Resources for Christians

If you’re a communicator for Christ, as I am, you can find Writing Resources with Christian poets, writers, and pastors in mind on my website.

In addition, I hope you’ll follow these blogs, which I maintain as often as family, church, and book-writing commitments allow:

Bible Prayers
Bible Reviewer
Mary Sayler (in lieu of this site)
Poetry Editor & Poetry
Praise Poems (many of which have been compiled in the book PRAISE! and the forthcoming chapbook, WE: the people under God.)
What the Bible Says About Love

May God bless you and your good work in Christ.

Mary Harwell Sayler, (c) 2017

 

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Christian poets, writers, and ministry gifts

My decision to write a new post today came about as one godly thing led to another and another, which then led me!

First, God led some members of our Christian Poets and Writers group on Facebook to remind us this morning how our lives in Christ have a purpose and how God has a plan for each of us.

Another member said this is National Suicide Prevention Week, which connects with the theme of God’s plan and purpose, too, in that people who consider taking their own lives usually can see no plan, no purpose, and no reason for living.

Another member, whose post has been highlighted today on the Christian Poets & Writers blog, gave suggestions about ways to hear God’s word to us and, therefore, become more aware of a divine plan for our lives.

In addition to those leading factors, the reading for my next Bible Study group discusses the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 – gifts that inform, edify, and guide our Christian writing lives.

If you have no idea what ministry gifts you have, type “Ministry Gifts test” in the search box on the Internet, and you’ll get a variety of sites to visit. After you have responded to each question, you’ll get an assessment of your gifts, along with their ranking. That’s important to know because, unlike natural God-given talents, which might be used for your own pleasure and enjoyment, your ministry gifts have been given to you to help uplift and strengthen the church.

That needs highlighting:

The Holy Spirit gives each of us ministry gifts to build up, nurture, and encourage the whole Body of Christ.

You’ll want to do that locally, of course, as you serve and minister to your church family, but as a poet or writer, your ministry gifts will help to guide the type of writing you’re meant to do.

For example, if the Lord has given you a gift of teaching, you might be led to write nonfiction books, articles, or Bible study guides.

If God has given you a gift of encouragement and empathy for others, writing spiritual poems, devotionals, and children’s books could be just right for you. Or, perhaps, you’ll show loving relationships, realistically, in a novel.

Regardless of your ministry gift and writing talent, these tips might help too:

• Believe God’s promise to you of gifts from the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Cor. 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4.)

• Pray for God to reveal your gifts and God’s unique plan for you.

• Expectantly await the results!

• Let the Bible, that “inner knowing” given to you by the Holy Spirit, and, often, the affirmation of Christian friends, lead you into God’s plan and purpose for you and your writing life in Christ.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler. If you need prayer about this, post your request in the Comments below. If you need a fresh perspective or professional feedback on your poems, children’s picture books, devotionals, or book proposals for a minimal fee, visit the Critique & Contact page of Mary’s website.

Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf

As Christian poets and writers, most of us have literary favorites who influenced our view of Christianity, the church, the world, and writing. Professor-pastor-writer Douglas Wilson discusses his favorites in his new book Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf, published by Crossway, who kindly sent me a copy to review.

In the Introduction, Wilson says, “A writer needs friends who simply benefit from knowing him, which is another way of saying that good writers need good readers.” Those of us who have been published know just how much we need good readers, but I’m especially taken with the idea that people I don’t know might benefit from having read my works! That thought might take us away from fretting about sales and reviews to a closer look at what we hope to accomplish in our Christian writing lives.

One of the things G.K. Chesterton accomplished was a prolific career that’s already spanned generations of readers. However, Wilson began the first chapter with him because, chronologically, he comes first among these nine writers: G.K. Chesterton, H.L. Mencken, P.G. Wodehouse, T.S. Eliot, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert Capon, Marilyn Robinson, and Nathan Wilson.

In the opening chapter, the author quotes Chesterton, who wisely wrote: “There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth. The principle of art for art’s sake is a very good principle if it means that there is a vital distinction between the earth and the tree that has its roots in the earth, but it is a very bad principle if it means that the tree could grow just as well with its roots in the air.”

Having edited or critiqued many poems and manuscripts by other poets and writers, I see Chesterton’s statement as key to being authentic, down-to-earth, and well-grounded in reality rather than uprooted in a topsy-turvy effort to be heavenly.

The next chapter introduces us to H.L. Mencken, who “writes in such a way as to make anything an object of fascination. Whether it is soles of shoes that are like slabs of oak, or his own matronly figure, or hired girls built like airplane carriers…, Mencken is consistently, thoroughly interesting. Many Christians, under the influence of pietism, have come to believe that love, action, and gratitude must always be expressed in such smarmy ways as to ensure its thundering dullness. But in the hands of a gifted writer, the most astonishing connections can be made between this and that.”

As Wilson goes on to say:

“Christians can learn from Mencken in two ways. The first is by watching what he writes on any subject and imitating it. Those who want to be creative originals from scratch seldom are, and those who slavishly follow the recipe have a different problem, just as debilitating. Those who look carefully at the masters to learn and imitate soon find their own distinctive voice with their own contributions.

“The second way to learn is by reading and applying his observations about writers, writing, words, and so on.”

The third author under discussion is known for his Jeeves books – P.G. Wodehouse, whom Wilson describes as “a black-belt metaphor ninja” and one “whose comic metaphors can still teach us how all metaphors work, how the thing is done.” As Wilson puts it, “We need Wodehouse for a number of reasons, but one stands out. The besetting sin of many cranky, conservative Christian types is their inability to make any good point whatever without sounding shrill.”

Humor certainly smooths those sharp edges, enabling us to say what we want to say without sounding overly pious or judgmental. But, whether we’re apt to be humorous, metaphoric, or what, Wilson offers this sound advice: “If our words are weapons – and they are – then we need to train ourselves in the use of them.” Amen!

Since Wilson sensibly decided to discuss each of nine writers in their order of birth, T.S. Eliot – one of my first loves in poetry – comes fourth. If you’ve read his works too, you know the truth of Wilson’s assessment, “His poems are allusion-soaked, so much so that it is very hard to follow unless you are as well educated as he was…,” which I wasn’t! Since I often miss his connections, I’m relieved to hear that even a literary guru such as Wilson has similar issues. And that reminds me to reassure you that, if you didn’t have a clue about Prufrock in high school, try it again, and you’ll probably love it as I now do.

I was also interested to hear more about T.S. Eliot’s religious background, which began as a Unitarian in the U.S. However, when he later became an Englishman, Eliot was drawn to the Church of England. As Wilson says:

“Doctrinal differences aside, Eliot shares something in common with all Christian poets who deal with the permanent things, with the great issues. To be a Christian poet is to be shaped by the central Christian story, which is a story of death and resurrection.” And so, “Before his conversion, in The Wasteland and The Hollow Men Eliot did not see much hope, which is all to the good because without Christ, there is no hope. It is Christ or nothing.”

In the next highly interesting discussion, Wilson talks about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, pointing out, “…if you put a work of fiction into the wrong category, a lot of confusion can result and, in this case, has” as the ever-popular Lord of the Rings is not allegory.” In fact, Tolkien himself said:

“I dislike Allegory – the conscious and intentional allegory – yet any attempt to explain the purport of the myth or fairy tale must use allegorical language.”

What Wilson realized is that “questions about art and technology are…closely related to the issue of magic. Some Christians have been troubled by the wizardry, but the whole point of magic is the manipulation of matter in order to acquire power, which is what an ordinary magician does…. But the world of The Lord of the Rings is the very reverse of this – the good guys there represent a photo negative of magic. The ring of power is the ultimate symbol of magic in the traditional sense, and the whole point of the book is to destroy it, resisting all temptations to use it.” Those of us who haven’t read the book or seen the movie will be glad to know that.

In the Narnia tales, C.S. Lewis takes a different tact as he seeks something Wilson called “numinous” before quoting Lewis in this passage from In The Weight of Glory:

“We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it…. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

Yes! Until then, writing poetry gives a glimpse of this, especially when a line or musical phrase comes as a gift, like grace or God’s forgiveness. Similarly, reading the Bible and reading the inspired works of authors such as those Wilson chose for this book, not only inform our faith, but also our writing lives in Christ.

©2015, Mary Sayler, poet-author of 27 traditionally published books in all genres, aims to encourage other Christian Poets & Writers through blogs, writing resources, critiques, and e-books such as the Christian Writer’s Guide and Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry..

Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf, paperback

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Spiritual Ministry Gifts and writing

Christian writers with creative ideas sometimes find it difficult to decide which writing project to focus on first. Quite likely all of your ideas have the potential to strengthen the Body of Christ, draw readers to God, and/ or help other people in general, so you won’t go wrong with any Bible-based theme or treatment. Nevertheless, one manuscript might be well-timed and another not. Or, one idea might fill you with enthusiasm (a word rooted in “en theos” – in God), whereas another project might leave you feeling ho-hum or put you into a panic. Regardless:

When you ask God to direct your work, expect that to happen.

Since the Holy Spirit promises to give every Christian one or more Spiritual Ministry Gifts, recognizing those gifts will guide you and give you insights into yourself, your work, and the writing to which you have been called.

We talked about this a little in a previous article on your “Writing talent and spiritual gifts,” so you might want to re-read that short discussion. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to take a Spiritual Ministry Gifts test that differs from one I took years ago, and the current results confirmed the very projects to which I am now drawn.

Most likely, you also have some ideas that interest you more than others, but just in case you have not yet taken a test to discern your God-given gifts and confirm your next project, I did an Internet search to see which Spiritual Ministry Gifts test to recommend. As it turned out, I found several! So I took them all, and here’s what I found:

This excellent site provided by Ken Ellis not only has a Spiritual Gifts Test with online analysis but also a separate test for new Christians and another for youth. Since you’re encouraged to respond quickly and not over-think it, the main test takes only 15 to 20 minutes with immediate results and hotlinks to explain each gift with ideas and relevant scriptures. The results felt right-on, even though I initially had trouble responding to “Always” for areas that interested me.

Spiritual Gifts tested on this website did not include obvious gifts of healing or prophecy but, instead, clarified tasks that typically need gifted workers within the church.

Another site I recommend does not provide a test but offers insights and information relating to your Spiritual Gifts and Leadership, including definitions, scriptural references, and practical instructions.

The Spiritual Gifts Inventory by Paulist Fathers includes a test, which, like the others, encourages you to respond spontaneously and honestly to get the most accurate results. The site also includes helpful information and instruction for using your ministry gifts.

As you take a Spiritual Ministry Gift test, keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers!

Also, this may not be true of other sites, but the hotlinks above give you and only you an analysis, so no one else needs to know the results. What you do with that information is up to God and you and the writing ministry to which you feel most drawn.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler. This revision of a ©2011 post has been updated with a check of hotlinks included.

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Breaking the Good News to your readers

Television news and articles on the Internet often give the impression that no good news exists! We constantly hear about failures and falls – the fall of meteorites, the fall of the economy, the fall of politicians, pastors, past heroes, and church membership – all of which can be expected in a fallen world. But here’s the Good News! Christ rescues and forgives. Christ saves.

As Christians, we ARE the Body of Christ on earth, which means, of course, we CAN make a difference! How? Through empowerment by the Holy Spirit and the power of the pen, pencil, print, and Internet….

I’ll be eager to hear your suggestions about this in the Comments section below. Meanwhile, these starters come to mind:

Listen.

Get comfortable. Get quiet. Pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Empty your thoughts. Quiet your mind. Give God a chance to speak to you. How? However, God chooses! Often this will be an impression, inspired thought, or sudden recollection of a word from the Bible that seems especially relevant and timely.

Observe. Notice. Use your good senses!

For example, notice your own reactions to people, ads, news, sermons, events. What troubles you? Do you feel grieved, as I do, when you hear someone bad-mouth God, Christ, Christianity, and the church? Do you wonder, as I do, what Jesus thinks of the bickering and “gang rivalry” that occurs among Christians and various denominations? Do you hear about problems but know of biblical solutions you can address in a poem, article, book, or Bible story retold in a fresh but accurate way?

Identify.

To whom do you intend to speak? If children, are you drawn to a particular age group? If adults, do you feel a stronger connection with young people, middle-aged readers, retirees, or elderly persons? Do you interact with those prospective readers often enough to know what’s on their minds, on their plates, or under their feet?

Focus.

When you know who your readers will be, think about a topic or theme you want to discuss that will most likely interest them. Then sharpen your focus as you identify your writing goal or purpose. i.e., What do you hope your poem, fiction, or nonfiction will accomplish? Do you want to encourage faith? Do you see yourself as an evangelizer whose writings can coax non-Christians to Christ? Do you hope to help heal rifts and misunderstandings in the Body of Christ? How would you go about each of those goals?

Consider.

• In what ways will the Kingdom of God and Will of God attract your readers?

• In what ways would you like for the church to adapt to our changing culture but not lose the power of the Gospel message?

• In what ways can you encourage readers to take the first command in Genesis 1:28 as God’s word to protect the environment?

• In what ways can you encourage readers to take the “wreck” out of recreation and put godly acts into action?

• In what way can your writing show true love for God, other Christians, and “those people” we don’t relate to or even like?

• In what winsome ways can all of us accurately, intelligently, empathetically, lovingly, and prayerfully break the good Good News to our readers?

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© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler – poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres, and a lifelong lover of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the church Body of Christ in all its parts – wrote the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book with you and the above thoughts in mind.

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Ministry of Christian poets and writers

Wondering how the members of our Christian Poets and Writers group on Facebook saw their writing ministries, I recently asked:

In what ways do you hope your writing will help to draw others to Christ, up-build the church, and strength faith?

Adeline: I believe people respond to writers who are real and authentic – honest about our struggles and how God reveals himself to us in the midst of good and tough times. My desire is for my life and my writing to be congruent – nothing more and nothing less.

Brian: Many of my poems center on Christian truth. There can be a kind of prophetic dimension to poems that comfort, challenge, inform, and edify.

Christine: I hope others will be able to see and say, “Wow, she can relate to me. God does love me and want the best for me. I’m not perfect, but I am the apple of His eye, and there is hope.”

Anne: I hope my writing will give others hope. I want those who hurt to know God cares. And for those who feel alone, I want them to know God is with them, even though they only hear silence.

Gregory: (I want to) empower and equip others to live out their unique, God-given destiny!

Kristen: I write for children 9 to 14. I want them to realize our God can be relied upon and even children can make a difference.

Me: What a joy to see so many ways of expressing God’s love! Like Adeline, I believe people respond well to honesty, and the Bible itself shows this to be true. Except for Christ, every Bible story shows flawed people, whom God still chose, forgave, and blessed, so I want my writing to be real and help readers to get real with themselves and God. My primary goals, however, are to encourage loving interactions among Christians, up-build the church Body of Christ, and draw people into reading the Bible.

Rali: My desire is to see my readers inspired to live fulfilled, empowered, and victorious lives in Christ – that they know and walk in God’s plan for their lives.

Paul: (I want to give) examples from real life that show our past errors can point us to Christ, who offers grace and new beginnings. Writing that offers hope in spite of the past draws attention away from the sin and toward His forgiveness. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished that yet, but every day gives new opportunities. I like blank pages.

Barbara: I hope and pray my recent book will break down some prejudices and stereotypes. I wrote it to tell a story but was also keenly aware of the fact that I was to approach a certain topic with accurate facts and an open mind. So far the response to the book has been positive.

Marie: I hope my writing will bring encouragement and hope to many people! I also pray for my readers, wherever they are, that God will bring glory to His name through my poetry.

Fran: I hope my book about seeing God in everyday experiences will bring others closer to God through my easy-to-understand poems and devotions. I also hope people will be encouraged to know my first book was published a month after my 80th birthday.

Jeannie: I hope my writing will inspire others to trust God and create a deeper hunger for His Word by sharing real life examples of what He is doing in my heart. His Word is greater than gold, achieving things for us money cannot buy. I hope my writing will show His greatness.

Norma: I believe Christian fiction is a terrific tool for leading people to Christ and discipling believers. It provides a non-confrontational format to show how believers live and how their lives differ from the world around them. I hope my characters will be identified with and will lead others to see the need for Christ in their own lives.

Stacey: All I hope my writing does is show people God/Jesus’ love and desire for them and to glorify Him in all things, working for the advancement of the Kingdom.

Rebecca: By writing the truth, especially within the genre of fiction, I hope my readers will gasp and see the a-ha.

Carole: I pray the Lord will use my writings to draw people unto Himself, to realize their need for Him in their lives. I pray this with all my heart, and I thank Him for the opportunity He has given me to do so. Jeremiah 31: 1, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” NKJV.

Patti: I write for a Christian newspaper and hope people can identify with my being real, humorous, in love with God and His church. Having my stories and poems in books and magazines 20 years ago was all about “me,” and that byline was fun! But God changed my heart around and made it all about HIM, and there the difference made a mark on my heart.

Dawn: Speak the Truth in Love. (Ephesians 4:15) Encourage and build up others. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Correct and instruct the body of Christ. (2 Timothy 4:2) Teach and train in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Brayden: I pray people realize that the way the world handles problems is not necessarily how God wanted us to handle problems. I pray that people would see that He is very much concerned with every facet of our lives and that when we follow His ways, the outcome is so much better than what we could ever expect. The situation may never change, but our hearts and attitudes do.

Elizabeth: I want my writing to point to spiritual truths in a way that catches people by surprise. Many of my poems contain symbols of spiritual truth and/ or are somewhat allegorical. I love to create an image that has greater meaning than what appears on the surface.

Terry: No matter what I am writing about, I always try to have a clear presentation of the gospel somewhere in the book. It is always my prayer that someone will be saved as a result.

Susan: Taking C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to heart, I write to feed the religious imaginations of readers through fantastical-whimsical-spiritual stories. It is a first step to belief for the secular-minded and pure fun for the believer, who will recognize Christian themes and allusions.

Susan P: Some of my poetry has me crying as I am writing it as I know the Holy Spirit is healing me through every word I write. He inspires.

Joy: My default mode seems to be to write vulnerable, open, and honest in the hope that other wounded souls will see that they are not alone. And I hope and pray readers may be blessed by hearing how being in relationship with God makes all the difference in the world in coping with life’s trials. I aim to encourage fellow believers in their faith and point to the One who gives me daily grace and strength to live and write for His glory. I’m tremendously encouraged by Fran’s admission here about the age she achieved being a published author! As I’m approaching my 60th birthday, I was beginning to feel time was running out to achieve publishing my own poetry anthology and/or a devotional book/ memoir. But her words have given me fresh hope that God isn’t finished with me yet, and it can still happen within His perfect timing. I love how we can inspire one another here!

Keren: Poetry for me, like Susan, feels like a release which I hope others can share, mystical stories I hope others can glimpse something of the nature of transformational love, but with my theology/ polemical writing I can be more straightforward and hope to encourage and edify. I pray over all of it that the Lord will use it (one day as I’m not published yet either) and that none of it will go to waste.

Lorretta: I aim for authenticity and transparency. I simply tell the stories of how I once was lost and now am found and hope others can see Christ through it all. Humorous or Serious – no topic is too big or too small and no mistake or triumph will get wasted.

Mamie: I write for a ministry and do various other writings too (articles, poems, etc.) So, as I write to minister, I am also teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord to anyone who’s already a saved person and who receives the message from the Spirit. That involves much prayer, the Word of God, and staying in living contact with the Lord. Therefore, people have responded in considerable numbers. I give praise and glory to the Lord our God Who has given me the talent of writing that I may use it to the utmost for His glory!!

Regina: My blog is all about showing God at work in our lives – every day! And the show I produce, The Hand of God, was developed to do the same.

Prayer Soldierone: I simply pray that the words I share will find the person who needs them in the moment or the one who will reflect on them from which to build their understanding as to where the Holy Spirit is guiding.

Joyce: Faith in God is found in Christ alone. Unity in the church is found in Christ alone. My writing goal is to grow, in myself and others, a hunger and thirst for the Word of God in order that we may truly know God as we walk with Christ.

Eileen: So many authors have inspired me to grow in my walk with the Lord. Some may never know until heaven the influence they’ve had on me. Because of that investment in my life, I’m now a writer who longs to encourage others in their faith walk. Whether it’s a word or phrase that plays in the reader’s mind while she washes dishes or bathes an infant, or whether it’s a life-changing chapter that she must read again and mull over, I want my words to challenge thinking and move toward real change. Words keep; they are such powerful motivators, either for good or ill. I pray my words will leave a lasting legacy of faith for all who partake.

Karin: I am learning more each day that God wants me to help Believers become more connected to His mindset, which is outlined in the Bible. The more we respond to His way, the more peace and joy we will have. Having peace and joy releases us to be who He called us to be which in turn affects other lives for the better. We cannot fulfill His call if we are stressed and worried.

Lisa B: I hope to maybe help others see things in the Word that they may have had a hard time understanding, amen.

Linda: I want my writing to draw out what hurts, so the reader can lift it to the Lord.

Anne: It is only in drawing out that hurt that it can truly heal. We live in a society that looks like things are fine – airbrushed fine. And the reality is, people are hurting, just getting better at hiding it.

Tesha: Praying our post will empower single women to take godly steps to prepare to become a wife.

Tim C: I write Bible-inspired poetry to sustain long, loving meditation on Scripture and communion with Christ. Moreover, I find poetry (and hiking) most helpful in curbing depression. Now, to your question: Much of my time after coming to Christ at age twelve had been “I think” and “I feel” instead of “It is written” and “Thus saith the Lord.” When the Bible (more than my gut) becomes primary in informing my Christian walk, i am greatly helped. Hence, I write to point to the word and the Word. Said another way, I write poetry in hopes of stimulating a Berean (Acts 17:11-12) response.

Me: Thank you all for your wonderful responses! May God continue to bless you and the writing you have been given to do in all genres for the glory of God and the healing of the church Body of Christ in Jesus’ Name.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-author of 26 traditionally published books in all genres and the Christian Writer’s Guide e-book on Amazon.

Name change and changing plans

One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Sabrina where the title character says, “Sometimes more isn’t better. Sometimes it’s just more,” to which I add, “Amen!” But I still wound up with 7 blogs and 2 websites so also add, “Oops.”

Too many good ideas, good activities, and even good ministries can be too much of a good thing.

Therefore, I recently let one website go but couldn’t get a handle on how to regroup the blogs. Since I believe in the importance of each one, I’ve been praying about this longer than Lent. But finally, clarity came the first day of Holy Week.

Having written about writing for many years, I have numerous articles to draw from that could be helpful, I hope, for members of the Christian Poets and Writers group on Facebook. Many of those articles, which will gradually appear in the Christian Poets and Writers blog, have previously appeared here, but In a Christian Writer’s Life is no longer my primary focus for newly written articles. The Bible is.

If you have visited my blogs on Bible People, Bible Prayers, Christian Healing Arts, and What the Bible Says About Love, I pray you’ll follow the newly revised blog here, where, Lord willing, new posts will most likely arise in prayer-a-phrases from Daily Bible Readings.

In addition some of my poems previously published in books or secular journals will soon be on the Poetry Editor blog, Lord willing, which means that the only blog of mine that may stay as is for now are reviews of new translations, study editions, and children’s Bibles on the Bible Reviewer blog.

With two new reviews still waiting to be winged, others may depend on whether Bible publishers add me to their list of reviewers. And, oh, I pray they do because when it comes to the Bible less just doesn’t work for me! Sometimes more is better.

© 2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

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