About Barbara Harper

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Let us lift up our hearts to the One lifted up for us

Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven. Lamentations 3:41

Have you ever felt this way? Have you wished you could lift your very heart and soul to God?

God foretold through His prophets that one day His Son would be lifted up for the sins of His people.

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind. Isaiah 52: 13-14

Jesus identified Himself as the One who would be lifted up for mankind.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. John 12:32-33

God sits on a throne, high and lifted up, in holiness. But He lifts up the humble and the bowed down.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah 57:15

A tax collector, in his deep awareness of his sinfulness, “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!‘” Luke 18:13.

Because Jesus was lifted up on the cross, we can lift up our eyes:

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26-26

Our souls:

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Psalm 86:4

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

Our voices:

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Isaiah 24:14

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Isaiah 40:9

Our hands:

So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:48

Our prayers:

Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. Psalm 28:2

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. 1 Timothy 2:8

Our song:

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! Psalm 68:4

Our praise and thanksgiving:

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! Psalm 141:2

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord! Psalm 134:1-2

Have you seen Him high and lifted up? Have you lifted up your heart and soul to Him?

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

_______________

(This post was inspired by the September 6 Daily Light reading, which led to a rich study.)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday)

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Laudable Linkage

Here are a few of the good reads that caught my eye lately:

I Was a White Supremacist, HT to Challies. What struck me about this, besides the dramatic change wrought in the heart of the writer, was the fact that a group of women  prayed for that change for two years after hearing about him in the news. Would that we would do that more often.

Do We Play Any Role in Our Sanctification?, HT to Challies.  “The battle image is a very active image. Soldiers in battle are not passive observers. They’re not sitting there watching life go by. They’re as actively engaged as anybody could be in any activity. So, too, we are called to be actively engaged in sanctification. It is our great calling to pursue holiness, to aspire to that for which God has called us, and to strain every effort that we have.”

Reasons to Go to Bible Study. The schedule hasn’t always worked out for me to go, but when it has, it’s been so beneficial.

Younger Pastors and Senior Adults, HT to Challies. Excellent perspectives of older folks and ways to minister to them and involve them in ministry.

I wish . . .When we envy someone’s blessings, do we want the trials that led to the blessings as well? Probably not.

5+ Questions to Ask a Visiting Missionary at Dinner, HT to Challies.

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. I have no closing pictures or videos today, but there are plenty of good ones here!

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

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

Yet anther week has flown by, and we have another opportunity to recall God’s goodness in it. Feel free to join in as we remember five good things each week:

1. Church potluck. Good food, as always, and a good time of fellowship. We were able to sit with a new couple we had been wanting to meet but hadn’t yet.

2. Yearly physical is over for another year, and all my lab numbers were good. A couple were a bit high, but stable and not high enough to be a problem.

3. Grandparents Day was last Sunday.I didn’t have a chance to do a post, but I had a good time remembering my grandparents and their impact on my life. And Jason, Mittu, and Timothy came over in the evening with beautiful pink roses for me, a bag of coffee for Jim, a cake, and a picture Timothy colored for us. His bursting in the door cheerily saying, “Happy Grandparents Day!” was the best part.

4. A pleasant evening. I’ve been commenting that it is still hot and humid and not at all autumnish yet. But one evening this week we were in the front yard watching Timothy play, and the air actually felt nice. Not too hot or cold or muggy. A good foretaste of things to come!

5. Honorable mention. I got word this week that a piece I entered in Writer’s Digest’s Annual Writing Competition got an Honorable Mention, with a prize of 20% off at their Writer’s Digest University. That’s such an encouragement that I’m making progress in the right direction.

Bonus: I’m not into pumpkin spice everything, but these are a nice treat this time of year:

I mentioned last week I had gotten some desktop shelves and was experimenting with arranging them. This is how I have them now:

The one underneath the monitor (please forgive the glare) came with a second shelf that goes halfway down, but I wanted to leave the area open to put my “In” box underneath. The ones on the right are actually two pieces that can be squeezed together, pushed apart, or separated into two pieces. I had them in two, on either side of the monitor, and I liked the symmetry of that. But I liked the shelves themselves better this way. All together they do create space for more storage and make the desk look more organized, so I am pleased.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: Anna Karenina

I had no interest in reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy for years. I knew it was about a woman who committed adultery, and I figured it would be pretty soap-opera-ish and probably a bit racy.

But Tolstoy did not seem given to raciness in any of his other books that I’d read. Then Carol’s review made me think perhaps there might be more to the story than I’d thought. So I decided to give it a try for my Classic in Translation choice for the Back to the Classics challenge.

The novel has one of literature’s most famous opening lines: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna doesn’t actually show up until several chapters in. The book opens with her brother, Stepan (also called by his nickname, Stiva, or his last name, Oblonsky, or his full name. All the characters have three polysyllabic Russian names plus nicknames, so it’s a little hard to sort them out at first. But once we get to know them, it’s easier.) Stiva has cheated on his wife, Dolly, who has found out. Stiva doesn’t think adultery is wrong and doesn’t see himself at fault, but he’s sorry he has hurt Dolly. His sister, Anna, is on her way to try to reconcile her brother and his wife.

Anna is described as beautiful, bright, charming, and eager. She doesn’t gloss over Stiva’s behavior, but she asks Dolly is she loves him enough to forgive him. Dolly had been contemplating leaving, but decides to forgive Stiva and stay.

Dolly’s sister, Kitty, has two suitors. Levin is the better man, but he’s socially awkward and lives in the country (and the society people can’t fathom what on earth one does in the country. Later, visitors seem to view time in the country as a holiday, while Levin works almost nonstop.) Count Vronsky is handsome, dashing, well-off, and in the highest society, so Kitty is swept away with him and refuses Levin’s proposal.

But Vronsky has no desire to marry, ever. He has enjoyed Kitty’s affections, but he’s had a string of romantic attachments, thinks marriage and husbands are stupid, and has no plans to settle down—until he meets Anna.

They meet at the train when Vronsky’s mother is coming in on the same train with Anna when she comes to see Stiva and Dolly. Anna and Vronsky are instantly attracted to each other, so much so that at a ball when they dance, Kitty knows Vronsky is lost to her.

Anna resists the attraction at first. Her situation is almost an anatomy of falling into temptation. She was not truly happy in her marriage, but as far as we know, she wasn’t entertaining thoughts of adultery until she met Vronsky. She’s disturbed by the strange attraction and knows it’s not right. When she gets home, some of the sheen is rubbed of the joy she had anticipated in getting back to her son, and all her husband’s faults stand out. Vronsky follows her. She has three groups of friends, and instead of avoiding Vronsky (“making no provision for the flesh“), she hangs out with the group he’s likely to be part of. Eventually, she succumbs. Though she’s ashamed and guilty, she continues to the point of leaving her family to be with Vronsky. Gradually her heart and conscience harden, but her thinking and personality become unstable.

Despite the lack of morals in her set of friends (almost everyone in the society group has an affair going or someone knowingly kept on the side), Anna is an outcast. One source said it was because her affair was out in the open while others kept theirs hidden. There’s also some inequity in that Vronsky can go out in society, but Anna is snubbed.

There are several major characters, but Levin’s story takes up as much of the novel as Anna’s—maybe more. His story runs in the opposite trajectory. He’s said to be based on some extent on Tolstoy. He had faith as a child, but lost it in college and now does not acknowledge himself to be a believer. He’s a landowner and tries to do his best by the people who work for him and who are dependent on him. But he gets frustrated when the peasants won’t agree to new methods or equipment. Though he thinks deeply, he gets lost in the intellectual arguments of his brothers and others. He eventually marries, but doesn’t find home life the bliss he thought it would be. He and his wife argue a lot. But they talk things out and work through them. His lack of faith begins to bother him after his brother dies, and his spiritual journey is a major part of the book. As Anna moves away from stability and happiness, Levin moves toward them.

There are so many layers in this book, it’s hard to sort through what to share. There are multiple discussions about marriage and family, society and city life vs. rural life, affected, hypocritical religion vs. true change of heart, the politics of the day.

Tolstoy does a masterful job painting his characters and helping us understand them. There are so many interesting little insights into people’s motivations and actions. For instance, Anna’s husband, Karenin, is a public official known for Christian values. Yet he fails to do the most Christian thing required of a husband: love his wife as Christ loved the church. His first notice that something is wrong is when Anna is not as attentive to him as she used to be. He only asks that she not bring Vronsky to the house and that she maintain decorum. He may think that he’s being magnanimous by yielding to her desires, but he shows he only cares about appearances. Early on, Anna says things like, “If only he’d fight for me.” His most profound religious moment comes at a crisis when he realizes he needs to forgive her. Yet even then he struggles between what he feels led to do and the “force” that drives him, the opinion of society.

One source I consulted said Anna is a pioneer feminist fulfilling her self-determination. But I don’t think Tolstoy writes her that way. He’s not saying, “Poor girl, society is being so mean to you for making your own choices.” Though he points out the foibles and hypocrisies of society, he portrays Anna as genuinely wrong and self-destructing because of it.

For all the free-thinking society talk of immorality, thankfully there are no sex scenes, and nothing explicit is said or shown.

I’ll warn you that if you look for information about this book, Anna’s end is spoiled rather ruthlessly. That was frustrating to me because I had no idea how she ended and hated finding out when I had barely started the book. After that I tried to steer clear of looking at other sources until I finished reading the book.

I primarily listened to the audiobook nicely read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I also read parts of the Kindle version. I wish I had known earlier that the Kindle version translated the frequent French phrases. I lost a bit in the audio by not knowing what was said in those moments. But Maggie brought a lot of emotion and thoughtfulness to the narrative, so I am glad I experienced that.

I’ve seen in several places that Anna Karenina is a major contender for best novel ever written. I don’t think I’d put it on that level. But it’s a rich book that gives one much to ponder.

What if we really don’t measure up?

Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The Bible warns against envy and jealousy. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

We know that no one’s picture-perfect online depictions convey real life, at least not all the time. Everyone has trials and issues, faults and failures. Yet we’re discouraged and depressed when we don’t think we measure up to everyone else.

But what if we really do fall short?

Different personalities and gifts

In early married life, I had a good friend who seemingly could do everything and do it well. While I seemed to struggle to keep my head above water with three children, she had the same number, her house was not only clean but well-decorated, she sewed for her family and for others for pay, she was active in a number of church ministries.

While wondering what was wrong with me for a long time, I finally concluded that God gave different people different capacities. Jesus told a parable of three men who were each given different amounts of money and then had to give account according to what was given them. I could learn from this and other friends and enjoy their different gifts, but I didn’t have to be just like them. God didn’t make us with cookie cutters. I could only be faithful with the abilities He gave me.

Offsetting weaknesses

One night this particular friend and her husband invited our family over for dinner. Everything was wonderful, as expected. But I noticed that this friend could hardly sit still for more than a few minutes. She would excuse herself to go do various things and then come back. It seemed like she didn’t know how to just sit back and relax for very long. And I began to think, if that’s the price one pays for getting so much done, then maybe I don’t that after all. I’m not criticizing her. We just had different personalities.

One former pastor used to say that every strength has an offsetting weakness. One organizational whiz I knew had trouble with flexibility. Someone with a take-charge personality is great when you need someone in charge, but they come across as controlling otherwise.  A person whose primary gift is mercy might have a hard time saying “no” when she should. If we find ourselves envying someone’s gift, we need to remember they have their weaknesses, too. We all have issues for which we need God’s grace.

God’s choices

Many times in the Bible, God set His choice and blessing on particular people. He chose younger Jacob over older Esau, even though by the standards of the times, the older brother received the family blessing and a bigger share on the inheritance. Peter, James, and John had more experiences with Jesus than the other disciples, and Peter got the lion’s share of attention in the gospels. All we know about some of the disciples is their names. Does that mean they were less special that Peter? No: God just had different purposes for them.

A former pastor who preached a series about the disciples said that these lesser-known ones were faithful in obscurity. That’s where most of us find ourselves. We’re not the big names. We don’t have the big followings. When I was growing up, I often heard the saying “God must love the common folk, He made so many of them.”

Accepted in the Beloved

We all fall short of God’s perfect righteousness. But He loved us so much, He gave His only Son to die for our sins, so if we turn from them and believe on Him, we’re saved and cleansed (John 3:16). When I really got hold of the idea that I’m “accepted in the Beloved,” as the KJV puts it, all my securities and self-image issues melted away. Our position in Him has nothing to do with our looks, our abilities, our works, our talents, and how they measure up to anyone else. He made us the way He wanted us. He gives us everything we need to live for Him and grow more like Him.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Were not enough in ourselves, but we’re complete in Him. He gives us everything we need for everything He’s called us to.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

We each have a gift from God, a purpose, and a unique job to do. We may not have the same reach as others, but we each have a unique sphere of influence. God doesn’t call us to do what others do. He only calls us to be faithful to what He wants us to do.

Someone will always be better than us in every aspect of our lives: better-looking, better cooks, better writers, better home managers, etc. That’s no reason for dismay. We will be better than some in those aspects, too. That’s no reason for pride.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
 (1 Corinthians 4:7, NIV)

The main point isn’t how we compare to others. The main point is being faithful with what God gave us. We seek His purposes and plans for us, grow in grace, knowledge and abilities, and use them to reflect Him, glorify Him, and serve others.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Kingdom Bloggers, Literary Musing Monday, Hearth and Soul, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, Happy Now, Tea and Word, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Truth, Let’s Have Coffee, Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday, Wise Woman, Share a Link Wednesday, HeartEncouragement, DestinationInspiration, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Faith ‘n Friends)

Friday’s Fave Five

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

It’s been a pretty quiet week. Still hot and humid and summery. No fall decorations here yet for a couple of weeks, though I’ve seen them around town for a while. But I always appreciate the opportunity to reflect on good things from the last week.

1. A haircut. I enjoy them when I get there, but I am terrible about actually making the time to go til I’m so frustrated with my hair, I’m about ready to pull it out. I was finally able to tack on a visit to the salon after another outing. My regular person wasn’t in, and the person who did my hair got it a bit shorter than I’m used to. But I am finding I like it quite a bit and may keep it this way!

2. Flowers. Some of the plants in my planters died, so I looked for a few more to fill in til winter. The stores I checked didn’t have a lot left except mums—not my favorite. I was hoping to find pansies, but didn’t see any. But I did find enough flowers to make the planters better-looking than they were.

3. Desktop shelves. I wanted to keep a few books handy, but there was no room for them on my already crowded desk. I looked up desktop shelves and found some I liked, and asked for them for my birthday. I put those together, and decided I needed another I had seen on my first search. I had enough Amazon points (accumulated through use of my Amazon credit card) to get the second shelves for free. I’ve rearranged them several times, but once I’m set with how I want them, I’ll share a picture.

4. A long weekend. Monday was Labor Day here in the States. Kind of an odd holiday. But everyone enjoyed the day off and Jim’s grilled burgers.

5. Reading to Timothy. I had not read to my grandson for a long time. It’s one of my favorite things to do, but usually he prefers activity when he’s here, which is fine. But last weekend, his dad had fixed him a late lunch here, and Timothy asked if I’d tell him a story while he ate. I asked if I could read one instead. We ended up reading three or four—one was even a chapter book. I had a lot of fun, and he seemed to enjoy them, too.

Bonus: Getting my days straight. For some reason, I thought four different functions were scheduled for four consecutive days next weekend, and I was stressing. But then I realized two of them were this weekend and two the next. Even though I’d prefer them a little more spaced out, it was a relief to realize they weren’t all back-to-back.

Hope you have a great Friday!

Book Review on Grandparenting

As I mother, I felt compelled to read every Christian book on parenting I could find. I was the chief babysitter for my five younger siblings (my youngest sister was born when I was 17), so I wasn’t inexperienced with children. But the responsibility of having my own weighed on me heavily. I didn’t feel I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t want to ruin them for life.

I haven’t felt quite as compelled as a grandparent. Perhaps having a supporting rather than a major role relieves some of the pressure. Maybe I’ve grown in the Lord and in following His guidance enough now that, even though I haven’t arrived and am not perfect in any category, I don’t feel I need to find a book for every issue (though I do still read a lot). And much of grandparenting seems common sense on top of the same love and courtesy shown to one’s own children.

The first two books I did read by grandparents to grandparents were major disappointments—not the grandparenting advice, but the theological basis of the authors.

But Michele‘s review of There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe encouraged me to get this book.

Howe’s premise is that there’s a difference between everyday grandparents and grandparents:

Becoming a grandparent is living with eternity in mind—all the time. It means going the extra mile (or more, many more) for the sake of your grandchildren. It will entail sacrifice of every sort. Time. Money. Energy. Sleep. But every sort of giving up and giving away the best of what we have and are is all good . . . in the light of eternity.

Grandparenting is all about bending the knee before our Lord Jesus Christ and asking him for our marching orders. Then we get up from our knees and get busy loving our grandchildren in ways they will remember, value, and appreciate (p. 2).

Grace upon grace. Unconditional love. Total acceptance. Open arms. These are only a few of the attitudes and actions that make grandparents so different from folks who assume a casual role as a grandparent. Which would you rather be: a seemingly insignificant bystander who shows up now and then with a gift but with two closed fists that demand affection from the grandchildren before letting go of the goods; or someone who views every opportunity to interact with grandchildren as having potential eternal impact and takes their love as it comes, without offense? (p. 45).

Howe reminds us that our empty nest years are not about finally having “me time.” We never retire from being a godly influence, especially to our own family.

She highlights the primary roles of prayer, seeking guidance from God, and following the parents’ lead and preferences.

She shares numerous tips and truths. Just a few:

  • Hospitality is not just something we exercise towards those outside our families. We make time and place for our adult children and their families as well.
  • Grandparenting is not about spoiling or over-indulging.
  • We can provide a safe haven when parents fail, as in cases of drug addiction and abuse. Grandparents provide tough love and step in to call authorities in these cases if need be.
  • We need to remember each child is unique.
  • We can make special memories and teaching opportunities out of everyday occasions and tasks.
  • Though sometimes we need to exercise authority, “I never need to yell, demean, or demand. Rather, I can use gentle but firm words to steer them toward making good choices” (p. 29).

Each chapter is only about four pages long and ends with a “take-away action thought,” a prayer, and a few “grand ideas” for how to implement the concepts from that chapter. The thirty chapters could be read one a day over a month, but they’re short enough to read more if desired. I generally read two in one sitting.

To be totally honest, the grandparenting vs. grandparenting repetition became a little wearing after a while. On the other hand, that was probably the most succinct way to make the distinction between casual, aloof, or insensitive grandparents and involved, attentive, spiritually-minded grandparents.

Though I don’t think I learned anything earth-shatteringly new from this book, the gentle nudges, thoughtful reminders, and spiritual focus were all helpful. I’d recommend this book for any stage of grandparenting, perhaps even as a gift to new or upcoming grandparents.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Faith ‘n Friends, Literary Musing Monday)

Two Book Reviews: Rachel’s Prayer and Sarah’s Promise

Leisha Kelly’s books about the Wortham family take them from the Depression through WWII. Since I finished the last two within a couple of days of each other, I decided to review them together.

In Rachel’s Prayer, WWII is in full force. Several from the Worthams’ Southern Illinois area enlisted, including Robert, the Worthams’ only son, and three of the next-door Hammond boys. Frank Hammond desperately wanted to, but his limp and inability to read kept him out of the service.

The Hammond’s father, George, handles his sons’ leaving like he handles everything else: by not handling it and withdrawing. He has not handled life well since the first books, but he took a downward turn when his wife died, leaving him with ten children. Throughout this book the family begins to think it’s not just drinking and laziness that affect George. There’s something fundamentally wrong with his thinking. He would probably be diagnosed with depression today.

Rachel is Robert’s girlfriend, and his sister and parents are getting used to the idea that he’s grown up and will probably propose once he gets back home.

With that many young men going off to war, it’s inevitable that some won’t come back and some will come back changed. The folks at home deal with uncertainty and sorrow not only across the sea, but in their own neighborhoods.

But even though there are sad parts to this book, God works through the sadness to strengthen and draw people closer to Himself. Ultimately Sarah finds it good to “to let my future, my heart, and his, rest where he said they belonged: in the hands of God. No other hands could be so capable. None could be more generous, more able to give peace in trials, strength in despair, and understanding in the midst of a confusing world.”

In Sarah’s Promise, Sarah Wortham and Franky Hammond are engaged. Frank is about to leave on a 200-mile journey to help his brother move. Folks are worried because Frank can’t read and the winter weather is iffy. But Frank has a good memory, and his brother has drawn a map and told him the succession of towns he’ll need to pass through.

Everyone assumes Frank will continue on doing wordwork with Sarah’s father. Sarah would like nothing better than to live nearby to the only home she’s ever known. But Frank wants to prove himself. All his life he’s dealt with not only being unable to read, despite desperately wanting to, but also with being thought “different.” Frank tends to think deeply to the point that he’s unaware of what’s going on around him, causing his siblings and especially his father to accuse him of being addle-brained and unable to function without supervision. Frank would love the opportunity to work on his own and provide for Sarah without the safety net of their families, which scares Sarah to death.

While Frank is away, he and Sarah both have praying to do, trials to undergo; lessons to learn. One of the most beautiful parts of the book I can’t share much about without spoiling the climax, but my heart was so touched by a pastor’s ministry to Frank when he was at his lowest, when all his father’s verbal abuse made him think he couldn’t accomplish anything.

I dearly loved all of these books. Leisha had such a skill in bringing us right into the characters’ circumstances and emotions and weaving spiritual truth into the fabric of her stories. I was sad to learn, as I mentioned in a previous review, that she and her teenage son had passed away a few years ago in a car accident. I’m sad for her family but also for readers.

I wanted to list the first four books as well, linked back to my reviews:

  1. Julia’s Hope introduces us to the Worthams, a family at their lowest point that has lost everything in the Depression. They come to an abandoned house and offer to fix it up in exchange for living there, eventually allowing the elderly owner to come back home as well.
  2. Emma’s Gift. Emma, the elderly lady from the first book, dies, as does her neighbor, Mrs. Hammond, mother of ten. The Hammonds and Worthams are not only devastated, but uncertain of their future, as Emma owned the property they all live on.
  3. Katie’s Dream. Sam Wortham’s ne-er-do-well brother brings a young girl and a convincing story that she belongs to Sam. But Sam has never been unfaithful. Why is his brother doing this? Will the town, and most importantly, his wife, believe him? And what do they do about the little girl?
  4. Rorey’s Secret. Rorey, the oldest Hammond daughter, has gotten in with a bad crowd. When a fire starts in the family’s barn, causing serious damage and injuring Mr. Wortham and Bert Hammond, Frank is blamed. He’s innocent but won’t cast the blame on anyone else. Rorey knows the truth, but will she share it?

The last three books are technically the Country Road Chronicles, but they timeline continues through all six. Each could be read as a stand-alone book, but I’d recommend reading them all in order. There’s a Christmas story in the series as well that I haven’t read yet: I’ll save it for December.

I’m going to sorely miss the Worthams and Leisha.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Forsaking Thoughts

Saturday morning I was arrested by a phrase in Seasons of the Heart, compiled by Donna Kelderman. One sentence of the day’s selection, written by Frances Ridley Havergal, said, “Oh, forsake the thoughts as well as the way, and return unto the Lord, and He will abundantly pardon.”

I’m sure the inspiration for her comment came from Isaiah 55:7: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

I’d read this verse before, several times. It and other passages talk about managing our thoughts, so the idea wasn’t new to me. But perhaps because the wording was rearranged just a bit, that idea of forsaking certain thoughts stood out. It’s not enough to forsake a certain sin if we’re still thinking about it all the time. And some thoughts in themselves are sins (lust, pride, etc.). We need to forsake sinful thoughts as well as sinful ways.

But how can we forsake thoughts when they spill into our minds unbidden? We might not want to think them, but we can’t seem to get away from them.

First, we need to pray. Something I sometimes pray is  Psalm 19:14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Then, we can change our thoughts.

In How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit, Erwin Lutzer said that if someone told you to stop thinking about the number 8, suddenly that’s all you can think of. What to do then? Think of other numbers, do equations, arrange them in different orders, etc.

The best way to get rid of one thought is to replace it with another. Instead of passively being at the mercy of whatever thoughts assail us, we can actively think about profitable things. We can take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

David Martyn-Lloyd Jones put it this way in Spiritual Depression:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”

So what can we say to our souls?

We can turn our thoughts to anything active, really: planning our next week, what we’re going to serve at the next church fellowship, how to rearrange the desk or living room, etc.

But the best thoughts to turn to are God’s. After the verse about forsaking wicked or unrighteous thoughts and ways in Isaiah 55, God goes on to say His thoughts are higher than ours. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Sometimes in an urgent situation, singing a hymn (either out loud or to ourselves) helps in a couple of ways. First, it turns our thoughts to God’s truths. Then, once we start a well-known song, our minds want to finish it out. This has helped me a lot in times of anxiety. There was a period of time where I was often plagued by negative, almost blasphemous thoughts about God. I didn’t believe them. I was quite distressed, unsure where they were coming from. Finally I decided every time such a thought would begin, I’d start singing a hymn of praise to God. If it was Satan suggesting these thoughts, I guess he got tired of it after awhile when his efforts just led to more praise to God.

Either reading or remembering Scripture helps us center our thoughts on God’s. The more we read and memorize, the more the Holy Spirit can “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). If we’re wrestling with a particular temptation—lust, pride, gluttony, etc.—it helps to look up verses to combat those, list some to have them ready, and start memorizing them.

Then, it helps to concentrate on the positive and not just the negative, what we can do instead of what we can’t, doing rather than don’t-ing. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, “So flee youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Colossians 3 tells us to put off some things—immorality, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscenity, lying—and put on other things like humility, forgiveness, kindness, patience, love, compassion.

Just trying to stop thinking about what we can’t do is like trying to stop thinking about the number 8. Not only will our minds keep trying to go there, but we’ll be discontent. But if we focus on what we’re supposed to be doing instead, we’ll have enough to keep us busy for a long time.

How about you? What ways have you found to forsake wrong thoughts?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Kingdom Bloggers, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, Hearth and Soul, Happy Now, Tea and Word, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode, Let’s Have Coffee, Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, HeartEncouragement, Destination Inspiration, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth, Faith ‘n Friends)

Laudable Linkage

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I found a lot of good reading this week, so I have a little longer list than usual. I hope you find something edifying here.

How to Fall . . . Again. HT to Challies. “You may have some obvious boundaries in place to keep you from the explicit routes back to your old sins. But there are some ways your new life might make you vulnerable to new sins. The devil is cunning and is perfectly willing to cut you in the left side while you protect your right. How might this happen? What are some ways you might fall again?”

What If the Worst Comes to Pass? Developing a What If Theology, HT to Challies.. Dealing with anxiety by facing the “what ifs” full on rather than hiding from them.

From Gay to Gospel: The Fascinating Story of Becket Cook, HT to Challies. Moving testimony.

6 Powerful Keys To Overcoming Anger, HT to Challies. “What is it that I want right now that I’m not getting? This question has changed my life. This question has helped me again and again to overcome the temptation to anger in my life. I try to ask myself this question when I’m tempted to be angry. What is it I want right now that I’m not getting?”

4 Ways to Grow in Self-Control, HT to Challies. “Self-control is one of the biggest indicators of Christian character. Without it, you’ll eventually ruin your life and legacy. With it, you can thrive and be a blessing to others around you. You’re probably convinced of the need for self-control. But how do you get it?”

Aspire to Live Quietly, HT to Challies.. “Be honest, do you love the conflict? Do you love the argument? If so, be insignificant on social media and preserve your soul. For what use is it to you if you gain all the world’s likes but lose your soul?”

Prime Prayer Attitude. Has Amazon prime affected our praying? Do we expect the answer at our front door in two days or free returns if we don’t like what we get?

Friend, What’s Your Name? Learning how to make friends from a child’s example.

No Pang Shall Be Mine? HT to Challies. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily make for an easy death. Death is still the final enemy.

Was Jesus a Person of Color? An Immigrant? A Palestinian? HT to Challies. “Jesus should not be a political pawn whose identity shifts to match whatever the political cause is of the day. It is better for us to orient our lives around him than him around our politics.”

A Sad Tale of a Wealthy Millennial’s Moral Confusion, HT to Challies. I am coming across this idea more and more that wealth is immoral. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a post about it, but this says almost everything I would want to.

The Deepfake Artists Must be Stopped, HT to Challies. This is disturbing. People have found ways to copy a person’s voice to make fake recordings of them saying and doing whatever the creator wants.

Creating a Bible Study Notebook. The ladies at Do Not Depart have been discussing this topic all month and share some free printables.

Downton Abbey Cast Reverses Roles, HT to Laura. Fun!

Finally, I stumbled across this and really enjoyed it. Some of you may remember Jim Varney’s Ernie or Ernest character. I had no idea that Varney was a trained classical actor. It was also interesting seeing how Ernest got started. I think this must have aired before some of his later movies, since it doesn’t reference them.