Tag Archives: belonging

Review: Silent Shadows, by Natalie Walters

Silent Shadows, by Natalie Walters (Revell, 2020)

A single mother hiding from a gang. Her young son. And a military intelligence officer discharged with an unexplained movement disorder that causes seizure-like muscle contractions.

Pecca Gallegos loves her job as a nurse at the Home for Heroes. Her son, Maceo, is unhappy at school. And Captain Colton Crawford, her newest patient, may be what they both need—if he can see beyond his limitations.

Maceo has a prosthetic leg and what seems like an impossible dream to play football. Helping him may be what Colten needs to help himself.

My personal preference is for an understated romantic thread, so I found Pecca and Colton’s swoony thoughts about one another a little much in the first half. That said, their first true date was definitely an “aww” moment.

And there’s a lot to like in this story. I appreciated the clean suspense and the frank wrestling with the tension between faith and painful circumstances. I also enjoyed the camaraderie among the “D-Wing” patients. Team dynamics, belonging, and purpose play an important part in the book, along with faith and second chances.

Favourite lines:

You look at yourself as less than. Is that the message you want your life to reflect? [Kindle location 3755]

“…Allow yourself to believe that even though this isn’t how you planned your life, it doesn’t mean it’s not exactly where you need to be.” [Kindle location 3761]

Silent Shadows is book 3 in the Harbored Secrets romantic suspense series. I haven’t read the previous books, but had no trouble settling into this one. Books 1 and 2 are set in the same town of Walton, Georgia, but feature different characters.

Natalie Walters’s author bio says that she “comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.” For more about the author and her books, visit nataliewalterswriter.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Flee. Pursue. Enjoy.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
2 Timothy 2:22, NLT*

…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:25, NLT*

The Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy are ones we need to hear today in our fragmented, too-busy world.

Run from—the NIV says flee—”anything that stimulates youthful lusts.” This includes more than just provocatively-dressed women wreaking havoc with men’s hormones. It’s anything that catches our eye/ear/heart and we want it. For those of us who aren’t young anymore, it can even be things that promise to help us feel/look/act young again.

Pursue “righteous living, faithfulness, love and peace.” They don’t grow without an investment of our cooperation and effort, even though God is the Master Gardener.

Enjoy the companionship of other Christians. As we spend less time in meaningful church experiences, and we find fewer believers in the workplace and neighbourhood, we’re losing our support system. We need the companionship, encouragement and challenges of other Christians. We are, after all, a body. Not a collection of single units.

Dear Father, please help us recognize when to run away—to run to You. Strengthen us to pursue the life You’ve designed us to live. Remind us of the importance of Christian companions. I especially pray for those who know You but have drifted away from church and Christian community, that You will bring Christians into their lives and help them recognize their need for fellowship and unity. Lord, we are weakest alone, and You call us to be strong in You and to not give up meeting together. Remind us when we forget, and please forgive our forgetting.

Let Geoff Moore‘s song, “The Body of Christ,” remind us we need each other.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Review: Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina, by Rachel HartmanSeraphina, by Rachel Hartman (Doubleday, 2012)

What’s a young woman to do when she needs to be anonymous but has a musical gift that won’t stay hidden? Seraphina is an outsider. She doesn’t fit in, and she can’t risk letting anyone close enough to discover her secret. But her new job is to assist the court composer, direct the orchestra in his absence, and teach harpsichord to Princess Glisselda.

The story world has a mediaeval European or British feel, with kingdoms, castles and knights. And dragons who can look like humans. The dragon/human war ended in a truce almost 40 years ago, but there’s still deep distrust between the two sides. As the anniversary celebrations approach, hostilities are increasing.

Seraphina herself is a half-dragon, and that’s the source of her (and her father’s) shame. She looks human, except for a few scaly spots that she keeps hidden. She’s a biological impossibility, and an offense against both laws and morals. But the very things she thinks disqualify her from belonging may be the gifts she brings to keep the peace.

Because she understands both perspectives, she finds herself drawn into preventing a crisis that could plunge the world back into war. This means working closer than she’d like with Princess Glisselda and the handsome Captain of the Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs. The more Seraphina cares for them both, the harder it is to deceive them about her true nature.

Seraphina is one of those rare books that I wanted to read slowly to make the story last. The characters, setting and plot weave a rich and enjoyable tapestry. They feel real, despite being so clearly not of our world. This is a novel I will read again.

Rachel Hartman has done a beautiful job of letting the characters struggle with issues many of us know intimately: belonging and truth. There’s no sense of a forced agenda or message-driven plot. The characters, especially Seraphina and Kiggs, live their questions in front of us, and we can relate.

There’s much more to the novel than I can describe in a review. If you’re at all fond of fantasy or historical novels and you’re not threatened by a quirky fictional religion, give it a try. And prepare to lose yourself in the pages. It’s a young adult novel by nature of the characters’ ages, but it’s a satisfying read for adults as well, especially those who may struggle with belonging or who love music.

Seraphina is, unbelievably, a debut novel. I’m glad there’ll be a sequel. You can learn more about Rachel Hartman and about Seraphina on her website.

[Review copy from my personal library.]


If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:15, NLT*

One of the lies the enemy of our souls has baited me with over the years is “You don’t belong.”

Someone hurts my feelings. Or I don’t get a joke, or everyone else seems to have it all together. I notice I’m different. The lie slides right into my thoughts and I cuddle up with it, nodding agreement. “That proves it. I really don’t belong.”

I used to think Paul’s words about the foot and the ear saying they weren’t part of the body meant we should use the gifts God gave us and not compare ourselves with others. We shouldn’t sulk and refuse to serve if someone else got the talent we wanted.

That’s really what it’s about, but today I see something else. If I—or you—fall for “I don’t belong,” then part of the body will be handicapped because we’re disqualifying ourselves.

Of course I’m different. We all are, even if some of us look the same on the outside. Different is good; I know that, and I don’t want to be a clone. But I guess the deceiver’s words resonate with a fear of rejection, and maybe it’s easier to tell myself I don’t belong than to wait for someone else to say it.

This is one of the things God’s been talking to me about lately. I risk sharing it because maybe He’s been saying something similar to you, whether it’s about belonging or about another of our enemy’s lies.

Creator God, Your Word says we’re each “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that You love us. How many ways do You have to say it before we can believe it? You also warn us we’re in a spiritual battle and we need to use the weapons You’ve given us so we can stand. Help us be vigilant. Help us take every thought captive to Christ and speak Your truth to defeat the lies. We can’t do this on our own, but Your Spirit within us can. Help us rely on You.

Let Kathryn Scott’s “I Belong” reassure our spirits today. We belong to God.

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Places of Renewal

I’ll be in the middle of the Write! Canada conference when these words are posted (well, okay, I’ll be sleeping—I set the post time early in the morning).

There may or may not be time for me to check on the blog and reply to any comments. Some of the people who might ordinarily comment will be at the conference too, and what a treat it will be to spend time with them.

I love this conference. It’s a great opportunity for developing my abilities as a writer, and for making professional connections. That is, after all, what it’s about and why I invest the time and money to attend.

Want to know what I love even more about it? The sense of homecoming, to people familiar and unknown who somehow “get” me. We’re each unique, but they get not only my faith but my writerly quirks. And I get theirs.

We belong, and to me that’s a rare feeling.

My favourite memories of Write! Canada’s past are of impromptu moments: sometimes professional, sometimes personal. God moments.

Where do you go for renewal?

Belonging at Last

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. … He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
John 8:42 & 47, NIV*

This group of Jewish listeners thought Jesus was saying they weren’t legitimate children in the line of Abraham—but He took it farther than that. He called them children of the devil.

Not that they were particularly evil or nasty, but that they couldn’t receive the truth and were naturally inclined to sinful behaviour.

In short, they were human. Children of the Fall, tainted by Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience.

Just like us.

But these were people who believed Jesus’ words (at least until this point). This conflict grew from His offer to set them free. “Who, us? We’re not slaves! The nerve of You!”

He wasn’t blaming them for not being able to hear. He understood the problem and that’s why He came to solve it. He was offering spiritual rebirth, the chance to actually hear God again. To belong in relationship with Him. To be adopted into His family.

We can have that. What could be worth more?

I don’t often hear Him in my spirit, and I’ve never heard Him audibly, but I know I belong. To Him, with Him, because of Him. He gives meaning to my life.

Creator God, because of Jesus I can call You Father. Because of Your Spirit in mine, I’m connected with You. You know what a deep need this meets, because You designed me this way. In Jesus You have accepted me. You’ve welcomed me. I am at home in You. I belong.

This week’s song is Kathryn Scott’s “I Belong”. Beautiful song, with some beautiful images in this video.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Included in Christ

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV*

Too many times we live life on edge, with a low-level anxiety that we’ll be disqualified or rejected. We’re trying so hard, but what if something we say or do – or don’t do – puts up a barrier with our loved ones or with those we respect?

Sometimes we don’t even know this theme is playing in our mental soundtracks until we wonder why we’re tense. It’s something I’m working to recognize and to let God change in my own life, and this is the sort of Scripture passage that can help.

Look at what the Apostle Paul says in these verses: we are included in Christ – we belong – it’s guaranteed by God’s own Holy Spirit. Jesus knew both our best and our worst when He rescued us, and His promise is forever. Nothing can separate us from His love.

Father, forgive us when we get hung up on pleasing people and we give their opinions too much power over our lives. Thank You for saving us… for choosing us and loving us. Thank You for including us in Christ. Please help us remember this truth, to the praise of Your glory.

One of my favourite songs by the group MercyMe is “Spoken For.” Let these words minister to you today.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scattered Strangers

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-2, NIV*

So begins the Apostle Peter’s first letter to the early Christians. What catches my attention is his use of the words “strangers” and “scattered” — I don’t know if they’d been intentionally scattered by persecution as some were, or if Peter is just talking about how the believers are few and far between.

Whatever the reason, telling them there are other Christ-followers spread through the area reminds them they’re part of a larger group. They’re not as alone as they may feel.

I think that’s why he calls them “God’s elect” too — it’s not a snooty term for “better than the others,” it reminds them they’ve been chosen by God and belong to Him. He loves them.

Living in obedience to Jesus Christ can make us feel like we don’t belong. In a sense, we don’t. We’re changing, and while we pray those around us will recognize that God has also chosen them, for now we’re the oddballs, the aliens. But that’s okay.

Our hearts need acceptance, but the world around us is not the place to expect to find it. Peter reminds us we’ve found acceptance in Jesus. We belong.

Father, thank You for choosing us, for knowing and loving us before we came to You. Thank You that Jesus came, God in the flesh, to heal the broken. Everyone is broken somehow, Lord, and you’re not willing that any should perish. Help each one recognize that You’ve chosen them too. Help them come into Your healing embrace.

This week’s song is an oldie from the group Petra. It’s a medley of the Doxology and their song, “Not of this World,” and it’s one of their quieter pieces. I’d forgotten how much I loved this album.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.