Playing in the Minor Leagues

Recently I’ve gotten to know Rhoda Preston, my neighbor. Even though she has a lot on her platter, as you’ll see here, she always has a smile for me when she’s working at her desk, and she keeps her door open. 

One commenter here will win a copy of Rhoda’s recently published non-fiction book about the Old Testament Minor Prophets, Playing In The Minor Leagues. The title alone makes me want to read this–and it would also make a good gift for someone interested in the scriptures.  

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The Rev. Dr. Rhoda Preston is a United Methodist pastor, author, and former preschool editor at the United Methodist Publishing House. Her most recent book, Playing in the Minor Leagues: A Look at the Minor Prophets, explores what the twelve Old Testament minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) can teach us about the essential game of life. How did they address God’s major concerns for the world? How might their insights strike home with us today? Each prophet is presented in easy-to-understand fashion, placing each into historical context, providing in-depth commentary, and showing connections with New Testament Scriptures. Each chapter includes discussion questions for group study. Copies of the book are available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle editions. Additional articles on the prophets can be found on her blog, rhodapreston.com, and on her Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/rhodaepreston/playing-in-the-minor-leagues-minor-prophets/.

Several years ago, during the Christmas season—in celebration of the wise men who followed a star to Bethlehem–our congregation introduced the tradition of “Star Gifts.” A Star Gift is simply a paper star with a word written on it. During our worship service, ushers pass Star Gifts to the congregation using our traditional offering plates. Instead of placing something into the offering plate, everyone is invited to reach in and take a star.

“Don’t intentionally choose a star,” we’re told. “Just reach in and grab one. Consider the word on that star to be God’s gift to you for the coming year. Take the Star Gift home and hang it up where you are sure to see it every day. Each time you glance at the star, ponder the significance that word might have in your life, and how God might be speaking to you and guiding you through that word.”

Every star in the offering plate contains a different word. It might be imagination or strength, courage or forgiveness, honesty or flexibility, integrity, humor, humility, hopefulness, peace….

Since I serve as the pastor of two separate congregations, I received two Star Gifts this past year. One said “Listening.” The other said “Helping.” I took the stars to my office, posted them on my bulletin board, right next to my calendar. Each morning I pray: “Lord, in everything I do today, give me a listening heart and helping hands. For You are a God who listens and helps, and I want to follow You.”

Sometimes my schedule can get so busy, so hectic. And when folks stop by my office, I may seem pre-occupied. “I hate to bother you…” they’ll say. And that’s when I realize: it’s time to stop what I’m doing and give this person my full attention. It’s time to listen carefully, and to help as best I can. God doesn’t want me to treat people as interruptions. God has given me the gift of just enough time, and the ability to make a difference. And I am so grateful, Wise and Generous God, for that gift!

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You can enjoy more of Rhoda’s writing at her blog, rhodapreston.com

 

 

 

Glories

I’ve never had much luck with morning glories, but this year, decided to try again. Wow … it’s struck me how extremely fragile they are–yet many consider them a weed.

IMG_3856These didn’t bloom until the second week of September, but take a look…their periwinkle hue is So beautiful! In this photo of my husband’s, you can see how transparent the blossoms are…talk about delicate.

 

They burst open in the morning, but around noon, start to close up, and by mid-afternoon, you’d never know they’d shared their color with the world.

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Contemplating these gorgeous flowers’ short-lived blooming time set me to thinking of parallels. The most obvious, perhaps, is my faith. Though I’d rather it be constant, full-blossomed all the time, and reliable, reality says otherwise.

I waited all summer for these blossoms to show their glory, and truly appreciated them when they finally appeared. Not like steadfast marigolds that keep blooming the entire season, these frail lovelies can make their appearance and fade before you get a chance to observe.

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Still, they’re beautiful, if only in fits and starts. And all this reminds me of another fact: normal standards fall short when measuring worth.

Those who seem weakest may make a huge difference in small and seemingly insignificant ways. My World War II research overflows with people who tended their posts, no matter how mundane. No setting the world on fire, but still a certain glory in making a contribution.

My characters are like this, everyday folks intent on doing their best. One of them recently told me I’m not finished with her story, even if I thought I’d reach The End. No, she wants to contribute more, desires to make a greater sacrifice for the war effort.

Back to the drawing board … here’s hoping the result will enhance her story. And during the rainy, overcast day while I worked on that plot, guess what happened? More glories, multicolored!

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This morning, a nifty anonymous quote appeared on my teabag- thank you, whoever came up with this:

                  The ones who say, “You can’t” and “you won’t”

                  are probably the ones scared that you will.

 

 

Will this little house wren move into our rather dilapidated offering?

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Will this American tree sparrow father a healthy brood of chicks this summer?

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Will my poor tulips make it through the cold spell we’ve been having?

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And this early butterfly, will it …” I’ll let you think of a question about this delicate creature.

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And what about us? Will we take the plunge to submit our writing for publication? Will we go through with our plan simplify our lifestyle?

Will we … what ever decisions we face, chances are some naysayers exist. Mine live mostly in my own heart, so I’ve had to learn to ignore them. I used to hope they’d magically disappear, but that hasn’t happened in the past six decades, so I doubt it will.

Today, we’re attending our nephew’s high school graduation party. He’s such a cool young man – I hope he moves ahead through life with confidence and positivity.

Ignoring those who say we can’t or won’t–a good resolution to make as spring bursts into summer!

 

The Calling of Ella McFarland

Now, there’s a title! Calling carries several connotations, and Ella’s cover photograph entices me, too. As the 2014 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, The Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis, debuted on December 1, 2015.

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Linda set this romantic historical set in 1905 Indian Territory, when women were silenced in public and often stifled at home, when illiteracy ran rampant and women could not participate in their governance. As  compulsory education, woman’s suffrage, and temperance debates rage, Ella Jane McFarland pursues her dream: a teaching position at prestigious Worthington School for Girls.

But scandal clouds her family name and may limit her to grueling labor on her family’s Indian Territory farm. Her fate lies in the hands of the male Worthington board. Will they overlook the illegitimate son recently borne by her sister
Viola? Might handsome Mr. Evans help her reach her dream?

As hope of Oklahoma statehood rises and the citizens anticipate a new state constitution, Ella comes to the rescue of a young, abused sharecropper’s daughter. Forced to make decisions about her faith, family, and aspirations, her calling takes shape in ways she never imagined.

With a new love budding in her heart, can Ella find God’s will amid the tumultuous storm that surrounds her?

This family-and-faith story explores one woman’s devotion to a serendipitous calling, the transforming effect of unlikely friendship, and the healing power of love.

 LInda, I’m hooked! Please tell us why you wrote this book. 

My Indian Territory grandmother and Oklahoma mother lived lives rife with hardship, trial, and grief. Rather than weakening them, such experiences empowered them and strengthened their faith.

My grandmother Ella Jane—Mama to me—had a 3rd grade education. She never drove a car, but could handle a team of mules just fine. She never shopped for the latest fashion, but sewed up a dress in a day. She never considered the benefits of tile over wood laminate, but made a home in a corner of a barn. She swept the dirt floor. She never worked outside her home, except in a cotton patch, picking 100 pounds a day. Mama buried 2 husbands and 5 daughters but never lost her faith.

My mother progressed only to 9th grade, and accepted nothing less than a college education for her children. Nor would she depend on a man to do something she could do herself. Mother buried a son, tended an ailing husband for 10 grueling years, and battled the weather and creditors to save the family farm, yet never blamed God.

I consider my ancestors’ stories treasures of which I am a steward. Hence, The Calling of Ella McFarland. While not the actual life story of any family member, this debut novel is saturated in reality. The writing represents my love and high esteem for two strong matriarchs, and reflects my longing for my granddaughter–also named Ella Jane–to believe in herself as a daughter of the King of Heaven and to cast herself upon the mercies of God to hold her up, make her strong, and give her His purpose.

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Thanks so much, Linda–you’ve piqued my interest. Please make a note in your comment that you’re willing to write a review, and Linda will provide you an e-book.

Purchase links: http://bit.ly/1NqmYtF

Email: linda@lindabrooksdavis.com

Website: http://lindabrooksdavis.com

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