Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feeling Weak? How to Survive: Fish & Philippians 4:8

Hi Friends,

How do we survive when we're feeling small, weak, vulnerable? I was thinking about this today and remembered a story about a couple puny little goldfish that my daughter won at a carnival years ago. It happened like this:

They were supposed to die. I had planned on it, counted on it, prepared my five-year-old daughter for the inevitable. From the moment Bethany won those two tiny goldfish at the carnival, I fully expected to be flushing them away a few days later.

I lifted the clear plastic bag and stared at the fish. One bumped against the side.

Bethany danced around me. “Yay, yay, yay, one for me and one for Joelle!” She tugged on my pantleg. “Do we have a bowl for them? Do we have food? What are we going to name them? Will they get bigger? Are they girls? I’m going name one Dorothy.” She grinned and clapped her hands.

I lowered the bag. The water sloshed inside it causing the fish to dip and spin. I brushed my hand over Bethany’s hair. “We have everything we need, Sweetie, but you know fish like this don’t live that long.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know. They just don’t.” I’d gotten fish like this many times before, some as carnival prizes, some with “three free goldfish” coupons from our local pet store. They never lived past the first week.

Bethany sighed. “Well, all right. But can we keep them anyway?”

“Of course.” I put my arm around her and smiled.

When we got home that evening, I carefully put the fish into a bowl of treated water and crumbed some fish food flakes on top.
Bethany pressed her nose against the outside of the bowl and watched with big eyes. “Maybe they won’t die right away.”
I patted her arm. “Bedtime now. Go get ready.” Then, I glanced back at the fish as Bethany scampered upstairs. I shook my head. They’ll probably be belly-up by morning.

But they weren’t.

The next morning they were swimming around their bowl and glowing with health.

“Look, Mom, they’re still alive!”

Give them a few days. I stifled the words and turned away.

A few days came and went. The fish still lived. I gave them until the weekend. They were still alive on Monday. I cleaned the bowl, treated new water, and waited.

Another week, another bowl cleaning, another and another. And still the fish lived.

One day I even dropped one of them into the sink as I was cleaning the bowl. I grabbed it up and threw it back into the water. It’ll die for sure now. But it didn’t. In fact, it’s been almost a year, and those tiny fish aren’t so tiny anymore.
Recently, I looked at them and wondered aloud, “Why have these fish lived when all my previous goldfish died so quickly?” After all, I treated their water too, and fed them the same food, and cleaned the bowl just the same as with these fish.

My husband, Bryan, answered from the other room, “It’s the water out here. It’s got to be.”

“Water? What do you mean?”

“All those other fish we had at our old house. Now we’re on well water. We had it tested. Remember? It’s pure, a lot purer anyway than that city water we used to get.”

The water - what they were surrounded in, what they lived in and breathed every day. Of course.

The next week, I was reading Philippians when I came to chapter four, verse eight (NIV). It said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.” And as I thought about the idea of purity and excellence, I remembered Bethany’s not-so-little fish. They were weak, and small, and destined to die quickly. But they lived because of the purity of the water, even after the hardship of dropping one in the sink.

People, maybe, aren’t much different. How well we survive, how well we thrive, may have everything to do with what we let our thoughts soak in, what we live and breathe every day. Do I let my mind swim around in discouraging, damaging thoughts? Or do I clean the bowl and put in pure water as often as I can?

After all, even the weak survive when the water’s pure.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Letters in the Attic by DeAnna Julie Dodson

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week:

About Letters in the Attic

Up in her grandmother’s attic in Stony Point, Maine, Annie Dawson finds a stack of old letters from her childhood friend Susan Morris. Annie remembers Susan fondly and would like to get back in touch, but nobody seems to know what’s become of her. Her friends at The Hook and Needle Club aren’t much help either. All they remember is that Susan left town more than twenty years ago to marry a very wealthy man, but none of them is quite sure who he was. And Annie can find no record of any marriage.

The more Annie searches, the more she begins to wonder if something has happened to Susan. Something bad.

Excerpt from Letters in the Attic:

Annie stepped out of the library door, took a deep breath and then scurried across Oak Lane to The Cup and Saucer. The lunch crowd was gone, and Annie was glad to see that her favorite corner table was empty.

Peggy looked up from the counter where she was refilling salt shakers. “Hi, Annie. What’ll it be?”

“Coffee to start with. I don’t know what I want to eat yet, but I’m starved.”

It took just a minute for Peggy to bring her a steaming cup and a little pitcher of cream. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. It is.” Annie sighed. “Some people just have it rough, you know.”

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”

Peggy gave her a menu and a wry grin, and Annie answered with one of her own.

“I know, but some people get a lot of trouble all at once.”
“Anybody I know?”

“Susan Morris, the one we were talking about at the club meeting. I’ve been over at the library doing some research. Mary Beth was right about her parents being killed in a car wreck, and I found out that the aunt she was living with in New York died not very long before that.”

“That’s too bad.” Peggy leaned against the other side of the booth. “And she was just out of college then? What a shame. What about that rich guy? Did you find out anything about him?”

“I haven’t found any marriage records for Susan yet. So far, Prince Charming is still a complete mystery.”

“Did somebody say Prince Charming?” A lanky guy in a policeman’s uniform got up from his stool at the lunch counter and sauntered over to Annie’s table. “Are you looking for me, ma’am?”

Peggy pursed her lips. “Oh, go sit down and drink your coffee, Roy, and let the adults talk.”

“Now, that’s no way to treat your elders, Peg. Why don’t you introduce me to your friend here? Not that everybody in Stony Point hasn’t heard of pretty Annie Dawson.”

Annie didn’t know whether to be flattered or annoyed. She settled for skeptical. “Have they?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Peggy snorted. “This is Roy Hamilton. Obviously one of Stony Point’s finest.”

“I haven’t seen you around town,” Annie admitted, shaking the hand he offered. “Are you new here?”

“Just hired on. Chief Edwards was down a man when Callahan retired. I was working in Newcastle until a little while ago, but I heard Stony Point was a pretty attractive place to hire on.” He grinned at Annie. “Very attractive, if you ask me.”

Annie refrained from rolling her eyes. “Do you live here in town?”

“I’m renting a beach house on Ocean, just north of Elm.” His grin widened. “I guess that makes us neighbors.”

“You must be at Mr. Cruz’s. The little house with white trim and a porch swing?”

“That’s the one. And, of course, everybody knows about Grey Gables. That’s a big place for one little lady by herself.”

“I don’t live alone.” Annie pretended not to notice the smirk on Peggy’s face.

“You don’t?” Roy’s sandy eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead. “I heard you were a widow.”

Annie smiled sweetly. “I am.”

“And all your family lives back in Texas, right?”

“They do.”

Roy chuckled. “You’ve got a dog.”

“A cat,” Annie admitted. “But she’s the jealous type.”

“Hmmm. Maybe I’ll have to try to win her over with some fresh salmon. We lawmen aren’t allowed to accept bribes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer a few.”

She couldn’t help laughing. “I’ll leave that between you and Boots.”

“Of course, if you’d like to–” A beep from the cell phone hooked to his belt drew his attention. “Excuse me a second.”

He walked back over to the counter to take his call, and Peggy shook her head.

“Sorry about that, Annie. He’s just not one to take a hint.”

“Poor guy’s probably just lonely. It’s hard when you’re new in town. I know.”

“I beg your pardon, ladies.” Roy came back to Annie’s table. “I’ve got business to see to, Annie, but I hope, now that we’ve been properly introduced, that I’ll see you again.”

“Stony Point’s a small place.” Annie kept her voice light and impersonal. “So that’s probably pretty likely.”

“Us being neighbors and all.” Roy took his mirrored sunglasses from his shirt pocket. “If you ever need anything, you come see me. Thanks for the coffee, Peg.”

He handed Peggy a folded bill and went out the front door. Annie watched as he took long strides across Main Street towards the Town Hall.

“Well, he’s not shy.”

“Just a nuisance more than anything else.” Peggy made a sour face. “He’s always asking for his ‘Police Discount.’ Hardy-har-har.” Peggy unfolded the bill, brightening when she saw it was a five. “But he does tip well.”

Annie chuckled, and Peggy pocketed the money.

“Anyway, back to what we were talking about earlier, I’ve been asking just about everybody I’ve seen if they know anything about Susan Morris, but nobody seems to remember much about her. Sorry. I really would have thought you’d find something about her marriage.”

Annie sighed. “That’s where I hit a brick wall. Nothing on any Susan Morris getting married to anyone anywhere in the State of Maine anytime between nineteen-eighty-five and two-thousand-five. Absolutely nothing.”

“Hmmmm. I guess it’s possible she was married somewhere out of state.”

“I guess so.” Annie took a sip of coffee. “That proverbial haystack just got a lot bigger. Are you sure you never heard anything about this man she was supposed to be married to?”

“Me? I was way too young to pay any attention to that kind of thing back then. Maybe Mary Beth will have thought of his name by the time you see her next.”

“Or that shoe company he had. It was shoes, right?”

“That’s what she said.”

Annie bit her lip. “I guess I could search for Maine shoe manufacturers and see what I come up with.”

“But if she wasn’t married in the state, maybe he didn’t live here either. His company could have been in Virginia or New York or Timbuktu.”

Annie propped her chin on her hand. “Yeah, I know.”

“Hey, I forgot.” Peggy tapped the tabletop with one bright pink nail. “I have some good news for you. I asked Wally about the other guy, the handyman. His name is Tom Maxwell and Wally says he’d do you a good job if you’re in a hurry to start on your bathroom.”

“Actually, I’d really rather have Wally do it. I know the kind of work he does, and that way it helps you out, too. But Mary Beth sounds like she doesn’t want to wait much longer to get her basement organized. I’m sure she’d like the referral.”

“I appreciate you wanting to hire Wally. I would like to see us get a little ahead for once.”

“It’s pure selfishness on my part. He did such a nice job on my kitchen, I don’t want to use anyone else.” Smiling, Annie handed the menu back to Peggy. “I hope you still have that shrimp chowder you had on your special today. I need something to warm me up.”

“Coming right up.”


The chowder was delicious, a hearty cream base packed with shrimp, bacon and potatoes, and things looked a little bit brighter by the time Annie pulled up in front of Grey Gables.

Alice waived from the front porch of the carriage house and then scurried over to the car. “Find out anything?”

“You’re just as bad as Peggy. Come in out of the cold and I’ll tell you about it.” Annie unlocked her front door and picked up the stack of mail lying just inside. “I have some chicken and veggies in the crock pot if you want to eat later on.”

“That sounds a lot better than the leftover pasta I was going to have. Don’t mind if I do.”

There was a patter of paws on the stairs and then Boots hurried into the room, rubbing against Annie’s legs to make her demands plainly known.

“All right. All right. You first.” Annie handed Alice the obituary about Susan’s aunt. “That’s all I found out. Pretty much the end of the story as far as tracking Susan through her. Be right back.”

When she returned from feeding the cat, Alice returned the article to her.

“End of story all right. I’m sorry.”

“Now I just have to figure out how to track Susan down through her marriage in forty-nine other states.”

“Don’t forget the territories, the District of Columbia and all the foreign countries in the world.”

“Great. Thanks.” Annie sat on the couch beside Alice and started shuffling through the mail. “Bills, bills and bills, it looks like. What did you decide about the harvest banquet?”

“It’s the pumpkin bread again.” Alice sighed dramatically. “My public demands it.”

“You know you could always–” Annie frowned at the envelope she held. “I wonder what this is. It couldn’t have come in the mail. There isn’t an address.”

Alice shrugged. “Maybe somebody brought it by. What’s in it?”

“Let’s see.”

Annie slit open the envelope and took out the single sheet of paper, half smiling as she looked at it. The letters were cut from the newspaper the way they did in old gangster movies. It had to be a joke, right?

There was concern in Alice’s eyes. “What is it?”

Annie let her read the message for herself.


About DeAnna Julie Dodson

DeAnna Julie Dodson is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, and Letters in the Attic, a contemporary mystery in the Annie’s Attic series. She is currently working on The Drew Farthering Mysteries, a new series of books set in 1930s England. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she currently lives in North Texas with four spoiled cats and, when not writing, enjoys quilting, cross stitch and NHL hockey.


Tell us about your latest book.

I’m very excited about the release of Letters in the Attic, an Annie’s Attic Mystery. Letters is the fourth book in this new series about Annie Dawson, a widow from Texas who goes up to clean out and sell her late grandmother’s Victorian house in Maine only to find a whole attic full of intriguing and sometimes mysterious objects. The series particularly interested me because Annie and her friends are all needleworkers – knitters, crocheters, quilters, cross-stitchers – and I’ve been interested in needlework for as long as I can remember.

Letters in the Attic came out this summer from DRG.

What's your favorite part of the story?

I think I enjoyed writing Officer Roy Hamilton the most. I actually didn’t think much about him at first. He was meant to be a very minor character who was there just to take fingerprints. Soon, though, he let me know that that was not going to be enough for him. He put on his mirrored sunglasses and sauntered up to me and said he just knew I had something more important for him to do. And darned if he wasn’t right!

What do you hope your readers will get out of the story?

I think the most important thing is that there is freedom in truth. Hiding from it only weighs you down and keeps you prisoner. Facing the truth breaks those chains and breaks the hold of those who would use the fear of that truth against you. Once it’s in the light of day, whatever it is you’re hiding from, it loses its power.

Tell us a little about your writing. Is there any one thing or reference you keep handy when writing? Anything you kept around for this particular book?

Of course, the greatest reference tool these days is the internet. It’s made research so much easier, though you do have to be careful of which sources you trust. Still, I like to have some actual reference books handy when I’m writing. I especially like The Well-Tempered Sentence by Karen Elizabeth Gordon and Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for solving those thorny grammar and usage questions. They’re both extremely practical while appealing to my sometimes-off-the-wall sense of humor.

For Letters in the Attic, of course, my best friend was the packet of series information the publisher gave me so my book would mesh with the others in the series. Since writing this kind of book was new to me, this packet was really a life saver.

Who do you rely on for help when writing?

Writing can be a very lonely and isolated job. And the worst part of it is that, once you’ve written something, you can never see it the way a new reader will see it. Obviously, you know what you meant to say when you wrote it, but does it really say that? Really? You just have to have a pre-reader look it over, someone who will speak the truth in love and tell you honestly what works and what doesn’t.

I met author Robin Hardy (The Chataine’s Guardian and many, many more) when I took a “Writing Christian Fiction” class at the local community college. At that point, I didn’t imagine I would ever actually be published. She was so gracious and so kind to this very green wannabe writer. She actually read through my 250,000-word manuscript (the one that became In Honor Bound) and showed me how to improve it and, more importantly, how I could cut it down to a manageable length. Now, years later, she’s still my first and best pre-reader and a terrific friend. She catches inconsistencies and stupid mistakes and tells me when something just falls flat. I would so much rather hear it from her than from my editor or, worst of all, from my readers. I’m so blessed to know her!

Aside from writing, what takes up most of your time?

I’m addicted to cross-stitch and quilting. I have just a ton of projects yet to be done because I want to do everything. That’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed working on this series so much. I can relate to the ladies in the Annie’s Attic Mysteries who love to make beautiful things by hand.

What advice would you give to an unpublished writer?

I suppose there are writing prodigies out there, people who can just sit down and write perfection from word one, but I’ve never met anyone like that. The only way I know to succeed in writing is to write. And write. And write. And read a lot. And write more. I’ve heard it said that it takes about ten thousand hours to really master the craft of writing. Shortcuts don’t work. Put in your time. There’s really no other way to end up with a product that will make you proud.

But while you’re putting in your time, don’t get discouraged. Really learning to write is a long, arduous process. It’s usually a thankless job. Lots of people say they want to write. Very few stick with it long enough to actually become writers. Writing is a lonely business. It can be a very discouraging one. But if it’s something God has called you to do, there is nothing else as satisfying. Stay the course. Learn your craft. Write the book that’s on your heart. God will use it where He sees fit.

Website: http://www.deannajuliedodson.com


Purchase Letters in the Attic:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Formula for Danger by Camy Tang

Hi Friends,

Here is the new book I have to tell you about this week, a fun romantic suspense by my friend, Camy Tang. Here's all about it:

Formula for Danger
Camy Tang


Someone wants dermatologist Rachel Grant's latest research, and they'll do anything to get it. Including trashing the plants needed for her breakthrough scar-reducing cream—and trying to run Rachel down. Desperate for help, she turns to Edward Villa, the only man she trusts. But the greenhouse owner knows too much about Rachel's research, and now he's a target, too. Break-ins, muggings, murder…the would-be thief is getting desperate—and getting closer. Edward vows to protect Rachel at all costs. Yet with time ticking away, Edward knows they have to uncover the madman shadowing Rachel before their chance for a future is destroyed.

Camy's website: http://www.camytang.com/
Camy's blog: http://camys-loft.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reflections from Ephesians 2:10

Photo by David Craton Photography
used by permission
Hi Friends,

I've been looking through Ephesians lately and came across one of my favorite verses in the Greek, Ephesians 2:10, which when translated reads something like: For we are His masterpiece, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God before-prepared, that in them we may walk.

There are three things I love about this verse.

First, we are GOD'S masterpiece. He is working creatively to perfect us, make us beautiful, form us into the vision He has for us. Our job is to be pliable in His hands, not to figure out the mold and squeeze ourselves into it. God will shape us with kind, loving hands. That's His job.

Second, God has already PREPARED (not just "assigned") the good works that He has for us. He's made ready special works that are just for me, and just for you. He has laid out the pieces we need to do what He's asked. So, we are not unprepared. God Himself has made them ready just for us.

Third, we're not just to do the works, but walk in them. The Greek there for "walk" literally says "walk around." So, there's the feel not of a good works to-do list, but these good things that God has prepared for us to walk around in, to live in, experience and become.

So, good works are prepared especially for each of us and as we walk around in them, we are molded and polished and formed into the masterpiece He has in mind ... each of us unique and wondrous creations of the God who loves us.

For me that's a huge encouragement. I don't need to force my own plans into my life. I don't need to compare my success with others. I don't need to fret because things don't work out the way I want them to. God has prepared the good works for me. They are a gift, not a task. Now, I may walk around in them. I have a chance to live them.

So, I just need to walk. That's all. God says to me "This is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21) So, I just need to go forward, love Him, and be looking for ways to love others, ways that He has already prepared for.

That's the wonder of my walk, your walk, with a VIVID God.

What work has God prepared specifically for you to walk around in??

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Fear Comes a-Callin'

Hi Friends,

Since we've been talking about facing down fear this week over on my Facebook reader page, I thought it would be fun to share a little insight that I received from our horse, Biscuit, on the subject. See what you think about this:

It was such a normal morning. Quiet. Boring, as I walked out to feed our two horses. The air was crisp, the sun just peeking over the pines, the grass still sparkling with dew. A regular morning. Calm, uneventful . . . until I turned a corner and saw the horses’ pens.

I stopped. There, one of the heavy-gauge metal panels lay twisted and on its side. The metal bars were bent and torn. I ran forward.

The horse was gone.

A moment later, I reached the smashed up mess that had been part of the horse pen. Chunks of palomino fur lay on the dirt, the only remnants of the 1,300 pound gelding who had somehow crumbled the thick metal and escaped.

I glanced at our other horse. She stood inside her pen trembling, her nostrils flared with fierce snorts.

“What’s wrong, girl? Where’s Biscuit?” I strove to keep the panic from my voice.

She snorted some more, then raced around her pen and stared up into the hills.

I jogged around the pen to the far side. I looked up into the hills. And saw nothing. I peered into the trees to the left. Nothing. Down the road. Nothing.

Then I looked down.

And understood.

There, clearly pressed in the mud, were two huge paw prints. Cat paws. And next to them were two sets of smaller prints. I shivered. Mountain lions. No wonder the horses were scared.

I bent lower and tracked the prints. The cats, a mama and a couple cubs, had come down the hill and stopped fifteen feet outside the mare’s pen. Then, according to the prints, they turned around and ran back into the brush. They didn’t enter the pens or harm the horses. They just stood there, then ran away.

But that was enough for Biscuit. Enough to drive him wild with fear. To cause him to climb out of his pen and smash up the metal panel as he went. Enough to make him run away from food, from shelter, from the ones who cared for him.

We spent the rest of the day searching for our missing horse (and replacing the broken panel). Hours later, we found Biscuit. In the middle of the night, he had run off in a direction he’d never been before. He’d traveled almost a mile down dangerous two-lane road, crossed it, then found his way to a barbed wire pasture. He could have been hit, gotten cut, or been killed. He hadn’t drunk any water, eaten anything but some snatches of grass, and had long tears where his back legs scraped against the metal fence.

As I led him back to his pen, to water, to food, to shelter, to safety, I thought about what drove him to escape. Fear did that. Simple, primitive, instinctual fear. The mountain lion and her cubs hadn’t endangered him at all. It was the escape that put him in real danger.

And I wondered if fear does the same thing to me. Something scary appears on the horizon of my life. Maybe it doesn’t actually threaten me, or come into my space. I just catch a whiff of it in the air, see a bit of tawny fur on the outskirts of my vision. I see the possibilities, sense what could happen if the lion attacks.

How easy it is in those circumstances to run, to panic, to do things that don’t make sense. Fear is like that. It can tempt me to hurt myself, put myself in danger, leave the place where I am fed and cared for. Instead of trusting God’s care, I, too, want to scrape and scrabble, fend for myself, throw myself into desperate acts to get away from the thing that scares me. And in doing so, I put myself in the worst danger of all.

Maybe that’s why the command to not be afraid appears more than three hundred times in the Bible. Hebrews 13:6 (NIV) tells how to respond when fear comes out of the hills and stares at us with yellow eyes. It says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’"

So, instead scrambling out of the fences in our lives and running down dangerous roads to unknown pastures, God calls us to stay calm, trust Him, and remain in his will. He calls us not to fear the mountain lions, but to trust in the boundaries he places around us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shelter of Hope by Lyn Cote

Hi Friends,

Here's the new novel I have to tell you about this week. It's SHELTER OF HOPE by Lyn Cote, and here's a bit about it:

Love Inspired Romance

Shelter of Hope

1st in New Friends Street series

Steeple Hill

# ISBN-13: 978-0373876211

September 1, 2010

Blurb: The House that Love Built
Struggling single mother Rosa Santos is deeply touched when volunteers band together to build her a home. With a waitressing job, community college and church, Rosa barely has time to help, let alone dream about a husband and father figure. But when handsome volunteer Marc Chambers hands her withdrawn young son a little hammer, her heart swells. Suddenly, her son is blossoming. But the closer she and Marc get, the more he pulls away. Why? He's built her a shelter of hope. One she—and her son—pray he'll take refuge within….

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Recapturing Your WOW!

Hi Friends,

For my birthday on Tuesday, I asked my Facebook readers to share what surprises them about God. It was inspiring to read about the wonder God still stirs in their hearts. Many mentioned grace, His love despite our sins and mistakes, and His care no matter what. So, in keeping with that theme, I thought I would share a story of how Bethany once helped me to recapture the "wow," recapture the surprise of what Christ did for us on the cross. I hope you'll read and have your breath taken away again by the wonder of it all!

Here ya go:

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.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thoughts from the Far Side of the Pool

Hi Friends!

This week, as the weather has warmed enough (finally! -- we've been having winter weather all summer here in Salinas) to get some good swimming in, and Bryan and I are pondering new direction for adult ministries at church (exciting stuff happening there!), I was reminded of this story from the far side of the pool. So, when you're feeling like what you're doing isn't good enough, consider this:

Bryan and I stood at the edge of the community pool and watched the water lap into the gutters. Two teenagers splashed at the far end while an old man slowly made his way back and forth in the far lane.

I crossed my arms over my chest. “They have lessons for preschoolers. Bethany’s old enough now.”

Bryan scowled. “Are you kidding? There’s no way I’m having a stranger teach my daughter to swim.”

“You’re going to do it?” I cleared my throat. “Do you know how?”

Bryan raised his eyebrows.

“I know, I know. You swam for Stanford, went to the NCAA, still have swim records on the books back in North Dakota.” I jabbed my finger into his chest. “But that doesn’t mean you know how to teach a little kid to swim.”

He squatted down and dangled his fingers in the water. “Eighty-one degrees. Exactly.” He grinned up at me. “Didn’t I tell you about the summer when I was twelve?”

“Of course.” I knew all about that summer, or at least I thought so. I’d heard the story a hundred times – how Bryan had gone flying off the front end of his brand new 10 speed. How his left arm swelled like a sausage. How his mother insisted that the doctors x-ray the other arm as well, only to find that both arms were broken. Broken, and put into twin casts during the summer he was supposed to break the state records for the 12 and under age group and lead his team to the state championships. Broken arms, broken dreams.

“So you know what I did that summer?”

“Well, you didn’t swim. You didn’t break any records. You didn’t win the state championship.”

“Yes I did.”


“I helped win the state championship.”


“The coach put my in charge of the littlest kids. He didn’t have time to teach them. But I did. I had all summer.” Bryan gazed over the pool. A smile twitched his lips. “I taught over a dozen little kids to make it from one end of the pool to the other. And because of them we won the state championship that year. You wouldn’t believe how many points those kids won just because they could swim across the pool.”

“You never told me that.”

He shook his head. “It wasn’t always pretty, but it worked. And we won.” His voice lowered. “Even without the team’s ‘big star.’” He stood and playfully flicked droplets of water over my shirt. “So I think I can teach our daughter how to swim.”

I laughed. “Okay, I guess you’re qualified.”

Bryan rested his hand on my shoulder. “Glad you agree. Now let’s go home.”

We turned from the pool and walked back to the parking lot. As I got into our car and buckled my seatbelt, I glanced over to Bryan in the driver’s seat. “You know, that is the most profound story I’ve heard in a long time.”


“Do you think it works like that in God’s kingdom too?”

“What are you talking about?”

I rubbed my chin. “Well, I’m no superstar evangelist. I haven’t brought thousands to Christ. I write books, but we both know they haven’t rocketed up the bestseller lists.”

Bryan stifled his cough.

I shot him a glare. “We don’t have any big, successful ministry, and our small group is, well, small.”

“It’s good though.”

“But we’re not setting any records.”

“Maybe we don’t need to.”

I settled back in my chair. Paul does say, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, NIV).

“Just like those little kids were like my crown in the state championships.”

I nodded. “You know I’ve been so worried that what I’m doing in God’s kingdom isn’t good enough. That somehow I’m falling short. But maybe it isn’t about me and my success. Perhaps God’s telling me that it’s enough to help others to learn how to get to the other side of the pool.”

Bryan winked at me. “Sometimes, that’s what winning is all about.”