Last Peek- New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

new author chapter preview

new author chapter preview

I’m the person that finds the perfect Christmas present in April, buys it, sticks it in the closet, waits several hours, then calls you to come open it now. new author chapter preview

That’s how I feel about our book, “In Spite of Us, Stalked by a Loving God.” How can I possibly wait until it’s finished, before I share it? Besides, your enthusiasm and encouragement for the other two sample chapters, helped spur me on.

So, here we go again. Since, I’m currently writing the final chapters, (Yay! Finally getting to spew God’s glory!), this will be the last peek of our book.

The book is written, in dueling perspectives, mine and husband Sandy. Chapter 39, (my voice) is about three quarters into the book. I’m sober, but just as crazy as not. When plans to score prescription drugs fail, I walk through the proverbial, “last door,” A.A. More interesting than following my zig-zagging path of desperation, is the look into what God is, was and continues to do.

Chapter 39

 

You keep saying that. Are you sure? New Author Chapter preview

When I said the words, I hoped for relief, a sense of closure to my insanity. Instead the words floated around the room with nowhere to rest.New Author Chapter preview

“My name’s Deb. I’m an alcoholic.”

As I tell my story, the voice in my head screams, “shut up!” I want to keep it simple, like Veni Vidi Vici, only instead of I came, I saw, I conquered… I drank, I quit, I’m fine now. The faces at the table look like our cat Slim, when I treat her like a dog. I confess to being sober, or dry, for the past eight years. All eyes glaze over under one giant group frown. Even my quest to score meds turned into a bizarre circus. Why did I get the self-absorbed, confused psychiatrist, instead of the normal, stable, old man, glasses on nose, saying stuff like, “It’s okay dear, everything will be fine.”  And why did my magic bean leave me the color of cherry Kool Aid, super charged like a Chatty Cathy doll on speed?  Once again, I’m left behind, waving bon voyage to all America as they pop a pill, floating off to chill island. New Author Chapter preview

So here I sit, in an A.A. meeting, attempting to explain the sober alcoholic clause. Do I care if I meet the base requirements to join their little club? Not really. I loathe the clichés, the constant self ass-patting for not doing something stupid yet today, and the guy whining about his ex-wife. Yet, I want what they have, well what a few seem to have found… a God they believe in… serenity… hope. There must be a way to get what they have, without hanging out with them. All I know is, I don’t know diddly, and I have nowhere else to go. New Author Chapter preview

I got a sponsor, nicknamed Little Sue, a friend from Alanon. She’s a cocktail like me, two fingers A.A. with an Alanon mixer, a splash of ACOA, and a little crazy, on a toothpick. If you’re not familiar with those terms I’ll simplify it for you, it’s the trifecta of the disease of alcoholism… A. A deals with the alcoholic… Alanon deals with all the others harmed by the alcoholic…. ACOA… is specifically for those who’ve lived under the chaos of alcoholic parents. Crazy is… a bonus, for winning the trifecta. New Author Chapter preview

The first time I meet with Little Sue, I’m certain she tries to scare me off. I don’t blame her, who wants to take on the difficult cases. I hope Difficult Deb is not my destined nickname. New Author Chapter preview

“We’re jumping ahead to Step 11 for a moment,” she says, sliding the Big Book my way, while reciting the step. “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

She seems to be waiting for me to respond. I don’t hear a question in there, so I keep quiet.

“If I’m to be your sponsor, you’ll be looking into the Bible. If that’s not okay with you, we won’t be a good fit.”

I laugh. Lately I’ve felt like a cartoon character stalked by Bible thumpers, jumping out from every corner. Since we’ve opened our antiques store in Ellensburg, I’m at the mercy of my customers seven days a week. I’m trapped behind the counter, forced to listen to tales of their ceramic pig collection, annoying neighbors, upcoming gall bladder surgery, and God.

One day, a blonde trio approaches the counter; a young mom holding the hand of a toddler, dragging an antique doll across the floor. The porcelain doll appears to be the one from the glass case, with the $300 price tag, and sign reading: Please do not touch.

“I’m a Christian…” says the mom. “Would you take $25 for this doll. My little girl really wants it. We’re Christians and can’t afford to pay more than that.”

I did not say the words begging to spill out. I didn’t even say the G Rated version – “Listen, you presumptuous idiot. I don’t hold Christians in high regard or think by any means that you are better than anyone else.”

I really tried.

“I see she likes the doll, but there’s no way I can sell a $300 doll for $25.”

Pointing at her child, she continues.

“But, we can only pay $25. Wouldn’t you consider it, because we are Christians?”

I remind myself to be kind.

“I’m sorry…” I begin, but hearing the lie, unleashes my indignation.

“You know what, dear heart? If I could adjust my prices that easily I’d charge Christians double. Why? Because they think they’re entitled and better than everybody else. So, have a wonderful day, and God bless you!”

I fight the urge to chase her down the sidewalk with, “further mores.” Instead, red faced, I pick the doll up off the floor, finger comb the mussed hair, and return it to the shelf, next to the “Please do not touch,” sign.

Back at the counter, another woman approaches me. Her hands are empty, so I assume she’s overheard the drama, and wants to take a shot at me. I feel like I’ve just slapped the face of Tiny Tim (“God bless us, every one”). Only in my version, I snag a doll from the weak hands of a deprived little girl, a Christian child.

“I’m a Christian too…” she starts.

I’m wondering what’s going on. The Christians are circling, like the lions in that bible story. I’m bleeding, and they’re moving in for the kill. Before I spring with a defense, she finishes her sentence.

“… and I want you to know that we are not all like that woman. I’m so sorry she did that. It was very un-Christian like.”

I like this woman, with the kind face. Since that drama, she, Patryk, stops by daily. It seems our store is on her walk route. She listens, even when I spit vile opinions of Christians. Best of all, she’s not perfect. Sure, imperfection is common, but she’s actually aware of the ailment. I’ve never met a Christian like her. I worked with a Christian guy at People for People, who had puffy, sprayed-stiff, Televangelist hair. He had plenty of time to dampen spirits with news of the fast approaching end times, but if you were choking on a chicken bone, drowning, or in need of a kind word, he’d hurry on by.

“Christians are either crazy or jerks… you know I’m right, Patryk.”

“Well, Deb, I’m a Christian… “

“You keep saying that. Are you sure?”

Around the same time, yet another oddball Christian surfaces at the store, named Monte. We became fast friends, our bond, being a distinct distaste for Christians. He has more rotten things to say about them than me. Yet, he speaks of Jesus like someone I might actually like. I got to know Monte when one of my customers, (probably a Christian), told me I should keep an eye on him, because he looked like the type that would steal. Although we’d never spoken more than a few sentences of polite customer/clerk exchange, I knew this humble, quiet man, was no thief or threat. She, like many others, judged his blonde hair, traipsing down his back, open shirt, and bull ring in one ear. One conversation with him would reveal the gentlest soul on earth. So I lied to the presumptuous, finger pointing woman, in a voice loud enough for Monte to hear.

“Excuse me? That man is my dearest friend. And the most honest person I know!”

She slithered out the door, justifying her accusations with, “I didn’t know… I was just trying to help…”

Monte, approached the counter.

“I apologize for her.”

“It’s okay, I’m used to it. It happens all the time.”

Thus, our friendship began. We hang out, sipping tea, between customers, bashing Christians and discussing Jesus. Soon after Monte became a store fixture, my next door business neighbor, Anne, pays me a visit. The sign above her store reads: Ed’s Refrigeration Service, but it is loosely dubbed an antiques store, known for dust covered clutter.

“He’s evil,” she says, racing into my store, just as Monte left out back. “That man, with that hair… and no shirt. I know things about him.”

I try to shine light on her darkness, but she isn’t having any of that. I never told Monte about her visit, but we shared many laughs at her expense. Besides dust, she is known around town for her, “end of times” sales techniques. Her favorite: Placing fake $20 bills on the floor, lurking behind a pile of junk until a customer picks it up, then jumping out yelling “Aha!” After giving a lecture on the evils of money, she smiles, handing them a dooms day preparation brochure. Truth is, she’s great for our business, sending shaken victims through our door, seeking protection and an explanation.

Looking back, I should not have been surprised that my A.A. sponsor was in on the helter skelter Christian encounters. I thought I’d be fed the same lingo I’d heard around the tables. No one there speaks of Bibles or Jesus. So, my coffee date with Little Sue, caught me off guard and even more alarming was my response to her order to read the Bible

“Okay, I can do that. Makes sense.”

Funny thing, I have two new Bibles, one from Patryk and another from Monte. Sadly, it’s like reading a foreign language, yada, beget, yada, yada, beget, yada, thou shall yada yada. I found one part, I understood, but I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was that creep Lot, who wants to protect his sons, so he says “Hey take my daughters and do whatever you want with them.”

What? I hate that guy. I am so upset; I call Little Sue moments after reading it. She listens to my paraphrase of the story, cutting me off mid-rant.

“Okay… I don’t think you’re ready to read the Old Testament alone. You’re not really comprehending the context. Please stay in the New Testament for now”

“Is that Lot guy in the New Testament?”

“No.  How are you doing with the Big Book? Are you journaling on your fourth step? “That’s the one that says ‘Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.; Right? Well, I’ve been thinking on it. I haven’t written anything down yet.”

“Next week I want you ready to share your inventory with me. Okay?”

“Okay.”

 

If you haven’t read the other sample chapters, you can find them here: new author chapter preview

Sample Chapter 14

Sample Chapter 19

A Season of Grief… Loss… Mourning… God, Where are You?

Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. griefSadness… melancholy… no apparent reason, yet suspicions come to mind; the gray sky, the stillness after the snow fall, the chill. Possibly staring out my office window, waiting for the sharp edged icicles to drip, is the cause. More likely, it’s the time of year. The expectant looking back, so we can move forward… out with the old, in with the new. Grief

Like that sappy old haunting song, Auld Lang Syne, I miss the people who are no longer here. Around this time last year, I wrote about my dad, and the year before that, my mom. It’s true, I’m sad they’re gone, but forever grateful for God’s plan for them. With that said, watching them transition from this world, is difficult. grief

For me, the most painful bon voyage of all is my brother, Danny, taken by cancer, at age 52. Dark, sad, painful, and yet, a blessed time of completion, spiritual healing and deep love. Talking, or writing, about how it feels, is not easy. Even so, I’m driven to share, because the hurt is merely a speck in comparison to the bounty of peace and comfort that showered down from heaven, like a glorious refreshing rain. grief Grief

            (Deep breath) 

My Gehenna arrived, with a phone call.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Driving to work. What’s up?”

“I have cancer, and it’s really bad.”

Certain he’s playing one of his boundless practical jokes, I respond in anger. Mourning

“That’s not funny… I’m hanging up!”

“Debbie, it’s true,” he said, voice cracking.

Was it outlandish to think he was joking? No. This is the guy who carries a tube of Oragel in his pocket, ready to swipe the rim of a loved one’s coffee mug, then sit back and laugh while they gasp through numb lips, “call 911 I’m having a stroke!” The guy with an array of voices, who calls from random friends’ phones, pretending to be one of his unlimited annoying characters. grief

His favorite? grief

A man with a really bad Asian accent, wanting to buy your cat for his upcoming dinner party. I’m sorry. I didn’t say he’s always politically correct, or sensitive. So, I ask, who wouldn’t have thought he was playing the cancer card as just another poor taste joke? grief

Lifestyle changes, like my sobriety, and proclaiming new found Christianity, (admittedly not always with grace), had distanced our relationship. But with the passing of our mom, six years prior, forgiveness washed away our petty bickering. Any lingering resentments hiding in the corner of our hearts, were flushed away with the news of cancer. grief

Budding health concerns set Danny’s life in turbo, as if someone yelled “fire!” An appointment to drain liquid collected around his heart, turned into major surgery to remove the sack surrounding it. That’s when the alarms went off with the news of cancer invading his lymph nodes. Change ran amok. His ex-wife, Astrida, forever and always best friend, and only person trusted to liquidate his car lot business, moved from Florida to Seattle to help.

Before long Hospice called and paid him a visit.

“You should have seen the woman they sent,” he said during one of our daily phone conversations. “She has zero sense of humor. She just sits there, asking questions… if she smiled, her face would crack. ”

“Did you get out your Orajel?”

“Hmpf! Why bother? Anyway, I told Hospice on the phone, I don’t need someone taking care of me. The thing is… I need you to sign papers saying you’ll be my caretaker. But, I don’t need or want you here. They act like it’s over and done. I’m not!”

Looking back at the whirlwind, I can see the perfection in God’s timing. I’m reminded of God’s steady hand through it all. He used my baby Christian status to not only minister to my little brother, but also to heal the broken pieces in my own heart. I knew, the world knew, certainly God knew, I was ill-equipped to fix Danny. But God knew my lack of skill, absence of wisdom and zilch experience, qualified me for the job He had in mind.

I was left with one choice: Cling to Jesus, trust He has a plan. And, He did. His plan, way beyond human imaginings, incorporated our history, our personalities. He used what he knows like no one else, our DNA, our snowflake differences.

We were the younger two, of the four McFarland children. Even back then, four children were a tall order for a truck driving dad and a stay at home mom. Five years my junior, Danny perfected the art of pesky little brotherhood. Even so, he was my brat brother, and I loved him. With busy parents and older siblings failing to see our cool side, we entertained each other. Mostly, we played cards. Not fluffy games of Fish or Old Maid, we self-weaned off those, pre-kindergarten. We dealt pinochle, poker, gin rummy, war, blackjack, spades, hearts and quadruple deck Canasta. Hours on end, we bonded between shuffles, promising before kings, queens and jacks, to take care of each other, no matter what.

At age 16 Danny fell into the popular sport of drugs and alcohol, and lost. Newly married, and an official adult, at age 21, I was the best choice to parent a troubled teen. What I lacked in experience I made up for in “know-it-all-ness.” So, I convinced my parents and new husband, to move Danny across the state and live with me. Shortly after, we drank and drugged together, keeping mayhem at bay, since I signed the notes for teachers and principals.

After graduation, he got a job, and moved out, but, he hung out at our house, whenever he could. That’s when the gambling began. Even at the start, the stakes were sweaty palm high– lose three hands, wash dishes for three minutes. Eventually, the ante escalated, reaching high roller status…

“I’ll raise your 15 minutes of washing dishes for 15 minutes of vacuuming…” to “I’m all in for the toilet scrubbing, with a flush.”

I’m telling you this so you’ll truly understand the breadth and depth of God’s sweetness. The absolute intimacy of: “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Luke 12:7). The assurance of: Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). The realization of: For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Yes, God had a plan. Not a cookie cutter plan he whipped out for whomever, but a specifically designed plan for Danny and me.

Before the morphine took over, we were given a last season together. Of course he played his stupid jokes. His new favorite? Pretending to be dead when I checked on him in the morning. ERRRRR! He thought that was really funny. Instead of cards, we played lots of scrabble. But here’s the sweet spot: Sitting side by side, we read the Bible and prayed together. Danny trusted me, asking me questions because he knew I didn’t have all the answers. God, trusted me, maybe for the same reason. We taped his favorite scriptures on the wall by the hospital bed Hospice had delivered. We laughed a bunch and cried even more. It felt familiar, brother and sister, hanging out. Instead of making promises we could not keep, we reminded each other of God’s promises. God used many people over the years and especially during this end time of Danny’s life, to bring him into His kingdom. My task was more a maintenance or hand holding position.

His last months on earth, were emotionally brutal, but he remained, miraculously, pain free. One minute he talked about being ready, the next he cried out in fear. One day up, one day down. A day of faith, a day of fear, a day of anger, a day of peace. The daily increase of morphine, blurred reality, tainted truths and wreaked havoc on safety. He chain smoked while using his oxygen tank. He stopped eating. And, I became the bad guy, along with the rest of the family he had shut the door on. Then, he sent me away. I’m thankful he could still trust and count on Astrida, who took over care taking, until he was placed in a care facility. God

God could have healed my brother. But he did not. I trust His decision. He knows the big picture. He knows the right time. It’s not as if God was sitting on His hands doing nothing. He was at work, changing hearts, healing hurts, increasing faith, proving His love and securing salvation.

I miss my brother. Yes, even the off color jokes and practical stunts. I have no doubt, where he is. I thank God for His patience and willingness to let us take care of each other before he took him. Danny’s death is beyond sad. Yet, I’m left with a smile and a warm heart whenever I think of him. I will be forever grateful for those times, side by side… two children, talking and getting to know their Father.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

What Gift Will You Give Jesus for Christmas?

psalm 86:12 Praise God Glory to the Lord Jesus

Jesus I didn’t know what to give my husband for Christmas this year. He’s difficult to buy for. I wanted it to be something special, not the usual patron saint T-shirt with Bullwinkle or The Muppets. How many does one closet need? There’s always the shirt with a spiritual message, but again, we’ve just about covered the Bible through his wardrobe. Alas, by chance a miracle, that Craftsman has invented a new tool, that he will not think is silly or doesn’t already have. Jesus

Each year, the problem increases. Even if I had extra money for a trip to some race track, or a Harley Davidson (old style, of course), the gesture is “meh,” compared to what he deserves. This is the man who continues to love me, right where I’m at. He loves me when I’m right. He loves me when I’m wrong. He loves me when I think I’m right, but might be… well, you get the drift. Jesus

I can’t say what I ended up buying, because he will read this before he opens the package. I will say, it’s just as unremarkable as any other year. Short of ripping my heart out and slapping a red bow on it, I don’t know how to express my love for him. Jesus

And that’s when I get to thinking… Jesus

As much as I love my husband, and God knows I do, I love Jesus twenty gazillion times more. My heart often aches to give Him a gift, exemplifying gratitude, for all He has done. Truth is, my all, is about as lame as handing Jesus a Bullwinkle T-shirt and saying thanks. Thus, the daily lesson in humility.  s

I’m leaving this post short. Pressing in, taking time to breathe in the season, bask in His love. s

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Remember the Child God Created You To Be

innoncent child redheaded girl 1950s child God Child Children Children God God's Children God Created         I  knew a little girl, with frizzy red hair, knobby knees and a gap between her two front teeth. To the world she appeared gawky, gangly and awkward, but she never questioned her beauty and magnificent design.  Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration

          Eyes wide, she greeted the flowers, the sunshine and colors of each moment, with gratitude. To her, miracles were expected, like turning the crank on the Jack in the Box, certain it’s coming, exhilarated by when. Nothing too small, or taken for granted. All creation grand, worthy of great attention and delight. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration

          Hyper-alert, nothing missed, or unseen… the twinkle in another child’s eye, or the void of hope, lurking in a stranger’s soul. She recognized the need for a smile, a kind word, a touch, a simple pat on the hand. And, without question or hesitation, she filled the need. Courageous. Fearless. Forever listening to the still, small voice, speaking through the ears of her heart. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration

              I remember her tears. Cries for Marilyn, dragged to the front of the class, spanked and shamed by the teacher, while wide eyed 1st graders, sat writhed in helplessness. Sweet tears, wept over the graves of babies, buried in an overgrown cemetery, near her house. Sobs of empathy, for the poor, ill-treated, and abused… the boy next door with the mean dad, the upside down gold fish, the woman scarred from burns on her face, and Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

           I remember her well. Those who loved her, cautioned, along with the rest of the world,”You’re too thin skinned, toughen up. Chin up child!”

        Defining labels began to stick. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration

       You’re too:

Sensitive…  Soft hearted… Emotional

       The equation became:

Sensitive + Soft hearted + Emotional = Weak & Stupid.

       Soon the clanging noise of the world, muffled the still, small voice amplified from her heart. Cynicism replaced trust. Bitterness squelched goodwill. Hatred and resentment silenced love. The world held up a mirror, ordering,

     “Take a good look. You are not beautiful. Just look around you.”

     So, she looked, compared, measured and judged.

     Through this child, I met a woman; broken, bitter, “so over it.” Weary from turning over stones, finding no satisfaction. No questions asked or answered, soothed her pain. I remember her tears, as well. Tears from the well of brokenness, sorrow, darkness, loss of hope.

     One day, in the deepest, darkest pit of dismay, she listened for the familiar still small voice, that even to deaf ears, kept speaking. She heard Him.

     He’d never left.

     As you’ve probably guessed, I’m the child, and the woman. God created me with certain traits, some of which may not suit this world. Sadly, vows were made to fit into this world, like “toughen up,” and stop being a “bleeding heart.” Once as a young woman, an employer asked me to seek a favor from the big boss, saying, “Everyone is nice to dumb animals and Debbies.” Just words… maybe. But the hurt from them fueled a fierce vendetta. No one would ever think of me as dumb again. I would get my “shrewd” on. Trust not, care not, love not. See no good, hear no good, speak no good.

     It’s been a long, bumpy journey looking for the woman God created me to be. I have a longing to return to the pure loving heart, I was created with. I wish I could tell you I’m all fixed now.

     I’m not.

     Every day, I trust, care and love, a little more. I see, hear and speak His good. I call on His name and I fight to hear His voice. I pray He will “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. “ Psalm 51:10

     Think on this:

     The nagging voice, growling up from the bowels of this world, knows us not. That’s why the lies often don’t even make sense, fired for effect, hoping one might penetrate our hearts, take us down… one more bites the dust.

     Contrarily, the truth comes from the One who knows everything about us. The One who designed us after Himself, created us, and loves us beyond our wildest imaginations.

     Who should we be listening to? Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

Gruesome Fairy Tales of Lore… Reality for Today’s Children? (e.g. Paris Attacks)

paris attacks God's power children's response

That talk… the one you have with your wide-eyed toddler about strangers. The one that dilutes all efforts to build trust, security, confidence, comfort. Staring down innocence, you apologize for the world we live in.

“I’m sorry… there are bad people in the world.”

You issue the warnings regarding strangers:

don’t talk to them…

don’t accept candy, money or anything…

don’t get into their car…

and so on…

Translation: Do not trust, feel safe, rest, or be at peace.     

As a child of the sixties, I read gruesome fairy tales with horrendous evil doings on every page. Trust me, you don’t want to know what really happened to Sleeping Beauty or Hansel and Gretel. Or even the Pied Piper who in the original version, drowns all the children after bringing them to a river. Today the stories have been Disneyized, in an attempt to protect the innocence of our children.

The difference?

Those horrors were fantasies. Today’s mayhem is real. The boogie man is no longer hiding under the bed or in the closet. He is out in the open. That breaks my heart. No parent should have to tell their child…

          “I’m sorry dear, the boogie man exists.”

But in today’s world, we must.

Below is the transcript of the video that’s gone viral of a father’s explanation to his preschool son, Brandon, about the Paris attacks. It shows an interview conducted Sunday by a reporter for France’s Le Petit Journal at Place de La Republique in Paris, where people are laying flowers and lighting candles to honor the 129 victims killed in the attacks.

It begins with Brandon telling reporter Martin Weill that the attacks were by “bad guys” who were “not very nice.” He then expresses fear that his family will be forced to move, although his father, Angel Le, reassures him.

“Oh, don’t worry. We don’t need to move out. France is our home,” the father tells his son.

Brandon offers a quick reply.

“But there’s bad guys Daddy.”

“Yes, but there’s bad guys everywhere,” the father replies.

“They have guns. They can shoot us because they’re really, really mean Daddy.”

With his arm around his son, the father refers to the crowd at the square, and says, “It’s OK. They might have guns, but we have flowers.”

         “But flowers don’t do anything. They’re for, they’re for…”

“Of course they do. Look. Everyone is putting flowers,” the father says.

“Yes?”

“It’s to fight against guns,” the father explains.

“It’s to protect?” Brandon asks.

“Exactly.”

“And the candles too?”

“It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday.”

These are the talks parents are having with children around the world in the aftermath of evil. Talks given while holding tiny hands… ending with hugs and “I’m sorry,” as adults hide fear, sorrow and tears. Words of comfort given simultaneously alongside worries and thoughts… warnings from the CIA Director, of Washington D.C. threats. Reassurances along side imaginings of what might happen next.

How do we live like this?

How do we have those talks with our children?

Without faith, without knowing our Lord and Saviour, without belief that He is victorious, what hope do we have in a world where evil dwells? How would we see His light shining in others? Or believe that Love wins every battle, every time?

To our children and grandchildren… I’m sorry the boogie man is real. He’s not in your closet, under the bed, or a fantasy in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. He is not hiding. He’s brazen, bold, out for all to see and fear.

          The good news is this: John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

What can we do?

Pray.

What else?

Believe.

Is that all?

Love one another.

Dance Before the Lord with All Your Might

Worship Hands Raised Stained Glass Window Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It was the early seventies. I was 20 years old. In simple math, a long time ago. I’d been invited to a dance. A first date. I bought a new tangerine silk wrap dress, for the occasion. I wore a pair of strappy heels, that hurt terribly, proving I’d achieved sexy. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

My date arrived in his 1971 Volkswagen bus, dressed in Levis, a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, completing the iconic image, with messy hair and mutton chop sideburns. We conversed in “first-date-ESE,” each asking the other prepared clever questions. You know, like, “What’s your sign?” Or “What band do you groove on?” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

When we arrived at the Broadway Grange Hall, he excused himself, pointed to the punch bowl, and joined his buddies across the room. It was one of those moments when mundane tasks feel awkward, like standing, selecting a facial expression, or breathing in and out. Looking around the room, I noticed the crowd was, different. Then I remembered… my date works at Yakima Specialties, with disabled adults. He failed to mention this is a dance for his clients. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Just then, a young man in plaid pants and platform shoes approaches, asking if I’d like to dance. The dance floor is empty. The song is Jim Croce’s, Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown. I want to say no thank you, but instead say,

“Sure.” Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

As I practice the dance of inconspicuousness, my partner multi-jives, using arms, legs, feet, hands, head, utilizing every inch of the 20 by 40 foot dance floor. Looking back, I realize now, his dance was brilliant, ahead of its time and exactly what people strive for today. But, being the age of “everyone is looking at me,” I was embarrassed, wanting to disappear. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

Contrary to the insistence of my inner narcissist, no one was looking at me. My date was engrossed with his buds, talking shop, or sports, or who cares what. Before I can slip away, the next song begins, enticing a fellow in a ruffled tuxedo shirt, to join us on the floor. Moments later, a girl with a rhinestone tiara, pushing a walker, and a few others boogied onto the scene. By the fifth number of the night, Elton John’s, Crocodile Rock, the dance floor is packed with non-couples, dancing free style, not only to the beat played by the band, but many others, as well. Worship Praise Dance for the Lord

It took longer than it should, but I came around. Who could resist? They were free, real, alive. They trusted the music, the moment, the calling. They exchanged uptight for “out of sight.” That night, they set me free as well. My self-absorbed fears melted away, leaving me worthy of my partners. We tapped, river danced, dosey dohed, and did the alligator on our stomachs. I witnessed a pirouette, and an impressive leap across the floor. It was exhilarating.

          Unadulterated joy!

Fast forward, 30 years and much life, good, bad, and ugly, to the year 2001. I walk through the doors of the Vineyard Christian Church, the same as I attend today. I’m late, uncertain I want to be there. The service has begun. I choose a balcony seat, in the corner by an exit, where I can keep watch over the entire church.

The music is unlike any I’ve ever heard before. I’m fascinated with the interaction between it and the people in the pews. Many are standing, hands raised, swaying, eyes closed. Others remain seated, eyes open, one or both hands outstretched. Some weep. All, appear at ease, or at least content. Mid-investigation, to my surprise, I feel tears streaming down my cheeks. Good tears, comforting, like warm water when you’re chilled. The kind that shows up at reunions, weddings, and births.

I didn’t know what to think.

Back then, I thought people sang in church for the same reason they joined a Barbershop Quartet or rang doorbells with Christmas carols. I must have heard it referred to as worship, but did not make the connection. After witnessing worship, and having been introduced to the Holy Spirit, I hung around. Like a starving cat given a bowl of milk, I wanted more, and knew where to find it.

The mysterious tears continued to show up in the balcony, dripping down my face. Eventually my fascination with the worshiping lessened, and my own desire to praise grew. My familiar enemy, I call, oppression, kept my arms dangling awkwardly at my side. One day, I ignored the nagging oppressor, shooting my arms straight up. I laughed out loud, because for a moment, I thought I might fly up through the air with my limbs. Such bliss, beatitude, joy!

Freedom to praise, love, honor, adore, worship my Lord, in MY way. I’m not saying, animated worship is for everyone. For some, sitting still, basking in His presence is THEIR worship mode. I practice this style as well. But, one of God’s coolest traits is knowing each of our hearts, style, idiosyncrasies… our nature. I was trapped in a safe mode of worship, by fear, not choice. It suits me, to raise my arms, sway and sometimes dance. It’s fair to say I’m a David, when it comes to worship.

“And David danced before the LORD with all his might.”

When worship sunk in as a verb, I was set free to show my heart to the Lord. I pray all will find the place of worship that unlocks the boundless praise, longing to escape.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150:6 | NIV

In Spite of Us - Chapter PreviewCheck out our book in progress. Read a sample chapter here. Sneak Peek Chapter 14

Which Bible Character Are You?

Bible sheep redheaded sheep 99 sheep

Honestly?

I’d love to say I’m like Paul. But I’m not. Or, Peter, or Deborah, or Ruth. Truth said, when asked which Bible character I am most like… I think of that sheep, you know the one that wandered off from the others?

Yep, that’s me, the rogue sheep.

“Baaaaaaaa!”

My 99 friends, grabbing cell phones to call and advise me against bad mouthing myself, don’t bother. I’m good with being that sheep.

Think about it. Who did the shepherd go after?

You see, I face that sheep every morning, post prayer, pre-shower. That’s my time to write on our book, working title being, “In Spite of Us… Stalked by a Loving God.” Clicking the keyboard, shaking my head in dismay, I record the rebellious acts, stupid choices and messy consequences of a redheaded vagrant sheep. Said sheep may share my name and DNA, but beyond hair follicles and spit, today, nothing much else matches. Thank God.

Thus my patience wans, writing scenes doomed for sorrow and discontent. Even knowing that the Hero (Jesus) is coming to save the day, it’s tough to keep writing. I want to say “Don’t open that door. Really? Again? Stop! Look!.. Look up dummy!”

I wish I could skip to the stage of our story where a spiritual metamorphosis is apparent. If I did fast forward, leaving out all the muck and mire, the glory deserved by the Hero of the saga would be significantly diluted. It’d be like saying, “well, we were handling things okay on our own, without God, but he deserves credit for improving on our situation.”

What a joke!

The second half of the “we” in the story is my husband, Sandy, another sheep with beard goateefugitive sheep. In his defense, at least he showed up with a map, but staying on the straight and narrow path? Too much of a challenge. Therefore, the sheep duet, wandered around the jagged cliffs, blind and deaf to the Shepherd’s persistent calls. We were dying, drowning in a pit of self-inflicted, excruciating pain… hopeless, with no sign of relief. Picture two sheep at the bottom of a ravine, on their backs like turtles struggling to get up, bleating, “Baaaaaa!” The Shepherd should have said, “serves you right” or at least jabbed us with an “I told you so.” Instead, He kept at us, gently coaxing for us to stand up, climb back up the cliff, and follow the directions on the map.sheep on back legs in air

You can laugh, I have. Still, I’m honored to be that vagabond sheep. Grateful beyond explanation. I turned my tail to the other 99 sheep, booing their blatherings. Worse, I felt no need of a Shepherd. I had it handled. That is until I was floundering at the bottom of the gorge. At last, willing to call for help.

“Baaaaaaaa!”

And the Shepherd answered.

An accurate description of his response is written perfectly in the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.

 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

— KJV

Yeah, I’m “THAT” sheep. The one the shepherd pursued, foraged for. That makes me special, of worth, loved. Grace given, undeserved. If you’ve ever been forgiven by someone you’ve turned your back on, you know what I’m saying. It’s humbling.

If you have not experienced this Grace, let’s talk. I know a Good Shepherd, I can introduce you to.

 

Coming in 2016 – In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving GodIn Spite of Us - Chapter Preview

Sample Chapter of our book

Church Ladies… Hot Flashes and Faith

Church lady appearing to be gossiping in wide brim flowered hat and gloves.

            The other day in church, my attention turned to the pews, a Divine tap on the shoulder. I looked around, noting the faithful bobbing heads of our congregation, worshipping to the song, “I’m a Lover of Your Presence.” My heart stirred as my imagination drew a line above the heads of all the women, connecting them like a graph. I understood, resting for a moment, knowing, I, too, am a dot on this chart. Church Ladies 

Then I laughed. Church Ladies 

“Oh dear God, I’m one of those “church ladies!”

My past connotations of church ladies are both sweet and bitter. A picture of wide brim hats bursting with silk flowers, gathered like a bouquet, under which tongues wag gossip and white gloves point fingers. A gaggle of pinched nosed ladies, pecking rumors, slipping smooth smiles as innocent victims pass by their coup. Still dear, the image of gloves and big hats, it’s the gossip and finger pointing that tastes like vinegar. No better is the stereotypical “church mouse,” staring at the floor, incapable of squeaking one word without an apology. Neither of these portrayals are women I want to model. Church Ladies  Continue reading Church Ladies… Hot Flashes and Faith

Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

Qualities of the perfect man --Cary grant Mr. Bean- Grizzily AdamsI don’t know when it happened, or how. But it did. One unremarkable day, we became that couple. The one people snicker at and call CUTE! Sometimes even SOOOOO CUTE! Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

At first we were confused. After all, we had not changed, yet, whenever we held hands or smooched a little cheek peck, the world stopped, fingers pointed and exclamations of delight proclaimed our adorability. This is especially true of young couples. We can only imagine what might happen if they caught us partaking in an innocent love pat on the behind? Oh my! Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

What changed? How did we jump from being the rude couple, known for PDA (public display of affection), to the Cutie Patooties belonging in the Guinness World Record book with the caption: Old Farts in Love. When the “Awwwws,” first began, we’d back away, fearing our groupies might pinch our cheeks, or worse, snap a photo to share on Facebook. Over time, we’ve gotten over our fear of death by koochie-koochie-koo. When it happens today, we share a secret nod of wisdom and a wink of… Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

“If they only knew.”

Truth is, I’m more in love with my husband today, than ever. And, yes, I mean IN LOVE. Mad, lust worthy, hot, married you rock my socks, kind of LOVE. Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

Hello? Hello? Is anyone still reading?

If so, I’ll share what I’ve learned about love. My prayer is that someone might be spared the wild seek and conquer dating escapades I suffered. Sadly, I know I am not alone in this, having many single friends looking under the same rocks as I did.

My quest for love, is best described as a manic episode of Where’s Waldo? Desperate, I sprang between victims, begging for alms of love, to fill my black hole of a heart. He must be charming, like Cary Grant, funny like Mr. Bean and strong and protective, like Grizzly Adams. And, most importantly, he must speak my personal dialect of love language, willing to be like the guy in My Fair Lady who sings, “On the Street Where You Live.” That guy felt happy just standing outside, knowing his love was in the vicinity.

“Sigh.”

Love me, love me, love me. Who will love me? Who can fill my bottomless pit of a heart?

My sad, wild safari in search of love guaranteed three perpetual moods:

Empty

Lonely

Broken hearted

I remember a day, when I believed I could not take another breath, unless tossed a crumb of relief to the gaping hole in my heart. With no other options, I sent a weak prayer out, begging an ignored God for help.

When I met Sandy, my husband to be, he had the Grant schmooz, the big protective brute air, and, he was well endowed with Mr. Beanisms. Sadly, though, he did not speak my love language, nor show any desire to stand outside on the street swooning with love. He had better things to do. Yet, there was something about him that kept me hanging around. He was patient, loving, and kind. He spoke of God and faith.

And then, we lived happily ever after… right?

Not quite.

We dug, dredged and sucked every ounce of love from each other. But, it was not enough. He could not feed my hunger, nor I his. What then? None of the equations add up. X + Y = Z … if X is me and Y is you then Z should be love… Okay, math is not my subject.

We fought.

And, fought some more.

Something was missing from the equation. It took years for us to figure it out. I should add, we are still working on the math, but we found the missing component, the foundation, the cornerstone. God. When we invited God into our relationship, our sparse baskets of fish and bread, became more than enough to feed ourselves and each other, with abundance to share.

Without God, marriage is like the wood, hay and straw, spoken of in the Bible; when the test of fire comes, it disintegrates. The tests will come, in many forms. Losses, disappointments, struggles, temptations. And no one will escape the trials of time; gravity, erosion and decay. Just as the Beatles song ponders, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?”

It’s flattering to be admired for outer beauty, but to be revered for inner beauty is the biggest rush of all. I grumble at the woman in the mirror, wondering where she hid my youth. Yet, the most beautiful I have ever been, is in the eyes of my husband, where glows a lasting beauty, beaming from the inside out. I marvel at the image, coming from the eyes that have seen me at my worst. I’m not talking about the mother of all insults, “I love you even though.” That’s a tainted love, that pats the giver on the back. No, I want none of that.

To best understand, the love I refer to, it takes a child. A child whose well loved toy is showing wear. No longer new, shaggy, tousled, tired looking. Maybe it’s even missing a few parts. But what happens when you offer this child a shiny new toy in exchange for the old one? You can’t pry it from their clutches, not even to toss it in the laundry. They love it just the way it is. After all, it’s the toy that’s been there, through everything. The ear hanging by a thread, the bald spot, the dangling button, are like precious gems, badges, reminders of trials, victories, parades marched side by side.

I’m no longer dependent on love. Instead, my love is dependent on God. Without God in our marriage, our love is weak, no better than a silly love song. With God, we are like two children under an umbrella of His love. Holding hands, peering into each other’s eyes, marveling at who God created us to be. Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

And… I guess we’re pretty cute. Love… Marriage… Mr. Bean… and God

A note to my husband: Happy 24th Anniversary. I thank God for answering my prayer.

1 Corinthians 12

If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

 

Check out our book in progress … read a sample chapter…. BookPromobannerhttp://debpalmerauthor.com/2014/11/13/christian-author-preview-chapter-in-spite-of-us-stalked-by-a-loving-god/

When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?

The word NO in a gift box

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I’m dumbfounded. How did I miss the seventy times seven flashing neon “good choice” doors? Choosing instead the door down the long hall with the sign reading: You Know Better. I’m grateful for all the times God waited patiently while I collected consequences from behind the “bad choice” doors. Those lessons, greatly improved my choosing skills.

Contrarily, what about the times when God bolts a door shut? No matter how hard you pull or twist the knob, it won’t open. It’s stuck, bound with spiritual duct tape. We have free will to do what we please, pound our head against the wall as often as we like. I’m talking about the times when HE intervened, protecting me from the scariest monster of all… self. Continue reading When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?

Story Teller – Author "LOVE AND AN INTERVENTION: A Dual Memoir About Second Chances

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