Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: Waiting on God: What to Do When God Does Nothing



This book may impact your life and strengthen your faith more than any book you’ll ever read. Focusing on the Genesis story of Joseph, author Wayne Stiles explains what God may be about as he keeps you waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. Stiles writes: “He is with us, not to answer questions but to comfort us as he takes us to a place that teaches us to trust him by forcing us to do so.”

Stiles suggests that if we knew what God knows, we would choose to wait on his timing. Stiles also takes us “behind the scenes” to let us in on something he notices in the structure of the Joseph story. And Stiles' writing is easily understood.

Here’s one of Stiles’ more startling statements: “Every sin we commit represents a failure to wait on God.” Whether you agree or disagree, that sentence makes you think.

Not only does Stiles provide a convincing argument on why Christians can trust God, but he writes in an entertaining style. For example, he writes of Joseph and his brothers: “He was a pebble wedged in the sandals of their consciences.” I enjoy that kind of sparkle.

I came away from this book better realizing that God is refining me not to eliminate challenges so that I’m comfortable but to make me the person to bring light to the challenges. Stiles asks us to consider the joy that would be ours if we totally surrendered our ideas about the life we want and instead embraced the life God wants to give us.

Including 11 chapters (252 pages), this would make a great Bible study or a great gift to give to someone frustrated by life events. I recommend this book for both new and mature Christians.




Sunday, July 1, 2018

You Are Loved


Dear Friend,

“You are loved with an everlasting love.” With those words, the late Elizabeth Elliott opened her daily “Gateway to Joy” radio broadcast. Those words make me feel warm and cozy. And they’re true. 

But perhaps you don’t feel that love. Perhaps you’re in a hard place. You feel you’ve disappointed God. Your family. And maybe even yourself. Well, I have news for you. You can never fall so low, fail so badly, that God will not pick you up, stand you on your feet and walk on beside you.

Let me tell you about Hosea and his wife Gomer. He is the guy told by God to marry a prostitute. Whether she was beautiful and he was in love with her or whether he was less than enthusiastic about the idea, we don’t know. But God told him to marry Gomer. And he did.

Bear with me here. In reality, this illustrated how God felt about the nation of Israel, a nation created by God but then prostituted itself by dabbling with idolatry. A nation that, instead of looking to God, looked to pagan nations for help when the going got rough.

But—and here’s the important part—this illustrates how God feels about you and me. We too have dabbled with idolatry. Oh, maybe not idols of stone or clay, but idols of power and prestige. Idols of beauty and the good life. We know what we want, and we run after it instead of after God.

At any rate, Hosea married Gomer and they had three children together. Then she left him and turned back to prostitution. Why would she do that? Hadn’t he given her a stable home and family? Hadn’t he provided most graciously for her? Yet the bright shiny things caught her eye, and off she went.

Now if you had been Hosea, you might have said good riddance. But not this man. Hosea heard God’s voice telling him to buy her back. Buy her back?!?! Somehow Gomer ended up on an auction block, but Hosea bought her for the price of a slave and once more brought her into his home.

Here again is a picture of how God tried to draw Israel under His wings and restore them to their former glory, but the nation refused his offer.

And here again, the story gets much more personal than an Old Testament character and the nation of Israel. It’s about you and me. It’s about God’s love for us. In spite of everything. In spite of anything.

God is love. But perhaps you’ve been tainted by life experiences. Perhaps you’ve made bad choices and you feel you don’t deserve better. Perhaps you’ve been called names and put down all of your life because of a physical imperfection or a challenge from birth, so you feel you’re a nobody and God doesn’t care about nobodies. I’m sure people put down Gomer too.

Perhaps you’ve done something so sinful that you feel God can never forgive. Perhaps . . . you fill in the blanks. What tempts you to turn to something else instead of to God? Or to run and hide from God?

Hosea showed his great love for Gomer by marrying her, buying her back and welcoming her back into his home and his heart. God does no less for us. Christ took the punishment we deserve for anything we might have done. He proved there is much more to life than what we see. By rising from the dead, He proved eternal life awaits. There we will find the perfection we’re looking for here.

Look in a mirror and insert your name into the first line of this post: “God loves ______ with an everlasting love.” Consider how God shows His love to you through daily blessings—sunshine and rain, birds and bees. Consider how this life is just the beginning. Heaven awaits where there will be no more tears, no more bad choices, no more name-calling.

Take a thoughtful read through Hosea. To dig deeper, buy the study guide: Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild. She calls us Gomer Girls and has a lot to say about all this.

Don’t play hide and seek with God. Don’t waste another minute wondering where God is. He’s waiting to bless your heart, to welcome you home.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)


Have a safe and blessed 4th of July, celebrating not just our nation's independence but celebrating God's love for us.

Shirley

Friends of the Heart Upcoming Events:

August 1, 11:30 a.m. – Millersburg Senior Center. “That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?”
August 14, 6 p.m. – Woodbury Church of the Brethren, Everett, "Tea with Mary, Martha and Their Psychologist."
August 24-26 – Camp Allegheny Women’s Retreat, “If Our Closets Could Talk.” 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Book Review: Sisterhood of Faith



Good news! Read all about it! Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference is now available as an E-book.

I am the author of Sisterhood, and to write this book I read about, talked to or e-mailed women from all walks of life. What a privilege to hear of their accomplishments and their struggles. They are a mix of famous and ordinary women, a point my publisher liked.

As Christian women, we need to know our history so we can find our place in the chain of faith that links the generations. We also know need to know that where we see a door close on ministry, God sees a window of opportunity. This book came about after I taught a seminary course on Women in Ministry and found that many of the women in my class felt confused about their calling.

The book includes stories of women such as Patsy Clairmont, who overcame a fear of agoraphobia (fear of public places) to become a nationally known speaker. Vibia Perpetua, an early Christian martyr. Anne Hutchinson, a Bible teacher persecuted in England and America. And Ella Mavretic, a personal friend who has delivered hundreds of pumpkin rolls to the sick or grieving.

The women I wrote about founded ministries, funded ministries and remained faithful no matter what. Arranged alphabetically, their stories include their birthdates, dates of death if deceased and scripture verses that might have informed their actions. I list each woman’s service and draw a message from her life. After telling her story, I challenge the reader to respond.

The book includes a detailed bibliography, in case you want to know more about any of the women. As I am re-reading my own book this year, it motivates me to respond to God’s call on my life, no matter the age, no matter the stage.

Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Sisterhood of Faith began as a hard cover book, but when those copies sold out, it was published as a trade paperback. And now I am so excited that it is available as an e-book. You can purchase the book from Simon & Schuster, Amazon or order hard copies at www.friendsoftheheart.us.

If you've already purchased the book and enjoyed it, consider leaving a review of it on Amazon.com.



Friday, June 1, 2018

Knitting Family Ties

My sister-in-law Goldie and her family
 How quickly things change. We just celebrated the 90th birthday of my sister-in-law, Goldie Smeltz. What fun to get reacquainted with nieces and nephews, their children and new spouses from near and far. Now Goldie is in rehab, recuperating from a fall and hip surgery.

I am the youngest of five. And the only one left. I was born “way on behind” as they say in Pennsylvania Dutch. My siblings ranged from eight to 15 years older. At Christmastime, the baby of
Ruth, Marie, Russell, Robert with me on my dad's lap.
the family got gifts from everyone!

I once discovered a tissue-wrapped package in my sister Ruth’s room. I could read the letters on the box—x-y-l-o-p-h-o-n-e—but didn’t know what they spelled. But I could read the name on the tag and couldn’t wait to open my gift. Played that instrument till its glass tubes broke.

Robert, Goldie's husband, was over six feet tall. He swung me up till my head touched the kitchen ceiling and I giggled and squiggled out of his reach. He was also the speedy one. He once rounded the curve going into Herndon, hit ice and landed four wheels on the floor of the roller rink.

Actually, it was Russell who was called “Speedy,” although he never would tell me why. He was the farmer. His hair had a tinge of red, and when he grew a beard for a local bicentennial, his whiskers grew in red. So spiffy.

Ruth and Marie looked gorgeous as they dressed for dates, and in those days—you dressed! Taffetas and heels. Our washbowl was at the back of our kitchen, so I watched them comb out their pin curls, smooth their pompadours and powder their noses. Marie was an artist, and we sat on our bed, her with her drawing board and me copying her drawings on my tablet.

Goldie's children: Craig, Lisa, Janet, Linda, Judy, Todd
Once my siblings married, they all visited our farm on Sunday afternoons. Winters, we cut ice from the creek to make homemade ice cream, topped with my mother’s homegrown frozen strawberries. Summers, they sat on the porch and chatted while their kids explored the attic and barn. In time, my kids joined them. We worried they would hurt themselves, climbing into hay mows, etc., but they all survived.

Family is precious. And through the years, I’ve done all I could to maintain contact with my siblings’ families.

Fifty years ago Bill and I began hosting summer picnics for our clans. We provided the meat and everyone else brought a covered dish. When the numbers of guests climbed into the 30s and the set up and clean up got to be too much, we rented a facility. When I could no longer provide the main dish for the group, we purchased the meat. And we eventually asked the younger generation to take over everything. The picnics continue to this day--on both sides of our family.

Once we got older, since my siblings weren’t much into visiting, I hosted annual dinners at my house for my siblings and spouses.

At Christmastime, I mail cards to each family unit. And I receive cards from most, if not all. We keep
Goldie with Grand/Great Grandkids
up on Facebook too.

Maintaining family contact is important. The world may be against me, but my family loves and supports me, no matter what. We stand by each other’s bedsides during illnesses. We cheer each other on through challenges. And we’re there for each other through personal setbacks.

Yes, it takes deliberate planning and some hard work, especially if knots appear in family ties. But it’s well worth the effort.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 – NIV)

Loving one another begins at home. Thank God for your family, and reach out and touch a family member today. Look for an excuse to plan a family get-together. You’ll be blessed.

Scroll down and click on the link below to leave a comment about what you do to knit family ties.

Sincerely,

Shirley

Upcoming Friends of the Heart Engagements:

June 23, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – With Wenksville United Methodist Church, Biglerville, for Women’s Retreat, “What Every Girl Needs: Refuge, Redemption, Restoration and a Few Good Recipes.”







Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book Review: The Art of Spiritual Writing


Whether you’re new or experienced in writing, this book gives a great overview of the writing process, especially for writing that you hope will spiritually impact readers. For instance, author Vinita Hampton Wright reminds us that while we may think chronology is important, to readers, it’s the theme. We may want to include every detail, but Wright reminds us to evaluate content from the point of what a stranger needs to know.

She explains how the Table of Contents drives sales and how each chapter needs to focus on only one point. Structure is important to readers. She also encourages authors to be authentic, to wrestle with the truth and reflect on it, then to write about it with great care. 

This is a small, short book, only 164 pages. Yet it packs a wallop. If you don’t know what to write about, Wright encourages you to write from who you are, to look for the major themes of your life and what you’ve learned. She suggests that Process, Prayer and Practice lead to Product. “To create a product, find the connection to the largest audience that reasonably can be expected . . . . The point is, know who will be interested in your material, and then work with the material so that it will be most pleasing to that audience.”

I liked her many, practical suggestions and her attention to current opportunities, such as social media. She points out how God has been involved in every detail of our lives and gives us God-given power to change the world. I took many notes for future reference as I read. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing for spiritual impact or really, writing in general.