Just Shy Of Harmony – by Philip Gulley (2001)

Just Shy Of Harmony

The story that began with “Home To Harmony” continues on in “Just Shy Of Harmony”. The first book was the feel-good one, the one that made you want to live in the quaint little town of Harmony. But the second book has a decidedly different feel about it. Life is not so rosy. Pastor Sam is underpaid, overworked, tired of tending to the problems of everyone, and is beginning to question if there is a God. During Sam’s spiritual crisis, other members of the congregation take over the Sunday morning preaching.

But Sam’s not the only having troubles. There’s Dale Hinshaw, who is trying to get his scripture-chicken-egg evangelism program off the ground. Jessie Peacock, through no effort of her own, has won millions of dollars in the lottery, but wants to refuse the money. Wayne Fleming is struggling to raise his kids after his wife Sally runs off, but is shocked when she returns and wants to just go back to normal.

Mixed in with the problems of the church folk are the heartwarming parts of the book, like when one of the women at church took Wayne’s children under her wing. Also very touching was when the women’s group from church took over the hospital kitchen to make homemade noodle and chicken for a woman who was a patient there. (That didn’t seem like something the health department would allow in real life, but hey, this is fiction.) And I loved that the church members were willing to anoint Sally with oil and lay hands on her in prayer, even though their church had never done that before.

Overall, I enjoyed this Philip Gulley novel just as much as the first one!


No, I’m Not A Counterfeiter!

2017-06-05 conterfeit 20 bill.jpg

This morning I stopped by my neighborhood bank to deposit some cash that I figured didn’t have to be sitting around our house. The teller greeted me cheerfully, and started counting the cash. Then a pause. She recounted, stopping at one particular bill. A frown. She stuck the bill under the purplish light that checks for bad bills. Then she showed it to the teller in the next chair. Nope, don’t think that’s a good bill, she said. Both women held it up to the light and squinted at it. People were beginning to accumulate in the line behind me.

The teller asked me to look at the bill in question. Oh my, it certainly was off-center, as if it had been through a bad print job. She said they couldn’t accept the bill because it appeared to be fraudulent. About that time a third employee, I think the manager, walked by, took a look at the bill, and concurred with the two tellers. Wow, I said, I never noticed how off that bill looked. Honestly, I’m not manufacturing fake money in my basement (attempting to add a little humor). To which she replied, no I don’t think that, don’t worry, this just happens sometimes.

Then the teller had me initial the bill in one corner, and put her initials next to mine. I noticed a notebook on the counter behind her labeled “fraud book”. I said, well I guess this is going in your fraud book. No, she replied, this is going to the FBI. No kidding, I said. Hey, can I snap a picture of the bill before you send it off? She was staring at her computer screen, and didn’t say anything. I took that to be consent, or at least that she really didn’t care what I did, so I snapped a quick shot of the bill on the counter (see photo above).

As the teller typed on her computer, I asked if she was adding some notation to my account. No, she said, she was getting it ready for the FBI. Then she asked to see my ID again. She’d already seen, but she needed to see it again. Next it was my telephone number. At that point I started getting a little freaked out. Is the FBI going to call me? No, the teller answered, they turn it over to the Secret Service. The Secret Service – really? Do you have any idea where the bill came from? No, I do not, as it’s been sitting around my house for who knows how long. She said that’s what she figured – most people have no idea.

I left the bank feeling totally paranoid – like the FBI would be watching my bank account, monitoring my phone calls, looking at the bank video footage, etc. But hey, we’re already under constant surveillance. Everything is recorded, stored on servers, and preserved for future reference. It’s “1984” and so much more…

Tapestry and Nail Polish

2017-05-29 footrest and pillow

About a month ago, I found this sweet little footrest for $20 in one of my favorite thrift stores. As a bonus, there was a piece of extra tapestry fabric that came with it. Ah, I thought, just right for making a matching pillow. Then I put the fabric in the closet and forgot about it.

When I cleaned out the closet last weekend, there was the piece of tapestry, beckoning me to transform it into a pillow. So I fired up the sewing machine, and proceeded to sew the edges. Hmm, it was fraying badly. Even reinforcing the edge with a zigzag stitch was not going to keep it from coming apart, as you can see:

2017-05-29 badly frayed fabric for pillow

Then inspiration struck: if clear fingernail polish could stop runs in pantyhose years ago, couldn’t it stop cloth from fraying? I brought the cloth out to the deck, applied the clear polish to the edges of the tapestry, and let it dry.

2017-05-29 fabric and clear nail polish on deck

After it had thoroughly dried and the funny smell had dissipated, I turned the fabric right side out, put stuffing in it, and sewed the last side shut. Now we have a great little pillow that can either be put behind the back or on top of the footrest for extra softness. I love it when something is so easily fixed. Now if only all life’s problems were that easy to solve…

“I Have Set My Rainbow In The Clouds”

2017-05-30 rainbow a 7 17 pm7:17 last night


2017-05-30 rainbow b 7 187:18 pm


20107-05-30 rainbow d 7 19 pm
7:19 pm

2017-05-30 rainbow e dissolving 7 20
7:20 pm

I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

(Holy Bible, Genesis 9:13-17)

My Hands Came Away Red – by Lisa McKay (2007)

My Hands Came Away Red

What do you do when you’re 18, aren’t sure that you want to get more serious about your boyfriend, and haven’t a clue what to do with your life? You go on a mission trip. Cori commits to a ten-week assignment with a team of young people going to an island in Indonesia to help construct a church. First comes boot camp, to help the team learn the customs, language, and physical hardships of the task and area they will be going to.

Then it’s off to the island. The work is hard, but rewarding. They not only finish the construction project, but build close friendships with some of the islanders. Everything seems perfect – until the day that a conflict between differing religious groups boils over. At that point, the only option for the team is to run for their lives.

This book, although fictional, had an intensely real feel to it. It’s almost as if the author has lived the story, or is close to someone who went through a similar experience. The flavor of the book seemed like a cross between a couple other books I’ve read in the last few years – “If We Survive” by Andrew Klavan
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/if-we-survive-by-andrew-klavan-2012/ and “Tomorrow When The War Began” by John Marsden.
This book had it all – great characters, deep friendships, lots of action, psychological terror, and spiritual struggle. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of almost any age.


2017-05-29 Rest Lawn Cem Jesus baby and mother in Babyland

Yesterday was the first day of the Memorial Day weekend. Since it looked like the only day it wouldn’t rain, I set out for the cemetery with my mother and granddaughter. Finding my father’s grave, we decorated it with begonias and callalilies, then read the inscription: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” Sadness washed over each of us as we contemplated the loss of a wonderful, gentle man who was a husband, father, and grandfather.

Then we went on to the cemetery where my baby brother, who died at just ten days old, was laid to rest in the Babyland section. Oh, so many babies, some without even names, just “Baby Smith”. It was heartbreaking. We found my brother’s tiny heart-shaped gravestone, wept over it, and left a bouquet of sweet daisies there.

Just beyond the trees by the baby section is the sculpture in the picture above. It’s Jesus, cradling a baby on his lap and holding the hand of a young mother. The sculpture says it all. While we grieve and ask “why”, Jesus is right beside us, holding us gently. I know that my dad and my little brother are with Jesus – and we will be together again some day.


2017-05-23 eye doctor waiting room

Endings are part of life that I’d rather do without. Like when our dear eye doctor, who has taken care of our eyes, our sons’ eyes, and our grand-kids’ eyes, announced he was retiring, after talking about it for several years. He’s been an eye doctor for over 40 years, but because of his dedication to his patients, kept going longer than intended. But the time has finally come. Patient records have already been transferred to another office with doctors he has known for years. The “for sale” sign is out front, and he is only in the office for people to pick up their orders of eyeglasses or contacts.

I felt the need to have my glasses adjusted one last time. As I walked into the waiting room where I’d sat so many times with wiggly kids, I noticed that the same books and magazines from years ago were under the coffee tables (Uncle Arthur stories and Highlight magazines), as well as the handmade wooden puzzles that our boys loved. Doctor V greeted me in his usual cheerful manner, and as he adjusted the glasses told me about his retirement. I had brought some fresh bagels and cream cheese for him, a too-small gift for his years of excellent care. After laughing and reminiscing for a bit, I left and went home.

That’s not the only ending. A few days ago we helped our son move out of our place, as he is recovered from the most recent surgery he had. There will be one more surgery at some point in time, but that is a ways off in the future. Then there is the end of the school year coming up. The morning shuttle of grand-kids to school, as well as time volunteering in the school library, will end.

Well, there is time and a season for everything, even endings. But for every ending, God sends a beginning.