After the Cross: The Apostle John

White cross on dark blue backgroundI recalled the strange look on his face when he told James and me that, yes, we would drink from the same cup he drinks from. Now I knew. It was his cup of suffering we were destined to share.

I tasted a tiny drop from that cup there in the garden …

Sipped a bit more while Jesus was questioned and mocked …

Drank deeper when he was scourged …

Choked down a big gulp when he was crucified …

And drained it, down to the last bitter dregs, as I watched him … cry out … and die …

—John the Apostle, Transformed

John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” stood faithfully at the cross with Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus. Like the two women, John suffered a crushing personal loss when Jesus died.

But John lost something more than a beloved friend and teacher that day. Into the tomb with Jesus’ dead body went the corpse of John’s ambitions for kingdom glory.

The kingdom promise

As a member of a devout Jewish family, John had been taught from childhood that the Lord God of Israel had promised to send his people a redeemer, one who would establish a righteous kingdom and rule in glory. John, his brother, James, and their mother, Salome, firmly believed that Jesus was the Promised One. Someday soon, Jesus would free the Jews from their Roman oppressors and seize control of the government. The three of them had even begged Jesus to give John and James the places of honor at his side when that day came.

Now it never would.

So John grieved for Jesus and also for his lost kingdom dream. The day after the crucifixion, while John did his best to comfort Jesus’ mother and the other mourners, his head must have buzzed with confusion and disillusionment.

Would Israel never be free? Was John destined for scorn as the follower of an executed dissident instead of glory as King Jesus’ right-hand man? Had his confidence in God’s kingdom promise been a mistake? Had he somehow misunderstood Jesus’ identity? No, surely not. John had heard the voice of God himself claiming Jesus as his beloved son. (Matthew 17:1–8)

But Jesus’ death was so … final. How could that be part of the Lord God’s kingdom plan?

The promise fulfilled

We know now that the kingdom promise was not canceled at the cross. It was fulfilled in the empty tomb of the risen Christ. But to accept that, John had to grasp the nature of Jesus Christ’s kingdom. Glory was redefined. Eternal, not earthbound. Sacrificial, not self-aggrandizing. Not what John expected. Much, much better!

Do you, like John, feel crushed and confused because something you begged Jesus for hasn’t turned out as you hoped and expected?

Take heart. As John discovered, sometimes the Lord’s promises are fulfilled in ways that are totally unexpected, but even more glorious than you could have dreamed!

As you can tell from the banner picture on the Faith Songs home page, I’m a firm believer in the Lord’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises. His answers to prayer do take unexpected turns! If you’ve experienced this in your own life, please leave a reply to tell us about it.

You can learn more of John’s story in the Gospels and in Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas, a collection of half-hour one-act plays. John the Apostle, Transformed is a dramatic monologue with humorous touches, portraying John as a visiting preacher in 44 AD. A letter from his mother about the recent execution of James, his brother, prompts John to share reminiscences of their quest for kingdom glory.

Speaking of Transformed, thank you to all who attended the book launch party on Facebook! We had a lot of fun and gave away lots of goodies, and I didn’t get grilled TOO badly in the Q & A sessions. If you missed the party, you still can read our conversations on the Facebook event page.

Blessings,
Linda

P.S. As I write this, it is Ash Wednesday. Here is a fitting promise, from the prophet Isaiah.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

—Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)

May that promise be gloriously fulfilled in your life!

 

Who Doesn’t Love Books and Bargains?

Greetings from Faith Songs!

I almost feel as if I should introduce myself, after my two-month absence from Faith Songs. As many of you know, my parents’ health needs take me away from home (and away from my high-speed Internet) for weeks at a time, and that was the case for most of December and part of January. When I got home, my first priority (okay, second—after smooching my husband) was the farm bookkeeping. Besides the usual accounts payable/receivable and payroll, January is prime time for annual business reports, employer reports, tax reports, lender reports, Workers Comp audit reports—you get the idea. Squeezed in writing and submitting a few new hymns and devotions. No time for blogging.

New release: Transformed

Book cover TRANSFORMED: 5 Resurrection Dramas by Linda Bonney OlinWhen the bookkeeping finally hit a lull between deadlines, the Holy Spirit shifted me into high gear to get my latest drama book published. I polished the content, cover, and interior design to a high gloss with the help of my wonderful beta readers. The paperback edition of Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas rolled onto the cyber-shelves at  Amazon and CreateSpace the last week of January, and the Kindle version went up on Amazon shortly afterwards. Stay tuned for information about a Book Launch Party (exclusive giveaways, discounts, fun trivia, and who knows what-all) on Facebook. Hopefully I can get that scheduled before the book and I both curl up and yellow with age.

But, first!

My Holy Ghostwriter poked me to share some thoughts about the Bible characters in Transformed. I say “characters” because that’s what you call people in a play, but these were real people, even though the premises of the dramas are fictional (at least, I’m pretty sure none of the apostles ever appeared on a TV talk show!). In fact, the five lead characters were among Jesus Christ’s closest family and friends: his mother, Mary, and his brother James; the apostles Simon Peter and John; and his devoted disciple Mary Magdalene.

The five dramas portray how they were transformed by Jesus’ resurrection. But what about the soul-wrenching days that led up to it? What was each of those individuals doing, and thinking, and feeling after Jesus died, before news came that he’d risen from the tomb, alive? We tend to treat Holy Saturday like a blank page between Good Friday and Easter. That page deserves to be examined more closely before we turn it. That will be the focus of an upcoming series of posts here at Faith Songs.

Book Resources for Lent

In the meantime, I invite you to check out Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas on Amazon or CreateSpace. It offers drama, comedy, music—and best of all, life-changing truth.

Book cover of Giving It Up for Lent: Bible Study, Drama, Discussion by Linda Bonney OlinAnd don’t forget my other Lent resources: The Sacrifice Support Group: A Dramatic Comedy for Lent and Giving It Up for Lent: Bible Study, Drama, Discussion. ’Tis the season! Ash Wednesday is March 5, 2014.

Chances are, you’re not one of the few people who shop for church play scripts and Bible study materials for a church group. But my tribe (that’s you!) can pass the message to the people in your church who do buy them—pastors, worship leaders, drama teams, small group leaders, adult Sunday School teachers. Please do whatever you can to help me get the word to those folks. If you’re not a church person yourself, you probably know one or two you can mention it to.

Yes, the post title said “Bargains”

Trumpet fanfare! My Book Launch Party for Transformed will unveil a discount code of 50% on all my Christian drama books and Bible study workbooks. The code will be valid only on paperback editions, only at CreateSpace.com, and only on the Launch Party dates.

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My Life as a Dog ~ Obeying the Master

Sign showing a man with a dog on a leash

As requested, here are the sermons I delivered at worship services on October 20, 2013.

Before reading the sermons, click and read the Bible verses I’ll refer to:

Psalm 19:7–14
John 8:3–11
John 14:10–24
Matthew 22:34–40
2 Timothy 4:1–5

Youth Message ~ YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!

What’s a boss?

When grownups talk about their boss, they probably mean the person at their job who tells them what to do, maybe the person who owns the company they work for. The dictionary says a boss can be anyone who makes decisions, exercises authority, controls, dominates, and so on.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You’re not the boss of me”? What was the situation?

I thought that was a modern expression from a TV show or something. But I looked it up and discovered it’s been said in books for more than a hundred years. Usually the situation is that an older brother or sister told a kid to do something, or to stop doing something. The kid doesn’t want to obey and is sick of getting ordered around by someone who has no right to give orders. So the kid snaps back, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Now, if [a parishioner] said to me, “Linda, shut up and sit down,” I could say, “You’re not the boss of me!” and keep right on talking, because I don’t have to obey [the parishioner]. I wouldn’t actually say that, because that would be pretty rude. Saying that could get you in trouble, especially when the person telling you “Do this, don’t do that” really is the boss of you!

Who really is the boss of you? Who has the right to tell kids what to do? Parents? Teachers? Those are the main people you’re supposed to obey.

But there is one more, who’s really important.

I looked up another word on dictionary.com. The definition was: “a person who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler. One who exercises restraint or direction over; dominates; commands.” Sounds a lot like the definition of a boss, right?

The word I looked up was Lord. For thousands of years, people have called God “Lord,” and Christians call Jesus our Lord and our Master. Why? Because he is the boss of us. He’s the boss of everyone.

Message ~ MY LIFE AS A DOG: OBEYING THE MASTER

Well-trained dogs

I get a kick out of watching the annual Westminster Club Dog Show on television, seeing all the various breeds with their different sizes and shapes and temperaments. One thing they all have in common is being trained to obey commands. They sit. They stay. They jog around the ring on a leash.

I’ve never seen one bite the judge. They don’t jump all over him and sniff his pants. Sometimes a dog gets overly frisky, but generally show dogs behave very well, thanks to their training.

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Don’t Let Fretful, Futile Preparations Cheat You

Photo of an old-fashioned lamp and flower basket

Today I wept for Judy.

I woke feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Too many tasks, too little time and energy. Farm bookkeeping. Church conference preparations and fundraiser contributions. A long list of writing and teaching tasks. A longer list of household duties, most of which I’ve allowed to build up while occupied with more important matters. The number one matter: my parents. Before my feet hit the floor, I was praying for direction.

What preparations should I make in anticipation of my mother’s upcoming surgery and recuperation? We don’t have a date yet, but it’s a safe bet I’ll be staying with my parents for a month or more, partly to help Ma, partly to take care of Dad while she’s in the hospital and laid up afterwards. Late December and early January are ground zero for the farm bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes, so I started making a list of things I might be able to do in advance. That kicked the old brain into overdrive! I put on my clodhoppers and went for a walk on the flat.

The sun and wind and river would have been very pleasant if all the uncertainties of taking care of my parents during this surgery, and beyond, hadn’t been banging in my head. Ma has done an amazing job of taking care of Dad at home, but he’s an 89-year-old guy with diabetes, a pacemaker, and advancing Alzheimer’s. We’ve had some tough discussions already, and more lie ahead. The worst of it, I thought, is that I could make the smartest preparations in the world and get caught short by the unforeseen, just like when … Judy died.

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Faith of Our Mothers ~ Theresa Bonney

Photo of Linda and Theresa Bonney at Pleasure Island ParkThis is the only photo I could find of me and my mother when I was a kid. Like me, Ma usually was the one behind the camera, snapping shots of Dad, my sister, and me on our family jaunts to small theme parks in Maine and New Hampshire. This one was taken at  pirate-themed Pleasure Island. I was ten years old.

Ma didn’t know it at the time, but back then I didn’t believe in God. I went to Mass and confession and attended eight years of parochial school, but I had no real conviction that God was anything more than a mass delusion, wishful thinking.

But Ma had enough conviction for both of us, with plenty to spare. When I went off to college, she gifted me a subscription to Guideposts magazine, which she has faithfully renewed every year since. And prayers! I joke about how many rosaries she’s ground into fine powder, praying for me and my kids.

If you’ve looked around this website or read much of my writing, you know that God finally got my attention. Now I write for him. Ma is my biggest fan, cheering each accomplishment and commiserating with my struggles. You could say that’s her part of my ministry—a very important part. And yes, the beads are still clicking on my behalf!

Thanks, Ma. And Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,
Linda

The Uphill Road ~ Faith Song for Holy Week

For your Holy Week devotions, today I share The Uphill Road, one of the twenty-four hymns and faith songs in my Songs for the Lord collection. The Uphill Road is a solemn hymn about the challenge and ultimate victory of carrying the cross. The first five verses focus on Jesus Christ’s walk to Calvary, the last five on our human experience. If ten verses seem long and arduous, well, that’s the whole idea. A melody will ease the journey, though. Click the title here to listen while you read (or sing!) the lyrics:  The Uphill Road 

(The chords make this file too large to repeat the verses. If you’d like to hear the melody repeated ten times without interruption, you can play the no-chord file on my Audio page.)

The Uphill Road

1. Lord, you took upon your back the heavy cross of Calvary,
fully understanding where that rugged path was going to lead,
and in meek submission to your holy Father’s sovereign will,
resolutely dragged your cross along the road that wound uphill.

2. Roughly jostled by a mob who pelted stones and loudly jeered,
stumbling over ruts and rocks that at every turn appeared,
underneath the shifting weight of the unwieldy load you held,
Lord, you fixed your eyes upon the final goal that lay ahead.

3. Weakened by the painful trials that had brought you to the cross,
you were worn out from the strain and fainting from the blood you’d lost.
In a fragile human body you had come to earth to dwell,
but that body’s finite store of strength ran out, and down you fell.

4. Hands of pity touched your face to wipe the blood and sweat away.
Other hands reached out to haul you up and shove you on your way.
Minutes must have crawled like hours as you tried to keep the pace
to the spot they called Golgotha, to your execution place.

5. At the summit, you were nailed upon a cross of seeming shame,
but surrendering to death, you glorified your Father’s name.
By your suffering and dying, scripture’s promise was fulfilled.
Now you beckon me to walk that rugged road that winds uphill.

6. Lord, I took upon my back a heavy cross to follow you,
little understanding what that rugged path would lead me to.
In reluctant resignation to our holy Father’s will,
now I slowly drag my cross along the road that winds uphill.

7. I’m discouraged by the jeers of those I thought to be my friends,
and I stumble on desire to follow selfish, worldly ends.
It’s so hard to keep my balance underneath this weighty load.
I must fix my wandering eyes upon the One who chose this road.

8. Weakened by the painful trials that had brought me to the cross,
I am worn out from the strain and trying not to count the cost.
Lord, you know I’m only human, so it’s no surprise at all
when my burden proves too much for my own strength, and down I fall.

9. Hands of pity touch my face to wipe my weary tears away.
Other hands reach out to lift me up and help me on my way.
Still, the minutes crawl like hours, but I can’t speed up my pace,
just one foot before the other, toward some God-appointed place.

10. Lord, the path you’ve mapped for me may lead to loneliness and shame,
but if carrying this cross will serve to glorify your name,
I will bear it, in your footsteps, till your promise is fulfilled
of salvation at the summit of the road that winds uphill.

~ Linda Bonney Olin

For the account of Jesus Christ’s road to crucifixion, read John 19:1–30. (Read it on BibleGateway.com)

I’m in an Internet-challenged part of the world these days, so I may be slow to approve and reply to comments, but I’ll be able to read them on my email. Please leave your thoughts about this song if you enjoyed it. That will help me along my journey, which is a bit rocky at the moment.

Easter blessings to all,
Linda

 

Linda

Footprints on Our Lives

Photo of a red roseYesterday family and friends celebrated the life of Clara Euker, who went home to the Lord at age 95. Naturally, this woman who walked the earth for nearly a century left many wonderful memories.

I knew Clara primarily from church. She laughed along with my son and his puppet pal, raved about my daughter’s singing (Clara loved music!), and patted me on the back when I conducted a worship service. Praise and encouragement  for an effort made—even if not a hundred percent successful—flowed from her freely.

But I consider Clara a kindred spirit because of a rather different quality. She knew what to take seriously and what not to. Her faith in the Lord was strong but not blind. She examined everything with intelligent, critical eyes and challenged whatever didn’t sit just right. The pastor, the church administrative board, even the Lord God himself did not escape her questioning. I wouldn’t be surprised to find her grilling one of the scripture writers at this very moment!

All who knew Clara Euker bear the imprint of her loving heart, truth-seeking mind, and heaven-bound soul. Looking around at the loved ones gathered for her memorial service, I could imagine her farewell words sounding much like this … 

May my footprints on your heart be deep and lasting

and remembrance of my presence never fade.

May your heart be ever warmed

by the bond of love we formed

and comforted by memories we’ve made.

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

They remain, though I must go.

Look inside yourself and know,

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

 

May my footprints on your mind always inspire

you to search for what is right and what is true.

As you meet life’s twists and turns,

may the echo of my words

encourage you and guide you safely through.

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

They remain, though I must go.

Look inside yourself and know,

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

 

May my footprints on your soul lead you to heaven,

like a treasure map that I have left behind

in the hope one day you’ll be

with our Father God and me,

together once again and for all time.

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

They remain, though I must go.

Look inside yourself and know,

I’ve left my footprints on your life.

 

My Footprints on Your Life — Linda Bonney Olin

 If you love music as much as Clara did, you might enjoy listening to the melody as you read the words. Click here.

 This song is one of twenty-four in my Songs for the Lord collection. The Kindle version (which can be read on computers and other devices, not just Kindles) can be downloaded on Amazon. And it’s FREE through February 6, 2013. Clara would like that!

 

Just a Chalk Outline on the Ground: Iain Edward Henn Interview

Photo of thriller author Iain Edward Henn

Thriller author Iain Edward Henn

Author Iain Edward Henn lives in Sydney, Australia, halfway around the globe from me. We “met” in the Suspense/Thriller Writers Facebook group, where I was impressed by his low-key humor and thoughtful, positive attitude.

As part of The Next Big Thing blog-hop, Iain answered 10 questions about his novel-in-progress. You can read those on his blog Take It As Read.

But I, of course, had more nosey questions to ask him …

Iain, I read your first two thriller novels, The Delta Chain and Disappear. Good stuff. How would you describe them?

Disappear concerns a man missing 18 years, who turns up as an accident victim in the same place he was last seen, his body still the same age as it was almost 2 decades earlier.

The Delta Chain is about young drowning victims, whose identities cannot be traced – who were they?

Without spoiling any surprises for those who haven’t read them yet, I’ll just say that both books incorporate elements of research science. Is that going to be the “brand” or hallmark of Iain Edward Henn novels?

No, I am interested in all aspects of the mystery/suspense genre. Science, forensics and high-tech may resurface from time to time.

Growing up in the 60’s I loved thrillers set just slightly ahead in time that envisaged future gadgetry and scientific developments. Forty years later I’m living in a world where many of those far-out concepts exist and are taken for granted in our day to day lives – cell phones, the internet, space stations, DNA. I’ve followed and researched scientific developments through the years.

Do you think it’s harder to write a convincing thriller or mystery nowadays? I mean, it’s a pretty short novel if the good guys can track down a crook in three pages, using the Internet and all that scientific technology.

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Taking It to the Streets ~ Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Black-eyed susans trapped behind wireMichelle Sweeney

When I interviewed social activist Ruth Jacobs here on Faith Songs in November, I joked about a nice church lady like me blogging about prostitution. Well, today Ruth clued me in to a nice church lady in Coventry, England, who’s really taking it to the streets – her faith, that is.

Michelle Sweeney says, “I was listening to a late night radio show one night in November 2011. As I listened, I quickly found out that not only did human trafficking happen in our world today but that it happened in the city I lived in. That was it, in that moment, I was convicted that I should be doing something about this.”

But what to do?

Michelle’s research led her to a church-sponsored mission project, which helps young girls, women, and boys exploited by sex trafficking in her local area. With her church, she also does weekly outreach work with a charity named Embrace. “We drive around the local red light area. We offer the women hot and cold drinks, hygiene bags, food, and also condoms. And we offer friendship. We listen to them, we talk with them and we try to help them with their practical issues. Embrace also offers spiritual support for the women, so if they ask for it, we would pray with them.”

To read more about Michelle Sweeney’s many and varied activities on behalf of victims of human trafficking, and about what drives her to serve them, read her full interview on In the Booth with Ruth

William Eberle

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation aren’t issues that concern only women or only European communities. American William Eberle advocates for trafficking victims here in the USA. What motivates him?

“Too often these people find themselves with little to no hope for bettering their situation. I remember a time when I had lost hope and it was through the caring of friends and family as well as my faith in God that I found hope again. I believe that God will use my efforts to help people, I don’t need to understand how that happens, but it is my faith that says that it will happen.”

Read more about William Eberle’s fight against trafficking, and how you can get involved, in this interview In the Booth with Ruth

Kimberly Benson

And if you feel unmoved to help victims of sex trafficking because you aren’t too sure the “victims” really are victims, or you doubt slavery could happen in this day and age in your home town, please pay close attention to Kimberly Benson’s reason for becoming an anti-trafficking activist:

“My passion stems from being a victim once myself. When I was 18, I thought I knew it all – enough to keep me from trouble, but didn’t know that trouble would come looking for me. I left home to live on my own. After having been in several negative and abusive relationships, I was all alone. A young lady and I became friends. She was the best, was always there, encouraged me, bought me clothes, took me to get my hair and nails done. We were great friends.”

Until her “great friend” left Kimberly at a house party to be drugged and raped, then tricked her into attending an “innocent, all-girl” party where she handed Kimberly over to a powerful man. For money. In a major American city.

Read the details, and how Kimberly has been working against trafficking since her own escape from enslavement, In the Booth with Ruth.

 

 

Angels Cried: A Sandy Hook Tribute

Cover of Angels Cried anthology by Indies in ActionToday’s mail brought my paperback copy of Angels Cried, a new anthology dedicated to the memory of those lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, and to their survivors. Proceeds are going to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, which is managed by the United Way.

The book is a collaborative effort of Indies in Action, a Facebook group of writers and artists, thirty-nine of whom donated work to the project. Poems, short stories, bits of memoir, and drawings fill over 150 pages. Some pieces reflect directly on the Sandy Hook tragedy. Others, like my poem “Through Two Unblackened Eyes,” express the awfulness of violence and fear intruding where security should be a given. Still others are sweet homages to childhood.

Stephen L. Wilson masterminded the book’s production, completing the ebook version within two weeks of the tragedy. The paperback version quickly followed. It is available through several outlets, but it’s my understanding that purchases made directly from CreateSpace yield the best percentage of the purchase price to the charity fund.

Now, I won’t add to the hoo-hah about gun control or funding for mental health treatment. I won’t sermonize about God calling the little ones home.

I just want to express how very, very sad I am for all those whose loved ones were wrenched away.

When my mother lost her favorite sister, she was distraught because she no longer had her dearest friend to talk to. I tried to console Ma with the fact that Aunt Annette was living in heaven, so we could still talk to her. Ma cried, “It’s not the same,” and wept even harder.

Ma was right. It’s not the same.

So, no platitudes from me about my faith in a happy forever home with the Lord. Just my heart weeping with the survivors. For them, it will never be the same.