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“May fear, discouragement, doubt, comparison, envy, and failure not have the final say in our homes, our work, our relationships, our souls, or our plans for the future. Instead, may we live into our truest calling as people who give and receive grace, forgiveness, and love in the small moments of our lives.”
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself.
He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
— Dorothy Sayers
Einstein has had a good month, all things considered. His century-old prediction, that the very fabric of space and time can support waves travelling at light-speed, was confirmed by the LIGO collaboration. More, the bizarre and horrifying consequences of his theory of gravity, the singularly-collapsed stars that came to be called ‘black holes’, have been directly detected for the first time.
Valiant Comics relaunched as a publisher in 2012, and they’ve certainly done most things right since then, putting out quality comics with high level talent, and reaching out to fans on all levels—as the support for CEO Dinesh Shamdasani in our Person of the Year voting shows. They’ve gotten attention for relaunches of long running […]
In the 2015 superhero comics landscape, Valiant’s Faith stands alone. As someone who doesn’t fit traditional standards of beauty when it comes to BMI, she’s a hero I can relate to on more than one level. Thankfully, Valiant is offering readers the chance to catch up with Faith in a brand new mini-series written by Jody […]
There are scenes in the Bible that cause a visceral reaction for even the most disinterested reader. As we view the Garden of Gethsemane in our mind’s eye, we see one of Jesus’ closest companions, Judas Iscariot, leading a band of men. He smiles broadly, “Rabbi!,” greeting Jesus with a kiss. The kiss, that universal sign of intimacy and affection, lands on Jesus like a knife twisting in the back.
These poems are wonderful! I absolutely love them. They draw the reader in from the first line, and one feels not only totally engaged, but often greatly moved. Artistic sensitivity is in evidence throughout - pictures are painted with colour and texture and vivid appeal to the senses, all making for wonderful imagery and use of metaphor. To me this is a very fine collection of poems, which I find myself mysteriously drawn back to, such is the freshness and pull of the narrative.
Weaving youth to adulthood in a women's poems. 8 Jan. 2015
By Patricia Kennington - Published on Amazon.com
‘Kaleidoscope’ by Carole Anne Carr, is a story of child-woman growing into woman-child. Her shared lyrics become a vehicle to convey dreams, memories, hopes, and desires for “the more.” Through her poems, Carole invites us to relive and feel both the clarity and confusion of moving from child to adult. Her poetry encourages us to re-experience the poignant and the painful, self-realization, and the recognition of human failure. We return to past decisions, joys, failures, and the anguish of being alive and moving on.
Patricia Kennington, TSSF, Ph.D., Spiritual Director
My May Newsletter goes out today with this month's free book offer. I do hope you will sign up for this, the form is in the column on the right. It is my first attempt at such a thing. The interest rate in my first newsletter at Easter was 60%, so very hopeful. Thank you and hugs for being kind enough to get this far with reading my post xx
As much as I love blogging, I’m not always sure other people are listening in. A few weeks ago I got an incredible email from blog reader Linda Jackson that reminded me what I do here does indeed connect with readers, sometimes in very big ways.
After six years of working hard and believing, 200+ queries, 4 manuscripts (one of them rewritten multiple times, once from scratch), 4 R&R’s from agents, 7 pitch contest wins, I finally got “The Call” today.
I’ve been sitting on this email for weeks, waiting to hear where Linda’s book landed. Here’s the official news from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Mississippi-native Linda Jackson’s BECOMING ROSA, a coming-of-age tale set in Mississippi in 1955, about a young African-American girl who dreams of a life beyond the cotton fields, to Elizabeth Bewley at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in Fall 2016, by Victoria Marini at Gelfman Schneider/ICM (World English).
Congratulations, Linda! Your story has thrilled me down to my toes and has inspired me to keep plowing. Now, readers, go out and congratulate the remarkable Linda Jackson.
At age twelve, Martin Pistorius slowly slipped from perfect health into an unknown illness. His body weakened and his memories faded. After his parents exhausted all medical avenues for an answer, they painfully watched their boy become a mute, quadriplegic.
For four years, Martin was in a waking coma state in an unresponsive shell, unseeing and unknowing of his surroundings.
Then, his mind slowly woke up. But, his body did not.
For ten years, his mind was completely aware—aware that he was trapped inside an unresponsive body and unable to communicate with others. Martin wasn't paralyzed, but no matter how hard he tried, he had no control of his spastic muscles, his curled fingers, or the voice that disappeared with his childhood.
Most of us can’t begin to grasp what it’s like to have no physical control of our bodies. Nor can we fully comprehend the horror and painful realities someone, with a fully intact mind, experiences encased in one of these silent shells.
For someone who went fourteen years unable to express his emotions, Martin Pistorius pushes full throttle, and exquisitely conveys them all in his book.
Tension builds in Martin’s tedious days. Sorrow snatches the tiniest glimmers of joy. Hence, a courage develops, as does hope.
Martin inserts a great sense of humor in spots. I was thankful for them, especially after reading the difficult passages.
I cringed at what Martin had to endure at times. I believe a note for reader discretion is needed for the chapter titled, “Lurking in Plain Sight.” I hated reading it—and rightly so. And yet, had Martin not been so painfully transparent about his darkest days of torture, his story would be incomplete. Nor would I have fully appreciated his joy when he survived and overcame.
This is not an overtly Christian book. There are two or three points of faith shared—but they are profoundly powerful.
The most amazing one to me is the one where Martin shares his knowledge of God’s presence with him. He never had church worship experiences or even Christian training prior to his illness. Nevertheless, when his mind awoke inside the shell of his unresponsive body, he knew God was there with him. Martin sharing that realization is one of my favorite parts of the entire book.
Martin Pistorius as a young teen
The story unfolds of Martin’s amazing journey from being like a “potted plant” to living a full and productive life. All because of one person noticing a flicker of life in him and opening a door of opportunity. Martin expresses appreciation to many but he is certain of who he owes the most gratitude.
In a May 2015 interview with Christianity Today, Martin said,
“Without the Lord, I would not be here today. I have no doubt that it was only his intervention that saved me. It is only through God that I have found my voice.”
In the book, Martin shares the joys and fears of learning how to communicate once again. His life changed. He got a job, a college degree, started his own business, and married the love of his life.
This book inspires me to take time to look more intentionally at people—especially those who seemingly fly under the radar. You don’t have to have a health condition to feel invisible.
Time after time, Martin shares the power one tiny act of kindness, one caring word spoken, or one consideration of the man’s heart rather than his body, all had a huge affect on his life.
I recommend this book. Martin Pistorius’ story will take you into the uncomfortable pit of darkness and encourage you to grasp hold of life-giving faith, hope, and love.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Veterans are often the forgotten people of the war on US soil of homelessness. Through the tightknit family of siblings, Patrick and Hailey, their parents and grandfather, G-man, they unexpectedly meet a homeless Vietnam Veteran, Charlie after church services. Inspired by their love of community and helping others, Patrick and Hailey devise a plan to help veterans throughout their community with a fundraiser, featuring the musical talents of Patrick, his father and G-man along with the artistic drawings of Hailey. What results, will astound even the biggest skeptic.
With love and determination a heartwarming story unfolds wonderfully through the skilled story-telling talents of author, Kristen Zajac. Bringing forth the power of prayer and coming together as one for the better good the reader will feel empowered to organize an event to enrich their community.
Illustrator, Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell outstanding talents of creating illustrations that are true to life, makes the reader feel like they can leap right into the scene.
A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist
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Fifteen-year-old Hadara and her mother Lia are technically committing a sin when they collect plants and make medicines. The priests of the Temple of Doubt use magic to cure people under the power of their god Nihil; natural remedies are heresy. But magic doesn't always work, and the priests usually look the other way and ignore the illicit medicines.
Everything changes when two powerful Azwans visit Port Sapphire. The Azwans are Nihil's highest priests, or "navigators," and they come seeking a demon that fell from the sky. Hadara and Lia are forced to guide the expedition to find the demon, because of their knowledge of the swamps and the secretive race called Gek who live there. But the swamps are dangerous and the Gek hostile to outsiders. Add in an arrogant Azwan who thinks he can take what he wants, and the expedition may not make it out of the swamps alive.
In The Temple of Doubt, Anne Boles Levy has created a beautifully detailed world, complete with three separate races and cultures, and a well-developed and unique religion. The religion is an amazing thing: Levy has obviously put a lot of work into developing it, including scriptural quotes at the beginning of each chapter. As you would expect, faith is a theme explored in this book. Although their religion is based on doubt and ambiguity, it seems like the followers of Nihil are not allowed any doubt or ambiguity in their faith, and are expected to conform and obey in all things. There are hints that there is more to this religion than it appears, and I look forward to seeing where Levy goes with it.
Hadara is a great character that teens will appreciate. She's bright and curious and bold in a culture which frowns on those characteristics, especially in a young woman. Hadara's impulsiveness gets her in trouble, especially her inability to stop herself from speaking her mind. Hadara has trouble with faith; as bright and curious as she is, she can't help asking questions, or thinking that the things she has to learn are pointless. She knows the names of a thousand plants and animals, but she can't remember the name of a single one of Nihil's wives, or their faults.
The relationship that Hadara begins to develop with one of the soldiers is disconcerting, but I think it was intended to be. Any relationship that begins with a power imbalance is bound to be uncomfortable, particularly given the destruction caused by the soldiers. Hadara holds her own, but even she feels discomfort and confusion about the situation, even as she begins to develop genuine liking for the soldier, and he seems to genuinely like her. It's interesting as a developing friendship dealing with differences in culture as well as the power imbalance, however I never really felt enough chemistry between them to make anything more than friendship credible.
The pacing is a little uneven, and although there are several exciting scenes, overall this is a book that you read slowly and ponder. I actually enjoyed it more on the second read because I picked up on more detail and development on the second time around. This is the first book in a series, and so in part it sets up the rest of the series. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.
Who would like this book?
Teens who like richly developed worlds and strong female characters. This is a book that will appeal more to teens who like their fantasy slower-paced and thoughtful.
Hadara and her people have bronze skin, in contrast to the Feroxi soldiers accompanying the Azwans, who are described as being very fair. One of the Azwans has ebony skin, and is described as handsome.
Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. Anne Boles Levy is an online friend whom I've met several times in person. We've worked closely together on the Cybils Awards. However, I don't write biased reviews even for a friend. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. None of these things influenced my review.
Valiant has just announced a brand new mini-series for one of their most beloved characters first introduced in the Harbinger series: Faith. Her brand new series is being written by Orphan Black author Jody Houser with art from Frankenstein: Agent of Shade illustrator Francis Portela with additional sequences drawn by DC Comics Bombshells artist Marguerite Sauvage. […]
The Armenian genocide and the Holocaust took place decades ago, but the novelist William Faulkner was right when he said that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It had been hoped that “Never again!” might be more than a slogan, but in April 1994, the Rwandan genocide began and was soon in full cry.
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
We want to know what Shakespeare believed. It seems to us important to know. He is our most important writer, and we want to know him from the inside. People regularly tell us that they do know what he believed, though mainly by showing what his father believed, or his contemporaries believed or, more accurately, what they said they believed—by demonstrating, that is, what was possible to believe.
Be sure to "like" the page while you are there and share it with your friends. Now for some details:
*This contest is open to everyone 18 years and older, or 12 to 17 years with signed consent of a parent or guardian.
*The writer must NEVER have been published, either traditionally or self.
*The story must be an original work and not infringe on anyone else's copyrights.
*The story will be published by Helping Hands Press in the 2015 edition of ONE. As such, Helping Hands Press will retain all print and digital rights of the story for five (5) years from the date of publication. Selected authors will also have the opportunity to contract with Helping Hands Press for future works, but are under no obligation.
*Submissions should be in a Word-compatible document. A minimum of 1,000 words, but no more than 10,000 words. Stories must be inspirational or faith-based, preferably Non-Fiction (sorry, no poetry). Stories containing profanity, sex, or violence will be automatically disqualified.
*Winning selections will be personally edited by Mark Miller. Any and all submissions, in whole or part, may be displayed on the ONE Facebook page for promotional purposes.
*Contestants agree to donate all proceeds from the sale of ONE 2015 to a charity selected by Mark Miller, MillerWords.com or Mark Miller's ONE.
Please feel free to share this event and invite any aspiring author you know. Please post any questions to this event page.Add a Comment
Imagine viewing the beauty of 14,000 acres of protected forestland, at 30-35 miles per hour, while clutching two, small handlebars.
It’s not bike riding.
It’s zip lining—the fastest and steepest zip line in America—and it is a phenomenal adventure for the family.
The Gorge Zip Line Canopy Tourlocated in Saluda, North Carolina provides 1,100 vertical feet of zip line, 3 tree-mendous (easy and smooth) rappels, and one fun, swinging sky bridge.
My husband, known for his fear of heights, zipped the Gorge several months earlier with his co-workers. He loved it so much he wanted to treat our son, two daughters, and son-in-law to a day of zip lining. He also thought it would be good for me.
Due to a recent health issue, I spent the summer learning physical therapy exercises for my feet and how to pace myself. I’m thankful for the progressive healing, but zip lining still sounded like a stretch for me. My walking compares to that of a chicken’s with a little less swag.
Nonetheless, my husband had faith I could do it. Our girls were excited and eager for a fun challenge. However, our ten-year old redhead and our sweet son-in-law were quiet, deep thinkers en route to the zip line.
I don’t know if it was the unusually cool weather or our nerves that made our knees joggle as our guides cinched up our harnesses.
The heights didn’t concern me. It’s knowing there will be no opportunity to go to the bathroom for four hours. No medical condition exists, it’s just knowing there will not be a bathroom that makes me think I have to go. After three trips, ensuring there is nothing left in the bladder, I am ready to zip.
Harnessed in and triple-tethered with carabiners to a steel cable, one has to feel safe, because “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Right?
Right. The guides said we could trust the zip line. Although the weight limit to zip was 250 pounds, the cords construction could hold thousands of pounds.
My Family's Phenomenal Zip Line Adventure
Our kind and patient tour guides give instructions. I understand them now, but I wonder if I’ll remember them when I'm speeding across treetops faster than a hummingbird.
The excitement escalates as we line up at the first platform, which the guides call “The Fluffy Bunny.” Awww…who can be afraid of a fluffy bunny?
Amazingly, the somewhat timid 10 yr. old is instructed to go first. He climbs on top of a tree stump. His knees bend, straighten, and bend again. He leans forward and back again. Still not off the stump, the family begins to cheer him on.
“You got this. You can do it.”
A second hesitation and suddenly he steps off the platform.
A high pitched, whizzzzzzzzzzz….zip.
There are no screaming or crashing sounds. The guide at the end radios the line is clear for the next person. Oh, good, he made it. What? It’s my turn? If the timid one can do it, surely this will be a breeze for me.
You know that stump can be very deceiving. It appears to be 12-15 inches high but when you step up on it, it feels more like 20-25 inches.
I’m clear to go. I bend my knees but my feet don’t move. Bend, straighten, bend, straighten. Oh, good grief. Why couldn’t they choose another adult to go first? I’m delaying everyone’s fun. Then, I hear the cheers.
“You got this, Mom. You can do it.”
Swaying for a moment, I finally just lean forward and step off. I am like that pig in the commercial who hangs his head out the window yelling, “Whee! Whee! Whee!” I love it!
By the time the whole family reunites on the second platform our knees are still shaking but our eyes are brighter and our smiles bigger. That is until the guides tell us the next zip is named “The Hawk that Ate the Fluffy Bunny.”
Zip Lining is exhilarating!
We continue to root for each other and hug every tree together. With each zip, our apprehensions evaporate in the cool, fall air. Zip lining is exhilarating!
Before we know it, three and half hours fly by. After eleven, fabulous zips, we arrive at the end of the tour.
I hope our family is able to do this again. Zip lining is fun! It's also empowering. We squashed doubts and fears. Together, we learned how to soar.
The hardest part? Leaning out and taking that first step of faith.
The coolest part? Even though it may be eighty feet off the ground, I trust the strong, narrow cable. And, even though I can’t see the next destination, I know it’s straight ahead. All I have to do is hold on, lean forward, and trust.
Another amazing addition is the precious people I have encouraging me—those behind me, and those before me in my journey.
Now, because of my experience, I can encourage you. Be strong and courageous. Gather your family and inspire them to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Don't just tell, show them with God nothing is impossible.
Rappelling & Rejoicing
Post Note: I highly recommend The Gorge Zip Line in Saluda. The staff is very friendly and well trained. The zipping did not aggravate my health issues. You’ll need to determine what works for you. I didn't think it was a jarring experience due to the self-braking system. Nor are you on your feet for long periods. The only parts that were sore after the trip were my arms and hands from hanging on so tightly!
Bestselling author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". A homeschool graduate from a family of 12 children, Amber found her calling early in life. First published at age 21, she has continued to hone her craft. Between ministry, family and working in their family businesses, Amber loves to connect with readers. Find her on the Stitches Thru Time blog, or on any of the major social media sites.
Amber, can you tell us about your new release, The Messiah's Sign?
Sure! Thanks so much for having me on the blog today. This book released just yesterday, so I'm so EXCITED to share it with readers.
The Messiah's Sign is the second book in the Days of Messiah series. It follows the storyline of Book One, but from the husband's point of view. Here's what it's about:
Dreams…they shouldn’t bother him, but when Tyrus’ worst nightmare is vindicated, he has no choice but to face reality. His wife has been unfaithful, and God has punished her with the most feared disease in the land: leprosy. Banishing her to the leper colony, Tyrus struggles to raise their son alone and protect him from a merciless outlaw. But when Malon begins following the teacher from Nazareth, what remains of their business and reputation is at stake. Can Tyrus save his son from the beguiling lies of a false Messiah before he loses the only thing he has left?
Book one started as a short story, but a lot of people told me I should expand it. I picked up the story and began thinking about what the entire story would be like, and that's when the Lord drew back the curtain to show me not only Aaliyah's story at the leper colony, but also the story of her husband and son. Tyrus—as the heartless husband that banishes Aaliyah to the leper colony—is the villain of book one, so I wanted to show readers his side of the story.
What do you want readers to take away from The Messiah's Sign?
As hard as you try, you will never be sufficient on your own. It takes Christ working in you. For those that have read volume one, I want them to realize that you cannot hate someone until you de-humanize them. The villain of book one becomes the hero of book two, and we see the motivations behind his 'heartless' acts. In truth, Tyrus was doing the best he could. If we can empathize with people in our lives, it will go a LONG way in keeping the roots of bitterness at bay.
What are you working on next?
I am finishing up a really fun series with three other historical authors on the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
I'm also setting to work on a Christmas story set during the Civil War entitled The Christmas Pardon.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young lawyer battles with the U.S. Supreme court. In what seemed to be a Christmas miracle, he had secured a pardon for his friend from Lincoln himself. The army executed the boy anyway. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death, will the lawyer finally clear his friends name and bring justice to his memory?
Thank you for hosting me! It's been a pleasure. I'd like to invite each of you to join me in celebrating my new release on my Facebook Launch party tonight! We'll have trivia, giveaways, behind the scenes tidbits and TONS of fun. Join us tonight at 6pm mountain time! https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberSchamel
Hi folks, I love November. The air is getting a little crisp, and I might have to put away my sandals soon. This month I'm calling the series Uplift. The idea of uplift is to improve socially, culturally, morally, spiritually, etc. We are all hungry, our hearts beating, struggling for contentment and a sweet spot to thrive. This week I'm going to respond to a quote by Stephen King article in Rolling Stonebecause it got me thinking. This statement was the one that caught me though the whole article is good. I've thought about it a lot this week: "maybe all intelligent races hit this level of violence and technological advances that they can't get past. And then they just puff out. You hit the wall and that's it." Something deep with in me just goes all "Gene Roddenberry" at this statement, you know, that whole positive view of the future of the ending of wars, moving on from money, and focusing on exploring the galaxy. Maybe we rise up. Maybe be we do better. Maybe the whole universe is alive, and we just haven't found that way to perceive it. We started out with smoke signals back in the day and now we have interwebs. Who knows what is next? I don't watch the news much because they are not in the business of sharing what is good and right about our lives. The bright light of gratitude and goodness doesn't seem to draw in the throngs like doom and despair. It's a little weird to me too, because everyone knows focusing on the positive is a sure way to success. You have to deliberately cultivate a life that sees good. I know I'm a broken pot like so many of us, but I have seen glory in a rock on the side of the road. I've seen it in my cat rolling on the sidewalk. I've seen it in the tree growing next to my driveway. Why can't the Voice in Suburbia says something useful and uplifting? I find it helpful to put away the troubling thoughts in life, and do the Scarlet O'Hara thing, "I'll think about that tomorrow" and turn my thoughts toward lofty ideas. This desire has helped me respond positively to the suffering and degradation of life and find new directions. I think of this response like flinging open my arms and embracing the moment. I leap in faith. My deep-seated belief is good triumphs, death is not the end, and love never fails. I leap with these thoughts. So what is the end game of this little rambling? There's an updraft, dear, perhaps you should jump in it and see where it takes you. Sounds good. I will be back next week with more on Uplift. One more chicken doodle: "Chicken Angels."
And a quote for your pocket.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. Abraham Lincoln
Today, 18 January 2015 marks World Religion Day across the globe. The day was created by the Baha’i faith in 1950 to foster dialogue and to and improve understanding of religions worldwide and it is now in its 64th year.
The aim of World Religion Day is to unite everyone, whatever their faith, by showing us all that there are common foundations to all religions and that together we can help humanity and live in harmony. The day often includes activities and events calling the attention of the followers of world faiths. In honour of this special day and to increase awareness of religions from around the world, we asked a few of our authors to dispel some of the popular myths from their chosen religions.
* * * * *
Myth: Quakers are mostly silent worshippers
“If you are from Britain, or certain parts of the United States, you may think of Quakers as a quiet group that meets in silence on Sunday mornings, with only occasional, brief vocal messages to break the silence. Actually, between eighty and ninety per cent of Quakers are “pastoral” or “programmed” Friends, with the majority of these living in Africa (more in Kenya than any other country) and other parts of the global South. The services are conducted by pastors, and include prayers, sermons, much music, and even occasionally (in Burundi, for instance) dancing! Pastoral Quaker services sometimes include a brief period of “unprogrammed” worship, and sometimes not. Quaker worship can be very lively!”
“Zen is known as the Buddhist school emphasizing intensive practice of meditation, the name’s literal meaning that represents the Japanese pronunciation of an Indian term (dhyana). But hours of daily meditative practice are limited to a small group of monks, who participate in monastic austerities at a handful of training temples. The vast majority of members of Zen only rarely or perhaps never take part in this exercise. Instead, their religious affiliation with temple life primarily involves burials and memorials for deceased ancestors, or devotional rites to Buddhist icons and local spirits. Recent campaigns, however, have initiated weekly one-hour sessions introducing meditation for lay followers.”
“This was a common cry in the nineteenth century – the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli made it – and it continues in the twenty-first century. Atheists respond in two ways. First, if you need a god for morality, then what is to stop that god from being entirely arbitrary? It could make the highest moral demand to kill everyone not fluent in English – or Hebrew or whatever. But if this god does not do things in an arbitrary fashion, you have the atheist’s second response. There must be an independent set of values to which even the god is subject, and so why should the non-believer not be subject to and obey them, just like everyone else?”
— Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, at Florida State University and an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Atheism
* * * * *
Myth: Islam is a coercive communitarian religion
“Claims of an Islamic state to enforce Sharia as the law of the state are alien to historical Islamic traditions and rejected by the actual current political choices of the vast majority of Muslims globally. Belief in Islam must always be a free choice and compliance with Sharia cannot have any religious value unless done voluntarily with the required personal intent of each individual Muslim to comply (nya). Theologically Islam is radically democratic because individual personal responsibility can never be abdicated or delegated to any other human being (see e.g. chapters and verses 6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 52:21; 74:38 of the Quran).”
“One myth about Hinduism is that it is an ethnic religion. The assumption is that Hinduism is tied to a particular South Asian ethnicity. This is misleading for at least three reasons. First, South Asia is ethnically diverse. Therefore, it is not logical to speak of a single, unified ethnicity. Second, Hinduism has long been established in Southeast Asia, where practitioners consider themselves Hindu but not South Asian. Third, although the appearance of ‘White Hindus’ is a phenomenon rather recent and somewhat controversial, the global outreach of Hindu missionary groups has prompted scores of modern converts to Hinduism throughout Europe and the Americas. In other words, not all Hindus are South Asian.”
Today is the last day you can receive this beautiful print if you pre-order Blue Birds. Details below.
My husband’s first pastorate out of seminary was in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC. He was a youth pastor and I was a teacher, and we were still pretty new to town. One Sunday a young couple visited our church. I casually chatted with them — a British fellow with the name Steve Martin (isn’t that fun?) and his lovely American wife, Jamie. And in those few moments I had one of those weird experiences I’d only had once before: I knew immediately that Jamie and I would become very good friends.
It was a strange feeling with no real basis, other than an underlining conviction we had clicked in a meaningful way. Almost fifteen years have passed since that Sunday. We’ve lived apart for eleven of them. But the fledgling friendship that started that day has been one of my life’s dearest gifts.
One spring Jamie came to visit us in Michigan. As the two of us wandered through an antique shop, she handed me a worn school primer she’d found on a shelf. Maybe it will be helpful for that new book idea you have, she said. It ended up being key. On the day May B. came into the world, Jamie wrote something that to this day makes me cry.
As I struggled with writing Blue Birds,Jamie was the one to tell me good work is often hard work. Each time I’d email about how difficult it all was, she’d remind me the writing was hard because it was important.
This time last year I was deep in the midst of second-round edits and desperate to connect with Alis and Kimi in a meaningful way. So I started wearing a strand of pearls. Everyday. With sweats and dressy clothes and everything in between. Unless I was sleeping or exercising, the pearls were there. My Blue Birds girls share a pearl necklace (you can see Alis wearing it on the cover). Wearing pearls was a constant reminder of their friendship, a way to meet them beyond my writing sessions, to carry them with me to the grocery store, while walking the dog, into life’s small, quiet moments.
It was during this time I found this treasure in my mailbox. A gift from Jamie (who knew nothing about the pearls). And that’s when I knew with certainty exactly who this book was for.
If we’re lucky, we find friends in this world who love us as we are and bring out our best selves. I hope that’s what I’ve captured in Alis and Kimi’s relationship. It’s what Jamie Martin has given me.
This post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of Blue Birds. I’m giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19. Simply click through to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, or Powell’s, then email a copy of your receipt to email@example.com by Monday, January 19.