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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Work in Progress

I'm struggling to string words together today. This year has been a difficult one for my family. I won't bore you with every struggle I've gone through but will mention a couple. My mother's stroke and subsequent admittance to the nursing home has taken center stage in my life and continues to do so. Eleven months ago, my husband and I found her on the floor of her bedroom. Her recovery was rapid, except for her short-term memory. She continues to fight against being confined to the nursing home, after eleven long months. We explain why but the next visit involves the same questions and the same answers. Needless to say, it's stressful and draining.

And my husband, Carl, had back surgery last year and has continued to have problems. Then, a couple of months ago, he was severely burned. 

There's more but that should suffice to explain why my writing has stalled, like a rusted-out car, perhaps has completely died and needs to be hauled off to the nearest junkyard.

I'm cautiously optimistic that I can jumpstart my writing in 2017--if somewhere I find a battery with enough juice to get me going. 

I planned to write a non-fiction book, tentatively entitled The Role of a Woman. Here on my blog and in my newsletter I've written a few articles I'd planned to incorporate into the book. That project will be shelved for now. I realize it will take intensive research, and I can't summon up the energy needed at this time.

I had also planned, in 2016, to write book 2 in what I was calling Southern Pines Mysteries. I feel hopeful I can write this book in 2017. Some changes have been made. I've changed the title of the series to A Tree's Response Mystery. The name comes from this quote: “It is a simple story. There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it seems like a poem. This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. ‘I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,’ she told me. ‘In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.’ Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, ‘This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.’ Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. ‘I often talk to this tree,’ she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. ‘Yes.’ What did it say to her? She answered, ‘It said to me, I am here — I am here — I am life, eternal life.’~Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning


The first book in the series has been published and the other two have been roughly plotted. The three books form one story. Each book will stand alone but each book is connected to the others.

I've also changed the titles a bit in books 2 and 3 and changed the covers. Here are the new covers:






My Work-in-Progress (WIP), Rootless, continues the story of Ezekiel and Grace. Below is a very rough blurb:

Ezekiel has effectively been banished from the Drake Mansion and is now working for Grace's father. Grace's father forces Ezekiel to live in the servants' house, where he displaces the maid's oldest daughter from her room. However, deflecting the daughter's wrath is the least of his worries. 

Mr. Drake's long-lost sister, her husband, and children show up to claim their inheritance. A murder throws suspicion on the entire family, and Grace and Ezekiel are again called upon to solve the mystery. 

Yeah...blurbs are difficult. I'll keep working on it but perhaps it gives an idea of the story. I classified Frail Branch as a cozy mystery. Perhaps I need to re-think the genre. Cozies of today are different than this series. Most of today's cozies have female protagonists, lots of recipes, usually a cat or some other pet, and are humorous. A fifteen-year-old boy, living in the 1940s, with nary a cat in sight, does not fit today's parameters for a cozy mystery. 

However, I consider it a cozy. The books are clean with minimal violence. I'd like to think they're similar to an Agatha Christie mystery.

For Rootless, I'm planning to keep in Ezekiel's point of view. This book will deal with him almost exclusively. He is estranged from Grace and dealing with loneliness and isolation, attempting to fit into an unfamiliar world. 

This song reminds me of Rootless


Hopefully, I'll be telling you more in the coming weeks! Just praying 2017 is a slightly calmer year, and I'll have the energy to write!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I Was Wrong (I Think)

All comments, disagreements, and discussions are welcome as we delve into scripture. In Second Peter, we are told that scripture is not to be privately interpreted. Through discussions, we come to have insights that our own preconceived ideas and prejudices may prevent us from discerning on our own. For example, a reader pointed out a discrepancy in my last newsletter, causing me to re-examine some scriptures.

In my newsletter, I pointed out that in Mark 16:14, Jesus rebuked the Eleven for not believing the women. I assumed Jesus was speaking of Mary Magdalene and also the other women with her. 

Let’s look at the entire passage for clarity:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. ~Mark 16:9-14

We are told clearly that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The other two, I believed when I wrote the newsletter, were Mary the mother of James, and Joanna. After a reader questioned this, I did more research and realized that my conclusions were more than likely incorrect.

If not Joanna and Mary, who were the other two he appeared to? Most commentators believe we find the answer in Luke 24. 

Let’s listen in the shade:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” …

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. ~Luke 24:10-18; 28-43 (ESV)

We know that there were other women besides Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and two are specifically mentioned in Luke 24:10--Joanna and Mary the mother of James. (So many Marys!) All three women told the Eleven. And then later, as we see in the passage above, Jesus appeared to Cleopas and an unnamed person.

Who was Cleopas? Some scholars believe Cleopas and Clopas are the same person—their names are certainly similar. We find the name Clopas in John 19:25: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister-in-law, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” If indeed Cleopas and Clopas are one and the same, this would make Clopas the brother of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.

Cleopas, therefore, was walking to Emmaus, more than likely with Mary his wife. Although not provable beyond a shadow of a doubt, it does seem likely.

Let’s look a little closer at part of one verse, Luke 24, verse 42: “… they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling …” The disciples were having a difficult time believing their own eyes.

So, with the 24th chapter of Luke in mind, now when we read Mark 16:14 (Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.), we see this is probably referring to several people: Cleopas, an unnamed person (possibly his wife), and the women at the tomb. At least one man is in the mix, possibly two men if the unnamed person is not the wife of Cleopas or some other woman.

More than likely, the rebuke would not have been solely because the disciples did not believe the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, but also because they did not believe the man (or possibly men if his companion was a man). The rebuke could also have come because the disciples refused to believe their own eyes.

I believe it's clear that Jesus is rebuking the disciples for not believing the women and man (or men). Thanks to the discerning reader who pointed this out!

I hope I'm not as stubborn as the disciples, refusing to believe the evidence in front of my own eyes, but I fear that sometimes that might be the case. 

Let’s pray our hearts will be softened as we search the scriptures together to find God’s truth. Explore the Word, examine your faith, exalt the Lord! And always listen in God's shade!




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review and Historical Perspective on the Woman's Role

In my newsletters and here on my blog, I’ve been exploring the biblical role of a woman.

As we listened in the shade, we’ve covered the following:

1. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 

Martha was troubled about many things--mainly preparing and serving the food. Yet only one thing was necessary according to Jesus—to be a disciple and learn from him.

2. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” ~Genesis 1:26

The “mankind” in these verses included both men and women. We saw that Eve was not made to cook, clean, and do laundry. At that time, there was no need to do any of that. Instead she was created to rule with Adam.

3. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” ~Mark 10:6-9

Jesus reiterated the oneness of husband and wife before the fall. We concluded that either there has never been a curse for man to rule over woman or else Jesus has lifted it—re-stating what marriage should have been if it had not been for the hardness of hearts.

4. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. ~1 Timothy 2:11-12

If Jesus reinstated the oneness of husband and wife, what are we to make of Paul’s words? We saw that these words were written a particular place, the church at Ephesus; during a particular time, when the church had false teachers; given for a particular reason, to stop the idle, foolish talk; and ordered by a particular man, the apostle Paul. We see that Paul uses first person to emphasize this was his particular teaching.

A friend of mine, Laura Lassiter, shared this with me from the IVP Commentary on Timothy 2:11 that sheds light on the historical background at the time.

From the IVP: The proper way for any novice to learn was submissively and “quietly” (a closely related Greek term appears in 1Ti 2:2 for all believers). Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul’s advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural. (In the second century, Beruriah, wife of Rabbi Meir, was instructed in the law, but she was a rare exception. Women could hear expositions at the synagogues and did sometimes attend rabbinic lectures, but the vast majority of rabbis would never accept them as disciples, and Hellenistically oriented Jews like Josephus and Philo were even more biased against them than the rabbis were. There is evidence for a few women filling higher roles in some Diaspora synagogues, in local cultures where women had higher social positions, but the same evidence shows that even there prominent women in synagogues were the rare exception rather than the rule.)

1Timothy 2:12. Given women’s lack of training in the Scriptures (see comment on 1Ti 2:11), the heresy spreading in the Ephesian churches through ignorant teachers (1Ti 1:4-7), and the false teachers’ exploitation of these women’s lack of knowledge to spread their errors (1Ti 5:13; 2Ti 3:6), Paul’s prohibition here makes good sense. His short-range solution is that these women should not teach; his long-range solution is “let them learn” (1Ti 2:11). The situation might be different after the women had been instructed (1Ti 2:11; cf. Rom 16:1-4, Rom 16:7; Php 4:2-3).

We often forget, surrounded as we are by opportunities for women, that it has not always been so. Jesus broke with tradition when He allowed women to become his disciples. As we continue to search the scriptures to discover the true biblical role of women, this will give us perspective on the words of Paul.




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Mary, Did You Know?

Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ~1 Timothy 2:13-15 

 Later I’ll be exploring 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in more detail in one of my newsletters. Today, though, I’d like to look at verse 15, a verse that has puzzled scholars (and me) for many years. Does this say that a woman will be saved if she has a child??? That can’t be since Philippians 2:12 tells us to … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 

And what of women who never give birth? If this means women will be saved through having children, the childless would be lost. As I puzzled over this particular verse the last few weeks, a song played in my head, a song that has become very popular at Christmas. 

Let’s listen … in the shade:

 

Particularly listen to these lyrics:

Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Let’s look again at verse 15 and notice something unusual. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Yes, the pronoun changes on us. Could this verse be saying that through Eve (and those who came after her) salvation was brought into the world through a woman’s childbearing, more specifically Mary’s who gave birth to the Christ? And through the birth of Jesus, made possible by Mary’s obedience to God, THEY (all people) with faith will be saved. Couldn’t the “they” refer back to men and women in the previous verses?

Since we know there is only one way to Heaven, through faith in Jesus, this verse becomes more understandable. 

As Paul later says to Timothy:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. ~2 Timothy 4:6-8

May we be able to say with Paul “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” so that we too will receive “the crown of righteousness” whether we are mothers or not. Thankfully, Mary's child delivered all Christians from the bonds of sin. Amen. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Laundry ... Yes, This is a Blog Post about Laundry

*Posted on Facebook by Simply Real Moms

Laundry—I’m sure someone out there enjoys doing it, and if it’s you, I have the number of a good psychiatrist. J Joking aside, keeping up with laundry seems an almost impossible task. It’s something that has to be done and on a regular basis. And for those who say all jobs can be done as to God, I agree. We are serving others when we do their laundry. However, menial jobs are best done quickly and efficiently to leave us time to do the weightier things in life (although wet laundry is pretty weighty).

Everyone has to figure out a system that works best for himself or herself or the couple-self. In the case of a couple, perhaps they decide the wife will do the laundry and the husband will take care of cutting grass. The trick is to work out an equitable system for you.

When my children were younger, I did a load of laundry every single day. I’d often throw a load in the washer in the mornings before work and dry them when I got home. *Warning--wet clothes in the washing machine will soon sour. Don't leave them too long. Don't ask how I know.* My sons, and often my husband, helped me fold the clothes and each person put their own clothes away.

In the last year or so I’ve changed my routine. I decided to do the laundry in one day—on either Friday or Saturday.

For fold up clothes—towels, pajamas, t-shirts, etc., I or my husband wash and dry several loads and dump them all on the couch. That night, we watch TV and fold the clothes. This system has its drawbacks. Dumping them all on the couch will cause wrinkles. Any clothes that I don’t want wrinkled, I’ll grab and drape over the top of the couch. This is the fastest, easiest method I’ve found. Clothes like shirts, dress pants, and skirts are washed, dried, and immediately hung up.

If I don’t get them out fast enough to avoid wrinkles, my dryer has a steam cycle that does my ironing. Works for me. 

We recently decided to move our laundry room. There are two rooms side by side. The first room, we were told, was an office. The room on the outer wall was the laundry room. Recently, we decided to switch the functions of the rooms. The office became our laundry room and the laundry room became my office. This is the finished result:
Added a shelf to feed the cats on and a bar to hang up clothes straight from the dryer.
The cabinets were already in place!


New office (once the laundry room)

This has increased the efficiency of doing laundry. And I'm loving the office. The words above the window says it all--God is our light even when we do the laundry!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bible Verse of the Week, Fingernail Polish, and the Emasculation of Men


Jenna Tatum recently posted pictures to Snapchat of her husband removing nail polish from her toenails. The pictures soon went viral. Most of the women's comments lamented the fact that their boyfriends or husbands would never do such a thing. But some of the comments condemned Channing Tatum for being "unmanly." One commenter went so far as to say that Tatum was contributing to the emasculation of men. 

Is this really an unmanly thing to do? Is it, perhaps, unbiblical?* 

We've all seen the verse: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.~ Ephesians 5:22. However, how many of us notice the preceding verse which says we all are to submit to one another--this includes husbands to wives and vice versa. 

As always, Jesus gives us the ultimate example. He washed the feet of the apostles as we read in John 13. 

Washing feet or removing nail polish--both are pictures of service. Being a servant is never unmanly. 

Let's all exercise our faith, express our love, and extend our hand in the bond of fellowship. Remember that no man is as tall (or manly) as when he stoops to help another--even when it's to remove nail polish. 

*(Note: I am framing this as a reference for Christians whether the Tatums profess Christianity or not. I have no idea what their religious beliefs are.)



Thursday, February 18, 2016

NOTICE

Several things have been happening in my life that have put my writing on hold for now. My 92-year-old mother has had a stroke and is in rehab. I appreciate all of my readers and will keep you updated. Thanks for your continued prayers.