Living in Fear vs. Abiding in Love

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It can be easy to make check lists when we try to follow Christ. All too easily our journey with Him can turn into trying to be the best people we can be without Him. Keeping track of our actions and being critical of every one of them. Never being sure if you’re “okay” or a total failure.

It can be easy to live in fear.

Oh, beloved of God, do not live in fear! Those mess-ups will be graciously redeemed when we run to the love of God, and those uncertainties can be cleared up when we run to His wisdom. Do not let the spirit of fear take over you instead of God’s Spirit which is of power, love, and self-control.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

Notice that fear and self-control are contrasted as opposites. Keeping ourselves from sin should not be a death-giving exercise (fear), but a life-giving one (self-control). The kind of discipline that God gives does not lead to fear but to freedom. Anything else is from the devil, who invents the most right-sounding lies to keep us in bondage. The devil might even convince you, like he did to me, that “denying yourself” means “not being yourself,” while in fact it really means denying your flesh which leads to you being yourself free in Christ, abiding in His love, and walking by His Spirit.

It all comes down to our need for Christ to set us free. Christ desired for us to live in freedom—that’s why He died for us!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

Put on the armor of God, and do not let the devil convince you that God is keeping a record of your wrongs. When you trust in Jesus, you are covered by His Love. And Love does not keep a record of wrongs! (1 Cor. 13:5)

In John 15:9, Jesus instructs us to abide in His love: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (ESV)

What does it mean to abide in the love of Christ? What does that look like?

It means to live in freedom, without fear, perfected by His love, and not trying to perfect ourselves by our own strivings. It looks like soaking in His presence after a long day’s work or before the beginning of one, drinking deeply of the Spring of Living Water, and feasting upon the Bread of Life. It looks like walking into the world resting in the acceptance of your Father, and gladly pouring that love into other people, so affected by Your Savior that others can’t help but be affected by the love expressed through you.

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” – Galatians 5:4-6

Through the Spirit we wait for God to grow plants of righteousness and goodness in our lives. It is only God who makes anything grow! (1 Cor. 3:7) We wait eagerly through the Spirit which hungers for righteousness, trusting that we will be filled. (Matthew 5:6) When we trust in Jesus to be our righteousness rather than strive to be righteous on our own, our faith WILL express itself through love. If we truly have faith in Christ, we will long to express that faith to others. Our desire for expression is satisfied when we love people the way we have experienced the abundant love of God.

The Lord’s love is a place to take refuge in, not to shy away from in fear you don’t deserve it. Yes, Beloved, you don’t deserve an ounce of it—but that’s what’s so precious about it! That’s the kind of God we serve. He is more than capable of being our Refuge and our place of safety. He is more than willing to hold us and speak tenderly to us in our moments of weakness. He loves you.

Do not be afraid! That’s a command given many times in the Bible, not a suggestion. Bring your fears and anxieties to Him and He will accept you as His child in His open arms. I believe the phrase “Do not be afraid!” can imply the same thing as “Do not walk away from your Father’s embrace.” Only with Him can you be free of fear!

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

Life isn’t about trying to be the best you can be, as good as that may sound. The best a person could ever do on their own would even then only be a façade, while deep inside brokenness and hurt abound in their souls.

Life isn’t about striving. It’s about being healed by Christ in the inmost parts of your being. It’s about Him setting you free from the bondages of fear, shame, and guilt. It’s about abiding in His love, and letting that love perfect you into His image.

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” – Psalm 36:7

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Let Him love you

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Today God just wants to love you. He sees you where you’re at right now, and His heart breaks. He doesn’t scorn you for failing to love Him; He empathizes with you in your weakness. (Hebrews 4:15)

Slow down and be gracious with yourself. Don’t be afraid to do that! You might think you would forget to follow God if you just stopped everything and let Him love you. The truth is, you would be falling into the sin of perfectionism if you didn’t stop everything and let Him love you. The truth is, we can have no part with God if we don’t let Jesus bend down and wash our feet.

“’No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’” – John 13:8-9

Let us receive all that God offers us through Jesus Christ, just as Peter did! God created us to need a whole lot of grace and tender loving care, and I know I need it far more than I like to admit it. But it’s not something we need to be ashamed of!

Come to your honest spot, letting God expose your weakness. He will accept you with welcoming arms. He wants you to let Him love on you! He longs for you to receive Him, to let Him in and sit and eat with you.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20

When your broken honesty leads to tears, He is with you, comforting you. Don’t think that God is too far above you to show you pity! He is closer than you dare believe, more tender-hearted toward you than you could ever imagine.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” – Psalm 51:17

God does NOT despise a broken and contrite heart! He lavishes unmerited favor on you—that’s what grace is: UNMERITED FAVOR! He favors you, even though you don’t deserve it. His perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)

Take a deep breath. The most humble thing to do is to let God love you. God weeps for us when we don’t see the Spring of Living water that He offers to us abundantly, and when we turn to broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer. 2:13) Look what He offers you, Beloved of God!

Abundant, full life in Him–true love, peace, and joy! Jesus came so we could have new life springing within our hearts! (John 10:10)

If only we would listen to Him, what joy we would have! Hear the heart of God in this Psalm, longing for His people to simply listen to Him, so they may receive the goodness of His loving provision!

“If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” – Psalm 81:13-16

Give Him permission to love you today. Let Him satisfy you with His love. He truly has compassion for you, and He understands your weakness. He knows that the only cure to our wandering hearts is His tenderness and mercy.

I thank God for revealing His love to me personally today! We will truly never know another love like His! Have a blessed week! ❤

A Message to Those Who Have Been Hurt by the Church

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Dear friends,
I’m sorry for the Christians who didn’t love you,
For the Christians who followed a Jesus who
Didn’t eat with sinners
Or shunned the ones who didn’t have it all together.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who created an atmosphere of fear
Where you had to wear a mask or try to be someone you weren’t,
When deep inside,
You were filled with hurt.

I’m sorry for the Christians
Who didn’t know what grace was,
Who thought they had to convince you to join their side
With hate when the truth is only found in love.

I’m so sorry you were hurt
By those Christians–
those imperfect persons
Who failed to show you who God really is.

Dear friends,
I hope you find who Jesus really is;
A person who lavishes love on you
No matter what you did–
A love so genuine and beautiful that it doesn’t make sense.

I hope you discover that a life with Him
Is like living in an atmosphere of grace,
Where you don’t have to pretend to be anything but who you really are;
And when you show Him your hurt,
He can heal your scars.

I hope you rejoice
In the grace He pours out on you,
And find that the truth only comes
When you turn from the hate and walk in His love.

Dear friend,
I hope you find safety in God’s embrace,
And find the courage to embrace
Every imperfect person,
Including myself–
And that, together, we can learn to show the world
Who God really is.

 

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:9-11

 

 

God Meets Us in the Midst of Anxiety

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Sometimes I feel like I have to reach a certain spiritual mental state in order to experience God. I’m sure there’s people out there who can relate. The joy of the Lord should be our strength, the peace of God should guard our hearts, and the freedom of Christ should set us free.

Right?

But too often my anxiety holds me back from all this. From true, confident hope. From Him.

How can we dance in His presence when anxiety holds us in bondage? How can we follow God when we don’t feel Him?

It’s true that following God brings about joy, peace, and freedom, but these don’t come to us when we search for them. They don’t come to us when we try to make ourselves dance because we ought to.

They only come when we seek Jesus. When we contemplate Him in all His magnificence. When we open our hearts and let Him in to dine with us. When we truly, honestly enjoy Him, because He is worthy of our joy.

In the midst of anxiety, I often can’t fathom how to enjoy Jesus. I’m too worried about myself worrying too much.

And sometimes that’s okay. God doesn’t need us to enjoy Him. God doesn’t need us to be psychologically healthy. He is capable of meeting us right where we are at to simply be with us. To comfort us. To whisper gently to us reminders of His unfailing love.

He is capable of healing our minds.

When all you can think about is that one problem that keeps running over in your head, God whispers, “I’m here.”

He doesn’t shout it, He doesn’t force us out of our vicious cycle of anxiety, He doesn’t condemn us for our misery.

He holds us. He gives grace to our minds. He guides us to lay everything before Him and just rest. God is greater than any problem we have, so we can rest in Him with the assurance that He has everything under control.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7

Notice how the verse before the “anxiety” verse tells us to humble ourselves. It takes humility to release control of whatever problem we have and trust that God is great enough to hold it in His hands and take care of it for us. And at the same time, during all of this He is gentle enough to hold us in His hands and take care of us.

Once we release control and find rest in our Lord, something beautiful happens.
Peace. Freedom. Joy.

You soon find yourself dancing in His presence!

It’s amazing when you realize you really are not the one in control. He is. His plan is perfect. His mercies our new every morning. His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).
Jesus is risen from the dead, alive and active inside of us to this very day, with victory over death and power over sin!

Take His words to heart. Enjoy Jesus, not because you have to, but because He heals you. He gives grace to your mind. And He always meets you right where you’re at, not where you wish you’d be.

This is a (kinda groovy) hopeful song that helps me “stay steady” in the Lord instead of letting anxiety get to me!

Have a blessed week, and peace be with you! ❤

NP7: Chapter 7 of The Healer of Istagun – The Stars

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This is chapter 7 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun.  Enjoy! Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6

I realized that I was in the dark. My head ached like a mallet had crushed my skull. I squirmed around, reaching, groping for something, anything—

I heard the cries of children. Lost and alone, always alone. Always. This was why I never wanted to have children. They had nothing. No one cared. Spring was beautiful and verdant, but their hearts were desolate. I picked a cherry from a tree, vague memories of light surrounding me. Its juicy taste filled me with joy for a moment, but the pain flooded into me again more quickly and severely than ever.

Hollis. She was smiling at me. Laughing, holding my hands, spinning around and around—sunlight exuded from her.

“It’s just you and me!” she sang, loud and clear, as if that was all that mattered.

I loved her, but I wanted more. I needed more. Kari and his brothers exploded out of nowhere, racing with Hollis and lifting her spirits ten times as much as I ever could. I couldn’t take care of her. She didn’t know it, but she was dying. She was covered in tumors, weak, hopeless. This was only a temporary spell, and one day even this wouldn’t work on her.

My mother and father—they were gone from me. I didn’t remember them, but somehow… I missed them.

Suddenly, Tarquin appeared, surprising me. He lifted me off the ground and laughed, a deep boisterous laugh that resonated in my soul. It grew a little flame within me until I ached all over. I wanted something, but I couldn’t let myself have it. No, no, no! Stop—I can’t—this is too dangerous. Yet his deep brown eyes moved my heart tenderly.

“Let me down!” I cried, fighting against the emotions that threatened to overwhelm me.

But his gentle look somehow caused the ground to give way beneath us. We tumbled downward, and I screamed as I lost hold of the young man. “Tarquin!”

And then I was in a bed, wrapped in warm comforters.

My parents appeared, smiling down at me. I laughed, but I sounded like a babe.

“We love you, Dahlia,” they said. “Gesu loves you.”

***

I woke up with a severe headache. When I smelled meat, I turned on my side to see Prima cooking something over a fire. The forest surrounded us. Thought it was nighttime, I could tell the trees were verdant and green.

“Looks like we’re back in Summer,” I murmured, rubbing my eyes.

“Yeah, I guess that queen didn’t want us around her place.” Prima chuckled but then sighed. “She took us away before I could even think to use my wand.”

“It’s all right.”

I wrapped the blanket we’d brought on our journey tightly around me in the cool Summer morning. “So, Gesu’s in Winter.” The memories of last night’s dream flooded me. Could he be what I longed for in my dream that was beyond simply finding Hollis? “Who is he, Prima? Will anyone ever tell me?”

Prima turned the juicy rabbit around on a stick over the fire. Her soothing powers made excellent hunting skills.

“Gesu isn’t like the others,” she said softly. “People just try to live, but Gesu lives—people just try to be good, but Gesu actually wants to be good and gives people the power they need to be more than alive.” She gazed off in the distance. “He isn’t like the others—he wants the whole world to be happy. He loves us, Dahlia—no one else is like that.” She took a little breath and sighed. “That’s why I love him, too.”

Love. Her voice was sweet and gentle, and I longed to understand her. I loved Hollis, but something inside me was empty, so empty. It was as if even if I found Hollis, even if she were alive and well, even if Gesu healed everyone from this awful plague… this restlessness would still cling to my soul.

My skin felt suddenly itchy. As I examined the numerous tumors on my hands and arms, I lowered my voice. “Have you been getting these weird bumps too?”

“What bumps?” Prima asked.

I lifted my hands up to show her.

She yelped. “The-the p-plague!”

I nodded briskly, trying to shrug it off for her sake. “We’ll find Gesu soon enough.”

Kari rolled over and started whimpering. I rushed to him. He was covered in tumors as well.

“Kari!” I embraced him, as he cried in my shoulder.

“What did you do?” he wailed. “It hurts so bad!”

“It was the water, Kari. It’s poisonous to humans.” I rubbed his back, murmuring comforting words, as guilt overwhelmed me.

The few people who had not been struck by the plague had each happened to not like the taste of Istagun’s river water. I should have realized there was a reason behind it all. I should have known. How would we ever reach Winter now? We couldn’t go through the center of Istagun. Perhaps we could travel around through Spring or through Autumn with Prima’s powers to soothe the mud walls, but that would take days. We needed to get there fast.

Tarquin was gone now. The strange dream about him still weighed heavy on my mind, but he was only a friend—a friend who now was locked away in the dungeons along with the Treelanders. I remembered how he’d told me his desire to go meet them across the sea. He’d shown me that beautiful boat, as if I were a trusted friend.

The boat. Perhaps that thing was faster than traveling by land.

I glanced up at Prima. “We have to sail around the island to Winter with Tarquin’s boat. It’s the only way.”

Prima stared at me in disbelief. “You’re not supposed to know what a boat is.”

So, Prima hid things from me along with the queen?

“Please. Prima.” Desperation filled my voice. “Maybe there’s some humans left in the village who will help us.”

She took a deep breath. “Let’s eat some breakfast and then get going.”

 

In the village, Prima used her being-a-fairy ability to gather the humans of Summer around us. The supervisor fairies only complied to let the humans go off work because Prima insisted it was the queen’s orders.

Only about twenty or so humans were left alive and well in the village. Trembling within, I stood on a platform and called out to my people. “Hello, everyone! You all have no doubt witnessed the enormous healing powers of the human Gesu. No human has ever been that powerful before. But then he supposedly transitioned to Autumn, leaving us vulnerable in the face of a deadly plague.”

Murmurs of sorrow rose through the air.

I sighed. “During this time I have been to both Spring and Autumn.”

At this, the fairies became uneasy, but Prima held them back with hushed words.

“The plague is everywhere, even in these other lands of Istagun. And after venturing to Queen Hazina’s palace, I now know the terrible cause behind all this.”

I glanced at the loyal Hazina-following fairies. Gesu loved me, my parents had said, in my dream. It didn’t make sense, but I had to trust this healer.

“The queen has poisoned our water so we will die,” I called out, bitterness rising through me at the thought of the tumors growing on my hands. “She desires to replace us with the stronger species, called the Treelanders who will take our place in producing food for Istagun’s economy…”

I paused, as two heavily armed fairies flew up to me in anger. They grabbed me, but I shouted, “We don’t have to give in to this! Gesu the great healer is in Winter, and the man Tarquin has a ship we can use to sail—”

The guard fairies covered my mouth, muffling the rest of my words. Prima brought out her wand, but they drew me away before she could use it to appease their anger.

And soon I was in darkness once again.

 

As I opened my eyes, frosty air blew into my face. I tried to sit up, but my fingers and toes surprised me with their stiffness. Soft white drops fell from the sky, chilling me. My head ached more than ever, and I coughed hard into the air, letting my brokenness echo into the desolate land. I had never been colder in my life.

Winter. It dawned on me that that was where the guard fairies must have taken me.

Slowly, I tried to push myself up with my numb hands. With great effort, I succeeded. The ground was white, covered in the soft drops that came from the sky. It looked strangely appetizing, so I stuck out my tongue and let a drop fall. The freezing substances tasted like water, but much colder.

A rush of understanding came over me. Snow. I had heard about this, long ago. In Winter, water turned into a solid.

Pushing myself to my feet, I stood up. I hugged my chest, trembling all over from the bitter cold. I looked around at the white ground, the white trees, and the white sky. Everything was white. As wind and snow whipped about, my teeth chattered. I could see now why people died here. But was there at least some who were still alive? The healthy old folks, perhaps?

I gazed again at my surroundings. It was so quiet, and I could not see light coming from anywhere to signal human inhabitants. Gesu was supposed to be here. If he was such a great healer, perhaps he had healed others and even himself if he had needed to.

I trudged forward into the white forest, but a few heavy steps into the thick snow told me I needed some other plan. I wore sandals, and my feet were frozen. A nauseous feeling rose in my throat.

The plague. I realized with sudden horror the tumors covering my entire body, my face, my hands, my legs. I wanted to scream.

Suddenly, I heard a low moaning, so deep and silent it was as if it came from beneath the earth, shaking the ground under my feet. My heart skipped a beat. I took a heavy, painstaking step toward the noise, but then fell to my knees into the snow. Crawling through the dense slush, I followed the moaning deep into the forest until it grew much louder.

As I came into an open glade, shock course through me. Humans of all ages lied everywhere, dead or dying, it was hard to tell. They moaned, weak and helpless. No one had lit a fire.

“D-Dahlia.” I heard a faint whisper, and turned toward it.

Tarquin was sitting there, pale as a ghost. He, too, was covered in tumors. And to my complete astonishment, in his arms lay Hollis, her face utterly tranquil.

“Hollis!” I gasped, shaken to the core of me. She was here at last. But was she all right?

I crawled toward him, weakness engulfing my limbs. Soon I would be like the people around me, motionless and miserable.

Tarquin looked up at me, his intense dark eyes searching mine. “Her heart stopped beating a few minutes ago.”

I nodded, taking in the girl’s fragile complexion, pale and broken from years of sickness. Her blonde hair rippled to the snowy ground.

“My beautiful sister,” I whispered, my voice choked with emotion. I hadn’t realized I’d said it aloud till Tarquin met my gaze again, studying me quietly.

I looked up at him, suddenly. “How did you know she was my sister among all these people?”

He said nothing for a long moment. “I… I watched you ever since I was young. I knew Gesu even when I was a Spring boy. He’d been a Spring boy with me for a few years before he had to go. He told me something about you…” He stared at me, and blood rushed through my freezing limbs. “He told me you would need me someday. I didn’t know what for, but now…”

Suddenly, voices cried out in the air, not from the sick people, but from somewhere far off. “Long live the King, who will never be King! One drop of his blood will meet all our needs!”

The voices were sweet and shrill, like fairies. I had no idea what to think. They repeated the chant over and over, and it grew louder and louder. What King were they talking about?

A smile played on Tarquin’s lips. “Dahlia, you don’t need to be afraid.”

But fear overwhelmed me as I looked at my dear sister in his arms, and I felt the plague consuming me with the pain that was gripping my body. “I have reason to be afraid,” I said in a low voice, “and, besides, I don’t even know you. So, please, get out of my life! Hollis is my sister. Whatever the ridiculous Gesu says, I will never need you, Tarquin.”

Silence fell between us, while the moanings of the sick ones and the loud chant filled the crisp air.

“Do you hear what they are saying?” Tarquin asked gently, though his voice was strained.

I hugged myself into a ball and sobbed. “I don’t care anymore. Hollis gave me hope, but now she is—well, look at her! She’s dead. There’s nothing more we can do.”

“But the King they are talking about—it is Gesu. ‘One drop of his blood will meet all our needs.’ That must mean that Gesu has to die, or is already dead.”

“So there, you admitted it yourself. Gesu can do nothing to help me anymore.” I looked up at him, bleakly. “Please, leave me alone. I just… I just want to die.”

Tarquin set Hollis gently on the ground and stood up. “Dahlia, don’t say that to yourself. Gesu’s death will meet all our needs. Don’t you understand? He is dying today so we do not have to die.”

At that, he ran off, to find the Gesu-following fairies, I supposed. I turned to Hollis, who lay with her pink lips parted, her blue eyes still wide with empty hope. Perhaps Tarquin had told her he knew me, and that I had been searching for her. Perhaps she’d tried to stay alive for me, but simply had no strength left. I held her head in my frozen hands, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Then I looked up at the stars that had appeared as the night came. The snow clouds had cleared enough for me to see them. I remembered how Gesu had talked to Prima through the stars, the night we’d given up hope on passing through the mud walls. I remembered how he’d spoken of his love and how we should never give up. And then how Prima had realized her powers could soothe the mud wall monster.

“Tell me now that you love me!” I cried out brokenly to the stars into the bitter cold night. I shivered as I wrapped my arms around Hollis. The stars said nothing to me—just hung in the sky like a million solemn lights. In fact, as I gazed at them in wonder, they seemed to fade slowly away, as if in time with Gesu’s heartbeat.

I grimaced. Gesu had not given me any power as he had given Prima. He could do nothing for me, so I had reason to give up.

Yet Tarquin’s words echoed inside me as I fell asleep in the snow that was beginning to feel warm against my skin. He is dying today so we do not have to die. Prima’s words, too, whispered within me: He isn’t like the others—he wants the whole world to be happy. He loves us, Dahlia—no one else is like that.

And then, strangely, I realized a simple fact that I somehow couldn’t refute: I needed Gesu so badly. Though my eyes were closed, in my dreams the stars twinkled in a beautiful rhythm, speaking a wordless melody into the depths of my heart.

And for a moment, I felt I at last understood what love truly was.

S6: Tarquin’s Perspective

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This is a scene from chapter 5 of my ten-chapter fantasy novella, The Healer of Istagun, told from Tarquin’s perspective. Enjoy! To see the original chapter 5, click here.

“Tarquin, am I going to be okay? Do you think I’ll get over this?” My sister Mara’s hollowed dark eyes pleaded me.

I could hardly bear the sight of her weak figure and pale face splotched with tumors. Would she be sent to Winter with the dying ones before she got well enough?

Before I could answer her, I heard a knock at the door. Wondering who it could be, I rushed to open it.

Dahlia, with her wild brown hair and beautiful dark eyes, stood there, with a young Spring boy at her side. My heart stopped.

“Hi, Dahlia,” I said in greeting.

She blushed, no doubt surprised I remembered her name. I was half embarrassed I had.

“Oh, never mind,” she said quickly. “I thought this was where the younger boys or girls—”

“—it is. My sister is here.” I raked my hand through my hair, worried that Mara thought I’d left her forever. Her brain was in a muddled state due to the plague. “I was caring for her and the rest of them since they have no one else to help them.”

Dahlia’s face paled whiter than the sick ones. “We came here to…” She cleared her throat, but before she could finish, the Spring boy held out a basket of fresh buns.

“Want some, sir?” His voice was small; I hadn’t seen a Spring boy in so long. He was adorable.

Dahlia smiled a little. “We were giving them out to the sick.”

Her concern for the sick ones warmed my heart. I wondered if she knew Gesu. Not just knew about him, but knew him, like I did. Gesu’s kind-heartedness, after all, inspired me to tend to these girls.

I watched Dahlia for a moment as she stared around the room, as if searching for something, or perhaps someone. Then she and the Spring boy began handing out the fresh buns.

I rushed to my sister’s side. “I’m here now.”

Mara struggled to open her heavy eyelids. “Tarquin, I love you.”

“I love you, too.” I dabbed a wet cloth on her forehead. “You’ll be all right, sis.”

Suddenly I noticed a green fairy entering the room. “Attention, everyone!” she shouted. “Queen Hazina has made a new decree for the lands of Spring, Summer, and Autumn: ‘All the sick must proceed to Winter.’ The ‘sick’ are defined by the queen as ‘those unable to work for her majesty.’ Therefore, if you do not stand up within five seconds, you will be taken immediately to Winter.” Four other green fairies stood by, with chains ready.

I stood up straight, but the sick ones couldn’t even begin to sit up. I stared at Dahlia from across the room, not taking my eyes off her as her dark eyes drew me in. I hadn’t stopped thinking about her since Gesu’s miracle session a few days ago. She hadn’t wanted to marry anyone, but I could fix that.

When the door closed sharply, I realized then that the fairies had indeed taken away the sick ones, leaving Dahlia, Kari, and me behind.

I dropped my gaze from Dahlia, thinking of Mara, dear Mara. I should have tried to save her, to help her stand somehow.

“Can I eat a bun?” Kari asked the young woman.

After a pause, Dahlia told him he could have them all.

The boat. She needed to see the boat. If we were some of the only few left well and alive in Summer, she needed to know about it, in case the time came for us to leave Istagun.

“Dahlia.” Her name came out weaker than I intended. “I want you to see something.”

“I’ll be right back, Kari.”

Her willingness to follow me surprised me. Was I so attractive that I could change her mind about me within a few days?

I led her down to the dark, filthy basement. Perhaps I was a fool to bring a pretty girl down to this place. I probably was just going to scare her off. Still, it was important she knew.

“The boys wouldn’t let me use theirs, so I come here sometimes and…”

I lit a lantern, revealing the boat I’d spent hours laboring over.

“It’s called a boat,” I said quietly.

“A boat?” She stared at me, almost blissfully, and my heart ached.

“I built it, so I could one day travel across the seas, to the mountains. There are rumors about these people called Treelanders, who live in the forests. I want to meet them, to escape this Summer, and to be free.” I gazed off into the dark basement, remembering the stories I’d heard from the Gesu-following fairies. They dreamed of traveling to the Treelanders to live among them and share the goodness of Gesu with them.

“It floats?”

I stifled a laugh. “Well, I hope so. A fairy used to tell me stories, so that’s all I have to go off of.”

Dahlia grimaced. “Why are you showing me this?”

Her question caught me off guard, but I shrugged. “You and I… we’re some of the only few left here, and—”

“—and we have responsibilities!” She folded her arms across her chest. “You can’t just leave everyone here to die, while you go on a silly adventure to a land far away!”

I lowered the lantern from my face, grimacing at her biting remark. So, she thought I was an idiot. I could change that.

“I showed this to you so you’d know, when the time came,” I said steadily, though inside I shook at her entrancing gaze. “But you’re right. Now is not the time for adventures… Now is the time to find Gesu.”

“Gesu?” she asked softly.

“Yes, Dahlia. He’s the only one who can save us.” I searched her face, willing her to believe me. Of course she believed. She had seen the miracles. But there was so much more to just believing in what Gesu could do. You had to believe in who He was.

“Tarquin,” she whispered, “can he bring the dead back to life?”

I frowned, unable to grasp why she’d expect so much from the man. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“I need to find my sister, Hollis. She’s been sick for years. I don’t know where she is, or even if she’s still…” Her voice cracked unexpectedly, and she turned to leave.

I wanted to reach out and clasp hold of her small hand, but I restrained myself.

“Wait, Dahlia,” I said, thinking of my own sister, and how I’d be just as anxious to find Mara as Dahlia seemed about finding Hollis. “Is that why you came to this hut? To find your sister?”

“Yeah.” She took a step up the stairs.

“Oh.”

I stared at the back of her head where her dark curls cascaded down to her waist. I couldn’t let her leave. And we both knew that Gesu was the only cure to this plague.

“Let’s go to Autumn to get Gesu,” I suggested. “He can heal everyone choked by the plague—and your sister, once we find her. She’s probably in Winter. We’ll figure something out and…”

I watched as she stormed upstairs, her sobs resonating down to me in the dark basement. My heart went out to her. Both of our sisters were gone.

Only Gesu could help us now.

The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

Sandbox: How You Might Feel About My New Novella

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(Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash)

Warning: Spoiler Alert! I will be posting the chapters week by week, so don’t read this if you don’t want the story spoiled. 😉
This assignment was to imagine someone opening your completed novella and describe how they might think and feel about it.

Trinity Peters browsed the bookshelf at the library. Her eyes caught onto a colorful book with the title, The Healer of Istagun. She slid it out, examined the back cover, sat down in a comfy chair, and read it carefully.

The book took her on a fantasy journey with a young girl named Dahlia, who was trying to find her sick sister. Trinity thought about her mother who was in the hospital with breast cancer and understood the scary unknowns of illness. She found the powerful healer Gesu quite fascinating, and she wished there was some quick cure in real life.

Prima the fairy was always jabbering on about whatever, which got Trinity to chuckle a bit. That fairy and Dahlia seemed to be in some love-hate relationship. Trinity wished Dahlia would realize how much Prima was helping her.

As Tarquin showed his ship in the basement that he had built in hopes to sail away from this land of enslavement, Trinity couldn’t help but want Dahlia and Tarquin to end up together in the end. But Dahlia kept shoving his kindness and special attention aside. Why wouldn’t this girl give the poor guy a chance? She read faster, wondering how Dahlia’s heart was going to change.

Andrea was a bit annoying, Trinity had to admit. Dahlia had a point about bringing misery on her children if she got married, since the parents and children had to be separated immediately after birth. Those evil fairies were certainly evil! And Andrea seemed absolutely clueless, wanting Dahlia to just have fun with her life and marry somebody.

The story world naturally intrigued Trinity. Queen Hazina was a powerhouse, wanting all the age groups separated into never-ending seasons. If Trinity never saw her parents or didn’t know anything about them, she’d be totally confused and lost in the world. There wouldn’t be older people to give advice. Now that she thought about it, she’d probably do a lot of foolish things if only peers surrounded her. She couldn’t imagine the pain of being separated from children she had as soon as she gave birth. And with working as a slave all the time to that wicked Queen, she knew she’d be infuriated by the injustice of it all!

As the book approached the climax, Trinity wondered how Dahlia and Tarquin were going to help the hundreds of sick people, if Gesu was really dead. She watched as the two got his blood and fed it to the sick. Ew! Were these people actually vampires? But no, Gesu’s blood actually turned out to magically heal the sick and give them extraordinary power. Wait, was this some allegory thing? Trinity thought. Did Gesu represent Jesus saving us and giving us the Holy Spirit, after His blood was shed for us? These thoughts confirmed in Trinity’s mind the power of Jesus’ death.

The book ended with Tarquin the King of Istagun, asking Dahlia to be his wife so they could venture to the land across the sea to take the Treelanders home and to explore the new land. Clearly, the spirit of Gesu was with them all.

Trinity set down the book, realizing the library was just now closing. Great. Just in time. She went home pondering sickness and healing, the relationship between age groups in society, and the power of Jesus’ blood, which brought her life in abundance.

Well, this might be an idealized version of what I hope readers will get from my novella. But with God’s help, perhaps I can give you something worthwhile and meaningful for you to enjoy and think about.

SA: Story Analysis of The Healer of Istagun

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(Photo by Bobby Johnson on Unsplash)

Introducing a new novella I’m starting with the prompting (and requirement) of my Creative Writing class! I never though I’d write a fantasy story, but here I am, writing a fantasy story. 😉 Each week I will post a new chapter. To see the prologue, click here. Hope you enjoy this story analysis! 

Title: The Healer of Istagun (you may find it interesting that “Istagun” means “seasons” in Maltese)
Author: Grace Caylor
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle schoolers and high schoolers

Characters
In order of appearance:
Dahlia – Resides in Summer. Eighteen years old. Tall and thin, curly brown hair, and brown eyes. Compassionate and hopeful yet stubborn nature. A human slave who must work in the fields of Summer for the evil fairies. She is determined to save her younger sister Hollis from dying from sickness.

Hollis – Resides in Spring, later transported to Winter. Thirteen years old. Golden blonde hair, small frail figure, and very pale skin due to long-term sickness. She’s not as innocent as she looks. She understands things her older sister, Dahlia, doesn’t want her to understand.

Andrea – Resides in Summer. Nineteen years old. Black thick hair, medium brown skin, black eyes. Extremely bubbly and friendly to everyone. A human slave who must work in the fields of Summer for the evil fairies. Disagrees with her serious friend, Dahlia, on many things.

Gesu – Resides in Summer, later transported to Winter. Thirty years old. Tall and broad-shouldered, tan skin, shaven face, and dark brown hair. An extraordinary healer that people come to so he can cure them. Silent and brooding, yet also thoughtful and kind.

Tarquin – Resides in Summer. Twenty years old. Tall and thin, brown skin, black hair with scruffy beard. Works on mines between the lands of Summer and Autumn. Impulsive, yet passionate about the right things, such as finding Gesu the healer. Dreams to escape the island of Istagun and sail to the land beyond the sea.

Prima – Resides in Summer. Older than the trees. A small green, fragile fairy who talks fast and curtly. She is a servant of Gesu and loves him very much.

Queen Hazina – Resides in a palace in the center of Istagun. Older than the trees. The evil fairy Queen of Istagun. Giant sparkly rainbow wings. Cruel and demanding. Wants all humans dead so she can replace them with the strong species, the Treelanders, to toil for her instead.

Minor characters: Dahlia and Hollis’ parents and grandparents, mud wall monsters, Treelanders

Point of View

The story is told from Dahlia’s point of view.

Setting

Throughout the story, Dahlia transports to the lands of all four seasons. At the end, every land turns to the season of summer, showing that that was true time of year all along.

Plot Outline

Eighteen-year-old Dahlia’s younger sister, Hollis, is surely going to die—if she’s not already dead. Unfortunately, the evil fairies of the island of Istagun don’t allow young adults to travel back to the land of Spring, where only children live. When Dahlia discovers a remarkable healer, Gesu, in the land of Summer, hope springs within her. After asking Gesu for help, she travels with his fairy servant, Prima, to find her sister and bring her back. But when she can’t find Hollis and Gesu gets missing too, Dahlia must seek the help of Tarquin, a young miner who has secrets of his own hidden in his basement. Will Dahlia find both Hollis and Gesu in time before the Queen of Istagun completely replaces the humans with a stronger species?

Conflict

Woman vs. fairy Queen – Major conflict. Dahlia is trying to find both Gesu and Hollis, who are taken to Winter by the queen’s orders. This is a conflict because it makes it harder for Dahlia to find them.
Girl vs. sickness – Major conflict. If the sickness wins over Hollis, she dies and all of Dahlia’s efforts to find he are in vain.
Woman vs. woman – Minor conflict. Andrea and Dahlia disagree about marriage. Andrea thinks it’s the greatest thing and that you should do it, but Dahlia doesn’t think anyone should marry, because she doesn’t want her children to experience the misery of slavery and being  separated from their parents.
Woman vs. man – Minor conflict. Tarquin is in love with Dahlia, but she doesn’t want to consider him.
Woman vs. fairy – Prima wants Dahlia to go to Winter to find Hollis, but Dahlia is too optimistic and goes to Summer. Prima also wants Dahlia to seek Tarquin’s help, which after some debate, Dahlia agrees to.

 

Theme

Sacrifice brings life.
Love covers over a multitude of sins.

 

Literary Devices

Allegory – Gesu’s blood heals the sick. This represents Jesus’ death healing sinners.
Ceasura – Prima stops abruptly in between sentences: “Get along, ladies—I’ll do the work—you know you can’t be seen.”
Prologue – I include a prologue so that the reader gets more of an insight into the story world, as well as the relationship between Dahlia and Hollis.

Feedback

Dahlia and Hollis’ sweet love for one another is one of my favorite parts of this book. I also love how level-headed Hollis is even though she’s so young. Fantasy is usually not my favorite, but because this is a spiritual allegory along with some ideas that can be transferred to the modern world, it intrigues me. I love that this story is more about the characters and emotions than the story world, even though the story world is naturally a part of it. Speaking of story worlds, my younger sister actually helped me come up with the idea of four seasons separated into four different lands—and clearly, I think this is an intriguing idea this story has to offer. 😉 Another part of this story I enjoy is Prima, a fairy that chooses not to follow the evil queen but chooses to serve the healer Gesu. She’s innocent and quick-witted all at once. Finally, Tarquin is just way too cool. *Spoilers* He builds a ship underground in hopes to one day escape Istagun and sail to the lands beyond the sea.

 

Have you ever written or begun writing a book? Or do you have an idea for one you wished you had time to write? I’d love to hear about it! 🙂