You would never know from the confident look of the woman sitting at the bookstore table signing books for her fans, that Sage Bush was still trapped in her traumatic childhood. But she was. In Behind Her Name, author Eunice Cooper-Matchett explores, with wonderful story telling, the secretive world of bullying and its devastating effects.
The familiar Canadian setting (small town Alberta), a cast of complex and interesting characters, combined with the author’s exploration of serious themes like bullying, forgiveness, trust, and how to answer the age-old question, why does God allow evil in our lives, are aspects of this well-written book that make it more than just another entertaining tale. Oh, and I loved the unique way the author had Sage handle times of stress and overwhelm—with poetry!
Fans of Christian contemporary romance won’t want to miss this special offering!
View all my reviews
Yesterday a newsfeed headline “How to Prepare Now for the Complete End of the World” caught my eye. I didn’t read the article right away, but it got me thinking.
Are we near the “complete end of the world”? The spreading covid19 virus, the doom and gloom of climate change purveyors, the local civil unrest over aboriginal land claims, and more, compound to give me a feeling that life, if not about to end may not return to “normal” anytime soon…maybe ever.
The danger that the covid19 virus poses to seniors (I’m in that age group) is especially concerning. And so, in my staring match with mortality, I ask myself, am I ready for the end? Are you?
I did read the above article this morning. I’m not sure I like its answers. It describes a “rewilding movement” where people get back to stone age living—making fire, hunting, wearing animal skins, eating roots and herbs, living in communes of yurts, basically like the hippies of the 1960s, only more primitive.
“Rewilding” may be a solution if commerce grinds to a halt and technology dies. Trouble is, there’s still a personal end of the world beyond that. How do I prepare for the complete end of my personal world?
For me that means being ready to die and meet God.
Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?”* What would you say? Would you say, I’ve done my best; I’ve done more good things than bad; I’ve been better than John down the street…?
I live with the conviction that we can give God a satisfactory answer. The Bible explains it this way.
– Heaven is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8,9).
– It is not earned or deserved (Romans 6:23).
– But man (humans, males and females) are sinners (Romans 3:23)
– We don’t and can’t live up to heaven’s standard of perfection (Matthew 5:48).
– We can’t save ourselves (Proverbs 14:12).
– Is merciful (Jeremiah 31:3b).
– But He is also just and must punish sin (Exodus 34:7b).
In order to solve the dilemma of His mercy and justice…
– God sent Jesus to earth 2000+ years ago to live and die as the infinite perfect God-man (John 1:1,14).
– For 33 years Jesus lived on earth. Those years are recorded in the Bible (books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
– At the age of 33 years, Jesus was crucified—died.
– His death in our stead shows God’s mercy while at the same time satisfying God’s need for justice. We call it GRACE: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
– We accept this gift of Christ’s death on our behalf through faith.
– It is more than intellectual faith, but a believing faith where I entrust our lives to Him now and for eternity (Acts 16:31).
And so, when we come to the end of our personal world, and stand before God and He asks us, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” I can say, you can say, because Jesus paid the penalty for my sin.
Need to explore more? Get yourself a Bible or access one online. Read it. Start with the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
* This explanation of the Gospel is adapted from Evangelism Explosion materials.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The abduction of their 13-year-old daughter in November off 1984 shunted Winnipeg residents Cliff and Wilma Derksen onto an unfamiliar and horror-strewn track. The discovery of her body seven months later, bound and frozen, provided closure on one level. She had been murdered. She was never coming home. But that day opened a Pandora’s box of feelings, reactions, learnings, and conclusions about how to deal with the unthinkable crime of the murder of their child. Early on, the Derksens declared their decision to forgive.
In The Way of Letting Go, published in 2017, 32 years after the crime, Wilma Derksen describes what forgiveness has entailed for her. Drawing inspiration from “the Nazarene” and the Sermon on the Mount she tells (in chapters titled, for example: “Letting Go of the Happy Ending,” “Letting Go of Fear,” “Letting Go of my Ego” etc.) incidents that triggered realizations of what she was hanging onto and needed to release. She also analyzes the spiritual and practical implications of these relinquishments.
The triggering incidents she tells help us to put together the Derksen’s story in a puzzle piece way. We also get glimpses of what it was like to be in the spotlight of the victim and involved with the police and justice system of Canada.
The Way of Letting Go not only tells a riveting story but also challenges us to consider (when we’ve been wronged) the difficult, complicated, repetitious (“Seventy times seven”) response of forgiveness. Highly recommended.
This book is part of my own Kindle collection.
A few weeks ago an acquaintance sent me a newly published book of her poems. They were simple but beautiful in their first-person expression of praise, love, and gratitude to God—a collection of modern psalms. I reacted to that book like I have to other similar ones, asking myself, why don’t I write more overtly spiritual poetry? I ask because writing about spiritual subjects is hard for me to do.
I’m not sure why. It may be because I fear using theological jargon and worn-out phrases, thus slipping into cliché. (It certainly does take thought and attention to relate spiritual experiences and express convictions and emotions with fresh language that avoids being trite, maudlin, or sentimental.) Or I might avoid that kind of writing because many of my convictions don’t fit the politically correct social climate of the day and so the poems come whiny or like a rant.
As I look over the overtly spiritual poetry I have written, I feel that the poems that have come to me the most easily and naturally are the persona poems. In these I’ve tried to get into the head space of a Bible character.
Preparation to write these got me studying characters in the Bible and imagining their thoughts and feelings as they faced specific circumstances. I often fictionalized how that moment was a catalyst to growth in faith or rejection of it.
Several years ago I wrote a collection of these based on Bible women. Here are two from that collection.
(Based on Exodus 15:19-21)
Though I lived under the bright
Egyptian sun these many years
my sky went black the day Moses left.
Even his return with snake-rod
didn’t banish the clouds
hovering on my horizon.
my celebration when we crossed
out of Goshen into the wilderness.
Dust of approaching chariots
was my nightmare
entering the day.
But somewhere on that black
step-by-step sea crossing
I walked through fear to faith.
I taught Moses to sing.
Now he gives that gift back to me
Hand me my timbrel!
© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)
(Based on Ruth 1:1-14)
I am too young
to give in to death
be numbed by Naomi’s
Mighty Yahweh has failed
this family, my man.
Here’s my chance to detach
from this unlucky clan.
So I’ll return to Moab
to make a new start
(despite this strange yearning
deep in my heart).
© 2018 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)
If you’re like me and find writing poems about spiritual subjects a challenge, maybe writing persona poems could become a spiritual poetry portal for you too.
Thanks to Carol Varsalona, who suggested the subject of Poetry as spiritual practice of the heart, and who is hosting Spiritual Journey First Thursday today at her blog Beyond Literacy Link.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Are you all set for 2018… new calendars up, dreams and goals written down, diet started? Just kidding! It’s early days, I know. Still, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what we want the year ahead to look like.
One resolution that hits my list every year is to get more of God’s word into me in the coming 12 months. David Kitz writes about that in Chapter 22 of Psalms Alive, a chapter that delves into the “Beth” section of Psalm 119 (Psalm 119:9-11).
My Bible journaling response was to verse 11 of that chapter.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against you.”
I was particularly challenged by Kitz’s drilling down into what it means to hide God’s word in our hearts:
“How do I hide God’s Word in my heart? The answers may seem obvious. Hear it. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Apply it to life. Commit it to memory.
…Most often understanding springs out of application, not out of hearing. I can hear a particular truth a thousand times but it isn’t really mine until I apply it to my own life. Applied truth bears fruit. It yields results” – Psalms Alive p. 200 (emphasis added).
To do my journal response I made a heart out of parchment paper, attached it, with Washi tape, to the outside edge of the page as a tip-out, then doodled on the heart and behind it some ideas of how to hide God’s word in my heart. (Other materials used: colored pencils, Pigma Micron pens)
May we spend time in 2018 hiding God’s word in our hearts—in all the ways we can!
A few weeks ago I attended the Global Leadership Summit (by simulcast). One of the speakers was Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of the book Lean In). This gorgeous young woman looked like she had it all, and had it all together. Then she shared the story of her young husband’s sudden death while they were on vacation. He wasn’t even ill.
She was understandably devastated and paralyzed by grief. She told how slowly she worked her way through this tragedy to a new normal. Her therapist, Mark, was a big help, especially when he directed her mournful thoughts away from self-pity to gratitude (e.g. “Yes, your husband is gone, but you still have your children”). He challenged her to recall and write down, at the end of each day, three moments of joy from that day.
This Spiritual Journey Thursday finds me in the unusual spot of seeing my husband through surgery. Every time my mind goes to a negative place concerning this, I am trying to take Mark’s advice to Sheryl, and redirect it toward gratitude… which really isn’t that hard!
1. It’s elective surgery. Now that medical science has figured out how to replace hips, walking with a painful arthritis-degenerated hip is no longer a life sentence. And we’ve been waiting for this appointment for almost a year.
2. It’s publicly funded. We do our share of complaining about our country’s nationalized medical system (inefficiencies, rationing of treatment, long wait times). But when it comes to having to go to the hospital, it’s reassuring that it won’t bankrupt us.
3. General good health. I sat with hubby through his pre-admission interview with the nurse. As he answered question after medical question with “No” (no heart attacks, no strokes, no kidney disease, no diabetes etc.) it struck me how blessed he and I have been with good health.
4. Surgery is local, so no long drives to visit and fetch him home.
5. The hope of pain-free walking again—soon, we hope!
As I think of the days of rehabilitation ahead for him (I know a bit about what’s involved because I broke my hip in 2014 and also had to do the walker / cane / raised toilet seat / bath bench / hard to climb in and out of the car thing) I cling to my life verse for thought hygiene and reassurance:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses al understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6,7 NKJV (emphasis added).
This post is linked to Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday, a once-a-month look at life’s spiritual side by a collection of blogging friends who met (mostly) on Poetry Friday. Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday is hosted today by Karen at Irene’s blog Live Your Poem.
With this colorful book you will have numerous crafted projects at your fingertips. There are dozens of full-color and black-and-white (suitable for coloring) cards (fifty large, eighteen mini), six full-color bookmarks, sixteen gift tags, two full-page illustrations suitable for framing, sixteen full pages of colorful double-sided papers along with two envelope templates (put these latter two together to make beautiful envelopes for all those cards, or use the papers in other ways suggested by the book’s introduction).
Messages on the cards are generic enough to be useful for many occasions (e.g.”Imagine,” and “You are my sunshine”) and faith-friendly (e.g.”Rejoice in the Lord,” “Pray,” “Let all you do be done in Love” etc.). As well, the large cards have Bible verses printed on the inside page with room for a personal message.
Detailed directions for how to assemble an envelope, finish a bookmark, and make a fridge magnet are found in the beginning of the book. All the cards, bookmarks, and tags are perforated for easy and tidy tear-out.
What a fun collection! I love the heavy, good quality paper on which the projects are printed, and the vibrant colors. I also like how some of the card backs incorporate the designs of the papers, making it possible to send cards in matching envelopes if you decide to make your own.
In addition to using the items as ready-mades, I’m hoping to get design ideas for Bible journaling from them, and maybe even add some pieces to my Bible as tip-ins.
I received Faithful Paper Crafting as a gift from the publisher, Design Originals (an imprint of Fox Chapel Publishing), for the purpose of writing a review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Daniel and Luise Martens have built up a successful farm in northern China. The year is 1945 and fifteen years have passed since the Mennonite villagers from Slavgorod Colony of Western Siberia have escaped their Russian oppressors (story told in The Other Side of the River: Search for Freedom Book 1 – reviewed here).
Alarm bells ring from the opening pages when we discover Daniel’s Russian nemesis, Leonid Dubrowsky, is still alive and hot on Daniel’s heels for revenge.
The political unrest in Russia and China after WWII makes for a time of unrest in northern China. Daniel and other Russians who fled the Soviet Union are soon arrested and returned there as traitors. This leaves Luise and her 15-year-old bright but hot-tempered son Danny in charge of the farm.
The story takes us through the six years that follow. The fractured Martens family and their white neighbours, the Giesingers, become persona non grata in the now racially charged climate of Communist China. Danny’s temper gets him into trouble more than once. And then there’s the ever-looming shadow of Dubrowsky, who nurses the dream of wreaking vengeance on Daniel by destroying Danny and having his way with Luise.
The interesting historical plot is enhanced by the strong Christian faith of Luise and Rachel (Danny’s special childhood friend). It anchors the two families, while Danny’s questions and inability to believe that God even exists in all this turmoil adds realism to the faith aspect of the story.
I found this tale captivating from beginning to end. Dick tells the story through various viewpoints but chapters are titled with location and date so we’re always clear about when and where the incident takes place. Characters are realistic and complex. The plot is full of tension and suspense.
There is one more installment in the In Search of Freedom series. Book 3, Far Side of the Sea, is due to be released in the fall / winter of 2017.
This is a series not to be missed for historical fiction lovers, especially those with Mennonite roots.
Thinking it through and making lists
to cover all the bases.
Imagining each this or that
and putting myself through the paces.
I know I shouldn’t be uptight
I tend to be a perfecter.
I’d have more fun if I cut loose
this fete to faith and prayer.
© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)
This Sunday my husband and I are hosting a big family party. I love being part of this kind of thing as a helper but being in charge is certainly getting me out of my comfort zone. That is our topic this month and a good one for me to muse on this week.
Even thinking about it for this blog post has been helpful. I’ve been intentional about countering every worrisome “what if?” thought with thoughts and prayers of gratitude that this is happening and joy and anticipation as I look forward to getting together with my large extended family. I am trying to follow my own advice…
Visit Pat at Writer on a Horse to read more “Getting out of your comfort zone” writings.
About six weeks go I signed up for Rebekah R. Jones’ Bible journaling instructional videos. A few days ago Lesson 4 in the Deeper Still series (2017) arrived by email. This tutorial is a meditation and art journal project on the book of Job.
Rebekah is uniquely positioned to hold forth on Job considering her own mysterious multi-year illness. Much of that time she was bedridden and her case seemed hopeless. You can read the story of her illness and healing HERE.
I appreciated her faith and tenacity in holding onto her belief in the goodness and love of God in spite of how she felt and how bad her circumstances looked. Her conclusion was to look at how God’s love shines through even in our suffering. Here’s her sum-up from the project meditation:
“… let’s use this study as a moment in personal history to step into a new understanding of God’s beautiful love for us. Let’s go deeper still with Him and invite Him into areas of our lives that seemed scary to trust Him with before today” (read the entire devotion HERE).
I used the drawing of the girl looking at a heart that Rebekah provided as a free download. But because my Bible doesn’t have any empty space at the end of Job (like hers did) and because I try to keep as much of my Bible’s text readable as possible, I transferred the drawing to tracing paper, colored it with pencil crayons, cut it out and taped it into my Bible as a tip-in.
I hand-lettered “LOOK AT LOVE” sideways in the margin using a letter style I liked from the Complete Guide to Bible Journaling.
Questions from Job still niggled at me, however, and I felt I needed to search for more answers to the questions posed by Job’s suffering and how God’s love related to his suffering and ours.
One of the commentaries I read was the “Introduction to Job” in my favorite study Bible. These points from the “Personal Application” section repeated and reinforced what Rebekah said about viewing God as love, even in suffering.
I copied the points in brief on the under-side of the page as a reminder to myself of how the questions raised in Job, suffering—including ours—and God’s love fit together.