Sunday, March 1, 2015

So, give it to us straight, the Pharisees said to Jesus. Are you our Machiach, our Anointed one?

And He said to them, it doesn’t matter if I said yes. You wouldn’t believe me anyway. And it isn’t like you’re going to answer any of my questions, or let me go.

Are You then the Son of God? they asked.

You say that I am, He answered.

And I can just envision the scene—the whole place erupting. See? See? What else do we need to hear. We’ve heard it ourselves from His own mouth.

The audacity of this man, to claim He’s the Son of God!

More like, the audacity of them, to speak this way to One who stood bound before them, the God clothed in flesh, putting up with their dog-and-pony show with a resignation that only underscores how ludicrous it was for them to think they could do anything to Him without His permission.

Back in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus revealed His humanity to His disciples, but here, He’s the Creator in disguise. The One in whom we all live, and move, and have our being, standing there with barely leashed patience as these men questioned and accused him.

And then I think ... the audacity of myself, to question Him. To doubt Him. The God who did not spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all. To accuse Him, in essence, of not really loving us, of not really having our best interests in mind, or sometimes even of not having a plan at all.

Yes, life spins out of control. Things don’t go the way I would choose. I feel God pressing a promise into my heart, and then everything around me seems to make a lie of that promise. But ... the Son of Man must die ... before the Resurrection can happen.

How dare He claim to be the Son of God?

No. How dare I, because it was my sins that sent Him down this road.

 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
70 Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”
So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”
71 And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.” (Luke 22)
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12, all NKJV)

This post first appeared March 6, 2014.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When God called me to write for the Christian market in 2003, I dove in headfirst. I was on a mission
to learn as much as I could and write as much as possible. I knew it was his call and I never questioned His direction.

Until.

He asked me to stop writing in 2008 after moving me away from many Christian writing friends, an awesome group of Bible study partners, and a faithful critique group.

What? How could that be? I’m serving YOU Lord. I’d written two novels and a novella that had yet to be published. Why would He ask me to quit? That would be giving up. Quitting. I’d be walking away. I couldn’t do that. That’s not what a warrior does. Why would He ask this of me? And why would He take me away from so many Christian friends who were supportive of my writing?

At this point, I had to closely examine my obedience to Him. Sure, I had no problem being obedient when it was something I wanted to do, but now He was asking me to give up the thing I loved. He’d sent me to a very remote area. Another thing I questioned. When I took a job working full time, writing continued to consume my thoughts.

Reluctantly, I laid down the writing. Walked away. Quit. I felt like a loser.

Until.

He answered one of my burning questions. Why would You move me away from the large network of Christian friends and writers? His answer: So you can rely solely on ME.

His answer showed me that my focus needed to change. Writing for Him is different than writing from Him. My writing time consisted of plotting and planning every action of my characters and carefully orchestrating their responses to the story action. While I claimed to be writing for God, I had yet to invite God to write with me. I had yet to rely on the Holy Spirit for the story and the characters.

Being away from writing allowed me a bird’s eye view of how I’d gotten caught up in the writing world of chasing publication. The revelation was humbling. It also allowed me the opportunity to rely on Him in situations that revolved around people who weren’t Christians.  

God moved in many ways in my life during that time away from writing. He showed me about trust and true obedience. When I finally accepted, areas of my faith deepened. I learned so much about praying for others, relying on what God says, not other’s interpretation of what God said, and listening to Him minus the veil of my desires.

Years went by and one day I realized, while I missed writing, it didn’t have the stronghold on me that it had before.

In January of 2012, the quiet voice I’d been waiting to hear for 5 long years returned. “It’s time to start writing again.”

Less than a week later, I received an email stating that a publisher was looking for Christmas Stories. The novella I’d written all those years ago was a Christmas story that had been rejected by another publisher. I sent it in. It was accepted a few months later and published that same year. Most of you know nothing in the publication world works that quickly. But this did.

Once I’d truly let go and truly been obedient, things changed—both in me and in my attitude toward writing. Writing wasn’t the all-gripping thing that I needed to work at every waking hour, it wasn’t what defined me as an obedient daughter, and it wasn’t what connected me to friends.
I believe the contract was God’s timing and also His way of showing me, He had this all along. And He still does.

The character in my latest release, THE VIGIL, is learning these same lessons!

Here’s the blurb:


Cheryl Broussard made two vows: She'd never fall for an abusive man, and she'd never return to her Louisiana hometown. But she's learned all too well the lesson of never-say-never. Now, back in Bijou Bayou after fleeing from an abusive boyfriend, Cheryl finds work as a Hospice nurse. While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, family secrets shatter Cheryl's beliefs about her family and herself and shed light on the reason she fled her hometown. When the Broussard family secrets are revealed, can Cheryl deal with the truth and accept the blessing of a second chance for relationships with her family, old friends, and with the God she never really knew?


Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves. She is the author of, Deep Freeze Christmas, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, and Southern Fried Christmas.
Her latest release, a Women’s Fiction novel, The Vigil, can be purchased at online retailers.

Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.


She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.

Learn more about Marian on her website and her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, the Facebook Reader's Group, or Twitter.


Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers today on the Borrowed Book Blog!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

There are worse things than being fat.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating being overweight. I’m simply saying that an overweight ego, a heavy judgmental attitude, and a heart plump with hatred on a skinny well-dressed body are far worse things.

I’m realizing that the extra weight I carry is not what defines me. I am more defined by how I treat others—my reflection of Christ to the world. That can happen no matter what size I am, regardless of my hair color, and regardless of whether I’m wearing designer clothing or hanging out in a t-shirt and sweats.

Recently, while traveling overseas, I heard a story of how a young woman visited a shop and asked for a large size. The sales clerk, a small-sized woman, snubbed her nose at the young woman and rudely told her they didn’t carry her size there. I could only imagine the response I would have received in that shop. I’m far larger than the young woman who visited the shop.
But I can’t help thinking, the sales clerk may have looked put together and nice on the outside, inside was a different story. I want people to look beyond my exterior shell and see what’s in my heart. The only way that can happen is if I show them.

I’ve struggled with extra weight for several years. Often times, riding the vicious roller coaster of on-again off-again diets and aggressive exercise regimens to sedentary days. Leaving me feeling confident or defeated. My emotions were dependent on whether I’d been “good” or “bad” with my eating or exercise on any given day.

Through the years I’ve come to accept that my weight does not define WHO I am. Neither does my hairstyle or hair color, the clothes or the brand of shoe I wear or the purse I carry on my shoulder. Some of those are accessories that may reflect my taste, but they don’t define me as a daughter of the king. I’ve also come to accept that I can’t manage a lifestyle change unless I rely on Him to bring it about in me. I can’t reflect His character and shine if I’m too busy worrying about how I look and what clothes I’m wearing. While, I feel better if I’m dressed well, it’s important that my heart is well dressed with compassion, love, forgiveness, and non-judgment.

I still struggle with losing weight and with help from the Lord, I’m making small incremental daily changes. I’ve accepted that I can’t change overnight, but I can change.

Cheryl, the character, in my latest release, The Vigil, is forced to accept truths that push her to change.

The book blurb:

Cheryl Broussard made two vows: She'd never fall for an abusive man, and she'd never return to her Louisiana hometown. But she's learned all too well the lesson of never-say-never. Now, back in Bijou Bayou after fleeing from an abusive boyfriend, Cheryl finds work as a Hospice nurse. While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, family secrets shatter Cheryl's beliefs about her family and herself and shed light on the reason she fled her hometown. When the Broussard family secrets are revealed, can Cheryl deal with the truth and accept the blessing of a second chance for relationships with her family, old friends, and with the God she never really knew?


Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves. She is the author of, Deep Freeze Christmas, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, and Southern Fried Christmas.
Her latest release, a Women’s Fiction novel, The Vigil, can be purchased at online retailers.

Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.

Learn more about Marian on her website and her blog, or connect with her on Facebook, the Facebook Reader's Group, or Twitter.





Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers today on the Borrowed Book Blog!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Jesus was human as well as divine. We know this.

But was He really human?

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2, NKJV)

This next passage of Philippians dovetails nicely with the onset of Lent. The great mystery of the Incarnation: God coming down to become one of us, to experience humanity, then to die for humanity. I wrote last year about the humanness of Jesus, but this week, I find myself freshly astonished.

Someone said that Christians tend to think Jesus was not really human ... that He was only pretending to be human. Guilty as charged! Too often I mentally dismiss the element of peril within the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and then being tempted. After all, He was God, He couldn't really have fallen, in that situation.

Could He?

Someone else commented, however, that temptation by its very nature means the person being tempted actually entertained the notion of doing what’s presented to him. Could Jesus actually have considered turning those stones to bread? Leaping off the pinnacle of the temple to prove His godhood? We might never know.

We do see His utter humanness in the garden of Gethesemane, where He cries out to God to spare Him the experience of the Cross if any other way can be made to accomplish our salvation. (As my pastor said last year, He was God and all glory belonged to Him anyway, so it wasn’t like He had do this.) But this struck me all over again, in Jesus’ chiding of the disciples for sleeping when He’d asked them to watch and pray. We don’t tend to think of Jesus as needing prayer ... but bound in deep dread over what He was about to face—because He had to absolutely know the kind of pain that crucifixion would involve—He was stressed to the point of hemorrhaging through His skin. He’d asked these men, the three who were closest to Him than any others in His earthly walk, to stay by His side while He wrestled through the dread. And then to find, three times, that they just fell asleep ...

Was He only asking for moral support?  Scripture suggests that at least part of His concern was for the dicsiples, especially Peter, to pray for their own strength in the coming trial. But we can hear it in His voice ... Guys! I needed you ... maybe I never did before but I did now ... and you let me down.

How many times have I felt that exact thing over the past few years? That at my point of greatest need, some of those I considered my closest friends failed to be there for me?

To suddenly see that my glorious, beautiful Redeemer did as well, comforts me like nothing else.

Wow, He really was as fully human as He is God.

And He was the perfect Savior to sympathize with our own weakness.

41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22, NKJV)
32 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.
37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. 40 And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.
41 Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14, NKJV)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When I started writing many years ago, I was a seat-of-the-pants writer. I knew how the story would
begin and end, but I didn’t know how I would get there. I would write a scene umpteen times, revising it within an inch of its life before moving on to the next one. I found myself burning out and losing interest by Chapter 3, and I’d start another book, revise, burn out, lose interest again, and repeat the cycle over and over. It wasn’t until I heard the sage advice, “Don’t get it right, get it written,” that I realized I needed a different approach to writing. I decided to write a book without judgment and without revision until I’d finished the first draft. Momentum was key. If I went back to fix an eye color or timing, or even a name that was changed halfway through, I would lose my momentum. My goal was to get to the end without looking back.

That liberated me, and I was finally able to finish a first draft. I’ve written that way ever since. I honestly hate first drafts, but once that’s done, I know that the worst part is over, and the rest is pure creativity and art. I think my second draft is probably the most fun. I dig in at that point, revising and rewriting every line, getting more creative with descriptions and characterization, going deeper into point of view and thinking the way the characters think, and doing more specific research that will help me describe things more accurately. With each draft, the book gets more and more readable, but I don’t consider it publishable until I’ve written it through several times.

Just to be clear, I consider a “draft” to be a version of the book that is vastly different from the version before it. If I’ve just made a few tweaks or corrections, I don’t consider that another draft. My latest book, Twisted Innocence, probably went through seven complete drafts before the book was ready to be in stores. Because I wanted the message of this novel to resonate with readers—the message that God isn’t disgusted with you, that he knows why you’re the way you are, that he still has big plans for you—I didn’t want to risk disappointing them with sloppiness. If they are willing to invest their time in my creation, I need to provide as much excellence as I can.

My husband and I have an agreement that, if I die while working on a first draft, it will be as if that book doesn’t exist. He won’t turn in a first draft to my publisher, because I would be horrified for anyone to see it. Trust me, it’s bad. I’m not all that comfortable with anyone seeing Draft 2 or 3, either. I work in layers, and it’s not until all the layers are stacked on top of each other that my book is finished. No one sees it until that’s done. After that, my editors will suggest changes, and I’ll go in again for at least two more drafts.

I think some people believe that the creative process is something that comes easily, and that writers just open some kind of word valve and the story pours out. It’s not that way with me. For me, writing is extremely hard work, and it never gets easier. Parts of it are very gratifying. A good writing day gives me a sense of well-being like nothing else can. But other parts can be pure drudgery, and a person with a too-short attention span or a poor work ethic will not be able to do it.

I see new writers taking all kinds of shortcuts in the creative process. In these days of easy, inexpensive self-publishing, writers can skip all the vetting that once told us whether our work was ready for the world (or not)—vetting by potential agents, professional editors, publishers, contests, critique groups, etc. Wise writers, traditionally or self-published, take time with each book and embrace ways to have their work professionally vetted.


Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist.

In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re not alone, and that their trials have a purpose.


Buy link for Twisted Innocence
Learn more about Terri on her website
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Subscribe to Terri’s Newsletter

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I wish I could say that I don’t have adversity in my life, that everything always sails smoothly, that since becoming a Christian I have lived a charmed life. But that’s not true. The last decade of my life has been replete with pain, both physical and emotional. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.” He told us that if we’re to follow Him, we’re to take up our cross and follow him. That’s not a very good PR slogan, if you think about it. He’s basically saying, “Pick up the instrument of your own death, and drag it with you as you follow Me.” Jesus told us we would not be immune to the suffering in this world, and that image illustrates it more than anything I can think of.

Over the last several years, I’ve had occasion to be on my face crying out to God to resolve some of my issues, from the devastating struggles a family member is experiencing, to having daily chronic back pain that alters my life. I’ve tried all sorts of “formulas” to make God act now. I’ve prayed for wisdom, then made mistakes, and I’ve prayed in faith and been disappointed. What does it all mean?

First, I know that God hears all my prayers and has answered them. Some of those answers haven’t yet become apparent to me. God lives in a different time dimension than I do, so what seems to take an eternity to me may be already done. Second, I can’t manipulate God. He knows what I need better than I do, and He’s building muscles in me that I’ll need later. Third, I know that God wouldn’t let my suffering continue if it didn’t serve some purpose in my character, in the depth of my faith, in my understanding of Him, or in my books. That’s why my writing is so therapeutic.

Often, I have my characters ask the heart-wrenching questions of God that I ask, and as I write through their stories, God teaches me about His broader purposes. When I get letters from a reader affirming that God worked in his or her life through that story, I know that none of my pain was wasted.

In my book Twisted Innocence, I have an unmarried character named Holly who has lived a messy life, and she’s just given birth to a baby. Her past consequences catch up to her in a way that endangers her child, throwing her life into turmoil. I really relate to Holly because of her remorse and her sincere desire to change. I’ve had those feelings before, where I wished I could rewind my life back to one key moment, and make a different decision. Where I felt that one choice had set my life on a course that couldn’t be corrected. But through Christ, it can be corrected. He can even use the mistakes for good. I’m really hoping that my readers will see that Christ doesn’t see them as disgusting failures. He sees them as works in progress, beloved children, joint heirs. He has big plans for those who trust Him.

I have a feeling that I’m going to have trials as long as I’m a writer, because those trials give depth to my writing and help me reach my readers. God will give me what I need to continue that. But He gives me what I need to accomplish my work each day. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in an Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist.

In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re not alone, and that their trials have a purpose.



Buy link for Twisted Innocence

Learn more about Terri on her website
Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
Subscribe to Terri’s Newsletter

Monday, February 16, 2015

I used to love books as a child. All books. Even books that no one else wanted to read. Now that I have grandchildren, I want them to love books as much as I did, although maybe not for the same reasons.

See…I was a nerd, and I read to escape. I wasn’t popular or exceptionally pretty. I wasn’t athletic or artsy. I was one of the kids on the fringe—tolerated, but not accepted. Sometimes, I still feel that way.

Amazing, right? No woman in her mid-forties should struggle with feelings of being a social outsider, but I do sometimes. If I’m honest, it happens more often than I like. And yes, I do know who I am in Christ. I know how much I’m loved and accepted by Him. Still, I can’t help but desire to be loved and accepted by my peers as well. It hurts when I go to conferences and all the seats next to the popular kids…er…authors, are taken by other popular authors. It hurts when others are invited to be panelists, teachers, workshop leaders and I am not. It hurts when awards are handed out and my books are not among them. I watch from the fringes, battling familiar feelings of inadequacy and unpopularity.

 All of which are completely, unequivocally, and undeniably untrue. 

 The truth is I am everything that God intended me to be. Okay, so I’m still polishing off a few rough edges, but I’m getting there, which is why I write characters with similar flaws and insecurities. I want my characters to speak to people—real people—with real problems and issues of self-worth. I want to speak for the nerdy kid who might have grown into a forty-year old, but still hides that child inside who watches from the fringes. I don’t want to paint the perfect Christian. No such person exists! I want to laugh and cry over my character’s failures and insecurities. I want to ignite something in them that sparks passion in the readers who love them. I want to encourage. I want to inspire. I want to challenge.

I want to write like a nerd.

Elizabeth Ludwig is the bestselling author of Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine and the highly successful EDGE OF FREEDOM series from Bethany House Publishers. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com

Contact Elizabeth: HERE

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