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Fighting to Forgive by Jennifer Slattery

headshot2013It was a beautiful spring day. Praise music drifted from my car speakers, and I didn’t have a care on my mind…until I stepped from the vehicle. Standing with my hand on the gas hose, my thoughts took a wayward, and very unexpected turn. Out of nowhere, a memory resurfaced, bringing with it a surge of anger.

Dazed, I finished filling my tank and tried to make sense of the situation. I’d forgiven this person long ago. Lord, don’t you remember all the prayers I sent out? Don’t you remember the tears I shed? Don’t you remember my surrender?

At first I felt defeated. Maybe my forgiveness hadn’t been genuine. So I poured my heart out to God once again, asking Him to remove this sudden surge of anger, committing myself, yet again, put the “offense” and offender behind me.

Since then, I’ve learned forgiveness isn’t always a one-time event. Nor does it always begin with emotion. Rather, it begins with a decision to forgive, a teeth-gritting commitment followed by a desperate cry to God for help. Then, as we continue to draw near to Him, surrendering our hurt, angry, and bitter thoughts, He begins to align our feelings to match our commitment.

But while God’s working to bring us wholeness and freedom, our adversary the devil’s devising counter measures to keep us in bondage and isolation. The last thing Satan wants is unity, but he probably won’t attack us when we’re in the middle of prayer. No, he’ll wait until we’re caught up in life to bombard us because then, just maybe we’ll be surprised enough to give in.

Satan is a thief and destroyer. He wants to rob us of your joy, victory, and peace. He wants to destroy us and our family. (John 10:10) The minute we take a step toward healing and wholeness, Satan begins plotting ways to steal it from us.

But here’s the good news. If we are in Christ, Satan has absolutely no power or authority over us. Though he wants to destroy us, Christ, who defeated Satan on the cross, came to give us life.

Each day, we have a choice to grab one or the other. We grab onto life by drawing near to Christ in surrendered obedience, regardless how we feel. He takes care of the rest.

James 4:7-8 is one of my favorite verses, one I claim as a promise. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it at Amazon in the link below as well as CBD.

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

BeyondIDocoverAbout Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Be sure to read Inner Source’s interview with heroine, Ainsley Meadows, and with her author, Jennifer Slattery.

Author Interview: Jennifer Slattery

headshot2013Today, we welcome Jennifer Slattery, the author of the contemporary romance, Beyond I Do. Jennifer writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it at Amazon in the link below as well as CBD.

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Jennifer, I’ve known you professionally for a few years, and I love your heart for writers, but my first question is what type of stories do you feel God has placed upon your heart to write?

Hi, Fay! Thanks so much for having me on your site! I write what I like to term “missional” romance, which is romance with a strong missional or outreach focus. This stems largely from my heart for the nonbeliever and for seeing Christians reach out to those in desperate need of God’s love. My books, I hope, reach both audiences. J

In Beyond I Do, you do what I love to see done with contemporary romance. You bring in issues that aren’t simply all about the romance. Yes, the issues are connected, but you take the story deeper. Would you explain the issues you explore in the story?

Thanks, Fay! Beyond I Do centers largely on the issue of homelessness and the believer’s call to care for the poor. I hope it expels some of the myths regarding homelessness by showing readers alcoholics aren’t the only people living on the streets. Many women and children do as well.

The novel also touches on something I believe very strongly and that’s that every believer has a calling. For some, that may mean writing or teaching or perhaps serving in a third-world country. For others, like my daughter, their calling may mean reaching out the outcast or hurting close to home. But I believe Ephesians 2:10 teaches that each one of us are created to great things—things God planned well before we took our first breath. We’ll never feel fulfilled and at peace until we surrender to that which God created us to do.

Your heroine is a child of a broken marriage, and she suffered because of it. I understand the authenticity of the plot because I have lived it—almost exactly. I hope you don’t mind if I ask how you were able to portray a grown child’s pain of divorce so vividly.

Wow, Fay, your statement caught me off guard and quite honestly, brought tears to my eyes, thinking of the pain you must have experienced. And I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure if I know the answer to your question, except to say, I became so completely consumed with Ainsley’s perspective as I wrote it, that I literally felt her pain.

I have to say that I have come to learn that if I could change my childhood, I wouldn’t dare. From it, God brought me to a saving knowledge of His love, and every bit of struggle was well worth it. What is one of the main scriptures that you used to bring into the theme of the story and why that verse?

I love John 12:24, and really felt it explained Ainsley’s journey. The verse says: “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

When we first meet Ainsley, she’s delivering items to a sick friend-of-a-friend who lives in a dangerous part of Kansas City, Missouri. This frightens her as she’s spent much of her life doing what was safe and predictable. But what frightens her more is when she begins to sense God calling her to step away from her carefully planned and secure life to accept the adventure He has planned for her.

So, in essence, God’s calling her to die to the life she has planned and those things she has been clinging to—her efforts at attaining future security. Because those are the very things keeping her from the abundant life He has planned for her. But when she finally surrenders, her life begins to produce such beautiful fruit! Fruit within her and in the lives of others.

What else is on the horizon for you? Any new projects? If so, we’d love to hear about them.

Absolutely! First, I’m hoping this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Ainsley and her mother. I’ve pitched two sequels for Beyond I Do to my editor and am awaiting their yay or nay. In the meantime, I have a second novel scheduled to release in 2015 titled When Dawn Breaks.

Here’s the back cover copy:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. He’s dealing with his own issues, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

BeyondIDocoverMore About Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Be sure to read Inner Source’s interview with heroine, Ainsley Meadows.

Character Interview: Ainsley Meadows from Jennifer Slattery’s Beyond I Do

BeyondIDocoverToday’s guest is Ainsley Meadows the heroine from Jennifer Slattery’s contemporary romance novel, Beyond I Do.

Ainsley, we’d love to hear a little about you, where you live, what you do for a living?

Hi, Fay! I’m a pharmaceutical representative, and I live in a wonderful, older neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, filled with old growth trees that cover the ground in the deepest hues of red and orange in the fall.

You’re engaged to a man you’ve been dating for five years, and yet, from what I’ve read, it appears you may be having second thoughts. Would you care to tell the reader why?

(deep sigh) Um, I guess. I mean, everyone’s going to find out soon enough, right? If they read the book anyway. Richard and I have been dating for a long time, and he’s… He’s a really great guy. A hard worker, focused, goal-oriented. And he’s super smart. But to be honest, I never asked God what He thought—about us dating or about our potential marriage. It might seem a bit late to start praying now, but…

To be honest, I feel like God’s really doing a lot of shifting in my heart, my life, my world. It started a couple weeks before chapter one. My pastor gave a sermon on being God’s hands and feet, saying we can’t do that if we stay in the church pews. Then he said something that really hit me. He said if we didn’t know any poor people, then we needed to widen our circle. I knew God was speaking to me through the words of my pastor, only I didn’t know what He meant. So I determined to find out! I began asking God to use me in whatever way He saw fit. I had no idea how life-changing that type of prayer could be!

You have some parent issues, too. I’d love to hear about those, and I’d like to know what you would say to grown children who look back on their childhoods and realize their parents (or a parent) made a disaster out of it? How would you suggest they deal with their parents and with the unhappy past they had?

Honestly, I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions. Oh, I know the appropriate, Christian answer: love and forgive. But sometimes that’s hard to do, you know? Especially if the person you’re trying to love continues to hurt you. Then it gets complicated. I guess the only thing I can say—the only thing I know to do—is keep turning to God in prayer.

I think that’s an excellent answer. Sometimes we use God as a last option instead of the only option. Your job as a pharmaceutical salesperson seemed to trouble you quite a bit. I believe that I know why because you hinted at it with your financè and his profession. He really doesn’t have what his patients need. Am I right about that, and would you care to elaborate?

Well, there are many reasons I find my job difficult, part of which is because I’m really not salesperson material. The stiff, business attire, days filled with meetings… I’d much rather stay home in jeans and a big ol’ soft, baggy t-shirt. But then, that kind of lifestyle doesn’t pay the bills, so…

Another perhaps deeper reason, is that I feel unsettled about the whole thing and like God is calling me to something else. If only I knew what that something is!

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We’ve talked about the your engagement, about your past and your parents and about your job. How would you say Romans 8:28 fits into your life?

You know, I’m still seeing this unfold, Fay. I’d say for sure the pain I experienced as a child has impacted who I am today, and I believe for the better. When I encountered that young boy and his beaten down mother in chapter one, I felt as if my heart was breaking! Looking into the boy’s eyes, I felt an instant connection, as if I could truly feel his sadness. I felt this so deeply, I knew I had to do something. I’m not so sure I would’ve empathized so deeply if I hadn’t known that deep sadness myself.

So I guess that makes the pain I experienced and the scars it created beautiful, doesn’t it?

I’d also say, if I hadn’t felt so alone as a child, I might not have connected so deeply with Deborah Eldridge, my former third grade teacher and the woman who not only introduced me to Christ but has remained my spiritual mentor to this day. So I suppose I have my parents to thank for my salvation. Wow. That’s a crazy thought.

Thank you so much, Ainsley, for visiting with us and for sharing your heart on the matters that encompass your story. I look forward to talking with your author, Jennifer Slattery, on Wednesday.

More About Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

headshot2013About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it at Amazon in the link above as well as CBD.  

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

What’s Life Like for a Writer? by Anne Baxter Campbell

MaybeWinsBackCoverWhen I began the story of Marcus Varitor, Centurion, I thought it would just be a takeoff on the previous characters, with the two main characters becoming a couple at the end. I thought Marcus’s impetuous and fun-loving nature would actually drive him away from God when he faced a huge disappointment. I thought I’d have to bring him back from alcoholism. I didn’t dream one of my favorites would die. I sorta had the novel planned out, you see, in my own panster way.

Being a panster (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) has it hazards. The major characters often take off on their own tangents, and sometimes it’s very difficult to make them do what we think they ought to do. Minor characters try to get their own leading roles. I tell ya, it’s like trying to plan the lives of your children before they’re born.

Instead, Marcus progresses slowly but steadily toward a firmer commitment to God. It is Meskhanet (the female lead) who tends to take the stage spiritually. I can’t tell you what all happens to her without spoiling the story, but I think you will be as blessed and surprised as I was at the change in her over the progress of the book.

Each of the characters’ lives has in some way mirrored mine. Marcus experiences a crisis that firms his faith, but his refusal to take advice and make amends almost loses the day. Joanna and people she loves suffer because of a foolish impulsive action she takes. Meskhanet learns just how deeply God loves her. Rebecca mothers everyone, but seldom has the courage to correct her own child. God does His miraculous interventions and saves the day, every time.

There’s something ultimately satisfying and yet achingly poignant about writing “the end” to a novel. Successful conclusions and happily ever afters leave the readers smiling and content at the end, but the author suffers from missing her (or his) friends. I want to go on having them around me, talking to me, sharing their feelings with me. I often pray for them. In the case of sequels, it’s all okay, but at the end of the series I heave a big sigh of relief … and cry because the characters have all left me behind.

Did you ever relate so with a character in a movie that you wanted him or her to keep on going in your life—or maybe even want to be that character permanently?

I read once that actor Lee Marvin “became” his characters so completely that it carried over into his private life, sometimes to the detriment of his family. Especially when he might play someone cold-hearted or an alcoholic.

In some ways, my characters infuse themselves into my lives, I hope not to my family’s dismay. I find myself talking like them. I dream about them. I think about them and plan their moves while talking to my friends. I talk to them. And when they take a step closer to God, so do I. When they discover something new about God, I do too. I believe God speaks to the writers through the Christian novels as well as to the readers.

I’d be interested in hearing other writers talk about this. I’d also love to hear from readers. I sure like to know if others have experienced this too, and how it affects them.

About Author Anne Baxter Campbell:

Besides being one of my favorite people in the world, Anne Baxter Campbell is an author who worships the most wonderful and faithful Triune God, dotes on her family, cherishes old compatriots and new, and writes fiction whenever she gets time with the fervent prayer that her imaginary friends will encourage the reader to take one step closer to God.

You can connect with Anne on  Facebook,  Google+,  Linked-In, on Twitter, and her blog A Pew Perspective.

CampbellMarcusCover-Flat(2)About Marcus Varitor, Centurion:

Marcus, son of a Roman senator, is a decanus in the Roman cohort in Jerusalem. The tribune hints at a promotion to centurion if Marcus can bring in a troublesome brigand. He discovers there are really only two things he wants—to be a centurion and to win the love of an Egyptian girl. But when Meskhanet is sent to Rome on a slave ship and Marcus is captured by the very criminal he’s supposed to apprehend, those hopes may both evaporate faster than a small puddle under the hot desert sun.

CampbellRoman-FLAT-02About The Roman’s Quest:

Centurion Julius has eyes for a young Jewish woman, but a Roman is not what her father intends for her. Miriam is a pious Jewish girl, determined to do the right thing by her God and her parents, and she bows to her father’s wishes to betroth her to a Jewish fisherman, James ben Zebedee. Her heart yearns for the Roman, but their love is impossible. Miriam’s mother lies close to death, and her last wish is to see her daughter wed. The marriage has to take place before it’s too late. Inner Source invites you to meet the heroine of The Roman’s Quest, Miriam, read what Anne had to say about the novel.

f you missed Monday’s interview of Marcus or Wednesday’s interview with Marcus’s author, Anne, we hope you will take the opportunity to do so.

Interview with Author Anne Baxter Campbell

MaybeWinsBackCoverAnne Baxter Campbell is a precious friend of mine. She’s with us at Inner Source this week to share with us about her novel, Marcus Varitor, Centurion. Anne is an author who worships the most wonderful and faithful Triune God, dotes on her family, cherishes old compatriots and new, and writes fiction whenever she gets time with the fervent prayer that her imaginary friends will encourage the reader to take one step closer to God.

You can connect with Anne on  Facebook,  Google+,  Linked-In, on Twitter, and her blog A Pew Perspective.

Anne, I’m so glad to have you back again on Inner Source. Today, we’re discussing the second book in The Truth Triology, Marcus Varitor, Centurion. First let me ask you to define Marcus for us? How is it that you see this Roman who has converted to Judaism?

Define Marcus? How do you define a conundrum? He’s impulsive. He makes unwise decisions. He professes to be in love with a girl who quite literally doesn’t know he exists, and if she did know, wouldn’t care. He is arrested as a traitor and deserter. He’s persona non grata at his father’s villa. And yet—there’s something endearing about this overenthusiastic young man. He’s a loyal friend, determined to become known to the beautiful young slave of Loukas, willing to jeopardize his career to do what he is certain is needed. And a rescuer of orphans.

Marcus has a few lessons to learn in the course of his story. Would you mind sharing with us what you feel to be the most important spiritual lesson Marcus needed to learn?

Perhaps the most important thing Marcus must learn is to pray before he leaps. And maybe swallow his pride. Oh—and learn to put God first. But then, to this point no one has told him that would be wiser than following his own course. This book isn’t the end. Marcus has one more hugely important thing to learn.

Although we know Barabbas as a historical figure, not a lot is known about his life. Maybe it’s enough to know that he was a murderer whose life was spared at the hands of those who insisted Christ die on the cross. I liked your portrayal of Barabbas, and I’m wondering if there is a mixture of research with imagination or if you created such a vivid life for this man born out of what you know about him from scripture.

Not a lot seems to be known about Jesus Barabbas. His surname simply means “son of a father.” It could have meant he was the son of a rabbi; it could have been a sort of alias. Or it could have just been a name with no particular meaning. Other than what is written in the Bible, that he was an insurrectionist and a murder, I haven’t been able to find anything. I may have totally framed an innocent man. Poor Barabbas.

Oh, I don’t think so, but since scripture is silent on the matter, I’m not going to second guess. God knows, and that’s all I need to know.

Meskhanet is an Egyptian, and Marcus seems to love her so much, yet her past is clouded by brutality. I want to hear your thoughts on this love story. What is it that draws Marcus to her, and why is it that she can’t see him?

Marcus is a sucker for a beautiful face, and Meskhanet’s could go down in history as one of the world’s top ten. With good reason, she believes all men are untrustworthy and all men always stare at women, or worse. None of them except Loukas have ever been worthy of loving, and he was the husband of Joanna, the woman who saved her from being forever a slave of the worst of the men who stared and wanted more. Markus, once she finds out who he is (a friend to Loukas and Joanna), is still beneath her notice because that evil man Brutus is his devoted follower.

The third book in the trilogy has released, and I’m excited about it. Would you mind telling readers about that story and any other projects you have?

The third book, The Truth Doesn’t Die, was released on August 14. Marcus is also in this one, as well as Meskhanet, but the main characters are Marcus’s father, Senator Decimus, and Joanna, the wife of the deceased Loukas. Plus Rebecca (the mother of Barabbas), Mahlah (the woman at the well), Septus (the youngest son of Decimus), and two ten-year-old twins.

Another book possibly happening by the end of the August: Fear Not is a devotional for people who have fearful things holding them back from the abundant life or who are undergoing a situation they are having trouble handling. Thirty-three days to courage from God written by people who have been there.

One maybe also be happening at the end of August or maybe the first of September. It’s a collection of short stories about a small southern town, Summer in Sweetland. Seven other authors and I collaborated on characters and settings to produce a fun bunch of stories—some humorous, some with pathos, and some with a touch of romance. The stories have been released as ebooks, and after the next one (due out in a couple of weeks), they will all be compiled into a paperback.

I’m currently working on one Halloween story, one Thanksgiving story, two—or maybe three—Christmas stories, and a New Year’s story, and I’m editing a pile of other stories that go with two of the Christmas stories. After those, I’m working on another book about Luke the Physician. I think. That’s the present plan—but God has first dibs on my time, so only He knows for sure.

Well, I happen to know you’ll be back with us soon here at Inner Source, and I look forward to that. Thank you for being here, and I look forward to your guest post on Friday.

CampbellMarcusCover-Flat(2)More About Marcus Varitor, Centurion:

Marcus, son of a Roman senator, is a decanus in the Roman cohort in Jerusalem. The tribune hints at a promotion to centurion if Marcus can bring in a troublesome brigand. He discovers there are really only two things he wants—to be a centurion and to win the love of an Egyptian girl. But when Meskhanet is sent to Rome on a slave ship and Marcus is captured by the very criminal he’s supposed to apprehend, those hopes may both evaporate faster than a small puddle under the hot desert sun.

CampbellRoman-FLAT-02About The Roman’s Quest:

Centurion Julius has eyes for a young Jewish woman, but a Roman is not what her father intends for her. Miriam is a pious Jewish girl, determined to do the right thing by her God and her parents, and she bows to her father’s wishes to betroth her to a Jewish fisherman, James ben Zebedee. Her heart yearns for the Roman, but their love is impossible. Miriam’s mother lies close to death, and her last wish is to see her daughter wed. The marriage has to take place before it’s too late. Inner Source invites you to meet the heroine of The Roman’s Quest, Miriam, read what Anne had to say about the novel.

If you missed Monday’s interview of Marcus, we hope you will take the opportunity to do so.

Character Interview: Marcus Varitor, Centurion

CampbellMarcusCover-Flat(2)I first met today’s guest, Marcus Varitor, in Anne Baxter Campbell’s, The Roman’s Quest, the first book in The Truth Trilogy. Today, he visits with us to discuss his own story, Marcus Varitor, Centurion.

Marcus, I’m so glad that Anne decided to tell your story. Would you mind sharing with the readers a little about your life in First Century Rome and in Jerusalem where you serve in the Roman army?

The beginning of my story goes back way before Anne told the one about Julius. My father invented the word “strict.” Any infraction of his rules was met with instant and loud repercussions. I had more than one set of bruises on my buttocks when I didn’t do exactly as I ought. In fairness to my senator father, let’s just say most of the bruises were well deserved, especially when I reached my teens. Father might have invented “strict,” but I led the way to rebelliousness. I drank, gambled, and caroused in the worst brothels and taverns in Rome, and in general caused him to blush more than once. When I joined the Roman army, he actually bought a small officer position—a decanus, you can’t get any lower than that except for the soldiers.

He also gave me one of his young stallions, a foal I named Tsal—the Jewish word for black. I trained him as both a chariot racer and as a war horse. When in Judea, do as the Jews do. Tsal was beautiful and fearless—not usually friendly to strangers, he was gentle to the only two he liked—me, and the worst soldier in my command, Brutus. The man just couldn’t stay out of trouble with the other men. Fights were regular occurrences, and Brutus got into all of them. But he loved the horses, and they loved him back.

Really, I served longer in Jericho than in Jerusalem. Jericho wasn’t an unpleasant place for a young man with wild seeds to sow, in some ways. It was at kind of a crossroads between Asia to the east, Egypt to the south, Judea and the Great Sea to the west, and Samaria, Galilee, and Decapolis to the North. The best and the worst of those countries passed over the Jordan at that point. Up to a certain point, I led the way in tasting all the worst.

At one time I didn’t care about my decanus-ship. I lost that title and regained it many times over until after Julius and I witnessed something particularly awesome, a Jew being baptized. Not just any Jew—Jesus, the Messiah. There was just something about that Man. He looked into my very soul and saw something worth redeeming. And that began the change in me and led into the story that Anne told of me.

You met Barabbas after your conversion to the Jewish faith. I’d love to hear what you thought of Barabbas and his ilk.

Barabbas was a troublemaker. The man hated anyone not a “real” Jew. Proselytes—people like me who converted to Judaism—and people he considered traitors would be wise to watch their backs. He killed more than one tax collector, raped more than one woman he considered not a proper Jewish girl. Or so I’d heard. No one liked him, not even the Jews.

You also lost a very good friend, a physician who mentored you and who loved the woman you love as a father loves a daughter. How did Loukas’s death affect you?

If you had killed my own father, it wouldn’t have hurt any more than when Lucas died. He died defending my back with a sword, you know—as he had with his words in the past. Even though he was still weak from a prolonged recovery from injuries received at the hand of Barabbas, even though we told him we needed him more as a physician than a warrior, and even though he had never been trained to fight, he grabbed the nearest sword and plunged into the battle with the pirates. When I saw him there on the deck of the ship with his life’s blood covering the planks around him, I wondered how we would go on without him and how in the world I would ever tell Joanna. I had no idea Meskhanet loved him as more than a father, but I knew all his servants had loved him and that she would also grieve.

I’d also like to know about the first time you saw Meskhanet. Was it love at first sight and did you feel any differently about her after she’d been kidnapped more than once and who knows what might have happened to her at the hands of cruel men?

Oh , wow, the first time I saw Meskhanet, Loukas and Joanna’s Egyptian slave girl. A hammer couldn’t have hit my heart a more desperate blow. She was the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen. Black flashing eyes, black hair, smooth golden brown skin, and curves in all the perfect places. But she didn’t even glance my way as I sat in her master Luke’s home at the end of the last book. She glided in and out of the room carrying platters of food no woman of her petite and slight frame should have been able to even lift. I could have watched her all day and probably would have if I hadn’t had soldierly duty. If only I could make her notice me …

She walked out of my life when Loukas moved to Caesarea, and my dream then became to also win a transfer to that city by the sea. When I found out that brigand Barabbas had attacked Loukas’s train and probably killed everyone, fire consumed my whole being. If he had been there in front of me when I received that news, I would have ripped him in two with my bare hands. Even after I found she was still alive—but then in the hands of slavers headed for Rome—I still felt the urge to kill Barabbas. And anyone else who would lay their hands on her. If one of them had raped her? How could I hold that against her? It would not have been of her choosing. She would still be a precious jewel of Egypt. On the other hand, I would cheerfully kill the man who would so violate her.

Marcus, as a Roman citizen who converted to Judaism, would you mind telling me how you feel about the One True God?

Once I saw Jesus being baptized and heard that thundering voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus was the Son of God, there could be no other choice for me. I had participated in ceremonies honoring the gods of Rome and Greece, knowing, thanks to my father, that the flying apparitions and voices were tricks. But that voice coming from the clear blue sky sank into my soul. I heard it in my very bones. I looked at Julius, and I could see his reaction was the same. A Force beyond what we could resist pulled us into the water to be baptized with dozens of other people. This God of the Jews and His Son had won our hearts and worship. They continue in my life, amazing me with what They are able to do. I don’t ever want live without Them.

Thank you for being with us, Marcus. I hope that readers who have not had a chance to read the previous interview with your author, Anne Baxter Campbell, and with your friend, Julius, will do so today. I also look forward to my interview with Anne on Wednesday. 

More About Marcus Varitor, Centurion:

Marcus, son of a Roman senator, is a decanus in the Roman cohort in Jerusalem. The tribune hints at a promotion to centurion if Marcus can bring in a troublesome brigand. He discovers there are really only two things he wants—to be a centurion and to win the love of an Egyptian girl. But when Meskhanet is sent to Rome on a slave ship and Marcus is captured by the very criminal he’s supposed to apprehend, those hopes may both evaporate faster than a small puddle under the hot desert sun.

CampbellRoman-FLAT-02About The Roman’s Quest:

Centurion Julius has eyes for a young Jewish woman, but a Roman is not what her father intends for her. Miriam is a pious Jewish girl, determined to do the right thing by her God and her parents, and she bows to her father’s wishes to betroth her to a Jewish fisherman, James ben Zebedee. Her heart yearns for the Roman, but their love is impossible. Miriam’s mother lies close to death, and her last wish is to see her daughter wed. The marriage has to take place before it’s too late. Inner Source invites you to meet the heroine of The Roman’s Quest, Miriam, read what Anne had to say about the novel.

MaybeWinsBackCoverAbout Author Anne Baxter Campbell:

Besides being one of my favorite people in the world, Anne Baxter Campbell is an author who worships the most wonderful and faithful Triune God, dotes on her family, cherishes old compatriots and new, and writes fiction whenever she gets time with the fervent prayer that her imaginary friends will encourage the reader to take one step closer to God.

You can connect with Anne on  Facebook,  Google+,  Linked-In, on Twitter, and her blog A Pew Perspective.

 

Truth and Fiction

Anna Marie KittrellIt’s a fact: truth makes great fiction.

My fiction is sprinkled through with lots of truth. Today, I thought it might be fun to share with you, a portion of truth in my YA Christian suspense, Dizzy Blonde, that I’ve disguised as fiction. I find this scene especially poignant, because what happened to me was almost exactly as it happened in the book. Here is an excerpt:

“My, what do you have there?” Marvin stepped closer, pointing to my new jewelry. “I do believe that’s the most crosses I’ve ever seen in one place.”

I ran a hand over the necklace. “Thanks. Rayna got it for me for Christmas.”

“Rayna—Dinah’s girl?”

I looked through the storefront. Rayna stood at the counter talking to her stepmom.

“Yep, she’s the one.”

“That’s really somethin’. I’m proud of you girls, honorin’ the Lord like that.” The old man pulled a handkerchief from his shirt pocket as he spoke, and rubbed it under his nose. “It’s rare to find a young person these days who’s unashamed to claim the name of Jesus. Most don’t even know who He really is. It blesses my heart to see you wearin’ the cross of Christ. And so many of them! Ain’t nobody gonna question your faith, young lady. That’s for dang sure.” He smiled so wide I could see little cracks in the plastic gums of his dentures. “Guess I’d better get back to work. That newbie needs all the help he can get. Sure was good to make your acquaintance.” He shut the truck door, still smiling at me through the glass.

I sat motionless, my ears ringing in the silence. Suddenly the necklace weighed a ton. It became an anchor, the weight hunching my shoulders.

That scene really did take place. In 1990, I was nineteen years old, and worked in the junior wear department of a clothing store. I was wearing a necklace covered with crosses. An old man approached me and said this same thing Marvin said in the book, about how much he appreciated me wearing the cross of Christ—and so many of them.

Knowing I had only worn the necklace to make a heavy-metal statement, I felt such shame. I dismantled the necklace when I got home, never to wear it again, and placed all of the crosses in a drawer.

Years later, my four-year-old son found the crosses and asked if he could use one to make a necklace. He wore it to church.

About the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on FacebookTwitterGoodreads and at Prism Book Group.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Author Interview: Anna Marie Kittrell

Anna Marie KittrellToday’s guest is Anna Marie Kittrell the author of the Redbend High series, which includes the wonderful young adult novels Witcha’be and Dizzy Blonde.  

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on FacebookTwitterGoodreads and at Prism Book Group.

Anna, welcome back, and thank you for letting me get to know Lenni much better. Dizzy Blonde struck me as truly authentic. I could see a teen like Lenni struggling with changes in her life by trying to change herself. How did you bring such authenticity to the story?

Thank you for having me, Fay. I am truly thrilled to be here.

My stories are authentic because most days I feel I am a teenager, who just happens to be middle aged. I’m like, “Forty-three? When—and how— did this occur?” Somehow, I’ve managed to hold onto an adolescent mindset which is both a gift, and a curse. It makes my secretarial job at a middle school a lot of fun and makes writing young adult a blessed experience because I deeply relate to my characters. But, on the down side, I feel my personality is too sensitive, too silly, and often too self-absorbed.

Like Lenni, I keenly remember wanting to change myself in high school. I wanted to be spontaneous, reckless, and uninhibited, just like my wildest friend. The problem was, just like Lenni, the good-girl inside me never let me enjoy the bad-girl lifestyle. Each act of rebellion was shadowed with shame.

For me, the good vs. evil struggle is still a very real part of everyday life. I might not chop off my hair and shorten my skirts, but inside, that battle still rages on. Praise God for the essential (sometimes maddening) gift of a good conscience. And for the wisdom to recognize it—especially in the uncertain teenage years.

Lenni, is a different type of heroine. Things happen to her, and they worsen because she doesn’t take care of them or she gives people the benefit of the doubt until they prove themselves unworthy of her trust. Why is it, do you think, that teens somehow have trouble getting themselves out of trouble, whether it’s a mess they’ve made or through the actions of others?

Lenni and I have in common is the concern for what other people think of us, and an extreme fear of hurting another person’s feelings. As an adult, I still find myself in uncomfortable circumstances because of these deeply seated attributes. The same qualities that cause a person to be likable and approachable can be crippling—sometimes even dangerous—if the person continually regards the feelings and opinions of others above her own.  

Such is the case with Lenni. She has always cared so much about others. She even stood at Bianca’s side when the entire school turned against Bianca. She can’t bear to see people hurting. To reject someone isn’t in her nature. Unfortunately, certain people prey on the kindness of others. Lenni discovers this when she befriends a girl who uses her for selfish gain, and ends up in a dangerous, and seemingly inescapable, dilemma.

As I mentioned to Lenni in her interview, she did a 180 degree turn in order to make herself into someone she wanted to be. How hard was it for you, her author, to give her that turnaround and let her walk herself into harm’s way?

Lenni is such a sweetheart, making her into a believable bad-girl was a challenge. I wanted her to remain likable, even when she was making poor choices. The rock-star image she struggled to present was so self-assured and bold, to keep Lenni naïve and innocent at the same time was nothing short of a balancing act.

Lenni, attends church, and she seems to have all the right answers, the right look, the right personality, but the truth is, Lenni doesn’t know the Lord while attending church. She even tries to intervene and pull someone away from a spiritual experience. I’m curious. Why would she not want someone to lean upon God—at least at that point in the story?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10), and sometimes gaining wisdom, or believing, in something as big as God can be, well, fearful. Lenni knew God had the power to change lives. She saw Him transform Bianca and heal her pain, and witnessed the love he showed Molly through her creative writing teacher, Mrs. Piper. She knew God was real, but she didn’t know him personally. She’d never asked him into her heart.

When God reached out to Lenni through the Holy Spirit, the feeling frightened her. She turned away from God, just as she turned from every other good thing in her life, including her friends and her mother. Like most of us at some point in our lives, Lenni didn’t want to take care of her problems God’s way, she wanted to take care of them her way. She’d tried to be good, and good didn’t work—her parents still divorced. It was time to toughen up, to grow callouses on her heart to keep it from hurting. To destroy everything associated with “old Lenni.”

When Lenni’s mother reached out to God in her time of need, it angered Lenni. She had decided to handle the pain of divorce her own way, and wanted her mother to do the same. She saw her mother’s surrender to Christ as a sign of weakness—an insult to Lenni’s newfound strength.

It was not until Lenni was shoved by tragedy to the point of surrender that she realized the weight of sin and refusal salvation were the real source of her anger. Only then, could she truly forgive herself, accept the forgiveness of God, and appreciate her mother’s relationship with Christ.

I know your next project is Lineage, and I took a sneak peek at what the story is about. You’re already invited back here for the release, and I’m looking forward to getting to know your character, Bianca (the witch wannabe in Witch’abe.) Will you share with our readers a little about her story.

I would love to come back and celebrate the release of Lineage! Thank you so much for the invitation. I’ve included a small overview of the story, followed by an excerpt.

Please, enjoy…

Following the death of her mother, Bianca and her dad are on their own. But when a redheaded stranger at the funeral claims to be her biological father, Bianca’s reality crumbles. She soon finds herself trapped between the alcoholism of one father, and the wicked schemes of another—with no way to escape.

Bianca can’t walk away from her family—she’ll have to run.

“Can we just get on with it?” I asked, frustrated. “Who is this Chase-guy, and why didn’t you want him at Mom’s funeral?”

Dad shut the refrigerator, plodded to the kitchen table, and repositioned himself in the chair across from me. “It’s difficult to know where to start.” He raked a hand through his hair.

“At the beginning,” I said. “Don’t beat around the bush, Dad. Just say it.”

He took a deep breath and blew it out. “That man you were talking to…at the funeral.”

“Yes. Chase Archer.” I nodded slow.

“He…” Dad dropped his head to his hands. “Oh, God, please help me say this,” he cried hoarsely.

My chest tightened. Whatever this was about, it was a big deal.

He raised his head and returned his gaze to mine. “Bee, that man is your biological father.”

My brain scrambled, as if someone lifted my head from my shoulders and shook it like a box of puzzle pieces. I pressed my fingers between my eyebrows. “Whatever. Good one, Dad.”

Dad was pretty clever, I’d give him that. I could see how he’d think I’d fall for it—with me and Chase having the same hair color.

The truth hurts. I swallowed the sob working its way up my throat and blinked back the sting of tears. The truth hurt, all right. Like an overinflated basketball bulging through my eye sockets.

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of Bianca’s story. This is the first time I’ve told you this, but I wanted to share. I think of your Bianca as having the same personality as my antagonist, Delilah, in the Ties that Bind series. She’s tough, and her personality remains intact even after she meets Jesus. While I love all three of these Redbend High School gals, I think I’m partial to Bianca.

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Character Interview: Lenni Flemming from Anna Marie Kittrell’s Dizzy Blonde

DIZZY ECOVER (427x640) (387x580)Today, our guest is Lenni Flemming from Anna Marie Kittrell’s Dizzy Blonde, the second book in the Redbend High series.

Lenni, I first met you in Witcha’be, but I want you to introduce yourself to our readers. Tell them a little about yourself, what you enjoy doing, where you live, things like that?

Yay! Okay, my name is Lenni Flemming—oh, sorry, you already said that. I live in a small Oklahoma town called Redbend, and attend Redbend High School with my two besties, Molly and Bianca. We’re all sophomores. Of the three of us, I love school the most. I don’t really like the work so much, but I love spending time with my classmates and my boyfriend, Saul. Everyone calls him “too-tall Saul” because he’s, like, six-foot-something.

Anyway, besides my besties, my school, and my boyfriend, I also like—No! Wait! Make that LOVE—the best rock-star in the whole entire universe, Dizzy. Me and Bianca saw her in concert last year, and it was amazing. I wish Molly would have gotten to see her too, but things didn’t work out so well. We all three plan on getting tickets to her next show, so it’s all good!

What else do I enjoy… Ohmigosh! I can’t believe I almost left out the Cornerstone Youth Group! Molly, Bianca and I go there together every Wednesday, and twice on Sunday. It is so much fun. Saul plays guitar in the band and everything. We have a neon-green wall called the Kneeling Zone, where everybody prays, and a big Pray-Dough can where we put our offering. Greg and Sandy are the youth pastors. They are really cool, and make learning Bible scriptures a complete blast. You should totally join us sometime!

Lenni, your story has to strike a chord with many young adults and teens because of the pain you have endured with the divorce of your parents. I know I’m delving into painful territory, but can you share with us a little of what you feel about your dad’s leaving your mother and his remarriage?

When I first found out Dad was leaving Mom for his secretary, it was the worst pain—ever. I thought I would literally cry my heart out—that it would stretch through of one of my tear ducts and plop to the floor. Then, when Dad told me he was getting remarried, my heart froze solid, and I couldn’t feel anything at all. That was almost worse than the tears. As more time passed, the pain dulled, and my heart started tingling, like a foot that falls asleep and then gets its feeling back. Even with God’s help, it took a really long time to completely feel again, and for a while I was afraid my heart had frostbite.

It’s better now, but sometimes it still hurts. Mostly when I think back to when I was a little girl, and remember what Mom and Dad were like together. The time he tickled her and she laughed so hard she lost a false eyelash in the carpet. The time he moved her hair aside and kissed the back of her neck while she washed dishes. The way Mom cried when Grandpa died; the way Dad cried with her. It’s sad knowing they’re not in love anymore. That they’ll never touch again.

Your entire life took a 180 degree turn. Can you talk to us about that?

All my life, I’d been the perfect child, but still my parents were divorcing. I felt invisible. Angry. I made up my mind to get rid of my Princess Goodgirl image and become more like the person I admired most in the world—my favorite rock-star, Dizzy.

But as it turned out, to kill old Lenni, I had to turn my back on those who loved me the most. I ended up trading in my true friends just so I could hang around with a shady upperclassman who almost ruined my life.

Now, thank goodness, I know the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. I’m so glad God brought me to my senses before it was too late.

I’m not sure how to put this next question, but Lenni, how is it that you are so patient with the things that are going on around you and so kind to those who wrong you?

I don’t really know. Part of it probably comes from my mom. She’s very caring and tenderhearted. Both of us really enjoy making people feel comfortable. I’m really fortunate to have such a compassionate—is that the right word? Yeah, I think that’s right—mother. And another big part of it is God. My whole life, I’ve always loved people. But now that I know Jesus, I love people more than I ever thought possible. The Bible says in Jeremiah 1:5, God knew me back before I was formed. Way back then, he knew I would someday belong to Him and use my love of people to further His kingdom. How cool is that?

You met up with some truly despicable people who twisted things, shared things, lied to you, and even brought harm to you. What kind of advice would you offer someone who is dealing with people like that in their lives?

Gee, that’s a tuffy. I guess the best advice I could think of, is to pray for those people. As crazy as it sounds, it really does work. Sometimes it’s hard, because you’re angry and don’t feel like praying. For some reason, we think holding onto anger keeps us in control. But that’s a lie. Holding onto anger makes us lose control. Trust me—I know. I lost everything because of anger. Only by the grace of God did I get back those things I’d lost. It chills my heart to think of what could have happened if God hadn’t intervened in my circumstances.

Then, after you’ve prayed, forgive. That’s what truly sets us free. To forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to become their doormat or their punching bag. It just means you no longer have to hate or judge them. You are relieved of those burdens, and able to move on in God’s perfect will. When you forgive—it’s all good!

Lenni, thank you, again, for visiting with us. I look forward to Wednesday’s  interview with your author, Anna Marie Kittrell.

More About Dizzy Blonde:

All of her life, Lenni has been the perfect child, but still her parents are divorcing. Invisible and angry, Lenni trades her innocent princess image for the rebellious likeness of her favorite rock icon, Dizzy. In an effort to shed the old Lenni, she turns her back on those who love her most, trading true friendship for a dangerous affiliation with a shady upperclassman. When deception and rumors threaten to ruin Lenni’s life, she learns the value of good friends and the importance of an honorable reputation. But can this realization save her from the clutches of danger? Or was the lesson learned too late?

EbookCover_Witcha'beAbout Witcha’be

Is the power of forgiveness really stronger than a Witcha’be spell?

New to the small community of Redbend, Molly Sanders is delighted when she and Lenni Flemming become instant friends during the final weeks of her first Oklahoma summer. However, Bianca Ravenwood, Lenni’s best friend and self-proclaimed witch in training, is less than thrilled. In fact, she’s cursing mad, vowing to destroy Molly while honing her craft in the halls of Redbend High School.

Molly’s new school becomes a waking nightmare as Bianca, beautiful wannabe witch, targets her in a jealous rage. Plagued by terrifying, inexplicable occurrences and an embarrassing case of panic-induced hiccups, Molly is unable to escape Bianca’s snare.

But if Bianca refuses to back down and Molly refuses to stand up, not only will Molly lose the best friend she’s ever had…she may also lose her sanity.

Anna Marie KittrellAbout the Author:

Anna works as a middle school secretary in her beloved hometown of Anadarko, Oklahoma, where she resides with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband of twenty-four years, and their seventeen-year-old daughter. With a son, daughter-in-law, and precious grandbaby nearby, life is her favorite story.

Anna has written for as long as she can remember. She still has most of her tattered creations—leftover stories she was unable to sell on the playground for a dime—written in childish handwriting on notebook paper, bound with too many staples. Her love of storytelling has grown throughout the years, and she is thrilled her tales are now worth more than ten cents.

Connect with Anna at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and at Prism Book Group.

 

Deep in the Heart by Mary L Hamilton

Mary HamiltonWhen my first book, Hear No Evil, was published, several people commented on Taylor, the bully in the story. Because he seemed to strike a chord with many readers, I chose to feature him in Speak No Evil. But taking a character who’s not very likeable and making him sympathetic was difficult. I found I had to look past his behavior, past the things he said to see what was really in his heart.

How many times have you seen a young person at the mall with tattoos, body piercings, long hair, maybe dressed all in black? And how many times have you thought or even muttered something disparaging about them? I know I have.

Recently, though, my Sunday school teacher asked what we’d think if we boarded an airplane and the only vacant seat was beside a young man with several tattoos, long hair, and those gauges that stretch out the ear lobe. I had to laugh, because my oldest son sports tattoos on his arms, back and chest. My youngest son’s hair hangs well past his shoulders, and one of his close friends who spent a lot of time in our home wore gauges. But if you took the time to talk with these boys for five minutes, I think you’d be impressed. As a Marine, the oldest served two years in Washington D.C. on the presidential security team. The younger son was a straight-A student, a leader in our church youth group, and is now studying for the ministry. His buddy is also a good student who desires to serve the Lord in full-time ministry.

Appearances can be deceiving. Israel discovered as much when they asked God for a king. Saul seemed a perfect choice. He was handsome and taller than anyone else. Surely he’d make a good king. Wrong! God told Samuel to go to Jesse’s house where He would reveal His choice for the next king of Israel. Samuel looked at Jesse’s oldest son and thought, “This one looks like he’d make a good king.” But God said no. Each time Samuel thought surely this is the one, God gave a thumbs down. Finally, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any more sons, but even Jesse didn’t think his youngest looked much like king material.

“That’s the one,” God told Samuel. “Man looks at the outer appearance, but I look at the heart.”

By challenging my narrow thinking, stretching my understanding and expanding my ideas of what is acceptable, my own sons called me to look at people the way God sees them. Where I focus on superficial things, God looks past the piercings, the hair, the tattoos, and the odd clothing to see the person’s heart. He sees who they really are underneath it all. He notices the heart that beats for Him despite the outer appearance. More importantly, He cares deeply about the loneliness, the struggles, the pain and brokenness that may or may not be reflected in the manner of dress or the body decoration. Sometimes, that kid who looks weird does so because he can’t find acceptance among the kids who dress “normal.” Many times, the one who misbehaves is crying for attention, and gets it in the only way that seems to work.

What might happen if we looked past the outward appearance as God does? What if we dared to “speak no evil,” and instead spoke kindly to these kids, using words to encourage their hearts rather than criticize their superficial appearance? When we look past the differences, sometimes we find gold. Sometimes we find a heart longing for someone to come alongside and be a support, a comfort. Either way, we’ll find treasure if we’re willing to look at the heart.

About the Author:

Mary L. Hamilton is the author of Hear No Evil, Book 1 in the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for tweens. She grew up at a camp much like the setting for her book. When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors, though not all at the same time. She and her husband live near Houston, TX within range of their three grown children who will attest to the power of these words in their life.

Connect with Mary at her Website/blog, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and at Twitter.

SNEfinalcoverAbout Speak No Evil:

Taylor Dixon knew having his younger sister at camp would be a pain, but he never expected the pain to go so deep. At 15, Taylor dreams of getting his driver’s license and driving race cars when he’s older. His sister, Marissa, is the only one who believes in his dream, but her adventurous spirit keeps landing him in trouble. Consequently, Dad won’t let him get his license and predicts Taylor is heading for the same jail cell as his once-favored older brother. Taylor returns to Rustic Knoll Bible Camp expecting softball, swimming and sermons. Then he finds a classic Mustang in the camp’s garage and jumps at the owner’s invitation to help restore it. But when Marissa falls for his snobbish cabin mate, the war of words and pranks escalates until it threatens both the car and his dreams for the future. Will Taylor fulfill Dad’s prediction and end up in jail? Or will he finally learn the Truth found in the old car’s engine?

You can read the Inner Source interview with Taylor Dixon, the young hero from Speak No Evil here.

HearNoEvilModifiedFront5-5x8-5More about the first book in the Rustic Knolls Bible Camp series, Hear No Evil:

Summer camp is no fun for Brady McCaul. The girl with the cute dimples thinks he’s immature and childish. The camp bully targets him with cruel taunts and teasing, and flips Brady’s canoe to keep him from winning the race. But worst of all, his mom won’t let him come home. She doesn’t want him living with her anymore. Brady wonders if even God cares about him.

Can Brady figure out what he did to earn Mom’s rejection and change her mind by week’s end? Or will he have to live with his workaholic dad, the guy who left when Brady was seven?

All seems lost until a surprising secret changes everything.

Hear No Evil can  also be purchased at Barnes & Noble.

You can read the previous Inner Source interview with Brady McCaul here.

This week’s interview with Mary L. Hamilton, the author of Hear No Evil and Speak No Evil, can be read here, and her earlier interview here.