Newsletter Archives

DECEMBER 2004 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Welcome to the first edition of the Ruth Wood & Friends' newsletter!

NEWS CORNER
Our concert pictures are finally up on the webpage! Visit www.ruthwoodandfriends.com

Eyes on You is now available at Testimonies Bookstore (on Silver Lane off of River Road). If you've never been there, check it out. They have a great coffee bar too.

THANK YOU!
To the anonymous donors who generously supplied CDs as Christmas gifts for CAFA ladies dealing with abuse issues, and to the donors who made CDs availalbe to the U of O Campus Crusade Staff.

FEEDBACK -- WIN A FREE CD! TO ENTER DRAWING, RESPOND TO ONE OR BOTH OF THE FOLLOWING:
Question of the Month: For those who attended the concert, what did you enjoy most about the evening, and what do you suggest we do differently next time?

Testimonials: We need testimonials for our website reviews page. Share your comments in one to three sentences or so, and we'll post them.

To respond, simply reply to this email. Thanks so much--we value your input!

BEHIND THE MUSIC
I wrote Have Mercy during a time of grieving deeply over sin. Circumstances in my life had exposed my ugly self-righteousness, and Psalm 51 took on new meaning. I paraphrased the biblical text and gave it a melody:

Have mercy on me, O God
According to your unfailing love
According to your great compassion
Have mercy, O God

Cleanse me with hyssop, I’ll be clean
Wash me whiter than snow
Let me hear of your joy and your gladness
Have mercy, O God

We sang this simple chorus in church for many years, especially at communion. One Sunday Neil and Cathy Patton performed it instrumentally. I was mesmerized. Yes, this arrangement was going on the album!

REFLECTION
“Have mercy on me, O God…”

King David wrote Psalm 51 after his affair with Bathsheba. In a moment of clarity he cries out, “Have mercy on me, O God.” Will we also come to an acute awareness of our desperate state? We may not have committed “big sins” such as adultery or murder, but our passive rebellion is no less evil. Consider the consequences of a life swaddled in self-pity, or the prison of fear because of stubborn unbelief, or the alienating pride of self-righteousness. Sin is so subtle at times. Perhaps a vague sense that something is wrong nags at us. We can ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes. “Have mercy on me” is as appropriate for the religious Pharisee as it is for the breast-beating tax collector.

SEASON'S GREETINGS

He's our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Have a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate Him!

Blessings,


Ruth


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JANUARY 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

I hope you're all doing great with your New Year's resolutions!

NEWS CORNER
“Palm of His Hand” won PSA’s 2004 songwriting contest in the contemporary Christian category. The song’s recording artist, Liesel Alkire Kelly, is a rising star in Eugene. She will be performing Monday, Valentine’s Day, at LUNA. For ticket information, see:

http://www.lunajazz.com/bands/feature_lieselkelly.html

FEEDBACK
Congratulations to Kathy Ruckman for winning a free CD in the feedback drawing! Thanks to all who responded.

BEHIND THE MUSIC
A couple years ago, a local artist recorded a nice version of “Palm of His Hand.” However, being a perfectionist, for the new album I lengthened space between phrases, added a laid-back, folksy groove and a more reflective ending.

In the studio Liesel contributed stylistic elements I hadn’t envisioned, but loved. The saxophonist proceeded to follow her lead. Just goes to show that songs have a life of their own!

REFLECTIONS
…He’s the only One, there is no other God; He’s your Redeemer, He’s your rock…

The Tsunami Holocaust provokes a sobering question: “What if we, too, lost everything?”

We know that even if all were swept away, the Lord is an unshakable rock towering high above the tide, but losing family and friends--could God alone truly meet such a gaping hole in our lives?

Our need to love and be loved calls out. Who will answer? Pious platitudes do not stop a bleeding heart.

In Isaiah God says, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” This verse implies a permanent covenant, a royal seal, a holy vow. Using the nails of a cross, Jesus literally fulfilled His Father's words.

Held by such hands, can we not face our fears about the future with confidence?

Happy New Year to all of you,


Ruth


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FEBRUARY 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

NEWS CORNER
Eyes on You has been played on the internet radio station White Dove, and I’m listed as one of their artists. Check them out at www.whitedoveradio.com. Click on “listen now” to play their radio station. You may come across one of my songs!

CDs are now also available through Indie Heaven where I am a new member.

You can help—just click and comment:

(1) Click on the following link and request your favorite Eyes on You song. Tell them how thrilled you are to see me listed as one of their artists: http://www.whitedoveradio.com/email.html

(2) Click on my Indie Heaven artist page to give me a rating and leave a positive comment:. This helps boost my exposure on the web: http://www.indieheaven.com/view_artist.idh?artist_id=12896

Remember, we can't succeed without you.

BEHIND THE MUSIC
Early in preparing my album, I interviewed “Ralph” (not his real name) as a potential singer for some of my songs. He listened politely to the computer demo then asked, “This was a worship chorus in your church?”

I nodded.

“How did people respond?”

“Praise the Lord Let the Cymbals Ring was one of their favorites,” I assured him. (EBF old-timers will remember Jeff Brock leading worship with this song.)

“Oh?” Ralph looked incredulous. I kept smiling despite a faint hairball-in-my-stomach sensation and played him another tune. He didn’t like that one either. Bigger hairball.

After the third song he shook his head saying, “You performed that in church?” and launched into suggestions for a rewrite.

Suddenly I wasn’t hearing a word he said. My eyes stung at the effort of holding back tears. The hairball threatened to choke off all air supply. Had I fooled myself that badly about my work? And why was he so downright rude? There was no way I wanted him to see me cry. Instead, I decided he made me mad.

Determined to redeem myself as a songwriter, I took a deep breath, rearranged my face into an angelic smile and said, “Let me play you one more song.”

My new tune, Wounded Heart, showcased my best writing to date. As the song progressed, Ralph’s expression changed. When it was over, he leaned back in his chair and said, “Hmmm, I see you can write!”

Needless to say, Ralph and I did not work together. However, he forced me to face a hard truth—the music we wrote for our church a decade ago was too dated. As a result I scrapped five songs from the project and eventually wrote new ones—Broken, Go for the Prize, Keeper of Souls, This Blood, and Stars in the Night—two of which won awards.

This experience taught me an important lesson—God can use our most discouraging moments to steer us to better things!

REFLECTIONS
“…Standing in a crowd and yet alone…”

Have you ever been in emotional turmoil and dragged yourself to church hoping to find some comfort, only to feel alone? As if God himself abandoned you?

Preoccupied with our pain, a crowded room quickly recedes into a distant cacophony of sound, and the energy it costs to reach out to others may prove too overwhelming. In addition, the contrast between our inner state and happy activity may also contribute to the sense of isolation.

Such an experience changes us forever. We gain a heightened awareness of the deep soul-needs borne silently by those who share our pew Sunday mornings.

Courageously initiate fellowship with hurting brothers and sisters. They will bless you for it.


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MARCH 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Check out this spiffy newsletter format through Indie Heaven. Hopefully our new host will eliminate unpleasant sender glitches.

NEWS CORNER
Eyes on You is now available through Amazon.com. Also, the album is receiving airplay on four more internet radio stations: Bigloo Radio, HealingMusic365.com, Discover Radio, and Passion FM UK out of England!

Please help—very easy—just click and comment

Would you QUICKLY comment on my Indie Heaven artist page? This all helps boost my exposure on the web:

http://www.indieheaven.com/view_artist.idh?artist_id=12896

BEHIND THE MUSIC
Originally titled “The Window,” which sounded too avant garde, “Stars in the Night” required so many re-writes it exhausted all my creative forces and demanded skills far beyond me. I even re-wrote it again after the singer learned the tune for recording. Sometimes it’s a titanic struggle to express what’s inside you.

One of the challenges of crafting this kind of lyric is to avoid sounding preachy, so I finally hid the main message. Hint: listen to the verse background vocals.

REFLECTIONS
“…like stars in the night, carry the hope to a dying world…”

In The Dream Giver, Bruce Wilkinson shares a parable: A Nobody named Ordinary lived in the Land of Familiar. He sat in his recliner and watched the box that mesmerized most Nobodies on most nights. But one day, Ordinary leaves Familiar to follow his dream. He breaks through the barrier of his Comfort Zone, and thus begins his journey.

Can you relate? We so easily get distracted from our true purpose in life, preferring comfort to action. But think about this: We possess the medicine the world needs—the Good News! By God’s grace, we must rise from our recliners and share this hope. Eternal destinies are at stake.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Phil. 2:14-16

Blessings to you all,


Ruth


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APRIL 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Happy Spring!

NEWS CORNER
Two more internet radio stations have added Eyes on You to their play list: Word of Truth Radio, and Praise God Radio.

THANK YOU—Mickey Lichtman for buying and donating 100 CDs to your favorite charity. Also, many thanks to everyone who left comments at my IndieHeaven website and made me sound amazing!

BEHIND THE MUSIC
In Keeper of Souls I wanted to explore the relationship of deep hurt to temptation. I’ve noticed that a bleeding heart excites the appetite of the roaring lion—that predator of souls who pounces on our vulnerability and attempts to drag us down to the abyss. However, in our weakness, our Shepherd comes to the rescue. In another layer of the song I explored the distance we may experience with others during times of personal struggle.

We often know instinctively that certain people should not be involved in our pain, no matter how close we are to them. Yet we desire intimacy with our loved ones, even when we feel it’s best to remain silent about our inner turmoil. Have you observed how you can be in the same room with someone but your heart is carrying on a completely different conversation than the one actually taking place? Our inner and outer worlds sometimes never meet. Fortunately, it’s acceptable for artists to express their subliminal thoughts by writing songs! In these lyrics I finally expressed some things I couldn’t say before: “Do my eyes betray the struggle? I don’t want you to worry…I know you’d do anything to help me, but you’re only flesh and blood…Some things are best kept as secrets of the heart, I’ll be fine…”

After I finished the words, I wrote the music using “Cruel Summer” by Ace of Base as a model for tone and mood. I liked how this band communicated vulnerability, a necessary component in Keeper of Souls. Writing this song was definitely great therapy.

REFLECTIONS
“Weak as I am, wandering little lamb, I’m staying close to the Keeper of Souls...”

What image comes to mind at the words, “Keeper of Souls”? As a girl, I was fascinated by a picture on my bedroom wall where the Good Shepherd leaned over a cliff to rescue a stray lamb caught in bramble bushes. I was always getting into trouble and identified with that poor animal. I still get tangled up in life sometimes and need the Shepherd’s help. But more and more, I’m learning simply to stay close to Him. His presence prevents much foolishness. When facing temptations to stray, I find comfort in Paul’s words, “I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I’ve entrusted to Him for that day.” (II Timothy 1:12) Outside forces over which we have no control may rage against us, but “he will keep you strong to the end.” (I Corinthians 1:8)


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MAY 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Short and sweet is good, right? A couple thoughts...

BACKGROUND
Several years ago my church asked me to perform a special number for the Mother’s Tea. I wracked my brain for the right music and came up with nothing. So I decided it might be fun to write a new song!

I asked myself what kinds of themes most women would relate to. Of course, love and mothering came to mind. But body image! Now that intrigued me. I knew this subject well, because it took years to learn to see myself through the Lord’s eyes. And I’m still working on it.

At any rate, I decided a picture would best communicate the message. When the title "Heavenly Mirror" occurred to me, the song fairly wrote itself. Later, at my recording artist’s suggestion, I re-titled it "Heaven’s Mirror."

REFLECTIONS
"Lord, give us a look in heaven’s mirror...help us to see what you see..."

If only we could view ourselves ourselves through the Lord’s eyes. Our earth-bound perceptions blur the image. But catch a glimpse of His heart as you read these words from Song of Songs:

"How beautiful you are, my darling, oh, how beautiful...All beautiful you are...there’s no flaw in you."

According to Bible scholars, Song of Songs is a figurative poem of Christ and His bride. When I read it this way, these words amaze me. No matter what physical imperfections I fret over, He pronounces me beautiful. And no flaws? Right. He can’t be that naive, knowing all my thoughts and behavior since birth.

But consider this: Love is blind. In one sense, love even blinds God! Because of His feelings for us, He chose to look beyond our unloveliness, imperfections and sin. Beth Moore says, "Christ sees you as beautiful and desirable in a pure and holy way we cannot comprehend."

How is He able to look at us this way? He tenderly covers us with His own snow white purity. Ironically, Jesus wove our robes of righteousness while hanging naked on a cross.

"The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." Ps. 45:11

Next time you look in the mirror, be amazed!


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JUNE 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

June is the month of strawberries and roses--time to slow down, delight in God’s artistic genius splashed all over our world, and spend leisurely moments with friends!

NEWS
Versions of this newsletter will be reprinted in a Christian online magazine called crosshome. They publish some great articles. See www.crosshome.com.

PRAYER REQUEST
Please pray I’d have more clarity regarding how the Lord wants to use my music. I’m unsure where to direct my energy. Thanks so much. You are wonderful partners in ministry.

BEHIND THE MUSIC
I needed more music for my album, so I tried updating an old song, "Close to a Broken Heart," which some of you will remember from Jeff Brock’s band days. However, none of my ideas felt right. When a new title, "Broken," occurred to me, I decided to start from scratch. My goal was for the listener to first identify with my emotions before "seeing" an answer, so I wrote about my experience--feeling shattered, aimless, numb.

In the chorus I switched the focus to Jesus’ brokennes, because in gazing at Him, we gain perspective on our troubles. Sometimes we must force our hearts away from preoccupation with circumstances to have eyes for Jesus only, our place of peace and hope.

Now the lyrics were almost completed, but I wasn’t happy with the melody. The thought of not finishing the song distressed me. More than anything, I wanted to touch people who, like me, know the staggering weight of utter brokenness. I longed to offer perspective, encouragement, and a measure of comfort.

Before the next writing session, I prayed in earnest that the Lord would grant me success. I asked Him to use my painful experiences for good in the lives of others, and reminded Him that so many people were hurting--I wanted to write this song for them.

Then I set to work. I listened to music, testing ideas for the mood. Mark Schultz’s "Remember Me" featured a nice cello and the tempo was right. As I sang, experimenting with different concepts, I suddenly found myself teary. In an instant I knew the melody was right.

When the song was finally finished, I realized the Lord had answered my prayer! Over and over I began to praise and thank Him. Co-writing with Jesus can turn into a truly ecstatic experience!

REFLECTIONS
"Why do you feel pain when your heart has turned to stone...how do you survive?"

It’s a strange thing how the worst heartache can leave you numb. In our despair, perhaps what we need more than anything is hope.

My words of comfort are so inadequate for they are only human. Instead, let me offer you God’s words of encouragement, as spoken through prophecy (from Isaiah 61):

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me (Jesus), because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners...to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion--to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

May the Healer of Broken Hearts surround you with peace today,


Ruth


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JULY 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

I love the blueberries this time of year! Unfortunately, birds and squirrels also prize these blue pearls and constantly raid my bushes!

BEHIND THE MUSIC
"Mighty God" was written by Jeff Brock, a co-writer who passed away several years ago. I wanted to honor his memory but also chose the song for its simplicity--a prayer expressing our weakness, need and hope in the King of Glory. Simplicity has a beauty all its own. Sometimes we get so involved in the production of a song, we lose sight of the most important thing--a heart of utter devotion and adoration, seeing only Jesus.

Jeff wrote only one verse and chorus, but I felt the song would be enhanced with more content. I wrote the second verse specifically for this album.

REFLECTIONS
"Oh Mighty God, I call upon Your strength...I need You, Mighty God."

King David was not ashamed to appear helpless and cry out for mercy. Simple prayers like his, coming straight from the heart, are refreshingly honest. I’m glad God doesn’t require eloquent phrases before He hears us.

David focused on the object of his hope--God his Rock, his Tower of Strength, and his Refuge. These images evoke power and security. They comfort me when I feel weak.

Are you feeling tired lately, burned out? Check your ultimate source of strength. Are you counting on counselors, doctors, money, friends? Isaiah 40:31 (NIV) says:

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint."

May He who never grows tired or worn out lift you up today.


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AUGUST 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Swimming pools and strawberry cheesecake ice cream are my favorite remedies for hot summer afternoons. How are you staying cool these days?

BEHIND THE MUSIC
I’ve always loved the hymn, “O Worship the King,” but Jeff Brock’s chorus graces the song like a crowning jewel. In arranging the music, Neil Patton set up a simple rhythm pattern, and I lengthened the first verse phrases to create interest. I especially like the special effects at the end of the song—thunder and rain, to underscore the majesty and power of God.

This hymn is a great “call to worship” song.

REFLECTIONS
"O worship the King, all glorious above...come worship the Lord on his throne..."

When was the last time you were overwhelmed by the enormity of God? Reading Job 38-40, I find myself awestruck every time. Catch a few glimpses of our amazing God with me as He questions Job (quotes from NIV):

“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Job 38:34 (Wow! Think of the sheer volume of God’s audible voice! How many decibels would it register?)

“Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?” Job 38:18-19, 37a (Imagine God’s IQ!!! How does He store ALL knowledge in His mind, with instant access anytime? Quite a contrast to me, limited by a peanut-sized memory bank and increasing forgetfulness.)

“Can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.” Job 40:9b-10 (Picture God’s dressing room here—it’s not a 3’ X 5’ walk-in closet, that’s for sure. And what might garments of splendor and majesty look like? Does He wrap Himself in golden sunsets?)

“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know...” Job 42:3b

Worshipping Him with you,


Ruth


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SEPTEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love how the sun shimmers in golden hues and the contrast of dry blond fields against baby blue skies. School starts again and we launch into fresh routines--a good time to evaluate priorities.

NEWS
Leisel Kelly and her band is playing at the Eugene Celebration Friday, September 30th from 5pm to 6:15pm at the City Hall Stage, 8th and High. Since it’s the first act and early, they are hoping to get as many people as possible to attend. If you haven’t heard her sing with this amazing band you are in for a treat. She’ll have a full band, bass, drums, piano, horns, two guitars and some great new material. She also has a fabulous Live CD out that was recorded at Luna recently. For more info see: www.lieselkelly.com

BEHIND THE MUSIC
My friend, Cindy Favreau, asked me if I wanted to work on a song she had written. I especially liked her chorus line, "You pick me up when I fall down." Since I wanted to try writing something up-tempo, I welcomed the opportunity to write with her.

By merging our ideas, we created a new song, "Eyes on You." I soon realized that all the tunes on the CD related to the theme of keeping our gaze on the Loard and that "Eyes on You" should also be the album title!

REFLECTIONS
"Help me keep my eyes on you..."

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I get distracted by lots of things. I’ve discovered that blessings as well as troubles draw me away from Jesus. I think I suffer from spiritual ADHD!

In "My Utmost for His Highest" Oswald Chambers often repeats a favorite mantra: "keep the main thing the main thing." Meaning Jesus, of course. If only a single-minded focus were an easy task.

Ordering priorities takes work and discipline. Various activities such as scripture meditation, moment-by-moment prayer, and Christian fellowship build structured reminders into our lives. The goal is not perfection but growth--an increased ability to keep Christ first in all things.

When we take time in the midst of our busy schdules to focus on Jesus, we experience renewal. An old worship chorus says:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

Peace,


Ruth


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OCTOBER 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

My kids’ favorite holiday used to be Halloween. They loved carving pumpkins and going trick or treating. Sometimes I am downright astonished those years are over and gone now.

BEHIND THE MUSIC
As a mature believer, repeated failures in my life continued to disturb me. Shouldn’t I know better by now? Was God’s patience really endless? Accepting forgiveness on an emotional level grew harder each year.

The best thing to do with songwriter’s angst, of course, is to write. Perhaps because the subject was such a huge issue for me, “This Blood” did not take long to craft.

To my surprise, seeing the movie The Passion of the Christ, produced a breakthrough. I emerged from the theater feeling as if I’d personally witnessed the crucifixion. New appreciation of the magnitude of His sacrifice on my behalf increased my faith.

Now when I’m tempted to wallow in my defeats, I have this talk with myself, "You witnessed His suffering—wasn’t it enough?" Every time I’m humbled, and I get up and move on.

REFLECTIONS
"This blood is a river deep and wide..."

A music industry professional advised that I re-write “This Blood” to make it less offensive, more palatable to worshippers. Essentially his message was, "People don’t want to sing about blood." Though I understand this may be today’s culture, I have questions.

Our salvation was bought by blood, but when was the last time you heard a sermon on its cleansing power? Have we diluted the doctrine of atonement?

Many of you remember the rousing hymn, "There is Power in the Blood." In fact, I looked in my hymnal and found 12 songs listed under the topic of blood such as:

Are you washed in the Blood
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

Listen to these lyrics full of unpalatable references:

"There is a fountain drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains"

"What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus...Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the `blood of Jesus."

"Are you washed in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?"

It makes me wonder, should the "old-time religion” really be out of fashion?

Still thinking on this one,


Ruth


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NOVEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

This month is an anniversary of sorts for Ruth Wood & Friends. It’s hard to believe that a year ago last November we released Eyes on You and celebrated with a concert. (What fun that was!)

Our newsletter has come full circle too. Each month I discussed a featured song from the album and shared my thoughts. Thank you for listening and for your support. I’ve loved your feedback and interactions with you.

This issue covers the last song from the CD. I’ve had so much fun (despite email aggravations) that I plan to continue the newsletter in a little different format. Beginning in December, rather than write about songs from the album, I will share tidbits from new material I’m working on.

Speaking of new material, my goal for the New Year is to co-write songs with various artists in town. Maybe we’ll do another concert in 2006!

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SALE
Two for one deal! For the month of December you can buy two CDs for $15. Available at Emerald Bible Fellowship office and from me directly. Reply to email or call Ruth, 485-4440. (This special is NOT available via my website. If you wish to support Testimonies Bookstore, you may purchase CDs there, however at retail price.)

BEHIND THE MUSIC
I had reserved time for an intense writing retreat--several days alone at our Black Butte vacation home. Now the silence mocked me, "Who do you think you are? You want to finish three songs in three days? Ha!"

The empty space around me seemed to permeate my mind as well. I needed to write words, craft melodies, but I felt paralyzed, unable to tackle the work I’d brought with me. Overwhelmed, I responded as any logical person would--I took a nap.

When I awoke, an idea for a new tune came to me--"Go For It!" My muse smiled. This pep-talk song showed real potential.

Dropping my other plans, I went with the creative flow. Wise decision, because as I sang, my writer’s block melted away: "I’m going to go for it, believe in the dream. I won’t hold back anymore, what have I got to lose? Gonna trust my Lord!"

These words reminded me of Paul’s metaphor in scripture, "Run in such a way as to win the prize." Weeks later, I changed the title to "Go for the Prize"--the original one proved impossible to sing.

Writing "Go for the Prize" pushed me past my fears. I felt energized. And I finished three other songs that weekend!

REFLECTIONS
"I’m gonna go for the prize, believe in the dream..."

What things hold you back from living completely abandoned to the Lord?

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) says we are in a race:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles..."

As you consider life, what kinds of things slow you down? I want to run free, without a cloak of fear or heavy boots of discouragement.

How about sin that entangles? Certain bad habits sometimes hamper my effectiveness in service. What about you? What kinds of obstacles clutter your path?

To win the race of life, we need a forward-looking attitude. Like Paul, let’s forget the past and press on, keeping our eyes on Jesus.

Run because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


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DECEMBER 2005 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

I hope you all had a great Christmas--that you got your holiday shopping done without going broke; that you partied with truffles and eggnog without gaining a pound; and that you survived family get-togethers, including the Bah-Hum-Bug Uncle, without stressing!

NEWS
None; simply treasuring in my heart the "good NEWS of great joy for all the people...a Savior has been born to you, Christ the Lord!"

MUSES CORNER
This is my first newsletter in a new format. Though I’m still foggy about how it’s going to evolve, I do know that I like staying in touch with all of you.

My goal this year is to write new material. Speaking of which...

I’ve been inspired to work on a Christmas song. Too much "Jingle Bells" and "Ho, Ho, Ho" has driven me to it. And why not? Who cares if statistics show that most Christmas songs flop.

Anyway, the music is pretty much together, and I know what the song will be about. There are going to be shepherds, angels, and Mary and Baby Jesus. Insightful, huh? But did you ever wonder if Mary let those shepherds hold her baby and maybe kiss his cheek? For sure they were none too clean. And imagine the significance--that this baby they held would someday grow up and call himself the Good Shepherd. And these men, who raised sacrificial lambs for the temple in nearby Jerusalem, had no idea they were looking at the Lamb of God!

The chorus erupts with, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men."

WORSHIP JOURNAL
Electric candles grace my front windows every Christmas. This year in particular I was strangely drawn to them, gazing often at their brilliant white light, mesmerized by the radiance. Candlelight has always fascinated me ever since I was a child when my mother would create magic with an advent wreath.

A candle’s flame makes me think of...

Jesus--Light of the World, radiant in purity and truth, shining in the darkness.

My need for His guidance--a lamp for my feet.

Home--a brightly lit house exudes welcome; it makes you think of warmth, laugher, and loved ones.

Lord, keep a candle in the window for me.

Happy New Year with love,


Ruth


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JANUARY 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

MUSES CORNER
"Press On." Great inspirational hook, isn’t it? I like it. It expresses how I feel about this season in my life. One downside though, Selah already recorded a song with this title back in the 1980s. Luckily, song titles are not copyrighted. I’m glad because there’s so much left to say on this subject.

My usual method of writing requires that I start with the hook. But two little words on a blank sheet of paper sometimes feel overwhelming. I don’t yet hear a tune for "Press On," but I imagine the music with a plodding feel and a touch of subtle urgency. Or maybe the words could work to a hard-driving beat.

As far as lyrics, I’m in the "hunt and gather" phase, exploring all the ideas triggered by the title. No phrases of rhyming at this stage, just prose.

Here’s your chance to help write a song! What do the words "press on" mean to you? In what areas of your life do you feel challenged to move ahead? What imagery comes to mind? A steep mountain climb? A battle scene? Engage in some right-brain, free wheeling creativity and fire me an email. You never know. Some little nugget from your muse may slip through to the finished product! Which will be recorded by Jaci Velasquez, of course. And be a number one hit on K-Love. And...

WORSHIP JOURNAL
I’m an analytical person and sometimes think things to death. It’s easy to get stuck in the past. How much better to look forward. A couple scriptures exhort us along these lines:

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (Is. 43:18)

"Not that I have already obtained all this...but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:12-14)

What keeps you from pressing on? Disappointments, discouragement and weariness are major obstacles for me.

To me, pressing on means placing one foot in front of the other even though you’re bone-tired, clinging to hope in the face of disappointment and refusing to give up despite discouragement.

Let’s turn our backs to the past, focus our hearts and minds on the goal and keep plodding!


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FEBRUARY 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

THANK YOU
To all those who sent in their muse last month, many thanks! I loved your insights. You’ve given me good material to work with, and I’m excited about the potential for "Press On."

MUSES CORNER
Valentines Day reminded me of a song I once wrote about God’s love. I scrapped "Nothing" from the "Eyes on You" album early in the project because my attempt to put Romans 8:35-39 to music--nothing can separate us from God’s love--failed miserably.

But now after more songwriting experience, I’d like to try again. My earlier version didn’t work, I think, because the lyrics require a fresh approach to the Biblical text instead of simply quoting it. I need to use contemporary words that convey meaning relevant to the audience.

Several challenges come to mind. What point of view will best communicate the song--first person (I) or third person (we)? How do you bring insight to the text without compromising what it’s saying? How do you relate scripture phrases like "danger or sword" to today’s listeners? Words such as "terrorists and war" are not particularly poetic.

Despite the challenges, I’m convinced an awesome song is buried somewhere deep inside these Bible verses.

WORSHIP JOURNAL
"Nothing can tear us away from Your faithful love...

Here’s my paraphrase of Romans 8:35-39:

In all creation, nothing exists that can come between me and Jesus.

No troubled relationships, no financial hardships, no health crises...

No suffering on Christ’s behalf...

No threat from hurricanes, terrorists or war, even war fought on American soil...

No kind of hunger, whether for food, love or recognition...

No physical or emotional exposure; no shame or guilt...

No beings from the realm of darkness...

No government authorities...

No place, whether in outer space or the bottom of the sea...

No event, today or tomorrow...

Not life; not even death...

Nothing.

Rejoice in His unfathomably secure love.


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MARCH 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

NEWS
See our new website pages at www.ruthwoodandfriends.com:
(1) Newsletter Archives
(2) Recommended Sites (affiliations)

MUSES CORNER
My usual method of songwriting is to work with words and melody in my head before adding chords at the keyboard. Recently, I agreed to write with a collaborator and discovered a whole new approach. Via email, he sent me an audio file with a rhythmic groove to inspire me. It provided no clear melody, just a chord progression to a strong dance beat. At first I suffered a serious case of brain paralysis—what kind of Christian message works to a dance tune without sounding trite or downright sacrilegious? I remained perplexed for a couple of days. Finally, I gave in to my instinct and decided to use dance imagery describing our relationship to the Lord. A bit unconventional maybe, but I saw possibilities…

Now, to uncover the most meaningful expressions this imagery could offer and craft the song…

A new songwriting formula I’d read about looked promising, and I decided to try it:

1. Write stream of consciousness prose to the music.

“The purple baboon from Big Rock, Arkansas, ate a shoe of gum drops.
(Seemed easy enough and my imagination fired right up as promised.)

2. Write ridiculous non-rhyming lyric to the groove.

“Jake, this bear in Timbuktu
Pizza baked with plankton plums
Lazy sheep in bathrobes”
(Yep, I was feeling freer.)

3. Write 20-30 visual titles.

Face to Face
It’s Your Dance
In Step with You
(Okay, no genius here.)

4. Write story of the song in prose with no rhyme or meter.

(Wow, it’s amazing the amount of content you can dig up with this method. Ensures you won’t run out of ideas when it comes time to write verse two. See the Worship Journal below for where this exercise took me.)

5. Write non-rhyming lyric to groove.

Lord, I’m spinning round and round
Do we know what’s going on
Life is full of questions
(Definitely still ugly duckling stage here.)

6. Write final lyric, with story and rhymes.

Lord, this dance is spinning round
Hold me or I’m going down
Help me find my balance…

Hey, this method works!

WORSHIP JOURNAL
I loved watching the ice skating during the Olympics. In fact, I suffered from such a severe overdose of camel spins, triple toes and aerials, I began gliding and twirling in my dreams at night. Ice dancing particularly fascinated me. The announcer kept talking about the relationship between partners—the importance of exuding warmth, intimacy and passion. In essence, pure technical ability without the heart is not enough for a gold medal performance. I couldn’t help thinking how these heart qualities also prove vital in my relationship with the Lord. I don’t want to simply go through the motions with Him.

Upon deeper reflection, I discovered wonderful parallels between the Christian life and dance:

*Consider the confidence and trust dance partners place in one another, especially the women who soar like birds in aerials through the arena, held aloft by their strong partners. We, too, are called to such an out-on-a-limb trust in the Lord.

*The man leads the dance and provides tremendous strength in the partnership. Similarly, the Lord guides and directs us as we rely on His power.

*To dance well, partners must synchronize their steps and be acutely sensitive to one another. So too, by our obedience we strive to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

*I learned recently that an expert leading man can make even a novice dancer fly around the room as if she knew the steps already. Doesn’t this have wonderful implications for us as believers? We can be bumbling beginners on the dance floor of life, yet our Lord will not only carry us through, but make us soar.

As I watched those ice dancers, eyes shining, completely caught up in an intimacy only they shared, I thought what an exhilarating experience it must be to soar, glide and twirl like that. The pure joy of the dance. Living in the moment. Feeling truly alive.

Soaring in the strength of Your embrace
Taken by the love in Your face
You are all that matters…


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APRIL 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

NEWS
If you haven’t yet explored www.comfortcafe.net, let me recommend it once again. This website is such a great resource for women. Here is what they’re all about:

Through personal stories, practical resources, and inspirational articles, Comfort Cafe offers encouragement, support, and comfort to hurting women. The site’s bookshelf offers material that facilitates the healing process covering topics such as: abortion, abuse, adultery, chronic illness, emotional healing and general comfort.

MUSE’S CORNER
An old idea for a song resurfaced recently as I was thinking about Easter--retelling the Passion story through Mary Magdalene’s eyes.

The songwriting formula I described last month doesn’t seem a good fit here. At least not in the initial stages of creating. Since this story is driven by raw emotions, my instinct is to immerse myself in Mary Magdalene’s feelings while experimenting with ways to musically express her state of mind. Ideally, the melody and harmonies will take the listener to a level beyond the words. I’m reaching for something I can’t even articulate yet. Will I ever get there? I hope so.

I know this song could be very powerful if crafed well. Would you pray that the Lord would give me the ability to communicate His message through the music?

WORSHIP JOURNAL
Mary Magdalene is a fascinating Biblical character--her love for Jesus is so beautiful.

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to her first. Why? She was certainly one of his most devoted followers, perhaps the female counterpart to Peter and John. Did her deep love for the Master produce a suffering so acute that Jesus in his compassion did not want her to grieve a minute longer than necessary? Jesus said once, "He who has been forgiven much, loves much." He had delivered Mary from seven demons. Considering her background and spiritual sensitivity, it’s not hard to imagine how uniquely traumatized she was by her Rescuer’s violent death. She had been saved from a hellish existence; now all hell unleashed its fury on her beloved Deliverer.

Mary Magdalene strikes me as fiercely loyal, passionate, and not afraid to take action. She belonged to the group of women who regularly attended to Jesus’ needs, so she was an eager servant. When Jesus was crucified, she courageously chose to be there, though it meant witnessing an unimaginable horror and possibly risking her life to identify with him. But nothing would stop her from giving the gift of her presence to love and comfort Jesus in his last hours.

Determined to fulfill the final loving rituals, she couldn’t stay away from the tomb. After all the events of the past few days, she was understandably a complete emotional wreck, too distraught in her grief to recognize the Gardener.

Jesus simply says, "Mary." How many times had He said her name before, and hadn’t she always loved to hear him say it? She jolts to her senses.

"Rabboni," she shouts, ecstatic with joy.

He’s alive!

At this point in the story I’m always so unspeakably happy for her--and so happy for me.

Because vicariously I’ve agonized with her for a little while. I’ve felt her utter despair, hopelessness, and sorrow.

And in Mary’s climactic moment, I rejoice once again that Jesus is alive for me too.

Celebrate Easter every day.


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MAY 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

NEWS
The editor of www.ComfortCafe.net was looking for a replacement--so I volunteered. Yikes, what have I gotten myself into? I’m so...not technically gifted.

I’m now solely responsible for the material that appears on this website. My goal is to continue the online ministry and expand its services. Comfort Cafe complements my music ministry too. By the way, I’d love your input on how to improve the site.

MUSE’S CORNER
I recently traveled to London! The trip was one of the highlights of my life. What a wonderful city. Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to gaze dreamily out my window while floating new rhymes and melodies in my head. However, I do think my trip provided material for a song. Here’s one experience:

When we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral (where Princess Diana was married), the first thing I noticed upon entering the church were signs urging guests to donate money or buy a candle to light for a loved one.

The Sunday evening service was just beginning, so the main part of the church was roped off. Guests were not allowed to walk around the cathedral; however, if they wanted to join the service, they’d certainly see more of the building. Something about the place touched me, and I felt drawn to attend. I thought that perhaps in such an atmosphere of reverence, God would meet me in a special way.

Ushers led us to our seats. The beautiful architecture, ornate artwork, and acoustical brillance truly were awe-inspiring. St. Paul’s is an Anglican church (Protestant). When the service began, the reverend welcomed us and encouraged us to donate money for the maintenance of the building. As the liturgy progressed, the choir sang beautifully in the echoing sanctuary, the organ played majestically, but something about this "worship" service felt very artificial to me.

I learned later that we were a congregation of tourists. St. Paul’s does not have a regularly attending fellowship. The choir, reverend, and ushers all serve a building, not a church body. It was almost as if we were there to worship an astounding work of architecture, but not God. No wonder I left feeling empty and disappointed.

But I gained an important spiritual lesson from this experience...

WORSHIP JOURNAL
St. Paul’s got me thinking about how easy it is to create idols with religion. We are drawn to beauty and rituals but in the end, may hold only an empty shell symbolizing what should have been.

The image of a spiritually hollow church ought to sober us. In Revelation 3:17-18, Jesus reprimands the Laodicean church, "You say, ’I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich, and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and slave to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent."

I wonder what things in my religious culture distract me from the Lord and could potentially lead me into spiritual poverty? Might beautiful music, eloquent and captivating speakers, or lively Christian fellowship become idols?

Let’s never mistake the trappings of churchianity for the real thing.


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JUNE 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

This will not be my usual letter to you. As you know, last month I took over Comfort Cafe, an online women’s ministry. It is now apparent that God is doing something new in my life and redirecting my focus.

What does this mean for Ruth Wood & Friends? It simply means that my music will be absorbed into my new ministry. For now, I need to put all my energies into Comfort Cafe because this is where God wants me.

Let me tell you why I’m excited about Comfort Cafe:

--Over the last few months, visits to the site have steadily increased. In the last seven days, Comfort Cafe received over 1,500 hits. That averages out to about 215 daily. These astounding numbers for a new ministry indicate we serve a deeply-felt need. I feel so blessed to be part of such an amazing outreach.

--God is providing quality people who want to work with me. For example, I’m talking with a therapist who wants to provide online care; I found a new, well-published columnist who will write under the title, "Humor, Hugs, and Hope." Another writer will provide a devotional series with a coffee theme.

--I see all kinds of possibilities for creating more exposure. Recently, I was asked to schedule an interview with an internet radio station to talk about my music, and I’ll be able to share how it’s connected to my ministry at Comfort Cafe. I also look forward to learning all I can from the station manager. He’s agreed to answer questions after the interview. My dream? That Comfort Cafe would have its very own internet radio station or some kind of "music room." Wouldn’t that be cool? And they would HAVE to play my music! Ha!

I won’t have any fresh song material to write about for a while, but I will continue to keep you posted with news. More than anything, I covet your prayers for this new and wonderful ministry opportunity.

SIGN UP
Click on www.comfortcafe.net. Find the FEEDBLITZ box in the left sidebar. Enter your email. One, two, three--you’re done! You’ll receive our publication in your email around the first of each month.

Blessings,


Ruth


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JULY 2006 NEWSLETTER


Dear Friends,

NEWS
Last month I was interviewed by Praise Power Radio, an internet radio station. Afterwards, I had a wonderful conversation with Frank, the station owner, and gained some valuable tips on running podcasts, my dream for Comfort Cafe (and prayer request).

If you haven't already, please do visit us and subscribe--the mail server is private and will not share your email, plus you'll only receive one monthly letter from us.

www.comfortcafe.net

This month I'd like to share a short story with you (see below) that will be released in Comfort Cafe's August publication. It's written by Vickie Richey, recently widowed. I think you will be touched and encouraged. What I appreciate so much about her writing is her transparency and willingness to be vulnerable.

Blessings,

Ruth


THE JOURNEY
by Vickie Richey


On November 18, 2004, my darling Gary died, and that began my long, painful journey through grief and mourning.

It’s hard to explain what his loss has meant. Perhaps if I share my journal entries from that time…

“I can’t be strong or perky or cheerful or brave. I don’t care if I’m a good example or if I’m a disappointment. I’m screaming with pain and loss.

Heaven is foreign to me. It does not bring the comfort I need. I only know it’s far, far away and Gary is there—away from me. I can’t see his face or hear his voice or touch his hand. He’s gone. He’s dead.

It’s slowly sinking in—past the layers of shock. My darling Gary is never, never coming back. Ever.

These are words I despise — single, widow, change of status, alone, cemetery, a new start, moving, “how are you doing?”

People are sick of me. I’m sick of me. I can’t talk to anyone, not really talk. They’d be afraid of me.

I’m exhausted from trying—just trying to live, to work, to keep going.

I’m surprised people can’t see the huge, bleeding hole in the middle of my chest—the gaping place where Gary used to be. But he’s gone, and I can’t get better. I can’t recover. I’ve lost too much blood.

My body continues to live, but I’m lost somewhere. So alone. I wish there was an escape hatch, but it’s not there.

These are the emotions of grief. I’m glad they’re not the truth.

In September 2005, I was invited to GriefShare. I decided to go, and it was the very best decision I could have made. It was the right time for me.

At GriefShare, you are safe; no advice, no questions, and no judgment. Instead, there is loving support, contact numbers for crisis times, a place to express, to cry, to laugh, to share and to reach out to other precious ones walking this long highway. You are also free to be silent.

Going to GriefShare feels like having warm arms wrapped around you when you’re shivering, like soothing ointment gently smoothed over raw wounds, or like a steady hand holding your shaky one.

GriefShare is the shimmering, yet resilient thread of hope that is generously offered every week. It is a haven of comfort, healing, and safety. I love the wonderful people I have met there.

The God of GriefShare has ministered to me directly. He has never left me for a day; these most sorrowful and pain-filled of all my days.

Do I feel His presence? Not as much as I experience it. His presence and strength steady me and lift me so that I am able to live each day—to sleep and wake again, to work, to eat.

I have learned simple things firsthand:

· Praise with a shattered heart and tears streaming down your face still belong to God, and it’s still praise.

· God is patient. He has never hurried or pushed me.

· God is acquainted with grief. I don’t have to explain it to Him (Is. 53).

· The Lord is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).

· God is gentle. His voice is soft and whispery.

· God is comfort and shows compassion (Ps. 119:76).

· God has faithfully loved me (1 John 3:1).

God has cradled me in His arms. They’re warm and strong and secure. He has assured me through His Word that I will get better. “Joy comes in the morning,” He whispers.

He has read my heart, not my lips. He has joined in my tears. He has never taken His eyes off me.

He is my anchor and my rock of refuge, even when emotions erupt and shake my world.

I am grateful to this wonderful Father, the God of all peace.

My journey continues….

©2006 Vickie Richey. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bio:
Vickie Richey is an anointed speaker, teacher and writer. She recently lost her husband of 39 years and is now on a mission to share God’s great love and liberating power–even in the center of brokenness. Vickie sang with the Maranatha Singers of Virginia for 10 years, recording three albums; served as President of Aglow Ministries; authored a tract on intercession which was translated into Chinese; wrote and directed the annually-performed musical for “The Glory of Easter”; and recently launched Ice Pond Publishing. She has two grown children, six grandchildren, and resides in Bealeton, VA. She may be reached at garysgirl11@netzero.net.


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FINAL NEWSLETTER, OCTOBER 2006


Dear Friends,

Due to time constraints, this will be the last newsletter I’ll send out via Indie Heaven. My writings (and potentially new music) will continue at www.ComfortCafe.net, so I am transferring your emails to that subscription. You will only receive one publication per month. Do feel free to unsubscribe if this new ministry does not meet your needs.

I’ve appreciated your support for Ruth Wood & Friends so much this past year and a half. Let’s stay in touch!

With love,


Ruth

P.S. As a final goodbye, here is my Comfort Cafe October devotional:


"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land." Isaiah 58:11a

Recent transitions in my life—the empty nest, a potential move (in town), hormonal health challenges—have placed me in a “sun-scorched land.” As I cross this desert, I fear losing my way spiritually.

It comforts me to know that the Lord has promised to guide me. More than that, He promises to meet my needs in this unfamiliar place.

But do you, like me, sometimes struggle to reach the provisions the Lord offers? For example, intellectually I know that He is the Spring of Living Water. Experientially, I have so much to learn about drinking deeply. But here are a couple of thoughts:

Imagine a spring gushing from the ground. To drink from it, you need to stoop down, perhaps even get on your hands and knees. So, too, in the spiritual realm we cannot drink from the Spring of Living Water standing up. We need to come with an attitude of humility before our thirst can be quenched in the Lord.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, a land flowing with beautiful rivers like the McKenzie and the Willamette. On a hot day, the pristine waters beckon you to swim. Similarly, the Lord invites us to plunge into the River of Life—communion with Him—with uninhibited, completely abandoned joy. Here we can drink deeply of His grace, peace, and love.

Immerse yourself in Him today,


Ruth

Please note Ruth Wood's music ministry is also active at www.Comfort-Cafe.net,
CD Art
Testimonials

Ruth, I really was blessed by your song, "Broken"! I found it to be very emotionally moving and obviously inspired by God! I would certainly encourage anyone who would like a deeper relationship with Christ to listen to it. Thank you for allowing Him to use you to reach a hurting world!

Charles V. Hayden, Songwriter
Michigan