Day of Despair – For Easter Saturday

(Originally posted March 2012)

Even on Good Friday there was hope. Hope that the one they had followed, the one they had believed would conquer Rome and free them all would come down from the cross and save them. On Saturday, all hope was gone.

 

What will happen now?

Drops of dew cling to blades of grass. Fog shrouds the earth like the gauzy cloth they had wrapped around their master hours before, burying their hopes and dreams behind a huge, grey, immovable rock.

Everything is still. Not even the slightest breeze rustles the leaves, or stirs the thick, stifling air. As though the earth, like all of them, holds its breath. Waiting.

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What will happen now?

Memories of the day before assault them. They shudder. A day filled with slashes of red and suffocating, unnatural dark. The clanging of metal against metal and the laughter – the screeching, mocking laughter. Sights and sounds they will never be able to erase from their minds.

They tremble. They bury their faces in their hands. They wait for the pounding on the door, for rough hands to drag them away to the same fate as the one they had followed. The one they had believed in. The one they had given everything up for. For nothing.

They weep, shoulders heaving, reaching for one another in a desperate – and vain – attempt to find comfort. Comfort needs hope, so there is no comfort anywhere, in anything.

Except maybe in the faint, whispery echoes of the words he had spoken to them. Talk of the third day, of the temple destroyed and rebuilt. Words they didn’t understand then and cannot begin to comprehend now. Whispers they try to reach for, to grasp, but that dissipate in their numb fingers like the morning mist on the sea.

They sit, knees drawn to chests and backs pressed to cold, damp walls. They mourn. For him. For themselves. They wait. They try to draw in one painful breath after another, pushing back thoughts that it would be better to just stop trying.

What will happen now?

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The Power of Silence

Recently I was driving in my car, my thoughts careening all over the place (just my thoughts, not my car), when I suddenly realized I had tightened my grip on the steering wheel and my stress level had gone way up. I gradually became aware that music I hadn’t even been paying attention to was belting from the speakers. I hit the off button and peace draped over my vehicle like a thick blanket.

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The tension that had been knotting up my shoulders released and I relaxed against the back of my seat. I was shocked at how the cacophony of sound filling the air around me had so agitated me even though I hadn’t truly been conscious of it.
It got me thinking. How often do I wander through life—down a busy sidewalk, inside a coffee shop filled with chattering people, even in my own home—without being aware of the noise even though it is clearly affecting me physically, emotionally, and mentally?
No wonder God calls us to intentionally be still so that we can know that he is God. Unless we make the conscious decision to turn off the noise all around us, how can we meditate on him, remember who he is and who we are in relation to him?

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The world around us is filled with noise. We are so used to it that we rarely even notice it, yet it has a profound impact on us. It inhibits our ability to interact with our Creator, to hear his still, small voice.

 

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One of the most powerful stories in the Bible is found in I Kings 19: “And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak…”

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Elijah had just proven to the prophets of Baal that God was the one true God. He was coming off a major victory, but then his life was threatened and he fled in terror. God, in his mercy, came to Elijah, reminding him that he was who Elijah had just proven him to be, not through clamor and noise or the clapping of thunder, but through a whisper.
The still, small voice of our Creator carries within it indescribable power, might, and majesty. It called the universes into being and it calls to us to listen so we can know who this God, divine king and ruler of all things, truly is.

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But we need to turn off the noise. We need to intentionally be still, to come apart, to listen. May we do so this week, Holy Week, more than ever before. And may stillness, silence, and the whisper of God fill us with peace and prepare our hearts to fully embrace the sacredness of this Easter season.

                                                                                                               Press on, my friends.

                                                                                                               Press on (and be still),

                                                                                                                                      Sara

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The Edge of the Desert

As some of you may (or may not) have noticed, I have not kept up with my good intentions and posted here every Friday. The last couple of Fridays, for example, I have sat for a while, contemplating this empty blog space and my thoughts, trying to decide if either are worth sharing with anyone. As you may have surmised, I decided they were not and went back to doing other things.

I’m in a bit of a dry season of my life. I called this post the edge of the desert because I can’t claim to be in the midst of a full-blown, tumbleweeds-blowing-by kind of time. But the well of creativity (and pretty much every other aspect of my life) is definitely a bit low. 

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I feel a little like one of the characters in my WIP, the third book in The Night Guardians Series. Christina and her husband have experienced a tragic loss that has shaken their faith and their marriage to the core. Here’s an excerpt:

Not that she didn’t want to be close to him. Most of the time she longed for his touch, ached with the desire for things to return to the way they used to be between them, to the time when that well within her was so overflowing with everything she wanted to share with him that she couldn’t touch him enough, be with him enough, or tell him a joke for the sheer joy of watching him throw back his head and laugh often enough.

When he moved toward her now, the bucket she dropped down to retrieve something, anything she could give him in return clunked against the hard, cracked bottom of the well and came back up empty.

I’m going through something a little like this in my life right now. Not nearly as extreme, but just feeling as though I don’t have a lot to give in any aspect of my life. Someone posted to Facebook recently that during periods of spiritual dryness, the best thing to do is to dig deeper, be extremely intentional about spending time in the Word and in prayer. That resonated with me. Not that it is an easy thing to do – digging a well through hard, dry earth is a momentous and daunting job. But when water is struck and that well fills to the brim with cool refreshing water, isn’t every moment of the arduous task suddenly well worth it?

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My prayer for all of you is that, whatever you are going through in your life right now, you will experience the life-giving water that only Jesus can give. As he said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 5:13-14). 

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

 

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In Praise of Book Reviewers

I always say that writing the book is the easy part. The next hardest thing is convincing someone to publish it, and the hardest part of all is getting anyone to even hear about it, let alone read it. We have a book-saturated market. A million new titles appeared on Amazon last year alone. We live in an age where anyone and everyone can write a book and get it “out there”. So how can new authors ever hope to find readers for their books?

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I have heard writers say over and over, when asked why they write, that they do it because they can’t not write. That they have stories inside them that just have to get out. I’ve given this same answer myself, and it’s true. It’s only half of the equation though. As strong as the desire to get our stories down on paper (you know, virtually) is, the desire to have those stories read is just as strong. I once read a quote that said this is because the journey of writing a book is a circle, and the circle is not complete until the story is read, which I believe with all my heart is true.

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And so the challenge: how to get that story you have worked on for so long and so hard actually read. By someone you aren’t related to.

Marketing and promotion are definitely not my thing. I would much prefer to write the book, hand it off to someone else, and let them take care of all the rest. Like they did it in the good old days. Problem is, it doesn’t work that way anymore. Authors have to market their work. 

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So, the last two weeks The Seven Trilogy has been on a tour around the Internet. 10 days, 21 blogs (actually, 19, since one blogger devoted a post to each of the three books individually, over three days – bless her). It’s been an interesting experience.

The problem with getting your books out there is, well, that they’re out there. That makes them fair game for reviews and criticism and feedback, positive and negative. It’s all allowed, and it’s all perfectly acceptable. After all, no one book is going to appeal to everyone, and, given how many books there are out there, it is valuable for potential readers to hear different opinions and the reasons behind them so they can decide if this is a book they want to invest time and money in.

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Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with reviews. I know a lot of authors don’t read them, which I get and even think is wise. I can’t stop myself, but it’s always with a hand-over-my-eyes, grimacing-as-I-peer-through-my-fingers type of read. Still, I’m thankful for each and every review. For every person who is willing to take time out of their busy lives to get their hands on and actually read my books (which still always amazes me). And who then go to the extra effort of posting their thoughts on those books for others to see.

So if you have read and posted a review about my work, on this tour or any other time, whatever you said about the books,

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from the bottom of my heart. You have completed the circle for me, and you have helped me find others who just might do the same. And I appreciate that more than I can say.

Press on, my friends.

Press on,

Sara

P.S. If you haven’t been following the tour and are interested in seeing what others have to say about The Seven Trilogy, check out the blogs listed here: https://justreadtours.com/2019/01/07/welcome-to-the-seven-trilogy-blog-tour-and-giveaway/

 

 

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Judging Covers

Hello all,

I hope the new year has been good to you so far. It is snowy and sunny here in Ontario, Canada, and it’s amazing how much that lifts the spirits.

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Today I’m working on design ideas for the cover of my next romantic suspense novel, Vigilant, coming in June 2019. My publishing company has a fabulous designer, but they welcome their authors to participate in the ideas stage of the creative process. I’ve been combing through thousands of images the last couple of weeks, searching for inspiration. Hopefully I’ve come up with a few ideas that might work.

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I know firsthand how difficult it is to overcome the challenge of a cover that doesn’t quite work for the book, as I experienced that with the original covers of The Seven Trilogy. Although the designer (different designer, different company) did a great job with them, they didn’t quite match up with the genre, which may have contributed to slow sales as my target market wasn’t drawn to them. The covers have since been redone, but only time will tell if that will be enough to make up for the cooler-than-hoped for response to the books when they were released.

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So the pressure is on with my next set of covers, for The Night Guardian Series. Because the truth is, although we’re warned not to, as humans we really do judge books by their covers (I know I do). Very often this expression is used to warn us not to judge people by the initial impression they make, yet we have a tendency to do that as well. Which is a sobering reminder for believers. As followers of Jesus Christ, it does matter what we do and say and do, how we present to others. As Jesus put it, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This means, if we are not living lives worthy of our calling, it not only reflects badly on us, it reflects badly on God. Whether we like it or not, our “cover” speaks volumes to the world, not only about who we are, but about the one we claim to serve.

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My prayer for myself this new year is that the cover I present to the world will at all times bring glory to God. That the words I speak, the way I say them, whether or not I show love, kindness, and compassion towards others, everything I say and do will draw others to him and not push them further away.
May the covers of each of us who call ourselves Christians reflect who we truly are – humble, broken but redeemed, grateful believers in Jesus Christ. And may others see that in us this year and be blessed.

                                                                                                               Press on, my friends.
                                                                                                               Press on,
                                                                                                               Sara

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Good Intentions, Grace, and a God who Remembers

Like most people, I am full of good intentions regarding the various aspects of my life. Professionally, for example, I have lots of ideas about how to better market and promote my work, but I only have the time and mental energy to incorporate one at a time (if that). For starters, I recently committed to posting on my blog every Friday (seriously, once a week, even I can handle that, right?) Apparently not. For several weeks I posted faithfully and then, well, life.

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I became swamped with editing projects for other authors, rounds of edits on my next novel (I’m allowed a shameless plug on my own blog, aren’t I? If so, Vigilant, Book One of The Night Guardian Series, release June 2019!), kids, husband, Christmas shopping, family health issues, finances, and on and on. So the last three weeks I have failed to deliver on my promise to myself and to you. Thankfully, it is the start of a brand new year, always a good time for renewing vows and promises and following up on those good intentions, at least for a few months (or weeks). So I will attempt to get back into that routine, starting this week. As a next step, I hope to launch a newsletter early in 2019 (stay tuned for more on that).

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Good intentions in other areas of my life are not always (ever?) sustained either. Spiritually, I need more quiet time in the Word, feeding my soul and growing deeper in my walk with God. Having just come through the Christmas season, when I was reminded at every turn of God’s love for the world and his plan to reconcile us to him through the birth, life, and death of Christ, I now desire to re-commit myself to being more intentional in reading the Word daily and to “praying without ceasing” as the Apostle Paul admonished believers to do.

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Physically, the usual – eating better, exercising more. When I do this I feel so much better and have so much more energy I ask myself why I would ever not live like this. And then I slide so easily back into bad habits. A reflection of how things go in other aspects of my life as well.
My word for 2019, however, is Grace. As I strive to show more grace to others, I will also attempt to show it more often to myself. Forgetting what is behind, I will try always to focus on striving towards the goal before me. Life happens. My old, sinful nature wars constantly with my desire to grow closer to God and to be disciplined in all other areas of my life. But one of my favourite passages in the Bible is Psalm 103. Verse 13 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

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I am grateful every day that I love and serve a God who remembers that I am dust, that I want to but so often fail to keep my commitments, to live a disciplined life, and to follow through with my good intentions. A holy God who over and over again extends grace to his broken children. That is a God I can commit to serving and honouring with all my heart, every day of the year.

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So Happy New Year to you all. May 2019 be a year filled with hope, joy, and peace. And may we all extend to others, and to ourselves, the grace we ourselves have been shown by our good God.

Press on, my friends.
Press on,
Sara

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A Christmas Prayer

 

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My friends, as we enter into this season of celebrating and giving thanks to God for sending His son into the world to be Emmanuel, God with us, and to reconcile us to Himself, I would like to share with you a prayer I wrote to honour the one who came:

Father God, we ask that you would prepare our hearts as we enter this holy season. Your Son, when he came to earth as a baby, was called Wonderful Counsellor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. May we honour him as Wonderful Counsellor, by listening to that still, small voice leading and guiding us every moment of every day. May we honour him as Almighty God by always giving him first place in our hearts and our lives. May we honour him as Everlasting Father by coming before him with reverence and placing ourselves under his care and protection, and may we honour him as Prince of Peace by taking time, in this Christmas season and all through the year, to live lives not characterized by stress, rushing, busyness or performance, but by peace.

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A very blessed Christmas to you all. My prayer for each one of you is that you experience the supernatural joy and peace of God throughout this sacred and holy season as we celebrate and give thanks for the greatest gift ever given.

                                                                                                              Sara

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