view from the ridge

"The Gossips" - Norman Rockwell (1948)

You can’t linger long in the South without hearing the old gospel hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken”. For over a century, it’s been warbled in rural churches, recorded by country artists, and sung through tears at graveside ceremonies.

Will the circle be unbroken By and by, Lord, by and by - There's a better home a-waiting In the sky, Lord, in the sky.

Call me crazy – and you won’t be far off – but those lyrics come back to me when I hear someone offer an “unspoken” prayer request. If you were raised GUBA (grew up born again) you know what I’m talkin’ about.

UPRs – Unspoken Prayer Requests – were a staple of prayer meetings in the small church that put fertilizer to my young faith. As a child, these were holy, mysterious things. I was in awe of the solemn women and men who put those private worries out there and just let them dangle, tantalizingly vague, in the communal air.

Now that could be because I was a blurter. When my Sunday School teacher would inquire whether there was anyone whose household could use prayer, I was the one likely to broadcast my family’s business to the world. “Mama’s got bladder problems!” or, “Pray my little brother finds a new home quick.” (Danny, if you are reading this, I didn’t mean it. Most of the time.)

In mid-century rural America, UPRs were a necessity due to party lines. Mention a personal need on Sunday, and darn if it wouldn’t be broadcast over the telephone wires on Monday.

I had a soft-spoken, godly mother who could put up with nearly everything, but she lost her patience when our neighbor up the road, Pauline, listened in on private conversations. Writing at my little desk near the phone, I’d hear my mother pause, sigh, and exclaim, “You hang up now, Pauline!” I grinned while waiting for the audible huff and a click you could hear halfway across LaSalle County.

But there’s nothing funny about gossip when you’re the object of it.

Has it happened to you, too? Many of us know what it’s like to become the object of speculation, rumor, or idle discussion. To have things said about you that are never said directly to you. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but the hurt caused by slander may never heal.

Webster’s calls out gossip in a manner that does not dignify it: “Gossip is information or opinion that is widely disseminated without any authority or confirmation of accuracy.”

In twenty-first century America, corporate party lines have been strung up with a vengeance. Call them Twitter, Facebook, or What’s App, we now have means to spread hearsay, unverified reports and scuttlebutt with the click of a mouse. Social media platforms have the awesome potential to connect people, raise funds, and share vitally important information, but they can also become a pipeline for propaganda.

My friend Becky tells a story about finding grounds in her coffeepot one morning after the filter slipped and pulled away from the side of the basket. “The filter was there,” she commented, “but it did no good if it did not cover the entire basket.”

Do we have filters we’re not using properly? We know we should confirm information before passing it along, but how often do we check out the accuracy of a source before hitting POST? If we’re sharing a story about a national event or public figure, do we take time to perform due diligence before unwittingly spreading a half-truth?

I’ve been guilty of clicking SEND before taking time to fully research the facts. Party-line behavior, just like Pauline. Ugh. When in doubt, check it out or leave it out.

What can be even more damaging is when we share personal news about another that, while it may be true, is simply not ours to share even in the guise of prayer. Just as we know to look before we leap, we need to ask permission before we speak.

So as a note to self, I’ve rewritten the chorus to that old southern hymn.

Will the request go unspoken?
By and by, Lord, by and by.
There’s a Savior already knows it,
And He’ll answer by and by.

Copyright Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2020. Permission granted to share with attribution.


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, has just released from NavPress. If you're reading it, would you be so kind as to leave a brief review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads? Ratings and reviews help readers discover new titles and get the book into more hands, minds, and hearts. Thank you.

Have you just about had your fill of pestilence, politicians, and all manner of folks being ugly to each other?

I’m all for being informed, but dang if I’m not just tired of reading about it every day. Someone please tell me to turn the news back on when we have a vaccine on offer or a virtuous person to vote for or when there’s a national ordinance in place against pure orneriness.

So in the interest of sharing news in the well-that-beats-all category: here’s mine:

I’m pregnant again!

With another book, that is. Literary equivalent of Abraham and Sarah but minus the man.

Did I think I’d be telling you this so soon after birthing book baby #1? Golly Moses, it came as a surprise to me too. Or as they say around here, Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

Lord have mercy, times have been tough. (That’s not a swear but a prayer.) We’ve cried together over the sorrows of life: racial injustice and hurting people and why Boomers are busting out of their homes.

But you know what, friends? I may not know diddly squat about how to fix anything that’s gone sour on us, but this I do know to be true: Life is still sweet.

So yes, ma’am, there’s another book baby been conceived, and I just went and spilled part of her name. Looks like we’ll be calling her Life is Sweet, Y’all! Inspirations with a Sassy Side

Her due date is February of the year after next – that would be 2022 – and maybe she’ll be borne into a post-pandemic world. But even if not, my publisher – that would be Tyndale House – and I are thinking that the world could use a touch of sweetness by then.

I can’t tell you what she’ll look like but I do know who she’ll resemble. Here’s a sibling right here.

And I am tickled pink to tell you what Life is Sweet, Y’all, will hold between her sassy little covers. Yes, she’ll have Bible-based life lessons (this child has her priorities straight), but she’s also fixing to give you household tips, quips, and recipes!

The test kitchen is somewhere in the mountains of western North Carolina, and I’m hoping one recipe will be named after my mom – Miss Eunice’s Hot-Fudge-in-a-Jar. I’m also wheedling a top-secret candy recipe from Mike’s Kentucky-born mama.

But here’s one I’m prepared to share with you right now: my Pimiento Cheese spread.

Up north I don’t ever recall being served pimiento cheese, but in the South you’re not a decent Baptist, Methodist, or Presbycostal if you don’t know how to whip up a batch for a church potluck.

Here’s my version for you to try. If you like it, give us a thumbs up so we know to include it in the book!

Maggie’s Pimiento Cheese Spread
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 oz (1 jar) diced pimientos, drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise (Southerners swear by Dukes but any good brand will do)
1 Tbsp. onion, finely chopped
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Mix first 4 ingredients till blended, stir in cheese. Refrigerate. Serve on crackers or as a sandwich spread.

Life is sweet, y’all, but sometimes it’s got to be a little savory too.

Copyright 2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book This Life We Share has just released from NavPress. If you're reading it, would you be so kind as to contribute a brief review on Amazon? Ratings and reviews help spread the word and get the book into more hands, minds and hearts. (With thanks to Judy Douglass)

Photo Credit Daphne Woodall

Today is June 19, known by many as “Juneteenth” since it celebrates the liberation of those who had been held as slaves in the United States. I have never before written about racial injustice. Why? Because it didn’t directly affect me and many of the people I love.

But it’s hurting someone. Lots of someones. People created in God’s image.

Last week, I shared an incident related by Steve Wiens, an author and pastor-friend in the Minneapolis area. He and his wife had carefully swept their kitchen after a large glass bowl shattered, but they missed a jagged piece partially hidden under their refrigerator. They were horrified when their fifteen-month-old son, Isaac, toddled over to them with that piece under his tongue.

“Maybe that particular piece of jagged glass hasn’t hurt you,” Steve writes in his book, Whole. “But it is hurting someone.”

The demonic – let’s call it what it was, and is – practice of enslaving human beings in this country shattered the lives of generations of African-Americans.

Maybe it didn’t hurt you personally, or me. Maybe some even had ancestors who prospered from slavery. But we cannot ignore the pain of our brothers and sisters of color simply because the brokenness of slavery hasn’t affected us directly. Like the pandemic, we’re in this life together.

“We have, as a society, been placing our knees on the necks of some of our most vulnerable citizens. It is now time—that moment of holy desperation—where we gather the courage to bend our knees, not in hatred, but in prayer.
" We need to bend our knees before the living God and cry out to change our hearts. Of course, we need to change police protocols. But that is mere window-dressing if we do not get to the core problem, which is our hearts. We need a great awakening in this country. We need a spiritual rebirth. We need to be changed from within. If the truth is told, George Floyd spoke for the whole human race when he said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ There is no life in any of us unless and until we receive the breath of the Lord Jesus, giving us new hope for new birth and a new heart.” – Dr. Timothy Tennent

In a June 11 national radio interview, I had the opportunity to talk with host Chris Fabry about This Life We Share and, more importantly, the life we all share as we dwell on this side of eternity.

In our conversation about recent events in our country, Chris and I discussed the fact that the limitations of social media make respectful, interactive dialogue on social issues nearly impossible.

When we post or tweet, we can’t communicate tone of voice or the pain in a voice trying to get us to understand that please God, please, our lives matter just like yours. Because we can’t hear inflection, we’re tempted to respond defensively. But perhaps what we are called to do initially is simply to listen instead.

“The passage of Scripture that has meant the most to me lately,” I said on-air, “is the instruction that James, half-brother of Jesus , gave to the church in a time of great unrest: "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (James 1:19 NLT)

How our world would change if we heeded James’ words. How we would change!

In my interview, I told Chris about the most helpful conversation I witnessed in recent weeks.

I am a member of a private Facebook group for clergy wives numbering several thousand. As racial protests swelled in numbers across the country, the two women who administer the group – both white – reached out to the ministers’ wives of color in our group and asked them to share their perspectives about living as minorities in a country roiling from the effects of generations of racism.

What were their hopes and fears for their dark-skinned husbands and sons? How were they coping with the highly publicized deaths of other African-Americans who died at the hands of those sworn to defend and protect? What of those who have law enforcement officers in their families? How are they being perceived by their communities?

Unlike the vitriolic words hurled across the chasms of social media, this dialogue among clergy wives was respectful, loving, and nuanced. No one argued, debated points, or defended themselves or others. No one condoned violence.

I learned so much from listening to my sister clergy wives.

One way we can all listen respectfully is by reading authors of color whose words have been so carefully considered they are now bound between the pages of books.

One title recommended by many faith leaders I highly respect is the NYT and ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) 2019 bestseller Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation by Latasha Morrison. My son and daughter-in-law’s church near Boston is beginning an online forum this month to discuss Tasha’s work as a leading social justice advocate.

And I personally recommend Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience by Sheila Wise Rowe. I’ve gotten to know Sheila through Redbud, a faith-based writers’ guild to which we both belong. Though we share the same last name and an appreciation for ministry in New England, where Sheila and her husband, Dr. Nicolas Rowe, currently live, we’re not related as far as we know. But I sure am thankful Sheila is my sister in Christ.

Sheila Wise Rowe, author of HEALING RACIAL TRAUMA

One of the pastors at my church here in North Carolina wrote the following in our church newsletter today:

The need for reform in our justice system has finally come to a point where change can no longer be postponed or ignored. Injustice and unfair treatment of those who are of a different color than white, those who speak a different language, or come from a different culture can no longer be tolerated. Police and court systems must be reformed to reflect justice for all people with no exceptions.
While peaceful protests have brought much attention to the need for serious reform, the rioting, burning of businesses, and assaults on police have done more harm than good to the cause for change…The root of the problem of injustice, whatever form it takes, lies in the heart of humanity. So, it is there the change must be made, and only by a heart transplant from the Holy Spirit who will erase prejudice, replacing it with divine love.”

Friends, let’s heed the words of the brother of our Lord. Let’s be quick to listen, slow to speak and oh-so-slow to become angry.

Let's be the bridge.

Copyright 2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe


Maggie's first book, This Life We Share, has just released from NavPress.

© 2019-2020 Maggie Wallem Rowe

Website Design by Michelle Gill

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram