On Kitten Creek: Searching for the Sacred by Nancy Swihart is a remarkable, modern day adventure story about how one family, grounded in Christian love and guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, developed a Christ-honoring community. The power of these verses is fulfilled in her book and life:
In Psalm 71:18, we are encouraged to “declare God’s power to the next generation, His mighty acts to all who are to come.”
Psalm 90:12 tells us to “number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
As I read Nancy’s story, I remembered my own family’s journey… When our first military assignment took us to Kansas, we were blessed with a life-long friendship with the Swihart family as well as our involvement with Wellspring Ministries. My three children, my wife, and I spent many a happy day frolicking on the Swihart farm, enjoying the uniqueness that only farm life can hold, as well as being impacted by the spiritual adventures that took place there on Kitten Creek. Of particular interest to my animal-loving children was the variety of animals found there, which the Swiharts wove into their ministry (and Nancy into her book) much like C.S. Lewis did in his Narnia stories!
This is a life-changing book as it points to self-introspection in regards to how our own lives might be used to further the Lord’s Kingdom here on this earth.
As a retired U.S. Army soldier and now a professor at the University of Alabama, I was impressed by the Wellspring team’s openness to so many college students… their willingness to simply be present, to listen, and to provide a relational community where young people could experience faith in action.
Nancy’s memoir guides her readers to our Savior and encourages a lifetime of focus on Him and the gospel. It reminds us that God provides, corrects, leads, and answers our prayers and needs as we continually seek His presence in our lives. The importance of remembrance is emphasized as the Lord incorporates our whole lives into the strength of our witness for Him, and the value of praying and thinking the Scriptures is encouraged.
In a personal application of this book, though us city folk do not inhabit a farm in Kansas, we do have a small cabin on a river in the Appalachian mountains in north Alabama. We are now inspired to place a Christ-focus in our times there for our family and friends.
On a professional note, I am part of research and ministry with aging congregations across the world. Our team plans to recommend Nancy’s inspirational book as an encouragement to older persons of faith to share their Christ-honoring stories with the next generation and to remind adult children to capture the stories of their parents and grandparents. Nancy provides insightful suggestions and resources about how to tailor and accomplish this. Her own book is a superb example of how one’s own family story can impact this world for the Lord and His life-saving mission.
–Dr. Mike Parker, Professor, University of Alabama, Associate Professor, UAB Medical School, Department of Geriatric Medicine, Non-Resident Scholar, Duke Center for Spirituality and Health
Timing. We often hear “in God’s time” or “timing is everything” or “this isn’t the right time” or “the time has come.” One thing we know, time keeps moving forward. And sometimes, when the pendulum swings by, you need to grab hold. That’s what author Susan Jenkins did with the Facebook post pictured below.
The “recent events in the news” Susan speaks of here are the many reports and stories exposing sexual harassment and abuse of women by men in positions of authority. In Susan’s memoir, Scandalon: Running From Shame and Finding God’s Scandalous Love, she tells her own story of sexual abuse by a pastor, emotional abuse in a marriage, and of scandal in her family. Hard things to write about and bring to the light. But that is often part of healing.
Susan also describes how she fled to—and lived in—China for 15 years. There Susan got to know the Chinese and observe the effects of trauma and abuse they suffered under Communism. God used her time in China to help bring the healing she needed. Inspiring reading!
I’m going to try using a Facebook screen shot here. Below is Susan’s public post to her many followers, which she shared on, January 16, 2018.
It’s time, all right. Time for truth and accountability. Time for healing.
Sunday night my husband and I got around to watching, for the first time, the excellent and important movie, Hotel Rwanda. It was harder to watch than I expected. I’m glad the portrayal of genocide wasn’t as graphic as it could’ve been. The true story and the acting were gripping.
What broke my heart was seeing those Rwandan people—children, adults, a whole nation—traumatized by the violence, hate, death, and evil. I went to bed disturbed in my soul. But rather than seeing images of the movie in my mind … I saw images and felt the awful panic of the time as a 4-year-old when I was trapped in, and barely escaped from, a burning house in the middle of the night.
I know a little of what trauma is and how it stays with you. Enough to cause my heart to “go out” to the millions of war-, genocide-, disaster-, and massacre-traumatized people of our world.
Then on Monday morning we woke to news of a shooting massacre in our own country, this time in Las Vegas.
I find myself praying, “O, Lord, send the balm of your healing Spirit to these loved-ones of yours who are emotionally wounded and stuck in ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode. Wake us up and fill us with your love and somehow use us to bring the hope and healing you offer.”
Similar to Rwanda, South Sudan experienced horrors of genocide. One Sudanese survivor/refugee named Yien told author Judith Galblum Pex, “We have suffered too much and are still suffering. In our twenty-one years of war, two million people have died. Some people look to the SPLA (the South Sudanese army) to take care of [us], but I turn to God.” (quoted on p. 151 of A People Tall and Smooth)
May this be true of the countless survivors of recent disasters, massacres, and wars—In the aftermath of these horrors and traumas, may people turn to the God … the God who does not cause such evil, but who is with us and is love.
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.” (I John 4:7)
As a publisher, I seek books that demonstrate the love of God … stories ever fresh, personal and creative … stories of a love that has power to change lives and change history. Many Cladach books tell of lives changed by this love.
In Come, Stay, Celebrate! we read of John and Judith Galblum Pex loving people in Israel—all kinds of people—into the kingdom of God and his Son.
In On Kitten Creek, we read how God came into the midst of a people devoted to him in a place consecrated to him, and he worked in unexpected ways to make his love tangible.
In Journeys to Mother Love we read how love and forgiveness can overcome and heal the wounds and conflicts in mother-child relationships.
In Everywhere I Look, we read how everyday experiences and observations reveal the pervasiveness of God’s love to everyday people.
In All We Like Sheep, we read how God used flocks of sheep to teach two shepherdesses about his shepherd-heart of love.
In Remembering Softly, we read poetic expressions of moments when God’s love seeped, rushed, jolted, flashed, and poured into a searching heart.
In Creation of Calm, we read how God’s love transformed pain and loss into beautiful art that brings calm to others caught in life’s storms.
In Hostage In Taipei, we read a true, extreme account of God’s love working through believers literally caught in the crossfire, eventually overcoming violence and hate.
In Face to Face, we read of Love personified who, unlike everyone else, looked at a woman broken and spiritually oppressed, saw her heart, and released her with his words of love.
Bullet holes in the front door of the Alexander’s home in Taipei. Two members of the family were used as human shields and shot in police crossfire. Yet the Alexanders forgave their terrorist captor and helped lead him to faith in Christ before he faced execution for his crimes.
The famous newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer is said to have had this motto:
“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Do you think this is a good motto for a Christian writer? And maybe for a Christian reader?
Jesus gave comfort to the afflicted. He saw the real needs of individuals and responded in love and power. Today, the Lord works through his people to give comfort to those who are burdened, oppressed, and bereft; to build up others in love and faith to sustain them in the difficulties of life.
On the other hand, Jesus often unsettles us—afflicts us, if you will—with his words and actions. He criticized the religious and political establishments. He gave his time and attention to the weak, the sick, the unlovely, the powerless. He spoke directly to the heart.
Does the Lord want to use you as a writer to challenge and unsettle those who are insulated in ease? Perhaps the Lord wants to remind us of his call to feed the hungry, heal the sick, comfort those who mourn.
To be used this way, you may need to let him move you out of your “comfort zones” of shallow thinking, self-protection, and playing it safe. Read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Read the Acts of the Apostles. Read about the lives and deaths of the early-church martyrs. Read about Christian persecution and martyrdom in the world today.
Other suggestions for reading that will “afflict” us out of our false comfort and into a life of more compassion and faith:
John and Judy Pex’s story of their work in Eilat, Israel. Reading about the Pex’s 30 years of personal evangelism in Israel can fortify you with the desire to live out the life of Jesus, perhaps even opening your home, your arms, or your prayers and giving to reach others with God’s love.
Reading about the Alexander family’s hostage experience at the hands of a Taiwanese terrorist may afflict you when you realize what evil there is in the world and what sufferings God allows his people to go through; or the Alexander’s story may comfort you to see how they were able to show love and salvation to the very man who caused them great bodily injury and emotional harm.
Now a word to readers: Open your hearts to what our Lord, who himself comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, may be saying to you. Don’t just read books that offer escape and make you feel good and even more comfortable. Read books that challenge you, maybe even afflict you with a desire to show compassion.
A good author is someone who has a burning desire to communicate through written expression, will pay the price to learn the craft of writing, will apply themselves to the process of writing, and will always keep their readers in mind. A good Christian writer loves the Lord, loves words, and loves people.
They can clearly answer the reporter’s questions:
Who: They know for Whom and to whom they are writing.
What: They have a clear focus and plan for what they are writing.
Where: They have a place to write and regularly “apply the seat of their pants to the seat of the chair” with pencil in hand or hands on keyboard.
When: They have a regular time to write and also have learned to snatch the moments and ideas as they come.
Why: They know why they are writing. A writer’s motives may vary: money (dream on), fame (rare and elusive), satisfaction, to scratch the itch (they can’t not write),… Or, they relate to what the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell ‘s character said in Chariots of Fire: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
If God has truly gifted these writers to write for Him, then their writings will give pleasure to readers also. From their writings readers will gain inspiration, courage, hope, understanding, insight, help.
These Christian writers have taken to heart Hebrews 12:1-2.