May 25, 2018

Living with a loved one’s memory loss

It comes and goes.
It’s disturbing. It’s worrisome.
It happens in some degree to almost everyone.

Whether we experience memory loss in ourselves or someone close to us, the saddest part is a loss of identity or recollecting past experiences that made us who we are.

But we are who we are.
We’re still here.
We can still say, “I am!” “You are.” “S/He is.”

To lessen the grief or frustration that inevitably occurs:

 Pray! Seek God’s wisdom and guidance.

 Slow down. Be willing to wait, to listen.

 Talk with a trusted doctor about tests and options. A physician may need to establish a baseline to chart progression or regression before prescribing accordingly.

 Become a health advocate. Check with a pharmacist or physician to see if herbal aids to circulation, such as Gingko biloba, can be safely used with medications. Some Internet sites provide reports of potential conflicts, which often occur when herbs and drugs are used for the same thing and/or taken too closely together.

 Assess a typical day’s nutrition. Plenty of water (6 to 8 glasses), foods rich in omega-3, B vitamins, zinc, and other minerals and vitamins can help to improve memory. White flour products and sugar cannot!

 Allow ample time to rest. Adequate sleep gives the body time to restore itself and replenish cells.

 Encourage activity. Physical exercise increases circulation. Mental challenges such as word puzzles or games can help to stimulate the mind.

 Lower the frustration level by avoiding explanations. If a loved one asks the same question over and over, answer as briefly as possible without going into detail. A simple “yes” or “no” may be all that’s needed.

 Avoid complicated conversations, pronouns, and vague references.

 Keep sentences short, sweet, and simple.

 Some days will be better than others. Enjoy times of reconnecting, however short they seem.

 Use touch when appropriate. A hug, a kiss on the cheek, a hand held, a loving phrase, a soft tone, a timely prayer can embrace, bless, and strengthen your loved one and you.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

May 7, 2018

Rejoicing in misery?

Our 130-year-old church is being closed.

This isn’t for lack of love or money, interest or prayer, but for lack of children, lack of growth, and an increasing lack of members as people die off or leave our retirement area to go into assisted living.

We’ve prayed. We’ve pleaded with authorities in our denomination, which will remain unnamed as this situation is reportedly happening in many other denominations as well.

We’ve written letters. We’ve passed around a heavily signed petition in hopes of keeping our doors opened, and we’ve failed.

This became apparent yesterday after worship service followed by an emotionally-wrenching 3-hour meeting with church decision-makers. So, when today’s Bible verses from Bible Gateway told us to rejoice, I did a double-take!

No, we have not been rejoicing, but oh, what joy we’ve had in Christlike fellowship with one another for a blessedly long time! What we must remember now is that, even though our church home will soon be a thing of the past, the need for deliberate, concentrated, consecrated rejoicing is ever-present and meant to go on and on.

We have been praying for God’s will to be done, but we haven’t wanted to give up. And so, what we must remember now is the need to relinquish to God our wants, our loving family, our presence in the community, and our heritage, knowing that we can trust God to take care of us. Regardless how grieved or frustrated we are, we can choose to let go of the past and thank God for this present day and the ever-amazing presents of Christ Jesus, which He surely gives.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says it all:

Keep on rejoicing!
Keep on praying!
No matter what happens
thank God,
for this is God’s will
concerning you
in Christ Jesus

Amen. So be it.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, prayer-a-phrased these Bible verses from many of the translations found on Bible Gateway.

April 2, 2018

4 after Easter poems - Mary Harwell Sayler, Christian poet and writer

4 after Easter poems 

May these poems bring you into a life of hope, redemption, forgiveness, and the resurrection power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

March 29, 2018

Resurrected with Christ Jesus


It was finished.
There was nothing left to do
but take down Jesus' body
and hide it quickly
from mind, from view.
The terror of the tomb
closed the matter,
once for all,
wrapping sin
for its descent
into down-falling darkness
where never light had been.
Even from the Upper Room
no one had known our own
souls would be exhumed.
But Christ arose.
And with Him angels rolled
away the tombstone,
shroud, and doubt –
releasing all
who wanted out.

© 2014, 2016, Mary Harwell Sayler – poem included in book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden

March 26, 2018

Were you there? Gethsemane

Impassioned by Christ

Gethsemane –
and i am a pebble
pressing against His knee
as He kneels in the garden.

i am a stripe on His back
when He’s beaten
thirty-nine times.
Yes, count them –

thirty-nine times.

i am a thorn
in His crown,
a nail
in His palm,
a cave
where, lifeless,
He’s lain.

i am a hollow
space, an empty
shelf, an unoccupied
absent at His revival –
but filled
with passion
at His arrival.

i am forgiven.

I Am Risen.

by Mary Harwell Sayler from poetry book Lost in Faith


March 22, 2018

A picture worth a countless word

When Bea (not her real name) suddenly appeared at church one Sunday, we could see she’d had a rough life. She freely told us as much the following Wednesday when she showed up for Bible Study.

Sometime that morning, Bea said she’d been going to AA meetings but didn’t know how to get beyond the source of her drinking problem – childhood abuse. As she succinctly put it, “My dad was mean.”

Rather than trashing her deceased father or offering advice, we shared snacks and discussed God’s Word, giving Bea a chance to get to know us. Then we asked if she'd like for us to pray for her, and yes, she did.

After asking God to give us the prayers to pray, we gathered around Bea with each of us putting a hand on her upper back or shoulders, inter-connecting and establishing our group as one body. Then we took turns praying whatever God brought to mind. Tears came and joy – a sign that something deep had begun to receive God’s healing.

Before our group dispersed that morning, we explained how forgiveness was not a feeling but a choice to obey God, and how such an act of obedience would foster her healing. Bea saw the sense of this but feared she'd never think of anything but how hateful her father had been for much of her life, especially since she would have no opportunity now to confront him. Not knowing what else to do, we assured her that healing can take time, but God would continue to work in her life, and we promised to keep praying for her.

Throughout the week, Bea remained in our prayers, and the next time we saw her, we were amazed! Her face had unwrinkled itself, and she looked ten years younger! When we told her so, she said she’d tried really hard to find a way to think kindly of her dad but just couldn’t. And then, she came across an old photograph of him as a very young man – long before abusive relationships began.

Keeping that picture in sight and mind has helped Bea respond to a nonthreatening version of her father she could forgive and welcome into her life. But, oh, how blessed our church body has been to hear of such a perfectly brilliant idea and a God-inspired picture in need of sharing!

March 9, 2018

God's crazy love for us

In my Bible study group this week, we discussed Luke 20, which includes the parable of the tenant farmers, who wanted to keep everything for themselves.

As the story goes, the Owner of the Vineyard planted vines then let the land out to vine-keepers, while He went away for a while. When harvest time arrived, the Owner (aka God) sent servants (aka prophets) to collect some of the fruit, but the farmers beat the servants and sent them away empty-handed.

God then sent more servant-prophet-messengers, but they, too, were treated horribly and sent away. When the same thing happened a third time, God sent His Own Son.

By then, however, the renters-tenants-ones-who-didn’t-own-anything agreed they wanted the land for themselves, so they killed The Son Who Owns and Inherits All Things.

The bottom line of the story is typically told with the parable’s ending, which focuses on the wrath the Father-Owner-of-All must now unleash on the leasers. But studying the story this week and looking it up again in various translations on Bible Gateway, I can’t help but recall something I’ve heard elsewhere: The definition for crazy.

Crazy = doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result.

Our all-wise, intelligent-to-the-max, infinitely brilliant, perfectly Holy Lord God cannot possibly be crazy, but, from all biblical accounts, our Holy Father God is crazy in love with us.

Mary Harwell Sayler
, ©2018

February 19, 2018

Giving up or adding up: Lent

My first acquaintance with Lent brought the idea of giving up something - usually a pleasure of some kind. My thought, then and now, is that giving up something harmful is a good idea year round, but giving up pleasure for piety’s sake might make us proud or, worse, unappreciative of the good gifts God lavishes upon us!

The whole idea seems somewhat irrelevant to me (maybe irreverent!), assuming I understand the true purpose behind Lent: to draw closer to God and prepare ourselves for the joyful celebration of Easter.

If that’s the case, the question is: Is there an obstacle such as overly busyness I can give up in order to spend more time with God? Or, would I get closer to the Lord by adding a daily devotional reading, a longer or more frequent prayer time, a service to others less fortunate, a regular attendance to worship, a stronger participation in church activities, or _________________ (fill in the blank with whatever God puts on your mind, heart, and spirit)?

Since I grew up being part of Sunday School classes and, later, Bible study groups in almost every church denomination, I’ve had the privilege of studying all sorts of Bible topics, verse, and books of the Bible. These opportunities to plunge deeply into God’s Word help us to broaden our understanding of scripture and the diverse interpretations Christians find.

Studying the Bible only in bits and pieces, however, can prevent us from seeing the enormous view God has of us, the world, and our relationship with the Lord, ourselves, and one another. Therefore, my Lent challenge became the goal of reading the whole Bible, cover to cover, during the 40 days before Easter.

To do this meant putting aside my study Bibles for Lent and finding a contemporary reader’s edition with no commentary or other additions that might (okay, inevitably will!) distract me from the biblical text.

Studying, discussing, and applying the Bible throughout the year is an ongoing blessing, but for Lent, I highly recommend reading the Bible straight through as you would with any beautiful, blessed book. The difference is, the Word of God gives you the Mind of Christ and the sweeping view of God’s compelling purpose and ongoing love.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017

P.S. This year I’ve chosen the CSB Giant Print Reference Bible from Holman to read for Lent. For other options, see my reviews of the many amazing translations available to us on the Bible Reviewer blog. May God bless and guide you in all you’re to do and be in Jesus’ Name.

February 10, 2018

Misery and good company

A Christian in one of my social media groups just admitted to being dissatisfied with the Lord! While appreciating the gift of eternal life he’s been given, he feels his present life has mainly brought misery and suffering with no end in sight.

If we're honest, most of God's people have had similar feelings at one hard time or another. Perhaps we then discovered how the Bible offers many, many, many examples of complaints and laments!

With that certainty in mind, I looked up “Joy,” “Misery,” and “Suffering" on my "go-to" site, Bible Gateway.

Misery may be a warning.

When the Prophet Jeremiah realized the inevitability of war, his whole body experienced the misery of that knowledge, so he could not keep quiet about it! He had to speak and warn the people:

“My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war,
Jeremiah 4:19, English Standard Version (ESV.)

Misery might also be warning us to let go of old habits and grudges at war with our new nature in Christ.

Misery loves the company of Prophets.

In Jeremiah 20:18, the Prophet asked:

“Why did I come forth from the womb,
to see sorrow and pain,
to end my days in shame?”

New American Bible (Revised Edition), NABRE

Misery might come to sensitive people who not only “see” the sorrow and pain around them but feel it too.

Similarly, Micah 7 begins with these sad words as translated in the Common English Bible (CEB):

“I’m doomed!
I’ve become like one who,
even after the summer fruit has been gathered,
after the ripened fruits have been collected,
has no cluster of grapes to eat,
no ripe fig that I might desire.”

This ability to perceive the plights of others and readily empathize can be a mark of a prophet, then and now. If so, we can follow the example of the Prophet in Micah 7:7 as he resolves to get beyond the misery by trusting and focusing on the Lord.

“But me! I will keep watch for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.”

Misery loves the company of prayer.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,”
James 5:13-16, New International Version, NIV.

Misery eventually ends with joy to follow.

As James reminds us:

“Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name as an example of suffering and patience. See, we count as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and have seen the outcome that the Lord brought about—the Lord is compassionate and merciful,” James 5:10-11, Christian Standard Bible (CSB.)

And, as my favorite Bible verse strongly declares:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28, New American Standard Bible (NASB.)

Again and again, the Bible lets us know to expect suffering but encourages us to keep faith in God and the promises He gives in Christ Jesus - The One Who Suffered and died for us but then was raised from the dead!

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed,” Romans 8:18-19, New International Version (NIV.)

Misery can draw us closer to God and one another as we recognize, believe in, and accept the Lord’s loving hand in our lives.

Let it be so! So be it. Amen.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

January 30, 2018

Branching from Christ, The Vine

As I stared at a picture of a leaf, the sight jolted me into a new awareness, recalling what Jesus said: “I Am The Vine. You are the branches,” John 15:5. Branches - not a leaf!

A leaf is a singular thing - independent, not communal.

A leaf cannot bear fruit. It does not spread or reproduce, and, eventually, it falls. A leaf leaves!

“I Am the vine; ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing,”
John 15:5, King James Version (KJV.)

Jesus Christ The Vine has life, has power.

As branches grow in a healthy manner, they stay in communion with the vine and with other branches, entwining themselves around one another, staying strong, producing fruit, and spreading - making a difference wherever they go.

That’s us! Praise the Lord in Whom we have our life, our power, our fruit, our being.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

January 8, 2018

Perspectives: A Novel View

A big decision in novel-writing concerns which perspective you'll present to unfold the story and/or develop the characters you have in mind.

To find what will work best for your book, consider these questions:

• Whose story is this?

• Can your main character tell the story well or will someone else’s view be needed?

• Would a single viewpoint or multi-perspective be better?

• As a reader, which do you prefer?

My favorite novels almost always center around the viewpoint of a single person I identify with or admire such as Anne of Green Gables, Mary in The Secret Garden, and Christy. In addition, I like to observe people and discover what shapes, guides, and motivates them. So, it’s pretty much a done-deal for me to write from a single viewpoint, staying in the eyes, ears, knowledge, and feelings of one main character who intrigues me and has her or his own story to tell. Therefore, I mainly have to decide whether to use first person (I, me, we us); second person (you) which isn’t likely in my case; or third person (she/he, them, they.)

Regardless of persons, the advantage of this single view is intimacy and immediacy. i.e., You feel as though you’re there as the story unfolds and primary character matures. This makes the book your story too as you read. Or, equally important, this gives you an idea of what goes on in the heads of people like and unlike yourself.

In describing my book, Hand Me Down the Dawn, which I recently revised for its second printing, I’d have to call the novel “character driven.” i.e., The motivations, choices, introspection, and action come from one main character, who’s dealing with a theme of trust as she overcomes hard times and enjoys life-changing experiences in this inspirational romance novel set in Florida in 1895.

That’s the story behind my story, but let’s look at a different perspective on perspectives. In his newest novel, Dancing King, Glynn Young needed multi-viewpoint characters to keep his action-driven story in motion. Besides expanding the view for readers to get a fuller picture of the story movement, this treatment effectively produced a potential television mini-series, especially since the book is the third in a trilogy.

But I wanted to know what Glynn’s thoughts were and why a multi-viewpoint story came to him. When I emailed to ask, he wrote, “It's a big story, ‘big’ in the sense of complex. It's the story of a young man unexpectedly finding himself and his family in an exalted position.”

The size of your story and its theme, purpose, and reach can help you determine the perspective that will work best for your novel.

In my novel, for instance, a young woman grows up and learns what love is. And so, telling her story from her point of view makes sense.

In Glynn’s trilogy, the story of the main character – a priest-turned-king “is the heart of all three novels. In the first, it's part of a larger group of characters' stories, but he remains at the center. In the second, there is a period in which someone else must tell the story because he's incapacitated. In the third, the story is so large that it can't be told by just one narrator. To tell it properly requires the key players.”

The overall effect reminds me of an action movie that cuts from one character and scene to another as each episode interlocks to create a larger story with a huge theme: the need for political and religious reform. If, however, a single character had presented such a global story, it would most likely come across as either too cerebral or too slanted to maintain balance, and so Glynn's novel is well-suited to a multiple view.

Character-driven or story-driven (action)…? Knowing which category your novel best fits will help you to find perspective and get your writing off to a good start. Then, you can let your main character or main story idea lead you to The End.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

Dancing King, paperback

Hand Me Down the Dawn, paperback

January 1, 2018

No Trespassing into the New Year

This first day of the New Year presents us with the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the past, let go of anything that needs forgiving, and resolve to keep our relationships with God, ourselves, and others free of obstructions.

The Lord’s Prayer or Our Father reminds us to do this every day. Indeed, Jesus teaches us to ask for God’s forgiveness with the understanding (condition?) that we, too, must forgive.

Most translations of the Matthew 6 version of the prayer call us to forgive “debts,” but that connotation of a monetary obligation can be confusing. To clarify, Jesus goes on to say:

“If you forgive others their trespasses against you, your heavenly Father will forgive yours too, but if you do not forgive them for their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours,” Matthew 6:14-15.

In addition, Christians in many church denominations regularly pray the Our Father, asking God to:

“Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.”

In my church, we not only pray the Lord’s Prayer each Sunday, we end each Bible study session with this prayer Jesus gave to His followers. But, this Sunday, one of our newer members told me he couldn’t think of any trespasses against him!

I had to laugh. Moments earlier he had expressed concern for a woman who lived in one of his rental properties. When she couldn’t pay her rent one month, he lowered it from $800 to $500, which she reportedly could handle. But then, when she didn’t pay even that lesser amount the next month, he told her $100 would be okay.

When she made no attempt to pay anything toward her rent or make any arrangements at all or even discuss the matter, he reluctantly told her she would have to move. The deadline came and went, and she remained – rent-free – in his house, despite the financial responsibility this put on him. But here’s the thing:

It did not even occur to him that she had trespassed against him!

Although it’d become clear that the woman was taking advantage of him by staying in his house, she continued to trespass on his property. She kept increasing her debt. And yet, this man took no offense. He did not see himself as being victimized or put upon.

Seeing this Christlike response, I realized that forgiving those who trespass against us is the bare minimum we’re to do!

Greater than our need to forgive is the God-given ability for giving others empathy, kindness, the benefit of the doubt, and the generosity of a loving spirit that isn’t even offended!

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018