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Display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Sometimes making arrangements for a trip can be frustrating. Aunt Martha only receives visitors between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning. But that’s exactly when the presentation you really want to see at the museum is showing. Trying to make arrangements so all the details fall into place may make you wonder if the trip is worth it.

A self-publishing journey’s most potential for frustration arises from formatting, in my opinion (that’s IMO in critique lingo). Before you upload your manuscript (that’s MS in publishing lingo), you’ll want to have it as accurately formatted as possible to prevent the even more frustrating process of trying to fix glitches and errors once it’s on the website.

Authors often complain about the horrors of the self-publishing experience, and most of those complaints are related to formatting struggles. Be prepared to do a little research in order to figure out how to do what you want to do. Then resolve to adopt a patient Mr. Rogers attitude of taking your time to do it right.

An earlier post gave some tips and links about picking fonts, and I recommended determining page size early on. But you must prepare everything about your MS so that it looks exactly like you want the pages to appear in your book. That means figuring out front matter and chapter setup.

The items in the front of the book include a copyright page disclaimer, title page, book dedication, table of contents, and anything else you want to appear before your first chapter.

Here’s the question you must answer: How will these pages be numbered? Some of them shouldn’t be numbered at all. Sometimes you see those cute little lower case Roman numerals on front matter pages, but never on a title page. How can you number these pages differently from the rest of the MS?

And then you must consider the chapters themselves. You need to ask: How do I want each page to appear? You’ve seen those snazzy headers (or footers) in books, perhaps the book title on the left page and the chapter title or the author’s name on the right.

If you want to format page numbers and headers differently for different parts of the MS, you’ll have to set it up in sections. I’d always inserted page breaks for new chapters, but a much better method is to insert a section break. This allows you to format sections differently, separating the front matter from the chapters and each chapter from the next.

This page contains many links with helpful information about working in sections. For my older version of Word, I inserted section page breaks and formatted even pages with book title headers and odd pages with chapter title headers. But I spent hours trying to figure out how to format each section separately (even after I’d indicated “this section only”), until I finally found the extremely helpful Legal Office Guru website with online tutorials.  That dear sweet lady (bless her heart) kindly explained how to break the link between sections by deactivating “Link to Previous” so that the “Same as Previous” no longer appeared in the upper right corner of the header. What an eye opener!

Maybe you already know all about that. I didn’t, and it had frustrated me to the point I posted a Facebook status about being amazed if I still had all my hair by the time this book was formatted. After that, Facebook kept showing me ads for women’s hair loss products.

Speaking of hair, here’s another formatting tidbit that could save you a lot of research time. Know that tiny space appearing between a single quotation mark and a double one? It’s thinner than a regular space and is called a hair space. And I had no clue how to format it. An extensive online search finally yielded the answer. For my ancient version of Word, it’s ALT + 8202. Maybe knowing that will save you some precious time. You’re welcome.

Your formatting nemesis may be chapter title pages (no page numbers on those!), or margins (you’ll want wider margins on the inside edges where your pages are bound) or something entirely different. CreateSpace provides templates that may save you some of these formatting headaches.

Like a temperamental two-year-old, I wanted to do it myself. But my frustrating first experience led me to save that finally-formatted MS as a new document and plug in the text for my second novel. No way was I going to put myself through that section-formatting meat grinder again!

I can’t tell you exactly how to format your document, partly because I don’t remember it all myself, but mostly because your situation and the knowledge you bring to bear on it differs from mine.

But I sure wish someone had explained that “Link to Previous” thing to me earlier. It would have been like someone saying, “But the show time has changed. It doesn’t actually start until 11:30, so you’ve got plenty of time to chat with Aunt Martha before heading over to the museum.”

 

Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema

Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema

When Classis Central US of the URCNA convened on September 15, 2014, the primary item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum of Rev. Ken Anema, who served Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church in Holland, MI, for almost 21 years and recently began teaching inmates through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary.

A requirement for that position is affiliation with a NAPARC-member church, and Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, had requested the colloquium doctum in order to receive Rev. Anema—like Rev. Nathan Brummel—as an associate Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the URCNA, on loan to Divine Hope.

Delegates voted to conduct each section of the exam for 20 minutes, with the exception of Reformed Doctrine, which was kept at 40 minutes. Throughout the examination, participants emphasized its nature as a “doctrinal conversation.” Examiners demonstrated respect and amity, while Rev. Anema responded with thoughtful and articulate answers evidencing humility and theological acumen.

As Rev. Todd De Rooy questioned him about his personal and spiritual life, Rev. Anema testified how God had been preparing him for teaching at the Seminary. He related that as a young, single man, he initially aspired to foreign missions. But after the Lord closed that door, he’d realized his lack of experience and wisdom for foreign mission work. Instead the Lord provided a wife—after he’d been in the ministry for a year—and a strong group of elders who helped him develop good study habits and mentored him for more than 20 years.

Rev. Anema spoke about his work at a rescue mission with men who have been in and out of jail and how he had begun with a “more arrogant, condescending approach,” but “the more I got to know them, the more I realized that these are real life people who are not that different from us.” A wise person once told him that we are all “only one or two bad decisions away from them.”

Although the move from Michigan to Indiana had been “unsettling literally and metaphorically,” he said, “I continue to grow, continue to look to Jesus as my Savior, and continue to rely on the Spirit.”

When asked to state his expectations for teaching at the Seminary, Rev. Anema responded that he has learned in his ministry not to develop expectations but how “God very graciously gave me encouragements along the way.”

Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets

Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets

He said, “I know that God, by his grace and his mercy, will certainly bless the work. We have a little slogan at the Seminary: Theological education for moral transformation.” He hopes and trusts that “God will begin to change the environment in the prison” and “change the lives of men.”

Questioned about loving the unlovable, Rev. Anema replied, “This is somebody who has been made in the image of God. Who am I to look down on them?”

His response to how he would answer a pre-teen’s question about Jacob Arminius clearly revealed his ability to express complex theological issues in simple terms.

The independent status of Rev. Anema’s former church was the basis for a question if his perspective regarding ecclesiastical federation had changed or if he sought URCNA membership simply due to his new position. Rev. Anema answered by challenging the assumption that his former congregation was isolationist and didn’t benefit from ecclesiastical fellowship, describing several ways it participated in events and ministry with other churches.

The Ken and Renee Anema family

The Ken and Renee Anema family

Delegates quickly agreed that Rev. Anema had sustained his exam. Because he is originally from Sanborn and attended Mid-America Reformed Seminary while it was in its Orange City location, many relatives and friends witnessed his examination. He and Renee have three children: Noah, Faith, and Liberty.

Another major item on the agenda was a report from Classis Central’s Church Plant Advisory Committee (CPAC), which recommended guidelines for church planting in an effort to increase cooperation and effectiveness among the churches through shared wisdom and resources.

While nearly every speaker expressed appreciation for the report, concerns were raised regarding what some delegates viewed as its occasional vagueness or its centralization tendencies.

Eventually Rev. Jacque Roets moved to recommit the report to the committee, saying, “We have a history that makes us suspicious of working together. I do believe this is very necessary, but we have to think carefully about how to move forward.” The motion to recommit was adopted.

Redeemer URC

Redeemer URC

Rev. John Vermeer encouraged the churches to submit their suggestions for improvements to CPAC, and Rev. Harold Miller suggested the Committee confer with the new URCNA Missions Coordinator.

Classis did, however, formally thank the consistory of Immanuel URC of DeMotte for its work supervising CPAC. It also requested that the classical and federational clerks send inquiries about planting churches to CPAC. Delegates additionally directed the classical webmaster to revise the Classis website’s church planting page so that inquiries about church planting within the Classis Central region are sent to CPAC as well as to the federational Mission Committee.

Because the report was recommitted, CPAC required funding to continue its work. The consistory of Immanuel URC brought forward a budget, which Classis approved.

Fraternal delegates speaking at Classis Central included Rev. G.I. Williamson (OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas), Mr. Keith LeMahieu (OPC Presbytery of the Midwest), Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS South Central Classis), and Rev. Jonathan Haney (RPCNA Midwest Presbytery).

Rock Valley URC will convene the next meeting of Classis on April 13, 2015.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Birth of a Book

PrintI’m excited to share this first blog look at the cover of my newest novel, Matthew Makes Strides, which will be released soon. The wonderful artwork by Ken Raney captures the emotion of this intense moment.

Matthew Makes Strides is the second novel of my Matthew in the Middle series for middle grade readers. Book 1, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon.

Yesterday I finished the final revision of the final book of the series, Matthew Moves Ahead. It still needs to go through a lengthy editing process, but the Matthew narrative is now—and finally—complete.

I spent some time this morning thinking about how Matthew came to be and crafting the story of his birth.

My book boy Matthew grew for more years than his age (11) in these novels. He was conceived in a course I took on fiction writing in 2002, as an experiment challenging myself to write in a point of view very different from personal experience. As a boring and sedate old lady, I’d write from the first-person perspective of an imaginative and active young boy.

I named that embryo Caleb to reflect the faithfulness and zeal of the biblical believer, who urged the Israelites to fight giants and enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13:30), and who at 85 years of age was still eager to fight for the Lord (Joshua 14:6-12). Military matters interested Caleb, the middle child in a minister’s family, who became acquainted with a Vietnam veteran named Mr. Winters.

My short story began with Caleb washing his toy soldiers in the bathroom sink and showed him playing a basketball game of Horse with his older brother, while Dad spoke to Mr. Winters in the kitchen. I loved Caleb. And my instructor loved the story, calling the scene with the two boys playing basketball in the cold “beautiful.” He suggested I submit another Caleb narrative as my next assignment. That second short story described the chaos of a Sunday morning when everything goes wrong. Later that day Mr. Winters shared a glimpse of his tormented past, and Caleb witnessed to him about the truths of God’s word and how those things are worth fighting—and dying—for. The story concludes with the two going upstairs for apple pie. (Readers of Matthew Muddles Through will recognize that these stories developed into Chapter 10: Banished, as well as Chapter 14: Trouble with a Capital T, and Chapter 16: Peace Follows Battle.)

My book boy continued to develop and was born in 2007 as Matthew Henry Vos. The poor fellow suffered a sickly childhood, undergoing numerous surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. His debut presentation plans changed from one novel to four to three, and back to four and then to three again (more than once). Matthew made it through some preliminary auditions in 2009 and flew to the big city in 2010 to make a name for himself, but came back home feeling rejected. I visited him from time to time; however, he languished in recovery for years.

Until late in 2013, when my oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, did you ever finish that story about Matthew?”

Well. If my grandson wanted to read Matthew’s story, I ought to finish it before he lost interest. And he was almost a teenager. I determined to put the first book in his hands for his thirteenth birthday. Which I did in 2014.

Now the second one is almost ready to be released, and the third one is written. And that’s the story of how my book boy Matthew was born.

It’s a wonderful Wednesday because I just received this extraordinary endorsement for my upcoming middle reader novel, Matthew Makes Strides:

Glenda Mathes writes with energy and intentionality. When she writes about a coming tornado, it feels so real, I start glancing nervously out the window. Young people will feel like the author knows them, is inside their heads, so intimate is her knowledge of her readers. This is a frank and honest portrayal of growing up a preacher’s kid, but one that speaks to the extraordinary struggles and challenges of ordinary growing up. Highly recommended.
~ Douglas Bond, author of Duncan’s War and many other works of historical fiction

This endorsement means a great deal to me, especially since Douglas Bond is an interesting blogger and writes exciting novels that appeal to readers of all ages. You can check out Duncan’s War and his many other books at his website.

Douglas Bond in Scotland (photo from his Facebook page)

Douglas Bond in Scotland
(photo from his Facebook page)

Rev. Bylsma leads the September 28 service

Rev. Bylsma leads a September service

Over 80 people attended the first service of Living Hope United Reformed Church in Waterdown, ON, on September 14, 2014.

The new venture is a daughter church under the authority of Living Water Reformed Church (URCNA) in Brantford, ON. Living Water’s minister, Rev. Greg Bylsma, preached at the first service from Matthew 11:28-30 on “The Sincere Summons: Come to Christ!”

Attendance at subsequent services has varied between 30 and 80, and Rev. Bylsma says, “People are definitely coming by to see what it is all about.”

To help generate community interest, a “Day in the Park” was held on the Saturday prior to the first Sunday of worship, beside the building where the services were to be held.

The event followed the “min-carnival” pattern Living Water has used successfully for years in various Brantford parks on Saturdays. During the morning, children participate in activities (such as water balloon toss and face painting) to earn tickets, half of which can be redeemed for candy and half for books and tracts on the gospel. Before lunch, organizers share the gospel with those in attendance.

The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club

The new church meets in the building of the Optimist Club

Rev. Bylsma says, “It’s a great ministry that often sees anywhere from 70-120 community kids receive a taste of the gospel in a single day.”

That “Day in the Park” event demonstrates the new group’s desire to emphasize evangelism within the context of a robust Reformed faith. The focus on these aspects, rather than numbers, differentiates this effort from a previous attempt about 15 years ago.

Since September of 2013, several families from the Burlington/Waterdown/Dundas area have been meeting to study Scripture, as well as discuss and pray about the possibility of a daughter church.

During this time frame, a steering committee has been working toward the establishment of a daughter church. Informational evenings and informal gym nights in the area provided opportunities for families to gather for fun and fellowship while learning more about the church. Organizers have also read books such as How to Plant on OPC and How to Plant a Reformed Church.

“At this point,” says Rev. Bylsma, “we are really just beginning that exploration again, but with a more focused goal. We aim not so much to begin a church only if we have enough families, but to begin a church work if we see a need that families of that area can help fill with the gospel. In other words, we aren’t going to simply start a church based on numbers, but we are conducting this exploration to see if, by God’s grace, we can see another faithful, vibrant, outreaching Reformed church in the Burlington/Waterdown area.”

That aim is expressed in Living Hope’s stated goal of “being conscientiously Reformed and intentionally evangelistic to the glory of our Triune God.”

Rev. Bylsma explains more about the rationale behind the slogan. “When we considered exploring a new Reformed presence, we were mindful that there are currently a significant number of Canadian Reformed churches in that area. So we didn’t want to just start another church, and we didn’t want to start it to steal sheep.”

LivingHopeSept28PM2 (2)“To the contrary, many of the families interested in the work had a strong interest in seeing the church reach out into their community and bring the gospel to those who do not yet know Christ. So our early discussions focused on the idea of beginning a daughter church work that would, from the start, have a strong evangelistic focus. While emphasizing the need to reach out with the gospel, we did not in any way mean to ‘shrink’ that gospel down. Hence we remain conscientiously Reformed even while we are intentionally evangelistic.”

The Living Hope effort already evidences cooperation with local Reformed congregations. Rev. Bill DeJong, pastor of Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, preached at the first evening service and has been scheduled to preach again.

Rev. DeJong says, “It’s neat in terms of URC-CanRC relations, to partner with Greg Bylsma in support of this group.”

Rev. Bylsma will preach at one service for each of the initial six Sundays. Living Water’s elders work with the steering committee to secure pulpit supply, and Living Water provides accompanists when necessary.

Living Hope meets at 9:30 am and 4:00 pm at the Optimist Club in Sealey Park, 115 Main St. S in Waterdown. For more information, check the Living Hope page at the Living Waters website.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Matthew two, too

Soon, very soon I hope, the second novel in my Matthew in the Middle series will be available.

PrintThe first novel, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon. In this story, readers meet Matthew and his family, which includes a dad who’s a minister, a mom who’s sick all the time, an older brother who harasses Matthew, and a younger brother who annoys him. But he struggles with difficulties on more than just the home front. Trouble swirls around him in every part of his world. Although he’s longed for three years to attend the 1996 Cadet International Camporee, he wonders if he’ll ever go.

In the second novel, Matthew Makes Strides on multiple levels. He meets new people, becomes a faster runner, and draws closer to his Camporee dream. But he really progresses in overcoming his fears and in his understanding about what it means to be a hero.

Because this second novel explores the concept of courage, and because part of that involves Matthew’s deepening friendship with a veteran, I wanted the professional opinion of a military expert. I asked an Army chaplain, a West Point graduate with combat experience who now teaches ethics, if he’d be willing to review some chapters. He was. And he sent me the most encouraging message I’d ever received that said (in part):

The chapters quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story…. Your description of the accident…especially the fear, injuries, and actions of [multiple characters] prompted in a cathartic way several memories of my and my soldiers’ experiences in Iraq. You did an excellent job describing and portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where there is great danger and courage present.
You also did a wonderful job introducing [the veteran] to the circumstances of this particular event as a wounded yet compassionate figure who is being healed while he helps heal Matt. I found his conversation with Matt to be very touching and also appropriate. He could have said more about courage, heroism, and his combat experience, but what he did say was just the right amount for a boy of Matt’s age and for your audience to hear.
Lastly, I thought the chapter on the Memorial Day flag-raising ceremony was very good. You rightly begin it with the rifle salute and playing of Taps. Those two parts of every memorial or funeral service typically occur at the end of the service, but for all practical purposes they are the beginning and the invocation of the emotions held unexpressed up to that point. In the dozens of services I have performed, the rifle salute and Taps are followed by the sobs of those who have lost those whom they love.
Your chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy emotion or intensity. I am thankful that you are writing Matt’s story and sharing it with your readers of all ages. I applaud you for taking up the topics of courage, authentic masculinity, fear, and loss. I pray that the Lord will use these books as well as the other things you have written on these topics to comfort and encourage many others. You certainly did that for me.

How wonderfully his words encouraged me! They reinforced my commitment to keep marketing Matthew Muddles Through, the first novel in the Matthew in the Middles series, and made me eager to share Matthew’s continuing story with you when Matthew Makes Strides, the second novel in the series, becomes available, too. Soon. May it please God.

bldg

Nestled among the popular beaches and tourist attractions of southern Florida, sits one of the most isolated churches in the URCNA.

Trinity Reformed Church in Cape Coral is almost 900 miles and over 13 hours from its nearest URC neighbor (Covenant URC in Pantego, NC). Located near many vacation destinations, it receives numerous visitors but few remain to strengthen the congregation. Despite those isolation and membership challenges, Trinity’s people overflow with joy.

“I don’t believe this is unique,” says Rev. Steven Wetmore, “but when I think of the Trinity congregation, I well up with joy. We are such a joyous, happy family. There is a genuine love and kindness and welcoming atmosphere. I think it’s because we are all so thankful for the grace of Jesus Christ in our lives.”

Rev. Wetmore explains how his view has changed about the many vacationers who visit the church, but are rarely seen again. “Early on this discouraged me. I was eager to hear that these people were local and would come back, but so often they are down only for a week. I look at that differently now and I encourage our people to consider this a wonderful opportunity by God’s grace. We are little, but we could influence one person who will go back to their church, their home, their community, and who knows what God will do? God loves to use small things and small beginnings so He may receive the glory. That is very encouraging.”

Church fellowship supper

Church fellowship supper

Like many small churches, Trinity’s congregation is close-knit. The church’s bond and small size mean most problems are known to everyone, which allows the entire congregation to minister to each other directly and intentionally. On the flip side, knowing everyone’s problems can also be a burden. But it’s helpful to share that load.

And like many small churches, finances are a challenge. Each month the church struggles to pay operating expenses and property repairs, when they’d love to spend more on fellowship and outreach. In fact, even congregational fellowship suffered this summer when the church couldn’t afford to repair the air conditioning system.

“As a pastor,” says Rev. Wetmore, “I often find myself trying to reassure the Council that God will provide and that we mustn’t fret or ever trust in ‘Assyria or Egypt,’ someone or some thing other than Him (such as the seasonal giving of ‘snow birds’ or the neighbor who rents some of our property or any kind of gimmick).”

Asked about what larger churches with more resources can do to help, he said, “We don’t fault our big sister churches. They do so much and spend a lot on things we can’t. They make up where we feel we haven’t done our part financially—and wish we could do more. It becomes a little embarrassing and difficult to continue to ask for help. We feel like that family member who just can’t keep a steady job and continually hits up his brothers for money. So we try hard not to ask. But that borders, I suppose, on pride. We try to find the right balance of humility.”

He adds, “I think we sometimes do wish larger churches would see our need and the importance of our work. We want to hold aloft the light of the Reformation, here in Cape Coral, for the Lord. Maybe there’s a perception that an established church, which has been around for a while, should be able to make it. By God’s wonderful provision, we have and will. But I sometimes wish we could be viewed similarly to a church plant or missionary effort. There is much more zeal and excitement for supporting those than there is for struggling small churches. Yet we feel we are doing as vital a work.”

Another problem common to small congregations is the lack of qualified personnel. Volunteers are spread thin and tend toward burn out. Most Sunday school teachers have no substitutes. To give teachers a break during the summer, the church holds a combined Sunday school.

Pastor Steve teaches many classes and frequently spends more time on administrative or diaconal duties than he should. Finding appropriate pulpit supply is often challenging for Trinity, due primarily to its distance from other churches. Paying for someone’s flight to Florida is out of the question for the small congregation.

stats-CC

You may think a church with three ministers would have no problem with pulpit supply, but it’s important to clarify that statistic. As academic dean of MINTS, Dr. Cornelius (Neal) Hegeman travels extensively and only worships with the Cape Coral faith community about two Sundays per year. The third pastor associated with the church, Rev. Richard Stevens, has been retired since 1996, but still helps as much as he is able, including serving as Clerk of Council.

Rev. Wetmore explains that, while the statistics may be technically accurate, they fail to reflect the full picture of the congregational demographic.

“We were for a long time a very senior church, with many widows. My family was the youngest and nearly the only one with children, but that has drastically changed the last year or two. The church family looks a lot different—lots of children running around.”

Although the congregation wants to attract new members, it focuses first on the ministry of the preached word. That foundation guides strategies to increase awareness of the church’s existence. Word of mouth is helpful, but Trinity URC has found posting sermons on the sermonaudio.com website to be most helpful.

“Website and internet advertising is very important due to our lack of resources or feet for more formal evangelism,” says Rev. Wetmore. “Sermon Audio gives us a bigger footprint, and probably about 90 percent of our visitors have found us through this. They do, however, seem a little surprised at our size when they arrive.”

The Steve and Wanson Wetmore family

The Steve and Wanson Wetmore family

Pastor Steve and his wife, Wanson, have five children between the ages of 13 and 21. He received his M.Div. from the Master’s Seminary in 1998, served as an interim pastor for a year in California, and relocated to Cape Coral when he came to visit family in 2006, but decided to stay. After Rev. Allen Vander Pol, who served Trinity for 13 years, became a full-time missionary in 2010, Rev. Wetmore pastored the congregation. He was installed in October of 2012, after sustaining a rigorous examination in Classis Eastern US.

“I was treated very graciously in Classis, but they were tough,” he says. “Also, during the two years prior to my classis exam, my own elders required a lot of training and reading. It was a little daunting, but it is necessary to vet and prepare those coming from outside our tradition. While the URC is welcoming, she must ‘contend earnestly for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3).”

Volunteers leading children in singing

Volunteers leading children in singing

He sees that commitment to doctrinal faithfulness necessary in the local church as well. “I hope I can strike the same balance in our church—welcoming to all, including those outside the Reformed faith background, but uncompromising with biblical truth and confessional tradition. That is the challenge for any church, to be welcoming and yet not allow ourselves to drift. Pastors need to be always training the flock in biblical tradition, explaining what we believe, defending why we do what we do. But we need to do it graciously, with all the love we can muster—by and for Christ.”

Trinity Reformed Church of Cape Coral is located at 2220 Hancock Bridge Parkway in Cape Coral. It meets for Sunday school at 9:15 and morning worship at 10:20, with the evening service at 6:00. Monthly prayer meetings and family fellowship/game nights are scheduled once per month. More information can be found at the church’s website: http://www.trinityurc.com.

Western Iowa's Loess Hills (photo credit-Glenda Mathes)

Western Iowa’s Loess Hills (photo credit-Glenda Mathes)

How was your Sunday? Did you enjoy it as a “festive day of rest”? Festive rest may seem like an oxymoron, but that’s the wonderful way the Heidelberg Catechism describes Sunday in its comprehensive answer explaining God’s will for us in the fourth commandment (Lord’s Day 38, Q&A 103). My devotional A Month of Sundays: 31 Meditations on Resting in God explores this concept in depth, and I also discuss this in my student workbook Not My Own: Discovering God’s Comfort in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Monday morning is an appropriate time to evaluate how we spent the previous day. Did we run around doing errands or playing hard? Did we waste time watching TV or sleep the day away? Or did we rest from our regular responsibilities and activities to enjoy time with family or friends and gathering with other believers to worship the God who is Lord over all the earth?

Psalm 65 reminds us of our duty for corporate praise of the God who controls all creatures and all creation. David begins this song by proclaiming that God deserves our praise and worship:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed (Psalm 65:1, ESV).

The next verse affirms that God hears prayer. It also implies that individuals from all nations will come to belief.

O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come (verse 2, ESV).

Although many people in our world deny the existence of God, one day every knee shall bow before the Lord (Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10). Whether willingly with joy or reluctantly with anger or dispair—eventually—every person will recognize the reality of God.

Any time our sins weigh us down, we can turn to this verse as a reminder of God’s great salvation.

When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions (verse 3, ESV).

We may feel overwhelmed by our sins or succumb to temptation, but we have confidence in the full and complete salvation of Christ.

Verse 4 shows how God has chosen his children from eternity for a purpose:

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

The believer’s home is in the courts of the Lord. We rejoice in his blessings and corporately worship the holy God.

The next section of the psalm portrays the God of Salvation’s righteous and awesome answers to our prayers as he reigns over the whole earth.

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
    O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
    being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy (verses 5-8, ESV).

The roaring of the seas in Scripture often represents the rebellion of nations who reject God’s authority. One day God will finally and definitively still that tumult. We tend to think in very limited terms of Christianity, but people who live in areas of the world far removed from us marvel at God’s signs. Next time you view a beautiful sunrise or drink in a vivid sunset, praise God for the way he makes them shout for joy.

The final section of this psalm paints an agrarian scene:

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy (verses 9-13).

As a Midwesterner, I readily envision these pastoral depictions of the seasons visiting the fields, woods, hills, and valleys. The series of images is almost like viewing a roomful of John Constable paintings, only the masterpieces in these verses are depicted by the ultimate Artist.

That Artist created the whole earth and continues to sustain every aspect of its functioning, from the rising sun to the falling rain to the ripening grain. He is Lord of all people, whether they know it now or not. One day even those who denied his existence will realize its reality. Then every person will appear before him and acknowledge him, joyfully or despairingly, as Lord of Lord, King of Kings, and God over all the earth.

ascribe2blog:

Lesley Eischen reviews Discovering Delight.

Originally posted on The Hallowed Path:

512qljIuhpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations On Loving God’s Law by Glenda Mathes

In today’s culture mentioning God’s law is often met with raised eyebrows or swift accusations of being a legalist.

But King David said, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

In Discovering Delight, Glenda deftly illustrates how our own delight will be found in meditating on God’s law just as King David proclaimed.

“Hold on to God’s Word. Lift that lamp before you and let it illuminate your way. Keep walking on the right path. Delight in the light!”

As a devotional there are thirty one meditations. Each meditation begins with a Scripture reading and an individual Scripture passage. Each meditation ends with a section of questions for reflection.

The majority of the focus is developed around Psalm 119; though other Psalms and Scriptures are employed. Sections of Reformed Confessions and authors…

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In a recent post about Slaying the Discouragement Dragon, I encouraged readers to overcome discouragement by continuing to work for God and by taking up the sword of his word.

While those are crucial strategies you can and should initiate on your own, encouragement from other people can deal a definitive death blow to discouragement. Like the mythological phoenix, encouragement rises from the ashes to bring flaming illumination and healing.

At the end of an extremely discouraging week, someone sent me the most encouraging email message I’d ever received. Its superlative character was due to the writer’s careful and insightful assessment of my work, sharing specific ways the writing functioned effectively and touched him. He comprehended underlying themes and communicated articulately. A pastor and leader, he thanked God for my work and compassionately expressed his hope that the Lord would continue to use my work to comfort and encourage others, as I had him.

God, in his great mercy, sent me exactly what I needed to hear from exactly the right person at exactly the right time.

A few days later, God sent another message from someone encouraging me in another avenue of my work. This person thanked me for my excellent writing, expressing appreciation from the bottom of his heart for what he viewed as my labor of love. He concluded: “May the Lord bless you abundantly.”

Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, perhaps especially writers. Writing is a fairly solitary activity with little return and few responses. Not receiving affirmation can cause an author to question God’s call. Your encouragement can affirm a writer in his or her vocation.

When you’re encouraging others, try to go beyond the generic “great job” or “good work” to cite specific examples of how the writing functioned well or how it touched you. Try to provide authentic encouragement by relating aspects you appreciated about the style or content. If you found something funny, mention that. Authors often write what they view as hilarious lines, but they worry their efforts are ineffective if no one else appears to pick up on the humor. My writing friends and I long to glorify God, and we particularly appreciate hearing readers thank God for our work.

When the Spirit pricks your heart to encourage someone, don’t hesitate. Your note may be the flame that ignites the Encouragement Phoenix and lifts it from the ashes in a blaze of light and healing.

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