Meditations on Calvary~Book Launch

 

In 2016, Harpursville United Methodist Church and Nineveh Presbyterian Church hosted my new Lenten devotional series based on the old spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” Each weekly session explored the experiences of people who were present when Jesus Christ was arrested and executed, plus a few who were conspicuously absent. Those scriptures, songs, and meditations touched hearts. So I resolved to bring the series to a wider audience in book form.

It’s finally here!

Were You There When They Crucified Our Lord? Meditations on Calvary is now live on Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback editions. Companion resources for readers, presenters, and musicians are ready for free download here on Faith Songs, too.

Were You There book coverBook details
Music resources
Study resources

 

 

 

 

Blessings,
Linda
(Post edited 11/6/17)

 

Faith Songs for Eye and Ear on YouTube

Title page of YouTube video for O Lord Whose Touch Once Made Me Whole by Linda Bonney OlinMy Holy GhostWriter is no slouch when it comes to using technology for music and ministry. I’m a little slower on the uptake. But I did manage to learn the basics of creating and uploading YouTube videos. Now you will be able to sample some of the hymns and faith songs I’ve written since Songs for the Lord came out five years ago.

I’m delighted to feature Theresa Olin, aka Diva Daughter, singing while my lyrics are displayed onscreen. Her voice is a treat. She sings first soprano with the Houston Symphony Chorus, for which she has served as section leader, and with smaller choral groups, including Houston Camerata. (Diva Daughter is the slim brunette in the middle of the back row in Houston Camerata’s group picture.)

We had time to record only a few songs during Theresa’s Christmas visit. But I hope to travel to Texas, with digital voice recorder in hand, when time and my husband’s health allow. (Bill is still recuperating from injuries he suffered in a farm accident last September; that’s why I haven’t had time to post here in the past several months.)

Meanwhile, I have another sacrificial lamb almost ready to throw on the altar. Er … that is to say, I have another highly talented singer who has volunteered to record some vocals for my mini-videos. So more samples of my work will be coming along soon.

If you’d like to be notified when I upload a new video on YouTube, please subscribe to the Linda Bonney Olin channel. Signing up is simple, and it’s free, of course. I don’t “monetize” my videos, so you won’t be plagued by ads when you try to hear my songs.

I appreciate “likes” and comments and shares on YouTube—on Facebook and Twitter, too. Your responses help bring my work to the attention of other listeners. Thank you!

Link to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/lindabonneyolin

Links to the individual songs I’ve uploaded so far:

I hope you enjoy them all. Please leave your two cents’ worth in a comment. I need all the encouragement I can get. ♥

O Lord, Whose Touch Once Made Me Whole is one of three songs I wrote for Mary Magdalene’s monologue, Mary Magdalene, Transformed. Don’t forget to check out Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas and my other Bible study and drama books for the Lent/Easter season: Giving It Up for Lent and The Sacrifice Support Group. Ash Wednesday is right around the corner!

Blessings,
Linda

 

Store Up and Serve Up God’s Bounty

Photo of scripture verses stored in a canning jar

A special greeting to The Upper Room readers who are visiting Faith Songs for the first time. Welcome!

They read the Book of God’s Teachings clearly and explained the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.
—Nehemiah 8:8, GW

I’m delighted to have a meditation, “Store Up God’s Word,” published today (May 21, 2016) in The Upper Room, which is my church’s daily devotional guide. It has numerous editions translated for a worldwide audience. It’s also the resource I favor for my personal devotion time.

Don’t subscribe to The Upper Room? No problem. They post the daily devos online. Check out the related pictures on Link2Life and my guest post on the blog, too. Please leave a comment, if you’re so inclined. I’d love to know what your favorite scripture verses and hymns are. If you look closely at the photo above, you might spot a few of my favorites peeking out of the canning jar.

(After May 21, my devo will be archived on the Upper Room website. You can still find it, by entering my name in the Search box. You’ll need to sign in before you can post a comment or read the whole of an archived devo, but signing up is a free formality.)

Off the shelf and onto my plate

“No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.”
—Matthew 5:15, GNT

In my guest blog post, I mentioned that the Lord has assigned me to serve up the encouragement, guidance, and challenge I’ve stored up from his Word. Lots of people are hungry for it, that’s for sure. So, my Holy GhostWriter has kept me busy, cooking up Bible studies, Bible-based dramas, and new hymns.

Right now, I’m working on two book projects:

  • Were You There When They Crucified My Lord will be an informal Bible study inspired by the traditional spiritual of that name. Each session will focus on different individuals or groups who were present at the events surrounding Jesus Christ’s crucifixion—or conspicuous by their absence. New songs (a mix of group, solo, and duet) will help explore the spotlight characters’ experiences.
  • My second book of hymns and faith songs will offer sheet music and a scripture index for 60-80 of the new texts (AKA lyrics) I’ve written in the past several years. Most will be congregational hymns, all set to existing tunes. I’m also considering adding a section of “specials”: pieces that are better suited to a soloist or an SATB ensemble.

As you can imagine, formatting that many scores, laying out pages, and creating scripture indexes for a hymn book is a massive undertaking. I couldn’t persevere through these tedious and hair-tearing tasks without my posse of prayer warriors. ♥ Please join them, holding me and my work in your prayers.

And if you’d like to be notified by email when my upcoming books are released or one of my hymns is published in another hymnal (I’m thinking positive here!) or other news happens, please use my contact form to request that.

Six years to simmer

Woe  to those who say, “Let him make haste,
    let him speed his work that we may see it;
let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfillment,
    that we may know it!”
—Isaiah 5:19–21, NRSV

Short meditations are a wonderful way to share the riches of God’s Word, but writing them requires plenty of perseverance, too. Getting my first piece onto a page in The Upper Room has been a long-term effort—six years, to be exact!

The Upper Room magazine pageMy first submissions were handed back to me faster than an order of soda and fries. Then a few survived a little longer in the evaluation process. Then one made it all the way to the final round (yay!) before being axed (boo!).

I reworked the rejects and sent the new and improved versions to other devotional publications. Most of them found a home at Judson Press’s daily devo magazine The Secret Place (“Never Out of Sight” is coming up on June 17 in the Summer 2016 issue) and Penned from the Heart. Meanwhile, I kept honing my writing skills and submitting new work to The Upper Room.

Finally, good news arrived: “Store Up God’s Word” was accepted for publication.

 

Grab your spatula—er, pen

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
—Isaiah 52:7, NIV

Want to try your hand at serving up devotions to the world? Scope out the writers guidelines at The Upper Room and other devotional magazines that appeal to you. You often can find them by Googling the magazine title or its publisher’s name plus “writers guidelines” or “submission guidelines” in quotes. If you can attend a writers conference where a devotions editor is holding a workshop, jump at the chance. A representative of The Upper Room I met at Montrose Christian Writers Conference offered extremely helpful presentations and individual critiques.

The beauty of serving up our stored-up scriptures, in whatever form the Lord assigns you, is that the supply remaining in storage never diminishes! All the verses we open and share are still ready to use when our own need arises, perfectly preserved and just as fresh as the day God inspired them. Thank you, Lord!

Bon appétit!
Linda

 

New Year, New Ideas

Start hatching a new project

A reminder for my fine-feathered friends who need a little motivation to turn their writing-for-publication dreams into reality:

  • If you never start writing the first draft, you’ll never finish the manuscript.
  • If you never finish it, you’ll never submit it.
  • If you never submit it, you’ll never publish it.
  • If you never publish it, no one will ever read it.
  • If no one ever reads it … you, and your could-have-been readers, and the Lord who gave you the dream, will all miss out.

Same goes for all the other kinds of projects you’re still sitting on, writing-related and otherwise.

So don’t just sit there. Start hatching!

What are my new ideas?

  • Compile and publish a book of my hymn lyrics set to existing hymn tunes. I’ve got about 75 new ones, ready to get kicked out of the nest.
  • Develop a book and video tutorial to help other poets try their hands at writing hymn texts and setting their verse to music.
  • Finish my Christmas Eve cantata. That project’s been incubating for over ten years!
  • Last, but not least, do whatever my Holy GhostWriter scribbles on my to-do list.

What new projects are you hatching for the new year? Please share in a comment!

Blessings,
Linda

 

Songs for the Lord~Free Days

Cover of Songs for the Lord by Linda Bonney Olin

My first-born book, Songs for the Lord, is free on Amazon, starting today through Saturday, December 5, 2015. It contains “sheet music” and companion Bible verses for twenty-four original hymns and faith songs. Although you are buying a Kindle book, it also contains instructions for downloading a PDF file to print the sheet music on ordinary paper.

The songs cover a wide variety of styles, from traditional hymns to musical prayers to hand-clapping bluegrass gospel, even a humorous piece or two. You might not like them all, but I hope you’ll find one or two songs, at least, that you enjoy. Regardless of the music, every song and its companion Bible verses make fresh devotional reading.

SATB parts and/or accompaniments for the melodies in Songs for the Lord are still under construction. I’ve also rewritten a few of those songs, setting them to music written by other people. Buyers of the book are welcome to contact me to see if I have an accompaniment or new musical setting for your favorite song.

Since publishing Songs for the Lord, my Holy Ghostwriter and I have moved to different kinds of writing. I still love to write faith songs, but now I almost always create new lyrics for existing music instead of original melodies. You can see some of my new titles, and hear the tunes I selected for them, on the Faith Songs Audio page.

If you’re a new friend here at Faith Songs, you might enjoy the backstory in earlier posts: how a musical know-nothing (me!) came to write songs in the first place (“Writing Songs for the Lord“), how and why I published my first twenty-four songs as a Kindle book (“To the Ends of the Earth”), and a few things I’ve learned about the Lord along the way (“Confidence in the Prophecy”).

If you’d like to try your hand at writing new hymn texts for existing tunes, check out my related posts in the Writing Craft category.

But first, go snag your copy of Songs for the Lord, FREE through December 5!

Merry Christmas!
Linda

 

’Tis the Season~Lots of Seasons

Thanksgiving

Family photo and verse 1 of ThankfulThis is a special time of gratitude for blessings past, present, and sure to come. Thank you, dear family, friends, and fans for being the tremendous blessings you are! Thank you, Lord, for making all blessings possible!

This family photo was taken at my parents’ 25th anniversary party. My sister, Marie, passed away less than two months later. We’ve since lost Ma, Dad, and Aunt Annette too. But they all loved to have a good time with family, so lots of love and laughter echo through the years.

Words for a new song I titled “Thankful” were rolling through my head as I woke up this morning. That’s verse 1 in the picture. If you feel like singing, you can listen to the tune at hymnary.org. (HE LEADETH ME)

Harvest season on our farm is coming to a close. If the weather, equipment, and husband hold out, all the corn should be combined within a week or so.

Deer hunting season is on. Mostly that means I don’t go out walking around on our fields, even in my neon pink vest. You never know when some yobbo might have an attack of buck fever (or Bud fever) and decide to bag that purty pink deer for his girlfriend!

The Christmas season has been in full swing for a while now—at least, the shopping and schmaltzy-Christmas-music-playing part of it. The “real” part is almost upon us, too. Advent, the season of spiritual preparation for the arrival of Jesus, begins this coming Sunday, November 29, 2015.

Then there’s the gift-giving season of Lent.

Wait a minute! Lent? Gifts?? In November?!

Well, sort of.

Giving It Up for Lent by Linda Bonney OlinMy latest holiday gift-giving binge starts Thanksgiving Day and runs through Monday, November 30, 2015. The featured giveaway is the Kindle edition of Giving It Up for Lent~Leader Guide: Bible Study, Drama, Discussion. Grab a book for yourself and gift one to your pastor or small group leader, while the price is as right as it’s ever going to get. It’s available on Amazon.com.

Before I get busy peeling a pile of potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, let me also thank all the folks who downloaded free copies of my single-script Transformed Resurrection Drama ebooks during the giveaway that just ended. Stay tuned, because I’m still in a gift-giving mood! At least one more book is already scheduled to be offered free in early December. Check back soon for details.

Speaking of thanks … You may have seen my plan to send thank-you books to the folks who took the time to post reviews of my books during the holiday season. Sad to say, I had to cancel that idea. Word is out that Amazon is penalizing authors who “compensate” reviewers in any form, even for an honest, voluntary review. Sorry! As far as I know, though, verbal expressions of appreciation haven’t been outlawed yet, so THANK YOU, reviewers!

Blessings of the season (all of them!) to you and yours.

Linda

 

 

James the Brother of Jesus ~ Transformed Again

unbeliefJesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Mark 6:1–6 (NLT)

As I prepared my sermon, songs, and prayers to go along with Mark 6:1–6, James the brother of Jesus struck me as the ideal “poster boy” for that Sunday’s topic of belief/unbelief. Not only was James mentioned by name in this scripture passage, but verses scattered throughout the New Testament reveal his transformation from unbelieving brother to ardent believer.

When I fill in for the pastor, I like to bring new music or a bit of drama (the good kind!) to the worship service. Why not a guest appearance by “James”? I’d already written a play in which James tells his faith story on a cutthroat TV talk show. But that was an edgy, half-hour musical comedy. To fit into a worship service, “James the Brother of Jesus, Transformed” needed a major transformation of its own.

Goodbye, comic characters! So long, songs! See ya later, subplot!

Trimming the dialogue to a straightforward, ten-minute interview perfectly suited my “Late to Faith” message.

Book cover, James the Brother of Jesus, Transformed by Linda Bonney OlinIn fact, the interview format is so versatile that I went the extra mile and added this version of the script to my books James the Brother of Jesus, Transformed and Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas. The updated editions are now “live” on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace.com (my paperback printer). For information about the Transformed series, click here.

FREE bonus resources!

Let’s go an extra two miles! For a limited time, buyers of either book can receive a copy of my Mark 6:16 worship plan and resources:

  • Bulletin (modified)
  • Hymn selections for congregational singing
  • Call to worship, drawn from my song lyrics “Faith Isn’t Just a State of Mind” (I’ll throw in the sheet music for good measure)
  • Unison prayer
  • Scripture readings
  • Musical meditation for soloist, “Peering into Faith’s Foggy Window” (sheet music & mp3 accompaniment file of the tune PICARDY) You can play the mp3 accompaniment file to help you learn the song; or burn it onto a CD if you don’t have a live accompanist. Note that the sheet music is in F; the mp3 is in G flat to accommodate a lower vocal range.
  • Youth message
  • Sermon
  • Benediction

To request your free bonus bundle, forward your purchase confirmation email from Amazon or CreateSpace to Linda@LindaBonneyOlin(dot)com, and ask for “Unbelief Resources” in the body of your email.

Book cover, Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas by Linda Bonney OlinNow, my Holy Ghostwriter and I could use your help getting the word out to churches, small groups, and individuals who might enjoy using the Transformed Bible-based dramas for performance, reading, and/or discussion. Please mention my books to your pastor or worship leader. Better yet, order them a gift copy. Christmas is just around the corner!

And, as always, your prayer supported is greatly appreciated.

Thanks very much!
Linda

P.S. 11/19/2015 All five of the single script ebooks in the Transformed series, including James the Brother of Jesus, Transformed, will be on KDP FREE DAYS promotion starting Friday, November 20 through Tuesday, November 24. Details and more giveaways on my post Tis the Season for Gift-Giving.

 

Kathy Ide ~ 21 Days of Christmas

21 Days of Christmas book deliveryChristian author and editor Kathy Ide crossed my path several years ago at Montrose Christian Writers Conference, where she’s a favorite faculty member. When Kathy launched her latest project, a series of fiction-based devotional books, I eagerly accepted her invitation to send a few submissions for consideration. My story “The Last Ember” appears in the second book of the series, 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift.

To celebrate the book’s release, I invite you to listen in on my virtual chat with Kathy Ide. (Don’t miss the giveaway announcement at the end of the Q & A!)

Linda:  Let’s get into the holiday mood by sharing a cherished Christmas memory. You first, Kathy.

Kathy:  When I was maybe ten years old, my mom asked my dad to build dollhouses for me and my two younger sisters for Christmas. He collected scrap lumber, carpet samples, strips of wallpaper, paint, and miniature furniture pieces. After working all day, then waiting for his daughters to go to bed, he stayed up late several nights in the garage, constructing a two-story house with five rooms, glued to a board that was painted green and had little trees and bushes in the wooden yard.

The night before Christmas Eve, the dollhouse was finally finished. And my mom asked, “Where are the other two?” What? “You have three daughters, Wayne. You can’t expect them to all share one dollhouse.”

Kathy Ide's Christmas memoryAfter a last-minute shopping trip, Dad stayed up all night and built two more houses. They were identical in size, shape, and floor plan, but with different wallpaper and paint and furnishings. When my sisters and I woke up on Christmas morning to three beautiful dollhouses, mine was the only one we could play with right away because the paint hadn’t yet dried on the other two! I still display the picture of those houses, with me and my sisters grinning from ear to ear, on my china cabinet.

Linda:  Thanks for sharing the photo with us. Cute!

Hmm … So many Christmases to choose from … Sifting through all those memories is a joy in itself!

Our first Christmas together, Bill and I didn’t have money to buy holiday decorations or gifts. I crafted tree ornaments from scraps of cereal-box cardboard and egg cartons, yarn, toilet paper tubes—you name it. Bill’s mom was too ill to do much baking for his father and four younger brothers, so my gift to the family was an IOU for one baked item per month for the coming year.

Unfortunately, my knowledge about baking could have fit on a recipe card, with room left over for the Gettysburg Address. The yeast rolls I painstakingly formed into beautiful cloverleaf shapes were as hard as baseballs (thanks for demonstrating the similarity, Doug!). The lemon filling oozed out of my jelly roll in yellow gobs. Even my mother’s moist brownie recipe came out so crusty that Ken bounced a knife off the top, trying to cut into it.

Linda's homemade ornamentsForty-plus years later, my brothers-in-law still snicker about the Year of Baked Goods. And those homemade ornaments hang in places of honor on our Christmas tree.

Every Christmas is special, of course. So being a contributing author in the Christmas edition of the Fiction Lover’s Devotionals is exciting. Tell us about that project, Kathy.

Kathy:  The series is published by BroadStreet Publishing. Each book is a collection of twenty-one short fiction stories, all written by different authors. Each story is followed by a brief Life Application, written by the author of the story, that suggests how the messages in the tale can be applied to daily life.

Linda:  I’ve contributed quite a few devotions to books, magazines, and inspirational web sites. Typically, devotions weave a meditation around an anecdote from the writer’s personal experience. It was a new challenge for me to write a fiction story with a devotional twist.

Kathy:  Yes, this series takes a unique approach. There are lots of compilations with short true stories out there. The Fiction Lover’s Devotionals are for readers who enjoy fiction. But beyond the entertainment value of Christian fiction, they give readers the additional depth they want in their quiet times with the Lord.

Linda:  Gathering and reviewing submissions and editing twenty stories per book has to be a massive amount of work. On top of that, you contribute one of the chapters yourself. Tell us about the piece you wrote for 21 Days of Christmas.

Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide

Kathy:  “Star Light, Star Bright” is a story of what might have gone through Joseph’s mind in the moments after Mary gave birth to Jesus. I loved imagining what it must have been like to realize that you’ve been called to teach God’s Son about God. Based on what Joseph was raised to believe about the Messiah, that experience must have been mind-blowing!

Linda:  You said it! I wrote a song for Joseph to sing at that very moment in a Christmas Eve nativity program at my church. The title “A Guardian’s Prayer” links Joseph’s experience to the challenge faced by all adoptive parents. The tune is a slightly modified version of TO GOD BE THE GLORY. Download sheet music

Each Fiction Lover’s Devotionals book is a collection on a particular theme, not just twenty-one random stories slapped between the covers. What themes are available besides the Christmas collection?

Kathy21 Days of Grace: Stories that Celebrate God’s Unconditional Love was the first book in the series. 21 Days of Love: Stories that Celebrate Treasured Relationships (for Valentine’s Day) and 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Motherhood will be released in 2016.

Linda:  How do you see people using these devotionals?

Kathy:  The books are being published as beautiful hardcover gift books and e-book versions—small enough to take with you, and with chapters short enough to read anywhere. You can enjoy these stories over breakfast, at lunch break, before bed, or curled up in your favorite chair with a cup of coffee or tea. These books could also be used in group settings—for your book club, Bible study, life group, Sunday school class, or just getting together with friends. They make terrific gifts too—especially 21 Days of Christmas! A Study Guide will be available for free at www.FictionDevo.com or as a 99-cent e-book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Linda:  The companion Study Guide is a great idea. A wealth of discussion questions popped into my head for “The Last Ember,” a contemporary story of a young cashier whose despair collides with grace on Christmas Eve. Hopefully it will generate a lot of discussion, especially if readers share their personal connections to the characters’ circumstances. I pray that the story will touch readers whose difficulties have tempted them to end their own lives.

Kathy:  This is my desire too! I know God can use these stories in a powerful way.

Linda:  Where can people purchase the book?

Kathy:  The print version of 21 Days of Christmas can be ordered online at Amazon, BN.com, ChristianBook.com, Cokesbury.com, and GoHastings.com. The e-book is available from Amazon, BN.com, iBooks, and Google Play.

Linda:  How can readers connect and respond after they read the books?

Kathy:  There’s a forum on FictionDevo.com where people can post responses to the books and the stories in them. They can also do that on Facebook.com/FictionDevo. I’m very excited to read about how God is using these stories in people’s lives.

Linda:  Now for the giveaway we promised …

Christmas Fun GiveawayKathy:  “Christmas Fun Giveaway,” featuring 21 Days of Christmas, is a great way to kick off the holiday season and get into the Christmas spirit! We’re giving away three “Christmas Fun” grand prizes plus seven second prizes, with autographed copies of 21 Days of Christmas and 21 Days of Grace plus more! There are nine ways to enter. Do as many as you like, but each option can be done only once. Deadline to enter is November 6, so act fast!  Edit 11/19/2015: Kathy’s Christmas Fun Giveaway is over and done with. But if you’d like to score a free copy of 21 Days of Christmas, check out my extra-special Christmas giftie for my extra-special supporters, until December 20, 2015. -Linda  

Linda:  Author-signed books are a treat, and the Fiction Lover’s Devotional hardcover gift books are absolutely beautiful. Thanks, Kathy!

My writing friends might also be interested in Kathy’s book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors. If you need editing services, or want to become an editor yourself, check out the many resources for Christian writers on KathyIde.com. Kathy posts her upcoming schedule of writers conferences there, too.

And thank you, friends, for sticking with us all the way to the end of Kathy’s visit. Please leave a comment. We’d love to hear your cherished Christmas memories!

Worship in the City

Jesus Walks on City Streets by Linda Bonney OlinFaith Songs for People Where They Are

Shepherds and lambs … lakes and rivers … bountiful harvests of golden wheat … crowded sidewalks and grungy alleys—Wait a minute! When was the last time you sang about those in church?

Probably never. Yet city pavements, not rural pastures, are the everyday surroundings of millions of Christians.

Rev. Dr. Nancy E. Hardy, a retired minister and a city resident herself, saw that the urban viewpoint was severely underrepresented in existing hymnals. Supported by the 2013 McGeachy Senior Scholarship, Nancy launched a quest to fill that void. She wrote prayers and selected songs whose themes and imagery resonate with city dwellers.

The resulting book, Worship in the City: Prayers and Songs for Urban Settings, was just released by United Church Publishing House. Although this hymnal was published for the United Church of Canada, urban congregations of any denomination will find it a rich resource for public and private worship.

You can check out the paperback edition at United Church Resource Distribution or the ebook edition at Amazon and other online retailers.

A Faith Songs Milestone

I’m celebrating Worship in the City for a personal reason, too. It’s the first appearance of my work in a church hymnal. What an exciting milestone! One more evidence that the Lord keeps his promises.

Worship in the CityNew hymnals aren’t produced every five minutes like novels, anthologies, or magazines, so opportunities to submit new hymn texts for publication in a hymnal are few and far between. When Nancy Hardy’s project was mentioned last year in The Verse (the newsletter of the Hymn Society in the United States & Canada), submitting a text for her consideration went right onto my to-do list.

Unfortunately, not one of the dozens of hymn texts I’d already written featured an urban theme. I challenged myself to create one. Although I’m a country gal, my visits to metropolitan areas from Houston to Boston, including Toronto, Philly, and of course the Big Apple, furnished memories to work from. “Jesus Walks on City Streets” became a four-verse meditation on living as a member of the community of faith in a city environment. Louis J. Herold’s tune MESSIAH (familiar as the tune of “Take My Life, and Let It Be”) provided the musical setting, with a few timing tweaks to make my lyrics more singable. To my delight, “Jesus Walks on City Streets” was placed in the Hope and Healing section of Worship in the City.

I love being inspired to write a new hymn to meet a particular need. Can you suggest a hymn or faith song that begs to be written? Please share your ideas in a comment below. Or just stop and say hi. I love that too!

~ Linda

Is Lent “Biblical”?

I’m dismayed by the notion that the season of Lent is “unbiblical,” “pagan,” and an all-around work of the devil. Everyone is entitled to his own understanding, of course. But …

I’ve seen online rants condemning Lent as a pagan practice because the date of Easter (hence Lent, which falls on the 40 days prior to Easter) is determined by the spring solstice. Some folks condemn Lent out of hand because they (incorrectly, says this Methodist) view it as a “Catholic thing” and they are against all things Catholic. Others blame Lent for the ugly excesses of Mardi Gras, which makes as much sense to me as condemning Christian observance of Christmas because people get drunk and misbehave at Christmas parties.

A person of sincere Christian faith once informed me that Lent is unbiblical because it is not named or observed in the Bible. Yet I believe his church acknowledges the legitimacy of Christmas and Easter, which also are not named or observed in the Bible. Of course, Christ’s birth and resurrection are recorded in scripture. But the annual observances of those important events, which we call Christmas and Easter, are not. Yet who wouldn’t agree that Christmas and Easter are wonderful and spiritually uplifting occasions? Never mind whatever historical connection to paganism there might be in practices like Christmas trees and Easter eggs—the fundamental nature of the occasion is biblical and Christ-honoring.

Matthew 4:1-11The same is true of the annual observance which many churches call Lent. This wonderful, spiritually uplifting season commemorates the 40-day period of fasting and prayer that Jesus Christ undertook in preparation for his journey to the cross. Like his birth and resurrection, this is an important biblical event, recorded in Matthew 4:1–11. Like Christmas and Easter, Lent should not be discredited as unbiblical because the annual commemoration began after the Bible was written, nor should it be attacked because some of the practices associated with it had pagan origins or are sometimes conducted in ways that do not honor the Lord God.

Honoring the Lord God, in my opinion, is what truly counts here. I urge Christians of all denominations and traditions to simply take time during the coming weeks to prayerfully prepare for the journey to the cross. Reflect upon the sacrifice the Lord Jesus Christ made there for the glory of God and your salvation. In response, consider what sacrifice you might make to bring glory to God the Father and do good for your neighbor.

To help you do that, I hope you’ll read Giving It Up for Lent, no matter what your faith tradition. If you want to explore the concept of Lenten sacrifice for the first time, check it out. If you’ve already been observing Lent and you want to breathe new life into stale or shallow Lenten practices, check it out. It includes lots of Bible references for the tradition of worshipful sacrifice. You can find information on my book page.

You can receive a free PDF copy of Giving It Up for Lent (or one of my other books if you prefer) just for the asking from now until Monday, February 9, 2015. I made that offer to the folks who are reading Dr. Terry Dorsett’s interview of yours truly, on Next Generation Evangelistic Network’s blog. Hop on over there to read the interview and hop back here to request your free book.

For another explanation of Lent, see BibleGateway’s blog post. BibleGateway.com is a wonderful resource for scripture study.

As always, I invite you to post comments and questions below.

—Linda