LASTing Peace, God I Trust You For Eternity–Just Not Today

I wonder if it’s a common malady among modern Christians to assume that Christ’s only interest in us, or benefit to us, is eternal life. Do we live that way?
That’s not the Jesus of the Bible.

An Interview with Kate McCord, Author of “Farewell Four Waters”

On Wednesday, I reviewed a wonderful book, Farewell Four Waters. Today, I offer you one better–an interview with the author! Friends, meet Kate McCord!

In your book, Farewell Four Waters, you explain that the story is not exactly and exclusively your own, but rather a composite of true stories that together create a very entertaining, yet truthful novel. That said, your own love for the Afghan people comes through clearly in the character of Marie. Where did that passion come from? Why Afghanistan as opposed to another country, another people, a different culture?

I was first introduced to Afghanistan on the Risk board. That’s an old board game. Later, I read Kipling and developed a whole set up perceptions and mis-perceptions about the country. In ’79, the Russians invaded and I paid a little attention. But it wasn’t until 2000 that I really started to get to know Afghanistan and the people who call that country home. In November, 2000 I picked up a book about Afghanistan at an airport in Europe. By the time I landed in the States, I was fascinated. Over the winter of 2000-2001, I read everything I could find about the country. The Taliban were in control and the stories were heartbreaking. I began praying for the people. Still, Afghans were just stories and pictures, but in 2004, I met Afghans face to face, drank their tea and shared their laughter and tears. That’s when everything changed for me. Now, I know so many precious Afghans. I’ve celebrated their births, engagements and weddings. I’ve sat beside the dying and in houses of mourning. I’ve shared life and along the way, fell in love.

Marie has many opportunities to share her Christian faith in the story. I love how she does it, unashamedly saying, “I belong to the Honorable Jesus Messiah”. Her declaration of faith always seemed to be well received. Did you ever have difficulty being honest about your faith? How did you learn to be a witness for Christ in such a hostile culture?

At first, I didn’t know what to say or how. I really struggled with that. I asked others what they said, I prayed and I tried out approaches with my Afghan friends. I looked for what made sense and was welcome. Along the way, I stumbled a lot, but Afghans are gracious and a gentle, “I’m sorry, forgive me if I offended” helped us all. Often, Afghans said those very words to me when they thought they’d spoken too harshly. I found that most Afghans believe in God and respect Jesus. Almost everyone already assumed I was a Christian, so it was really a matter of explaining that I’m not just a cultural Christian, but a Christ-follower. Afghans loved it that I knew my Book, prayed and tried to live a holy life. Many still wanted me to convert to Islam, but they respected my faith and practice. Mostly, people who were hostile to me hated my foreignness and my independence as a woman, not my faith. If anything, my faith helped me.

How did you go about learning the language? Did you study Dari before you went to Afghanistan or did you learn it in country?

I studied some Farsi before I want to Afghanistan. That’s the language of Iran. I also had some recordings in Dari that I practiced with, but mostly I learned the language from my Afghan neighbors and coworkers. I also had language tutors, made recordings and reviewed them in my room. I tried to commit a couple of hours a day, just to language learning and used every aspect of my life as the context. It was exhausting, but it paid off. I not only learned language, but I developed some wonderful friendships and I learned how to live there. I still miss speaking in Dari. It’s a such a beautiful, rich, poetic language.

I understand that you live in the United States currently. Do you want to return to Afghanistan ever—either as an aid worker or in any other capacity? Do you stay in touch with friends there?

I would love to return to Afghanistan! I miss my friends terribly. Email and the phone just aren’t enough. Still, I doubt I’ll go. I don’t want to do anything to put my Afghan and foreign friends in danger.

What do you think is the best way Christians who read your book can pray for or personally minister to the Muslims they know?

I think the first is in our own hearts. We need to see Muslims as God sees them; with His love and compassion. From that understanding, we can pray for God to reveal His love and truth to those we know personally and those we see or hear about. It’s God’s love that really changes people. When we’re able to see Muslims as precious individuals, we can to look for ways to express God’s love to them through our own lives. That could be as simple as a smile and a friendly hello or something deeper like a conversation and an invitation to tea. If we’re already in relationship with people, we can deepen our understanding of who they are. That comes through asking open-ending questions and genuinely listening as they share their lives with us. Along the way, we can be real about our own faith; who is God to us? How have we experienced Him? Why is He significant to us? When we invite others to be real with us and are real ourselves, heart-level conversations happen.

Oh friends, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Will you join me in praying for Afghanistan, for the people there to know the height and depth of the love of Christ? Let’s also pray for Kate McCord. Father, fill her with joy and peace, passion and purpose as she serves you exactly where she is right now. 

Book Review, “The Preacher’s Bride”

7685228Are you tired of Cinderella stories? You know, the ones with their saintly fair maidens and angelic buxom brunettes. The characters are flawless from the start in every way, from their moral fortitude to their physical attributes. The Preacher’s Bride, by Judy Hedlund, is a refreshing exception. Perhaps that is what makes the book so cogent—the invitation to identify with the heroine, finding grace in her imperfections and confidence in her strengths. Surely this comes from the fact that the story is only partly fiction.

From the first pages of The Preacher’s Bride, the protagonist, Elizabeth Whitbread, treads common ground with us lowly, average, homely, self-conscious, dutiful women. Through the course of the book, Hedlund expertly uses Elizabeth to empathize with each varied and mystifying roll a woman may play in her life: from a young, single woman to a new bride, an unloved wife to an independent woman, and finally to a wise, seasoned, valued and respected mother and wife.

Hedlund is skilled at sharing the perspectives of each the primary characters, but Elizabeth drives the story. This is particularly fascinating, as The Preacher’s Bride is ultimately based on the story of John Bunyan, the tinker turned preacher in England during the 1600’s.

The book is well-researched, and accurately portrays the cultural and political climate of the times; the tension between the Puritans and the Royalists. Then, adding a good dose of creative license, Hedlund explores the emotions, trials and victories of Bunyan’s second wife, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s defining characteristic is her strength. In spite of persecution, poverty, overwhelming responsibility, loneliness and pain, she emerges victorious. I liken Elizabeth’s story to a item submitted to a tinker such as John Bunyan.

Tinkering, according to Wikipedia, is essentially “the process of adapting, meddling or adjusting something in the course of making repairs or improvements,”. It must be painful. There is twisting and bending, heating and filing. But the end result is always finer than at the start.

The Preacher’s Bride shows how God uses many challenges to “tinker” with each of us. But like Elizabeth, there is a reward when we remain faithful. I found myself with Elizabeth, experiencing each of her trials, and somehow, I believe, emerging with her refined, purified and improved.

My Book Reviewed by The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

Last month, I was greatly honored to have my book reviewed in the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center’s monthly newsletter. I’m excited to share it here with you all. If you would like a copy of my book, it’s available on Amazon through the links on the left of this page or you can contact me for a signed copy.

BOOK REVIEW: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story
By Abby Kelly (Bettie Youngs Books, 2014)

This past August, Robin Williams killed himself; his depression and past struggles with substance abuse defeated him. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also succumbed to a drug overdose this year. These sad losses highlight how possible it is to die from addiction, and how recovery is not simple or automatic just because you say you want it. Therefore, we need to pay careful attention to recovery stories of people like Abby Kelly to learn as fully as possible what the ingredients are that pulls someone out of the brink of despair and makes them choose recovery. In her memoir, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story, Ms. Kelly recounts her exhausting fifteen year ordeal with “my addiction to the disease of anorexia.” The author’s compulsive appetite for approval, appreciation, and acceptance fueled her anorexia which became her attempt to feel special, unique, and in control. Ms. Kelly recounts her three inpatient hospitalizations, extensive counseling, and thoughts of suicide. Gradually she chooses recovery through her growing belief in God. “God broke the chains of my disease,” she declares. “I am loved by God and my family. I’m beautiful just the way I am. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” There is no “one size fits all” for recovery from addiction. Every person’s recovery is as unique as a fingerprint. In her book, Abby Kelly, now free from anorexia for five years, tells her unique story of her commitment to prayer, Jesus, and religious transformation which led her eventually to embrace the beauty of her body and her soul and to turn her back on the false and “predatory lies” of anorexia.

Book review submitted by Mary Anne Cohen, Director of The New York Center for Eating Disorders, author of French Toast for Breakfast: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating and Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating. http://www.EmotionalEating.Org. Mary Anne Cohen’s book, Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating, is now available as an e-book from Amazon.

Book Review, “Trials and Triumphs”

I’m a sucker for nonfiction. Somehow, the knowledge that my new-found hero or heroine faced their battles without super-hero armor or the benefit of employing an omnipotent imagination in order to escape all manner of evils—somehow, that inspires me far beyond the scope of a created story.

FaithWriter’s newest release, Trials and Triumphs, is an exquisite collection of just such true stories. The book, compiled by Michael Edwards, owner of FaithWriters, has the potential to appeal to every audience. The authors themselves are from every walk of life. Some tell stories of finding Christ as their personal savior. Others share their testimonies of healing, prayers answered and hopes deferred yet grounded in faith. The one thing all the authors have in common is what binds this book together, what makes it cohesive and relevant—faith in Jesus Christ.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Because of the spectrum of experiences, writing styles and voices, no one will finish this book unchanged.

Interruption Applied

I’m finally getting somewhere.

Thanks goes to Jen Hatmaker for keeping me up not just one night, but several nights. And thanks, too, for not simply revealing straight away what God’s message was for me in all of this (I guess that’s not fair. How could she know?). Instead she let me sit and percolate the truths in her new book Interrupted. It was a slow process; she saved the best part for last.

It was this quote, near the end of the book, that started stirred me:

“I used to reside exclusively in Christian subculture: I read James Dobson to learn how to parent, studied Dave Ramsey to learn how to budget, sang Third Day for inspiration, went to Women of Faith conferences for encouragement, consulted Christian Coalition voting guides to see how to vote, and read Tim LaHaye for my fiction fix. This was the controlled bubble I lived in with a few hundred of my closest friends…When your running in the middle of a herd of buffalo, everything looks identical. What we see becomes our reality.”

Jen meant this to explain the shallow, sheltered life that many Christians live in, the safe bubble that gives us our “sanctified buffer” such that we hope others see us doing godly things and are impressed by our “awesomeness” to come to Christ without us having to actually associate with the “worldly ones”. Truthfully, I’ve been one of that crowd, part of the herd of buffalo. But that began shifting a few years ago. This time, God is after something different in me.

This morning, a strand of light broke through. God began highlighting similar messages in Scripture and through a few different pastors I’ve been reading and listening to: Steven Furtick, John Piper, John Bloom and Ann Voskamp.

Truth is dawning, albeit slowly, but I’m getting it. It has much to do with maturity–not confusing it with growth, moving beyond the milk of the Word, the testimony of my recovery from anorexia, my easy obedience to Christ and my walk in the Spirit. Moving past the parameters (read: safe bubble), I’ve established, where I know “what works”. 

For all of my life, I’ve sought my “calling”, what I’m supposed to do, and sought to settle in there. My writing has been accepted by publishers and editors–that’s all I have to do now, right–just write about Jesus? Surely, God’s plan was to develop my testimony. I’ve shared it. Now I can sit back as one of the “stories with a happy ending” and continue to follow my calling?

And now we’re full circle back to Interrupted. God’s been interrupting my sleep and peace all week. He’s been overlaying Jen’s testimony on my own life to reveal a personal correction and gentle admonition: Move on. You’re growing, now continue to mature.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

Welcome to the Bookshelves: Who Am I?

Book Banner

It’s the big day! Megan Cyrulewski’s book,
Who Am I? How My Daughter Taught Me to Let God and Live Again
is available in paperback and ebook! As a treat, Megan has allowed me to publish this synopsis here and also to offer you a tantalizing excerpt! Enjoy…then go buy the book!

Synopsis
Megan’s book, Who Am I?  How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again, is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, stays in the psych ward, divorce, emotional abuse, domestic violence, law school, how she managed to graduate from law school and a beautiful little girl who emerged from all of this chaos.

Author Bio
Megan Cyrulewski has been writing short stories ever since she was ten-years-old.  After attending Grand Valley State University, Megan eventually settled into a career in the non-profit sector for eight years.  She decided to change careers and went back to school to get her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.  While in school, she documented her divorce, child custody battle and postpartum depression struggles in her memoir. Megan lives in Michigan with her 3-year-old daughter who loves to dance, run, read, and snuggle time with Mommy.  Megan also enjoys her volunteer work with various organizations in and around metro-Detroit.

An Excerpt Just For You!

Buy the Kindle version on Amazon

Buy the paperback on Amazon

Buy the paperback and Barnes and Noble

Buy the Nook version

What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

interrupted_banner_300x250

The Long Awaited…A Review of “Who Am I?”

My dearest friends and readers, allow me to introduce to you one of the most amazing women I have had the privilege of meeting virtually.

Megan Cyruleski was one of the first to review my book. She also interviewed me here, and then honored me with the favor of her presence here on Predatory Lies. You can read my interview with Megan here. 

And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for (me more than others–on pins and needles to read the Advance Review Copy of her book) a review of Megan’s soon to debut book, Who Am I?

So, without further adieu…

There are two things that make a book mesmerizing: either I find myself in the story or, I am captured by a narrative so far from my own reality that it’s simply hard to believe.

The second phenomena is something like being a deer caught in the headlights. Life demands that I get up and do something “productive”, (or finally put the book down and go to sleep as the case may be). Reason insists that the book will be there later but I am somewhat in a stupor, living in someone else’s world, stunned into staring at pages as the words get blurry and my eyelids droop.

Megan Cyrulewski’s book, Who Am I?, falls in the second category, and let me be clear—few books ever land in that category for me.

Megan’s story is truly her own, though at times it seems an impossibly difficult story. From the first line of the preface, it occurs to the reader that Megan’s life is not an enviable one. Tearful, in bed, crushed beneath the weight of postpartum depression, her mental mantra is, “Madelyn deserves better than me. I want to die.”

Megan then unfolds an ever more complicated drama. From rising out of the ashes of PPD, to protecting her daughter from her narcissistic ex-husband, to surviving domestic violence, Megan guides the reader with absolute precision. She provides dates, full text letters between attorneys and text messages between herself and Madelyn’s father. Megan’s wit carries the story with small doses of humor lifting the reader’s spirit and restoring optimism at just the right times.

I’ve fought my own battles, but none like those Megan faced. However, I believe that an untold number of women face similar issues. In Megan’s story they will find a seasoned companion. Megan’s story provides insight in a “been there-done that” format. Her humor will brighten the darkest days and allow them to search again for the light at the end of the tunnel. And perhaps, most importantly, as it concludes with resounding hope, Who Am I?, will allow many to see “themselves in Megan’s story and give them courage to reach out for help and find healing.

Dying to read it? Here’s the pre-buy link to Who Am I? 
Get it first!