Bible Story Adventures for Grown-Ups
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) So, when someone says that a movie, book, or sermon "brings the Bible to life," it doesn't mean the Bible needs reviving. At least, it shouldn't. But as fans of the wildly popular television series "The Chosen" attest, retellings of Bible stories can help us understand and relate to those historical events in a new and powerful way.
In Bible story books for children, the thoughts and feelings of Biblical characters are often imagined, and details extraneous to the Biblical account are included to help the reader visualize what the scene might have looked like. Biblical Fiction for adults does the same thing, but often with plotlines and character arcs that go much further into the "what might have happened" realm while staying true to Biblical information and the overall theme of Scripture. My dad, Bobby W. Norman's, first published book, In the Days When Judges Ruled, is a bit of a mix between the two. While you won't find the story of Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera's head in most Bible story books, it is included in his anthology about the judges of Israel, though in a standalone story about Deborah and not a novelized account of the Biblical period.
As a devoted pastor for over forty-five years, my father has spent countless hours studying the Bible. His studies, combined with his love of story and his creative imagination, resulted in TWO books released this year, both Biblical Fiction with some very unique elements, and I was honored to assist him with editing and publication.
Before the time of the judges, the nation of Israel had strayed from her godly heritage and into idolatry, and God had allowed them to be sold into the hands of their enemies as punishment. When the people repented, God sent judges to rescue them from bondage and restore their land. In the Days When Judges Ruled, which released in April 2022, is a retelling of the stories of those sixteen men and one woman, based on the record of Scripture. The unique part of the anthology is the Biblical commentary weaved into the creative writing. The stories of the judges reveal life-changing lessons for us today.
My dad's second book, The Generations of Adam, released in October 2022, and the imagination involved in the telling of the creation account is spectacular. The book takes us from the beginning of the world and Adam's fall, all the way to Adam's being redeemed from sin by the resurrected Messiah, with many thought-provoking scenes along the way. Have you ever wondered if Adam might have had a special pet in the Garden of Eden? What if it was a pet dinosaur? How perplexing it must have been when Adam and Eve realized their child had a belly button and they did not. What if Adam kept a diary of the first human experience? Told in a narrative style, this Biblical Fiction work also has a good bit of sound Biblical commentary interspersed. The first and last chapters of the book are my favorite, and the powerful message of the Gospel is brought full circle.
My dad has always been the most enthusiastic supporter of my writing career, and I am so proud he's now realized his dream of being a published author. There is much more on the way from him. Follow Bobby W. Norman on Amazon to learn more.
As the name suggests, music is an important theme in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday (available for pre-order now.)
THREE SONGS, in particular, play very important roles in the story.
1.) Amazing Grace, by John Newton
Written in 1772, this beloved anthem of the church is very important to the plot of the story. After not singing in public for many years, a character in the book is encouraged to perform at a party. But the song she’s asked to sing isn’t a “party song”. It’s Amazing Grace. How can she possibly sing about a grace she gave up on a long time ago?
One of the hardest parts of writing the book was imagining that someone could sing Amazing Grace without being moved by the words. But certainly, many of us have different hurts and circumstances that, at one time or another, have hardened our hearts to truth. The beautiful thing is that grace is still alive and available, no matter what we’ve been through.
I love singing and leading others in singing Amazing Grace. After the last verse in the hymnal, at my church we often sing "Praise God" over and over to the melody.
2.) O Holy Night, by Adolphe Adam
Although not a "Christmas book," a large part of the present-day timeline in Songs for a Sunday takes place at Christmastime, and "O Holy Night" plays a MAJOR role. Don't you love this song? It has to be one of my favorites. I think my favorite line is:
"The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
3.) Peace in the Valley, by Thomas A. Dorsey, performed by Elvis Presley
I absolutely love the video of Elvis Presley singing Peace in the Valley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Something about it moves me to tears. It's been said that Ed Sullivan was hesitant to let Elvis sing a gospel song on his show and that Elvis responded, “But Mr. Sullivan, I promised my Mama.”
I'm not going to spoil how this song is used in my upcoming novel, Songs for a Sunday, but it's very important to one character in the 1960s timeline!
So far, in looking at real locations in Songs for a Sunday, we've talked about University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Reynolds Auditorium. This next location is somewhere very special and is the setting of the entire second chapter of the book.
Hanging Rock State Park is located about 30 miles north of Winston-Salem in Stokes County and was started as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was completed in 1942. The father of the two fictional sisters in my 1960s timeline was a member of the CCC and helped build the park.
The 9,011-acre park gets its name from the rock formation pictured and is a fantastic place for hiking, swimming, biking, climbing, and just enjoying nature.
My children and I spent a wonderful day at Hanging Rock State Park in May of 2019 that doubled as book research. I didn't get to visit the specific waterfall used in the story on that day, so I had to rely on pictures, but my family did hike to it on a return trip in 2021.
Songs for a Sunday releases 2/7/23, but you can pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Songs-Sunday-Heather.../dp/1563096137
(Image: Brett van Beynum/Google)
"This auditorium is to be devoted to the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and to the education of people, in affectionate recognition of the life and services of him in whose honor and memory it is dedicated." That's the inscription on the bronze memorial tablet in the lobby of Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium in Winston-Salem, which was dedicated May 8, 1924.
Last week, I shared a little about University of North Carolina School of the Arts, a place that's history plays a very important role in my upcoming novel Songs for a Sunday. This week, I want to share another location that's featured in my book. (Can you see me in the picture, standing in the middle of those six giant columns?)
Reynolds Auditorium is the setting of TWO pivotal scenes--one in the 1960s timeline and one in the present-day timeline. Both of these scenes are some of the most emotional I've ever written.
The building is so majestic, it begged to be included in a story. And its history is so intriguing, it deserves to be remembered. There's much to tell, and I encourage you to read about it at the link below. (The site includes a digital copy of the 33-page program for the five-day celebration that marked the dedication and opening of the auditorium.) https://www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us/domain/12029
Here are a few highlights about the magnificent building:
In Songs for a Sunday, two of my characters get to perform here, in very different situations. I hope you enjoy how this special location is used in the story. The book is available for pre-order now.
North Carolina School of the Arts plays a major role in my next novel, Songs for a Sunday (releasing 2/7/23.) I thoroughly enjoyed my research of the school's amazing history.
The idea of North Carolina becoming the home of the first public arts conservatory in the United States was conceived in 1962, and a state committee was established that would eventually make North Carolina School of the Arts a reality. The school opened in Winston-Salem in September of 1965.
From the school's website: "The school’s location was determined when the citizens of Winston-Salem, known as the “City of Arts and Innovation” and home of the first municipal arts council in the nation, raised nearly a million dollars in a two-day telephone campaign to win the school for the city."
In 1972, the school joined the University of North Carolina system, and in 2008, the name was officially changed to University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
The institution trains students at high school, undergraduate, graduate, and post-master's levels and consists of professional schools of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music.
The school is well-known for their annual production of The Nutcracker, which is referenced in Songs for a Sunday. The first performance, which two of my characters would have attended, was on December 10, 1966 at Reynolds Auditorium, a venue that's the setting of two major scenes in the book. The picture below of that performance is from the school's online digital archive: https://digitalcollections.uncsa.edu/islandora/object/uncsa%3A266
Another fun fact: The school's mascot is The Fighting Pickle.
Songs for a Sunday is available for pre-order now.
We're five months out from the release of my next novel, Songs for a Sunday, which is set in Winston-Salem, NC and takes place in the 1960s and present day. Over the next few weeks, I'll share about some of the "real" places mentioned in the book. For now, here's the list,
Two locations are used in both the 1960s and present-day storylines, and they both play an integral role in the plot:
One location has a scene in the 1960s storyline and is mentioned in the present-day storyline:
One location has a scene in only the present-day storyline:
The following are used in scenes in only the 1960s storyline. All but one of these locations are no longer around.
While not used as a setting, there are references to Old Salem, Dewey's Bakery, and Tanglewood Park (in Clemmons.) It was so fun to write about places that I know, and it was even more fun to research locations from Winston-Salem's history. I look forward to sharing more about these "real" places from the book soon.
The Day I Forgot to Worry
After three weeks of stomach pain and nausea for my nine-year-old son, and a previous doctor visit that didn’t provide answers, I took him back to the pediatrician on a Saturday morning. The outcome of the visit was an immediate trip to a hospital’s emergency department to rule out appendicitis.
There were incredibly tense moments throughout the day as my son’s symptoms worsened. But after nine tiring hours of lab work and three different kinds of imaging, everything “scary” had been ruled out and a probable cause identified. It wasn’t until we left, overwhelmed with equal parts exhaustion and relief, that it hit me: I’d forgotten to worry about everything else that day except my son. All the things I normally spent energy on took a backseat. There had been no room in my thoughts for less urgent things.
That experience was more shocking than one might expect—a Twilight Zone moment where the world had gone on around me while time stood still inside the hospital. My husband had taken our youngest child to a birthday party. Did I care that I hadn’t picked out his clothes before I left that morning and that they might be mismatched? No, though normally, this would have seemed important. My fifteen-year-old worked a shift at a local restaurant that afternoon, and it was her sixth day on the job. During her first five days, I’d spent the entire time wondering how she was adjusting and if everyone was being nice to her. I still cared about those things while at the hospital, but I didn’t let myself worry about them. She was fine, and my other daughter at home was fine, too.
There were so many things I’d wanted to accomplish that day, but nothing on my “to do” list mattered in comparison to my son’s needs. When I realized all the things I neglected to worry about, it was proof that letting go of worry is possible, though it had come at a price. And that got me thinking. What if, instead of letting worries be pushed aside only by bigger, more pressing worries, I let the Word of God take their place?
Our Lord taught that worrying about day-to-day things is unnecessary. In the familiar passages of Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-31, Jesus speaks of how the Father feeds the birds, and how He clothes the grass of the field. God knows what we need, and since we’re more valuable to Him than birds and grass, we can trust Him to take care of us, too.
Jesus also said, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27 NKJV). This rhetorical question begs us to stop and ponder the futility of worry. We can worry all we want, but it won’t change anything.
Obviously, there’s a difference between necessary concern and worry, between reasonable diligence and panic. I care about all the things related to my family’s well-being, but I don’t have to worry about any of them. In my flesh, that’s extremely difficult for me, especially as we face continued illness in my family.
May the Holy Spirit help us all to give our cares to Him daily.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 NASB
Originally published on AriseDaily.com.
I'm thrilled to share with you a first look at the cover of my next novel which releases 2/7/23. Receiving the cover from the publisher made the book feel "real" for me, and I think the designer did a great job with it. What do you think?
More than any other book so far, I am excited to share this story with the world. Songs for a Sunday will be my fifth novel. but it's my first split-time story, taking place in both the present day and in the 1960s. One of my favorite things about this story is that it's set in my county, in the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
As you can probably tell from the cover and title, Songs for a Sunday includes a "musical" theme. (See the sheet music superimposed on the image?) I love to sing, so that's another reason the story is special to me.
And here's a little about the book:
1963: Twenty-year-old Annie has dreams of managing a dance studio in her hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she’s trained since childhood, and of marrying her high society boyfriend. When her younger sister, who has special needs, gets pregnant, Annie’s dreams must be put on hold for the sake of family.
Present Day: Stay-at-home mom of four Missy Robbins has always played second fiddle to her baby sister, Erica, and at thirty years old she’s had enough. When given an opportunity, Missy steps out of her comfort zone to prove she’s as good a singer as Erica. Her new pursuit puts Missy on a path of self-discovery and of reclaiming the faith she left behind, but her world is turned upside down when family secrets come to light. Can Grandma Annie’s hidden past somehow mend the bond between Missy and her sister?
I'm so excited to share this story with you!
I'll be looking for people to help spread the word soon. If you'd like to be on my launch team for Songs for a Sunday, please message me!
Make a Plan to Do Good
For weeks, the theme of working for the Lord has been rolling around in my mind. Everywhere I turn, Scripture pops up about putting our faith into action. Combine that with a desire that my kids not sit around in front of a screen all summer and the idea of a goal-setting journal for kids and teens was born.
I created the journal for my kids to use, but when the proof arrived, my husband said, "I want one of these." So, I designed a version geared more toward adults. The concept of both is the same. Every day, set a goal to do something: to help someone, to honor God, to grow your mind, to take care of your body, and to use your talents. Then track the results. The goals can be big or small, but over time, even "little" accomplishments add up to big results.
Why should we set goals? Of course, we're not saved by works, but Titus 2:14 says that Jesus gave himself for us "that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." We should be zealous about doing good things. And when we pray and ask God what goals to set, He will guide us.
I hope these books help kids and adults to be purposeful in accomplishing great things.
The journals measure 8.5" x 11" and contain pages for three months-worth of pages to set and track goals.
To purchase My Big Goals: A Journal for Kids and Teens click here.
To purchase Good Works: A Goal-Setting Journal click here.
See videos below for an inside look.
Hospitali-tea and Good Works
Jesus said whoever gives a cup of water to one of His disciples, in His name, will be rewarded for it (Mark 9:41.) After attending a special Mother's Day Tea at a local church earlier this month, I have to believe that goes for cups of Earl Gray, as well. Not only was I immensely blessed by the show of love from the church, but the event also led me to discover a company that does much more than give water, all in the name of Christ.
Lewisville Baptist Church planned their tea party for the weekend before Mother's Day and extended an invitation to all women and girls in the community. I'm so glad my daughters and I went. There was such a sweet spirit of love and Christian fellowship, and the tables were all so beautifully decorated. The ladies of the church had gone to great lengths to ensure their guests had a special experience, even printing beautiful menus that described all the varieties of tea being served. And the food! What a spread!
Now, I enjoy tea, but I'm no connoisseur. For most of my life, tea usually meant throwing eight bags of Luzianne orange pekoe in a pot of boiling water (4 if you had the family size) and after a few minutes, dissolving a cup and a half of sugar into the dark liquid in a gallon jug, then filling the rest of the jug with tap water, giving it a stir, and serving over ice. That's still a great way to do it, but the tea party my daughters and I attended reminded me there are so many varieties of tea to be explored and enjoyed.
I chose the "African Chai" at the party and ended up drinking three cups! (Plus, a cup of coffee, because I'm almost always going to get coffee when it's available.) I was so impressed with the flavor of the tea, and since the pastor's lovely wife told me where they'd purchased it, I ordered some online just a couple days later.
Not only is this tea amazing, but the company that sells it, New Creation, is a faith-based non-profit that works to counteract the human trafficking trade around the world. From their website: "Every item in our shop is created by the hands of a survivor or a vulnerable person that is at risk of being trafficked. We believe this ethical work is a key element to breaking the cycle of poverty + human trafficking."
I purchased two tins of loose-leaf tea, that each came with an adorable, hand-carved wooden teaspoon, and I also bought a book about prayers to change the world (they sell lots more than tea.) This was a fun purchase for myself, and I've been enjoying my tea in a new mug I bought recently, too (from Amazon, pictures below.)
I don't usually post about products, and there are zero affiliate links in this post. I'm just excited to share about a great company I've found and how I'm now enjoying at least a daily cup of hot tea, and how, when I do, I think of the new friends I made and remember feeling the love of God at a tea party. God is so good to us with these continual blessings. Often, we just need to open our eyes to them.
The ladies of Lewisville Baptist Church, as well as the New Creation company, bring to mind these verses: "There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." 1 Corinthians 12:5-6
How has the Lord called you to minister? Maybe it's to make a mom feel special and loved, or maybe it's to rescue people from desperate situations. Maybe it's to pray for someone the Holy Spirit brings to mind. There's work for all of us to do every day. May we seek those opportunities to be a blessing!
About the Blog
Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!
Click below to sign up for my email newsletter, which includes links to my latest blog posts. Thank you!