Out Now: At the Crossroad, Sweet River Redemption Book 2.
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“Fear Not” appears in the Bible more than 100 times. In fact, the Bible talks a lot about fear. We are commanded to fear God and not His angels, not the world, not death, the list goes on. Why does God want us to fear Him? Because He wants our focus on what’s important, not the temporary realities (slings and arrows if you will) of living on earth. We’re inclined to be more concerned about our jobs, our financial situations, our health, kids, success in whatever way we define it, whether we’re loved. God has to remind us of what we should really be worried about – our heart and minds, our soul.
For a person struggling with anxiety, fear is a constant. It invades every-day thoughts. It’s an oppressive, unwelcome partner living only to sap a person’s strength, their contentment, their charity, and sometimes their sanity. It’s fear out of place and out of control. There’s nothing healthy about it. The kind of fear the Bible is talking about when it says Fear God, is not this. Not by a long shot.
Fearing God is to focus on the eternal, not the ephemeral. Fearing God is to put your Faith in Him alone, not in the authorities of the world, not in your pastor, not in your partner. Sure, you can have faith in institutions, leaders, and even loved ones, but they have feet of clay. When you put faith with the big F in these you are not fearing God. How can you be? You’re raising them up to have equal value as if they are as complete, as perfect, as powerful. And when they fail you, and they will, it shakes your foundations, making you question everything.
Is fear of God respect and reverence? Not quite. Think of it this way, God alone can save you from your sin, from your fickle heart, from your doubts, from your anger, from the deepest, darkest evil thoughts you pretend you don’t have. God alone. Being God-fearing is to remember that, to put your full faith and trust in the only being that can save you from yourself. If you’re not afraid of what you’d do without God, then you are mistaken. You, on your own, are not a good person. There are no good people. We are all lost without Him.
In our current political climate many of the popular preachers and leaders in Christian media are telling us to be afraid. They’re preaching fear of progressive politics, of immigrants, Muslims, liberals, gays, transgender people, leftist professors, anti-fascist protesters, or other, more shadowy groups. They are telling us to be afraid of our neighbor instead of fearing for our neighbor’s salvation. This is not the Gospel.
The Bible tells us what we need to fear and it isn’t anything of this earth. It isn’t anyone’s opinion, or politics, or sin. The Bible tells us to fear God. It’s time we listened.
Homemade Mythology’s review for At the Crossroad.
I loved this book. I was having trouble figuring out what I’d say in this review because normally I do a small summary, the stuff I liked, the stuff I didn’t like and then my concluding thoughts. But I can’t think of anything that wasn’t done well. It was that good.
At the Crossroads has a widowed mother with two kids who is making do and getting by, and lives in a manner that she is always expecting the other shoe to drop. And unfortunately? You don’t blame her, she has had a rough go of it. The last thing she needed was a crush on the pastor who may or may not be staying because his heart really is in the mission field overseas.
Christa MacDonald expertly portrays both small towns and private Christian schools, in that she shows the good, and the bad that come with those environments…
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Since today is Columbus Day and the United States is still mired in political partisanship, your social media feeds are likely to be clogged with memes both praising and criticizing Christopher Columbus. Possibly one like this:
Or maybe this one:
Columbus day became an official holiday in 1937, but it had been celebrated for quite a while before that. Columbus was a venerated figure symbolizing exploration, progress, and the history of the founding of our nation. It was in the late 20th century that historians began to research the details of his life and voyages that were less savory; the treatment of native peoples, the start of the Atlantic slave trade, etc. An established fact is that Columbus had been replaced as governor of the territory he explored due to accusations of tyranny. In 2006 a document was discovered in an archive. It had the record made by his successor that detailed those charges and the evidence discovered and boy, was it grim.
Rethinking Columbus Day as a holiday to venerate a man who was a brave and skilled explorer, but was also a flawed and maybe even terrible human being, is valid. We should question our choice of who we hold up as heroes for our kids. We should not sugar-coat our history to make the rise of the United States look better. In order to form this union, a lot of native peoples died. To say it was a genocide is not that wide of the mark. Asking questions and acknowledging the facts of our origins is not erasing history, it’s being truthful to it.
Today you may see a meme that makes you angry, or begs to be refuted. Maybe it’s a post that makes you want to pull one of these:
you’ll be tempted to argue one way or the other.
Was Christopher Columbus a Christian? Maybe. But the holiday isn’t for his faith, it’s for his exploration. Simply put, Christians do not have a dog in this fight. For far too long American Christians have taken the flag and wrapped it around the cross. We’ve defended traditional Americana as if it was the Gospel. It’s time to stop.
We have one main job on this earth – to spread the Good News that while we are yet sinners, Christ died for us. His perfect sacrifice has atoned for us and all we need do is repent, place our faith in Him, turn from our sin, and follow Christ. Our secondary job is to love one another, love our neighbors, and even love our enemies. Don’t let the petty squabbles of today get in the way of sharing the Truth or actively loving the people that God has put in our lives.
You might have strong opinions about this, but what do they serve? Are you an authority who can bring clarity to the debate? Or is this another argument that will push your neighbors and friends who think differently than you further away? There are so many forces trying their best to pull us apart. Don’t rise to the bait. Let it go.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the early Christians. Ours was a faith derided as one practiced by and only fit for ‘slaves and women’. Those early believers traded their status for the Grace of God. They were about as counter-culture as you can get. When I find myself in the middle of a social media dust up, I think of them. What deserves my passionate defense? My energy? My time? They risked their lives to save children literally thrown away. They spent their time and energy promoting the Gospel. They ministered to the sick, the outcasts, the stranger, and the poor.
Putting that frame around the current discord has been helpful. I’ve found myself bowing out mid-argument because it’s not where I should be in the first place. And I’m a lot more careful with my tone. Christians do not mock. I don’t think we should be snarky or dismissive either. Christ saved his anger for the men turning his Father’s house into a temple of greed. He flipped tables and drove them out. But look how he dealt with sinners? He sat down with them and talked. He had dinner with them and talked. He traveled to their town and talked. We need to be careful in our rhetoric, to follow his example.
So, sit this one out. Enjoy the day off if you have it. Read a book (mine, maybe) and enjoy your friends and family. Spread a little love around and have a Happy Columbus Day.
If you’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel to The Broken Trail, it’s here! At The Crossroad is available now and it’s even on sale. Click here for both the print and digital versions.
So what’s it about?
Erin Sullivan has had to endure the rumor mill of Sweet River, Maine grinding through her family’s scandals for years. Being a single mom and the subject of small-town misinformation and judgement had taught her not to hope for good things. No matter how strong her feelings were for Pastor Dan Cooper, she planned to keep them buried for the sake of his reputation and the good of her own heart.
Dan Cooper had become pastor of the Calvary Church thinking it would be temporary, that his mother would recover from her stroke, and he’d be back in the mission field in a matter of months. Three years later he is struggling in a job he never wanted, waiting for direction from God, and questioning his calling.
When Erin sees that Dan is alone in his trial she reaches out to help and he comes to rely on her quiet strength and kindness. Erin tells herself it’s only friendship, but it quickly becomes more and she has to reckon with a man in the midst of a spiritual storm. As his turmoil takes its toll on them, it may be more than her heart can take. Dan is determined to find his way, but it may have to be without the woman he’s come to love.
Sound good! Pick it up and let me know what you think. As always, reviews are so very welcome. They are worth their weight in gold! (well, internet gold).
If you’re a regular reader of the blog with a good memory then you know that I wrote the Broken Trail because the character of Katherine came fully-formed to my head and I knew I wanted to describe her journey from bitterness to forgiveness. I had pitched the book as part of a three-book series planning for book two to feature Erin Sullivan and Pastor Dan Connors. Once the Broken Trail was out in the world it was time to write book two. I sat down at the keyboard, ready for the words to flow and they didn’t. And they didn’t for a long time.
It was bad. I had my plot outline, my key scenes, but I couldn’t fill in the details. The heart of the book wasn’t there. Something was missing. It didn’t help that I was busy at work and life and that election… No matter who you voted for, the summer and fall of 2016 was grim. The hate, fear, and mud-slinging was intense. It sucked all the creativity out of me. By December I had a book due and no book to give.
Due to the awesome generosity of my publisher I got a few extra months and I wrote and wrote and wrote. Oh, but dear friends, it was terrible stuff. First drafts usually are, but this was especially bad. I showed it to no one. I knew without one of my trusty beta readers that I had a clunker on my hands. So, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and deleted 50k words. Then I started over.
It took weeks and weeks, but the heart of this book came to me in a scene, not with the main female lead, but with the male. Dr. Dan Connors, Pastor of the Calvary Church is one of those men who seems to good to be true. He’s everything he should be, a former missionary, a coach of high-school basketball, the kind of pastor who visits the sick, the downtrodden, and even the good son who visits his mom in the nursing home praying one day for her to recover from her stroke. But, beneath all that good lies soul-crushing doubt. No one knows his struggle, no one sees his turmoil, no one, that is, but Erin.
That’s when I found the book and the words finally started flowing. Thanks to the seriously talented Rachel Lulich, my content editor, I was able to put the book together in time. My publisher, who is also a talented writer and editor, suggested some brilliant changes, and finally we had a book. This book, like my first, says something that’s more than girl meets boy and falls in love. There’s a lot in there; the struggles single moms face, the mean-girl tendencies of women to criticize each other, the way the opioid epidemic impacts kids of users, but the heart is that spiritual struggle we all face.
On the outside so many of us look like we’ve got it all together, don’t we? On Sunday morning we’re in the pew and maybe even at Wednesday night Bible study or the ladies’ breakfast on Saturday, but inside we’re in turmoil. A community of faith should be the safest place to admit to weakness, to doubt, to struggle, but often that’s where we feel the pressure to act like everything is fine. Christian’s aren’t supposed to struggle, are we? Somehow in the modern church we’ve forgotten that we are all sinners.
The struggle is real and it’s life. Reach out, find help, and if you don’t see anyone reaching back- pray. God is listening. Sometimes we humans are really bad at that. We’re either wrapped up in our own problems, or we don’t know how to help. When I’m feeling alone in my struggles I read. I’m hoping this book helps someone else when they’re feeling isolated and unsure. If you read it, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to sound off in the comments below or reach me at my Facebook Group or on Twitter.
As some of you folks may know, I am on a sabbatical for the summer and working on several projects. The first is my health since sitting at a desk for the last two decades has left me in dire need of exercise. The second is our house. We’ve decided to put in a new kitchen and otherwise spruce the old girl up ahead of refinancing . The third is writing and the fourth is helping my eldest son with his recent diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis. Actually, it’s more me navigating the unholy amount of paperwork that comes with such a diagnosis. My boy is handling it like a champ.
I imagined that after working long hours for many years, taking a break would be the equivalent of going from splashing in a pond to swimming the ocean. I’d have so much free time, right? Wrong. So. Very. Wrong. Going from a strict schedule to no schedule makes it a challenge to get anything done. That sounds counterintuitive, but after living an entire month of it, I’m convinced that having all the time in the world makes you more apt to waste it. It’s a kind of a cruel coincidence that now that finally, I have the time I need, I end up mucking about and it disappears like water out of a leaky bucket.
I tried a few time-honored methods (alerts on my phone, planning out the day on paper, etc.) and they all failed – miserably so I have now resolved to create a daily, set schedule for myself. I am going to keep exercise, paperwork tasks, scheduling stuff, the ‘business’ of life all in the early morning, appointments mid-morning, and save afternoons for house projects. The evenings I’m keeping free for writing since that’s usually when I’d write when I worked full time. We’ll see if this does the trick or if the time continues to slip through my fingers like…
The rule I had to tack on today was that if I’m writing, the internet is off-limits. Perfect example? Just now I thought I’d check Facebook, a quick peak, but I spent twenty minutes looking on Youtube for the Michael Card version of Come Thou Fount because a friend posted a different version of the song on Facebook and I wanted to share what I think of as the best version ever. (Apparently even hymns are a place for me to be opinionated.) Luckily, I realized I was mucking about again and hopped back off. Lesson learned.
Years ago I took a time-management seminar and the first thing the instructor said was that time management didn’t exist. No human can manage time unless they’re rocking a superpower. Self-management on the other hand, that’s what we were all there for. Most of her tips were pretty specific to middle-managers, but she also went over a common tool for time management. I’ve seen multiple versions of this, but the Eisenhower Matrix is probably the best. The idea is that you spend your time on stuff that’s important, but not urgent. Crisis have to be handled, but something is up if you’re spending all your time on them. Busy work should be delegated and the stuff that’s not important or urgent, should be kept off your plate. It’s hard to do this with home stuff, but it’s a guide to how to spend your time.
So, kind readers, Are you the Empress of Efficiency or the Prince of Productivity? Have any tips? Share them below.