Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Bible Baked in a Loaf of Bread

My Grandma Personeus was an expressive storyteller. We grandchildren listened with rapt attention as she told stories of her youth.

One day, she showed us a dark blue hardbound book entitled, The Pennsylvania LeFevres, the genealogy of her family dating back to 1510 in France, compiled by her father, George Newton LeFevre. All the lists of names inside reminded me of the genealogies in the Bible, which as a child I usually skipped so I could devour the exciting stories.

Then Grandma showed us a picture of the LeFevre Family Bible and told us the unforgettable story of the Bible baked in a loaf of bread:

The LeFevre Family Bible (1608)
In France, in 1685, nearly one hundred years before the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, Sarah, wife of Abraham LeFevre, baked the family Bible in a loaf of bread.

What a strange thing to do! "Why would she do that?" we asked

The LeFevre family were French Protestants, nicknamed Huguenots in the 16th and 17th centuries. They had enjoyed 87 years of freedom under the famous Edict of Nantes of 1598, which permitted them to hold services and worship the way they pleased.

Then, on October 18, 1685, Catholic King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Severe persecution ensued. No one was allowed to read the Word of God for himself or even own a volume of the Holy Scriptures. Huguenots were not allowed to be baptized or to instruct their children in their faith. Their churches and records were destroyed, their property was confiscated, and they were forbidden to emigrate.

The LeFevres lived near Strasbourg, France, in the Alsace-Lorraine region across the Rhine River from Bavaria, Germany. Their family Bible was the Geneva Bible, published in Switzerland in 1608. It was smaller and a great improvement over the ponderous volumes of the Great Bible and Tyndale versions which preceded it. The family placed great value on their forbidden Bible and did not want it to fall into the hands of those who would destroy it.

Abraham and Sarah knew it was just a matter of time before their home would be searched and they could be arrested for their faith and even executed. How could they protect the family Bible? Where could they hide it so the soldiers wouldn't find it?

Sarah must have been a woman of great courage and ingenuity. Perhaps the inspiration came to her one day as she baked bread for the family. If she baked a loaf large enough to contain the Bible, no one would think to look inside a loaf of bread even if it sat in plain sight.

She must have made a really large loaf, for the Geneva Bible was 9 1/4 inches long, 6 1/4 inches wide, and 4 1/2 inches thick.

After kneading the dough to perfection, Sarah wrapped the sacred Book in vellum to protect it from the heat and tucked it in the center. She allowed the dough to rise then placed it in the oven to bake, watching it carefully to be sure the loaf was not overdone. When she withdrew it from the oven, she set the golden loaf on the table to cool.

Abraham gathered their six children around the table and admonished them to guard the Bible carefully. If the worst should happen, they were instructed to grab the loaf of bread with the Bible inside and run to the nearby home of Daniel and Marie Ferree, wealthy Huguenot friends.

Apparently, 16-year-old Isaac wasn't there when the soldiers invaded the LeFevre home and slaughtered the rest of his family. Imagine his horror when he entered his house and discovered their brutalized bodies.

Young Isaac quickly grabbed the large loaf of bread containing the Bible sitting unmolested on the table and ran swiftly toward the home of their Huguenot friends. On the way, a soldier stopped him and grabbed the loaf from his hands. Isaac's heart beat so hard he feared the man would see it pounding and become suspicious.

"Rather a heavy loaf you have there, lad." The man hefted it then flung it back into Isaac's arms. "Here! Take it back. It feels much too doughy for me."

Isaac hugged the loaf and hastened to the Ferree house. He knocked quickly with a prearranged signal--two loud taps and one soft.

The door opened slowly, and Daniel peered into the darkness. Seeing Isaac, he pulled the distraught lad inside.

"Hurry! We must flee!" Isaac sobbed. "They killed my parents and all my brothers and sisters."

That night, Isaac and the Ferree family stole through the darkness, taking only the barest necessities, and fled across the Rhine River into Bavaria, which was primarily Lutheran. There, Isaac stayed with the Ferree family until 1708. Isaac fell in love with the Ferree's daughter, Catherine. They were married in 1704, and their first son was born in Germany. Isaac named him Abraham after his martyred father.

Isaac's father-in-law, Daniel Ferree, died in 1708. His widow, Marie, heard about a proclamation issued by Queen Anne of England inviting suffering Huguenots to come there, but they had also heard of religious liberty in Pennsylvania in America, and that was where they wanted to go.

Upon their arrival in England, Madame Ferree visited William Penn in person. After hearing her misfortunes, he introduced her to Queen Anne, who promised them substantial aid in going to America. William Penn then granted 2,000 acres of land to the Ferree-LeFevre family.

When they arrived in New York, it was winter. The Ferree-LeFevre party proceeded 90 miles up the Hudson River to Esopus (Kingston), where they stayed with Isaac LeFevre's two uncles, Andrew and Simon LeFevre, who had come to America 40 years before. There, a second son was born to Isaac and Catherine.

In the spring of 1712, they left Esopus and traveled overland to Philadelphia, where Penn's commissioners issued to Isaac LeFevre and his brother-in-law, Daniel  Ferree, for the sum of 150 pounds, the deed to the land in what was then Chester County, Pennsylvania (Lancaster County was not organized until 1729).

Deed from William Penn to Isaac LeFevre
As the Huguenot party reached the verge of a hill commanding a view of their land in the Pequea Valley 55 miles west of Philadelphia on a golden September evening, an idyllic woodland scene unfolded below. The trees were beginning to change colors in the forest inhabited by wild beasts with no indication of civilization.  After all their trials of persecution and years of travel, their new home looked so tranquil and delightful that Madame Ferree exclaimed, "Let's call it Paradise!" And that is what the town and township are known as to this day.

Grandma's cousin, Franklin D, LeFevre, holding the LeFevre Bible
Isaac LeFevre carefully preserved his family Bible throughout his journeys. The births of his six children were penned in ink on the first page. The ancient Bible was cherished and handed down through six generations and then given to the Lancaster County Historical Society to preserve for posterity. It is one of the most frequently requested items to be viewed--a symbol of the faith the Huguenots held to be more precious than life itself. It has inspired many of the LeFevre descendants to spend their lives sharing its message around the world.

My grandmother, Florence LeFevre Personeus, a direct descendant of Isaac's firstborn son Abraham, grew up in the 27-room mansion that stood on the tract of land originally deeded to Isaac LeFevre by William Penn, in what is now Strasbourg, Pennsylvania. She spent 65 years as a missionary in Alaska, from 1917-1982. My parents and my husband and I too have followed in the LeFevre footsteps as ministers and writers sharing that gospel message.

The 27-room LeFevre home my maternal grandma grew up in
Throughout the ages, many mighty potentates have tried to destroy the Bible--Alexander the Great, the princes of Egypt and Babylon, the monarchs of Persia and of Greece, the Emperors of Rome, and even European kings, Communists, the Nazis, and other religions, but the Bible still stands. It is estimated that only 1/2 of one percent of all books published will survive seven years, that 800 out of every 1,000 books are forgotten in one year. Yet, the Bible is still the world's best seller.

The story of how God has preserved His Word throughout history is a fascinating one. Psalm 119:89 declares, "Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven."


NOTE: This is a longer post than usual, but I am in the process of preparing the manuscript of my third book in my Alaskan Waters trilogy for publication,  Beside Still waters, so I will not be posting for a few weeks. I hope you enjoy this true story of my ancestors and their Bible baked in a loaf of bread.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Four Little Words

As a fledgling writer, I received a rejection of a submission to a magazine. I was disappointed but encouraged to keep trying. The editor had written. "You have a way with words!" I tried again, and he published several of my articles.
I have also come to understand the importance of my words as a parent and a teacher.

Years ago, I came across the story of a young boy, Malcolm, who was terribly insecure and shy. He had few friends and no self-confidence.

His high school English class had been reading To Kill a Mocking Bird. Then the teacher asked the students to write their own chapter that would follow the last chapter of the novel.

Malcolm wrote his chapter and handed it in. More than 30 years later, he could not recall anything special he had written or even what grade his teacher had given him, but he never forgot the four words she wrote in the margin of his paper: "This is good writing."

Those four words changed his life.

Until he read those words, he had no sense of identity and no idea what he would do with his life. After reading those four little words, he went home and wrote a short story, something he had always dreamed of doing but never believed he could do.

That year, he wrote many short stories and always showed them to his teacher to evaluate. Soon, he was named co-editor of his high school newspaper. His confidence grew, and he became a successful professional writer. Malcolm is convinced that none of this would have happened had that teacher not written those four words of encouragement on his paper.

Words can change a life. Words like "You're stupid!" or "Can't you do anything right?" can echo and re-echo in our minds and become self-fulfilling prophecies. So can positive affirmations.

A word fitly spoken is very precious indeed!

How would our family, friends, and coworkers describe our words?

Do our words encourage or put down?

Do we constantly criticize those under our authority without ever praising them?

Would the lasting echoes of our words be to encourage others to be more than they thought they could be--or less?

When we must give criticism, do we couch it liberally in praise?

The Apostle Paul admonished the Ephesians to not "let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs" (4:29, NIV).

Today, let's take a hard listen to our words and ask the Lord to help us to speak only words that are pleasing to Him and a blessing to other.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

He Took My Lickin'

Since Labor Day signals the start of a new school year in many parts of our country, I thought you might enjoy a true school story I heard in church when I was young.

I attended eighth grade in a two-room school in Pelican, located on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska about half-way between Juneau and Sitka, accessible only by boat or float plane. A fishing and cannery town, Pelican had a population of about one hundred people in the winter. Grades K-3 occupied one room and 4-8 in the other, taught by a husband and wife team, who lived about the primary classroom.

Pelican, Alaska, in 1953. Photo taken by my uncle C. Byron Personeus
Perhaps that's why I could relate to this true account that took place in an old-fashioned, one-room school in Kentucky and never forgot it. But I think there's an even more important reason why.

Old Pelican Schoolhouse that now serves as City Hall
One by one, several teachers had been driven off by the students' rebelliousness in that old Kentucky school. A new teacher was due to arrive that day.

Jim, a 17-year-old third grader, bragged to the other boys. "We'll run this one off before sundown if he gets bossy."

In their first session, the new teacher said, "If we are going to have a good school, we need to have good rules."

A few of the boys snickered, but they sat up in surprise when the teacher added, ""But I'm not going to make the rules. You are."

One by one, the students volunteered what they thought would be fair rules and set fair penalties for each offense--five to ten hard swats with a large wooden paddle.

The teacher proved to be warm and friendly, firm but fair, and all went well for several weeks. Then one morning, the teacher solemnly told the class that someone had stolen Jim's lunch. To uphold his authority, he knew he had to carry out the penalty, but his heart was heavy.

Deep sobs broke the silence. Little John, timid and frail and loved by all, confessed his guilt. Everyone knew John was poor and often hungry. But the law had been broken, and the penalty must be paid.

As the teacher lifted the paddle, Jim cried out, "Stop! It was my lunch, and I forgive him!"

"That's kind of you, Jim, but you made the rule, and we all agreed on the penalty. I'm sorry, but it must be carried out." He again raised the paddle.

Jim stepped forward. "Then I'll take his lickin'. I can take it better than he can."

With each painful swat Jim received, John felt his own guilt deeper and deeper. When it was over, the teacher wiped his eyes and put his arm around the two boys.

"Class, it was a wonderful thing Jim did. He was innocent, but he volunteered to take John's punishment. That reminds me of how Jesus, the sinless Son of God, voluntarily took our punishment when He died on the Cross for our sins. Jesus took our lickin'."
And that's why I have never forgotten this story. Not because it took placed in a one-room school, but because it illustrates so beautifully what Jesus did for us when He died in our place. He took my lickin'.

"All have sinned," Romans 3:23 tells us. And "the wages of sin is death," according to Romans 6:23. But while we were yet sinners, God in His great love and mercy provided His remedy. Christ, God's innocent Son, stepped down from heaven's glories, lived a sinless life, and died for us (Romans 5:8). Now, through Him, we have eternal life.

Every year as children go back to school, let's remember how Jesus took our lickin' and give Him our eternal thanks and gratitude.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Parable of the Teacup

While visiting my 94-year-old father, a retired pastor, this summer, I was sorting through some piles of magazines he'd finished reading and came across interesting items. Neither the author nor source of this story was given, but the message, which I have taken the liberty of editing, struck home.

Parable of the Teacup

A couple traveled to England to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. They discovered a special antique store that specialized in pottery, especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional one, they asked to see it. "We've never seen a cup so beautiful."

As the lady handed it to them, the teacup spoke. "I have not always been a teacup. I was just a shapeless lump of red clay at one time. When my master rolled and pounded and patted me again and again, I yelled out, "Don't do that. I don't like it. Leave me alone." But he only smiled and said gently, "Not yet."

Then he placed me on a spinning wheel where I was spun around and around. "Stop it!" I screamed. "I'm getting dizzy! I'm going to be sick." But the master only nodded and said softly, "Not yet."

He spun me and poked me and prodded me until I was bent out of shape to suit his desires then stuck me in the oven. I'd never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded on the door. "Help! Get me out of here!" I could see him through the opening and could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side. "Not yet."

When I thought I couldn't bear the heat another minute, the door opened. He carefully lifted me out and set me on the shelf to cool. Oh, that felt good. This is much better, I thought.

After I cooled off, though, he picked me up and brushed paint all over me. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. "Please stop it, stop it!" I cried. He only shook his head. "Not yet."

Then before I knew what was happening, he stuck me back in the oven. Only this one was twice as hot. I knew I was going to suffocate. I begged and pleaded, screamed and cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up when the door opened, and he took me out and placed me on the shelf again.

I cooled then waited and waited, wondering what he was going to do to me next. An hour later, he handed me a mirror and said, "Look at yourself."

As I stared into the mirror, I felt confused. "That's not me," I said. It couldn't be me. I was beautiful.

Quietly, he spoke. "I want you to remember this. I know it hurt you to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I left you alone, you'd have dried up into a useless glob.

"I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

"I know the oven was disagreeable, and it hurt, but you would have cracked if I had pulled you out sooner.

"I know the fumes were suffocating when I brushed paint all over you, but if I hadn't done that, you would have had no color in your life.

"If I hadn't put you back in the oven, you wouldn't have hardened, and you'd never survive life's hardships.

"Now you are a finished product. What you thought was intended to destroy you, I meant for your good. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began molding you."

God is the Master Potter. We are His clay. He wants to mold us and make us into beautiful vessels for His use. He knows what He's doing. He will expose us to just enough pressure of just the right kind so that we may be made into a flawless masterpiece to fulfill His pleasing and perfect will.

So, when life seems hard, and you are being pounded and patted and pushed almost beyond endurance; when your world seems to be spinning out of control; when you feel like you are in a fiery furnace of trials; when life stinks, try this:

Brew a cup of your favorite tea in your prettiest teacup. Sit down and think about this story. Then, have a little talk with the Potter. Let Him show you His perspective.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

DK--a Short Story

A how-it-might-have-been short story.

Hi, folks! My name is Eutychus--after my great-grandfather on my mother's side, but my friends all call me Ty. I was a DK--deacon's kid, that is. Most of the time, being a DK wasn't too bad, but there were times when it was a real drag. My dad always said I had to set a good example.

Other than that, I guess I was a typical church-going teenager. I cut my teeth on the back of the pew, took my first steps down the aisle of my church, and memorized the Ten Commandments in Sunday school in the junior department. I grew up on stories about Moses, David, and Daniel instead of Sponge Bob or Harry Potter that were so popular with my friends.

I always kind of took church for granted--until the week that changed my life, that is. But I'm getting ahead of my story.

I've loved the Lord ever since I can remember. Deep down, I really wanted to serve Him. But sometimes I wished I could go fishing or play ball with some of my school friends on Sunday mornings instead of going to church. Only, my dad said that would be setting a bad example.

But speaking of setting an example, my folks were no slouches. They took me to services every time the doors were open.

If you'd asked me if I believed in miracles, of course I'd have said I did. That's one of the fundamental doctrines of our church I learned in the Junior Indoctrination Course. And I'd learned all about Peter's miracles in the Book of Acts--how the lame man walked, and how Dorcas was raised from the dead. But I'd never actually seen any miracles myself.

Then one Sunday morning, the pastor announced a week of special services. We were all pretty excited.

The evangelist was going to stay with us and have my room. I felt pretty important. Being a DK had some advantages, I thought.

Brother Paul arrived late Sunday afternoon. His first sermon was that night.

What a disappointment! I expected real fiery preaching with lots of fascinating stories. He was just the opposite--long-winded and dull. I could't follow all that theology. And he preached until nearly midnight. Everyone kept encouraging him with "Amen, Brother." It was all I could do just to stay awake.

And that's the way it went all week.

By Sunday evening, I was really dragging. I missed my Sunday afternoon nap because people popped in and out all afternoon to visit with Brother Paul. I thought maybe I wouldn't be missed if  I stayed home. After all, I'd been to church every night for a week.

But Mom never missed a thing. "Eutychus, where are you?" I heard her call.

Uh-oh, I thought. She only called me Eutychus when she was mad at me or determined to make a point.

She found me slumped down in a lawn chair out back. "Eutychus, it's time to leave for church."

"Aw, Mom, do I have to go? I'm beat!"

"What do you mean, 'Do I have to go'? I should think you'd hate to miss it. After all, tonight is Brother Paul's last service with us, and we'll be having Communion. What kind of an example would it be for you to stay home?"

Well, I knew I was licked. No sense protesting further.

When we got to church, I knew I was in for a long night. We were in a building program, so services were held in the third story of a rented hall. The day had been a scorcher, and the building wasn't air-conditioned.

The room had been closed up all afternoon, so it was as hot and stuffy as a steam bath. Even though we arrived plenty early, so many people were streaming in, there were traffic jams in the aisles. Dad asked me to open all the windows. By the time I'd done that, empty chairs were as scarce as fried chicken after a church picnic.

Well, being an optimist basically, I decided maybe that wasn't so bad after all. I'd just sit on the windowsill--the coolest place in the house.

The song service was long. Everyone got really excited. Then several people gave long testimonies about how the Lord had met their needs the night before. By the time they took an offering, made the announcements, and a lady sang a special song, it was 9 o'clock before Brother Paul got up to preach.

I fought sleep, But about midnight, I must have dozed off. I never knew what hit me.

The next thing I knew, Brother Paul was bending over me. I was lying out on the sidewalk three stories down. Mom and Dad and all the church folks were gathered around me. Mom was crying, and Dad was holding her.

When I opened my eyes, someone shouted, "Hallelujah!" Then Mom was kneeling beside me, crying all over me and kissing me and hugging me.

"What happened?" I asked, embarrassed by all this attention.

"You fell out of the window. You were dead, but God healed you!" Mom started crying again.

I got the rest of the story from Dad.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mom had seen me start to fall. She cried out then jumped up and raced out sobbing, "Oh, God! Help us, please!"

When she found me, she grabbed my wrist but couldn't find a pulse. "He's dead!" she wailed.

Dad felt my neck but he couldn't feel a pulse there either. By that time, the whole congregation had gathered around. Brother Paul got there last, but he pushed his way through the crowd. "Let's pray!"

And I came back to life. What a Communion service we had after that!

Ever since that night, if anyone asked me if I believed in the supernatural, I would tell them about my miracle. Wow! It changed my life. I knew God cared about me personally and had a plan for my life that only I could fulfill. Why else would He have raised me from the dead? I was never the same again.

If you still doubt my story, let me refer you to my doctor, Luke the Physician. He was there too, and my story is well-documented in his bestseller, The Acts of the Apostles (Acts 20:7-12).

* * *

I'm taking a vacation from blogging for a few weeks, but I will be back soon. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this short story I revised from one I wrote some years ago and had published in a now out-of-print magazine. See you soon!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Running Away!

When I was a teenager, I had a tendency to want to run away from my problems instead of facing them.

Many times my mother warned me, "You can't run away from yourself."

That is probably one of the wisest things she ever told me. Even now, when I feel like running away from something, her words still ring in my ears.

I know now that if I try to run away, I will find myself facing the same problems again, sooner or later, until I face myself and resolve them.

A corollary to "you can't run away from yourself" is, "You can run, but you can't hide."

You may try. You may even hide from yourself. But you can't hide from God!

In one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 139, David describes it this way:


Why don't you read the entire psalm. In beautiful word pictures, David says that God knows our routines (vv. 2-3); our thoughts (vv.2, 4); in fact, He knows everything about us (v. 5).

Did you know that God loves us so much He can't take His eyes off of us?

Many people find it disconcerting to think that God knows them so well, but David found it comforting. Instead of running away from God, David ran to God. That's what we need to do too--run to God.

Socrates said, "Know thyself."

Psalm 139 goes even further. David writes that God knows us even better than we know ourselves. 

The psalmist's response is:


David invites God to search his heart, identify anything in him that offends God, and guide him in the way that leads to everlasting life.

Jeremiah also realized that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (17:9). "Who can know it?" he asks. Like David, he invites God to search his heart and test his mind.

Have you invited God to search your heart today? 

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Taming the Tongue

Once again, reports of terrible heat- and wind-driven fires in the Southwest have filled the news. The devastation is far-reaching.

Have you ever built a fire? What happens when you blow on the tiny spark? It quickly grows and ignites the kindling.

Imagine the hot breath of the Santa Ana winds catching a spark in that hot, arid landscape and fanning it into a raging inferno. That is the picture the Apostle James paints in words:

"And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals....but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison....Blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth....That is not right!" James 3:6-10, NLT).

James also compares the tongue to a horse's bridle and to the rudder of a ship. He writes that we can use a bridle to make a horse obey us, and with a small rudder, the pilot of a large ship can control its movements. But the tongue, even though it is a tiny member of the body, is uncontrollable, like the tiny spark that can cause a raging forest fire.

What, then, can we do to resolve such a fearsome dilemma?

We must allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our tongue. Only He can tame it and bring it under control. Only then can we fulfill the advice of the wise one who penned the Proverbs:

Courtesy Google

Like water that quenches fire, when the Holy Spirit controls our tongue, we can answer with a gentle response that puts out the anger that can so easily erupt into temper,

While growing up, my godly grandmother suffered harsh treatment at the hands of her father. When she left home to become a missionary, he disowned and disinherited her. For many years, she was not allowed to visit her family home. Yet, she never talked about any of the details. When I was writing the story of her life in my book, Frontiers of Faith, I asked her why. She said,

"What you talk about gets into your spirit." 

She had learned to allow the Holy Spirit to control her tongue.

I love this quote I found on the Internet:

"Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out." 

Sounds like good advice.

Who controls your tongue?