This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. (I just realized that was the dumbest opening blog line ever, since pretty much all of you already knew that...) When I was growing up, the children all marched into church waving palm branches on Sunday, but the adults all missed out on the palm waving action. To my recollection, last Sunday was the first time I've been handed a palm branch as an adult. Just a cool bit of trivia for you.

Anyway, I was thinking about the original palm branch wavers 2000 years ago during Christ's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. Since he knew the very same voices crying "Hosanna" that day would shout "Crucify him!" before the week was out, it made me wonder if their praises rang hollow to him.

Know what? I don't think so. That day, with all of their hearts, they meant it.

Know what else? It's easy to vilify them in hindsight, but we are just like them. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Sunday afternoon we gossip about the choir director's marriage. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Monday lunch we turn away from the homeless man on the street. We stand in church and sing praises on Sunday morning, and by Thursday afternoon we shrink from sharing the Gospel with a friend because they might think we're "weird." Do we love God less? Are our praises false? No. We're sinful humans in a sinful world where perfection is unattainable. The "Hosanna" criers and "Crucify Him" shouters and sinners like us are the very reasons he came to earth, died, and rose again. His love is bigger than our mistakes.

And of course, that made me, as I typed that last line, think of a song. (It's how my brain works. Ask my friend Shannon. She once said my life is a soundtrack.) "Your Love is Better than Life" by The Newsboys is the perfect example of that dichotomy in us, how we can praise one moment and curse the next, yet, in the end, His love covers it all.

The title of this blog? It's one of the biggest lies in the Christian church. However, just because it's a lie, it doesn't mean I don't struggle with the idea every single day.

It seems like, if we love God and do His will and follow His commandments, we should be safe from pain. As Christians, we treat God like the magic genie sometimes, the one who will take away every bad thing. And when He doesn't, we get M-A-D.

Frankly, I'm a little worried today. Why? Because about four days ago, I woke up thinking what I'm going to write in the next paragraph. And because yesterday, the sermon at church was about brokenness. Those times in life when the pressure's so hard we think we're going to shatter. Does God cause those times? I don't believe so. Does He use them if we let Him? As one who has been there, oh yes, He certainly does. And in ways we can't even imagine.

Jesus walked this earth, Son of God and Son of Man. Did God exempt His Son from suffering? No. In fact, Jesus may have suffered more than any other man who ever walked this earth. I mean, think about it... beyond the agony of the Cross, Jesus was straight-up Satan's number one target. Life could not have been easy.

If Jesus was not exempt, then neither are we. Do I have the grand answers as to why some suffer more than others? I wish I did. But I can say this... when those hard times smack us right upside the head, we can know we're not alone. Jesus walked that road, and he's ahead of us, waiting to take our hand and lead us through it.

So Monday was the background and what I originally started to write. Today is what I found when I looked up the lyrics to the Jars of Clay song "Faith Like a Child." Like I said, sometimes I go looking for the song, and sometimes the song comes looking for me.

I know that a lot of my writing deals with feeling "miles away" from God, but I'm beginning to wonder if that isn't the way the majority of life on earth feels. After all, we are not yet in heaven. We get those awesome, amazing, mountaintop moments like I had on Sunday, where we feel like we can see Him if we squint just right, and then we face the world again.

I'm not going for "downer" here. I'm actually going for "upper." Thing is, we all feel that way, like God is farther from us than ever. The other fact is, Satan likes to take that feeling and make us think we're the only ones who feel it. He likes to poke and prod and get us down, make us believe God isn't near when, really, He is as close as our next breath. That's why songs like this one and so many others I've mentioned make me feel a little better. I'm not alone. Other people go through it too, even the ones who I look up to as "giants" in the faith.

We can't live based on feelings. Feelings are easily manipulated (just watch a sad movie when you're happy or a happy movie when you're sad and you'll see what I mean). We must live based on faith... like a child.

Sometimes, the song I hear brings up the words in my head. And sometimes, the words in my head bring up a song. I knew what I wanted to write this morning, so I titled the post, "Faith Like a Child." Then I started hearing the words to the song in my head, so I looked up the lyrics and re-titled the post. We'll make this one a two-parter to be continued on Wednesday.

Yesterday we visited a new church. During praise and worship, I felt like walking out. Only a handful of the hundred or so people there were singing. Only one or two actually looked like they meant it. The praise band didn't even look happy to be there. It made the air feel heavy. Ever been in that situation? I was totally distracted by what was going on around me and my own thoughts about it.

Then... communion happened. The closer my daughter and I got to the altar, the more God gripped my heart. By the time we got to the bread and wine, tears were already pouring down my face. (If you know me, you know I hardly ever cry.) Oh my, did God ever show up. I'm surprised I couldn't see Him there, He was that close. It was amazing.

Guess who was convicted for judging those worshipers earlier...

And then there was my six-year-old, who grabbed me by the hand after we took communion and dragged me down to the altar to kneel. When I was done praying, I moved to stand, but she stopped me and waited another minute, then she got up and led me back to our seats.

When we were eating lunch, I asked her why she didn't want to leave the altar. She said, "I was talking to God. I told Him I was sorry and thank you for dying for me and to help me be nicer."

Guess who cried again? It's only the second time she's ever had communion, but my goodness, the six-year-old has it.

May she never lose it.

I love it when the American Christian Fiction Writers loop gets a little... loopy. We've been talking this week in our emails about characters who get out of control. Sometimes, we plan out an entire plot only to have a character "act up" and change the whole thing. No, we can't seem to control our characters when they do that. Sometimes they go crazy. Jake, in Going in Circles, positively refused to let me change his name. I hated that name for him, but every time I tried to change it, he refused to be written. It was almost like he stood in the corner, crossed his arms, and glared at me. (Trust me. Other writers talk like this too. I am not crazy. Well, not THAT crazy. Things like this are why I love writers conferences. "My people" understand this and do not call the loony bin.)

The original plan for Jake was for him to be a memory. He was not to show up at all in the book except in Samantha's guilt. He was the past, the wish-I-could-do-that-over, the person who needed to be forgotten.

One night--I kid you not, it was straight-up midnight--Jake woke me up. He was banging on Samantha's door. I rolled over in the bed and told him to shut up and go away, since he wasn't allowed in the book. Long story short, I had to get up and write a scene where she let him in.

I wound up keeping the scene, and it changed the whole book.

Know why Jake took over like that? Because I was too afraid to write him into the book. The book needed him. It's richer for having him. It's more emotional with him there. He highlights Sam's frailties and insecurities. But I was terrified of that kind of emotion, of that kid of digging into my own insecurities, and I tried to take the easy way out.

God wouldn't let me. It wasn't really Jake knocking on Samantha's door. It was God knocking on mine, asking me to face my fears, telling me I had to be honest with those emotions. Fear is one of the reasons I think characters get out of control.

So no more fear, folks. God's got stories to tell. Those of us who are writers need to let go of the wheel and let Him tell them...

(So, I wrote chapter one of a new book on Friday. It's a military suspense, which is WAY NEW for me. It reminded me of this post from last year, so I thought I'd share it again, because I'm feeling a bit like this...)

I'm procrastinating.

It's true.

This is the part that I hate the most about writing. I'm sitting here and staring at a blank Word document (Well, I was. Now I'm writing this...) and I'm hesitating to put down the first word. I've got the germ of the idea for the next book. I've even written the first page on paper with a pen. (Yep, paper and pen still exist!) I've got the character sketch for the main character done.

But, I'm still staring at that blank Word document and hesitating.


Well, a little bit of it might be because I'm the tiniest bit afraid. If I put that first word on the screen, then I'm committed. I'm either committed in succeeding to write the book or in failing to write the book. It'll either come to a big ol' something or a big ol' nothing. The big ol' nothing scares me. I like the new character. I think I'm afraid of failing her. Unless you've written something before, that sounds insane because, as is obvious to us all, characters only exists in my head, so I can't really fail them. But I can fail to tell the story that God's placed in my brain, if that makes any sense at all. I can fail to make the characters come to life the way they're meant to.

But then I remember something. It's hanging on the wall next to the computer. It's Ephesians 6:19: "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel." And there ya have it. That's what I need to do. God's word, God's job, without fear. Yay, God!

So, I'm gonna go now and I'm gonna commit myself. It's high time I did it. I wrapped up Going in Circles around mid-October and have been editing and "selling" ever since. It's time I got around to putting that metaphorical pen on the metaphorical paper again, huh?

Or maybe I'll go get lunch first?
It's been a busy six weeks for us, what with packing, moving, waiting for the house, unpacking, settling in... And lots of other stuff I haven't bothered to mention. This morning, I sat down to write this blog and started thinking about the Jars of Clay song "Crazy Times." Not the whole song, because, honestly, I think I understand the message even though the lyrics make about as much sense to me as a late-era Beatles song.

Anyway, it was just the chorus. See, typically, I have seventeen blog ideas in my head competing for attention. Lately, I've had, well... none. As I sat here and thought about what to write today, I realized why. In all of the crazy times we've had around here lately, my God times have been sort of sporadic. Instead of spending every morning in quiet time with God, I've been trying to catch up on sleep or arranging a room to my satisfaction. Instead of occasionally jamming out to a great praise and worship song, I've had my energy-inducing eighties pop blasting.

My tank is starting to run empty. Like the song says, "You can't attract the things that you lack." That's deep, I think. If I'm not full of God, how can I expect God to use me? How can I expect to draw from a well I haven't bothered to fill? And the kicker is this... the hunger is starting to gnaw. That longing for Him is growing stronger. That may be the only good part of this.

It's time to stop making excuses. Last night I read in Deuteronomy about offering our first fruits to God. It's time for me to sacrifice a little sleep and to start giving God those first moments of my day again. Let's face it. I need Him to be "my daily bread" and "the air I breathe." Nothing else matters next to that.

Love it when God gets a song chasing in my head. This morning, it seems like all I can hear is Chris Tomlin singing "Your Grace is Enough." I read about the feeding of the five thousand today in all four gospels. (That in itself ought to be enough to tell you I was doing my Beth Moore homework!) It got me thinking about how all I need is Jesus. He is my "enough." In fact, only He is enough!

Today, I will type the first words of my next book. I'm a little out of my comfort zone on this one, and I'm not afraid to say that. From the beginning, this one has been different, so that scares me a little. It brings up that insecurity that makes me wonder if I'm good enough for this.

Isn't it "odd" (ha ha) that Beth Moore noted this in the homework I happened to read today:

"Matthew 14:17 records the disciples saying, 'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.' Christ then responded in verse 18, 'Bring them here to me.' Beloved, I want you to hear something loud and clear; no matter what your 'only' is, when you bring all of your 'only' to Jesus, it's huge! When we bring Him everything we have, He multiplies it beyond our wildest imagination."

Ah... this is not MY book to write under MY power. It is HIS book to write in HIS power through me. That's certainly something I needed to know today.

When we're feeling ill-equipped to handle any situation... When we're feeling like we lack what it takes to do the job set before us... Let us remember to take our "only" to Him and surrender it so He can make it amazing for His glory!

Okay, gang. Sit up and listen. This is something you will not hear me say often: Sarah Sundin's novel is one of the top ten books I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Since I started writing "for real," few books have made me forget I'm reading a book. I have a hard time getting lost in the story world, because I'm used to revising and editing and critiquing and seeing how things are put together. (Same thing happened when I volunteered in the theater. It ruined TV for me, because I could see the cues and tech tricks.)

Sarah Sundin got me, y'all. I can't remember the last book that had me interested right from chapter one. There was no "getting into" this book. I was in it. We've been moving, and I spent all day long for days on end unpacking boxes, but a lot of my time was spent looking forward to bedtime, so I could read more pages. I wish I could have read it all in one sitting.

A Distant Melody tells the story of Allie and Walt. They meet in 1940s California where Allie is the daughter of a ball bearing magnate and Walt is a farmer boy preacher's son who now flies B-17s. Their love story would be perfect if Allie didn't already have a beau and if Walt was not on his way to the Eighth Air Force in England. They begin a friendly correspondence, but war and their own internal battles threaten even their friendship, which grows deeper with each mail delivery.

Sarah's really done her homework. The scenes with Walt and his bomber crew were particularly well done. It was like being there, flying beside them. She brought Walt, his men, Allie and all of their struggles into living, breathing life.

Whether you're male or female, this is one phenomenal book. You're missing something if you don't head to your nearest bookstore or favorite website and check out Sarah Sundin's A Distant Melody.
If you came here looking for "deep" this morning, you simply aren't going to get it. Sorry. We've spent the past six days unpacking boxes, so I'm a little too numb for anything that goes beneath the shimmery, still surface. Try me on Wednesday. Technically, I'm "sabbathing" today and taking a day of rest. Couldn't tell, could ya?

I just wanted to share a couple of pictures. This is my old office, in our old apartment (if you look past the den, you see my desk and chair in the tiny little alcove):

Don't get me wrong, I loved my reading chair and my "view" of the pond out the window. I really did. But my desk was not in the greatest place. Lots of glare and, let's face it, lots of white walls. I hate white walls.

And then, we moved into this house, which was already painted by the owner. This was the dining room until I commandeered it and staked my claim. Now, it's my new office:

As my from-so-far-North-he's-practically-Canadian husband would say, "Big difference, eh?"

Y'all have a great day! I plan to spend mine in my office. :-)