Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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How Do You Read?

A copy of Barclay’s Amoy translation, opened t...

I have a question for you:

When you read your Bible, do you ever find yourself reading with an outward view?

I’m embarrassed to share it, but if I’m not careful, here’s what I catch myself doing: I’ll be reading along in, oh, say Proverbs. As I read, I have a kind of inner dialogue with God. (Does everyone or am I the only person who has chats with the Almighty?)

13:1–A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

Did you want me to jot that on a post-it, Lord, and stick it to my kid’s doors? I’m not sure they’ve read it, and they really should. Except, would it be okay to change father’s instruction to mother’s? Or even parents?

3– He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

Oh, yes, Father! I know Terrance should hear that one. He had to have missed it. I’ll be happy to share with him.

4– The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

I know lots of people who need to hear that, Father! Thank you. I can share it with writers who don’t write and bloggers who don’t blog. So many people out there need to learn that lesson! 

7–One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

Wow. People haven’t changed much, have they, Lord?

10–Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. 

Oh, I know people who should read that! And “pride goeth before a fall”. I know, because they’re too proud to listen when I share your stuff with them. Gotta write that one down!

13–He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.

Oh, you want me to share with Rosemary, don’t you, Lord? Maybe I should drop her a note in the mail. I don’t have to sign it, so she won’t have to be embarrassed when I’m around.

See what I’m talking about? If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself reading to see who can use a verse so I can “share”. But what I should really be doing is reading to see what God has to say to me.

13– He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. 14–The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. 15–Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.

Good understanding of God’s word is what I’m praying for. I don’t want to scorn instruction that God has put in front of me. I hope I can drink deeply from the fountain of life and respect God’s commands so I can be rewarded.

I want to bring a smile to God’s lips (“at least the woman’s trying”) not make Him roll His eyes. (“She just doesn’t get it.”)



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Sunday Morning–♫ In the Garden ♫

This is the account of how this beautiful hymn, In the Garden, was written—from the hymn-writer C. Austin Miles himself:

One day in April, 1912, 1 was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20–whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm.

As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, Rabboni!

My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the light blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches.

A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.

John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John. As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept.

Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did 1. 1 knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, Rabboni! I awakened in sunlight, grip­ping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating.

Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone,
while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

CHORUS: And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.

From Susan: There are lots of wonderful new songs and choruses in churches these days. I love the gut level truth they tell about. (Even if you cling to the old standards, you should at least appreciate the new songs.)

But there’s not one new song that I love more than this one. A song that speaks of that wonderous time is history and the moments we can spend with our Lord and Savior even today is amazing.

If you haven’t read the Bible account of Jesus speaking to Mary in the garden recently, read it as soon as possible. You’ll see it in a whole new why. Here’s I’ll make it easy. Click here.


Strength and Courage

Love with a Heart Like His Shadowbox

Image by Rita H Cobbs via Flickr

I promised to pass on some exciting news today, which came while on retreat with my romance writers group, but I’ve been asked to hold it a while. Sorry. It wasn’t a trick. I want to tell you about it!

I can tell you I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in prayer while we were there. (I woke up hours before my roomies did.) Each morning, I had time to sit outside near that beautiful pond, and pray. And listen. And pray some more.

I also had a chance to take a walk one afternoon. Isn’t it beautiful when you can walk with the Lord alone?

Since I can’t pass on the fantastic news, I’ll share something else with you.   

There’s something I think you’ll enjoy reading. It’s written by Beth Moore’s daughter, Amanda, on her blog. (I’ll give you the link later.) Many times she tells light-hearted tales about her children and their life, but this one is serious and, to be honest, heart touching.

She’s talking about spiritual warfare she and her husband have been experiencing in their lives. All Christians suffer from spiritual warfare of one kind or another. (If you haven’t been attacked in some way, you might look into your walk with the Lord.) Not all attacks are the same, and for that I’m very grateful.

I’ve never had the type of attack she’s talking about in this blog, but one of my closest friends has.

Through no fault of her own, my friend found herself single after many years of marriage. She spent hours and hours with friends and alone, fasting and praying for her spouse. Sometime around then, the attacks began.

And it’s no surprise. When a woman begins to build that kind of spiritual muscle, Satan is bound to take notice. He has to do what he can to stop her. But of course, she didn’t stop. She continued, holding the Lord’s hand and being prayed for by her sisters (blood and non-blood.)

When the attacks came, and it seems as if that happened for many weeks (to a big sister anything like that can grow in memory) she’d pray. Hers didn’t just happen in her sleep or dreams. She felt the attacks even after she woke.

I remember waking in the night several times to pray for her. I was never sure if God woke me before, after or instead of her, but He woke me. And I prayed. Many of her friends did.

I wish I could have been there to stand beside her during that time. But Someone stronger and much wiser than me was always there, watching over and taking care of her.

Oh, what a joy it is to know Him!

Deut. 31: 6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

To read Amanda’s article on spiritual warfare click here: Baby Bangs.


Writers’ Retreat

The Four-spotted Skimmer or Four-spotted Chase...

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My writers’ group and the venerable Ms. Jean Brashear  (romance writer extraordinaire) went on a retreat over the weekend at Meadowlake Ranch near Sand Springs, OK, and guess what! I found a new Small Town World!

Funny how that happens, isn’t it? 🙂

I got to the ranch at about 5:00 and went with the others who were there to check out the cabins. Being a person who doesn’t sleep much (especially when I’m in a strange bed) I chose a cabin with a place where I could get up early and not disturb anyone. (Outside, on the patio next to a pond, I had time to spend with the Lord each morning.)

I roomed with our queen mentor, Marilyn Pappano, and the very soon to be published, Lynn Somerville. Now that’s an entertaining pair! I’d hoped for a little snoring (I find listening to snoring relaxing) but both ofo them slept with hardly a snort. 🙂  

We had wonderful food, great fellowship and a speaker–Jean Brashear–who gave us the benefit of the knowledge she’s acquired during her wonderful career.

I was blown away at the preparation she’d done for our little retreat. Her handouts were great, but her patience, knowledge and willingness to share with us was unbelievable. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you, Jean!

There were miles of trails to tramp, the air was cool but not cold, and we had a great time hanging with our sisters.

We met a mom and her daughter, who were staying in the teepees,

who’d come just to have time together without TV. They took hay rides, gathered eggs from the hen house, rode horses and had a great time.

At the end of the retreat, we had some very exciting, nearly unbelievable, news. But I’ll save that until tomorrow. 🙂 (I’m not being coy. I just need to take my time when I tell you about it.)

So when was the last time you took a weekend for yourself to refresh and renew? If you retreat from life once in a while, share!   





On this day when I was ten years old, Aunt Phyllis and Grandmother took me, Sister Deb, Tinny-Woo-Woo and #4 to the fair. Joanie, Phyllis’s daughter, went with us, too.

We had a great time, riding rides and seeing the animals and exhibits. Once in a while Grandmother had to sit down and rest, but most of the day was spent rushing from one ride to another. I don’t remember if we bought lunch or took sandwiches. (If the parents had been along, we definitely would have taken sandwiches. Mom was convinced Fair Food would poison us.)

Mom and Dad didn’t go to the fair, because Mom was having a baby. Our youngest sister was barely fifteen months old. So after a long day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to go past the hospital and see if the baby had been born.

Back in those days, parents didn’t know what sex their babies were going to be, so they had to have two names picked out. Up until that baby–before I was born, Sister Debbie, Tinny and #4–the chosen boy name had always been Christopher Darwin.

I didn’t mind Christopher so much, but the Darwin didn’t float my childish boat. The good thing is, before kid number five was born, they changed the boy to be name to Jeffrey. Much better!

So back to that fair day so very long ago–

After the day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to drive to the hospital and see if the baby had been born. The rest of us had to sit in the dark car, parked on the street in front of the hospital. (That’ll tell you how long ago this happened. You haven’t been able to park on the street in front of the hospital in a long, LONG time.)

So we waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like another entire day passed before that front door opened again. When it did, Aunt Phyllis came running out of the hospital, her hair flying behind her, a big grin on her face.

She flew up to the car and, yanking open the door, jumped inside. “It’s a boy! It’s a boy, if it’s not a mistake!!!”

I still laugh about that last line.

There were times when he was a kid that I thought it might have been, well, not a mistake but maybe a misstep. But when he stopped crying all the time, I was thrilled to have that brother.

Maybe it’s because he’s a male, but the guy has always seen things a little bit different than the Spess Girls. When we saw a rabbit, we wondered if it had babies. When he saw one, he saw an opportunity to hunt.

A pond or lake was a great place to swim or tan for the sisters, a place for him to fish. Summers were for playing ball and spending time at the pool for the girls, a time for our bro to go to work with Granddad and Dad.

I liked to knit. He liked to use my yarn to tie me up when I fell asleep over my needles.

Later, he taught me to play tennis and loaned me his six gun for a Halloween costume. (After checking twice to make sure it wasn’t loaded.)

And when we got a call one night at the folks house that my house was on fire (G-Man was working) he was the one who went with me. (He made the mistake of thinking I couldn’t drive in an emergency such as that. Snort!)

He finally grew up, went to college, married and had kids of his own. Great kids, who I enjoy practically as much as I enjoy him.

He’s the kind of guy I enjoy talking to, who has a one-on-one relationship with the Lord and isn’t embarrassed to tell you about it.

The day we lost so many family members to a drunk driver, when nearly every person I knew was at the hospital with Omega, Brother Jeffrey saw our car arrive at the hospital and was the one who met us at our car door. He was there, ready to comfort and be comforted.

Loving us.

Remembering with us that, while Mama was no longer with us, she wasn’t lost. We knew exactly where she landed–in the arms of our Lord, telling Him how thrilled she was to see Him face to face.

Some people tolerate their siblings. I’m one of those people who knows how incredibly lucky she is to have the brother and sisters God gave her. Every one is so very special!

Happy birthday, Jeffrey! I’m so glad it wasn’t a mistake!!!

Read more about the World’s Best Brother here.

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*Siesta Scripture Memorization Team.

#4 and I are still memorizing scripture along with Beth. This is our 19th verse this year. Nineteen!

Job 19:27–I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes–I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

I love Job, don’t you? It’s not the easiest book in scripture to get through in one setting, but wow! This is a man!

Remember what happened? God was bragging on Job to the devil. “See Job? He’s great, isn’t he? I’m so proud of that guy!”

And the devil answered, “Well, yeah, but only because you’re good to him. Stop all the blessings you’re showering on him and watch him turn on you.”

So God gave the devil permission to test Job. Satan took away most of what Job owned and his children, who Job loved a lot. But still Job loved God.

Then Satan gave Job boils all over his body, so he was miserable and poor and childless.

Because of all the bad things that happens to him, friend after friend tells Job he must have done something wrong, God is mad at him, but he just keeps on loving God.

His own wife tells him he’s a loser and he might as well curse God and die, but he stays the course. “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

God is more real to Job than all the troubles landing on his head. He doesn’t like what he’s going through. He hates it that God has hidden His face from him.

Remember Numbers 6:25-26–The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace? That was a blessing God gave Aaron (Moses’s brother) and his sons for the Israelites.

When Job thought God had hidden his face, he felt he was no longer being blessed by God. But even then, he didn’t stop serving Him.

Why? Job knew something many of us don’t know. He knew the absolute joy of walking with the Lord.

He didn’t have the it’s-Sunday-so-I’m-going-to-church-to-see-you-God kind of faith. He didn’t wait until something horrible happened to go to the Father in prayer.

Job knew God and served Him every day of his life.

Do you know people like that? People who “practice the presence of God” every minute of every day? Who seem to feel His presence more than they feel yours?

I have. And I have to tell you, they’re beautiful people to be with.

I’m not there yet. When life hits me in the face, my hair catches on fire and I run in every direction, trying to do what has to be done and fix, fix, fix.

I’m still learning to practice His presence, even after all this time. But, oh! How my heart yearns within me.


Your Close Closet

Not clothes closet–I’m talking your prayer closet, the one you should be closest to. Is there one in your life?

How I imagined it:

The first Bible I ever owned was a King James Version, which Grandma and Granddad Reeves gave me for my birthday.

There, part of Matthew 6:6 reads like this–

–When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father . . . .

At that time (I was–um–maybe eight) our closets were little ones, not the walk-in type. My eight-year-old mind imagined standing in my closet (there wasn’t room on the floor. My sister and I had shoes sitting there) to read my Bible and pray. I knew I’d need a flashlight, because the light–if it wasn’t burned out–would shine on our clothes and throw a dark shadow on the Word. I decided then that Jesus was talking to people who only had one or two tunics and a couple of sandals in their wardrobe, which would leave plenty of room for study.

Okay, I was a tad literal when I was a kid. 🙂

One Women’s Perspective–

Several years later, I discovered Christian Writer Evelyn Christensen’s book, “What Happens When Women Pray.” In that book, Evelyn writes about her prayer closet being in her green chair.

Light bulb moment! I was getting up early, too, to study the word and pray in my blue rocker/recliner (no flashlight necessary.) I had a closet and didn’t even know it.

Becki’s Closet

About that same time, my Sunday School teacher, Becki Hawkins, mentioned her car was often her prayer closet. At that time, Becki was a hospice nurse and did a lot of prayer-driving. She told us that alone in a car with the Lord is the perfect place to pray. (She did warn us not to close our eyes. LOL!)

On the Internet–

A year or two ago, I read something about a girl who wanted a prayer closet like her mother’s. Sorry, with all the internet reading available, I can’t remember who wrote it, but they talked about the girl’s walk-in closet. They filled it with pillows, a reading lamp, a bookshelf for her books and pens and highlighters.

Made me want to move in! 🙂

I also read about a girl who begged her father for a prayer closet. (Beth Moore comes to mind when I think about it, but I don’t know for sure.) Anyway, this girl’s family didn’t have a room they could make a prayer closet for her, so her father brought home a box of some sort, which she used for years.

I don’t remember if it was a cardboard box or a wooden packing case, and it’s not really important. What’s important is that her father heard her. He took her seriously and found a way for her to have what she needed. This little girl was able to be alone with her Lord.

I Googled prayer closets to see if I could find that article, and while I didn’t find it, I found one on the Discipleship Journal website about how to organize your prayer closet.

They recommend a notebook. Rather than a place for you, it was a place to keep your prayer list. They suggest dividers with daily prayers, temporary, adding pictures of the people you’re praying for, etc. It sounded waaay too stiff for me (maybe that’s why they call it the Discipleship Journal, because they’re all disciplined. I’m not!)

Present Prayer Closets

One of my sisters and I enjoy making our decks our prayer closets–at least when it’s not too hot and not too cold for us to be out in the weather. It’s not a place where you can easily get on your face (don’t want neighbors calling 9-1-1 for us) but it’s a beautiful time with the Lord.

The most important place I’ve found to have my prayer closet is to carry it within me. I can take it along where ever I go. Whether it’s while I’m in the car, at the copier, in the kitchen, on a walk or when I’m snitting (sitting and knitting) the important thing is that I have a time when I’m able to be alone with God.

Can you think of a better place than that?

Where do you go to pray? Is it a place, a time or when you have a moment to spare?

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6.

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