Tag: Christian books

Why Animals Touch Our Hearts

animals in a meadow

Photos of furry creatures … videos of cute animal antics … stories and movies of animal adventures. These are popular because they evoke feelings of wonder, memories of beloved pets, the joy and excitement of wildlife sightings, the sensory experience of a trip to the farm.

Have you ever noticed how many book covers feature pictures of animals? Evidently, animal pictures on covers help sell books. We have a few books with animals on the covers, ourselves. I looked inside each of these books today for some clues as to why animals trigger such heart responses in us. Here is what I found:

1.  Animals are our fellow creatures, loved by the Creator.

God'sCreatures

God’s Creatures

In God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals, Susan Bulanda explains that God cares for his earthly creatures. He created them, blessed them, called them “good.” He saved the animals from the Flood, and he included “every living creature” in the covenant he made with us after the flood (see Genesis 9:9-17). Bulanda goes on to show that many Scriptures display God’s care for animals. Old Testament laws protected animals. Jesus’ parables affirmed and spotlighted them. Then, Bulanda asks:

“Is it possible that God has put the desire to care for all animals in the hearts of many people … God’s love for his creation showing through humans?”

and

“Could there be subtle lessons of love God gives us through our pets?”

2.  Animals can provide companionship, inspiration, and comfort.

Walking-in-Trust

Walking In Trust

In Walking In Trust : Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog, Gayle M. Irwin describes an afternoon of companionship with her dog:

“Snow falls in large flakes outside my door this afternoon and a warm Sunday fire blazes in the wood stove inside the house. Sage has found a way to wedge herself into the over-stuffed chair. At first she lies quietly stretched out beside me. Then, as if she has an itch, she suddenly rises, turns herself around and lays her head on my chest. I pause from my reading to softly stroke her black and white fur. She sighs deeply and tries to snuggle closer. I pet her long muzzle and then scratch behind her ears, a favorite spot of hers. As I minister these gentle strokes, I tell her what a wonderful, loving dog she is. Sage closes her eyes, relishing the experience. I, too, bask in the tender moment. My hand rests lightly on her shoulder and we sit like this for hours—protected from the frigid cold outside—in comfortable, companionable silence inside our cozy house.” … “I learned more from Sage than she did from me: lessons about trust, courage, loyalty, contentment, and perseverance.” … “Sage’s visits and her life story encouraged many children to persevere in spite of the hardships and challenges they face. Through the life of a blind Springer Spaniel, I have learned more fully what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.” (p. 145 and 9)

3.  Animals teach us about the Creator and how to relate to him.

All-We-Like-Sheep

All We Like Sheep

In All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold, shepherdess Marilyn Bay Wentz writes:

“I continued cutting out the weeds, but the burdensome task was balanced with the delight I felt watching my flock. I knew the serenity of the scene could be broken at any time. Movement as mundane as a startled Cottontail rabbit jumping from behind a bush to hop across the pasture could send the flock running for the protection of the pen. … In that moment, the joy of the Lord, expressed by the psalmist when he said ‘We are his people, the sheep of his pasture,’ made perfect sense to me. God compares his delight in me and you to a flock of peacefully-grazing sheep. He could have compared his delight to another animal in his creation. Why not say we are his people, the horses of his stable? Horses (which I am partial to) are beautiful, strong and fast. Surely, the Lord delights in seeing the horses he created. Or, why not compare his delight in us to that of seeing a lion? Male or female, a lion is a powerful and awe-inspiring animal. Or, surely the Lord is delighted to see the soaring eagles he created. They are simultaneously fierce and beautiful. They can soar high and dive powerfully. Their outstretched wings are a wonder to behold. But, he says I am as pleasing to him as the sheep of his pasture. To please him we don’t need to be fast and athletic like a horse, powerful like a lion, or beautiful and awe-inspiring like an eagle. What pleases him is when we, like the skittish sheep, run to him for everything we need, trusting his sufficiency to supply all our needs.” (pp. 156-157)

4.  Animals provide metaphors of our lives.

Dangerous-Journey

Dangerous Journey of Sherman the Sheep

In his allegorical fiction, The Dangerous Journey of Sherman the Sheep, Dean Davis describes the Shepherd taking his flock to the “high country”:

“Their destination was a lonely valley deep in the hills and an ancient sheepfold with four high walls of stone. This became their home away from home, the place where all their journeys began and ended. Early in the year, when grass was plentiful, their travels were short, hardly more than outings. At dawn the Shepherd would open the gate of the fold, whistle for the sheep, and lead His flock to a nearby meadow with a pool of fresh spring water to drink. Then at dusk they would all return to the safety of the fold’s strong walls. But as spring gave way to summer, and summer to fall, the journeys grew longer and more difficult. They’d be gone for many days, camping beneath the stars or in caves. The meadows grew fewer and the water more scarce—and to find these, the flock had often to follow their Shepherd through dark, narrow canyons, where wolves or lions might be lurking in the shadows. … Yes, this was the dangerous time of year, a time when sheep could get hungry, thirsty, or even hurt. Needless to say, the Shepherd took such dangers very seriously. But as for the sheep, they simply trusted in their Master’s care. They knew that sooner or later He would give them rest, just as He always had. (And as for Sherman—well, for him danger was just another word for adventure; and adventure was the one thing Sherman loved best)!” (pp. 8-10)

5.  Animals represent elements of Mystery.

Gadly-Cover-for-LS

Gadly Plain: A Novel

In Gadly Plain: A Novel, J. Michael Dew uses the literary device of a talking donkey who has lived since the Garden of Eden. This donkey represents the victory of life over death, of God’s overarching purpose in human history. This same donkey had gone up the mountain with Abraham and Isaac, had talked to the prophet Balaam, joined the other animals in Noah’s Ark, carried Mary to Bethlehem and witnessed the birth of Jesus. Toward the end of the book, the donkey, who is named Amen, is on the Isle of Patmos with John the Apostle. Amen and John share this conversation:

“Amen,” John says one day. “I have a story to share, a new one as fresh as a spring blossom.”
“My ears, friend, are big,” says Amen.
“I have seen the end and the beginning, the omega and the alpha. I have written it on a scroll. There is something you should hear.”
Amen swallows what he has in his mouth.
Then John goes on, “He showed me. His voice was like the sound of rushing water. The end is terrible and good. The fibber will have his due.”
“I don’t like the fibber,” says Amen. “He is the enemy of hope.”
John says, “It will be a great and awful reckoning.”
“When?” asks Amen.
John just smiles. “Amen, you have been faithful.”
“I have tried to be led well.”
“It is better to be led than pushed,” says John. “You will be led some more, good donkey.” And John laughs so hard, he cries and tries to catch his breath.
Amen just takes another bite and swishes his tail to swish away a fly.
Finally, John scratches Amen behind the ears. “Amen, do you know why, of all the other animals, you were given the ability to speak to man?”
Amen says no.
“I’ll tell you,” says John. “As a donkey, you are well-suited to carry heavy loads. The load you carry now is a story: words strung together since the beginning, invisible cargo on the back of a humble beast. I have seen the end of this story. I have only seen glimpses of the next.”
“I am a storyteller?” asks Amen.
“Yes, and a guardian, too.”
Amen shakes his head hard at that.
“How am I well suited to be a guardian?”
“You are stubborn. You won’t forget. You won’t give in to time. You haven’t yet.”
Amen thinks about that for a minute, and then he asks, “But to whom? I have learned a lot about man. He can be a cruel master. There were times when I kept my words to myself. Some men only hear their own stories. And worse, some men only hear lies. I know a story that can free them from their torments. Who can hear it, though, with the fibber taking them for long walks in the desert?”
John rubs Amen’s withers, and it feels good. “Yes, yes,” he starts gently. “The fibber is persistent. But what is his persistence next to the truth you carry?”
“I know the strength of his tug.”
“You have also felt his release, unwilling though it was.”
“Thank God.”
“Yes, and praise.”
Amen he-haws, because whatever he thinks to say, it doesn’t work.
“My brothers and I aren’t the only ones charged with relaying the good news.”
“I am a donkey. I talk. You say it is to tell a story—one I’ve lived, one I carry.”
“Yes,” says John. “You have been entrusted.”
“Please tell me then: Who will listen?”
“Those who can.”
“Those who can?”
“Those who wouldn’t think it that strange or that impossible to hear a donkey speak.”

(adapted from pp. 171-173)

Scattering Books Like Seeds

In my mind, a publisher distributing books is like a farmer broadcasting seeds. We send them out in every direction, hoping they fall on ready, canstockphoto2973557-sowerprepared soil that will receive the message and take it to heart.

This wintry time of year, seeds lie dormant in the ground waiting, sealed. When days grow longer and warmer, the seeds will awaken, sprout and eventually produce leaves and fruit.

Same with books. You may buy a book or be given one, but the season of your life isn’t right yet. The book sits on a shelf, or under a pile of other volumes—or a list of Kindle files—you plan to read sometime. Then one day you pick it up, or click it open, and start reading; and you marvel that these words are exactly what you need at this time of your life.

Casting/sowing seeds or books takes faith. A Christian publisher must believe that these books, which contain kernels of life-giving truth, will be carried by the Wind of the Holy Spirit. And when prepared personal soil opens to them, we pray that their message will be watered by the Living Water. The resulting fruit will be minds and hearts growing and encouraged to flourish in hope, wholeness, spiritual insights, and joy.

So I choose the mindset of an under-gardener. My Father is the Gardener. By his grace I’ll do my part. His is the overall plan, purpose and power. The resulting fruit cannot be fully seen or measured this side of Heaven.

Then, how can we fail? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must lick my finger and hold it to the wind.

Delicious Poetry

canstockphoto32506025

If you enjoy digesting good poetry, and if you find yourself craving poems that are “delicious, nutritious, crisp, textured, with just the right touch of spice” … then you’ll agree with poet (and poetry editor) Mary Harwell Sayler who uses these culinary words to describe poetry that stands out from the usual crowded buffet of verse filled with “empty calories, rehashed left-overs, and saccharine sweetness.”

You can find a list of “delicious” poetry books Mary recommended today in her post “Take a poem to lunch.”

I was delighted to find my name and poetry collection, Remembering Softly: A Life in Poems appearing on her list!

I agree with Mary about the importance of a creative, healthy diet of poetry. Sometimes I feel the need for “comfort food” poems that warm my heart like savory stew warms my insides. Or poems that stimulate my senses the way a good, strong cup of coffee wakes me up in the morning. Or poems that bring the catharsis of tears and laughter, like lunch with friends.

Help yourself to a serving of skillfully and lovingly-prepared, delicious poetry today.

 


Photo: ©CanStockPhoto/thai6D

Opening to Adventures in Prayer

bee on hawthorn flowers

My husband and I have a bee hive in our backyard, and I have planted many nectar-producing flowers for the bees. We also grow vegetable and berry gardens. Since we welcomed bees into our gardens; the flowers, berries, and herbs have flourished noticeably more. I’m sure the salvia flower stalks and peppermint blossoms bloom longer than they used to before so many bees were relishing closeness with them. The flowers seem to respond and love the bees as much as the bees delight in the flowers and the nectar they produce. Of course we, also, enjoy seeing the well-being of our gardens and eating the honey that results!

Similarly, I believe our relational God longs to commune with us, to create well-being within us, and to influence the course of the future together with us, as we pray.

Our view of God and his providence affects how we pray. If the future is open to God, our prayers and petitions to him can also be open and answered by him in more possible and creative ways than we can begin to imagine. In The Uncontrolling Love of God, Thomas Jay Oord asserts that God has given creatures genuine free will to make choices and to respond to him in ways that affect the future. For that reason, though the future is not pre-determined and known conclusively by God, “the future is full of possibilities, and, being omniscient, God knows them all.” We can live and pray in hope and expectancy. The believer’s life of prayer can be a life of adventure.

This prayer relationship with God reminds me of the relationship I observe in my garden between the flowers and the bees. Deep calls to deep as God calls us to intimate prayer and contemplation with him. As we respond and allow him access, he searches our inner being and comes to know us more and more thoroughly. I believe that to be known by God is to be transformed.

If God is Spirit and omnipresent in every moment of time—all the time everywhere—we can and should pray in the spirit everywhere and all the time.

Because “God lovingly invites creatures and creation to cooperate to enact a future in which well-being is established in surprising and positive ways,” we can and should cooperate with him in faith: praying, trusting, and working toward goodness and his will and kingdom to come. We can be looking for shalom to blossom and grow.

If God’s essence is uncontrolling love, we can and should pray uncontrolling, loving prayers. According to scripture, God actually shares his nature with us. If this nature is essentially kenotic, “self-giving, others-empowering love,” we can pray self-giving, others-empowering prayers.

God is far beyond the comfortable boundaries we have set for him in the past. It’s overwhelming and unsettling at first to consider this, but God is so much bigger than we have believed. How can he also be personal, hearing our prayers, far bigger and far closer than we have imagined? God’s essential being is love and he relates to each of us intimately.

Our open and relational God is calling us to:

  • Praise him.
  • Confess to him our lack of faith, trust, hope, and loving action.
  • Give thanks to him for enlarging our hearts and vision.
  • Bring supplications to him, interceding on behalf of the people and places we see that are far from the well-being of shalom.
  • Listen to and commune with him. Receive and respond.
  • Be prayerful in the spirit always.
  • Say “yes” to what he is calling forth in and through us.

As we watch and pray that God will call forth cooperation from—and give shalom to—his people and all of creation, the prayers of a righteous person avail much! We are co-creators of the future with him! He delights in this.

It is much like the bees that seem to draw out more blooms and fruit from my garden. Through prayer we can work with God to see his kingdom grow. Each one who truly cooperates in prayer and action with the Spirit of God increases his kingdom, his will, his working for good and overcoming evil in this world.

“We know the whole creation has been groaning,” kind of like a garden longing to open its petals to sunshine and bees. Perhaps the world is waiting for us to respond to our almighty and ever-present God in open, obedient, watching-for-possibilities prayer. Perhaps the more people respond positively to him, the more grace is available, like a well-pollinated garden. We have been too passive-aggressive, lazily saying “But God is in control,” on one hand, while on the other hand complaining and becoming angry at the way the world is going. God calls us to be active in faith and prayer and love toward him and toward his needy world. I don’t think it’s irreverent to say he hovers over us like a buzzing bee seeking access to our hearts, waiting for them to open their closed petals to him, to give of the nectar of our lives to increase goodness and to sweeten the future.

If it were true that God sees one set future, determined since before time began, we would have a big God. But the open view of God describes a far bigger God! He sees every possibility. He sees how our ongoing, potential actions and choices in every instance may cause repercussions that affect those around us.


Note: I wrote this piece because I believe in prayer and I wanted to engage with Thomas Jay Oord’s teaching after reading his book, The Uncontrolling Love of God  (NavPress, 2015). This entire post first appeared at http://uncontrollinglove.com (and later at http://thomasjayoord.com ). I agree with some, but not all, opinions and philosophies expressed by the writers there, but I’m thankful to have an opportunity to participate in the conversation.

Better than Destruction and Despising

san-francisco-85652_1920

I’m starting a series of guest posts from authors. Today we hear from John Buzzard, whose first book, Storm Tossed, is a war memoir (of more than one kind of warfare).

As John shows here, we humans have a tendency to embrace “us and them” attitudes. We point fingers and condemn, when Jesus says to love and pray. Especially in these days of polarizing politics and issues, even Christians can find themselves in the position of using our energies protecting “our group” while, in essence, wishing that God would destroy the “other group.” John tells about a time he found himself in such a situation:


by John Buzzard:

I moved to Alameda, California, and got a job with a security company guarding the former Naval Air Station. Going from a police officer to a security guard was humbling, but I took it on faith God had something better in mind for me. My wife and the kids and I moved into a small, expensive apartment and started attending a local church.

I drove a white pickup truck around the base from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. When I got tired I’d park on the tarmac, pour myself a cup of coffee, listen to the radio and gaze at the lights of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. I was shocked to hear radio talkers mocking God in the name of tolerance, promoting perverted lifestyles, and encouraging hatred towards Christians.

“Oh Lord, why do You allow that wicked city to mock You and fester in sin? Why not destroy it?” I prayed.

Immediately I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Your prayer is like that of Jonah. Just like the people of Nineveh, I do not wish for these people to perish, but to repent. What if I had pronounced judgment on the world when you were still in sin? Pray for the salvation of the city, rather than its destruction.”

My attitude changed. Instead of despising many of the people of San Francisco, I felt sorry for those enslaved to the power of Satan. My prayers changed. The radio stations I listened to also changed. I found a couple of good Christian stations that provided solid teaching. At the end of my eight-hour shift I’d feel invigorated.

Over time, I also felt the Lord was telling me not to be ashamed of my own past, because there are so many people trapped by sexual sin. If they only knew my story, they could see there is hope.

 

This post is excerpted from the book, STORM TOSSED by Jake Porter (a pen name for author John Buzzard).

Books Showing Up in Every Corner of the World

Map-with-pins

As a publisher, I love to hear stories of how our titles have found their way into every corner of the world and into the hands of readers. I occasionally hear from authors with stories like the following.

From Judy Pex, author of Walk the Land : A Journey on Foot through Israel :

“Last night in the Shelter an ultra-orthodox [Jewish] man — with a long beard and dressed in black — about our age checked in and wanted to talk to John and me about the Israel Trail. He was not in the usual age category of hikers who stay at our shelter, and it is unusual to find an ultra-orthodox walking the Trail. He’s from England, and turns out he already read Walk The Land in English and even quoted bits of it. Now he plans to walk the Trail for a few days and had some specific questions about water, sleeping, etc. After talking for about 45 minutes, John asked him what he thought about the spiritual parts of the book. He answered diplomatically that we had our differences. But it was an interesting conversation and contact.”

From Susan Jenkins, author of Scandalon:

“An old friend back in high school found me on Facebook and we got together for coffee. She told me that she was attending a women’s conference in Texas a couple of years ago and Scandalon was offered as one of the books to buy. She bought it and then realized that it was me who wrote it. As it turns out, she told me that her parents didn’t allow her to attend church back in high school, but she came to my dad’s church once with her next-door neighbor. As a result of that service she became a Christian. A few years later, she married a pastor and has been a pastor’s wife for decades.

“The second story is from one of my former students in southern China, Muti. Muti wrote me recently and told me he was walking along a street in Hong Kong, and on a shelf outside a bookstore was Scandalon. He talked with the bookstore owner and she told him she liked the book because of the stories about China. So, of course, he bought a copy.”

Whether they find their way to Texas, Hong Kong, England, or Israel – What a joy and privilege to publish these books.

Ten Best Books I Read in 2015

books-on-shelves

Here’s an eclectic list of books, varied in subject, genre, and form. I like to find the best in popular books, old and new, and find hidden gems that are less-well known but sometimes even more worthy of being found on a “best-seller” list. Perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite among these:

(In no particular order)

  1. STONE BY STONE: Tear Down the Wall Between God’s Heart and Yours by Jasona Brown (WhiteFire, 2015) – I’m part of a group of prayer ministers in my church. We spent several months this past year reading and discussing this book and praying together over personal issues that came up. Stone by Stone brings to light obstacles in our hearts that hinder us from freely and fully receiving God’s love and living in wholeness, in the joy of the Lord. Topics covered include:guilt, unforgiveness, lies believed, trauma, and unhealed memories. I enjoyed the conversational style of the author, the way she so transparently shared her own story, and the way her compassion for hurting people comes through.
  2. A GUIDE FOR LISTENING AND INNER HEALING PRAYER: Meeting God in the Broken Places by Rusty Rustenbach (NavPress, 2011)  –  As the title indicates, this is a comprehensive guide. It includes personal stories from the authors life and examples from other people’s lives as well. I recommend it to anyone desiring to remove barriers to intimacy with God and to be free of negative emotions that have plagued you for years, to experience release, freedom, and healing of emotional wounds. This book can lead individuals step-by-step in that healing process, and it can equip groups like the one I’m in, to facilitate a listening and inner-healing prayer ministry for the wounded people the Lord brings to us.
  3. THE LANGUAGE OF GOD: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins (Free Press, 2007)  –  Science has not been my forte. But this is a fascinating book.  Like many Christians, I had some skepticism. Can you really believe both science and the Bible? Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who headed the Human Genome Project presents a clear and sincere personal testimony of coming to faith in Jesus. He also discusses scientific discoveries in an easy-to-follow way that I actually enjoyed. He says we don’t have to choose between science and God. Especially helpful is Collins’ explanation of how and why a Bible-believing Christian may accept the theory of evolution.
  4. SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY: A Woman’s Journey through Poems selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (Grand Central, 2014) –  I love poetry and have a collection of poetry books. Some are antiques that belonged to my great-grandmother. Some are tomes I studied in college. I turn to poetry in times of deep emotion and it helps me walk through those times. Well, for my birthday last year I received a Barnes & Noble gift card. I decided I wanted a current volume of poetry. I remembered seeing a small “Poetry” section in our local B&N. When I went there, that section had disappeared, but a few poetry books were squeezed on half a shelf somewhere at the bottom of the “fiction” section. Sad. The pickings were slim. But She Walks in Beauty stood out to me. After scanning the topics (“Falling In Love” “Marriage” “Work” “Growing Up and Growing Old” “Friendship” “Silence and Solitude”) I bought the book. It didn’t disappoint. Ms. Kennedy included poems by some of my “old” favorites, such as Frost, Yeats, Browning and also introduced me to contemporary poets. She even included Christian mystics such as Teresa of Avila and poetic passages from the Bible. The poems cover nearly every aspect of a woman’s life. To me the best parts, though, were Ms.Kennedy’s insightful, personal, and beautifully-expressed introductions to each subject group of poems.
  5. SOLDIER’S HEART: A Novel by Michele McKnight Baker (Heritage Beacon, 2015) – I read this Civil-War era novel in manuscript form. Many fiction manuscripts have crossed my desk through the years. But few have made as strong an impression on me as this one did. An agent sent me the manuscript. During 15 years of acquiring manuscripts for Cladach, only twice have I failed to win a contract for a book I really wanted to publish. Soldier’s Heart is one of those. The characters, the setting, the time period, the twists of plot, authentic conflicts, and the theme of generational sins and reconciliations make Soldier’s Heart an unforgettable read. What we now call PTSD, often diagnosed in military personnel returning from war, used to be called “soldier’s heart.” If you enjoy Christian historical fiction—read this novel.
  6. ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL by James Herriot (Bantam, 1974) –  One winter day I felt like reading something cozy and familiar; so I perused the well-worn volumes of my personal library and pulled some James Herriot books off the shelf. I first read his warm and wonderful series of Yorkshire-vet tales in the 1980s. The Chicago Tribune (according to the back cover) said this book was “bursting with love, laughter and the joy of life” and a “soul-satisfying autobiographical book. Human beings just naturally respond to a writer as lovable, wholesome, eloquent, humorous and well-stocked with anecdotes as James Herriot.”  I agree. Worth keeping for decades and reading over again.
  7. ALL WE LIKE SHEEP: Lessons from the Sheepfold by Marilyn Bay Wentz and Mildred Nelson Bay (Cladach, 2015) –  I read this book more closely than any other on this list, since I edited it! When Marilyn first sent her completed manuscript, which I had agreed to publish, I had just read a couple of James Herriot’s books. He describes so vividly his experiences with sheep and other farm animals. I looked forward to more such stories from a sheep farmer I knew, right here in Colorado. During the revision process, I asked authors Marilyn and Millie, “Do you enjoy your sheep? Do you love what you do— the farm, the outdoors, the mornings and evenings, the barn, the pastures, etc? Your choices of words, images, vignettes will help me experience the sheep farm vicariously. I want to smell the sweet hay, to hear the lambs bleat, to feel a newborn lamb, the bite of a chilly midnight during lambing season. I want to laugh and cry with you as you deal with rogue dogs and coyotes, search for a lost lamb, watch your flock come running as they recognize your voice.” Marilyn and Millie caught the vision of “creative nonfiction” and accomplished the feat of writing their shepherding experiences as stories with dialogue, sensory details, and emotion. In an entertaining way, the authors “show us” as well as teach us why the Bible says we are all like sheep.
  8. YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction—from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between  by Lee Gutkind (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2012) Speaking of creative nonfiction (as I did in #6 and #7 above)—a style popular in journalism today, and the style I prefer for memoirs and other nonfiction—this is a definitive book on what it is and how to write it. I read this book in preparation for a workshop I presented at the Writers on the Rock conference. A secular, colorfully-written book, by the expert on the subject, that includes many examples and exercises. I read the Kindle version.
  9. THE UNCONTROLLING LOVE OF GOD: An Open and Relational Account of Providence  by Thomas Jay Oord (Intervarsity Press, 2015) –  I have some of my preacher father’s and some of my preacher grandfather’s theology books that were handed down to me. I’ve acquired and studied other, more recent theological books, mostly written from the Wesleyan-Arminian perspective, as well as broader Evangelical and even a few Reformed works. In recent years, have enjoyed books by N.T. Wright and Jurgen Moltmann. I heard about Thomas Jay Oord before I knew of his many books. Since we had mutual acquaintances, I responded to Mr. Oord’s request for readers to review his then-forthcoming book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. I read it in pdf form. This book provokes thought and lays out a convincing case concerning why evil happens even though “God is love.” You can read my Amazon review of the book here.
  10. LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo (Penguin Audio, 2009) I own three video/DVD versions of Les Miserables — an old movie, a more recent movie, and a stage musical production. The story—with its timeless themes of justice, mercy, and redemption—always inspires and the music lifts me. I wanted to read the book, but haven’t yet tackled that thick volume. Instead, I started an Audible membership and downloaded this Audible/audio version of the great classic. My husband and I listened to it on a long road trip and enjoyed this abridged, well-narrated version of the book. An accessible way for tired or busy eyes to devour and relish great literature.

 

Colorado Book Award Finalist Teams Up With Mother on Sheep Book

All We Like Sheep : Lessons from the Sheepfold  Produced with Team Effort

IMG_0644 - 2-Copy

GREELEY, COLO.—Colorado Book Award 2014 finalist Marilyn Bay Wentz, Strasburg, Colo., has teamed up with her mother, Mildred Nelson Bay, Eaton, Colo., to write a series of sheep stories and the lessons both women have learned from their collective seven decades of raising lambs commercially. All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold was released Sept. 15 by Cladach Publishing.

Wentz, a journalist whose first book, Prairie Grace (historical fiction set in 1864 Colorado Territory) was an award finalist, credits her mother as her mentor in both writing and sheep herding. Wentz says, “It was an amazing experience to write this book with my mother, considering her depth of knowledge, her love of both sheep and the Bible, and her gentle humor.”

All We Like Sheep, a mix of creative memoir and Bible-centered devotional, was conceived from the heart and experience of this mother-daughter duo. “People see flocks of sheep grazing in the mountains or on the plains but understand little about the joys and trials of herding sheep,” says Bay. “Stories in All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold help the reader understand sleepless nights of lambing, attacks on the ewes by rogue dogs and coyotes, the bond experienced when the lambs respond to the shepherd’s voice, or how sheep protect themselves and ewes always recognize their own lambs.”

According to Catherine Lawton, Cladach editor and publisher of the book, All We Like Sheep: Lessons from the Sheepfold closes the experiential gap between those who farm sheep, those who enjoy seeing pastoral scenes of sheep, and those who would like to better understand why the Bible so often mentions sheep (over 500 times).

Lawton adds, “These women are talented storytellers. Christian readers, especially, will appreciate the spiritual and biblical insights that Wentz and Bay have gleaned from their sheep-herding experiences. Each story/chapter closes with questions ‘to ponder’ and a short prayer. Photos from the sheep farm are sprinkled throughout the book.”

Chapter titles include: “Ice Baby,” “A Lamb Called ‘Her’,” “The Little Ewe Who Thought She Could,” “Keep Out the Thief,” “It’s All About the Smell,” “Eternity in Our Hearts.”

Marilyn Bay Wentz grew up on the property her parents still farm northeast of Eaton but has lived in rural Strasburg for nearly two decades. She has written hundreds of news releases and articles for agricultural organizations and other clients. Mildred Nelson Bay and husband, Marvin, have farmed since 1970. She has been active in her local church, AWANA and Gideons, International, and has written articles for regional publications.

All We Like Sheep, Lessons from the Sheepfold, is available in softcover and Kindle from Amazon as well as in softcover at specialty shops. More information about Marilyn Bay Wentz and her books can be found at http://www.MarilynBayWentz.com and http://www.cladach.com/all-we-like-sheep/.

All-We-Like-Sheep

 

 

Me? Like a Sheep?

Lamb-2

I hear someone saying, “Lambs are cute and woolly, and all that. But aren’t sheep ‘dumb’ and helpless creatures? I’m not sure I want to be like a sheep.”

In answer, I’ll offer a few snippets of Bible verses:

“I am the Good Shepherd.”

“My sheep hear my voice.”

“Follow me.”

“Like sheep without a shepherd”

“Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

“He leads me beside still waters.”

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”

“His rod and staff comfort me.”

“We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray.”

“I lay down my life for the sheep.”

“Oh. Well. When He puts it that way … I’ll follow Him like a sheep if that’s what it takes to hear His voice, know His goodness, enjoy those green pastures and still waters, live the life He made possible by laying down His own. … But, what does that mean in real life? for me? How does this sheep thing work?”

I’m glad you asked. God the Father gave us this picture of His sheep in His pastures. He even sent His Son to be the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. But He knew it would be hard for us to fathom such love and all the nuances of such a lamb-like life of trust. So He provided human under-shepherds. And He provided some earthy, mucking-in-the-barn and traipsing-in-the-pastures, shepherds of flocks. These people know sheep. They can tell us a lot about those creatures that God says we are like.

“I’ll bet those shepherds could tell some stories! From what the Bible says, sheep can get into a lot of trouble.”

In fact, I have two friends who are shepherds of sheep. Their names are Marilyn and Millie, two women who have raised thousands of lambs and tended flocks on their farms in Colorado. They have given names to many of their lambs and gotten to know their individual sheep quirks and personalities. They’ve nursed sick sheep, bottle-fed orphan lambs, called flocks in from the pasture, protected them from marauding dogs and hungry coyotes. They’ve laughed at sheep antics and cried over their losses and vulnerabilities.

“I’d like to meet those shepherdesses and visit the sheep farm, but I don’t suppose I ever will.”

But you can! Vicariously. Just read Marilyn and Millie’s book of sheep stories. They’ll even help you better understand how to follow the Good Shepherd “like a sheep of His pasture.”

“Great! Where can I get their book?”

Right here:

http://amzn.com/0989101436

And you can find out more here:

https://cladach.com/all-we-like-sheep/

Remember, keep listening for the Shepherd’s voice. You can trust Him implicitly!

Afflict the Comfortable?

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.

Stories of Christian refugees fleeing the genocide in south Sudan will disturb your ease but may also give you perspective on the troubles you face.

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.

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