Discover New Worlds

Kid reading the Book. EducationBooks take you to new worlds. Your mind tramps through new places and situations, but your feet don’t get muddy. When you read my books you walk through some of the same fascinating cultures and sub-cultures I have encountered as I grew up in American, lived 16 years in Taiwan, and now live in New Zealand.

During my 35 years of writing for Christian publication I’ve seen the publishing world turned upside down. In Taiwan I reached out to Chinese people who knew little about Christianity with ESL Bible studies. In New Zealand I’ve needed to tailor church programs and puppet scripts to fit a small mission church in various stages. In recent years I entered a new world of cooking as I learned to cook gluten-free recipes for my celiac husband. I want to use this website to share these resources with others. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

You may also want to follow my weekly blog in which I talk about subjects of interest to writers and people in ministry. I hope these posts will bring hope and help to others in ministry.

Interpreting from One Love Language to Another

goldfish in an aquariumFeeling unloved and appreciated?

Maybe you live far from your family and they don’t write or call. Maybe you pour out your life in ministry and it seems like no one notices.  You may have just achieved an important goal and your friends barely recognize it. You wish your husband would surprise you on your special birthday or anniversary with an amazing gift, but he underwhelms you with a cheap gift card. You planned an important celebration and someone very important to you didn’t take the trouble to attend.

Doesn’t that person care about you? Doesn’t he understand what that small gesture would mean to you? If only she would notice one thing you do right instead of three things you do wrong. How could they miss an event that means so much to you?  Would it kill him to help you when you are working to exhaustion? Is that cheap gift he gave you an indication that romance is dead?

I hear your pain. I also know that continuing to think like that could give you a lot more pain. The aim of this blog is to give you a more productive way to deal with disappointment like this.

But first let me go back to the 1980’s when Art and I attended a marriage enrichment conference taught by Gary Chapman. He presented a new idea that opened my eyes to an important concept. People generally receive and give love in different ways. He presented the five love languages which are so well known today: Words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  The basic idea is that people may be showing you love in their love language, but you don’t get the message because it isn’t your love language. The reverse is true too.

Since the book The Five Love Languages was first published, Gary Chapman has added books about love languages for other relationships. This book did more than help me in my marriage. It helped me understand people in my church.

For example: Someone in our church hands me a gift. Maybe it’s a jar of jam, veggies from their garden, a pretty candle, or a plant. As I smile and reach for the gift my mind immediately goes into overdrive. Why are they giving me this? I don’t need this. What will I do with it? Will they be offended if their plant dies? Now that they’ve given me a gift I have to think of something to give back to them. I wish they would have taken the money they spent and put it in the offering instead. They don’t need to give me anything. Why don’t they just thank me for something I’ve done that helped them or mention one thing I’m doing right around the church?

You can see the problem. Their love language is gift-giving, mine is words of affirmation. We live in New Zealand, a country where, compared to some other places in the world, people are generally not effusive with their praise.  So I have a choice. I can continue to feel unloved and unappreciated and spiral down into depression. Or I can choose to translate their love language into mine, putting the best possible slant on it.

Let’s say a lady in our church hands me a jar of Vegemite, which you pretty much have to grow up in New Zealand, Australia, or the U.K. to stomach. I accept the jar with thanks and I interpret the gesture in my own way. “What she is really saying,” I tell myself, “is, ‘I appreciate what you do for our church,’ or ‘Thank you for talking to me about my problem.’” Later I give the jar to someone I know will enjoy using it. She gives me love in her love language. I accept it in mine.

Face it, some people just can’t or won’t speak your love language.  You have a choice: Feel unloved and unappreciated or adjust your expectations and interpret their love language into something you can understand.

This is especially important today when people communicate in such a variety of ways. I love email. I like to figure out exactly what I want to say, when I’m thinking about it, and send it to someone who can read it at their convenience. Overseas missionaries were probably one of the first groups to embrace email because it works so well when you are living far away from someone, in a different time zone with sky-high postage rates. I loved email from the start. I stay close to my email and try to give very prompt answers.

But I absolutely hate to text. Years ago we bought a very basic cell phone, mainly for emergencies. We seldom need to use it, except for texting people who don’t own landline phones. If I send a text, I will inevitably be frustrated, will send the shortest message possible, and will expect to explain it all to the person next time I see them.

As a writer, it should come as no surprise that I feel most comfortable crafting my words and sending them in writing. Some people, however, feel intimidated by having to write their thoughts. They may not be good spellers or they may feel writing letters makes a matter much more formal than simply talking it out face to face. For some people, texting is by far the cheapest and easiest way for them to stay in touch, and they love it.

So if a strong emailer, who likes to write long letters, communicates with a strong texter, who stays close to her phone, both sides may be frustrated.

You may wish some friend or family member would write you a long newsy letter and ask about you and your life. But some people just aren’t writers. They don’t write letters to anyone and they aren’t going to start with you. It doesn’t matter that you live far away and are hungry to hear from them. It’s just not something they do. Maybe they don’t phone you either. If you are overseas, they may not even have a calling plan that includes overseas calls. Or maybe they don’t think to call, or don’t have anything to call about.

In ministry, it’s easy to feel like a goldfish—visible to all, but closed off from friendship that could look like favoritism. You keep busy serving the needs of others, while they may not understand your needs at all.

As a missionary you may wonder why churches expect to hear from you regularly, and perhaps not one of the pastors of your churches has ever sent you a letter once or phoned you. As shocking as this concept may be, very few pastors write letters to their missionaries. As a missionary, you can resent this, but you probably won’t change it much.

This lack of attention may feel like neglect. It can make you feel bitter, angry, or hurt. It can destroy relationships.

What’s the answer?

  1. Change your expectations.

Some people are just not huggers. Many husbands don’t have a clue about what to buy their wives, and each decade of marriage only makes the choice harder. Some people can’t analyse a situation and see where you need help. Some people don’t understand the need to quit doing something useful to spend time with a loved one doing something that doesn’t seem useful. Some people feel very awkward praising people with their words. You want them to do something that they can’t do or don’t know how to do or feel uncomfortable doing. Realize that they may care about you, but not be able to express that in a way that is most natural to you.

  1. Interpret their actions into your language.

Look for the way they express appreciation or concern. Someone who is constantly handing people little gifts or prizes may be gift givers. If they give you a gift, accept it with the realization that they are expressing love and concern for you in their love language. Give the best possible slant to interpreting that gesture. And you might consider giving something back to them, not out of obligation, but as a way to express love and appreciation for them.

Some of the other love languages may be expressed in more subtle ways, but when you sense someone is reaching out to you in a way you possibly don’t understand, accept their gesture even if it isn’t your main love language. Consider how you can reach back to them in a similar way.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the Golden Rule. Jesus taught the concept. It won’t work well, however, if you are doing for others what you want them to do for you, in spite of the fact that you are doing something they don’t want you to do. I believe the meaning of this rule comes closer to this: Treat people well in a way they can appreciate in the same way that you would like to be treated well in a way you would appreciate. The motive for doing things for people should be helping and encouraging them in the way that works best.

So what do you do when you don’t know what their love language is and you don’t know what to do? I just do what the Lord puts before me. When I sense someone needs encouragement I might say something nice to them or tell them I’m praying for them, invite them for a simple meal, praise them to their son or daughter, give them some roses from our garden, phone them or send an email, give a hug or pat on the arm, or whatever thing the Lord puts on my mind. It may not be the perfect way, but at least I am trying, and I have to hope that will count for something.

Realizing that I don’t always know the best way to connect with people reminds me that the reverse is true. I need to accept their gestures of appreciation and love, and I hope they will accept mine, however awkwardly offered.

[image by Enika100/Deposit Photos]

More Evidence of God’s Work

Water drops folling from a bamboo leafA couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about why I write. I shared with you some of the results of Mary’s story, our book Edges of Truth, and similar stories of innocent caregivers who are accused and convicted of abuse. A coalition of accused families has launched a petition to be presented to Congress asking for an objective evaluation of today’s medical guidelines for diagnosing child abuse. This is a beginning of challenging mistaken medical assumptions that has endangered innocent families for decades.

Less than two weeks later I have more news. On March 20 an article on shaken baby syndrome came out in the Washington Post. The author, Debbie Cenziper, has been in contact with us for about a year as she wrote this extensive article. While Mary’s case is not mentioned by name, Ms. Cenziper had interviews with Mary and her lawyer (the book’s co-author) Steve Brennecke and read many of the trial transcripts. This Washington Post article points out the dangerous practice of diagnosing shaken baby syndrome on the basis of three brain injuries alone. In Mary’s case, some doctors found these injuries in a baby who quit breathing while Mary cared for her. The doctors testified that Mary had to have shaken and possibly slammed the baby during the baby’s last 42 minutes with Mary. Many other innocent caregivers can tell a similar story. When medical experts found these injuries in a baby, they believed the last person with the baby had to have shaken it to death. This article challenges this assumption.

Mary’s case and our book are only a small part in the process of change, but all those parts put together are beginning to make a difference. Praise God, he can use the little things we do, in combination with the little things others do, to make great changes. With God’s help, our lives can make a difference.

[image courtesy of Andrejs-Pijass/Deposit Photos]

 

Bible Story Books for Kids Aged 5 and Under

mother and daughterThis blog is written by my daughter, Lisa. She has done extensive research on finding good books for her kids and recommends these resources for parents and grandparents to buy for younger kids.

I remember sitting on the couch with my husband, his hands on my pregnant belly. We were listening to Christian music and discussing how we would pass our faith on to our children. Since that time, we’ve been on the look-out for good devotional materials for children.  We’ve made it a tradition to expand our kids’ Bible library each Easter, finding something that fits their age and needs. Consider good Christian devotional materials as a gift to bless family members or friends at baby showers or birthdays.

Here’s some we’ve enjoyed:

 Bible Story Books

Age 2 and Under

What Did Jesus Say and Do? by Helen Haidle, Illustrated by Nancy Munger

This board book has simple, rhyming text and a Bible verse with each spread. I often find the earliest Bible story books use so many baby animals and flowers that they make Jesus look “cute” (not the message I want to portray.) These drawings did not give that sense, but were still pleasant and colorful. The book starts with Christmas, touches on Christ’s boyhood, then moves through His baptism, ministry, Passion Week, and Easter. Now that I have more than one child, board books can entertain the little one while I’m reading to the older one.

Age 3 and 4

My First Read-Aloud Bible, by Mary Batchelor and Penny Boshoff

This Bible story book includes more stories than most books for this age—about sixty each for Old and New Testaments. Each spread contains a very short and simple text about the story and includes the Bible reference at the bottom. The information given usually comes straight from Scripture without added imaginary details or interpretive comments. The drawings are colorful, a bit like cartoons but not silly or irreverent. I appreciated the inclusion of some of Jesus’ parables, not just His miracles. There are long sections for Christmas and Easter as well. (Material on the Psalms, prophets, epistles and Revelation is sparse.)

Ages 4 and 5

The Story Bible: 130 Stories of God’s Love, Engelbrecht and Pawlitz, editors

The vibrant, detailed full-page paintings attracted me to this edition. The pictures are a notable exception to many books whose pictures have an out-of-date feel to them. The layout is inviting as well, with a partial or full-page picture on each spread and ample room for the text.

The text of the stories is taken almost verbatim from Scripture, though shortened. While this sounds admirable, it doesn’t work well: helpful explanations are lacking and many inconsequential details are retained. I wish the publishers had adjusted the text for a smoother, but still accurate, retelling of Scripture. Sidebars include questions and prayers which are phrased assuming the child is saved (you may want to adapt or skip them based on your child’s spiritual interest.)

 Psalms for Young Children, by Marie Helene Delval, illustrated by Arno

The author paraphrases part of forty Psalms in simple language. Each selection is accompanied by a full-color drawing of children—playing music, sitting by a brook, standing on a mountain. A friend reports that this book helped her young daughter work through emotions during a difficult long-distance move. I like this book because it introduces young kids to the Psalms and gives ideas for worship and prayer. Kindergarteners or first-graders could use this book as a early-reader as well.

 The Big Picture Bible Storybookby David Helm, Illustrated by Gayle Schoonmaker

What makes this Bible storybook different than most is how it traces overarching themes in Scripture in a simple way that kids can understand. In the Old Testament portion, we learn about God’s plan for mankind and man’s repeated sins and idolatry. The New Testament portion describes how Christ is able to restore us as individuals, the growth of the church and His plan for us in heaven. The author seeks to interpret the Biblical narrative; at times, we disagreed with his terminology (for example, whether or not Acts describes the growth of God’s Kingdom.) Also, some of the drawings were too whimsical for my taste.

 Other Resources

 Music

Lullabies: Songs for Quiet Moments, from Discovery House Music

This twelve-track CD is unique because many of its songs focus on Scripture passages (for examples, “You Knew Me” echoes Psalm 139, “Love God” reiterates Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22, and A Parent’s Prayer echoes Micah 6:8.) Several songs are reworked from past children’s hymns and a few of the songs are simply nice lullabies without a strong spiritual message. We’ve enjoyed this CD as an introduction into nighttime for our kids for many years.

 Bible Memory

We’ve recently begun using the Foundations verses with our young kids. It’s a list of 75 basic Bible verses published by Bethlehem Baptist Church. It includes simple pictures as memory prompts for the children and verses are in the ESV. These are accessible in several formats; I use the Foundation verses section included in the smart phone app for their adult Scripture meditation program, Fighter Verses.

Other Bible memory program for young children include: ABC Memory Book from Scripture Memory Fellowship (KJV or NKJV) and the ABC memory verses printable from Icanteachmychild.com (NIV, NLT, etc.)

 Coloring Books

Several reproducible coloring books are available that include pictures from all parts of the Bible narrative. Here are two I have used:

Thru the Bible Coloring Pages for Ages 2-4, from Standard Publishing

Simple coloring pages that coordinate with the 2s and 3s curriculum from the same publisher. This book has a Bible picture on one side and a modern-day application picture on the other. Over 200 pictures.

Bible Story Coloring Pages, (set of books)  from Gospel Light

Over 100 stories included, a picture on one side with simple text retelling the story on the other. Reproducible by the original purchaser.

These reviews are my honest opinion. I did not receive any compensation from the authors or publishers, but write about the materials as a service to other parents looking for Bible resources for their kids.

[image courtesy of Syda_Productions/deposit photos]

Why I Write

zEdges cover with awardOn discouraging days you calculate the time it took you to write a book, divide that by the amount of money you made on it, and moan about writing being the poorest paying job on the planet. You wonder why you put yourself through all the work and ups and downs of writing for publication. Yet something deep within you wants to start planning the next book. Why? You are a writer.

To be fair, writers are not the only ones who feel this passion to create. Quilters search for patterns, dig through fabrics, plan, dream, measure, cut, sew, quilt. Few of them would make minimum wage for hours spent. Classic car guys seldom restore old cars purely for the money it earns them. Athletes, musicians, gardeners, and cooks strive for excellence rather than dollars.

I feel this when I write, yet as a Christian writer there is something more. I feel it when:

  • a 9-year-old girl says, “I read your book ten times. It taught me what I should be like when I moved to a mission field with my parents.”
  • a new reader finds my book and says, “Your book deeply touched my heart and life. There are so many parallels between my life and your novel.”
  • a missionary says, “I’m using your ESL Bible studies and one of my students just got saved.”
  • I don’t hear from readers, but know that God has led me to write and “my labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

Writing books is a risky business. It doesn’t come with guarantees. I look to the Lord to lead me from project to project, do my best to write and promote, and leave the results with him. Most often I don’t see how God may be using my writing, but once in a while I catch a glimpse that God is using my writing in more ways than I can see. This is one of those weeks.

If you’ve been following me at all you know that the Lord led me, a few years ago, to write Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story. Mary was a godly Christian woman from Marshalltown, Iowa who was providing childcare for an 11-month old baby when the baby quit breathing. Though Mary administered CPR and called 9-1-1, within a day the child died. Before long Mary was charged with first-degree murder. Some of the doctors were convinced that Mary had shaken and slammed the baby because of certain injuries that cause medical experts to diagnose shaken baby syndrome.

Editors and agents wouldn’t touch this story because they felt it happened too long ago and Mary wasn’t a celebrity. But Mary, her lawyer Steve Brennecke and I felt the Lord leading us ahead. We published this book in November of 2013. This story has moved my own heart as I wrote it and others have told how it has challenged their faith. Mary has spoken at quite a few events since then, some of them with secular audiences, to show how God worked in her story.

We wrote this story to give God the glory for the amazing things he did in Mary and Steve’s life, but we also wanted to shine the light on an American legal problem that continues today. Medical experts are using controversial interpretations of medical findings to accuse or convict innocent people of child abuse or murder. Each year hundreds to thousands of parents or caretakers are accused, and sometimes convicted, of child abuse because of unproven medical theories. This kind of evidence sent Mary Weaver to prison. Later she was completely exonerated, but we want our book to spotlight the problem.

In the last few months, two total strangers wrote to say their sons had been accused of abuse in similar situations.

This week we see a bit of progress. A coalition of accused families has launched a petition to be presented to Congress asking for an objective evaluation of today’s medical guidelines for diagnosing child abuse. This is a beginning of challenging mistaken medical assumptions that has endangered innocent families for decades. Mary, her story, and our book is one small part of that effort.

That’s why I write.

See the book trailer here.

If you would like to know more about this petition, check out these sites:

The petition itself: http://tinyurl.com/InnocentFamilyPetition

A companion website: https://protectinginnocentfamilies.wordpress.com/

List of example cases: https://protectinginnocentfamilies.wordpress.com/cases/

 

 

 

 

Search for Significance

Routeburn+ 051I’m sure some of my friends wonder about me. Why would I spend a year or two of my life and invest money into self-publication, all to produce a book that is not guaranteed to sell and even less likely to make me much money?

I thought of that this week on Facebook when I shared a Facebook post about a lady who crochets animals. The intricate elephant is the size of a fingertip.  These animals look impossible to make and I shared them because of a friend of mine who crochets. A different friend commented, “Why?”

I know why. Why does a quilter spend hundreds of hours sewing a one-of-a-kind quilt that’s too nice to wrap around you on a cold night? Why does a mechanic spend years restoring a classic automobile that is too valuable to use every day? Why does my husband spend months training so he can run the 60k (37 mile) mountain trail of the Kepler challenge? It’s a basic need to achieve, to excel at something, a search for significance.

Everyone feels this need to achieve on some level, but for Christians, achieving for God’s glory is our basic purpose in life. All aside from eternal rewards, we want to please him, earn his smile. Often I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning because I have things to do, purposes to fulfil. I sense what God is leading me to do next and I can’t wait to get busy doing it. I do this for God, but he knows it is good for me too.

One of the reasons I’m currently working to build my writing “career” is that I want my life to have significance clear to the end. I’m sixty now and I could easily be in ministry for another ten years. What then? I’m learning that ministry doesn’t have to end at seventy, and that is even more true of a writing ministry than some other ministries. I want to establish a credible foundation in publication now so that I can build on it into retirement.

Today I received a blog entry from Maynard Belt, a retired pastor whose ministry it is to encourage others in ministry.

This blog was about Andrew Murray who lived and ministered as a pastor and author in South Africa.

Pastor Belt writes of Andrew Murray: Would you believe that, finally, at the age of 78, Murray resigned from the pastorate and devoted the last eleven years of his life to his manuscripts, writing profusely, moving from one book to the next with an intensity of purpose and a zeal that few men of God have ever equaled? He often said of himself, rather humorously, that he was like a hen about to hatch an egg; he was restless and unhappy until he got the burden of the message off his mind!

Writers, don’t you love that? Can you feel Murray’s zeal to communicate? Andrew Murray didn’t let his light flicker out at retirement. In his sunset years he pursued his writing ministry with fresh vigor, eager to get his message on paper where it continues to bless readers nearly one hundred years after his death.

I want to do that!

I look down the road at friends just a bit older than I, especially people who are nearing the end of their fulltime ministry or have just moved into retirement. They may feel their ministry is almost over but my heart calls to them: Your work is not done. I’m watching you. Teach me to live well into retirement.

What significant work are you doing today? It can be small and still be significant. You may be stumbling ahead in confusion, doing the next thing faithfully, seeing few results from it, and still leading a significant life. I’m convinced that significance will look much different on the other side of eternity.

So today, in whatever challenges life is throwing across your path, I want to encourage you to search for that significant task God has for you and do it well. God is not done with you or you would be dead.

I’m going to end my blog today with some words of encouragement from Andrew Murray. While he was going through a very painful experience in his life he wrote of these four comforting concepts to remember when you are going through a difficult trial:
First, He [God] brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest. Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child. Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow. Last, in His good time He can bring me out again–how and when He knows. Let me say I am here….by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time!”