Category

Field of Ashes

Featured Field of Ashes Winter's Prey

The Freedom of Living Open-Handed

August 8, 2017

At the sound of his voice, a deer sprang from a thicket near the base of the butte. She leaped over the creek and darted across the open fields. Marc watched her go. She was a little like Jess, he thought, afraid and running for all she was worth.

“I know Jess is safest in your hands,” his prayer continued, “I’m so…I don’t know. I just want the best for her…and I know you want that even more than I do. Pa was right about letting go[…]”

He looked down at his hands. He had been a capable worker for a good many years now, but this was far more than his hands could do. He tightened them into fists, then as he opened them again he looked Heavenward.

“Father, she’s yours. I put her in your hands. I’m willing to trust you to take care of her, to protect her, to provide for her…and not only Jess but Mary and the other children too.”

It seemed a strange thing to do: to walk a mile, stand on a cliff, hold your fists out to God, and open them as if letting go of something. If anyone but God had been watching, he might have been embarrassed. But stranger things had happened than what he’d just done. Hadn’t Abraham traveled a long distance with his son, climbed a mountain, strapped his son to an altar, and raised his knife over him to kill him? God had asked this of Abraham to prove Isaac hadn’t become his idol, to prove Abraham’s faith. And, in the end, God had provided another sacrifice. That thought brought reassurance, even joy.

“I know you’ll be faithful. I know you will care for her. Help me to simply trust you as Abraham did. Help me to have the right attitudes. To know what to say and what not to say. Help me to show her your love.”

—Winter’s Prey

Time. Finances. Marital Status. Children. Career. Ministry. Our “Personal Brand.” The future.

We live in a culture that demands we get all of these on a schedule, develop them to the max, and present them to the world with Pinterest Perfection. But reality is often much different than the awesomeness found on Pinterest. What if that perfection is not the reality God wants for us? What if it is not the reality that will bring genuine fruit in our lives? What if fruit bearing reality for us looks more like this:

  • Busy, but not organized.
  • Single, married but struggling, divorced, widowed.
  • Children a mess, sick, or, perhaps, no children at all.
  • Laid off, fired, business failed, struggling career.
  • Struggling in ministry, unable to do what you’d like to do, limited opportunity abundance of obstacles.
  • What’s a Personal Brand?! I’m just trying to get myself through the day!
  • The future couldn’t look bleaker.

How do we reconcile what is around us—the pressures, the baubles, the constant temptations and enticements—with reality? How do we find contentment with what we have in comparison with all that is thrust at us, held up to us as a standard, and considered the status quo? How do we walk through loss when we live in a culture that minimizes it, ignores the realities of grief and pain, and expects us to rebound as the same person we were before? In fact, they don’t just want us to be who we were. They want us to be better—like the day after it happens! How do we balance all this with contentment?

We cling to Christ.

We must live in Him, move in Him, find our very breath in Him. But the only means of clinging to Him in this way is by letting go of everything else. This is where the difficulty often comes. We want His best. We want His will. We want more of Him. But it can be excruciatingly difficult to let go of those things we have held dear, those dreams, the hopes, the very desires of our heart, which we had so depended upon Him meeting.

When those desires go unmet, does it make Him any less true to His Word? No. Does it mean we are the problem? Does it mean the desire was wrong? Not necessarily.

I want to digress for just a moment. Not every desire of our heart comes true, and some of the ones that don’t are enormous. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Sometimes our hope is deferred, and it hurts. It makes us sad. In our culture, sadness seems to be a weakness. Sorrow is not an emotion we know how to face. We throw a trite platitude at the “problem” and assume it will go away. But sorrow of heart does not heal that way. There is, however, a way to ensure both beforehand and as we are passing through disappointment that the sorrow is lessened. The secret is found in living open-handed.

Have you ever clutched something in your hand, maybe as a child, that someone else wanted.

“Give it to me,” they say.

You, clasping your other hand over the first, mockingly retort, “Come and get it if you want it!”

Then the battle ensues. They pull at your arms, struggle around your legs, grab at your fingers and start peeling them back one at a time, trying to break your grip. You would not admit it in the moment, but the truth is—it hurts. It hurts to fight against their efforts. It pulls at the tendons and muscles in your hands. It even stretches things clear down into your wrists and forearms. Holding on hurts.

The same is true in our walk with Christ. God wants all of us.

  • He doesn’t want the part that commits to serve Him without the part that says, “whether I’m married or single.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that is willing to serve in the nursery without the part that says, “Even if I never have children of my own.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that says, “I’ll live by faith, trusting you for everything” without the part that says, “Even when I don’t feel secure.”
  • He doesn’t want the part that says, “I’ll give up my ideals for the future,” without the part that says, “I’ll trust you in the present.”

He wants all of us. When we offer Him part in one hand, but clutch something in the other hand, He’s very likely to say, “But I want what’s in the other hand.” The tighter we hold on, the more painful and more difficult the struggle to have peace in our relationship with Him.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “We must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when my Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me.” I remember thinking when I first heard this, “Why stop there? Why hold onto it at all. If He has simply to reach down and take it from my open hand, then my hand is available to take hold of Him.”

Sometimes, when God asks us to let go of something, especially in our culture of amassing things, notoriety, accomplishments, and status, it’s easy to say, “But, Lord, why do you ask this of me? Why don’t you require this of them?”

  • Why must I be single, when that person who has wasted their life has both a husband and children?
  • Why must I be childless, when there are so many ‘underserving’ who have more children than they can keep up with?
  • Why must I live in poverty, while those who are lazy in their faith live extravagantly?
  • Why must I let go of my hearts deepest desires, while they squander what they have been given?

Remember that you are not alone. Remember Abraham, who waited a hundred years for a son, and who was then asked to lay him on an altar. Remember Job upon whom God had showered blessing, and then who lost everything. Job who said, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Remember Paul who had reason above any other to boast of his position, his lineage, and his education, and yet who laid it all aside, counting it but dung for the knowledge of Christ. There is a secret freedom and power in living open-handed. In doing so, two things happen:

  1. When we let go of our desires, we are better able to take hold of Christ and what He has for us.
  2. When we let go of our desires, we put them into His hands, which are far more capable of properly handling those desires than we are.

This gives us the freedom both to know Him better and to live free of worry, concern, and fretting over things we cannot control. And when we discover that a desire may not be fulfilled, half the battle (or perhaps more) is already won because it was no longer held in our grip.

Surrender is the enemy of pride. Our pride wants to hold on, to fix every problem, to reach every goal, to attain the things we long for. Pride fears poverty of some sort, not realizing the poverty we fear most is that which comes from living with our fists clenched. Surrender says, “Lord, I give it to you. I trust you to handle it wisely, to bring it to pass, or to exchange it for something better.” And it chooses to trust Him that the “something better” really is better, even when it appears to be filled with pain and sorrow and rejection. Surrender chooses to follow His leadership and to trust Him to manage our affairs.

As Paul said, “I count not myself to have apprehended.” I’ve failed in this area more times than I can count. It has taken me days to write this because I had to search my heart to make sure it was right. Perhaps, you never struggle in this area. That’s wonderful. But if I am to be honest, then I must admit, at times I’ve gotten my eyes off of Christ who is my hope, and put my hope in people or plans or projects. I have held desires in my heart, thinking they had been surrendered, only to find them dashed once more when an unexpected trial comes. But that is the beauty of our Savior. When we see something has not been fully given, or perhaps that needs to be given once more—He is there, waiting patiently, lovingly, wisely. Waiting for us to allow Him to take it from our hand, and more importantly, waiting for us to slip our open, empty hand into His.

What are you holding onto? In my experience, things sneak in without me seeing them. Hopes. Desires. Plans. Things that aren’t necessarily bad, but things I haven’t placed in His hands. What do you need to let go of in order to free your hands to grasp Him more tightly? Take a few minutes, or maybe a day or two, and ask the Lord to show you what you need to release.

 

If this was a help or blessing to you, please share it with others and follow the blog so you don’t miss a thing.

Featured Field of Ashes The Writing Journey

The Story of Emily’s Song

July 25, 2017

“I love the song. Where did you find that? Did you write it?” My best friend’s text popped up on the screen of my phone, and I smiled. She had reached not only a turning point in Field of Ashes but also one of my favorite moments. The moment in which one song, which so beautifully illustrates one woman’s walk with Christ, changes the life of another woman. But the song you read in the book today, is not the song that was originally there.

When I first started writing Field of Ashes, I came to this point in the story and immediately knew what hymn would best touch the situation. I built the entire scene around I Surrender All. It fit perfectly, and carried enough tension in and of itself to move the scene forward—and then I discovered a problem. Many drafts into the process, I discovered that my original research had misinformed me. I Surrender All was actually written 13 years after the story of Field of Ashes takes places.

I was crushed. I couldn’t think of another song, especially from the right era, that would fit the scene as well as that song, nor one that would convey the message of the book so perfectly. I didn’t cry, but I came close. How would I ever salvage that pivotal moment in the book?

William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” But this! This was like killing the whole book. I bemoaned my dilemma for hours. Finally, I told my dad about my disappointment. Dads always seem to look at things so matter-of-factly.

“So write your own song,” he said. Just like that. Write your own song. Really?

But then I thought, “Why not? I already have the basic idea of what the song needs to say. It wouldn’t be the first song I’ve written, and I hope very much that it won’t be the last.”

So I retreated to my bedroom with my computer, a hymnal containing I Surrender All, and a lot of prayer, and began translating the message of that song into my own words. To my surprise, it took little more than 45 minutes. It has it’s own melody, but it isn’t very good.

In the book, the song appears handwritten on a single sheet of paper and is attributed to “E.F.,” someone you will meet only by reading the rest of the story.

Emily’s Song

With open hand, give all to Jesus

With yielded heart, thine all release.

Press now thine hand into the Savior’s

In trust and love, sit at His feet.

 

Give all to Jesus,

In love surrender.

Yield up thy will and embrace the Savior.

Give all to Jesus,

Who left Heaven’s splendor

Yield up thy heart and thine all surrender.

 

Kneel at His feet in humble worship.

The pleasures of this world forsake.

“Take me, O Lord, my life I offer,

Thy will be done and not my own.”

 

“Made fully Thine through Thy salvation,

“Bought with a price of pain and woe,

“Lord, let me feel Thy glorious presence,

“And ever know that I am Thine.”

 

“I yield myself to Thee, Lord Jesus

“Fill me with power and love and grace.

“Thy blessing on my life’s long journey

“Until the day, I see Thy face.”

 

This is the first in a short series of blogs related to Emily’s Song, be watching for the next installment.

PS. AS I WRITE THIS, WE’RE DOWN TO THE LAST 35 HOURS IN THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN TO SEE WINTER’S PREY CONVERTED TO AUDIOBOOK. WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO. IF YOU HAVEN’T CHECKED IT OUT YET, YOU CAN SEE THE PROJECT AND THE REWARDS HERE.

Field of Ashes Life

Some Sweet Thing

May 31, 2017

Often we lose things…or people…we thought we should have. Life could only be right with this wonderful thing in it. And then suddenly, it’s gone. Vanished. Never to be put back in our hands again. Never within our view. A memory. Simply gone.

Our hearts ache and mourn. We cannot see the purpose. We cannot see the plan. We cannot see our Master’s hand…but it is there. Take it and trust. He is not finished yet. This is not the end, only the beginning. This is the inciting event, not the epilogue. Let Him comfort. Seek Him. Follow Him. He has some sweet thing in store.


After losing her fiancé to the wild elements of the Montana Territory, Jessica Bennett is sure the key to her happiness is in leaving Twin Pines. But from the moment she steps foot in the untamed, cowtown of Grassdale, Jess discovers a whole new world of challenges: An unruly superintendent, a ramshackle school, drunken cowboys, and a letter from home that changes everything. When the hidden wounds of her heart are discovered, will one man’s secret past hold the key to her healing?

Easy has never been the path Marcus Bennett sought, but as summer unfolds he comes face to face with the one struggle he has avoided for years. When life takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself torn between his responsibilities, his love for his family, and the promptings of his heart. Would God really ask him to abandon his home and family?

This sequel to Winter’s Prey explores the beauty of God’s amazing grace and astounding love, the freedom of surrender, and the hope of experience, though faith be tried by fire.

Get Your Copy From Amazon Today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Featured Field of Ashes

Introducing Field of Ashes

April 25, 2017

Field of Ashes is Finally Here!

The beauty of our brokenness is that God not only restores but He also makes all things new.

After losing her fiancé to the wild elements of the Montana Territory, Jessica Bennett is sure the key to her happiness is in leaving Twin Pines. But from the moment she steps foot in the untamed, cowtown of Grassdale, Jess discovers a whole new world of challenges: An unruly superintendent, a ramshackle school, drunken cowboys, and a letter from home that changes everything. When the hidden wounds of her heart are discovered, will one man’s secret past hold the key to her healing?

Easy has never been the path Marcus Bennett sought, but as summer unfolds he comes face to face with the one struggle he has avoided for years. When life takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself torn between his responsibilities, his love for his family, and the promptings of his heart. Would God really ask him to abandon his home and family?

This sequel to Winter’s Prey explores the beauty of God’s amazing grace and astounding love, the freedom of surrender, and the hope of experience, though faith be tried by fire.

 

Right Where We Are

The story of Marc and Jess may be set more than 130 years ago, but the lessons are just as real for us today. Each of us face the struggles of:

  • Maintaining faith in the midst of days when we simply don’t understand
  • Longing for someone to relate to our deepest, most broken places
  • Accepting situations of pain and sorrow and surrendering to God in them
  • Decision making when the decisions God has put before us don’t make sense
  • The realness of grief and the need to walk through it

But Field of Ashes doesn’t simply present the struggles. It goes on to explore:

  • The hope of experience
  • The freedom of surrender, and
  • God’s amazing love, abundant grace, forever-enduring mercies, and faithfulness to forgive.

 

What people are saying about Field of Ashes:

 “A journey from the ashes of bitterness to the light of God’s redeeming love.” — Marta – Laurel, MT

“Wow, just, wow. It’s even better than the first book!!!” — Ann – Rockford, IL

“You need to read this book. A novel that will not only grab you and hold you from page one but will also challenge and encourage you in your life! A blessing of a book that you won’t regret reading.” — Sarah – North Platte, NE

Get your copy today at Amazon!

Want to sample it first? Enter your information below, and I’ll send you the first ten pages!

 

 

 

Field of Ashes Montana Winter's Prey

A Special Invitation

April 5, 2017

You may have seen on Facebook that we’re getting very close to the release of the sequel to Winter’s Prey. Lord willing, Field of Ashes will launch with a book signing at Leslie’s Hallmark in Billings the first part of May. That is coming quickly!
Writing a book is a lot of work. Editing a book is even more work. But getting the word out to others about the book once it’s been published may be the most difficult part of all. As an independent author (not published through a traditional publisher), I have a lot of bonuses concerning the work itself, but there is one drawback: I’m pretty much on my own.
Over the last year, I’ve learned that going it alone is, well, lonely! I’ve also learned that working together is not only more effective but also more fun! So, I would like to invite you to help me launch Field of Ashes.
I’ve never had a so-called launch team, so this is new to me. I look at it as a partnership and an opportunity to build relationships.

Here’s what it would look like:

  • I have set up a Launch Group on Facebook. (You can join it here.) In this group, we’ll brainstorm ideas for the launch and how to get the word out, we’ll plan giveaways, we’ll find ways to grow our launch group, and we’ll have a good time learning, growing together, and becoming friends.
  • Through the Launch Group, I’ll provide some tools, such as memes and quotes (and I’ll probably ask you what your favorites are!) to share with others. I’ll also provide direction about the right time to share about the upcoming book and when to post reviews.
  • That’s right! I said, post reviews, which you can’t do if you’ve never read the book! So, everyone who joins the Launch Group will receive an early, PDF version of the book! AND as the group grows, anyone who has never read Winter’s Prey will get a free PDF of that book as well! So invite your friends!
  • The first 50 people to join the group will get a free signed, hard copy of the book!
  • Everyone in the group will automatically be entered in all of the giveaways and will get two entries in the Grand Prize giveaway.

I hope you’ll join me! The next month is going to be jam packed with editing, layout, and proofing, but having you along will lighten the load. I’m excited to get to know each of you better and to see what the Lord does through this new book.

To join the Launch Group, click here! I’ll see you there.

What do you think of the cover design? Let me know when you join the Launch Group!