Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Welcome to Dwellings.

A blog that hi-lights authors from the world of Christian Publishing, Dwellings features books by Christian writers led by the Lord to write about characters and stories set all over the world, in the distant past....or perhaps in a vision of the future.

They are exciting stories of romance, adventure and suspense, written to inspire and encourage. Occasionally you may find non-fiction books as well, so if you're looking for a book for yourself, a loved one, or those who may need an uplifting message woven through an entertaining story, please consider the new monthly releases in books found here.

And let us know if you've read any of the books featured on Dwellings, you have a review to offer, or just found it an interesting spot to visit. (If you leave your e-mail address, you'll be entered in a drawing for a great giveaway if its available that week, so visit often!)

This week, I'm presenting an article written by critique partner, Hope Church member, and dear friend, Sue LeDoux. Sue enjoys writing devotions, articles for churches, and inspirational publications. The article that follows was written for Shema Yisrael, a Messianic Jewish Temple in our community, to illustrate the Jewish High Holidays celebrated there in the Fall of 2010.("Jewish High Holidays" used with permission of "The Good News")

I hope you enjoy reading about the ancient spiritual traditions of the Jews, how they illustrate their relationship with God, and imagine if you will, how our Lord Jesus, a Jew himself, would have celebrated those holidays....

Jewish High Holidays at Shema Yisrael
Susan LeDoux

Most Christians know that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are Jewish holidays. However, those celebrations, along with Kol Nidre and Sukkot, constitute an entire season designed by God to bring his people through a period of cleansing and joy.

Rosh Hashanah: Sound the Shofar!

On Thursday, September 9th, Scott Cassity lifted the hollow ram’s horn and blew the four shofar calls. The tekiah was one blare, a call to awaken. The shevarim, with three short blasts, a petition for relief. The teruah served as a battle cry. Finally, the tekiah gedolah represented the last trumpet call and was held for an amazing length of time.

With the calls of the Shofar, the Messianic congregation of Shema Yisrael began the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on the first day of Tishri, the 7th month in the Jewish calendar. For centuries, these blasts have served as God’s alarm clock, awakening his people from spiritual slumber to ask: am I right with God? What do I need to change so my name will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year?

The “ten days of awe” that begin with Rosh Hashana and end with Yom Kippur are a special time for people to search for those human iniquities that lie hidden because of ignorance of God’s word, denial, or deception by Satan.

The Rosh Hashanah celebration continued with Davidic dancing; every step a prayer as the dancers floated in and out of their circle. The Torah was brought forth and carried joyfully around the congregation. Rabbi Jim Appel opened the Torah scroll, penned with vowel-less script on lambskin parchment, and proclaimed the Word of God in Hebrew and English.

He reflected that education was imperative to ancient Jews because they had to memorize the entire scroll. Scripture in book form did not exist. This explains how the Apostles and disciples could preach scripture without written texts, so profoundly throughout the known world.

Donita Painter shared the story of Hannah when “her desperation (for a child) caused her to commit herself and her family in such a deep way that it aligned with God’s purposes.” Referring to Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have in mind for you…” Donita reflected that God is working in the background for His people and His people need to trust him in faith, obedience and patience. “Always be ready to give a reasoned answer to explain our hope in Christ and what He does in our individual lives,” she declared.

A reception followed the service and preceded the Tashlich, the ceremony of throwing bread, representing sins, into a stream to be carried away “as far as the east is from the west.”

Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur

Kol Nidre is observed on the eve of Yom Kippur. On that evening, people ask God for forgiveness for any vows to Him that they made and broke, including vows made under persecution.

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement for the sins of the past year. Man can never meet God’s perfect standards. With justice and mercy, God established the sacrificial system through Moses, whereby sins are covered with sacrificial blood. In the days of the temple, the high priest sacrificed two goats. He poured the blood of one goat on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and he sent the other goat into the wilderness, carrying all the sins of the people. The word “kippur” means “covering” of sins; hence the Day of Atonement is called Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Jim explained that the required bloody animal sacrifice has not been possible since the temple was destroyed. Instead, non-Messianic Jews hope that prayer, fasting, good works, and seeking forgiveness will lead to atonement. Messianic Jews realize that the blood atonement has been achieved by Jesus’ death on the Cross. Hence, while confessing sins and asking for forgiveness, there is joy in their Yom Kippur observance.

He made distinctions between the words that mean breaking God’s law. Iniquities are not actual sins, but rather, a state of being, a carnal nature. A sin is missing the mark, falling short of God’s standard. A transgression is an intentional, unlawful, offensive act. Rabbi Jim explained that iniquities hamper one’s walk with God, keep one from bearing fruit and even reap corruption in the flesh with diseases like hypertension and ulcers. The iniquity of bitterness, especially, carries harmful spirits such as unforgiveness, resentment, anger, hatred, violence, even murder. Additionally, the spirit of not forgiving God or self breeds a sense of shame. Therefore, “Today is a day of freedom. Receive the power of Jesus’ sacrifice to cleanse consciences of shame and remorse,” he declared.


Sukkot, following Yom Kippur, is a seven day period celebrating the harvest as well as God’s forgiveness. Also called Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, it is a reminder of the time of wandering in the dessert, living in tents and following God in a cloud or a pillar of fire. In anticipation of a second harvest, the temple priest would pour water on the altar as he circled it 7 times in supplication for rain. A lulav of freshly cut branches and palm fronds would be fashioned together and joyfully waved about.

Shema Yisrael congregation built a sukkah (tent dwelling) on their lawn. It stood, a three sided, decorated lean-to made with lattice panels… a lovely invitation to stop and rest. After the service inside, the entire congregation followed the Torah as a member carried it around the sukkah while people joyfully waved palm fronds and the lulav.

Rabbi Jim reflected that the four feasts, Rosh Hashanah, Kol Nidre, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, complete a cycle from sorrow to joy. For those who believe in Jeshua, the joy is greater because of the certainty that he has separated his people from their sins as “far and the east is from the west.”

Scott Cassity Blowing the Shofar

Davidic Dancing on Rosh Hashanah

Decorated Sukkah

Carrying the Torah around the Sukkah

Carrying the Torah Through the Congregation

Thanks, Sue, for offering your article on the Jewish High Holidays--they were very informative; and I loved finding our more about how "Jeshua" would have celebrated traditions that have not changed for thousands of years!

Author of the Week, Jill Eileen Smith
Publisher: Revell

Jill Eileen Smith is the best-selling author of Michal and Abigail, books one and two in The Wives of King David series. She has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has gathered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family; in person, over the webcam, or hopping a plane to fly across the country. She can often be found reading Christian fiction, testing new recipes, grabbing lunch with friends, or snuggling one or both of her two adorable cats. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Jill has offered to answer some interview questions so we can find out more about her writing life.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing or talking about writing for years, even in my teens, but it didn’t really click with me that I wanted to be a published author until I co-taught a Bible study on King David’s life. That study made me want to read a biblical novel about him that would take me there. I couldn’t find one that satisfied, so I decided to write the book I wanted to read. The desire to see the work in print didn’t come until I had written the first two-volume epic, which really did not deserve to see the light of day. But it was where I began to learn the craft, and the desire to be a writer took hold.

How did you prepare? College courses? Workshops? Books on Craft?

I took some online courses, read books on craft, took workshops at conferences, read fiction voraciously, and just wrote and wrote and wrote.

Were you writing fiction before you got published?


How many years/stories did you write before the first one was accepted?

I wrote on and off for twenty years (in the midst of homeschooling three sons), and completed around eight full-length novels before the first one sold.

Why do you enjoy writing Biblical historicals? (and anything more you want to add to this--anything special about characters/time/events or locale etc.)

I love the Bible. I love Jesus and hunger to know Him more. I love the people God has immortalized in Scripture. But I did not always feel this way. The Bible did not come to life for me until I read Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. When I shut the pages of that book, which I read every Christmas during my teen years, I thought, “these people were real!” And I have loved biblical fiction ever since. I hope my stories do the same for my readers.

I also love Israel, the people, the land, even the geography! Any details I can find fascinate me. Ancient history is where I live in my dreams. 

What's your next book/release date we can look forward to? (Maybe a quick sentence or two of what it's about to whet our appetites? :)

The book that just came out is Bathsheba, the final book in The Wives of King David series.

Can love triumph over treachery?
Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her husband away fighting the king’s wars, she battles encroaching loneliness–making it frighteningly easy to succumb to the advances of King David. Will one night of unbridled passion destroy everything she holds dear? Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God—and David—forever?
With a historian’s sharp eye for detail and a novelist’s creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David’s most famous—and infamous—wife. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.

Following are some reviews by well-known authors for "Bathsheba"

“Thoroughly engrossing. Jill Eileen Smith receives my highest recommendation as an author of biblical fiction.”—Kim Vogel Sawyer, award-winning author of "My Heart Remembers"

Bathsheba is Jill Eileen Smith’s finest work to date. It vividly portrays the devastation caused by selfish passion and betrayal, and the incredible blessing of repentance and restoration through God’s grace.”—Jill Stengl, award-winning author of "Wisconsin Brides".

“This well-researched and beautifully crafted story will resonate in your heart and mind long after you’ve read the final page. An excellent read with a message that transcends time.”—Judith Miller, author of the "Daughters of Amana" series.

Next year, around this time, look for "Sarai", book one in The Wives of the Patriarchs series. She made a vow to bear him a son—what lengths will she go to keep it?

It sounds exciting, Jill! Thank you for stopping by Dwellings and sharing with us. Jill has graciously offered a giveaway of "Bathsheba" for a drawing winner--please leave a comment with your e-mail to be included.

I hope this interview has somehow piqued your curiosity; especially if you're struggling with illness, financial, or relational problems. Whether fiction or non-fiction, well-crafted and enjoyable stories like these are testimonies that nudge us once more to turn to God, the True Author of our Salvation--and His Word. Blessings!


misskallie2000 said...

I love to read books based on characters from the Bible. I have added Jill's books to my wish list. Thanks for the review..
Thanks for the info on the Jewish High Holidays. I knew very little about them and this post has helped me understand them better.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Martha A. said...

Jill, I am like you! When I read biblical fiction, it hit me..."These were real people, just like you and me!" I love reading the bible, but thinking of them as real people who struggled in their daily lives like we do, bring them to life somehow! I am eager to read this next book in your series of David's wives...I own both the first two!

lorlyn63 said...

I enjoy reading books on biblical characters we read about in the Bible. I read a book by Ellen Gunderson Traylor called Ruth and I fell in love with her series of books. I have not read any of Jill's books, but they sound very good and something I am sure I would love reading. Books like this bring the biblical characters to life and just as Jill said it makes you realize they were real people, experiencing real issues just like we do. Please sign me up for your giveaway. Thank you!
Blessings! Lori