I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, February 20, 2017

Exploring the Concept of Beauty

I’ve been thinking about the concept of “beauty” lately. In some ways, our society is obsessed with it, and I don’t think I need to go into detail since we see that obsession every day in many ways.

But it wasn’t our society’s concept of what’s pretty and what’s not that made me stop and think about beauty. It was the splendor that I see in God’s creation. You can see it in flowers, trees, and cute little doggies.

But if you follow me on Facebook, you know I’m currently fascinated with sunsets. I post pictures like this.  

And more like this.

Each one is unique, and most days I watch for the sunset and run for my camera if there’s a pretty one.

So it started me thinking about God’s thoughts about beauty. What does he say?

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”  So all beauty comes from Him.

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news.”  That one made me smile because I usually don’t take pictures of feet.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls.” My mother gave me a strand of her pearls, so I do agree that they are gorgeous.

“Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!” I had to think for a while about that verse because when I think of God’s holiness, beauty isn’t what first comes to my mind. But when I thought about it, the truly ugly things in this world do come from sin: brutality, jealously, greed, etc. So, indeed, the holiness of the Lord is beautiful.

One thing I’ve noticed about the sunsets: the most spectacular ones have clouds. Maybe there’s a lesson here too. When God allows some emotionally cloudy days in our lives, maybe He’s going to also allow His light to reflect from those clouds and send another display of His glory into the life of someone. 

So I’m will continue watching the sky in the evenings and will run for my camera when God lights up the sky.

One last thing I’ve noticed. Every time I scurry outdoors to take a picture of the sunset, my doggie, Titus, goes with me. But he never looks up at the sunset.

Think about that one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day - Finding a Perfect Life Mate, Part 2

 Delores E. Topliff
For Part 2 of finding a perfect life mate, I’ll introduce you to my Uncle Johnny. As a kid, I found him fascinating. He collected all kinds and shapes of polished agates, had countless records of bird songs, stacks of National Geographics, and a few statues of naked alabaster ladies. Everything he displayed in his home was interesting, but he had not found a life mate. (I do wonder what the ideal candidate might have looked like). He joined a Lonely Hearts Club, and exchanged letters and photos with a promising candidate years before online connections were available. He boarded and rode the train from Washington State to New York City for days to meet her. She had told him the color of the coat and the hat she would be wearing as she stood at the platform where his train would pull in. Family legend says she was there, he saw her, but he did not get off the train. I do not know if she did not match her photo well enough. Or he got cold feet about pursuing a relationship, but he stayed on that train as it reversed direction and returned all the way to Washington State. I wish that story had a happier ending—I have imagined many alternate scenarios.
I knew an attractive 6’ tall young woman in remote northern Alaska who was encouraged to be patient, that God had a special someone for her, and would send him in time in answer to her prayer. With few prospects around, she said, “God would have to drop him from the sky.” That next summer when they had a forest fire, a handsome 6’ plus smokejumper floated down using their camp as a base. After his crew put out the forest fire, he began a blaze with that young lady, and they’ve kept their home fires burning ever since.
There are as many fascinating ways for people to get together as there are people. Please share your favorite story or suggestions for connecting. And Happy Valentine’s Day. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It's Almost Valentine's Day - Finding A Perfect Life Mate, Part 1

Delores E. Topliff
             With Valentine’s Day soon here, it’s time for practical advice on love and romance. In our day when TV reality shows like The Bachelor earn top ratings, and library shelves are overloaded with books on relationship building and successfully choosing life mates, everyone hopes to find gold at the end of our rainbow, and not just the pot.
Success stories range from the luck of the draw, to being in the right place at the right time, or knowing a neighbor or best friend from childhood to grow into love with. Others meet someone who sweeps them their feet (sometimes literally), or who saves their life from fire or accident or drowning. Some survive a car or airplane crash together and know they are destined to be together.
Should we team up with someone similar? Or opposite? Someone who completes us? Or mirrors us so very few adjustments are needed? Few of us are experts, but here is one tip and story worth remembering.
In church youth group, grown-ups gave tips on various life skills. My favorite was the happily married dentist who shared how he found his life mate. “I had a long list of what I wanted in a girl,” he said. “I wouldn’t date her unless she had enough of those qualities to come close, and after I got home from a date, I sat down and ticked off the boxes. I was making progress in narrowing down the field when I met Marilyn.” Here he glanced at his wife of some years. “I came home from my first date with her and threw away the list. I didn’t need it anymore, and I got serious about our relationship.” That sounds like a success story to me.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week, but think about your favorite advice to meet someone. Do all the details need to fit together  just right? Or would he or she stand out in the midst of a field of rubble as if under Hollywood lights? Share the best story you know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Alabaster Surprise

My Bible class has been studying the book of John this year. We came to John 12 where Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. One of our references was in Matthew 26:7 where it says this: "A woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on this head..."

I love this story of Mary's devotion, and it always challenges me to think about ways I could show my devotion to the Lord.

But the "alabaster surprise" came to me this week as I looked at the bottom of a little dish my mother gave to me. It's alabaster! And yes, that's a picture of it.

As I examined at the dish, I saw that it appears it was sealed at one time. I don't know what it contained, but I'd like to think it was perfume...like Mary's.

Needless to say the dish is special to me just because it belonged to my mother. But I also realized just a bit more what a sacrifice Mary made because it was likely "costly" in more ways than one. Had someone special like my mother given it to her? Did she spend from her own money to buy it? In any case, the disciples scolded her, but the Lord saw right through to her heart of love.

Have you ever discovered a little treasure like this? What could you give to the Lord that others might think was a waste?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Garde lieu—or vocabulary building can be dangerous

Delores E. Topliff
The most fun college class I’ve created and taught so far was when students including my oldest son asked me to put together a college vocabulary class so their skills could grow. I found a great book and we were off and running. Call me sentimental, but I still have a few fun student compositions from their related writing exercises. “Take the 25-30 vocabulary building words we studied this week and incorporate them into a single story,” I’d say—and they did. The best book I found then that I haven't improved on is Vocabulary For the College Bound by Levine, still available in book form, PDF, and even on You Tube.

My enthusiastic students even acted out or pantomimed some word stories and we had to guess what was going on. For example, the Arms Race involved students racing across our classroom wiggling their arms. One student, now a mother herself, had a classmate lure me to my back porch while she hid behind my ideally-located upstairs window with an ice-cream bucket containing water with yellow food coloring and a few wisps of toilet paper floating in it to make it convincing when I unwittingly got into position for her to dump it on me. A courageous co-conspirator hid behind a nearby building with a video camera capturing my response. That week involved the vocabulary word Garde lieu, one of their favorites. It means “Guard yourself,” or more colloquially, “Watch out below,” rising from the historic practice of carrying chamber pots outside to dump them, or in cities tossing the contents out of windows into streets below. Therefore city streets had gutters at their edges and gentlemen walked on the outsides of streets, hopefully wearing raincoats or capes, while their companions were protected by walking closer to buildings.

This re-enactment was a great success as I was ambushed, but not totally drenched. Those students passed my course but the video tape showing my reaction was confiscated by our college administrator and disappeared. I suppose it’s nice to be highly regarded and make an impression on students. Most of us remain friends welcome in my home and I love visiting theirs.

Another origin that surprised us was “curfew,” and our college had one. It literally means a signal, usually with a bell, announcing the start of time restrictions. In medieval Europe it meant ringing a bell at a specific evening hour to announce time to cover or extinguish household fires. That’s the exact word meaning in its French originshut the draft on the fireplace or stove to prepare for night and send visitors home.

I love words and their meanings. They help me grow in vocabulary and increase reading and writing enjoyment. Please share the word origin of one of your favorite words to increase interest for the rest of us.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The New Year

by Patricia Bradley
It’s 2017, and change is in the air. Everyone is setting new goals, and Rachelle Gardner had a great post way back in 2011 on this subject about looking forward to making those goals happen. Check it out.

Expectations abound. But what if last year’s goals resulted in dismal failure? As some of mine did. I did not lose the ten pounds I vowed to lose, and in fact added a few. I vowed to get my book in on time, but ended up missing the deadline and had to ask for a two-week extension. So this year I was a little fearful about making new goals.

Until I thought about…the farmer.

Yes, the farmer. Think about it. Every spring, regardless of past failures, he plants a new crop, hope and anticipation mixing with the fresh turned dirt. He plants his seed in faith, and then he waits. He’s done all he physically can do. He can’t make the seed grow or control the amount of rain that falls. Those things are in God’s hands.

Like the farmer, we set our goals, do the preparation and look forward to seeing the harvest. But sometimes our goals don’t get the needed rain or they stagnate, and we perceive that as failure. So we quit trying. We become afraid to try new things.

What is fear keeping you from doing? Not writing because you fear you’re not good enough? Maybe you’ve written the story God laid on your heart, but you don’t send it out because you fear rejection, or you’ve been rejected. Or maybe there’s something new you want to try, but the fear of failing holds you back.

A few years ago, when my mom was in her eighties, she learned how to program a VCR. Then when she was ninety, she wanted to learn how to use a computer but was afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her anyone who could program a VCR could learn how to Google. 

In a short period of time she was Googling and doing Face Book. She even had her own FB page. When she was 92, she decided to learn how to text. And she did--on a flip phone no less--in spite of her fear that it would prove too difficult.

So, if my ninety-two-year-old mother could risk failing, so can you. So can I. 

This week, I start a new book--the third book in the Memphis Cold Case Novels. I worry I can't do it again--come up with another story. But in my quiet time this morning, God reassured me that He was the Master Creator and He will give me the words. And to prove it, He gave me the nugget of the story I was missing. Now it's up to me to do the discipline and sit at the computer, typing the words He gives me. And always, the harvest is in His hands.

I challenge you to ponder and pray about your new goals, and then step out in faith.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart...wait patiently for the Lord to act..." Psalm 37:4,7

Oh, by the way, Justice Delayed, the first Memphis Cold Case Novel, comes out January 31...here's a little bit about it: 

It's been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister's sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn't actually do it, Detective Will Kincade of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, this case is personal: the person who confessed to the crime is Will's cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in that week--including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love.

 Preorder on Amazon

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year From the Ponderers!

Happy New Year, you lovers of Jesus and lovers of books!

And if you don’t love Jesus or books, happy 2017 to you anyway.

If you don’t love Jesus, the best thing I can wish for you in this new year is that you would indeed come to know Him because “Christ Jesus can into the world to save sinners”.  

If you do love Jesus, I wish for you a blessed time in 2017 of getting to know Him even better.

Now about those books…what books did you read this year? Which ones made an impact or changed you in some way?  Which ones fascinated you the most? Tell us about them! We want to know and share them. Why were they so great? 

And if you write books, consider this an open thread and promote your books without hesitation. This blog is read in many countries so, come on, tell us about your books! 

Here’s some of my favorite books:

First Things First by Kirk Warner, 
The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel

You’re the One that I Want by Susan May Warren
The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck
Logan Point Series by Patricia Bradley (try this author if you haven't before!)
Keep Holding On by Melissa Tagg
Almost Like Being in Love by Beth Vogt

What writers blog do you like best? What news blog?  Do you read any just for fun?

Here’s some I like:

Conservative News & Issues:


For fun:
God’s Not Dead 2
One Look Thesaurus: If you know the concept your looking for but can’t think of the word, try this: http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml
Music, stories, kids, funny videos and more: http://www.godvine.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Merry Christmas leads to Easter

Delores E. Topliff

That first Christmas at His wondrous birth in Bethlehem angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will to men.” More than ever this year I see that His birth and Galilee childhood and then His ministry's completion in Jerusalem did purchase peace and good will for all who believe. 

On my first trip to Israel as a tourist in 1984, I took a sherut (shared large sedan) from Tel Aviv’s airport at sea level to 2350’ elevation in 42 miles up steep winding curves through Judean mountains to Jerusalem’s shining white limestone city. Comments from passengers from many nations gave interesting first impressions as we entered historic Jerusalem, truly a uniquely different place than any I’ve visited anywhere in the world. I rode a camel at the Dead Sea (hard to do) and later rode a bus north to Galilee. My camera snapped hundreds of pictures but those images are clearly imprinted in my mind and heart without needing Kodak prints or stored digital chips. By my fourth visit I rented a car to organize my own trips and reversed things by going to beautiful Galilee first to the scenes of Jesus’ boyhood and early ministry. For me that chronology works. The young Son-of-God learned much about His Father through scriptures plus parables of local sparrows and foxes and lilies and pearls.

This December more than ever enjoying Christmas leads me to Easter. I’m spending this winter in a small sweet Mississippi town where shopkeepers and clerks unhesitatingly greet us with, “Merry Christmas!” Shoppers reply “Merry Christmas” but I almost add, “Hallelujah, He is Risen!” for in my heart His Easter gift brought the lasting peace and good will the angels sang about.

What makes you sing? What is your best Christmas memory celebration? Please share the special meaning it brings.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Holiday Fear or Cheer?

by Teri Smith

We celebrated Thanksgiving, and now, right on the heels of it, Christmas! In fact, for the last few years we have started setting up our Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Day as soon as we can begin to move again after the big meal.

It's kinda fun...wondering if we should decorate the tree about the same or make some changes.

To be fair, this year my daughter, Sarah, and her friend adorned our tree while my son-in-law and I watched the Cowboys win their football game. After all, first things first.

I love both celebrations. Thanksgiving brings back memories of making our favorite recipes for so many years, most of which only get pulled out in November. And I love the roots of the holiday, remembering all the things we have to give thanks for! Then Christmas brings joy because we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and it's a delight to think about which gift I can give to my family and friends.

But wonderful as these two back to back holidays are, they can also be stressful. Because, well, family. As precious as they are, they all have their "moments". (At least I know I give my family those moments.)

Maybe there's been a little rift between two of them. Or perhaps a tragedy of some sort overshadows the day. It could be someone has a headache that day and feels out of sorts. Maybe they're just tired! Or there's that moment when everything going great and something slips out that offends someone.

Should we just give up on these holidays? Never! But you (yes, you) can be the one who fixes it. You be the one who says "sorry you aren't feeling well." Or the one who gives a little hug just to make someone know you care. You can be the one to say "I'm sorry" or "let's play a game".

You can be the one, by the grace of God, to bring the holiday cheer to your family.