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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fiction Review: The Lazarus File

The Lazarus File, by Donn E. Taylor is a fun adventure novel.

Mark Daniel is code named “Lazarus,” because he’s died once and has been "resurrected." His CIA mission, known by only a handful of men, is to morph into Carlos Ortíz, act as a pilot for hire, and penetrate drug and arms traffickers in Medellín, Colombia. Soon he’s hijacked, and thus begins a series of near misses, adventures, sadness at losing friends, and even romance.

There were things I liked about this novel. I liked the character of Mark Daniel and his nobility. I liked the Señores Roca, the setting, and the adventure.

The writing is okay, but there are many repetitive passages, almost word for word, as if the writer thinks the reader might not have understood the concept the first, second, and third times.

Because this book is set in Colombia, the author includes some Spanish. Some of the Spanish is incorrect, and some of the translations are close, but backwards. For instance, he says “Mary Mother” for the expression “Mother Mary.” (In Spanish, it’s Madre María.) I felt someone bilingual should have read and corrected the manuscript before it went to print. Another example is making a huge point about espada being “spade.” In any dictionary, it means “sword.” The author translates the word “mirage” as miraje, when it should be espejismo.

There are also several serious misspellings, Porsche (the luxury car brand), among them.

My biggest issue, though, was with the book’s theology. The Señora de Roca has a wonderful inner calm. The book said she got it from a mass she attended. It refers to her peace and calm linked with a particular mass, as if it were a mystical experience that serves her for life. When a Roman Catholic mass is celebrated, a devout Catholic believes that the priest actually crucifies Christ again and that the wafer is transformed into His body and the wine into His blood. The Bible says, Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he (Jesus) did once, when he offered up himself (Hebrews 7:27). Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. . . . For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:12, 26). For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18). The Bible clearly says that Jesus Christ died once and that it was a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world.

In our thirty-two years in Spain—a Roman Catholic country—we have never met one person who said he gained any kind of peace from going to mass. He might feel self-satisfied that he has done his obligation for the week, or he might even be trying to “win heaven” by works, but no one has ever told us he found peace from the mass. In contrast, Jesus says, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27). It is only when a person is born again that he can have peace in his soul. Jesus said to Nicodemus, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. . . . For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:6-7, 16-17).

The author may have wanted to appeal to a greater audience, or he might have chosen the Roman Catholic faith because the lady protagonist is from Colombia. But, in order to write an honest review, I must point out the book’s faulty, misleading theology.

Back home, Mark Daniel’s CIA team knows there's one mole, but soon it’s obvious there are two. The question is, who is selling secrets to the enemy? And, how? In the meantime, Mark is in the field, doing daring drug and arms smuggling and finding out more about what the enemy is up to. They're planning an awful military coup, and he’s right in the middle of it.

I loved the parallel themes of keeping promises and death and resurrection. I enjoyed the action, the plot, and the ending. This is an exciting book, though it needs a good edit and accurate theology.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

I've Never Tried Pumpkin Spice Anything, But Don't Feel Sorry for Me!

I have never:
  • Tasted pumpkin spice anything
  • Had a professional pedicure or manicure
  • Gone to Starbucks, except by invitation
  • Colored my hair
  • Worn designer clothes or shoes
  • Gone paint balling, geocaching, or wielded a light saber
  • Understood Mexican food names on menus (except taco and fajita)
  • Seen many movies “everyone” has
  • Learned American slang

Don’t feel sorry for me!

I’ve lived overseas for thirty-two years, following the Lord’s plan for my life. I’ve worked closely with my husband and children. I’ve been able to do things I never dared to dream about, and I want to share them with you.

I didn’t get to do these things because I was rich or famous. Indeed, most of our experiences were added blessings because God put us in this place and ordered our steps. We did amazing trips in Europe—tent camping and eating sandwiches. Still . . . we got to do them.

First I’ll share the material things, then the spiritual.
  • Our family has traveled in: Spain, France, Leichtenstein, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy (a few hours in drifiting snow and pouring rain), and Luxembourg. My husband and I went to England a year ago.
  • We live in a storybook village in the Basque region of Spain.
  • We enjoy some of the freshest, healthiest, and most delicious food on the planet.
  • Native Basque and Spanish people are friendly and helpful.
  • We’ve visited two of the great art museums of the world: the Prado in Madrid, and El Escorial, not too far outside of Madrid.

It’s hard work to live as we do. My husband collects wood pallets and discarded wood in order to heat our house. He spends much time cutting it up. We use our wood stove at least nine months a year—this year more.

Our food is made “from scratch,” so food preparation takes much more time than in the U.S.—yet much less time than countries where people need to soak their vegetables first and bake all their own bread.

Don’t feel sorry for us!

Our church takes much time and effort, especially on my husband’s part. All of our people are “new” Christians (or non-Christians). It takes time and energy to disciple and train and to deal with all the baggage from a former, sinful lifestyle. Between the two of us, we do it all, including cleaning the church. We want our people to become faithful and helpers, but it is a long, hard process.

Don’t feel sorry for us.

The people here in Spain are friendly. They are accepting and kind. The great majority of people in Spain doesn't want to talk about spiritual things. If you mention God, they leave. God does not factor in their interest.

So we work hard. We disciple those who are willing, encourage the weak, and share the gospel with those who will listen. We also do mass evangelism through gospel tracts—methodically placed in every mailbox in our target area. People do read them, and several of our church members today came to Christ later, after reading our tracts.

Don’t feel sorry for us when we act like fish out of water. Don’t feel sorry for us that our life experience has been foreign. We need no pity, and we don’t have regrets.

Not too long ago, we were in the U.S. for a short visit. We went out with my parents to a Chinese restaurant that they enjoy. The Chinese waiter asked me a question, and my response came out in Spanish. The young man just stood there, while I explained, “I’m sorry; we just came back from overseas, and I forgot what language I was in.” Meanwhile, a few Hispanic people at a nearby table overheard, and they were laughing at me. It was embarrassing—and very funny!

Don’t feel sorry for me when I forget where I am. Don’t feel sorry for me when I can’t find the word in English. Don’t pity me when I’m disoriented . . . in my own country.

I have lived the best life. I’ve followed the Lord. I’ve been involved in full-time ministry. I’ve had two wonderful kids and an amazing husband. My life is complete, satisfying, brimming full.

The next time you sip your pumpkin spice latte or get your nails done, think of your missionary women all over the world. Pray for us, but don’t pity us.

Someday, we just might do it with you!  

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; 
and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).

Monday, October 24, 2016

Vicarious Thrills: How They Mess Up Your Heart

I was first exposed to romance novels when I was maybe eleven or twelve years old—Grace Livingstone Hill. I think I read everything she ever wrote. Boy meets girl. One is rich. One is poor. One is Christian. One is not. The chemistry is there, and they date, and on a June day, they marry. By their wedding day, the other one is a Christian, too, and everything ends with hearts and flowers.

I got over Grace Livingstone Hill about the age of fifteen. Her novels were too predictable, so very unreal, and I was discontent. I still read romances, though. Some were great, and some not so great. I loved Christy by Catherine Marshall and Victoria Holt’s gothic novels. I enjoyed Phyllis Whitney, because I like to be a little bit scared along with the romance. At about twenty-five, I read a few by Barbara Cartland, the grande dame of romance stories—and began to dislike romance all together.


It’s because romance novels manipulate your emotions. They make you fall in love with the protagonist. They make you believe a lie, feel the thrills of that lie, and they keep you turning pages to read about illicit or unreal love affairs . . . . Ultimately, they make you discontent with your life.

I’ve never read “hot” stories. I have never read an erotic book. I rarely even read any authors other than those in the “Christian” genre. Yet, even in Amish and Christian titles, some of the romances titillate the senses, describe scenes only found in fairy tales, and cause thousands of wives to be discontent—and addicted to the stories—because the stories satisfy, in a morbid sort of way. By dissatisfying, they draw you back for more vicarious thrills . . . and leave you feeling emptier than ever . . . in your heart.

(I could extend this post to other genres, of course, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll stay with fiction romance novels.)

It’s hard to draw a line. The truth is that some women are more or less affected, and each woman understands her own reaction. Does the fiction arouse in you feelings of voyeurism? Is the story about scenes that are better left behind closed doors? Is there any immorality going on, or is there too much description of touching? Does it make you short of breath? Does the story cause you to think, “I wish my husband were more like the protagonist?” You know how the fiction you read affects you. You know if your emotions and thoughts go in the wrong direction. You know if the end result is despising your husband because he doesn’t: read your thoughts, hug you with perfect timing, show up and slay all your dragons, say the exact words you want to hear when you want to hear them, compliment you, etc., etc. If you’re single, do the books you read make you crave a man?

What does God think of novels (or any other kinds of entertainment) that describe lustful scenes?
  • I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple (innocent) concerning evil (Romans 16:19b).
  • For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret (Ephesians 5:12).
  • But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).
  • For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).
If you are reading, and you experience what I’ve described above, the course of action is simple: 
  1. Close the book. Quit. Stop. Don’t go back to it. If you're reading a paperback, the recycling container is a great place for it. On Kindle, you can “archive” it to get rid of it on your menu.
  2. Get into the Bible. Replace lustful thinking with God’s thoughts. They are higher, nobler, purer. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  3. Enjoy your husband as he is. He’s real. The story is not. Let your conversation (way of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have (Hebrews 13:5a). If you’re single, you need the same: contentment with what you have now. (That’s what this verse is saying.)
Vicarious thrills have spoiled many a good marriage. They've cooked up expectations that no human being could ever meet. Many women have become bitter and discontent. These cause singles to believe that all they need is a man.

A romance novel is fiction—a made-up story. Almost all romance is written by women to sell to women. So, they make up the hottest, most exciting story they can dream up, write it down, and get it published, so that many women all over the world will flip pages and vicariously experience the pleasure.

I think it’s time for Christian women to analyze what they feed their minds: novels, TV, entertainment, online viewing, music videos, movies, and even porn. It’s time for us to draw lines for ourselves and exercise discipline. We want to please God and enjoy a normal, content, and happy life. Choose clean, wholesome authors. Choose books that contain a lot more than romance--where the romance isn't the main thing. Try adventure, male authors, and suspense.

May God bless you!

This I say then,
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
(Galatians 5:16)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Tribute to My Friend, Rachael

Photo furnished by the family
(La traducción en español viene después del inglés.)

My dear friend Rachael went to be with the Lord this week. 

Rachael was a wife, mother, and missionary whose godly example was evident to everyone who knew her.

I remember when the family lived in very simple conditions. The children were small, and their rented house had its issues. But, all I ever heard from Rachael was praise to God for meeting their needs. She never complained and never expressed a desire for things to be different.

Rachael was the mother of seven children: three sons and four daughters. She wanted all of them to follow the Lord first and foremost. She wept over her children and prayed for them. Most of all, she loved them. She loved her husband and took good care of him.

When their family circumstances improved, Rachael made her new home pretty with knickknacks, family decorations, and green plants. She loved having flowers outside, too.

Rachael homeschooled more years than I’d like to think about. Five of her children have graduated from Bible college, and one has served in the Marines. The eldest two are married. She had three grandchildren.

Rachael and her husband Dwayne have served faithfully in Oviedo, Spain for about forty years. Together, they have persevered. Today, the church has a beautiful storefront building that’s practical for all kinds of activities.

I’ve watched Rachael lead both ladies’ meetings and small Bible studies. She had an uncanny way of identifying with other women and making the Bible come alive for them. She loved women’s ministry, truly enjoyed counseling, and more than anything, she loved discipling young believers.

Rachael had a gorgeous singing voice. Her soprano was clear and strong.

She had a servant’s heart. Many don’t know it, but in recent years she worked tirelessly to edit a book in both Spanish and English. She spent many hours on tedious comparisons with the original, making sure the new publisher would be happy.

Rachael’s passing makes me happy for her—and very sad for her family and me. We will miss her pretty face and beaming smile. We’ll miss her hospitality. We’ll miss her friendship.

Rachael was a close personal friend and confidant. We loved each other as sisters in the Lord. I grieve with her family, and my heart goes out to them. I am praying for them.

Rachael is with the Lord. She is no longer battling cancer or facing difficult treatments. It was her appointed time, and Jesus welcomed her Home. I look forward to seeing her again in Glory, where we will walk the streets of gold together, enjoy the river, and look at the trees. I will once again hear her laughter and see her smile.

A woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30b)

Well done, good and faithful servant;
thou hast been faithful over a few things,
I will make thee ruler over many things:
enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
(from Matthew 25:23)


(I don’t often translate my blog, but in this instance, I am. Friends in Spain may want to read this in Spanish.)

Mi querida amiga Raquel entró en la presencia de su Señor esta semana. 

Raquel era una esposa, madre, y misionera. Su testimonio piadoso era evidente a todos que la conocieron.

Recuerdo cuando la familia vivía en condiciones bien sencillas. Los niños eran pequeños y la casa alquilada tenía sus problemas, pero lo que oía de la Hermana Raquel era alabanza al Señor por proveer sus necesidades. No se quejaba, y no expresó el deseo para cambiar su situación.

Raquel tuvo siete hijos: tres varones y cuatro hijas. Quería sobre todo que sus hijos agradaran al Señor. Lloraba por ellos y oraba por ellos. Mayormente, los amaba. Amaba siempre a sus esposo y cuidaba de él.

Cuando las circunstancias mejoraron, Raquel decoró su nueva casa con pequeñas cositas bonitas, decoraciones heredadas, y plantas verdes. Le gustaba tener flores por fuera en el jardín también.

Raquel educaba a los hijos en casa. ¡Fueron tantos años que yo no quiero pensármelo! Cinco de sus hijos se graduaron con estudios universitarios en un colegio bíblico, y un hijo ha servido a su Patria en las fuerzas marinas. Los dos hijos mayores están casados, y Raquel tenía tres nietos.

Raquel y su marido Jorge han servido fielmente en Oviedo, Asturias durante aproximadamente cuarenta años. Han perseverado juntos. Hoy día la iglesia tiene un precioso local que es útil para muchas actividades.

He observado a Raquel mientras guiaba reuniones de mujeres y también estudios bíblicos más íntimos. Tenía una manera única para indentificarse con las demás y ayudarlas entender la Biblia claramente. A Raquel le encantaba el ministerio a las mujeres, le gustaba darles consejos bíblicos, y más que nada gozaba de discipular a las recién convertidas.

Raquel tenía una voz soprano, preciosa y fuerte.

Tenía un corazón de sierva. Muchos no lo saben, pero en los últimos años trabajaba duramente para editar un libro en ambos inglés y español. Gastaba muchas horas comparando el texto del original con la revisión, asegurando que el nuevo publicación saldría bien.

La muerte de Raquel me hace feliz por ella—y muy triste por su familia y por mi. Echaremos de menos su bella carita y su sonrisa. Echaremos de menos su hospitalidad. Echaremos de menos su amistad.

Raquel era una amiga intima. Nos queríamos como hermanas en la fe. Acompaño a la familia en su dolor, y estoy orando por ellos.

Raquel está con el Señor. Ahora no está batallando el cáncer ni haciendo frente a tratamientos difíciles. Fue su tiempo, y Jesucristo le dio la bienvenida a casa. Anhelo verla de nuevo en la gloria, donde andaremos juntas en las calles de oro, gozando del río, y mirando los árboles. De nuevo oiré su risa y la veré sonreír.

La mujer que teme a Jehová, esa será alabada.
(Proverbios 31:30b)

Bien, buen siervo y fiel; 
sobre poco has sido fiel, 
sobre mucho te pondré; 
entra en el gozo de tu señor.
(de Mateo 25:23)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"One is the Loneliest Number"

Many years ago, a hit song’s lyrics were all about the numbers one and two:

"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one

One is the loneliest number . . .
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do"*

It was a hopeless song, a bit mournful, and not exactly the most imaginative lyrics ever written. (There’s more to it, all about loneliness.)

I couldn’t help but think of it when I read a news item in World Magazine. Women who are tired of waiting for Mr. Right and want to have a beautiful wedding without a man, can now marry themselves! They can do the whole wedding thing—without a groom: flowers, dress, photos, venue, etc. ** and marry themselves!

I thought, “One is the Loneliest Number.” Then, I thought of all the expense in order to do something entirely for one’s own self.

It’s a whole lot different when the ceremony celebrates a marriage—God joining two into one for life. That has meaning. That is the beginning of a family. That’s something God can bless.

But, to “marry” one’s self almost makes a mockery of marriage. The single woman is still a single woman at the end of it all. Yes, she’ll have some pretty pictures in a pretty dress. Maybe she would invite guests and have a nice dinner and a pretty cake she cuts all by herself. But, to me, instead of a celebration, a lot like that song, it only accentuates the loneliness and hopelessness. I mean, what’s a “wedding” without a groom?

On the other hand, if a single woman wants to dress up and get professional photos made, why not? (Just don’t wear a wedding dress.)

If she wants to host a lavish dinner for guests, go for it! But, do it as a friend for friends—not wearing a wedding dress and inviting them to a non-starter.

The 1969 hit record says one is lonely. And, anyone who lives alone can say amen to that. It also says, “two . . . it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” Frankly, that can be true as well. Anyone who’s married goes through lonely times—times when their spouse doesn’t meet their heart needs, times when they feel very much alone.

I believe this is why it’s so important not to look for people for completion. A single woman doesn’t need to have a manless wedding for happiness, either. There is only one person in the whole world who can fill the hole in our heart, and that’s Jesus.

There will still be times when we feel alone, but the Bible says:
  • Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:20b).
  • Asaph is talking to the Lord and says, Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23).
  • Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10).
  • For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5b).
Perhaps my favorite Bible passage about God caring about me, knowing about me, and always being  near is this one:

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting
 and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me;
even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day:
the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret,
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
and in thy book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:
when I awake, I am still with thee (Psalm 139:1-18).

Single or married, the most important relationship in a woman’s life is her relationship with Jesus. First, she needs to know Him. She needs to let Him save her from her sins. The Apostle Paul said, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15). When a woman sees herself as a sinner in need of a Savior, she can cry out to Jesus for salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). And, that’s how the most satisfying relationship of her life begins.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock:
if any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
(Revelation 3:20)

One without Christ is the loneliest number.

With Him, you have an eternal Companion.


* “One is the Loneliest Number,” by Harry Nilsson, sung by Three Dog Night

** World Magazine, August 6, 2016, “Weddings for One”