Christianity, Church life, Writers/writing

“What this story needs…”

 Modern LAst Supper

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day when Christians recall Jesus’ Last Supper before his death on the cross. The gathering that Jesus entered into with his disciples on this night was the Jewish celebration of the Passover meal. At Passover, the ancient Story of God’s Covenants with and faithfulness to Israel are recalled. On this particular Passover, the Last Supper, Jesus added a new chapter, a New Covenant, to the Story. This New Covenant, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” (John 13:34) helps us to grasp that the Story, the Bible, is not primarily a collection of rules, it is a love Story.

All of us have a story. I wonder, who holds the copyright to your story? Apple? Amazon? People Magazine? Jesus made sure he cited the source of his Story: “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49). Maundy Thursday is a good day to remember stories, and to ask ourselves if the righteous one, Jesus,  holds the copyright to our story.

Speaking of stories,  here is a touching tale. Sadly, I have lost the name of the person who originally shared this anecdote, but it is so good I wanted to share it with you. If you know the author of this piece, please email me and I will gladly cite the source. Thanks!   

“A woman had held a Bible study in her home for a number of years. One day, a young neighbor and new member of the Bible study group stopped by to talk to the hostess. The new Bible student expressed her concern about the way the Old Testament stories were going. ‘So much violence and confusion, and such terrible things are happening,’ she said. ‘You know what this Story needs?’ the woman offered, ‘It needs a hero.’ At this, the hostess of the Bible study took the young woman’s hands in her own, looked into her eyes and said, ‘Keep reading. He’s coming.’ ”

Image is of “The Last Supper” by artist Janefargo.

Christianity, Church life, Family Life, Reviews

Mother Tongue by Leonard Sweet – a book review

Mother Tongue Book Cover

Author Leonard Sweet’s mother, Mabel Boggs Sweet, shines like the finest gold in Sweet’s most recent book and semi-memoir, “Mother Tongue: How Our Heritage Shapes Our Story” (NavPress, 2017).Written using the metaphor of a memory box, Sweet presents his family’s story by employing chapters titled with memory box “artefacts,” for example, “Ma’s Wedding Ring, Dad’s Hellevision,” “Polio Braces,” “Lye Soap,” and twenty-two others. Sweet composes the chapters as spectacular dioramas or stage settings so that the reader can step directly into the home and lives of the remarkable family of Leonard L. and the Reverend Mabel Boggs Sweet and their sons, Leonard I., Philip, and John.

Although Mother Tongue is the tale of the Leonard L. Sweet family, Mable Boggs Sweet was the powerful hub of that tribe and home – and what a home it was. Set on “Hungry Hill” in the town of Gloversville, N.Y., Mabel Boggs Sweet, “an early woman preacher, a church planter, and lay theologian,” (xxiii) took a low profile in public ministry after her marriage and the birth of her three sons. She shifted her outreach from the tent meetings of her time to her boys, whom she saw as her new mission field, and she made their home a “religious community.”(51) Had Rod Dreher been writing “The Benedict Option” (PenguinRandomHouse, 2017) then, he might have used the Sweet household as his model for Christian family life.

Mabel Boggs Sweet, a dynamic Pilgrim Holiness preacher, instituted a family pattern of prayer, Bible study, evangelism, and excellence in academics and musical skills for her sons. Sweet, in his evocative and image-rich way, makes clear that these activities were done to form Christ in the Sweet boys, and with a heart for reaching the lost. Not one to keep the good news of Jesus Christ to herself, the boys struggled with their Mother’s outgoing style of evangelism. Even so, writes Sweet, “In spite of all the embarrassment as kids growing up, we got the sense that to be a follower of Jesus is to be heir to an extraordinary heritage, host to the very Son of God, and harbinger of a promised future….”

In the chapter that features the artefact of an “Upright Piano and Soundtrack for the Soul,” Leonard Sweet describes the way in which Mabel Boggs Sweet put her boys to bed: “But mostly Mother would tuck us in musically. We would call down hymns we wanted her to play, and she would either play them by memory or look them up in one of the many hymnbooks scattered on the piano or stored inside the bench. If a radio pulls sound out of the air, prayer pulls sounds out of the heart. The assumption was that our musical requests would reflect the need of our hearts at that moment. There was hardly a problem that didn’t have disharmony as its cause, and there was hardly a problem that a song couldn’t cure.”

It is clear in Mother Tongue that Jesus was first and foremost in Mabel Boggs Sweet’s mind and heart, and she imparted the Jesus-way of life to her boys. This could lead one to believe that peace and perfection were everywhere in their home, but not so. The Sweet clan was a fully human family in our get-real modern world. Together they experienced rejection and shunning from church leaders and fellow church members, suffered the physical results of professional medical negligence, endured the brutal effects of polio, and lived through the destructive, rebellious years of teenage children. Despite these devastations, Mabel Boggs Sweet persevered as she followed her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and clung to the Truth in her role as a mother and a preacher.

“Mother Tongue: How Our Heritage Shapes Our Story” is a frankly intimate and revealing book. Pain is present in these pages, but humor, beauty, love and wisdom are paramount. There is no doubt about who the central character of the narrative is, or what heritage has been passed from Mother to sons in this story: it is Jesus Christ – King, Shepherd, Lord, and Lover of Mabel Boggs Sweet’s soul.

Mabel Boggs Sweet’s life was lived in the Refiners fire, a complex process that produces the finest gold. Her life of burnished gold is truly the most precious artefact in “Mother Tongue” and is what shines so luminously in Leonard Sweet’s outstanding book.

 

Reviews, Writers/writing

What I learned from NaNoWriMo

Keyboard V
Keyboard V (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not sure how I got swept up into the National Novel Writing Month in November, but it happened. If you are new to NaNoWriMo, their slogan is “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon”.  The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  If you want to learn more about NaNoWriMo you can do that here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/faq/about-us/

NaNoWriMo is completely on the honor system. After all, if you lie about reaching your goal, who have you fooled? Only yourself, of course. So, did I reach 50,000 words? No. But I did write 41, 271 words, which completely surprised me. Here are the top 10 things I learned from participating in NaNoWriMo:

  1. The number of words you must write per day to reach 50,000 words in thirty days is 1,667, but you should set your sites on writing at least 2,000. You need a cushion to get you through the days when life, family, work or illness demands that you leave the computer and get other things done.
  2. Recognize the things that are writing aids, and which things are distractions; e.g., TV = distraction; radio = aid. Also, being a good typist is a great asset to have at your disposal. I‘m a terrible typist.(Dragon speech recognition software anyone?)
  3. Find a comfortable place to write. This was a challenge. Never knew it was so hard to type with a computer on your lap. Couldn’t get used to my legs going numb after an hour of sitting cross legged.
  4.  Prepare an outline for the novel (fair according to the NaNoWriMo rules.) It is too time consuming to formulate an outline and write a story at the same time.
  5. Do not try to learn how to use Scrivener (a word-processing program designed for writers) and write 1667 words a day at the same time.
  6. Checking your progress on a fun website that has your personal total word count, a bar graph, and lots of other stats is cool, mostly.
  7. It is possible to write 3,000 words in 6 hours; also possible to type in a semi-sleeping state.
  8. It is very hard to lock your internal editor in a room in your brain and not allow her out for a month. Couldn’t do it.
  9. Yes, you can sit down and write even when inspiration has left the building.
  10.  You might want to take the last two days of November off work so that you can write for 48 hours straight, if necessary.

Will I do NaNoWriMo again? Can’t say, especially now that I know how big the commitment is. I will be better prepared to participate if I do take the challenge next year, though.  How about you? Are you interested in joining NaNoWriMo 2013?

Am I smarter now?, Thinking back, Writers/writing

A non-word?

English: icon of Keep Your Word by bambooapps
English: icon of Keep Your Word by bambooapps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have noticed that  the word “snuck” has become quite acceptable to use these days, both in speaking and writing. It wasn’t acceptable when I was in 4th grade and wrote my first story, however. Sister Cecelia asked for volunteers to read their homework stories for the class, and as shy as I was, I raised my hand, and was chosen to read. I spoke with as loud a voice as I could muster, and amazingly, the story was well received by the class! I glanced up from my reading to find Sister Cecelia looking at me with her piercing “are you trying to put something over on me?” gaze.

“Did you write that by yourself, Teresa?”

“Yes, Sister.”

Pause.

“I guess I have to believe you. I don’t think an adult would have used “snuck” in a sentence. “Snuck” isn’t a word, you know. You may sit down.”
I sat down, emotions whipping through me. My classmates had obviously liked the story, but I had managed to do something wrong by not knowing that “snuck” was not a  word. Emotionally I was a mess as I sat at my desk,  but intellectually I was determined never to use the non-word “snuck” ever again. So it is with some chagrin that I have seen that very word used  rather frequently as of late.

Which makes me think, where is Sister Cecelia when you need  her?