The Moonlight School Book Review

The Moonlight School by Suzanne Woods Fisher is an historical fiction novel inspired by true events in the life of Cora Wilson Stewart in 1911 Rowan County, Eastern Kentucky. Set against a landscape devastated by lumber companies, and faced with poverty and illiteracy, we meet Lucy Wilson, her cousin Cora, Brother Wyatt, and a cast of endearing mountain folk. I especially liked young Finley James.

The story takes us along with Lucy as she leaves her father and stepmother in Lexington, to help Cora combat poverty by eliminating illiteracy. What Lucy doesn’t leave behind, though, are memories of the day her young sister disappeared. As Lucy interacts with the people of Rowan County, she comes to understand, just because a person does not have money, that does not mean they are poor.

If you enjoy Appalachian historical fiction with heart, such as books written by Ann H. Gabhart, then The Moonlight School may just be the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell for a fair and honest review, which is exactly what I gave.

Have you read this book? If so, what was your impression of it?

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Deep Freeze

Photo by Julian Schmuckli on Unsplash

Here in my part of southeast Texas, last week was another historic weather event. Instead of our usual hurricane disasters, however, this disaster was Winter Storm Uri. Uri created the coldest temperatures the area has endured in over one hundred years, plunging us into a perilous deep freeze.

For those of you who kept Texas in your prayers during this time, thank you.

While other parts of the country experienced catastrophic conditions from this storm as well, these conditions are something our area isn’t used to dealing with over such a sustained period of time. 

Across the area wind chill temperatures fell below zero for multiple days. Temperatures hovered in the single digits some nights and stayed below freezing most of the week. Snow and ice-covered streets created hazardous driving conditions, shut down businesses, and cancelled COVID vaccine appointments.

People in our area had no power to provide heat and electricity for days. There was no water. Frozen water pipes burst inside and outside homes. The area was under a boil water notice. At present count, 30 in our city died. Some from hypothermia. Some from carbon monoxide poisoning as they sought refuge in their cars to keep warm.

Now, finding and purchasing food to replace what was lost during the power outages is a major concern for many.

Despite these bleak conditions, hope shone through as restaurant owners stepped up and provided free meals and water to those without. Businesses with power and water opened their doors so people could get warm. As one business owner said, when you see a need, you do what you can to fill it.

Pilot and I are extremely grateful we were only without power and water for a brief amount of time. As each day unfolded last week, with the uncertainty of what it might bring, what we knew for certain is God remains in control, nothing reaches us he didn’t plan or permit, and when it reaches us, he’s right here with us walking beside us each step of the way.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before how, as God’s people, none of us are immune from pain and suffering. I’ve mentioned how the Bible tells us the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. I’ve mentioned how when things beyond our control happen, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, not on the waves that crash around us, threatening to pull us under.

And as the business owner reminds us, when you see a need, you do what you can to fill it.

We don’t have to wait for a weather disaster to be God’s hands and feet. All we have to do is keep our eyes and ears open, and when we see a need, step up and do what we can to fill it.

In what ways have you been God’s hands and feet recently?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Lord, remember my suffering and my misery, my sorrow and trouble. Please remember me and think about me. But I have hope when I think of this: The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty is great. I say to myself, “The Lord is mine, so I hope in him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 (NCV)

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Pause for Poetry-Still Upward

Still Upward

Author Unknown

taken from Streams in the Desert

Still upward be thine onward course:
for this I pray today.
Still upward as the years go by,
and seasons pass away.

Still upward in this coming year,
thy path is all untried.
Still upward may’st thou journey on,
close by thy Savior’s side.

Still upward e’en though sorrow come,
and trials crush thine heart.
Still upward may they draw thy soul,
with Christ to walk apart.

Still upward till the day shall break,
and shadows all have flown.
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
and stand before the throne.

Still upward be thine onward course:
for this I pray today.
Still upward as the years go by,
and seasons pass away.

Still upward in this coming year,
thy path is all untried.
Still upward may’st thou journey on,
close by thy Savior’s side.

Still upward e’en though sorrow come,
and trials crush thine heart.
Still upward may they draw thy soul,
with Christ to walk apart.

Still upward till the day shall break,
and shadows all have flown.
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
and stand before the throne.

Author unknown

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Shadows of the White City Book Review

Set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green, begins thirteen years earlier when Sylvie Townsend agrees to take care of the young daughter of a desperate immigrant from Poland, whose wife died during their voyage to America. Now, at seventeen, Rose Dabrowski disappears at the World’s Fair. This sets off a heart felt story filled with deceit, loyalty, deception, loss, sacrifice, and love amidst a wide ranging cast of characters.

With the help of her boarder, Kristof Bartok, Sylvie searches through the streets of Chicago for her adopted daughter. When Rose is found, however, all is not resolved. Decisions must be made which threaten the very thing Sylvie holds most dear.

Jocelyn Green is a master of descriptive writing, adding historical detail to every story she writes. Shadows of the White City is no exception. Within these pages you experience the great expanse and magnificence of 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, as you walk through it with the book’s characters.

If you enjoy well-written historical fiction with a touch of romance, then Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House for a fair and honest review, which is exactly what I gave.

Have you read this book? If so, what was your impression of it?

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Hearing But Never Understanding

Photo by Brannon Naito on Unsplash

One of the health issues I struggle with is an inner ear disorder called Ménière’s disease. I won’t go into all the specifics of the disease in this post, but if you’re interested, you can check out the link.

For me, Ménière’s causes dizziness, ringing in the ears, and loss of hearing. Most of the time it’s more nuisance than anything else. When it is full blown, as it has been recently, I find myself hearing but not quite understanding, dizzy and off balance, and in a state of sensory overload.

My recent bout with Ménière’s is caused by the extreme arctic weather we’re having here in southeast Texas. Low air pressure and I do not play well together. My internal barometer has been known to predict a low pressure system’s approach 300 miles away. Honest. Throw in temperatures in the teens with windchill temps in the single digits, and I am not a fan.

As I deal with the extreme roaring in my ear, loss of hearing compounded by the extreme roaring in my ears, dizziness caused by the extreme roaring in my ears, and the sensory overload–you guessed it, caused by the extreme roaring in my ears, I think of a verse from the book of Isaiah, and mentioned several more times in the New Testament. You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

You don’t have to suffer with physical Ménière’s to suffer from spiritual Ménière’s symptoms. All it takes is a stubborn heart and a refusal to listen to the Prophet Isaiah, and Jesus.

In physical Ménière’s the constant ringing noise that drowns out clear and distinct sounds and words comes from inside the ear. In spiritual Ménière’s the cacophony of noise comes from outside when we allow world events and world beliefs to drown out God’s clear and distinct instructions given in his Word.

Feeling a little dizzy and off balance with Ménière’s can result from too much fluid build up in the ear, as well as too much salt or caffeine. Feeling dizzy and off balance in our spiritual Ménière’s life can result from too much build up of anything that pulls us away from God, as well as ingesting too much of anything that isn’t healthy whether spiritually, mentally, or physically. 

When my Ménière’s attacks are full blown and out of control, sensory overload, whether that manifests itself as sight, sound, or smell, are unbearable. The best thing I can do at those times is close my eyes, darken the room, shut the door, and rest. When all the sights, sounds, noise of the world descend in a spiritual Ménière’s crescendo around us, the best thing to counteract the worldly sensory overload is to unplug, turn off, disengage from those things, and reengage with the things of God in a meaningful, sincere way.

Then our ears will be opened to hear with understanding. Our eyes will be opened to see with perception. Our hearts, turned to God, will understand. We will no longer be hearing but never understanding or seeing but never perceiving.

Isn’t that what we all long for?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:  “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Acts 28:25-27 (NIV)

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Keep Our Focus On God

In January I participated in a conference for Christian women. Although today I will share several points from Alli Worthington‘s session on How to Partner with God and Stand Strong, which was geared to women, I believe men can also gain insight on how to keep our focus on God.

Below are thoughts I gained from Alli’s workshop, and are in no way word for word Alli. If you’d like to learn more about these points, check out her book, Standing Strong.

  • The enemy wants us to focus on why we can’t. God wants us to focus on him–the God who can.
  • When we agree with Satan’s lies, instead of what God says about us, we’ll stay stuck and focused on our self.
  • Self-doubt is one of the enemy’s most powerful tools. Believe God and shake off the chains of self-doubt.
  • Standing strong is about getting out of our own way and tapping into the power of God in a new way.
  • God is the source of our real power. He’ll guide us. We’re asked to show up, say yes to his invitation, and do our part of the work.
  • Whatever dream is in our heart is there because God chose us to partner with him to accomplish it.
  • God gives the skills and talents to fulfill his purposes.
  • When we live outside our comfort zone, we have to hold onto the comfort of God.
  • Our fear will make us feel insecure. God will make us feel more confident.
  • Fear says we can’t. God says he’s able.
  • When self-doubt starts to sideline us, remember where our strength comes from.
  • What we’re doing for God matters. Satan will take notice and try to take us out with self-doubt.
  • Fear and overwhelm is not a sign we’re not supposed to move forward. It’s a sign we’re human.
  • Feel the fear and move anyway. Soon that fear will begin to back down.
  • Listen to the dreams God’s implanted in your heart no matter how improbable they may seem.
  • The God who called us is faithful.

Which of these key points resonates with you the most?

As I see it, the most important thing we can do to help us overcome the things that threaten to sideline us from doing what God calls us to complete, is to keep our focus on him.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. John 12:26 (NLT)

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Cowboy Poetry and the Story of Jonah

As I began this post, I realized I have posted several cowboy references in my blog posts lately. Cowboy book review. Cowboy soup recipe. And now cowboy poetry.

Cowboy poetry doesn’t have to be written by cowboys. Authors usually have some connection to the cowboy life to at least know a little bit about what they are writing, though. Veterinarian Baxter Black might be one of the most well-known writers of the genre. Pilot appreciates Baxter Black’s poetry so much, he named our last dog, Baxter, after the poet.

The following poem, The Lost Ranch Revival, is written by Brad Curtis. It tells the story of a cowboy, similar to the prophet Jonah, who runs from his boss’ assignment. You can find this and other poems in his book of Christian cowboy poems, He Holds the Reigns.

The Last Ranch Revival

Sittin’ in the bunkhouse,

Boss came walkin’ in.

Said, Jon your horse is saddled,

Waitin’ in the pen.

Ride over to the Lost Ranch,

We need help gatherin’ cows.

Jon said, You know them boys,

All they do is carouse.

As Jon walked out thinkin’,

Hope that hoss is slow

To ride over,

I sure don’t want to go.

The Lost Ranch was the worst,

Nothin’ but sorry hands.

Only thing they were good for,

Was changin’ cow’s brands.

Rustlers and cutthroats,

Every last one.

They’re all at the Lost Ranch,

Because they’re on the run.

Jon rode out of the gate,

Over the first mountaintop.

Out of the Boss’s sight,

He wasn’t going to stop.

The Lost Ranch was west,

Turned his pony east on the trail.

As hard as he could ride,

Givin’ the spurs to his ol’ broomtail.

Then the  storm hit,

Sand blowin’ from the east.

Felt like he was in the belly,

Of some giant wild beast.

This storm was blindin’,

The trail was a haze.

Seemed to last for weeks,

But it was only three days.

When the storm was over,

Jon’s pony came apart.

Thrown to the ground,

He had a change of heart.

Climbed back in the saddle,

Started headin’ west.

After all when it came to hands,

The Boss knew what was best.

Got to the Lost Ranch,

What a sorry spread.

No grass or water,

Everything was dead.

Lookin’ at them boys said,

My Boss is gatherin’ strays.

If you’ll ride for The Brand,

He’ll forgive your sinful ways.

One by one they saddled up.

Said, Jon we’re tired of this place.

We’d like to meet your Boss

And thank Him for His grace.

Jonah 3:1-2

If we remember the story of Jonah, we remember Jonah ran the opposite direction when God told him to go to Ninevah, that wicked capital of the Assyrians, and preach repentance.

After spending three days in the belly of a large fish, however, Jonah realized there is nowhere we can run from God’s presence. Once the fish spewed Jonah ashore, the prophet headed to Ninevah.

Like Jonah, we sometimes run from the assignments God gives us. There are as many different reasons for our disobedience as there are different people. Jonah’s main reason for running was because he didn’t want the Ninevahites to be saved. They were wicked. In his limited selfish human mind, Jonah believed they deserved God’s wrath.

Just as that is not a decision for us to make, it wasn’t a decision for Jonah to make either. God eventually punished Ninevah, but in his timing. Not Jonah’s.

Thankfully, God is in the business of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. I am eternally grateful for his mercies, which are new every morning.

All of us deserve God’s wrath. Apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as our LORD and Savior, we each face separation from God.

Do you have a favorite cowboy poem, or is this your first introduction to the form?

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”

 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish. Jonah 1:1-3 (NLT)

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Gluten-free Cowboy Soup Recipe

This delicious gluten-free Cowboy Soup recipe is courtesy of our sweet neighbor. After she shared here soup with Pilot and me, I had to get the recipe to share with you. It is full of vegetables and can be made with ground beef or ground turkey.

Roux

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free flour OR 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup butter

Make a roux with butter, flour OR cornstarch, and milk. Set aside.

Soup

  • 1 lb ground chuck OR ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red OR green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz can corn kernels, drained and rinsed (Frozen corn can be used instead if you want.)
  • 2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 3 cups chicken OR beef broth
  • 3-4 small potatoes, diced
  • 8 oz Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large pot, cook meat and onion. Drain and set aside. In same pot, stir together broth, corn, black beans, green chilies, potatoes, cumin and garlic powder.

Simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

Add meat back to the pot.

Stir in the roux and the cheeses. Cook on low until cheese melts and soup is thickened.

Enjoy!

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

Please enter your email address on the form located on the right sidebar to sign up to receive posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks!

Likes and Followers

courtesy pixabayLikes and followers. How important are they? In our world of around the clock social media, where buttons exist to like and follow just about anything, it seems our world believes likes and followers are very important.

In the world of publishing I have been told by editors that although they love my work, they won’t consider taking it forward to publication unless I can show X amount of followers across multiple social media sites and platforms. Likes and followers are important to them.

Apparently King David thought likes and followers were important as well. So much so,  he authorized the commander of his troops, Joab, to take a census of all the Israelites in the land from Beersheba to Dan.

David wanted to know how large his domain was. He wanted to know how many Israelites he ruled. Who knows what motivated the king to order the census? All we know from reading 1 Chronicles 21 is the census did not end well.

Joab, didn’t think the census was such a good idea. Although there were times God ordered a census, this was not one of those times. David’s desired census put the emphasis on David’s greatest. Not on God’s. It put David’s confidence in the number of men available for his army. Not in God.

Despite Joab’s protests, the king’s word stood. A census was taken. God was not pleased.

As a result of God’s displeasure over the census, God offered David three options. David was to choose which of the three punishments God would carry out against the Israelites.

Now then, dear David, decide how the LORD is to extract justice for your desire to count likes and followers.

Three years of famine. Three months of being swept away before your enemies with their swords overtaking you. Three days of the sword of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.

Not much of a choice the way I see it.

What about you? Which would you choose?

David chose three days of the sword of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel. Seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. As the angel of the LORD was poised to destroy Jerusalem, God was grieved because of the calamity. He told the angel, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”

David saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth, sword drawn, extended over Jerusalem, and fell facedown. David told God he was the one who sinned and did wrong by ordering the census. He asked God to spare the people and punish David instead.

A prophet told David to build an altar to the LORD. David did. There he offered a burnt sacrifice which the LORD lit. Then God told the angel to put his sword back into its sheath.

My favorite verse in this passage relates to David buying the threshing floor where he built the altar. “I will not sacrifice to the LORD something that costs me nothing.” You can find it in verses 18-26.

So. Likes and followers. How important are they? Jesus told his disciples to follow him and he would make them fishers of men (and women). Guess that’s the only kind of follower we need to be concerned with.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-2

You can find my February Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Cry Out to God in Your Distress

Have there been times in your life when you needed to cry out to God in your distress?

In my life there have been plenty of times I’ve cried out to God in distress. I imagine you may be able to say the same. Perhaps those times occurred during this past year. Perhaps they occurred at some other time.

The prophet Samuel’s mother Hannah cried out to God in her distress. As Hannah prayed in the Lord’s temple, her lips moved but no words came out. Because of that, her actions were misinterpreted by Eli the priest. The priest wasn’t kind, either. In fact, he accused the poor distraught woman of being drunk in the Lord’s house.

Romans 8:26-27 tells us the Spirit comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray. The Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is, because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.

I think when Hannah prayed that day, the Spirit interceded for her in groans words  could not express.

Although the priest got it all wrong and accused Hannah, God saw straight to her heart. God knew Hannah’s pain. He knew the injustice she endured at the hand of her husband’s other wife. God also knew he would grant Hannah’s request for a son. God  gave her Samuel.

Our actions may be misunderstood by others. They may misinterpret our distress. Conversely, we may misunderstand others actions and misinterpret their distress.

But the wonderful thing about all this is although others may misinterpret or condemn, God’s Spirit intercedes on our behalf. The Spirit takes our painful groans to the Father’s throne.

God sees the motives behind our actions. He hears when we cry out to him in our distress. He looks at us with grace. Not condemnation.

Like Hannah, we can take comfort in that fact.

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

One time, after they had finished their meal in the house of the Lord at Shiloh, Hannah got up. She was deeply distressed, and she cried bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. Meanwhile, Eli the priest was sitting in his place by the door.  Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time, and Eli watched her lips. She was praying silently; her lips were moving, but she made no sound. So Eli thought that she was drunk, and he said to her, “Stop making a drunken show of yourself. Stop your drinking and sober up!” “No, I’m not drunk, sir,” she answered. “I haven’t been drinking! I am desperate, and I have been praying, pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Don’t think I am a worthless woman. I have been praying like this because I’m so miserable.” 1 Samuel 1:10, 12-16 (GNT)

You can find my January Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

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