Memories of Another Festival and A Book About Sex

My sister-in-law invited me to the Festival of Faith and Writing many years ago, and it has become a regular event where we meet for a few days. I have kept the programs from every Festival that I attended. In 2004 Lauren Winner was a presenter—just 26 years old by my calculation. A couple years older than my daughter. She had written Girl Meets God and was speaking about memoir.

This year I saw her book, real SEX: the naked truth of chastity with books offered for sale. My thoughts turned back to the memory of the bright, sophisticated young women I had heard speak many years ago. This book was published in 2005, but the title is relevant today. I bought a copy.

Lauren became a Christian as a young adult. In this book she reveals her promiscuity and premarital sex. As a new Christian she began to study scripture and realized that it was sin.

She laments that the Church has not had a strong voice in the culture.

Turn back time to the sexual revolution; some key events took place.//

The birth control pill became available in the 1960s.

In 1972 The Joy of Sex was published.    It was a popular book  and  my husband I both read it.

In 1973 abortion was legalized.

The pleasure of sex was increasingly being extolled, separated from procreation. Sex is pleasurable but it has a deeper meaning. It is a sacred bond between a couple. It unites them and provides  the  potential  for  establishing a family.

Married couples in our generation were encouraged to limit family size to avoid over population in the world. My husband thought we should have just two children. God had other ideas when my second pregnancy was twins . . . lol.

Even though we had both grown up in Christian homes we were influenced by messages in the culture.    And the messages  have  become  louder and more confusing since the 1970s.

It is so important to study God’s word and understand the full text, New Testament illuminated by the Old Testament.

The Bible does not contradict itself.

Lauren Winner writes that it is important to start with Genesis. God made us with bodies; that is how we begin to know that He cares how we order our sexual lives.   There is—and  we  will  walk  through it here—evidence aplenty from both scripture and tradition about how God intends sex, about where sex belongs and where it is disordered, about when sex is righteous and when it is sinful.*

The pain and confusion about sexuality nibbled at the edges of the Festival. Jen Hatmaker was interviewed about  the  stand  she  has taken on homosexuality and the criticism she has received.

In a discussion group, a woman pastor talked about the distress and anger she experienced when her church did not support her lesbian daughter.

The Church is divided and struggling with the confusion in our culture over sexuality. How do we show compassion and yet uphold the truth of scripture? I think about Jesus. He received the sinner but also said, “Go and sin no more.”

As believers we all need to do some soul searching. We need time in the Bible. We need to pray and look for guidance from the Holy Spirit. May our words be gentle but true.

This post is shared with Five Minute Friday. Our prompt is: TURN

Also linked with Faith on Fire.

*Lauren Winner, real SEX: the naked truth about chastity, Brazos press; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005, p. 32-33

Books at the Festival of Faith and Writing

In the year 2000 I began attending the Festival of Faith and Writing, a biannual event at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Over the years I have met authors and been introduced to many good books.

Lauren Winner was a speaker one year, telling about her path to faith. I have read Mudhouse Sabbath and Girl Meets God. This year I picked up her book, Real Sex: the naked truth about chastity.

Marilyn McEntyre, a former professor of English at Westmont College, presented another year. I was intrigued by her focus on language and read her book, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. This year I picked up her book Word by Word: a daily spiritual practice.

This year, in addition to the keynote speakers, the Festival had a number of panel discussions and workshops for writers. It was a wonderful experience to spend a weekend with people that share a love of reading and writing.

A few years ago I became acquainted with Deidra Riggs through her blog. This year I attended a panel discussion that she participated in titled Platforms and Privilege. The presentation was thought provoking and explored white privilege in the publishing industry. I picked up Deidra’s book, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.

Kate Motaung had a reception for the launch of her book, A Place to Land. You can read my review of her book here.

An anthology, The Wonder Years: 40 Women Over Forty, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields, made its debut at the conference. I went to a reception and heard some of the women read the essay they had contributed. Women over forty have much experience and wisdom to share! I purchased book and look forward to reading it.

Stay tuned for my review of these books. I hope you will follow my facebook page—click here to check it out.

Rosemary and Tansy in the Herb Garden

Spring seems to be on hold as cold temperatures persist in Illinois. But I am beginning to think about my herb garden.

I recently read that Tansy is a deterrent for Japanese beetles. I have seeds to plant, hoping that it will help get rid of the throng of beetles I have seen the past couple years. I have also read that tansy is invasive–so I will have to plan carefully where I plant it.

Herb Garden
Tansy

My rosemary plant seems to have survived the winter in a sunny window, but it is looking somewhat listless. It needs more sunshine! I am hoping it will revive.

When we were in New Mexico in March the rosemary bushes were in full bloom. New Mexico has the perfect climate for this herb.

Rosemary Bush
Rosemary Bush

I have become particularly fond of rosemary and enjoy the legends about it. A story in Spain claims that the Virgin Mary was fleeing from soldiers on her way to Egypt. She spread her cloak on a rosemary bush and hid behind it. When she lifted her cloak the flowers had turned blue.

Rosemary flower
Rosemary flower

Fresh rosemary has many uses.   I  like to make  Rosemary & Thyme    potatoes. When ever I am adding fresh herbs to a recipe I mince them into little pieces. Here is my recipe:

Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

3 Tablespoons olive oil

5 medium size potatoes

Combine the thyme, rosemary, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.

Peel potatoes and steam them until fork tender. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cut each potato into several pieces. Pour the herb & oil mixture over the potatoes and cover.  Allow the potatoes to marinade like this for 2 hours or even overnight.

Spread the potatoes on a jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 425° for 30 minutes.

I came across this site with 39 ways to use rosemary.

Do you have a favorite recipe with rosemary? Have you had any experience with tansy?

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Book Review: A Place to Land

Kate Motaung’s memoir is a story of God’s grace throughout the events of her life.

A Place to Land

She has a relationship with God that grows through her college years and motivates her to pursue missions. But she couldn’t know the great challenges she would face in the ensuing years. As she tells her story she takes the reader along with her from Michigan to South Africa.

This author shares her moments of struggle and doubt.     A thread of brokenness runs through the book—we live in a broken world. We all experience some brokenness in our families. But there is hope.

Throughout the book Kate writes about painful life experiences but notes the provisions of  God’s  grace. God provided for her during the difficult months of her mother’s battle with cancer. God provided for her mother’s needs. The book has a wonderful tone of Christian community—people helping and  supporting  each other.

I enjoyed reading about South Africa and the friendships that developed. Kate shares vignettes from her marriage, childbirth, beginning motherhood and adoption.

Within the memoir I was impacted by the legacy of faith that Kate’s mother gave to her daughters. A beautiful portrait of a mother’s love.

The major themes of this memoir are faith, community and hope. It is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and points to the future Jesus promised. This memoir is a good read–it will  broaden  your  perspectives.

In an interview Kate gives insight into her purpose in writing.

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading A Place to Land?

My hope and prayer for my readers is threefold:

1) I pray that A Place to Land would increase their longing to spend eternity with God.

I don’t presume to have any idea as to what heaven will be like, except for what Scripture has revealed to us. But I do think that the vast majority of us have a diluted, lukewarm view of eternity. We lack a depth of eager anticipation, and I believe that negatively affects our choices and attitudes in this life.

A Heavenly Home

I’ve learned through writing this book that     intentionally keeping an eternal perspective at the forefront of my mind does wonders for my countenance, attitude, and actions. It has changed me in ways I never expected.

2) I pray that they would find hope in Christ in the midst of their suffering and grief.

He is the only one who can relieve our pain. I pray that the readers of this book will find their anchor in Him amidst the turbulent trials of this life, holding fast to the truth that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

3) I pray that they would be reminded that this world is not our home.

For some, that is a comfort, knowing that one day those who trust in Christ will lay asideall their pain and suffering in exchange for a sin free existence forever in the presence of their Redeemer. For others, this realization could be a bit disconcerting. Many of us make a great effort to find comfort, fulfillment, and satisfaction here in this life, and we don’t like the idea of giving it up.

Before writing this book, I struggled with that a lot. I would get incredibly sentimental over certain material things. Now, the Lord is teaching me that those are all part of what Jesus calls “treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves breakin and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Instead, He calls us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). Writing A Place to Land challenged me to consider where I’m storing my treasure.

Kate Motaung

4 Bible Verses for a Spiritual Routine

The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: ROUTINE. The goal is to write for five minutes, inspired by this one word. To learn more about the community of writers led by Kate Motaung click here.

Over the past couple weeks we have been traveling and spending time with family. We have changed time zones. The order of our day has changed, but I try to keep a spiritual routine. The following practices give me peace and joy.

Time in the Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Seeking God’s guidance

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

Praise

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. Psalm 96:4,9

Thanksgiving for community

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers. I Thessalonians 1:2

Honestly I don’t always keep this routine, but when I do my days are blessed. Do you  have a routine?

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When the Church Responds to Foster Care Needs

On most Fridays I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: PROVIDE

My children are grown and married. Currently we are taking care of my daughter’s children while she and her husband attend a seminar and celebrate their anniversary. As grandparents we are being introduced to foster care—we have two foster grandchildren. My eyes are being opened to the circumstances that many children face.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, 437,465 children in our country were in the foster care system in 2016. The most common reason a child is placed in foster care is neglect (61%). The second most common reason is drug abuse (34%).

I was talking with my son-in-law and he said that poverty is a factor. He has participated in a poverty simulation course and was awakened to the stress that poverty places on a family.

Some children bounce back and forth between foster care and their biological family. It is heart breaking. But I have been encouraged to see the way the church in this community has stepped up.

Last Sunday we attended church with our daughter’s family. A dedication service took place for a young couple and their foster daughter. The children’s pastor invited people that wanted to  support  this  young   couple to come to the front of the church.

About thirty people, from teenage to elderly, walked to the front. They encircled the couple. The young mother had grown up in the foster care system and had been befriended by a family in this church.

My daughter’s family is part of a community of believers who are taking in foster children, providing support to families (children’s clothing, furniture as needed, meals as their family grows suddenly).

The community provides material and emotional support. The love and compassion for children is palpable.

It has blessed my heart to see this faith community engaging in the needs of children. I am so grateful that my daughter’s family has this support system.

Naomi and Ruth: Perseverance of Faith and Love

The book of Ruth has many insights into a life of faith. When our Bible study group read the first chapter together one evening I was struck by the part that Naomi played in Ruth’s pursuit of knowing God.

Book of Ruth in the Bible

Our study leader suggested that we imagine what Ruth might have said about her decision to go with Naomi. What might she have said as a testimony? I thought about her story . . .

As a young woman I was offered an unexpected marriage proposal. A young man, an Israelite, asked me, a Moabite, to be his wife. I had heard stories about Israel and was intrigued. I accepted Mahlon’s proposal. He took me to reside with his family, and I was introduced to their God.

My husband’s mother, Naomi, was good to me.   She was a widow and  devoted to her sons. As I worked with her making meals and taking care of the home she told me about her God. She told me about the way God had guided her people, sometimes in miraculous ways. I could tell that she missed Israel.

Great tragedy struck us.  My husband and his brother became ill and died. His brother’s wife, Orpah, and I were widows now, with no sons or daughters.   Naomi was filled with grief and decided that she would go back  to   Israel. She told Orpah and me to go back to our former homes. We wept because we had grown to love Naomi.

After embracing Naomi Orpah left. But I did not. I wanted to know about the God of Israel. I told Naomi that I would go with her. Her God would be my God. I made a covenant to remain with her for the rest of her life.

Naomi's faith as passed to Ruth and she persevered

This account is an encouragement to live out our faith in loving actions and words. Naomi endured great hardship, but she still was able to convey a message about God to Ruth. What impresses you more, Naomi’s perseverance or Ruth’s openness to learning from Naomi?

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Mental Illness Affects the Whole Family

Yesterday I began the task of going through my brother’s papers. After years in psychiatric hospitals and then group homes he passed away last June. I was his guardian.

When I saw the prompt for Five Minute Friday, I was already there emotionally. Sadness and REGRET.

When my Dad could no longer handle his  finances,  I  became  his  rep payee. I have years of bank records and medical records. I am discarding many of the papers, but keeping those that tell his life story.

My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a young adult. His illness shattered our family. Each of us was traumatized by the events that took place.

Over the years my sisters and I had our turn as advocate for our brother. We visited him in the hospital and arranged outings.

Among the papers that I accumulated, are papers that my parents saved. I found my brother’s birth certificate. And I found copies of letters that my father wrote seeking better care for him. Letters looking for answers. Letters from hospital administrators, doctors and a senator. A letter from another parent of a mentally ill son.

My brother’s life was tragic. I do wish that I had understood better the heartache that my parents carried for so many years.//

Now I have to trust God’s word.

And I heard a voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

Beauty and Wonder: Places in the Heart

Every Friday I join the challenge to write for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Visit this inspiring community by clicking here. Today’s prompt is: BEAUTY

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. Psalm 111: 2-3

The beauty of God’s creation can be seen all around the world. I have been fortunate to travel across the United States and to foreign countries. Taiwan, Guatemala, Israel and Finland have unique and wondrous features that point to our Creator.

I have traveled to many places, but one place still holds a special place in my heart. The raw beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula draws me back year after year. My grandparents lived there, and every summer my family spent a couple weeks or more in this place  bordered  by  Lake   Superior.

Lake Superior

After I married, I took my children to the Keweenaw Peninsula, almost every summer. I love to be on the shore of Lake Superior with the waves making a rhythm of sound that fills the air. I have a heartfelt attachment to this place.

The cross of Christ has a raw beauty.   Jesus  completed  the work of salvation on the cross and redeemed me. This emblem of Jesus’  sacrifice  reminds me of his great love.

New Covenant

Book Review: Updated and Expanded LIES WOMEN BELIEVE

Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free stimulated discussion among Christian women when it came out in 2001. I read the first edition many years ago. I looked through it again as I read the new and revised edition.

Lies Women Believe

I am so pleased with the new and revised edition. It has been updated and expanded. Running through both editions is this theme: When we believe lies about God, ourselves, sex, marriage, etc., we are in bondage. The truth of God’s word has the power to set us free.

The recently released edition displays a deep understanding of the complex issues that women face in the current culture. I have truly enjoyed reading it. I know I will go back to review the truths that are confirmed by Bible verses, listed at the end of each chapter.

A chapter on sexuality has been added to this new edition. Dannah Gresh participated in writing the chapter. She shares her personal story and perspective. Dannah provides examples of the way that women are wounded in sexual relationships, along with the forgiveness and healing that is offered through Jesus

In the chapter about marriage, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth discusses the difficult and often misunderstood concept of submission. What does it look like in a marriage?  God created Eve to be a helper suited to Adam. The Hebrew phase [ezer]  means  “a helper matching him”  or a  “helper  corresponding to him.” p. 169

Nancy gives examples from the lives of a variety of women, including her mother. She shares insights that she has garnered in her three years of marriage. She also addresses domestic abuse.

The chapter about children has been revised. Mary Kassian participated in the rewriting.   I am  glad  that a brief history  of  contraception is included. The birth control pill became popular in the  1960s  and  led to the  sexual revolution.

It would be hard to overstate the far-reaching, lasting effects of Margaret Sanger’s life and influence. Our culture has embraced wholesale the idea promoted  by  Sanger  and  Planned  Parenthood—that  controlling  our  fertility is a basic human right. p. 198

The reader is encouraged to know the way contraceptive methods work and to seek wisdom about marriage and family from the Bible. Couples should prayerfully seek God’s guidance when making decisions. I appreciated the inclusion of Holly Elliff’s experience as a mother.

Many aspects of motherhood are opportunities to grow in relationship with the Lord. Financial worries, parenting challenges and the mommy wars are addressed.

In the chapter about circumstances, Nancy explained that a friend had sent her a framed calligraphy with these words:

Coram Deo
Living all of life
In the presence of God
Under the authority of God
And to the glory of God. p. 270

In a world that is broken and full of deception we need to be pointed to the truth of God’s word. This book does that. It is useful for personal or group study.

Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free

In full disclosure,  I received a copy of this book from  the  publisher  in  return for an honest review.

For more information click here.

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