Logan-MMS-2The second novel about my “book boy” Matthew is dedicated to my second grandson, Logan. During this past week, I had the opportunity to present a copy of the book to him.

Putting a copy in his hands was almost as much fun as writing this stimulating story. Others who’ve read the book find it exciting as well. This is what Douglas Bond, who’s written Duncan’s War and other works of historical fiction, says:

Glenda Faye Mathes writes with energy and intentionality. When she writes about a coming tornado, it feels so real, I start glancing nervously out the window. Young people will feel like the author knows them, is inside their heads, so intimate is her knowledge of her readers. This is a frank and honest portrayal of a preacher’s kid, but one that speaks to the extraordinary challenges and joys of ordinary growing up. Highly recommended.

This is a huge compliment, coming from the author of engaging nonfiction and many intensely thrilling novels.

Another excellent writer provided a second meaningful endorsement. Simonetta Carr, author of Christian Biographies for Young Readers, writes:

Well written and captivating, this book—as the previous one in the series—takes us through the everyday life of Matthew Vos, an inquiring and thoughtful fifth grader who faces many typical challenges of a middle child and “Preacher’s Kid.” There are surprises along the way, and important lessons as Matthew strives to overcome his fears and to be more like the heroes he admires. I was impressed by the author’s ability to describe in a very plausible and heartfelt manner the inner thoughts of a young child. Although the book is set in a specific situation (a Dutch Reformed community in 1996 America), many children in different circumstances will easily identify with Matthew’s feelings and struggles.

Simonetta’s books are beautiful with rich illustrations. They include the San Diego Book Awards finalists, John Owen and Lady Jane Grey, and winner of the award, Anselm of Canterbury.

Receiving these wonderful endorsements from excellent writers thrilled me, but I also hoped the book’s portrayals of military aspects and heroism were realistic and compelling.

Paul T. Berghaus is a West Point graduate and U.S. Army Chaplain, who has been deployed in combat situations and currently serves as Ethics Instructor and Infantry Chapel Pastor at Ft. Benning, GA. He writes:

Matthew Makes Strides quickly captured my attention and provoked thoughts and emotions that are sympathetic with those of several characters in the story. Glenda Faye Mathes does an excellent job portraying the trauma, excitement, and relief of events where great danger and courage are present. Her chapters are rich in narration, imagery, momentum, and emotion. They also contain a good amount of humor to guard against overly heavy intensity. I am thankful that she is writing Matt’s story and sharing it with readers of all ages, and I applaud her for taking up topics of fear, loss, courage, and authentic masculinity.

In his communication with me, Chaplain Berghaus confirmed that my portrayals in the story exactly captured the characteristics and emotions of military veterans and memorial services. He even noted how the military veteran helping Matthew cope with being a hero brought healing to the veteran himself. This subtle theme may escape most young readers, but I was delighted when an experienced military man recognized it.

Logan-MMSI’m so thankful these people enjoyed and appreciated this second novel in Matthew’s story, and I hope my all grandsons and you will too!

You can find Matthew Makes Strides, as well as Matthew Muddles Through, the first book of the Matthew in the Middle series, on Amazon.

Discovering-Delight-front (1)I recently received news about an amazing Cross Focused blog tour of Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law.

I’m thankful to David Woollin and the other folks at Reformation Heritage Books for their efforts in promoting my work. And I especially thank God for these wonderful reviews!

37th Meeting Classis Eastern USURCNA’s Classis Eastern US and the OPC’s Presbytery of New Jersey held concurrent meetings on October 14 & 15, 2014, at Preakness Valley URC in Wayne, NJ.

According to Classis Eastern US Stated Clerk, Rev. Drew Eenigenburg, the effort culminated “three years of invitations and preparation by our fraternal relations committees.”

The cooperative effort began with the October 14, 2014, Semper Reformada Conference, “Practicing Biblical Ecumenicity: The Demand for Ecumenicity.” Speakers Rev. John Bouwers and Rev. Bill Boekestein represented the URCNA, while Dr. Alan Strange and Rev. Bill Shishko represented the OPC.

Rev. Shishko said, “One point made at the conference is that the increasing secularization of our culture, and the increasing opposition to the Christian faith will have its way of forcing us to work more closely together (just as it has done in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt). God has his ways of bringing us together.”

The morning of October 15 began with a combined devotional service. Rev. Ross Graham, the OPC’s Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Rev. Richard J. Kuiken, Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church (URCNA), led the service.

Rev. Jon W. Stevenson, Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of New Jersey, said, “The conference and the joint devotional are events that I hope can be duplicated in the not too distant future across the US.”

Delegates from the two federations conducted business in separate spaces within the same building, joining together for fellowship during breaks and meals.

“We conducted our business meetings under one roof to show our desire for close cooperation and even eventual organizational unity, but (for now) those meetings still take place in separate rooms,” explained Rev. Eenigenburg. “We hope this will be the first of many such coordinated meetings with the OPC.”

Semper Reformanda 2014The initial item of business for Classis Eastern US was the candidacy examination of Mr. Andrew Knott. Andrew attended Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and graduated from Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Mr. Knott sustained his exam and was declared a candidate for ministry in the URCNA. For some months, he has been serving the New Haven URC in Vermont.

“At this point we are waiting on the congregational vote to extend a call,” he said. “It seems as though God has been confirming me in this road to ministry, allowing me to graduate from Mid-America and then sustaining my candidacy exam. Now I wait for the external call. It has been a blessing to me to serve the people here in Vermont who go out of their way to love me and my family.”

Delegates also spent a significant amount of time discussing the work of the church planting committee, and re-affirmed Rev. Boekestein as the interim church planting coordinator for 2015. Classis agreed to support five seminarians. It also mandated the Fraternal Relations Committee to continue working with NAPARC denominations to plan joint meetings.

“I am very thankful to the Lord for the events of this past week,” Rev. Eenigenburg said. “There was serious discussion about how to join our two bodies into one church.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 14 of the November 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Perrine BridgeThe city of Twin Falls perches beside the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho. North of the city, the Perrine Bridge spans the expanse, nearly 500 feet above the river. The bridge is popular with BASE jumpers and may be the only manmade structure in the US where such jumping is legal year-round without a permit.

What is BASE jumping? Parachuting from a Building, Antenna, Span, or Earth (cliff or mountain).

In a way this type of jumping, leaping from a life-threatening height and trusting completely in one’s parachute, demonstrates the total trust in God exercised by members of New Covenant United Reformed Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. New Covenant is one of the smaller and more isolated congregations within URCNA. It is also unusually diverse.

“The church is very different from the churches I grew up in, which were basically Dutch Reformed,” Rev. Christopher Folkerts said. “More than once, I’ve told the congregation: ‘Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all’ (Col. 3:11).”

kids singingRev. Folkerts explained that the congregation consists of people from a wide variety of ages and backgrounds (including some ex-Mormons), and members work in many different fields: agriculture, media, government, social services, fishery, landscaping, and other service industries.

“We have an eclectic group, individuals with unique stories, yet all united in the One whose story makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “When the grace of God is poured into our lives and the Spirit stitches our hearts together with the thread of God’s love, we see a beautiful tapestry that no single piece can display.”

Through Christ, he said, “Streams of living water refresh our hearts in this sagebrush wilderness we call home.” But the church is currently homeless.

For the last ten years, the congregation rented a Disciples of Christ facility, scheduling Sunday worship around that group’s service. The arrangement ended, however, when another congregation began to share the church building with a view toward a possible merger with the Disciples of Christ church. Since September, New Covenant has met for worship in a funeral home.

“It is a very beautiful place to worship compared to where we were before,” Rev. Folkerts said, noting that worship services have not conflicted with funeral services or family visitations, and that having no facility is “a good place to be” because it makes the congregation more consciously dependent.

girlsRev. Folkerts counsels at a coffee shop. Council meetings are held in a local office. On the first Saturday of each month, men and women meet for fellowship and study over breakfast. A discussion of Michael Horton’s Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples began as an office-bearer training course, but has grown into a men’s study group that meets once a month. A women’s Bible study group also meets once per month, and is currently studying Proverbs. The congregation prioritizes its Wednesday evening prayer meetings.

“Nothing can take the place of that,” Rev. Folkerts said. “Some of my sweetest and most blessed moments have come from our prayer meeting. There is nothing so precious as the hearts of God’s children bowing before the throne of grace in holy, united prayer.”

When discussing the joys of small church ministry, Rev. Folkerts spoke of the close relationships between pastor and people as well as within the congregation. Referring to Nathan’s parable about how much the owner of one sheep loved it, he said, “A pastor of a small flock has a special and tender love for the sheep, in part because he does not have as many.”

He compared a small congregation to a family, and said, “We cannot afford to be friends just with those who share similar interests. In a small church, we experience more deeply the feeling that we are really a family of God. We keenly feel that what unites us is Christ.”

Chris Folkerts family

The Folkerts family

Some challenges facing small churches involve a lack of personnel. When needs arise, the pastor and his wife often take on responsibilities that others would perform in a larger congregation. “In our situation,” he says, “this problem is compounded by the fact that most of our small flock lives anywhere from 20 to 50 miles away.”

Members of a small church feel stress or loss when even a small percentage becomes disconnected from the church or a family leaves.

“In a sense, you might say that in a small church the joys and the sorrows are both felt more strongly than I imagine they would in a church of 300 people.”

Asked what tools, strategies, or outreach methods he has found effective, Rev. Folkerts responded: “Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.”

“Honestly, we’ve tried all kinds of outreach methods and, after nine years of ministry, I have not seen a single person either come to faith or join our church through any of them. This is not to say that a church, whether small or big, shouldn’t utilize tools, strategies, or outreach methods. The problem with your question is the word ‘effective.’ How do I judge what is effective? The world typically judges ‘effective’ by counting heads (and dollars).”

“Here is what I have found,” he said. “If we are faithful in doing what God has called us to do, he will bless us. I have found repeatedly that I might be pouring myself out in one particular area, and God brings in new people or blesses the congregation in a very specific manner that is completely unrelated to what I was doing. I think God loves to do this because he clearly gets all the glory and I have no room to boast of anything. But I do not think that therefore our outreach was useless or should be stopped. God always gets the glory because God alone gives the increase!”

Rev. Folkerts explained that Twin Falls is located three hours north of Salt Lake City, Utah, but actually has a higher concentration of Mormons. Many Hispanics have come to the region to work in the agricultural industry. And the general populace exhibits the rugged individualism often typical of the western United States.

“The west is fiercely independent. I can’t tell you have many people have come and gone over the years simply because they could not accept any requirements related to church government, membership, accountability, or discipleship. It is Christianity on their own terms.”

When asked what larger congregations can do to assist smaller ones, Rev. Folkerts responded: “Pray. Pray. Pray.”

He added, “And give. Small churches can have a difficult time covering basic expenditures. Some classes have needy church funds, and this is a great display of the unity of Christ’s church, but sometimes those funds are limited. A little extra cash might enable a small church to build a website, hold a conference, buy evangelistic literature, or even be in a position to purchase their own building. The ownership of a building, while not essential to Christ’s church, is a great tool that gives people a sense of belonging and stability as well as providing it with a permanent place for worship and outreach. It also tells the community, ‘Here we are. Come and check us out.’ ”

Photo from Rosenau Funeral Home website: rosenaufuneralhome.com

Photo from Rosenau Funeral Home website:

He concluded, “And pray some more. Not just for small churches, but also for big churches, and not just for our churches but for God’s churches.”

New Covenant currently meets for worship at 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM at Rosenau Funeral Home, 2826 Addison Ave. E. in Twin Falls. The church is presently exploring the possibility of purchasing a former United Missionary Church building, which has been used as a private school for the last 30 years.

Rev. Folkerts said, “Our resources are limited, but God’s aren’t.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the November 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Glenda-UriahAnnouncing…[drum roll] a new Facebook page for the memoir project I’m working on with Uriah Courtney.

Uriah is a high-profile exoneree who was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated more than eight years for a sexual assault he did not commit. Sentenced to life in prison, he eventually was released after new DNA testing conclusively matched another man, a registered sex offender who lived with three miles of the crime scene at the time.

The California Innocence Project (CIP) took on Uriah’s case and worked with law enforcement and other organizations to obtain the new testing. CIP efforts secured Uriah’s release and his subsequent exoneration. CIP has supported and encouraged Uriah in amazing ways. They’ve posted his story, pictures, and videos of his release and his emotional reunion with his son. Because the wrong conviction was a sexual assault against a minor, Uriah was not permitted contact with his son while he was incarcerated. His son was two-years-old when Uriah was arrested. He was ten when Uriah finally hugged him again.

Uriah-GlendaLast spring, I interviewed Uriah and wrote an article about him for Christian Renewal. After that, we both felt compelled to share Uriah’s story with a wider reading audience by writing his memoir. Uriah began sending me chunks of memories, which I started organizing and crafting into chapters. Through a series of amazing providences, I flew to San Diego last fall to meet him and work with him in person for a few days.

Since then, we’ve moved forward on the project and have sought publishing avenues. Both of these aspects remain works in progress, but we trust God will provide exactly the right publisher and editor in his perfect timing. We’re aiming at an August manuscript completion date.

And we’re already promoting the memoir, particularly through the Facebook page. Check it out! You’ll find more pictures of Uriah and our time together in San Diego. When you visit the Uriah Courtney, Exoneree page, be sure to “like” it. We do.

signThe first-ever Reformation Conference hosted by Christ URC in Santee, CA, drew an astounding number of first-time visitors. Of the approximately 130 attendees, more than 60 were not church members.

“The idea behind the conference was to provide San Diego with an opportunity to be introduced to the Reformation and Reformed theology,” explains Rev. Michael Brown, pastor of Christ URC. “We want others to come into contact with biblical Christianity, so this was a vehicle for doing that.”

The conference introduced basic Reformational truth by focusing on the five solas. Dr. R. Scott Clark spoke on three: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Solus Christus. Dr. Michael Horton covered the concept of Sola Scriptura, and Dr. W. Robert Godfrey addressed Soli Deo Gloria. Christ URC’s pastor, Rev. Michael G. Brown, introduced the speakers and monitored a final question and answer session.

All speakers evidenced their thorough theological expertise and engaged the audience. The men know each other well, and their camaraderie was especially evident during the Q & A session.

Dr. R. Scott Clark

Dr. R. Scott Clark

In his presentation, Dr. Clark noted that the Reformation wasn’t about a lack of grace—the Medieval church was “soaked in grace”—but it was about the meaning of grace. He explained how the church considered grace as “a kind of medicine or stuff” with which you were injected in the seven sacraments, and that this “stuff” enabled you to do your part. He used the analogy of meat thermometer, saying that Luther was constantly sticking this thermometer into himself to see if his acceptance measured up. What Luther finally learned was the truth that justification was not a recognition of what has been accomplished by an infusion of medicine or by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but a declaration of what has been accomplished once for all by someone outside ourselves.

Going on to Sola Fide and Solus Christus, he said, “We only benefit from this by faith. Faith is the sole instrument that looks away from us and looks to Christ.” Although the Roman church replaced Jesus with other mediators (chief among them, Mary), Luther learned to rest, trust, and lean on the finished work of Christ alone.

Dr. Michael Horton

Dr. Michael Horton

Dr. Horton began his talk by correcting a misconception about the Reformation. “It was not a problem of the authority of Scripture, but the view of Scripture and tradition.” He pointed out that Rome viewed the two as different forms of the Word of God, written and unwritten. He referred to the “dogma of implicit faith,” noting that it requires the acceptance of all dogmas taught by the church rather that an act of real faith on the part of the Christian.

“Scripture is authoritative because it comes from the Father, the content is the Son, inspired by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Candlesticks can be removed.”

As an example of how tradition changes, he cited the 1870 decree making it necessary now to believe that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. “No basis for bodily assumption is found anywhere in Scripture,” he said.

He quoted extensively from early church fathers regarding the authority of Scripture alone. He concluded, “If any church agrees with the scriptures, that is a Christian church.”

Dr. W. Ro

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey

Dr. Godfrey tackled the large topic of Soli Deo Gloria by focusing on the aspect of worship. He began by expounding on the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, recorded in John 4. He noted that Jesus took her question seriously and responded to her theological awareness in a way that indicated “worship issues are central” and “foundational to the experience and life of God’s people.” The day of the old debate between Jews and Samaritans came to an end in Christ. We no longer worship at the mountain in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth.

“This doesn’t mean we worship really emotionally,” he said, “but in the Spirit, which he gives to his people without measure so they can enter into worship. In truth, God is seeking worshipers. True worshipers, who worship in truth. No matter how sincere the worship, if it’s not according to God’s word, God is not pleased with it.”

“We must not be wiser than God,” he said, reminding hearers of the Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion on the second commandment. Idolatry is “always the besetting temptation of our hearts. We want more than the Lord has given us because we’re not content.” He compared the attraction of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic worship over Reformed worship to the appeal of a buffet over ham and cheese buns. “But someone has sprayed the whole buffet with salmonella,” he said. “Ham buns are sufficient and safe.”

“We should insist that we’re not going to be led into…idolatries,” he concluded. “This is the heart of the matter of how we give glory to God alone. We treasure his Word. We honor his Word.”

Rev. Brown reads questions for the panel.

Rev. Brown reads questions for the panel.

Presenters answered questions regarding the practice of indulgences, the relationship between faith and works in the book of James, and the state of American evangelicalism.

Dr. Horton said, “We’re born Pelagian and we go in that direction, unless we’re taught constantly in the other direction.”

Dr. Godfrey spoke about how revivals replaced the Reformation, with an emphasis on the question of deciding for Christ rather than finding your rest in him.

churchOrganizers were pleased with the turnout, likely a result of effective promotion. Pastor Brown shares, “We spread the word about the conference three ways: 1) Internet and social media. 2) Professional-looking fliers distributed throughout the community. 3) An advertisement on the Abounding Grace radio program that I do every Friday with Rev. Chris Gordon (pastor of the Escondido URC).”

Audio files of opening remarks and conference lectures are available online at the Christ URC website: http://www.christurc.org/conference-lectures.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 of the November 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Reuben Bredenhof familyHow often do two pastors, serving the same denomination in the same country, accept calls to churches in a different denomination and country (but the same for both men) within days of each other? That scenario seems even more unlikely if the two pastors are first cousins—with the same last name.

In God’s providence, that’s the unlikely situation for Rev. Wes Bredenhof and Rev. Reuben Bredenhof. On September 19, Pastor Wes (currently the minister of Providence Canadian Reformed Church in Hamilton, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Launceston in Tasmania. And in mid-September, Pastor Reuben (currently the minister of Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church in London, ON) accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Mount Nasura in Western Australia.

When asked if these calls had been arranged or were a surprising turn of events, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof responded, “This was completely arranged and orchestrated—by our faithful Father, who upholds and governs all things in his providence. But no, we were surprised to both receive calls from churches in the Southern Hemisphere at roughly the same time, and probably both a bit surprised to feel the need to accept these calls. But while we had some contact during the calling process, there was no secret pact or anything to initiate a Bredenhof invasion of the FRCA.”

Rev. West Bredenhof

Rev. Wes Bredenhof

The island of Tasmania is part of the commonwealth of Australia. And the Free Reformed Churches in Tasmania are affiliated with the Free Reformed Churches in Western Australia. Rev. Wes Bredenhof explains more about their relationship and history.

“The Free Reformed Churches of Australia have approximately 4,500 members spread over 16 congregations,” he says. “Most of the churches are located in Western Australia, grouped around the Perth metro area and, further to the south in the Albany area. In Tasmania, there are two Free Reformed Churches. Launceston is the original congregation, instituted in 1953. Legana is 14 km to the north and was instituted as a daughter church of Launceston in 1988.”

As if sufficient similarities don’t already exist in the two calls, both men have served their current churches for five years. And both will find it difficult to leave their present church families.

Pastor Wes calls it “quite painful” and describes the last five years as “fantastic.” He adds, “I didn’t accept this call because of any dissatisfaction about my current ministry in Providence. Far from it.”

Pastor Reuben says his family’s time in London has been “richly blessed,” that God has been “gracious,” and the congregation’s future looks “bright.” His family, too, is sad to part from the people they’ve come “to know and love.” He adds, “And yet, we are also excited about the possibilities of life and ministry in Mt. Nasura.”

Both ministers are uncertain when they’ll be able to take up the work in their new charges. Rev. Wes Bredenhof won’t be able to leave until July or August of 2015 due to obligations in Hamilton, including a teaching contract at the Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College, where he teaches North American church history.

Rev. Reuben Bredenhof reflects, “It’s hard to say when my work can begin there: the critical question is the matter of visas and immigration. It could be a patience-trying number of months, but we entrust all this to the Lord and his perfect timing.”

At some point, presumably soon after the men arrive in their new locations, each will undergo a colloquium doctum under the auspices of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, with whom the Canadian Reformed Churches have ecclesiastic fellowship.

The FRC of Mount Nasura in Western Australia

The FRC of Mount Nasura in Western Australia

“The FRCA are the sister churches most like the CanRC,” says Pastor Wes. “Nevertheless, we do have some small differences in terms of church government. The colloquium is not really an exam, but a discussion ensuring that the minister understands the new context he’s going to be in.”

Both colloquiums will take place in the same classis. Pastor Reuben explains why: “Actually, the two churches on Tasmania are part of the same classis as the church of Mt. Nasura, together with a few other churches in the Perth area, despite the great geographical distance between them (nearly 4,000 kms).”

Rev. Wes Bredenhof relates that the FRC in Launceston, Tasmania, has about 230 members and is located in the heart of this city of 100,000 people.

“Most of the members live right in the city,” he says. “You could say that it is an urban church, but since the city is not that big and nature is never very far away, it doesn’t really have an urban ‘flavour.’ Many of the members enjoy outdoor pursuits like fishing and hunting.”

According to Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, the church in Mt. Nasura, Western Australia, is about 250 members strong.

“It is a suburban congregation, part of the city of Armadale, and a suburb of Perth, the capital city of Western Australia,” he adds. “It’s about half an hour from the sparkling warm waters and golden beaches of the coast of the Indian Ocean.”

A final similarity the cousin ministers share is a desire to faithfully proclaim God’s word.

The FRC in Launceston, Tasmania

The FRC in Launceston, Tasmania

“My number one goal in Launceston is going to be to keep doing what I’ve been doing here in Providence: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Wes. “I aim to faithfully teach and preach the Scriptures from the pulpit, in the catechism classroom, in homes, and wherever else I can. The church there wants to be an outward-looking church, a church with a heart for the lost. I want to encourage that desire and see it bear fruit.”

“It was a hard decision to make, in fact, the most difficult call I’ve ever had,” he adds. “But through the entire process, we prayed for the Lord’s guidance and it became clear. My family and I are at peace with it. We’re convinced that it is the right thing to do and we pray that God will bless it for the good of his people, for the advance of the gospel, and the glory of his Name.”

Pastor Reuben describes his “simple” goal. “I pray that I may be faithful in my task of preaching and teaching the Word of Christ, and pastoring his blood-bought people.” Almost as an afterthought, he adds, “And I hope to learn how to surf!”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6-8 of the November 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

Sometimes making arrangements for a trip can be frustrating. Aunt Martha only receives visitors between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning. But that’s exactly when the presentation you really want to see at the museum is showing. Trying to make arrangements so all the details fall into place may make you wonder if the trip is worth it.

A self-publishing journey’s most potential for frustration arises from formatting, in my opinion (that’s IMO in critique lingo). Before you upload your manuscript (that’s MS in publishing lingo), you’ll want to have it as accurately formatted as possible to prevent the even more frustrating process of trying to fix glitches and errors once it’s on the website.

Authors often complain about the horrors of the self-publishing experience, and most of those complaints are related to formatting struggles. Be prepared to do a little research in order to figure out how to do what you want to do. Then resolve to adopt a patient Mr. Rogers attitude of taking your time to do it right.

An earlier post gave some tips and links about picking fonts, and I recommended determining page size early on. But you must prepare everything about your MS so that it looks exactly like you want the pages to appear in your book. That means figuring out front matter and chapter setup.

The items in the front of the book include a copyright page disclaimer, title page, book dedication, table of contents, and anything else you want to appear before your first chapter.

Here’s the question you must answer: How will these pages be numbered? Some of them shouldn’t be numbered at all. Sometimes you see those cute little lower case Roman numerals on front matter pages, but never on a title page. How can you number these pages differently from the rest of the MS?

And then you must consider the chapters themselves. You need to ask: How do I want each page to appear? You’ve seen those snazzy headers (or footers) in books, perhaps the book title on the left page and the chapter title or the author’s name on the right.

If you want to format page numbers and headers differently for different parts of the MS, you’ll have to set it up in sections. I’d always inserted page breaks for new chapters, but a much better method is to insert a section break. This allows you to format sections differently, separating the front matter from the chapters and each chapter from the next.

This page contains many links with helpful information about working in sections. For my older version of Word, I inserted section page breaks and formatted even pages with book title headers and odd pages with chapter title headers. But I spent hours trying to figure out how to format each section separately (even after I’d indicated “this section only”), until I finally found the extremely helpful Legal Office Guru website with online tutorials.  That dear sweet lady (bless her heart) kindly explained how to break the link between sections by deactivating “Link to Previous” so that the “Same as Previous” no longer appeared in the upper right corner of the header. What an eye opener!

Maybe you already know all about that. I didn’t, and it had frustrated me to the point I posted a Facebook status about being amazed if I still had all my hair by the time this book was formatted. After that, Facebook kept showing me ads for women’s hair loss products.

Speaking of hair, here’s another formatting tidbit that could save you a lot of research time. Know that tiny space appearing between a single quotation mark and a double one? It’s thinner than a regular space and is called a hair space. And I had no clue how to format it. An extensive online search finally yielded the answer. For my ancient version of Word, it’s ALT + 8202. Maybe knowing that will save you some precious time. You’re welcome.

Your formatting nemesis may be chapter title pages (no page numbers on those!), or margins (you’ll want wider margins on the inside edges where your pages are bound) or something entirely different. CreateSpace provides templates that may save you some of these formatting headaches.

Like a temperamental two-year-old, I wanted to do it myself. But my frustrating first experience led me to save that finally-formatted MS as a new document and plug in the text for my second novel. No way was I going to put myself through that section-formatting meat grinder again!

I can’t tell you exactly how to format your document, partly because I don’t remember it all myself, but mostly because your situation and the knowledge you bring to bear on it differs from mine.

But I sure wish someone had explained that “Link to Previous” thing to me earlier. It would have been like someone saying, “But the show time has changed. It doesn’t actually start until 11:30, so you’ve got plenty of time to chat with Aunt Martha before heading over to the museum.”


Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema

Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema

When Classis Central US of the URCNA convened on September 15, 2014, the primary item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum of Rev. Ken Anema, who served Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church in Holland, MI, for almost 21 years and recently began teaching inmates through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary.

A requirement for that position is affiliation with a NAPARC-member church, and Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, had requested the colloquium doctum in order to receive Rev. Anema—like Rev. Nathan Brummel—as an associate Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the URCNA, on loan to Divine Hope.

Delegates voted to conduct each section of the exam for 20 minutes, with the exception of Reformed Doctrine, which was kept at 40 minutes. Throughout the examination, participants emphasized its nature as a “doctrinal conversation.” Examiners demonstrated respect and amity, while Rev. Anema responded with thoughtful and articulate answers evidencing humility and theological acumen.

As Rev. Todd De Rooy questioned him about his personal and spiritual life, Rev. Anema testified how God had been preparing him for teaching at the Seminary. He related that as a young, single man, he initially aspired to foreign missions. But after the Lord closed that door, he’d realized his lack of experience and wisdom for foreign mission work. Instead the Lord provided a wife—after he’d been in the ministry for a year—and a strong group of elders who helped him develop good study habits and mentored him for more than 20 years.

Rev. Anema spoke about his work at a rescue mission with men who have been in and out of jail and how he had begun with a “more arrogant, condescending approach,” but “the more I got to know them, the more I realized that these are real life people who are not that different from us.” A wise person once told him that we are all “only one or two bad decisions away from them.”

Although the move from Michigan to Indiana had been “unsettling literally and metaphorically,” he said, “I continue to grow, continue to look to Jesus as my Savior, and continue to rely on the Spirit.”

When asked to state his expectations for teaching at the Seminary, Rev. Anema responded that he has learned in his ministry not to develop expectations but how “God very graciously gave me encouragements along the way.”

Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets

Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets

He said, “I know that God, by his grace and his mercy, will certainly bless the work. We have a little slogan at the Seminary: Theological education for moral transformation.” He hopes and trusts that “God will begin to change the environment in the prison” and “change the lives of men.”

Questioned about loving the unlovable, Rev. Anema replied, “This is somebody who has been made in the image of God. Who am I to look down on them?”

His response to how he would answer a pre-teen’s question about Jacob Arminius clearly revealed his ability to express complex theological issues in simple terms.

The independent status of Rev. Anema’s former church was the basis for a question if his perspective regarding ecclesiastical federation had changed or if he sought URCNA membership simply due to his new position. Rev. Anema answered by challenging the assumption that his former congregation was isolationist and didn’t benefit from ecclesiastical fellowship, describing several ways it participated in events and ministry with other churches.

The Ken and Renee Anema family

The Ken and Renee Anema family

Delegates quickly agreed that Rev. Anema had sustained his exam. Because he is originally from Sanborn and attended Mid-America Reformed Seminary while it was in its Orange City location, many relatives and friends witnessed his examination. He and Renee have three children: Noah, Faith, and Liberty.

Another major item on the agenda was a report from Classis Central’s Church Plant Advisory Committee (CPAC), which recommended guidelines for church planting in an effort to increase cooperation and effectiveness among the churches through shared wisdom and resources.

While nearly every speaker expressed appreciation for the report, concerns were raised regarding what some delegates viewed as its occasional vagueness or its centralization tendencies.

Eventually Rev. Jacque Roets moved to recommit the report to the committee, saying, “We have a history that makes us suspicious of working together. I do believe this is very necessary, but we have to think carefully about how to move forward.” The motion to recommit was adopted.

Redeemer URC

Redeemer URC

Rev. John Vermeer encouraged the churches to submit their suggestions for improvements to CPAC, and Rev. Harold Miller suggested the Committee confer with the new URCNA Missions Coordinator.

Classis did, however, formally thank the consistory of Immanuel URC of DeMotte for its work supervising CPAC. It also requested that the classical and federational clerks send inquiries about planting churches to CPAC. Delegates additionally directed the classical webmaster to revise the Classis website’s church planting page so that inquiries about church planting within the Classis Central region are sent to CPAC as well as to the federational Mission Committee.

Because the report was recommitted, CPAC required funding to continue its work. The consistory of Immanuel URC brought forward a budget, which Classis approved.

Fraternal delegates speaking at Classis Central included Rev. G.I. Williamson (OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas), Mr. Keith LeMahieu (OPC Presbytery of the Midwest), Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS South Central Classis), and Rev. Jonathan Haney (RPCNA Midwest Presbytery).

Rock Valley URC will convene the next meeting of Classis on April 13, 2015.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

Birth of a Book

PrintI’m excited to share this first blog look at the cover of my newest novel, Matthew Makes Strides, which will be released soon. The wonderful artwork by Ken Raney captures the emotion of this intense moment.

Matthew Makes Strides is the second novel of my Matthew in the Middle series for middle grade readers. Book 1, Matthew Muddles Through, is already available on Amazon.

Yesterday I finished the final revision of the final book of the series, Matthew Moves Ahead. It still needs to go through a lengthy editing process, but the Matthew narrative is now—and finally—complete.

I spent some time this morning thinking about how Matthew came to be and crafting the story of his birth.

My book boy Matthew grew for more years than his age (11) in these novels. He was conceived in a course I took on fiction writing in 2002, as an experiment challenging myself to write in a point of view very different from personal experience. As a boring and sedate old lady, I’d write from the first-person perspective of an imaginative and active young boy.

I named that embryo Caleb to reflect the faithfulness and zeal of the biblical believer, who urged the Israelites to fight giants and enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13:30), and who at 85 years of age was still eager to fight for the Lord (Joshua 14:6-12). Military matters interested Caleb, the middle child in a minister’s family, who became acquainted with a Vietnam veteran named Mr. Winters.

My short story began with Caleb washing his toy soldiers in the bathroom sink and showed him playing a basketball game of Horse with his older brother, while Dad spoke to Mr. Winters in the kitchen. I loved Caleb. And my instructor loved the story, calling the scene with the two boys playing basketball in the cold “beautiful.” He suggested I submit another Caleb narrative as my next assignment. That second short story described the chaos of a Sunday morning when everything goes wrong. Later that day Mr. Winters shared a glimpse of his tormented past, and Caleb witnessed to him about the truths of God’s word and how those things are worth fighting—and dying—for. The story concludes with the two going upstairs for apple pie. (Readers of Matthew Muddles Through will recognize that these stories developed into Chapter 10: Banished, as well as Chapter 14: Trouble with a Capital T, and Chapter 16: Peace Follows Battle.)

My book boy continued to develop and was born in 2007 as Matthew Henry Vos. The poor fellow suffered a sickly childhood, undergoing numerous surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. His debut presentation plans changed from one novel to four to three, and back to four and then to three again (more than once). Matthew made it through some preliminary auditions in 2009 and flew to the big city in 2010 to make a name for himself, but came back home feeling rejected. I visited him from time to time; however, he languished in recovery for years.

Until late in 2013, when my oldest grandson asked, “Grandma, did you ever finish that story about Matthew?”

Well. If my grandson wanted to read Matthew’s story, I ought to finish it before he lost interest. And he was almost a teenager. I determined to put the first book in his hands for his thirteenth birthday. Which I did in 2014.

Now the second one is almost ready to be released, and the third one is written. And that’s the story of how my book boy Matthew was born.


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