Wednesday, March 31, 2010

His Love is a Red, Red Rose: The Church’s Own Language of Flowers

by Susanne Dietze

As a writer, I love the Language of Flowers -- the symbolism attached to flowers which imparts a coded message, expresses a feeling, or describes a moral truth. While most strongly associated with the Victorians, the Language of Flowers actually has ancient roots which (brace yourself for a pun-fest!) blossomed into the medieval period and bloomed through the Renaissance. It exploded in the 1800's, and while its popularity has faded, floral symbolism still bears some significance today. For instance, a red rose means only one thing to a lot of us, and receiving a long-stemmed beauty sends one’s heart pattering. Add the components of a bloom’s rich scent and the soft touch of its petals, and the symbolism of a flower can go a long way for me as a romance novelist. I’m not the only one I know who incorporates a heavy floral theme into my stories.

Chrysanthemum/language of flowersImage by "T"eresa via Flickr

Much of the Language of Flowers seems quaint or curious to the modern reader, its codes temporal (and here I’m referring to Victorian-era symbolism. Other flower languages exist, notably Japanese hanakatoba.). Yellow carnations, for example, no longer communicate the desire to break off a relationship. Crysanthemums don't say “resignation” to their recipients any more. Fortunately, there’s no longer a downer of a connotation placed on lettuce: when my husband brings home a big salad, I’m gleeful that I have a vehicle for blue cheese dressing. A few hundred years ago, though, I might've been peeved that he considered me “cold-hearted.”

While the concept of a floral language might seem secular, Christians have long used flora (flowers, fruits and other vegetation) to symbolically convey moral, spiritual or emotional truths. Long before the printing press, manuscripts, stained glass windows, icons and vestments attested to a Christian "language of the flowers."

There are numerous Biblical examples of symbolism attached to plants. The olive branch reminds us of peace and God’s provision (Genesis 8:11). Almond blossoms indicated God’s favor in Numbers 17:1-8 and are still used in some instances as a symbol for Mary, mother of Jesus. Apples, though not specifically mentioned as the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 3, certainly bear the heavy burden of that connotation.

Palm Frond CompositionImage by cobalt123 via Flickr

Palms continue to serve as a symbol of spiritual victory, triumph, and glory. On the first Palm Sunday, bystanders tossed their cloaks and palm fronds on Jesus' path as he entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21: 1-11). Where I live, we’re able to cull the fronds from our own trees and bring them to church, where we celebrate with a hymn-singing procession around the block. Waving a palm frond provides a tactile way to feel connected to the triumph of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem.

The spiritual triumph denoted by palm fronds is also used for other purposes, such as the herald for Stephen, the church’s first martyr (Acts 6-7). Other symbols have survived the ages, too: evergreen trees remind us of God’s undying love. Wheat and grapes call to mind communion. Legend or not, St. Patrick’s use of the clover to describe the Trinity survives, and clovers, shamrocks and anemone flowers are still used as a symbols for the Triune God.

Many other symbols aren’t as popular today, but they still give me goose bumps: the pomegranate represents the Church, as it holds many seeds in unity within one fruit. Ivy signifies eternal life for its evergreen leaves, and fidelity to God because it clings for support. Red carnations, not roses, indicate pure love: that of Jesus for us.

DILO~March 20, 2008: Dogwood BlossomsImage by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr
While some symbols fade, others spring onto the scene and find themselves becoming the stuff of legend. Take Dogwood blossoms, for instance. This American bloom sports "wound marks" on its white petals, reminiscent of those suffered by Jesus on his hands, feet, and head when He was crucified. While Dogwood blossoms may not be an ancient symbol, they have come to symbolize Jesus' sacrifice to many Christians, though they are not as widespread a favorite as lilies. Emerging from the ground after a long, cold winter, the fragrant, gorgeous easter lily has served as a reminder (at least in America) of the new life we have through Christ’s resurrection.
Easter LilyImage by **Mary** via Flickr

The lily's pure white coloring has long served as a reminder of purity and innocence. Age-old artisans portrayed Gabriel with white lilies in hand when he visited Mary, his floral gift symbolizing her purity as he announced that she would bear the Son of God.

Perhaps this connection, as well as its seasonal availability, is one reason why lilies are considered a Christmas bloom, rather than an Easter one, in other climates. A friend of mine, transplanted from New Zealand, annually laments the lack of lilies in church on Christmas Eve here in the northern hemisphere. The availability of a bloom clearly has an important role to play in its use as a symbol, which is perhaps why some floral symbols have been lost (you mean you don’t have a centerpiece of Glastonbury Thorns at Christmas?).

My prayer for all of us this Holy Week is that we would bear spiritual blossoms of hope, purity, and faith in our own lives as we reflect on the power and meaning of His Resurrection.

What flower or plant makes you think of a particular holiday or special event?

Post, W. Ellwood. Saints, Signs and Symbols. Morehouse Publishing, 1962.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flower Power -- What are your fruits?

by Debra E. Marvin

Spring causes a chemical reaction in humans. (Narelle, enjoying autumn right now, will have to think back six months.) I wonder if it’s even more evident in those of us who live in cooler climates? Who could put into words the feeling that manifests itself in quicker steps and brighter smiles? All around us Nature bursts with anticipation. It’s catching.

Oh, and that lovely scent that makes us say "Spring is in the air"--soil bacteria becoming active. Sorry.

I live in a green part of the world—abundant ground water; lakes from small to ‘great’ and rain throughout the year. We have lots of shades of blue, and thousands of greens.
I’m a horticulturalist among other things. That means I’ve studied plants and their world of insects, diseases and the greater environment we live in. I love plant biology.

Their needs are not so different from ours. Food, water, fresh air and a place to call home. And as for ‘procreation?’ (here we could discuss the differences between needs and wants . . . ) Plants are hormone driven, too!

Jesus often used the plant world in his parables and teachings. I could do a whole post on the benefits of a good "pruning" now and then. But let me stick to roots and shoots, seeds, a crown, and how flowers make fruit.

Photosynthesis makes plants the only living things on earth that make their own food source: Last summer’s leaves 'synthesized' energy--let’s call it carbs--which moved down into the roots. Winter comes and roots grow while the rest of the plant looks dead. Spring returns! Hurray. Roots (and hormones) give the go ahead and leaf buds open out to start a new season of energy-making, or flowers appear. Here’s where plant science gets really crazy.

Flowers, whether they are breath-taking or utilitarian aren’t there just for our pleasure but are blatant sexuality on the plants’ behalf. Flowers make seeds or in some cases, fruit to carry those seeds for a new generation. (Conifers are a different ilk, and their "flowers" are 'cones' but that’s just way too much to explain.)

And yes, a cucumber is technically a fruit but I don't want it on my ice cream.

The juncture of the roots and shoots is called the crown. How cool is that?

People may not see your roots but they see your shoots. IOW, We never know a person’s heart but we can see their actions.

If you call yourself a Christian, do your actions go 'through the Crown' so you are living in the truth of your roots each day? If you are rooted in the Gospel, it should be apparent. Are you willing to produce the fruit a hungry world needs? Does that fruit contain the seeds for a new generation?

And just because I love this song ...
The video I've included gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. Please share it with me as I dedicate this post to my soon-to-be-born second grandchild!
Indescribable by Chris TomlinFrom the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing GodTree photo by Aaron Escobar

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring in Australia

by Narelle Atkins

It's autumn here in Australia and the beautiful fall leaves will soon start dropping in preparation for winter. I’m looking forward to spring, after we get through a cold winter with morning frosts and maybe a light snowfall this year if we’re lucky!

In Australia, we know spring is coming when the native Australian wattle trees start to bloom. The sea of yellow along the side of the road brightens a chilly August day.

More than 850 species of wattle trees grow in Australia. Wattle has adapted to the Australian environment and can be found in every part of the country. It usually flowers from late winter through spring, although some varieties flower at other times during the year. The Golden Wattle is also our national floral emblem and September 1 is National Wattle Day.

I have a love-hate relationship with wattle; it looks very pretty but I know my hay fever will kick in as soon as it comes into bloom!

Spring time is all about flowers, and a local tv weather man here in Canberra is determined to keep flowers on our radar all year round. Each night he wears a different flower on his lapel, and tells us about the flower during his weather report. My nose twitches and my eyes start watering when I see him wearing wattle flowers.

Canberra (our national capital) is known for tulips. Floriade is a popular flower festival that is held in spring in Commonwealth Park, on the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin. The flower displays at Floriade are amazing, and it’s so relaxing to wander through Commonwealth Park on a clear spring day admiring the tulips.

For those who live in the northern hemisphere, enjoy your gorgeous spring weather. And for those of us in the southern hemisphere, we only have 5 months to wait for spring to return!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Ultimate Renovation

by Niki Turner

I've always used the words "remodel" and "renovate" interchangeably, but they aren't the same.

To remodel something is to change its form, function, or style - upgrading kitchen appliances and cabinets, or enlarging a living area by taking out a wall, for example.

It used to be fairly common to remodel clothing. Minor adjustments, like adding a bustle to the back of a gown, or changing the neckline, even turning a dress inside out and resewing the seams to hide fading or stains, served a frugal and fashionable purpose.
Renovation, on the other hand, is the practice of restoring something to previous or better condition, like an old house, and antique piece of furniture, or a classic car. It also means "to give new life or energy to something."

To renovate, you first must remove the things that have been added to the item, then make necessary repairs, and finally refinish the item according to its original design. Renovation can be a long, tedious, and costly procedure. Just ask God, the master renovator! He's been working on a particularly difficult renovation project for the last 2000 years: the human race.

For everyone who comes to Christ, ultimate renovation is freely available. Through the price Jesus paid, we can be restored to God's original design. Where sin, foolishness, and the traditions of men have left us with multiple coats of chipped paint and broken parts and dents and dings, the Master is ready to clean us up, heal our wounds, and make us new again.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Cor 5:17
Remember the Six Million Dollar Man? He wasn't just remodeled, he was renovated. All his broken bits were replaced with parts that were better, stronger, faster.
Photo: Wikipedia  

So it is with us. God, who put us together in our mothers' wombs and has all our days written in his heavenly planner, wants to take us into his workshop and lovingly, carefully, restore us to the blueprint he originally had in mind.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:10
Don't settle for a cheap remodel job with plastic parts from the discount store. Don't just accept another coat of paint when you know there's a horde of termites chewing holes in your innards. And don't give up when you run into bad wiring, or rusted plumbing during the process. God's not concerned about it, why would you be? (Does Bob Vila panic over mold behind the tub, or rot under the roof? No, because he's an expert!)
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:1-2
So what if you look a mess on the outside... renovation is never pretty until it's all finished, and no one expects it to be! The important thing is that you continue to get together with your Master Craftsman and let him keep working on you, until the day he brushes off the last of the sawdust and declares you a finished product.
"...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6
Photo: H.Dickens
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's Coming Up Next?

March Showers & April Flowers
With daffodils mad footnotes for the spring,
And asters purple asterisks for autumn -
~Conrad Aiken

Sunday, March28
Niki Turner ~ The Ultimate Renovation

Monday, March 29 - Friday, April 2
Monday ~ Narelle Atkins
Tuesday ~ Debra Marvin
Wednesday ~ Susanne Dietze
Thursday ~ Dina Sleiman
Friday ~ Susan Johnson

Saturday, April 3
Book Review ~ Lisa Richardson

See you all around the Inkwell!

Did Avatar Leave You Feeling Blue?

by Jennifer AlLee

My family and finally I saw Avatar. It cost $33 for my son, husband and I to attend the 3-D version, so no snacks for us. But so much has been said about the mastery and technical awesomeness of the film, I didn't want to miss the chance to see it on the big screen, awkward glasses and all.

In a nutshell, Avatar is the story of the Na'vi. They are uber-tall, blue, almost cat-like people living on the planet Pandora. They are in touch with nature. They live in harmony. And the sky scraper tree they call home just happens to be sitting smack dab on top of a rich strain of Unobtanium. Not only can the mineral help the Earth (which has naturally depleted all its resources) solve its energy crisis, but it's worth about a bazillion dollars an ounce. You know what that means... if they won't give it to us, we'll take it by force. Human scientists and ex-Marines are able to interact with the Na'vi via the use of avatars: biologically engineered bodies that can be controlled when the user is in a pod-like machine.

You can probably figure out where the story goes. And I'm sure you've seen some of these characters before. (Colonel Quaritch is such a clichéd, over-the-top, nothing-good-about-him bad guy, he comes across as funny when he's not meant to be). What made Avatar spectacular wasn't the story as much as the delivery. The 3D effects are pretty awesome. James Cameron (who wrote and directed the movie) has every right to be proud of his accomplishment. He created a world that captivated people and drew them in.

In fact, it might have drawn some people a little too far in...

On January 11th, ran an article reporting that, after seeing Avatar, some fans were feeling pretty blue. Over at a fan forum site there have been over 1000 posts on the Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible forum. Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, had this to say:
"Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far. It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect."
This article made me stop and think about people being so taken by the virtual world they'd be depressed that they couldn't be part of it. For me, while Pandora was beautiful and full of bizarre, intriguing things, it always felt like I was watching extremely high quality computer animation. That doesn't take anything away from the movie, I just never felt like I was taken to another physical world.

A lot has been said about whether this movie demonizes the military or is something to be laid on the altar of pantheism. I don't think either is true. The biggest good guy in the whole movie is ex-military. And yes, there's a "let's live in harmony with nature" message (which James Cameron admits he wanted to get across to people.) I don't think there's anything wrong with that. As long as we don't start worshipping nature, it's a good thing to take care of the world we live in.

One thing that might make my fellow Americans squirm is the outing of one of our oldest, and darkest, traditions: Manifest Destiny. That belief that if you have what we want, and you won't give it to us, it's okay for us to take it. Our country was built on this principal (just ask the Native American Indians). It's motivated by greed and not a pretty thing, but it's something we need to be aware of. While we don't call it that anymore, we still do it. Only now, individuals do it to each other. And thinking about that does make me sad.

All photos credited to James Cameron

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Poetry Throughout the Ages

In the spirit of this week's theme, today we will "reuse" some poetry by the masters. Notice the way e.e. cummings "reduces" his use of captial letters and punctuation marks.

Tu Fu
750 A.D.

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
...After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
...I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

Sonnet 98 by William Shakespeare
1609 A.D.

From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

in Just- by e.e. cummings
1920 A.D.

in Just-

spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan whistles

Do you have a favorite springtime poem? How about a spring image or memory?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Regift Without Looking Cheap

by Wenda Dottridge

You probably live on Mars if you aren't aware of the latest "save-the-planet" fad in our society's newly minted faith in world transformation. But even before regifting became the fourth "R" in the environmental trinity, it was a widely practiced dirty little secret. The environmental movement has made a virtue of passing on an unused gift to some poor unsuspecting friend or relative. In fact, this movement is so popular, it even has it's own youtube "how to" video:

I don't know about you, but somehow I'm not convinced. After all, gifts are well...precious. They don't just take money. They take thought and time and love. And maybe that's the problem. So much "gifting" lacks true sentiment. As a society we're overly generous with stuff but we're stingy with what matters most.

When my mother and aunts moved my grandparents out of the home they'd occupied for almost forty years they had a hard time convincing Grandma to give up so many of her nicknacks. To eveyrone else most of what filled their house was junk, but my grandmother could tell exactly who had given her each precious item in her small home, whether it was a spoon from one of her children's or grandchildren's world travels or a tea cosy I'd sewn for her for Christmas one year. She wasn't much of a hoarder otherwise, but she could never throw away a gift.

In order to get her moved into their new apartment, my aunts and Grandma settled on a plan. Grandma regifted most of the items to her eight children. Each one took a box of items they or their children had given to my grandparents. My beloved Grandma is gone now, but whenever I go to my mother's house, I can see the items that used to hang in my grandma's kitchen or reread years of letters and postcards from me and my siblings, many written from places all over the globe.

I received many precious gifts from my Grandma over the years, a few of them objects, but perhaps one of the sweetest is knowing how much she valued her family and our small gestures of love. To me, that is true regifting!

Her brand of "passing-it-forward" is that other kind of regifting. The eternal kind. The kind that says, "We love because he first loved us...." (1 John 4:19)

I was a Christian a long time before I learned what that meant.

As a fiction writer, I've learned a lot about developing stories around characters. Screenwriting guru Robert McKee probably says it best (although he's also probably the most long-winded) in his book, Story. He says, character is plot and plot is character. That means, the story evolves from the character's decisions and choices. The story is what the character does!

And isn't that just like life. Our lives are not what we say we want to do or who we say we want to be. Our lives are not the label we hang around our necks, the party, club, movement, or denomination we belong to. Our lives are what we do.

I have a ring, as in a piece of jewelry. (I tried to take a picture, but do you know how hard it is to photograh a ring?) It is a very ugly ring, so I don't wear it. But it sits in the top of my jewelry box and I see it every time I open the box to take out a necklace or nicer earrings for a special occasion.

This ugly ring reminds me about a kind of regifting called grace.

There is a long story behind the ring. It involves a hurt, broken woman, stolen property, lies, and then a swindle. To say I was upset and angry about the whole thing would be an understatement. But because this one time I chose to forgive as an example of Christ's forgiveness, a woman came to accept God's grace through Christ. Oh sure, I know there were others involved in her journey to faith, and there were probably many more significant moments in her struggle to accept Christ's love. She might not even remember the whole ring situation. But for me, this ugly ring reminds me that regifting grace can have eternal consequences.

I love Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I've read the whole unabridged story (in English), including every word of the eleven page description of the fields after the Battle of Waterloo without skimming. Twice. I've read to my children the abridged version over and over. Saw the musical in London. I gave my daughter the London original cast soundtrack. For me, this is the most powerful account in literature of the gospel. Justice did not reform Jean Valjean's life. It was grace. Unmerited grace freely given, and a life of grace offered in exchange. Now that is powerful regifting.

I'm still not convinced regifting actual presents is a good idea. I think it cheapens what gift-giving is for--an expression of love in a tangible form. But I do know that there is one gift we tend to hoard that we should offer more freely. That is the gift of God's grace, of love without limits. When we learn to regift grace all the time, we'll see our lives and our world truly transformed.

Images courtesy of:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reuse and the Gift of Giving

by Dina Sleiman

Yesterday D'Ann wrote a lovely post about "Reducing" clutter and linked it to an amazing spiritual principle of getting rid of the junk in our own lives. One of my best friends, Kim Upperman, would probably be the first to admit that she could use a few lessons in actual decluttering, but her reasons for a cluttery house come out of the best spirit possible.

Kim has the spiritual gift of giving. For as long as I've known her, Kim has been involved in benevolence ministries, but a few years ago, she learned a technique for taking her giving to a whole new level.
She discovered freecycle!!!

Now, anytime Kim sees a great stash on freecycle, she just has to go pick it up in case somebody she knows might need it. Her living room has become a perpetual sorting area for great gently used items that "somebody" might need. And she does a surprisingly good job at sorting through it and divvying it out to all her friends.

You might read this, and assume that Kim and I and all of our friends must live in government housing or a trailer park or something. No. For the most part Kim's circle of friends live and thrive in the surburban Virginia Beach area. But Kim does not believe in throwing good things away. And I agree. It's wasting. It's poor stewardship.

In addition to Kim's passion for giving, God has also given mankind a responsibility to subdue and care for the earth that he has made for us. Not to strip and to rob it blind. Not to turn it into a giant waste dump. To love it and treat it with respect.

Kim largely funded a missionary trip to Romania for one of her many boys (she has six) by picking up "trash" that people dumped on the curbside and selling it at a yard sale. How's that for a good use of resources!

Her lunacy...I mean passion, reached yet another new level recently when she discovered that a clothes drop off near her neighborhood YMCA had a tiny sign on the side near the bottom saying the clothing actually is shredded to make rugs. Kim has now taken to "reallocating" some of the beautiful designer clothing, especially when the bags don't quite make it all the way into the dumpster. She doesn't have a problem with turning raggedy old clothing into carpets, but she knows people assume their nice clothes will be going to others in need, not the shredder mill. Can't you just imagine her sneaking in there at night with her giant maroon van to heist the trash bags full of jeans and shoes?

Okay, I admit that the second picture isn't really Kim. I found it on google and couldn't resist. And while Kim's habit may make for an amusing post, the truth is, I have the greatest respect for her and her gift of giving. She also has a gracious gift of hospitality, and no matter how messy her home with six boys, two dogs, a husband, and her personal recycling center might get, friends are always welcome for conversation and a cup of coffee. Kim puts people first. That's her true gift.

Maybe today this post is a gift to Kim. One of my gifts is encouragement. Each of us have our own gifts, our own special place of fitting into the body of Christ. Let's use and reuse those gifts today. Kim may not be winning any "Spring Cleaning" awards this season, but I know many, many rewards await her in heaven for her generous spirit and her kind heart.

What are your gifts? How are you involved in caring for the earth? For others?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Confessions of a Former Pack Rat

by D'Ann Mateer

I came by it honestly. My paternal grandmother kept everything. When my aunt cleaned out her house after she died, my aunt packed that stuff into her already full house. I don’t think my father has willingly thrown away an article of clothing in his entire life. So I fit comfortably into my pack rat skin for many years. I kept cards and flowers—even after they had dried up and begun to crumble—and clothes and books. Old pairs of glasses. Calendars long out of date. You get the picture.

When my parents moved after my senior year of high school, I was spared the agony of “cleaning out” since I worked out of town that summer. Then I married and had children and continued my pattern, adding kids’ drawings and clothing and blankets and shoes and toys.

Somewhere along the way, my little house grew cluttered. I had no more room to store stuff. Something had to go.

I thought I would die the first time I threw something away. But I didn’t die. In fact, I found a freedom in letting go of my “stuff,” even when it had a memory attached. I learned to weed through several boxes and reduce them to one. And my sentimental heart was assuaged with that one. I learned to cull books, applying my test of “if someone asked for a book to read is this one I’d want to have on my shelf to loan.” I reduced the clothing in my closet, at first due to economic necessity, then by swallowing my pride to (gasp!) wear the same things over again before half a month had passed.

In all my renouncing of my pack rat ways, I have also learned that “reducing” means more than de-cluttering. I have a friend whose goal this year is to reduce at every level of her life—her stuff, her body, her emotional and spiritual baggage. It’s a good goal, because just as our outer lives get cluttered, so do our inner lives. We need to “spring clean” ourselves, to take inventory of our faults and our failings and our weaknesses, ask the Lord to do a new work, to clean out the back closet that hasn’t been opened in years, the one that smells of mildew and hides scary things under webs of dust. And just as we feel freedom from the paring down a closet or a bookshelf, letting the Lord poke His vacuum into the recessed corners of our hearts brings that clean feeling of freedom from within.

I’ve found this to be true in my own life. To let go of vanity or selfishness or fear or anger is to take on a new freedom, an easy yoke, as Jesus says. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:20-30.

I don’t know about you, but I want a light burden, both in my house and in my heart. But I have to be willing to let go in order to gain. So it is in the upside down kingdom of God.

So how about you? Do you reduce systematically or sporadically? What do you do with your castoffs? What is the most difficult area for you to de-clutter, both inside your house and inside your heart?

Sunday, March 21, 2010


By Jill Nutter

I’m doing a study with my church called, FREE. It’s a six week series and I couldn’t wait to dive into it. The first chapter is about following your dreams. How blessed I am to have lived long enough to see the beginning of my dreams coming true. I have a three-book contract! Amazing. Simply, and perfectly, amazing. It’s been a long climb, and I persevered, not knowing if I would ever achieve publication.

I want you to hear this as a message of encouragement. That no matter what your dream is you can begin it now, not knowing the outcome, but maintaining the hope and enjoying the journey; the climb. I think you've all heard Miley Cyrus sing, The Climb. Have you listened carefully to the lyrics? The first line of the song is: "I can almost see it, that dream I'm dreamin, but there's a voice inside my head sayin, you'll never reach it."

Don't listen to those negative voices inside your head. Those are lies staight from the pit of hell. Satan does not want you to succeed, especially if you are following the path God wants you on. He will tempt you, taunt you, torture you with self-doubt and self-loathing.

This is when you must climb into the Word and wrap it around you like a warm blanket.

Now week two of "FREE" was not easy. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this digging up of old wounds. It didn't surprise me at all that I like to escape. I didn't have the easiest of childhoods, but I felt like I'd dealt with it and moved on and I believe that. BUT, there's always a but isn't there? Now I've completed week two where I discovered that it's still possible that I may feel rejected and unloved. Rejected?I'm a writer! I've been rejected for years. Most of us writers are at one time or another, and for a long time. BUT I can't help but wonder if experiences from childhood, of feeling rejected or not good enough, have led me to the writing life. Weird, huh? Has anything like this happened to you?

As a counselor I think there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with lifes disappointments and hardships. We can allow rejection, fear, and self-doubt beat us up and then give up, OR we can find ways of coping, like writing, that can not only help us cope BUT allow us to thrive.

happiness Pictures, Images and Photos

Be aware that if you've ever been deeply hurt or rejected by people througout your life or at a particularly vulnerable time, that you don't start feeling rejected by God. That's what I uncovered in week 2 of "FREE." I still harbor fears of rejection in this life, not the writing rejection so much, but the rejection that leads to feelings of abandonment. Jesus overcame difficult circumstances and so can we if we will only wrap ourselves in the blanket of his love and of his Word and listen.

The scripture that's been speaking to me lately is Psalm 34:4, I sought the Lord, and he answered me; HE DELIVERED ME FROM ALL MY FEARS.

So what scripture has been calling to you lately? Do you have a former belief or behavior from which God has freed you?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What's Coming Up Next?

Join us this week and 
get inspired for some spring cleaning!

Sunday, March21
Jill Nutter ~ The Climb

Monday, March 22 - Friday, March 26
Monday ~ Reduce ~ D'Ann Mateer
Tuesday ~ Reuse ~
Wednesday ~ Recycle ~ Patti Lacy
Thursday ~ Regift ~ Wenda Dottridge
Friday ~ Poetry Day ~

Saturday, March 27
Jennifer AlLee ~ Book Review

See you all around the Inkwell!

REVIEW - The Lord is My Shepherd by Debbie Viguié

from Jennifer AlLee

For years, the trend in Christian fiction has been to make books as ecumenical as possible. So when a church is mentioned, it's usually given a generic name that could fit almost any denomination. Debbie Viguié makes a bold move in The Lord is My Shepherd. Not only does she make her mystery-solving church secretary a Presbyterian, but then she pairs her up with the Rabbi from the temple next door. Together, Cindy and Jeremiah must unravel the clues leading them to a serial killer. As they are constantly thrown together, they forge a bond of trust and friendship that transcends their religious beliefs.

Here's a glimpse into the book:

Cindy’s church is getting ready to celebrate Easter, and Jeremiah’s Temple is preparing for Passover when Cindy literally stumbles over the body of an unknown man lying dead in the sanctuary. The church was locked, and a bloody cross necklace on the floor seems to be the only clue. The killer is likely a member of the congregation, but there are hints that similar deaths have happened in the past. Are Cindy and Jeremiah dealing with a serial killer? They have to unravel the clues before Easter Sunday arrives and more people die.

Cindy and Jeremiah come from two different worlds, even though they work right next door to each other. Cindy is a strong Christian who lives a normal but somewhat dull life, working as a church secretary. Jeremiah is a Reformed rabbi with a mysterious past full of danger and excitement. But one eventful Easter/Passover week, the two find themselves working together to solve a murder and stop a serial killer from striking again. Solving the mystery should put an end to their alliance, but the church secretary and the rabbi quickly find themselves enmeshed in another mystery. Soon the two form a friendly alliance and friendship, exploring personal history and faith and growing closer with each passing adventure. Despite their differences Cindy and Jeremiah find a lot of common ground
Viguié's book packs a double whammy. First, it's a great mystery. As the clues unfolded and the tension increased, I found it harder and harder to put the book down to deal with my own real-life issues. Second, it's a wonderful story of two people from two very different backgrounds who discover that, at heart, they're not so different after all. The friendship that grows between Cindy and Jeremiah is very sweet, and what they learn about each other's faiths is illuminating.

The Lord is My Shepherd is the first of The Psalm 23 Mysteries, so fans of this book will get to meet Cindy and Jeremiah again when I Shall Not Want comes out in Fall 2010. It will be interesting to see how Viguié handles the friendship between her Presbyterian secretary and the intriguing Rabbi. If it blooms into something more tinged with romance (which many readers will expect it to) there will be some controversial faith issues to deal with. But I'm confident this series will deliver in stellar fashion. Kudos to Viguié and to Abingon Press!

NOTE: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for reviewing purposes.

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