One of my most overworked manuscripts. I began this story years ago, only to shelve it about halfway through. It’s fiction but based on a true story. And the person it revolves around has passed. It’s a difficult topic to tackle, social cleansing, an epidemic in 1990s Brazil. More than that, I found the private and spiritual persuasions a battle. But I made a promise I’d finish the story, which was an acquaintance’s sort of testimony. I’d like to say I got after it with gusto and completed it with record time and zeal. Instead, I tucked the manuscript away and hoped it would go away. I’m not proud of that, but perhaps it wasn’t time until now. Not long ago, the subject of my book came to me in a dream and asked, “Aren’t you going to keep your promise?” Broke my heart. I replied, “Yes, of course. I will finish your story.” And so I did. And so here it is. I wrote this as I do each of my books, with one person in mind. This is a demonstration of one man’s dark path to redemption.
A problematic social issue, a unit called to respond.
A man struggles to right his wrong.
“If I had said ‘no,’ instead of ‘yes’ when they asked me to do this thing, then maybe I would have turned out a hero instead of what I’ve become.
We were trained, hired with the promise of a good wage, to take care of a problem, to get things under control. As a man, I needed to succeed for myself, for my family living in a cycle of poverty in the sertão, the backlands. The earnings proved excellent, and far outweighed the promises made by the controlling peasant guerrillas. But the other part of it… If I knew then what I know now…
I can’t live with myself…
I can’t live.
If I could take it back. Everything I’ve done--
Ach, who could do such things? And if one could, then who would forgive such things?”
About an hour from where I live, carved within the earth’s oldest mountain chain is a caving system consisting of one of the largest caverns in the eastern United States. Within Tuckaleechee Caverns is the most sensitive seismic station detecting earthquakes, as well. There are so many incredible things about this experience. I happen to live in a region boasting of caves to explore! Since I’m fascinated with caves and had family visiting, you guessed it, we went caving.
We also road the Lookout Mountain’s Incline Railway with a 72.7% grade, one of the world’s steepest passenger railways, a mile long, and also about an hour from where I live (lucky me). But because I’m afraid of heights and needed both hands to hang onto something/anything solid, I didn’t snap any photos. Fortunately, I got into conversation with several vacationing Brits, which distracted me from the dizzying open air and potential fall from the heights to my death. Give me tight, dark spaces to wiggle through in the bowels of the earth any day. But put me on top of the mountains and I turn to jelly. The Brits have no idea, but they saved my life. :D
Some members of my family are quite shy, so no photos shared here. My cool son who is my very own minor had little to say in the matter, so there he is, living large in the cavern.
We capped the week off by motorcycling. Between the humidity, dampness of that particular cavern (ceiling drips, waterfalls, pools and streams), and helmet head, my hair fell very flat. Don’t judge me. :P
Because caves take my breath away, they have made appearances in several of my novels. In fact, my latest thriller takes place exclusively in the subterranean world. Time for a shameless plug for REMNANT:
“Today I thought I’d cave dive, instead opened the world to the dead. Now I’m where I do not belong and don’t know how to get back.”
#Giants #Nephilim #Underworld
God peels me like an onion, one layer at a time. He does this in his great mercy. For if he chopped right through, the tear-invoking transparency would prove too painful, pungent, messy. He examines an outer peel and then another deeper, bringing each to my awareness in its own time. Carefully measured, scored, then added to his percolating soup of life, enhancing its savor, adapting my palate to become more like his palate. God is a mystery and deals with me in peculiar ways.
I’m an introvert. Ever since my toddler days, I’ve experienced individuals who tend to make introverts feel as if they are weird, wrong, or incapable. My preschool teacher used to address her concern to my mother that I would sit contently in the corner and work puzzles rather than interact with other kids—the horror! Even today, at age 47, still enjoying puzzles, if I explain to somebody why crowds exhaust me and I prefer solitude to a gaggle, or a few close friends to a drove, I hear the same phrase, “Keep working on it, you’ll get there.” My reaction is often silent, yet in my head I ask, “Get where? I’m already here.” There is such a misconception about introversion, even more so today in this extremely extroverted culture. Introversion is not a social anxiety or disease that one needs to get over or improve. It’s a personality trait. Introverts and Extroverts perceive, address, and pursue things differently. We may have the same goals or desires; we just speak different languages. To confuse things, some linger in the middle between introvert and extrovert. If you don’t know for sure, it’s worth figuring out. Daily life could be so much easier with a little understanding.
In terms of Christianity and the modern church, there is even black and white disparity for how we are expected to love and have community with others. There is a reason why there are so many spiritual gifts tests available. Heed them! Because God didn’t wire us the same way, so we shouldn’t be expected to operate in the polar opposites capacity if we weren’t naturally equipped to function in that manner. I do believe there are times when God asks us to go beyond our natural realm. He gives us what we need when we need it to fulfill that particular commission. But I feel an ultimate purpose for our lives is to see clearly by walking in truth, grow in how He’s gifted us, reach out to others in our specified manner according to our divine gifts and/or skill sets. Extroverts, to my understanding, are good at verbally reaching out by lively conversation and engaging with others, while introverts might discreetly send a card, email, or touching song link to the individual on his/her mind.
God most often calls me to deep waters to pray and intercede, meditate, worship, and write. Another person might thrive leading a room full of energetic children or hosting an event. I wouldn’t expect to stick a people-person in a place of solitude for a great length of time and watch them flourish. They’d get through the situation, perhaps, but it would be somewhat of an affliction. I’ve learned this through my son who, though we are very close, is my polar opposite. He’s as much an extrovert as I am an introvert (an INFJ, to be specific) and I’ve learned a lot by watching him grow. So…the same goes for an introvert when asked to do something out of an ordinary characteristic for them, which I’ve also had more of than a healthy share.
There is beauty in the diversity of gifts, which seem to conjoin personality traits. We are various parts of a body meant to work together as one. Introversion is not a disease, it is not fatal, it’s a part of the body, and it has its specific, healthy place in life and in God’s kingdom.
Romans 12: 4-8
“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
I love it when a story grips, giving a lasting effect, don’t you? I’ve just finished reading, The Blood Gospel, another influential book added to my personal favorites list. The plot is heavy yet thrilling with a clever tie-in of history to fiction. Archeology, religion, prophecy, legend, mystery, symbolism, and good versus evil – I thoroughly enjoyed this loaded book. It was a thought-provoking trip from realism to paranormal, and an adventure from Israel to Rome, to Germany, Russia, and back. I’d also found the dark yet noble Hungarian Sanguinist priest, Rhun Korza, undeniably appealing. I’m going to have to read the next in the series and have already ordered a copy.
Next, Strindberg’s Star, I’d read last year – and I still think about the novel. There is something within it haunting me. I’ve never read a more peculiar yet intriguing book that I seemed to understand completely. The author, Jan Wallentin, wrote in a postscript, “In the few places where the novel diverges from reality, it’s the reality that ought to change.” This novel was so entirely engrossing I didn’t always know which was which, reality or fantasy, nor did I care. That’s a great book!
Happy reading of your favorites; May you discover many more books to add to your personal list – maybe even one of mine.
Once, during my early balletic days, a director appointed me to a challenging role, instructing me to dance, said, “With attitude, Darling.” What he meant – what I learned – was to dance with complete heart, sense, and purpose; to abandon myself in that role. Since flamenco is such an individualistic art form, yet this particular discipline is still fairly new to me, I often hear those words of early advice trickle up from the deep recesses of my memory. I’m finding my voice, so to speak, my stylistic language within the flamenco context: to mean what I say. What I’ve added to my Bucket List, however, and what I yearn to do, is express flamenco in a worshipful/liturgical/Christian piece and venue. I believe in possibilities and have a vision for that day. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of my continuing, enriching education toward a flamenco dream.
Whatever happened to the value of solitude, simplicity, of being still? Seems I’ve examined the lives of others around me for years and, shaking my head, quietly whispered words of gratitude that I hadn’t run around as frantically as they do. You know…work, more work, even more work, appointments, obligations, juggling family needs, kid diversions, school, cleaning, renovations, getting ahead, jumping from place to place, event to event, constant stimuli everywhere one turns; the rat race. I’d once vouched never to subject my child to an ever-streaming deluge of entertainment-based activities. Once in a while is all right, maybe even special. Boredom once did a child good, served a purpose, propelled creativity and stretched independent thinking. I don’t know what happened, but I’m suddenly THAT person, the one I’d once, in a small way, pitied, who has tipped away the beautiful scales of balance. I’m overwhelmed with busyness. Life has grown too chaotic. Downtime is complicated. First, it’s hard to achieve. Second, when you actually make it happen, a rare pencil mark on the calendar, that moment arrives and doesn’t seem to be enough. You’re thirsty for more. At the same time, guilt has a way of wiggling in there telling you that it’s not okay to relax – as long as there are other things to do, and there are ALWAYS other things to be done. How did this all happen? I don’t like being this busy, when I can’t stop for a second to watch a bird teeter on a twig. Because I enjoy that…watching birds teeter on twigs. Indeed, daily life has grown chaotic. Like the structure of those around me in what has become the normal standard of life. Can I still breathe? Maybe I should freeze for a second to find out. I’m not sure this kind of frenzied lifestyle is great or healthy, but this seems to be the way it has become. As if there is a subliminal message in our culture that busyness equates to importance. Can we be too busy for our own good? For me, that’s a definite yes. I begin my rebellion today. Just after I take care of this one thing first.
Women threw beads and necklaces around Sarah’s neck and arms. One woman draped a red shuka, like a toga, around her and the olakaria, red ochre, came next. They painstakingly drew designs over Sarah’s face and laughed. It must have looked comical! Sarah could only imagine. Francine held up a compact mirror. True enough; the red face paint glowed bright on her much paler complexion - in spite of the thick layers of dust she had accumulated from the day’s adventure.
Loosely based on real life events and a deep love and appreciation for the Maasai, I’d like to introduce Warm My Heart, the first novel of my Hearts in Africa series.
Sarah heads into the bush of East Africa to become a missionary to the Maasai. Mitch, having made his home there, is driven to serve God out of a guilt-ridden past. In a harsh and dangerous environment where faith is challenged, circumstances draw them together. Yet the pain and secrets of the past rise up to stand in the way of what they both want but can’t seem to have, each other. How can they retain the power of love between them when they have so much to overcome?
Not only has the Internet augmented technological advancement, the Avenue of Progress well paved, it has completely transformed our social culture. In the latter, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad. On the one hand, a private person such as I can feel her space invaded at any given moment with a mere “click” from another. In order to manage and survive in this culture, especially as a writer, it’s difficult to turn off the Internet. I’ve come to depend on it in many ways for many things, and I feel disabled if I can’t gain access. On the other hand, it gives a taciturn introvert a voice. When I might stand silently and blink, weighing things out, holding my tongue, instead of conversing in the hardcopy version of life, online I can be quite outspoken. Gregarious, even. Sometimes I think this is good. Other times, I’m not so sure. I suppose, with everything, finding balance is the key.
One Church, Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You is a refreshing perspective written by Richard Twiss of the Rosebud Lakota/Sioux tribe, who is the cofounder and president of Wiconi International, and a member of the International Reconciliation Coalition. Historical facts, Biblical truths, interesting accounts, and heartfelt passion, this book is a life-changer for many -should be read by all. A necessary message ripe for the time, it calls on Christians to work together as one to bridge age-old disparities—spiritually, mentally, denominationally, and culturally.
First Nations people strengthening drums, flutes, rattles, and dances in making a glorifying sound and anointed movement for the “Waymaker” is inspiring. And it’s so like God to commission Native Americans to graciously speak new life and vision to the church that largely suppressed and/or ignored them, doing so with deeply forgiving hearts, turning injustice into something beautiful. What a testimony!
God is a multiculturalist. Heritage is a gift, and differentiations of culture, music, skin color, etc., are a thing of beauty. One Church, Many Tribes is a prized and endless piece of literature introducing the launch of a vital