Thursday, August 8, 2019


Scriptures: Matthew 5:4, Psalm 147:3, Psalm 30:11-12, and Judges 19:25-30.
Saturday I turned on the television and learned of the massacre in El Paso. Later I read of the massacre in Dayton. They are compound fractures of a nation and a world where evil has again triumphed. As I watched coverage of the El Paso incident, the wretchedness of the human condition unfolded along with the consequences of that wretchedness. The faces of government representatives and service men and women showed their confusion pain and vulnerability. It scared me. I ached for a city where I once lived. I heard a clear call to prayer to all Christians to reach out, to speak up, to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

Psalm 147:3 reminds us that God heals the brokenhearted, that He binds up their wounds. Still these are such deep wounds. They are lethal and without comfort. Where do we turn in the face of such carnage? We are helpless and for a moment hopeless.

Jesus tells us that the mourner will be comforted in Matthew 5:4. The Scriptures speak often of mourning. Psalm 30:11-12 says
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

I wonder what Scripture means by the mourner. Is it simply someone who grieves a terrible lose? Maybe Scripture speaks of the abandonment of God by a whole people. I think that both of those things can be applied to mourning.
We are the mourners this week. We will be comforted. It is hard to believe with wounds so fresh, but I will put my trust in the Lord.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a local writing seminar. It is a labor of love from one of my friends. She sets out a beautiful three-day study. We read in preparation for the seminar. We read short stories and a novel, some poetry and some essays or short works on craft and style.

This year we read Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut. That book has plenty to grieve about. Those of you who have read it will know that it is a parable within a larger autobiographical tale about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. It is a scalding book, which unfortunately speaks urgently of the nature of man and man’s sin. Vonnegut speaks of a people gone astray. It is not for delicate ears or even for a Sunday morning in the house of the Lord. I did not like the book much. It affronts me.

But the carnage Saturday affronts me. Much of Scripture affronts me. The final chapter of Judges surely affronts most reader. We end in tears and confusion when we read of the concubines body's final disposition.

But in the final verse we read God’s advice in an instance of appalling evil. Just imagine, the final verse says. Think about the incident. I hated learning of the massacres. I hated the news unfolding, thinking of lives snuffed out in an instant I hated thinking of the families forever wounded and in pieces. I didn't want to think of the mind that could conjure such horror and then exact it. But God tells us not to gloss over sin. He tells us not to ignore pain and suffering and the consequences of that sin. We should consider abominations in the light of day, with the aide of Scripture and with prayer. But we cannot shy away from the sinful nature of man and the urgent need of the Gospel.

The second thing this passage tells us is to act. We walk through this world as God’s children. We are not at liberty to forget our redemption. We are not at liberty to forget our sin. We should keep to prayer. We should endeavor to be in right relationship to God. We should examine ourselves and turn ourselves over to God.

The third thing Scripture says Judges 19:30 is, "speak up." This is not the place to point self-righteous fingers, but to cry out against sin. To weep, to mourn at the fact of it at it’s destruction at its horror. We cannot shrink from the world as David notes in Psalm 55:6-8 when he finds himself wishing for a vacation from this worldly world.

David tells us later in Psalm 55 that God is the judge and arbiter. He reminds us that this is not our home. Our home is with our Maker, the King of Heaven and earth, the Everlasting, Unchanging Merciful God and our Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Thank you for reading. Blessings and comfort now and for the weeks to come.
also posted at Jumping into the Deep

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Enchanted April, Book Review

The Enchanted April
For our Library Book Club we read Then Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim.
Published in 1922, this novel continues to delight readers to this day.
I took to the book in the early pages when nervous submissive Mrs. Wilkins latches onto the idea of a holiday in Italy. The villa was advertised in the Times to those who like Wisteria and sunshine. Lotty Wilkins wasn't rich but she liked Wisteria and sunshine. She reasons that April in Italy might be possible. Then she tenaciously makes plans despite herself and her anxieties.
Lotty knows of Mrs. Arbuthnot but doesn't actually know her, yet Lotty sees her reading the same advertisement. Wondering and worried and not believing herself Lotty entreats Mrs. Arbuthnot to join her and at least inquire. It is the beginning of a journey and a mild but life changing adventure.
Eventually four women travel to Italy. Lotty is first freed of her nervousness and insecurities. Her newly sweet and true nature eventually works on the other three women who shed churlish affectations and begin to examine their lives in the beauty of a perfect April in San Salvatore.
In short chapters and different points of view the reader glimpses the human frailties and longings of each character. As I read I was slowly affected by San Salvatore also. It's gently nature, sweet perfume, and remarkable scenery, worked some small magic even in me and my petty frailties.
I understand the movie is delightful. I will watch it this week and post a companion review.
Read this book for it's gentle nudge at living a better calmer life.
Thank you for reading. Bev
Also posted at Quarter Bubble Short of Plumb

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Poor in Spirit, Devotion II

Happy Flowers
Matthew 5:3
Psalm 32:3-5
1 John 1

I talked in an earlier blog about the meaning of being poor in spirit. The first beatitude says blessed (or happy) is the man who is poor in spirit for his is the kingdom of Heaven. Being poor in spirit is letting go of our own wills and being poor in them in order to be filled with God's will and with the Holy Spirit. It is surrender, putting God first.

Several years ago the Session of our church was examining a new group of youth seeking confirmation and membership in our church. During the examination a knowledgeable and serious Elder asked one applicant to describe Communion and what it meant. The young man was nervous and shy. He seldom spoke and took a minute to prepare his answer. Finally the young man leaned forward. He put his arms on his already long legs and let his hands hang over his knees. Without looking up, he said, "Well, you are what you eat." Most of us began to giggle then chuckle and then belly laugh.

The young man's allegory will break apart upon closer scrutiny, but it has been useful to me as a way of understanding the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. While the spirit is not a physical thing, the act of filling yourself, even consuming is intentional. For me the idea of you are what you eat simplifies my focus. I'm not wandering around wishing for the Holy Spirit, but I am, instead an active participant. I consume food, television, games, diversions and entertainment. I say and pray that I hunger and thirst for the Word and nurture myself with Scripture. But if there is something occupying my belly, so to speak, I cannot take in the Word. I don't even hunger or thirst for the Word. Instead, I am full with diversions or distractions or sin.

The concept of a full belly gives me a notion of a full spirit, a spirit that won't move over or submit or surrender, not someone poor in spirit. Diversion and distraction may take over. Sin of course, fills the belly and pushes out the Holy Spirit.

In a sense we must expel our will to make room for the Holy Spirit, so that He fills us. And when it comes right down to it we don't do the expelling, God does.

One of the things we do before taking communion is confess our sins. It strikes me that one of the ways the Holy Spirit acts on us is to show us our sins that we may confess them. Our passage today from Psalm 32 speaks of groaning under sin; that God's hand was heavy on David when he wrote the Psalm. When I am struggling and willful, I too groan. Every act seems tortured when I walk in my own will and ignore the Holy Spirit.
In the early days of the church, Christians were followers of the Way. Jesus tells us, He is the Way the Truth and the Life, in John 14 then tells us later in John 14 that He is sending the Holy Spirit that He can be with us always, not as one man but the Holy Spirit in all believers.
Our passage from 1 John tells of having fellowship with Jesus and God through Holy Spirit, the triune God. First John tells us that if we confess our sins, that God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us that we may walk in the light.
I pray that you are full in the Holy Spirit, and empty in your own spirit. I pray you are full in the Word and delight in the Way. I pray that you are happy and that your is the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Thank you for reading.
Published also on Jumping into the Deep

Friday, May 10, 2019

Jumping into Scripture, Matthew 5:3

Youth group painting Hagerman Presbyterian
Listen to Him
Matthew 5:3
Luke 6:20
Psalm 32:1-2

Recently I was in a the Bible study Discerning the Voice of God, by Priscilla Shirer. Speaking on listening to God, Shirer quotes Matthew 17:5. God says, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him." Immediately, I thought of this study. Not only does Jesus tell us how to listen to him, but God tells us to listen to Jesus. Shirer asks in this study if we can imagine a Savior who would would give His life so that we may know Him, so that we may be saved and so that we may have a relationship with Him and then this Savior wouldn't speak to us though He loved us so?
It seemed far-fetched even to me. Of course our Savior would speak to us. We have the gift of His words throughout Scripture. We have the gift of the Sermon on the Mount.
When I read the Sermon on the Mount, I have have plenty of questions, things like I'm wholly insufficient to the task. How can I, sinful woman, effect any of these in order to be blessed. But Jesus tells us how. He tells us in the first beatitude. Blessed are the poor in spirit for their's is the Kingdom of heaven.
Being an engineer, the first thing I do is break it down. How does the Kingdom of Heaven become mine? Oh, I see, it's a trick. I must be poor in spirit. I turn to Luke 6: 20 and it says poor not poor in spirit. In Matthew 19 and Luke 18, Jesus tells the young ruler, a rich man, that to be perfect he must give away all that he owns and follow Jesus. Oh no, I'm in trouble. I'm not likely to lead the ascetic life. Already I am crushed. But surely God and Jesus don't want me crushed before I even begin, and i know the passage after the rich young ruler turns from Jesus. Jesus assures us that all things are possible for those who believe.
Re-examining the first beatitude I wonder if Jesus telling us a way to understand Him, a way to receive this blessing. He is telling us to surrender our spirit to God. With God, all things are possible. All of these blessings in the beatitudes, they are available to those who surrender and let the holy spirit take over our human spirit. He is saying, do not worry, I will guide you. You are loved and nurtured in My Way, My Words and ultimately My Sacrifice. He tells us right off the bat, surrender to God. Surrender that troublesome spirit of self help. Consider yourself no longer full of your own will and way and even words so that God can move in and work in you, so that you can listen to Me.
Easter Morning 2019
This Easter Sunday, our local churches again met at the lake for sunrise services. We were too tired and too chilly to be much of our own self-help scions. We were there for, well, coffee if I must be honest, but more, we were there for Jesus. We were there to know that He had risen, that He is with us, that because of His work on the cross, we may now know Him through the Holy Spirit. We may listen to our Savior as God instructs. We get to have a two way relationship with the King of Kings. Seriously!
When I strip away my own will I pray God enters in by means of the Holy Spirit. I can pray, Thy will, not my will Father. I don't always pray this. Often I pray something like: "It'd be really cool if this was okay with You and You would help me God." For these willful prayers, God usually remains silent. That's not to say He doesn't answer, He just doesn't answer the way I wanted. It's kind of like my mom when I asked if I could go do something dangerous or harmful. Early in life, she would tell me, "You already know my answer." Later she shook her head a pursed her lips. 
Our Psalm for today speaks of a spirit without deceit. How happy, how blessed is the man in whose spirit there is no treachery For me that would be an exchanged spirit, once mine, now God's.
May Heaven be yours.
May your spirit yield so that God enters in.
May you glorify God in all that you do. Amen
Thanks for reading.
Published also on Jumping into the Deep

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Ollie McNeil Circle Devotion May 2019

John 14:1, 26-28

Twice in John 14 Jesus tells His disciples, “let not your hearts be troubled.” He also tells them that He is leaving to be with His Father. His disciples are understandably confused – ‘You’re leaving, and we shouldn’t be worried?Our hearts are troubled. Where do we go from here? How do we proceed without our Lord?’

I’m a worrier. I've been a worrier for a long time. When my son was young, he liked to walk in the orchards and look for dandelions. We had a big dog, a Neapolitan Mastiff, (think Fang from the Harry Potter movies.) The dog wasn’t a sheep dog, but he was a working dog, part protector and part pack animal.

Usually my son and I would venture into the dappled light before the sun became strong. We would search the grounds and the heavens for whatever we might find, a rock or birds’ nest, a butterfly or raccoon paw print. To a three-year-old anything is cause for adventure. Sometimes we made up stories about what we found, sometimes we just let the wonder of God seep into our faces.

One day, I was busy. We had built a dog fence, but the dogs had burrowed under it and I was filling holes. My son was near me, I thought, but when I looked up, he wasn’t there. I called. No answer. My heart raced. I looked to the road, where the traffic of trucks and semis seemed too fast and too near and too constant.

I called again. Then I looked for the dog thinking to enlist his help, but he wasn’t anywhere to be found.

I whistled and heard a barking answer.

In the very middle of the orchard, my son and the dog (half a head taller than my son) walked with my son’s hand on the dog's back.

When I finally rounded them up, my son said, “You didn’t need to worry, 
Momma. We didn’t go near the road and Taz was with me.” He smiled and took my hand.

For a while that day my heart was troubled. It could have been so much worse as many of my friends here know. Evenso, I have learned that not only our great mastiff of a dog was with my son, but God was and is with us. Jesus died that we may always be with Him through the Holy Spirit. He told us not to be troubled, He is with us always.

When I read these passages from John 14, I am renewed. I am reminded that this world is not my home and that I trust God so much more than the traffic on the highway. I know that bad things happen in this world and I dread times of sorrow, but God is with me even then. The Holy Spirit is my comforter and I may find peace in Him even in this ragged world.

May your spring be bright with adventure. May your hearts be light with love, and may the peace of the Holy Spirit dwell deeply within you. Amen.

Thanks for reading, Bev

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Book Review Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens' debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of my favorite reads for 2018.
It is a romance, a family saga, a coming of age story, and a murder mystery rolled into one, often poetic, book. Owens writes from a remarkable understanding of nature. A quote from her website reads, "When you can feel the planet beneath your toes and trees moving about, you must listen with all your ears and,--I promise--you will hear the crawdads sing. In fact, it will be a chorus."
This tells me much about the author and her debut novel. Owens spent over two decades studying wildlife in remote regions of Africa. As a result of this research, she makes the case that mammals in strongly bonded groups form those groups of exclusively females. In Where the Crawdads Sing, Kya is a female without a group and desperately wants one. Owens subtly makes the point that female bonding is in our DNA. Kya's mother is the North Carolina marsh and her teachers are the animals that populate the marsh. She is abandoned by her biological mother, siblings and eventually her father. Kya scrapes out a living and a huge education on the water's edge, befriending rare and wonderful characters like Jumpin, the general store and gas station owner, and Tate, the young man and friend of Kys's brother that teaches Kya to read. These people help her in her greatest times of trouble. Throughout the book, the characters are well-drawn and there are good and bad folk in equal measure. The marsh too, becomes a character as well as the town of Barkley Cove. 
I read one review of this book that said the reader did not find Kya's life believable and thus could never engage with the main character. I laughed with the reviewer because I too wondered at a young woman so isolated and yet able to make her way on tired grits and very little else. For me, this wasn't a problem, but a wonder.
If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it. I read it then re-read it because I hated to finish it.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for reading books. Bev

published also at

Friday, April 5, 2019

Chewy has been Sold

Well, I have a gentleman's agreement on the sale of Chewy and I trust the buyer to tell me if he changes his mind. 
My husband and I may have named the truck Chewy because the old Studebaker sounded like Chewbacca when he headed down the road. I wish I could remember for certain. There are so many things I can no longer remember. Never-mind all of that. Chewy is going to a new home. Chewy will be with a family that likes old things and enjoys restoring them. The home even has young'uns interested in old things.
Lonny bought the truck for me when I started a novel that featured a '49 Studebaker truck. When Lonny brought it home and I drove it to Mom and Dad's for the first time, my father put his hands in his pockets and frowned. He shook his head and said, "Studebaker was very good at making wagons. They weren't very good at much else."
I worried some about what my father thought. I respected him, but pretended I hadn't heard. I liked Chewy for his blue paint and round top. I liked him because my husband bought him for me to encourage my writing. It was Lonny's way of saying, "I support you. I may not read what you write, but I'm proud of you."
We used to have fly-ins. My husband and I built an ultralight (which is a story for another time.) We would host other ultralight owners for a few days of games and feasting. 
 I had driven the Studebaker to work the day of one of these fly-ins. I came home just as the planes started arriving.
Lonny waved as I drove up and parked. His grin was broad, as if it wanted to jump off his face and give me a hug. I heard him telling one of the pilots about the truck.
Later he told me how much he enjoyed seeing me drive around in Chewy, how proud he was and how much delight he knew I took in driving the old blue Studebaker.
I remember that day now and wonder at how people can take joy in another's pleasure. It touches me to know that Lonny and I truly delighted in each other's happiness. It touches me that I tried to forget my father's comments. I am glad that I relaxed and drove the old truck even when my father shook his head and complained.
But Chewy is gone now. It is bittersweet. I knew I would never get him running again and I hope his new owner will. I took down the new owner's number. Maybe I'll stay in touch. Maybe I could drive Chewy one more time. Probably not, but life has some strange twists.
Thank you for reading. Bev

Monday, March 25, 2019

Lesson Six, Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Hagerman Bible Study Notes
18 March 2019
Matthew 7:1-14
Proverbs 8
Mark 4

Our Lesson in chapter six was titled, Love and Discipline. In it Keller discusses the need to discipline his dog when she misbehaved. He says that he loved her too much to watch her be swayed from her purpose by a damaging distraction. He likened this to how God disciplines us and quotes Hebrews 12:6-11. We discussed God's discipline and how Peter was quickly restored to Jesus when Jesus asks three times, "Peter do you love me?" We touched on how God would be unworthy of worship if He didn't demand obedience or love us enough to insist on a right relationship.
Keller speaks early in the chapter of John 14-17. He makes the case that, like we are to Jesus, Lass was companion, co-worker and friend. We spoke about how God's discipline establishes boundaries and order and allows for strong lasting relationships.
In our Scriptures from Matthew we covered; judge not lest you also be judged, do not cast your pearls before swine, and if we as evil give good gifts, how much more so God who is good. The passage in Matthew ended with the golden rule. Our passage from Proverbs is the chapter on wisdom and we reflected on choosing God's instruction over riches. In Mark 4 we discussed the parable of the sower and having ears to hear.
We closed in prayer noting that we would meet Monday at the Community Center in Hagerman.
Thank you reading. Bev

Lesson Five, Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Hagerman Bible Study notes from March 11
Matthew 6:16-34
Psalm 104
Job 38

Lesson five was titled, the Test of Faithfulness. Keller speaks of Lass becoming frantic when she loses sight of her master. In observing Lass's behavior, Keller saw the necessity of being quietly steadfast and faithful wherever God placed him. He makes the case that God asks us to be loyal steadfast friends, and Keller demonstrates in the negative using the example of Lass. He says that when Lass was distracted, she became useless and often did more damage than good. Keller says that it is essential for us to examine our lives to learn what diverts us from God's calling for us as His co-workers.
Thinking of myself as a co-worker in God's great Economy gives me pause. It stirs in me a sense of urgency and I thank Keller for his clear analogy.
Keller ends this lesson saying that it is our job to be faithful where God places us.
Our teaching from Matthew covered instructions on fasting, storing up treasures in Heaven, and the light of the body is the eye. When we spoke of not serving two masters, we likened it to Lass serving her distractions or serving Keller. We spoke about not being anxious and how this assisted steadfastness.
In Psalm 104 we marveled over the glory of God's creation and then in Job 38 we marveled over God's gentle rebuke of Job about God's creation.
We spent some time talking about forgiveness and how to forgive when we don't have a name or a face, but feel betrayal anyway.
We closed in prayer.
Thanks for reading, Bev

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Prairie Fires Book Review

Written by Caroline Fraser,  Prairie Fires is a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, her parents, grandparents and daughter couched in a history and discourse of the American frontier.
The biography finds purchase in the final third of the book, describing how the Little House books came about.
In most of the reviews I've read, Little House fans adored Prairie Fires. They cut their 'reading teeth' on Wilder's books, many learning how to read from the Little House books along with how to accomplish many other frontier tasks. I don't disagree that Wilder helped form the frontier conscience of our nation, but I think this was unwitting on her part.
Wilder was not my first read. In fact, my mother tried to get me to read the Little House books but I found the work tedious and too shiny. (Funnily enough, I found Prairie Fires tedious also.) I knew even at five and six years of age, that I was being forced to swallow the Pollyanna without much story. I just couldn't find a footing in the books and if the books were bad the television series was deplorable. My tastes ran more to fantasy, which I knew wasn't real and enjoyed it all the more for it. I mention all of this 'me' stuff because I am an unreliable reviewer for this book.
I admired Fraser's research but became bored with her preaching about the sins of early American governments. This nation is an easy target and often exploited. But as a writer she is surely entitled to her own soap box. I just thought the book would have been a much better read without the discourse.
The other thing I took issue with was the pressure of the 'truth.' Wilder wrote rosy children's books. I think it would be clear that she had help writing them and that she kept to the sunny-side of major tragedies. I see no reason to dive into Wilder's past in order to state the obvious and be so exercised about it that countless references fill the book. Maybe this is unfair to Fraser who is a talented writer and remarkable scholar. Like I said, I am an unreliable reviewer.
So why read the book? If you are interested in the American frontier, read this book. Farser's research is superb.
If you treasured Wilder's series, read the last third of the book. It is a well detailed story, if a bit skewed against Rose. Perhaps Rose was a quarter bubble short of plumb. I am not so convinced in this telling, which seems to rely on Rose's political views as much as other facts. But I did enjoy how Wilder developed her stories and her skills.
The final reason to read this book is to join the discussion which is full and rich and very American. Thanks for reading. Bev

Monday, February 25, 2019

Hagerman Bible Study from February 18

Our Scriptures for last Monday were:
Matthew 5:43-6:15 and Ecclesiastes 5 
We read chapter 4 in Lessons from a Sheep Dog

Our lesson from the book covered the topic; delight in obedience. We discussed how Lass loved to work with the author. We drew the parallels between our life of obedience to God's commands and how, in obedience, we delight in our relationship with God. We spoke about our excuses for not following God's will. One of those excuses is we don't know what God's will is or can't understand it, but we see that God's will is clearly stated in His Word.
We discussed the fear of God, noting that it is reverence, loving esteem and admiration, not unlike Lass and her master. We spoke of how Lass kept her master in constant view and how she learned his will even by hand gestures. Similarly we may turn every thought to God and thus respond to His will in any situation as we deepen our relationship. Keller says, "We begin to look for God's hand in all the details and events of our days. We become acutely sensitive to His presence. We find our minds, spirits, and emotions concentrated on Christ, eager to do His biding."
Our passage in Matthew gave us commands that we may grow deeper in relationship with God. In this passage Jesus tells us to love our enemies and give to the needy. He also tells us how to pray.
In Ecclesiastes 5 we covered fearing God and the vanity of wealth and honor.
Thank yo for reading. I will see you tonight. Bev 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Hagerman Bible Study 02/04/19

Matthew 5:31-4:2, Isaiah 66, John 17
Lesson Three from the book

The section from the book was titled, Learning to Trust. Keller speaks of Lass finally allowing the author to pull the angry wild rose thorns from between Lasses toes. The image of a dog lamed by thorns unable to do his master's work, gave us pause. The fact of the thorns being angry called to mind our own hurts and fears and how God could pull those thorns from our feet. Without His help, we are lamed by them.
Keller noticed that he was as much a servant as his dog, then stated, "God's gentle Spirit showed me in vivid reality the enormous condescension of Christ, who in love and self-humiliation tends human needs."
Keller speaks of a lifetime lesson, that faith was his "personal, positive response to the Word of God, to the point where" he acted in quiet trust.
As Keller noticed Lass's fidelity grow, he admitted his devotion to God fell short of his dog's devotion to the author. He realized that "God can only trust those who truly trust Him. He gives Himself in wondrous plentitude to the person whose single-minded devotion, love, and loyalty is given to the Lord."
In Isaiah 66:2, we found parallels to our lesson. God will bless those who have a humble and contrite heart. In Isaiah 66:3 we discussed those things that don't please God. and that Lass was at first wary and didn't answer and chose that in which his master didn't delight. In 66:10-14 God will nurture and heal and develop a loving relationship for those that honor Him.
We spent some time on John 17 letting it sink in, a prayer for the people of God, for us. We are not of the world like Lass discovering who she really was, not meant to chase cars and pull at leashes. We are not of this world, but we must trust God to discern our calling.
We talked of how Jesus in John 17 is feeding the world shelf-stable food, food we can draw on for a life-time. We noted that Lass would only eat what her master fed her. We spoke of how confused we are when we try to feed off the world and then want God's manna.
We turned finally to Matthew and found slim parallels. The dog is loyal unlike in Matthew, those who seek divorce.
Bible study begins at 6:30 tonight. I hope to see you there. Thanks for reading. Bev

Joy Writers 2019 Reading II

Joy Writers Reading II
Sunday February 17, 2019
The Roswell Museum and Art Center

The reading is open to the public. It is the second of two Joy Writer winter readings. Come listen to new work from The Joy Writers then and stay to talk over coffee and treats. If you are a writer, come learn more about who we are and if we are a fit for you. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Disappointments and Faulty Alignments

Lighted, Light Up, Christmas Indoor/Outdoor Yard or Lawn Decorations (34" Santa Claus)If you click on this you should be directed to Amazon's site to purchase the item in the photo. Why purchase a large plastic Santa, you may wonder? I wondered the same when Lonny in one of our first forays into decorating a large, new-to-us, home presented one for my approval. This particular Santa isn't the one he found, but it is similar enough.
We were at Walmart and while I stupidly searched for elegance and distinction amid the clutter of real life, Christmas and all, he searched for things to delight and amuse a new bride who was hopelessly out of her element, lost really in conflicts so silly I am embarrassed to remember them. I wanted to impress my neighbors. I wanted them to like me.
Lonny knew we were already welcomed, largely because we didn't try to impress. Lonny knew I secretly wanted the hard plastic Santa, and so did he because it would please me. He held up the decoration and moved to the center of the aisle. "Bev, what do you think? Great huh?" He shouted over the din of holiday shoppers.
I turned, embarrassment flushing my cheeks. What did I think? Not that. Never that. I was thinking delicate gold branches in planters strewn with tiny white lights. I was thinking beautiful but understated.
He was thinking, beloved Bride understated elegance will never work for us, and you probably won't find it here in this store. Perhaps I can distract you with color and lights. Perhaps then you won't be so disappointed with your efforts.
Why wouldn't elegant gold branches with tiny white lights work for us? Because I was never that girl or woman, or decorator even. I liked colors, big fat round Christmas C-9s in enough shades to never repeat over a ten foot length. My closet bore the same strain of trying to professionalize. Somber women's suits with a few beige or white silk blouses, hung neatly in the back encapsulated in their dry-cleaning bags, some still held their price tags. Outrageous prints tumbled to the front, well-worn and softened by numerous machine washes. I knew better than most, that the price of adulting your wardrobe, and by extension your way of life, was impossibly dear and not, in the end, worthwhile. I kept trying. I was married after all and should to comply with perceived standards.
But Lonny knew me. He knew I liked colors. He knew I was trying desperately to fit some image, he couldn't quite grasp. He knew he loved me and that I loved him, and that he wanted to please me.
One of my biggest small regrets happened that night, but it taught me a lesson. I told him no, no Santa. I grimaced. I saw his face fall. I tried not to care, not to 'get it.' I turned my nose up, and shopped for tiny white lights and gold branches. 
For several years now, I have searched for that Santa. This one on Amazon was way too expensive. This one would have been his present this last Christmas. It would have said to him, how did you know? It would have asked, how could you know me so well and I not know myself? I would have said, husband of mine, I love you and I am so sorry I didn't see. I am so sorry for all of my distractions, new pretentious Christmas decorations when we were first married, wanting homes and yards and meaningful stuff, the best, the most perfect, or not at all. But you were the best, surely the best for me. I cherished our time together, and then ... and then I couldn't stand to see you failing, couldn't stand seeing your clear blue eyes vacant of understanding, you who knew I wanted a brightly colored Santa with all my heart. Oh you sweet man, how I miss you. How I miss the way that you loved even me.
Painfully slowly, I learned to ask Lonny before attempting a new scheme. I learned to seek the church's needs before I plowed forward with what I thought was my calling. I learned so slowly that there is One and more than One who loves even me. With Lonny's help, I learned that those things I would dismiss as inappropriate to me were often where I should turn to grow.
Well that's enough of me. More of Lonny later. Thank you for reading. Bev

Monday, February 4, 2019

Bible Study Notes from 28 January

(These notes are short. I have been travelling and am out of time,. Should people like to peruse them before Bible study tonight, I must post them now. In any event, I hope the reader can find something of value in them.)

Keying off Matthew 5:21-26, we discussed anger, determining it a bad master-the wrong mater. In relation to our sheep dog from the book, she has had the wrong master-an angry master. She became fearful and feral.
In a personal note, as my husband's health failed, I struggled with anger. I was angry at the situation, but often vented my frustration on Lonny. My outbursts compounded my guilt and worry. Matthew 5:25 speaks of the Accuser. The Accuser finds me guilty in the court of my own conscience.I cannot argue with Satan. He is correct. I am guilty. Happily, I can throw myself on God's mercy. God sees me through the redemption of Christ.
In Ecclesiastes we read a warning against religious conceit. The wicked man finds security in his ways, like the dog insisting on her freedom which almost killed her through starvation. She was almost destroyed. (The logic here worked better on Monday. I apologize, but for those who couldn't be present, I included it anyway.)
Verse 7:7 of Ecclesiastes speaks of oppression driving a man to madness, so too, the wrong mater's oppression of the dog led to the dog becoming feral. Contrast this to the choices that God gives us. We may follow, learn, obey the Good Master or not. He doesn't oppress.
We will meet tonight at 6:30. We will discuss Lesson Three from the book and continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Bible Study Notes, Lessons from a Sheep Dog, One

Hello all.
We began a new study last Monday using Lessons from a Sheep Dog by Phillip Keller.
Our scriptures were Matthew 5:1-20 and Isaiah 55.
We read the story in the beginning of the book and then Lesson One. The story told of the author saving a Border Collie from being put down by an owner that could not understand the dog. Keller adopted the dog and had to set the dog free in order for the dog to finally trust him. Under Keller's guidance the dog, Lass, became a great hand at managing livestock. The story at the beginning of the book concludes  with several points: how Lass was eager to obey a kind and good master, and how Keller learned from Lass what it was that Christ, Our Great Shepherd wants to do with us.
Lesson One speaks to how we often place ourselves in the wrong hands, the hands of predators, or abusers, or those who are uncaring or mean. It speaks to how we may fall in the Accusers hands or under his spell. Keller likens this to Lass's predicament before Keller adopted the dog.
In discussing the Scripture reading for the day, we looked at how the poor in spirit Jesus refers to in the Sermon on the Mount, are those that are humble and teachable and how Lass was teachable just scared and scarred. We examined how people that know their place in a Christian sense clear the path for God to work with them and how being so vulnerable flies in the face of being our own boss. 
In the passage on Salt and Light from Matthew 5, we saw that the dog's "salt" was almost gone, but that Keller was able to 'revive' Lass. We noted that often we are low on salt and have hidden our light, and how we can turn to God in these instance, and every instance for that matter. We discussed how we are the light as Christians because God's light shines through us.
In discussing our final section of Matthew we noted how Jesus came to fulfill the law, how Jesus is the 'flesh and bones' on the commands and demands of the law, so that we in our own flesh and bones may live for Jesus and He has already fulfilled the law. We noted that Lass was able to follow the good master's commands.
In Isaiah 55 we looked at God's open invitation. the parallel to our book was in Keller freeing Lass so that Lass could finally come of her own accord back to Keller. Keller had chosen Lass, fed and watered her, and set her free.We noted also what pleasure Keller received when Lass came to him. We imagined that God also is so pleased when we seek Him and learn to obey Him.
Tonight's study will be Lesson Two of the book and Matthew 5:21-30, and Ecclesiastes 7.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Joy Writers Reading I, 2019
Roswell Museum and Art Center
Sunday 20, 2019
2:00 pm
Free of charge
Public welcome

Monday, January 14, 2019

Review Whistling Past the Graveyard

Whistling Past the GraveyardIn Whistling Past the Graveyard, author Susan Crandall examines the struggle of growing up as a white girl in the deep south in the early sixties. Crandall fuels her story with the expected issues of bigotry, gender conflict and double standards, fanning the predictable flames throughout the book. I have read and re-read the same themes often, and though the themes carried the book, the story itself was compelling enough without these issues. The story might have even been more believable set in today's south or north or anywhere, really.
Nine-year-old Starla Claudelle narrates the story with a sassy southern voice that drew me into the book early and kept me in it throughout. Deciding to hitchhike to Tennessee to find her mother in Nashville, Starla runs away from an overbearing grandmother, and her Mississippi home. The story breaks down for me when a black woman, Eula, kidnaps Starla, just after having taken a baby from the church steps in Starla's hometown. I couldn't believe Eula's naivete and boldness. Eula's actions made her character cartoon-ish, which is unfortunate because Eula's journey would have been more interesting to me than the story of young Starla.
Starla and Baby James are held captive by Eula's abusive husband. He tries to kill Starla and the baby when he finds them after their failed escape attempt.
The author develops a a rationale for Eula's actions that stretched the limits of the story. So too, Eula's husband is a stock character and a familiar villain. Starla's unreliable narration proves to be part of the problem. The reader has to guess Eula's motivation and Elua's husband's motivation seemed only to be pure meanness. Eula reads as a predictably wise and insanely foolish woman, and, while she is ultimately beloved in the story, she never beaks out of a caricature role.
Eula kills her husband by whacking him over the head with a frying pan while he is trying to choke the life out of Starla.
The scene work and tension in Eula's home reads well with high tension and drama, even though I couldn't figure out Eula's quixotic nature.
Freed from a tyrant and captivity, Eula, Starla and Baby James set out for Tennessee. Here the book compounds its use of familiar theme. An evil white man runs the trio off the road leaving them wrecked and destitute on a baking hot day in Mississippi. While the story still interested me, this is where I began to tire of familiar axes and grinds.
The remainder of the book plays out in expected ways, but Starla's journey, her emotional and spiritual development and her method of dealing with heartache made the book a decent read.
Read this book for a an entertaining fast-paced romp and enjoy Starla's snappy voice.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Will-o’-the-Wisp or Will of God"

Taken from Sunday's Service 6 January 2019

Scripture readings

I would make the case that people are drawn to the light. On of my greatest pleasures in my home is the fireplace where a merry blaze can be seen any time the temperatures dip below 60 degrees. My mother and father would come to sit before this fire. I wasn’t ever sure they wanted to see me as much as enjoy the dancing flames. So too, Lonny’s mother, Ruby, and Lonny himself. When Lonny still had the pleasure of reading, he would rise most mornings and sit in a rocker before the fire well into the warm Spring. He kept his Bible there and would read it until he fell asleep again.
In recent days I have fashioned myself a place in one of those rockers, surrounded by books and a computer and a place for a cup of coffee or tea or wine, depending upon the time of day.
At Christmas we put out lights that twinkle and burn brightly. We even put out firelitos and luminarias. When I was a child Mom and Dad would pick a December evening after school let out for Christmas holiday. We would tour the neighborhoods in Roswell and Dexter looking at the lights. In El Paso, I lived near a neighborhood that put on such a celebrated Christmas display that the street department finally had to close their street to traffic after midnight in order that the residents could get some sleep and to let the air clear of exhaust fumes.
So, yes, the more I think on it the more I know that humans are drawn to light. It is comforting warm and merry. It promises safe harbor and renewed spirit.
But there are more than one kind of lights.
Lucifer for instance, means light bringer. In Isaiah 14 it referring to the king of Babylon and his fall, Lucifer is described as the morning star that fell from the heavens. This passage led to future translations and made common the use as a name for Satan. In his works, Dante Alighieri used Lucifer as a name for the devil.
In folklore a Will-O’-the Wisp is a ghost light seen at night by travelers, especially hovering over stagnant water. It is known also as Jack -O’-the-Lantern hinkypunk and hobby lantern. These far off mytic lights lure people off paths and into danger. In literature they are a metaphor for an impossible goal or vain hope, or even something sinister and confounding.
As I look back on Christmas again this year, I see the two lights, the light of the joy and breathtaking hope and the light of infatuation and lies.
Our passage from Isaiah says opens with
“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.”
We can see in this passage a prophecy, and our own hope.
For prophecy we know that the glory of the Lord shown round about those associated with the Holy birth. We know also that Jesus is the light of the world and had come into this world and walked among us.
For our own hope we learn that God’s glory rises upon us. His glory appears over us. The notion of mere man being so delivered stuns us into silence and wonder. The majesty and humility of Christmas is impossible to hold. It is for us. God came in splendor and humility for us, not only shining, but shining on us.
On the other hand, I see countless people struggling with insurmountable debt after Christmas. I hear beautiful carols turned to a mush of dirty snow in veneration of commerce, and light displays that ascribe glory more to the decorator than to the humble Holy infant.
Paul tells us in our passage from Philippians 214 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.
He tells us how to shine, how to glorify God. Paul tells us how to accomplish the joyful instruction of Isaiah to rise and shine for our light has come.
Paul also says Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
For it is God who works in us to will and to act.
So, there is a double meaning in my use of Will O’ the Wisp. I may be stretching things thin but bear with me. In legend, Will means the name Will or short for William, but I mean it also as will, man’s will, man’s willy-nilly will. It’s sort of wispy. It is not focused on the light. It is focused on swamp gas. We can see it in our choices at Christmas.
Listening to KLOVE on the radio last month I heard a segment where folks were asked to call in about their Christmas shopping habits. The DJ made the case that every year she bought a few “presents” for herself along with the gifts for Christmas day. She admitted that she had been a bit unruly this year and was asking for callers to spill the beans on themselves. I thought about calling in, trying to remember what the silliest thing I’d done for myself at Christmas time: new shoes, new dresses, pedicures (because people are so going see my feet in sandals in the middle of winter,) a ridiculously expensive bottle of champagne, and countless trinkets from the potter’s guild that I would give to my husband and tell him to wrap. He would snort and hand them back.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong in a renewed sense of celebration, but I wonder at our focus.
Several years ago, I was taking my son to a Christmas party and we had some extra minutes to spare. It was the first week of December and like so many other first weeks of December it was crazy and hectic, and I was behind schedule and behind in prayer and behind in work and struggling to come up with perfect gifts for an increasing number of family members. We turned off second street and headed into a residential neighborhood with a nice display of lights. Suddenly a house came into view with huge red letters spelling the name Jesus. That was all the house had, Jesus, almost sacrilegious it was so bold. We laughed, and I still laugh today when I think of it. It was as if the homeowner was saying, enough already. This is God’s holiday. You all are making a mess of things and I’m going to point you in the proper direction and I’m going to do it with read lights. Maybe it was swamp gas, but it got my attention. I lightened up smiled and enjoyed beautiful music for the remainder of the season.
Our passage from Matthew reads: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
It reminds us that we are the light. We have been given the light from our Father in Heaven. We see again that impossible marriage of humility and majesty that is the birth of Jesus. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, yes, and awe and breathlessness. From Isaiah, God shines upon us. We remember He shines upon us. We will see and be radiant and our hearts will tremble and rejoice. And people will come from afar, multitudes of people will glorify God. All we have to do is let our God-given light shine before others according to God’s will, not our will o’ the wisp.