His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Last month a friend sent me a video. (Thank you so much, dear friend.) I listened, curious about the artist. The song was a familiar one. When the song was over, I closed the window and didn’t think about it anymore. But God wasn’t through.

That weekend, my daughter and I watched a movie in which the protagonist faced doubts after arguing with a colleague. As writers and readers, we know the enemy’s gibes must hold a grain of truth. Guess what? Every point the coworker threw made perfect sense. The darts penetrated, wounding the fragile seed of hope.

Later, standing at a graveside, the same coworker asked the protagonist to say a few words to the family. As the camera closed in, you could see the emotional turmoil on his face as he struggled with his doubts and fears. When he spoke, he recited:

“Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him; From care He sets me free: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

When Singing Turns to Sighing 

Oh, how I commiserated with this character. I, too, cling to hope when everything around me screams the opposite. Hope and courage have been hard victories, for the enemy would have me—you to believe his lies.

Haven’t you prayed long enough?” 

The answers haven’t come in the past, so why should they come now?”

Why should things change?”

Why praise Him?”

Face it. He’s not interested in your health. Get over it.

Why hope?”

Why indeed?

Drawing Closer

Knowing what this character had endured for the past two years and the battle now raging inside him, I knew he didn’t speak the words to the family alone. The truth within the memorized lines reinforced his own flagging hope. And like all good Christ-centered fiction, the truth of the moment didn’t stop there. The camera view shifted, and the focus became my life. I forgot about my present questions as I reviewed my past. Meditating on His work in my life soon became an act of worship. As I drew near to Him, the sighing for answers ceased. My heart filled with song once again.

The person who has the habit of hope also has the habit of remembering. Hope needs memories the way a writer needs notes. This is partly because hope depends so much on imagination. Our images of the future are sweepings from our remembrances of things past. If we expect to keep hope alive, we need to keep memory alive. Happy memories of good things we hoped for that were fulfilled, and grateful memories of bad things survived.

Lewis Smedes, Keeping Hope Alive

Throughout the day, information gets stuffed in our spiritual wells, clogging our praises. Our songs turn to sighs. We must dig the well every day as we draw near, giving Him our heartaches and troubles. But let us not stop there as we often do, but praise Him until our cares fall away, and we are renewed.

How can we do this in a world gone crazy? By finding what helps us to remember His goodness. Along with reading the Bible, my triggers are writing, music/songs, and nature. If I don’t write, if I don’t listen to songs, or if I forget to rest outside, I miss that day’s blessing.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches (Psalm 63: 5-6 KJV). 

When we meditate on God’s goodness in our pasts, we ignite hope for our futures. Find your place to remember and then draw near with a grateful heart.

He Watches Over You and Me

If there has ever been a time, we need hope in our lives, it is now.

Christ is my Hope, the Anchor of my soul. Steadfast and True. He will not drag, leaving me to wander atop the waves amid the storm. He will draw near and rescue me or ride out the storm with me. How do I know this? Because He’s been faithful to me in the past.

Today, if you’re struggling to remember God’s faithfulness, start with His Truth and deeds in your life. I cannot promise things will get better in the here and now. It doesn’t always work out that way. But I will promise you of God’s love and care for us until the day we stand with Him in eternity. Until that day… His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches you and me.

The Story Behind the Song

Civilla D. Martin wrote the song after speaking with the Doolittles of Elmira, New York. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for twenty years, and Mr. Doolittle used a wheelchair to get to and from work each day. Seeing their joy, Mr. Martin asked of the “bright hopefulness” in their lives. Mrs. Doolittle answered, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The next day, Civilla D. Martin sent the poem to Charles Hutchinson Gabriel to write the music.

The third verse is hard to find on video, but it was the one I needed to hear. The moment I heard “when songs give place to sighing“ everything fell into place. Here’s the complete song. I’ve highlighted some of the words. Enjoy.

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely and long for heav’n and home when Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free; for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender words I hear; and resting on His goodness, I lose my doubt and fear. Though by the path He leadeth but one step I may see: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, when songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

His Eye Is on the Sparrow © Civilla D. Martin Public Domain

“I draw the closer to Him; from care He sets me free: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” ~ Civilla D. Martin #hope @GailJohnson87

Summer Reading

I dug through my TBR list this month and found some keepers. I also purchased a few new ones this summer. One of which is Lisa Carter’s Carolina Reckoning. I gobbled it up this past week. 🙂

Carolina Reckoning

Alison wanted her husband gone, not dead . . . When Alison Monaghan discovers proof of her husband’s infidelity, she plans to confront him. But she never gets that chance. Frank never makes it home. Soon his body is found on a lonely back-country road in antebellum Weathersby Historic Park where Frank served on the board of directors and where Alison is a volunteer garden docent. Homicide detective Mike Barefoot, a Cherokee native from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, immediately puts Alison at the top of his suspect list. He also finds himself drawn to her—and not just because she had motive for the crime. Mike usually keeps his emotional walls high, and as a detective, he knows not to get involved with murder suspects. So why is he so attracted to Alison? Can he fight his feelings for her—and find the killer before Alison becomes the next target? Purchase Here.

Fire

I’m currently reading an advanced copy of Linda Rodante’s new novella Fire.

When a violent gang re-organizes, an undercover cop could lose everything…including the woman he loves.

Following a gang war, the undercover cop known as Patriot is forced to flee his hometown and assume a new identity. When the gang re-organizes and threatens a friend, Patriot—now a firefighter—returns to face them.

Chloe Swearingen confines herself to the fast pace of the ER and away from interpersonal relationships—for a reason she keeps to herself. But when she helps save a gangster’s life, she’s thrown into a cauldron of relationships from which she can’t escape.

Then a series of fires target Chloe, her church and her friends, and she and Patriot must risk their lives to bring an end to the forces of darkness arraigned against them. Preorder Here.

Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking The Rules

I’ve also added Steven James’ nonfiction book to the pile.

All too often, following the “rules” of writing can constrict rather than inspire you. With Story Trumps Structure, you can shed those rules – about three-act structure, rising action, outlining, and more – to craft your most powerful, emotional, and gripping stories.

Award-winning novelist Steven James explains how to trust the narrative process to make your story believable, compelling, and engaging, and debunks the common myths that hold writers back from creating their best work.

   • Ditch your outline and learn to write organically.
   • Set up promises for readers – and deliver on them.
   • Discover how to craft a satisfying climax.
   • Master the subtleties of characterization.
   • Add mind-blowing twists to your fiction.

When you focus on what lies at the heart of story – tension, desire, crisis, escalation, struggle, discovery – rather than plot templates and formulas, you’ll begin to break out of the box and write fiction that resonates with your readers. Story Trumps Structure will transform the way you think about stories and the way you write them, forever. Purchase Here.

Shelter in God, Your Refuge in Times of Trouble

I’m currently reading Shelter in God. Dr. Jeremiah offers an in-depth look at Psalms and how we can apply David’s prayers to our current circumstances. Recommended reading.

Shelter-in-place orders around the world have people questioning, “Does God see us? Can he help us through this nerve-racking time? Dr. David Jeremiah shares through psalms that God is always walking beside us. Now is the time to Shelter in God.

Renowned pastor and teacher Dr. David Jeremiah believes comfort can be found in the Psalms, both now during the coronavirus pandemic and during all of life’s greatest challenges. This newly collected volume will show how finding refuge in God is always our safest place. Shelter in God offers hope in a time of uncertainty and relief to people who are experiencing real troubles and fear.

  • Find ways to worship in times of trouble,
  • experience prayer in pressure,
  • show grace when you are at your wits’ end, and
  • with God’s help, triumph over trouble. 

Shelter in God is an invaluable source of help and encouragement for people facing major obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

Portions of Shelter in God were previously included in Dr. Jeremiah’s classic When Your World Falls Apart. Purchase Link

There you have it. What are you reading? Do you read more than one book at a time?

Women of Faith and Fiction ~ Candace West

Welcome to a new edition of Women of Faith and Fiction. Thank you for joining me. I’m so glad you’re here! Today’s guest is Candace West.

Good morning, Candace. Tell us about yourself.

Personal

I’m a preacher’s daughter, a wife, a homeschooling mama, and a friend. I tend to be shy in large groups of people. A little bit of an introvert. Chocolate is my go-to dessert! I love animals, particularly cats. Family means everything to me. I’m always ready to go antique shopping or browse for books. Exploring or touring old houses is one of my passions. I’ll sit all day long and listen to someone telling a story about the old days. Bluegrass, Big Band, and classical music flow through my veins. I hoard old photographs, especially family ones. The Ozarks are my favorite place in the world other than home. I’m an avid reader. And I love to write stories.

I’m with you on the antique shopping and book browsing. Please, tell us about your writing.

Professional

When I get a story idea, I’m usually doing something else besides writing. I might be cooking, cleaning, or driving. A character pops into my imagination, and a story blooms. I’ll jot notes on whatever is handy. Whoever said paper towels were only for cleaning up messes? Later, I’ll type a rough outline. When I start writing, I let the characters take me to the place and action. I guess I’m a mix between a pantser and plotter.

I guess we’re both plantsers. LOL. Now, what is your latest book about?

I’m excited and a bit nervous about my new writing venture. I have two books scheduled for next year. One will be the third book in the Valley Creek Redemption series. The other is a historical for The Mosaic Collection. Prayers appreciated!

Congratulations on the new adventure! From where does your inspiration come?

Many places. I’ve been blessed to have men and women of God in my family who have overcome trials and obstacles. My mom, my grandmothers, and my aunt have shown me their bravery, their steadfastness, and their love. Special friends have weathered storms along the way. Most of all, my faith inspires me because “with God, all things are possible.” Hope and redemption are things I love to write about because they’re real and lasting. Available to anyone. Eternal.

It is truly a blessing to have others encouraging us along our way. Would you share a word of encouragement with our readers?

Inspirational

I would love to! In my launch team, I recently shared a thought with the ladies (they are amazing) that I hope encourages someone here. You know, we’re moms, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, granddaughters, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law, nieces, and friends.

We’re ladies and we’re doers. We’re caretakers. We’re the shoulder that someone needs to cry on. We’re helpers. We desire to minister to the needs of others. And we should.

“We’re ladies and we’re doers. We’re caretakers. We’re the shoulder that someone needs to cry on. We’re helpers. We desire to minister to the needs of others. And we should.” ~ @candacewest111 via @GailJohnson87 #WFF #interview

Sometimes the load gets tough. In the busyness of life, we sometimes forget there is One who has shouldered the burdens before we did. We get so accustomed to carrying the load that we forget to ask for help.

Breathe, ladies of God. Take a little time to rest in Him. No matter what you’re facing, remember that it’s OKAY to lay your burdens on the Lord. You don’t have to shoulder it alone.

Thank God we don’t have to possess all the answers. We can cast all our cares on the One Who does. He will see us through.

Candace, thank you so much for joining us and for that word of encouragement. Readers, you can connect with Candace here:

Newsletter

Facebook Author Page

Instagram

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Book Blurb

A shattered heart.
A wounded spirit.
A community in crisis.

Lorena Steen gave up on love years ago. She forgave her long-time estranged husband, but when circumstances bring her to the Ozark town of Valley Creek, she discovers forgiving is far from forgetting.

Haunted by his past acts of betrayal, Earl Steen struggles to grow his reclaimed faith and reinstate himself as an upstanding member of Valley Creek. He soon learns that while God’s grace is amazing, that of the small-town gossips is not.

When disaster strikes, the only logical solution is for Earl and Lorena to combine their musical talents in an effort to save the community. But even if they’re willing to work together, are they able to? Or will the shadows that descend upon Valley Creek reduce it to a ghost town?