Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: The House of Mercy, written by Alicia Roque Ruggeiri

 “Deoradhan found no reply to this in his mouth. He stood before the stone altar, helpless, feeling his heart thud against his ribs. As though a curtain had been pulled away from his mind, he suddenly knew that if he rejected this God now, he would be exiled from Him forever. He would no longer be able to hear the Voice that both drew and repulsed him. Long moments passed. He felt his soul tense and rebel against this Invader.” (pp 256 The House of Mercy)

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

Ezekiel 36:25-26

The House of Mercy is a beautiful, rich novel written by Alicia Roque Ruggeiri. A work of fiction, the novel is one that you won’t want to put down until you have unearthed all of its depths . . . and then you will want to read it all over again . . .

With a raging heart of stone, the main character in Alicia’s novel seeks reparations. Reparations for a past that haunts and goads him to regain what he has lost. Reparations for the death of his father-king to a wicked conqueror, commissioned by King Arthur. Reparations for his mother’s forced marriage to her husband’s murderer.

His soul burning within him, Deoradhan walks restlessly as an exile, waiting for his chance to recover what he believes to have been stolen from him.

Anger churning within his spirit at the Roman God who rendered him such an injustice, Deoradhan bitterly grasps at what has been taken from him, content to die in battle with the God who has wounded him rather than to submit to His authority in Deoradhan’s life and bow the knee before such an imagined unfair Deity.

This novel is woven intricately with plot twists and turns and an unexpected (not a predictable) story-line. Yet, it is utterly satisfying to the reader, a tapestry of justice, honor, love and mercy, ruggedly etched through every page. It is beautifully written, with careful attention to detail and well-researched interweaving of the post-Roman Arthurian time-period in which the story is set.

It is not a “frothy” novel. The themes are raw and real and thought-provoking. Alicia confronts some very weighty issues head-on, without apologizing for the disturbances they may cause to the reader’s psyche. And yet, the theme of the Lord’s mercy so sensitively touches every “hard” providence; His ways may not be easily understood, but His mercies soften the blows of even the most bitter circumstances.

Deoradhan is a man with a past, with an aching heart, and with a soul that struggles against the One who continually draws him and haunts his every step.

His life intertwined with others around him, you will become acquainted with a common peasant girl whose impoverished family sends her away to work at their lord’s manor, a humble potter, a conscience stricken warrior whose past drives him to constant grief, and a lovely servant girl whose life is shattered and broken.

I highly recommend this novel and encourage you to pick up a copy. You will be encouraged and challenged by its contents, and I believe, your heart touched.

The House of Mercy is appropriate for young adult and adult audiences.

It is available through Amazon, Createspace or your local bookstore.  Purchase Here

Monday, October 21, 2013

To the Weary, Rest

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!
-John Newton

Soothing words, comforting words, gracious words, words of life and peace. Words of rest . . . it was one of those days, those days of “struggling” through, of waiting until quarter to nine to put the baby to sleep, and breathing a sigh of relief when I finally laid her in her crib. Sometimes the soul craves rest more than other times. Sometimes it reaches out for peace and that sense of security that only comes from the throne of grace, and sometimes it feels like you’re groping in the dark. Sometimes I have to struggle for peace and sometimes my attitudes of worry and frustration and fear only go, as Oswald Chambers says, by “kicking.” Peace can’t live next to agitation; the clods of the soul need to be broken and raked over, and the soil tilled. Only then can the sweet seeds of peace be sown.

Sometimes I need to ask myself--Is Jesus really my peace or am I looking for comfort in anything and everything but Him? And am I content in the day-to-day situations that He places me in, or is there always an undercurrent of frustration?

Having a child changes everything. You no longer have “free time,” time to spend alone in solitude (at least not for very long), time to journal as often, time to pray without interruption. I used to write in a journal almost every day; now I look months back to see where my last entry has been.

Everyone needs an outlet, or so “they” say . . . the proverbial “they.” You need time to yourself with no interuptions, “free” time, time to kick back and relax and let someone else take care of things for you.

My “outlet” used to be cleaning or weeding the garden. I feel relaxed when I clean and like it when things are being put back in “order”.

Now, I Iook around my room and there is a pair of pink-Debbie-socks on the floor, a pile of laundry waiting to be put away, dust in places that I never imagined possible, and various other miscellaneous items.

Never before would my uptight person have stood for this, but now, there are weightier things to contend with and the mess can be gradually dealt with on a day-to-day basis. If I need to fold the laundry perfectly, then I might not be able to read as many books to my daughter. So I do what is most important, and then leave the rest to grace, picking things up along the way and sometimes just laughing when I can’t keep up and then doing it later.

Sometimes you need to give up your “outlet.” Sometimes you can’t hand the child to someone else when you are overwhelmed and you just need to cry out to God for His grace in your present need. Many times, for me, frustration is a means to escape, a chance to let someone else deal with what has been given to me. I complain to evoke a response and then I go away and sulk while someone else picks up the pieces. “Children are a treasure from the Lord” . . . until their teeth are coming in, or they are fussy and cranky, until they are sick and whiny and tired.

So we look for comfort . . . we feel frustrated, we feel overwhelmed, so we look for an outlet, in whatever form it may take. Maybe a glass of wine (if you are someone who drinks), maybe a shopping trip or a spending “indulgence,” maybe a plate of cookies, maybe turning on the TV or watching a favorite movie.

And there is nothing wrong with any of those things, per se, but if I am looking for comfort in any of them or seeking to escape from my problems through them, rather than depending upon the God of all Comfort, then I am worshiping a different god, a strange god, a god who “heals the wound” slightly and makes me feel better only for the moment.

When the movie is over, when the cookies are gone, when the husband is frustrated that he’s been handed the baby for too long, when the credit card bill comes in, then the emptiness comes back, with a dull ache that wasn’t there before. Because now we must face whatever we were running from, without our little god to hide behind. And nothing about our circumstances has changed; the same frustration and angst are there and they won’t easily be sent away.

Now I am not saying that there is never a time that we can take a break from the "daily grind," or step away from a situation to find respite and peace and refreshment. What I am saying is that we shouldn't be dependent upon these outward escapes for our sense of well-being; our dependence should be upon the Lord, who at times, will refresh us through whatever means He allows in our lives. Otherwise, we come to need/depend upon these other avenues of satisfaction rather than Him alone Who gives all good and refreshing things.

Having a child sometimes “forces” one to realize that there are times when you cannot run away from a situation. Sometimes you have to take care of the kids when you feel so sick that you can’t stand up or so tired that you don’t think that you can keep your eyes open or have the energy to cook dinner. Another life is dependent upon you and you can’t drop the ball and take a nap.

Having children is an opportunity to build “tensile strength,” as Elisabeth Elliot calls it, an opportunity to learn discipline and perseverance and sacrifice in ways that you never may have imagined.

And it is worth it . . . raising a child in the love and the fear and the reverence of the Lord Jesus is worth it, and there are no regrets. It is worth the forfeited trip, the lack of showers, the dirty laundry, the fragmented times of prayer that somehow the Father picks up and hears and answers. And He “giveth more grace” when the burden is heavier . . .

It is getting late, and I hear the sweet sound of the crickets and feel the dark, lovely night wind and I know that He is here. His presence soothes and I am safe, without any outlet but Him. “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,” and His gentle love anoints my head with grace.

Photo credit: <a href="">Peewubblewoo</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)</a>

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thirty-One Years of Grace

Beauty in the night air and the wind is scented with the perfume of leaves. Wind of the heavens, the stars fall in place and the sky is a shadow of memories. Thirty-one years ago, my advent into this racing world, and a new life cries into the day in the season of dying. Winter is coming, the death of creation, the seed fallen into the yielding ground of hope that will harden more and more as the days grow longer.

A Life gave life and my Mother holds me, after a difficult delivery. The 13th of October and superstitious, well-meaning people will forever kid me about it, especially when it falls on a Friday. But my Mama isn’t superstitious and she holds me and she rocks me and she draws me to herself; life to life, breath to breath, warmth to warmth and the sweet surrender of pain that makes way for a new baby to be born into the world, His world.

This is my Father’s world, I rest me in the thought . . . His world, though evil darkens over it and the Prince of the power of the air looms like the great eye over Mordor. The shadow deepens and men shrink for fear of the night.

But I need not fear . . . He who spared my Mama after she delivered me, after she woke covered with blood in the middle of the night and was rushed to the hospital. She woke up later and the doctor patted her on the hand and said it would be alright. A massive hemorrhage and a long healing, but the Lord was yet gracious and brought her back to us, though it took her months to recover.

She couldn’t breastfeed me; her body was too weak, so she held me against her skin whenever she gave me a bottle. She did all that was humanly possible and then the Lord gave His grace through her weakness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate . . .

Thirty-one years of His grace and I look back upon them with the soberness of knowing that “you can’t go back,” but with the hope of His mercies that are new every morning. Like the lovely, clear dew on the Autumn roses, still hanging onto life, His mercies come. And I am the bee that tries to gather all the nectar I can before this life is over, clinging to the flower of grace.

I haven’t done things perfectly; I grieve over the areas where I “have not His commandments kept,” where I have shirked my duty and taken the easy, wide road. It is right to grieve and there is a time for grief. A movement among believers says, “Don’t look back on your past; it’s covered by the blood.” And there is truth in that, but there is also a time for repentance and grief over sin, before a follower of the Alpha and the Omega can walk on with confidence. When we were children and we wanted to avoid punishment we would say, “I’m sorry,” really just to get off the hook. My Mom’s answer to this kind of “sorrow” was always “Sorry means changing.” As Christians we often want the forgiveness of the Father without the accompanying change that needs to take place in our hearts. We want, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls it, “cheap grace,” the grace that has no cost attached to it.

But I want costly grace in my life, the grace that moves and turns and bends and binds me to the will of the Father. I want to want that kind of grace. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak . . . Strengthen me by Your power, Lord Jesus . . . like Patrick, I “bind myself to Thee.”

Thirty-one years . . . and there is mercy stretching before me and ever His chesed, His lovingkindness. I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my cry for mercy. He hears, He is the God who hears, the God of Abraham and Gideon and David and the beautiful, rugged saints of the New Testament who “suffered the loss of all things,” so that they might gain Christ and be counted worthy.

Worthy . . . He is worthy . . . worthy of honor and glory and blessing, worthy of all praise, the praise of my lips and my life and these thirty-one years of grace.

All praise we would render , Lord help us to see, tis’ only the splendor of light hideth Thee.

He touches and a life springs forth, the deer of the forest gives birth; He speaks again and all things die and give way to the word of His mouth. All flesh is like the grass and like the flower that withers. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Photo credit: <a href="">Ian Sane</a> / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)</a>

Friday, October 11, 2013


Search me, O God, and know my heart
Try me, and know my anxieties
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Beneath the Rock for refuge go
No other aid than this I know
No other shelter can I find
And to that Rock my will I bind

There is no other place of rest
Where pilgrim hands and feet are blessed
For when the wind my life would take
Beneath the Rock I will not break

Dear Rock, I need Your shelter sure
And I could ask for nothing more
There is no Refuge close to You
No one so perfect, certain, true

Forgive me, Lord, for times of doubt
When from my mind I cast You out
For when I hide in You I know
A place where wind and storm won’t go

For underneath the Rock is peace
My heart from fear is there released
And there, my Father’s gentleness
A pillow for my head to rest.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Simple Days

My adolescent sticky-fingered hands clung to the juicy peach. The old car rattling beneath us, we sped towards Plymouth, the site of our once-a-year vacation rendezvous when I was a little girl. My sisters and I were wedged together tightly in the backseat, like three squirming puppies, each of us gripping our piece of fruit. Our car, bursting with camping equipment and warm bodies made its way towards our final destination. This was before the days when most people had air conditioning and you just had to hang tight in the backseat, roll down the windows, and hope that you could catch a breeze. And when you finally piled out of the car you felt like you might have dripped away the very last ounce of condensation from your body. But then you were free to run and to play and to ramble and to be a child.

I remember the excitement of arriving at the campsite, usually sometime in the late afternoon, and setting up our big red tent that drooped when it rained and didn’t quite keep all the moisture out. I remember pushing the stakes into the ground and arranging my belongings in my designated area and making sure to remember to take off my shoes before going into the tent. No one wanted to sleep in a bed of dirt and pine needles; my Mom was quite adamant about that  . . .

And when nighttime came there was a roaring fire and hotdogs on the grill (this was before people could afford to regularly cook steaks on their grills) and the cozy feeling of sitting together as a family and just basking in the warmth and the pure delight of it all.

Going to Pinewood Lodge was our only vacation back then, and we were content with that. We were satisfied with the simple, because we were raised in a simple way. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on clothing and shoes and lessons and vacations (and that was probably a salvation for us in many ways; poverty can be a purifying means if it shifts the focus from material things to the Great Provider). We were thrilled to pretend that we were Mary and Laura from Little House on the Prairie and to collect baskets of green seeds outside to “cook” enticing, muddy soups with. And we were happy. And our refrigerator was always a little on the “empty” side. And we didn’t complain much about the things that we couldn’t have because we didn’t even realize that we were lacking anything.

How much does a child really need, anyway?

We didn’t have a lot of luxuries growing up, but my Mom made everything special — the holidays, the seasons, even the weather. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter were the crowning celebrations of our year, with birthdays coming closely in second, and Valentine’s Day, like a fairy-wisp of delight in the cold days of February. One of my clearest memories is of my Mom teaching me how to write my name in the soft light of the evening, while her able hands shaped a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine’s Day. And there would be pink applesauce some years, or cranberry soda with doilies placed festively around the table. And then our Valentine’s Day heart -- always Russell Stover, and our allowance of 2 chocolates per day. We were ecstatic . . . and still feel that sense of making each holiday very special.

We live in “easier” times now, monetarily speaking, but I wonder if we are deceiving ourselves in thinking that our children have it “better” than we did . . . Are we really benefiting our children by giving them all the luxuries that we didn’t have? Or are we driving them farther away from the realities of life, and from Christ, who is the Ultimate Reality? Simple things like walking to school — wasn’t it good exercise and didn't it teach children the discipline of pulling themselves out of bed just a little earlier? Do children really need a plethora of different snacks and favorite foods eaten at random times, or was it better when families sat down together at the table and ate a common meal while sharing in the events of one another’s lives? Do children need to be pushed into so many different activities that there is not time for them to enjoy their childhood, no time for good, honest hard-work, and no time for daily family worship and reading the Scriptures? (What is truly important to us, anyway?) Our lives may become less complicated if we prayerfully considered how we are raising our children and how much we, as believers have embraced the culture of hurry and chaos.

But sometimes it’s just easier to press through a drive through, to throw a quick movie into the DVD player for our kids, to jump into the car and head for the most enticing store. And sometimes there is nothing wrong with it, when a respite or a break is needed. But it shouldn’t be the direction, the leaning of our lives. Investment should be . . . investment into the lives of our children — not quality time, but investment all the time —prayerful, loving, concerned, involved, radical parenting, that defies the norm and that rejects the culture and its ideals when they don’t coincide with the freeing direction of Scripture. Who says that my child needs to “socialize” in the way that this world dictates that he or she should? The Holy Spirit is ultimately our Guide, not the parenting magazine in the doctor’s office, and not the Mom who has read all the latest and greatest and has her degree in child psychology.

The simplicity of Christ . . . when we humbly guide our sons and daughters in the ways of the Lord and make Him first in our lives, then everything else will peacefully fall into place. We will lead less busy, frenzied, hurried lives and our homes will become sanctuaries of rest rather than cookie-cutter culture-embracing, Christ-minimizing condominiums. What do we truly want our homes to look like, our lives to look like? And do we really care the most about our children’s character — whether his or her heart is being fashioned after the image of Christ — not whether he or she is fitting into the ideals of the culture? When we care about the real things, the things that will endure and matter eternally, then our hearts will be changed, become unfettered, and the litter of this age will be cleaned away. Then we will be satisfied with the much of Christ and disenchanted with the littleness of this passing world, and our children will be free to walk as sons and daughters of the Living God.

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily,