Twelve Smooth Stones – a modern-day Esther story

THUMBNAIL_IMAGELast night was my first speaking engagement for Twelve Smooth Stones at our local library.  Several commented that after hearing what I said, it made them want to read my book! So… I thought I’d try to tantalize some of you as well!

I’d like to give you three different perspectives about the book; but first, just a little background:

Twelve Smooth Stones is a modern–day Esther story.  Esther Ruth Raul faces some of the same trials that Esther of the Bible had to face:  She’s brutally taken from her home, and because of her beauty, placed in a situation she would not choose.  But God is leading and she comes to realize that she too is being “brought to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Excerpt from Twelve Smooth Stones, Chapter Four:

               Monday morning, August 14th, dawned dreary. The sun would not shine today. Esther looked out her window as the trees dripped from the evening’s thunderstorm. The air felt fresh and clean, and the colors in Mother’s garden glistened vibrantly even without the sun. But in spite of all this, there was heaviness in the air. All seemed strangely quiet.

               Esther would often look back and wonder if nature had a premonition about the day’s agenda. Even the birds were not singing their usual morning canticle of praise to their Creator. She dressed quickly, putting the degrading yellow star on her sleeve. Today it seemed to mock her, as if to say, “Here I am, come and kill me!” Last, as always, the locket was placed around her neck and tucked underneath her blouse. As she descended the stairs, the sweet aroma of Mother’s morning scones tantalized her stomach. She was hungry.

                When everyone was assembled, Father bowed his head for prayer, and Mother poured the rich brown coffee. Scones and coffee were Esther’s favorite. It was a usual morning— the usual amount of banter, the usual clinking of silver and china, the usual sweet fellowship, the usual tasty morsels. All that was missing were the beautiful splashes of color that would adorn their table as the sun’s rays washed in through the stained glass window. Esther instinctively looked up at the window to admire its glowing translucent colors when suddenly, every shred of normalcy was shattered by a rock crashing through the colored glass. Mother screamed.

                “What—” was all Father had time to say before the pounding of the front door brought him to his feet. Ad and Daan were close behind their father as he went to the door. The sense of foreboding seemed to blanket Esther’s world. They were here— shouting and pushing into their privacy, their sweet, tranquil home. At first she thought that they only wanted the men, but two soldiers were heading for her and Mother, shouting, pushing, and cursing.

                Before she knew what was happening, Esther was outside on the front sidewalk, and Mother was behind her. Her precious father and brothers could only watch as their women were herded like cattle out into the street. It was then that she heard her mother’s voice speak such angry forbidden words.

                “How dare you come into our home like this?” her mother shrieked. “Who do you think you are? You are no better than us! In fact, you are less than the lowest of God’s creation. Snakes! All of you— snakes! Barbarians! Murderers!”

               As if signaled by the last insult, with half a sneer and half an air of total indifference, the soldier standing behind her pulled his revolver from its holster and shot her in the back. Mother seemed to stand there for a moment— frozen in time and forever etched in Esther’s memory— before she crumpled into a heap on the front steps.

               The soldier simply stepped over her and pushed Esther ahead. “No!” Esther screamed, but Father was there pulling her away to join what seemed to be the entire neighborhood. They all looked shocked, stunned beyond comprehension. What could they do? Nothing but survive…

Twelve Smooth Stones  is a love story as well as an historical fiction; but mostly, it’s a quest for the truth!  Next blog: Love story!!! 🙂

If you’re interested, you can purchase my book at:Create Space, or on Amazon.

Free as a bird!

Freedom – isn’t that what today is all about?  Yesterday, during the morning worship service, we mentioned the names of those who had died in service to our country.  There were only a few, but each name represented a life, a loved one lost in the fight for freedom – if not ours, then someone else’s.

Freedom.  Dear American, do you realize how free you are?  You do not need any special papers to travel the entire expanse of this great country!  I remember sitting for over an hour in India because we needed permission to cross a border.  And even though there may be some who are still fighting the War Between the States, we are all Americans!  While in Israel, I was amazed at the guns we saw; even on school field trips, each chaperon, male or female, had a gun slung over his or her shoulder!

At times, I get discouraged over the sharp divisions that are slicing the great land into pieces: political parties, homosexuality, gay marriages, abortion, fiscal irresponsibility, just to name a few!  National issues threaten to destroy this great land, and so many hate America!  But what is America?  WE are America!  Just as the church is not the building but the people, the same is true for our country.  It’s not the land or the government that is America, but the people who have the privilege to live here!

Last night, my husband and I watched a movie that was set in London,England and was obviously a British-made film.  It was a fine movie, but as I watched it, I was amazed at the differences clearly seen in simple ways of life.  Years ago, Tom and I were on a mission trip to India, and after nearly twenty days in that country, my husband made this comment: “Now I see why people kiss the ground when they get off the plane!” Thank God for America!!

I’m thankful to be an American.  Our country is rich in it’s people, resources, beauty, and diversity.  I certainly don’t agree with much that is being handed down from the White House, but I praise the Lord that I have the freedom to say so!

And oh the freedom that lives in my soul!! Jesus has freed me from the penalty and power of sin!  It cannot control me unless I let it!  My life is in my Father’s hand; He loves me, and guides me and blesses me and spanks me!!!  What a wonderful life!

So, dear Christian American – take a deep breath of that wonderful clean free air and take a moment to pray: thanking God for those who have given their lives for that freedom and for the One Who gives you the life to enjoy it!

 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,

and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

Galatians 5:1

 

God of the Impossible

Our local school district has been in the throes of the difficult decision of closing a school.  Although we are a small district in population, we are large in acreage and local pride. At present, there are three high schools and three elementary schools: two sets are located in the northern, more populated area of the district, and then there is Liberty High School and Elementary in the south.LHS1_000

The district’s future goal is to have only one high school; so, it was decided that Liberty High would close.  The past few weeks have been so difficult.  As a substitute teacher, I’ve been in all six schools and am proud to say that every school has a fine faculty of teachers; although, as I sit and have lunch with the Liberty teachers, the foreboding of the pending close has dampened everyone’s spirit.  It’s as though a family is being torn apart, and in some ways, that’s exactly what is happening.

Then, out of nowhere came the news that the state has no money to pay for all the refurbishing plans and will not have it for three years!  All of a sudden, everything changed; and even though the final decisions have not been made, there is now a glimmer of hope for this community that they may not lose their school.

Last night, as I sat listening to the band concert, which included any alumni or community folks who wanted to join, I couldn’t help but wonder at the mighty hand of God. It’s been a sort of “David and Goliath” story – the two northern schools naturally outnumber little Liberty.  It seemed like an impossible situation; but then God assured us once again that He knows exactly what is going on, and can do the impossible!

There’s nothing that strengthens our faith more than when God does the impossible.  All seems hopeless, and then God enters into the picture!  Look at how many times this is true in the Bible: Joseph – God sends Pharaoh a dream; Moses – God parts the Red Sea; Joshua – and the walls came tumbling down!

Even in modern times, we hear of God doing the impossible.  The Miracle Evacuation at Dunkirk during World War II was certainly miraculous because of the heart-courage demonstrated by hundreds of boatmen who sailed their vessels across the English channel to save over 300,000 soldiers; but it was the hand of God that rolled in the unusual fog that covered the beaches that night! And on 9/11, how many lives were spared because circumstances suddenly changed, putting persons in other places than in the World Trade Center?

Do you see the hand of God in your life?  So often, I don’t believe that it is a lack of God’s working as much as it is a lack of our looking for it!  Take a moment and listen to the psalmist’s advice: “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10  What could be more important? And remember, it was not in the earthquake or strong wind or fire that Elijah heard God, but in the still small voice! (1 Kings 19:12)

Oh, that stinky stuff!!!

IMG_6078What a beautiful sight!  That, my friends, is my garden; and those lovely dark clumps are manure!!! It sure doesn’t smell very nice, but I’m ready to see more fruit from my labors this year!

Like any task, there is a cost involved.  Now I didn’t pay anything for my beautiful manure, but it did cost time and effort on the part of a dear family in our church who were gracious enough to bring the stuff.  AND, it cost time and labor on my dear son and husband’s part to spread it around.  Taking the tiller to it will be the fun part!

By the way, for those of you who remember Tilly – she’s in the shop, but they say she’s worth fixin’!  It will cost more than we really wanted to pay, but it’s a lot less expensive than a new tiller!

Preparing the ground: it takes time, effort, and expense.  Is it worth it?  I think so.  We certainly do not grow all our vegetables in this little plot of ground, but it sure tastes great when it’s fresh from the garden!  Isn’t that just like our wonderful Lord?  He takes the stinky manure mixed in with dirt and changes those tiny little seeds into wonderful vegetables!

And isn’t it even more amazing that He can take us – human clay, no matter how “stinked up” we are with sin, and He plants the seed of His Word into the willing heart and brings forth the fruits of salvation AND santification!  Don’t you just want to bring as much fruit into your life for Him as you can?

 “And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.” Mark 4:8

A Mother’s Prayer

It is the prayer of a mother that makes this country strong.

For through a mother’s prayers, her children come to God.

On bended knee prays the mother, and the Lord will use her son;

Christian beauty springs forth in her daughter –

Because of prayer, a soul is won.

May our land be filled with mothers who will take the time to pray,

Show the love of our Savior through a living faith each day.

It is the faith of a mother that shows through word and deed:

Through trials and all fears, with each heartache and every tear.

And by the faith of a mother, the child knows that God is near –

The wandering one returns, because of faith and mother’s tears.

It is the love of a mother that cradles all life’s cares.

In the early morning hours, the troubled child will know she’s there.

And only love of a mother can sooth his tearful cry.

It makes the house a home,

and leads each child to Calvary.

May our land be filled with mothers who will take the time to pray,

Show the love of our Savior through a living faith each day.

– Wanda MacAvoy 1985

My husband and I will sing this song this morning in our worship service.  I wrote it back in 1985!  That was the year our first child was born, and I remember feeling the awesome responsibility of raising a son for Christ.

945012_10151643649125839_1720320412_nThis week, our third grandson came into the world, and once again, my heart is stirred by the same responsibility now transformed through the eyes of a grandmother!  Grandchildren give life a whole new wonderful perspective!  When all the worries and woes that this world pours into our lives try to crush out all hope and meaning to life – there are grandchildren – that next generation to rekindle that hope!

However, we also just finished a week of revival meetings with Barry Webb, and I once again realize that there is an even greater, more wonderful hope in Jesus Christ because of the mighty work that He is doing in our lives!  Many decisions were made this week, and it too gives me hope!

As Christians, nothing gives this life more meaning than the Gospel of our Savior.  Living, loving, serving and dying for the cause of Christ secures our anchor into a far better world – a world we long to see, a place called heaven.  I don’t want to go empty-handed, and God help any of us, if our poor testimony causes our children or grandchildren to miss that mark! The greater song then, is the theme song for the Preacher Boys at Bob Jones University.  May it be the song of mothers today!

Souls for Jesus,
is our battle cry
Souls for Jesus,
we’ll fight until we die!
We never will give in,
While souls are lost in sin!
Souls for Jesus,
is our battle cry!

Our Song of Victory!

I recently had a piano student prepare a beautiful hymn arrangement, and I asked her to play it for an offertory at church.  I was surprised to hear her say that my daughter had recently played the same piece, and a lesson came to mind:

We all have the same story to tell: Jesus Saves! And each of us is to tell the story in our own way.  Even though both my daughter and this student played the same hymn arrangement, I doubt that anyone listening would have known that.  Why?  Because each played with their own style. The notes were the same, but the delivery was certainly not – and both played it beautifully!

Perhaps Priscilla J. Owens can help us out here.  She wrote the following words, published in 1882 for the Union Square Methodist Church Sunday school in Baltimore, Maryland.

(Thank you for that information: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/j/e/jesussav.htm)  Take a look at the words below and notice all her suggestions (I’ve highlighted them for you! )

We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land, climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Waft it on the rolling tide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Tell to sinners far and wide: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing, you islands of the sea; echo back, you ocean caves;
Earth shall keep her jubilee: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Sing above the battle strife: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
By His death and endless life Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Sing it softly through the gloom, when the heart for mercy craves;
Sing in triumph o’er the tomb: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

Give the winds a mighty voice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Let the nations now rejoice: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Shout salvation full and free; highest hills and deepest caves;
This our song of victory: Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

What a wonderful story we have to tell to a lost and dying world!  Several years ago, I was subbing for an English teacher who had given the students the assignment of writing a speech about themselves.  It seemed as though she may have given them questions to get them started.  One question must have been, “What are you afraid of?”  To my surprise, many of the boys especially wrote that they were afraid of dying, probably because a young man from the area had just been killed in Iraq.  I wanted to stand before them and shout the Gospel! Unfortunately, that is outlawed in our public schools! How sad!

We have a story to tell, dear Christian.  It isn’t the eloquence of your delivery that is important, it isn’t how smart you are, or how much Bible you know; it isn’t your audience that matters – what matters the most is that you ARE telling those you meet the best news they will ever hear: Jesus saves!  If you have truly been born-again than you have all that you need to tell others!  Just tell them what happened to you, and God will do the rest!

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”  Ephesians 6:19