About Barbara Harper

https://barbarah.wordpress.com

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge 2019

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge // inthebookcase.blogspot.comTarissa of In the Bookcase hosts the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge each year in November and December. The basic idea is to read Christmas books! Since I like to read Christmas books in December anyway, this challenge was a nice fit. The details of the challenge are here.

One of the requirements of the challenge is to write a post expressing our intent to participate and sharing what we’ll be reading.

I have these books on hand and hope to read as many of them as possible:

Usually I pick up a few more through sales during the holiday season.

I have a couple of older Christmas story anthologies on hand, but I’ll leave those off til I see whether I get to them.

I usually make myself wait until after Thanksgiving to start any Christmas reading. But I may give myself a head start this year.

Do you read Christmas books during the holidays?

Book Review: Canteen Dreams

 Canteen Dreams is a novel based on author Cara Putman’s own grandparents. It was her first book, released eleven years ago. But Cara wanted to fine-tune and re-release it. This edition came out on 2017.

The story opens December 6, 1941. Audrey Stone attends a dance in her home town of North Platte, Nebraska, and is asked to dance by local rancher’s son, Willard Johnson. Willard is interested and wants to get to know Audrey better.

Then Sunday morning, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and everything changes.

Willard’s brother, Andrew, was in the Navy. While the family waits to hear about Andrew, Willard would like nothing better than to enlist immediately.

But Willard’s father won’t let him. Farming and ranching are exempted occupations, since the country needs their work. Willard’s father feels he needs Willard’s help more than the military needs him.

Since North Platte is a railroad hub, and lots of troops come through on their way to service, someone gets the idea to offer the boys food and coffee during their brief stop. The young men are so encouraged and appreciative of the effort that the train stop refreshments grow into a canteen, with a nearby building, music, sandwiches, and a friendly atmosphere.

Audrey throws herself into working the canteen, on top of her full-time job as a teacher. She has little time for anyone or anything else, which doesn’t help her budding relationship with Willard.

Willard’s dissatisfaction with not being able to enlist grows into resentment and jealousy of the young soldiers at the canteen, which further impacts things with Audrey.

Both Willard and Audrey are believers and struggle with seeking God’s will for their lives. I liked their pastor’s counsel, especially these bits:

Let the sure hope we have in Christ build a bedrock of faith in your life. It’s the only way to survive a storm like the one your family has entered.

He is the vine, and we are the branches. We cannot expect to have the strength to lay down our lives, our rights, for others until we are firmly growing in a deep relationship with Christ. A superficial relationship is not sufficient. Without more, we will fail every time in our attempts to die, because we attempt to do it without the strength and love God gives.

This was a sweet story in itself, but knowing it was based on a real couple made it even more enjoyable.

What I Learned from Bare Trees

Fall seemed to arrive late this year, and winter weather is already upon many of us. Thankfully, there’s still a good bit of color in many trees. But others are already bare.

I’ve written before about having trouble when the leaves are off, when the landscape is bleak and barren. I soak up fall’s beauty to sustain me through long, colorless winters.

But just recently, something I read touched off a search for the science behind why deciduous tress lose their leaves

  • The leaves wouldn’t survive the cold in many places.
  • Trees conserve water through the winter by purposefully dropping their leaves.
  • Leaves damaged by “insects, disease or general wear and tear,” according to this source, are made to fall off so they can be renewed again in the spring.
  • Some leaves provide resources for the plant before dropping off. According to this source, “A number of deciduous plants remove nitrogen and carbon from the foliage before they are shed and store them in the form of proteins in the vacuoles of parenchyma cells in the roots and the inner bark. In the spring, these proteins are used as a nitrogen source during the growth of new leaves or flowers.”
  • Dead leaves nourish soil.

I either didn’t know, or more likely had just forgotten learning these facts in school way back when. But it helps to know that there is a reason God created trees this way. Their loss of leaves actually protects them and helps them survive the winter and leaf out again in the spring.

Couldn’t God have made all the trees evergreen? He could have. But they’d all look like fir, spruce, or pine trees, made the way they are to survive the winter in a different way. Deciduous trees provide us with such rich color, beauty, and variety. Then they picture death, giving way to springtime resurrection. Some provide fruit in the summer.

It would be nice if the leaves could change into beautiful colors and then go back to green without dropping off, or at least get their green leaves back sooner. But there’s much they can teach us.

Sometimes loss is for our good. The things we want to hang on to would be harmful or prevent us from growing. “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2).

Dead leaves nourish the soil which then helps the tree grow. “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and 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” (Romans 5:3-5).

When leaves are off the trees, we can see things we couldn’t before. On our drive to church during our first fall and winter here, I discovered houses, ponds, animals, and scenery that had been hidden when the trees were leafed out.

A leafless tree “Displays a certain loveliness—The beauty of the bone (John Updike, “November”). Hebrews speaks of ” the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain (12:27). When life is stripped to its basics, we see the strength of that core of God’s truth; we see what really matters. Corrie ten Boom said, ” “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” Or, taken in reverse, when Christ is all you have, you find He is all you need. Thanksgiving in the midst of long nights and barren landscapes reminds us of what’s most important and what bounty we still have.

Sometimes our normal sources of provision fail us. But God provides for us through seasons of loss and barrenness. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Sometimes we have to learn to be content in doing without. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-13).

Seasons of rest come between seasons of fruitfulness. No one can give out incessantly without respite. Jesus told His disciples, “’Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).

Life is transient. “Nothing gold can stay,” as Robert Frost said. Not only do seasons come and go, but life itself will fade from fruitfulness to winter. Hair and skin lose their color, limbs lose their strength. We echo the psalmist’s prayer: “Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).This promise to Israel can be applied to God’s children now: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4). “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). For those who know the Lord, life’s winter will give way to eternity’s spring.

Gone, they tell me, is youth.
Gone is the strength of my life:
Nothing remains but decline,
Nothing but age and decay.

Not so, I’m God’s little child,
Only beginning to live;
Coming the years of my prime,
Coming the strength of my life;
Coming the vision of God,
Coming my bloom and my power.

~ William Newton Clarke

After the flood in Noah’s time was over, God said, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). Thomas O’ Chisholm picked up this truth in his great hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness:

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Though seasons change,

There is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

What do barren trees teach you?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Happy Now, InstaEncouragement,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Wise Woman,
Share a Link Wednesday)

Laudable Linkage

I found some great reading this week. Maybe one or two of these would appeal to you.

From Christians Who Formerly Identified as LGBTQ: A “Thank You” to Our Allies, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “To be publicly acceptable, our faith must affirm LGBTQ behavior and identity, as if Christ came soothingly to tell us there is no such thing as sin. Yet, in truth, embracing and celebrating a tendency toward that for which our Maker did not make us leads us away from Him. Basing our identity on that which is false is not the will of the One who is faithful and true. Over many years of struggle, what transformed the stigma for me was neither shame nor pride, but surrender—a surrender to the Savior’s embrace. I slowly began to unite the wounds of my sin and my struggles with same-sex attraction with the wounds of Jesus.”

The Scatter-Brained Girls Guide to Bible Study. “One second I’m pondering a deep thought, and the next I’m watching bunnies frolic in the back yard while thinking about the report I have to accomplish at work later.”

The Problem With “Spiritual but Not Religious,” HT to Challies.

Hospitality Is Not Homebound. “Hospitality is not centered only around our homes. The truth is that hospitality is about YOU, not your house or your schedule or your cooking skills. What people want is an openness, a kindness, and a posture that says that you are available and you care, and you can offer that wherever you go.”

In the House of Tom Bombadil, HT to Story Warren. This was a lovely piece about a section in Lord of the Rings that many either puzzle over or skip over. “Why do this? Why break up the action with a story of a Bed and Breakfast joint run by a man who sings like Kenneth Williams’ Rambling Sid Rumpo? As I reflected, it dawned upon me that this is so often what God provides for us. Perhaps not the faldi-singing host, but certainly the moment to pause when we’ve felt hardly able to catch a breath.”

My Face Became a Meme, HT to Challies. I often wonder what people think when their face becomes an often-used meme. Here’s one man’s experience.

This Twitter thread starts out: “Three years ago my husband’s grandmother moved in with us and on her first night, she put a dress on the dish soap. My life hasn’t been the same since.” The comments and photos are so funny. My granny made crocheted toilet paper holders like some of the ones shown, only hers looked like a poodle. HT to Laura.

Artist Pokes Fun at Literature in 30 Cartoons. about artist John Atkinson. I loved these, especially the one or two sentence synopses, like this one:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to count the blessings of the week
with Susanne and other friends at Living to Tell the Story.

I don’t know how we’re halfway through November already, but let’s stop a moment and think about some highlights of the week.

1. My oldest son becoming a homeowner. After about the longest journey to buying a house that I have ever known (trying to qualify for first-time homeowner’s assistance, multiple inspections and repairs, only not to qualify in the end due a requirement that was out of the previous homeowner’s hands), my son was finally able to close on his condo.

2. Figuring out my bicycle seat pads. This is one of those kind of dumb little things that did make a big difference. I had bought a pad for my exercise bicycle’s uncomfortable seat. It had a way to attach it, but since it was a different shape and size, I figured it wouldn’t work. So I just plopped the pad on top. But that meant adjusting it every single time I rode the bike, sometimes having to stop and adjust it in the middle of my exercise. I finally decided to see if the attachment would work, and it did! It’s nice to to start the day without that minor frustration.

3. A mild first snowfall. I know some of you have had major winter storms already. Our first snowfall was a bit early, but not bad. Since we don’t have all the equipment here for roads that those north of us do, I’m grateful when snowfall is minor and fades away quickly.

4. Texts from Timothy. My five-year-old grandson gets hold of his mom’s phone sometimes and sends me messages. 🙂

5. The 5 Below store. My son and daughter-in-law had told me about this store, but they only recently built one near us. It’s like a dollar store, but items can be anywhere from $1-5. I had just come from the dollar store when I went to this shop, and it was so much nicer in its contents and atmosphere.

Bonus: Operation Christmas Child. This is only my second time to participate, and this was the cause of my shopping yesterday. So fun! I really enjoyed reading about Susanne’s experience as a distributor. That helps me picture how these boxes are received.

What’s something special from your week?

Honorable Mention

I mentioned this a few weeks ago on a Friday’s Fave Five after I was notified, but I just got official word recently.

I entered a Writer’s Digest contest and got an Honorable Mention in the Inspirational/Spiritual category! There were over 4,600 entries covering nine categories.

Writer’s Digest sent us these nifty little stickers:

A list of all the winners is here.

I am honored. Winning an Honorable Mention encourages me that I am growing in the right direction.

If you are interested in next year’s contest, more information is here.

Book Review: Jessie’s Hope

 In Jennifer Hallmark’s debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, Jessie is a young woman who lives with her grandparents. An accident that claimed her mother’s life left Jessie in a wheelchair since childhood. Jessie’s father abandoned the family.

Jessie is engaged to Matt and looks forward to their marriage. But she wrestles with several issues. Does Matt really love her, or does he just feel sorry for her? Though she longs to be independent, she worries that she won’t be able to be the wife Matt needs. And she wonders about her father and whether she should try to look him up.

Jessie’s grandfather, Homer, wants to provide Jessie with a beautiful wedding, but funds are limited. He goes to a ritzy wedding shop to see what can be done, but can feel their scorn towards a poor farmer in overalls who couldn’t possibly afford anything in their shop.

The course to a perfect wedding never did run smooth (apologies to Shakespeare), and a variety of problems crop up before the big day.

A secondary story line involves Angeline. She works at the ritzy wedding shop and had a crush on Matt, but he rebuffed her. She’s jealous of Jessie and feels Jessie views her as an enemy. But then they are thrown together in unexpected ways.

This is a sweet story with a number of underlying themes: the difficulty and necessity of forgiveness, the need to yield to God’s control instead of our own and to walk with Him by faith, the need to help others.

I love the strong sense of place Jennifer created. The contemporary Southern setting is distinct without being overly romanticized. The dialogue is just what I grew up with:

“What can I do you for?’

“If it tweren’t one thing, it was another.”

The cover is lovely and fits in well with the story.

My only quibble is that when Jessie us talking with another girl about becoming a Christian, the conversation revolves around accepting God as one’s Father. I think probably the author put it that way because both girls had father issues, and even though earthy fathers fail and forsake us, our heavenly Father never will. However, there are people who call on God as Father who do not trust Christ as Savior. Jesus and his death on the cross isn’t even mentioned in the conversation. Perhaps the author felt this character had been exposed to other aspects of the gospel in earlier encounters with Christianity. But I wish this had been a little more clear.

Otherwise, this is an excellent book. At the moment it’s on sale for the Kindle app for $3.99. You can learn more about Jennifer at Alabama Inspired Fiction.

 

 

God’s Deadlines

If you’ve had or worked with children, you have likely faced this scenario. A child does wrong repeatedly. After much instruction and admonition, the parent or teacher says, “If you do that one more time, you are going to face this consequence.”

The child does it one more time. The adult begins to administer the promised consequence, and all of a sudden, the child starts doing whatever he was supposed to, or starts crying and pleading for mercy.

Knowing when to be firm and when to show grace was one of the hardest parts of parenting for me. But if I had promised my children a certain consequence would follow certain actions (or lack of actions), I felt I needed to follow through. They needed to know I would keep my word, plus they needed to be trained away from last-minute feigned repentance that only occurs when punishment is coming.

Our church is reading through and discussing Jeremiah together, five chapters a week. Jeremiah’s message was not a popular one. Basically he had to tell the people to get ready for the consequences of their actions. In the Israelites’ case at this time, the consequences for their continued idolatry, disobedience, and lack of repentance involved the king of Babylon conquering their city and deporting most of them to Babylon as captives.

Sometimes people accuse God of cruelty when He sends judgement on people, but they forget the years of longsuffering that led up to the judgment in question. Closing the door of the ark so no one else could get in seems drastic, but people had several decades of preaching and warning beforehand. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5) and “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence (verse 11). 1 Peter 3:20 says, “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” God was patient, but He also said His Spirit would not always strive or contend with man (Genesis 6:3). There was a deadline.

Similarly, God had sent His prophets over years to preach to the people in Jeremiah’s time. God told Jeremiah a couple of times not to pray for the people, and the ESV Study Bible notes how unusual this command was  I don’t think that meant that Jeremiah could not bring them before the Lord at all. But, if I understand it correctly, he couldn’t pray for God to turn away His judgment unless the people repented.

But the people flat out refused to repent. A few times they came to Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord for them, or they called out to God to help them, but their repentance was either not genuine or was short-lived. At one point, they responded to God’s pleas for their repentance and warnings of future consequences with “That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart” (18:12). Another time they said, “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you” (44:16). God pleaded with the people to turn away from their folly and come to Him, but they wouldn’t. So, eventually, consequences had to come.

God’s consequences are often meant to have a sanctifying effect. He chastens out of love and for our good.

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.

. . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-6, 10b-11)

Scattered throughout Jeremiah are God’s promise of future restoration of His people. They would spend 70 long years in exile. But among those taken captive were future heroes of the faith, like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would take a bold but gracious stand for God and witness for Him to foreign kings. Ezekiel preached to the exiles. Ezra and Nehemiah led the people back to Israel.

But not everyone made it back. In the course of 70 years, many died.

Back in Numbers 13-14, Israel refused to advance into the land God promised them. He pledged to be with them and help them overtake it, but they refused in fear. They were condemned to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until every adult who had refused to obey had died.

But God’s deadlines don’t refer just to chastening. Earlier this year it was on my heart to write to a woman who was like a second mother to me. But I put it off. I would be sending her a Mother’s Day card in a few weeks, and I planned to write a letter to send with it. But then I received word that she’d had a series of medical issues, was unresponsive, and was in her last days. I know with all the joys of heaven, she’s not thinking of not receiving a letter from me. But I have the regret that I didn’t respond to that prompting and share some words of encouragement. When my grandmother and aunt died, I also regretted that I had not kept in touch better in the last few years. A pastor’s wife told of the regret she felt when she leaned that a lady she saw regularly at some place of business had died suddenly. She realized that she had never spoken to her about the Lord. We only have so much time to do good.

Proverbs 27:1 (NASB) says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

Sometimes when we think about the limitations of time and the shortness of our days, we can get into a frenzy. But that’s not what God wants, either. Jesus only had 33 years on this earth, with only three and a half of those years involved in official ministry. Yet He was not frenzied. He didn’t heal or preach to everyone on earth at the time. He rested sometimes. But He did everything God wanted Him to do. We need to seek Him for wisdom, guidance, and the right priorities for each day.

Eventually, we are all going to face a final deadline. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

It’s wise not to put off repentance and believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior, because we never know when our time will be up and we’ll hear God’s final call.

It’s wise not to put off obedience, because the consequences have to come at some point.

It’s wise not to put off doing good, because someday we’ll no longer have the opportunity.

The older I get, the more I’m aware that I have more days behind me than before me.  I want to follow God wholeheartedly until that final deadline comes.

How about you?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Wise Woman, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Faith ‘n Friends,
Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here’s my latest collection of good online reads:

No Matter How Painful the Situation, Ending a Disabled Child’s Life Through Abortion Is Never Right, HT to Challies. From one who has been in a difficult pregnancy situation.

Devaluing the Disabled Body. This post from a few years ago was referenced in the post above. “The ablebodied, who control much of society, need to break themselves of the beliefs that life with a disability is tragic, not worth living, and inherently lesser than that of our own lives . . . It is not for us to decide when life is and is not worth living, nor should we pat ourselves on the back when someone society has thrown away decides to die rather than enduring a restricted and grim existence.”

A New Calling, HT to Challies. A former abortion doctor has a change of heart.

A Call to Be the Brave One. “I faced a choice to feel unloved or make someone else feel loved. I could live with the regret of a missed chance or extend an invitation to someone else. Oh, how I wish I never missed those opportunities to give someone else what I’m hoping to receive. But too often I focus on what I’m lacking instead of on what I have the opportunity to give.”

Your Unfulfilled Desires are a Treasury, Not a Tragedy, HT to Challies. “Perhaps God wants to do something similar through your unfulfilled desires. Maybe that’s why He’s not answering your prayers the way you’d like. Could it be that He wants to use the tension you feel to prepare you for His purpose in a specific way?”

The Fondue Pot Principle, HT to the Story Warren. Although the main application the author makes concerns writing, it’s true in other avenues as well: “You can only give what you have—but that’s just fine.”

A Literary Christmas 2019. If you like to read Christmas books in November and December, and you’d like to do so in company, Tarissa hosts a Literary Christmas where we can share with each other what we’re reading, Christmas book reviews, etc. I’ve enjoyed participating the last few years. I make myself wait til after Thanksgiving to read Christmas books, so I’ll link up then. But I wanted to let any potential early birds know.

And finally, I loved this! Such pure fun! HT to Steve Laube.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to count the blessings of the week
with Susanne and other friends at Living to Tell the Story.

Another Friday, another pause to reflect on the best parts of the week.

1. A visit to Cade’s Cove. I wrote more about this here, but we had a great time visiting this beautiful scenic and historic area on Saturday.

2. iCloud shared photo albums. Whenever we have a family event, we set up a shared photo album on our phones so we can each contribute our pictures to it. It’s so nice to be able to see everyone else’s photos fairly soon.

3. An extra hour. I am not a big fan of the time designations changing back and forth, but we have to do it. I hate losing an hour when Daylight Savings Time starts, but I do like getting it back in the fall.

4. Heat. We’ve had some nights in the 20s this week. When we first turned on our heater, it was making some clunky noises.That doesn’t usually happen, and Jim was out of town, so I turned it off again. When we turned it back on a day or two later, everything worked and sounded fine.

5. Leftover quiche for breakfast. I have oatmeal for breakfast most days, and we have scrambled eggs or egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings as a family. So being able to pop some leftover quiche in the microwave for breakfast is a break from routine, something special, and something much quicker than usual.

How was your week?