Monday, September 29, 2008

The Shape of Mercy, by Susan Meissner

I'm really excited about this new book from friend and author Susan Meissner! I read it about a month ago, and found the story engaging, haunting and stirring me to think. In our modern times, we think we are above "witch hunts" or mass hysteria, but are we really?

As I read Meissner's historically accurate account of the Salem witch trials through the diary of fictional Mercy, I realized the human heart is the same today as it was in 1692.

While it's confounding the citizens of Salem hung their own without evidence other than the hysteria of young girls throwing themselves to the ground and screaming out a name, I paused to see at times in our modern society we judge as harshly and as quickly.

We also fail to really look close, and discern truth.

Back to the book... sorry for that bunny trail. Laura and Abigail also have a journey of self discovery as they transcribe Mercy's diary.

Meissner's writing is clean, fresh and lovely. She tells a wonderful story. I highly recommend this book.

Here's the official word about the book:

The Shape of Mercy, is a blend of contemporary and historical fiction, mystery and romance. Set in present day Santa Barbara and also in colonial America during the Salem Witch Trials, the book follows a young college student as she transcribes the diary of a young woman falsely accused of witchcraft in 1692.

"The story in a nutshell is this," Susan says. "Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her growing up years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge other people by what they want to believe about them, and particularly for her, how the poor view the wealthy. When she opts out of her family’s financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an 83 - year - old reclusive East Coast transplant.

"Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of her ancestor, Mercy Hayworth, hanged for witchcraft in 17th - century Massachusetts . The lives of these two very different women converge as they jointly piece together the life - and death - of a third woman, Mercy Hayworth, who lived three hundred years earlier, and who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost."

Susan says the title has dual meaning. "Those who testified against the accused in Salem in 1692 often claimed their tormentors "took shape" in their bedrooms and tortured them as they slept. My fictional character Mercy was also accused of taking shape and torturing another young girl of the Village. She was innocent of course, as all those accused were, but in her last act before death, she shows that love has a shape. And its shape is mercy."

Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review and offered these insights. "Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth - a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials - whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers - Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren "Lars" Durough, wealthy, earnest and young - become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary!

Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars together face life's hardest struggles about where true meaning is found, which dreams are worth chasing and which only lead to emptiness, and why faith and hope are essential on life's difficult path. Meissner's prose is exquisite and she is a stunning storyteller."

Susan says the concept behind The Shape of Mercy stayed with her long after she finished it. "I know I am often guilty of the same weakness my protagonist had to discover - and admit - about herself. She, like me, like so many, judge better than we love. And we let fear dictate how much love we will extend and to whom we will extend it. Not always, not in every circumstance.

But it happens often enough to know I might have easily kept my quivering mouth shut had I lived in Salem in 1692. I might've said nothing when the Village marched to Gallows Hill to watch the accused hang. We tend to fear what we can't comprehend.

And we tend to understand only what we want to. There is a shimmering ray of hope, however. And it actually permeated all of 1692 Salem, though it hasn't garnered the same spotlight as the delusions of frightened and empowered people. The innocents who were hanged as witches refused to confess an allegiance to the Devil. Refused to the point of death.

I find that remarkable and magnificent. It fills me with hope to consider that while we have the capacity to judge when we should show mercy, we also have the capacity to embrace Truth for all we're worth - even if it means we give up everything for it.

It wasn't all darkness and deception in 1692 Salem . There was light there, too. It flickered every time the noose was pulled tight on the throat of one who would not give up on God and everything holy and good."

You can learn more about Susan and her books at The book is available at bookstores everywhere and online.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Post Conference Thoughts

I'm home three days now from the ACFW Conference in Minneapolis. This was our seventh, and thus, my seventh conference.

As always, I love my time there and am exhausted by Friday morning, but always come home with some regrets. I didn't meet enough new people, or I didn't get to hang out with long time friends, or I missed a good workshop.

Randy Ingermanson, who clearly doesn't have a life, wrote a long detailed, day-by-day account of his conference experience, and while I aspire to great heights most of the time, I'm not sure I can match Randy's high standard.


I needed to connect with a publishing professional. I'd cried on his shoulder at last year's conference and he listened, advised, and affirmed me. I'd emailed him an update in the spring, but he didn't respond. So, hmm, I'd wondered if he'd gotten it. He didn't.

So, we sorta made our way toward each other and he said, "So...., how are things..." And I knew he didn't get my email. I was able to update him, again be affirmed by this wise man. It meant so much to me.

I'd lost SLEEP earlier this year over some issues, and his words to me in Minneapolis were exactly what I needed to hear. I praise God for Christians in our publishing world who really reflect the heart of Jesus.

Thank you! You know who you are.

Chip MacGregor

He is so funny. I am still laughing at some of his agent stories. I also have a lot of respect for him as an industry professional.

Allen Arnold

Spending a few hours with him during down time, as well as other attendees, catching up, sharing stories, hearing the back story of a project I'm working on for Thomas Nelson.

Allen also presented a great Early Bird, and an informative Late Night Chat on questions authors should ask their publishers.

The Board

I always love the joint Board meeting - Operating and Advisors. It's just good to be in a room, talking about ideas, seeing where ACFW is going.

Getting to know....

Jocelyn Bailey from Thomas Nelson. She's lovely, and I'm hearing, a great addition to the Nelson team. I can see it!

Beth Jusino, Beth Adams, Andy Meisenheimer, Rachelle Gardner, who so kindly ran down to Barnes & Noble for me during the Mall of America book signing to buy my books so I had something on the table with me.

All around me, the other authors had books, displays, candy, stress donuts, dancing clowns... Okay maybe no dancing clowns. All I had bookmarks. It was funny. Thank you, Rachelle!

I also got to know some great new friends from My Book Therapy Voices. Jenness, Tracy, Denice and Lisa. Also met a new writer Chris Kraft, and Sara and her mom Lynn. I know there were more, so if I left off your name, post a comment!

I do love meeting with attendees and knowing new people. OH, I met Golden Parsons who is a new historical author with Nelson, and Beth who's coming out with a Amish book with Nelson.

And Jenny B. Jones! So good to really connect with her and she definitely wins the "most excited about. . ." award. I appreciate you, friend!

I also met Jennifer Anderson, who worked tirelessly with Susie and me to pull off the My Book Therapy Pizza Party! I was amazed by her. So creative and dedicated. Thank you, Jennifer!

Loved connecting with Elizabeth Musser, and Debbie Giusti who is a fellow Buckeye! Spent time with Sara Sumpolec, and Love Inspired authors, as the list goes on.

Late Saturday hung with the Barbour folks. I loved that Annalisa Daughtey won her category of the Genesis and a BOOK CONTRACT! We brainstormed her stories with her last year, and she's too, too cute and sweet! Yay!!!

Didn't get to spend enough time with Christine Lynxwiler or Susan Downs, nor Susie Warren though we roomed together. She was busy. ;) Missed having Tracey Bateman there!

Chatted with Rusty Shelton from Phoenix and Phoenix Publicity, and editors from Waterbrook and Tyndale.

Lots of chatting going on, no?

I loved the worship team! Such a great group with worshipper hearts, every single one! Thank you guys so much. It was also an honor to have my "girls" there this year, Cassie Campbell who played guitar for the team, and Carrie Campbell who gave her support and new drummer skills for Harp & Bowl.

Conference is a great experience. Something that pushes me forward. Now? It's time to write! Best get to it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

At the ACFW Conference

Hey everyone, just an update from the ACFW Conference. We're having a grand time, though I'm already exhausted!

Lots of talking, laughing, eating, worshipping, learning and fellowshipping.

More later.

Monday, September 15, 2008

British adopt Islamic Law

This is frightening. From Fox News

Britain Adopts Islamic Law, Gives Sharia Courts Full Power to Rule on Civil Cases
Monday, September 15, 2008

Islamic law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.

The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.

Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through county courts or the country's High Court, a part of its Supreme Court system.

Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.

Politicians and church leaders expressed concerns that this could mark the beginnings of a "parallel legal system" based on sharia for some British Muslims.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: "If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so."

Why is this frightening? Because it's an oppressive. They beat women, they kill girls who "shame" the family. They force marriages. The laws are outdated and barbaric. A woman can't go places or do things without a man. If a man accuses her, she suffers whatever punishment they deem. A rape victim was to receive 90 lashes for being alone with a boy. Then sentenced to 200 lashes for protest the sentence and "shaming" the government. An Arabian prince finally pardoned her.

But it still goes on, every day.

How can Britain have duel legal systems?

American congressman, Senators and judges are just as naive as Britain's. Barack Obama being one of them. This is one of the MAIN reasons I will not vote for Obama. His Islamic ties and sympathies. He was raised more of a Muslim than an American.

I'm sorry. I have to speak out. Where are the feminist? Where are the voices for women's freedom in London, in America?

Silence is the weapon which enslaves us. I further my resolve to pray for our nation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9.11

Nine o'clock on a Tuesday morning, I was standing in the lobby of the Imported Car store, finalizing some issue with my brand new Volkswagen Cabrio.

People were talking about the Twin Towers being hit, an airplane crash or something. While it was weird, I didn't feel immediate alarm.

Back at the office, the news was coming out. The tragedy, the unbelievable sight of the towers crumbling. The notion of terrorism coming to America.

And I was glad George Bush was in office. His speech was amazing. He was praised by all the newscaster and politicians. Congress VOTED TO GO TO WAR.

Now, they are hypocrites. They deny what happened. They don't care about American lives and soldiers, they don't care to honor those who died for freedom, they only care about power. We have an enemy America, and "he" came calling seven years ago today.

Radical Islam wants to take over the world. We are in their way. And our next president is a critical component to them winning or losing.

We need a strong leader, one willing to stand up and fight. Sometimes talking isn't enough. It doesn't work. It's like arguing with your stubborn, determined kid, only ten times worse.

Radical Islamic values are not our values. They don't care about things we care about. They believe Allah has called and chosen them to do his will and convert the whole world to their ways. Where is there any room for compromise and deals, treaties and fairness. There isn't.

Our brothers and sisters who died in the Twin Towers, and our fighting men and women who gave their lives will have done so in vain if we do not fight this war to win. The biggest issue with Nam was the boys weren't allowed to fight to win. Let's not make THAT mistake again.

Fight to win. Fight to preserve freedom not only in America, but for those in other countries. The more who are free, the more the world will be free.

We need men and women in our government who don't care about our country being liked, but respected. As a parent, you're not always liked, but you sure better be respected. It's respect, not like, that causes your kids to obey.

Obama is not a partriot. He was not raised in America. And when he was here, he lived with people who despised their country. He's attended a church for 20 years that rewarded men (Luis Farrakhan) for blaspheming their country. Why does he even want to be president? It makes me wonder. He wants to change who we are, and what made us great.

If he's president, there will be more terrorist attack because our enemies see him as weak. Why do you think they endorse him. Think about it. Our enemies endorse one of our political candidates. And are we so ignorant as to think it's only because he's the man they want to negotiate with? They see what we don't - someone they can manipulate.

While I don't agree with everything McCain is and has done, I believe he'll fight for his country just like he did 40 years ago. He's sacrificed his own body for our freedoms so what is to keep him from fighting if he's in the White House. He knows what is at stake.

Our enemies don't want him. Hmmm...

If we care at all about 9.11, it's memory and the life of those impacted by this terrorist attack, we must continue to vote for freedom, a strong defense and for a man and woman who will see that we remain the great nation we are today.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Global Warming, Jesus Advises, and the Rapture

Welcome to the random thoughts of my brain. I hope they inspire you. Ha!

Admittedly, true scientist are undecided on Global Warming. The earth warms and cools over the years. In the 1970, the concern was global cooling. I even found a Newsweek article from 1975 about it. In the '80s, it was Acid Rain. I mean, some people just love drama, no?

Either way, IF Global Warming is real, it's years away. I'm so not convinced man is that significant on the Earth. What we need to be concerned about is eminent threats. Like terrorism. We don't have to debate that terrorism is alive and well. We can observe it. Our country has been a victim of it. Our soldiers are fighting it.

How is it that liberals are more concerned about Global Warming, a not so eminent threat, but bury their heads in the sand about terrorism? Terrorist could strike tomorrow. Global Warming won't. Can't.

Yet many leading our country or who want to lead our country care more about carbon emissions than terrorist sneaking into our country with the intent to cause harm.


This verse in Revelation 3 fascinates me. Jesus is speaking:

"I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see."

I hear Him, I get what He's saying in the big picture, but what does it really mean? How do I do it? I'm praying for understanding. One thing that really helps me understand scripture, no kidding here, is singing it. I get on the keyboard and just sing the verse over and over.

I want to buy from Jesus gold, white garments and eye salve. I want to be rich in Him, covered from my sin and shame, have eyes to see.

I'm not a pre trib rapture believer. The idea of Jesus hauling us out of here before the gig goes down doesn't make sense. We are His intercessors on the earth. We are His partners. It's our prayers and intercession, our work on the earth that is actually going to usher in the tribulation and His Coming.

There are verses all through the Bible that confirm what I believe, but there are a few interesting ones in Revelation.

12:17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

If the Saints are not here because we were raptured out, who is the dragon warring against? Is there some great revival in the midst of the great tribulation that brings so many millions to Jesus that the dragon has to war against them? Where's the verse on that? And if there are several billion people on the earth, what's a few million saved during the antichrist's reign?

Makes me go hmmmm?

Then there's this in 22:17

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."

If the Saints, or the Bride, is not on the earth, who is crying with the Spirit? Wouldn't it be "the Spirit and the bride say "go?"

The Bride of Christ is on the earth calling for Jesus to come. The Spirit is groaning through us in intercession, calling for Jesus to return to take His rightful place, as King of the earth!

Jesus isn't returning to a earth completely devoid of believers. And even if you view is the two Witnesses are on the earth preaching Jesus, how is it fair those Saints are left to endure the tribulation? And how many come to Jesus during the time? Scripture doesn't talk about tribulation revival, but tribulation intercession.

"The Spirit and the bride say "Come!"

We need to mature as believers and stop waiting to Go and start crying out for HIm to Come.

The END of my random thoughts.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Matthew 22

Jesus tells a story in Matthew 22 about a King who threw a wedding feast for His son. On the exact day, He sent out His servants to gather the invited guests.

But they were busy, on their way home from work, eager to stop by the pub for a pint, or kick back at home with the remote.

Disappointed, the Kings said, "Bump 'em," and sent His servants to invite strangers passing on the highway, those who would be honored to sit at the King's table. The servants brought both upstanding citizens as well as the undesirables. Both good and evil.

Among the merriment, the King strolled, observing the guests at His son's party. Suddenly, he saw a man in unfit attire. He wasn't dressed in wedding clothes.

"And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

This guest came to the feast in his own clothes, in other words, his own righteousness. He'd not taken on the garments of his host, his "groom." He wanted to wear his own deeds, works, and self-righteousness.

We cannot come to Jesus in our own religiousness and righteousness. Our entrance to the wedding feast (Rev 19:9) is not based on what we do or what we think, or how we define faith, or right thinking, but how HE defines it.

We live in a culture where "what you believe is what you believe" is a popular, accepted concept. But is what you believe what He believes? It's His wedding feast. He has the final say.

Recently some friends were discussing abortion. One said, "upstanding, moral people are pro-choice, for abortion."

Moral according to whom, to what? From where do they derive their morals? Are you living according to your own righteousness or His?

To be honest, from what I read in the Word, I cannot see me asking Jesus, "So, you're cool with me being for abortion, right? I mean, pregnancy may come at a time when it's just not right for some women."

I imagine He'd not say a word, but turn and show me His whipped, torn and deeply wounded back.

"Ah, yeah, right. Maybe not."

Or, for the one who thinks adultery or sex out of marriage is fine and dandy, or homosexuality. Or adheres to white lies, or subtle cheating.

Look, I know mistakes are made. I've made them. Still do. I know people struggle. But if we are in Christ, we are not alone. We have a GREAT High Priest who prays for us!

We do not give Him and His Cross enough power and faith. He can take our worst situations and some how make them right. Or give us grace to endure.

We cannot show up at the wedding feast in our own works and righteousness. So why do we continually try? We have to put on His garments of faith, salvation and peace. He's given them to us by the Cross.

If you ever doubt His love or availability to you, close your eyes and gaze at the Cross. Don't let lies and doubt win.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Booksinging Bonanza

Peeeep-ole... (as my 7th grade Algebra teacher said) if you live any where near Minneapolis Saturday, September 20th, you've got to, got to go to the Mall of America for a fabulous booksigning by Barnes & Noble from 1 -3.

American Christian Fiction Writers is putting on an amazing booksigning. The details are below, and this opportunity to meet so many CBA authors is incredible.

Not only will you have a chance to meet your favorite authors, (me, me, me, me ;) LOL) you'll hear a panel talk about writing!

What: ACFW booksigning and panel discussions

Who: 127 Christian novelists

Where: Best Buy and Sears Rotundas and connecting hallway, Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota

When: Saturday, September 20, 2008 1-3 p.m.

Tamera Alexander
Jennifer AlLee A.K. Arenz
Diane Ashley
Karen Ball
Janet Lee Barton
James Scott Bell
Joseph Bentz
Terri Blackstock
Robin Caroll
Patricia PacJac Carroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Eleanor Clark
Debra Clopton
Gloria Clover
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Lyn Cote
Kathryn Cushman
Margaret Daley
KM Daughters
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Brandt Dodson
Lena Nelson Dooley
Cecelia Dowdy
Sharon Dunn
Wanda Dyson
Lynette Eason
Meredith Efken
Leanna Ellis
Sharon Ewell Foster
Miralee Ferrell
Tina Ann Forkner
Darlene Franklin
Jonathan Friesen
Rhonda Gibson
Terri Gillespie
Debby Giusti
Beth Goddard
Cathy Gohlke
Rene Gutteridge
Cathy Marie Hake
Rachel Hauck
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Sharon Hinck
Joan Hochstetler
Steven Hunt
Angela Hunt
Denise Hunter
Annette Irby
Jennifer Johnson
Jenny B. Jones
Golden Keyes Parsons
Deb Kinnard
Julie Klassen
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Patti Lacy
Maureen Lang
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Michelle Levigne
Sherri L. Lewis
Elizabeth Ludwig
Christine Lynxwiler
Richard L. Mabry
Sharlene MacLaren
Gail Martin
Debby Mayne
Vickie McDonough
Andrew McGuire
Susan Meissner
Becky Melby
Dana Mentink
Amber Miller
Judith Miller
Sara Mills
Siri Mitchell
Nancy Moser
Janelle Mowery
Elizabeth Musser
Mark Mynheir
Jill Nelson
Mae Nunn
John Olson
Donita K. Paul
Trish Perry
Marta Perry
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Paul Robertson
John Robinson
Martha Rogers
Cynthia Ruchti
Gail Sattler
Kim Vogel Sawyer
Shelley Shephard Gray
Virginia Smith
Lynette Sowell
Candice Speare
Kathryn Springer
Denice Stewart
Sarah Anne Sumpolec
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice Thompson
Cindy Thomson
Missy Tippens
Carrie Turansky
ML Tyndall
Amy Wallace
Susan May Warren
Linda Wichman
Beth Wiseman
Cheryl Wyatt
Kathleen Y'Barbo