I found the best Bible verse this week. I love it when the people in the Bible jump off the pages and do something so human and so real that I know exactly how they are feeling. The Bible is a very honest book. And here is a bit of Honesty from everybody's favorite hero, Moses.

Exodus 5:22-23--"Moses returned to the Lord and said, 'O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all."

Everyone was yelling at Moses. No one was listening to him. God had not come through the way He'd said He would. I think Moses was angry and hurt and disenchanted. But looking back a few thousand years at his pain, we can trivialize it. God comes through, in His own way. Just hang on Moses, don't you know that you're one of the heroes of the faith?

Yes, Moses was heroic. He answered God's call and went before the most powerful man in the world and looked like a fool to all of Egypt and his very own people. And eventually, after the plagues had meticulously rendered Egypt and everything the Egyptians thought was true about their gods in shambles, eventually everyone saw Moses as a hero.

But this prayer wasn't written then. It was lifted up when Moses was a stuttering outlaw, who had come out of hiding to insult Pharaoh and infuriate his own people.

If you follow God long enough, you will arrive at this moment. Everything falling to pieces, God not acting like we thought He would, and a moment of darkness arrives when all you want to do is give up and die.

God is different than we thought. But He is here and He is good and He works with the kind of careful power that can shatter a soul and change everything we thought we knew about ourselves. Sometimes it takes everything you have just to let the tears fall and pray: "Help, help, help, help...I really don't understand! Please help!!!" But He comes, in His own way, in His own time, and He walks the darkness with us and brings light from impossible situations and wretchedness.

God is like that.

Something that Moses eventually found out. But I'm so glad that his doubts were recorded for us, because it helps to see that our heroes were just the same as us. It gives us hope, that maybe God can use us too.
A long time a galaxy far far away...I was a teenage girl. I was also a camp counselor and the camp I worked at required one piece swimsuits for the girl staff. Then one year the director relented and allowed us to wear modest two pieces. The wave of joy that swept through the ranks of the girl counselors was palpable. Perhaps a similar wave swept through the ranks of the boy counselors as well, I do not know. But anyway, back to the story.

I promptly rushed to my parents and began a political campaign of enthusiastic support for the modest two piece. After enduring many passionate petitions my parents informed me that the decision was mine to make.

This I had not expected.

I was hoping that they would make the decision. "Yes, Kristen. I believe that two piece swim suits are spiritually uplifting and that you should rush out immediately and purchase one at all speed." But that is not what I got. They left it up to me.

I had recently tried on a friend's two piece and knew that I would look totally awesome. I was young and I exercised regularly and had an hourglass figure. What more consideration was required.

I began to stew and fret.

Now that the decision was my own, I wondered about strange and foreign concepts such as right and wrong, beneficial and destructive, distracting and helpful. What to do? What to do?

I firmly believe that a two piece swimsuit can be modest and is not in and of itself an evil thing. I purchased two for myself several years later when I embarked upon my honeymoon. But when I was at my absolute prime in the body department. The year that I so desperately wanted to spread my wings and turn a few heads. I decided to purchase a one piece.

I did not make this decision for my brothers-in-Christ. Although perhaps I should have been more considerate of their struggles.

Nope, I chose a one piece because of my sisters.

Because I remembered. I remembered being that bumbling twelve-year-old in pink thrift-store slacks and homemade polyester overalls. I remember being laughed at and compared against my thinner more fashion conscious peers. I remembered that ache in my chest as the older girls that I admired sashayed by in their bikini's turning heads and making me feel like a lumpy little germ. I remembered comparing and hurting and feeling less then everyone else.

And that year I took a cold hard look at my body and knew that I had what it took. I knew that I was in a position to sashay with the best of them and the camp leadership had granted me the right to do so. But what about my sisters?

What about the little girls who hadn't grown into their bodies yet and just wanted to melt into the floor every time a beautiful girl pranced by? What about my friends who struggled with their weight? I had a chance to become one of the very creatures who had wounded me. I had a chance to stomp right past that sad, hurting, little girl that I had been and prove to everyone that I was beautiful. But what about the next generation of little girls who were in that same fragile place?

Sometimes a decision is not about whether doing something is a sin. Sometimes making a decision requires one to look at the people that God has placed around you and thinking of them first. Sometimes one must stop worrying about what is right and just try to do what is best. Life is so confusing, because what God wants me to do is not always what God wants you to do. But He walks among us and He sees us. Our Lord will guide you if you ask. He has for me, even about the little things like swimwear.

Hebrews 12:1--"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

OK, you guys. Crystal invited me to be a part of this blog years ago. I've enjoyed the writing. But, as of yet, have not had the chance to enjoy being published. That is about to change. I recently signed a contract for my first book. A novella in Pelican Book Group's Passport to Romance series. Now, I have just gotten a peek at my first book cover in the mail. I wanted to share, but for some reason this site has stopped allowing me to post pictures. So I'll share a link. Here goes...

Kristen's Cover for "Copenhagen Cozenage"

I've zipped through several dramatic literary moments lately. The courtroom scene in To Kill A Mockingbird, Sage the orphan facing down the pirates in The Runaway King, and Joseph the dreamer, snotty privileged son, slave, and ruler watching his brothers bow before him begging for food.

That is a whole lot of drama.

Even though I only intended to read one chapter out of my Bible, I kept going. I had to finish the story of Joseph and his brothers. Because it was all so real. He was a young and arrogant boy. They almost killed him, but sold him into a life of toil instead. Joseph sought God and struggled for years in servitude. He rose to power and saw the day when those who had hated him were weak and ignorant of his identity, kneeling before him hungry and desperate. And he was mad and hurt and curious. Had they treated his little brother with the same wrathfulness and scorn?

Joseph tested them with a terrible trial. They had to drag Benjamin to Egypt or starve. And then Benjamin was arrested and his brothers had a choice. Escape and let Benjamin be punished in Egypt, or sacrifice themselves for him and their father who would never recover from such a loss. Judah offered himself up for Benjamin and Joseph wept. He sent the Egyptians away and revealed himself to his brothers, his most hated enemies, his family.

They shook with terror and He forgave them.

Genesis 45:4, 5--"Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.' When they had done so, he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.'"

Because the years of oppression and prison took an arrogant young man and showed him God. Joseph learned a terrible and beautiful lesson. One that I am not sure I can truly grasp. A truth that has been dancing about me all my life, just out of reach.

The world is full to the brim with terrible things. Terrible things that God did not invent. Hate, jealousy, slavery, rape, murder, favoritism, poverty, torture, revenge...we have brought all of this into God's perfect world. God brought us mountains and oceans, sunlight upon fresh snow and twin fawns hidden in a bed of grass, songbirds and cougar, the rippling power of the Kodiak bear, the fragile beauty of chicks hatching in a tiny nest in the back yard. He made beauty and we filled it with the terrible stench of our sin.

He gave us life. We gave God crap and then have the incredible arrogance to blame Him for the horror of it. But God can do amazing things with our crap.

Joseph knew this. He saw his brother's hate and his own arrogance. And he saw God accomplish amazing things with the dreadful ingredients that Joseph and his family provided. Joseph saw this, and then he forgave.

Dear Lord, give me the grace to do the same.

I'm reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time. I don't read a lot of literary fiction. But every year my best friend and I pick something for the other one to read. She loves literature and I love adventure. This is how I made it through Catcher in the Rye, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Fault in Our Stars. And this is how she has become knowledgeable of such literary adventures as Artemis Fowl, Inkheart, and Twilight.

I just finished reading that chilling scene where the mob of townsfolk has lead the sheriff away into the woods and then gathered to force their way past Atticus Finch and kill the prisoner. Scout bumbles into the group of men, not understanding, chatting away, unaware. I swear my heart stopped as I read. But Atticus Finch stands solid by what he believes, even though the town around him sees his compassion and dedication as a sin.

I wasn't sure what to write about today. Did I learn anything, Lord? I prayed. Have I seen anything new about You this week? What should I say? Nothing came to mind. So I cleaned the house a little, made some coffee, and sat down to read.

Of course the book reminded me of Him. To Kill A Mockingbird brings to mind a stern and terrible Bible story I have written about before. It haunts and hounds me, because it has danced just outside my ability to understand for so many years.

The story of the prophet and the lion. I Kings chapter thirteen tells the tale. A prophet hears from the Lord: "Go, curse this alter but don't stop along the way". The prophet curses the alter, performs a miracle, resists temptation to eat with the king, and heads home. Then an older prophet hops out of the bushes and tells the young prophet that God told him to invite him in for a tasty snack. Young prophet stops for a snack with the old prophet. Suddenly God speaks to old prophet and tells him that the young prophet disobeyed by stopping and will die. He informs the young prophet. The young prophet finishes his snack, goes on his way, and is mauled by a lion. Old prophet drags the young prophet's body home and buries him, saying to himself: "If only the dummy had just listened to God, he would be alive today."

Wow, that story always stops me dead in my tracks. What a mean trick. It even says right there in the Bible that the old prophet was lying to him. Why is that story even in the Bible. It always makes me so mad.

What was Atticus Finch dealing with? He had to choose between doing the right thing (that could ruin him and his family) or doing the wrong thing (which everyone in town said was the Christian thing to do). I think that is why this terrible story is in the Bible. Because God knew what we would be up against. He knew that there might come a time when what He wanted us to do and what everyone around us thinks is right, is not the same. We live for Him and Him alone.

That is what I was reminded of today. It is so amazing, that when I am scrambling for words, God supplies me with something to think about and something to say. Thank you Lord, for teaching me something after all.
I am reading the conclusion to one of my very favorite series. It is about a book. A book that a reader has brought to life. A book where ordinary people have become trapped behind its pages.

I came to the passage where the writer of Inkheart (the book) and the protagonist are waiting for a giant to appear. The writer wrote up a passage to call him into being and the girl reads it, bringing the words to life.

"'Aha! Here he is at last! Fabulous!' Fenoglio appeared behind Meggie so suddenly that she almost stumbled off the branch where she was standing. 'Yes, we know our craft, you and I! I wouldn't say a word against your father, but in my view you're the true mistress of this art. You're still child enough to see the pictures behind the words as clearly as only children can. Which is probably why this giant doesn't look at all the way I imagined him.'
'But I didn't imagine him like this, either,' Meggie said in a whisper, as if any loud word might attract the giant's attention."-- Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke p. 527-528

There is that tingling chill when you realize that this massive creature has come to frighten their enemies, all because of the magic of words written and read. But an even deeper mystery haunts the reader. The author didn't imagine the giant as a great chameleon who changed to match his surroundings and had the round round eyes of a lizard. Nor did the girl who read the words and called him to come to their aid. The world inside the book is more real than either of them imagined. It has a mind of its own and moves and breathes and grows in ways that neither of them can comprehend.

Thus is the power of story.

But this isn't just about the mystery of story, but of mystery and wonder and awe in and of themselves. Each new nature show I watch. Every photo and book I see. Life is full of amazing things. Did you know that wild oat seeds will actually walk across the ground until they find soft soil? They use the heat and cold to move themselves. Did you know that the Mantis Shrimp moves so quickly it can break aquarium glass and sees more colors than any other creature known to man? Have you ever watched a chick coming out of his shell? Did you know he will be damaged if you help him too much? He needs the struggle.

Just as the book Inkheart was more than pages and ink, our God and His world are more than we thought. Each new day proves that to me. And so when Meggie and Fenoglio saw the giant. The chill of amazement that swept through me was partially because of the story, and the power of story in general. But it also pulled my heart toward God and that chill of wonder that I have, every time I realize that He is more.

Job 38:4-7--"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"
So I ran across a new name for God this morning. You wouldn't think anything could be new. I've read through my Bible many many times. But that is the miracle, right? There is always something new.

Genesis 31:42--"If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you"

The Fear of Isaac.

When would Isaac have felt that great and awesome fear of God? One particular story comes to mind doesn't it. He hikes up the mountain with his elderly father. And the man who loves him more than any other, ties his son to the stones and raises the knife to heaven, about to plunge it down. Isaac was a strong young man, yet he allowed his father to do this. Why? Several possibilities occurred to me. He loved his father. He feared the wrath of God. Maybe some of both. But then what happened? In that terrible moment of personal darkness, as Isaac prepared himself to feel the blade cut his life short, God spoke. God spoke on that mountain and stopped death and provided a ram. It had to be the most violent and terrifying moment in this favored son's life. And God walked right through the middle of it.

The Fear of Isaac.

Not only did God shake Isaac's world until the foundations trembled and threatened to shatter, God's actions that day changed generations. Jacob, the schemer, the tricksy and conniving son remembered his father's story. And when his father-in-law chased him down on the road, what did Jacob call God.

The Fear of Isaac.

But isn't this how we are? If I look back over my journey with God, there are many beautiful moments to recall. My wedding day. Holding my newborn babies. Watching my sons walk down the dirt road at camp in the shadows of a summer evening beside their father while the crickets sing and the sun sinks low. But for God and I, it is those terrible moments that I hold dear. On my knees on the oil-soaked plywood floor of the generator shed, doing CPR on my Dad, not knowing he was already dead. Postpartum depression and that panic attack when my second born was just a few days old. That Saturday I cried for hours and never figured out why. Sitting with my mother while my step dad died of cancer, listening to those last terrible fighting breaths. Apologizing to my children, "Momma should not have yelled at you, I was disobeying God". Watching a river of heartbroken campers come through camp and then go home, knowing that they are walking back to Hell itself. Why in the world would these terrible moments be dear? Because at those times, I had nothing else. Nothing but Him.

The Fear of Isaac.

I think I understand. In the wretched dark. God showed up. Terrible and beautiful and strong. God came and showed His love. Ah Sovereign Lord, thank you for coming to me as well. Even in the darkness. Especially in the darkness. Thank you.