Glow Stick Gospel Project

Hello everyone! I’m still planning more Blades of Acktar posts, but I’ve been busy with a few other projects this week. My brother and I have a tradition of handing out Bible tracts before 4th of July fireworks each year. This year we discussed getting a little more creative with our firework evangelism and this is what we came up with!

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Here’s the website to go along with the postcard track shown above.

If you like the idea, feel free to print copies of the tract for your own use. (And let me know if you find any typos!)

How to Help the Hurting (Lessons from Samara’s Peril)

The Hurting Hero

It’s no secret that I’m a complete pushover when it comes to mistreated people (real and fictional). My brother read Resistance before me. When I started it, he told me he already knew who my favorite character would be–Jace. He was right.

Help the Hurting

The sympathy that fictional characters stir in me has played a large role in shaping my passions. As a twelve-year-old who spent the majority of the summer with her nose in a book, my thoughts and pretend games often revolved around how I would help the characters in my latest story–the lonely orphan, the bullied school kid, the frightened immigrant, the ill-treated slave.

Imagination Grows Up

People often think their imaginations dry up as they transition to adulthood, but maybe they just mature with us. Obviously my brain hasn’t stopped fantasizing over helping fictional people (it’s an author thing). However, I can now use abstract thinking to move that inspiration into the real world.

Jace spends much of Samara’s Peril hurting. He sinks into depression. He battles loneliness. His past haunts him. Jace is fictional, but his struggles are not.

Fictional Spark. Real Action.

I love how persistent Kyrin and Rayad are in loving Jace. Even when he pushes them away and causes them pain, they refuse to let him struggle alone. I love them as characters because of the way they care for others.

What can we do when we close the last page, return to our bedroom from a land of fantasy, and think with a happy sigh, “I want to hug Jace. I want to be like Kyrin and Rayad.”? Just ask yourself, “Who do I know who is depressed, anxious, lonely, scared? How can I love that person?

A Few Ideas

Kyrin nodded and wiped her cheeks as she rose. “Come on. I know it’s hard, but you must eat. You need the strength.” She held out her hand.

Jace gazed at it a moment, and then took it, the warmth and connection like a lifeline to his battered heart. She helped him up and did not let go for a long moment before turning and leading the way downstairs.

Loving doesn’t have to be extravagant or difficult. It doesn’t have to achieve want we want it to (more on that in a moment). It’s all about being aware, attentive, and genuine. Love tells people, “You are not invisible. You are not just part of the crowd. I see you as a unique individual–made in the image of God–and it is my joy to invest moments of my life into yours.”

If you’re at a loss for how to reach out, here are some quick ideas.

  • Send a note. Handwritten letters are always special (especially to older people), but if penmanship is not your forte or your schedule barely allows you to breathe, don’t despair. A quick email to say, “I’m thinking of you” or to ask, “How can I pray for you?” is sure to brighten anyone’s day.
  • Listen. At a missionary conference I recently attended, one missionary lady said that missionary kids and their families crave for people to listen to them. She said that the lack of shared commonality makes many people uncomfortable with simply listening, but their quickness to interrupt can make missionary families keenly aware of their own struggle to fit in. The art of listening is a wonderful way to show you care.
  • Spend Time Together. Nothing reinforces loneliness like watching other people rush around with “things to do and people to see,” while not having anyone to rush with or to. Sometimes the best gift is a phone call, an invitation to come over to play board games, or an hour spent hovering over two cups of coffee that would have been cheaper to make at home.
  • Send a Package. This is one of my favorite things (both to send and receive). There’s something about receiving a random package full of goodies that creates a sense of wonder. Several friends and I once figured out how many love languages a letter or packages speaks to. A package obviously touches a person who feels loved through receiving gifts. The time put into into preparing it speaks to a person who is loved through quality time. The servant’s heart behind (and perhaps practical items in) the package can warm the heart of a person who is loved through acts of service. The words in a note and the personalization of the package shows affection to the person loved through words of affirmation. If you want to stretch it to include all five love languages, you could even say that the tangible nature of a letter and package is the closest thing you can get to physical touch without being there in person.

Only God Can

One of Kyrin’s deepest pains is that she can’t get through to Jace. She doesn’t want him to hurt, but her love can’t penetrate his despair. In the same way, we may not be able to help our hurting friends to the extent we want to. One of my friends wrote the following quote into a book she’s working on…

As I mentioned above, love doesn’t have to achieve what we want it to. Results shouldn’t determine our behavior. Our role is to be obedient to God‘s calling–which includes courageously loving those around us. He is the only one with the power to heal souls, and He is mighty to save. Which brings me to a final way to help.

  • Pray.  God is the only one who can give true healing, so bring the lonely, depressed, and anxious to Him in prayer.

Can you think of anyone you know who has needs similar to those of a fictional character you wish you could help? Can you add more practical ways to show love to my list?

P.S. The graphic for this post has subtle relevance for readers very familiar with Jace’s story. Any idea what it is?

Book Review: Lydia

LydiaThis is my third Lois T. Henderson book, and I think it’s safe to say that she’s become one of my favorite Biblical fiction authors. (You can read my previous reviews of her books Ruth and Pricilla & Aquila.)

Our church has been studying Acts, and we reached the portion containing Lydia’s story just as I was finishing this book. It’s always neat to listen to teaching on a Biblical portion and compare it to an author’s imagined tale.

What gripped me most in this book was the scene where Lydia is converted to Christianity. It’s been a while since a salvation scene made me cry, but this one definitely did. The author managed to paint a word picture of the sheer beauty and joy of a soul opening to Christ.

Lydia was aware of no one and nothing but her own need for this gift which Paul promised. Eagerly, she pushed through the crowd until she reached the edge of the water. She dropped her stola and stood waiting in her simple tunic.

Like Henderson’s other stories, Lydia is not an action packed book. It is compelling in a quiet, every-day way.

What are some of your favorite, fictional conversion scenes? What type of scenes make you cry (or get your heart beating fast … whatever your reaction is)?

 

Book Review: The Confession of Saint Patrick

Confession of St. Patrick

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. —Hebrews 13:8

A few weeks before Saint Patrick’s Day, Grace Mally of Tomorrow’s Forefathers published a Saint Patrick Gospel Tract. The contents of the tract piqued my interest and made me want to learn more about the name behind our green-wearing, corned-beef-eating holiday. For example, did you know that Saint Patrick was actually an English slave in Ireland?

A quick Google search told me that a letter Patrick wrote–seemingly a defense of his faith and calling to missionary work–survives to this day. The seventeenth of March seemed an appropriate day for such reading, so yesterday I invested $0.99 and an hours time on the little book.

From his writings, Patrick’s beliefs seem to be a queer mixture of his own study of the Bible, personal experience, and the Catholic upbringing of his childhood. My favorite portion of the book was the first chapter where he explains his conversion and the foundation of his faith.

St. Patrick

This first chapter is riddled with scripture references and, if I hadn’t known who the author was, I might have imagined it was written by a 19th century Christian such as George Muller or even C.S. Lewis.

It struck me that, just as Christ is never changing, so is the Holy Spirit constant. The same Spirit that guides our faith today guided the understanding of the missionaries of the 19th century and the hearts of Christ followers in the fifth century. Reading these words penned only a few hundred years after Christ walked the earth reminded me that there is an undeniable stability to the Christian faith.

And [in slavery in Ireland] the Lord brought me to a sense of my unbelief, that I might, even at a late season, call my sins to remembrance, and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate…

We live in a world that seems in a perpetual state of topsy-turvy. This was a good reminder that there is nothing new under the sun.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. –Ecclesiastes 1:9

There’s no question that the world Patrick lived in was filled with unrest and trials, just as ours is. Conflict between England and Ireland caused him to be kidnapped from his homeland and sold into slavery. And yet God was in control then and remains in control now. While only God knows the heart of the man remembered as Saint Patrick, there is little question that the gospel has remained unchanged since the day he wrote his confession.

There is no other God nor ever was nor will be after him except God the Father, without beginning; From whom is all beginning; Who upholds all things as we have said. And his Son Jesus Christ whom together with the father we testify to have always existed. Who before the beginning of the world was spiritually present with the Father; Begotten in an unspeakable manner before all beginning; By whom were made all things visible and invisible; Who was made man, and having overcome death was received into heaven to the Father. And he hath given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God. In whom we believe, and we await his coming who ere long shall judge the quick and dead … Whom we confess and adore–one God in the Trinity of the sacred name.

I hope you all enjoyed your Saint Patrick’s day! Now it’s time to turn our focus to remembering Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Don’t Waste Your Time On (Trifling) Fiction

Face it. You can’t live with your head in the clouds forever. Fiction whisks you out of the real world and builds unrealistic expectations. Readers of fiction can become discontent with the lives they are leading. The lesson? Don’t waste your time on fiction–instead, determine to choose books that inspire.

Fiction Waste

 

A Bookworm Reacts to Fiction Bashing

Every time I read a blog post that bashes fiction or hear someone boasting that they only read non-fiction, I cringe. I grew up with my nose in a book. When I read A Little Princess for the first time, I immediately identified with Sara when her father said,

She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn’t read them, Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble.

So, what do I mean when I repeat the naysayers’ mantra of, “Don’t waste time on fiction”? Obviously I’m not telling you to throw out every novel in your house and feed yourself an exclusive diet of non-fiction. You wouldn’t listen to me anyway. On the other hand, I can’t deny that it is entirely possible to waste time on fiction and be negatively impacted by it.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. –Philippians 4:5

The Good and the Bad

Dear reader, don’t abuse fiction. Don’t neglect necessary and needful things like reading the Bible, doing school, working diligently, serving others, and spending time with God in order to read “one more chapter.” Don’t choose books that fill your mind with unholy thoughts.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. –Philippians 4:8

When people turn their backs on fiction, they’ve often been exposed predominately to books that don’t turn their thoughts to things that are true, lovely, pure, and of good report. That’s a tragedy.  There are many stories that can help you do exactly what Philippians 4:9 directs. That’s why I love fiction so much.

Fiction and Me

Novels have had a huge impact on my life. I can point to particular books that have shaped and grown me to the person I am today. The Hundred Dresses taught me to care about people who are different, left out, or made fun of. As a very young reader, I remember finishing this book with a determination to befriend anyone who didn’t fit in–a determination that led me to make a point of greeting each newcomer at homeschool group and church. When I was twelve, A Family Apart renewed my interest in orphan care, a passion that is a huge part of who I am today. At sixteen, Safely Home pulled me into the life of a Chinese Christian and suddenly made the persecution I had learned about my whole life real. Without Alcorn’s novel, I might never have written Counted Worthy.

These books are a tiny sampling of the timeline of fiction that positively impacted my life. These are the books that make me want to cry out in protest when people dismiss fiction as being less worthy that non-fiction.

Non-fiction can teach the mind, but fiction inspires the heart. [Tweet This]

Don’t Waste. Spend Wisely.

Don’t waste your time on trifling fiction. Spend it wisely on stories that teach your heart to care about the things God cares about.

Yes, stories have a tendency to change our expectations and cause us to look at the world with different eyes. This can be destructive, but it isn’t always.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. –Romans 12:2

Don’t choose novels that pull your mind away from what matters. Instead, find stories that cause you to–in the words of Do Hard Things–rebel against low expectations. Don’t choose novels that fill you with selfish discontent. Instead, find books that make you want to shed mediocrity and seek God’s best.

Don’t waste your time on books that shrink your world to yourself (and maybe an imaginary, perfect significant other that doesn’t exist). Read fiction–and yes, non-fiction too–that inspires bigger living.

What books have inspired you to care about things that matter? What makes you love fiction?

Book Review: Light of the Last

Light of the LastI spent the first half of this book desperately wanting to tell Drew (the main character) that he wasn’t insane, and the second half trying to read fast enough to keep up with the cascade of action. It was a wild ride!

I’m not sure how to classify Light of the Last. Superhero? Spiritual warfare? Political thriller? It’s all three!

Synopsis:
It’s been years since a lab accident resulted in Drew Carter’s visions of alien invaders–his term for the angels and demons he can now see. Now he’s draw the attendtion of the American government. Always a patriot at heart, Drew is excited to serve in the CIA despite the underhanded way he’s drafted into service. His problem is, he doesn’t know who he can trust. When a psyciatric exam tells him his visions are conjured by his subconscious, he doesn’t even trust himself. Drew is isolated from his family and the girl he loves, and he’s coming undone.

Meanwhile the force of angels tasked with protecting Drew is locked in the battle of the ages. Apollyon is loosing the forces of darkness in a desperate attempt to prevent the salvation of one man. Validus and his team must hold nothing back. The fate of the world is in the balance.

My Thoughts:
I love the lead characters in this series. Drew is a  quintessential hero–sincere, self-sacrificing, devoted, and just proud and broken enough to make you fully invested in reading to find a happy ending. Besides, what Christian Marvel fan wouldn’t get excited about a superhero story (complete with a Jarvis-like computer) with a spiritual warfare twist? However, I’m not going say more because you need to read it for yourself. Go back to book one, push through the first 50 pages (which I found boring), and enjoy the journey. 🙂

What Has My Attention

I enjoy seeing what other people are looking at and reading. With so much content produced on the internet every week, it’s nice to get curated lists of what people I trust have found valuable. So, I thought I might try to occasionally share my own list with you all! Let me know if you do or don’t like this new feature.

  • The Generosity Factor by Ken Blanchard. Don’t give to get. Get to give!
  • The Secret to Becoming an Expert Listener. This is a fabulous blog post on the art of listening well. As a talkative person, remembering to listen (and listen well) is something I can always use a reminder about!
  • The Family: Together in the Presence of GodNoel Piper (wife of John Piper) wrote this inspiring article on family togetherness during corporate worship. Hopefully I’m not the only single girl on here who enjoys reading parenting articles!
  • A Tribute to PrimroseIt’s no secret that I love adoption. This blog post about a baby’s first birthday with a family of her own made me cry.
  • How 5 Minutes Can Change Someone’s LifeEncouraging reminder about the power of little things.
  • Sermon NotesA graphic designer friend of mine and I have begun collaborating to make sermon graphics for my church.

What has your attention this week?

Book Giveaway: When God Writes Your Life Story

When God Writes Your Life StoryThe month of January is almost at an end, which means this will be our last devotional giveaway. It has been such a pleasure to share some of my favorite devotionals with you. I hope you’ve found this series an encouragement and a challenge to study God’s word this year!

Last week I was giving away a copy of The One Year Devotions for Kids, which is a collection of devotional lessons pulled from Keys for Kids. And the winner is…

Connie Saunders

I admit that I was rooting for Connie’s name to be drawn by the random generator used by rafflecopter. She has faithful entered each of the devotional giveaways, so I’m glad you won one, Connie!

Our final giveaway is a little bit different than the last three. When God Writes Your Life Story is not a collection of 365 devotional readings. However, it is a great addition to the time you set aside to spend with God and learning of God. You can read the review I posted of it here on the blog.

Click on the image below for your chance to win a copy!*

When God Writes Your Life Story [Giveaway]

*giveaway can only be shipped within the continental United States

What do you want to see next on Leah’s Bookshelf?

Giveaway: The One Year Devotions for Kids

One Year Devotion for Kids, TheAfter an extremely mild start to our winter, New England finally realized it’s winter and sent us “blizzard 2016.” I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a quite day sprawled in front of our fire reading. Are any of you snowbound and reading good books? I just finished Rise by Rachel Starr Thomson. Now I’m ready for a nap (or maybe I’ll watch one of the movies I got for Christmas). But first, I want to share with you the winner of last week’s giveaway and announce which devotional I’m giving away this week!

Last week I was giving away A Closer Look at the Evidence, by Richard & Tina Kleiss. The winner of that giveaway is…

Spencer R.

Congratulations, Spencer! I’m sure that you (and maybe Hanna too!) will enjoy this one. I’ll email you to get your mailing address.

This week I’m giving away* a collection of childhood favorites. When I was young, my family used Keys for Kids for our family devotions. The One Year Devotions for Kids is 365 of the devotional stories and “key lessons” that I grew up on. Just click on the image below to enter for your chance to win this devotional.**

One Year Devotions [Giveaway]

*Giveaway can only be shipped in the continental United States.
**Used Copy