Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the Heat of Life...Taking Risks

Hi friends,

It's strange that now, during one of my busiest months ever, one of my busiest weeks ever (get this - I taught at a writer's conference Saturday, had a half-day women's ministry team meeting on Sunday where I led the Bible portion, my next novel is due this week, I have a big profile article due on Friday, I had a chance to expand my construction consulting business that I had to jump on right away, and I'm teaching at our small group training meeting this Saturday, oh, and I have a cold - yikes!), that God is right now calling me to trust him to take some risks.

Last week I wrote about pruning, about cutting out the "poison oak" in our lives. This week, I'm thinking about daring, about plunging in to those places where we see God moving, especially when the heat is on. A contradiction? Pruning and Plunging? I don't think so. I'm starting to see that God is calling me to both - to prune in those places where He is not, and to plunge into those things where He is working, calling, moving in my life. Pruning and Plunging go hand in hand.

And as I've been thinking of this, I was reminded of the following story from a few years ago. A story about a hot day, a log ride, and how when we take the plunge with God, we are not exhausted but refreshed. And I'm finding that to be true . . . even this week. So, read on . . .

The creak of the ferris wheel called petulantly to the seagulls as we walked down the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Sweat trickled down my forehead to make a damp trail on the side of my face. I squinted into the hot California sun. Another 100 degree day in September. I still wasn’t used to it.

Earlier that day, Christy had turned up her innocent six-year-old face and pleaded to go to the Boardwalk. So, we forsook the comfort of air conditioning to brave the tortures of sun and surf.

The Boardwalk teemed with people in swimsuits and sunglasses. I squeezed Christy’s hand and brushed her hair back with my fingertips. She was as hot as I was. “Just a few more minutes,” I assured her, “and we’ll be there.”

Within moments, we reached the ride we had all been looking forward to – Logger’s Run. I shaded my eyes from the glare as I looked at the twisting trail of canals far above. With a shriek of pure joy, the kids in one of the plastic logs plummeted to the end of the ride. Splash! Sunlight danced off droplets of water like a thousand tiny diamonds.

I smiled. Christy would love this ride. The water, the logs, the bumping along in bright blue channels, the final plunge, the big splash . . . it was just the type of thrill that suited her.

“Here we are. The log ride." I motioned toward the water. “Are you ready for some fun, Christy?”

She scrunched her face into a frown. “No!”

I stepped closer. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t wanna go.” She crossed her arms and pushed out her lower lip.

“But this is the kind of ride you like the best.”

“I don’t wanna go.” She stomped her foot and gave me that 'I need discipline' look.

“Fine,” I muttered. “We’ll sit here on the bench and wait while everyone else goes on the ride.”

She glared at me, walked over to the bench, and sat down.

What had gotten into her? The heat? The fear of something new? I watched the others get in line. It didn’t make sense. The ride would cool her down, and she knew that I would be right there with her if she became afraid. Besides that, it was fun.

I shook my head and let a frown creep over my face. We had come to the Boardwalk because Christy had asked. Now she sat on the bench, in the blistering sun, and refused to enjoy the best ride of all. It was crazy.

I opened my mouth to blast her with my opinion, but God stopped me. I looked down at her, her brow still furrowed in stubborn rejection.

Was Christy a bit too much like me? Did I sometimes make that same surly face to God? I remembered a gentle urging to talk to my neighbor about Jesus. I hadn’t done it. And last spring I thought I might start a new Bible study in my neighborhood. But the heat of life and the fear of the unknown had stopped me. Had I refused the best ride in my spiritual life?

God often asked me to plunge forward with what He wanted for me, to take a risk, to try something new with Him. But, my tendency was to hang back, to sit on the bench while others enjoyed the ride.

Perhaps the uncomfortable things that God was calling me to do would actually refresh me, and be a lot of fun besides. I knew, too, that God would be with me the entire time, right there holding me tight as I bumped along the channel of His will. What had I been missing by my reluctance to do something new and join Him on the “Logger’s Run” in my life?

“There they are.” Christy’s words startled me. Sure enough. The others had finished the ride. They came laughing down the steps, their shirts wet, their hair dripping.

“That was great!” Bryan strode over to us with a grim still spread across his face. “You guys should have come.”

I smiled up at him. Yes, we should have. And from now on, I would.

In the heat of everyday life, I couldn’t afford to miss any more log rides with God.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Whisper of Freedom by Tricia Goyer

Hello Friends!

I wanted to tell you about a new novel from my good friend, Tricia Goyer. Tricia's books are always rich with history and wonderful detail. I think you'll enjoy her latest, so here's all about it, including an interview.


A Whisper of Freedom is book three in The Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series. Battles heat up…not only those being waged by the soldiers on both sides fighting for Spain, but in the hearts and minds of the men and women who must sacrifice more than their dreams to save the lives of their loved ones.

In this meticulously researched novel, brave and idealistic Sophie, Philip, Jose, and Deion realize their only hope for freedom is escaping Spain's borders.

By continuing the story of this band of volunteers during the Spanish Civil War, A Whisper of Freedom proves that there are whispers of hope and liberty that resonate through even the darkest night.

Read an excerpt here: http://triciagoyer.com/cmsdocuments/WhisperCh1.doc

Watch the book trailer here: http://cg.creativenuclei.com/wip/TriciaGoyer/cscw.html

Buy the book here: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=467690&netp_id=506844&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=details


Q. A Whisper of Freedom is Book #3. Did the story wrap up like you expected?

A. Good question, I'd have to say yes ... and no. The basic plots points that I envisioned at the beginning of the series still happened. It was the characters that had minds on their own. They did things, said things, were involved in things that I didn't suspect when I started the series. It was very exciting and fun to write!

Q. A Whisper of Freedom ends with Europe on the verge of WWII, are you going to continue the series and carry the story on?

A. I'd love to! But ... I have no current contract to do so. I would LOVE to see what happens to Philip and Sophie and Jose and others during the war. I have a feeling there would me more spying, more intrigue, and more ways God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways.

Q. Who is your favorite character in A Whisper of Freedom?

A. Are you kidding? That's like asking which kid I love best. Each of them are unique and special :)

Q. There are some very interesting plot twists concerning stolen gold. Is this gold completely fictional?

A. No, actually it's not. It's true! While I was researching for novel #1 I read about gold that was stored in the bank vaults of Madrid. Before The Spanish Civil War broke out Spain had the fourth largest gold reserves in the world. Afraid that the Nationalist would conquer Madrid and take the gold, they used it to buy arms and troops from the Soviet Union. The gold was transported by ship to Russia, but the amount that left the vaults and the amount that arrive in Russia is a different quantity. I found the "missing" gold to be a good opportunity to wrap my story around.

Q. Have you gotten any feedback from your story?

A. Yes, so far the early reviewers have been pleased. I've gotten comments that they story surprised and pleased them with the various twists. Also, many, many people appreciate that I brought this part of history to life.

Q. What does your writing day look like?

A. Every day is completely different. With kids, and homeschooling, and appointments, and shopping, and church, and (the most important) family activities, each day is different. Actually ... that's not completely true. There are a few things I do first every day ... no matter what's going on. I always have quiet time in the morning--Bible reading, prayer, journaling. I always have a time of prayer and Bible reading with my husband, John. And I try to exercise. If I'm not running out the door, I spend 30 minutes on my exercise bike and I read as I pedal.

Q. What is your favorite part about writing fiction?

A. I have a few favorite parts. I love researching. I love really, really digging in and giving my characters deep motivations, needs, and desires. I also love being "there"--which is getting so caught up in the fictional world that it's as if these characters are real, and I'm really there.

Q. You've written seven historical novels now--four about World War II and three about The Spanish Civil War. Would you ever consider writing a contemporary novel?

A. Yes, I would consider it. Actually, I've done it. I'm working on contemporary novels for Guideposts, as part of a continuing series called Home to Heather Creek. I wrote novel #2 titled Sweet September. It will be out the end of June. I had a great time, and I'm exciting to be writing more contemporary novels in the future.

Q. Do you have any more historical novels in the work?

A. Yes, actually I'm working on a historical, action-packed spy novel with my friend, Mike Yorkey, titled the Swiss Courier. Having a Swiss wife, Mike adds a nice International flavor to the books. He's also great writing action scenes. Think Mission Impossible set in WWII.

Q. Have any of your novels been translated in other languages?

A. Yes. Some have been translated into German and all of them in Dutch. What's really cool is that I've heard they're "best-sellers" in Dutch. I'm ready for a trip to Holland!

Q. What advice do you have for those who want to write historical fiction?

A. First of all, reading LOTS of historical fiction and figure out what you like best and why. Second, read books on writing fiction ... as many as possible. Third, write, write, write. Give yourself goals and stick to them. Fourth, attend a writer's conference. I highly recommend the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference (www.acfw.com) and Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. The workshops are great. The teachers are amazing. And meeting other writers is one of the best things you can do to further your career.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Feeling Choked? Ideas for Living Fully in God's Vision

Hi Friends,

It was tall. It was green. It was bushy. But something wasn’t right.

I crossed my arms and looked up at the fat, green oak tree. Beside me, my husband sighed. I shook my head. “I don’t want to do it. Do you want to do it?”

“I don’t want to do it.”

I stepped back. “Someone’s got to do it.”
“It’s an ugly job.”

“That thing will be right outside the window once we build the cabin. We can’t have it looking like that.”

“I know. But still . . . ” Bryan crossed his arms over his chest.

I put my hand on my hips.

For a moment, we both stared at the oak and didn’t say a word. Shiny green and red leaves poked from all parts of the tree. But they weren’t oak leaves. Thick vines twisted around the trunk and branches. Those didn’t belong to the oak either.

I shivered.

The green wasn’t the green of a healthy oak. Instead it was a sign of poison. A huge batch of poison oak had grown up into the tree and twined around every branch. The tree was thick with it. Lush and green, but with nasty poison.

Bryan tugged on his sleeves. “Okay, I’ll do it then. But get the bleach ready for the laundry.”

Four hours later, the laundry was in, Bryan was taking a cool shower, and the tree was clear. I tromped up the hill and looked at it. It wasn’t lush anymore. And it wasn’t green. Scraggly branches with a few sad leaves spread from the trunk and reached toward the sky.

“Ugh, it looks awful,” I murmured.

As I looked at the now-bare soil beneath it, I noticed there were no acorns scattered on the ground, and no little baby oaks growing around it.

Then it struck me. That big, strong oak was stifled by that little vine. The oak was bigger, taller, thicker, and more established. And yet, that small, thin, poisonous weed had nearly choked the life from it.

As I stood and gazed at the tree, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable from Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. In that story, seed fell on four different types of soil. In the third, the seed sprouted among thorns and the life was choked out the plants, just as the poison oak had choked the oak tree. Jesus likened the thorns to the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things.

If something as small as poison oak could choke the life from a big, strong oak, how much more vulnerable was I to worry and wrong desires? After all, there are so many things in life to worry about – finances, schooling, job concerns, health, family crises. It’s easy to allow those to twine around my mind and shove poisonous leaves through my branches until there are acorns of God’s word dropping into my daily life. No little oaks springing up around me. I had to ask if I was I producing any kind of crop in God’s Kingdom. Was it growing stronger through me, or was I just barely getting by?

As I asked those questions, I realized that I had some poison oak in my life – worries that kept me from focusing on God, goals I was pursuing that were good but weren’t God’s plan, things that were distracting me from fully living the life God had for me. And just like we did for the oak tree, I had to cut off the poison oak at its base and peel away all the vines from the branches of my life.

Over the past few years, we’ve kept the poison oak away from that oak tree, and now the tree is full, healthy, and green with leaves all its own. In time, it recovered from the stranglehold of the poison oak. It became the beautiful tree God meant it to be.

And I know that if I, too, keep the thorns away, I can be full of the greenness of true life. I can be all God intends me to be. I can be a tall, strong oak in the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn

Hi Friends,

Today I'd like to tell you about a book by friend of mine. It's Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn. This is a fun mystery that I think you'll enjoy. Here's a quick blurb:

When a man turns up dead in a teddy bear costume, Ginger and the other ladies of the Bargain Hunters Network learn a lesson about trusting in God rather than in wealth as they try to solve the crime and clear one of their own.

And here's a bit about Sharon:

Sharon Dunn is the author of Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, book one in the Bargain Hunters Mysteries, and the Ruby Taylor mystery novels including Sassy Cinderella, which was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers. She earned a BA in television production and a master’s in history Sharon lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her husband of twenty years, three children, two cats, and lots of dust bunnies.

I endorsed Sharon's Death of a Garage Sale Newbie (fun book!), so I'm sure this one's going to be great too (It's in my TBR stack right now - can't wait to get to it).

So, anyway, here's an Amazon link if you want to find out more: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1590526902

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck

Hi Friends,

I've got a new Christian novel to tell ya about. This one's Symphony of Secrets by Sharon Hinck (Bethany House Publishers). Here's a bit about it:

Talented flutist Amy Johnson's dreams come true when she wins a spot with the Minneapolis Symphony. But this amateur sleuth has trouble concentrating on the notes as she begins to see devious motives behind her fellow musicians' many mishaps. Meanwhile, her musically talented daughter wants to give it all up for—gasp—the cheerleading squad! What's a musical mom to do? Can Amy fine-tune her investigation before the symphony is forced to close and she loses not only her dream job but her promising new relationship with its conductor?

Author Q&A:

What is the significance of the title, Symphony of Secrets?
On an obvious level, Amy tries to uncover answers to the mystery of who is ruining the symphony, and the secrets of her various “suspects”. But a key element of the story is that Amy has been keeping family secrets for many years and is finally forced to face them. There is also a growing awareness of the “secret” (hitherto unknown by her) work of God, which plays out in her life like the movements of a symphony. Her life is really a symphony of secrets.

Why did you decide to add a mystery to the mix for this book?
I’ve always loved Dorothy Gillman’s “Mrs. Pollifax” books (a retired garden-club woman joins the CIA) and Jill Churchill’s “Jane Jeffrey” novels (a suburban mom solves murders) so I thought it would be fun to make Amy a bit of an armchair detective (at least in her own mind). It made for a fun combination.

Your Becky Miller books took us into the world of a mom with big dreams. How does Amy differ from Becky?
I love exploring the heroic in people the world considers “ordinary” - like moms. Like the Becky Miller books, Symphony of Secrets includes a strong story thread about parenting, but the dynamics of a young single mom with a teen daughter are an interesting new twist. Their banter has a bit of a Gilmore Girl vibe to it – full of affection but a little dysfunctional – which adds to the fun.

Is there a love interest for Amy?
I hadn’t planned for one when I began the book, but a certain character walked into a scene, tossed some musical scores on a table, put his feet up, and was so dynamic, I fell in love with him. So Amy did, too. The story isn’t primarily a romance, but in between trying to raise her daughter, hide family secrets, and save the symphony, Amy is further befuddled by the romantic feelings she works hard to ignore.

Are you at all like Amy?
My editor told me that of all my characters, she sees a lot of me in this one. That cracked me up because as I shaped Amy, I made her cranky, with little people skills, and hapless in her crime-fighting efforts. But I have to admit, my editor is right. There are some similarities.Although I’m not a professional concert musician, as a writer, I’m familiar with the neurotic-artist tendencies that were so fun to develop in Amy. I share with her the passionate desire to create something of beauty, the massive insecurities, and the bulldog determination to pursue what matters.

What is the main spiritual theme of Symphony of Secrets?
God loves us enough to come and meet us through the avenues that we understand. He finds ways to speak our language. I’ve seen many examples of God wooing someone toward Himself through that person’s passions. Amy understands the world of music and God coaxes her to consider spiritual issues through the beauty of music that is already alive in her heart.

Visit Sharon at http://www.sharonhinck.com/

Symphony of Secrets is available at your local bookstore or at Christianbook.com:http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&p=1023817&item_no=202827

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day - What Do You Expect?

Hi Friends,

What do you expect from your loved ones on Valentine's Day? What do you expect from a special someone? Candy, dinner, flowers, a pretty card? Or maybe you should read the following story, then decide what your answer will be. This happened to me a few years ago:

"Happy Valentine's Day, Honey," my husband murmured, then scooted out the door with his usual quick kiss and bear hug. "See ya later." Bryan winked and was gone.

That’s it? I thought. No candy, no flowers, no delicate chocolates in the traditional bright red heart-shaped box! Just a hug, kiss, and out the door? This was supposed to be a day of passion, of romance, of chocolates! A frown tugged at the corners of my mouth and deepened into ugly grooves.

Bryan never was much of a romantic anyway, I complained. He just doesn't understand women. Days like today are supposed to be special.

I sighed and drew my brows together in a deeper scowl as I proceeded to review again all the faults I imagined in my poor, unwary spouse. By the time I was finished, I was thoroughly dissatisfied. Valentine's Day was ruined. And it was all his fault!

I threw my body crosswise on the couch and swung my legs across the cushions. Reluctantly, I picked up the Bible for my daily devotion. I wasn't in the mood. My eyes fell on the day's scripture, "Serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13). Love. There was that word. Today was supposed to be the day of love. I wasn't feeling much love at all. And it was all Bryan's fault! ... Or was it? The scripture didn't say to expect to be loved. It especially didn't say to expect chocolates just because it was Valentine's Day.

Slowly, my temper quelled and I began to examine my reactions. Bryan had done no more or less than any other day. He had given me the hug and kiss that I usually counted as a treasure. So why the difference this morning? Was it because today I had expected more? Had I succumbed to the dreaded "E" word - Expectation?

I began to realize that the problem with my expectations is that I can never win with them. As soon as I expected Bryan to act a certain way, I set myself up for disappointment. When he didn't meet my expectations, I was upset. If he had acted as I expected, then I would have been satisfied. But how could I have been pleasantly surprised and appreciate his kindness if I had been expecting it all along?

February, they say, is a month for love. And Jesus showed us what real love is all about -- Not candies, nor flowers, nor sweet chocolates wrapped in a fancy box. No, love is about laying down our lives for one another, about serving one another in love.

So, this year for Valentine's Day, I'm not going to worry about gifts of tantalizing chocolates. I'm not going to cling to expectations of what my husband is supposed to do for me. Rather, I plan to give my husband one of the greatest gifts of all in a marriage -- I'm going to exchange my expectations for joy and thanksgiving. This year, I'm making Expectation a dirty word!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills

Hi Friends,

I've got a new novel to tell you about this week -- Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills. Awaken My Heart tells the unlikely love story between 18-year-old Marianne, a wealthy rancher’s daughter, and the infamous Mexican rebel leader warring against her father.

Plus, Avon Inspire, an imprint of Harper Collins, (DiAnn's publisher) is sponsoring a sweepstakes where you can enter to win a free stay at a Bed & Breakfast of your choice!

Click HERE: http://www.diannmills.com/newsletter/feb08newrelease.html
to learn more and to enter the sweepstakes. (Scroll down to where it says "Valentine's Day Special.")

Now, here's a little more about Awaken My Heart as well as a Q&A with DiAnn that I thought you might enjoy:


1803, The Colony of Texas

Journey back to the early days of southwest history when the Spanish ruled the vast territory of Texas and padres instructed the people in the ways of God. Step into the world of handsome vaqueros and brightly dressed dark-eyed maidens.

The time is 1803. This is the era of Marianne Phillips and Armando Garcia, two people separated by race and culture but destined for love. Marianne is the daughter of a wealthy American rancher, a man who will do anything to please the Spanish and secure his land. Armando is a Mexican peasant, a rebel according to the Spanish. He has committed his life to helping the poor rise from poverty and the oppression of the ruling Spanish. Armando and Marianne . . . Two unlikely people who have little in common. Or do they?

Open this book to a romance that will live in your heart long after the story is told. Curl up in a serape and listen to the strum of a Spanish guitar. I invite you to read with your heart and become a part of a love story that only the hand of God could orchestrate.

Q & A with the author - DiAnn Mills

1. You’ve been writing historical fiction for a long time. What interested you in the 1803 time period?

I love Texas history, and I have an appreciation for the courageous men and women who built this state. Early Texas is a mixture of Native American, Spanish, black, and various European descents. Each race offered us a rich cultural heritage, a heritage that we should be proud.

2. What is it the theme of Awaken My Heart?

The theme is courage: courage to stand up to political and social factions that vie against God and what He desires for His people.

3. Armando Garcia is a rebel type of character. Do you think this type of hero applauds rebellion?

Not at all. Armando had much to learn about the difference between his own desires and what God required of him. Once he realized his stand needed to embrace truth, he was on the right road.

4. Marianne Phillips has a streak of rebellion in her. How was it channeled?

Marianne kept much of her rebellion inside because she knew God expected her to honor her parents, and in many instances, her father’s wishes. Once she saw that she had to make a choice between obedience to her father and obedience to God, she found strength to do that which was right.

5. What do you want your readers to understand about Weston Phillips?

Weston Phillips had the potential to be a good and kind man. He had the intelligence to build a large ranch and the ability to accumulate wealth, but selfishness took the reins. Once the reader completes the novel, he/she will understand Phillips much better.

6. What is your biggest challenge in writing?

Always the characterization. I crave three dimensional characters that will experience growth. Understanding and acting upon their motivation takes time! Sometimes I simply have to “live” with them for awhile.

7. How do you develop your characters?

Through time, patience, people-watching, viewing them through unusual situations, brainstorming, and consulting many books about the psychology of personalities. And that’s just the beginning!

8. How much of yourself goes into a character?

I attempt to keep myself excluded from the process, but I admit that an opinion or a trait appears now and then.

9. What is your next project?

I’m currently writing a romantic suspense for Tyndale, the second book in the Behind the Sunglasses Series. I’m also preparing various historical fiction proposals.

10. How can you encourage fledging writers in their craft?

To read in the genre in which they want to write.
To read the books written by those authors they admire.
To read books about the craft.
To write everyday.
To become active in a writer’s group.

11. How can readers contact you?

My website is http://www.diannmills.com/. Feel free to sign up for my newsletter. Thanks!


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies.

DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2007. She is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she’d own a Harley, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Amazon Link - http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0061376019

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Easy Street Prayers?

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking about prayer this week, and how sometimes God answers with a big, fat NO! So, here's something that happened a few years to my husband, Bryan. See below for thoughts on prayer and when God doesn't answer the way we want him to:

I hate it when God says no. And that day, He said “No” with an exclamation point.

The winter sun shone through the clouds like a dirty tennis ball and glinted off the windshield of my ‘87 Jimmy. I gripped the steering wheel tighter and glanced down at the roofing specification I’d written months before. My stomach fluttered with the bumping of the road beneath me.
Today was the big day. I couldn’t afford for anything to go wrong.
If only my competitor doesn’t show up, I thought.

The university’s parking garage loomed in front of me. I sighed and shot a final glance at the sky before guiding my Jimmy into the huge concrete structure. Lord, I prayed, I’ve worked so hard for this customer. Can you just keep my competitor from coming today? Please? In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

As soon as the words fell from my lips, I turned the corner and saw it - a bright red Cadillac Seville, circling the building like a shark on the hunt. My competitor’s car.

I pulled into a parking space and dropped my head to the steering wheel. Obviously God had heard my prayer. And He had given me His answer - a big, fat NO!

Hey, what about all those promises in scripture? I asked. Didn’t Jesus say, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22)? And what about Luke 11:9, "Ask and it will be given to you” and John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." So, how could God say “no” to me now?

Instead of the scriptures making me feel hopeful, they suddenly seemed like God’s way of thumbing his nose at me. Was God really mocking me? As if in answer, I watched the red Seville circle the building one more time before it parked and my competitor got out.

I grabbed my spec and trudged into the university’s facilities office. Minutes later, as we made our way to the roof, my competitor started in with his jibes. Through the entire job walk, he continued his adversarial assault. I knew it, I thought, as I started my presentation. Why couldn’t God have just said yes?

On the way home that day, I thought about the prayer I prayed in the parking lot. What was really at the heart of my prayer? As I considered it, I realized my prayer had been “make this process easier for me” and “give me some security in my job.” That’s what God had answered “no” to. I had used Jesus’ name, but not prayed in His spirit. I had been praying for the “easy way,” the way that required less faith and less dependence on God, instead of more. Maybe it was time to evaluate my prayer life and make some changes.

How often did I pray “the easy way” for myself and others? When my friends or family were sick, I prayed for healing. When they were out of work, I prayed for a job. So many of my prayers consisted of things like, “God give me a parking spot close to the store because it’s raining today” or “please help me know the answers on the evaluation test” or “please make all the lights green, I’m late for work.”

But God isn’t in the business of making life easier. Rather, He’s in the business of growing my faith, breaking me of seeing only the physical aspects of life, and making me rely on Him rather than circumstances.

Since that day in the university parking lot, I’ve learned that when God says no, it’s not because He’s a mean ogre, or He didn’t hear my prayer, or I didn’t pray hard enough or use the right “formula.” Instead, a “no” often means God is working intimately in my life, sculpting my circumstances in order to grow my faith. So even though I’d still rather hear “yes’s” to all my prayers, I’m beginning to see that sometimes “no” isn’t such a bad answer after all.

Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren

Hi Friends,

Here's some info about a new novel that seems intriguing. See what ya think!

Taming Rafe by Susan May Warren:
Book 2 in The Noble Legacy series: Two-time world champion bull rider Rafe
Noble had no idea how quickly his world could end.

In less than eight seconds, he lost his title, his career, and his best friend-all on the dirt floor of a noisy rodeo arena. Katherine Breckenridge just wants to make a difference by running her mother's charity foundation. But the mysterious disappearance of half a million dollars has forced it to the brink of bankruptcy. Her last chance to save it is the annual fund-raiser, an event that's destroyed by an out-of-control Rafe Noble.

Desperate to rescue the foundation, Katherine heads to the Noble family ranch to enlist Rafe's help in raising the money he cost her in lost donations. What she doesn't know is that Rafe is
broke-in cash and in spirit-and that helping her could end up costing him his life.

Link to first chapter:

Watch Rafe book trailer: