Will God provide? Can He?

April 26th, 2013

Waiting for God to provide for me when I need help is something I’m not very good at. My husband would tell you I’m terrible at it, and he’s right.

Here’s a book bubble from Beyond the Rapids. In this excerpt, Yakov and his family learn that God can and will provide, just when they need him to.

Ever Meet a Witchdoctor?

March 7th, 2013

Check out Igor’s story of his meeting with a witchdoctor.

Unfinished Business: The Story of my Life

February 14th, 2013

Left Behind BoxGetting things done. It’s been my obsession the last six months or so. We weren’t planning on moving, so when a great career opportunity came my husband’s way, ready to move we were not.

Once the deal was made, he was gone in two weeks. I remained behind in St. Louis to get the house ready to sell. The problem was we had multiple repair and renovation projects underway. They all needed to be completed before we could even put the house on the market.

So began the parade of contractors and handymen and repairmen. In between I was painting and cleaning and trying to get rid of junk. I started a spreadsheet listing all the projects, scheduled completion dates, and how much it cost. I gave up when I had 92 items on the list.

No matter how I tried, I couldn’t keep up with the pressure to hurry up, get it all done. Worst was thinking something was done, and it wasn’t. Always something. I broke a guide off a sliding door while I was painting. The real estate agent, thinking a light switch turned instead of slid up and down, broke it off. More stuff to be fixed. Contractors painted walls of a closet. Then I found my husband wanted the ceiling painted as well.

Anxiety fueled my frenzy to finish tasks, driving me to hurry. Frustration reigned as the universe seemed to conspire to get in my way, to cause delays, to make what should be simple tasks complicated. I felt like a time bomb, ready to explode the second my schedule was disrupted.

Some relief came when I finally moved to Wisconsin. I worked hard for a few weeks to get everything unpacked and some order back in my life. Oh happy day when the movers came back to pick up the empty boxes.

Then I saw it. A forgotten moving box, full of paper, still in the dining room. Could I never get it right? Am I just incapable of finishing anything? Why can’t I get anything done?

In looking back, it didn’t have to be that hard. Over the next few weeks, God showed me that:

Things don’t get done because I rush and don’t check

This I can control. I can be more patient, take my time and check that everything is done correctly without causing problems that require more work.

Things don’t get done because I expect to get too many done

When under pressure, the daily to do list gets longer and longer. When I set myself realistic goals for the day and kept at them, I had a greater sense of accomplishment and wasn’t racing to finish too many things at once.

Things don’t get done because I don’t ask for help

Just as Moses learned the importance of delegation, so I learned to ask for help. My sweet husband did all he could to help me from afar. Many friends and neighbors were more than happy to lend a hand, once they knew just what they could do. I didn’t have to wear myself out, trying to go it alone.

Things don’t get done because other things come up

Anyone who’s done home repair knows that you start fixing one thing, you see something else that needs to be done. The key is to not let the new projects become the priority, but to work them in logically so that everything can get done efficiently. Sometimes the other things in life that come up are divine appointments. His agenda is not always mine, and I need to be open to a little flexibility.

And what about all the anxiety, frustration and even rage I was feeling?

His grace is sufficient

My worth in God’s eyes does not depend on my ability to complete multiple home repair tasks in an incredibly short period of time. My worth depends on the grace He extends to me, through His Son, Jesus Christ. If I’ve made a good effort but don’t finish everything on my list, God’s love for me is unchanged.

And grace abounds. When my husband saw how discouraged I was over the left-behind box, he got rid of it for me. Task completed.

So I tell myself to take heart! Jesus finished His work on the cross, and He will finish the work He has begun in me, eternal work that is more important than any list of mine.

Not the Life of a Fish for Us

February 6th, 2013

Ever wonder how to handle problems that seem overwhelming and never-ending? Here’s some help and encouragement from Beyond the Rapids.

A Story that Had to Be Told

October 30th, 2012

Enjoy this book bubble A Story that just Had to be Told with an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Beyond the Rapids and my insight and comments.

Relevant Lesson from Beyond the Rapids

September 6th, 2012

What does a story about a family living in Soviet Ukraine have to do with western believers in the 21st century? Check out this video:

Fun Interview with Author Mary Findley

August 30th, 2012

Today I’m interviewing author Mary Findley, author of numerous historical romances and other books. I’ve read a few of her books with great enjoyment, and wanted to take a chance to find out some of her thoughts on writing.

Mary, how did you get started writing?

I have always liked to draw, but I realized I was drawing characters in stories I wanted to write. I still design and illustrate and make covers for our books.

What is the most rewarding part of writing for you?

I gave a copy of Send a White Rose to a reader in Indonesia who wanted to buy it but had no idea how. She wrote a sweet review saying it was “the first Christian book she had ever been able to read.” Getting our works to people who need to read about Christ and the truth of His Word, especially those who might have trouble getting them, is the greatest reward.

What is one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in the process of writing and publishing your books?

From Hope and the Knight of the Black Lion, I learned that Robin Hood’s Lincoln Green was probably not green at all. Lincoln “Grayne” was a fine linen fabric made in Lincolnshire, England, and usually dyed red.

Tell us about one of your favorite characters from your own work.

Hamilton Jessup is the male protagonist of Chasing the Texas Wind. He’s a wounded war veteran who constantly questions whether what he does has real value. He lets pride get in the way of focusing on the truth and letting people learn the enormous importance of having him on their side.

Is there a message in your latest novel you want readers to understand?

The message of The Oregon Sentinel is that God doesn’t work the way you think He should or the way you want Him to. Hang on for a bumpy ride down the absolute best road you could possibly be on.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

Someone said recently that you should begin publicizing your work three years before you actually publish it. Building an online presence, a “fan base”, is so important if you want anyone to know you or your books exist. Other things that matter are making your work as polished and perfect as possible and writing more and more books so people have more to choose from and to look forward to reading.

What’s one book everyone should read?

The Bible, cover to cover, over and over. Even if you don’t know why those genealogies and lists are there, it has a cleansing and clarifying effect. You can’t understand anybody or anything in bits and pieces, and God is the absolute most important Person to understand.

You write in many genres. Is it difficult to switch from one to another?

My husband is the real catalyst for writing non-fiction, though I do the research and putting things together. We were both teachers and we homeschooled, so making study guides and curriculum was kind of natural. My first love is historical and literary fiction, and hubby is the Sci-Fi guy. I love Sci-Fi too, though it’s hard to find works that don’t make man a god. My work in progress will combine my love of literary characters and some sci-fi in the Steampunk genre, imagining what the Victorian Era would be like with steam and clockwork-powered technology.

I’m amazed at all the books you’ve written, and how you manage to be so active on social media promoting them. How do you juggle all that?

I drop a lot of balls. :-) Seriously, some of our books or the material for them have been around more than twenty years, so it was more a polishing and updating process. Social media has been very hard, but I have lots of fine author friends out there who give me great advice. My husband also has friends on sites where people care about America, truth, and the Word of God, and we even get rowdy with Atheists from time to time. I recently discovered I can combine postings through Amazon or Pinterest and get them onto Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes other social media, and boy, has that helped.

Where can readers learn more about your work?

Our blog is Elk Jerky for the Soul. It has samples, excerpts and links from many of the books.

What inspired you to start your blog Elk Jerky for the Soul?

This sounds pathetic, but someone said we needed a blog to get people interested in our books. Our blog has really taken on a life of its own, and covers lots of subjects, including exposing and trying to disestablish Secular Humanism as America’s established religion, the theme of Antidisestablishmentarianism. We also review books by author friends and help promote them with guest blogs.

Tell us about your latest book.

I just finished the third book in the historical adventure series Benny and the Bank Robber, set in roughly mid-1800′s America. Benny has gone from a boy of ten losing his father through a new marriage for his mother, dealing with a bully who tries to kill him, and in this book is traveling the Oregon Trail with his family while trying to understand why God puts us through so many dangers, temptations and tragedies. Find the kindle version of Benny and the Bank Robber 3: The Oregon Sentinel here.

And last, just for fun, what’s one food you would never eat?

Anything that’s alive. There are things I don’t want to eat, but if you kill it first, I’ll give it a shot.

Thank you, Mary, for this entertaining interview!

The Narnia Code Sheds Different Light on Old Favorites

August 22nd, 2012

Did CS Lewis have a grand plan in mind as he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia? Was there some underlying theme that guided him as he created characters, scenes and details? And why did he have Father Christmas appear in a world that would not know the nativity story?

Intriguing questions, all of them; some pondered by Lewis scholars, others by fans of the series. Michael Ward, in his book The Narnia Code: CS Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens, offers fascinating answers. Written as “the little brother” of Planet Narnia, Ward takes his doctoral dissertation and condenses it into a very readable and informative book.

Ward explains that Lewis, as a scholar of medieval literature, was well versed in classical mythology. Lewis loved the idea of the planets as influencers over men, each with its own character and images. Ward proposed that each of the Chronicles are inspired by one of the planets included in the ancient understanding of our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sun and the moon.

Chapter after chapter, Ward makes his case. It is a compelling one. The writer in me delights in learning that seemingly meaningless details, like the redness of a robin’s breast, ties into the symbolism of the planet inspiring that particular chronicle (in this case, red being the color associated with Jupiter.)

Some might think that use of classical mythology can hardly be fitting for a Christian author. Lewis takes the old myths and uses them for his own purpose. Each Chronicle either shows a different aspect or facet of God, or teaches a lesson about faith in Him.

As I see it, then, The Chronicles of Narnia are stories with at least three layers. The first, and uppermost, is of course the stories themselves, stories that tell of the adventures children from our world have in another one. The second layer is the obvious Biblical connection, with Aslan as a Jesus-like figure, for example. The third deeper layer of meaning is the connection with the classical symbols related to the planets, all pointing to God and our life of faith in Him.

As a reader who has long loved The Chronicles of Narnia, I was fascinated by The Narnia Code and read nearly all of it in one sitting. As a writer, I was stunned by the layers Lewis used to construct the Narnian world and the stories he told, all working in harmony with the myths and images from classical and medieval literature. Understanding the meaning behind some of Lewis’ images add even more to an already rich and enjoyable series.

Pastor in Jail in the US

July 25th, 2012

A recent news article reports that a Phoenix, Arizona pastor is in jail for holding Bible Studies on his own property. It seems that for seven years he has hosted Bible Studies on his more than 4 acre property, but now the city says he is in violation of some code. As a result, he is serving a 60 day jail sentence rather than give up his right to practice his religion.

When I was writing about Alexei Brynza, a pastor who endured persecution for his faith in the former Soviet Union, I never thought that anything resembling what he endured could happen in the United States. But here we, just like in the USSR, pastors unable to hold religious meetings in their homes.

And like in the USSR, the reasons for claiming the pastor was in violation of the law is not the practice of religion. Instead, some kind of safely concern is cited.

This is a troubling development. I’m reminded of the tactics of the Soviets, who used any means to discourage religious practice. Have we really come to this here? Are we really losing our religious freedom?

The Book that Made Your World

July 18th, 2012

Why did western civilization develop technology while others did not? Why was the west first to bring literacy to the masses? Why are most of the countries considered the least corrupt located in the west?

Good questions, all of them. Many have written on this topic, but few have covered it so thoroughly as Vishal Mangalwadi in The Book that Made Your World. Mangalwadi writes from the perspective of an easterner who had the opportunity to attend school because of the influence of western culture on his native India. Responding to criticism of the Bible as a negative cultural influence on India, he presents in detail the many ways the Bible shaped western civilization into what was an incredible force for lifting the masses out of poverty and ignorance, making a life other than the “nasty, short and brutish” one experienced by most possible.

Through his research, Mangalwadi discovered that “the Bible was the source of practically everything good in my hometown, even the secular university that undermined [it].”

For example, in most cultures, Mangalwadi explains, a hero was someone who had power, like a conquering king. The Bible teaches the story of the greatest hero, Jesus, who gave His life to rescue the weak. Under the influence of the Bible, the idea of a hero changed. In the Middle Ages heroes were knights who used their power to defend the powerless. Later that changed to the idea of someone who sacrifices himself for the good of others.

Likewise, the Bible teaches that the people need a “good shepherd,” someone who cares for the sheep and has their welfare in mind. From this we get the idea that leaders and those in government are public servants, and not in power for their own gain.

The Bible also affirms the dignity and worth of all humans. Early Bible translators saw the need for people to be able to read the Bible for themselves. This goal drove the translations of the Bible from Hebrew, Greek and Latin into German and English, as well as the movements for teaching the general population to read.

The work of Bible translators shaped modern English and German, as well as modern Hindi and Urdu, to name a few. Missionaries in India were behind the push to educate the country’s population. Why didn’t the Hindu or Buddhist leaders establish centers of learning? Because their religions taught them to empty their minds, to seek enlightenment through lying on nails or meditation. To them, the material world was merely an illusion. In contrast, the Bible teaches that the universe is orderly and knowledge of this world is valuable.

Whether discussing music or science, literature or morality, medical care or wealth, Mangalwadi makes the case that the Bible and its influence on western thought are what made western civilization great, and the best hope for stability and prosperity. Throughout the 400+ pages of the book he repeatedly makes the point that those who live in other cultures are equally as intelligent and creative as those in the west; eastern cultures simply did not foster or even permit the development seen in the west.

The Book that Made Your World is a fascinating look at western culture through the eyes of an easterner. It gave me a greater appreciation not only of what make western culture unique, but also of the source and inspiration for the qualities that made it so. Anyone interested in understanding western culture and why it developed as it did or any lover of history will be sure to enjoy this book.

As Mangalwadi points out, it is troubling to realize how dramatically our culture is turning from and even denying its foundation: the Bible. If we reject the Bible, will the western world remain strong, prosperous and free?

In an era when Bibles are banned or burned, when academics and educators dismiss the Bible’s teachings as myths or outdated standards, when Christians are facing greater persecution worldwide than ever before, we would be wise to ask another question: what do we need to do to retain the values that made us great?