Friday, September 18, 2020

Book Review: Gracelaced


Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart by Ruth Chou Si;mons

This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. But it’s not just the art. Ruth Chou Simons offers insight into 32 spiritual concepts themed around the seasons of the year. Winter, “Resting in God’s Character,” offers topics such as “dwell,” “lean,” and “rest,” with all of the author’s thoughts supported by scripture. Spring, “Rehearsing the Truth,” addresses “new,” “beloved and “delight,” among others. Then there’s Summer and Fall.

Simon illustrates her points with beautiful paintings. Printed pages are edged with blooms; some are lined to add your thoughts (although I couldn’t bring myself to write in the book). Some pages show a plain background with a verse or quotation in calligraphy. Others show photographs taken by the artist; including some of her husband and six sons. All are equally impressive. Reading the book is a walk through an inspirational art gallery.

Published by Harvest House Publishers in 2017, the book is 7 ¾ “ x 1.25” by 9.25”. Slick pages and a textured cover add to the book’s coffee table appeal. This is a gorgeous gift book, but you’ll definitely want to keep a copy yourself.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review: Countdown 1945


Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World by Christ Wallace with Mitch Weiss

This book gives you a glimpse into the personal life of Harry S. Truman, who was probably as surprised as anyone when he became president upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But an even greater shock was to find himself facing the decision of whether or not to drop the atomic bomb. The book delves into the lives ordinary people who found themselves working on the development of the bomb without ever realizing the magnitude of their assignment.

From European conferences with heads of state to life at Los Alamos, a community of thousands worked together on a secret project, you’ll read of conversations and emotions that led to the development and detonation of the atomic bomb. And you read of the aftermath, the impact of realizing what they had created, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, an event that ended World War 2.

I liked the way the authors organized the book around events that occurred during the 116 days leading up to dropping the atomic bomb. I also appreciated photos, such as that of Colonel Paul W. Tibbets waving good-bye from the Enola Gay before leaving for Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Back matter includes extensive notes, bibliography and detailed index.

The extensive research required to write this book is obvious with documented conversations and behind-the- scene glimpses into duties and after-the-fact feelings about the event. An important read to remember the struggles faced by the men and women who peopled our history.





Saturday, September 5, 2020

Three Ways to Handle Life's Muddles


I had no idea which button I accidentally pressed when a snowstorm blew across my television screen. Input, perhaps? Nope. Clicking on it changed nothing. After 15 minutes of trying to restore the picture, I called technical support. A very nice man assured me he would help. He even asked how my day was going up until I found myself in this predicament. I assured him it had been going just fine. Until. Now.

The man suggested I try this/try that. Turn off/turn on. Disconnect this/reconnect that. Nothing worked. I shed the robe I wore over my pajamas. We continued to work on the problem—him, giving directions in a soothing, patient voice. Me, following his prompts, more agitated by the moment and finally calling my husband to connect/disconnect, do this/do that.

Back and forth. We chatted for 15 minutes or so. I then did something that lighted the modem box, and I knew we were onto something good. This kind gentle man finally led me through steps that restored my television picture—just in time for a movie I wanted to watch.

Isn’t that how it is with life? One split-second misstep may take ages to correct. One misspoken word may take long conversations to undo. A spouse irritates you, so you snap back. A child tries your patience, so you yell. A coworker offends you or you offend a coworker. And like my television experience, sometimes we’re not even sure what caused the storm.

Just as I need to be mindful of the buttons I press on the remote, I need to be mindful of what I say. It’s easy to spill words all over myself and others. But the cost of cleanup in time and hurt feelings can be as costly as the cleanup following Hurricane Laura. Better to proceed with caution.

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV).

Here’s my advice du jour:

Approach life with prayer: Prepare yourself for the day by praying for God’s direction and His Hand on your life. If an awkward situation looms, ask for wisdom. If you expect challenges from children, spouses or coworkers, ask for a heart filled with love and discernment. Call for God’s help on the spot as needed.

Accept responsibility: Develop a mindset that refuses to allow irritation to rob you of kind responses. If you’ve already said or done the wrong thing, ‘fess up. You meant well, but it didn’t turn out that way. Apologize. Say you’re sorry. Push comes to shove when we fail to accept responsibility for our words and actions. If you meant well, let your good intentions be known and they will be appreciated.

Apply loving concern: Keep your cool. Calmly express concern. Harsh language only muddies the waters. Like the soothing, friendly technical support guy, offer assistance and suggest ways issues might be resolved. While you may not see eye to eye, the other may hear your heart and accept your basic motivation as sincere. If customer service people can be trained to respond to all voices with patience, so can we as moms and dads, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues.

Life’s muddles and puddles will do us and others good if we use them as invitations to draw closer to God and to each other.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels


Friday, August 7, 2020

Fitting the Puzzle Pieces of Life

It is finished! The 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Fallingwater. After 64 days, we got ‘er done. One piece at a time.

The photo on the puzzle was taken during a visit to this architectural masterpiece in southwestern Pennsylvania as part of our 50th anniversary celebration. Now you know why the puzzle is very special to us.

            Along the way to finishing the puzzle, pieces seemed to be missing. And pieces left just did not fit—anywhere. At one point, we slowed to a standstill. Then I found four border pieces at the wrong place. With that fixed, a whole section fell right into place.

            Although I crawled around on the floor with a flashlight, one odd-shaped piece evaded us. Then one day I sat behind the table instead of in front and glanced down. Lo and behold, there it was—that elusive piece—tucked away under the broad center post of the table.

My husband found a piece by his chair in another room. How did it get there? Who knows?

Like Fallingwater, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to blend into the landscape, the puzzle pieces—leaves, rocks, water—blended into each other. We sometimes searched for a half hour to fit one piece. Or none.

But that puzzle taught me much about the journey of life.

For one thing, no matter the number of broken pieces, life can be made whole and beautiful. Imagine 1000 pieces stacked around four sides of a blank board. Where do you start?

Life sometimes feels like that. The pieces of loss and heartache pile up so that we just want to pull the covers over our heads.

I felt that way when we lost an infant daughter and I lost my hearing during the pregnancy. Then two years later, I developed cancer and needed surgery. What else could go wrong?

But God makes something beautiful as he heals us and helps us put together broken pieces. Yes, it takes time and patience and a willingness to trust and to hope, but God is faithful over that long haul. I still miss my daughter, but I now picture her in heaven, well cared for, waiting for me.

For another thing, like that odd-shaped puzzle piece, missing pieces of life may be right under our table. Perhaps we feel something lacking in a relationship. Well, maybe there’s a way to add luster to a friendship or a marriage.

Perhaps we feel distant from God. Maybe there’s something we can do to draw closer. Perhaps we feel lonely or isolated, especially during these lonesome times. When I call someone to ask how they’re doing, I myself feel less lonely. So pick up that phone.

A little perseverance goes a long way. Sometimes we got distracted. Bill had yard work. Working alone on the puzzle frustrated me. But we never gave up. And now we have a beautiful puzzle, ready for framing.

Life demands perseverance. Cooking tires me, but we have to eat. Physical limitations slow me down as the years add up. It seems every day another challenge pops up.

But scripture says don’t give up. Hope. Trust.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

No matter how bleak, we hope in God. Our faith may be stretched to the limit, but it grows in the process. Once you survive something, you learn that with God’s help, you can survive anything.

We pray for patience, but we only learn patience by persevering. We somehow become braver, more resilient and more sympathetic toward others after we’ve muddled through one of life’s hardships. Our priorities change . . . for the better.

So what’s going on in your life? For what task do you need encouragement? Kneel before God. Ask Him for help. Reach out to a friend. Then put your hand on the wheel and drive on.

I was certain the very last piece of the puzzle was missing. I had tried every piece multiple times and none fit. Yet at the last minute, when only one piece was left, it slipped right into that empty spot.

May it be so for you as you persevere on life’s bumpy road trip. Don’t give up. The best view lies just around the bend.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Book Review: Where to Submit Christian Writing

A small but valuable resource for freelance writers. If you’re new to writing, Jake Doberenz lists many small, nonpaying markets you might break into. If you’re an experienced writer, you’ll be familiar with many of the publishers listed, but you’ll still discover many denominational and other small publications that aren’t listed in the traditional writer’s market-type books.

I liked the way the e-book provides website links to each publication. Just click and you can view writer’s guidelines and more. I also like the way Doberenz arranged his book by separating paying and nonpaying publications. And I appreciate the wide range of topics indexed—from “Academic,” “Apologetics” and “Art” to “Screen Writing and Film,” “Women” and “Writing and Blogging.”

 I am happy I discovered this handy resource with concise descriptions of magazines including denominational publications with which I was not familiar.