Grace and Mercy

I have noticed a distu022 (5)rbing trend among Christians lately, including some people whom I love and respect deeply. I have also noticed there are few others who seem troubled by it. Surely, I am not the only one….
Across the ocean and far from our shores, people are in fear of their lives. They are fleeing their homeland in terror, often with little more than the clothes on their backs. Everything they have ever known is going up in the smoke of war and tyranny. They seek refuge wherever they can find it.
The Syrian Refugees.
I generally go out of my way to avoid any mention of politics. But to me this is not just a political matter although politicians have lost no time in sharing their views loudly and self-righteously. There are politics involved, certainly and the government will have its hands full in dealing with the mess. That part is on them.
The matter I am struggling with is our unwillingness to share what we have with those that have nothing.
In Matthew 25, Jesus speaks of separating the sheep and goats in heaven. Of the sheep he says,

Caught!

I don’t remember ever reading qualifications. Take care of them when it is convenient. Help them when they agree with your religious and political views. Encourage them when their countrymen are harmless.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36
I understand the fear of allowing the terrible things that are happening across the ocean to come to our safe, tidy little world. I know that there is a possibility that a terrorist could slip in among the huddled masses. I agree that opening our borders also opens us up to trouble that right now seems far away.
All that is scary and a very real possibility. I know what it is to be afraid.
But my God is stronger than my fear. Even if my faith wavers, underneath it all, I know that I can trust him to care for me and my family. He is higher, stronger, and infinitely more powerful than the terrorists that seek to destroy me. Do you think God can’t protect us, or that the government can do a better job of it?
Do you think Islamic extremists, terrorists, are stronger than God?
I don’t. I will put my trust and faith in God and do as he asks me to do. Even if I die, or my family killed, I will trust and do as he commands.
Can I do less when my King has given so much more?

I will believe.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging. Ps. 46:1-3

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Angel’s Song

Better late than never! Unlike most of my Christmas series, which have been rewritten and revised several times, this story was nothing more than a vague idea in my mind a week ago. We love to sing about the angels, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, and The First Noel, among other Christmas favorites. But what is their story, what is going on in that mysterious realm of angels and demons on the most famous day in history?

This story is what I think may have happened.

You will notice that this book cover doesn’t have a figure from an old nativity set. Want to know why? Because I decided that the sappy, serene and aloof look of most nativity angels I have seen simply don’t fit the power of their story. Scriptures say that the angels celebrate in Heaven when one who was lost is redeemed. I think that pales beside their celebration on the day when the redemption becomes possible. The angels  echo the Joy of the Father when Jesus is born. And that is not a sweet and sappy smile, but a powerful burst of jubilation that rocked Heaven to its foundations.

So rather than put a substandard angel on my cover, you will have to just imagine the joy that filled them on that very special day.

 

The Angel’s Song  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R1FBPEM  is available on Amazon for Free through Dec. 21.

Don’t forget to check out:

The Shepherd’s Tale  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PUZ9AD8

The Innkeeper’s Guest  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QOA67OS

 

Now I See

I love fall. I think it is my favorite time of year. My love affair with Autumn probably got its start because my birthday is in fall. All those years of anticipating parties, presents and cake affected my mind. Now, even when I can’t say I look forward to that proof that I am no longer young, I still love fall. Now it has more to do with clear, crisp days, bright colors and frosty nights.

Sometimes I stand outside in the warm golden sun, and wonder what it would be like to not see the glories of the changing seasons. What if we could not see the faces of our loved ones, the obstacles on a crowded street? Those questions and a hundred more led me to write the story of Bartimaeus.

I drew in a deep, spice-scented breath and took a step, then another, stepping wide to miss the open drain. Hadar’s hand slipped a bit, but he tightened his grip and held on.
The clamor of the market was disorienting. I could barely hear the buzzing echo but I continued to shuffle forward. No longer sheltered by the wall, people brushed against me on all sides. With every step, my heart pounded harder. I held my hands out before me, hoping to encounter anything that might help me find the way to safety. All I could feel was the shifting wall of people. My fingers touched rough material and smooth skin. A strong hand grabbed my own and twisted.
“Watch it, old man.” The deep voice snarled above me. “Are you trying to steal from me? Trying to take my purse?” Another hand gripped my throat. Hard calluses scraped against my skin as a strong hand lifted me off my feet. I gasped for air, clawing at the hand that held me.
“Bartimaeus, where are you? Don’t leave me!” Hadar sounded terrified, but I could not offer comfort. My feet twitched as I dangled. The man holding me aloft dropped me. I collapsed to the cobbled street and lay gagging, trying to force my bruised throat to work.
“You are fortunate that I don’t want blood on my new robe, thief, or you would be dead. If I ever see you again, it will be the last time. Now go.” Something hit me in the ribs, further hampering my efforts to breathe. Small hands helped me to my feet. Hadar sobbed quietly in my ear as we stumbled a few steps. Laughter broke out around us and we fell to the ground again.
“Come on, thief, try to take my purse.” A sandaled foot connected to my hip, agony stabbed down my leg. More blows fell; I couldn’t tell if they were from hands or feet. I huddled on the ground trying to protect my head and belly from the blows. Dimly, I heard the sounds of a wounded animal whimpering. The sounds came from me.
“Stop, he is not a thief. We are trying to get to the gate.” Hadar was still there his voice shrill and scared. I wanted to tell him to run and hide lest they turn on him next. How was the boy to find a safe spot? Was anywhere safe?
“To the gate? A beggar then!”
“Come on, beggar, are you hungry? Here’s some fruit for you,” something wet splatted on my head, the juice running down into my ear. The smell of overripe melon washed over me. More rotting fruit and bits of spoiled meat rained down. Anguish and humiliation like I had never known raged through me.

coverRead the rest of Bartimaeus’ story in Now I See, an e-short sold on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O4CWK3U  This story is free to download until Tues. Oct 7 after that it is still a bargain at $0.99. check out my other e-shorts The Gift of Her Son and In His Right Mind.

Remembering

Most of us, at some point in our lives, lose a loved one a parent, sibling, friend, spouse, child, and the list goes on. We think of them often, especially when they first leave us. As time moves on we don’t forget, exactly, but we think of them less often. Then something happens to remind us and the bittersweet pain of remembering returns.

Yesterday at church, we observed communion. Normally I would take the cracker dipped in juice and return to my seat where I would search my heart to find the sins that like to lurk quietly in the corners. I ask forgiveness and promise to keep trying before eating the elements. All good things, I believe.

Yesterday I did that, but in the midst of my praying, a thought came. Do this in Remembrance of me.

Remembrance.

All these years I have been focused on myself, my prayers and thoughts about me and my shortcomings. I remembered him, but often just as a way to clean me up. Was I missing the point?

So I sat there, with my eyes closed and remembered.

Now I wasn’t around when Jesus actually walked the earth. So I’m not able to remember him the way his disciples did, but images began to come. Pictures of his birth in the manger with the angels and shepherds; of Jesus as a boy standing in the temple and amazing the elders. I saw pictures of him laughing and holding children, walking on water, embracing those whose lives he touched.

Some images were paintings created by the great masters, others done by artists unknown and unrecognized, but each one had touched my heart in some way. Some images were ones my own imagination created as I have written stories about him; healing the woman bleeding for twelve years,  raising Jarius’ daughter from the dead, freeing the man possessed by Legion, giving Bartimaeus his sight and feasting with the tax collecters.

The images went the distance, from his birth to death and beyond. I saw his resurrection and ascension into heaven on the clouds. I remembered the ‘God Moments’ of my own spiritual walk.

All this happened in the space of a couple of minutes, but it was so powerful, so real, I wanted to share it with you.

When was the last time you sat and just remembered? We are so busy in our everyday lives that we forget the big picture. Take some time for your own remembrance. Refresh your spirit with his presence in your life today, because our remembrance of our Savior is not like that of our loved ones. Jesus still lives, though perhaps we don’t see his face. He is waiting to commune with us every day if we just seek him out.

Vine and branches

Holding On

When you reach the end of your rope tie a knot and hold on.

Have you ever heard that? I remember seeing it on a poster when I was a teen and it stuck with me through the years. Back then the end of my rope dangled over the cliffs of rope's endhomework and tests with the jagged rocks of failure waiting below. Somehow I always managed to get back on track and avoid that dreaded fall. Again and again I was brought back from the brink by my faith in God and my family. Their support and encouragement kept me going.

Now, decades later the memory of that poster has come back to haunt me. No longer in danger of failing the tests of high school, now I battle endless bills and housework. I strive to provide my husband and kids with a home that is happy and healthy -although I seldom offer one that is clean and tidy.  I make sure there are clean dishes and clean clothes if not clean floors and tables. I am not a great housekeeper, as anyone who has been in my home can see.

I am a good wife and mother. I am a listening ear for my husband after a stressful day at work, I am my kids cheerleader and drill Sergent depending on what is needed. I help with homework and dreaming alike.

But there are days when I feel that not only have I reached the end of my rope, but it is fraying and thin. I tie that knot and hold on. Digging my nails deep into the coarse fibers, straining with everything I have left to hold on. Because now failure isn’t just about me and my future, failing now would cut deep into the ropes that hold my kids and my husband above their abyss. We are a family and what affects one will affect another.

Sounds good, right? The benevolent mother sacrificing for her family because she is the glue that holds it all together . . . except my glue is weak and ineffective. There is no way I can save those I love the most. I am not strong enough. I am not able to battle my own depression. Not to mention my families trials and struggles. I can’t.

That is hard for me to admit. I have always been proud of my strength. Strength of will, strength of character, strength of spirit. Even now when I can admit it, say it, share it with those who read this post . . . inside, I am still trying to do it alone even though I know I can’t.

So what is a mom to do? I can’t save my kids. I can’t save my husband. Heck, I can’t even save myself.

The knot at the end of my rope is slipping. Soon there will be nothing between me and the abyss.

But wait, there is Something, Someone who is helping. The knot on my rope is retying. A big strong knot. In fact, it is a platform; a strong and steady place for me to catch my breath and climb back to level ground.

Because Kate  loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue her; I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name. Psalm. 91:14 (paraphrase)

And there it is. Only God can do it. Over and over He has proven His faithfulness to me. He knows my weakness, even better than I do, and has always been there to save me from myself. When the depression rises up and despair sucks the joy and hope from my life, God is always there to remind me of His grace in the little things. Slowly, slowly I am learning to trust. Inch by inch I am learning to loosen my grip. When it becomes too much and I cling tight to my rope again, fearing that yawning gap waiting to swallow me, I am not alone. God puts his arms around me and whispers comfort in my ear, just like I did when a little one woke with a nightmare, I held them close and whispers prayers and songs of comfort.

I know I can’t save my self or my family. I also know that I can trust God to save us, we don’t have to rely on our own feeble grip to hold on, God is holding on to us and for us.

After taking the picture of the rope for this post, He sent me this on the way back home . . . a little bit of life and color amid the gray stones. Color amid the Gray

The Gift of Her Son

Available for purchase on Amazon

Available for purchase on Amazon

My new e-book is out! The Gift of Her Son tells of the sorrow of a mother beside the deathbed of her son. With his passing, she is alone in the world and loses all hope for the future. On the way to the tomb, the funeral procession is stopped by a man who tells her ‘Don’t Cry’. The grieving mother doesn’t seek his help. She doesn’t know who he is or even that he has seen her. Yet Jesus has compassion for her sorrow and dries the woman’s tears. Jesus gives her the gift of a future and love wrapped in the life of her son.

Here is a sneak peek:

The sun dropped below the horizon and I watched the colors shift to bright gold and scarlet. My husband and I had first come to Nain a few months ago along with our youngest son, Jael. I had loved the view from my new doorway from the first moment. Now I hated it. I had gazed on the scene too many times, seeking solace and finding none.
I turned my face to the darkness behind me. The single lamp cast flickering shadows on the ceiling. They looked like the shadows of demons waiting for death to claim its next victim. I shivered and drew my shawl closer. I shuffled through the familiar darkness to Jael’s bed.
He lay still, no longer thrashing beneath the bedclothes. I lowered my hand gently to caress his face. His skin felt as though it stretched over the dying coals of a fire. He flinched at my touch before pressing his cheek into my hand, seeking its coolness.
I took the cloth from his forehead and dipped it again into the basin of water on the floor beside the bed. I smoothed the cool cloth over the scalding skin of his arms and chest before placing it on his head again. He sighed at the cool touch of water then moaned as fever baked the coolness away.
Desperate to offer him any sort of relief, I searched the house for every scrap of fabric I could find. Armed with a small pile, I covered him with layers of water-soaked cloth. It seemed to help; he sighed and drifted into uneasy slumber. I brought the lamp closer and set it so that I could gaze on him as he slept.
I knelt beside the bed and laid my head on his chest. The cold water chilled my face. I could feel the rapid beat of his heart, like a bird fluttering to escape a net. It was no longer the strong, steady beat that comforted me when his father died. My boy had held me as my life shattered around me. Now I held him as his slipped away. Tears trickled down my face as I crooned to my baby.
“Mamma.” His voice was weak but it sounded like music.
“Jael, oh Jael, I’m here.” I raised my head and looked into his eyes. They were unfocused but they were open and looking towards me. The fever still raged behind them.       “Oh, my boy.” Nothing else would come out.
“Mamma, listen.” His hand felt around weakly until I grabbed it with my own and held it to my wet cheek. “I saw an angel, Mamma. In my dream.” I continued to weep  silently, for angels meant death. I was losing him.
“The angel said to tell you to be brave. It would work out.” He lay for a moment, his breathing shallow. He squeezed my hand weakly. “I’m sorry, Mamma. I love you.”
“Oh my boy, don’t leave me. You are a good son. Stay with me. . .” but he was gone. Not dead, but lost in that dream from which there would be no awakening until his final breath delivered him to Abraham’s bosom.
His breathing faltered, his chest hesitating in its rising. I heard the rattle that foretold death as the air escaped his lips. His chest rose again, slower and slower.
Then it rose no more. Sorrow built inside me, a trapped beast raging to be free. Screams tore from my lips as I howled out my pain and fury. On and on it went taking on a life of its own while I rocked myself back and forth clutching my son’s hand to my breast.

If you would like to read more, it is available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MR3IFVE

Please share this post and the story with your friends!

My mom's hands

My mom’s hands

Read the Directions

I am one of those people that likes to buy new gadgets. I can’t often afford new toys, so when I can, it is a big deal. I bring them home, giddy as a kid on Christmas, and I unpack it right away. I read the instructions enough to put it together and start it up then set the booklet aside.

No worries, I can figure it out. And I usually can, at least the basics. I will refer to the book once in a while if I need a clue. It just takes too long to read the whole thing through.

A few weeks ago, I found out why you are supposed to read the whole thing.

I bought a camera about 3 years ago. It is a very nice camera and I get some great pictures with it. It has a long zoom and high pixel count and I have enjoyed it, carrying it around with me every time I leave the house. A few months ago, the display screen was really dark when I tried to frame a shot. Oh well, it is a few years old and the screen might be going bad. They just don’t make things like they used to. I can deal with it. And I did deal with it, using luck and instinct to take pictures that I couldn’t quite see. some of them even came out well. Then the screen went bright, washing out the colors. Hmm, that’s weird.

I dug the instruction book out of the bottom of a box of other discarded instruction books and hunted to see if there was something I could do to change the view screen.

There was, and a whole lot more besides.

Wow, this camera can do THAT?

I was amazed at all the features of my camera that I had been missing for years. I mourned lost opportunities and bad pictures that could have been saved if I had just known . . .. Now my pictures are more beautiful than before with a whole new range of possibilities.

But wait, there’s more . . .

I bought Photoshop at the same time that I bought the camera. Again, I started it up and have used it for years making my best pictures even better. But I didn’t read the instructions. How hard can it be anyway? I figured out how to tweak lighting and colors to bring out the best in the pictures.

We have seen a lot of publicity on Photoshopped pictures lately. Pretty women become flawless, cool landscapes become surreal art and so much more. Hey, I take some darn good pictures. I have Photoshop. Why shouldn’t I try some of those cool effects. The trouble is, I didn’t know how. So back to the instruction book and online tutorials. These were less helpful if only because the possibilities with Photoshop are nearly endless. I did get some good ideas of where to start though, so I began playing around and experimenting.

Wow. I have a new addiction. I have always wanted to be an artist and paint the pictures in my head but my fingers lacked the talent. Now, with my camera and a computer program, a whole new world of art has opened to me.

As I sat down to write this post, God tapped me on the shoulder. (He’s been doing that a lot lately)

Hey, Kate, Guess what . . . I gave you an instruction book, too. It’s sitting right over there on the shelf.

I look. Yep, right there where I left it the last time I checked some wording for one of my stories. My Bible. I haven’t  picked it up to really study it for a long time. I know the basics, enough to get on with life anyway, right? I have studied it through my teens, 20’s, 30’s . . . well you get the idea. I know it pretty well already.

Do you really know Me enough? Maybe I have something new and fresh to say to you, did you ever think of that?

Well, I guess. I did learn new stuff about things I thought I knew. I can give it a try. If my camera and Photoshop have hidden gems, I can only imagine what God might have hidden in the book He wrote. Maybe it is time to dig in again.

Dreaming Fairy

Where reality gives way to fantasy and art.