Recently, it saddened my heart, when an elder lady in a Sunday School class challenged me for saying, “God told me . . .”
She said, “He doesn’t talk to you!”
To which I respectfully rebutted, “Oh, but He does, Miss Alice. I know His voice. He speaks to me all the time.”
“You aren’t that special. He talked to His disciples, the apostles, but He doesn’t speak today!”
“I’m not any more special to Father God than you are. I’m certain you hear Him, too, but perhaps you don’t recognize it’s Him. Do you remember Jesus said, “My sheep will know my voice”?
This verse is found in the tenth chapter of John, verses fourteen, sixteen, and twenty-seven, all printed with red ink in many Bibles. Jesus is talking. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine… and they shall hear my voice… My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
When your mother called you, or a best friend, you know immediately who it is because you know their voice. (Well, and now because your phone tells you, but they didn’t used to 😊) You know their voice. You know how it sounds, the inflections used because you’ve shared so many conversations.
He says we—His sheep—will know His voice, so how could we possibly do that if we never heard Him speak? He clearly says twice in John that we will hear Him. It isn’t easy for all Christians to acknowledge that.
They aren’t sure. They think it was themselves or even the devil, although I cannot imagine the evil one, the father of lies.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44
In my upcoming September release TEXAS WILDFLOWERS, the Lord told me to share a Way Mama taught me to hear God—to ask Him a question and know that it’s Him who is answering you.
Oh, there will be scoffers who say it’s only a formula, aspired from the human mind and won’t work. But it is based on Scriptural truths. Like most everything else along our walk with Father—salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing, everything we do in His Kingdom—it requires faith.
Here, we come full circle, and this makes me smile. God has such a great sense of humor! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17 We must believe the Word is true. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
We all have faith. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Romans 12:3
We believe we are His by faith! But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Galatians 3:22
So, if we believe Scripture is true and exercise our God-given faith, the formula simply works. I can testify to that. I don’t exercise the method daily, but at times of need—a great need to know His will—in my life, it has functioned beautifully for me.
In early morning prayer, God told me to share it with my readers in this story, and so I have.
TEXAS WILDFLOWERS is book eight in my Cross Timbers Romance Family Saga and my contribution to the Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Books & Blessings Collection. It debuts this September.
Linda Shenton Matchett
The Progressive Age
The years between 1896 and 1916 saw widespread social activism and political reform. Those involved called themselves Progressives as they worked to implement their ideas of how to make America a better and safer place in which to live. Initially, the movement operated mainly at the local level and targeted the government and their bosses. Eventually it expanded to the state and national levels, drawing support from the middle class. Supporters included lawyers, teachers, physicians, ministers, and business people.
Progressives worked to clean up corrupt city governments, improve working conditions in factories, enhance living conditions in slum areas, conserve resources, and create an attitude of stewardship over the environment. Advocating for antitrust laws, Progressives also pushed for roles and regulations as well as new agencies to carry out those roles, such as the FDA and the Federal Reserve System. It seemed no area escaped notice as activists joined efforts to reform local government, public education, medicine, finance, insurance, industry, railroads, and even churches.
Magazines skyrocketed in popularity, with some seeing circulations as high as hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Scholars agree that the advent of mass media advertising which lowered the cover price and the rampant coverage of corruption in politics, local government, and big business are the main reasons for this surge.
During this time period, the number of rich families also climbed exponentially, from approximately one hundred in the 1870s to four thousand in 1892, and sixteen thousand in 1916. Fortunately, many followed Andrew Carnegie’s philosophy that the wealthy had a duty to society, resulting in significant philanthropic giving to colleges, hospitals, medical research, libraries, museums, and religious and social causes.
President Theodore Roosevelt was a leader in the Progressive Movement and did much to break up trusts, regulate railroads, and give citizens what he called a “Square Deal.” He also made conservation a priority and created many new national parks, forests, and monuments that preserved the country’s natural resources. Other names you might recognize are Jane Addams (found of Hull House), journalists Ida B. Wells and Ida Tarbell, attorney Oliver Wendell Holmes, author Upton Sinclair, President Woodrow Wilson, and President William Taft.
I remember so well when my first solo novel released and the reviews started trickling in. At first, I didn’t want to look at them. I’m pretty sensitive in nature, and I was afraid everyone would hate the book, I would cry buckets, and I’d never write another word again. I mean, who was I kidding? The publisher should never have given me a contract in the first place, right?
One day I was either feeling brave or procrastinating on writing the next novel, so I opened up Amazon and took a look at the reviews. Most of them liked the story. They really liked it! Then there was review with a single star. I braced myself.
This was it: “Maybe this was meant to be a young adult book or a religious book, but I found it to be very annoying and simplistic.” I laughed. Yeah, real, genuine laughter. No curling into the fetal position and ugly crying. Didn’t the reader ever look at the publisher and notice they were a Christian publisher? Yes, it was meant to be a religious book. And are all “religious” books, by their very nature, annoying and simplistic?
Thankfully, my first one-star review got me over the fear of such comments.
I learned that some reviewers—a very small percentage, granted—just aren’t going to be pleased. Here’s what one wrote about Snow on the Tulips. “The entire book appears to be unedited. The characters are flat, unbelievable and immature; dialogue is not always consistent with the time period. Parts are written so poorly its egregious. The entire book would do better with extensive editing and written as a short story, not novel.” Um, this book was a double award finalist, and my editor won Editor of the Year at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference that year.
I also discovered that, for whatever reason, I could get dinged for a book being too Christian AND not Christian enough. I really love this review. “If you are into religious people explaining bad experiences away every other paragraph, you have found your book.”
Here’s part of another one. I have to include the review title.
Then there was KIRT! He had what I call a dirty mind. I can’t understand how this book can even be called a Christian book. Waste of money.”
By way of explanation, Kurt was a German solider, a Nazi through and through, and I drew him to be pretty despicable. And there was nothing dirty about his mind. Evil, yes. Dirty, no. I have no idea where that came from.
This is another good one. “I’d like to read something by a female Christian author who is writing something Biblical that would be suitable for a Proverbs 31 woman. Why all of this inspiring the Christian women to lust with Christianized Harlequin romances?”
Some days you just can’t win the game no matter how you play it.
Sometimes, reviewers mark me down for circumstances beyond my control. “The book did not download after I paid for it.” I’m sorry about that, really and truly. I hope you get the novel and really enjoy it. But that’s something to take up with Amazon, not with me. I have zero control over the situation, especially when it’s a traditionally published book.
I like this review too. “Can I please get ONE PAGE without the author writing something stupid? JUST ONE!” No examples, though. I would have liked some because sometimes, by reading the more “negative” reviews, I learn. I get to understand what readers want, what will draw them in and keep them reading. By knowing what they didn’t enjoy or found to be a weakness in the book, I can try to make that better in the next one. Those reviews can be very helpful. For example, after my first one-star review, I’ve really concentrated on keeping my writing from being simplistic.
So I no longer dread reading my reviews. My skin has toughened up quite a bit over the years. Some of the comments leave me bewildered, some of them make me laugh, and some do help me improve my writing. Writers, take note of your lower starred reviews and see what you can take away from them. Readers, keep your reviews coming, no matter what you thought of the book. If I can, I’ll try to do better next time.
Marguerite Martin Gray
Watching people sounds a bit strange nowadays. But what a great past time while traveling. I learn so much! I’ve been on two big trips this year. Both have been unique travel experiences. I find myself sitting in a square or at a café, wondering about the people walking around—some with children, a couple, solo. What is the story? Do they do the same and wonder about me?
Perú, March 2022–We encountered many tourists from all nationalities. As we sat on the ground, old walls, or stood taking in vistas of Machu Picchu, my husband and I made up stories about certain travelers. My author, story-telling mind enjoyed the activity. In a notebook, I wrote down scenarios about why these people were in Perú. I have a good story incubating for the future.
The rugged, ancient world of the Andes Mountains attracts adventurous souls. The history runs deep to primitive civilizations. I try to wrap my thoughts around a time when the land lay unconquered by foreign powers. Although many sites are ruins, the people once inhabiting there have stories to tell. I look forward to weaving a few of them into print.
England and Scotland, May 2022—I traveled to the UK with two author friends, Carole Johnson and Tammy Kirby. We spent three weeks roaming the Highlands of Scotland and strolling the coast and moors of Cornwall. This was a different kind of trip. Here history, culture, and heritage oozed through the castles, lochs, villages, and art.
People watching here changed into vibrant characters of the past and present. The citizens of the towns and villages most likely had deep roots in British history. Placing them in stories filled a notebook with ideas and drama. Although we saw lots of ruins, we also explored castles and manors complete with furnishings, walls, and roofs. We listened to the guides and gleaned details from the villagers.
The imagination can do a lot with people watching. Ask in your head questions of the one you’re watching and you, too, will have a story.
Let’s talk about serving in the temple:
I don’t know about you, but when I had thought of priests and Levites serving in the temple, I guess I pictured continual service.
That would have been true of some, the High Priest (i.e. Annas and Caiaphas in Jesus time.) who served in the position for life.
But the others (i.e. Zacharias, John the Baptist’s dad) would have come in for a week at a time.
According to the instructions God gave to David as he was getting Solomon set up to build the first temple, the priests and the Levites were divided into 24 courses within their assigned duty. The length of each service was 7 days (1 Chronicles 9:25), beginning and ending on the Sabbath (2 Chronicles 23:8). These rotations occurred twice a year.
In addition, all the priests served for 3 extra weeks during the year during special feasts.(Deuteronomy 16:16).
Can you imagine scheduling all this? At any given time there were as many as 1,300 Levites in the temple complex. This is Gatekeepers, priests, musicians, cooks, priests’ assistants and more.
In Jeremiah 20:1 Pashur is named the Chief Governor of the House of the LORD. I imagine his job description included the scheduling.
It’s been quite some time since I was in charge of making out schedules, and my people served in the same capacity week after week. I can’t even begin to fathom how to keep all those people straight!
In Ezekiel’s Song, I played around with this behind-the-scenes workings of the Temple. The Bible didn’t mention what capacity Ezekiel served in at the temple, but the later on in Babylon, the Lord names him a Gatekeeper for the people of Israel (and how often does the Lord prepare us for the bigger jobs, by training us in the day-to-day work? AmIright?).
I imagined that Ezekiel was a common fixture around the temple. I even have him serving as aide to the governor of the temple, scheduling and making sure everyone is in their place at the right time.
Another aspect would be the inconsistency of the workers. If everyone rotated every seven days, how did you know who to count on? What about musicians? Can you even have a semblance of normal if you are constantly training new people? When would you even rehearse?
So I gave Shiri this backstory. (The Bible tells us Ezekiel has a wife. Her name and backstory are from my imagination.) She plays the flute and the choir master discovers she sings even better.
In the name of consistency, he pleads with our scheduler, Ezekiel, to convince Shiri’s abba to allow Shiri to serve one week a month.
And of course it happens, because you can’t establish a relationship in a book if we never see the main character😉
Oh and one final thing about musicians and temple service. 1 Chronicles 9:33 says the musicians were free from other duties. Can’t you just see the musicians milking that? “I don’t have to do any chores. I’m a musician.” (Of course Shiri doesn’t follow this mold because she is the heroine. She is helpful and considerate of others)
Did you learn anything new about schedules in the temple?