By Tonya Jewel Blessing from the Bible study, Soothing Rain
Chris and I live in the bush. To get to our home a four-wheel drive vehicle is required. The road is rough, rutted, and extremely sandy. The other day as Chris and I were traveling, Chris muttered just as he hit a large rock, “Hold onto your bosom.”
Several days after Chris’ comment, I was visiting with a woman in one of the local townships who speaks Sotho. Conversing was limited. The woman was sitting under a tree washing dishes, and I was sitting on a log next to her.
The elderly lady touched her partially exposed breasts and then pointed toward mine. It’s not uncommon to see mammaries in South Africa, even at church.
I’m not sure what my friend was saying. She might have been asking if I have children, telling me that she needs a bra, asking my size, or even indicating that she needed food for her orphaned grandchildren. When I didn’t respond, she talked louder and, like my car ride, held onto her bosom.
Sometimes we just need to hold on. Life can get bumpy, and the ride can get tiresome. Sometimes the rockier the road, the more thrilling the destination, thrilling so that we shake our bodies with laughter and need to hold onto “the girls.”
In Colorado, the road home would sometimes be rough and rutted also. We never know what we will see because of a rut, or from the top of the hill, or what lies just beyond the bend.
I was teaching a class of second and third grade gifted readers a number of years ago when during group reading time one of the students read aloud the word “bosom.” He then proceeded to explain to the others what the word meant. It was very titillating for the children and caused me to laugh out loud.
Over and over again in Scripture, we see rocky and rough life paths producing miraculous and thrilling adventures.
We serve a great God. He is with us on the rough roads and the thrilling rides, so get ready to hold onto your bosoms.
Questions for this devotional/conversation starter by Sue Summers.
Life can indeed “get bumpy.” Summarize a time in your life that was especially “bumpy.”
Some of the women mentioned in the Bible are Ruth, Esther, the widow at Zarephath, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Select one of these women, locate and read the story about her situation in Scripture, and then summarize her need to “hold onto her bosom.”
Read the story of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, in Genesis 17:1-19. Explain how this story fits with the comment: “Over and over again in Scripture, we see rocky and rough life paths producing miraculous and thrilling adventures.”
Why do you think God chooses “rocky and rough life paths” for us? Explain your thinking.
Jenny Fulton, author of PRINCESS LILLIAN AND GRANDPA’S GOODBYE
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, NASB)
Have you ever come across those people who seem to be great at everything?
What about the individual who is working a full-time job, doing ministry after work, and can still find time to work on some DIY project? Of course, the house always smells like freshly baked goods.
How about a married woman with kids who stays at home, homeschools, runs a successful business and keeps her house in immaculate shape?
And then, there is this married man with kids who works all day, does chores and spends time with his family after work, fixes everything in the house himself, and studies late into the night?
Yes, these people appear to do it all; they seem to have it all together.
I am definitely not one of these people.
My floors are littered with toys and goldfish, my walls covered in crayon. I struggle to get through a full day’s schoolwork with my second grader and write in the mornings or whenever I can squeeze it in.
I can’t do everything well, and according to scripture, that’s okay.
According to 1 Corinthians, God actually created members of a community to complete and complement each other’s efforts. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter three, he describes the different roles he and another preacher, Apollos, played.
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s bfield, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9, NASB)
The big picture cannot be completed alone.
While the Christians in Corinth argued over which human leader they show follow, Paul redirected their attention to the bigger picture. Neither he nor Apollos were meant to be or provide everything the church needed. They’d each been given a role, a single task in the big picture of God’s work. Paul had been used to plant the seeds of the faith; Apollos had been brought to water and nourish it to the next step. Both had been used by God for a specific purpose. Neither was meant to do it all.
Later in the book, in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes a group of believers as connected digits and limbs of a physical body. Each part has been given a unique ability to be used in a specific role. These limitations in our individual abilities force us to need each other, inspire us to come together, appreciate one another, depend on one another. Our strengths enable us to help others while our weaknesses encourage us to receive help in return.
I’ve seen these principles of collaboration play out in my writing journey.
While some writers successfully go the self-publishing route and learn how to do every step of the process on their own, I soon realized I wasn’t able, and didn’t desire, to follow that path. I don’t have time to learn how to do everything and to get good at it. This means I must seek out others in the industry to do what I can’t.
After I wrote my picture books, I found other writers to help me develop the ideas and identify any errors my familiarity with the text may have skipped over.
I joined online writing groups to learn and connect with others in the industry.
The bulk of the work, and the most challenging part of the collaboration, came when my first picture book, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye, was accepted for publication by Capture Books. In some ways, this was the perfect partnership, for it would fill so many of the gaps I had in my knowledge and experience. They would take care of the illustrations, formatting, and uploading, help me with marketing.
However, collaborating also means giving up control. It means recognizing when the piece God gave you has ended and trusting the input and vision God gave others to carry the book forward.
At first, I was hesitant when my development editor, Laura Bartnick, first presented her vision for the illustrations, for I couldn’t envision the final result. Since God hadn’t given me that piece, it was like staring into a void while someone else described a vivid and scenic view on the other side. Saying yes to her ideas and agreeing to work with the illustrator she recommended was like stepping out into complete darkness with no guarantee that my foot would touch solid ground.
Every uncertain step brought light to the words I’d written. As the process went on, as the illustrations came in, my eyes opened to an incredible panorama filled with yellows, blues, reds, and greens. The end product was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined. Trusting is rarely easy, but the eventual destination is worth it.
God didn’t create us to live and do everything on our own.
I am now in the position to celebrate the strengths of collaboration on my book.
He made us to live in community, to need one another.
Part of living and working together means acknowledging that we can’t do it all, and that’s okay. And the truth is, even though some people appear to be the exception to this, they also have weaknesses and struggles. They have props and crutches and a support system that looks different to mine. Even the most put-together looking person needs others to come alongside to help and encourage them in their weaknesses.
Alone, we can’t do it all. Together with God and each other, anything is possible.
Book Blurb for Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye
Can two worlds exist at the same time?
Little Princess Lillian learns the spiritual world can interact with the physical. Imaginary is used to explain a reality, how heaven reaches down to earth as a young girl observes her grandpa awaiting his entrance into his eternal home.
How do you explain death and heaven to a child?
Led through a long hall in a hospital, Princess Lillian holds her mom’s hand as an angel whispers comforting words.
Incorporating bits of Native American and Christian tradition, an intimate celebration of a loved one’s passing occurs as a family says good-bye to a man eager to meet his best friend, the King Above All Nations.
Jenny Fulton is a wife, mother, children’s book author, YA fantasy author, blogger, and freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an endorsement in K-12 ESL. After graduating from Grace University in 2007, Jenny worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both abroad and in the United States. She is a storyteller, a follower of Christ, and a seeker of truth.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny grew up hearing stories from her dad about the supernatural workings on the Navajo Reservation. Her days are now mostly spent raising her three young daughters (homeschooling two of them) and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
Jenny is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faithwriters.com, and is an author with Capture Books.
You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.
Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.
If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turn–of–phrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.
Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.
Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.
We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give usloud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.
I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .
God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.
“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.
“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”
Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.
There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby. I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.
Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.
I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:
Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”
I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!
Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.
By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns series
I’m one of those pray-without-thinking-too-much-about-it sort of people.
I pray about parking spaces. I walk around the lake near our home and just talk to God about the birds and turtles, the sunrise and sunset, about family struggles and many, many things. Often, the welling up of joy and surprises in nature and certain wonders of those who pass by me or walk near me make me cry in praises and gratitude.
I thank God for this and that. I wrestle with God in tears about people and issues, and my wants and needs. Sometimes beautiful poetry will come to me in that space. I wonder if walking with the Lord is simply talking to Him about everything and listening closely enough to follow as He talks back to us.
It’s the week of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
When I was struggling in a really dark spot in my life, the Psalms became deep wells of teaching for me. Once, when I was apologizing to the Lord for dragging Him through the mud and cow patties with me, sorry for bringing down His holy name to such a low level, I saw an image of him sitting next to me in a mud puddle, cross-legged, and grinning at me with a missing tooth. Half naked, and smeared with something disgusting, he said so very gently, “I’ve been dragged through much worse. You think I’m afraid of sitting with you in this mess? There’s nothing you can do to me that hasn’t been done before.”
In meditation and prayer in the Psalms, I began to understand what people had prayed for years ago when they were betrayed or when they had experienced insufferable losses, or when they suffered in post-trauma over their sins or others sins against them. That was when I began setting the five books of biblical Psalms to music that I could sing and remember.
Many of the Psalm Hymns are praises as we know and understand them to be, with the power to lift our minds out of our circumstances and place them on the Lord. But, in addition to these types of Psalms, there are those that offer experiences of grief, pleas to God as to a doctor or a priest or a king, someone who has the power and credentials to save us.
Psalms also include some moments of pedantic teaching to engage our minds even more than our emotions. Each of these Psalms also offers some striking spiritual landmarks for life. A way to get up and go forward in trust and faith.
Psalm 78 starts out this way, sung to the tune: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks (Bound for the Promised Land)
My people, hear my words of teaching;
Listen to my words.
I begin with a parable of old
And will speak to the hidden yore, —
These are things our people have heard and known,
They are things ancestors told.
Should we try to hide them from our own
Descendants, who need to know?
Psalms can be specified as prayers to God.
But, because praying is also a communal form of conversation, the Psalms are definitely bright bits of meditation and self-talk. They were given to God’s people for the purpose of spiritual reasoning with one’s self, self-counsel. So, in that way, it is a means of God praying back to our hearts and minds and will. The Psalms are truly a two-way conversation with the Lord.
The words of this Psalm 78 informs me that there are hidden treasures and parables in the Psalms and in the stories of our spiritual ancestors that we need to know and we need to pass along to our littles and our teens asking those deep questions.
Moses wrote Psalm 91, which for all the seriousness of Moses’ reflection, I have aligned with the Doxology. Most of the Psalms were written by King David, or by someone, a scribe in his court maybe, so it was interesting to me to get a King’s take on God’s law when people where saying law makes no difference to a walk of faith. I really struggled, you know, with what I believed about law and whether following the ten commandments was legalism. Through the Psalm Hymns, an understanding about God’s heart for how the commandments offer healthy limits, and a healthy community was forged.
The law wasn’t a mode to salvation, but it was a mode to loving one’s neighbor, a mode to justice and mercy and self-restraint, a mode to honoring our Maker.
A verse of Psalm 119 about the value of the law sung to the tune: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine
O, that I sought You in Your commands!
Shame would release its hold of my hand.
I would have praised Your judgments in all;
I would have seen You, righteous for all.
You rule uprightly; this I discern!
Now I observe Your statutes and learn;
Oh, do not leave me, LORD, take my hand!
Do not forsake me! LORD, help me stand.
There are Psalms that recount how the waters were separated from parts of the earth and put into boundaries, like in Psalm 24, or Psalm 104. Here is a verse of Psalm 24 sung to the hymn, At Calvary (It starts out, “Years I spent in vanity and pride. . .” did you ever sing that one in church?)
All the fullness of the earth begun,
Land and spaciousness for everyone,
All of it including what may come:
It is the Lord’s!
For He founded it upon the seas, drawing limits,
Drawing floods and springs.
Who shall come to Him, ascend His hill?
It is the Lord’s!
A verse of Psalm 104 talks about this, too, sung to the great hymn by Isaac Watts, I Sing The Mighty Power of God.
You covered earth with waters deep
As with a garment drenched;
Above the mountain heights they stayed.
Rebuked, the seas retrench;
As voices of Your thunder played,
They hastened to their place!
Now, far away they rest in pools
And valleys where they stay.
These Psalms are wonderful teaching tools for a Bible study or a music ensemble because when the words of scripture are combined with music, our spirits soar to the heights in mysterious ways, and with the soaring of a spirit comes questions and mysteries to talk about and pray about.
One music group used the Caroling Through the Psalms book during Advent season.
They spent the summer arranging and building parts and solos, and in the season before Christmas, they sang on the mall, at retirement homes, and in churches in their community. It was a life-changing experience to anchor their modern holiday experiences in the past prayers and testimonies of others.
God as my judge, and our judge — so often prayed to in this capacity in the Psalms, reminds me to expect justice and mercy from Him, but there is more! Did you know there is a Psalm written specifically to judges who do not judge righteously? Here is the first verse of Psalm 82 sung to The Battle Hymn of the Republic (and it only gets better).
Standing in the great assembly,
God presides and takes His place;
He is rendering His judgment
To the gods of earth’s dismay.
His decree begins by reasoning:
“How long have you displaced
The weak and fatherless?”
God presides to judge the jurists;
Earth is trembling in her footsteps;
God inherits all the nations.
Our God is over all!
To bolster confidence in depression, Psalm 27 centers me every time I sing it and amazingly, I can sing it to several tunes! Immortal, Invisible works brilliantly. Any version of Away in a Manger works wonderfully, and I will reserve the best tune in a minor key as listed in Caroling Through the Psalms.
The Lord is my Light and my constant Estate!
Then whom shall I fear when His Stronghold is safe?
Though evil advances against me for ill
To slander, devour me all will be well.
My rivals and enemies stumble and fall.
Though armies besiege me, I fear none at all;
Though warriors may shake down a valiant defense,
Then yes, God alone is my sheer confidence.
This one thing I seek and I ask from the Lord,
To hold my insurance for life at the Source
To gaze on His beauty to seek His embrace
For here in my trouble He will keep me safe.
Another Psalm to reach into the core of my heart and pull out the dark secrets of worry and doubt is Psalm 139. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I praise God every time I sing Psalm 139, and I can sing it now to the tune Open My Eyes that I May See this way.
What if I ride the wings of dawn?
What if I move to seas beyond?
Yet, even there your power abides—
and there your hand will be my guide.
What if I isolate in gloom?
begging the night to be my womb—
Yet, even there Your Presence shines!
Where shall I hide?
You made the inward parts of me—
You know my body’s mysteries.
Knitted my limbs in my mother’s womb—
Wonders performed, there’s none like You!
Your workmanship is marvelous—
Deep in my soul, I know it is!
No-one knows how You wove my frame—
Physics of God!
I can also sing this Psalm to the rollicking favorite of old town Christians, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, which Psalm 139 is also arranged for in Book Five of the Psalm Hymns.
When you worry about the power and legacy of evil people who seem to cheat death, Psalm 49 explains the path of these financial estates and those who follow the words of evil counsel, there is a Psalm for that. Sing it to the tune, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.
Hear this, all nations of the world;
You great and small in heart,
You rich and poor together hear
My wisdom on the harp!
My meditation shall be clear as understanding prose:
The proverb and the riddle sing
As I explain them both:
Why should I fear when danger comes
Confounded enemies, — The ones who put their trust in wealth
And boast iniquities? For no one’s assets can redeem
The price of human life;
Each costly soul is ransomed by
Our God who sets its price.
What could we pay that God would trade
To let us out-live time?
Immortal like, enjoying life
In rich estates sublime? For one can see that wise ones die, And fools, they all pass away. They leave their wealth to other hands. Their homes become their graves.
Estates are named to flatter pride
Of pompous heirs below
But generations pass on by
Those silent wealthy bones.
Despite one’s wealth, the flesh won’t last; For humans die like herds;
There goes the path of the arrogant, And those who follow their words.
In Book Five, you will find the Pilgrim Psalms, the Psalms of Ascent for tours to the Holy Land. But in each and every book, you will find Psalms that are simple prayers and pleas to the Lord for help and rescue. Like Psalm 88. It can be sung to Lord, Plant My Feet On Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way.)
You are my Lord, the God Who saves;
You rescue when I cry in faith.
Oh, hear another prayer to You;
Oh, turn toward my anguished soul.
I’m overwhelmed with troubles, Lord;
See how my breath in whispers pours.
They’ve counted me among the dead;
And lacking strength, my friends have fled.
One of my favorite praise Psalms in Psalm 147, sung to the tune, Wonderful Love of Jesus! (When We All Get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!). If you have difficulties remembering these old hymn tunes, you can look them up on YouTube or in Hymnary.org. Here is a link for this song. https://hymnary.org/text/sing_the_wondrous_love_of_jesus_sing_his
Praise the LORD! O Praise the LORD from heaven!
Praise Him from the bluing atmosphere!
All His angels—hosts of armies—praise him!
Praise Him far and near!
Praise the LORD—sun and moon and all you
Twinkling starry crowns!
Praise the LORD! Every vapor—
Every particle, resound!
Let His creatures everywhere give praise—
For their bodies and their very lives.
His command is their existence—placing
Each where it survives!
His decrees are forever; they will never
Overturn or end.
Praise the LORD from the earth, and
From the ocean depths ascend!
Finally, I will leave you with one of our most beloved songs of victory and praise, Psalm 150.
It is sung to the old hymn, Love Lifted Me (I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore).
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
Celebrate God in might!
Praise Him for celestial power—
Praise Him for heaven’s gates!
In His sanctuary—praise—sounding the trumpet loud!
By Tonya Jewel Blessing from the Bible study, Soothing Rain
Some of us are preserved from the experience of dealing with death or the question of heaven when we are young. Other’s lives are forever affected by the tragic death of a parent still needed for a child’s safety and comfort.
While doing some research recently on the internet, I came across this very moving poem:
“Mommy went to Heaven, but I need her here today. My tummy hurts and I fell
down; I need her right away.
Operator, can you tell me how to find her in this
book? Is heaven in the yellow part? I don’t know where to look. Maybe if I call
her, she will hurry home to me. Is heaven very far away; is it across the sea? Help
me find the number please; is it listed under ‘Heaven’?
I can’t read these big, big
words. I am only seven. I’m sorry, operator. I didn’t mean to make you cry. Is your
tummy hurting too, or is there something in your eye? If I call my church, maybe
they will know. Mommy said when we need help, that’s where we should go.”
I know some of the poem’s phrases are outdated. Most people don’t use the Yellow Pages these days, and, with computerized services, operators are a rare commodity. Yet the yearning of a young child for his or her mother moves my heart. All kinds of thoughts and images of the child came to mind.
How long has his or her mother been gone?
Who is taking care of the child?
What does he or she look like? Who is reading this seven-year-old bedtime stories and rubbing noses for Eskimo kisses?
When I read the last stanza, I am brought to tears, “If I call my church, maybe they will know. Mommy said when we need help, that’s where we should go.”
There are churches all over our cities that are resourceful and safe places for grieving families to go. But the church is more than a name, a building, or even the pastor. According to Scripture, believers in Jesus are the Church.
As women who know Jesus, we’re the mothers to those who have no moms. We’re the ones who tend to tummy aches and bandage scraped knees. We read stories and place gentle kisses on the tear-stained cheeks of the hurting.
We give voice to the struggling, abused, and bruised.
We dig wells, feed the malnourished, and find jobs and homes for struggling young adults.
We know the secrets of heaven, and hold keys that help others who are caught in grief and uncertainty find a place of rest and peace.
Most of us have never worked as a telephone operator. But we have worked and will continue to work in sharing our time, resources, and the truths of eternity with those struggling in our communities and around the world.
If you know of a child who could use some comforting wisdom, I’d like to introduce you to a debut author in our publishing group. Jenny Fulton’s story, Princess Lillian and Grandpa’s Goodbye is precious, a valuable book in the library of any teacher, parent, or grief counselor.
Watch a scene from Tonya Blessing’ Appalachian novel, The Melody of the Mulberries set during the early American Spanish Flu epidemic.