Main Character Monday – Anne Carty

keeper of coinWelcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy MainCharacter Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Anne Carty from Keeper of Coin by Mary Kay Tuberty. Thank you for joining me.

 

It is a pleasure to come to know you Heather.

What is your favorite book of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament?

Genesis, for sure.  Each evening back home in Ireland, my father read to us from the bible. He began with the first chapter of Genesis. We children heard the words so many times that as he began with ‘In the beginning…’ we recited the rest along with him. Ah my, that is one of my dearest memories of home. I can hear their sweet voices now.

In the New Testament, there is no question: the story of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke. Father held it so special, he read it only on Christmas Eve, and we all treasured the words.

 Those sound like wonderful family memories. If you could meet anyone from scripture, not including Jesus, who would it be?

Jesus’ mother. I have always wondered about her. She was so young. Did her mother help her with the baby? Could she cook? And how did she bear the heartbreak of her sons’ death?

You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about Mary that way. What kind of mother was she on a day to day basis? That’s a great idea to think about. Jesus had twelve disciples. Which one do you feel you are most like?

I suppose it would be Thomas. Like him, I am forever questioning. When my father said go to America, bring your brothers and sisters out to join you, I doubted I could accomplish the task. Unlike Thomas, though, I was afraid to ask too many questions and simply did his bidding. I am not sure which of us Jesus would prefer.

I’m so thankful Jesus understands both the questioner and the one who sometimes fears bringing the questions to him. And it’s wonderful when he answers the questions we’re afraid to ask.

Jesus says we are to be His light in the world. What does this mean to you?

In my position as shop girl in Dempseys Bakery, I endeavor to treat each customer who comes through the door as a child of God. I must say it is not always an easy task. Thank you for reminding me Heather, I will begin early tomorrow morning, attempting to be Jesus’ light.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Leaving my brothers and sisters behind in Ireland and sailing off to America felt like ripping away parts of my skin, surely it was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I work hard to fill every moment of my day or else I would be in a constant state of weeping for missing them all.

Sounds like you really have a heart for your family. I wish you well in your efforts to bring them to you in America.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate?  I had never tasted chocolate until I came to America, but Mary Dempsey’s dark chocolate frosting is a wonderful thing to behold. When I have an opportunity to taste milk chocolate, I’ll let you know my favorite.

Roses or Daisies?  Daisies bloom in profusion everywhere in St. Louis. They are so cheerful and colorful I just love them. Though my customers tell me many ladies in the city grow roses and some compete to cultivate new varieties, I have seen but few of them.

Salad or Soup? Soup. Thanks to our wonderful cook, Mary, we often enjoy tasty soup here at Dempseys. Salad is another new taste I am only now beginning to appreciate.

If you, Anne Carty, could describe Mary Kay Tuberty in three words, what would those words be?

Serious and hard-working, like her great-grandmother. However, I do believe she is more accustomed to idleness and frivolous pursuits than I’ve ever had an opportunity to experience. (Sorry I’ve replied with more than three words. I am an Irish girl, you know.)

I want to thank Anne Carty for joining me today. If you would like to find out more about Anne’s story, Keeper of Coin by Mary Kay Tuberty is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book forms. While you’re there, you can also pick up the other two books in the Carty sisters trilogy, Keeper of Trust and Keeper of Flame.

 

Past and Present

I don’t know who I am. I’m not speaking philosophically. I’m referring to a literal understanding of my family roots. There’s supposed to be a lot of German in my family tree on my dad’s side. And on my mom’s side there is a Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, which is just a fancy way of saying I have German speaking immigrants in my ancestry. But somewhere along the line, I’ve also heard I may have Irish, English, and even a tiny drop of Native American DNA.

As a child, I wanted the Irish part to outweigh the German part. No offense to anyone with German heritage, but there wasn’t anything I knew about Germany that made me want to identify with it. On the other hand, I loved everything I believed symbolized Ireland. I loved the idea of fair skin and red hair. Green was my favorite color. And I wished with everything in me that I could speak with an Irish accent. I mean, who wouldn’t want to speak with an Irish accent, right? But as little as I know about my family history, I do know my childhood hope was an impossible dream. I know German DNA plays a part in who I am more than any other DNA out there. But I still don’t know who my ancestors were or what their stories would tell me.

One day when life’s demands are not as great, maybe I’ll find out more. I doubt it would change my life in a drastic way, but you never know. Seeing their stories played out could lead to new understandings about myself or even my circumstances.

This was definitely the case for Abby in Saratoga Letters by Elaine Marie Cooper. In fact, it was so true that the book itself is really two stories in one. Part historical and part contemporary fiction, Cooper did a wonderful job drawing me into both stories and keeping me engrossed until the end where she allowed me to see the complete picture.

Set in Saratoga during the Revolutionary War, the first half of the book tells the story of a young woman named Abigail whose Loyalist uncle forces her to work in a hospital for the British army. Through her time of service, Abigail must carefully guard the secret of her true allegiance. And while she wishes to see the war won and the British leaving the colonies, her time tending the wounded changes her perspective about the enemy. She sympathizes with their losses, and she learns to befriend and even love them for who they are as people. Her time isn’t without struggle though. She is plagued by fear of being found out, but fear of her uncle keeps her silent. She faces dangers too, as a woman in a camp filled with men who haven’t seen home in far too long. Abigail’s experiences are enough to fill a book in themselves, but thankfully, the author didn’t agree.

It’s in the contemporary second half of the book that we finally meet Abby. She’s like a lot of us. She’s trying to live her life. She doesn’t have time to dig into her family’s past. The little she does know has been passed down through her father, and it’s her love for him that sends her to a celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga after his death. Abby learns a lot about the general history surrounding her family’s involvement in the war, but it’s what she doesn’t know that takes her time in Saratoga from relaxing vacation to deadly excursion. When the past threatens her future, Abby has to figure out the rest of the story before it’s too late.

I doubt any of us would have our lives altered as drastically by our ancestry as Abby does, but that doesn’t mean the past doesn’t play a part in who we become. And the past’s ability to shape our future doesn’t stop with our physical DNA. Each believer also has a spiritual ancestry. While it includes those of faith in our family trees, our shared ancestry comes from scripture. We have a spiritual heritage recorded for us and passed down through the years. God means it to shape and direct our lives today in a real way.  2 Timothy 3:16 tells us the entirety of scripture has been given by God for our “teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that God wants His followers to learn about Him and the history of our faith. It’s been clear since the beginning that while He doesn’t want us to live in the past, He does want us to remember it and learn from it. When we study the Old Testament, we find God’s people instructed to set up 12 memorial stones after crossing the Jordan. They did this so when future generations asked what the stones meant, the story of God’s provision would be passed on. Festivals were set by God to help His people remember the ways He intervened in their lives. The Passover and Purim recounts God’s salvation of the people.  And in the New Testament, when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples for the last time, He instructed them to “do this in remembrance of Me.”

And the great thing about our spiritual heritage is that we don’t have to work hard to find it. We don’t have to shell out a hundred bucks and a swab of our DNA to know what God wants us to know about Him or faith. We don’t have to spend hours scouring web sites and pouring over the faded writings of long gone ancestors. Our spiritual heritage is as easily accessible as the nearest Bible.

By the Book: Have you given any thought to your spiritual heritage? Have you let it change your life?

Write Stuff Wednesday 2

quill“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” Anne Lamott

Next year is my twenty-five year high school reunion. Other than making me feel older than I think I am, it brings to mind all the writing I did in those years. I have a three ring binder I’ve kept through the years that holds most of what I wrote. There’s the paper I wrote about Walt Disney and the play that won judge’s choice in a local writing contest. There are the poems that prompted my senior English teacher to comment that there must be a dark humorist lurking inside me. (In my defense, I was going through a pretty angsty time that year.) I think there may even be a short story I wrote in grade school called “The Case of the Missing Idea”. Catchy title, huh?

Occasionally I’ve re-read these great masterpieces, and do you know what I’ve found? They aren’t great, and they definitely aren’t masterpieces. Some of them are quite laughable. Some are decent, but I’ve grown as a writer since those days. I’ve become more proficient technically, and I’ve developed in my ability to tell a good story. Improvement in the craft of writing is to be expected if someone writes with regularity. It would be odd if I didn’t continue to grow as I continued to write.

Even in a single piece of writing, one expects growth from the first draft to the last edit. A good story can be shaped into a great one if the author is willing to work with it. My first draft of Faith’s Journey is very different from the finished product. As I wrote, trusted friends and the members of the writers’ group I’m in offered feedback at regular intervals. Some of the feedback was geared toward the themes and overall effect of the story. Other comments were more technical in nature. I implemented some suggestions. Others I passed on.

There was one specific piece of advice I remember passing on. Near the beginning of the story, group members felt there were two chapters where the story lagged. I kept them in as I sent my manuscript to the publisher. Sure, the chapters were a little lighter on action, but they held important information. Imagine my surprise when one of the first things the publisher asked me to do was get rid of or revamp those exact chapters. I should have listened in the first place. I have learned from that mistake. I re-wrote those chapters, and I found they were completely right. Once combined, the chapters still gave the information I wanted, but the way it was done kept the story from being slowed down. The result was a stronger story than I began with.

It’s a lesson that runs parallel to our faith walks. When we accept Jesus’ death on the cross as the punishment for our sins and begin a relationship with God, we don’t start off as the saints we want to be. Scripture tells us we start as babies learning the simple lessons of our faith. The Holy Spirit inside us gently guides us and corrects us. He shows us truths from scripture and helps us implement those truths in our lives.

But we can’t stay in that starting place forever. Just as it would be odd if I were to write regularly yet remain at the same level of proficiency I was in high school, it should be odd to us when we see someone who professes a relationship with God that does not grow through the years. It should be more than odd if we are that person. It should be a red flag that all is not right in our spiritual lives.

Paul told the Hebrew church in Hebrews 5 that they were not growing like they should. He said they were stuck with the simple teachings of faith and not progressing into the deeper ideas of faith. Other verses tell us we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and that as we grow from spiritual childhood to spiritual adulthood we put away the childish things.

To remain unchanged in our writing probably means we won’t have a very long or successful writing career. To remain stagnant in our faith has devastating effects. With spiritual growth comes greater spiritual understanding. With that understanding comes greater discernment to protect us from sinful teachings and temptations. When we fail to recognize sin as sin, we allow it into our lives where it stands between us and God. We begin to follow the world in our beliefs and desires instead of God.

It isn’t just us our lack of growth can affect. Matthew 5 speaks of our mission to show God to the lost in the world. Several scriptures implore us to live in ways so foreign to the world that the people we come in contact with can’t help seeing the difference. In this way, doors are opened to share our faith and bring God glory. Which friend or family member in our lives might miss the chance to have a relationship with God because they don’t see the difference God makes in us?

By the Book: What time do you spend trying to grow as a writer? What do you do to encourage that growth? How much time do you put into growing in faith? What has helped you grow?

Real Character Monday

I need your help. Think about your favorite book characters. What makes them your favorites? Do they share a common trait, talent, or temperament? Do all your favorite characters herd sheep or make origami? Do they all come from the deep south or from the wilds of the Alaskan wilderness? Do you favor the blonde hair, blue eyes, and golden tan of the stereotypical surfer? Maybe you prefer auburn hair and green eyes?

If you’re like me, your favorite characters are probably not chosen because of any of the criteria above. Instead, you choose your favorite characters based on, well, their character. Maybe you choose your favorites because they are shining examples of what a believer should be. They have unshakeable faith in the midst of challenging circumstances. They choose the right path, even when tempted toward the wrong one. They are champions of the faith, and you can’t help applauding their ability to live God’s way on every page.

Maybe these are the characters you are drawn to. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I am not. I actually find them a little discouraging. We all know those believers in real life who seem to have it all together. In our heads we know they have to mess up sometimes, but we never see it. Everything they say and do is the perfect extension of their faith. I’m happy for them. Really I am. I’m glad they have it all together. But that’s not my life.

I mess up all the time. I’m not proud of it. I don’t want it to be that way, but I don’t have it all together. Being around the people who do or who present the public picture of perfection only serves to highlight how far I am from where I should be. Why can’t I seem to get it together like they have? I love God. I have faith. I want to be the person He wants me to be. So, what’s the problem? It can be discouraging in real life, and I’m not drawn to it in the characters I love either.

I want to read about characters I relate to. I want to be encouraged through reading about God using someone who gets as much wrong as they get right. I want to see God using the willing person, even if the willing person is sometimes guilty of rushing ahead of God or being hesitant to move at all. I want to see God redeem a sinful past or present when the character has repented of their sin. I want to see God working in the life of a character who sometimes struggles with their faith when the going gets tough. I can relate to these people, and I find it encouraging. Their faults seal them in my reader’s heart.

But don’t I want to read about people who exemplify the same wholesomeness and holiness as the heroes of faith from scripture? Yes, I do. That’s why I’m drawn to the flawed character. I love the one who struggles with too much ego and impulsiveness only to be tempered through trials like Peter. My heart aches for the one who has to deal with painful, guilt inducing consequences of previous sin and still keep moving forward in their faith like Paul. And as mad as his actions make me, I can’t help finding encouragement in the fact that a man who would sleep with another man’s wife, connive to cover up his sin, and then arrange to have her husband killed when he’s too honorable to comply is described in scripture as a man after God’s own heart. David became one of the most adored kings of Israel, even though he acted despicably during the whole Bathsheba incident. And looking past their failures, you can find why he and the others are heroes of the faith despite their imperfections.

When Nathan confronted David with his sin, David was heartbroken. Psalm 51 describes the depth of pain he felt over his sin and how intense his desire was to be purged of that sin and reconciled with God. When Peter’s eyes were opened to the way he betrayed Jesus in denying Him, Peter was distraught. He wept over his sin. He longed to be restored. Paul didn’t hide from his past sins. In fact, he claimed them as an example to others. He listed his spiritual pedigree that should have set him apart as holier than thou, but reminded his readers that those things were not of God at all. They were against God and worthless in respect to the real relationship with God that he came to have.

These are the reasons such broken failures are faithful heroes. Their desires for godliness were strong even when their flesh was weak. These heroes didn’t have it all together, but they had faith. They had repentant hearts, and they desired to move past their failures and let God use them. God honored that desire in their lives. And since He is the same God today that He was then, I find encouragement in their stories knowing He will do the same in my life. That’s the kind of character I love, and that’s the kind of character I want to be.

By the Book: Which true stories of the faith do you find most encouraging? If someone wrote a book about your life, what kind of character would you be?

Looking for Direction

glassesToday was filled with the stress of making choices. It started with ordering new glasses. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Do you know how many choices there are? Metal frames or plastic? Type of lens? Scratch resistance? Anti-glare? Bi-focal or regular? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those choices are easy, coming down to how much I want to pay. But choosing frames? That’s a different story.

I decided to go bold, at least for me. My frames are thin and non-descript, almost invisible. I wanted a change. So, instead of being in and out in minutes, I stood for over forty minutes in front of the displays taking awkward looking selfies in anything that didn’t make me immediately snarl and pull the frames from my face. Then, I sent the best ones (frames, not selfies, I’m horrible at taking selfies) to six trusted family members and friends for their feedback. Thank goodness they all pretty much agreed, with the exception of my daughter who tried to steer me in the direction of the boldest frame I had tried on. I assured her I wasn’t quite to that stage yet, and I went with the consensus.

I placed my order and went on with my day. Imagine my horror as I stood in the aisle of Wal-Mart looking at dry erase boards, realizing I faced another choice. The board I wanted came with the option of white, black, or wood trim. After another fifteen agonizing minutes, the wood framed one ended up in my cart. Two choices in an hour? I was exhausted.

Choices are hard sometimes. I tend to be laid back about most things, not really caring about what to have for dinner or what my husband and I should do on date night. But choosing the glasses I have to wear for the next several years or the dry erase board that will either bring together everything or look mismatched in the office I’ll set up once my oldest son moves out in five months? That’s a different story. I have to make the right decision or I might regret it. At least in the grand scheme of things the decisions I faced today are minor.  Anne Carty isn’t so lucky in Keeper of Coin by Mary Kay Tuberty.

Anne leaves her family in Ireland at her father’s insistence. As the most frugal daughter, John believes she is the best option for making the trip, finding employment, and sending for the rest of the children. Anne believes her older sister should make the trip first, but she bows to her father’s wishes out of respect for his authority. She arrives in America and makes her way to St. Louis where things don’t go exactly as planned. Her father has hired a man to oversee her funds and help arrange passage to her uncle in Oregon. Anne has reservations about the man’s integrity, but again, she defers to her father’s decision.

When plans go awry, Anne has to choose whether or not to stay in St. Louis or keep trying to reach Oregon. Anne likes her life in St. Louis. She has friends, an adopted family, and a man who is quickly winning her heart. But her loyalty is to the promise she made her father, and she pushes aside her desires to fulfill his wishes.

After her older sister joins her in St. Louis, both girls believe saving for the other children to join them will go quickly, allowing Anne to fulfill her promise and choose the life she desires. It isn’t to be. A thief steals the fare for the next child’s trip. Their uncle in Oregon is surprisingly silent on bringing them from St. Louis. And to top it off, their parents aren’t taking care with the money the girls work so hard to send due to famine conditions in Ireland. Though Anne receives wise advice from many encouraging her to consider that her father cannot know what’s best since he’s not in America and has no idea what life is like for her, she still chooses time and again to honor her pledge. It leaves her and those she loves wondering if she will ever feel free to choose the life and love she desires.

I can understand Anne’s struggle to honor her parents and still make choices that work with her new life. I wouldn’t want to face the same decisions. She could’ve used a neon sign directing her path. I know I’ve wished for one. I desire so much to make right choices, godly choices. Sometimes my paths are clear, but not always. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We wait for God to tell us clearly what to choose, but He doesn’t give us a burning bush or even an audible voice. What are we supposed to do? How are we to decide?

Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us a starting point. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Trust. It is  a simple word with huge implications. Trust is when what we believe about God turns into action. Do we believe He has a plan for us? Do we believe He loves us? Do we believe He wants us to live inside His will? Do we believe God is a big enough, powerful enough to let us know if the choice we’re considering is definitely not in His plan for us? If so, then we can proceed. It may be that God’s plan can be accomplished in many ways, and the right thing for us to do may be to simply choose.

But what if it’s not? That’s where the rest of the verses come in. Lean not on your understanding. Don’t trust in yourself, that you know best. Turn to God. Go to Him. Know scripture to gain understanding of what is and isn’t inside God’s will. If your plan includes anything contrary to scripture, it can’t be what God wants. God doesn’t want any of us living in sin.

In all your ways acknowledge Him. Are you praying about your decision? Are you asking for His guidance and wanting in your heart to do things the way God wants them done? Are you remaining open to His leading, even if it is contrary to your desire? Do you end each prayer with the same desire that Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane? Not my will, but Your will be done.

He will direct your paths. It’s right there in the Bible. If you’re going in a way contrary to His plans for you, God will show you. If we do our part to seek His will and His way, He will direct us. It may not be as clearly spoken as the plan Moses received. But we will hear His quiet voice speaking to our spirit if we are going the right way. If we are open to His plans, He will close and open doors for us as we go. He will nudge us away from choices that would be detrimental. And He will work through our choices to accomplish His will when the specifics of those choices are left to us to decide. And if we make a choice God doesn’t want us to make? When I’ve seen my error and sought His forgiveness for going in a direction He told me not to go, my God is big enough to redeem even those choices and put me on the right path once again.

By the Book: If you’ve been struggling to make a choice, have you given it over to God? Do you trust Him? Are you open to seeking His will, His way? If so, listen for that small voice and look for the opened and closed doors.

Write Stuff Wednesday

quill

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary. How potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

Think of the most influential book you’ve ever read. It could be non-fiction, but often, fictional works are just as powerful in their ability to impact readers. Disguised as entertainment, the fiction author’s message comes in a user friendly package. The trappings of the story invite us into worlds created especially for the story. We are introduced to characters we relate to or despise depending on their purpose. We are drawn in, and when we’ve become fully immersed in the story, the message takes on meaning we might have otherwise tuned out.  Truths about life, love, and even faith are sweetened with the sugar of realistic characters and intriguing plot lines, and we swallow them down without the battle that would otherwise ensue if the points were blatantly shoved down our throats.

It’s not that we’re ignorant to what is happening. We aren’t powerless to stop it or tricked into accepting an idea we don’t agree with. We’re being shown a picture and left to determine how it is going to affect us. Sometimes the impact is in the characters. We see a belief or quality in them that we hunger to have in ourselves, and we come away looking for ways to embrace it in our own lives. Other times it’s the theme of the story that speaks to us and leaves us challenged to grow in ways we haven’t considered or possibly fought against.

The words of a writer can be powerful. They can confuse or enlighten. They can challenge or convince us there isn’t a reason to try. Understanding this is essential for writers, especially for those who are choosing to infuse their faith into their writing. We have a responsibility that other writers don’t necessarily share. We become teachers as we let our writing become an outgrowth of our faith. James 3:1 cautions that those who teach others should be careful because they will be judged more strictly. It’s not said to scare us away from sharing the things God has shown us. Instead, it is to safeguard the gospel from those who would treat it lightly and then go on to share those twisted teachings as truth to others leading them down a dangerous path.

But maybe you don’t write or teach. Your words are still powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life can be found in our words. Ephesians has a command for all believers to keep away from corrupting talk and only speak those things that would be good to build others up. James talks about the power of the tongue and the difficulty we face in trying to keep it under control. There are several verses worthy of being highlighted, but I think Matthew 15:18 gives us the perfect verse to consider. And it doesn’t have to do with the results of our words but where they come from in the first place. “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles the person.”

By the Book: Based on your words, what is in your heart?

Main Character Monday – Anna Hartwell

safeWelcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

 

Today’s Guest is Anna Hartwell from Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyers. Thank you for joining me Anna.

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

Ruth. My parents had set up my arranged marriage just days after my birth with a boy who grew to be an abusive and hateful man. I had to lean heavily on God and seek his will during that time leading up to our ceremony, all the while praying for an escape before I found myself exchanging vows with a man I detested. I can identify with Ruth because she left all she was familiar with and followed her widowed mother-in-law to another land and adopted their ways and found her kinsman redeemer. Readers will better understand this after they read my story in Safe Refuge.

What has been the most difficult lesson God has taught you? 

What Proverbs 5: 3-7 says is true. I’m to trust in God with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In His due time (not my timetable) he will make my paths straight.

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others?   

I seem to come to kindness naturally and I’ve learned that is likely one of my God-given gifts.

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Self-control and patience have taken some work. When it seems the odds are against me, I tend to lose patience and that’s when I’m not so kind after all.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Trust in Jeremiah 29: 11-13.  One of your more modern Bible translations than the one I use says it this way: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

If you keep those words from the Lord close to you heart, especially when things get tough you can make it through just about anything. God has been my safe refuge all my life and He’s never let me down.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? I prefer dark, but will never turn down chocolate of any kind.

Beach or Mountains?  Mountains definitely. I like the beach, but you can only spend a little while there before you have to get out of the sun. Mountains, no matter the weather draw me in.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade?  Sweet tea for sure. Being a northerner, I didn’t taste it ever until I traveled to Alabama where my mom’s ancestral family is rooted. I thought I’d find it too cloying but I loved it. Nowadays, we have sweet tea in the north. Not as much as the South, but it is around.

If you could describe Pamela Meyers in three words, what would those words be?

Loyal, Creative, Trusted

I want to thank Pamela Meyers for letting us have this time with Anna. If you’d like to get to know Anna better, you can get your copy of Safe Refuge from Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats.

The Oxford Comma and Truth

The oxford comma is a controversial little piece of grammar. I, personally, am a fan. For those who may not know, the oxford comma is the last comma used in a series of items. It may seem like an unimportant detail, but it can clarify a writer’s intent and keep misunderstandings from happening.

The people I look up to the most are my parents, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. The meaning of this sentence may leave readers believing I’m delusional. The Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are my parents? One comma makes a huge difference. Try it again. The people I look up to the most are my parents, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Admittedly, I still seem a little crazy if I consider the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny people to look up to, but at least I don’t think they’re my parents in the second scenario. The oxford comma can be the difference in understanding my message clearly or being left to interpret it in an unintended way. I prefer to keep my message as clear as possible.

Misunderstanding wouldn’t be devastating in the silly example above. Many times, a misunderstanding can produce embarrassing results that turn into stories friends can laugh over in years to come. But there are times when having a proper understanding of things can make all the difference in the world.

Christy Kane, the main character from Colorblind by Amy C. Blake, learns this lesson the hard way. Christy’s father is her hero. He’s the one who has been there for her every step of the way, encouraging her in her pursuits. As the pastor of a mega-church, he is also the one who has taught her who God is and what it means to be a Christian. Her life revolves around what he considers the driving force of Christianity; that our happiness makes God happy. A life of peace and success awaited her and other believers simply because they loved God. Sin and the need for salvation were only things used to weigh down believers and keep them from knowing true success in life. Her whole outlook on faith and life were shaped by these beliefs.

Her devotion to her father is what makes the fall even harder when his affair is made public. Add to that charges of embezzlement, and Christy is devastated. Not able to face her father or his God, Christy goes to complete a summer internship with a distant relative she’s never met. Her future is up in the air, and her faith is shaken to the core. Yet in the middle of the pain, discord between the other summer volunteers, and mysterious happenings that echo events of the past, Christy is faced with the idea that her father’s faith may have been less than what God intended.

Christy fights against statements that her father is preaching a gospel not found in scripture. She may not feel it at the moment, but she does love him. He’s her father. She is convinced he only preached the truth. However, with events working out like they are in her life, Christy is finally able to consider the possibility that her father’s beliefs may not be as grounded as she’s always thought. God uses her painful circumstances to open her heart to searching out the truth of scripture for herself.

It’s these misunderstandings of scripture that can make a huge impact in our lives. When we base our values and lifestyles off faulty or partial understandings of scriptures, we build our lives on shifting sands. When the storms come, it can wash away our faith completely. This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Then in  2 Timothy 2:15 we are encouraged to “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” There is a right way to handle scripture and a wrong way. God has given us scripture so we can “renew our minds” and be “transformed” into His image as Romans 12 tells us. This doesn’t come from handpicking the verses which seem to fit our ideas of who God is and what He desires of us. It takes dedicated study of the Word in its entirety. It takes a willingness to open our hearts and minds to ideas that we may initially find hard to swallow. It requires more than reading for knowledge or to check off our daily list of good Christian behaviors. It takes reading God’s Word with the desire to listen to His message and apply it to our lives.

When we take time with God’s Word, the Holy Spirit will teach and convict us of the truth. We will be able to see the false teachings in the world and even in some of our churches and church leaders. We will come to understand more of who God really is and be protected from believing the teachings of those who have misunderstood and mishandled the Word in order to make God in their image rather than letting Him remake us in His.

By the Book: When was the last time you spent time searching God’s truth with an open heart on a subject you have a hard time accepting?

Love is a Verb

DC Talk rapped some very wise words when they told us “Luv is a verb.” So, their spelling may have intentionally left a little to be desired, but the message is clear. Love isn’t a feeling. Love isn’t something that just happens. Love is a choice, and love is an action. Love is something we are all called to exhibit in our daily lives. Active love changes lives.

No one knows this better than Anna Hartwell in Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyer. Growing up in a wealthy Chicago family in 1871, Anna has had opportunities others haven’t. She’s seen a lack of love in action in her family and the man she’s been promised to marry since birth. Her mother reaches out to those she considers less than herself only when it will promote her standing in society. Her sister is young, but often distracted by the trappings that come with a life of wealth and social standing. But Anna is different. Through her church and personal relationship with God, Anna has seen real love. Anna has had the opportunity to realize those her parents consider lower class and less worthy have simply not been as fortunate financially. Anna’s heart is soft to the needs of others, and she reaches across the lines to befriend and help those in need.

When tragedy strikes her family and all of Chicago in the form of the Chicago fire, the differences between her family’s version of love and real love becomes even more apparent. Anna experiences the results of love in action as her family flees their hometown for Lake Geneva and finds people willing to give of themselves to those affected by the fires, whether rich or poor. These examples strengthen Anna to keep giving of herself without reserve to the neediest of the refugees despite her own loss. And when her family’s whole world is turned upside down with devastating news, Anna learns what unconditional love really is. For Anna, love is what changes everything.

It’s a lesson we can all stand to take to heart. God is love, and His love is unconditional. His love prompted the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for people who had and would continue to reject Him and His ways. His love reached out to the unlovable. His love moved to change the lives of those the rest of the world would have considered unworthy. His love didn’t condone sin, but it also didn’t alienate the sinner in the desire to purge him of his sin. He loved the people to the truth, and that love changed hearts and lives.

The call to live lives of radical, active love is found in Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:40 which encourage us that whatever we do “To one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them” we did it to Jesus. There are countless verses about bearing with each other in love, carrying one another’s burdens, sharing each other’s joys, taking care of the widows and fatherless, and caring for all those in need. But Jesus gave us more than His words. He gave us His example. To the ten lepers, He gave healing even though only one would ever thank Him for the gift. To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus gave mercy and encouragement to go and sin no more. To the woman at the well, He gave her the truth of her sin wrapped in the softening blanket of hope. To Peter, Jesus gave forgiveness and restoration. The 5,000 received enough food to fill their bellies so they could focus on the teachings that would fill their souls.

And for us? Jesus gave His live in exchange for ours to pay sin’s debt. He gave it before we ever loved Him, before we ever knew Him. He gave it without reservation. He gave it to us, the creation that is so much lower in standing than the Creator. He gave it without regret to people like us who, even after being forgiven, would continue to fail Him and forget Him more times than we will even admit to ourselves. He gave to show us that love is a verb.

By the Book: Study the life of Jesus. How does it teach us love? How are you showing others love in your daily life? How good are you at putting love into action unconditionally?

Main Character Monday 12

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Taylor Martin from Shadows of the Past by Patricia Bradley. Thank you for joining me.

What is your favorite book of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament?

Since David is my favorite character in the Bible, it’ll have to be two books—First and Second Samuel.

I guess we can let a second book slide since it’s more like part one and part two! If you could meet anyone from scripture, not including Jesus, who would it be?

It would be David…and Paul.

Okay, now you’re just pushing the rules. It would be interesting to meet David, but I see why you’d like to meet Paul too. He’s my personal pick.

Jesus had twelve disciples. Which one do you feel you are most like?

I am so much like Peter it’s not even funny. Always rushing in when I should sit back and wait. I wish I were more like John.

Being a John instead of a Peter can definitely keep you out of trouble sometimes, but every personality has strengths and weaknesses. This world needs people who are like both Peter and John. I’m sure God is using your impulsiveness to help change lives. 

Jesus says we are to be His light in the world. What does this mean to you?

It means I should shine so brightly for Him that everyone who sees me will want what I have! Kate Adams always said we’re the only Bible some people will ever read.

Those are very wise words to remember. If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

I didn’t trust God because my earthly father ran out on me, but I’d like everyone to know that God isn’t like anyone on earth. He is totally trustworthy and just waiting for us to realize it. We might go through hard things, but He’s right there with us.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Dark chocolate.

Roses or Daisies? Patricia likes Daisies, but I like Roses.

Salad or Soup? Salad with raspberry vinaigrette! Or maybe potato soup…

If you, Taylor Martin could describe Patricia Bradley in three words, what would those words be?

Impossible—she decided Nick Sinclair would make a great love interest!

Crazy – for the same reason;

Thorough—she did so much research for Shadows of the Past.

I want to thank Taylor for being my guest today. If you haven’t checked it out yet, and you enjoy a good suspense, head over to Amazon to get your copy of Shadows of the Past. You can also get the rest of the Logan Point series from Patricia Bradley.

You can learn more about Patricia Bradley at http://www.ptbradley.com