About pmgilmer

I am a happily married Christian woman with 5 kids that I homeschooled. I recently received my masters in library science from East Carolina University and am now writing some great stories that I trust will bless and encourage others in the near future. I read books of all genres, but my favorite is historical fiction. I am also writing historical fiction, so I will be posting reviews and news in that area. Happy reading!

“At Calvary” One Man’s Testimony

mockingbird

One of my favorite articles of the magazine, Christianity Today, is always at the end and titled simply “Testimony”. The testimonies display God’s amazing grace in how He saved a certain person in some kind of unique way. I know some people who were saved at a young age (such as myself) and spent most of their life in church feel slightly intimidated by powerful testimonies. They believe their testimonies are boring in comparison and feel they don’t have much to share concerning the grace and mercy of God. But we shouldn’t feel that way, and reading these miraculous stories always puts me in awe of God’s love and power and encourages me that He is always working, even in those we might think could never be saved and changed.

Years I spent in vanity and pride

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died

On Calvary.

Listening to the words of this hymn made me wonder about the testimony of the person who wrote them. I learned that William Newell had been a young man whose pastor father despaired he would ever turn to Christ. His father wrote to R.A. Torrey, president of Moody Bible Institute, asking him to take his son as a student. He told Torrey that his son’s life was “really messed up” and hoped that going to the Bible Instiute would change his life. Though he sympathized, Torrey responded that Moody was not a reform school, and they couldn’t take his son. The father did not give up. After many letters, pleading his cause, Torrey finally relented and said he would take the boy, but he must agree to visit him every day and to abide by the rules of the institute.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned

Then I trembled at the law I spurned

Till my guilty soul imploring turned to Calvary.

Newell did abide by the rules and God changed his life. Some years later after acquiring degrees from Wooster College and Princeton and Oberlin Theological Seminary, he became the assistant superintendent at Moody Bible Institute as well as the pastor of Bethesda Congregational Church.

Now I’ve given to Jesus everything

Now I gladly own Him as my king

Now my raptured soul can only sing of Calvary.

In 1895 while Newell was on his way to teach a class, the thoughts of his testimony and how God had saved him became so clear to him, he stopped in an empty classroom and began to jot down the words to this future hymn on the back of an envelope. As he continued on to his class, he ran into Daniel Brink Towner, the director of music at the institute. Newell gave him the words he had just written and asked him to come up with a tune for them. By the time Newell had finished his lecture, Towner had a tune and they sang the song together.

O the love that drew salvation’s plan!

O the grace that brought it down to man!

O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.

(Refrain) Mercy there was great and grace was free

Pardon there was multiplied to me

There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

What a beautiful, yet simple way to share a testimony! As all of us, at one time, he was unaware and did not care that God had died for him. Yet at some point, God’s Word penetrated his heart and brought him to repentance and faith. I hope you will take time to listen to this song again and worship along with the Collingsworth Family.

Birding at MacAlpine Creek Park January 2022

I bought a journal to keep track of some of the birds I’ve seen and places I’ve visited, but like most of my journals, my writing in it has been haphazard at best. Since I still would like to keep some kind of record, I decided to start recording some of my adventures in this blog.

Reading that various ducks winter at MacAlpine Creek Park (in Charlotte,NC), I have made several visits in the past few months, hoping to see new waterfowl. So far, I’ve only seen mallards and Canadian geese. As much as I like to see these birds, I’ve been disappointed not to see anything new.

On my most recent trip to MacAlpine, I saw several types of birds and most excitedly, several I hadn’t seen there before (though not the waterfowl I expected). I started on my usual route to the marshy area where I have seen a great blue heron and an egret on several visits. Much to my disappointment, there was nothing there. Some mallards soon flew in, but I kept looking for the egret and heron. Then I noticed a bird sitting on a metal cross in the pond (I have no idea why that cross is there. Maybe someone can enlighten me.) Using my binoculars, I realized it was a kingfisher. A first time sighting for me. I took a few pictures and decided to go to the other trail I usually walk and maybe I would come back before I left to look one more time.

Belted Kingfisher

Just as I was leaving that area, a heron flew over my head and landed in a tree. I had never seen this bird in a tree (though I have since learned they nest in trees) and took several pictures from different angles.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

I made my way back to the front pond, hoping some ducks had shown up. I saw some white birds that looked like seagulls. And before anyone corrects me, I know gulls are not just “seagulls” but I confess that is still how I think of them. Anyway, I have never seen these birds at McAlpine before. They didn’t stay long. They were gone by the time I made my loop.

Ring-billed gull
Colony of Gulls

Walking along the other side of the marsh, I finally saw the egret. I guess the slightly warmer weather brought out the turtle.

Turtle and Great Egret

As I continued my walk, I saw something a bit strange up in a tree. I thought it might just be some trash (more than once I’ve trained my binoculars on a plastic bag), then thought maybe it was a nest of some sort.

Strange creature

You probably notice the beak, but I didn’t even see that at first. Once I saw the leg (that’s just one leg; the other is a branch), I realized it was a bird. Another heron. He was probably trying to take a nap, but I walked around him as close as I could and got quite a few shots even before he woke up and began his creaky cry.

Great Blue Heron

I usually see several downy woodpeckers at McAlpine but not this day. However, I did see two other types of woodpeckers. The first a red-bellied woodpecker who I always hear, even if I don’t see them. They are very noisy birds and that’s not counting their rat-a-tat-tatting on trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, male

While I was snapping pictures of this woodpecker, I heard another one drilling very loudly behind me. I’m always reluctant to turn from something I have discovered as I can quickly lose sight of them and a bird in a hand, etc. But, fortunately, I did turn around in time to see a pileated woodpecker. The first I’ve seen here.

Pileated Woodpecker

Last, but not least, I saw a couple of cardinals, a mockingbird, several eastern phoebes, a couple of tufted titmice, and, of course, a scurry of squirrels.

Male Northern Cardinal
Eastern Phoebe
Grey Squirrel

I saw a good variety that day and was pleased with what I saw, even though I still didn’t see any different ducks. I also talked to a couple of other birders who had seen a hawk at close range and was told by another birder of a barred owl that lives there. I’m still hoping to see that owl and get some good pictures of the hawks on future trips.

Tufted titmouse

My Favorite Books of 2021

It’s that time of the year when everyone is making lists of their favorites or what they consider the best of . . . My favorite reads from the past year are a bit all over the place since I read from many genres, but I suppose it’s no surprise that many of these are historical fiction. I’ve finished 142 books this year, but I didn’t try to pick out 21 of the best. (I came close though). These were not (necessarily) books published in 2021, but books I read in 2021. I will list them (in no particular order) along with a short review.

The Beacon of Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw, first published in 1986.

Historical fiction taking place in the 4th century AD. A young woman wants to be a doctor, but women aren’t allowed to study medicine, so she disguises herself as a eunuch and leaves her home in Ephesus to go to Alexandria where she hopes to find someone who will take her on as an apprentice. She soon apprentices to a Jewish doctor, becomes caught up in church politics and has to flee again. This time she finds herself as an army doctor for the Romans, but life continues to be complicated. I have loved every book I have read by Bradshaw and this is no exception. Great characters and interesting historical background.

The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan (1995) takes place in North Carolina after the Civil War and into the 20th century. Ginny’s father has returned from the Civil War but keeping up their farm in the western North Carolina mountains is a huge task for the two of them. When she meets Tom (whose father didn’t return from the war), their attraction for each other and the land are enough for them to marry. Though Ginny wonders at times if Tom was really more attracted to her father’s land than her, they continue to work at their marriage. Their struggles come when Tom becomes obsessed with making money, and Ginny wants to spend time at Pentecostal tent meetings. Both see the other’s passion as foolishness.

The Night Watchman Louise Erdrich (2020; Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2021). My first book by Lousie Erdrich. Erdrich based her story on her grandfather and his fight to stop a bill in Congress which wanted to terminate Native Americans in the name of freedom. It is 1953 and Thomas Wazhashk, a Chippewa Council member and a night watchman at a jewel bearing plant near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota learns of a bill that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land. He meets with others on the council to try and decide what they can do to stop this. Another main character, Pixie or Patrice, also works at the jewel bearing plant and desires to do something with her life besides get married and have kids. She has an older sister, Vera, who has disappeared in the city of Minneapolis, so Patrice decides to try to find her. What she finds is exploitation and soon needs to escape herself. Great characters and a fascinating story.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell (2013). I’ve heard a lot about O’Farrell (even before she won the Women’s Prize for Fiction last year), but this was my first book by her, and I couldn’t put it down.

While taking care of everyday business at her vintage clothing shop, Iris Lockhart receives a letter, then a phone call. Cauldstone Hospital is closing and they need to know what she wants to do with her great-aunt Esme. Iris is sure there is some mistake as she has never heard of this woman. She soon learns that her grandmother’s claims of being an only child were false and that her sister had been committed (and ignored) to this hospital over sixty years ago. Once she meets Esme and does some research, she is horrified to learn how little it took for a family to get rid of an unwanted and embarrassing relative. 

O’Farrell tells Esme’s story through flashbacks, some from Esme’s viewpoint and others through her sister’s whose mind is now clouded with dementia. I found her storytelling compelling and engaging, though, like Iris, I was also horrified to think of the many (mostly) women  who may have ended up in institutions such as this with no one to plead their cause. I will definitely be reading more from O’Farrell.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle Monique Roffey (2009). This is the story of a marriage and also a snapshot of the history of Trinidad. I lived in Trinidad for a couple of years (the years portrayed at the end of the book) and I wish I had been able to read this then. I’m sure it would have given me a better understanding of the country’s history and politics.

Still, in spite of the unusual way it was told (the last years are told first), I found the story of George and Sabine compelling, sad, and relatable. From England, George is offered a job with his company in Trinidad and he promises his wife they will only be there for a couple of years. George immediately falls in love with the country, and Sabine–does not. She grits her teeth and determines to stick it out, but as the years go by, the strain is felt on their marriage. Fiction shortlist for Orange Prize in 2010.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January Alix E. Harrow (2019). Loved this stand alone fantasy. January is of mixed race and questionable origin being raised by a white man in London while her father travels the world finding unusual artifacts for this wealthy man. Is he a benefactor or a prison warden? January finds a door to another world early in her childhood but her guardian insists it is in her mind and when she goes back to find it, it has been destroyed. When January is 16, everything she knows is being questioned and her life and sanity become endangered. I could write more & more about this book, but if you want to read a good stand-alone fantasy, just read it!

Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese (2009). Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born in Ethiopia in 1954. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, they are raised by two doctors from the hospital where they were born, and not surprisingly, they both become interested in medicine though in different fields. Revolution and untold secrets cause Marion to have to flee to America where he learns more of his father’s history.
 

A fictionalized version of what might have happened when Agatha Christie first rode the Orient Express. Trying to escape the shame and hurt of her divorce, Christie rides incognito and soon meets two other women with secrets of their own. Together, they help each other out and even become involved in an archaeological dig when they reach Baghad.

I listened to several excellent audio books this year which was in no small part due to the excellent narrators. The first of my top five audio books: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by Victoria Schwab (2020), narrated by Julia Whelan. In France, some 300 years ago, Addie is about to be married to a man not of her dreams. She runs into the forest and calls out for help though she has been warned never to call to the gods of the night. When a man in black offers to give her the life she wants in exchange for her soul, Addie gladly accepts, not understanding the consequences of such an agreement. She will have a (very) long life but will not be remembered by anyone who meets her.

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory (2020), narrated by Louise Brealey. I reviewed the first in this two book series last year (Tidelands) which I also listened to on audio. Midsummer Eve 1670 at a warehouse on the River Thames, Alinor receives two unexpected visitors and neither are entirely welcome. James Avery is the lover who deserted her years earlier. The other is a Venetian woman who claims to be the widow of Alinor’s son, Rob. Alinor refuses to see the first and though outwardly she accepts the widow’s claims–inwardly, she does not believe her son is dead. Her daughter, however, is taken in by this glamourous Venetian, so Alinor must bide her time to learn what has truly happened to her son.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016). Though unfamiliar with Noah’s comedy routines, I had heard he read this memoir himself and did a great job. I totally agree that his reading was excellent and often humorous, but it is much deeper than just a comedy routine. Born to a black mother and a white father in apartheid South Africa, Noah’s birth was literally a crime. Noah tells what it was like growing up where his mother and grandmother often had to hide him to keep him from being taken away and themselves arrested. His mother plays a key role in his life and is a delightful character as well. Noah gets into many escapades, but his mother makes sure he gets an education and never wavers from making him learn and to always do his best.

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain (2021), narrated by Marin Ireland (one of my favorite narrators). Anna is a missing persons detective. When a tragedy occurs in her life, she takes off and goes to a small town where she had felt comfortable and loved as a foster child in high school. One of the first things she sees there is a poster for a missing teen. Even though she is there to escape her own grief, she soon becomes involved in this case. She meets old friends and uncovers old secrets.

Honorable mentions: Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018).

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012). Another that was excellent on audio. Narrated by Julia Wheland and Kirby Heyborne.

September by Rosamunde Pilcher (1990).

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron (2001).

Wintercombe by Pamela Belle (1988).

The last three were rereads, something I seemed to do more of this year. Happily, these three were still enjoyable and fun to read.

Happy New Year!

Looking on the Heart–A Book Review

Looking on the Heart is a commentary on 1 Samuel (a book in the Old Testament) by Dale Ralph Davis. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review on a commentary, but I’ve never read a commentary that so impressed and blessed me. Several reviews on goodreads mentioned how accessible and “easy to read” they found this commentary which is true but it is so much more.

1 Samuel is a book of history and prophecy, telling the stories of Samuel, a prophet and the last judge; of Israel’s first king, Saul; and the beginnings of their second king, David. Quite an important part of history for both Christians and Jews, but what does it have to do with us as Christians living in the 21st century?

From the beginning, Davis teaches that though we learn from all three main characters, we must be careful not to try and fit our own lives into what God was doing with them. What is important in reading any scripture is to learn what we can about God. “Once we see what scripture reveals about God we usually will see how it applies to us.” (p. 45) We are not prophets or kings, but in every story or happening, we can learn something about God in the way He interacted with His specially chosen people.

For example, in 1 Samuel 4 we read the story of the Israelites preparing to go to battle with the Philistines. Since the Philistines had just soundly beaten them (killing four thousand men), the Israelites decide to bring the Ark (a sacred artifact that represented God’s presence) into battle with them. The Israelites were not only beaten again, but they lost the Ark to the Philistines as well. So, what does this teach us about God? Mainly, that we can’t perform certain rituals or say the right words and expect God to perform for us. The Israelites didn’t seek God, and they demeaned the Ark by using it as a good-luck charm when going into battle.

“This is not faith but superstition. It is what I call rabbit-foot theology. When we, whether Israelites or Christians, operate this way, our concern is not to seek God but to control him, not to submit to God but to use him. So we prefer religious magic to spiritual holiness; we are interested in success not repentance.” (p.54)

We might read this story and think it doesn’t really apply to us because we don’t have an Ark to bring into battle, but if that’s all we see we will be missing the point. Do we not think if we ask God in a certain way or use just the right words or if we perform certain religious tasks (going to Sunday School, giving a tithe, etc), then surely He will respond to us and rescue us out of any situation?

Throughout this commentary, Davis points us to what God is doing–whether in the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David or in the nation of Israel. Learning more about God and His character is all we need from a commentary. Highly recommended.

Season of Hummingbirds

My first full season of feeding and watching hummingbirds is coming to an end. I thought I would get tired of cleaning out feeders on a regular basis, but, no, all I did was add a couple of more feeders. I’m not enough of an expert to be able to give an accurate count, but I did have at least two adult males on a regular basis and probably a couple of females. In the middle of the season, several more hummingbirds began to come regularly. At least three of them are juvenile males making me assume the females had a successful season with hatching and bringing out their young. It will be interesting next year to see how many of these males show up to stake out their territory.

The tongue is out!

Any time I interact with nature–whether through observation or studying the life cycles of plants, birds, or animals–I am reminded anew of God’s majestic, artistic creation and His unmatched imagination in creating both the hummingbird and the woodpecker; the whale and the seal; the butterfly and the daylily.

“Some people, in order to find God, will read a book. But there is a great book, the book of created nature. Look carefully at it top and bottom, observe it, read it. God did not make letters of ink for you to recognize him in; he set before your eyes all these things he has made. Why look for a louder voice?” Augustine of Hippo

Birds of a Feather

For anyone who innocently believes you can just call a flock of birds a “flock of birds,” I’m here to enlighten you. All birds are not alike and neither are their group names. Some of these names are as charming as some minor league baseball team names (looking at you Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp) and others are, well, for the birds. (Sorry!)

So, how did these different names come about and why? Isn’t enough to know those are robins gathered round? Or do we need to know they are actually a ’round of robins’? (Though others state it is a ‘worm of robins’.)

As with many odd questions that pop in my mind, this is one that led me down a few rabbit trails, but, fortunately, others have already been down those trails and have done the necessary research to discover the origin of these terms, most notably James Lipton in his book, An Exaltation of Larks.

First, these are called “terms of venery” or “nouns of assembly” and these collective nouns don’t just pertain to birds but also animals and groups of people.

In the late Middle Ages, inventing animal group names started as a game, soon became a fad, and turned into a challenge which lasted a couple of centuries. (Please remember there were no entertaining blogs such as this one to read in those days).

As James Lipton put it in An Exaltation of Larks, “What we have in these terms is clearly the end result of a game that amateur philologists have been playing for over 500 years.”

To organize these terms and to make them more official, they were gathered together and published in works that the upper classes used to make sure they did not embarass themselves by using the wrong terms. (For example, it was considered bad form to call a “scurry of squirrels” a “bunch of squirrels”).The first of these was The Egerton Manuscript published in 1450.

“The terms were codified during the period when the river of words was approaching its greatest breadth, beginning in about 1450 with The Egerton Manuscript.” (Lipton)

Then came the The Book of St. Albans (also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms) published in 1486 and containing 164 terms. Many of these terms were not for animals but groups of people and were meant to be humorous (“a sentence of judges”, “a melody of harpers,” “a gagle of women”). However, the book’s popularity caused them to become part of the Standard English lexicon.

But I digress. Back to the birds. Here are a few examples:

Group of hummingbirds: Charm (Not sure where this could have come from. The only groups, sorry, charms of hummingbirds I see are chasing each other wildly in what seems to be a pretty selfish defending of territory).

Woodpeckers: descent (Some say this is because they start at the top of a tree and come down, but I have definitely seen them ascend as well as descend).

Descent of Downy Woodpeckers

chickadees: banditry (This is seems oddly appropriate).

A pair of bandits

cardinals: college, deck, Vatican (Several choices here. I prefer a “Vatican of cardinals.”)

finches: charm, trembling

doves: cote, dole, dule, bevy, flight, and piteousness (We always call the ones at our feeder “the drama queens”).

Ducks: Ducks on the water are called a “paddling” or a “raft.” (Mallards have their own terms and as the different writers seem to disagree on this, I will not distinguish between the different types of ducks. This has become confusing enough as it is).

Flamingoes: flamboyance. A flamboyance of flamingoes. This is not easy to say (or spell). Go ahead. Try it a few times.

Hawks: kettle

Eagles: convocation

Owls: parliament (I would love to see a parliament of owls but I don’t really think they hang out together too much).

Crows: murder (This may be a bit unjust but still amusing).

Grackles: plague (We have definitely been plagued with these at our bird feeders).

plague of grackles

But what if you see a group of birds that are a mixed bag of bird types? Is there a correct nomenclature for that? Perhaps “bunch of birds” would do just fine in such cases.

Nuthatch trying to get in a party (or charm) of finches who have a chickadee as their bouncer.

As I mentioned, the naming of groups of birds is only one part of these fascinating collections or terms of venery. We also have a month of Sundays, a mountain of debt, a rash of dermatologists, a cackle of hyenas, a mass of priests, and (one of my personal favorites) a prophet ( or profit) of televangelists.

So, if you want to make sure you are calling all groups by their proper term of venery, check out Lipton’s book though you may be accused of telling a pack of lies if you try to open such a can of worms.

Reading Around the World: Korea

In March, #readingtheworld21 took me to Korea.

Upon my daughter’s recommendation I read In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. a memoir by a girl who fled communist North Korea to China and eventually made it to South Korea.

‘I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.’

Yeonmi Park had no understanding of freedom or what it would be like to live somewhere where you had choices and could make decisions. She grew up being told what to do, what to think, and that their “beloved leader” was not only a political leader but their god. However, in spite of her family’s firm belief in their leader, starvation and the hope that life was better across the river (in China) led Yeonmi and her mother to escape their country, following her sister who had left earlier.

Unfortunately, though there was food in China, it was not quite the promised land they had hoped to find. Sex trafficking was rampant and left the two without many options. Still, with grit and determination, Park and her mother found ways to survive and eventually make their way to true freedom.

Park has since come to the U.S. and has become a leading human rights activist. If you want to hear more of Park’s story, there are several places to hear her on YouTube.

The Last Exiles is a work of fiction and could be considered a companion book to In Order to Live. Suja, a young journalist from an important family, meets Jin at the university in Pyongyang, and they fall in love. Though Suja realizes Jin is from a small village, she does not realize the depth of poverty and hunger his family (and others) face there.

When Jin is arrested and taken to prison, Suja is confused, sure there has been some mistake. When she hears of his escape, she determines to find a way out of North Korea to go and look for Jin.

Both of these books tell a grim story of life in North Korea, a life hard to imagine for those of us who live in freedom.

For another book that tells of a different time in the history of Korea, I recommend a past read, Pachinko. I wrote about this one in an earlier blog post: https://pmgilmer.com/2020/08/29/books-im-reading-august-2020/

How about you? Any books you can recommend about Korea or by Korean authors?

A Week at Hilton Head

Pod of Pelicans
horseshoe crab

Fish Haul Beach Park

Harbour Town Lighthouse
sand dollar
Pair of Pelicans
Side trip to Savannah

Beach read

Sunrise

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!

Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise Yahweh’s name because

it is he who commanded and they were created.

And he established them forever and ever;

he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise Yahweh from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,

fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;

his majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints;

for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!

Psalm 148

The First Temptation

Have you ever thought about the conversations between Jesus and Satan when Jesus was living in a physical body on this earth? We get some hints of what this may have been like from the book of Job where a conversation between God and Satan is recorded, but other than knowing that Jesus was indeed tempted, we don’t have much to go on. Some years ago, I wrote an epic tale of the Christ and his struggle with his Adversary, Satan. And, yes, I used The Odyssey as a model for my format (not the content). Divided into “Books” (the first being an introduction) the second Book is entitled The Wilderness Temptations. Here is an excerpt which I hope you will both enjoy and will provoke some thought concerning the Christ and his earthly life.

The First Temptation

On that forty-first day, the God-Man woke

to hunger pangs and discovered his body

had become weak from that month-plus trial.

As his eyes focused to face the day,

he saw his Adversary standing at

his feet, smiling a crooked smile and shining

bright as the desert sun. “Good morning,

old friend,” he said. “Surprised to see me? But

didn’t I promise to come back? You will

find that I, unlike some others, keep all

my promises and will never forget

you or leave you for too long, for I am

concerned about you and how you’re spending

your life and squandering your potential.

I suppose with all this time to think and

consider, you’ve come to realize that you

could not possibly be the Son of God?

Since I am the one who has come to check

on you and see if your needs are being

met, it is obvious,” and his eyes swept

the horizon and the God-Man’s surroundings

and came back with a look of distaste, “that

your Heavenly Father,” and he spat the

two words out, “has not been by or if He has,”

and he smiled a sinister smile, “He has

done nothing to secure your belief that

you are His Son, has He?” Unperturbed, the

God-Man rose to his feet and answered, “Quite the

contrary. He has been here in many

wonderful ways–ways you could never see

or understand–and He has only confirmed

my belief and my profession that I Am

His Son and His Chosen.” Satan attempted

to mask the furious anger that welled up

within him with a strained smile which truly

appeared as a grimace. Then with eyes ablaze,

he said in a voice dipped in honey,

“Of course, you are. Whoever said you weren’t?

But, tell me, have you had breakfast yet?” As

if in answer, the God-Man’s fleshly insides

began to grumble, bringing delight to

his Antagonist though he tried to cover

this with a false look of concern and

pity as he waited for an answer. “No,

there’s been no breakfast here. Only rocks and

dust, as you can see.” And Satan nodded as

if in sympathy but then he appeared

to have an idea and said with great

enthusiasm, “But you are the Son

of God, remember? If you are the Son

of God, you should have no problem coming

up with a substantial meal and then we

can talk over some business.” Eyebrow arched,

the God-Man gazed at his rival and said,

“I was not aware we had any business

to discuss.” And Satan again smiled that

patient smile. “Of course, but how can you think

on an empty stomach? An empty

stomach causes the head to be light and

the heart to be weak. Come, you say you are

the Son of God, let us see you come up

with some breakfast. The Son of God shouldn’t

be out here in this wilderness where the

wild beasts are quite well-fed, yet here he is,

his guts crying out in torment, as he

stands by, as if helpless. You say you

are the Son of God but for thirty years

you have lived in practical poverty

submitting yourself to the surroundings

into which you have been thrust and now you bow

to the elements. To the things which you,

yourself, claim to have created. How can

you possibly allow yourself to be

subdued by the works of your own hands? Come,

if you are the Son of God, tell these stones

here to become bread for your breakfast. They

will be glad to be of service to their

Master, for isn’t that why they were formed?

To serve their Master and obey his commands?

In fact, I daresay that your creation

has been watching you in wonder and has

been speculating as to why you have

not called on them earlier. Can you not

see their eagerness to serve you? Come, Son

of God, call on them; exercise your power

and authority. You say God has now

anointed you to be King, so be King.

Prepare your breakfast so we can discuss

deeper matters.” Folding his arms, Satan

stood back and waited, his impatience

obvious, but the God-Man refused to

make a hasty decision knowing well

this was not as simple a matter as

his Adversary portrayed it. He

also knew the power he possessed had

been given to him by his Father, so

consideration of his Father’s will

must be made. But he was hungry and his

insides churned once more as if to remind

him of his responsibility to

them, too. He gazed on the stones and easily

imagined them as loaves and could almost

smell them baking in the sun and taste

their flaky crusts and their soft middle–

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. His

Adversary watched him intently, though

he tried to appear both nonchalant

and impatient. Impatient as in:

‘This is no big deal, you know, get on

with it.’ And nonchalant as in: ‘But then

again, it is no matter to me, one

way or the other.’ A faint smile played on

the God-Man’s lips as he read all this in

his Opponent’s face which caused that angel

to simmer. He managed to keep his

temper in check and gazed calmly back at

his prey as he waited for an answer,

a decision to be made. Then Satan recalled

another king he had tempted, that first

king of Israel whom he convinced that

waiting for God’s provisions and living

strictly by His rules was not only

unnecessary but also senseless

when you could take care of the matter

yourself. So, Israel’s first king bent the rules

of a God of no compromise–not once

but twice–and he who was to be a

great king and leader was instead a

failure and died a scorned and rejected

king and man. Satan knew he did not need

to lead this present and final king

to compromise more than once for once

would be enough. Now he almost became

excited before the deed was done, smelling

the sweet smell of such a victory, and he

trembled but caught himself when he saw the

curious look from his prey. “Come on,”

he snapped. “What’s taking you so long? You act as

if you faced a monumental decision.

I only want you to eat, so we can talk.

Sustain yourself, my friend,” he added

more gently, his words becoming

like honey at his command, causing

the God-Man to once more remember his

hunger. Again, he looked at the stones, but

this time they brought to mind days of old,

and he saw the children of Israel

led into a similar desert and

led into a similar temptation

to be taught . . . what? Obedience. Yes, that

was it–obedience. Now he recalled

they had failed their test and he reflected

on why. He remembered their grumbling

and identified their discontent as

an expression of their lack of trust

and confidence in God as their provider.

Knowing himself to be the new Israel,

he realized if he treated himself to

breakfast (as his Adversary had so

artfully suggested), he would be

expressing the same lack of confidence.

So, summoning up the Scriptures in his mind,

he recalled God’s word on it all: ‘Remember

how the Lord your God led you all the way

in the desert these forty years, to humble

you and to test you in order to know

what was in your heart, whether or not you

would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing

you to hunger and then feeding you with

manna, which neither you nor your fathers

had known, to teach you that–‘ and he stopped and

smiled as the answer was there and the

clarity in his mind shone on his face,

and Satan inwardly recoiled as he

caught a whiff of the air of defeat.

But stiffly he waited and then it came

as in a clear and steady voice the God-Man

said in his new-found strength, “It is written:

‘Man does not live on bread alone but on

every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.'”

Now Satan cringed outwardly and the

rocks trembled and the heavens smiled and the

God-Man waited, but not long for Satan

knew this was a small defeat and the day

was young with boundless opportunities

and uppermost in his mind remained the

refrain: ‘It will only take one. Once will

be enough.’ With this thought, Satan

recovered his poise and said, “Very well,

you do not wish to eat; that is your privilege.

I was only thinking of your comfort.

You are too quick with your suspicions, but

come, ‘Son of God,’ (for you have yet to prove

to me that you are such) and let us go

to Jerusalem, that ‘holy city,’ and

there you can show me whose son you truly are.”

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo gloria

Reading Around the World: Mexico

I read two books from Mexico in the past few weeks for the #readtheworld21 challenge, but I am only going to review one here (I did write about both on Goodreads). The first one I enjoyed; the second I wanted to throw against the wall when I finished. I refrain from reviewing books I don’t like because I’m not interested in reading reviews of books not recommended by the reviewer. I find that a waste of time. This book has been popular and even made into a movie, so I’m doing it no harm in not recommending it.

Now on to my recommended read.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea is a story of legend combing historical fiction and magical realism. Urrea heard stories of his ancestor, Teresita Urrea, while growing up; the fantastical stories of her life and miracles. How much was true and how much legend, he set out to discover and spent some twenty years researching and writing her story.

Teresita was the illegitimate daughter of a young girl called Hummingbird and wealthy rancher, Tomas Urrea, during the late nineteenth century in Mexico, a time of unrest and the beginnings of a civil war. Abandoned by her mother, Teresita brought herself to the attention of Urrea and Huila, a curandero. Seeing Teresita’s gifts and potential, Huila teaches Teresita of herbs and healing and promises to help her cultivate her gifts. What leads to Teresita becoming the Saint of Cabora is told in dramatic fashion. Don’t be like me and miss the family tree in the front of the book until you’ve almost finished the book. I would have find this more helpful at the beginning when I was trying to keep names straight but somehow overlooked it.

In lieu of the book, I can’t recommend, let me do a repeat and make a case for one that was on my favorites’ list of 2020–The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia, translated by Simon Bruni. Another story of magical realism and family, the tale begins when Nana Reja finds an abandoned baby under a bridge, covered in a blanket of bees. Though some are horrified both by the bees and the baby’s disfigured face, Simonopio is adopted by landowners who love him as their own. Simonopio soon becomes special, not only to his family but to the whole town. This one is also historical fiction taking place during the Mexican Revolution as well as the influenza of 1918.

I’m sure there are many books about and from Mexico that I need to add to my TBR. If you have any suggestions, please share!