Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sabbath And Still in the Tomb:Sharing My Faith Journey Part 2

I embraced Jesus as a small child. I attended a Christian school, which happened to be part of a denomination which worshipped on Saturday--the very day that Jesus considered holy and Sabbath. The day that the Savior spent in the tomb, separated from those on earth He left behind. Those grieving and not sure what would happen next. Was it all over? Was this it?

My house from first grade to fifth grade

In my school we were well-versed in all things Old Testament. I received my first King James Bible with a white leather cover in first grade (I still have this well-worn book.)  The New Testament, though, seemed less important in my lessons, or maybe we would get to that in high school? We did spend time on Jesus, and it seemed to me most of the lessons centered around Jesus and being Jewish. It seemed to me that they emphasized worshipping on Saturday as the main commandment. We knew everything about Leviticus and Numbers. A scale model of the tabernacle was brought into the school. We studied Old Testament stories as real history--our history. All good.
Crystal in first grade

Despite my education in these things, I missed the whole idea that grace came from the cross. I thought Paul of the New Testament was a horrible man. How could he tell women to be quiet in church? Why did people ever accept him when he'd been a part of so many Christians' deaths? It would be years before I understood his story, and when I did, it was after learning about true grace, learning about that Jesus who hung on the cross.That's when Romans became a favorite book of the Bible.

But keeping the Ten Commandments was the way to please God and I got that loud and clear. Remember the Sabbath Day. I was stuck on that point. Even in death, Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath. I didn't understand that Jesus's body may have been in that tomb, but His soul was with God because he told the thief on the cross that they would be together in Paradise. 

I still think the Sabbath is important, but it's more than just a certain day to worship. There is so much more to this story. Yet,  throughout my childhood, there was Jesus--Jesus loves me, this I know. Jesus accepting the little children. Jesus who hung on that cross and fulfilled every prophecy of the Old Testament that I knew so well. Jesus, God's own Son who was born to a human mother.  Jesus, fully God, fully man.

During this time of attending this church and the church school, my neighborhood was composed of many faiths and types of people. Our church was many blocks away and those who went to school there during the week and then came to worship on Saturday lived all over the county with some in the next counties. I rarely had play dates with my best friends from school. We lived close to my dad's work, not to the church and certainly not near any of my Sabbath school and elementary school friends. 

There was a church right behind us, across the alley. I had much curiosity about them as I could hear their songs drifting from the brick walls as I played outside on Sunday mornings. Not one of them ever said hello, or walked over to invite us to come to their worship service. Not one brought a basket welcoming us to the neighborhood or reached out to invite us kids to Vacation Bible School.

They knew we were there, but maybe they had already heard about us. Or maybe it was the changing neighborhood itself. It was the 1960s and our neighborhood was already "integrating." They made sure to hurry their children to their cars parked along the alley next to our driveway. If you caught someone's eyes, he either looked away quickly or frowned. Not friendly. Not inviting.Suspicious that we were unclean, not "Christian," and they made sure to keep on the other side of the alley. 

They were our neighbors, but sure weren't of the Samaritan kind that Jesus told us about. I had heard so much about Pharisees that I imagined these were those people. A church of Pharisees? Wow. I saw them every Sunday. Every Sunday I was pretty sure that I would never go to church on Sunday because I would never "fit in."And they couldn't possibly love a girl like me.

We were as weird as the Latter-Day Saints across the street from us, and they actually went to church on Sunday, too. Those neighbors were not only kind and friendly, they were the ones who were there whenever we had an emergency. Their girls (teens) came over to babysit me while mom rushed my brother to the hospital when a neighbor kid hit him in the head with a hammer. If anyone had a chance to invite us to church, it certainly would've been those kind people.

My world consisted of my mother's people, who were also Sabbath-keepers, and who we visited with every weekend and summers. Only twice a year did we visit with my dad's people when we'd travel states away and none of them, with exception to my Granddaddy Warren who read his Bible everyday, ever talked about God, Jesus or the church thing. (Years later, after I grew up, this would change.) 

But I loved my school, my teachers and was often given leadership duties. I was even the "pastor" when our school took over worship one Sabbath. My sermon was about Joseph, son of Jacob. (And I still love that story.) Kneeling beside my mother in church, I prayed for her brother and his family who were missionaries in Africa, for the colpolteurs (this is what I wanted to grow up to be--a religious "book" and literature missionary,) and especially for those who didn't know Jesus. Nothing could be worse in my mind than to not know Jesus. I shared Jesus whenever I could, even to boys on my walk home from school one day who hit me with a stick and weren't going to let me pass.

Little did I know during those days that I spent going to camp meetings with my cousins and to my Pathfinders' meetings,going to a school steeped in doctrinal teachings and the Bible, that my life would drastically change when I entered sixth grade. Everything changed in my life that year. 

Sunday morning was coming. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" : Sharing My Faith Journey Part 1

A chapel in Montana
I am a Christian. Because of that expression of my soul, this weekend marks the celebration of the most holy event in my Christian walk; believing that Jesus Christ arose from death making me acceptable to God. It's such a hard, but yet simple, concept to embrace. I see everything else that happens in my life through that prism.

My journey as a Christian has many twists and turns, but one thing was always sure: I love Jesus. And He loves me. Here is the passage for Good Friday that is most difficult to understand. That He would knowingly do this thing and that it was very painful. So, when I complain that something is hard or I can't--I have to remember, it's hard, but compared to what? Compared to this?

"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.  And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.  Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."

The Gospel of Matthew 27:35-37, 45-53

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here Come the Ohio Brides!

[Ladijo WON OHIO BRIDES by Cara C. Putman! Thanks for all the comments! ]

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite books to read are historical romances. I love other genres, too, but it's the historical romance I will pick up when I have the choice. Cara C. Putman's books are among my favorites. Cara has a great love of history and this is what makes her books so real and her characters pop out of the pages of our past.

Her many hats include wife, mother, attorney, speaker, college instructor, volunteer with ACFW and now author. And with so much to do you'd think she would toss aside people asking her questions or her many friends--after all, there are only so many hours in a day! But I can count on her when I need help with my own writing, and I trust her judgment. When I first met her through ACFW, I thought I would encourage her in writing, but she ended up being an encouragement to me, too.

Since Cara has three of her past releases coming together in a new book, now is your chance to get all three stories in one book, Ohio Brides. Travel back to WWII and the people involved during that time in America's history in these three historical romances. Cara also agreed to give us a glimpse into her writing life so you can see that below with the answers to my questions.

Ohio Brides by Cara C. Putman
Ohio Brides
by Cara C. Putman
Step into 1940s Ohio when dreams are challenged by a climate of war. Newlyweds, Josie and Art are struggling to begin their life in a new city where war refugees are seeking shelter. Evelyn joins the WAVES to be of assistance, but Mark, an engineer, feels she is a distraction. Kat makes the All-American Girls Professional Softball League, but Jack, a reporter who wasn’t physically qualified to serve his country in war, takes his bitterness out on her. Where are God’s promises of peace and love during World War II?

Crystal: What’s your favorite part of writing a book?

Author Cara C. Putman
Cara: I love discovering the characters and what makes them tick. Then creating the places they live and work and the people they know is a lot of fun, too. Especially when I get to add in all kinds of ready made conflict. Like a mothering assistant who won’t leave the heroine alone.

Crystal: When the well runs dry, how do you recharge your creative energy?

Cara: Pick up a book written by someone who writes at a whole other level than I do. This week it was Lisa Gardner’s latest suspense. Wow! That girl can write a suspense that twists all around. And Dan Walsh’s new book, Deeper Waters. He writes a love story like Nicholas Sparks only better. I can learn much from both of them. 

Crystal: Do you keep regular hours in writing? What’s a typical day when you’re writing?

Cara: I do. When I’m on deadline, I usually write sometime from 9 p.m. to midnight. It’s based more on total words for the day than hours. A typical day is homeschooling the kids in the morning/early afternoon. Shuttling them to activities in the afternoon and evening. And then somehow squeezing in time to write and read. Often that means I’m sitting at the back of the gym with my laptop while my daughter turns flips and handsprings.

Crystal: My writing world would be perfect if only….

Cara: I had a maid and cook. Someone to keep the details of my house up because I can’t let it slide into total chaos. Not when my kids are here 24/7.

Crystal: My best ideas come from or when…..

Cara: Come from reading nonfiction or dreaming and praying for inspiration.

Crystal: What three things can you not write without?

Cara: My trusty laptop, lots of water bottles or other drinks, and a wee bit of peace and lots of support from my family.

Crystal: Any advice to the readers who wish to write a book?

Cara: Join ACFW. If you’re serious about learning the craft and improving, then you have to join ACFW.

Info on Ohio Brides:

Publisher:Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Category:Romance Collections,New Releases
Paperback, 368 pages
Price: $7.99

To Get the Ohio Brides Book Click Here

More about Cara C. Putman Click Here

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pelicans and Jesus

I've always been a bird watcher, due to my mother's influence. We had tons of bird identification books, and since I also loved to sketch, I drew tons of bird pictures. I can't keep descriptions or tie-ins with birds out of my fiction. It's as much a part of me as anything else. Plus, it keeps me tied to my mother, who died in April 1997.

So, I have been doing some more reading about birds and came across an obscure tidbit that Dante referred to Christ Jesus as "our pelican." That's weird! Have you ever seen a pelican? It is not exactly the kind of bird you depict with Christ. Ok, so then I came across more referrals to pelicans being the symbol of Jesus's resurrection as I dug.

Certainly the Bible refers to birds often. The birds we most often think of are eagles and sparrows. But pelicans are often emblazoned on ecclesiastical coats of arms and in religious paintings. If you are an art lover, you will find them. (Go on a pelican search in your art museum.)And then there's the Mighty Dante talking about "Christ BEING our pelican." Why would he say that?

Here's the story: The name "pelican" comes from a Greek word for "axe." Because the pelican had a very large beak and uses it to fish, as well as in diving for fish, (using it like a net) their behavior was quite a picture for an observer. The pelican ejects the water and swallows the fish for its own nourishment .The pouch doesn't keep the fish for long, but during nesting season, it also becomes a "school room" and place to feed the chicks.

This next part is gross, but no one says that the story of the cross is pleasant, either. Pelicans also use that pouch to hold regurgitated fish soup to feed their chicks. The chicks have to DIVE into that pouch (their first lessons in survival) which is against the chest of the pelican. This is where the legends were born in observing this behavior. It must have been alarming to those who first witnessed this. Since the pelican will pluck the feathers from its own chest for the nest, it has a bloody chest during this time. In medieval religious folklore the pelican fed her young with her own blood, by plucking those feathers from her breast, and "reviving" the chicks after they drowned in the pelican's beak. It seems that those chicks were believed to drink the blood of the self-inflicted wound on the pelican's breast.

It is certainly a painful process. In this story the chicks die (in the mouth/tomb of the parent) but are brought back to life (3-days later) by that self-inflicted wound on the chest, by allowing them to drink the parent pelican's blood. That correlation is how the pelican got into all those religious paintings, on family crests for Christian piety and into works by Dante. The pelican became a lesson, a symbol, for Christ's resurrection from the dead.

That's some legend! And some picture. But it's not unusual for humans to use birds to teach us lessons about life. The pelican story illustrates one of the most awesome stories in human history. It takes faith for those chicks to dive into the mouth of a mother pelican for sustenance. It takes faith for one of us to believe that Jesus deliberately took the wounds inflicted to die on a despicable cross just to pay for our sins and revive us from eternal death. That was too much to ask, wasn't it? But not if you wanted survival of a species more than anything--and that pull was way stronger than Jesus wanting to save himself. Three days later Jesus would rise up from the dead and that was it! We were nourished for eternity.

If you haven't embraced Jesus and his story, then think about how God gives lessons of Him and God's grace in the nature all around us. Remember the pelican today and during the Lenten and Easter season. And remember that God has lessons for you all around.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Awakening JoAnn Durgin's Muse

JoAnn's New Book
About the novel, Awakening:
Lexa Clarke signs up for a short-term summer assignment in San Antonio with TeamWork Missions, hoping to make a difference in the world. TeamWork director Sam Lewis has a job to do and can't afford to be distracted by the petite, feisty blonde. But when she tumbles into his arms from the top of a house they’re rebuilding, Sam suspects his life will never be the same. A God-fearing man. A God-seeking woman. A combustible combination.

As  an avid reader her entire life, ideas for novels simmered in JoAnn's imagination for years. 

Then, JoAnn Durgin awakened. 

She says: "I was a young, stay-at-home mom in Philly that I tried my hand at penning a novel. I write what I call contemporary Christian romantic adventures. Romance is my first love, but as both a reader and an author, I need more than romance for a novel to be fully-developed and emotionally satisfying. Throw in humor, a spiritual thread throughout, some witty banter, dramatic conflict, a moving plotline with adventure and a hint of intrigue, and you’ve got my kind of book."

And that’s what you get with Awakening.

She continues: "It may be a cliché, but I write what I like to read. Following your passion as a writer does make a better book. One of the most precious things in life is that first blush of love, that rush of adrenaline at a glance, a touch, a kiss… I love the hope and joy to be discovered in an uplifting romance."

JoAnn goes on to tell how this story comes from her own life.

"This particular story is precious because it was written more than a decade ago and loosely parallels my love story with my husband, Jim. A lot of the strength of character, unwavering faith and goodness in Sam Lewis is based on Jim. Some of the feistiness and stubbornness in Lexa Clarke is based on yours truly, but I also choose to believe I share my heroine’s resourcefulness and resilience. Sam and Lexa are uniquely special to me and become my core characters and mentors in a continuing series as they minister to and interact with the volunteers in Sam’s TeamWork Missions organization. The beginning of a series, the adventures of Lewis and Clarke have only just begun."

Crystal: I went on to ask JoAnn a little about her writing. JoAnn, what makes your style of storytelling unique?

I’ve been told I have a fresh, unique voice. I try to infuse my sense of humor into every book, and I especially love getting into the male psyche. I don’t necessarily follow the “three kiss rule” or formula pathway to romance. But that doesn’t mean there’s not conflict or roadblocks along the way to lasting love. I personally feel it’s a greater test of faith and bonds a couple more when they work through issues and confront problems together. I’m a firm believer in happy endings, and tying up loose ends of a story, although sometimes I carry storylines over from one book to another in the series. But each book can certainly stand alone.

I don’t kill major characters. I just can’t do it. Peripheral characters sometimes die (and a few are maimed along the way), but I just can’t kill ‘em unexpectedly and tragically. Although I realize life isn’t always rosy and can seem downright hard and unfair at times, I don’t believe killing beloved characters is something romance readers respond to positively. From a personal perspective, I don’t like it. At least at this early point in my writing career, I want readers to weep tears of joy or because I’ve struck an emotional chord deep inside, but I don’t want them to cry because they’re grieving the loss of a beloved character. Christians can laugh as easily as they can cry.

 Crystal: Where is your dream place to write? And where DO you write?

My dream place to write would be in a villa in the south of France or the Italian Riviera. Okay, snap back to real life. Where I actually write is in the bedroom, and trust me when I say it’s Grand Central Station. The TV is usually on, the kids come and go, my husband goes in and out, and the dog usually meanders in at some point, looking for food and/or affection. I’ll often put on the earphones and zone out and listen to music while I write. 

Fortunately, I’m able to work in the midst of chaos. Perhaps this stems from reading The Iliad and The Odyssey in the snack bar at Ball State with the jukebox playing and pinball machines pinging in the background…and I somehow managed to ace the test! I’m convinced being able to tune out distractions is another gift of the Spirit. 

Crystal: I graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, as well, so I know exactly where that is.  What's one of the oddest things someone has ever said about you?

When I once told someone about all the places I’ve lived and visited, she made the comment, “Wow, you’ve certainly been around.” Given the negative connotations of that statement, I wasn’t pleased, until I realized that yes, I have been around, but in the nicest sense of the word. Now, it’s actually one of my catch phrases when describing myself. By way of explanation – I was born in IN, moved to TX after college, met my husband (a Rhode Island native and student at Dallas Theological Seminary), moved to CA, married in KY, honeymooned in HI, had our first child, moved to PA, had two more children and then moved to MA, then back to IN in late 2005. 

While I have a great appreciation for each place we’ve lived, Kentuckiana (where southern Indiana meets Louisville, KY at the Ohio River) is truly “home in my heart.” Jim and I have always followed where the Lord leads, but in our case, He made it abundantly clear in each instance where He wanted us, and we tried to bloom where we were planted. So, in another important sense, “home in your heart” is so much more than simple geography. 

 Crystal: Do you have any words of wisdom or a note of encouragement for writers striving toward publication?

My best advice is to first pray and commit your words, and your story, to the Lord. He’s your partner and co-author. And then, simply write. Like anything else, practice and experience are invaluable and make you better at the craft. You learn to cut out the extraneous and develop your own unique style. Read other books, especially in your genre. Learn what works and what doesn’t for you as a reader, and that will help you as you write your own stories. Reading your work aloud, especially dialogue, will help you know what sounds natural or stilted. Infuse your characters with personality quirks, mannerisms, words and habits that will make them unique and endear them to the reader. 

Join a crit group, online writing groups and start blogging on a regular basis. But, above all, be passionate about your characters. If you love and care about them, your story will shine, and the characters will jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers. And your work will get the notice of the “right” agent or publisher. If you’re persistent, and keep your focus on sharing the stories the Lord has given you to share, He’ll open the doors of His choosing, in His timing.

Crystal: Where can we find you on the internet?

I’m on Facebook, and messages can also be sent to me via my website at I’d love to hear from you! I regularly blog on Reflections in Hindsight on alternate Wednesdays and Hoosier Ink on the 30th of each month. Thanks so much for letting me share with you today!
JoAnn Durgin, Author of Awakening

More about:
JoAnn Durgin is a full-time paralegal and lives in southern Indiana with her husband, Jim, and their three children. She is a member of the ACFW and its Indiana chapter. Awakening is her debut novel. She was a finalist in the long contemporary romance category of the 2010 RWA/FHL Touched by Love contest, and is a regular blog contributor with Hoosier Ink and Reflections in Hindsight. JoAnn is also an active member of the My Book Therapy Voices where she has won or placed in several of their quarterly Flash Fiction contests. Above all, she loves to share the redeeming love of Christ through her stories. Visit her at She’d love to hear from you.

Awakening is available in paperback and electronic (ebook) versions at the following:

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Library Insider


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