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)

 

After the Cross: James the Brother of Jesus

White cross on dark blue backgroundJames “the Lord’s brother” was missing from the scene of the cross while Jesus suffered and died. Wouldn’t you expect such a close family member to be there, supporting Jesus and Mary in those desperate hours? But then, this particular James had been absent from Jesus’ ministry all along.

In my musical dramatic comedy “James the Brother of Jesus, Transformed,” James appears on a fictional (obviously!) Christian television show to share his personal story of faith in Jesus Christ. But he’s barely settled into a chair on stage when his identity as the brother of Jesus throws the other two guests into a rambunctious argument. Was Mary a virgin all her life? In that case, one guest insists, James must be Joseph’s son from a previous marriage, or a cousin of Jesus, or even a random believer. Or are James and the other brothers and sisters mentioned in the Bible literally Jesus’ younger siblings born of Mary and Joseph, as the other guest argues?

No matter where you stand on this real-life controversy, you can appreciate the obstacles a “brother” of Jesus would have experienced on the road to faith.

JAMES:  I had no part in Jesus’ ministry at all, for the simple reason that I didn’t believe he was the Messiah, or the Son of God, or a prophet, or any of that. None of his brothers believed in him.

INTERVIEWER:  I don’t understand. You said you and Jesus were very close.

JAMES:  That was the problem. I knew who Jesus was and where he came from, and it wasn’t heaven. He was a regular kid like the rest of us.

GUEST #1:  Come on! How “regular” could the Son of God be? Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Book Launch: Lenten Bible Studies and Drama

Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

Book cover of Giving It Up for Lent by Linda Bonney OlinThat Bible verse serves as the epigram in the three books exploring Lenten sacrifice I launched this week:

Giving It Up for Lent—Leader Guide: Bible Study, Drama, Discussion

Giving It Up for Lent—Workbook: Bible Study, Drama, Discussion

The Sacrifice Support Group: A Dramatic Comedy for Lent

It might seem strange to talk about Lent in December. After all, Ash Wednesday won’t roll around again until March 5, 2014. But I hope my helpful readers will pass the information about my new books to whoever organizes Bible studies, dramas, and supper programs for their churches. They may be preparing next year’s programs now.

Speaking of preparation, today is the first Sunday of Advent, and Advent and Lent are sister seasons of spiritual preparation.

During the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, Christians around the world remember the time when God’s people waited—not weeks, but centuries!—for the Savior God had promised. We traditionally read Bible passages from Old Testament prophets including Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Micah, and gospel accounts, especially Luke, that shed light on that promise and its fulfillment in the coming (“advent”) of Jesus. His arrival as a baby in Bethlehem is a joyful occasion, so Advent meditations carry a hopeful note.

During the forty days of Lent, Christians prepare to mark the final fulfillment of the salvation promise, in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Although Lent ends with a victory celebration on Easter Sunday, the horrific circumstances of Jesus’s suffering and death give Lenten meditations a solemn tone. As we read the Bible accounts, we wonder, how can we make ourselves worthy of Jesus’ willing sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins? We can’t, of course. But we can reflect on it, with gratitude. And try, in our own small way, to emulate his spirit of self-sacrifice for the good of others and the glory of God.

Giving It Up for Lent and The Sacrifice Support Group might just help folks do that. So please, pass the word!

No matter what your faith, may you find peace, renewal, and true joy during this holiday season!

Linda