April 9, 2018

Saints in Full Color

In memory and celebration of the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination last week, I decided to present two of my (many) favorite saints... one of whom is the patron of African Americans, and the other is a former slave.

Here we go!

St. Martin de Porres

Dates: 1579-1639
Patronage: African Americans, Barbers, Innkeepers, Hairdressers, Racial relations and Social Justice.

St Martin de Porres was a young man of mixed race, born in Peru in 1579. His mother was a African slave, his father a rich Spanish official. His father rejected him from birth because of his dark skin, and for most of his life he lived a destitute life with the poorest of the poor. He experience rejection both from the Spanish and from Africans, because he was neither black enough or white enough.

When he was 12, he was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon, who taught him both how to cut hair and how to preform minor surgery and other health care.

Soon after, he applied to the Dominican order as a lay helper, feeling that he wasn't worthy to become a full brother.

After nine years, he was accepted as a fully vowed lay brother, even though Peruvian law didn't allow mixed race man to take monastic vows. As a brother, he quickly became the head monk over the infirmary.

He often got himself in trouble with his superiors for treating people who were poor or of darker skin.

As the supply man for both the monastery and the chapel, he regularly ordered extra supplies to give out to the poor, becoming know as someone who would give out anything with reckless abandon.
Word went out on the streets that Brother Martin would give out "Blankets, candles, medicine, shirts, candy, miracles or prayers!"

His compassion extended even to the animals, where he permanently angered the cook by sheltering the mice and rats, saying that they were hungry too. His Abbot finally gave up and provided him with shelter for a motley assortment of stray cats and dogs.

Once, when he monastery was suffering financially, he offered to be sold as a slave to provide income for his brothers, saying, "I am only a poor little brown brother. I am the property of this order, so sell me!"

He is most famous for saying that all work is sacred, no matter how lowly or menial, and for selflessly serving all people, regardless of gender, race, creed, or wealth.

                                                          St Josephine Bakhita

Date: 1869-1947
Patronage: Sudan

Born in the Sudan, Bakhita was kidnapped by slavers at the age of 7.

She was owned by several slave masters, some of whom were pleasant to her, part of whom were unspeakably cruel.

In 1883, she was sold to the Italian consul, who took her back to Italy when his term ended.

Not long after her arrival, she was sold to a family friend, and became a nanny to his daughter.

When her charge entered confirmation, she too felt draw to the Catholic church, and in 1890, she was baptized and confirmed, taking the name Josephine.

When her family returned to Africa, she refused to go with them, and thanks to the efforts of the Nuns who catechized her, she won the court battle, and her freedom.

In 1893, she entered the convent of St Magdalene of Canossa, professing vows 3 years later.

She became her convent's cook and seamstress, dearly beloved by all her saw her beautiful smile or beheld her happy personality.

She became the de facto guardian of all the children in the town, providing all who needed it with food, clothes, school supplies, hugs, prayers, rosaries and big smiles.

Visitors to the Convent remembered her for her warm, charismatic personality and her sheepish embarrassment towards her struggling Italian.

Her unofficial title among the villagers was the "Little Brown Sister" and the "Black Mother."

March 28, 2018

Telling the Whole Story

A lot of my friends are excited about Easter...

I'll admit, I'm excited too... But not just for Easter. I feel like we're forgetting something amid the plastic eggs, Jelly beans, and plush bunny rabbits.

We forget the real story.

A story not easily rendered in pastels on a greeting card.
A story of pain, betrayal, torture and surrender.

That's why I don't just go to church on Easter morning when everything is bright and happy and the tomb is empty.
And that is why I present to you Holy Week.... in four clips of the Liturgy.

I go to church on Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gives us the greatest gift of all-- His own Body... Before wailing in the garden and being taken to be tried.
I will watch as the altar, formerly draped with the purple of Lent, is stripped of all color and left bare.
 I will be in church the following night when we read the text of His Holy Passion, and remember everything He did to win us back from the Devil.
I will hear the symbolic closing of the tomb, and leave in blackness and silence, just like John and the Virgin Mary left the tomb 2,000 years ago.

I will be in church again on Saturday as we hold a wake over the tomb, reading the promises and begging for the Light of Christ to shine again.
I light my candle in the hope that Christ has overcome death, hell and the devil.... and will help me overcome.
I will return on Sunday, filled with joy, and we will pronounce,
"He is risen!
Alleluia, He is risen indeed!"

 I pray that all of you have a blessed Holy Week, and wonderful Easter! 

March 16, 2018

Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited to be able to be a part of this cover reveal! You may remember that I featured Tricia Mingerink's Blades of Acktar series in my Top Five Books of 2017 post.... read that here.

So... when I heard that she was releasing a new book... the beginning of a new series, I was beyond excited.

And now, we have a cover image and a description!

Here it is!

Isn't it pretty?!  
About the book: 
A prince cursed to sleep.
A princess destined to wake him.
A kingdom determined to stop them.
 High Prince Alexander has been cursed to a sleep like unto death, a curse that will end the line of the high kings and send the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia into chaos. With his manservant to carry his luggage and his own superior intelligence to aid him, Alex sets off to find one of the Fae and end his curse one way or another.
A hundred years later, Princess Rosanna learns she is the princess destined by the Highest King to wake the legendary sleeping prince. With the help of the mysterious Daemyn Rand, can she find the courage to finish the quest as Tallahatchia wavers on the edge of war?
One curse connects them. A hundred years separate them. From the rushing rivers of Tallahatchia’s mountains to the hall of the Highest king himself, their quests will demand greater sacrifice than either of them could imagine. 
Release Date: May 28, 2018

About the author: 


Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn’t writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.
You can connect with her on FacebookPinterestGoodreadsTwitterInstagram, and her blog.

To make things even more exciting, Tricia Mingerink is going to be co-hosting a blog tour from May 22 to 28 with Sarah Addison-Fox to celebrate the release of both of their latest books. Her next book Dissociate releases May 22. More details about blog tour will be coming in April.  


March 13, 2018

Red and Yellow, Black and White...

I am a proudly confessional, liturgical, historical, Biblical Lutheran. I sing out of the Lutheran Service Book each Sunday, use Luther's Morning Prayer almost every day, sing A Mighty Fortress with gusto and cross myself obsessively.

I am also a Lutheran in the eyes of people.... that must mean I take liturgically colored gelatin cubes to potlucks, adore tuna noodle casserole (I mean hotdish), drink lots of black coffee, have German ancestors, and, of course, hate change.

Thus, the famous Lutheran joke....

How Many Lutherans Does it Take To Change a Lightbulb?



Or, this alternative answer.....

Enough to create a Light Bulb Committee to address these topics:
1) determine first if they need a new light bulb
2) If they determine they need one.... debate if it is worth the change
3) Research different light bulbs and present their findings to the church council who can make a recommendation for the congregational vote in November.
4) determine if they need a "change the light bulb team" to help turn the ladder while someone holds the bulb.
5) Arrange a service of dedication for the new light bulb
6) propose to the budget committee an estimated yearly cost for keeping the new bulb lit (which will ultimately be cut from the budget in 2012)
7) Find an appropriate Martin Luther quote about light to put on the bulletin the first Sunday of the new bulb so everyone knows what "Luther would have thought about a new light bulb"
8) call the seminary to make sure it is not unconfessional to use a light bulb that may have been made by Baptists.
9) seek out private donors in order to avoid a capital campaign fund to afford a new bulb.
10) Have church split because the largest donor's great-great grandfather donated theoriginal light bulb 50 years ago.

There's just one problem. I am a devoted, happy Lutheran who is mostly of Scotch-Irish and Cherokee background, with maybe four splashes of German and a bit of English. I speak with a drawl, eat fried okra, chicken livers, pecan pie and sweet iced tea. I don't drink coffee. And, most scandalously of all...
I prefer the front of the church, not the back pew.

But, really, let's be honest.
The Garrison Keillor, "Lutfisk, hotdishes, coffee and Jell-o Lutherans".... are dying.
Baptized membership in my denomination, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, is down by 2 percent.
Communicant membership is down by 1.5 percent.

None of the American Lutheran denominations are growing.... all of them are either holding steady of shrinking.

But all is not lost.

In 1910, 93% of the world's Christians were in Europe or the Americas.
Only 1.4 percent were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Now, 23% of the Christians in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In 1910, 4.5% were in Asia/Pacific.... now it's 13 percent.

Technically, the US still has the most Christians.... followed by Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Philippines, Nigeria, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany and Ethiopia.

But, counting Christians in China is notoriously hard, and most of the sources I read figured that in all reality, China is probably the country with the most Christians.

Nigeria has twice as many Christians as Germany.
Brazil has twice as many Catholics as Italy.
There are THREE TIMES as many Lutherans in Africa as in the US and Canada combined!

Of the 17 countries with more than a half a million Lutherans....
6 are African,
3 are Asian.

There are three African Churches that have more members individually than the LCMS.... The church in Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Tanzania.

The fast growing Lutheran Church... also one of the fastest growing the in world... is the Mekane Yesus church of Ethiopia.

The other thing it keep in mind is this--
Not only are African Lutherans gaining more converts... the age of marriage is lower, and the number of children per woman is higher.
Acording to this map, most of the countries experiencing the most Lutheran growth have an average of at least 5 children per woman.
And, this list tells us that most Africans are marrying in their early twenties or even late teens.
 It's not a bad church growth policy to think about!

So, no, the typical Lutheran is no longer a German eating hot dishes... or a Swede eating lefse.
It's a Ethiopian eating Injera, or a Malagasy eating romazava.

All together now!

"Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world,
Red and Yellow, Black and White,
They are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world!"

Besides, the more colors the better!

Bonus clip:

March 4, 2018

Letting Down Her Walls

Hello, down there!
Up here....
I'm the one in the tower!

No, you can't come up here.... it's too dangerous.

Nothing like that! The stairs are perfectly well maintained.... it's too dangerous for me.

Well, you see if  you came up here, I might have to let down my carefully constructed walls, and be vulnerable. I can't do that. Someone might hurt me.

Of course people have done that before! That's why I came up here in the first place.

Let me explain. You see, people don't really want to see your true self, they want to see the neat and clean version. They don't want to get the pain from my heart dumped into their arms.... that's called oversharing. They don't want to be forced to respond to cries of grief that don't have answers.

You think I'm cynical? Well, I probably am.

But it's safer this way!

I've seen it! I'm just working off of experiences..... Just basing things off of real life.

No, I do let some people in.... some of the time..... After a they've had a background check, passed the SAT, and found the Holy Grail. Then I let them in.

You think I'm missing out? Well, I don't think so. I mean, I'm lonely, and a lot of the time I wonder why I feel so isolated, but I know it's for the best.

It's safer this way.

No, I do leave sometimes! I leave on occasion, when properly attired in Kevlar, combat boots, and a full face mask. No, it doesn't help with making friends, but.....

It's safer this way.

Oh, no, I've never had problems letting Jesus into my tower, I just make sure I've cleaned everything from top to bottom first. Can't have the Son of God in here without sterilizing everything first.

I wonder sometimes if people realize there's more to this girl than what they see. All they see is the crisp, clear put together me. What would happen if they saw the hurting, struggling, raw me. But they probably would recoil in horror.

It's safer this way.

Of course, it's possible that they would help me, listen to me, share advice and gift me with prayers..... but they also might gossip about me, or think I'm not strong... or leave me sitting in my tears....

It's safer this way.

You say that you promise to listen to me? You say that I can't say anything that will scare you off? Prove it!

But, I can't come down.... it's too scary.

Yes, I suppose you can come up here... But let me clean up first.

I don't have to Clorox everything before you come up? But then you'd see the mess.... you'd see that I don't have everything together.

That's the point?

Well..... I suppose you can come up here.


Well, here it is.... I know it's messy and covered in pain....

You don't care?

Nobody's ever said that before.

What's that?

Oh. I painted that a while back... it's not very good...

You like it? You're just flattering me.

You look serious....

Come down?! Show other people my art? But, that painting is my soul in canvas and oil paint! I can't! They'll laugh at it!

I guess I could try. But if it hurts I'm coming straight back here!

Who are all these people?

They want to help me? I'm not sure I deserve the help and friendship of all of these people.

Well....here goes nothing......

They like it! They really like it!

Hey.... thanks... I needed to do this.

Do you know if there's a cottage down here I could rent?

Maybe start going to church with you?

February 24, 2018

A Passionate Hope Book Review

I'll spare you from my words for a little longer.... but here's a book review!

And, of course, the requisite disclaimer..... I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review....

With that out of the way, here's the description from Goodreads!
Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love, for each other, for their God, and for his tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband's new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah's cruelty count for nothing? Why does God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

Travel back to the dusty streets of Shiloh with an expert guide as Jill Eileen Smith brings to life a beloved story of hope, patience, and deliverance that shows that even the most broken of relationships can be restored.
I've read many of Jill's books in the past and enjoyed every single one of them.
This one didn't let me down.
Oh, the emotion!

I suppose I should have expected that, due to the nature of the Bible story, much of the book would focus on the relationship triangle between Elkanah, Hannah, and Peninnah.
I didn't expect it to be done quite so well!

The tension and strife between Hannah and Peninnah are handed expertly, and somehow, Jill is able to portray the stress without everything descending into a soap opera. Elkhanah's personal discomfort with the whole situation is very realistic and poignant as well.

One of the things I most appreciated about this book was how Jill created a vivid backdrop of the time. The moral decline of the era, and especially the depravity of Eli's sons is show in a colorful, yet tasteful way. Overlaid above this sinful backdrop is the contrast of Hannah and Elkanah's virtue.

The spiritual lives of the characters is shown clearly, and everything is very close to normal Orthodox Jewish spirituality. Everything is close to the Scripture, and God is the One who is lifted high through the story.

The theme of the book has to do with trusting and waiting on God throughout excruciatingly painful times, and it is clearly put forward. The emotions and faith of Hannah are both heartbreaking and inspiring, and when she finally holds the promised child under her heart, all anyone can do is cheer for her.

The book is fairly clean, and although there are some discrete references to sexual activity and physical violence, and a murdered body is found, nothing is gory or explicit.

All in all, and wonderful book that shows beautifully the pain and wonder of Hannah's life.

February 15, 2018

Forgotten Treasure

                                                   Happy Valentines Day Everyone!!!

                                      I hope you ate a lot of chocolate and celebrated with loved ones.

                                                                         And now....

                                                             Happy Lent!
Lent is a much forgotten jewel in the Christian's crown. It's the sort of thing that often gets classified only in the context of strange people who only eat fish on Friday for six weeks, and a vague notion of "giving something up..." Often, this involves giving up social media, sweets, or even something as nebulous as 'bad thought patterns.'

But yesterday, while the much of America enjoyed overpriced steaks in crowded restaurants, signed Hallmark cards, and gave lollipops with punny sayings to their children.....

I was in church with most of the world's Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians.
We were celebrating something totally different.
Ash Wednesday.
There is nothing I can do to describe the feeling of going forward and having dirt smeared on your forehead as the pastor solemnly proclaims:
"Remember, you are dust
And to dust you shall return."

This morning I became aware of yesterday's tragic shooting, as a bitter, rejected young man shot and killed 17 people in his former high school. Many photos of the event show parents waiting in distraught horror....
Ashen crosses still on their foreheads from the morning's Ash Wednesday Mass.

I read the coverage here.... and it got me thinking.

When Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day fall on the same day, we the liturgical Church, have an opening. Let's talk. When a heartbreaking tragedy collides with both.... the Church steps forward.

Because, lets face it:
Nobody wants to talk about death.
Avoid it. Pretend it doesn't exist.
But, we'll never escape' them chilly waters.'

There have been 3 deaths at my church in 3 weeks.
All 3 were dear Christian ladies, ready to leave this painful world and go home.

Let's talk about my Christian homeschool friend, Jonah, who shot himself with his deer rifle.
He was only 16.
I was 14 when it happened.
But let's avoid it.

Could we talk about my friend Julian who was stabbed mercilessly (over 20 times) in the park?
I was still 14.

Or about my friend Najae from Rahab who got out of jail only to be shot brutally dozens of times?
She was left to die.
She never escaped 'them chilly waters.'
Let's pretend it doesn't exist.

But wait....

"You are dust,
And, to dust you shall return."

Grieving people wail that "They didn't deserve to die that way!" "They were "too young!"

Let's chat about my other friend: He was killed "too young," "before His time." He didn't deserve to be murdered. It's His ashes I wear on my forehead.

                                                                     Reminding me,
                                                                     As I sit in the dust:
                                                                     He sits with me.
                                                                     My Best Friend!
                                                                     My Lord and my God!

Saints in Full Color

In memory and celebration of the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination last week, I decided to present two ...