Tag Archives: forgiveness

Character interview: Pam Lake

Pam Lake is  the heroine in the newest novel in The Women of Valley View series by Sharon Srock. Pam’s story releases this month.

Janet: Pam, thanks for visiting us today. It sounds like you have a great group of friends in Valley View. You’ve given your support to Callie and Terri in their stories, but how does it feel to be in the spotlight yourself?

Pam: Janet, thanks for having me. Being in the spotlight is not something I would have chosen for myself. It was tough to share the secrets of my past, even with my friends.

Janet: Let’s start with some surface chatter. I know you’re divorced, remarried to a loving man. Do you have children? A job outside the home? Hobbies?

Pam: I have two children with my first husband. Jeremy is the oldest. Then I have a daughter, Megan. They are not quite 14 months apart. I work four days a week in my husband’s law office doing computer research. It’s great to have a three day weekend each week. As far as hobbies go, I’m not a crafty type person, but I do love to cook.

Janet: And tell us a bit about Valley View. Where is it located, and what are some of the things you most appreciate about living there?

Pam: Well, Valley View is the name of our church. We live in Garfield, Oklahoma. Garfield is a small town in the central part of the state. I think the thing I appreciate the most is just the sense of community we have. We care about each other.

Janet: It sounds like you’re facing a life-changing struggle. Are there some wounds in your past that might not be as healed as you think?

Pam: Divorce always leaves wounds behind. I don’t think you can ever be so happy in a second or third marriage that it completely wipes away the baggage of the past. This is only multiplied if you have children with an ex-spouse. You will always have to find a way to deal with the ex for the sake of the children.

Janet: You have good friends who will stand by you. Do you also have a faith to help you through this crisis?

Pam: I thought I did. What I’ve come to realize is that the unforgiveness in my heart was just like a nasty, sticky clog in a drain pipe. I was trying to live a life of faith on the tiny drips of faith that managed to flow past the clog. Once I allowed God to flush the unforgiveness out of my system I discovered what I’d been missing for the last four years.

Janet: Tell us the truth: is it possible your abusive ex has changed? Or is this just more manipulation?

Pam: I think God’s love can change anyone. I wanted to believe that Alan was excluded from that, but he isn’t.

Janet: Do you want him to have changed? If he has, what does that mean for you? And what would it take to convince you?

Pam: You know, I honestly didn’t think it mattered. I have Harrison in my life now. But it didn’t take long for me to start dumping the baggage of the past onto someone who didn’t deserve it. I had to forgive Alan in order to fully love again. I don’t have to be convinced, I just have to leave it in God’s hands.

Janet: Even if Alan hasn’t changed, can you forgive him? Forgiveness doesn’t mean what he did was right, but letting go could help heal some of your pain. Easier said than done, I know!

Pam: Like I said, There comes a time when you just have to give it to God. Alan could never heal the wounds his words inflicted. But God could, and did, once I asked him to take the pain away.

Janet: I really hope things work out for you, Pam, and I’m glad you have a good support network.


The Women of Valley View: PamPam’s divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life. Four years later the scars of Alan Archer’s emotional abuse are beginning to fade under the love of her new husband. When Alan returns to Garfield, Pam must learn that buried secrets and carefully cultivated indifference do not equal forgiveness.

Alan Archer has returned to Garfield with a new wife and a terminal heart condition. His mission? To leave a Christian legacy for his children and to gain Pam’s forgiveness for the sins of his past.

Two hearts hang in the balance waiting for the delicate touch of God’s healing hands.


Purchase links for The Women of Valley View: Pam
Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Pelican Book Group

Sharon Srock

Author Sharon Srock went from science fiction to Christian fiction at slightly less than warp speed. Twenty five years ago, she cut her writer’s teeth on Star Trek fiction. Today, she writes inspirational stories that focus on ordinary women using their faith to accomplish extraordinary things. Sharon lives in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. Her books include: The Women of Valley View: Callie and The Women of Valley View: Terri. The Women of Valley View: Pam released 11 April 2014.

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Review: Imogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince

Imogen's Chance, by Paula VinceImogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince (Even Before Publishing, 2014)

Imogen Browne is a 20-something American with painful memories of Australia—painful because of the hurt she unwittingly caused the Dorazio family. She knows it’s time to try to make amends, and returns to Australia in search of short-term work. Marion Dorazio invites Imogen to board with them for old times’ sake.

Marion’s twins, Asher and Becky, are Imogen’s age, and their brother Seth is a few years older. It looks like the family has moved on from the accident that injured Marion—and from the second source of pain that none of them know Imogen had a part in. Why reopen old wounds?

When Asher is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, each family member’s turmoil begins to surface. Imogen, as the impartial visitor, can offer the support that the family are too emotionally involved to give. She doesn’t expect to fall for Asher in the process, and if he knew what she’d done, he’d never speak to her again.

Asher, Imogen and Marion carry regret over things they’ve been afraid to say—things that have caused hurts and misunderstandings. With Asher this has a flip-side, because he learned this behaviour after a childhood of saying too much.

What stands out to me is Asher’s health and the quest he and Imogen begin together. Should he accept the doctors’ prognosis that he’s likely to die, or dare he risk what he begins to discover the Bible says about healing?

Asher and Imogen both come from Christian backgrounds but neither thinks God is particularly close to them. Their search is organic to who they are and the situation they’re in. It’s not a sermon or an author-driven agenda. Essentially, they come to believe that God can heal Asher and that whether or not He chooses to do so, they need to trust in His strong love each day.

This is what I took from the novel, the reminder to rest in God’s love and to not be straining to see the good or bad the future holds.

Lest this sound too serious, I’ll mention that one of Asher’s methods to get his mind off the negatives that have filled his life is the practice of daily gratitude, which he doesn’t do like your or I might, in brief lists or even in a journal. Asher writes thank-you notes—very quirky thank-you notes.

Imogen’s Chance is a story of relationships and reconciliation, forgiveness and love. It pulled me in, to the point where I’d be irritated when I had to stop reading and attend to daily life.

Paula Vince is an award-winning Australian author. Imogen’s Chance is her newest novel, and it’s available worldwide as an ebook and in print from most online retailers. For the month of April 2014 she’s running a blog tour with multiple prizes. Details here. You can learn more about Paula at her website, and check out her blog, “It Just Occurred to Me.” You can also read an interview I did with Paula in 2012, as well as a recent interview with Imogen herself.

[Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Interview: Meet Imogen Browne

Imogen Browne is the main character in the novel Imogen’s Chance, by Paula Vince.

Paula Vince photo

Paula Vince, author of Imogen’s Chance

Janet: Welcome, Imogen. I’m looking forward to chatting with one of the voices in someone else’s head for a change. Please tell us the basics about yourself: age, employment, educational background, the usual “stuff” that helps us place one another in the world.

Imogen: I’m 24 years old. Until recently, I’ve lived at home in New York City with my family. My father is a paediatrician and both he and my mother are missionaries. My older brother, Scotty, is following in their footsteps. They’ve been very busy, helping to set up medical facilities in underprivileged areas of the world. One of their favourite spots has been way up in Australia’s Northern Territory. Don’t ask me what it was like though, because I didn’t go with them.

We’ve never had a typical family unit because there has been a steady stream of foster kids through our home ever since I’ve been old enough to remember. That’s been interesting. Not always good, because some of those kids have been pretty rough and mean to me. There’s never been a dull moment.

Since leaving school, I’ve done a bit of retail and secretarial work, as well as house cleaning. Nothing as noteworthy as the rest of my family, though. My parents and older brother are all very high achievers.

Janet: You live in Australia, right? Could you introduce us to your part of the country? What do you love about it? Anything you’d rather change?

Imogen: Australia isn’t my native home. I’ve just returned recently, to touch base with the Dorazio family, who I knew when I was younger. They live in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. It’s surely one of the world’s prettiest spots. Everybody should visit, if they possibly can. I find the climate pleasant, even in the winter, which the locals think is freezing cold. I can’t help laughing when they say that. If only they could experience a Northern Hemisphere winter.

There are all sorts of colourful birds and quaint wild animals here, such as koalas, kangaroos, bilbies and echidnas. You have to see them to believe them. There are clear, aquamarine skies, green trees all year round, vibrant, crystal-clear oceans – although I don’t like to think about the ocean. Especially after what happened during my last visit to Australia.

Janet: Sounds like there’s a painful story in that answer. I hope this visit goes better and you find a way to enjoy the ocean again. I’d love to visit Australia some day. If Paula gave you airline tickets anywhere in the world, where would you go? And why?

Imogen: I’d love to explore the rest of Australia, just to see the sights my parents and brother have seen. I’d go further north to see the deserts and tropics. And I’d explore each of the capital cities on the eastern coast. They only difference is, I would go for fun rather than to work. I feel a little guilty saying that. I was brought up to please and serve other people before thinking of myself. If my answer comes across as selfish or thoughtless, please forgive me.

Janet: It sounds like there’s been pain in your past, but you’re not going to let it define your future. Would you tell us about this chance you have to make a difference? And did it come to you, or did you have to pursue it?

Imogen: To be honest, I can’t help fearing I’m on a fool’s errand. My parents certainly think I am. Here’s the story. I thought I was going to die in hospital, but it turns out I had appendicitis. While I was in pain, I promised God that if only the agony would stop, I would return and try to make up to the Dorazio family for some things I did. Well, guess what? The pain stopped, so here I am.

The things I did were accidents, but the Dorazios suffered because of me, so I should try to make up for it. It seems the right thing to do. I’ve made my own opportunity. I bought the airline ticket and came to Australia, but now I’m feeling a bit deflated and very nervous.

Janet: It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing. Do you think this will work out? What – or who – might wreck it all?

Imogen: Well, I was really hoping Asher wouldn’t be around anymore. He’s the Dorazios’ youngest son. I heard he’d got a really good job. I was hoping he would have moved far away by now, because he’s the hardest one to face. No such luck, though. He’s still here, and he’s grown really good looking. I don’t know why I even mentioned that, because it has nothing to do with anything.

Well, perhaps it does. When we were little, he never used to be intimidating, but now he is. If he knew the extent of the damage I caused, I hate to think what he’d say and do. Let me put it this way. He’d have a right to be really angry with me.

Janet: And what happens if it all falls apart? If you can’t fix everything?

Imogen: I guess I’ll just have to fly back home to America with my tail between my legs. That is, if Asher leaves me standing, when he finds out what I’ve done. I know he has a temper.

Janet: Forgiveness sounds like it’s an important theme in your life right now, and maybe loyalty too. What do those words mean to you?

Imogen: The word ‘forgiveness’ actually makes me tear up a bit. It’s such a loaded word. I forgave somebody for something he did to me, but I don’t think I forgave him soon enough. If only I’d forgiven him on the spot, things might have been far different. I’d tell anybody to be quick to forgive. Having said that though, I can’t imagine Asher, or any of the others, being willing to forgive me, if they learn the full story. I wouldn’t expect them to. Perhaps it’s because I’ve let so much time lapse before deciding to do something, even though there’s not much I can do. If anybody could talk them into forgiving me, I’d be extremely grateful (and very surprised too).

As for loyalty, I guess Asher would be the one to ask about that. I don’t know what he’d tell you, though. He probably thinks that his big act of loyalty created a huge mess. I can’t talk to him about it, though, because then he’d find out the full story about me. It’s all so mixed up.

Janet: And what would you say to people keeping family secrets?

Imogen: I’d be the first to say that being open and honest is the best way to behave. It’s easier to treat an open wound than one which has been covered up and left to fester. As it is, I have to creep around the Dorazio family, keeping my mouth shut, because I’m just not sure what each individual knows about the whole mess.

Now I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ve said too much in this interview. I’d better keep quiet. I don’t want to hurt anybody by dredging it all up.

Janet: Is faith a part of your life?

Imogen: I really want it to be. I mean, I guess it is. I was brought up in a strong Christian household. My parents did their best to help us become fine, godly children. It’s just that it seems to have ‘taken’ for my brother, Scotty, while I’m not so sure about me.

I’m trying to be faithful, but I don’t really know what God’s leading looks like. I believe I’m keeping a promise to Him by coming here to Australia, but I wish there was some way I could know for sure that it’s not just my imagination.

Janet: Maybe you’ll find confirmation as you spend time with the Dorazios. When you were growing up, your parents probably told you the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan. The priests had to go and stand in the raging river before God stopped the water. It sounds to me like you’re standing in some pretty tumultuous waters right now, and I think God will honour that step of faith. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Imogen: I’m clinging to Jeremiah 29:11, ‘I know the plans I have for you, to give you a future and a hope.’ I just wish I knew for certain whether coming back here might be part of His plan, and not just my own.

Janet: We all struggle with that one at times. What’s your favourite season? What’s that like in Australia?

Imogen: Summer has always been my favourite season, because it reminds me of long holidays, swimming and soaking up the sun. Here in Australia, it tends to get incredibly hot. Their heatwaves make the mercury soar for weeks. It’s a clear heat which blasts down on you, if you don’t wear a hat.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

Imogen: I like to relax with engrossing books, or take long walks. I also appreciate good talks with friends, although with the people around here, I’m not sure what I ought to say.

Janet: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Imogen: I’m really beginning to think it must be coming back here thinking I can make amends for what happened. It was a reckless decision without any forethought. But here I am, so I have to make the best of it.

Janet: I hope everything works out for you, Imogen. Thanks for visiting us today. 


Imogen’s Chance released April 1, 2014 from Even Before Publishing and is available worldwide through the Amazon online network in print and ebook formats.

Imogen's Chance, by Paula VinceShe has given herself a chance to fix her personal history. But will old mistakes bring up new emotions?

Imogen Browne longs to make up for past mistakes before she can move on. She quietly resolves to help the Dorazio family, whose lives she accidentally upset. Her biggest challenge is Asher, the one person who may never forgive her. And he is facing a crisis of his own. Imogen must tread very carefully, as trying to fix things may well make them shatter.

A sensitive story about misplaced loyalty, celebrating life and falling in love. Can family secrets concealed with the best intentions bear the light of day?

Come back on Monday to read my review of Imogen’s Chance.

Review: The Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy Coffey

The Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy CoffeyThe Devil Walks in Mattingly, by Billy Coffey (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

Jake and his wife, Kate, live under long-held regrets centering around one of their high school classmates, Phillip. Phillip’s death 20 years ago was ruled a suicide, but Jake and Kate each believe they killed him.

Jake is sheriff of the small mountain town of Mattingly, VA. He took the job because he’s desperate for peace, not because he’s strong like his father was. When violence rocks his town, Jake is out of his depth.

Characters like Jake and Kate feel real yet a touch distant, as if we’re peering into another world. Others like the hermit Taylor, are even more distant yet eerily believable. This separation may be due in part to the multiple points of view (each one expertly rendered) and to the switch from third person to first for Jake’s viewpoint. It’s probably a good thing, too, because it lets us read without being overwhelmed by the characters’ pain.

Billy Coffey’s writing impressed me from the start. The novel has a haunting, lyrical feel, and I understand why one reviewer called the author a minstrel. This is not my type of story, but I found much to appreciate in its pages. It’s deeper, introspective, literary. A slow read, not a race.

The title says “horror” to me, but the devil in question is the sins of the townsfolk. It’s eerie and supernatural, but definitely not the “screamfest” type of horror.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly digs into those regrets we all hold, big or small, and reminds us that although we can never undo the past or earn a pardon, there is forgiveness and grace if we’ll stop holding onto the past.

Favourite lines:

Jake: “I came into this world pure and unblemished, but I will leave it bearing all of my scars. My comfort rests in a grace that will mold those scars into the jewels of my crown.” p. 3

Narrator: “Few people knew of Charlie Givens. Those who did agreed that not only was he born to trouble, but the sole purpose of his head was to keep rain out of his neck.” p. 26

Jake: “It’s our desire to be left alone that causes evil to flourish in this world.” p. 187

Jake: “None of us can write a new beginning to our story. All we can do is start a new end.” p. 328

You can learn about Billy Coffey and his writing on his website, and if you sign up for his newsletter you’ll receive the opening chapters of The Devil Walks in Mattingly for free. You can read a shorter sample on the publisher’s website. The Devil Walks in Mattingly takes place four years before one of Mr. Coffey’s previous novels, When Mockingbirds Sing.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Come Clean. Quick.

When you are guilty, immediately confess the sin that you’ve committed.
Leviticus 5:5, MSG*

We’re human. For all the good things that means, it also means we’re not perfect. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we mess up. We don’t live up to the righteous living God intends for us.

The early chapters of Leviticus are all about sacrifices to atone for the people’s sin, and God spends a lot of time—and detail—explaining to the people what not to do. Some of it should be pretty obvious, but there you have it.

What interests me about chapters 4 and 5 is that they deal with what happens when someone unintentionally sins. They’ve done something wrong with no malice aforethought.

We do that too. And sometimes we do the premeditated wrongs.

In either case, the remedy is clear: immediately confess it to God. He knows anyway. It’s already put a rift between us. If it’s an ongoing situation, ask for His wisdom in how to get back on target. And remember that He’s faithful to His promises. He will forgive us, clean us up, and restore us.

Immediately. Things won’t get better—won’t go away—if we stall. We’ll just make ourselves increasingly miserable as we widen the gulf between our spirits and the God who wants to hold us close.

God who saves us, Your forgiveness and grace are more than we can comprehend, and they’re beyond our capacity to earn. Thank You for extending mercy again and again. Please grow us to maturity in our faith, into righteousness and holiness, so we can please You. Please forgive us when we fail, and help us cry out to You quickly for restoration.

I love this confession song from Todd Agnew, how it reminds us that despite it all, God loves us: “The One You Want.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Review: Princess Ever After, by Rachel Hauck

cover art: Princess Ever After, by Rachel HauckPrincess Ever After, by Rachel Hauck (Zondervan, 2014)

Reggie (Regina) Beswick is finally living her own life. Still in her 20’s, she has walked away from a successful accounting position to do what she’s always wanted: restore antique cars. She and her partner, Al, are good at it, too.

Enter Tanner Burkholdt, emissary from Hessenberg (a fictional island duchy in the North Sea, with mixed British and German heritage), claiming Reggie is their long-lost princess—and the duchy’s one chance to regain independence. Suddenly Grandma Alice’s half-forgotten princess fairy tale takes on a new meaning.

Princess Ever After gives the expected look into the culture shock an American citizen would experience in the role of royalty. Reggie discovers that her education, her experience in the world of finance, and her business skills have prepared her for a role far greater than she dreamed—or than she wanted.

She could abdicate, but whatever she does, Reggie will be a princess. Ever after. Even if her political opponent succeeds in deposing her—and arresting her as an enemy of the state.

Regina and Tanner are strong characters. She’s straightforward, confident, and once she decides to accept this new role, determined to give it everything she has. Tanner looks like he has it all together, but he can’t forgive himself for his past. Do they dare fall in love in the middle of Hessenberg’s political crisis?

To me, the conflicts raised by Mark in the US and Seamus in Hessenberg fell short of their opening setup. What if Mark went after Reggie to press his case? What if Seamus had actually believed he was helping his country instead of just helping himself?

Toward the story’s end, Regina and Tanner experience the sort of Divine intervention that can happen in real life, but I confess I find disappointing in anything other than fantasy fiction. It’s not a huge part of the story, but readers who object to this sort of thing can consider themselves warned 🙂

That being said, there’s much to like in this novel, and it’s an engaging read. Regina learns the difference between intellectual faith and stepping out in faith, and Tanner learns a healthier way to live.

My favourite lines:

Reggie loved Mondays. They were like mini New Years four times a month. A chance for a fresh start… (p. 116)

I’d never looked at Mondays that way. Think I’ll start! And what about this:

Tanner: “God disciplines a man, or the man disciplines himself. I chose the latter.”

Reggie: “Too bad … because God would’ve been kinder, more generous, and definitely more loving.” (p. 279)

Rachel Hauck is a RITA finalist and a multi-published, award-winning author. She’s a regular contributor to the My Book Therapy blog and was named American Christian Fiction Writers’ Mentor of the Year for 2013. Visit the Princess Ever After page at the author’s site for more about this book (#2 in the Royal Wedding series) and to read a sample chapter. I think you’ll like Reggie.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Review: The Prodigal, by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

The Prodigal, a novel by Brennan Manning and Greg GarrettThe Prodigal, by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett (Zondervan, 2013)

“America’s Pastor.” That’s what they call Jack Chisholm, founder and leader of Seattle’s Grace Cathedral. Jack is a high-profile preacher and an organizer of good works. He’s also human. When a lapse in judgment leads to sin and disgrace, his image shatters and his life falls apart.

Despite the name of his megachurch, Jack’s best-known phrase is “We have got to do better.” His focus on humanity’s shortcomings and our need to work harder for God’s approval comes from his father, a man Jack walked away from years ago without looking back.

A man who now comes to rescue Jack from the pit of misery he’s dug for himself.

With nowhere else to go, Jack goes home to small-town Texas, where everyone knows everything about everybody else. Some people will forgive him, some won’t. He needs to learn to live with himself, to reconcile with his family if they’ll have him, and to decide what to do with the rest of his life.

Churchless, is he still a pastor? Does he even still believe in God?

Jack learns about grace from the townspeople, especially from his much-changed father and from the local priest, Father Frank. I don’t know much about Brennan Manning, but Father Frank seems to be the voice of Brennan himself speaking to Jack’s pain. It’s not always an easy voice to hear, because it speaks truth and it challenges Jack with that truth.

My favourite Father Frank lines:

When we acknowledge that we are all beggars at the door of God’s mercy, God can make something beautiful out of us.

…broken and worthless as we are, we are nonetheless loved beyond all reckoning. (p. 48)

The Prodigal isn’t a preachy novel. Frank doesn’t dish out this kind of teaching very often, and only when Jack needs it. Jack, of course, disagrees.

It’s a novel for anyone who knows the bitterness of failure, men and women both. It’s a novel of hope—not for glitter and rainbows and happy endings, but for the strength to go on and to find our true selves in the ruins of what we’ve tried to be. It’s a novel that affirms the love of God the Father and the fundamental goodness that lives in most people’s hearts—a goodness that may need some digging to find.

The Prodigal is a heart-warming, soul-encouraging read. My one regret is that I’d like to have seen some closure between Jack and his former assistant, Danny. [Jack. Daniel. Does anyone but me find this funny, given that Jack tries to find the answer to his problems in a bottle?]

Brennan Manning, who died in 2013, was best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. Greg Garrett is the author and co-author of many books, both fiction and non-fiction. The Prodigal is available in paperback, electronic book and audio formats. I highly recommend it.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Review: Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney

Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Bible promise books, complete with a helpful index, are great resources, and every Christian’s bookshelf should have one. But you only need one.

That’s why Promises You Can Count On takes a different approach. Natalie Gidney focuses on ten essential promises, including peace, salvation, grace and joy, and invites readers to “claim them and watch and see what He can do.” (p. 6)

This slender book is ideal for new believers or for those considering faith in Jesus Christ. It’s also a good refresher for more seasoned Christians. Each chapter draws on a number of Scriptures to explore one of God’s promises. With an easy conversational style, Natalie looks at what this promise can mean in our lives, and she offers candid examples of what it’s meant in her own.

Naturally, salvation is one of the early topics. It may surprise some readers, then, to see forgiveness rounding out the number ten spot as the final chapter. But as Natalie explains, forgiveness is something that’s required of us as well as something we need from God. That can be a hard truth to hear, and I think she’s wise to build up to it.

In some ways, forgiving others—or ourselves—isn’t possible until we’re sure we can trust God’s promises. So it makes sense to immerse ourselves in them first and grow our faith.

Promises You Can Count On was a finalist in the Relationships category of The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards (for books published in 2009).

Canadian author and speaker Natalie Gidney blogs at Promises for All. You can watch her interview on 100 Huntley Street: part 1 and part 2.

[book source: my personal library]

Mending the Chasm

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:14-15, NIV*

You know what it’s like when you start getting dissatisfied with any group of people: you start noticing everything they do wrong. And of course what they do wrong often means what they don’t do your way.

That’s where I’ve been for a while now in one of the groups where God has placed me. It’s become “me vs. them” with a deep chasm in the middle. I’ve asked Him to move me, and He’s said no.

Good thing, too. If I’d moved on, I’d have carried the same seeds of disconnection with me and started the process over again.

The other Sunday in morning worship I was asking Him to mend the chasm, while at the same time thinking it was too deep to fill, that I was too damaged to restore. Knowing I’d done the damage myself.

These verses from Hebrews were part of our morning reading, and the “live in peace” and “bitter root” parts echoed the need in my prayer. But I’d been praying a long time for this and saw no sign of change.

As the congregation sang Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God,” the word “our” told me “me vs. them” had to become “us”.

I’ve long felt that I didn’t fit into this particular group. Our differences were perhaps part of the trouble, although my imagination had enlarged them.

This Sunday, in the middle of worship, God did something neat. He reminded me about the verses in 1 Corinthians 12 about the body: the eye and the ear, complaining about their differences. And I understood:

I do belong and am intended to be my own specific part.

I’ve been guilty of saying the same thing as the ear: you don’t do it my way, so I don’t want to belong.

The congregation was still singing away, and I was singing too, but inside I was processing this revelation. “How Great is Our God.” The title repeats throughout the song, and now something clicked in my spirit.

God is great. Great enough to mend the chasm. I began to believe. To confess, and to cautiously hope.

He wasn’t done yet. Our next song declared that God has forgiven our sin. It’s past tense, a done deal. Even for this one I was still praying about.

My spirit believed it.

The chasm is mended. The chasm is being mended. The chasm will be mended.

I belong, although I’m different from the others. I’m responsible to do my part, released and intentional, not watching for others’ reactions.

What is my part? It might be fun finding out.

Father, thank You! I’m humbled and grateful to be restored. To be free to serve You as a functioning part of this and other groups where You’ve placed me. Open my eyes and my heart to discover and to fulfill the role You’ve designed me to fit. Show me my part.

What else can I sing but “How Great is Our God” from Chris Tomlin?

*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.

Review: Tooth for Tooth, a novel by Kimberley J. Payne

Tooth for Tooth, a novel by Kimberley J. Payne

Heather Williams is doing okay with the single-motherhood thing, she’s happy in her job, and her attractive boss is a bonus. Life is good—until she discovers her estranged husband has been sexually abusing their young daughter.

Sick with horror, she does her best to get help for Caitlin (Caity-Cat) and to keep her safe. Of course Caitlin’s father denies the truth and wants her weekend visits to continue.

Heather navigates a maze of community service, medical and legal systems, and although she doesn’t always like their methods, she does find some compassionate people who can help. At the same time, she’s dealing with both guilt (Catilin had tried to tell her a few years earlier) and anger at the man who could do this to anyone, let alone his own child.

Supportive family and friends, including her charming boss, keep her sane, and she’s surprised to find even more strength through a local Bible study.

This is a novel I hesitated to read because of the subject matter, but although what happened to Caitlin and her mom is troubling, author Kimberley Payne doesn’t go into traumatic details of the abuse.

The story gave me more insight and understanding into a situation nobody should ever experience but far too many do. It also reaffirmed what I’d sensed from a few people who’ve expressed similar—or worse—experiences: as traumatic as it is, there is hope for healing.

Kimberley Payne deals frankly with questions such as “Why, God? Where were You?” and with issues of anger, guilt and forgiveness.

Her strength is in non-fiction, and there are writing elements of Tooth for Tooth that could be stronger, but she has a keen sense of detail and an eye for descriptions. She also makes Heather’s and Caitlin’s struggle come alive. When I was away from the story for a day, I kept wondering how they were.

The subject matter is dark, but Tooth for Tooth offers insight and hope. The author’s deft use of humour keeps the tone balanced, and this short novel is a good—and fairly quick—read.

Canadian author Kimberley Payne is better known for her “Fit for Faith” books and workshops. Tooth for Tooth is her first work of fiction. It’s available to read (for free!) online at the Tooth for Tooth blog. Those who prefer hard copy can order Tooth for Tooth through Lulu.com.

For more about the author, visit her website, Within Reach.

Electronic review copy provided by the author.