Monday, June 30, 2008

Ruth: hints

The stage is set. We see the hints of Naomi’s transformation in this first chapter of Ruth. She was empty, blaming God. Her focus was on the physical: food, land, name, family. And in that, she believed God has failed her. Accustomed to taking matters into her own hands. (her family left Bethlehem rather than count on God’s provision), she returned to Bethlehem to partake in the abundance she heard of.

Bitter at God’s failure, she didn’t descend into atheism and she didn’t embrace the Moabite gods. She simply distanced herself from God. He was still the God on the throne but apparently caring little for Naomi.

Naomi didn’t believe that God, in love, had provided for her needs.

She accused God of bringing her back empty. But what she didn’t see was that she returned with Ruth (so she wasn’t even alone as she claimed) during the barley harvest. Naomi came back to Bethlehem in its most fruitful time. That one statement foreshadows the rest of the story. Things are not as they appear.

God had a lot more in store for Naomi than just enough food to eat. He had a restoration of her family line, redemption of her land, and blessings beyond what she could imagine.

Naomi – who blamed God for the hopeless of her empty life – would soon have a son who will be the grandfather of King David. Life looked hopeless to Naomi but fullness was the truth of her future.

Next: coming home

Friday, June 27, 2008

We met when?

I’d start at the beginning but I can’t remember when we first met as he was married at the time and I was not. We were members of the same church and attended many Bible study groups together. For years I taught his children in Vacation Bible School and Sunday school.

For the rest of the story, link to Lord of the Ringless, where I'm guest-blogging today. Thank you, Denise, for the invitation. It's been great working with you!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today's the day

We leave today for Mexico. I have scheduled a number of posts while I'm gone and I hope to be able to post some updates (if we have internet access part of the time.) Please pray for our family! I'll give you a report when we get home.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Indulge me

I had to look up "paparazzi" to see exactly what it meant before I described my son-in-law.

Really, it isn't that bad. Here's what says: "a freelance photographer, esp. one who takes candid pictures of celebrities for publication."

I'm thinking that a new firstborn daughter is a celebrity, right?

OK, maybe my son-in-law is NOT paparazzi. I know that I am glad he's taking lots of photos. Keep them coming! Here are a couple to replace the ultrasound.

I know, she's beautiful, isn't she?


The questions that matter in life are remarkably few, and they are all answered by the words "Come unto Me." Not "Do this, or don't do that" but "Come unto Me."

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Hannah filled her clay jar with water from the aqueduct as her little brother pulled impatiently at her robe.

“I’m thirsty!” Eli exclaimed. “Why can’t I get a drink now?”

“You know why. The water has to cool and the hardness has to settle out of it. You need to learn patience.

Hannah began her slow dusty walk back to their home, keeping a watchful eye on Eli.

“Why don’t we go over there and get some cold water?” he pointed at structures on the horizon.

“Because it’s 10 miles away!”

“Their water is good. Uncle Nathaniel says so. He says our water is no good but they have cold water. It doesn’t need to settle.”

Hannah sighed again. “Next you’ll want to go see Julius.”

“Will not. His city has hot water. I can’t drink that.”

“Oh, Eli, those are hot springs. They don’t drink the hot water. But they can bathe in the springs. There are minerals in the water so it makes you feel better to lie there.”

“Can we lie in our water?”

Hannah laughed. “Most of the minerals settle out of the water before it gets to us.”

Eli pointed to the Roman-built pipeline. “There are minerals crusted all over the inside of it. It doesn’t smell good, either.”

“Well, that’s why we have to take the water home and let it settle before we can drink it.”

“Why is the water lukewarm?”

“It started out hot.”

“I wish it would cool down faster,” Eli said. “I am thirsty.”

“Well, right now our water is useless. That’s why we let it cool and settle before we drink it. Be patient!”

When Hannah later heard John’s letter to her church, she instantly understood his warning. For Colossae, down the road 10 miles, had renowned cold water springs. Hierapolis, across the valley, was known for its medicinal hot springs.

But Laodicea had only piped-in water which, by the time it got to the village, had encrusted the aqueduct with minerals and spewed forth a lukewarm broth that was not fit to drink. The water was ineffective, having neither medicinal nor drinking qualities. If taken directly from the pipeline, the water would make one vomit.

The Laodicean church had also become ineffective by John’s time, with a lack of fruitfulness that made God sick. His warning was not about their faith but that their deeds had grown useless.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Rev 3:15-16

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ruth: limping home

Last week we discussed Naomi’s decision to go to Bethlehem alone, leaving her daughters-in-law behind.

In sending her daughters-in-law back to their homes, Naomi declared that she was too old to provide sons for them to marry one day. She was utterly alone. Her full life was gone. Destitution had settled on Naomi like a limp robe and she believed that God, for some reason she didn’t understand, had turned his back on her, violating his promises.

Only a few verses later, she added to the protest. She believed she left Bethlehem full but the Lord was bringing her back empty. She even blamed the return to Bethlehem on God’s hand. She accused God of dealing harshly with her, of bringing calamity on her. Her agony turned to blame. The great covenant-making God, who had brought her people out of slavery in Egypt, had apparently welched on his promise. In Naomi’s eyes, God had shown himself to be unpredictable and moody, dealing bitterly with her for no reason she could understand.

She told the women at Bethlehem that she left full but now returned empty. God let her down. She was in Bethlehem with her family. But God could not provide the food needed and so the family was forced to go to Moab.

In Moab, things were good for a time but then they went sour. The famine had now appeared in Naomi’s heart. Although she blamed God for the famine in Bethlehem and now the famine in her soul, when she heard that God has blessed Bethlehem again, she headed for home.

She recognized God’s sovereignty but believed he has turned against her. He could provide security but not in her case.

Naomi thought she was simply returning to Bethlehem. But next time, we’ll see that she’s about to walk into abundance.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Close to heaven

Lola leans forward eagerly. “I always say that God’s got a plan,” she said. “We just have to trust that.”

Edna’s eyes fall shut for a spell but then she snaps back to alertness.

I open my Bible and read. “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Col 1:3)

Those are my words, too.

Mildred needs a large-print Bible although she brings her own Bible every week. “My kids gave me this one but I can’t read the print,” she tells us all every week.

I continue to read. “We have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God's people.” (Col 1:4)

“I’m not very good at knowing how to share the gospel with people,” Lola reveals. “But I try to pray for them and I try to live for Jesus.”

I meet with this group every Friday morning. I started because my mother begged asked me but I keep going back. For three years now, I go back.

The oldest is 92 years old. Heaven is on their mind but mostly family and friends. They’re looking forward to their tea party after we finish today.

I read on: “You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven—as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. “ (Col 1:5)

Mildred's asleep again but Edna is hanging on every word now.

Heaven is not far from them. But, as I go back week after week, I find that heaven is not all that far away from me, either.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New life

We're celebrating the birth of our second grandchild, born yesterday to our daughter and son-in-law in South Carolina.

Little Emily is beautiful, of course. See her first photo at right.

I haven't gotten the newest ones yet.

We're praising God for a successful delivery and glad to welcome her to our family.
I'll be able to fly from Colorado to South Carolina in mid-July to spoil the new little one help with household chores so my daughter can rest.

But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Luke 18:16-17

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Desiring the master

I’m writing this with a cat whispering sweet nothings in my ear. No, wait, he is now in the other room because the sweet nothings turned into ear nipping. Did you know cats can fly?

The cat belongs to my son, who is gone to camp this week. They wrestle together, sleep together, eat together. My son loves this cat.

Today the cat has climbed my leg three times, put his nose in my face four times, and tried to lick my nose once. He annoys me.

But another image comes to mind, too.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

Psalms 42:1

If I were Eugene Peterson, I might say, as a cat gets in my face because it misses its master so much….

We shut the cat up in our son’s bedroom this morning after he chewed on my husband’s chin. When he got out (the cat, of course), he went straight for my lap, climbing bare legs with sharp kitten claws. He doesn’t think about how to please us because he’s desperate for our touch. Just being touched and held consumes him.

And it’s making me wonder. Do I miss the presence of my Lord as much as this purring cat in my lap?

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deut 4:29

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rushing in

Iguacu Falls of South America features a complex system of 275 waterfalls along just under two miles of the Iguacu River. The magnificent curtains of water dwarf Niagara Falls.
The roar of cascading water is overwhelming.

John, in Revelation, in describing Jesus, wrote: “his voice was like the sound of many waters.” (Rev 1:15)

But there’s more to that imagery than noise. Water is a powerful picture of swirling chaos and soothing abundance. We’re reminded, with the flood waters rising in Iowa, of the destructive power of water.

Yet we can’t live without water. Trees die, crops wither, and we die in short order without water.

The psalmist described a fruitful tree as one rooted in streams of water. (Ps 1:3)

God is like those falls of Iguacu, roaring with power. He is not safe but he sustains. We can stand beneath the falls and be pounded by force but, when we’re thirsty, the water never ends. God's provision pours out on us like the falls, abundant beyond our comprehension.

We don’t control the falls. We enjoy the beauty, relish the abundance, and linger at the never-ending rush of water.

Can we see God’s nature that way today?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ruth: how you look at it

Last week, I asked you to re-read Ruth 1:1-5. What problems did you see described in Ruth 1:1-5?

Here are a few:

  • A famine
  • A family fleeing their home
  • Unhealthy children
  • Sons marrying foreign women
  • Death of the husband
  • Death of the sons
  • Women left alone

Are you depressed yet?

In the time of the judges, a woman left alone was left destitute. She could not legally inherit her family’s holdings.

This was Naomi’s plight. She was a refugee, in a sense, in the land of Moab with two daughters-in-law committed to her. On top of that, she heard news that God was now blessing Bethlehem with food.

She decided to go home.

It’s clear in this first chapter that Naomi followed God. She heard of God’s work in Bethlehem and she also desired to bless her daughters-in-law in sending them back to their mothers’ homes.

“May the LORD reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the LORD bless you with the security of another marriage," she told them.

But her blessing bothers me, for she had lived in the land where Chemosh, god of the Moabites was worshipped. In sending her daughters-in-law back to their homes, she was sending them back to their former gods as well.

In fact, when Ruth refuses to go back to her home, Naomi chides her: your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same." (Ruth 1:15)

I think one word would describe Naomi in the depressing final days of Moab: alone. She felt abandoned, isolated and without help. Obviously, she saw no aid in her daughters-in-law but sent them home.

Next: placing the blame.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Author interview: Tina Ann Forkner

We were nervously trying to make small talk over our first meal at the writers’ conference in May when the young woman across the table suddenly shook her hands excitedly. “I have to tell you all,” she said, “I just published my first novel.”

That’s how I met Tina Ann Forkner, who is now on a whirlwind summer adventure promoting her book, Ruby Among Us. She’s an enthusiastic new voice in Christian women’s fiction and she graciously agreed to an interview. So I’d like to introduce Tina Ann Forkner to you.

What inspired you to write Ruby Among Us?

For a time I lived in Sacramento and spent a few weekends a month visiting relatives in Santa Rosa and driving through the Sonoma Valley. The beauty of it really grew on me and served in many ways to heal my heart as I went through some tough moments known only to me at the time. I think the setting lent itself to the book easily because I had absorbed so much of it during that growing period in my life.

One evening a few years later, I was living as a single mom in Wyoming and feeling particularly down about my situation in life. I began to think about my daughter and worry about what would happen to her if I were to die while she was still young. I asked myself a question that amounted to, “What would she be told about me?”

And then like a typical writer, I expanded my questions to the hypothetical. “What if someone decided to take her away from everything that has to do with me? How would she feel? Would she try to find out about me?” And I sensed she would, so I typed out what amounted to a few paragraphs of fiction, or maybe a few pages, I can’t remember, and then I called it Ruby Among Us and closed the file. It wasn’t until I later married my husband that I pulled that file back out and it turned into a book.

What readers do you think would most enjoy this book?

I think anyone who likes to read Women’s Fiction would like the book. It is about women and I think we can all relate in one way or another about the complexities of being mother, daughter or grandmother.

People who like fiction by Mary E. DeMuth or Elizabeth Berg might also like my book, but I’m not saying I am as talented as either one of those authors.

What inspires you as you write?

I have always loved to hear my mom tell stories about her mother and my grandmothers and I was always very close to my paternal grandmother when I was growing up. She told me story after story about her own family. I think those stories really taught me some good life lessons. Plus, I have so many aunts that I can’t help being interested in intergenerational relationships between women. I think the wisdom that older women (older men, too) pass down to the younger generation is very important and that really inspires my stories.

Tell us something about yourself that we couldn’t discover from reading your website.

As I mentioned to someone else recently, I am really a daddy’s girl. I write a lot about the relationships between women and so it might seem to readers that I don’t have good relationships with men, but it’s not true. I have a wonderful father, brother and grandfather who impact my life in numerous positive ways. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

What books do you plan to write in the future?

I have one book coming out May of 2009 that really deals with sisters, but it is related to Ruby Among Us. I have a few other stories under my belt that I’m working on, as well.

How is your faith expressed in your writing?

I think the redemptive qualities of my stories are where faith plays out, although I’ve had readers email and tell me other ways that faith has touched them after reading Ruby Among Us. I think redemption to each other and to God is really a universal thing that people relate to, and if the reader is a Christian, then the meaning goes even deeper for that reader.

I also received a compliment recently from a reader who said that after reading Ruby Among Us, she realized (and I’m paraphrasing) that we can see and learn about God in every day life and experiences. That was a compliment because I do feel that way. I love church, but God teaches me so much through living and his words are made real for me when I see His promises carry through into every day life. That probably comes through in my writing even though I don’t plan it that way.

What writing projects are you working on now?

I am just staring edits with my publisher on the book I mentioned that comes out in May 2009, but I’m focusing on another project in the early mornings. I wish I could tell you all about it, but the story is still so fresh and new that I want to keep it secret for awhile. Sometimes if one shares an idea too soon, it loses its “magic”.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ministry Focus: Mission Americas

“Mundo Muyo,” or “home of the Mayan Indians” is also home to Mission Americas, which since 1969 has trained local leaders to be missionaries to their own people.

Mission Americas began with a seminary at Merida on the Yucatan peninsula. Current director Harlan Capps has a passion for training indigenous leaders. They already know the language, customs, culture, and it is a greater stewardship of mission dollars,” he says.

From the seminary in Merida, Mission Americas has planted seminaries in five locations in the Yucatan peninsula. They have also placed seminaries in Cuba as well.

The goal is always to train local people and support the local churches.

Mission Americas has even opened an internet seminary to facilitate theological training.

They encourage mission groups from the United States to help out. The opportunities are endless. Teams have helped with construction projects. All improvements to the seminary buildings must be done – and financed – by mission groups. There’s no money in the budget for capital improvements.

Teams have done local evangelism, visited local churches, sponsored kids’ clubs, and much more.

Our family will be one of those teams. We will be spending two weeks in the Yucatan peninsula and also in Cuba, filming video to produce promotional videos and documentaries for Mission Americas.

Please pray for Mission Americas and for our family. We know that God is working through Mission Americas to change lives in Mexico and Cuba.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How does this work?

“How’s this going to work, Lord?” That may have been Abraham’s thought when God promised him children numbering like the stars in the sky. He and his wife had no children and were beyond child-bearing age.

That’s often our question when things look difficult.

Our family is going to Mexico in a couple of weeks to film a promotional video for a ministry there. (I’m highlighting the ministry tomorrow.) When the director of the ministry invited us to also fly into Cuba to film their work there, we hesitated.

Doing so more than doubled the cost of our trip. “How is this going to work, Lord?”

The director then added two more days to the trip. “I think you’ll really be blessed if you can do this,” he said as he directed us to a new mission work which will involve a long drive into the mountains of Cuba. “But if you can’t afford to go, do what you can.”

The price kept climbing.

We sent out a few letters to friends and family, asking for prayer and financial support. But crunch time came Sunday. We had to decide how much of the trip we would do. We prayed as a family and, taking a deep breath, pledged the money we’d set aside for our next car.

“You’ll be quadruple-blessed,” the director had told us, “if you can get to Cuba. You’ll see what God’s doing.”

So we’re going to Mexico and Cuba in two weeks to help promote God’s work there.

But that’s not the end of the story. A letter from friends came yesterday. In there was a check for the cost of the Cuba portion of the trip.

When the children of Abraham were ready to enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of God’s promise: “God, your God, has multiplied your numbers. Why, look at you—you rival the stars in the sky!” (Deut 1:10)

God’s promise to a childless couple had been fulfilled. Not only had they had a son, but now their offspring were a nation.

Moses had more words for these children. “And may God, the God-of-Your-Fathers, keep it up and multiply you another thousand times, bless you just as he promised.” (Deut 1:11)

We wondered, too, “How does this work, Lord?” and he opened his generous hand to us.

Today I can tell you that God is Jehovah Jireh, the Great Provider. We’re praising his name!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Beggars all

I was looking for gifts for my family back home but I had to walk a gauntlet of beggars first. Lining the sidewalk, they held out bent rusty cups or sometimes a small tray of gum or mashed dolls.

One old woman, shriveled into a tiny mass of wrinkles and dirt, caught my eye. Only the stubs of teeth lined her mouth and she was in rags. In desperation, she shoved a handful of trinkets in front of me. I gave her money.

Beggars are persistent. We’ve had them for centuries, desperate for their next meal and willing to do what it takes to get some help.

When Jesus walked through Jericho on his way to his encounter with Pilate in Jerusalem, he was hailed by a blind beggar. Although the crowd hushed him, the beggar could not be silenced. He was desperate and would not be stopped. He knew his need and he knew where to get help.

Oswald Chambers said, “A pauper does not ask from any other reason than the abject panging condition of his poverty; he is not ashamed to beg.”

Do I ask God for that which eases my life and fills my lusts? Or do I recognize that I am a beggar, desperate for his help?

“We will never receive if we ask with an end in view; if we ask, not out of our poverty but out of our lust,” said Chambers.

The blind beggar asked Jesus for mercy. Jesus gave him sight.

Do I recognize my own spiritual poverty?

Am I desperate for God’s handout?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matt 5:3)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ruth: A bridge from chaos

If you’ve read Lord of the Flies, you know something about the people in the time of Ruth. William Golding in his 1954 novel weaves a tale about schoolboys wrecked on a deserted island, left to their own devices.

His point, like that in Judges, is that people without leadership descend into savagery.

If you’ll take a peak at Ruth 4:17 (this is not a plot spoiler because you’ve read the book, right?), you’ll see that part of the surprise ending in Ruth is that King David is a direct descendant of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz.

So our story begins in the time of chaos, with every man for himself, but ends with the great king of Israel. Ruth is the bridge from one time to another, from chaos to order, from savagery to Israel’s Golden Age.

It’s no accident that the book begins with a list of names – Elimelech, Naomi, Chilion and Mahlon – and ends with another list of names. The first list has largely faded from history but the second list links Ruth not only to King David, but we know even more than the first readers of Ruth. We know that King David links to Jesus.

Re-read Ruth 1:1-5. What problems do you see described in those verses?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Book review: Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon

Winning the court case was the easy part.

A mother agonizing over the loss of her daughter discovers that babies were switched at the hospital and that her birth daughter has grown up with strangers while she nurtured – and buried – a daughter not hers biologically.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon by Debbie Fuller Thomas grapples honestly with some difficult issues and lands a story that grips the reader.

We follow the story line alternately through the viewpoint of the two main characters. Marty is the mother, a divorced woman trying to do the right thing for her family. When the story breaks that her daughter was switched at birth – and is now orphaned – Marty decides to offer Andie a life with her biological family.

We also see the situation through Andie’s eyes as she, at 13, is determined to remain loyal to her parents, who were loving followers of Jesus tragically killed in an airplane crash.

Although there aren’t villains in this story – unless we lay that title on rebellious older sister Deja – the conflicts lie with opposing loyalties. Marty wants to love Andie, her own flesh-and-blood although still a stranger to her. Andie wants to return to her childhood family setting although her parents weren’t her biological family.

We sympathize with both and yet I found myself longing for them to find a way to love each other. They were both good-intentioned people conflicted by grief to others they had loved.

Both Marty and Andie wrestle with their faith. Their lives, which began together and then took off on tangents, bump together once again, rich in realistic emotion and honest effort to respond in ways that honor God.

Tuesday Night is well written, a book with characters that will grip your heart. This has been one of the best reads of the year for me and I encourage you to put it on your reading list.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ministry Focus: Girls4God

Girls as young as 5 are lured by promises of jobs and a better life. In other words, they’re completely lied to before being stuffed into boxes and shipped to America to be used as porn models.

This is an ugly story and I won’t go on. Suffice it to say that many don’t survive the trip itself and many more don’t survive the atrocities they meet upon arrival.

All to feed an insatiable porn monster. Photos can be uploaded in 15 minutes and there’s a hungry audience waiting fresh meat.

God4Girls wants to provide another way for these girls, who live in Latin America. Using the motto, “From Exploitation to Empowerment,” the group establishes local programs to provide schooling and job skills.

Their four-point goals for programs are:

  • Scripture – establishing a personal pattern for Bible reading, discipleship and prayer.
  • Sustenance – providing food, medicine and essentials.
  • Schooling – education in the 3R’s.
  • Skills – training for a long-term vocation.

Author Patricia Hickman is part of a construction team going to Latin America to build training centers for girls there. Further information on her trip is available here.

Please pray for these girls as Girls4God works in Jesus’ name to give them freedom.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stripping off the weight

The question came up not long after I’d bypassed the carrots and broccoli in favor of a fudge brownie and chocolate-dripped donut.

“How do we shut out bad influences so we can stay close to God?” asked a woman seated in the discussion circle.

The group agreed: God can be pushed out of our lives by the day-to-day stuff. We get distracted so that worship and presence are something we treasure on Sundays but can’t seem to grab during the week.

As it generally does, the ideas drifted to media. Wasn’t it disgusting, one woman said, how Oprah has designed her own religion? Wasn’t it awful, said another, what was shown in movies these days?

“This is such a ‘me first’ culture we live in,” said another. “Do we spend as much time with God as we spend relaxing?”

That takes a lot of discipline, the group decided. It’s not so easy.

As I fingered the brownie on my plate, I thought about Solomon, who started well in God’s wisdom and then tailed off. I remembered an ancient writer who said, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (Heb 12:1)

When I laid off common sugar for awhile, I had new energy. Life looked brighter while I felt healthy and strong.

Solomon chose common wisdom, tailspinning into depression and idolatry.

He could have stripped off every weight that slowed him down. He could have chosen God’s wisdom over alliances and wives.

How do we shut out the bad influences so that we can stay close to God?

For me, I exchanged the chocolate on my plate for fresh veggies. How about you?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Common wisdom

He could still hear the shout of the people and the snap of the colorful banners in the breeze. Although there had been a soft rustle of a crowd, all noise had stopped when he stepped to the altar and made the first burnt offering.

Then the music launched with timbrels and harps. Dancers twirled joyously as the priests brought out their trumpets.

But now, he slept - a deep cushioned rest that nurtured his heart and renewed his body.

And then the Lord spoke: “Ask what you want from me.”

With the emotions of his coronation still pulsing, Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the people God had given him.

God gave him wisdom. And then heaped on riches and power.

Although Solomon made many wise choices, and ratcheted Israel into a powerful nation, he was wooed by common wisdom. He married – out of love for women and love for the influence those wives brought. He negotiated through alliances rather than the sword as his father had. He became one of the wealthiest men the world has ever known.

Common wisdom would say that he was indeed blessed by God.

But common wisdom wooed him like a foreign wife from God’s wisdom.

Solomon started so well. But if he were a racehorse, we could see him on the finish line, distracted by the crowd or the scent of other horses. He did not finish well.

Paul said, “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win.(1 Cor 9:24)

We are like Solomon, with generous riches ladled over us like a rich chocolate sauce. We walk in God’s kindness moment by moment.

How are we running the race?

Tomorrow: stripping off the weight.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ruth: Names

Do you like your name? Doesn’t it bug you just a little when someone forgets your name – or even misspells it? In some cultures, a child is not named until the parents learn more of his or her character. In America, parents are often less concerned about the meaning of a name and more concerned about who else bears the name.

In our study of the book of Ruth, names are important. Their meaning is key to the story.

So here’s your list of names, with meanings:

Naomi - pleasant

Mara - bitter

Ruth - companion

Boaz - strong

Elimelech - my god is king

Mahlon - weak

Chilion (Kilion, in some translations) - failing

Orpah - obstinate

Obed - servant

David – beloved

Bethlehem – city of bread

Now take a look at the first sentence in the book of Ruth:

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel, a man from Bethlehem in Judah left the country because of a severe famine.”

We know the time frame for the story and the place. This is a story from Israel, taking place when judges ruled the land.

If you’ve read the book of Judges, you know that this was a topsy-turvy time, with all sorts of reversals. There was no king in Israel for 400 years. Supposedly God was leading the nation, but here’s reality: In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

Our story happens in that time, when people did what they thought was right, and there was no leadership.

In your experience, what happens to people when they have no leadership but follow their own plans?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

FIRST tour: Dragonlight

It is June FIRST, time for the FIRST Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and her book:

WaterBrook Press (June 17, 2008)


Donita K. Paul is a retired teacher and award-winning author of seven novels, including DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, and DragonFire. When not writing, she is often engaged in mentoring writers of all ages. Donita lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she is learning to paint–walls and furniture! Visit her website at

The Books of the DragonKeeper Series:


Visit her website.


Castle Passages

Kale wrinkled her nose at the dank air drifting up from the stone staircase. Below, utter darkness created a formidable barrier.

Toopka stood close to her knee. Sparks skittered across the doneel child’s furry hand where she clasped the flowing, soft material of Kale’s wizard robe. Kale frowned down at her ward. The little doneel spent too much time attached to her skirts to be captivated by the light show. Instead, Toopka glowered into the forbidding corridor. “What’s down

Kale sighed. “I’m not sure.”

“Is it the dungeon?”

“I don’t think we have a dungeon.”

Toopka furrowed her brow in confusion. “Don’t you know? It’s your castle.”

“A castle built by committee.” Kale’s face grimaced at the memory of weeks of creative chaos. She put her hand on Toopka’s soft head.

The doneel dragged her gaze away from the stairway, tilted her head back, and frowned at her guardian. “What’s ‘by committee’?”

“You remember, don’t you? It was just five years ago.”

“I remember the wizards coming and the pretty tents in the meadow.” Toopka pursed her lips. “And shouting. I remember shouting.” “They were shouting because no one was listening. Twenty-one wizards came for the castle raising. Each had their own idea about what we needed. So they each constructed their fragment of the castle structure according to their whims.”

Toopka giggled.

“I don’t think it’s funny. The chunks of castle were erected, juxtaposed with the others, but not as a whole unit. I thank Wulder that at least my parents had some sense. My mother and father connected the tads, bits, and smidgens together with steps and short halls. When nothing else would work, they formed gateways from one portion to another.”

The little doneel laughed out loud and hid her face in Kale’s silky wizard’s robe. Miniature lightning flashes enveloped Toopka’s head and cascaded down her neck, over her back, and onto the floor like a waterfall of sparks.

Kale cut off the flow of energy and placed a hand on the doneel’s shoulder. “Surely you remember this, Toopka.”

She looked up, her face growing serious. “I was very young then.”

Kale narrowed her eyes and examined the child’s innocent face. “As long as I have known you, you’ve appeared to be the same age. Are you ever going to grow up?”

Toopka shrugged, then the typical smile of a doneel spread across her face. Her thin black lips stretched, almost reaching from ear to ear. “I’m growing up as fast as I can, but I don’t think I’m the one in charge. If I were in charge, I would be big enough to have my own dragon, instead of searching for yours.”

The statement pulled Kale back to her original purpose. No doubt she had been manipulated yet again by the tiny doneel, but dropping the subject of Toopka’s age for the time being seemed prudent.

Kale rubbed the top of Toopka’s head. The shorter fur between her ears felt softer than the hair on the child’s arms. Kale always found it soothing to stroke Toopka’s head, and the doneel liked it as well.

Kale let her hand fall to her side and pursued their mission. “Gally and Mince have been missing for a day and a half. We must find them. Taylaminkadot said she heard an odd noise when she came down to the storeroom.” Kale squared her shoulders and took a step down into the dark, dank stairwell. “Gally and Mince may be down here, and they may be in trouble.”

“How can you know who’s missing?” Toopka tugged on Kale’s robe, letting loose a spray of sparkles. “You have hundreds of minor dragons in the castle and more big dragons in the fields.”

“I know.” Kale put her hand in front of her, and a globe of light appeared, resting on her palm. “I’m a Dragon Keeper. I know when any of my dragons have missed a meal or two.” She stepped through the doorway.

Toopka tugged on Kale’s gown. “May I have a light too?”

“Of course.” She handed the globe to the doneel. The light flickered. Kale tapped it, and the glow steadied. She produced another light to sit in her own hand and proceeded down the steps.

Toopka followed, clutching the sparkling cloth of Kale’s robe in one hand and the light in the other. “I think we should take a dozen guards with us.”

“I don’t think there’s anything scary down here, Toopka. After all, as you reminded me, this is our castle, and we certainly haven’t invited anything nasty to live with us.”

“It’s the things that come uninvited that worry me.”

“All right. Just a moment.” Kale turned to face the archway at the top of the stairs, a few steps up from where they stood.

She reached with her mind to the nearest band of minor dragons. Soon chittering dragon voices, a rainbow vision of soft, flapping, leathery wings, and a ripple of excitement swept through her senses. She heard Artross, the leader of this watch, call for his band to mind their manners, listen to orders, and calm themselves.

Kale smiled her greeting as they entered the stairway and circled above her. She turned to Toopka, pleased with her solution, but Toopka scowled. Obviously, the doneel was not impressed with the arrival of a courageous escort.

Kale opened her mouth to inform Toopka that a watch of dragons provides sentries, scouts, and fighters. And Bardon had seen to their training. But the doneel child knew this.

Each watch formed without a Dragon Keeper’s instigation. Usually eleven to fifteen minor dragons developed camaraderie, and a leader emerged. A social structure developed within each watch. Kale marveled at the process. Even though she didn’t always understand the choices, she did nothing to alter the natural way of establishing the hierarchy and respectfully worked with what was in place.

Artross, a milky white dragon who glowed in the dark, had caught Kale’s affections. She sent a warm greeting to the serious-minded leader and received a curt acknowledgment. The straight-laced young dragon with his tiny, mottled white body tickled her. Although they didn’t look alike in the least, Artross’s behavior reminded Kale of her husband’s personality.

Kale nodded at Toopka and winked. “Now we have defenders.”

“I think,” said the doneel, letting go of Kale’s robe and stepping down a stair, “it would be better if they were bigger and carried swords.”

Kale smiled as one of the younger dragons landed on her shoulder. He pushed his violet head against her chin, rubbing with soft scales circling between small bumps that looked like stunted horns. Toopka skipped ahead with the other minor dragons flying just above her head.

“Hello, Crain,” said Kale, using a fingertip to stroke his pink belly. She’d been at his hatching a week before. The little dragon chirred his contentment. “With your love of learning, I’m surprised you’re not in the library with Librettowit.”

A scene emerged in Kale’s mind from the small dragon’s thoughts. She hid a smile. “I’m sorry you got thrown out, but you must not bring your snacks into Librettowit’s reading rooms. A tumanhofer usually likes a morsel of food to tide him over, but not when the treat threatens to smudge the pages of his precious books.” She felt the small beast shudder at the memory of the librarian’s angry voice. “It’s all right, Crain. He’ll forgive you and let you come back into his bookish sanctum. And he’ll delight in helping you find all sorts of wonderful facts.”

Toopka came scurrying back. She’d deserted her lead position in the company of intrepid dragons. The tiny doneel dodged behind Kale and once more clutched the sparkling robe. Kale shifted her attention to a commotion ahead and sought out the thoughts of the leader Artross. “What’s wrong?” asked Kale, but her answer came as she tuned in to the leader of the dragon watch.

Artross trilled orders to his subordinates. Kale saw the enemy through the eyes of this friend.

An anvilhead snake slid over the stone floor of a room stacked high with large kegs. His long black body stretched out from a nook between two barrels. With the tail of the serpent hidden, she had no way of knowing its size. These reptiles’ heads outweighed their bodies. The muscled section behind the base of the jaws could be as much as six inches wide. But the length of the snake could be from three feet to thirty.

Kale shuddered but took another step down the passage.

Artross looked around the room and spotted another section of ropelike body against the opposite wall. Kegs hid most of the snake.

Kale grimaced. Another snake? Or the end of the one threatening my dragons?

The viper’s heavy head advanced, and the distant portion moved with the same speed.

One snake.

“Toopka, stay here,” she ordered and ran down the remaining steps. She tossed the globe from her right hand to her left and pulled her sword from its hiding place beneath her robe. Nothing appeared to be in her hand, but Kale felt the leather-bound hilt secure in her grip. The old sword had been given to her by her mother, and Kale knew
how to use the invisible blade with deadly precision.

“Don’t let him get away,” she called as she increased her speed through the narrow corridor.

The wizard robe dissolved as she rushed to join her guard. Her long dress of azure and plum reformed itself into leggings and a tunic. The color drained away and returned as a pink that would rival a stunning sunset. When she reached the cold, dark room, she cast her globe into the air. Floating in the middle of the room, it tripled in size and gave off a brighter light.

The dragons circled above the snake, spitting their caustic saliva with great accuracy. Kale’s skin crawled at the sight of the coiling reptile. More and more of the serpentine body emerged from the shadowy protection of the stacked kegs. Obviously, the snake did not fear these intruders.

Even covered with splotches of brightly colored spit, the creature looked like the loathsome killer it was. Kale’s two missing dragons could have been dinner for the serpent. She searched the room with the talent Wulder had bestowed upon her and concluded the little ones still lived.

The reptile hissed at her, raised its massive head, and swayed in a threatening posture. The creature slithered toward her, propelled by the elongated body still on the floor. Just out of reach of Kale’s sword, the beast stopped, pulled its head back for the strike, and let out a slow, menacing hiss. The snake lunged, and Kale swung her invisible weapon. The severed head sailed across the room and slammed against the stone wall.

Kale eyed the writhing body for a moment. “You won’t be eating any more small animals.” She turned her attention to the missing dragons and pointed her sword hand at a barrel at the top of one stack. “There. Gally and Mince are in that keg.”

Several dragons landed on the wooden staves, and a brown dragon examined the cask to determine how best to open it. Toopka ran into the room and over to the barrel. “I’ll help.”

Kale tilted her head. “There is also a nest of snake eggs.” She consulted the dragon most likely to know facts about anvilhead vipers. Crain landed on her shoulder and poured out all he knew in a combination of chittering and thoughts.

The odd reptiles preferred eating young farm animals, grain, and feed. They did nothing to combat the population of rats, insects, and vermin. No farmer allowed the snakes on his property if he could help it. “Find the nest,” Kale ordered. “Destroy them all.”

The watch of dragons took flight again, zooming into lightrockilluminated passages leading off from this central room. Kale waited until a small group raised an alarm. Four minor dragons had found the nest.

She plunged down a dim passage, sending a plume of light ahead and calling for the dispersed dragons to join her. Eleven came from the other corridors, and nine flew in a V formation in front of her. Gally and Mince landed on her shoulders.

“You’re all right. I’m so glad.”

They scooted next to her neck, shivering. From their minds she deciphered the details of their ordeal. A game of hide-and-seek had led them into the depths of the castle. When the snake surprised them, they’d flown under the off-center lid of the barrel. As Mince dove into the narrow opening, he knocked the top just enough for it to rattle down into place. This successfully kept the serpent out, but also trapped them within.

Kale offered sympathy, and they cuddled against her, rubbing their heads on her chin as she whisked through the underground tunnel in pursuit of the other dragons.

Numerous rooms jutted off the main hallway, each stacked with boxes, crates, barrels, and huge burlap bags. Kale had no idea this vast amount of storage lay beneath the castle. Taylaminkadot, their efficient housekeeper and wife to Librettowit, probably had a tally sheet listing each item. Kale and the dragons passed rooms that contained fewer and fewer supplies until the stores dwindled to nothing.

How long does this hallway continue on? She slowed to creep along and tiptoed over the stone floor, noticing the rougher texture under her feet. Approaching a corner, she detected the four minor dragons destroying the snake’s nest in the next room. Her escort of flying dragons veered off into the room, and she followed. The small dragons swooped over the nest, grabbed an egg, then flew to the beamed roof of the storage room. They hurled the eggs to the floor, and most broke open on contact. Some had more rubbery shells, a sign that they would soon hatch. The minor dragons attacked these eggs with tooth and claw. Once each shell gave way, the content was pulled out and examined. No
hatchling snake survived.

The smell alone halted Kale in her tracks and sent her back a pace. She screwed up her face, but no amount of pinching her nose muscles cut off the odor of raw eggs and the bodies of unborn snakes. She produced a square of moonbeam material from her pocket and covered the lower half of her face. The properties of the handkerchief filtered the unpleasant aroma.

Her gaze fell on the scene of annihilation. Usually, Kale found infant animals to be endearing, attractive in a gangly way. But the small snake bodies looked more like huge blackened worms than babies.

Toopka raced up behind her and came to a skidding stop when she reached the doorway. “Ew!” She buried her face in the hem of Kale’s tunic, then peeked out with her nose still covered.

The minor dragons continued to destroy the huge nest. Kale estimated over a hundred snake eggs must have been deposited in the old shallow basket. The woven edges sagged where the weight of the female snake had broken the reeds. Kale shuddered at the thought of all those snakes hatching and occupying the lowest level of the castle, her home. The urge to be above ground, in the light, and with her loved ones compelled her out of the room.

Good work, she commended the dragons as she backed into the passage. Artross, be sure that no egg is left unshattered.

She received his assurance, thanked him, then turned about and ran. She must find Bardon.

“Wait for me!” Toopka called. Her tiny, booted feet pounded the stone floor in a frantic effort to catch up.