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Monday, May 22, 2017

See Your World

Roman aqueduct, Segovia, Spain

My brother and his wife recently visited us in our little part of the world (Spain). We traveled four and a half hours away. We saw Roman ruins, cathedrals, castles, and homes dating back to the 900s, medieval cities, and more “modern” cities. In some ways, it was as if we were in a shifting time warp: Roman and medieval in the same town, modern tourists standing under a Roman aqueduct taking pictures with selfie sticks, cute little “princesses” staring at armor from the 1600s, students taking in Moorish architecture . . . .

Why travel?

I believe there are many reasons, but my memory was refreshed these last few weeks.

Medieval house, Covarrubias, Burgos, Spain
Travel helps you:
  1. See the world in a different context. When you travel outside your country and your home, you get a fresh view of who you are and how you fit in. There are different customs, foods, and life experiences. The world around you is vast, and there’s a need for Christ everywhere.
  2. Use your language skills. Over those weeks, we were in both Spain and France, and it was helpful to know the languages, be able to read signs, and travel with ease.
  3. Appreciate “living history.” We went to castles, cathedrals, villages, and palaces. We wandered over countless cobblestoned streets. We saw the homes of the uber rich—kings and queens—and the normal folks. We touched Roman rocks, used in construction. We peeked down into ancient wells.
  4. Enjoy art. Through the centuries, artistic styles change and morph. From tapestries to modern sculptures, we saw a lot of art from across the ages. They say “art imitates life,” and indeed, it does!
  5. Breathe different air. A change of pace and surroundings refreshes the soul. Jesus said, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while (from Mark 6:31). Just a little rest and experiencing a different, interesting place renews the spirit.

Royal palace, San Idelfonso de la Granja, Segovia, Spain

I’m well aware that not everyone lives in Europe, but there are amazing things to see within a few hours of your house. Have you visited them . . . yet?

Take day trips. Enjoy! You’ll return home tired but refreshed.

I guarantee it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fiction Review: Fatal Transaction

Fatal Transaction, by W. Richard Lawrence is a Christian suspense novel.

Sara Beckwith is a computer programmer and hacker genius working for the bad guys. Her boss, Levy, has already made millions through a credit card scam, and he wants much more. Levy always gets his way. People who cross him quickly find themselves dead or worse—tortured slowly, until their brains turn to mush. Sara is aware that, when her job is over, he’ll do the same to her.

She plans to run—and to steal Levy’s money so she can live in style. Sara imbeds code deep, creates secret passwords, changes her identity, and moves Levy’s stolen money around and to her new accounts. She uses some of it to buy a ticket to Italy.

On the very day she’s going to leave, Levy's goons locate her. They rough her up, and Sara is miraculously rescued by Derry, an innocent young man who happens to be in the right place at the right time. He whisks her away in his car and takes her to his home, calling a friend who’s a nurse to attend to her injuries.

Meanwhile, Levy has everyone on his team looking for Sara.

What happens when Levy’s goons find Derry? Do they also get Sara? How does this end? You’ll have to read it for yourself!

This is a great book! It’s exciting and then some. It’s also clean with a Christian tone. I read the Kindle edition, which has a few subject-verb agreement problems (maybe four in the whole book). Otherwise, it’s well written. The author shows he really understands computers and computer crime. I found it fascinating. He effectively develops the characters of Sara and Derry, and some of the minor characters also have realistic depth to them. I really enjoyed Fatal Transaction. It’s the first I’ve read by W. Richard Lawrence. He’s written another novel, and I’ll be sure to check it out. 

Easily five stars.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend this book to younger teens. It covers some difficult subjects: rape, murder, and torture among them. It’s also fairly violent. It isn’t crudely written, though, and sexual sins, including rape, are stated but not explicit. If you’re very squeamish, you might want to skip this book. The torture is realistic.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Dream of Days Gone By

I dream of living in medieval times—in a timbered house, wearing huge, heavy skirts. I glide across the floor and fling open the double window. The garden outside, in full bloom with roses and boxwoods, beckons me to stroll amongst them. I tell my maid I wish to dine at one and sweep out of the house to dampen my brocade hems in the dews of the morning.

I dream of living in the late 1700’s. It’s the dawning of America, near Boston. From the captain’s walk on my roof, I can watch the tall ships coming in and leaving. I’m compelled to go every afternoon as the sun begins to turn the sea and sky to gold. Today is blustery and chilly, but I watch the tall sails and think how lovely it would be to be aboard, bound for European shores. I look down at my gray English taffeta and think back to my great grandparents who left their shores and came here for freedom.

I dream of life in the 1950’s. These were my parents’ times—when women wore heels, gloves, and hats to church, and our dads went in suits to work. I flit around the kitchen on checked linoleum floors wearing my starched, white, and ruffled “company apron.” It’s my father’s birthday, and I’m cutting and weaving a lattice crust for his favorite cherry pie. The coffee is already in the percolator. I’ll plug it in after dinner. As the pie bakes and the house begins to smell like warm cherries, I pull a Jello salad out of the refrigerator and unmold it onto a fancy plate. I garnish it with lacy green parsley and twists of lime. The roast comes out of the oven next, savory and bubbling.

I dream . . . but realities in those days were so different.

In medieval times, their windows were tiny. Everyone poured everything out into the streets, and the stench was terrible! The streets were narrow, and everyone knew everyone else’s business perhaps better than their own. To smell the roses, one had to leave the village and wander far away. Only the wealthy had house help. Everyone else worked for the few rich people.

Those that went away in ships often never returned. The captain’s walk was renamed a “widow’s walk.” Realities of Boston life were as uncertain as the high seas. There was tension in the air, and no one knew how this new, free country would fare.

I was born back in the 1950’s. My memories are sketchy at best. TV programs showed women with their hair always done, lipstick on, and wearing high heels at home. They’d greet their husbands with a kiss and let him decompress from work with the daily newspaper, while they put the finishing touches on a luscious supper. Was this a realistic picture? (I don’t think my mother wore heels around the house.)

I’ve often romanticized the “good old days” in my heart, all the while knowing what history says about them. Knights in shining armor were five feet five, not six feet tall and dark and handsome! Life was hard and stinky and uncertain. Disease was rampant, wiping out many people in flu and typhoid epidemics. Medical help was simple or not even available.

We still dream about being beautifully coifed and wearing gorgeous sweeping gowns. In our minds, we ask the gardener to bring in some flowers for the table. We think it would be fun to sit and draw or play the piano or embroider things all day and to be waited on hand and foot. Oh yes, we dream!

And many times, our dreams take away our contentment. We want to be sitting on the beach, when we live inland. We want to be in a grand hotel, when our budget wouldn’t afford even a piece of pie in the hotel’s restaurant. We want to buy a piece of fine art or a gorgeous dress. We’d love to be elegant and poised—and look like the president’s wife. We might even desire a different husband or a different child.

We dream of unrealistic wouldn’t-it-be-nices when we ought to be cultivating contentment.
  • John the Baptist told the soldiers, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages (Luke 3:14b).
  • Paul, the apostle said, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11).
  • Paul wrote to Timothy, And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8).
  • The author of Hebrews said, Let your conversation (way of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). Look how this goes together: we’re to be content because God is always with us! He’s enough! He supplies every need.
  • God promises to bless tithers. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).
  • God gives us good gifts. Jesus said, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11) If you compare this passage with its parallel in Luke, you see what one of those good gifts is: If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13) It’s the Holy Spirit!

By the way, I think imagination and dreams are fine, if we don’t dwell in our made-up worlds, and we remember that the “good old days” weren't perfect.

Living in the here and now, may we be content with what we have. May we find our contentment in the Holy Spirit—a very good gift, the best gift.

But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Which Bible Woman Are You Like?

Photo: LUMO Project, Free Bible Images

I saw one of those quizzes on social media that asks questions and comes up with the woman from the Bible that you’re most like. It inspired me to look up a good sampling of the women in the Bible and see what they were like. Ouch! Some of these descriptions are me at my worst! (I would prefer to  always resemble Mary of Bethany and Esther, among others.) Read and see which Bible women you’re most like.

Are you:
  • A woman who desires “forbidden fruit,” like Eve? (Genesis 3:6)
  • Deceitful and tricky, like Rebekah? (Genesis 27:6-42)
  • Critical of your husband’s spirituality, like Zipporah and Michal? (Exodus 4:25; 2 Samuel 6:16-23)
  • A woman who criticizes the man of God, like Miriam? (Numbers 12:1-9)
  • A prostitute, like Rahab (Joshua 2:1) and Gomer (Hosea)?
  • Completely convinced that what God says, He'll do, like Deborah? (Judges 4:1-9)
  • Wily and brave, like Jael? (Judges 4:18-21)
  • Willing to pull up your roots and travel far away in order to follow your God, like Ruth? (Ruth 1:16-17)
  • Bitter, like Naomi? (Ruth 1:20)
  • A sincere woman of prayer, like Hannah? (1 Samuel 1:13-19)
  • Beautiful and wise, like Abigail? (1 Samuel 25:3-33)
  • Used and abused, like Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-4) and Tamar? (2 Samuel 13:2-19)
  • The kind of woman who needs to see to believe, like the Queen of Sheba? (1 Kings 10:1-9)
  • An evil schemer, like Jezebel? (1 Kings 16-2 Kings 9)
  • Hospitable to God’s people, like the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:10-16), the Shunammite woman who built a “prophet’s chamber” on her house for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10), Simon’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39), Mary and Martha of Bethany (Luke 10; John 11), Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), and Lydia (Acts 16:40)?
  • Elegant, patient, and willing to risk your life, like Esther? (Esther, the whole book)
  • Wise, industrious, and giving, like the Virtuous Woman? (Proverbs 31:10-31)
  • A seeker of importance through your children, like Mary, the mother of James and John? (Matthew 20:20-22)
  • A sensuous dancer, who doesn’t care about human life, like the daughter of Herodias? (Mark 6:22-28)
  • A demon-possessed woman, like Mary Magdalene, before Jesus cured her? (Mark 16:9)
  • Submissive to the will of God, no matter the cost, like Jesus’ mother, Mary? (Luke 1:28-38)
  • Faithful in service to God over many years, like Anna? (Luke 2:36-38)
  • Greedy and a liar, like Sapphira? (Acts 5)
  • Someone who helps the poor, like the Virtuous Woman (Proverbs 31:20) and Dorcas? (Acts 9:36-39)
  • A willing messenger, like Rhoda? (Acts 12:13-15)
  • A hard-working partner with your husband, like Priscilla? She even helped her husband teach sound doctrine to Apollos. (Acts 18)
  • A “servant of the church,” like Phebe? (Romans 16:1, 27)
  • Contentious in the church, like Euodias, and Syntyche? (Philippians 4:2)
  • A mother who shares your faith with your child, like Eunice? (2 Timothy 1:5)
  • A grandmother who shares your faith with your grandchild, like Lois? (2 Timothy 1:5)
  • An example of faith, godly submission, and modesty, like Abraham’s wife, Sarah? (Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:3-6)

It’s interesting that God shows us all kinds of women in His Word. It’s meaningful because we can all identify with someone. The good news is that there is healing in Christ for any abuse and suffering. There's forgiveness for every sin. Jesus Christ can meet every need.

Do you need salvation from sin?
  • Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
  • For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).
  • For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Do you need God to understand your personal issues?
  • For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Do you have material needs?
  • Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:31-33).

Do you need guidance?
  • Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).
  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Whatever your need, Jesus is there for you. Call upon Him today.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Fiction Review: You're the Cream in My Coffee

You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo is one of those books I almost didn’t buy. The goofy title suggests a trite romance, and I’m not exactly a fan of predictable books or romances. Even after reading this book, I wish the author had come up with a better title. I misjudged the book before reading it. (I’m so thankful I read the reviews! I might have missed it altogether.)

Marjorie Corrigan is a small-town girl from Kerryville, Illinois during the Roaring Twenties. Kerryville is one of those places where everyone knows everyone—and their business. She’s engaged to a busy doctor named Richard. Her first love, Jack, was “lost to me forever on some battlefield in France.” He was “classified as missing, presumed dead.” Her fiancé Richard was, in Marjorie’s description, “kind. Generous. Faithful. Prosperous. Toss in thrifty, brave and clean and he’d make the perfect Boy Scout.” The problem was, Marjorie’s admiration for Richard lacked a “spark.” Everyone thought Richard was a great catch—but Marjorie was dragging her feet about setting a wedding date. She finally decides on September 15th.

Marjorie looks at Jack’s “photograph, worn around the edges from much handling . . . in his army uniform, smiling and confident. . . . ‘I’ll be home before you know it,’ he’d written on the back in his strong, black cursive. ‘You won’t even have time to miss me.’” But Jack was wrong. Marjorie has already had ten years to miss him, and it’s as if she’s only started.

Under stress, Marjorie faints three times, and her small-town doctor sends her to Chicago for medical tests. At the last minute, Marjorie goes by herself, glad that her stepmother isn’t along, but fearful, too. Chicago is a big city!

Stepping out of Union Station into the wind, Marjorie goes in search of Mrs. Brownlee’s house, where she’s to stay. After meeting Mrs. Brownlee, a relative of her fiancé, Marjorie is happy to get some rest. The next day, she’s off for medical tests, followed by exploration—so she won’t have to get back to Mrs. Brownlee’s too soon. She sees the Art Institute, goes inside, and enjoys looking at the paintings. Marjorie notices they offer art lessons for adults and decides to sign up. She then makes an effort to please her stepmother and goes looking for gifts for her bridesmaids. Marjorie walks into Marshall Field & Company. After nearly choking over the prices, she ends up in millinery. What she needs is a new hat!

Marjorie buys a cloche from the bubbly little clerk with bobbed hair, and so begins her Chicago adventure. She bumps into a man who looks like Jack but is named Peter, gets a job in the big city, and then . . . .

Seriously, you need to read this book! It's funny, very well written, and full of twists and turns. The author totally surprised me with one of her revelations. If you need to let your hair down—or get a fashionable twenties bob—you won’t be disappointed.

It’s a Christian read in every way. You and your teen girls will love it!

Five stars! No cream. No coffee. I am still wondering how the author came up with such a goofy title! (There's also nothing in the book anything like the cover illustration.)

**** The author got in touch with me and told me the title comes from a song from the period. This is what she says: I'm so happy you enjoyed the story. To answer your question about the title, "You're the Cream in My Coffee" is a song title of the 1920s, and refers to Marjorie's no-alcohol stance. It's a toe-tapper: listen here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Totally Dependent: A Tribute

Bob, my husband, and me in Saint-Émilion, France

One of the godliest men we have ever known passed away suddenly, after preaching a Sunday morning message and insisting on carrying something downstairs for his wife.

One of his sons gave the eulogy, sharing how his father often thought nothing of himself. He was nothing special, had no outstanding gifts, and was just a simple person. Yet, anyone who knew Bob knew that he was indeed gifted because he knew God in a way few people ever do.

Bob depended on God. He prayed about everything. He was close to the Lord, walking with Him. He put everyone else before himself, and he loved them. His son said, “Dad made everyone feel that they were the most important person in the world to him.” It’s true! Bob was also a servant and a true friend.

Why do we regard him so highly? Why was it such a huge loss when Bob passed on to heaven? It’s because he had a correct view of who he was—a needy man. Because of that, he grew closer and closer to God. He was dependent on the Lord.

Bob’s life testimony has been a challenge to us over the years, but I’ve given it much more thought over the last few weeks since he went Home to be with his Savior. What’s most important in life? What made Bob an example and mentor to so many of us? Why do our kids regard him as a second father? It’s because he was close to God and serving Him and people. It’s because Bob saw himself as 

. . . totally dependent.

Let me share a few Bible verses with you about what God expects of any Christian. Of course, this post is about people who actually know Jesus Christ as Savior, those who have been born-again by putting their personal faith in Jesus’ payment for their sins. *

A correct view of self is that we are nothing.
  • What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:4)
  • Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 6:5).
  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

God wants to be the One that meets all of our needs.
  • The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him (Exodus 15:2).
  • For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness (Psalm 107:9).
  • The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence (2 Samuel 22:3).
  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

God wants us to ask Him to do great things.
  • Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).
  • And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Luke 11:9).
  • Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

In God’s eyes, it’s great to be a servant.
  • And he (Jesus) sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35).
  • Jesus said, And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all (Mark 10:44).
  • If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour (John 12:26).
  • Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).

The teachings of Jesus Christ can be boiled down into two basic phrases: love God, and love others.
  • Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:36-40).

Our friend Bob Bixby was an example for any believer, yet I’m sure he didn’t even realize it. He simply relied on Christ.

What a legacy he left! I want to be like Bob—as he was like Christ.


* You can read what Jesus Himself said about being born again in John 3:1-21.