Tag Archives: Rebecca St. James

Picks from 2013

My favourites from 2013:


Best of the year: also most satisfying series wrap-up:

Most satisfying mystery, and very close to best of the year:

Most can’t-wait-to-read-the-next-one mystery:

Most life-changing (fiction):

Most life-changing (non-fiction):

Most satisfying science fiction (and action):

Most satisfying fantasy novel:

Most satisfying speculative fiction:

  • Mask, by Kerry Nietz

Most satisfying historical:

Most laugh-inducing:

Most personally helpful writing how-to:


Most life-changing posts:

Review: The Merciful Scar, by Rebecca St. James and Nancy Rue

The Merciful Scar cover artThe Merciful Scar, by Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue (Thomas Nelson, 2013)

This novel is life-changing. I almost didn’t read it, because emotionally-laden tales aren’t my thing. But the authors introduce us to Kirsten as her world falls apart, and the story isn’t about angst—it’s about healing.

Kirsten has been carrying a lot of pain for seven years now, hiding it from the world because that’s what she’s been taught. The pressure of post-graduate studies, and a boyfriend who won’t commit, only make things worse. Nobody knows that when the stress gets too much, Kirsten cuts her own flesh for relief. Her body is a map of scars.

Falling apart is the best thing to happen in her life, because now she can heal—if she’ll acknowledge the hurts. Despite parental objections, she chooses an unconventional sort of treatment centre: a remote sheep ranch run by a former nun, Sister Frankie.

Sister Frankie is amazing, and I wish we all had someone like her in our lives. May we become someone like her to those around us: present, listening, waiting, praying.

Other residents of the ranch include Emma, a young woman struggling with post-traumatic stress after a stint in Afghanistan, as well as Frankie’s Uncle Joseph and later her nephew, Andy. The daily work of caring for the animals bonds them into family and slowly allows Kirsten and Emma to begin the healing journey.

This is one of those richly-crafted stories with strong characters and a vivid sense of place. Kirsten, the hider, feels exposed on the vast Montana flatlands. In the sheep and in one of the sheepdogs, she sees much of herself. The authors don’t rush anything or over-explain, so readers can live the story too.

As we follow Kirsten’s self-discovery, there’s room for insights of our own. It’s not just Kirsten’s experiences and relationships that have damaged her, it’s the way she learned to handle them and what she began to believe about herself.

Like many of us, Kirsten has a snarky little voice in her head that’s quick with a snappy comeback or a self-criticism. She calls it the Nudnik. One of her assignments on the sheep ranch is to learn to hear the voice of God. Maybe, between the Nudnik and the Lord, she’ll discover her own true voice and find the courage to use it.

How do we handle our stresses? What lies do we believe about ourselves that impact how we live, that stifle who we were meant to be? Just like Kirsten sees herself in the farm animals, I see aspects of myself in her. And in her liberation, I find freedom for myself.

My favourite quotes:

“My soul chose that moment to do something it hadn’t done in longer ago than I could remember. It began to cry.” p. 41

“Finding that true self and embracing it is how anyone connects to God.” p. 167

“I already believed in God. Now I had to accept that God believed in me.” p. 169

The Merciful Scar is a gentle yet compelling story, well told, and it’s one of those rare books my heart felt safe to fall into. I highly recommend it to fans of women’s fiction, Christian fiction, anyone with insecurity or other stress issues, and to anyone who loves someone who practices non-suicidal self-injury (cutting).

About the authors: Rebecca St. James is a Christian recording artist as well as the author of a number of non-fiction books. Nancy Rue is a novelist and acclaimed teacher of the craft of writing fiction. This is their first collaboration, and I hope it won’t be their last. Twitter users can follow the conversation about the book under the hashtag #MercifulScar.

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

God’s Reputation

You displayed miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, his officials, and all his people, for you knew how arrogantly they were treating our ancestors. You have a glorious reputation that has never been forgotten.
Nehemiah 9:10, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Many North American Christians are walking closely with God and growing in our faith. But to the watching world, even to many in (or leaving) the church, God’s glorious reputation has been forgotten, replaced by one that’s distorted. (Click to tweet.)

That makes me sad. No wonder people aren’t drawn to follow Him, when they don’t know who He is.

In context here, the returned Israelites have heard the Law read aloud, have confessed their corporate and individual sins and vowed to live God-honouring lives. Even when they’d forgotten the nuances of holy living, they remembered God’s mighty acts.

We don’t tell God’s stories: miracles in the Bible and our own personal encounters, large and small.

We don’t live in clear trust, in joy or peace. We’re bogged down by the cares of this world (some of which are heavy indeed). Respect for diversity (or fear of offending) keeps our faith low-key, personal and private.

But even Israel’s enemies knew God’s reputation. We can tell the stories without insisting others embrace them, and trust God to do what He will with our words.

We’ve given the wrong impression of God. Instead of a glorious reputation, He’s perceived as judgmental, carrying a big stick and waiting for an excuse to swing it. Or people think He’s helpless, because flashy miracles aren’t happening much in North America and the quieter miracles aren’t recognized or aren’t shared. Others think He’s confusing, because we can’t answer the deep pain questions and yet we’ve felt we had to be able to explain Him.

Holy and majestic God, God of power and tenderness, judgment and love, we don’t understand how Your character traits mesh together. Still, we know we can trust You. Forgive us for the part we’ve played in the damage to Your reputation. Remind us of who You are, of what You’ve done. Help us to live confident in You, to see and share what You do. Restore Your glorious reputation in the eyes of all the world, and in Your grace give us a part to play in that restoration. Not because we’re worthy, but because You are good.

A good song to focus our faith is “Our Great God,” by Todd Agnew and Rebecca St. James.

*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.

Living by Faith

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20, NIV*

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God….” And Paul mentions two specific things: Jesus loved me, and He gave Himself for me. I’m to live by faith in Jesus… live confident in Him:

Confident in His love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16, NIV)

Confident in the power of His sacrifice. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, NIV)

I’m not alone, trying to live a good life in my weakness. Jesus has paid my debt, cleaned and forgiven me, restored me to relationship with God the Father.

I can live confident in Him today because He loves me. I can choose to live His way, with His help. And when I blow it, I can trust in His justice and not despair. He has already paid the price. He will clean and forgive me, and set me back on track with Him.

What a wonderful God!

Our song today is a duet by Todd Agnew and Rebecca St. James: “Our Great God

*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.