Category Archives: Good Books

Redeeming Ruth: A Story of Love and Hope

I love adoption stories. Reading or hearing about families that are formed or enriched by opening their hearts and homes to a child gives me hope for the world in general. Adoption, to me, is the ultimate example of sacrificial love..

Meadow Rue Merrill and her family did just that. In 2004, Meadow and her husband welcomed an abandoned 17-month-old girl from Uganda into their family. Meadow had always dreamed of traveling to Africa and “adopting a beautiful brown baby”. When Meadow and her husband met Ruth, they had three young children, the youngest also 17 months old, but they began thinking adoption could become a reality. However, this child came with complications. She had cerebral palsy and could barely lift her head, let alone sit, walk or run. And, though she was in America, she had to return to the orphanage unless she was adopted quickly. The Merrills made the commitment to give Ruth a home and embarked on the adoption journey.

Meadow began writing her family’s adoption story in 2006 with the hope that their adopted daughter, Ruth, could one day add her voice. That was not God’s plan.

It took Meadow 10 years to write Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores. The result is a beautifully powerful story of a family forever changed by a little girl with an engaging smile and boundless potential. Meadow’s book is part spiritual memoir and part family drama. It also reflects Meadow’s journalistic roots. Her retelling of her trip to Uganda and the many complications that threatened to halt the adoption capture the reader. We feel as if we’re making the journey with Meadow.

In an essay written as she was completing the book, Meadow said this about welcoming Ruth into her family:

“Was raising Ruth hard? Yes. It was also the most unexpected, amazing, life-affirming, heart expanding experience of our lives. Because Ruth could physically do nothing for herself, our new routine—and our three older children’s—involved daily sacrifice. Yet, loving and serving Ruth filled us with joyful confidence that we were living out God’s will, expressed throughout scripture, to share his love with others. Our purpose was to love Ruth, and we did. Completely.

Meadow Rue Merrill

Then, without warning, Ruth died in her sleep after a mild illness. Not only did we lose a beloved child, I lost my trust in God. How could he allow this to happen? Here we had deliberately sought to obey God, and he had broken our hearts.

For months, I struggled to pray or read my Bible—once familiar practices that had often strengthened and comforted me in the past. For me, there was no comfort, only the aching question of who was to blame for Ruth’s death: us? or God? If us, how could I forgive myself? And if God, how could I trust him?

Discovering a hidden, underlying cause for Ruth’s death—something we could not have anticipated or prevented—slowly helped me let go of the guilt I felt. In the weeks and months that followed, I gave myself permission to feel and express the anguish of having lost our precious Ruth. I needed to mourn, but I also needed to be comforted. For those who trust God, grief is not the intended legacy of life. Love is.”

Redeeming Ruth is a book about hope, perseverance, unconditional love, and God’s healing power. If you read one spiritual memoir, biography or travel story this year, choose Redeeming Ruth. Your soul will be enriched and your trust in humanity expanded.

At this point, I would normally offer to give a copy of Redeeming Ruth to one of my readers. However, a copy of this book will be placed in the hands of a dear woman in our community who has fostered and adopted children here in America and has opened her heart to orphans in Honduras.

For You — ‘Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives’

“And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Bloom.” Anais Nin

I would love to give every woman in my life a copy of Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives. Instead, I’m going to share bits of it here (and give away one copy) in hopes that you will give yourselves this gift of life-changing stories.

This beautiful collection of essays and poems, written by the women of Redbud Writers Guild, is dedicated to:

“…all women who have yet to find freedom in Christ in order to embrace their story and share it with the world. We believe in you, and we pray this book will help you ‘walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.’ ” (Hebrews 4:16 from The Message)

Every story and poem in Everbloom picks up a thread in the analogy of a tree – roots, trunk, branches and blossoms. Just like the women of the Guild, they are diverse and rich in story. With vulnerability and sensitivity, they point the way for all of us as we experience loss, fear, joy, confusion — life.

From a lovely essay by Bronwyn Lea titled “No Story Wasted”:

“I went into motherhood expecting a time of spiritual drought. After years of vocational ministry and a rich spiritual diet of study, prayer, and witnessing the Spirit at work, I anticipated that maternity leave would mean switching from go-go-go to idling in neutral.
I did not expect God to shop up in the nursery, whispering to me that the tenderness and love I felt toward my baby was just a fraction of how he felt about me. How her dependence on me was just a fraction of my dependence on him.
The Spirit met me in the silent spaces. In the wild and surprisingly solitary clearing of motherhood, God showed me an artesian well I hadn’t known was there and whispered “Plant yourself here, my thirsty one. Blessed is the one who walks with me: she is like a tree planted by streams of water, she yields fruit in season, her leaves do not wither.”

And this, a piece by Sarah Rennicke about feeling displaced as her career took her far from home. It is entitled “Untangled”:

“Following Jesus requires my all, not pieces scattered here and there, given then taken away because it doesn’t feel right. He calls for complete devotion, but allows the freedom of struggle as I mourn what I have given up in the process. For me, it was familiarity, belonging, and the way I laid out my days. But of course, the best way to push up from the ground is to lay down my life, hand him my heart, and have trust he will settle me where it will be for his glory and my gain.”

And “When a Baby Dies”, words from PeggySue Wells about the loss of an unborn child:

“We buried Violet Trust on May 1. We took pictures of our tiny daughter; my favorite is the photo of her next to my wedding ring. We tenderly swaddled her in the cloth Estee prepared and wrapped her in Leilani’s white satin blanket. After we placed her in the casket Josiah had made, the box was only half-full. Estee and three-year-old Hannah brought out a basket of gifts they had made for the coming baby. Lovely created yarn dolls, bead necklaces, and carefully colored pictures filled the wooden box to the brim. Holly added dried flower petals. Violet was nestled in a box filled with gifts of love from her family and friends.
Nothing was left to do but nail the top on the casket. The ringing of the hammer sounded devastatingly final. We read aloud poems and Scripture friends had sent to encourage our hearts. We prayed and sang worship songs.
Everything within me protested as we laid Violet in her final resting place. I didn’t want my baby to be cold, wet, or alone.”

I met the members of Redbud Writers Guild at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the spring of 2016. But I’d actually stumbled upon these women in writing groups here and there over several years. They were writers of intent whose generosity and faith in the goodness of a giving God drew me to them. During the past year, as a member of this sisterhood, I’ve been inspired, encouraged, challenged, humbled and admittedly, sometimes intimidated. But mostly, I’ve felt nurtured and accepted for who I am – a wife and mother living in a rural community, a one-time newspaper reporter turned blogger, and a writer who aspires to inspire by using the gift of writing.

You can read more outstanding pieces by subscribing to The Redbud Post. This month, my essay on our son’s collision with anxiety is a featured post.

Please leave a comment to win a copy of Everbloom. A winner will be chosen at random and notified by e-mail.

Invitation To A Feast: Bible Studies That Study the Bible

Recently, a handful of women from my church joined me in reading and discussing Lysa TerKeurst’s book “The Best Yes”. Though our numbers dwindled over the six weeks we met, those of us who remained at the end agreed that our time together had been well-spent.

TerKeurst is a New York Times best-selling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s a popular, gifted teacher and ministry leader. We were entertained, challenged and informed. And in some ways, we were changed by engaging through her book and the accompanying DVD-led study.

So why, as leader of this study group, do I feel like these women were short-changed?

As only God can do, I’ve received some gentle conviction in recent weeks over where I go — and where I lead others — for the study of God’s word. At the very least, I’ve been stopped in my tracks while I think about His desired path for women who want to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not sorry that we read this book. Nor do I feel we were misled in any way by the God-inspired wisdom offered by Lysa Terkeurst. I do, however, feel I misled the women by advertising the group as a Bible study. We discussed my “false advertising” in our first session and the women graciously forgave me. But in the end, it was as if I’d invited the ladies to come for bread and wine and served them chips and cola instead.

Tasty, but not as good as the real thing.

I’ve participated in women’s Bible studies for years, as proven by my library shelf full of Beth Moore, Priscilla Shire and Jennie Allen study books. I’ve read (and studied) many wonderful Christian books about topics that interested me written by spiritual leaders I respect, both men and women. Most of them have led me to a fuller understanding of scripture.

Here’s the thing. At least one of the women in our little gathering appears to be a “baby Christian” and I got the distinct feeling she was attempting to digest savory doctrinal commentary, when what she really needs is pure, simple food. Namely, the word of God.

Don’t we all?

My concerns are backed up by Bible teacher and author Jen Wilkin. Her essay in Christianity Today, “Let Bible Studies Be Bible Studies”, addresses this very issue.

“Churches must distinguish clearly between what is Bible study and what is something else because the average churchgoer may not be able to on her own. Knowing they should study the Bible, earnest Christians sign up for what we have labeled a Bible study, assuming that it is,” says Wilkin.

In her opinion, biblical illiteracy is pervasive in our churches, in part because we fail to point out the difference between pure Bible study and book study. Her church has become intentional about precise terminology when offering studies, with an emphasis on pure Bible study.

Moving forward, our church will do the same.

When a disciple of Christ desires to understand their choice to follow Him, going to source materials should be the first step. A well-versed Bible teacher can help by setting the table and joining in the feast, utilizing commentaries and even various translations to aid in the understanding of scripture.

In her excellent book “Women of the Word”, Wilkin says this about the value of intentional Bible study:

“Sound Bible study transforms the heart by training the mind and it places God at the center of the story. But sound Bible study does more than that — it leaves the student with a better understanding of the Bible than she had when she started.”

Reading and discussing good Christian books can enhance our application and even our understanding of scripture, but reading them should not be a substitute for studying the Bible itself, word by word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16

 

 

 

 

“Discovering Hope” Turns Chronic Illness Into Chronic Joy

Cindee Snider Re embodies these words from the author J.R.R. Tolkein:

Courage is found in unlikely places

I met Cindee in an unlikely place — at a writers’ workshop on the western coast of Lake Michigan. We were among a dozen writers, many of whom were still waiting on the Lord to show them how to use the gifts He’d bestowed on them. It quickly became evident that among Cindee’s gifts are photography and writing, as well as joy, compassion and a servant’s heart. What wasn’t evident was the fact Cindee was also given the gift of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a chronic disease comprised by “a group of disorders that affect the connective tissues that support the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs and tissues.” (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Four of Cindee’s five children also have this genetic disorder.

Cindee didn’t talk much about her condition, but there were moments when we could see she was pushing through the pain and discomfort to participate.

Cindee left our week-long workshop telling us she didn’t think the Lord wanted her to write words, but that she would focus on telling stories with her camera lens. God had other plans.

Just one year later, Cindee’s experience with chronic illness has led her to write “Discovering Hope: Beginning the Journey Toward Hope in Chronic Illness”. The Bible study is a product of her partnership in a new ministry with her friend Pamela K. Piquette, who also has Ehlers-Danos. Chronic Joy has as its mission “equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.”

discovering-hope“Discovering Hope” is an uplifting yet challenging workbook that will not only plunge you into the healing Word of God, but will draw from you your own story of chronic illness. Punctuated with insightful, inspiring stories from Cindee’s life, the study is a map through which the participant explores the tough issues and the joys associated with trial. While it is intended for use by those in a personal struggle, it would also be useful for anyone walking through chronic illness with a friend or loved one.

Working through the eight chapters, participants examine their story, perspective, sacrifice, humor, trust, gratitude, promise and choice in living with chronic illness. Instructions for doing the study with a small group are included at the back of the book, as well as a listing of scriptures used throughout the study. The book is also peppered with inspiring quotes, like the one from Tolkein and this one.

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Cindee’s study will be followed up by a book authored by Pamela Piquette entitled “Finding Purpose”.

I am giving a copy of this book to a friend who walks this journey, with prayer that it will minister to her. You can order the book and contribute to Chronic Joy by ordering at www.smile.amazon.com and typing in Chronic Joy as recipient. If you agree, all future purchases through Amazon will result in a donation to Chronic Joy.

Chronic Joy can be found on Facebook and on the website.

cindee Chronic illness is seen as anything but a joy. However, Cindee reminds us “It isn’t our circumstances that make life worth living. It’s God.” If you or someone you know is living with a chronic illness, consider this study by Cindee. She is, indeed, courageous, and you will be blessed.

 

 

 

 

“Crossing the Waters” book giveaway winner — Laurie Sherck! Laurie will be notified by e-mail. Thank you all for entering!

 

 

Of Fish, Boats, Faith and Friendship: A Book Review

crossing” ‘Look at you! So happy! You like fishing, no?’ I laugh and nod. Yes, this makes me happy, but I am here for more than this, of course. I have not tried to explain to him the fuller reason I am here, my own search. I do not tell him that I cannot know this place without being on its waters. I do not tell him that I am here to find the real gospel. And how do I explain that I am here on this lake to find Jesus in my own waters back home? I can hardly explain it to myself.” ~ Leslie Leyland Fields, fisherwoman, author, writer and mentor from her book Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas.

Lesley Leyland Fields hiked around and sailed upon the Sea of Galilee a few years ago in a quest to know more deeply what it means when Jesus calls us to “Come, follow me.” In her new book “Crossing the Waters”, Leslie carries her readers through her exploration of waters, deep and wide, both on the shores Jesus walked and on the other side of the world in the Gulf of Alaska.

Leslie, her husband and their six children run a commercial fishing operation from their own island off the coast of Kodiak Island in Alaska. She has been a fisherwoman for nearly 40 years. This is her 10th book.

I could heartily recommend “Crossing the Waters” based solely on my reading of it. Written in Leslie’s vivid narrative style, this study of the gospels is filled with Biblical truths, beautiful stories and profound insights. I have enjoyed other titles by this talented, prolific author and I trust her to move and inspire me as a writer, a mother, a woman, a daughter, and a follower of Christ (read about her other books here).

But on a personal level, I urge you to pick up Leslie’s latest book because I recently enjoyed exploring Alaska. And because I know Leslie as a mentor and friend.

leslie

Nearly a year ago, I spent a week learning under Leslie’s tutelage, along with a dozen other writers, on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Each day, we gathered before a stone fireplace in the knotty pine living room of a lakefront cottage. Leslie shared writing tips, prompts and wisdom. She also critiqued our submitted work and made suggestions for ways we could better tell our stories. I came away from the workshop challenged and changed, both as a writer and as a woman.

While Leslie generously gave us her undivided attention during those writing sessions, she also spent every available spare minute throughout our week at the lake making final edits to this book. In fact, our little writing group gave her some encouragement as she faced an important change in her project, resulting in a mention in the acknowledgements.

“Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas” carries us back and forth across 2000 years, from the seaside of our Savior to the churning shore of Alaska’s gulf coast. At the same time, it plunges us deep into scripture as we examine for ourselves what it means to walk in the footsteps of the early disciples. Whether from the deck of a salmon fishing skiff or the bow of an early sailing boat, we are led to go deeper into our faith.

Share this book with a small group or a Sunday school class by accessing the discussion questions provided for each chapter.

I am giving away a copy of Leslie’s book to one lucky reader who leaves a comment here between now and midnight Friday. Don’t miss the chance to read Leslie’s latest work, which currently has a five-star review on Amazon! Jump below my photos from our recent trip to Alaska to comment.

A glacier off the southern coast of Alaska

A glacier off the southern coast of Alaska

Seals warming themselves on rocks in the fjords

Seals warming themselves on rocks in the fjords

A misty morning view in southern Alaska

A misty morning view in southern Alaska

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Denali

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A beautiful valley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kindred Soul Can Span the Decades: Emma Smith

kindred :  having the same belief, attitude, or feeling, associated by origin, nature, qualities, etc.

Stumbling upon a “kindred spirit” is a special kind of surprise. It was that way for me recently when I discovered the British author Emma Smith. Emma’s words, in my header above, showed up as I was doing research for a writing project. They resonated so deeply with me that I had to know more about her.

Emma Smith photographed unawares on the banks of the Seine, 1948. Photograph: Robert Doisneau/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Emma Smith photographed unawares on the banks of the Seine, 1948. Photograph: Robert Doisneau/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Emma, 93, lives in southwest London. She published her two-part memoir “The Great Western Beach” and “As Green As Grass” in 2008 and 2013 respectively — at ages 85 and 90. They cover her life up to 1951, ending at the time of her marriage at age 28. By that time, Emma had published two well-received novels in 1948 and 1949, “Maidens Trip” and “The Far Cry”, both set in Britain during WW II.

When she married, Emma stopped writing for a time, focusing on her family. She returned to writing out of necessity when her husband’s sudden death after just six years of marriage left her as the sole provider for her two children.

Prior to marriage, Emma (whose real name is Elspeth Hallsmith) was an adventurer. She traveled to India to help shoot a documentary and worked as crew for canal boats that carried heavy cargoes between London and the industrial Midlands of England during WW II, both experiences providing backdrops for her novels.

Once she was married, Emma left travel and writing behind. After her husband’s death, she moved her little family to Wales and devoted the next 20 years to raising her children. During that time, she authored a couple of children’s books, but they never achieved the attention garnered by her novels.

With resurgent interest in and the reprinting of her two novels, Emma has experienced a sort of “renaissance” in her later years. That’s where I find her now, and where I expect to dive into her memoirs and her novels.

The kindredness? This:

“I loved being a mother and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I would swap all my books for my children.” ~ Emma Smith

In like spirit, I can say I willingly swap all the books I have not yet written for the privilege of raising my four children. But unearthing a treasure like Emma Smith gives me hope that I still have a good 20 years to write a first book. To quote Emma:

water-5“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”

 

A Book Review and Giveaway: Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All

Great friendships are a two-way street. Both of you gain and both have something to offer the other.IMG_1886edcr Brenda round

My friend Brenda Yoder is young enough to be my daughter (okay, let’s say my younger sister), but she has taught me so many things about Godly womanhood and inspired parenting, in the same way that I’ve shared some of my life experiences with her.

Brenda ministers to women all over the country both in person through workshops and on the internet through her own blog and as a columnist for others. Because so many women asked, Brenda has responded with a book that captures her talks about parenting. “Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All” is a well-written, practical and encouraging book with counsel that is wrapped around scriptural principles. Brenda’s enthusiasm for the role of parent makes this book easy to read and apply in real life.

I’ve asked Brenda to share her qualifications and to answer a few questions about her new book. And the good news is, I’m giving away a copy of the book to someone who comments, likes or shares this post with friends. If you do any or all of the above, let me know in a message on my Facebook page (Ingrid’s Journey) and I’ll put your name in the drawing.

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So, who’s Brenda L. Yoder, LMHC? She’s an author, speaker, educator and counselor. Her books, Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All and Who Do You Say I Am released in 2015. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, can be found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life, and parenting beyond the storybook image. Brendas also a parenting columnist for 10 To 20 Parenting, Choose Now Ministries, and Whatever Girls, She has a mental health column in her local paper, and has been featured in Chicken Soup For The Soul:Reboot Your Life. She was twice awarded the Touchstone Award for teachers.  When Brendas not writing, working, or speaking, shes a wife and mom to four children, ages teen to young adult. You can connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Periscope (@BeyondPicketFenc) and Twitter.

Now, a few words from Brenda:

1. What led you to write a book about busyness and how did you set aside time in your busy schedule?

I do a retreat on the same subject. Each time after I’ve done the retreat, women have asked for a resource or book they could take home to go over the material or that they could share with a friend or daughter. One woman emailed me literally asking, “Where’s the book?” I originally wrote the book in ebook form, then pitched the idea to an editor who was interested in publishing the book. It needed to be doubled, so I began revamping it. I’ve written a free complementary book, “10 Ways Busy Moms Find Rest” that women can subscribe to at my website.
Taking the time to do it challenged me. Reaching the 35,000 word count took time and commitment. I set aside my fall vacation from my school job for 5 days and turned a room of our house into a “writing cabin” and told my husband and family I was “going away” to work on it, but stayed at home. Other than doing laundry, I didn’t cook or answer to anyone during those days, or go anywhere. I’ve learned as a writer it’s important to have uninterrupted, extended time to work on material, especially under a deadline.
2. What one piece of wisdom do you feel is most important for women to take away from the book?
Find what works for you, then do it.This was something other women also said who read the book and discussed it. Each woman and family is different, so finding what works for balance has to be individual. The key, however, is doing it. It takes commitment. Too many women give up good ideas for balancing life and don’t stick to what’s healthiest and best. I’m passionate about individuals making life work for them. No one else will do it for you.
3. What has been your greatest personal struggle in achieving balance in your life?
Making hard choices and giving up things I love, like teaching, and having to constantly reassess personal and family needs. Part of this is walking in faith when hard choices, like changing careers or decreasing paid work hours, are what’s best for the parenting season.
4. What one principle has been most beneficial for you and for your family?
Corporate family time around God’s word. This has less to do with the tangible principles of balance, but has more to do with spiritual balance, which drives everything–priorities, family relationships, and expectations. I share about this principle in the book. We call it family worship time and we’ve been doing it for several years now. We gather as a family on Sunday evenings for a few minutes before our week starts. We pray with and for each other, share what we’ve been learning about God or where we’ve seen Him in our life. It’s been an important time in our family.
5. Share a couple of the responses you’ve received from those attending your workshops or reading the book.
One woman said every mom needs this book, and another mom who attended the retreat said it freed her from thinking she had to do it all. Women are so bound by what we think we have to do, and women have said the material isn’t another “how to” book which makes moms feel guilty.
6. Is there another book you would like to write?
I’m currently working on two book proposals which also are the content from material I teach and speak on which get powerful feedback. One is a bible study on “Messed Up Moms of the Bible” and the other one is a teen Christian living book from the Blurred Lines seminar for teens. There is potential interest in both of them from an editor, so I’m simultaneously working on both. I’m not sure if that’s the way to do it, but I can’t place one in importance over the other right now. I’m planning busyness if one is called up to be looked at!

When All You Can Do Is ‘Do the Next Thing’

Do the next thing

When I learned earlier this week of the passing of author Elisabeth Ellliot, a warm rush of gratitude washed over me — gratitude for what her life had taught me and for the joy she must be feeling now that she is reunited with those she loves and is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Last fall, I wrote a piece about Elliot as part of the challenge to write for 31 days. Here is that essay ~

In the days when my life was filled with diapers, alphabet cards, math books, stinky boys’ gym socks and  the never-ending question “what will I make for dinner?”. . . .

When it felt like I’d never see the laundry room floor, never get to read that book waiting on the shelf or find a moment to paint my nails and talk on the phone with a friend. . . .

In those halcyon days of young motherhood, these words dropped into my lap:

“Do the next thing.”

For a long time, I thought they were first said by a favorite author, Elisabeth Elliot.

Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth’s biography of Amy Carmichael “A Chance to Die” was pivotal in my growth as a woman of God. Her personal account of her marriage to her first husband, Jim, and his death on the mission field was one of those books I longed for time to read during busy mothering days.

In researching Elisabeth for an essay awhile back, I learned that the words she often quoted came from a poem whose author is unknown. Those four words carried me through many a long day, and they still come to mind when I’m overwhelmed with too much to do, or when I am downtrodden and just do not know what to do. At those times, I still tell myself:

“Do the next thing.”

My research on Elisabeth turned up a treasure which I want to share with you here along with the words of that life-altering poem. Twenty years ago, in 1994, Elisabeth included the poem in her ministry’s newsletter. That newsletter is available for download and it includes more of this fine woman’s teaching. (You can find it here.) Elisabeth is 87 and she and her husband, Lars, no longer travel and teach, but at her Web site are links to her devotionals and radio broadcasts.

And here is that lovely poem:

Do The Next Thing

From an old English parsonage, down by the sea,

There came in the twilight, a message to me;

Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,

Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.

And on through the hours the quiet words ring

Like a low inspiration — DO THE NEXT THING

Many a questioning, many a fear, many a doubt, hath its quieting here.

Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,

Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.

Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,

Trust them with Jesus — DO THE NEXT THING

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;

Do it reliantly, casting all care; do it with reverence,

Tracing His Hand, who placed it before thee with

Earnest command. stayed on Omnipotence,

Safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings,

DO THE NEXT THING

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,

(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,

In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,

The light of His countenance be thy psalm.

Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,

Then, as He beckons thee — DO THE NEXT THING

How I Found My Tribe and a Book Give-away

Nobody operates in a vacuum. Whatever you do in life, you probably have fellow travelers who share your passion — whether it’s cooking, parenting, building houses or writing. I have friends and acquaintances in all walks of life, but fellow writers are my “people”. I’m writing today for the blog at Breathe Christian Writers’ Conference about how to find and nurture your “tribe”. Join me there and check out the other awesome blog posts.

Back in the days when I was a news reporter sitting in a little cubicle writing feature stories and obituaries, I was energized by the buzz of conversation and activity swirling around the newsroom. Whenever I needed encouragement or information, I’d stop by a fellow reporter’s desk for a chat and come away refreshed and ready to get back to the task at hand. Fellow journalists were my first writers’ group. (Read more)

And here’s something special for you — a beautiful new book.photo (3)

What are you reading during this most Holy of weeks leading up to Easter? I’ve been in the Gospels, considering each of the accounts of the Passion of Christ during Lent, but this week I’m seeing the life of Christ through the eyes of five women in scripture.

In “The Day I Met Jesus”, encounters with Christ are written as diaries of the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute, the Samaritan woman, the woman with a flow of blood and the woman Jesus loved.

Mary DeMuth has beautifully recreated the stories told in the gospels with words that might have been hidden in the hearts of these women. Co-author Frank Viola adds a scripture-based commentary on each of the diaries.

Reading these poignant stories as I prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection has personalized for me the Savior’s impact on people who knew Him when He walked the earth.

I am making a copy of “The Day I Met Jesus” available to someone who reads the full blog post at Breathe and returns here with a comment. I’m trusting you!

Harper Lee’s ‘New’ Book Tells the Rest of the Story

I remember vividly the time I first read “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I was a high-school freshman and was assigned to read it for English. I finished the book then turned around and read it again.

A recently discovered novel by Harper Lee, author of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, will be released in July. “Go Set A Watchman” was penned 60 years ago, before Lee’s iconic novel, and reads like a sequel to what has become one of my favorite stories.

According to an interview with Miss Lee published on www.bbc.com, “Watchman” was originally turned down by publishers, who suggested the author instead draw from Scout’s memories of growing up in the south to create a very different book, “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

For those who may not have read “To Kill A Mockingbird” (gasp), it is set during the Depression and depicts racial prejudice from a child’s point of view. In “Watchman”, Scout has returned to Maycomb, Alabama from New York to visit her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch. Once there, “she is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

The publisher, Harper Collins, plans an initial printing of 2 million copies of “Go Set A Watchman”.

I believe strongly in the power of story to impact our worldview. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has done that for me, both when I read it as a 14-year-old (twice) and again as an adult. While I loved stepping back into this tumultuous time in the segregated South, I was more moved by the relationships in the story — between Scout and her brother, with their neighbor Dill, with their father and his with the black man accused of rape (Tom Robinson).

In his outstanding book “Tell Me a Story”, author Daniel Taylor says this:

“Stories encourage in the listener an attitude of belief. We are perfectly happy for an ox to be blue, for a straw to be spun into gold, for one warrior to defeat a dozen (smiling to boot), for the sun to stop or turn to blood, for wise gnomes in other galaxies to have Einstein’s eyes and great wisdom. But these are mere details of plot. More importantly, we are, when under the spell of some stories, willing to believe that good is more powerful than evil, that death is preferable to dishonor, that perseverance pays, that truth is more than a word and justice more than a definition of the powerful, that love exists — if only in the cracks. And if we believe all this, and much more, while the story is being told, we do not abandon that belief entirely when we return to our own personal stories.”

Taylor captures precisely why it’s important to share stories, and why fiction can be a valuable way to say what we can’t about our own prejudices, fears, expectations,  experiences. Whether written as fact or fiction, well-told stories have the power to pull the reader into themselves to examine their own motives, emotions and mindset.

And in writing, the author does the same — even writers of fiction. No writer can deny that some small (or large) part of their own lives has seeped into the tales they share with the world. It’s been presumed that Harper Lee is Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

When asked years ago why she had never attempted to publish another book, the reclusive author told a friend:

“I did not need to write another book.

I said what I wanted to say in that book.”

Harper Lee’s “new” book actually completes the story she set out tell some 60 years ago. It turns out she had more to say, but she had already said it. And now we will know “the rest of the story.”

(Atticus’ quote image source: quotzee.blogspot.com)