Fiction review: Sand Creek Serenade

Sand Creek Serenade, by Jennifer Uhlarik, is highly recommended, and I can certainly understand why. The writing and storyline flow beautifully, and the story is refreshingly different. It’s historical fiction set in 1864, just before, during, and after the Sand Creek Massacre. The story follows the unlikely romance between Dr. Sadie Hoppner and the Cheyenne warrior, Five Kills.

I loved Sadie immediately. She’s feisty, smart, caring, and independent, but she relies on the Lord for guidance. Her brother is an important part of her life—though he’s sometimes far from helpful. Romantic intentions from Gabriel only make the story sweeter.

The massacre itself is horrible, a blot on America’s history. I have a difficult time understanding this level of cruelty and disregard for human life. I believe the author feels this way, as well. She shows both sides of the story and handles this horrible subject with care and realism. Although she describes the horrors, she weaves the massacre into the story in such a way as to keep the story moving through this trauma.

The romance between Sadie and Five Kills develops slowly and is told in a sweet way. I don’t usually read romances at all, but this one seemed just about right to me.

For your information, there are several passionate kisses between Sadie and Five Kills before they marry. (Sorry for the spoiler.) Especially at the end of the book it’s rather frank about the physical attraction between them. The scenes from the massacre are horrible. In addition, there are a few descriptions of torture. I believe this book is for mature women only.

Sand Creek Serenade includes an appearance of the Lord Jesus as Healer and as an answer to prayer. He is presented as Savior. I read some of the reviews where this appearance of the Lord is criticized, and I value others’ opinions. However, I personally didn’t have any problem with this. This book is fiction. I also didn’t see anything theologically wrong with the way this was presented. Jesus does heal. Jesus could appear—should He choose—to anyone, anywhere. He might reveal Himself supernaturally from time to time, though we shouldn’t expect it.

I enjoyed Sand Creek Serenade, and I think you will, too. Five stars.

By the bootstraps

There’s an old saying, “pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” from back when men wore long riding boots that had handy dandy loops at the top for pulling them on. The meaning of this saying is the impossibility of pulling oneself up by oneself.

That’s where I was this week: vainly pulling on spiritual bootstraps and still feeling miserable.

It didn’t help that it rained all week.

Life circumstances—including the locked-in one—haven’t been favorable, either.

I have been praying, tugging on my old bootstraps, and vainly trying to smile … while wanting to throw things, cry, yell, and … you get the picture.

Where does one go for renewal?

Sanity?

Getting back to happy?

Having joy in the middle of several serious trials at once?

Need I mention having a good testimony—shut in with the one who matters most, my husband?

All the “better yourself, be who you were meant to be, bloom where you’re planted, and suck it ups” don’t work. I can tell you. Bootstrap pulling is totally useless, too—unless you’re a boot.

“When life hands you lemons…”

You can’t make lemonade without sugar.

I didn’t have any sugar.

The only remedy in the world for a rotten attitude and loss of joy is: Truth. The more the better.

Only Truth seeping into one’s heart can change the heart’s thinking and feeling.

I wrote up to this point before a death in the family this week. It’s amazing what focusing on what I know about God is helping me to deal with my emotions and our great loss.

Let me share a few truths that have helped me over the last few days:

  • What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me (Psalm 56:3-4).
  • Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9).
  • Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:26-28).
  • For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

Lord, help me focus more on You, and thank You for praying for me, being with me, and working in me. Help me to trust You completely when I am overwhelmed, afraid, sorrowing, and in pain. I want to trust You for those I love, as well. Thank You for your Living Word, that speaks to me exactly what I need to hear.

What Scriptures have helped you this past week? Feel free to share.

Let me out already!

I’m the kind of person that gets cabin fever after two weeks of rain, and during that period I go to church at least four or five times. When it’s raining day after day, I get antsy. I want to see people, be in normal life, just get out and walk.

So, when Spain shut me in—not just me, but all the country—and told me I could not go anywhere at all, it was like the beginning of a long rainy season. Only worse. No church, no grocery store, no nada.

I haven’t been on the inside of a car in many weeks, and I just found out we have at least three weeks more of this ahead of us.

Now, just so you understand, I have seriously enjoyed some aspects of this whole being-at-home adventure. I admit it. I’ve written about these advantages in past blog posts. You can scroll down and read them.

But it’s time to get out.

I feel like a prisoner.

Don’t get me wrong. My contentment hasn’t gone on vacation. I’m not mad at anyone. I wouldn’t even go and protest if I had the freedom to get out and do so. We have a large yard, and I go for a walk in it every day. Today, I took pictures of the neighbor’s cows, who were more than happy to model.

I have a terrific husband who treats me like a queen. We have plenty to eat and a warm house.

Our church services have been a blessing—even while being temporarily distant from our friends. We can even watch our home church’s services live and tune into various devotional thoughts each day.

I keep busy teaching. I always teach online, so there were no adjustments to make, only I pray each teaching day about the quality of connection, since the whole world has moved online.

I’m writing more, finally wrapping up my novel. Someday, I’d love to get it published. That dream seems more real now that the story is almost done.

Easter week, I dug into some boxes and sorted and pitched. Oh, the joy of it!

So, you see, I am fine.

But, get me outta here, already!

Truth is, people weren’t meant to huddle and hunker. They were meant to get out, make friends, enjoy life, interact, and be a blessing and testimony. We need each other.

I don’t know what to make of this whole situation. I firmly believe we probably saved lives by sheltering in place for a few weeks. I certainly hope so.

After a while, though, vulnerable people will be adversely affected mentally. I am wondering what will happen to a population like we have in Spain where many do not know the Lord. Few are readers. I am guessing they’re sitting in front of their TV sets watching whatever news and trash is to be seen.

How will people deal with the death toll? Over 21,000 lives have been lost to Covid19 thus far in Spain. That means probably all their families are mourning—plus others who lost family members to other causes. Christians have hope, and we still sorrow. But few Spanish people know they’ll see their loved ones again.

If the way not to get this virus is to be exceptionally careful with personal hygiene, then we need to do that.

What can be wrong with exercising outside of one’s home? Why keep people from parks and workplaces? Should we further cripple the world’s economies if all the curves are going downward?

I don’t know.

All I know is …

I want out already!

So, I open my Bible and read:

  • My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
  • Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
  • Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:11).

Good soldier? Perfect and entire? Happy, patient, and enduring?

I see I have a lot to learn.

Maybe that’s why the Lord’s giving me three more weeks.

How are you doing in confinement? What are you learning?

The pearl necklace

My mother was going to a business banquet with my father. She decided to wear a simple, elegant black dress.

While in Woolworth’s, picking up something else, she happened by the costume jewelry section and noticed a pearl necklace. It was one strand and had a “pearl” and then a tiny gold bead, another pearl, and a gold bead. Thinking it was pretty and seeing the cheap price tag of something like $3.50, she bought it. It would go nicely with her black dress.

A lady at the banquet was talking to my mother, but she couldn’t keep her eyes off of her necklace. Mama said this woman just kept staring at the necklace and didn’t even look at her face. Finally, the woman, green with envy, complimented the necklace and moved on.

I’ve often wondered if her husband later paid for a custom genuine pearl and gold bead necklace for his wife.

Perceptions can be wrong.

I know mine have been.

Just as the woman at a fancy banquet figured my mother’s fake necklace had to be real, we have probably misjudged people.

Long ago, I met a lady. She was gorgeous, proper, and quiet. I thought she was a little bit cool. Once I got to know her, though, I realized she is a warm person and has a real knack for communicating with everyone. My first impression of her being standoffish wasn’t fair. She was only timid.

Several men in our community, one who used to wear his hair very long, with dangling hoop earrings, didn’t necessarily look like the nice guys they are.  It’s so easy to judge by outward appearances.

My husband and I were looking for a certain street address in a foreign country. We’d parked the car and we were looking for someone to ask. A man walked over towards me, so I asked him if he knew where the street was. As soon as I asked him, I realized he was not okay; he was on drugs. The man was very courteous, but he sadly didn’t even know where he was. I misjudged him for being a reliable source of information.

Misperceptions happen all the time.

Often, the truth is somewhere in the middle ground. And, just as often, as in the woman’s judgment of my mother’s necklace, we can be completely wrong.

Take the coronavirus prohibitions, for example.  Where does the truth lie?

Are governments being wise to completely cripple their countries financially in order to control this?

Is it a health issue or a control issue? Either way, what can we learn for the future so that we don’t shut down the whole world again?

Perceptions can be wrong, half wrong, and sometimes, right.

For now, I will sit back and let others make the big decisions for me.

And, if I ever get envious of anyone’s jewelry, I’ll call in an expert first. It might be a $3.50 immitation.

Jesus said, Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones (Proverbs 3:1-8).

May we depend on God for wisdom and guidance, trust Him in the darkness, and be careful about pride in these uncertain times.

God bless you.

What I’m learning in confinement

What am I learning? You might be as surprised as I am.

Quite a few years ago, a friend sent our co-worker a cassette tape with a song about the “First Jeroboam, come-as-you-are” church. We listened to it with friends and laughed and laughed. It mentioned casual dress, drive-in church, etc. Absurd! We would never stoop to such.

Just a couple of years ago, when another country banned the face veil and other facial coverings in public spaces, I was all for it. A person’s face tells so much about them, and when you can’t see people’s faces, it’s depersonalizing (if that’s a word).

I can almost hear myself telling a young Christian that it is so important to physically assemble for church services, quoting Hebrews 10:25—and it is. And now, our own church is making herculean efforts to assemble virtually, as this Christian lady was doing at the time.

A global virulent pandemic with no known cure and no vaccination has changed the ways we do things. We all hope and pray the restrictions and lockdowns pass as quickly as is prudent and that we, indeed, can save many lives by giving up some of our liberties for a relatively brief time.

I balked those first few days. The prohibition that I couldn’t leave my home—not that I necessarily would have—bugged me. I have to admit, there are pros and cons. I love having more time with my husband, since he can’t go anywhere, either. Having time to work on a project adds to my happiness.

I’ve never been so thankful for our yard.

My church family has become dearer, not more distant—although we can only meet through social media and communicate by texting and phone.

I confess to not dressing up for every church service. (Don’t be harsh on me, please.) We can watch our home church live, a real plus. On Sundays, we can enjoy four services, instead of two.

My secret hope is that most churches begin to livestream regularly from now on. They will reach more people and minister more effectively to their shut-ins. It’s a great mission tool that must not be ignored.

So, I laugh at myself for encouraging my husband to wear a mask and gloves as he grocery shops. He doesn’t look sinister or personless to me; he looks wise.

I’m chuckling when I read about my friends outside of Spain who had drive-in Easter activities and services.

Knowing it is truly important to gather the church—its people—together for corporate worship, I have come to appreciate the outreach of livestreaming and Zoom meetings.

I am learning patience—at least I hope so—in a time of real trials. This has been one of the hardest periods in our lives for several reasons besides the covid virus. Yet, God is faithful. He is accomplishing something in us. And, we worship Him.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him (Psalm 28:7).

What are you learning, if you’re confined? Please share.