Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Power of Memories

Hi Friends,

With Christmas just behind us, I've been thinking about the power of memory in our lives. You see, memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making over this season, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, wrapping, unwrapping, cooking, cleaning up, cards, and everything that makes the season crowded.. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls unwrapped Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas season and New Years, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

For more about the power of memories in our lives, check out my next novel, Beyond the Night, releasing in May. A woman in a hospital bed, a man sitting beside her, and between them, a memory that can set her free.

Find out more at: http://www.marloschalesky.com/

To pre-order Beyond the Night, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Night-Marlo-Schalesky/dp/1601420161/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196976751&sr=1-2

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hope for the Hurting at Christmas

Dear Friends,

With Christmas less than a week away, I thought I would share a Christmas happening that opened my eyes to God's love for me at Christmas, during a year when I was hurting. So, here you go:

“O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,” sang the children’s choir from the front of the church. But, I felt anything but joyful, or triumphant. Despite the Christmas lights glittering from the sanctuary’s ceiling, despite the candles that flickered and glowed from behind the pulpit, darkness hung over me like a heavy cloak. Everything around me seemed so perfect – parents snapping pictures from the pews, Pastor Joe grinning from his chair at the side of the platform, little Mary Lou shyly stepping forward to read Isaiah 9. But, of all the little girls pulling restlessly at prim velvet dresses, of all the little boys standing tall and proud behind starched shirts and clip-on ties, none were mine. No little eyes searched the crowd looking for me, no little fingers wiggled a wave in my direction, no little voices called me “Mommy.”

Barren, the Bible named me, a cold, empty word. I hated it, not so much because it described the condition of my womb, but because it revealed the feelings of my heart - especially at Christmas time, when families gathered, mothers baked sugar cookies, and children counted the days until they would sit beneath laden Christmas trees and tear open gifts from Mom and Dad. Barren, the word haunted me now as I sat in the back pew and wished for the hundredth time that Christmas didn’t hurt so much. But it did. Christmas, it seemed, was for the “have’s” – those who have families, have children. And I was a “have-not.” What hope did Christmas hold for people like me?

In a moment, clapping broke out over the sanctuary as the kids’ choir finished their final song. With sweeping bows and stifled giggles, the children scampered to a wide box in front of the pulpit and pulled from it sprigs of mistletoe tied with bright red ribbons. My throat closed as each child trotted toward the pews and presented their parents with the mistletoe. I dropped my gaze. I should have never come tonight, I told myself again. But my husband needed to run the sound system for the performance, and no one would have understood if he had come alone. So, here I sat, uncomfortable and hurting while the laughter of happy families swirled around me.

“M-Mrs. Schalesky?” a timid voice sounded from beside my elbow.

I looked up to see 8-year-old Caroline holding her piece of mistletoe toward me. I quickly glanced around and noticed that Caroline’s parents hadn’t come tonight. In fact, they rarely came. My eyes met hers, and she smiled down at me.

“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Schalesky,” she whispered, then leaned over and kissed my cheek. “I hope Jesus brings you lots of gifts this year.” With that, she turned and hurried toward the back door.

Warmth flooded me. “Thank you,” I choked, too quiet for her to hear me as she slipped out of sight.

There, in my lap, lay the small piece of mistletoe, its red ribbon winking at me with the reflection of the Christmas lights overhead. It was such a small gift, so simple, so plain. As simple, perhaps, as a baby wrapped in rags, lying in a feeding trough. As plain as the Son of God, born not before family and friends, but before a stable full of animals - a gift announced not to the movers and shakers of Bethlehem, but to a few Gentiles in the east, and to a bunch of sheep-herders working the night shift.

I picked up my gift of mistletoe and held it close to my heart. If animals, shepherds, and even foreign kings were remembered in the first Christmas, maybe the childless, the outcast, and the hurting were remembered this Christmas too. Maybe I was remembered.

In this small bit of mistletoe, God was telling me that I’d been right – Christmas was for the “have’s.” For in Jesus there are no “have-not’s.” Christ was born for people like me, for “have-not’s” who, through the simple gift of Christ, are welcomed into the family of God.

So, may you too have a blessed Christmas, no matter where you are or what's happening or what has happened this past year. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Focus for Christmas - A Poem

Hi Friends,

Today, I'm thinking about the attitude of my heart during this Christmas season. Am I too busy to worship? Am I too rushed to stand in awe of the wonder of the incarnation -- of how God himself became a baby to save me. How he was born in a stable, wrapped in rags, gave up all privilege and position to become one of us, so that we could be set free of sin and despair. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us" (that's how it reads in the Greek). The Tabernacle was a tent-like structure where God dwelt in the midst of the people of Israel while they traveled in the desert before they came to the promised land. And so Jesus came in the flesh to be God with us while we travel here on earth, so we could someday come to our promised land. The truth of that is magnificient, wonderous, breath-taking.

So, here's a poem I wrote to ask the question of where my heart is focused this Christmas:


WHERE WAS I?
by Marlo Schalesky

Where was I
When the King was born?
Was I at the inn,
Too crowded for Him,
With packages, boxes, and bags?

Where was I
When God became man?
Tending sheep far away,
Lest one go astray,
Blind to even the angels?

Where was I
When Christ first wept?
Was I on the road,
Rushing to and fro,
Too busy to notice the star?

Where am I
This Christmastide?
Am I in the stall,
Forsaking all,
To worship the King of kings?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Martin

Hi Friends,

In lieu of a new Christian novel, I have a great how-to writing book to tell you about today. An excerpt from my VEIL OF FIRE is used in the book to demonstrate writing in both the third and first person in the same story. So, here's a bit about Writing The Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin:

Writing The Christian Romanace is a comprehensive how-to book that emphasizes the differences between Christian and secular romance. While the book focuses on Christian romance, it provides excellent information for writing any Christian fiction genre and includes chapters on: creating believable characters, emotions and the sense, sexuality, spirituality, point of view, dialogue, introspection, plotting and pacing. The final chapter focuses on selling the Christian romance novel with information about Christian writers conferences, contest, finding an agent and learning how to prepare a book proposal for submission. The book contains excerpts and advice from well-known Christian authors as well as exercises at the end of each chapter.

Endorsements:

Writing the Christian Romance is a well-researched and detailed handbook for anyone interested in writing for this unique and growing market. Filled with examples an excerpts from successful romance novelists, this is a resource that writers will turn to again and again.
--Robin Lee Hatcher, RITA Award winning author of Return to Me and The Perfect Life. http://www.robinleehatcher.com/

Although Gail Gaymer Martin's book covers all the basics for writing for the inspirational romance market, her solid lessons on plotting, character development, and dialogue makes this a valuable test for anyone writing for any genre. The lessons are well organized, easy to follow and pragmatic.
--Dr Dennis E. Hensley, author of How To Write What you Love And Make A Living At It. (Random House)

If you want to write romances for the Christian market, you need this book. Gail understands both this genre and the market and knows how to teach others to write and sell Christian romance. This guide is practical, chock-full of examples, and loaded with worksheets and exercises to get you started or help make your story salable.
--Lin Johnson, Managing Editor, Christian Communicator; Director of Write-To-Publish Conference.

Gail's Bio:

Multi-award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin ,writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and Writers Digest. Gail started writing fiction in 1997 and sold her first novel in 1998. Since then, she has signed forty fiction contracts and has over 1 million books in print. She is a member of RWA, and three chapters: Greater Detroit, Mid-Michigan and FHL. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers, a keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conference across the U.S. and has been a presenter in London, England. She has a Masters degree and post-master’s classes from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Look for her book, Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest released in December 2007. Visit her website at http://www.gailmartin.com/

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Essence of Good Writing

Hi Friends,

This week I wanted to share something a little different - a bit about how good writing captures the imagination and can change the heart. It's a bit about what I see as the goal of my own writing, and something I hope will be useful to you as well, whether you write fiction, short stories, or even just notes about your family to friends and relatives.

So, the question is, What is good writing anyway? What is writing that captures the imagination and the heart, that draws pictures in people's minds and touches their emotions, changes them.

Is it fine metaphors, a clever turn of phrase? Or perhaps it’s just the right verb used in just the right place? While I love metaphors and the right choice of words, these aren’t the things that make writing transcend the ordinary to become truly good writing.

Good writing, I have come to realize, is writing that gets out of the way and allows the reader to live the story, to experience the story from inside the characters’ point of view. Good writing transports the reader in someone else’s mind, heart, life. It’s all about seeing what someone else sees, feeling what they feel, living the story with the point of view character.

That’s why good writing lets the reader interact with the story in a way that’s natural, that’s true to real life. We don’t want to switch point of view from one character to another and back again in the middle of a scene because as people we don’t “head-hop” in our normal lives. We try to eliminate speaker attributes such as “he said/she said” because in normal life there are no “said’s” – instead we watch people as they speak. They fold their arms, or scratch their nose, or look away. That’s how we normally engage in conversation – reading body language as much as we hear words. And that, of course, is why good writing shows and doesn’t tell – because that’s how we operate in our everyday lives. Someone comes in the room and slams the door – we know they’re angry. They don’t announce they’re angry, they show us. It’s no different in good writing. It’s all about coaxing the reader to see, to experience, to live in the story.

So, next time you want to write something good, even if it's just your Christmas newsletter, remember that it isn’t about words and rules, it’s about helping the reader to live the story, to interact with your characters in the same way that they interact in their normal, everyday lives. It’s about the life and breath and heart of the story. It’s about the writing being so natural that it fades away, leaving only the story’s vision to lead the reader into a new world.

That's my hope for the things I write - for Veil of Fire, which came out in May, for Beyond the Night which will be released next May, for the Power for Living articles I wrote last week, for the book I'm working on now. And it's my hope for the things you write as well. Words have power, they say. But story has even more.

May God be in your writing, whatever it may be!

Chill Out, Josey! by Susan May Warren

Hi Friends,

Today I wanted to tell you a little bit about a new Christian romance/chick lit out from Susan May Warren, published by Steeple Hill. It's called Chill Out, Josey! and here's a bit about it:

Russia? Not again. Josey's finally living the good life - she's got the man, the (almost-perfect) wedding, the two-story Cape-Cod house of her dreams. That is until her man drags her back to Moscow! Josey knows she has the guts to follow her own dreams across the world, but she's not so sure she can play the perfect wife while her husband chases after his. Josey's set on having the perfect life…even in a world without hot water, decent take-out and size-two leather fashion. But can she find the courage to tell her man the secret that will change their lives forever?

And here is a link to the first chapter: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/c1_chillOutJosey.html

And here is a link to buy the book: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&p=1028342&item_no=785852

So, there ya go! Watch for a new post tomorrow on something a little different - the essence of good writing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lessons from a CAT on Prayer

Hi Friends,

I came home today after buying our first artificial Christmas tree (Can you say YAY No Cleaning Up Needles!?) to find my cat sitting right next to the driveway waiting for me. I looked at him. He looked at me. I said hi. He meowed. And I was reminded of we got our cat and what he taught me about prayer. Here's a little bit about that:

Rat tat tat. A muffled tapping reverberated from the windowpane beside my office desk. I stood, and the sound stopped. Slowly, I reached for the shade. Before I could reach it - Thump, thump, thump.

“Who’s there?” My whispered hiss dissolved in the night.

Silence answered, followed again by the insistent rapping.

I took a deep breath, lifted the corner of the shade, and peeked outside. Round, green eyes peered back at me. I dropped the shade.

“Bryan, you aren’t going to believe this.”

Bryan sauntered in from the other room.

This time, I pulled up the shade all the way to reveal a gray, furry face lit by the glow of my office lamp. “Meow.” The cat blinked, then batted his paw against the glass again.

Bryan stepped closer. “Whose cat is that?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve never seen him before.”

We contemplated the cat.

The cat contemplated us.

I glanced at Bryan. “I think he’s hungry.”

He crossed his arms. “You know we can’t --”

“I know.” I sighed. We had plenty of stray cats crossing our property, so we knew that unless we wanted a cat farm, we’d better not put out any food. But then, none of those cats had ever come knocking at the window.

“Meow.” The cat rubbed his cheek against the window then squished his nose against the pane.
I walked toward the door and opened it.
A moment later, Bryan appeared behind me. “Here.” He held up an opened can of tuna.

I grinned, took the can, and set it down on the porch.

The next morning, we opened the door to find the cat curled in a ball on the doormat.

Bryan shook his head. “Well, it looks like we have a pet cat.”

“You don’t like cats.”

“I know.”

We stood for a moment in silence.

“Let’s name him Banjo.”

I smiled. “Okay.”

Bryan opened the door, and the cat trotted in like he’d been doing it for years.

In Matthew 7:7 (NIV), Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” I’ve always been caught up in the idea that sometimes I’ve asked God and I’ve not received what I’ve asked for. But Banjo has given me new insight into the verse.

Unlike the other cats on our property, Banjo took a risk because he was hungry, for food and for love. He decided to try, to persist, to not give up. He knocked on the window until someone came, until I went out and met his need.

To us, Banjo was just a stray cat. To God, I’m a beloved child. So, if I respond to Banjo’s bold persistence, how much more will God respond to me, whom he loves.

And just like Banjo, I may not get exactly want I’m wanting – after all, if Banjo had his way, he’d curl up on our bed and make it his own. But, while we sometimes let him in, we’ve decided he’s better as an outdoor cat. He still bats at the window whenever he wants food, or attention. And we still feed him, play with him, and call him our own. We’ve gotten him a collar with his name, a little house to sleep in outside, a food bowl and a water dish. He’s our cat now, and we make sure that even though he may not get everything he wants, he has everything he needs.

These days, when I feel like giving up in prayer, when I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t care, I remember Banjo’s furry face pressed against the windowpane. And I remind myself that God will feed me, will give me what I need in him, and more importantly, welcomes me into his loving family. So, when I’m cold, hungry, and it’s dark outside, I’m going to keep knocking on the window to heaven and meowing my heart to God.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tasting the Turkey of Heaven

Hi Friends!

First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Do you ever sneak a bit of turkey before the big meal? Tiptoe into the kitchen and try a little bite? Slip a piece into your mouth as your cutting up the bird and placing it onto the platter? Well, if so, I've got a story for you. And here it is:

"Yum!" It was Thanksgiving day and I was in the kitchen, sneaking bits of turkey while no one was looking. To my ten-year-old mind, nothing could compare to Mom’s perfectly cooked turkey. I stuck my fingers into the warm juice and pulled off another piece. "Ahhh," I sighed and smiled. It was delicious. I glanced around then snatched another bite.

This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, I thought, licking my fingers as the turkey juices dripped down my hand. I loved to sample the little pieces of turkey that fell to the bottom of the pan during cooking. It was like a special, tasty prize that made my mouth water just to think about it. I jammed a fourth piece of turkey into my mouth and rubbed my belly, enjoying the dual pleasures of taste and smell.

At my Sunday School three days later, Pastor Ron visited our class. He sat down on the stool in front and straightened his collar. His eyes swept over the students. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "There was a man named Joe. Joe spent his life doing stuff that was very bad. He drank. He gambled. He lived a wild life. He swore all the time and never went to church. When he ran out of money, he robbed a store and then continued his bad living. On his death bed, Joe knew he was going to die, so he begged God for forgiveness and decided to trust in Jesus. That night, Joe died and went to Heaven, the same as if he had loved and served God all his life. What do you think of that?"

"Hey, that's not fair!," I burst forth. My cheeks grew red with annoyance.

"No, it's not fair," he agreed. "Not fair to Joe.”

“To Joe?” I questioned. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it's not fair because Joe missed the greatest joys in life."

"But he was bad!” I exclaimed, sputtering in confusion. “If he could get into heaven, why should I bother to do what I’m told? I may as well go out and rob a store too!”

My Pastor smiled. “Do you really think so?”

I lowered my head and stared at my feet. Then, I shrugged my shoulders.

Pastor Ron cleared his throat.

I looked up at him again. His mouth was quirked in a strange half-grin.

"Tell me," he continued, "have you ever sneaked into the kitchen to taste a little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal?"

I drew a quick breath and nodded my head. My eyes grew wide in shock. How had he known? I remembered back to my time in the kitchen just three days before. Yes, I knew very well what it was like to taste the turkey. It was great!

"Well," he said, glancing at the rest of the class, "that's just what it's like for you and me. All the time we spend serving God in this life is just like sneaking into the kitchen to taste the turkey. We get a little taste of heaven before the great banquet. Joe, on the other hand, doesn't get to taste the turkey in this life. He has to wait. Just think of all the fun he missed out on here in this life."

"Wow," I whispered, "I never thought of it like that.

Pastor Ron chuckled. "Now, every time you sneak a bit of turkey, you can think about the fact that every day you spend serving God is a little taste of heaven here on earth."

To this day, I still sneak my little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal, and every time I thank God for another day spent in His love, tasting the turkey of Heaven.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hearts Evergreen by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hi Friends,

Got a great book to tell you about today. It's Hearts Evergreen by Robin Lee Hatcher. Here's a bit about it and her:

Just in time for the holidays, Robin Lee Hatcher has released a new Christmas romance.
In A Cloud Mountain Christmas (Robin's story in Hearts Evergreen, a collection of two novellas from Steeple Hill), Maddie Scott, reeling from the news that her ex-husband has remarried and is expecting a child, heads to Idaho's Cloud Mountain Lodge to negotiate the sale of a valuable manuscript discovered there. But could the lodge's proprietor, Tony Anderson, a man she knew years before in college, be just what Maddie needs to have a merry Christmas after all?

About Hearts Evergreen, the Library Journal says: "Two holiday novellas by a Christy Award winner (Hatcher) and a rising author in the inspirational romance genre (Springer) offer romantic fare perfect for curling up in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate."
To read an excerpt from A Cloud Mountain Christmas, visit Robin's web site:
http://www.robinleehatcher.com/hearts_evergreen.htm

*****
The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal. She enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How God Transforms the Yucky Stuff

Hi Friends,

As many of you know, this has been a year of challenges for me. So lately, I've been thinking of the transforming power of God, and how He takes the yucky stuff in life and can make it into bits of beauty. And as I've been pondering, I've been thinking in particular of a certain experience that illuminated that for me recently. Here's how it happened:

A pair of black, beady eyes stared into mine from across my pillow. I leapt up. “Aargh! Ewwww!” My yell reverberated off the rafters. I bit my lip to cut off another shout.

Bryan jolted up and rubbed his hand over his face. “What’s wrong? What is it?”

“Yuck! Look.” I pointed a shaking finger at the green, squirmy caterpillar now inching across my pillowcase. A chill fishtailed down my spine.

Bryan glanced at the insect and yawned. “Oh, is that all?” He laid back down and rolled over.

I scowled. Didn’t he realize that nasty green worm had been just inches from my nose? That was worth a good yell, and then some. I reached over and plucked a fistful of tissues from the box beside the bed. Then, I poised my hand over the squirmy creature and took a deep breath.

Icky little worm. I paused. It wasn’t a worm. And I knew it. It was a caterpillar. My instincts said to smush it, mush it, squish it into oblivion. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrinkled up my nose and carefully scooped it into the tissues. Next, I went downstairs and placed it gently on the deck railing outside.

For a moment, I watched as the caterpillar crawled to the back side of a post and disappeared.

Then, I went back to bed.

“It would have been easier just to squash it,” Bryan murmured.

I sighed. “I know.”

“Nature lover.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he rustled deeper into the covers.

I checked my pillow one last time (no bugs!) then closed my eyes. Bryan’s words rang in my mind. But it wasn’t because I was a nature lover that I didn’t smush the caterpillar. It was because, as much as I didn’t like green, squirmy critters on my pillow, I did love butterflies. And I had faith that my beady-eyed intruder would soon turn into a beautiful butterfly. That’s why I scooped instead of squashing.

As I laid there, with sleep eluding me, I began to think about the wonder of transformation. A caterpillar, I realized, wasn’t the only yucky thing that had happened in my life. There were other things, like infertility, failures, difficult relationships, that I wanted to just squish and forget about. But perhaps, just perhaps, God could transform those too, just like the caterpillar. Maybe He could transform my pain, my experiences, into something useful in the lives of others, something beautiful in the Kingdom of God.

I glanced at my jewelry box on the dresser. Inside were three different cross necklaces and a gold pair of cross earrings. The cross – a perfection picture of how God transforms the ugly into the beautiful. I wouldn’t wear a hangman’s noose or a guillotine or a gilded electric chair. But I do wear crosses. Why? Because God has transformed the cross. It’s where death turned to life, where joy triumphed over sorrow, where my life was redeemed. The cross, once nothing more than an executioner’s tool, is now a symbol of God’s redeeming love. And if God could do that, and if he could turn a squirmy caterpillar into a gorgeous butterfly, then he could take the awful things in my life and transform them, too, for His glory.

Romans 8:28 (NIV) says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good that happen in my life, but that God can turn the hard things into good. He can make them into a shining testimony of His love and faithfulness.

But if they are going to be transformed, I need to take those difficult, sometimes painful experiences, and offer them to Him. I need to open my hand and let the caterpillar go free, believing in faith that one day soon it will be changed into a beautiful butterfly.

Monday, November 12, 2007

SPLITTING HARRIET by Tamara Leigh

Hi Friends,

I've got a fun chick-lit novel to introduce to you today. This one's Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh.

Here's a bit about it:
Preacher’s kid and prodigal Harriet Bisset returned to her church and her family in Franklin, Tennessee, seven years ago. Once the proud owner of two tattoos and a nose ring, Harri is now addicted to Jelly Bellys in lieu of hangovers and Bible verses in lieu of foul language.

The good news is that she has everything under control: a part-time position as director of women’s ministry, a church family that adores her, a rent-free home in a senior mobile home park, and the possibility of owning the cafĂ© where she waitresses. Nothing could tempt Harri to return to her old ways. Nothing but a 1298 cc, liquid-cooled, sixteen-valve, in-line four-cylinder motorcycle—and the church consultant riding it.

Reformed rebel Maddox McCray’s arrival at First Grace spells C-H-A-N-G-E for the dying church. And it just might mean change for Harri when Maddox sets out to convince her that even Christians are allowed to have fun.

The story of a prodigal daughter’s transformation, Splitting Harriet reminds readers of God’s delight in forgiving, loving, and enjoying the ride.

And a bit about Tamara:
Tamara Leigh’s first novel, Warrior Bride, was published in 1994 and was followed by six more bestselling, award-winning historical romances for Bantam, HarperCollins, and Dorchester. Leigh’s inspirational chick lit debut, Stealing Adda, was published in 2006 to great critical acclaim. Leigh has also written for Romantic Times magazine and been a guest speaker for WaldenBooks’s corporate conference. Leigh lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and two sons and enjoys time with her family, volunteer work, faux painting, and reading.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NOBODY by Creston Mapes

Hi Friends,

Two things today. First there's an auction of books and writing services going on at: http://www.aotearoaeditorial.com/webauction-0.2/index.php to raise $$ for a friend's much needed surgery. I've donated some of my books, and I see a number of different authors are donating theirs too. So, stop on by the auction and see if there's something you want to bid on. All $$ goes toward the emergency surgery.

Second, I wanted to introduce you to a new novel by Creston Mapes. Creston's publisher is the same as mine for my next three novels. And this book looks very, very interesting. Here's what Creston has to say about it:

A Note from Creston:

NOBODY was released Sept. 11 by Multnomah and seems to be doing very well. Yay. It's my third novel with Multnomah in three years and is a stand alone. The first two books, Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol and Full Tilt were made up a two book series known as The Rock Star Chronicles.

The story behind NOBODY is pretty cool. I was with my late father, Bernie, at a park in St. Augustine, FL, when we saw a homeless mansitting on a park bench, clutching a loaf of bread, tearing off pieces, eating some and throwing chunks to the dozens of black birds all around him. My dad noted that "he" would be a good subject for a book.

Then, when my publisher suggested Las Vegas as a backdrop, and a research visit to that city, I set up a day with Brian Brooks of the Nevada Health Centers, who took me all over the Vegas homeless community. We visited free clinics, talked to doctors and nurses, went to the soup kitchens and encampments where they "live." I also met with Jud Wilhite, pastor of Vegas's booming Central Christian Church (10,000-12,000). Jud shared a moving poem with me called I Stand By The Door, which amazingly aligned with my spiritual walk of getting too steeped in the church, and not concerned enough about the people outside the doors of it.

Since I was a reporter at one time, my main character, Hudson Ambrose, is a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal, the city's real paper, which I visited when in Las Vegas. The book begins when Hud hears a pre-dawn call on the police scanner at the newspaper about an injured person at a bus stop along The Strip. When he arrives, he finds a murdered homeless man. Waiting around for the police, Hud knows the case will get tied up in red tape when they do arrive. He wants to get an ID on the guy before the police come. He can hear the sirens bearing down. Quickly, he searches the man's pockets and is shocked to find a bank book with close to a million dollars in it. A safe deposit box key drops into the puddle of blood at the man's feet. Hud's got a decision to make.

And off we go into NOBODY, and Hudson Ambrose's breakneck investigation into the life of the homeless man, Chester Holte. Why was a former rich Atlanta business mogul living homeless on the streets of Las Vegas? What happened after his wife died in their private plane crash. Who was the beautiful Holly Queens and what was her relationship with Chester? And why does virtually everyone in the Las Vegas homeless community believe Chester was an angel in disguise?

For more, visit http://www.crestonmapes.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Decisions: Making Them Right

Hi Friends,

This week I've been thinking about who, and what, we let make our decisions for us. And I've come up with two bad decision makers (besides the obvious emotional ones like anger, discouragement, pride, etc.) and one good one. I think you'll be surprised. So, today, instead of a story with a spiritual point, let's consider, briefly, the things that we shouldn't give the final say when we're making important decisions in our lives. Here are what I propose are the BAD ones:

1) Fear. Did you know that "Fear not!" is the most prevalent command in the Bible? Well, it is, and I think the reason for that is fear makes us stupid. Oh, that sounds harsh, doesn't it. But I think it's true when it comes to making good decisions in life. We're afraid to take a risk, so we don't start that new business. We're afraid to travel, or take off work, or do something new, so we don't try that short term missions trip. We're afraid we'll fail, so we don't try. We get comfortable with the familiar and so don't want to step into the new places God is calling us to. So, I say, BEWARE! When you're making a decision about what to do, what not to do, is it fear that's having the final say?

2) Money. The Bible says we can either serve God or Money, but not both. Usually, we take this to mean that we shouldn't be greedy and pursue money as our ultimate goal. But consider, if we let money be our final decision maker, then we're also letting it be our god. Too often I've heard people say "I can't afford it" to things they really need to do. They let finances excuse them from the best decision. Or, people will excuse sin because "I need the money." So, I say, BEWARE! Don't let money make your decisions for you. Money can be a factor, but not THE factor.

So, what's the good one? Who or what should we put in the top place for making decisions. I know you're expecting me to say God, and of course that's the right answer. But what does it mean? What does God say we should give top priority? Here's what I think:

GOOD: WISDOM!
Here's what Proverbs 2 says:
Proverbs 2:1-12: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-- every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse …

So, how to be wise? James 1 says:
James 1:5: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

So, we pray, ask, and try to figure out what's right, what's best . . . even if that thing is what we fear, and even if we can't afford it or need the money. The main question is: What's the right thing to do? After that, we find a way to tame our fears, or to finance what needs to be paid for. We have to find a way to do what's right. Because there's always a way to do the right thing. There's always a way to choose wisdom over fear or finances. Even if the way is narrow.

So, this week, I encourage you, and I encourage me, to think about how you make your big decisions -- to see where fear and finances are taking the top spot instead of God and wisdom. Look for wisdom as for hidden treasure. And fear no one, fear nothing, except for God Himself.

And may all our decisions be wise ones!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When God Calls You to Deeper Waters

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking lately about this last year for me and how it'ss been filled with so much change, difficulties, and movement to new places in my life. And I think that God is calling me to deeper places with Him. And maybe He's calling you, too, to swim deeper with Him. But sometimes, that can be a little scary. So, I thought I'd share the following swimming story, for you and for me. This is a story written from my husband's perspective, so the "I" is him. Hopefully, this story will be helpful to you as it is being to me. Here it is:

Small arms squeezed my neck so hard I thought I would choke. A small body shivered and shook against me. Her grip grew tighter.

I sighed and waded into shallower water. Waves lapped the sides of pool as other kids swam and leapt and turned somersaults in the water. Shouts of laughter rippled over the pool’s surface. I pulled gently at my daughter’s arm. “Loosen up, sweetheart. I won’t let go of you.”

“Nooooo.” Bethany’s whimper grew louder as she dug her fingers deeper into my skin.

“Swimming is fun. But you’ve got to let go of Daddy.”

“I’m s-s-scared.” Her teeth chattered even though the water was a balmy eighty degrees.

I swallowed and attempted to loosen her grip enough for me to breathe. But Bethany only grabbed harder, not because she loved me or wanted to be close to me, but only because she was afraid. This was our third swimming lesson and she still wasn’t brave enough to let go. I reached for her goggles and put them on her, adjusting them so they fit just right. “Okay, are you ready to try?”

“I d-d-don’t know.”

I looked into her goggle-clad eyes. “You have to trust me. I’m right here. Trust me.”

She took a deep breath.

“Trust me,” I repeated again.

This time, Bethany nodded. “Okay, Daddy.” Her grip loosened a little bit. Then a little bit more. And a little more.

I sidled toward the edge of the pool, then took her hands and placed them on the edge. Next, I stepped back until I stood three feet away. “Push off and swim to me. You can do it.”

Bethany studied the distance.

I reached out with both hands.

With a push and a splash, she was in the water on her own, then in my arms again.

I laughed. “You did it!”

She laughed back. “That was fun!”

“You want to go under the water?”

Her brows bunched in a frown.

I smiled. “Trust me.”

Bethany straightened her shoulders. “I’m ready.”

And down we went. Once. Twice. Three times. By the end of the lesson, Bethany had discovered a whole new world of fun and adventure. She could go underwater and look around. She could “sit” on the bottom of the pool for a whole three seconds. And she could kick her way from the edge all the way to me without being afraid. Swimming had ceased to be scary and instead was a joy. For an hour we swam and played and enjoyed every minute. Finally, it was time to leave.

“That was great, Daddy,” Bethany exclaimed as she clamored out of the pool. “Can we come back tomorrow? And the day after that? And the day after that?”

I chuckled. “We’ll come back soon. I promise.”

“Yay!”

I grinned as I watched her scamper into the locker room. What a difference between the shivering, shaking girl who had climbed into the pool and the happy, exuberant girl who had climbed out. And it was all because she had decided put aside fear and instead trust her Daddy.

In some ways, my life with God is not much different from Bethany’s swim lessons. Romans 8:15 (NIV) says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” When God calls me to try new things, to stretch past my comfort zone, to step out into the unknown, it’s easy for me, too, to cling to Him out of fear. But God doesn’t want me to grab onto Him because I’m afraid. Rather, He wants me to trust Him enough to let go of fear and embrace all the adventures He has for me. He wants me to learn to live in joy and freedom, to learn how to swim with Him.

And just like Bethany, I need to loosen my grip and trust God to be there if the waters get too deep.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Must Read: BOO HUMBUG by Rene Gutteridge

Hi Friends,

Today I want to tell you a bit about a book I just loved. Definitely one of my favorites of the year (maybe even THE favorite). It's Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge. I endorsed the book a few months ago, and here's what I had to say at the time:

What fun! I enjoyed Boo Humbug from the first page to the last. With characters that come alive and a storyline full of clever turns, it had me chuckling, cheering, and even reacing for a tissue at the end. I think jI'll have to start a new Christmas tradition - reading Rene Gutteride's Boo Humbug. I loved it!

So, I hope you'll pick up this one. You won't regret it. This will make a wonderful addition to your holiday reading! (Note: You don't have to have read the other Boo books to enjoy this one . . . but you may want to go back and read them once you read this one). Here's more about it:

Readers have come to love the eccentric characters from Skary, Indiana, in Rene Gutteridge’s popular Boo! series. Now, in Boo, Humbug! they’re back – and they’re stirring up a large amount of holiday havoc.

It’s Christmastime in Skary, and the town is planning an original production of A Christmas Carol with a horror spin. As showtime approaches, things go very awry for director Lois Stepaphanopolis. She panics when she discovers that her marketing director loathes Christmas and that the audience has been promised not Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but the real Christmas story. Can the actors pull off the improv of all improvs and convince their community to embrace the true meaning of the Christmas season?

Boo, Humbug! offers readers a delightful glimpse into small town, community life with heartwarming humor and winsome characters. And in the end, the true meaning of Christmas shines out bright and clear, in a decidedly un-Skary way.

And here's a little about Rene:

Rene Gutteridge is the author of 10 novels, including the Boo series, the Storm series, The Occupational Hazards series and My Life as a Doormat, a Women of Faith selection for 2006. She has been published over 30 times as a playwright, and holds a degree in screenwriting, graduating magna cum laude from Oklahoma State University. Rene is married to Sean, a musician, and they have two young children. They make their home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

To buy, here's an Amazon link:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Too Busy? Going Crazy? Read This!

Hi Friends!

I spoke last week at a MOPS group, and one of the things I talked about is finding those things that make you crazy, that turn you into that bulging-eyed crazy woman that scares the kids. And in preparing for that talk, I realized that what makes me into crazy-mom is constant hurry (are you seeing a trend here – yep, I know I just posted about being too busy a couple weeks ago!). What frays my nerves is trying to squeeze in too many things into too little time. And as I’ve been seeing that I’ve been falling into that trap again lately, I’m reminded of this story that happened a couple years ago:

“This is crazy!” I threw the papers onto the table and dropped back to my chair. “I know I said I would critique this article, but I can’t.”

Bryan strolled into the room with a mug in his hand. The smell of coffee permeated the air. “Isn’t that the last one?” He sat on the couch and motioned to the papers now scattered across the tabletop.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I was supposed to be reviewing articles for a writer’s seminar the next day. I’d finished the other fourteen, but not this one. I had read only a page before tossing it onto the table. “Yes, it’s the last one. But still . . .”

He shrugged and sipped the coffee. “So, just do it and get it over with.”

“I know.” I sighed. “I don’t have time to waste. I need to get it done so I can study my Greek, write that paper, pack my bag for tomorrow, feed the baby, and fold the laundry.”

Bryan raised his eyebrows. “Well, you’d better get to it, then.”

“I tried.” I peeked at the article through one eye. “Have you seen it?”

Bryan set down his mug and gathered the papers. He glanced at them. “Oh, wow.”

“See?”

“There aren’t any paragraphs.”

I rubbed my temples. “Single-spaced, small type, no paragraphs, tiny margins. It exhausts me to just look at it.”

Bryan tapped the papers together, then handed them back to me. “White space.”

“What?”

“There isn’t any white space. People don’t like to read things that don’t have white space.”
Of course. I knew that. “So what should I do?”

Bryan stood up. “Tell the person to put in white space next time. That should be the first thing on your critique list.” He started toward the door to the kitchen, then paused and tossed a final comment over his shoulder. “By the way, that article isn’t the only thing that lacks white space around here.”

“What do you mean?”

He didn’t answer. The door swung shut as he disappeared beyond it.

Silly man. I shook my head and forced myself to focus on the tight print before me. A few minutes later, I found an error and clicked my red pen. But there was no space to make a correction. Further on, I would have made a comment, but again, I had no room. The lack of white space not only made me tired, but it didn’t allow for the improvements I wanted to suggest either.

I finally finished the article, made some comments on the back of one of the sheets, then turned to my to-do list. The length of it made my head spin.

White space.

I looked at the list again -- activities crammed together, things to do, tasks to accomplish. I frowned. Was this what Bryan was talking about? Maybe my life lacked white space in the same way the article had. Single-spaced, no paragraphs, small margins. No wonder I was exhausted.

I glanced at the laundry, my Greek book, and my half-packed bag. Then, I looked at my Bible, lying on the footstool near the couch. Just yesterday I had read in Leviticus about the Sabbath and a list of festivals that God prescribed for his people. At the time, I had skimmed over the reading, thinking it had little to do with my life. But now, as I pondered the idea of the Sabbath and the festivals, I saw in them a rhythm to the life God ordered for Israel, a rhythm that included breaks, rests, and celebration. A rhythm that had plenty of white space.

As I picked up my Bible and placed it into my bag, I began to understand the wisdom of God’s command for rest, and the foolishness of my tight-print, no paragraph life. I, too, needed space for my eyes to rest, room in my life for direction from God, empty places where He could write His comments, suggestions, and corrections on my heart. I needed time to rest, and listen, and simply “be.”

Since then, I’ve learned that white space is as important as words, for there is where God speaks into the silence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Opinions? My New Cover!

Hi Friends,

Today, in lieu of a story with a spiritual point, I was hoping to get your opinion of the new cover for BEYOND THE NIGHT. As you maybe remember, Beyond the Night will be released next May, on May 20th, to be exact. So, I just received the approved cover from Multnomah, my publisher. And here it is! Soooo, what do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Beyond the night is my best book yet. I just love this one! It's one of my new "Love Stories with a Twist!" with a groovy 70's backdrop, a girl who's going blind, and a whopper of an ending. For more info, go to my website and click on the cover image there on the right hand column.

In other news, I spoke yesterday at my local MOPS group. I enjoyed telling the moms what I'm learning about Being Mommy and Staying Sane. We talked about how to keep your cool in the craziness of kids, and keep focused on your quintessential goals of being a good mom.

So, let me know what you think of the cover. And don't forget to leave a comment on the Amy Grant blog below to be entered to win a copy of that book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

When Life's Too Busy

Hi Friends!

This week has been crazy. I just finished my substantive edits for Beyond the Night, my next novel that’ll come out in May. I’ve got two articles due Monday, another article I’m working on, a talk at MOPS on Tuesday, my next book (Faces in the Sand) that I’m falling behind on, laundry and dishes, diapers to change, rooms to clean, and a funeral to go to on Friday.

A funeral. That makes me stop and think. Life is more than to-do lists and deadlines. Life is not something to be accomplished. It is both God’s gift to us and ours to Him.

And today, as I think about busyness and life, I’m remembering back to when I was a kid. I’m remembering the story of the rock. It goes like this:

“Race you to the rock!” my friend Lisa cried as she sprinted down the trail toward the stream at the lower end of our property.

I laughed and followed, my seven-year-old legs pumping like twin pistons over the dirt path before me.

In minutes we reached the rock, a massive, gray boulder that stood like a giant castle over the stream’s edge. Panting and giggling, we flung ourselves across the lichen-covered surface. I pressed my cheek into a rough spot on the rock and grinned. “You win.”

Lisa climbed to the top of the boulder and looked south. “Mr. Winters is picking persimmons today.”

I scrambled up next to her. “Hey, the Johnson’s cow finally had that calf.” I pointed toward a field to the west.

Then, Lisa and I settled back and gazed into the blue, afternoon sky. Later, we would play princesses-in-the-castle, pretend we were riding an elephant across the plains of Africa, or dangle our feet in the water and dream of what it would be like to be mermaids in the ocean. We could do anything, be anything, on the rock.

To the rest of the world, our rock may have seemed like an ordinary boulder, but to us, that stone was the center of the universe. From there, we could see the world. All things were possible. We were safe. We were free to dream. We were prone to laugh. From there, we tasted a bit of heaven.

Today, when I think about the image of God as the Rock (as in Psalm 18, 78, and 95), I often think of that boulder by the stream. I realize that when I am centered in Him, everything becomes clear – I can see my world. When I rest on Him, I need not be afraid. I can dangle my feet in the rough currents of life and not be swept away. I can dare to dream, hope, play. When He is the center of my life - the one I look to for security, the one I race to when I want to see the world around me as it really is, life can have the fullness God always intended, without the craziness that is not of Him.

But I remember something else about my special boulder. Something that even now makes me sad. For as I grew older, I visited the boulder less and less. Lisa and I raced to the mall instead of the rock. We jabbered on the phone instead of sharing dreams by the water. We did our homework, made our plans, and no longer had time to play. I forgot the feeling of warm stone on my back, of swishing my toes in the cold current.

The boulder was still there, still as majestic, still as strong. But I ignored it. I was too busy, too grown up, too involved with my own goals and plans. Spring came. The stream ran fast and cold, but I didn’t stop to dip my toes in the water. Summer followed, but I didn’t lie on the warm stone and contemplate the heavens. Autumn brought leaves of orange and gold, but no games of knights or safaris. In winter, the leaves dried and blew away, but I didn’t even notice that somehow, somewhere, I had lost something precious.

So this week, as my life is crowded with appointments, projects, deadlines, responsibilities, and piles of laundry that seem to never grow smaller, I’m remembering the boulder. And I can almost hear God whispering, “Do not tremble, do not be afraid. . . Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one." (Isaiah 44:8, NIV). It’s as if He’s saying to me, “Come and play, come and rest in me.” He’s calling me back to the center, back to the Rock of my salvation.

Then, I can remember the joy, the freedom, that can only be found on the Rock. I pray for God to be the center from which I live the rest of my life - my work, my family life, my hopes, dreams, and, yes, even my play. I pray that I can laugh and cry out, “Race you to the Rock!”

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Renewing Your WOW in the Cross

Hi Friends!

Ever feel like you've heard the story of Jesus on the cross one too many times? Maybe it seems like old news, instead of good news. Maybe it's lost its punch. Maybe it's lost its WOW. That happened to me. But my daughter's wonder rekindled my own. It happened like this:

It started just like any other night. Bethany grabbed her sea otter toy, snuggled deep into her blankets, and look up at me with smiling brown eyes. I settled next to her and picked up the first of the bedtime stories I would read that night. A dancing hippo shone from the book’s cover. “I like that one,” Bethany mumbled through the two fingers she had stuck in her mouth.

So, I read, she wiggled, and the short pile of books soon dwindled to nothing. Then, came our favorite part of the bedtime ritual. I reached for the Bible story book on her dresser, thinking I’d read about Zaccheus or perhaps blind Bartimaeus or the woman at the well.
But just as my fingers touched the brightly colored surface of the book, Bethany sat up and tapped my arm. “You tell me about Jesus tonight. Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”

“Ahhhh,” I murmured as I turned from the dresser and tucked the blankets around Bethany’s chin. “Jesus on the cross.”

“Please, Mommy.”

I smiled down at her. Then, I reached over, dimmed the light, and began. I told her about how the soldiers hit Jesus, and hurt him, and spat on him, and pushed an awful crown of thorns on his head. I told her about how they made him carry his own cross up to the hill called Golgotha, and how they laid him on the cross and spread out his arms, and nailed him there.

“Did it hurt very much?” she asked, just as she always did whenever I got to this place in the story.

I brushed the hair back from her forehead with my fingertips. “Very much.”

“They not supposed to do that.” She frowned.

“But they did.”

“And then what happened?”

My voice grew quiet. “They lifted the cross high in the air, and the sky turned black.”

“Oooo,” she breathed.

“Then, Jesus died, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

“That’s sad, Mommy.” She clutched her sea otter toy even tighter.

I nodded, then told her about how they took Jesus down from the cross and put him in the tomb for one day . . . two days . . . three days.

She waved her fingers in the air and counted the days with me.

“Then –“ I paused.

Bethany caught her breath.

“The ground shook.” I rattled her headboard. “The stone rolled away, and—” I stopped.

As always, Bethany finished the story in her loudest voice. “Him not die anymore! Him risen!”
We laughed together as I hugged her and whispered in her ear, “And that is the most wonderful, incredible, amazing, important thing that has ever happened in the whole wide world from the beginning of time until now.”

Her eyes grew wide. She snuggled deeper into her blankets, and said the one word that I’ll never forget. “Wow.”

Wow. And somehow that simple word stuck in my heart and I saw the story of Jesus through her eyes. I saw the wonder, the mystery, the beauty. I saw how much it cost for God to make me His own.

And in that moment, God rekindled in me the wow of the gospel. Suddenly, it was new, amazing, and wonderful. How had I forgotten the awe? How had it become “old news?”
I laid back on the bed next to her and looked at the ceiling. “Wow,” I whispered. “Wow, wow, wow.”

Bethany sighed and rubbed her small hand over my arm. “You tell me again, Mommy? Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”

“Of course, sweetheart. I’ll tell you as often as you want to hear it.”

And I do, with a silent prayer that neither of us will ever forget the “wow” of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

(NOTE: Remember to stop back every week to read something that will hopefully be helpful to you in renewing your WOW of God. I post this type of thing on Wednesdays!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When Life Isn't What You Planned (A Look at Mary, Jesus' Mom)

Hello Friends!

What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you hope and plan? Where is the wonder and mystery, the beauty and breathtaking vividness of God then? I’ve been asking myself that lately as I come to grips with all the miscarriages I’ve had in this past year, and as I get used to the idea that Bryan and I won’t be having more children as we’d hoped. So, today I’d like to share with you some of my thoughts. This is a little different from the stories I normally share, and a little longer. But I think you’ll find it worth it.

Last Friday night I spoke to a group of wonderful ladies at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church about this very topic – Living the Life God’s Given You When It’s Not the Life You Dreamed. One of the things I spoke about, something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, is the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I’ve been thinking about the wonder she witnessed, and how every bit of her life had to be opposite of her dreams. Both wonder and disappointment. Beauty and sorrow. She touched it. Lived it. Embodied the journey of us all.

Think about it: There she is, engaged, planning on a nice, quiet, happy life. And boom,
up shows an angel. Forget your plans, he says, God’s got different ones. You’re having a baby, and it ain’t gonna be your husband’s. You get to have God’s son. Yea, people are going to believe that. Unwed mother, pregnant. And it’s all God’s fault.

But Mary reacts pretty good to that. “I’m God’s servant,” she says. And then we get that whole prayer praising God in Luke 1:46-55 that we like to read at Christmas time.

So, then she’s 9 months pregnant. And what should happen but a decree – you’ve got to go to Bethlehem. A long trip on the back of a donkey. I’ve been 9 months pregnant, so I can you tell you that there’s no way that a trip like that was a part of Mary’s plans. Yikes!

And worse yet, when they get there, they can’t even get a room. (Side note: We always translate the Greek word as “inn” in our English versions of the Bible, as if there’s some sort of Motel 6 there in Bethlehem. But that word is usually used for a guest room in a relative’s house. So, it could be that Joseph went to his relative’s house there in Bethlehem and found that other relatives were there first and had taken up all the space. I wonder if it was because they had to travel slowly because of Mary’s condition that there was no place for them once they got there?) I also wonder if they were thinking that surely God would provide a room for them, a nice place to have that baby that was supposed to be God’s son. But no. A stable. And not one of those cute, clean little “stables” like we have in our nativities at Christmas. Think poop, flies, and stink.

Then, finally, the magi come. Now, that’s more like it. Gold. Frankincense . Myrrh. Gifts fit for a king. At last! Except that no sooner do they leave than the soldiers come. Soldiers killing baby boys. Talk about a nightmare. And Mary and Joseph have to run off to Egypt, a foreign country, where they’re all alone.

Eventually, of course, they come back to Israel. And we get one story in the Bible about Jesus as a youth. One, single story. And what’s he doing? Yep, giving his mom grief. At twelve, he stays behind in Jerusalem, and gives his mom the scare of her life. That sure wasn’t a dream come true for her.

And if that’s not enough, he grows up. Now, if I was the mom of God’s son, I’d be dreaming of some big stuff. In fact, you can see some of Mary’s plans in her original prayer –
--bringing down rulers, maybe she’s thinking of Rome,
--helping the humble,
--bringing abundance, food, to the hungry,
--bringing glory to Israel like they once had.

But instead, her son is wandering about homeless riling everybody up. So much so that she and some of Jesus’ brothers have to go to talk some sense into him. And when she gets there, does Jesus say, “Mom, great to see you! Come on in, sit by me.” Noooo. He says, “Who are mother and my brothers… These are my mother and my brothers,” as he points to other people around him – not to her. Jesus’ public ministry certainly wasn’t Mary’s dream come true.

And then, of course, comes the worst of all. Can you imagine it? Watching your first born son arrested, beaten, spat upon, and then nailed to a cross to die. Because where was Mary then? She was at the foot of the cross. Can you imagine standing there as the blood drips, and his anguished cries echo in your ears. Your son. The son you love. I can imagine nothing worse. Nothing more gut-wrenching and horrific. That was never, ever, ever in Mary’s plans. That was the greatest nightmare come true of all time.

AND YET… and here’s the most marvelous point of all. It is in that horrific moment, in that moment that encapsulates the very epitome of what it means for plans and hopes to go awry, to die – in that moment we find the most incredible, wondrous, breathtaking act of God of all time. It is the moment of redemption, of glory, of splendor, of the answer to all the prayers and hopes from the beginning of time until now. It is at that moment that we find the salvation of mankind.

There, at the precise moment when all Mary’s hopes died. When all her plans came to nothing. That was the moment of answer. That was the moment when truly the poor were provided for, a ruler of evil was overthrown, and mercy was given, just as she prayed all those years before. It was the moment of glory.

And I think it may always be that way. That there, at the very place where our dreams don’t come true, where our expectations are shattered – that is where God is standing in the greatest power. Those are the moments, the places that change the world, where we find a depth and wonder deeper than we ever dared to dream.

Because, this I know for certain: the life God gives you is not the life you dreamed. It is the Kingdom of Heaven lived through you. It is wondrous. It is incredible. It is unexpected. And it is found at the foot of the cross.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Surrender ... And Pictures on the Frig

Hi Friends,

One of my favorite songs is Surrender by BarlowGirl. In fact, it’s one of the songs that plays on that little music player on the front page of my website (http://www.marloschalesky.com/). I was listening to the song yesterday and thinking about the idea of surrendering our lives to God. I was reminded of a thought I’d had a few years ago. It happened like this:

I’d heard it a dozen times before. “Give your life to God! Surrender!” And that Sunday, the message our pastor proclaimed was no different. I leaned back and thought about how glad I was that I had given myself to God and how I wanted to make my life a gift to him every day. But then, something new struck me, something I hadn’t dwelt on before.

I thought about the songs we’d sung earlier – songs about the grandness of the God of the universe, about His majesty, His holiness, the wonder of His presence. And as I thought about the glory of God, the value of my one, puny, rather unimpressive life seemed like a poor gift indeed. After all, I was no Billy Graham, no President of the United States, no great mover-and-shaker of the world around me. I was just plain ol’ me, with no extraordinary accomplishments, no fancy resume, nothing to make my life seem a worthy gift to so great a God. Did God really care if I gave my life to him? Did it really matter after all?

My thoughts troubled me as the service ended and I slipped out to pick up my then-nearly-three-year-old daughter from Sunday School. A dozen small bodies wiggled from the classroom and darted down the hall toward me. Among them was Bethany. As soon as she saw me, she let out a squeal and waved a piece of yellow construction paper over her head.

“Mommy, mommy, look!” she cried as she hurled herself toward me.

The other kids rushed past like a river at flood-stage. Bethany crashed into my legs, then hugged me around the knees. A moment later, she giggled and shoved the construction paper into my hands. “For you, Mommy. My make picture for you.”

She smiled up at me with wide eyes framed by curly, wheat-colored hair, and my heart melted.
I knelt beside her. “For me?”

“It’s a present.”

I held her close and looked down at the construction paper. Red and blue crayon marks formed lopsided circles that listed off to the right bottom corner of the page. A black smear marred the upper corner, and in the middle a rough outline of Bethany’s handprint started off well, then dropped off to a long squiggle at the pinkie finger.

I pulled Bethany closer and kissed her on the forehead. “I love it!” I proclaimed. And I did. I really did. It was no Monet (Picasso maybe), but to me, it was every bit as precious.

Later that day, I put the picture in the center of the refrigerator door where I could see it every day. I stood back, smiled, then stepped forward to adjust it just right.

I knew, of course, that if someone else were to find the picture lying on the ground, they would think it was just trash. They wouldn’t see it like I did. They would see a piece of cheap paper with crayon scribbles and pen marks. But to me, it was a treasure. I loved the squiggled outline of her little hand. I adored the awkward circles. And one day, when a new picture came to replace the yellow construction paper on the frig, I knew I would put this one away in my “special things” box, with a tiny date written on the back. Then, in years to come, I’d pull it out, and look at it, and remember.

It was then, as I stood there and admired the picture on the frig that I understood at last what it means to God when I make my life a gift to him. He doesn’t care if I’m a bit off-center, with lopsided circles that droop to one side. He doesn’t care if I’ve never done anything that seems very important. What matters is that I give Him my life as an offering of love. What matters is that God loves me so much that my life, even mine, is precious beyond measure.

My life may never be a Monet, but God still loves to hang my picture on the frig.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What a Balloon Taught Me about Psalm 23

Hi Friends!

What’s a balloon got to do with Psalm 23? Everything! Recently, as I was reading the psalm again, and studying it in Hebrew, I remembered a story from my childhood. It happened like this:

To my five-year-old eyes, it was a thing straight from heaven. Beautiful, wondrous, and all mine. I clutched the string in my hand and gazed at the shimmering pink balloon. It was the biggest one I’d ever had – fat with helium and formed in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head.
And best of all, inside was a second, smaller balloon of purple, my favorite color.

I tugged on the string and watched as the smaller balloon danced inside the big one. A hand touched my shoulder. I looked up into the face of my Grandma.

She smiled. “Don’t let go of the string, Marlo. You don’t want to lose it. We can’t get another one.”

I nodded and rubbed my thumb over my wrist where the string made a loose loop.

For thirty whole minutes that wonderful balloon bobbed over my head. It followed me to the merry-go-round, to the bathroom, to the lunch line. It watched me eat my hot dog, carefully with one hand on the bun and the other on the string.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I was running to see a group of swans swimming across the pond. My hand loosened. The string slipped. The loop around my wrist came undone.
And the balloon was gone.

Breath snatched from my chest as I watched it rushed toward the sky. Further, further. And then it vanished from my sight. My face twisted in a sob. Tears blurred my eyes. “Nooo . . . come back.”

Grandma’s hand again touched my shoulder.

My lips quivered as I spoke. “Bring it back, Grandma. Please.”

She drew me close. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. We can’t get it back.”

There was something so final, so awful, so heartbreaking about those words that they have stayed in my memory all these years later. Even now, I can’t forget that day, nor how it felt to know that my beautiful balloon was gone forever.

That image was renewed for me again not too long ago as I sat in my Hebrew class and listened to the professor talk about Psalm 23. I fiddled with my pencil, half-listening. After all, what could be new about Psalm 23? I’d read it hundreds of times, not only in my Bible, but on plaques and cards and calendars and a dozen other trinkets meant to sooth and comfort.

The professor came to verse 3. I glanced at it in the Hebrew, and then in the English of my NIV translation. He restores my soul.

“Look closely at the form of the verb there,” the professor said.

I looked.

“You see how it really means that he brings back my soul.”

So what? I doodled on the edge of my notes and yawned.

The professor paused. Then, he told a story. He told about a day when his son lost a balloon.

I stopped doodling.

He told about the look on the boy’s face. About how the balloon floated up and up and up in the air and no one could bring it back.

I stopped yawning.

He said the verse again. “He brings back my soul.”

I stopped fiddling with my pencil.

He wrote the verb on the board.

And in that moment, I grasped anew the wonder of Psalm 23. We have lost our souls, to sin, to brokenness, to hurt and pain. We have lost something more precious even than a fat Mickey Mouse balloon. And there’s nothing we can do to get it back.

But God does the impossible. He brings back the balloon. What this world robs, he restores in His love. Who I really am inside, who he created me to be, he brings that back.

I have been hurt. I have chosen poorly. I have sinned. I have slipped away and flown into the sky.

But that is not the end of the story. I am not lost forever in the clouds. God restores my soul. He restores my hope. He brings me back to the place I really belong, to the hand of the One who loves me.

And now, forever, I need no longer to fear.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Living as Dust in the Light

Hi Friends,

How do you feel about being dust? How do I feel? As I was cleaning house this past weekend for company, I was thinking about an analogy that I used in my first ever novel, Cry Freedom. It came out of an experience I had years ago. It happened like this . . .

Twilight tossed its gray mantle across the sky and into my newly dusted living room. Shadows crept over the floor, darted into corners, and settled in my mind. Weariness whispered through me. Why did I have to clean, and scrub, and do all this work anyway? I wanted to read a good book, watch a movie, anything else but clean the living room for the Bible study group that would meet there that night. Why did I always have to be the one who did the work?

I threw my cleaning rag onto the coffee table and melted into the recliner. In a moment, the oven timer would buzz, and I would have to leap up and finish preparing the cake for the night’s study snack. Why couldn’t I just be free, free to spend my evening however I wanted? Free to do as I pleased?

A butterfly flitted outside the window. I watched it fly high, then low, before it paused on the rosebush just outside the pane. Eggshell wings fluttered in slow motion. Up and down. Up and down. Then, the creature dropped from the branch and flew into the sky. I followed it with my eyes until it became only a black speck against the clouds. Then, it disappeared.

“Make me like the butterfly, Lord,” I whispered. “I want to be free to fly into the sky, rest on the roses, and drink in the beauty of your creation.” I leaned back my head and stared up at the window that shone from our second story. “Lord, give me wings.”

I waited. And sighed. And shifted in the chair. But I felt just as tired, just as earthbound as ever.

Then, something happened. A shaft of light, as bright as a blade, sliced through the upstairs window and illuminated a path to the floor. And in the light, I saw them – a hundred, a thousand tiny motes of dust. They drifted in the light like bright bits of glimmering gold.

I grabbed my dust rag, and started to stand. But then, I sat back again. I had worked for hours to eradicate the dark bits of dust that marred my furniture, countertops, and television screen. But this dust was different. These tiny motes weren’t dark, weren’t dirty, or ugly. They were beautiful, shining like miniscule stars in the last rays of day.

I dropped my rag, settled back into the chair, and wondered at the splendor of the dust. How could something that was no more than dirt be so beautiful?

I watched a few motes drift lower, out of the shaft of light. They turned gray again, just ugly little specks that floated onto an end table. Only in the light were they lovely. Only there did they shimmer like jewels.

As I sat and pondered the secret of the dust, I remembered a verse from the Psalms: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV).

I am dust, I thought. Not some winged butterfly, not a creature that flies wherever it pleases, but dust. Dirty, ugly dust. But in God’s light, I too am transformed. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8:12 (NIV). And like the dust, I am only beautiful when I am aloft by his power, illuminated by his love.

As pretty as the butterfly was, the dust that glimmered like sparkling gold was much more beautiful. It stayed, it shone, and as long as it remained in the light, it was stunning.

I had prayed for the ability to order my day as I pleased. But, God offers a freedom that’s more incredible, more real, and more wondrous.

In his light is the freedom to rest in his grace and love. That is the mystery, and the wonder, of true freedom. So now, I no longer pray for wings like the butterfly. Instead, I pray to stay within the light.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lessons from a Dog

Hello Friends,

Sometimes you learn things about God in the strangest places. For me, I learned something about His gifts from an ugly little puppy named Cisco. I got Cisco over ten years ago, and he died recently (just got old). And so, I reminded again of how I'd gotten him and what he taught me about God. Here's how it happened:

"Hey, you guys want a puppy?" our friends, Steve and Angela, asked one day after church. "They’ll be born in about a month.”

"Nah. I got enough work to do,” I said.

Steve smiled. “They’re boxers.”

“Boxers? Really?" My husband and I spun around. We loved boxers. But, they were hard to come by, and expensive at that, so we'd never gotten one.

"Yeah, purebreds." Steve’s grin broadened. "So, what do you say?”

"I’ve changed my mind. We definitely want one!” The words tumbled from my mouth.

In a month, right on schedule, seven little boxer puppies were born. With hearts filled with longing, Bryan and I leaned over the litter and eyed each one. Which would we choose? Six were just adorable, with their little black faces and pushed in noses. The seventh, on the other hand, was not. An ugly pinkish-white splotch spread over his entire face, making him look more like a rat than a dog.

"Yuck. What happened to that one?" I said, pointing at the white-faced pup.

Angela sighed. "We might end up having to keep that one. I can't imagine anyone picking him."

I shrugged and studied the cute puppies.

Bryan stepped next to me. "Which one do you like the best?"

"What about that one?" I pointed to a pup with a thin white stripe up his face.

Bryan picked up the puppy and handed him to me. "This is the one I like, too."

Steve smiled. "Hey, why don't you guys take two?"

"Could we?" Bryan turned to me. "Is there another one you like?"

"Well, let me hold me a different one and I'll see.”

Bryan headed toward the puppy pen.

"Any one but that ugly little white faced one!" I added as Bryan reached into the pen. Then, one by one I held the other five pups, but none seemed “just right.”

Finally, five weeks rolled around. Like new parents, we gazed down at the wiggling mass of puppies. There they all were, six little black faced cuties, and one . . . wait a minute! There was the white faced pup, and he was the cutest of the bunch.

We brought all the little boxers out to play on the mat, and the white-faced one played with Bryan and I, licked our faces, and wagged his little nubby tail. I couldn't resist. We claimed our second pup.

In the years to come, Cisco became a special blessing to me. He snuggled with me when I was sad, romped with me when I was happy, and sat curled at my feet when I watched television. Often, Bryan lwould look at us, shake his head, and say, "He's definitely your dog." And to think that I once said, "Any puppy but that ugly little white faced one."

Cisco made me wonder how many gifts from God I turned my back on because they seemed a little ugly at first, or weren't what I had in mind. Maybe it was that lunch with someone who sort of bugged me, or the Bible study I just didn't have time for, or the neighborhood get-together that I felt too tired to attend.

So, even now when he's gone, Cisco is a reminder to me to look beyond my initial reactions to see what God may have for me. I try not to say “yuck!” too quickly, but instead remember that the ugly, white-faced puppies in my life may really be special gifts from God, sent just for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When Life's a Puzzle

Hi Friends,

Lately, I 've been thinking about how my life doesn't always go together as I'd like it to. I hope and pray for one thing, and another thing happens. I pray for another baby, I get a miscarriage. And I don't believe that's because I didn't pray well enough or have enough faith or do everything just right. No, I believe that in my life, and in yours too, that God has his own plans that sometimes are different from ours. And I am reminded that sometimes life is a puzzle and only God knows how the pieces fit.

I'm also reminded of a story from a couple years ago when my daughter was two. It happened like this:

“No, Sweetie, that doesn’t go there.” I pointed my finger at the puzzle piece in my two-year-old daughter’s hand.

Joelle studied the bright piece and frowned. Vivid reds and pinks splashed over the cardboard surface. “Flower. Go dere.” She again pushed it into the open space along one side of the puzzle.

“It won’t fit. You’re not ready for that piece yet.”

“Fit. Go dere.” Her brows furrowed as she turned the piece sideways and tried again. Push, turn, shove, turn, stare, frown. And still the piece wouldn’t slide into place.

I tapped my fingers on the table and reached for the puzzle piece.

Joelle hid it against her chest.

I had to admit, it was a beautiful piece. Rose petals shone against the deep green background and created an enticing image of color. But no matter how hard Joelle tried, it wouldn’t fit into spot she had chosen for it.

I watched her struggle for a few more minutes, then searched through the pile for the right piece. I finally found it – a piece covered in shades of ugly brown with dark knobs for the tree trunk. “Here, love, try this one.” I handed her the picture of the brown trunk.
She looked at the piece in my hand, then at the pretty flowers in hers. She pushed my hand away. “No.”

I wiggled my fingers. “This is the one you need.”

“No.” She pointed at my hand. “Yucky.”

I looked down at the piece. She was right. It was yucky compared to the flowers. But it was the piece she needed at this time. The only one that would fit in order to make the picture complete.

The difference was that I had the whole picture in mind, the whole puzzle. She, only the piece in her hand. It took Joelle five full minutes to finally put down the flowered piece and try the one I was holding out to her.

Not that I blamed her. I prefer flowered pieces too. In the picture of my life, I’ve often tried to shove in the pretty piece – something that looks good, seems appealing. I want success in my career now. I want my relationships to be easy and comfortable. I want my children to always choose what’s right, and my health to be excellent.

But sometimes God holds out a piece that isn’t nearly so attractive. He calls me to a difficult task, to face failure or fear, to endure a painful situation, or to invest in a relationship that seems to bring only heartache. At those times, the piece He’s giving me looks brown, gnarled, and ugly when I want bright and beautiful.

And sometimes, I, too, want to hang on to my idea of how my life should be right now. Sometimes I want to force a pretty piece, one I like better, when God’s giving me the less attractive piece because in the end that’s the one that will make the picture of my life right.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” God tells the people of Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And the same holds true for me. He knows the plans He has for me. His plans, not mine. Plans that take into account the whole picture of my life, the picture He is creating especially for me.

So these days, as I watch Joelle put puzzle pieces together, I remind myself that God knows all the pieces of my life, where they fit, and in what order they must be placed.

And when he hands me a piece that isn’t all flowers, like he's done in these last weeks, I need to trust that he sees the whole picture, and one day that picture will be beautiful. And one day, I'll see it too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When Earthquakes Come

Hi Friends!

It's been a shaking week for me, with our 4th miscarriage in less than a year, and the end of my hopes to have another child. So, as I was looking through some of my writings from a few years ago, I found these thoughts on surviving the earthquakes of life. I hope you'll find these thoughts helpful as well:

The ground shook like newly poured pudding. A picture fell from the wall. Glass splintered. The floor creaked.

I raced into Bethany’s room and leaned over her crib. My hands gripped the wooden sides. Seconds tumbled by. A doll tipped on a shelf beside me. I glanced down at my daughter, wondering how she would handle her first major earthquake. Would she wake up and shriek? Would she cry for Mommy?

I held my breath. Two more seconds passed. Bethany sighed and rolled over. She didn’t wake. She didn’t even whimper. Instead, she slept peacefully on.

Finally, the floor stopped moving, and the walls stopped shaking. Silence descended. I waited, and breathed, and eventually released my white-knuckled grip on the sides of the crib. Then, I bent over and brushed Bethany’s hair back with my fingertips. She cooed in her sleep and stuck her two middle fingers in her mouth.

After a few moments, I picked up Bethany’s doll, gathered up the glass shards on the floor, and made my way back downstairs to where my husband had already turned the television to the news. Soon the reports were rolling in – a 5.2 quake centered just three miles from our house. A few phone lines were down, some homes had lost power, but no major damage was reported.

Bryan glanced at me. “How’s Peanut?”

“Didn’t even notice it,” I said. “She just kept on sleeping.”

“Through all that?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Yep.”

That night as I lay in bed waiting for aftershocks, I thought about Bethany’s surprising reaction, or I should say non-reaction, to the earthquake. How could she just keep on sleeping with all that rattling and rolling going on around her? I pondered for several minutes then voiced the question to my husband.

“I dunno,” he mumbled. “Maybe it was just because it was night-night time. Time to sleep.”

“And she didn’t want to let a little thing like a 5.2 earthquake deter her?” I joked.

“Guess not.” Bryan rolled over and ended the conversation.

I lay there and watched the ceiling fan make lazy circles in the dark. Was Bryan right? Was the answer as simple as it was nighttime, and so Bethany slept? If so, I wanted to be like Bethany. I, too, wanted to sleep peacefully when my world shook around me. I wanted to rest in the knowledge that God, my Father, was standing over my crib, protecting me.

I closed my eyes and recalled the serenity on Bethany’s sleeping face. As I did, a verse from the Book of John whispered through my mind. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27, KJV). That was the kind of peace Bethany had exemplified. A peace that defied the logic of the world, a peace that allowed her to rest without fear even as everything shook around her. And that was the kind of peace I wanted, the kind of peace Christ offered me, too.

I know that earthquakes will come (after all, I live in California!). And I also know that there will be day-quakes, times when my day is shaken from the path I’d planned, and life-quakes, times when my life feels like it might fall apart. But when my world shakes around me, I want to continue doing what I should be doing, just like Bethany. Rather than crying, “The sky is falling!” I want to just continue on with God’s will in my life. Jesus tells me, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, KJV).

So, this week, when the ground is trembling beneath me, I'm remembering Bethany, and I'm trying to remember to trust the God who is leaning over my crib. Then, I am not afraid, and I can keep on doing whatever it is that God has asked me to do, even when the quake rates a 5.2.