Stand Up to Bullying!

The Tormentors were waiting for him after school.

Brad Evans, Shane Banister and Cole Smith surrounded him the moment he stepped outside.  He tried to dodge around them but they blocked his escape and Brad hip-checked Tim into the side of the school building, while at the same time slamming his head against the brick.  Tim grunted as the air was knocked out of him and he felt dizzy and sick.

“Freak!” Brad spat at Tim. “You’ll always be a freak!”

Cole knocked Tim’s backpack out of his hand and Shane kicked it like a football into a snow bank.

Tim cringed as Brad raised a fist to strike him again in the face.  He closed his eyes expecting the punch to land when suddenly he heard a deep voice snarl, “Not on MY watch, mister!”

(excerpt from my novel, “Love the Wounded“)

As most of my readers know, my two previous books, Shoot the Wounded and Heal the Wounded are listed as resources on the largest anti-bullying website in the world  as is my third book.  My young adult books have a strong anti-bullying message running throughout them.  Heal the Wounded even won a Bronze medal in the 2011 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards.  As much as I am delighted with the accolades, the real reward for me is if in reading my books people will get the anti-bullying message that my books are trying to convey and say, “Not on my watch!” and stand up to bullying in their school, university, or work place.

Today is “Pink Day” in my home town.  All students are encouraged to wear pink to show support for the victims of bullying and to publically say that they are standing up to bullying.  bullying_stops_here1

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”   (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Go Ahead and Write!

One of the young ladies in my creative writing class is an avid writer.  She has a hunger for expressing herself on pen and paper and she is eager to write her first book.  She is an avid reader too.  The thing is, as much as she loves to write, she is already asking the question so many young people ask at her age…can she make a “living” out of writing?  Eeeeeeek!

Since going on this writing, publishing journey after writing my Wounded Trilogy books, I am still coming to terms with what it means to sell and market books.  I’m convinced that there are spectacular writers out there but so very, very few who actually make it “big” in the industry.  For all intents and purposes, the industry is a very, very discouraging place for would-be novelists.  I read somewhere that traditional publishers only publish 2% of manuscripts that are sent to them.  That means they turn 98% of authors away.  Certainly a few of those authors are those who have vastly over-estimated their writing ability.  (Ever watch American Idol?  Some of those people who can’t carry a tune are actually shocked to be told they can’t sing.  Well the same holds true for writers.  Some people were just never meant to write.)

That said, traditional publishing houses are in the business to make money.  They know what kinds of books are popular and what will sell immediately.  It’s not only who you know in the business, it’s what you know about the business that will determine whether or not a traditional publishing house will even look at you.  An author who thinks they have the next Great Gatsby novel is seventy-five years behind the times.  It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to see that anything paranormal right now is hot, hot, hot.  An author also needs to research what books are popular in their chosen genre.  For example, I write young adult novels.  When I go to my local bookstore I know that any book written by Suzanne Collins or Rick Riordan are selling fast, fast, fast.  I write Christian young adult novels.  Haley DiMarco and Ted Dekker are at the top of the reading lists here.  It doesn’t mean that new authors have to write exactly the same kinds of books as Collins, Riordan, DiMarco or Dekker write.  I mean, you have to stay true to yourself, but it shouldn’t come as a shock either that a traditional publishing house may reject your “unique” novel when you’re swimming in the same publishing stream as those best-selling authors.

So why write?

I have been writing since I was in elementary school.  I had amazing teachers who encouraged me to write.  I never thought I would actually have one of my stories published.  I didn’t write to become published (although I know that to be the goal for many a writer).  No,…I wrote because I just LOVED to write.  It’s a form of expressing myself.  My biology teacher in high school signed my yearbook “To the only literary biologist I know!”  When I handed in an essay, in any subject area except Math, my teachers could expect a treatise that Tolstoy would be proud of.

I would say I am “driven” to write.  It’s part of who I am.  I am called by God to write and so I write.  I told my husband when my book, Shoot the Wounded, was published that if one person read it and liked it, I would be happy.  Well, God has greatly blessed that effort!

For me, writing has become an expression of praise and worship to God.  He has gifted me with this talent so every time I write, I am praising Him with my gift.  So I say, to all my young writer friends out there, go ahead and write!  If God has called you to write, go for it!  Write for the sheer enjoyment of writing, and write to glorify the One who gave you the talent and the ability to write!

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

Did you catch that last part?  “…strengthen you in every good deed and word.

That should be a great encouragement to all those writers out there.

Searing Loss

This past week, I have received emails from several people who have read the passages I posted on Grief a while back.  Truly, when I read their pain of searing loss, I am struck by how there are never enough comforting words to say to those who grieve.

Certainly, our Lord suffered loss.  It gives me comfort to know that God is in control, even in our grief, God is the Great Comforter and He will give us a peace that surpasses understanding.  I don’t know how people survive overwhelming grief without Him.

If you or you know of someone who may be grieving, please read and share these scripture verses:

…and listen to the comforting words of this song.

Matthew 5:4  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”





Where’s the Peace?

It is so hard these days to watch the news.  I come away so overwhelmed by the sad events of the day, violence in the middle east, terrorist cells in Africa, plane crashes, shootings and all manners of heartache that permeate the media.  Some days I don’t want to listen to world news because truly there is no “Good News”.

Here in Canada, the Supreme Court has now allowed for doctor-assisted suicide to be legal.  It’s a slippery slope when we allow euthanasia to be legal.  Certainly they say there will be set “guidelines” in place to discourage abuse.  It’s almost laughable…guidelines on what criteria must be in place in order for someone to take the life of someone else.  What ever happened to “Thou shalt not kill”?

We live in a crazy world.

It is hard to believe that God is in control when everything suggests that we live in an out of control world.  I wonder if He has abandoned us to our vices and sin and is just waiting for us to destroy ourselves so He can come in after-the-fact and start over.  He’d be justified.

Where’s the peace?

One of my most popular blog posts is a list of 25 Encouraging Bible Verses to give you peace.  It is perused thousands of times every single day!  There are so many people who are feeling the weight of the world, so to speak, on their shoulders.  Many are carrying heavy burdens as some of their comments testify to.  They are crying out for peace!  It seems almost too simplistic to say, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  ( Peter 5:7) but HE DOES!

God does not promise that we will be free of troubles, in fact He promises that we WILL have troubles but in the midst of those troubles He promises to give us peace…a peace that surpasses understanding.






Femme Fatales

Queen Vashti, for all intents and purposes, was the most beautiful woman in all of Persia.  She was married to the powerful King Xerxes who denied her nothing.  She had all the clothes, jewellery, and riches that any woman could ever want or desire.  In the third year of her husband’s reign, Xerxes decided to throw a party, and not just any ordinary party either; “For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.” (Esther 1:4)  Then he decided to end the party with a great banquet in the palace garden.  The banquet lasted seven days!  All the nobles and princes from the surrounding kingdom were invited and “wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality.  By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.” (vs. 7-8)

In the meantime, Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace.  I’m thinking it was a slightly more subdued gathering but no less interesting.  If you’ll allow a little speculation on my part, it was like a great “Girls Week Out” and although it’s not stated in scripture they probably spent a lot of time talking makeup and clothes because it does state later that any woman considered “wife material” for the King “had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” (2:12)  So I’m guessing they spent most of their time giving themselves pedicures and facials, eh?

On the seventh day, the last day of one of the greatest parties that he had ever thrown in his life, “when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine” (vs 10), he commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him “wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at”.  (1.11)  (That’s sort of a given after all the time and energy these ladies put into making themselves beautiful!)

But Scripture says she refused to come and well, do you blame her?

The King and all his party-animal friends had been drinking and carousing for six months and then been on a real “bender” for seven days straight.  When scripture says that the King was in “high spirits”, that was probably a huge under-statement!  It is safe to say that he and his buddies were well spifflicated.  Now I’m just guessing, but I don’t think I’m wrong, Queen Vashti had a feeling that showing up amongst those men dressed only in her golden crown may not be the most prudent thing to do under those circumstances.  So Queen Vashti wisely refused to come to the party…

…But it cost her.  Scripture says that “the king became furious and burned with anger” (vs. 12) because the King and all those other noble husbands thought that she would instigate some kind of feministic uprising amongst the other wives if they heard about her disobedience and perceived disrespect of Xerxes.

The King decided he had to put a stop to this feministic bra burning and forthwith issued a royal proclamation that “every man should be ruler over his own household” (1:22) and to set an example he banished the rebellious Queen Vashti from his sight and set out to find himself a new Queen.  It took him several years but in the seventh year of the King’s reign a young Jewish girl named Esther “won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins.  So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” (2: 17-18)

Now it is interesting, that God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther but it is obvious that God had a plan and a purpose to these events fromQueen Vashti the very start.  Scripture tells us that Esther was raised by her uncle Mortecai because Esther had neither father or mother.  They were exiles, strangers in a strange land and yet God strategically places them both there in that foreign land so that in His timing, Esther may be used to thwart the plot by the evil Haman that would have led to the irradication of the Jewish people.

Now we can only speculate what happened to the poor ex-Queen.  She may have been banished from the king’s sight, but not necessarily banished from the palace.  According to the Midrash, “Vashti was the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, the granddaughter of King Amel-Marduk and the daughter of King Belshazzar. During Vashti’s father’s rule, mobs of Medes and Persians attacked. They murdered Belshazzar that night. Vashti, unknowing of her father’s death, ran to her father’s quarters. There she was kidnapped by King Darius of Persia. But Darius took pity on her and gave her to his son, Ahasuerus (King Xerxes), to marry.

According to the Midrashic account, Vashti was a savvy politician, and the ladies’ banquet that she held in parallel to Xerxes’ banquet represented an astute political maneuver.  Since the noble women of the kingdom would be present at her banquet, she would have control of a valuable group of hostages in case a coup occurred during the king’s feast.”

Scholars argue why Vashti refused to present herself to the King.  Was it political manuevering?  Was it because she did not want to be paraded in front of a bunch of drunken fools?  Scripture does not say, but we do know what the consequence was, she lost her crown and Queen Esther was eventually put in a unique and strategic place of influence with the King.  At the instigation of the king’s chief minister Haman, a decree was issued for the annihilation of all the Jews living in the empire (3:1-15).  This scheme was thwarted by Esther and her cousin Mordecai.  Haman was hanged and a new decree was issued by Xerxes allowing the Jews the right to kill their enemies (8:3-14, 9:5-10, 13-14).

And how, pray tell, does Esther accomplish all this?  Well, take note that immediately upon making Esther his Queen, the King proclaimed a holiday, and what does he do?…He throws another party and “distributed gifts with royal liberality”. (2:18)  This was a King who really liked parties AND royal proclamations and the good Queen Esther likely took special note of that.

So when Esther heard about the plot against her people she took a little time to mull over how she could gain favour with the king, and enlisted her uncle and all the Jews living in Susa to fast and pray for her, knowing that if she proceeded incorrectly she would end up banished like ex-Queen Vashti and then not be in a position to help her people or she would be killed and the entire Jewish nation wiped out along with her.  She told her uncle to “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me.  Do not eat of drink for three days, night or day.  I and my maids will fast as you do….”  (Esther 4:16)

Then she says something that shows that what ever happened next would be entirely the will of God, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.”  Basically she was saying she was willing to be used by God even if it meant losing her life.

Esther was able to approach the king with confidence knowing that whatever happened to her God was in control.  Once she had the king’s initial attention, dressed beautifully in her royal robes, she was already cooking up the most logical way to further gain the King’s favour.  Knowing that he had a penchant for parties and banquets …you guessed it!…she threw him a party!  She invited the king and the dastardly Haman to not one, but two great banquets, and the rest, so they say, is history.

I am speculating but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that God likely smiled at Esther and then said to Himself,  “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Are you ready to be used by God today?