Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . The Real Decision this November (And Always)

I admit it--I'm sick of it. All the politics on the news, the divisiveness, the fact that I can't go on Facebook without my friends' feed being an explosion of vitriolic "Who I'm voting for and why" posts. It makes me tired. But more, it makes me sad.

And here's why.

Last weekend, my husband gave a message in our church that had been brewing inside him for a year, but whose time was finally right. In a way, it was about the country. But mostly--more importantly--it was about the church. And how we've failed.

Because here's the thing. Politics and laws don't change the culture. Ever. They reflect it. We as Christians are so up in arms over this election, convinced that if we don't vote for the person who promises what we want, then we're voting for Satan himself. That if one person wins, America is lost, but if the other person wins, then surely it'll be a Samson or David or Solomon story all over again, right? God will work through one candidate to save us and the other to destroy us.

Um, here's the thing folks. God isn't going to save a country that doesn't want to be saved. (Individuals, sure. There's always a remnant. But I'm talking the nation as a whole.) So let's look around and ask the real question:

Does American want God to save them?

The answer is terrifying. And undeniable: NO. America as a whole doesn't want God. We've gone beyond tolerating sin--we embrace it. We as a culture have looked at the Bible, seen its wisdom, and chucked it out in favor of what's fun and pleasurable and doesn't make anyone feel uncomfortable. We just want to be happy. And we have that right, right? It's written in our founding documents, for crying out loud! Everyone has the right to pursue happiness!

What we forget is that it's not America that gives us that right. It's the Creator. America is actually unique for giving the Creator that due rather than claiming it for the state. France, for example, in their revolution, said that the State gave its citizens those basic rights. So then, the State also has the power to take them away.

America can't . . . unless we, as a people, let it.

So why do we today get so worked up over the system, the politics, and what those politicians can give or refuse, force upon us or take away . . . yet not expend half so much energy--or vocal power--proclaiming the Good News of Jesus? Convincing the world there's a better way? Trying to change, not the politics, but the people it serves?

We've had politicians from both sides with senate majorities or in the White House. What have they done, really? Those who share our beliefs sure haven't slowed down the moral decay. And those who oppose them have only instigated legislation that reflects the beliefs of most of the nation.

That is the problem--that is what we need to be fired up about. The fact that our nation, our culture, our neighbors have turned their backs on God.

No politicians, right or left or in the middle, can change that. Ever. Because we're only going to get the leaders we ask for--the leaders we deserve. And right now, this is what we've asked for. What we've demanded.

So how about we turn our focus away from the leaders . . . and work on being a people who deserve the best?

It's easier to just think we can elect people to do that work for us--but I've said it before and I'll say it again: the easy way is seldom the right way, and the right way is seldom easy. Let's, as the Church, as Christians, as believers in the best news to ever be given to mankind, stop whining about party politics--and start trying to change the culture that has created it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Remember When . . . St. Nicholas Came to Call?

It's only a week and a half until November. That means a week and a half until this releases...

In all the excitement of visiting England and seeing the settings for my Bethany House books, Giver of Wonders hasn't been talked about much. But now, with November and release upon us . . . well, it's time to talk about Christmas. =)

I wanted to write a Christmas book--that's one of the reasons that I sat down, a couple years ago, and began this story. Except that it isn't a traditional Christmas book. It's set around 290 AD, well before recognizable Christmas traditions began. There were no evergreen trees lit up. No snow, certainly, where this takes place in modern-day Turkey (Lycia at the time). There were no stockings and tinsel and jolly elves in red.

But there were gifts. And they came down a chimney. And there was the man on whom the jolly elf in red was, loosely, based.

There were miracles instead of magic. There was Jesus and his birth, celebrated among the early church on the Winter Solstice (December 25 at the time). There was sacrifice, and there was family, and there was love.

It took me forever to write this book. Or at the very least, a year longer than I intended it to do. I struggled a bit to put my vision for who the real St. Nicholas might have been onto the page, and to do so in a way that stuck with my usual formula for a biblical novel. Because, of course, this story isn't primarily about Nikolaos (as it would have been spelled in Greek...with English letters, LOL.) It's about fictional characters Cyprus Visibullis and her sisters. Who are, in my version of events, the sisters around whom one of our most beloved Christmas traditions was born.

Because Nik gave more than gifts to children who really don't need them. He gave gifts to those who needed them most, and he gave them anonymously. He gave hope to those who were lost. He gave life and healing to those who were broken and desperate.

Nikolaos was a man of God. And though my novelized version of him is probably pretty far from the real man who led the church in Myra all those centuries ago, I pray it gets to the heart of him. And to why he's still celebrated today.

So though my focus hasn't been on it much yet, I'm so excited to share Giver of Wonders with the world, and I look forward to talking about parts of it each Wednesday in the next month or so. It's a Christmas story that you can read in any season. Because ultimately, it's not about the day Jesus was born.

It's about the love that ought to fill His followers all year.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Word of the Week - Eccentric

I have long loved the word eccentric for an odd, unique person. Ever since I learned it back in . . . middle school? . . . it was my choice word for those like me. A little different (you know, like someone who has scads of people living in her head begging to have their stories told), a little unusual, and infinitely interesting (perhaps not part of the standard definition, but I maintain that it's true, LOL.)

It was in college, studying Ptolemy and Apollonius, that I learned about the ancient mathematics, derived from studies of astronomy, and how an eccentric orbit was one where the earth was not precisely the center (as they assumed everything was, more or less).

It never once occurred to me that these two meanings of the word eccentric were related. But of course, they are!

Eccentric as a mathematical concept of an off-center, elliptical orbit dates back more or less forever, directly from the Greek word ekkentros, which means simply "off center." (Compare that to concentric.)

Eccentric as an odd or whimsical person dates from 1817, and once you realize they're the same word, it's easy to see why, right? Because we eccentrics are a little off-center. A little different from the norm. Just a little odd.

And infinitely interesting. ;-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cover Reveal! ~ A Name Unknown ~

There's something about seeing the cover for the first book in a new series.

Maybe it's because it's a whole new style, a whole new look that you know will carry out through the subsequent books.

Maybe it's because there are new themes, new characters.

Or maybe it's just because it's always exciting to get a new cover, no matter the number in the series. ;-)

Regardless, I was sooooooo excited to see this when I got my first glimpse a month ago, and I am equally excited to get to share it with you now! This cover totally and completely (in my opinion, LOL) captures the essence of the story. Rosemary--perfect. The books!--perfect. The pose--perfect. *Blissful sigh*

A Name Unknown will release next July. Description below. But for now . . . THE COVER!!!!!


Edwardian Romance and History Gains a Twist of Suspense

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family's history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family's German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors' scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he's more than his name?


I know, I know--you are now so eager to get your hands on this book that you want to rush out and pre-order a copy. Ahem. ;-) The Amazon link is live--I'll post others as they appear.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Word of the Week - Sappy

I honestly don't remember why I was looking this up . . . but I'll share the results with you anyway. ;-)

Sappy in a figurative sense of "foolishly sentimental" has been around for quite a while! Dating from the 1660s, it comes from an intermediate meaning of "wet, sodden." How we get, I guess, when we're sappy. ;-) Interesting to note, for a while in earlier days, sappy could also mean "full of vitality" (that one's from the 1550s) and, around 1620, "immature."

Sap, as a figurative noun meaning "simpleton" is from around 1815. It was English and Scottish schoolboy slang, deriving from the idea that one had soft, sappy wood in their heads.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Manor House Giveaway!

I know, I know. I usually have my big book-release giveaway right when the book releases. But I was kinda traveling. And then had to make sure it was going during Bethany House's next newsletter. So you know--this was the first I could get it up and going. ;-) But it's worth the wait!

I'm super excited to announce The Manor House Giveaway! This giveaway has been months in the making, carefully selected to coordinate with the books in the Ladies of the Manor series, and is without question my biggest giveaway to date!

One lucky winner will receive:

Word Cloud Classics Books, including:

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Great Expectations
The Brothers Grimm: 101 Fairy Tales
The Brothers Grimm, Volume II 
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

(Several of these books are mentioned in mine--bonus point, ahem, if you know where, LOL.)

 Complete Set of the Ladies of the Manor Series

The Lost Heiress
The Reluctant Duchess
A Lady Unrivaled

Bone China Tea Set

Winner's choice of pattern - because nothing says "English setting" like tea!

$25 Teavana Gift Card

So the winner can select her favorite blend, or try something new,
and get any tea balls she might need for the awesome loose leaf varieties she picks.

Read, set, enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Void where prohibited. Chances of winning depend on number of entries.

Contest open to US and international residents, with the understanding that a non-US winner may be required to accept substitutions, depending on availability of products in their country.

Contest will run through 21 October. Winner will have two weeks to claim prizes before another winner is drawn.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughtful About . . . The Right View of God

Our Bible studies are famous for getting off track . . . but resulting in some awesome discussions. Last night our study of Daniel led us to a conversation on why people might lose faith--why, specifically, God might put them in a situation where they end up losing faith.

It doesn't really fit our view of how God works, right? We have all those awesome sayings: God doesn't give you more than you can handle. God is always going to work things out for your better good.

But is that right? Is that what He actually says?

As my hubby (who loves to ask all the hard questions in our studies) pointed out, God never promises to work things for our good--He promises to work things for THE good. And He certainly never promises not to give us more than we can bear. He just promises to bear it with us, for us, when we turn to Him.

But what if we don't?

The example that got David asking this was from WWII, when some of the Righteous Among the Nations--the people who had gone out of their way to save Jews during the Holocaust--who had felt God calling them to help, then turned from Him, overwhelmed by the depravity of man and their own ineffectual actions. The Jews recognized them as doing great work, but they didn't see it. They saw only the horror, and so much of it that they decided that if this was what God had called them to do, then they wanted nothing to do with God anymore.

That's hard. Right? And optimistic me says, "But surely God drew them back to Him in the end!" But what if these folks really had hardened their heart so much against Him that they didn't want to turn back? I don't know if they did. I don't know if God treats these people in a different way, pouring mercy upon their souls. I don't know.

But what I do know is that we're less likely to be one of those people if we have a right view of God.

So often, I think Christians aren't worshiping God as He is--we're worshiping God as we want Him to be. We want to think that God is all mercy, when in truth He is also perfect justice. We want to think that God obeys our definition of "fair," when in reality He probably shakes His head at how limited our definition is. We think in terms of us. We have such a self-centered view of God, of Christianity, that it's hard for us to fathom that sometimes He asks us to die. He lets loved ones die. True, world-wide tragedy happens.

Yes, God asks us to work in a situation when we never see the good that comes of it.

Why? Because there's more than we can see. And because it isn't about us, it's about the people we're called to help. It's about the Kingdom.

Yes, God asks us to trust in Him when men like Hitler are out to obliterate the Good News. When thousands, millions are killed.

Why? Because men have the free will to fight Him and to kill His people in the process. God will "let" that happen . . . but never to the point where it will destroy His Kingdom. Don't you think Judah cried out at the slaughter at the hands of the Babylonians? That Israel thought God unfair, that He wasn't worth serving when the Assyrians destroyed them? Yes. I'm sure they did. I'm sure some, whose faith was in their own idea of God, lost that faith.

But the faith itself grew. Exile was what turned Judaism from a general religion to a personal faith. These terrible, awful, never-should-have-happened things were used by God to further the Kingdom, even though it means some lost faith . . . lost faith in their false ideas.

We've been studying the ancient world in school, learning about the greatest of the ancient kings. And do you know what made them great? They put the kingdom above all else. Above personal glory. Above love of one individual. They would fight wars or make odd peace treaties to preserve and expand their nation.

God is the BEST king. He is working, always, for the good of the Kingdom. That means making decisions we, as mere peons in His army, don't understand. It means people will die. It means war and famine and flood and cancer and dictators and atheism and . . . who knows what else. It means some will lose faith. It means more will come to it. It means the wheat will be separated from the chaff. It means so much more than we can fathom.

More, honestly, than most of us want to think about. We want life to be good. To be fair. To be easy. We want our loved ones not to die. We want our children to be perfectly healthy. We want respect and admiration.

Sorry, y'all. God promises us hardship. Disrespect. He promises that brother will turn on brother and father on son. He promises persecution and death and trial.

But He also promises peace and love and joy and a wisdom the world cannot understand. He promises to lift us above our circumstances--not to change our circumstances.

And that right there is one of the greatest epiphanies I ever had, a few years ago. We don't serve a God who changes circumstances alone--we serve a God who changes souls. He doesn't say, "I'll make the hurtful thing stop." He says, "I'll lend you My strength to get through it."

Sometimes--often--that actually means stripping away the things we thought were important. To get us back to the place where we have only that one truly important thing.