.  In a mere five verses they travel from Malta to Rome.  Paul set up housekeeping with one Roman soldier (at least one at a time) as constant companion. After taking a few days to get settled, Paul got down to business.  His regular routine was to preach Jesus in the synagogue, at least until the Jews ran him off.  But he couldn’t do that here, being under house arrest and all. 

If you can’t bring Paul to the synagogue, then bring the synagogue to Paul.  That’s just what he did.  He called all the elders among the Roman Jews to his home.  He told them of the charges brought against him in Jerusalem, and of his appeal to Caesar.  In verse 20, he says, “For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 

The elders assured Paul that they knew nothing of him or the charges against him. No Jews coming from Judea had mentioned him, and none had sent word ahead of his arrival or his mission.  I find it interesting. Did they fail to warn their Roman brothers because they knew they had no case against Paul? Or was it because they didn’t want to make them curious about Paul’s message?  If the latter was the case, made a serious error, as you’ll soon see. 

The Roman Jews were indeed curious enough to listen, “…we desire to hear from you…for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (vs. 22).  So they appointed a time to bring their congregation to Paul, and hear what he had to say.  I find myself admiring their willingness to hear Paul and make informed decisions instead of buying in to the "hype" they had heard.

When the day came, I imagine Paul’s rented quarters simply bursting at the seams with curious listeners.  By the time he finished his testimony, some of his listeners were, no doubt, eager to hear more. Others were disappointed in what they had heard and prepared to disregard it completely.  My guess is that most fell into the latter group.

After scolding them (basically) with scathing words from Isaiah about having dull ears, closed eyes, and hard hearts, Paul makes this pronouncement, “Therefore let it be known to you  that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (vs. 28).

This statement is so powerful to me.  His entire ministry Paul began his work among the Jews, and was always pushed from them into the waiting arms of the Gentiles.  When he says these words to the Roman Jewish congregation, he speaks not only what God has told him to speak (though certainly that), but what he has observed time and again during his many years of ministry throughout the Roman world. In spite of his best efforts, the majority of Jews have always refused Christ.  He knows beyond any doubt that Gentiles will accept Christ because he has seen them do so everywhere he has ever gone. 

In my mind’s eye I see Paul closing the door behind the last Jew, heaving an exhausted sigh.  He is now resigned to the fact that his people, Jesus’s own people, have fully rejected the redemption He brought them. I also sense a spiritual door closing.  The invited wedding guests have all made their excuses, and the master of the house has sent the servants to highways and byways to gather in any who will come.  This passage tells me that the Jews, the original invited guests, have lost their "reserved seats." They are still welcome, and God still wants them to attend, but they no longer hold any special claim to His affections.

I imagine Paul must have felt a profound sadness at the people’s rejection, a sadness akin to (though certainly in no way equal to) God’s own sadness.

Paul is an amazing example to me in this way. His sadness was born of great love for his audience.  Do I love the people to whom I witness deeply enough to feel that kind of sadness over their rejection of my Savior? I am afraid, I get angry instead, and this is not good.

Brandon Heath has a song called “Give Me Your Eyes.” It is a prayer for God to help us see other people the way he does.  It is a good thing to pray.

I believe Paul was very sad, but he didn’t let it stop him.  The last verse of the book of Acts tells us that Paul spent the next two years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (vs. 31).

Again I have an amazing example in Paul.  As a stay at home mom, my daily “mission field” consists of one three-year-old girl. Paul had his guard; I have my daughter.  But Paul didn’t stop there.  He reached out of his four walls, and made continual efforts to further Christ’s kingdom. 

I shouldn't stop there either. I suppose I hope that by telling in this blog what I learn in my personal Bible study, and by writing the stories of God’s love that he has given me, I can reach out in some small way.

For the rest of December and into January, I’ll be studying the Christmas story. It’s pretty scattered out, as you know, and I want to do it in chronological order.  So be prepared for some skipping about.  I’ll start with Gabriel’s visits to Mary (Luke 1:26-39) and Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25) and possibly (if I don’t wax long-winded) Mary’s visit with Elisabeth (the rest of Luke 1).

Thanks for bearing with me. I hope something I have said resonates with some of you.

God Bless

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday

This is a new thing I'm trying with a couple of 'net buddies.  We take a writing prompt and follow it wherever it leads. Write for five minutes and post the results on our blogs. Here's mine...

The italicized piece is the prompt.

"Geez, could you warm those hands up a bit first?” Cal exclaimed, doing a funny little dance to get Rose’s hands out of the back of his shirt.
            “That’s what I’m trying to do!” Rose laughed.
            “Woman! I’m gonna buy you a pair of gloves!”
            “All right. I could use a pair, if you can’t tell.” She giggled.
            “I can tell!” he growled.
            Just then Denny came round the back of the house to the chopping block where Cal had been chopping wood when Rose interrupted him. At the  sound of Denny’s greeting, Rose dropped Cal’s hands like they were hot potatoes.
            Denny’s face turned stony. “June says supper’s ready,” he barked, then turned around and stalked back around to the kitchen door.

If you can't tell, Denny is a friend who has always carried a torch for Rose, and he's not dealing well with her new love interest.

This is a scene that may or may not occur in the last half of my current WIP. 

Tell me what you think, but be gentle.

Book Review: The Lawman's Christmas Wish by Linda Goodnight

  I have joined Booksneeze, a wonderful service that allows bloggers to receive free books if they will post a review on their blog and on a bookseller's site.  Since I'm going to have to post reviews for that once in a while, I decided it would be fun to post review's of other books too.  So today, I'm reviewing the book The Lawman's Christmas Wish by Linda Goodnight.

I've never done a book review before, so please tell me what you think.  Do I give too much away, not enough? Let me know.

Here goes...(fingers crossed)

This is the final installment of Love Inspired’s Alaskan Bride Rush continuity.  I place it in a tie for the “Best of Series” with book 5 (which I might review at a later date).

From the Cover:
            Widow Amy James can’t get through grocery shopping in Treasure Creek, Alaska, without a marriage proposal.  And she’s hardly flattered.  Most of her “suitors” are after the treasure her great-grandfather had buried on her property.  But only one man promised her late husband he’d take care of her and the boys: police chief Reed Truscott.  True, Reed is handsome and honest and makes her feel safe. But his honorable marriage proposal is about obligation—not love.  Unless he can convince her that his Christmas wish is to join her family forever.

So many things really…
  1. Amy refuses to accept a marriage proposal borne out of anything less than the true devotion she had with her late husband. Reed’s initial proposal was out of duty to her husband, his best friend
  2. Granny Crisp—Reed’s none-too-subtle matchmaking grandmother.  She’s a no nonsense woman who wants the very best for her grandson, and she knows what that is.  She tells Reed when he’s completely on the wrong track, but she lets him figure out why, and how to get on the right one.
  3. Reed does figure out the right track for himself on page 154 (really want to add a quote from that page, but I’m afraid that’s too much of a spoiler). He does lapse a little later in the story, but I forgave him.
  4. Page 148—Reed accepts Christ.  It was beautiful.  I cried. 
  5. Ms. Goodnight does an excellent job tying up all those series-wide subplots.  And I love the way she handles the treasure in the end.

No real “dislikes” just a couple of things that niggled.
  1. I really thought previous books in the series said that Amy’s sons were twins.  There is a year or two between them in this final book, and that bugged me at the beginning.  I did a little checking, not a lot, and didn’t find any mention of them being twins, so I might have made that assumption.  At any rate, it would affect the story minimally, if at all.  So it really wasn’t bad.
  2. Now I can’t remember the other thing.  It must not have been too bad either. : )

            A great read.  Ms. Goodnight put her characters in circumstances that naturally and gently made them aware of their feelings. Both offered some resistance to their feelings, but their reasons made good sense. Also (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler) neither character waited until the last four pages of the book to understand his/her feelings (I really hate it when that happens).

***** (5 stars)

Has anyone else read it?  Do you agree? Why? Why not?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shipwrecked and Snakebit...How much more can one Apostle take?!

I like to try to cover a chapter in a blog, but chapter 28 is neatly broken into two distinct parts: Paul's winter on Malta and Paul's arrival in Rome and his minstry there.  So I'm going to follow the natural break and split this chapter into two posts.

Also...I haven't decided what I'm going to study next, and this gives me a while to decide.

We last left Paul and his shipmates washing safely ashore, with all their hair intact : ).

In the first verse of Ch. 28, Paul's company learns they've washed up on Malta. The natives they met were very good to them, welcoming them, starting fires to warm them.  Paul, never one to rest when there was work to be done helped by gathering wood.  He placed the wood on the fire, and out jumped a snake and bit him! Or did it...?

The KJV, NIV, and ESV all use the word "fastened." The NLT uses the word "bit." My father-in-law says, "Maybe the snake didn't bite him. Maybe it only wrapped around his arm, so it looked like it bit him." I've never determined if he actually believes this or if he's just making the argument to make me think (he does that somtimes.  It's very helpful, and I appreciate it).  I probably never will figure it out for sure.

I think the snake bit Paul.  A couple of reasons:  First, put yourself in the snake's shoes (no not "snake shoes" though I'd love to have a pair. Focus people!)  He's found a nice cozy niche in a woodpile and decided to winter there, when all of a sudden, his "house" has been thrown in a fire, and his tail is getting singed!  If your house was suddenly tossed into a fire, wouldn't you come out fighting?!  In my admittedly limited experience, a snake that is threatened strikes, and this snake was certainly threatened. 

Second, I feel certain the people observing the incident were smart enough to tell the difference between a snake wrapped around a man's arm and one hanging from a man's arm by its teeth.  They assumed, at first, that some providential power was judging Paul for his sins.  The shipwreck didn't do him in, so "the gods" immediately found another way to handle the problem.  But Paul didn't die.  In fact the only action Luke records for Paul is shaking "the creature into the fire." No exclamation of fear, no expression of pain.  He merely shook it off and went about his business.  When Paul suffered no harm, the people decided, "He must be a god!"  They're a fickle bunch, aren't they?

Also I think claiming the snake didn't bite him, is somehow taking glory away from God. Or at least giving Him less than the maximum possible glory.  I guess if the snake hadn't bitten him, that in itself would have been a miracle, being outside of a snake's instinctive behavior.  It's a greater miracle if the snake bit him with its deadly venom, and he didn't die.  Right?  Well, given the choice between a little miracle or a big one, I'll take the big one every time.  : ) How about you?

I have a simple theory why Paul made no expression of fear at the sight (and bite) of the snake. He wasn't afraid.  God had promised him many weeks, possibly months, before, that he would see Rome.  God had just seen him and 276 other people safely through a huge storm and a great shipwreck.  God didn't do all of that just to allow Paul to die of snakebite on some tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Right?

Remember those fickle islanders? They're about to become a lot less so.  The island's chief, a man named Publius, was near at hand and decided to entertain the visitors for a few days. During this time, Paul found out that Publius's father was suffering mightily with fever and dysentery.  Paul visited him, prayed for him, and healed him.  After this, Paul got pretty popular with the sick people! (I imagine that was a pretty normal state of affairs for him).  They came to him for healing, and received it. The ESV says in verse 9, "...the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured." Paul didn't turn any away. I believe when he left that island three months later, there was not a sick person to be found.

A couple of ideas for commenting...

1. Did the snake bite Paul? Or did it "fasten on his hand" in some other way that somehow fooled the natives?

2. Imagine you were the first to see the shipwreck victims washing ashore.  Describe what you see. All you writers, consider this an opportunity to excercise your improvisational muscles.