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

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Please tell me where that name came from again (Part 2)

Delores E. Topliff
I love the historic origins behind many dining, fashion, and cultural statements. Crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD, Charlemagne, King of France, established a royal school for children, which he sometimes attended. He also improved etiquette. Unhappy with his soldiers stabbing meat with short daggers to gnaw meat off the bones, he suggested an eating utensil we still use, a fork with two tines to secure meat while it is sliced into manageable portions.

Centuries later, Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, noticed that when his 6’ tall Potsdam guards stood at attention in cold weather, they inelegantly wiped their dripping noses on their jacket sleeves. His solution? Sew multiple buttons on each sleeve as trim to end nosewiping, a fashion statement we still use.

British and U.S. History was determined by a health problem. King George III was noted to oscillate between excitement and despair, spoke of abdicating, and didn’t respond to issues raised in letters and pleas from American colonists. That contributed to the colonies declaring independence. In 1788 doctors diagnosed that it was King George’s reason that had fled its throne and his son, the then Prince of Wales, governed as regent. Even after the king recovered in 1789 and resumed the throne, he feared that he might collapse again into madness. Twentieth-century medical men believe that he suffered porphyria, a hereditary blood disease producing agonizing pain, excited overactivity, and the acute delirium that he displayed at least four times during his reign.

Meanwhile, instead of daring to speak openly against their king, American colonists poked fun at him through harmless children’s rhymes children:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, 
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; 
All the king's horses and all the king's men 
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

They also teased about the success of the ragtag volunteer colonial army that opposed him—
Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

Many nursery rhymes have similar fascinating origins. Keep your eyes and ears open for more fun word stories and please share one that you enjoy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tell me where that name came from (Part 1)

Delores E. Topliff
Researching and now writing historic novels, I love learning stories behind the words, rhymes, etc., that are now part of our everyday world. For example, the tongue twister, “She sells sea shells down by the seashore” comes from historic fact, but not about seashells. Mary Anning, born in 1799 in Dorset, England, was the eldest daughter in a family that supplemented income by digging up fossils near the sea to sell to tourists. She had little education but excelled in fossils and filled in many blanks for science. I wish I’d known the gal and you can read more about her at http://www.littlethings.com/she-sells-seashells-meaning

There are two fascinating explanations for Orange Marmalade's invention and name. One is that Mary, Queen of Scots, got a bad chill while riding horseback through a rainy night to meet her lover, Bothwell. Her French chef boiled orange peel with juice and sugar to cure her and she liked it so much she then kept it at her bedside always.

The second is that a French king had a young daughter also named Marie who was so sick and near death who would not take nourishment. Her desperate dad decreed that whoever could create a food to tempt her to eat and live would be handsomely rewarded. Supposedly, a poor but bright young man boiled oranges crushed in sugar, which she loved, and began her return to health. That story ends with the young man receiving gold plus becoming her husband (and probably starting a Marmalade factory). In French, the words for, Marie is sick are Marie est malade, close enough in sound there must be some basis in fact. 

Which version do you vote for? Tell us the background of any fascinating word origin you know and enjoy.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When Faith Gets Down in the Dirt

What exactly is Faith? I could give you a trite definition. Faith is believing when you can’t see.

Or a more Biblical one: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Hebrews 11:1

Or even a dictionary definition. “Belief that is not based on proof.”

I can toss out synonyms: belief, confidence, trust and conviction.

We have a whole list of people who exhibited faith in Hebrews 11.

  • Noah building the ark
  • Abraham obeying God to travel without knowing where he was going
  • Moses leading the people of God out of Egypt
  • David going out to fight the giant

But for some reason faith doesn’t seem to get real until it gets personal. What if God puts some unexpected twists in your road like He did mine?

  • He sends you from Texas to Canada to work in a tiny Christian publishing company with little pay
  • He calls you to be a missionary in Bolivia, a country you've never seen
  • He withholds the natural children you longed for
  • He allows an aneurism that leaves your brain reeling for a while

This is when faith gets down in the dirt, sometimes leaving us without a reason to trust…except…well, except God. Sometimes we can wait a long time to until that faith comes to fruition. Sometimes we may not see it until we get to heaven. In the meantime, that “hanging in there” and that “waiting what seems like forever” shines to others around you as a modern day example of faith.  No answers yet.  Just trust.

And for the record, here’s my list of a few blessings that came from the “hanging in there”.

  • When I got to Canada I met the young man I would marry! And I fell in love with a whole beautiful new country
  • When I went to Bolivia, I saw many people come to know Christ as their Savior. I also received the surprise of my life when God opened the way for us to adopt 3 beautiful and wonderful children!
  • The major illness opened the way for me to be with my parents and take care of them in their weakness until God called them home.

I still have unanswered questions and things I wonder about. But that’s the precious thing about faith. We can rest and leave these in the capable hands of our Savior. When we get to heaven, we can ask God all our hard questions. I know He’ll answer them to our perfect satisfaction.

How has faith had an impact in your life? Please share!

(By Teri Smith)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

History lives just down the street and around the corner

Delores E. Topliff

I grew up in the town around Fort Vancouver, Washington, the end of the Oregon Trail, and that connection to history had impact. Built in 1825, the fort also has the oldest apple tree in the Pacific Northwest from seeds brought by an English sea captain a year later. 

Even now when I’m there in season I nibble on that tree’s small green apples to digest more history. Before the fort became a national monument, anyone could roam the place, so at age eleven I explored the original well, so deep it made me dizzy to look into its depths. I crawled the last few feet on my stomach to peer down past the perfectly fitted stones lining its walls to clear water in the bottom. I wanted to drink that water as another link to the past and loved realizing those stones were perfectly fitted by craftsman hands not so very long ago.

This September I attended Voyageur Days at Minnesota’s North West Fur Post built in 1804. Cheerful people in period dress taught life skills, offered authentic trade goods, and played music on instruments true to the time. I saw and heard a nine note range Scottish small pipe played for parlor entertainment by squeezing a small air bag under the arm instead of blowing the fierce warrior blasts that terrified enemies. It was as if I had walked down a street, turned some corner, and found myself living in earlier years. The staff and visitors delightfully spoke of people in conversation that I’m researching for a historic novel as intimately as if they were the new family just moving into the neighborhood.

In the U.S. and Canada., history is alive and well and didn’t actually happen that long ago. My grandchildren like to quiz me on life before T.V., space shots, internet, and other modern inventions, yet don’t realize they’re also missing out on great experiences from earlier days.

History is still being written and we each have a starring role. What favorite historic place do you love to frequent and why? What historic impact do you most want your life to have? I want to write about both past and present in ways that make them live.