Food for the Soul

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Posted 5/3/16 at 1:08 PM | Audra Jennings

Christ is the anchor in all of life’s storms

Male and female stereotypes have always existed. World War II brought major changes to the status quo in America as necessity challenged traditional male/female roles and opportunities. Sarah Sundin delves into these dynamics in the second installment in her Waves of Freedom series, Anchor in the Storm (Revell/May 3, 2016/ ISBN: 978-0800723439/$14.99). As the needs of a nation brought millions of women into the workforce, some for the first time, ladies were suddenly finding new strengths and facing new tests, including Lillian Avery.

For plucky Lillian, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston, and although her road isn’t easy, she has high hopes for success. Her boss isn’t thrilled about hiring a woman, and Lillian has a visible physical disability that causes some people to assume mistakenly she might be weak. Sundin drew from her own life for this aspect of Anchor in the Storm’s plotline. “My oldest son was born missing his left arm below the elbow,” she reveals. “He’s never let it stop him. He’s a mechanical engineer and a black belt in karate. I’m thankful he was born in modern times when we have more enlightened views of disabilities.” FULL POST

Posted 4/29/16 at 11:50 AM | Audra Jennings

Cynthia Ruchti calls readers to redefine who and whose they are when life hits a sour note.

An interview with Cynthia Ruchti, Author of Song of Silence

What’s the first thing mentioned when introducing two strangers? Typically, one person introduces another by saying the individual’s name, followed by his or her vocation. “This is my friend, Bob. He’s an airplane mechanic.” “I’d like you to meet Sally. She’s a triathlete.” It’s natural for people to derive their sense of self from what they do, not who they are. In her latest novel, Song of Silence (Abingdon Press/April 5, 2016/ISBN: 9781426791499/$14.99), award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti reminds us God takes a different approach when it comes to identity and explores what happens when identity can no longer be linked to an occupation or life’s passion.

In Song of Silence, readers meet Lucy and Charlie Tuttle who, despite their differences, can agree on one thing: They’re committed to each other for life. The trouble is neither of them expected life to look like this. Charlie retired early, but Lucy has been completely devoted to her long-term career as a music educator in a small Midwestern school . . . until the day she has no choice. Now what? How will she survive the gravest disappointment she can imagine when “who she is” is silenced? FULL POST

Posted 4/28/16 at 12:22 PM | Audra Jennings

The First Step to Healing is Giving Abuse a Name

From Penn State to the Catholic Church scandal, stories of sexual abuse are covered in the national media, but news reports do not reveal all the facts of how prevalent abuse is among males. “The standard statistic is that one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18 (1in6.org). However, Male Survivor recently reported one in four men has been sexually abused,” Andrew J. Schmutzer, co-author of Naming Our Abuse: God's Pathways to Healing for Male Sexual Abuse Survivors (Kregel Publications/April 27, 2016/ISBN: 978-0825444005/$14.99), explains. “One thing to understand about these statistics is that they are largely based on self-reporting, so they have been historically hard to come by. As specialists know, men don’t readily talk about their abuse.” FULL POST

Posted 4/27/16 at 12:03 PM | Audra Jennings

A path of healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse

A woman who was sexually abused as a child can wrestle her whole adult life with questions such as, Am I worthless? How can I move past the hurt? Do I matter to God? This internal turbulence can carve a deep hole in an already wounded soul. Crystal M. Sutherland’s own experiences as a child led her to write Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Kregel Publications/April 27, 2016/ISBN: 978-0825444012/$14.99).

With more than 42 million victims (both male and female) of child sexual abuse in the U.S. alone, the need for healing is enormous. While there is no simple formula for those seeking recovery, Sutherland believes the Bible contains essential guidance for moving toward peace. Journey to Heal is a practical and comprehensive study of seven steps specifically for female survivors who want to progress from simply coping with life to living abundantly. Calling her book “a road map to recovery,” Sutherland invites readers to process their stories, reject shame and discover God’s love for them.

Many of the lessons Sutherland shares in Journey to Heal were learned in the trenches of her own prayerful and painful recovery. Abused by a stepfather for several years as a child, she lived in a broken state. Acting out promiscuously in high school, she soon found herself in the midst of a teen pregnancy. Even after she married, started a family and reconnected with her childhood faith, she still attempted to mask her pain through food, shopping and staying busy all the time. After years of hiding, her world started to fall apart. She finally responded to God’s call to seek him and his word and found her path to healing. “As the Lord brought restoration into my life, I sensed He was encouraging me to share my journey with others so they too could experience the freedom His love brings,” she reveals. “Telling my story is a small part of this book. I share it so my readers know I am a friend who understands what they are going through.” FULL POST

Posted 4/25/16 at 5:08 PM | Audra Jennings

Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life

Part 1 of an interview with Jeff Vanderstelt and Ben Connelly,
Authors of Saturate Field Guide: Principles & Practices for
Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life

For far too many Christians, the idea of being part of a church simply means attending a Sunday morning service, maybe a small group or a sprinkling of special events each year. Is that what God had in mind for his bride, the Church, when he sent his son to save her? Pastor and church planter Jeff Vanderstelt, along with his co-author, Ben Connelly, invite readers to experience something deeper in their new book, Saturate Field Guide: Principles & Practices for Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life (Saturate/February 15, 2016).

Inspired by Habakkuk 2:14, which reads, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” Vanderstelt and Connelly wrote Saturate Field Guide to show believers how to allow the gospel to permeate every aspect of their world. This begins with understanding ministry isn’t just what pastors do on Sundays and discipleship is much more than a class or program. Instead, both are a 24/7 call for all Christians to live in absolute submission to the Lord, joining with others in a missional community, where each person sees himself or herself as a servant missionary sent to make disciples. FULL POST

Posted 4/19/16 at 12:28 PM | Audra Jennings

Become a Hope Hunter: Courage For Those Who Suffer

 Finding hope in dark times is not an accident. Sometimes it has to be hunted, and that chase takes great strength. Author Nika Maples wants to help others find the fierce bravery required to excavate hope from hardship with her new book, Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light (Worthy Inspired/April 19, 2016/ ISBN: 978-1617956652/$15.99).

Nika Maples certainly knows of what she writes: at age 20, she suffered a massive brainstem stroke that left her a quadriplegic. Doctors warned her loved ones she could have as little as 48 hours to live, and if for some reason she survived, she would never be able to walk or talk again. When Maples pulled through those critical hours, she awoke to find there was no hope on the horizon. So, she started to hunt for it. Today she not only walks but speaks to audiences all over the country about the power of relentlessly holding to faith when a situation appears impossible. FULL POST

Posted 4/15/16 at 10:05 AM |

Q&A with singer/songwriter Kristin King

Q: Talk a little about your family, how you came to Christ and your faith journey.
A: I am a Kentucky-raised girl currently living in the Sunshine State of Florida. Jamie is my amazingly supportive husband of eight years, and we have a two- year old son, Landon, who is the absolute joy of our lives. I grew up in church where my dad was the pianist and my mom sang on the praise team. In fact, I made my debut performance as a singer at age 3 in front of roughly 1,000 church members when the pastor handed me the microphone and I gave my best rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” I grew up heavily involved in church, especially the music team where I sang and played keyboard. Even though I have been saved most of my life, I didn’t always follow Christ like I should. After “searching” during my college years, I discovered God had a greater plan for my life than I could imagine and turned over my dreams and desires to Him. FULL POST

Posted 4/8/16 at 12:21 PM | Audra Jennings

Ruth Logan Herne Reminds Readers they Can Always Go Back Home

An interview with Ruth Logan Herne,

Author of Back in the Saddle

Ruth Logan Herne, author of Back in the Saddle
Ruth Logan Herne

Family relationships are never easy, and loss, grief and greed can compound normal everyday tensions. Ruth Logan Herne offers hope for hurting families with the messages contained in her new book, Back in the Saddle (Multnomah Books/March 15, 2016/ ISBN: 978-1601427762/$9.99).

Q: Your latest release, Back in the Saddle,is a modern twist on the biblical parable of the prodigal son. Can you tell us a little bit about the story?

Take one smokin’ hot hero with a chip on his shoulder, turn his hard-won world upside down at the same time his estranged father is diagnosed with deteriorating liver disease and watch the sparks fly!

Colt Stafford grew up with resentment burned into his soul. His mother told him to trust God with all his little heart and soul, and when Colt lost her to a tragic car wreck, he realized that if God existed, he sure wasn’t anyone who could be trusted. He was left with a power-loving, money-hungry father who saw gold in establishing a new kind of beef empire, but Sam’s quest for world beef domination left little for his son. When he tried to rectify that mistake with more mistakes, their relationship dissolved.

But grown-ups see things through a different reality lens, and Colt’s return sets a new normal in motion. His presence disrupts the status quo for the better, and when he gets beyond his initial affront of having a woman running part of the show at the Double S, he realizes that maybe God does exist. And maybe, just maybe, that imperfect timing of his youth was pretty perfect after all.

Q: Your leading man, Colt Stafford, is a proud man who has to return home in disgrace after a personal misfortune. How did you tap into some of your own life experiences to paint his character?

Great question! I took that time I was crazy rich and gambled it all on one roll of the dice and rolled snake eyes. . . . OK, I wasn’t ever rich, and I don’t throw dice, but I have two sons living in Manhattan. I watched their skilled, brilliant friends get rolled under a financial bus with the crash of 2008, and examining the underpinnings of what went wrong, I saw an area ripe for character development.

And that’s where Colt came from. But the expert advice on pegging Colt in Lower Manhattan came from my youngest son, Luke, who is currently working in hedge funds. Fans of Michael Lewis books will recognize that Wall Street doesn’t talk easily or freely, so having an insider point of view was clutch for developing Colt’s career and his downfall with accuracy. I did buy Luke a lot of coffee out of gratitude!

Q: When you’re caught at a crossroads in life, such as a couple of your characters were, what process do you have for weighing your options and making a decision?

Then or now?

Because younger people might go at this very differently than a mother who’s raised six kids through various levels of Ivy League education while waitressing in a Greek diner.

When I was younger, I tended to jump first, ask questions later, and I was pretty sure I was right. Maybe for that time I was, because what working mother of six has time to think? So I acted often on instinct, but when faced with a particularly tough crossroads, I always turned to prayer and patience. The prayer was easy. Sitting back and letting God take lead? I have found that smart folks have a hard time with that initially, and when I finally broke through the “But I should be able to do this!” wall I erected, life got calmer. I got calmer. It wasn’t age; it was learning I don’t have to do it all. Sometimes, I can simply be an enthusiastic (or sad) bystander. And that was OK.

Q: For the Stafford family, marriages don’t seem to last a lifetime. What advice do you have for those who want a healthy marriage but didn’t have the opportunity to observe one in their own family?

Marriage is work.

Let me repeat that.

Marriage is work.

And in that work comes the essence of love, patience, grace, forgiveness (lots of that on both sides, I reckon!) and joy.

Now having said that, I think there is a formula. First, marry the right person as best you’re able. People don’t mature at the same rate, and the ideas of twenty-somethings are rarely the reality of thirty-somethings. That State Farm commercial “All the Nevers in Life” is a perfect example! What we say “no” to initially often comes back to be our new normal.

I believe faith is a huge binder, but faith alone can’t hold two people together. But faith, love, respect, flexibility, understanding and forgiveness go a long way. I’m a firm believer that you should always marry someone who loves different snacks than you do. For instance, if you like ice cream, marry someone who’d rather have something salty — such as potato chips. I’ll tell you why. At the end of the day, when you want that last half-cup of Chunky Monkey, and you’re tired and you’ve been thinking of it all day while eating celery leaves and twigs to fit into your jeans, working your job and tending kids, house, taxi service for sports and dancing, committees and shopping for the packaged cookies your kid needs for school tomorrow, it is in everyone’s best interest if your husband, when faced with a choice, wolfed down the half-bag of chips instead of the Chunky Monkey.

That’s all I’m saying.

Q: Sibling rivalry is one of the major themes in Back in the Saddle. What do you find is the best way to handle tension in family relationships?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

OK, now that I’m up off the floor, let me just say that the newly visible accidents of genetics should give us a much better idea of how diverse siblings are and how amazingly blessed we are when any of them get along!

“Daughters! You think it’s going to be like Little Women, and they’re at each other’s throats every day!” —Cora Crawley, Downton Abbey

Laughter. Honestly, give them a good faith base to help offset the chronic craziness of an instant gratification world around them, but beyond that, help them learn not to sweat the small stuff while expecting them to respect one another. They don’t have to be best buddies, but respect is a huge component. A dear friend of mine, a Sister of St. Joseph, once said that holding grudges in families is one of the most grievous of sins because how can we expect to change the world if we can’t forgive one another? I’ve always held that close to my heart. Forgive, put a smile on your face and move on.

Back in the Saddle by Ruth Logan Herne
Waterbrook Multnomah

Q: Despite all of the challenges the families face in Back in the Saddle, when push comes to shove, they stick together. How has the love of family been important to you?

Well, cowboy lore dictates that we might die separately but most assuredly we will all stand together, and I think that’s a good backbone for family dynamics.

I look at the good and the bad of the families I know, see and work with, then I try to build on the good and minimize the bad. That’s really not a difficult concept if you simply adopt it as your go-to methodology.

My children are a God-send, a huge blessing to me. I see their uniqueness, and I love their diversity. It makes me laugh that out of one set of parents, so many variances emerge. However, now that we can actually see gene sequencing, it makes perfect sense! They grew up in complete ignorance of my parents’ alcoholism and depression problems until they were old enough that they needed to know. I like a little bit of fairyland for kids so they can grow those imaginations. Reality hits all too soon, and I wanted them to have a chance to know and love the grandparents on both sides. If that meant I had to eat a little humble pie and do some strategic planning, that was OK.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your heroine, Angelina? Will readers find any parts of your own personality in hers?

That’s a loaded question! I like strong heroines. I like strong women. I like championing for strong women, and even if a heroine has reason to cave, my goal as an author is to show how she picks herself up and gets back on her feet. And if there’s a wonderful hero to make the picture complete, better yet!

There’s a little bit of me in every heroine, but I had to make Detective Mary Angela (Angelina) even more self-protective, defensive and tough than, let’s say, a kindergarten teacher. So I took a little bit of me, a dash of Kate Beckett on Castle, a hint of the household staffs from The Help and a smidge of Catherine Zeta Jones from Zorro. A woman cop, skilled in negotiation techniques and trained in undercover work, is the perfect setup for dealing with a huge, busy ranch kitchen filled with sometimes-clueless men. One of my greatest joys is how women are loving Angelina as a heroine because I was pretty much guaranteed they’d love Colt. But to have them embrace and cheer on a tough-girl image heroine, that’s awesome!

Q: Is there a way to balance meeting one’s own needs with the biblical principle of putting others first?

I think so. It’s called sacrificial love or selflessness. I think that’s a missing component in too much of today’s society, and worry about self and meeting our own needs is far too prevalent. How easily we talk about the sparrows and the birds of the air in Scripture and how readily God cares for them, but then we freak out if our iPhone breaks down or we have to wait 30 minutes for a doctor’s appointment because we’ve grown accustomed to here-and-now, instant answers.

We taught JOY to junior high kids in religious education classes — Jesus, others, you. The simplicity is perfect and mind-bogglingly easy, but it’s tough to do because we tend to be somewhat selfish creatures.

Q: You talk on your blog about your upbringing and how you were born into poverty. In what ways did your early life experiences shape the writer you are today?

I cannot even begin to say what a huge influence all of that was on my life as a wife, mother, employee and now author. I see all of that as God’s preparation for me for the job he and I both knew I would do some day: write books people love and help women see and build their inner strengths through faith and love.

It is so easy to blame the past and let it wither us. Far too easy. Parts of society actually encourage that.

No. Grab those bootstraps, avoid negative people, surround yourself with positives and thank God daily for all the wonderfulness in your life, no matter how big or how small! No matter how menial the job, do your best every day.

I’ve held a great many nametag and hairnet jobs in my time, and the blessing of that was a paycheck to help put shoes on my kids’ feet . . . and research for books! Take those down times and use them to minister to others.

Take the good and run with it. The rest is up to you!

Q: Other than writing, what are some of your interests? Tell us about your roadside vegetable stand back home in upstate New York.

My love for gardening comes straight from my grandma Myrtle Herne. It’s funny how things get passed down, but I could literally live in a garden if time allowed — and it hasn’t for many years. However, my husband is retiring this year, and he’s started up our truck farm again. We’d done it for a dozen years when our kids were younger, and that gave us lots of field hands when they weren’t playing soccer, tennis or baseball or running track-and-field or cross-country.

A truck farm is an old-school name for a small farm that trucks this, that and the other thing to roadside stands, so in front of our big, old farmhouse (160 years old, and when you fix one thing, you break two others!) we haul out the produce stand every spring . . . and it begins. We have a henhouse of nearly 50 laying hens I handle, and the initial farm work comes down to my husband, Dave, our son Seth, and son-in-law Jon. In the fall during pumpkin and squash season, it’s all hands on deck! A great pumpkin year is a wonderful thing, and there are no worries about staying in shape when you’re hauling 30-pound pumpkins from the field to the tractor path! It’s so pretty to fill the yard with hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins and watch folks drive in with little kids and fill their trunk.

When there’s time I bake bread and cookies for the produce stand . . . and the customers love it, so I don’t tell them that bread’s supposed to be bad for them!

Q: Can you give us a hint as to your plans for the Home on the Range, the next book in the Double S Ranch series?

I love Home on the Range! Oh, poor Nick, he is just so beside himself with what he thinks he wants and the image he’s tried so hard to portray of the modern-day cattle breeder with one foot in suburbia and one on the rugged terrain of the Double S. He was so sure he could do it right and best his father, but one marriage later and two very unhappy little girls means that somehow, someway, Nick’s got to get his life back in order.

Who better than an emotionally-tanked therapist, leading a reclusive life while hiding in the woods in a hobbit-style house because she can’t come to terms with life, to do it? It sure sounds like a match made in heaven to me!

Learn more about Ruth Logan Herne and Back in the Saddle at ruthloganherne.com, on Facebook (ruthloganherne) or by following her on Twitter (@ruthloganherne) or Pinterest (ruthyloganherne).

Posted 4/7/16 at 11:58 AM | Audra Jennings

Help Teens Understand What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Part 2 of an interview with Tom Gilson,

Author of Critical Conversations:

A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens

Critical Conversations by Tom Gilson
Kregel

Christian parents need to be prepared to answer the myriad challenges teens might hear in today's increasingly pro homosexual culture. Why shouldn't gays get married? Who says gay sex is wrong? Does the Bible actually say there's anything wrong with homosexuality? Don't you care that kids are being bullied just for being themselves?

To start the discussion in Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel/February 27, 2016), Tom Gilson provides a brief history of the issues beginning with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. He explains how and why cultural attitudes have reversed on this subject in such a short timespan, leaving Christians scrambling for answers.

This is perhaps the most complicated and contentious issue Christians face in today's culture. Most churches are poorly equipped to handle it; parents are even less prepared. The good news is that parents need not have pat answers ready before they dive into conversations with their teens and preteens on this difficult topic. Learning together—parents struggling through these issues alongside their kids and leading them to biblical answers—has relational benefits.

Answers are important, though, so manageable, nontechnical answers to common questions surrounding this issue are provided, as well as a guide to further resources.

Q: Christians are often painted as being prejudiced and out of touch for their beliefs. Is there a way to speak truth about homosexuality without being perceived as hateful or homophobic?

There are actually a couple of questions that come before that one. Can we speak out about it without actually being hateful or homophobic? The answer to that is yes, certainly. We disagree with LGBT advocates, sure. But that isn’t automatically hateful or phobic. If it were, then they would also be automatically hateful and phobic for disagreeing with us. I don’t think they think that’s true of ourselves, and I don’t think that’s usually true of them, either.

The second question is whether we can speak out without being perceived as hateful or homophobic. I think in personal friendships we can often do this. In larger contexts, we’ll probably be perceived in all kinds of bad ways, and the best thing we can do about it is to make sure we’re living in Christian integrity no matter what people say about us. We can also make our case for our position respectfully, knowledgeably and with conviction. This book helps with that.

Back to the original question. Some Christians have unfortunately acted in hateful and homophobic ways. (I don’t usually like to use that term, but it does fit sometimes.) That’s a matter for increased knowledge and for repentance.

Q: Why is it such a popular belief that Christians hate homosexuals simply because they disagree with their lifestyle?

There has been an intentional, concerted campaign by homosexual activists to paint Christianity that way. This is not paranoia or conspiracy theorizing. It’s documented in their own strategy documents, which they have followed quite effectively. (I detail this in the book.)

Q: What are some ways parents can prepare their children for the possibility they could be bullied for their beliefs?

Kids need to be confident in their beliefs, and they need to see their parents living in confidence too. That’s the main thing.

It’s great if they can be part of a group of friends who share that confidence; it’s the best protection possible for them at school, and of course there’s a biblical principle of mutual support and encouragement involved there.

Q: How should parents coach teens on being wise in manner and timing when making a stand for their convictions? For example, when and where is the appropriate time and place?

It’s hard to advise on this from a distance. The more important thing, in my view, is for teens to have a solid, almost easy sort of confidence in what they know to be true. Then they can speak their convictions authentically when the pressure is off — in everyday conversation with friends, for example — or when the pressure is on, and their faith is being challenged. It’s a whole lot easier for any of us to assess a situation and respond to it appropriately if we’re confident in our ability to respond when the time comes.

Q: If you had to simplify your argument in support of biblical marriage into a few sentences, what would they be? 

God gave us plenty of good reasons in both the Old and New Testament to know that he designed sex to be for a married couple, and that he designed marriage to be for a man and a woman. It’s in Leviticus, in Jesus’ teaching on marriage and all over the Pauline epistles.

Marriage between a man and a woman is good. It’s a comprehensive human good that supports the nurturance of children and the growth of strong communities. Because children come out of marriages (normally), marital love is an outward-looking form of love, in contrast to the inward-looking and comparatively self-focused “just you and me, babe,” form of relationship found in non-marital sexual relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Children thrive in homes with a mom and a dad.

So there are both biblical and non-biblical (common experience) reasons working together to make the point.

Tom Gilson, author of Critical Conversations
Tom Gilson

Q: Describe the “Bible brush-off” and how parents can avoid it during discussions with their teens.

“The Bible says it. Believe it.” That’s the Bible brush-off. That’s not much help: You can’t command belief. (You can’t make a person believe by telling them to.) Parents need to help their teens understand how to know the Bible is true and how to know the Bible’s teaching is good too.

Q: What are the eternal and cultural implications for helping Christian young people understand this issue?

Let’s not be fooled here: The big question isn’t whether homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage is moral. The big question is whether Christianity is credible. Gay activists have tried to tear down Christianity’s believability. The more they succeed, the harder it will be for anyone to put their faith in Jesus Christ.

Q: What should parents do if their child has questions about his or her own sexuality or gender identity?

The first thing is, keep on loving unconditionally, no matter what – which is what “unconditionally” means. If that is at all challenging for you, find the support you need so you can do it – support that’s steeped in biblical grace and truth.

Don’t think you can go it alone! Don’t even assume your pastor is fully equipped to help with this issue. Rely on your pastor, yes, but find a Christian counselor with specific expertise in this area. Parents should spend time with that counselor, learning how to handle their relationship with their teen. If the teen will see that counselor (or a different one, equally qualified), that’s great.

Even before that’s set up, though, parents should gently seek to find out whether their teens have friends who are encouraging them to “explore” their sexuality. If so, it would be wise to set a firm and loving boundary between the teens and those persons.

If there’s been abuse (which is a factor in some, though certainly not all, such sexual questioning), then get the law involved — and again, a qualified counselor.

Learn more about more about Critical Conversations and Tom Gilson at www.criticalconversationsbook.com or on Twitter (@ThnkngChristian).

Posted 4/5/16 at 1:49 PM | Audra Jennings

Do You Allow Your Job to Define Who You Are?

Song of Silence by Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon Press

What’s the first thing mentioned when introducing two strangers? Typically, one person introduces another by saying the individual’s name, followed by his or her vocation. “This is my friend, Bob. He’s an airplane mechanic.” “I’d like you to meet Sally. She’s a triathlete.” It’s natural for people to derive their sense of self from what they do, not who they are. In her latest novel,Song of Silence (Abingdon Press/April 5, 2016/ISBN: 9781426791499/$14.99), award-winning author Cynthia Ruchti reminds us God takes a different approach when it comes to identity and explores what happens when identity can no longer be linked to an occupation or life’s passion.

In Song of Silence, readers meet Lucy and Charlie Tuttle who, despite their differences, can agree on one thing: They’re committed to each other for life. The trouble is neither of them expected life to look like this. Charlie retired early, but Lucy has been completely devoted to her long-term career as a music educator in a small Midwestern school . . . until the day she has no choice.

Forced into retirement because of school budget issues, Lucy can only watch helplessly as the music program her father spent years building disintegrates before her eyes. As the music fades and a chasm separates her from the passion of her heart, Lucy wonders if her faith’s song has gone silent too. When her grown children have to move back into the family home, new challenges emerge, and the musical score of her life seems to be missing all the notes. When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees — and hears — everything.

All authors put at least a hint of people they know into their characters, and Ruchti’s husband recognized himself in Lucy’s husband, Charlie. Although he was forced into retirement similarly to Lucy, his approach to retirement more closely resembled Charlie’s. Ruchti admits her reaction would have been more like Lucy’s. “What was only a minor interruption for my husband would have been more devastating for me.” Ruchti adds, “When Lucy’s occupation was stripped from her, she flailed and floundered. However, who we are, and whose we are, are because of who God is, eliminating long-lived identity crises. No matter our position, station, work, or lack of it, I know I am His beloved child and He is my loving Father. The rest are mere details.”

The author also drew from her own life when creating the main character, Lucy, whose name and influence were inspired by her fifth-grade music teacher. “Some teachers leave a lasting impression on our lives and on our souls,” Ruchti reflects. “Like the ‘Lucy’ I know, in the story Lucy taught the students entrusted to her not only the enriching importance of music, but its elegance and ability to communicate.” Ruchti’s father was also a highly-respected music educator, and he added to her appreciation for how music could convey deep emotions such as joy, peace, sorrow, and strength.

Ruchti hopes readers will not only find themselves lost in a compelling story, but will hear in the background notes an encouragement to hold onto hope even when life’s song is silenced, even when unexpected and unwelcomed pauses interrupt the music.

About the author

Cynthia Ruchti, author of Song of Silence

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her novels, novellas, nonfiction books, articles, and devotionals, drawing from 33 years of on-air radio ministry. Ruchti has 17 books in print, and her books have received numerous awards and nominations, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year nominations, two Selah Awards, Christian Retailing’s BEST, and was an ACFW Carol Award finalist, among other honors.

One of Ruchti’s greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she has served as worship and devotions staff and faculty for the Write-to-Publish conference and teaches at other writers’ conferences across the country and internationally as opportunities arise. She also serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers.

Ruchti speaks frequently for women’s groups and serves on her church’s worship team. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren.

To keep up with Cynthia Ruchti, visitwww.cynthiaruchti.com. You can also follow her onFacebook (Cynthia Ruchti), Twitter (@cynthiaruchti), and Pinterest (cynthiaruchti).

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