Prayer Breakfast Reflections (NPM ’16-Day 6)

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What I experienced on Monday and Tuesday of this week was the perfect preparation to write about Bobbie Ann Taylor‘s one-little-word MERCIFUL.

My husband and I were asked to be part of our church’s delegation to the annual MLA*’s prayer breakfast, hosted at a hotel just steps away from B.C.’s Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday morning.

After the beautiful ferry crossing Monday afternoon, we arrived in Victoria in time for dinner. An MLA friend who attends our church joined us at Milestones. That began a fascinating time of learning as we conversed and he answered questions about how he navigates the tricky water of provincial politics. No novice (he was formerly the mayor of the town in which I live), he explained how has trained himself to ask questions, listen, and then when the time is right, explain his position. He told of interfaith gatherings where he has joined with Muslims, Sikh’s and people of other faiths in initiatives which they all support.

The prayer breakfast saw around 150 people eating breakfast together (18 tables, with one or two MLAs— representatives of both political parties—at each table). It was an eye-opener for me as I glanced across the room and saw, for example, the former leader of the NDP** party in B.C. who raised his hand when the organizer asked who of them had attended the prayer breakfast for each of the ten years it had been happening. I had no idea and realized I have make judgments while I didn’t have a clue!

The man who, those ten years ago, had the brain child to start hanging out with our politicians for the purpose of lending them spiritual support obviously loves them and is loved back. In this time when politics can be a divider of people, this event was a real encouragement to me.

We stopped for lunch on our way home where each one us (five in all) shared the significance of the event personally. My friend Joyce said she had texted the words of the hymn “There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy” to her husband as a sum-up of her response. I found those old lyrics were also the perfect expression of my feelings.

As my poem for today (Wednesday—poem-a-day for National Poetry Month and my post for Spiritual Journey Thursday), I’m taking the liberty of using some of the lines of that old hymn as I reflect on MERCIFUL.

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Here I am standing in front of the Legislative Assembly. After Tuesday’s breakfast we  observed Question Period from the gallery (Photo by Joyce J.)

Prayer Breakfast Reflections

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea…”
We can live it out when peaceful
we agree to disagree,
when the members, left and right
share croissants, coffee, and tea.

“There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.”
Listen to opponent’s viewpoint
strive to understand and see
common path we walk together
while we guard integrity.

“For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind…”
See the needs that make us human
not by party lines defined
while the prayers of fellow travelers
aid us in the daily grind.

“And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
On this servant-leader pathway
that by many is maligned
help us all to pull together
as we seek Your mastermind.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Spiritual Journey Thursday is hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

*MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly

** NDP: National Democratic Party – the left-leaning party in Canadian national and provincial politics, roughly equivalent to the Democrats in the U.S.

*** “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

 

Through the Deep Waters (review)

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Through the Deep Waters: A NovelThrough the Deep Waters: A Novel by Kim Vogel Sawyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dinah Hubley is starting to attract unwanted attention and pressure from the after-dark visitors to her home, a Chicago bawdy house called the Yellow Parrot run by Miss Flo. That pressure ramps up a hundred-fold when, on her 17th birthday, Miss Flo tells her that her beautiful lady-of-the-night mother, Untamable Tori, is ill. Miss Flo threatens to throw both of them out unless Dinah can come up with $25 to pay for their keep—a huge sum in 1883.

Dinah is still too young to be a Harvey Girl, something she dreams about. She needs to be 18 to work as a server in one of the Harvey Eating Houses. So it seems there is only one way she can come up with the $25 and it is by giving in to Miss Flo’s suggestion. Author Kim Vogel Sawyer has Dinah pay a life-changing price to make her mother’s last days as comfortable as possible, in her novel Through the Deep Waters.

Dinah leaves Chicago after her mother dies to follow the Harvey Girl dream. But starting a new life isn’t as simple as moving away from Chicago. For though she finds a job in Kansas City, has a warm and caring roommate, even a young man whose kind ways give her hope for a secure future, everything is overshadowed by the dark secret she must keep.

The story is told through the viewpoints of Dinah, Ruthie her Kansas City roommate, and Amos Ackerman the idealistic and lonely chicken farmer who falls in love with Dinah’s innocent beauty and shy ways. Though I sometimes felt like shaking Dinah for her paranoid secrecy, the fallout when her past is revealed shows that her behavior is grounded in her savvy of the moral climate of her times. My favorite character was warm, bubbly Ruthie especially when Dinah’s unpredictable behavior tests what she professes to believe.

Dinah’s predicament drew me into the story from the start. The love triangle that develops is compelling. Though there were parts of the book where things go along too smoothly and I felt my interest lag, on the whole, strong characterization together with plot complications kept me engrossed.

Sawyer undergirds her themes of the possibility of a new beginning, the value of honesty, and the need for forgiveness with Scripture. This book is unabashedly Christian. Discussion questions at the end guide readers to work through the issues the book introduces.

Lovers of Americana and historical Christian romance will enjoy this book. I received Through the Deep Waters as a gift from the publisher WaterBrook Press via the Blogging for Books program for the purpose of writing a review.

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Miracle in a Dry Season (review)

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Miracle in a Dry Season (Appalachian Blessings, #1)Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Perla Long returns to Wise, West Virginia in 1954, the single 24-year-old has a five-year-old daughter Sadie in tow. Tongues are soon wagging and Perla wonders, will she ever find a place where questions about her past don’t run her out of town?

Casewell Phillips is charmed by Sadie and fascinated with Perla’s blue-eyed beauty. But at 35, he is not about to trade in his bachelor status for a relationship with a woman of questionable repute.

Sarah Loudin Thomas has combined the characters above with a church full of judgmental parishioners, egged on by hellfire and brimstone Pastor Longbourne, a rainless summer, and Perla’s wondrous way with food to craft Miracle in a Dry Season. It’s a story about passing judgment and extending forgiveness, recognizing and accepting grace, and how “a child shall lead them.”

I enjoyed Loudin’s often lyrical way with words in passages like:

“Casewell … lifted his hand and held it over the child’s head for a moment, hovering there like a hummingbird taking the measure of a flower” – Kindle Location 512.

and

“She bowed her head, and he felt peace radiating out from her. But like a kerosene lamp on an icy morning, it could not reach his core” – K.L. 626.

However, I did find Thomas’s style tentative with an abundance of adverb modifiers that sucked the life out of her prose:

“’We’re going home,’ she said, looking at her husband with a depth and rawness that somehow embarrassed Casewell…” K.L. 638.

“He could taste the air. It seemed cleaner, richer somehow” – K. L. 2091.

“The landscape was still desolate but it looked somehow hopeful this morning” – K.L. 2097.

“… in spite of the tears she somehow looked happy” – K.L. 2126.

All in all, though, I enjoyed this romantic and folksy tale with its elements of the miraculous and its message that all of us have secrets and sins in our pasts and none of us make fit judges.

A set of discussion questions at the end of the book completes the volume.

I received Miracle in a Dry Season from the publisher, Bethany House, as a gift for the purpose of writing a review (via NetGalley which, as usual, delivered a problematic Kindle file with illegible first lines of chapters and all “Th” units missing from the book).

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