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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fiction Review: The Unveiling

Photo courtesy of Apolonia, Free Digital Photos.

The Unveiling by Tamara Leigh was one of those books I picked up for a fun read after heavy non-fiction books. I'd read a review, and since it seemed interesting, I got it for my Kindle.

The Unveiling is set in the year 1149, when knights guarded their lords’ castles. The story begins with a hanging, from the viewpoint of the man being hung--his last breaths, and his last prayer. It quickly shifts to his sister, Annyn Bretanne, who decides she must avenge her brother’s death by penetrating the enemy’s castle and killing its lord, a man only known as Wulfrith. She decides to masquerade as a boy. Annyn involves her loyal Rowan, and she begins her search for vengeance.

Soon, Annyn is crossing swords with Wulfrith, who personally trains all the boys. Little by little she discovers that Wulfrith is a fair man, tough but kind, and she doubts he would have killed her brother in cold blood.

I really enjoyed the first part of the book. The plot moves along, and the language is delightfully medieval. “She might have laughed if not that it boded ill . . . .” But after that, the plot is predictable, and I only finished the book to finish it.

My biggest problem with The Unveiling was with the steamy physical relationship between Wulfrith and Annyn. He is so in control of himself in every aspect of his life except with her, and it’s just ridiculous that he kisses and paws her and then apologizes. It doesn’t fit with his character—which is noble—or with the medieval times. When Wulfrith finds out that Annyn is a girl, the novel turns into a trite love story. “Does he really love me?” Oh, please!

Wulfrith and Annyn marry, and frankly, I didn’t appreciate some of the details about the wedding night and morning after. Too much information! I am not a prude, but this book was too detailed and a little crude. I certainly would never recommend it for young women (or even for older ones).

The Unveiling is supposed to be a Christian book. It’s the first in the series called “Age of Faith.” Well, except for a few reference to prayers, chapels, and a priest, there’s nothing Christian about it. It’s called “clean,” and it is, in that most of the steamy, touchy romance is done by married partners—but it’s not devoid of some groping and energetic kissing beforehand.

I do not recommend this book, although the author has obvious talent. I only wish she had written a truly clean book, which would have upheld her characters’ nobility and honor. I don’t plan to read her books again.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Everything is French!

I love decorating and architecture. The modern style is industrial, but there's a lot of variety. "Shabby chic" means lots of frills in white and pink. And, there’s farmhouse, primitive, Midwestern, and French.

"French" can mean many styles. There’s a French style that’s mostly warm reds, black, and ochre tones. You can really tell it’s French, because you’ll find roosters—or fleurs de lis—on everything. Another French style is pale gray, urns, chippy paint, and lots and lots of white—with beautiful crystal chandeliers, even in the kitchen. Yet another French is colorful, with a sort of “Chagall goes to the Opéra Garnier” feel. You’ll see damask sofas in pinks and turquoises with large unframed pieces of modern art on the walls. I see “French blue” in every shade of blue imaginable. And, another French style is black and gold. It’s both rich and spare—glamorous.

What’s genuinely French?

Ask the French! Or better still, go to France and see for yourself. When I think French, I think of quaint villages of local stone. I think of slate or tile roofs. I think of outdoor dining with see-through fine linen tablecloths and wonderful-tasting, simple food. I remember the tastes and smells. I smell fresh bread, and in my mind’s eye, I pass a chocolate shop and go inside to inhale the scrumptiousness. I think of flowers, of architecture that's centuries old, ivy-covered walls, arched doorways, and cobblestoned streets. I think of rivers, bridges, tree-lined highways, and châteaux. I think of music. I hear women speaking in high voices, like twittering birds. I see men on ancient bicycles, peddling through towns. I watch children playing in a park while their elders roll boules.

What is French? I don’t know that you can box it up in a neat little package.

It’s the same with "Christian."

What is Christian? 

There are so many facets to "Christian." There are Christian bookstores. They sell everything from mugs with verses on them to knick-knacks, jewelry, and Bibles. They offer music, art, novels, and plastic communion cups. They feature evangelistic T-shirts and children’s DVDs. 

There are Christian concerts. The artists charge big fees and demand venues and lodgings. People pay upwards of $20 per seat to attend.

There are Christian billboards, dances, coffee shops, and theaters.


The word Christian was first used in a city called Antioch. (Acts 11:26) The term describes Jesus’ disciples. It means “follower of Christ.”

To follow Christ means to acknowledge Him. 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). We trust Jesus and acknowledge Him when we call on Him to save us. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

To follow Christ means “to go after one who precedes.”* When Jesus asked His disciples to follow Him, he meant for them to do what they saw Him doing, to go where He went.

I’m still learning about Jesus. I’m finding out how He thinks, how He works, and where He wants me to go. The Christian life is getting to know Jesus. He said, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30).

Paul was a Christ-follower. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Peter said that we should follow Jesus in holiness. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Peter 2:21-25).

So, what is a Christian? He** is a person who knows the Lord and follows Him. He lives righteously and learns from the Bible how to grow in the Lord. This person is on a journey, and God is leading him. When he trips and falls, he looks to his Savior for help. When he doesn't know his way, he turns to his Leader and Shepherd. For everyday sustenance and life, he depends on God. As he walks, he looks around him and sees blessing and joy. He meets other pilgrims. He's encouraged by them, and on his way, he encourages others.

Christian? A Christ-follower.

Are you a Christian? Are you following Christ? 

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, 
let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, 
and follow me (Luke 9:23).

* Online Bible.
** Masculine pronouns used in the generic sense.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Getting Thirsty

I often read the familiar verses and wonder about them. How can someone desire God so strongly?
  • As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God (Psalm 42:1).
  • My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:2)
  • O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is (Psalm 63:1).
  • My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God (Psalm 84:2).
  • I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land (Psalm 143:6). 

I used to think something was wrong with me. Why didn’t I feel thirsty? Why didn’t I desire God like the psalmists? Why wasn’t I thirsty like dry ground? What was wrong?

And then, I discovered the secret of thirst!

It’s the secret many healthy people know: the more you drink, the more you feel thirsty. If you begin drinking the recommended eight glasses a day, you notice when you're thirsty. Whereas before, you never felt the need for water, now your body tells you.

A young woman asked the question, “Shouldn’t the desire (for the Bible and prayer and a closer walk with God) just naturally flow from us?”

Shouldn’t we thirst just because we’re Christians?

I think it’s like drinking. We should want more water. We need more water in our bodies. But we don’t feel the need until we start to drink.

It’s the same spiritually. When we start to read our Bibles, study God’s Word, communicating with Him, it’s amazing: we start to desire Him! We want more and more and more of Him. That’s what the psalmists are expressing!

Have you ever been in love? Oh my! You think about that man all day long. You bask in his presence. You can hardly wait to talk to each other again. You melt before his beautiful smile. You love everything about him. You would do anything for him. You want him.

That’s thirst. That’s what it’s like to thirst for God.

The Bible invites you. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).

So, here are a few suggestions for developing your thirst:
  1. Read your Bible. Read it for understanding and not only to complete a chapter-reading goal. Read it like you’re mining for treasure.
  2. Pray before you read, asking God to open your mind and heart to His message for you. Read until you find it. (I think it’s helpful to read in the New Testament and Old Testament simultaneously. Sometimes the golden nugget will be in one, and sometimes in the other. There are some excellent Bible reading plans that include Psalms and Proverbs each day, as well.)
  3. Pray after you read. Prayer includes: worshiping God, expressing your needs, asking God to bless others, and resting in His will. (See the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13.)
  4. Listen. Take some time to be still after you’ve said amen.

Your time with God each day will eventually become the highlight of your day. It will create a thirst for God within you. It won’t happen overnight. It might not even happen this year. But it will happen!

Do you want to desire God?

Get drinking! You’ll get thirsty.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to Write to Your Missionaries

Photo by: stockimages, Free Digital Photos

Missionaries love to hear from the folks back home. Whether you’re a grandparent or a child or anyone in between, your missionaries love to hear from you.

Our family has gotten some hilarious letters and also some wonderful letters we read over and over again. We’ve also received a few that are, well, frankly, pretty dumb. (Not that we weren’t thankful even for those!) I’m writing this post so that you can write great letters to missionaries, the kind they’ll want to read more than once.

By the way, it’s absolutely fine to e-mail. (It makes it super easy for missionaries to reply.) Most missionaries check their e-mails daily, too. You can find the missionary’s e-mail address on his prayer card and newsletters.

Do you wonder what to say when you write your church’s missionaries? Here are some tips for writing perhaps the most wonderful letter your missionary will get this week. Take these steps, one by one, and I promise it will make someone’s day: 
  1. Introduce yourself. Tell us your name, your church or school, what city and state it’s located in, and then . . . something personal about yourself. Are you nine years old? Are you in the eighth grade? Are you a college student? Do you have three children and a dog? Are you a grandma or grandpa? Tell us something that says who you are. Attach a photo, if you like.
  2. Share your day. “I’m sitting beside a fire in the fireplace with a cup of cocoa in one hand.” “I just came in from the garden. We’ve planted corn, green beans, tomatoes, and squash this year. I brought a bucket of yellow squash in for my wife to freeze. It’s a good harvest, and we’re grateful.” “Back from a trip to Walmart with three kids in tow. It was an adventure! The littlest one (two years old) got behind, and I heard him wailing loudly. I was only in the next aisle, but the whole store heard him!” Whatever is going on in your life is great. We love to hear your stories.
  3. Be aware of where we serve and something about us. At the very least, read our last prayer letter. We get amused when we get questions about the ages of our children. (There’s a picture of us on our prayer letter. We have natural gray in our hair.) Let us know you know what country we’re in and something about our ministry.
  4. Let us know you’re praying for us. We love it when someone says, “We’re praying for (specific name), that God would comfort her heart in the loss of her husband.” “I am praying for (names) to know the Lord as Savior.” “We pray for your safety.” Your missionaries need this partnership in prayer. Their work is your work. We are an extension of your local church. When you pray for missionaries’ church people and contacts, you are asking God to bless the work that you’ve invested in.
  5. Ask questions. (More on this later.)
  6. Close with a sweet sentiment or with a Bible verse that has blessed your heart. (If writing a snail mail letter, make sure you include a sending address or an e-mail address, so your missionary can write you back.)

Do not ask:
  • “Do you like (field country)?” The new missionary is trying to adjust to different ways of doing everything. You can’t imagine all the adjustments! Culture, language, the “personality” of the people, how to bargain . . . . So many things to assimilate! Your new missionary might not yet like his mission field. The veteran missionary feels at home in his field country. He might not like it exactly, but he is content, because it’s where he’s lived, worked, and poured out his life in ministry. He’s there because God called him there. He doesn’t have to like the country, but he loves the people and desires to point them to Jesus.
  • Facts about the country, such as: population, language, religion, location, etc. If you’re writing a school paper or want to know these things out of curiosity, Google them. You’ll find encyclopedia websites especially helpful. (Don’t ask your missionary to do the research for you.)
  • "What’s the very worst thing you’ve had to go through?" Trust me, they don’t want to tell you.

Questions missionaries love to answer:
  • Anything about the ministry—Ask about the receptiveness of the people, about the obstacles and blessings, about how you can pray specifically. Ask what kinds of ministries they have (children’s, teens, addicts, Bible institute, Christian school, adults, English as a second language, etc.). Ask about the best ways to reach people on their fields.
  • Favorite things—Ask about their favorite strange foods on the field and their favorite places to visit. You’ll find out that grasshoppers really are food and much more.
  • Ask your missionaries about their needs. Maybe you could supply something from their home country that they can’t get on the field. Do they have any ministry projects? (For example, a women’s church group provided us with beads and leather cord for making Wordless Book bracelets. I used them with a children's class and a women’s outreach. It was easy to use them together with a gospel presentation. The people loved them!)
  • Ask about personal prayer requests. Your missionary might have a health issue, a child who’s struggling in school, or a specific challenge on the field. Ask if you can pray for them, personally. (Then, pray!)


If your missionary answers questions, sends special photos, or replies to your letter, please at least e-mail a thank you. A simple acknowledgment goes a long way. (I’ve actually spent hours helping young people on their school projects and never gotten so much as a thank you. We once made a ministry video—borrowing a camera—and then we had to ask if the person had received it.) "Thank you” is sufficient.


Just to mention one other way you can stay in touch with your missionaries: look for them on social media. Many missionaries are on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and other platforms. Find out (ask) if they write blogs. Follow your missionary as you would a friend. (Your missionaries want to be your friends!) When “friending” on social media, write a personal message explaining who you are. (See “Introduce yourself,” above.)

Missionaries are delighted to hear from home. They’re encouraged that someone would write to them. They love to connect with people in their supporting churches.

Write a missionary today! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

When I Don't Like Myself

There are days when . . .
  • I wake up mixed up—what day is it anyway?—and grumpy, and sad, all at the same time.
  • I am negative—and I’m not a naturally negative person.
  • I feel achy all over.
  • I’m tired before the day begins. (Give me some coffee!)
  • I am fuzzy-headed.
  • The lousy, drippy, cold weather really affects me.
  • I believe everyone is the enemy.
  • I forget to count my many blessings.
  • I don’t exactly know how to pray.

Are there days when you just don’t like yourself? Is this one of those days?

I love the Bible! It always shares the good, the bad, and the humanly ugly. It helps us know we’re not alone. Let me quote a few Bible characters who didn’t exactly like themselves, sometimes:
  1. Adam hid himself because he was ashamed. God asked him where he was, and Adam replied, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (Genesis 3:10). God made provision for his nakedness and his sin. Genesis 3:15 speaks of Christ’s offering on the cross, and God gave them clothes to wear in verse 21. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
  2. At the end of his trials, Job realized his sin and made things right before God. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:6). The Bible says the LORD also accepted Job (42:9b), And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before (42:10).
  3. The Psalmist David, in the Messianic Psalm 22, said, But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him (verses 6-8). Of course, later in the Psalm, David breaks out in songs of praise to God for His provision and care.
  4. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he compared himself to a perfect God, 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).
  5. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, said, Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad (Jeremiah 20:14-15). Jeremiah was discouraged because of persecution. The people didn’t heed his message, and they mistreated him. But God reassured Jeremiah and helped him understand that the people had a choice. They would be blessed if they obeyed and suffer punishment if they chose to disobey. Jeremiah went on to prophesy Truth year after year after year.
  6. The Apostle Paul asked, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The solution was in Christ: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:24-25).
  7. Peter was denying Christ when he realized his sin: Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:74-75). God forgave Peter and used him greatly. Peter preached a powerful gospel message at Pentecost and became the first pastor of the church at Jerusalem.

So, what about us?

On those days when we don’t like ourselves at all, on those days when we are out-of-sorts, when we just want to crawl back under the covers and forget it, or when sins beset us, what lessons can we learn from these biblical men?
  • Like Adam, we rejoice in God’s provision of salvation and His covering our shame.
  • Like Job, we pray for our enemies and see God bless.
  • Like David, we turn our eyes away from circumstances to praising our great Lord.
  • Like Isaiah, we appreciate God’s holiness.
  • Like Jeremiah, we keep on doing right, no matter the results or cost.
  • Like Paul, we serve God with thanksgiving.
  • Like Peter, we confess our sins, accept God’s forgiveness, and move on to serve the Lord, knowing that all the power in our message is from Him.

Having a negative morning? Be encouraged in the Lord. He is the answer to your heart’s needs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Red Sea Was Only the Beginning!

Charlton Heston as Moses, The Ten Commandments

God parted the Red Sea, and Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt on dry ground. Even those who’ve never read the Bible know the scene from the movie—though it’s not exactly accurate. Who can forget Charlton Heston as Moses, standing there in front of the water piled up on both sides, rod in his hand?*

God parted water a second time! You can read about it in Joshua, chapter 3. God instructs Joshua to have the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant get their feet wet in the Jordan River, which was at flood stage. They obeyed, and the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan (Joshua 3:16-17). Again, God showed the people His power, and he made a way for them to cross a body of water.

There were several results from this second parting-of-the waters:
  • The people didn’t get wet—except for the priests’ feet.
  • The ground they walked on was dry, and the water was piled up. These are two miracles in one. Water doesn’t pile—unless it’s frozen or God does something special. The ground would have been soggy, but God made it both firm and dry.
  • This event became a symbol of God’s power to the generations to come. God instructed them to make a pile of rocks from the middle of the riverbed to show their children and their children’s children. They would always have a monument to God’s power and intervention. (Joshua 4:6-7. You can read my post about the pile of stones, here.)
  • Joshua’s leadership was confirmed. The people saw God’s relationship with him, and they respected him more. The Bible says they respected him all the days of his life, just as they had respected Moses (Joshua 4:14).
  • The Ark of the Covenant, the earthly symbol of God’s presence and His blood sacrifice for sin, was first and last. Everyone passed by the Ark on his way across the Jordan between the piles of water, and the Ark followed everyone across. As soon as the priests carrying the Ark came up out of the riverbed, the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before (Joshua 4:18b).
  • This parting of the river took place right before Joshua was to take Jericho in the most amazing way. God told them to march around the city once each day for six days. Then, on the seventh day, they were to march around Jericho seven times. When the priests blew the trumpets, the people shouted. The walls fell down! This God-given victory is every bit as miraculous as how they got across the Jordan to Jericho! (Joshua, chapter 6)
  • Rahab and her family were saved. God promised Rahab salvation because of her faith and because she sheltered the Israelite spies. (Joshua 6:23-25; Hebrews 11:31)

When God parts the waters, He delivers and leads His people. He has a purpose in demonstrating His power in this way. God is demonstrating His power in a palpable, practical way. How do you get a million people from Point A to Point B? Part the waters and lead them over on dry land! How do you move a great army over into enemy territory and take a huge city without any challenge at all? Part the waters, let the people cross over on dry ground, and make the enemy’s walls fall down when the priests blow horns and the people shout!

That same God is our God!

He can do things with nature that are against natural laws. After all, the Creator has the right to do anything that he wants with His creation!

God can win battles in the weirdest ways, because He wants to showcase His sovereignty. Here are some examples:
  • Aaron and Hur supporting Moses’ hands in order to win the battle (Exodus 17:10-13)
  • The sun not going down—literally a long day—until Joshua’s battle against the Amorites was won (Joshua 10:12-14)
  • Deborah goes into battle with Barak, but Jael kills Sisera in her own tent (Judges 4) 
  • Gideon’s small army with pitchers and torches (Judges 7)

So, why are these Old Testament partings of waters and winnings of battles so important to us today?
  • They show that God can do anything He wants to do.
  • They show us we have a God who cares about the affairs of men.
  • They showcase a sovereign God whose purpose will be done on the earth. There are no obstacles for Him!
  • They demonstrate God’s salvation and deliverance.
  • They challenge us to obey and trust, like Moses and Joshua.
  • They challenge us to do things God’s way.
  • They’re a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.
  • God is interested in our own battles, and He will do whatever is necessary to see us through.

Be encouraged! The same God who parts seas and rivers and causes His people to walk on dry ground is leading you, too.


* The true account of the parting of the Red Sea is in Exodus 14:21-30.