What Kind of Person are You?

heartSometimes, readers ask me why I choose to write about dark topics such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, betrayal, and hypocrisy.

My answer is simple. I don’t know anyone, no matter how much they pretend it to be so, who hasn’t been touched by struggle in some significant way.

So my goal as an author is to explore these human journeys and to remind each reader that we are never alone in our suffering.

I also hope to show readers that recovery is possible, and that faith is the key to healing.

forgiveI’ve been thinking a lot lately about life, love, and the redemptive power of forgiveness. I realize, as Millie points out in Into the Free, that Forgiveness is a heavy word. To forgive someone is never easy, especially when we seem to have been hurt beyond repair. And let’s be honest…who hasn’t?

I know too many people who have been violently attacked, verbally abused, emotionally destroyed, or sexually victimized. I know soldiers who have sacrificed limb (and sometimes life), left their families, entered the battlefield, and returned with wounded body, mind, and spirit.

I also know parents who have lost their children to addiction, wives who have been betrayed by their adulterous husbands, men who have sold their souls to the fantasy of porn, and children whose parents have hurt them in ways too horrific for our imaginations.

Best friends and coworkers betray one another, fractured families carve deep ravines between loved ones, and the race for wealth, fame, or power lead many well-intentioned individuals to corrupt and selfish paths.

But despite all the hurt in this world, here’s what I believe.

  • Honest people trust others.
  • Joyful people love others.
  • Secure people see only the good in others.
  • Selfless people take great risks in order to help others.
  • Genuine people never turn their back on others.
  • Grateful people do not envy others.
  • Kind people do not intentionally hurt others.
  • Humble people celebrate the success of others.

What kind of person are you? Take away all the hurts and scars and protective barriers and now tell me, what kind of person are you REALLY?

Today, I challenge you to trace back through your life and find the true you. The YOU you were born to be before anyone hurt you. I am willing to bet you are honest, joyful, secure, selfless, genuine, grateful, kind, and humble.

Remember, you were born for a reason. Your life is for a purpose and no one has the power to strip you of your destiny.

Today, I am thinking of each of you. I pray you find the strength and the courage to stay the course. I pray you will never lose yourself because of other people’s destructive choices. And I pray that you will always keep in mind this one simple lesson: Love wins.

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If you haven’t yet read Into the Free and When Mountains Move, please check your local library or Indie store for copies near you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Be sure to join us for daily discussions on the Southern Belle View porch, where I blog with the fabulous bestselling author Amy Hill Hearth on Wednesdays.

There, Amy and I gather with 8 other Southern Inspirational authors for lively chats. We offer special giveaways and engage with our readers, so come join the fun!

Duck Dynasty: Is This the Face of Christianity?

love one anotherIt has happened again. A celebrity has made a controversial statement and the world has reacted. This time, the loose tongue belongs to Phil Robertson, whose conservative Louisiana lifestyle has drawn millions of fans through his A&E reality series, Duck Dynasty.

As Christians, we should examine this situation and ask: What does this say about Christianity today?

First, let’s examine the facts.

  1. Phil Robertson was interviewed by GQ. During the interview, Robertson said (brace yourself): “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
  2. When asked to elaborate on what he considers to be sinful behavior, Robertson replied: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there.”
  3. Robertson continued to make inconsiderate comments throughout the interview including his opinion about race relations and other controversial topics.
  4. In reaction to Robertson’s quotes, sponsors reacted and A&E made a public announcement distancing themselves from Robertson’s beliefs.
  5. Robertson issued the following statement to E! News: “I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Now, let’s consider how Robertson’s quotes may have impacted the Christian faith, for both believers and non-believers across the world.

  1. CNN reports that A&E aired the Duck Dynasty show’s fourth season premiere in August, drawing nearly 12 million viewers to become the No. 1 nonfiction series telecast in cable history.
  2. It is logical to assume that at least some of these 12 million viewers look to the Robertson clan as examples of how Christians believe and behave.
  3. Some commenters online have posted: “He is just saying what every Christian believes.”

Is that true? Has Robertson simply voiced what “EVERY” Christian believes?

I do not aim to crucify Robertson for his comments. But because of his platform, many assume he represents the Christian faith as a whole, and as a Christian, that worries me.

Robertson says he strives to bring people to Christ. Unfortunately, I do not believe his current behavior will encourage anyone to discover the power of Christ’s love.

Some may call me a crazed, left-wing liberal who has lost all sight of what is right and wrong. A radical New Age spiritualist who has no understanding of Biblical truths.

Well, to them I say, don’t take it from me. Take it from Jesus of Nazareth, a radical, liberal, Jewish extremist who challenged the hypocrites of His day by reaching out to those the rest of the world had deemed unworthy of kindness and love.

It was this madman, this healer, this teacher, this giver, this Jesus who said: 34A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. — John 13:34-35 (NIV)

This holy season, I pray for the world to know a more compassionate Christianity and for everyone to find comfort and peace in God’s love.

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, the Christy Award winning Book of the Year 2013 and recipient of the 2013 Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, released in September and was chosen as one of LifeWay Christian Stores Best of 2013.

Website: www.juliecantrell.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell

My Response to Steve McSwain’s Six Things

Last week, I read an article in the Huffington Post, Six Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying, by Steve McSwain (Feb. 28, 2013). It had been written by a Christian who challenged the beliefs of many of his fellow believers. I found the article interesting, and while it expressed nothing new, it may have been the first time a Christian voiced those opinions in such a mainstream, and perhaps defiant, way.

I thought others might be interested in reading the piece, so I shared the link on facebook. I share things all the time, things I find inspiring, interesting, or informative, as do many of the people who “friend” me on facebook. I shared the link and then I hit the road, thinking nothing of it.

With our windows down, our radio up, and the sun in sight, our family headed for the hills. We spent most of Spring Break unplugged, hiking remote mountain trails, and feeling incredibly close to God. But when I returned to the world of wifi and facebook, I realized I had left many of you with an article that surged your emotions.

I appreciated reading your reactions to the article, and I can tell many of you put much thought, time, and energy into your responses. For each of you who responded publically, there were many others reading quietly in their living rooms either agreeing or disagreeing with your viewpoints (some of whom contacted me privately to express those views).

I intentionally have not shared my personal beliefs about McSwain’s article. Why? Because they are irrelevant. I was not trying to point out a right way or a wrong way to interpret Christianity, and I certainly wasn’t trying to offend anyone. I was simply sharing another person’s point of view…because I enjoy hearing other opinions, stretching my mind, and exploring different angles. And because many of my friends do, too.

While the author’s tone may have been a bit crass, I honestly don’t think he wrote the article to stir emotions or cause anyone strife. Instead, as Cherise Olson pointed out in her poignant facebook comment…he was highlighting the fact that Christianity encases a large range of beliefs. And that it’s all okay.

Yet, we continue to argue among ourselves.

What happens to a group whose members argue? They eventually split, which is exactly why we have so many different denominations within our Christian faith…and even within those denominations, teachings vary greatly from pulpit to pulpit.

I have been blessed to travel a little in my life. I have lived in many places, attended many churches, and observed many different interpretations of the Bible. Some Christians view their personal interpretation as the only right way, but many of us listen to other viewpoints respectfully, acknowledging we are all trying our best to live a life of faith and to engage actively in spiritual growth.

Like everyone else on this lovely planet, I am flawed beyond description. I have human moods, physical and emotional limitations, and I make mistakes. But I try, every moment of every day, to live in a way that exhibits a deep faith in something larger than myself, a belief that we are each here for a reason, and a trust that this earthly trek is only a small part of our eternal journey.

I don’t seek out reasons to judge others, or to criticize others, or to convince myself I’m better than anyone because of X, Y, or Z. How awful would that be?

It seems that sometimes, people are inclined to find all sorts of reasons why they are better Christians, why they are more worthy of God’s acceptance, why so many people are worse than them. But I have to ask…who are we to judge? When those in the Bible wanted to stone a woman who had committed adultery, Jesus spoke up. He said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 NIV).

Honestly, I believe every single soul on this planet is worthy of God’s love. My job, as a Christian, and as a human being with a heart, is simply to love everyone. EVERYONE.

It is not my job to rate sin, to determine one mistake is worse than another, to categorize human souls in a ranking order of good to bad, or to wage war against those who believe differently than I do. I honestly do not believe that is why any of us are on this rotating globe. I believe we are here to learn. To listen. To love. Without exception.

I have spent thirteen years as a Christian writer. I learned a LONG time ago that writing anything in this arena was likely to cause offense to someone along the way. It’s in our nature to criticize others…which is one of our human flaws we should try to overcome. As Jesus tried to teach during his time on earth, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one” (John 8:15 NIV).

One of my earliest assignments, as contributing editor to a Christian magazine, was to write a monthly activities calendar for moms with young children. One of my suggestions was to engage in mother/child yoga. My editors supported me, but boy did the hate mail stream in.

I was told in every manner of “Christian” expression that I was evil, sinful, and encouraging people to stray from their Christian faith.

I refer to this as one example of how differently people interpret teachings of faith. I happen to believe God is BIGGER than yoga. He’s bigger than whether I cut my hair, wear dresses, or cover my skin. He’s bigger than anything any of us can mentally process, and that is where I place my faith.

If we believe we were created for a purpose, and that we were given the ability to make choices on our own, then nothing…nothing we do as human beings can be shocking to God. He understands more about the human condition than any of us will ever understand, and he loves us anyway. That’s the beauty of God’s grace. That, my friends, is the miracle.

I don’t write this response to argue for or against any interpretations of your faith. I write only with the hope that we can all find a way to acknowledge that we are commanded to love one another. Jesus tells us clearly: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13 34-35 (NIV).

Maybe it really is as simple as that.

Peace to all.

Meet the Gypsies of Spain

Susan-with-lace-cropped-31-222x300I’m excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Susan Nadathur, whose debut novel, City of Sorrows, was just released. You’re one of the first to learn about this beautiful new story set in the Gypsy communities of Spain, and this might just be the first interview posted publicly regarding the book.

JC: Susan, You have a fascinating life. You grew up in a quaint New England community but after graduate school became an ex-Pat and relocated to Spain. There, you fell in love with a man from India, and together, after years of some pretty amazing adventures, you decided to move among the Gypsies of Spain whom you describe as some of the most generous, humble people you’ve ever met. Tell us briefly how you ended up “running away with the Gypsies.”

SN: I often wonder where this journey began. I think God always knew, even though He was not so good about sharing the details with me. But, looking back on my life, the road seems clear. For example, if as a child I had not been bullied, picked on and humiliated, I would not have developed the keen sense of empathy I have for people who are marginalized. And without that compassion, I would not have been profoundly affected by a racist remark targeted at my Indian friend in Spain who was confused for a Gypsy way back when I was a twenty-two-year-old expat living in Seville.

“Gypsies and Moors are not served here,” a Spaniard said before refusing my friend a cup of coffee. That one statement, spat out decades ago in a bar in Seville, became the catalyst for a story of love and loss in the vibrant world of Gypsy Spain—a world I would never have penetrated if I had not felt the sting of isolation, humiliation, and rejection that gave me the unique, unspoken connection to this group of persecuted people.

Several years later, that story finally germinated. I started to write the novel which has become CITY OF SORROWS. But, in order to do justice to the project, I had to return to Spain. And this time, I had to meet and get to know the people whose culture I was writing about. Spanish Gypsies.

The only problem was, I knew that most of the Gypsies in Seville lived in poor, dangerous sectors of the city. My husband knew that too. As well as my pastor. The only way I was going to convince both my husband and pastor that I would be safe in these marginalized areas was by connecting with a Christian church that had ministries in the Gypsy community. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up in a  Pentecostal Gypsy church called Dios Con Nosotros (God with Us), in one of the most sordid sectors of the city (Las Tres Mil Viviendas). And not once did I ever feel unsafe. The congregation embraced me, though kept me at a distance whenever I asked questions about their culture. Too many years of marginalization and oppression had made them wary of foreigners.

But as the weeks went by, and they began to trust me, my experiences began to change. I was invited into homes, into people’s lives. Finally, I was asked to leave the apartment I had rented in Seville and invited to live with Pastor Pepe Serrano and his family in their home on the outskirts of Seville. Once I moved into Pastor Pepe’s home, I no longer had to ask questions. I only had to live as part of a family to understand the people I had been led to write about.

Pepe-Pura-and-Susan-Cropped1-300x242Looking back now, I remember what Pastor Pepe said to me that day I first entered his church.

“God has not brought you here to research your book,” Pastor Pepe said. “He has brought you here to work on you.”

I guess God always knew the plans he had for me. There was a reason I was me.

JC: You are not only fluent in Spanish, you have created a successful business teaching Spanish to medical professionals and have published several books on this topic. It’s clear you have spent your life working to promote cross-cultural understanding. What do you consider the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain? What are their struggles?

SN: I think the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain right now is the transformation that is occurring because of Spanish Gypsy evangelism. Negative behaviors historically associated with Gypsies, such as vagrancy, theft, violence, revenge and tribal feuding, are being modified and corrected with conversions to Christ.

From “gypping” someone out of their money, to truancy and laziness, to admonishment for being unhygienic, to retaliation and revenge, the standard image of the Spanish Gypsy is cloaked in negative stereotyping. The Gypsy has come to symbolize everything that modern-day, industrialized societies reject as immoral and inefficient. But that image is changing from the only place where change is meaningful – from within.

A remarkable phenomenon is occurring that is changing the face of the Spanish Gypsy: Pentecostal evangelism. As thousands of Gypsies convert to Christ, their slogan has become:

 

Antes los gitanos iban con cuchillos y quimeras.

Ahora llevamos la Biblia, la palabra verdadera.

Before the Gypsies went with knives and quarrels into battle.

Now we take the Bible, God’s True and Holy Word.

For more on this subject, here’s a link to an article I wrote for EMQ Online titled “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies.” https://www.dropbox.com/s/nusbzyrmnk48sku/Waiting%20on%20Dibel.pdf?m

  • “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies” was originally published in the April 2011 issue of EMQ (www.emqonline.com). Reprinted with permission. Not to be reproduced or republished without permission.

As far as their struggles, Spanish Gypsies have much to overcome. Poverty is rampant, Work inconsistent (A large number of Spanish Gypsies make their living as itinerant street vendors, a way of life that has been severely affected by the economic crisis that has plagued Spain since 2008). Drugs and crime threaten the world in which many Gypsies live. And attitudes toward education sometimes limit them from exploring options outside of what is familiar to them as a group of people living as part of, while at the same time separated from Spanish culture. And of course, there still exists a subtle level of (sometimes self-imposed) social marginalization from mainstream Spanish society as well as the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. You will still see the beggar sitting in front of a church, or the fortune teller stalking the outside of the Cathedral for unsuspecting foreigners ready to part with their money for a Tarot spread or palm reading. But, the positive news is that change is coming, slowly but surely to the Spanish Gypsies.

CITYofSORROWSfinaldigitalCOVER-660x1024JC: Because you are a writer, you have documented some of the stories you’ve witnessed during your adventures. Tell us a bit about this project and how your real life influences your fiction.

SN: CITY OF SORROWS (release date December 2012) is the story of a young Spanish Gypsy, Diego Vargas, and his journey from the shackles of grief to the obsession of revenge, to the miracle that is love after loss. Young Diego lives with his family on the Southside of Seville, in what is basically a Gypsy ghetto. Just turned nineteen, he is recently married, madly in love, expecting his first child, and completely unaware that his life is about to come crashing down around him. On a dark road outside the city of Seville, Diego must find the courage to face death, the strength to survive it, and the power to hold onto his humanity while both his mind and his will scream against it.

The seeds for this novel were sown many years ago, when I first lived in Spain. But for a long time, those seeds remained dormant. When I finally sat down to write the book, I was all revved up and ready to whip this story into shape. Just “write what you know,” I thought. Well, yes and no. I had NO idea what I had gotten myself into. Surprise, surprise, sitting down to write a novel actually meant acquiring some new skills. Like characterization, plotting, pacing and so many other things I had simply taken for granted.

After writing what was basically a fictionalized account of my life with my Indian friend in Seville, I soon realized that if I wanted this story be of interest to anyone except my immediate family, I had better start studying the craft, and then, start rewriting. As I went through the process of a second draft, I started seeing some subtle changes. My protagonist, who had some pretty obvious character traits of that Indian friend I had met in Spain, started taking a back seat to his fictional best friend, Diego Vargas. And then it seemed as if Diego wanted to write his own story. When that happened, I convinced a lot of people that I needed to abandon my home for a while and go live with the Gypsies in Seville. There was no way Diego was going to hijack the story without me doing my research.

Many of the scenes in the novel are based on my experiences living among the Gypsies. I have tried to be faithful to the reality of their world without either glamorizing it or condemning it. Like in real life, my novel has both good and bad Gypsies. Good and bad Spaniards. And yes, there is a strong Indian presence offered through one of the supporting characters, Rajiv Kumaran. Rajiv is Diego’s philosophical friend from India, the man who helps him to work his way out of the darkness of despair and into the light. And yes, I admit it, Rajiv does have a strong likeness to that Indian friend from Spain who later became my husband.

JC: Finally, I’m intrigued by your efforts to help young adults cope with bullying by celebrating their differences. You even offer a blogsite for such teens. Tell us about these efforts.

SN: I have always enjoyed young people, especially those who don’t quite “fit in.” I currently volunteer at the local high school in Lajas, Puerto Rico, where I live. I work with the students both individually and in a group setting, where I encourage them to express themselves in writing. Many of these students feel isolated or “different” from their more popular peers. They all have been labeled something, from “Goth” to “Nerd” to other more offensive titles. And up until recently, they have, for the most part, kept silent. I have been working with them to help them find their voices.

The students and I have formed a group called Vox Occulta which translates to “hidden voice.” The students have written poems, stories, and rap songs about their lives, learning about themselves in the process. Many of these stories are posted on my blog www.susannadathur.com.

These young people have made a mark on my life. And like the Gypsies, they have influenced my writing. My next novel-in-progress is for young adults. You can’t spend so much time with young people without being influenced by them. They are a wonderful addition to my life.

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SUSAN NADATHUR is a widely-traveled writer, teacher, and self-proclaimed “outsider” from Connecticut who lives on-and-off in Spain with an extended family of Gypsies in Seville. A registered nurse with a Masters degree in Spanish, Susan teaches language and cultural diversity workshops to childbirth and healthcare professionals, and has authored several books on Spanish language acquisition and cross-cultural communication. City of Sorrows (Azahar Books, 2012) is her debut novel. She lives with her husband, a philosophical scientist from India, and their daughter in Lajas, Puerto  Rico. Visit the author online at www.susannadathur.com.

That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing (guest Nancy Rue & Giveaway)

I’m so excited to introduce y’all to one of the coolest authors I know –, the incredible Nancy Rue. I’m honored to be a part of Nancy’s blog hop this week, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning all about this fabulous Harley chick and her newest release, Too Far to Say Far Enough.

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What a delight it is to bring my community of “Nudgees” to yours here on Julie’s blog. After endorsing Julie’s book, Into the Free (amazing) and getting to know her a little via email and Facebook, I’m thinking you’re a lot like we are: people who feel nudged by God and need the company of folks who won’t think we’re crazy – or will accept us if they do.

toofartosayenough3D400pxYou are the fourth stop on our hop, and I have to say that “hop” is really too “fluffy” a word for what we’ve been about, which is the asking of the hard-to-deal-with –questions that come with being a Christian. They’re the ones addressed in the trilogy of fiction novels The Reluctant Prophet – and there is probably none more sticky than today’s. Here it is:

What about the whole ‘unequally yoked’ thing? Should you even consider a partner who isn’t where you are spiritually? 

That would be an easy question to answer if the partner under consideration were in the Gomer category – you know, that “bad boy” who oozes sexuality and very little else. Our answer would be like the one we’d give a teenage girl who wanted to “minister to” the hot kid with the juvenile record. Someone told me recently that’s called “Missionary Dating.” I love that!

But it isn’t an easy one to answer in a situation like the one protagonist Allison Chamberlain finds herself in. The man she struggles not to fall in love with is “Chief,” a Harley-riding attorney with more integrity than any three of your average men put together  and a heart bigger than the engine of his Road King and a life that looks so much like the one Jesus led it’s uncanny. Except that he isn’t an official Christian.

In fact, Chief tells Allison early on that he respects her faith but he can’t go there. And then he keeps acting like Jesus. In time he comes around to believing in God again, but as he says to Allison, he isn’t ready to go into the pond (you have to read Unexpected Dismounts to understand that). Then he goes on acting even more like Jesus. How is Allison not to continue to fall more deeply in love with him?

When a proposal is imminent, Allison turns desperately to her mentor, Hank D’Angelo, with this very question: “Do I go ahead and marry him if I’m not totally sure we’re on the same spiritual page?”

Hank could have pointed Allison to Paul. He was, after all, wonderful at bringing people into the body and showing them how to make a life in Christ as easy as possible on themselves. But instead she does what she usually does and what Jesus so often does. She asks another question: “Have you talked to him about it?”

If we’re insistent that an equal yoke has to consist of two people who can pinpoint the day and time they gave their lives to Christ and have been faithful churchgoers and tithers ever since, then that question does us no good. I know some amazing couples who have that kind of yoked-ness and it’s beautiful.

I, however, don’t.

My husband was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and was quite devout as a young boy, until the day his mother was dropping him off at parochial school and he looked at the kids going into the school at the Presbyterian Church next door and asked his mom, “So if what I’m being taught is true, all those kids are going to hell?” When she couldn’t quite answer that, he knew that Catholicism wasn’t for him. He never gave up God, though. When we met and fell in love, I was captured not only by his wit and warmth and overall cuteness, but by the way he lived out his values. I saw God in his soul and I married him.

I have always gone to church and there have been marvelous seasons in our life together when we’ve been involved in a particular church together. We’ve taught Sunday school as a team, been youth group advisors more than once, gone on missions trips as team leaders. Most of our lasting relationships with other people have come out of our church experiences. Several years ago, however, when the church we were part of became toxic and the members turned on each other, my husband said, “Y’know, I think I’m done with the church. I’ll support you in whatever you want to do but I can’t do it anymore.”

I didn’t insist that we find a church together. I found one and I’m happy there. More than happy. I miss him sitting next to me, though. Of course I wish he were. There are in fact things I don’t participate in because he’s not. And at times I wondered, “Is he still talking to God? Is he okay spiritually?”

After I wrote Hank’s words, “Have you talked to HIM about it?”, I thought, well., um, no, I actually haven’t.

So I did. His answers are between the two of us, but what they showed me is that this question goes beyond who we’re “yoked” to and into our assessments of who’s Christian and who’s not, something we touched on a couple of posts ago.

Why do we make these assessments and judgments about how Christian is Christian enough without getting to know the people in question?

What are the signs we absolutely have to see in order to know, okay, that’s a Christian? Do those signs keep us from having a conversation that could tell us so much more?

And is it up to us to see those signs before we can say, “Oh, yeah. Definitely a believer.”

Absolutely we have to know that if marriage is part of the equation. But these questions of an “is this okay?” nature go far deeper than what’s “legal” for Christians. Allison and Chief’s situation raises more than the issue of being unequally yoked. It asks each one of us: what does a Christian look like to God? Now there’s a question I could hop to.

I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.
I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.

Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and The Reluctant Prophet which received a Christy award in 2011. Nancy travels extensively-at times on the back of a Harley Davidson-speaking and teaching to groups of `tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin’ husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)

Now what you have probably been waiting for…winning books!  Nancy’s publisher, David C. Cook, is giving away:

  • Reluctant Prophet series (3 books) to 10 winners
  • PLUS 10 copies of Reluctant Prophet to each winner’s recipient of choice

Nancy will personally sign each book as well as include a letter with Reluctant Prophet to your person of choice.  Visit here for the Rafflecopter entry form and official rules.

If you are joining the hop mid-way through and not sure where to go, here are all the stops for each day.  That way you are able to maximize your entries into the giveaway, as well as capture Nancy’s heart as she wrote this series:

Monday: Nancy Rue, The Nudge “What Hank Says . . . About Leaving the Pew”
Tuesday: Mocha With Linda “Will the “Real” Christians Please Stand Up?”
Wednesday: Jen Hatmaker “When the Nudge Drives a Wedge”
Thursday: Julie Cantrell “That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing
Friday: Far From Perfect MaMMa “Is It Worth Having a Record?”

If you would like to connect with Nancy, she can be found here:

Website: www.nancyrue.com
facebook (adult fans): www.facebook.com/nnrue
facebook (for teen fans): www.facebook.com/nnrueforteens
twitter: www.twitter.com/nnue
pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nnrue
In addition to Nancy’s blog, The Nudge, (for her adult audience), she also has a blog for teens (In Real Life) and for tweens (Tween You and Me)

What One Modern-Day Slave Says about Literacy, and How You Can Help

Today, I’m doing something I never do as a blogger…I’m copying my friend, Lisa Wingate’s blogpost for you to read. It’s posted today at http://www.southernbelleview.blogspot.com I encourage you to visit her there to leave comments, and I hope her story inspires you to learn more about Make Way Partners. Lisa’s original post follows as part of our combined efforts through Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012:

Each year, Shellie  researches a worthy opportunity for giving. This year, she has selected an amazing rescue foundation called Make Way Partners, which (among many other anti-human-trafficking efforts that you can read about here) supports a secure compound providing home, hope, medical care, and education to nearly 600 children in one of the most troubled regions of the world, Sudan.

Currently, the New Life Ministry Primary School offers education to young children who have been rescued from slavery, who would have had no hope of education or a future.  As the children in the program have grown up, the need for a high school has developed, so that the New Life School can continue its mission.

You can read more about the high school by clicking here.

To bring all of this down to human level, let me share a memory that’s close to my heart, as a writer and a reader.

A Human Trafficking Story Years ago, as part of a journalism assignment, I interviewed a tiny woman who looked like she might have been nearing her hundredth birthday, but who, in reality, was probably only in her sixties. She was arthritic, stooped, and less than five feet tall, but large in spirit.  The biggest thing about here were long, gray, dreadlocks. She had come to America on a boat as a child, probably from Haiti, but there was no way of knowing, as the adult who was with her had died. She was sold by human traffickers into virtual slavery in the sugarcane fields of far South Florida, where she worked for many years.

Due to the poverty, illiteracy, and illegal immigration in this remote location, farm owners were easily able to convince workers that if they attempted to run away, they would be hunted down and thrown in prison.  Like many others, she had worked throughout her childhood and well into adulthood, enduring miserable, hopeless conditions in the cane fields.  Finally, she saved bits of food and found the courage to run away during the chaos of the seasonal burning of the fields.

After years of living among the homeless population on the streets of various towns and cities, always on the run from one place to the next, she ended up at a shelter, where among other things, she learned to read. The day I interviewed her, I had the chance to go next door to the library, and the listen while she told folktales to the children and read to them from children’s books.  Her joy in this simple task was magnificent to behold.

The thing that stuck with me the most about her was her description of the gift of literacy.  She said, “It is as if the whole world is filled with line-pictures [written words].  And everyone around you can look at the line-pictures and see a tree, or a horse, or directions like stop or go. But you look, and all you can see are lines. You are not able to do this one thing that even small children can do. It is as if you are not even human. It is as if you are only a dog, walking on four legs, lower than everyone else. And then one day someone teaches you to understand the line-pictures for yourself, and suddenly you can walk into the world on two feet.”

When I read about the school in Sudan, my first thought was of this tiny, inspiring woman I met so long ago, and her description of the power and dignity of education.  We take it for granted in this country.  We complain about it, even.  But education is a tremendous gift.  Every child deserves it, and so do these precious Sudanese children, who have endured so much in their short lives.

They deserve, like that sweet little woman in the mission shelter, to walk into the world on two feet.

How to Help Storm Victims

Today I am thankful for people who reach out to help those in need after major catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. I’m a Mississippi girl who spent my entire childhood in Louisiana, so while we in the South were lucky to escape Sandy’s wrath this week, we certainly understand the trauma people experience during such an event.
I’m happy to learn Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012 is recognizing the need to support those closest to home (in addition to sponsoring Make Way Partners). If you’re wondering how you can “reach out” to those who have lost their homes or loved ones from Sandy’s surge, CNN offers a list of ways to help, including links to Charity evaluators like Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
Thanks for all you do to make the world a better place.
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