Favored, Blessed, and Thankful
We have come to my second favorite month of the year! My dearest was born on November the second—Happy, blessed birthday, Ron!—and just before I started writing this, I turned on the heater for the first time this fall! I started to say year, but I turned it on a lot back in January and for the record-breaking Texas Freeze we endured last February!
I love November because autumn’s cooler temperatures are well in place after October. In Northeast Texas, leaves are still turning, so there are beautiful fall colors everywhere I look out the window, sitting at my desk in my new office—one of the reasons I know I am favored!
I have a great new workspace my Ron built for me, taking in a 10 x 15 space under out front porch roof, giving me a front yard, woodsy view! Anyone would love my space; I adore it and can’t believe my husband built it for me!
At my request, he even left the cedar post that held up the roof’s corner into my room! I use its stobs as my hat rack! My ceiling, east wall, and south and west walls down to the eight-foot level (it’s twelve foot next to the house) are out of vintage, rustic barn tin—the perfect backdrop for my crystal chandelier with candle lights!
My mother’s lace panels adorn the two windows on the front, and above them, a beautiful antique stained-glass window adds such pizazz to the room! In front of my now-open desk—l used to be up in a dark bedroom corner facing a six-foot-high hutch—is my closet banked by floor-to-eight-foot-height, backlit bookshelves!
I have known I am blessed for so long and been thankful, giving God glory. When anyone asks me ‘How are you?’ for more than thirty-five years, I have responded, “I’m blessed and highly favored!” Ron working a few hours each day since my birthday in May to build this sanctuary overflows my heart with thankfulness!
Which is a perfect segue to the other reason I love November so much—its special day set as the fourth Thursday, Thanksgiving! It’s the only holiday Ron and I acknowledge as all the others have pagan origins and traditions. We believe God’s “holy” should never be mixed with anything unholy.
But November’s holiday is set apart to give thanks to God for all our many blessings. This year, for the first time in over ten years, we’ll be having the family dinner at our home—The Peaceable. I’m very excited to have everyone come. We’re expecting around twenty-five between our children and grandsugars!
Plus, on the first weekend in November, deer season opens, so we’ll have lots more company most every weekend as all the grandsugars come to hunt! Sharing their rewards, they keep Grami and O’Pa’s freezer stocked with venison which I cook like a pro—guests can’t tell it isn’t beef!
I pray your Thanksgiving will be as blessed as mine and that you will have much to be thankful for as I do!
Linda Brooks Davis
Ever heard this joke?
Two brothers in a certain town had earned horrible reputations. They were known as the worst of the worst.
When one of them died, his brother went to the preacher with instructions for his brother’s funeral service. He ended by declaring. “Whatever you do, preacher, I expect you to tell this town once and for all that my brother was a saint.”
The preacher worried over this for the coming days. How could he declare the goodness of the man when he knew nothing good about him? He couldn’t lie before the whole town and maintain a speck of credibility.
Finally, he figured it out. When the preacher stood in the pulpit before a packed house, he cleared his throat and declared, “This man was a drunk, a wife abuser, a liar, a thief, and a blasphemer on top of it, but compared to his brother, he was a saint.”
I say funerals bring out the best in people.
Unlike the audience at the above “saint’s” funeral, have you ever heard someone point out the deceased’s faults at their funeral? Even on TV, family members and friends emphasize (and no doubt sometimes exaggerate a bit) the deceased’s good qualities. Here are a few such examples I’ve heard recently:
“He never met a stranger.”
“She was always smiling. Her smile lit up the room.”
“He always made others happy.”
“She would do anything for anyone.”
“She was an angel on Earth.”
At times like these, who wants to focus on the other side of the coin? The slammed doors in strangers’ faces. Frowns and grumbles. Wet blankets at family reunions. Excuses, delays, and broken promises. Cheating on taxes. “Little” affairs. And the alarmingly short fuses? Or could it be when a person no longer lives, the only part of them worth remembering is the good?
What’s worth remembering in my life? And yours?
I wondered this at my brother-in-law Linvel Baker’s funeral a few weeks ago. A recently retired country preacher of over 40 years, Linvel seemingly sought the Lord with each breath. Like the rest of us, he was flawed, but the goodness in him so outshone his faults and so impacted folks’ lives that his shortcomings just didn’t matter.
Even Linvel’s death is worth remembering. He and his brother Lauris had spent the day on Linvel’s recently acquired 150 acres of undeveloped land “out in the boonies.” They had done some of what they’d done as boys. Talked over things. Pitched rocks. Shot at watermelons. At the end of the day when the sun was lowering on the horizon, Lauris headed toward home. The brothers waved to one another as Lauris drove away, but Linvel lingered.
He was alone, so no one knows for certain, but by piecing together the evidence like the doctor’s report and the death scene, Lauris is convinced it went something like this. Not long after Lauris drove away, while there was still some daylight, Linvel experienced what he knew to be a heart attack. He had had close calls in the past and heart valve replacement. And he had recovered from Covid a few weeks prior.
When this pain gripped Linvel, he knew his time had come. There wasn’t time for first responders to reach him out in the wild, so Linvel set down his cell phone and—no doubt, clutching his chest—stumbled to the top of the rise where he had planned to build his wife Shirley’s retirement home. He sat down near oak trees. Took off his boots. Lay back with his face toward the heavens and his arms outstretched. And died. With peace written all over his face.
Those of us who knew him well are convinced that like Moses at the burning bush, Linvel knew he was stepping onto holy ground.
So, he took off his boots and welcomed the Lord. That’s how a good man dies.
What will be worth remembering about my death? And yours? Will we be clutching to life with
whitened knuckles? Begging God for one more day? Shaking a fist at Him for the injustice of our having so much good yet to accomplish?
Will we focus on God? Or the things of Earth?
When Shirley returned to the house that tragic day, she found Linvel’s usual companions at the kitchen table. A Bible, maybe two versions. A Greek Bible. A commentary or two. And notes.
I wrote the following prayer on the Acknowledgments page of my novella, A Christmas Tale for Little Women:
Above all, thank you, Lord Jesus. You curled beside me like a friend and whispered the one and only tale fit for eternity—Yours. I bow on my knees and cry, “Holy.”
Today I ask myself: At the moment of my death, will I cry, “Holy”? I believe Linvel did.
What will they find where I last sat? Lead me to where Linvel sat, Lord.
Where will they find my boots?
“Then God [sic] said to Moses [sic], ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” Exodus 3:5 NKJV
Linda Shenton Matchett
One Story’s Inspiration
This month marks my Wartime Brides’ second book birthday. A collection of four stories set during WWII, the novellas use the British Women’s Land Army, the French Resistance, the German home front, and U.S. conscientious objectors to retell the biblical stories of Ruth, Rahab, Shiprah and Puah, and Rebecca respectively. Unlike any of my other books, these stories seemed to write themselves.
The first book, Love’s Harvest, came about as a project with authors from a group blog. At the time, I had several completed and partially finished manuscripts but none seemed appropriate for our series. I poured over the scraps of paper that I had stuffed into a folder over the years searching for story ideas. Then my gaze caught sight of Francine Rivers’ novel Redeeming Love, a retelling of the story of Hosea set in the Old West, and I realized a biblical retelling would be just the right size story for a novella. Knowing better than to choose the same story, I searched the Bible for another character I could use. And searched. And searched.
When the pages fell open to the book of Ruth, I was intrigued. Ruth is one of my favorite Old Testament heroines, but I didn’t want to force her story or make it feel contrived, so I added her to the list of several other possible characters. I knew I wanted to use a World War II setting, but I needed a famine, a foreigner, and a farmer. Would I be able to find them?
Then the pieces fell together, and Love’s Harvest was born.
A bit of research unearthed the fact that Catherine the Great invited Germans to settle in the Volga River region of Russia in the 18th Century as a way to grow her country’s population. The immigrants were allowed to keep their culture, language, traditions, and churches. I had found my foreigner. They did well until a famine occurred during the mid-1920s, killing nearly five million of them. I had found my famine. Then Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and the Soviet government decided ethnic Germans were potential collaborators and expelled a great many of them, sending them to the east where even more perished. A large number fled the country traveling to Europe and the United States. When I learned that some made it to Britain and then found out about England’s Women’s Land Army, I knew I had my story because I had found my farmer.
Additional research involved marital customs, farming technology and techniques, rationing, and immigration laws. I also studied commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, and atlases.
It is my hope that Love’s Harvest honors those who served on the home front and in combat and provides a deeper understanding of the book of Ruth. What biblical story would you like to see told in a “modern” setting?
What Is Hope? Part Two
Last month, I wrote about what hope is not. If you missed that article, you can find it here. If hope is not a vain wishing after something, then what is it?
True hope, biblical hope, is a sure promise. It is a guarantee. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word that is translated hope means to expect with eager anticipation. In the New Testament, the Greek word for hope means an expectation of what is a guarantee.
Think of it this way. It’s still dark outside but very nearly morning. You grab a cup of coffee and head out to sit on a hill facing east to watch the sunrise. This is going to be so great, to watch the sky change colors and to see the first rays of light eclipse the horizon. Why do you do this? Because you have the eager anticipation, the sure expectation that the sun is going to rise and that it will rise in the east. Over and over, this has happened. You have a sure expectation that the sun will crest the horizon.
Romans 5:5 says, “Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV) Other versions translate the word “shame” as “disappoint”. In other words, God’s version of hope never lets us down. It’s a sure-fire guaranteed from the Holy Spirit. My dad would say that you could hang your hat on it.
This is the opposite of the world’s hope. That kind of hope is a vain wishing into the breeze. This is as sure and as solid as concrete beneath our feet. Hope in the biblical sense of the word will never let us down. Everyone in your life, no matter how much you love them or how good they are, has disappointed you at some point or another. Your mother may have promised to let you have chocolate ice cream for dessert but then discovered there wasn’t any in the house. Your spouse may have promised to empty the dishwasher but then got busy watching TV.
God never does. That’s why we can put our hope in Him. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (Romans 15:13 ESV). Whatever He says will come to pass. Every single word He uttered in the Bible either has or will come to fulfillment. And so, like we hope for the sunrise in the morning, we can hope in God. No crossing fingers, wishing on stars, or blowing dandelion seeds into the breeze.
Isn’t that better than hoping that Mom remembered to buy chocolate ice cream?
Marguerite Martin Gray
Lately, I have been revisiting the Revolution Faith Series by reading and studying the individual novels. As I have completed Hold Me Close, Surround Me, and half of Bring Me Near, I have concentrated on the character of Elizabeth Elliott Lestarjette.
The bright, curious eighteen-year-old of book one has ample opportunity to change for the good or the bad or remain the same. She flits in and out of my mind as I ask “What would Elizabeth do in certain situations?” Placed on the page in a world that truly existed in an era historically authentic, Elizabeth has to use the personality and characteristics that God gave her to complete her purpose and tasks.
Does she change from 1772 to 1782? Oh, yes. She grows in maturity as a teenager does while facing adulthood. She changes and adapts to her environment of war and uncertain outcomes.
And spiritually? The girl full of questions and what ifs subjected to life-threatening scenarios has some choices. Who will answer her questions and fuel her curiosity and joie de vivre? No longer is it fulfilled by her parents, her music her friends, her minister, or her hometown. As God remains constant, she steps toward the one Person in her crazy, unpredictable world. The One who brings meaning to the chaos—then and now.
Have you revisited characters and marveled at their potential for growth? Do you remember a period of growth in your life?
It seems strategic that National Author’s Day falls on the first day of NaNoWriMo–(National Novel Writing Month). If these authors are anything like me their courage could use the boost of espresso to motivate them.
How can I make the deadline?
Does anyone even care?
Who will read it?
It’s been a year and nine months since you’ve outlined a full novel.
Do you even know what you are doing?
NaNoWriMo also falls right after Reformation Day. The day a man stepping out in boldness declaring the words that God had laid on his heart. Chances are Martin Luther didn’t know the ‘right’ plan either. He probably encountered life-shaking doubts as he nailed those 95 theses to the door. What if they don’t even read it? What if they do? Will any be changed?
Yet he marched boldly up those stairs and shared the words God had put in his heart.
His faithfulness sparked a reformation whose effects are felt over 500 years later.
It serves as a reminder to show that spark of an idea? If God has given that to me, He surely will equip me to answer that call. There must be someone who needs to hear this message of truth.
I’ve been looking at it all wrong. I’ve forgotten that “whatever I do, I’m to work at it with all my heart as working for the Lord and not men.” (Colossians 3:23)
By God’s grace, I have grown in my craft. I have published a novel and submitted another one. I’ve got resources and friends to help me if I lose my way.
So, whether you participate in NaNoWriMo or you read the books cranked out by those who do, remember this: the God who kindled that fire inside you, is the Author and Finisher of our faith. If He begins a good work in you, He will carry it out to completion for His glory.
The prophet, Jeremiah said this, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9b)
Friend, continue to share what God has put in your heart. You never know who (or when) that message will be exactly what someone needs to hear.
As a side note, I saw a meme today.
Coffee came to Europe in 1515.
Martin Luther started the Reformation in 1517.
Never underestimate a caffeinated pastor. ;-P