Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets

A Little Punctuation

Several years ago, Doug and I started making our own copies of Scripture. He had found Journibles, books designed for copying on one side of each two-page spread and taking notes on the other side. We have done the Gospel of John as well as James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude. As they grew older, we pulled the kids into the copying, and all five of us have our own handwritten copies of Psalms and Proverbs. Doug and I are now onto Ephesians in a book that also includes Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

Copying changes the way we read Scripture. Not only does it slow us down, but it also makes us contemplate specific words and phrases that we sometimes completely gloss over. Of course, memorization has the same effect, heightening our attention and increasing our sensitivity to phrases and thoughts that we might otherwise miss.

Copying adds one more factor, however: punctuation.

Now, keep something in mind. Our entire concept of the written language and the way words, sentences, and paragraphs are distinguished differs greatly from that of the original writers. Our English culture and language rely heavily on punctuation, so it is required to adequately translate Scripture. Hebrew and Greek? Well, that’s a whole different story. Consequently, I try to be very careful basing interpretive thought on punctuation. But, as I copied Galatians 2 not too long ago, I couldn’t help but notice a punctuation choice the NASB translators had made. They put quotation marks around everything from the second half of verse 14 through the end of chapter 2.

In this passage, Paul is sharing with the Galatians about a time when he opposed Peter publicly. The whys and whats of this argument are the discussion of another blog post, but the question of how much he might have said to Peter is what caught my attention. Some translators say that the second half of verse 14 was all Paul recorded of his challenge to Peter: “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” But, for some reason, the NASB translators extended Paul’s speech through verse 21 where he ends by declaring to Peter, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Honestly, the context of the passage remains the same with or without the quotation marks. But, the inclusion of this particular punctuation in the NASB forced me to stop and think about how the Galatians would have received the statement of Christ dying needlessly as opposed to how Peter would have received it.

Peter, who was passionate about everything.
Peter, who walked with Jesus through His entire earthly ministry.
Peter, who was devastated after denying Christ during His trial.
Peter, who experienced the incredible joy of being reinstated after Jesus’ resurrection.
Peter, who preached the first public sermon and had to quickly figure out how to organize a rapidly growing body of new believers.

To look at Peter, who had been through all of this yet had recently lapsed into behaving as if obeying the Law was critical to salvation, and state that “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” That makes it personal. Very personal.

If anyone could be struck in the heart with the truth of Christ’s death trumping the Law, it would be Peter. Peter lived it. Peter grieved it. Peter saw the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ.

Saying this to the Galatians would remind them of the importance of putting obedience to Christ above all else. Saying this to Peter would have brought back every experience, every emotion of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Maybe the quotation marks belong there and maybe they don’t. But the morning I copied those words, I received them with Peter in mind. I imagined what Peter would have felt as Paul closed out his rebuke with that statement. And it was as if I read the statement for the first time.

I’ve never been a Jew, ethnically or religiously. I have never adhered to Old Testament dietary and interactive laws. But I have clung to other things. To Baptist tradition. To habit. To human teaching. And sometimes, I need to hear this statement through the ears of Peter. I need to remember that nothing, nothing, nullifies the death of Christ. His death took care of everything. His grace does not require my traditions or habits or deep-seated learning.

I will have habits and build traditions and receive teaching that help me live out that grace. But, it will never require those things.

Sometimes, even something as little as a quotation mark can go a long way toward reorienting our minds.

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Posted in What I Do

My “Thing”

Do you have any idea how many writers there are out there?

This year I have discovered quite a few new favorite authors and have marveled at the way they are able to put their thoughts into words. At the way they are able to devote the time and energy into researching, writing, and seeing their work to the finish line.

I see articles written by amazing bloggers who have a knack for communicating.

I am surrounded by a family of powerful imagination and vivid talent.

Every time I turn around, I meet another writer, whether someone who has achieved official publication or not. They have a message to share through story or essay or book, and they have an incredible ability to put that message into the written word in a way that draws and engages readers.

Writers are everywhere.

And then, there’s me.

I am compelled to write, even if no one else reads. I speak more succinctly when I have first written. I think more clearly when I hash out thoughts in a written form. I communicate more efficiently with my fingers than with my mouth. I can even speak in other “voices,” much like an actor who excels at impressions.

But when it comes to truly succeeding as a writer like those authors and bloggers and talented family members, I fall short. Why? Because when the time comes to sit down at the keyboard or pick up a pen and paper, I hesitate. I shrink back. I make excuses. I flip through a journal full of inspiration and ideas, but then convince myself that the thoughts were really only meant for me. For my own growth. Besides, I should not be journaling in for blog fodder. The more I mark journal thoughts and ideas for sharing, the more I’m tempted to just journal for the sake of blogging, not for the sake of learning. So, if I don’t use those ideas at all, I won’t be tempted to ignore what God needs to do in my own heart. I will be processing for me, not for content fodder.

At least, so I tell myself.

But the truth is that I am allowing laziness and feelings of inadequacy to rule the day. I find a moment to write and then find every excuse in the book to not follow through. Lack of inspiration. Thoughts won’t flow. So many other things I should be doing. If the words don’t write themselves in the first few minutes, I walk away.

And every time I walk away, I strengthened the unsettled feeling of my spirit. The feeling that comes from not being vulnerable through the written word.

What is your “thing”? What is the compelling drive, the delight, the freedom you are neglecting? What do you feel too inadequate to accomplish? What passion do you allow laziness to thwart? What do you claim to have no time for yet refuse to do when even a small pocket of time presents itself? What do you ignore because you cannot complete it according to your unrealistic and perhaps ridiculous standard of perfection?

Standing here, writing these words, I’m still tempted to keep them hidden. I actually typed out a post, but is it worth the posting? Even if it is, can keep up the flow tomorrow? Next week? Will I write again soon, or will months pass?

But those are perfectionism questions, irrelevant to what I share today. Right here. For today, I will do my “thing” and let tomorrow handle itself.

Will you join me? Will you do your “thing” today, no matter what perfectionism says? No matter what inadequacy says? Even if motivation doesn’t strike immediately? I invite you to come along and join me. As I write these last words, I can honestly say it’s worth the effort.

Posted in Reviews

Deeds of Darkness

This week I recruited a “guest” reviewer. My daughter Angela has loved reading Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton. So, when the most recent addition to the series came up for review, she asked for the chance to read and review it! Here’s what she has to say:

Deeds of Darkness is the tenth book in Mel Starr’s Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton.  Hugh de Singleton, a surgeon and bailiff, must weave through a series of seemingly unconnected murders to discover the truth behind them. A man named Hubert Shillside, has gone missing, and Hugh finds himself in the midst of strife and deceit in his attempt to find his friend. While searching for any signs of Hubert, a body is found in a forest. Several robberies occur around the same time, including a robbery of Hugh’s father-in-law’s shop. The identity of the criminals is hidden, with the only clues being a wisp of green wool, men in scholar robes, and a stained book. As feuding townsfolk and a murdered heir find their way into the tangle of mysteries, Hugh must locate the end of the trail and bring the criminals to justice.

I found this book an excellent read.  The plot is absorbing and holds together well, while the twists and turns keep the readers anticipating until the very end. The mystery was enthralling to watch unfold. Starr introduces new characters and develops old ones well. Deeds of Darkness continues the series well, while still standing on its own plot. This book also upholds Starr’s excellent writing abilities and historical knowledge fantastically.

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey

When you pick up a novel that includes romance, it is almost always obvious from the beginning which characters will fall in love by the end. The challenge for an author is to recognize that the conclusion is not a mystery, yet keep the reader wondering how in the world it could possibly come to fruition. That is the key to writing romance well, and it is a key that Carolyn Miller handles with finesse.

The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is book three of Carolyn Miller’s Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series. I was introduced to the series this spring with The Elusive Miss Ellison, and enjoyed book two, The Captivating Lady Charlotte over the summer. The delight of the series is such that, although it was relatively easy to see which character the author would focus on in each subsequent release, the playing out of each lady’s story was anything but predictable. In fact, Carolyn Miller tackles quite the challenge with this third title when she takes a young lady who was somewhat of a villain in the first two books and turns her into the lead character of The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey.

Miss Clara DeLancey was once among the most eligible of London’s high society. But when the Earl of Hawkesbury, the one man who held her interest, rejected her in favor of the “unworthy” Lavinia Ellison, bitterness toward both the earl and his bride buried itself deep into her soul. Then, if the rejection had not caused enough damage, scandal visited her family in another fashion, reducing them from the most admired of London society to the subjects of juicy gossip. Retreating to a modest life in Brighton, Clara finds every foundation of her life – her beauty, wealth, and status – stripped away, leaving her with little to stand on.

Clara finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Mattie McPherson and Tessa Kemsley, two sisters who exhibit a genuine love unlike anything she has ever known. Unfortunately, the Viscountess Winpoole, Clara’s mother, still clings to the pride of their station and considers her daughter’s newfound friends to be appalling company. But something stronger than society and status keeps the desperate Miss DeLancey hungry for the company of her new friends, not to mention their somewhat intimidating brother, Captain Benjamin Kemsley.

Anyone who has read the first two books in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series will expect a beautiful romance in The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey. But the true beauty of this novel is not the love story between and man and a woman. It’s the love story of redemption. Of the way God works in even the most prideful of hearts, turning them toward Himself. This story is woven naturally and seamlessly into the fabric of the novel, turning a delightful historical romance into something so much deeper.

My girls and I have fallen in love with the Regency Brides series and definitely recommend all three titles!

This book was sent to me by Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

The Promise of Dawn

Well, it seems as if I am only getting reviews written these days, but I’m definitely thankful for the chance to write those and encourage other writers in their endeavors. It can be hard to imagine that a prolific writer such as Loraine Snelling would be encouraged by reviews such as mine, but maybe you will be nourished by reading her novels as I share them with you, thus encouraging her to keep up the good work!

It’s no secret that I love fiction. And although romance just for the sake of romance is not my favorite genre, I do enjoy the novels that have romance brewing while deeper issues are being dealt with. But, most of us spend a good deal more time living life after the giddy feelings of a new romance. So, it is nice to see Christian fiction that matches that stage of life as well.

That is where The Promise of Dawn fits.

Opening in Norway where the Carlson family struggles simply to put food on the table, The Promise of Dawn proceeds across the ocean and over land to Minnesota where Rune and Signe Carlson and their three sons intend to help an uncle and his wife clear timber from their farmland. Rune embraces the opportunity, expecting his family to flourish in America in ways they never could in Norway. But Signe’s concerns fill her with reluctance from the moment the invitation arrives. An illness-filled journey and cold welcome do not ease her mind in any way.

Signe’s fears are confirmed as her family interacts more with Uncle Einer and Aunt Gerd, feeling the burden of their thankless, demanding hosts. As the weeks pass, the Carlsons wonder if they will ever find the better life Rune had dreamed of for his family.

The Promise of Dawn is real life. The perspective, understanding, and struggles of Rune and Signe remind me of my own experiences with newness and unexpected disappointments. I could feel the weight of discouragement, challenged faith, waning hope, and strained relationships as I walked with the Carlson family through challenges that seemed to have no foreseeable end. How often do we feel the same? Even though The Promise of Dawn is set over a hundred years ago in a time and culture long gone, the nature of the challenges remain the same.

That is why The Promise of Dawn was so refreshing, even while reading of seemingly insurmountable challenges. It was reminder that our choices in attitude, relationship, and spiritual growth are critical, whether our circumstances change or not.

The Promise of Dawn is book one in the Under Northern Skies series, and the characters are connected to Loraine Snelling’s two Red River series. I look forward to going back and meeting some of those characters while also getting to know the Carlsons a little better as the Under Northern Skies series continues. Loraine Snelling is definitely an author I would recommend and want to explore more myself!

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Reviews

Walk It Out

Years ago, I became a fan of Tricia Goyer when I read her book Blue Like Play Dough. Then I got my hands on From Dust and Ashes, and I was completely hooked. Years later, I am honored to call Tricia a friend, but that doesn’t make me any less of a fan. I have had the privilege of seeing glimpses of her living out – in real life – what I once only read about in her books.

Walk It Out is a bit of that glimpse for Tricia’s readers. In every other book she writes, readers see this beautiful woman’s heart. But, in Walk it Out, Tricia gives a glimpse of the challenges, responses, and real-life growth behind the stories and non-fiction that have touched the lives of so many.

Tricia Goyer’s life today differs greatly from the dreams she held as a child. The girl who once dreamed of being a classroom teacher has homeschooled her three oldest through graduation and continues to homeschool her remaining seven children. The teen tortured teen who walked in hidden shame over her decision to abort her first child now openly shares her story to aid in the healing of other women. The task-oriented perfectionist has learned that the rewards of relationships rise above the rewards of a spotless house. Walk It Out shares the story of how Tricia learned these lessons and many more.

Two themes actively reveal themselves in Walk It Out. First, Tricia stresses the importance of growth through a relationship with Christ, obtained only through prayer and time in the Word of God. Secondly, lessons cannot truly be learned unless they are followed up with action. Each chapter in Walk It Out clearly shows Scripture and action that accompanied every step of growth God has walked her through.

But, I also see a third theme: community. In every chapter, Tricia’s story shows how integral the family of Christ has been in her growth. Fellow believers loved on her when she felt unlovable, received her story when she expected rejection, and surrounded her to walk alongside her when she stepped forward in actions of obedience. The community of faith is critical, and that shines through every single page of Walk It Out.

Walk It Out is, without a doubt, my new favorite of Tricia Goyer’s non-fiction, and I look forward to sharing it with others for years to come.

Posted in Reviews

Liar’s Winter

It never ceases to surprise me how beauty and tragedy can not only dwell side by side, but can be so intertwined that the full beauty could not exist without the tragedy. Today I get to review a book that powerfully depicts such an intertwining.

Liar’s Winter by Cindy K. Sproles is the story of a young woman who has known nothing but shame her entire life. For the superstition-ridden mountain folk among whom she lives, any little anomaly is the sign of evil, and Lochiel Ogle is living proof of that harsh reality. Born with a red-wine birthmark on one side of her face and neck, Lochiel has been raised with the understanding that the mark brands her as the Devil’s own daughter. Time and again she is reminded that her birth mother discarded her in fear and she would not be alive at all were it not for the kindness of the Ogles who have hidden her away and protected her from the prying eyes of the mountain folk.

But when Lochiel’s brother attacks her and leaves her for dead, the hands of a stranger bring rescue and an introduction to the world beyond the Ogle’s yard. Even more than that, her rescuer possesses a kindness – a real love – that plants seeds of doubt in her mind. Did the man she called Poppy and the woman she called Momma ever truly love her? Or had their raising been something else entirely?

I honestly did not know what to expect when I picked up this novel. The description intrigued me, but I anticipated that I would read it, review it, then stick it on my shelf and forget about it. The opposite occurred. Liar’s Winter captivated me from page one. I felt drawn into Lochiel’s very soul as I watched events unfold from her perspective. Superstition, abuse, fear, and stubbornness collided with love and faith as Lochiel slowly discovered the truth about her nineteen years of life and the people she called family. Each page made me want to turn another, and even in the memory I’m drawn back into the powerful story Cindy K. Sproles weaves through every scene. This is a book I want to read and reread, share with friends and my children, discuss, and explore.

Liar’s Winter is not an easy book to read, by any means, especially knowing that these mentalities and this sort of abuse ran rampant throughout history and continue even into our day and age. This is the real reason I want my children to read it, as they reach an appropriate age. They need to know what this world hands out, and they need to see how they can either be rescuers or bring additional harm. Most of all, though, the can see that the powerful love of God shines beautifully even through the darkest of circumstances.

This is my first experience with Cindy K. Sproles, but it will not be my last, and I will definitely not hesitate to recommend Liar’s Winter.

I received this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.