God has indeed heard the cry of his beloved daughters.

Nearly two years ago I penned this discussion between God and the angel Aegeus, in The Prophet:
“Aegeus, many of my daughters have felt rejected by the church. The Strongman and others like him have persecuted them and twisted my words for their own selfish purposes. Through their persecution, my children have started many home churches, and word of me has spread. What the Strongman intended for evil, I have used for good.
My daughters have clung to me, but they cry out for deliverance. I have heard their cry, Aegeus, and I can bear it no longer. They must understand how much I love them. The eleven in the town will serve as a voice for my daughters. The battle has only begun.”

At the time I wrote this, the #MeToo movement was not yet a thing, Paige Patterson was not a name most of us knew and the evangelical community was not being shaken to their core.

I did not start out to write a book about the role of women or the treatment of women or really anything about women. I started out to write a book about spiritual warfare, and it just took on a life of its own.

I remember reading back over a section one day and feeling stunned that I had written it and wondering how on earth it would ever be accepted by readers and wondering if we were ready for that conversation, if I was ready. I deemed that I wasn’t. I wasn’t’ ready to really sit down and have the discussion because it was too difficult.

And yet, here we are. I am stunned and shocked to see so many of the very same topics now playing out on the national stage.  I can only come to the same conclusion that Beth Moore did in her Tweet this week, revival is coming. God has indeed heard the cry of his beloved daughters and the battle has only begun.

In the Land of Ordinary

There was a small boy who lived in the Land of Ordinary.  If you asked the boy, he would say he was the most ordinary of all the boys in the land, but his mother knew this was not true. His mother knew that he was quite extraordinary.  She saw that the boy was different, and she fostered those differences. Sometimes, other children would tease him for the differences and he would plead with his mother to help him change, to help him be more ordinary.  His mother would wrap him in her loving arms and shush away his whimpers. But never, did she work to change him, for she knew what he did not.

Time passed and the boy grew into a man.  He remained close to his mother and often sought her advice. The boy worked an ordinary job and married an ordinary woman and they had ordinary children. Everything in his life seemed to fit in perfectly with the Land of Ordinary. But he wasn’t ordinary.

One day, food in the village began to run out. Children began to starve. People began to eat dirt instead of the lush bounty they had had before. The boy’s mother sought him out and told him now was his time. The boy, unsure of what she meant, pondered her words as he watched those around him suffer and wither.

In time, the boy began to build a bridge. The bridge was magnificent. The bridge led the people to life, to food, to the extraordinary.  With excitement he rushed to the town square and called out to all that they could be saved if only they would cross the bridge, they could leave the Land of Ordinary behind and find the extraordinary.

But the people were too busy. They did not have time to travel across the bridge. Most had time only to give a fleeting glance toward the bridge and mutter an insignificant compliment intended to acknowledge that they saw it. But they did not care to cross it.

The boy plopped down in the dirt near the edge of the bridge, his heart full of sorrow.  Why would no one even look at his bridge? Why did they refuse to cross it? Just as he gave up hope, an old man approached him.

“Can I cross the bridge?” the man asked, his smile revealing rotted teeth. The old man’s clothes were worn and dirty, his hair was matted and filled with bugs. The boy was unsure if the man was even strong enough to make it across the bridge, but he jumped up with excitement and pointed the way,  joy flooded over them both.

Before long, another vagabond approached and asked to cross the bridge, and then another and another. They were not who the boy expected, but he was no less pleased to see them.  His mother stood at a distance and watched with great pride as her son fulfilled his calling. She knew that the bridge was special, that it was reserved for those who were willing to move from the Land of Ordinary to the Land of the Extraordinary.

-Ande

Once upon a Time…

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a bustling village full of people. Each person in the village worked very hard day after day, doing their best to provide for their families.

Over time, some of the people in the village decided to venture out and try something new.  The other villagers yelled at their efforts and turned their backs on these entrepreneurs.  But not the girl, she encouraged them in their efforts. She used the last of her feeble income to help support them, to see them grow.  And they did.

Soon more people began to try new things. The villagers did their best to ignore them, to turn their backs, to scoff. But the girl worked longer hours in the field so that she could contribute to their efforts to improve, fore she knew that one day, she too would try.

Finally, her day came. Excitedly she journeyed to the bath house in preparation for her chance. But when she stepped out into the market square she was met with hostility from some and ignored entirely by others. But the girl held her head high, for she knew in her soul that all those she had supported would step in and support her. She knew that if she just held out long enough, they would come.

But they never did.  The villagers began to hurl mud and dung at her and while she tried to stand firm like a warrior, eventually night fell and she grew weary.  Dirty and exhausted, she returned to her humble home, giving up her dreams.

The next day, she sat among the ashes, full of sadness and feeling worthless. She had failed. Where were the others?

Lucifer, who had been sitting quietly in wait, slid into the ashes next to her.

The King, however, watched from a distance, hoping she would step out of the ashes. Hoping she would reject the lies and see the truth. But she did not.

Eventually, she saw him in the distance, and she ran to him, pouring out her anguish, eager for him to comfort her.

“Why did you help the others,” he asked gently.

“So that when it was my turn they would help me,” she answered honestly.

“If you only helped them so that they would later help you, was that really done with the right heart?”

And suddenly she understood. She dusted off and walked slowly back to the village.

-Ande

Practical Advice to Aspiring Writers:

I am not an expert. Not even close. In fact, I am a novice. But it that very fact that gives me the perspective I have.  I am roughly a month from the publication of my first book and here are some things I learned along the way:

1)Book covers are important. Do your homework. Look at other covers, pay attention to colors, style, content. Then jot down some ideas of what you want.  Try to have multiple ideas. Find pictures that represent the style of art you are looking for so that when you talk to your cover artist, you have examples of what you like, and multiple ideas to work from.  If you are working with a publisher, look at the covers of the books they have designed. It will give you a good idea of what they are capable of.

If you are self publishing and have no artistic talent, find a GREAT tattoo artist.  They can do amazing work, design to your specifications and are reasonably priced. Make sure having a digital version of the work is something you ask for.   You will end up with something unique and beautiful and normally you can get something within a month.

2)Don’t sweat the small stuff. Every publisher formats things differently, so don’t stress out over formatting while you are writing.  Also, every editor will proofread for grammar and punctuation – so don’t freak out about that either, let them do that.

3)Have a reader group! When you have finished your manuscript, (I know, it’s NEVER really finished) give it to people you trust to read.  Have at least 3 people read it. Choose them wisely. Don’t pick three grammar Nazis (refer back to #2), one is enough.  Have people with varying professions, backgrounds, educational levels, interests, strengths, etc.  You need them to tell you where you went wrong.

Is your protagonist boring? Does the story fall apart in chapter four?  Do you have inaccuracies? You need them to tell you this. Ask your readers to tell you what they love, what they hate, what they feel like they needed more of, what they don’t understand.  Soak in their feedback, value it, savor it, bathe in it. It will be hard, but it will make your book better.

4)Wait. This may be the hardest bit of my advice, something I was told and ignored completely. Don’t make my mistake!  Let the manuscript simmer. Get your reader feedback, make adjustments, repeat, and then, let it rest.  You seriously need time away from it, time to let it get stale in your own mind.  I know you have read it a bazillion times, but trust me, letting it dry out will change how you see it.

Letting it simmer gives you perspective. You read it fresh. Ideas and improvements will grow in your mind. You will see ways to polish the writing. Wait, at minimum, a month. Then, read the whole thing again, making improvements as you do.  You could do this several times – if you can get yourself to be that patient.

5)Eventually, you will hate it.  You will be quite sure that it is the worst thing that has ever been written in the history of man. You will want to burn it, bury it.  This is the moment that you become a writer. Hating it and doubting yourself, is normal. Embrace it. Don’t burn your manuscript, because we both know that it is your soul poured out on paper.  You have something to share with the world, so when you doubt yourself, when you doubt the value of what you have written, know that that is normal. You are normal and your manuscript is something to be treasured.

 

Chapter 1 from The Prophet

The Prophet, in stores, Summer 2017.

Chapter 1 

Aegeus strolled toward the meeting spot. He walked slowly as one who had eternity on his side. He let his hands drop to his side and brush across the stalks in the wheat field he was ambling through. The grain heads felt soft on his fingers. And for just a moment, he continued to walk forward with his eyes closed as he savored the delicate brush of the plants across his hands. He had the hands of a warrior, solid and sure, rough from thousands of years of battle. The gentle touch of the wheat against his hands was made all the sweeter because of it.

His senses soaked in the glory that was heaven. Light warmed his olive skin; the sweet smell of lilac filled the air; it was one of his favorite smells. He breathed in deeply, letting it penetrate through him. He turned his face toward the throne room, the light and power of the King washing over him, beckoning to him.

Standing in the middle of the field, he closed his eyes and listened to the voices of a thousand angels singing the praise of the King. He stood straighter, taller, reaching his full height of seven feet two inches. His wings were tucked into the compartments on his back where they fit when he did not need them. His chestnut-colored hair was loose and blew gently in the breeze. His brown eyes, the color of toasted almonds, reflected the peacefulness he felt. Aegeus savored the rush of love and overwhelming joy that could only come from the King. He felt the light brush of power caress his skin as if every particle of his being was getting charged.

In the distance, he could see the glimmer of the city. Reluctantly, he headed in the opposite direction, toward a large tree in the center of the field. As he walked, he took in every scent, every color, and every texture along the way. Savoring each precious one for the gift it was.

The tree stood tall and proud where it had stood for all time. The bark of the tree was rough and cracked in a way that was beautiful. If you took the time to look closely, you could see subtle carvings in the bark just below the surface. It whispered secrets of the past and the beauty of the future. It spoke of redemption and hope to all who would listen. Its limbs extended in every direction, long strong branches. The leaves fluttered in the breeze sounding like ocean waves. They called out their praise to the King.

As he reached the tree, he was pleased to see the others were not yet there. He enjoyed the quiet stillness of the tree, the peace it brought as you rested near it. He had heard it would provide other feelings as well, but Aegeus had never experienced anything but peace when he was near it. Perhaps because peace was what he most valued.

Warriors tended to be more stoic than other angels. Although there were certainly exceptions to that, Aegeus was not among them. In fact, he was more stoic than most. But he had not always been that way. There had been a time when Aegeus invested in those he was sent to fight for—when he had fought with his heart, not just his strength. But that was long ago and mostly forgotten, at least by Aegeus.

The battle of Pas-Dammim had changed everything for him. He had returned to the tree after the battle, collapsing beneath its limbs and pouring out his anguish. The tree had absorbed it all, replacing it with the peace he so craved. Aegeus’s grief was so great that the very fruit on the tree had turned gray and dull. The King had heard the call of despair and had come to attend to Aegeus and to the tree. All of heaven had grieved under that tree with Aegeus, but most especially the King.

Aegeus learned the wrong lesson from Pas-Dammim. He had decided he could not afford to care too deeply. He knew that allowing himself to feel too strongly for any but the King could prove perilous. Humans were unpredictable. Warriors had to be willing to fight both for and against them. He believed that caring about them could cause clouded judgment, something a warrior could not afford. He had spent thousands of years constructing the wall around his heart.

He was not unkind. To the contrary, underneath, Aegeus’s heart was tender. But he was a warrior through and through. He stood tall with broad shoulders and strong, solid muscles. He fought with a ferocity that had moved him quickly through the ranks. The other angels trusted him; if you were going into battle, Aegeus was the warrior you wanted with you.

He did not allow his detachment from the humans to interfere with his duty. He showed them compassion and kindness, but he did so in a clinical manner that got the job done without risking attachment. For centuries, this had worked wonderfully. After all, warriors were not on the earth for long stretches of time. He had little opportunity to interact with humans.

Aegeus walked lazily about the tree, exploring the type of fruit that was on it today. He took his time admiring each option and then opted for a yellow one with small purple dots. This one was new. He smelled the fruit; it smelled sweet, like angelo—one of his favorites. Around the tree was a soft grassy knoll greeting all who came to sit beneath its shade and lean against its trunk. Aegeus sank into the lush green grass and leaned back against the tree listening to it whisper.

Sweet nectar burst from the fruit and flowed down his chin when he bit into it. He wiped the juice from his closely cropped beard with the back of his hand. There was no end to the King’s creativity; Aegeus reveled in the joy of being able to experience it. He retrieved his wineskin and took a swallow of wine that perfectly complemented the fruit. It was nice to be home.

Check This Out

 

Forget the Plan

I don’t write in a manner that makes sense to even me.  I often wonder if other writers sit down and write, starting from the beginning and working to the end?  I write in a chaotic pattern of crazy.  And yet….

Some days, a scene has been playing over and over in my mind. So when I sit down to write, I merely serve as a scribe, recording what I have seen.  Other times, like today, I sit down with no scene, but I do have a plan.  That rarely works out.

God typically disrupts my plan and sends me off on an adventure.  I don’t understand it, heck, I’m not even sure what direction we are going.  It is out of order, and it doesn’t seem to fit together, but slowly, the pieces weave together to form a beautiful, intricate pattern. And every time, every single time, it is exactly right.

I don’t know why this always surprises me. He tells us that while we may make our plans, He directs our steps. And yet, I never fail to be amazed.  I have finally learned to let go and let Him direct. I finally have learned to trust that His plan is so much better than mine, at least in my writing, I am still working on it in my “normal” life.

So the challenge for us all, lose the plan. Instead, see where God is taking you. I can’t wait to hear the story He has for you!

They Said…

Start a blog they said, it will be great, they said.

So I did.  Then, I sat gazing at the page for way too long, just  trying to think of what to name it. Finally, I realized, it didn’t actually matter. So I let that go.

I’m not sure when I can call myself an author.  I mean, I wrote a book, it’s getting published. But can I really call myself an author?  Better stick with my day job for now.

I am not a writer.  Well, that is actually complicated. But…I have a day job. I loved to write as a kid but I put that away when I had to start paying the rent. So I went to school, lots of school, and got a job I could count on.

Then one day, because God has a sense of humor, He told me to write a book.  I argued. He won.  Now here we are, you and me.  Let’s see where we end up.