The Thrall’s Sword

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Now introducing my novel, The Thrall’s Sword! This is my Christian historical YA novel, at present unpublished–but by God’s grace, it won’t be for long. Keep a look out for updates! Follow my author blog to get updates: gracecaylor.com

On the night Sigrid escapes death on a fiery longship, she loses her mother. Will sweet revenge or a foreign god free her from despair?

The seventeen-year-old Norse slave Sigrid escapes her sacrificial fate in the afterlife, just as the Lord Joar of Bergen murders her mother. When two fishermen rescue her from the seas, the grief-stricken Sigrid joins them on their mission to warn the Irish of the oncoming Viking raiders, secretly plotting to destroy the Lord who has done her wrong. However, as the Irishman Erik teaches Sigrid about God, a power starts to work inside her, transforming her hate into forgiveness—but she doesn’t realize it until the moment of her deepest misery.

Blonde girl photo credit

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Anointed

“Jesus is coming to Bethany tonight,” Lazarus said in the doorway.

My hands stopped at the dishes. After I passed a quick grin to my sister, Martha, I rushed to embrace my tall brother. “Thank God!” I declared.

I was still overcome with joy every time I saw Lazarus, forever awed by Jesus’ authority to bring men back to life, which he had accomplished in my brother a month before.  How could the Pharisees and the teachers of the law not see it? How could they not understand? Jesus came to be a servant to all, just as we should serve Him—not only out of productive housework, but first and foremost out of a love for Him.

Lazarus quietly slipped out of the room to attend to his costumers at the smithy.

Martha lurched into action, dashing about the house, trying to cook dinner, sweep, and wash dishes all at once.

“Martha, Martha!” I cried, “Remember what our Lord said?”

She snatched the broom and tried to put a dish away, but she ended up knocking over a clay jar on the table. “Yes, I know,” she gasped, “But I can’t sit at His feet if He’s not here yet—and He can’t come here till this house is put into proper order.”

“But won’t you calm yourself?” I said, more gently now, trying to reason with her. “Prepare for Him all you like, so you may soon sit at His feet. But don’t fret, Martha. Be at peace, and be joyful in serving Him. I believe that is what He wants from us, sister.”

Martha’s scowl began to fade. Hunkering over with the broom, she swept up the shattered pieces of clay without another word.

 

A few hours later Lazarus informed us that Jesus would be feasting at Simon the Leper’s house, not ours. Martha tried to adjust to this news calmly, and we both rushed over to help tidy up Simon’s house and prepare a meal, with his wife’s help. Our anticipation quickened our work.

Soon, as we swept and cleaned, we sang joyfully to our Father in heaven. I was glad, so glad to see a smile on Martha’s face as she recounted Jesus’ last visit.

“I still can hardly believe he rose our dear brother from the dead,” she told me, sighing at the memory. “But of course, I have to believe whenever Lazarus walks into the room. He’s living proof.” Chuckling, she tilted her head at me. “You’re living proof, too—always so joyful, always kind. Jesus has got to be the Messiah, don’t you think?”

I paused at my broom, my lips curling into a smile. “I never once doubted He was.”

Simon’s wife set a plate firmly down on the table. “You’re fierce supporters of that fellow, aren’t ya? Well, I don’t believe it, though I support my husband’s beliefs and all.” She laughed shakily. “Lazarus could have been fake dying, you know… I-I just don’t believe it.”

Martha and I glanced at each other, not knowing how anyone could doubt in the miracles of the Lord, which so many had witnessed. But the demons had their ways, as they had on me before Jesus transformed me. I prayed that one day this woman would open her heart to the truth.

 

After much work, Simon’s guests entered the house. All the men settled down at the table to chat until the honored guest, Jesus of Nazareth, arrived. Martha and Simon’s wife worked hard in the kitchen.

I stood by the wall, waiting for my Lord to come. He would save His people from their sins. He would be a light shining in the darkness. He would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I quivered inside at the thought. I knew that He was the Son of God, and that was enough cause for me to tremble. That He would one day open the floodgates of heaven to my wretched self, who had lived much of my life estranged by seven demons—that was enough.

But He had done more. He had cared unceasingly for my family, even as far as lifting my brother up from the pit of death. I could hardly wait to sit at His feet and listen to His words.

Jesus and His disciples entered the room. The men fell silent. Even Martha let the flat bread alone in the pan, and instead folded her hands quietly in front of her.

Presently, our Lord began to greet each one of us, bringing the house back to a charming lull of talk and laughter. His eyes spoke kindness as He smiled at me.

The Most Holy One was speaking to me. Yet I could not move; I could not bring myself to acknowledge Him or even fall on my knees. The dire thought that He was mighty enough to see my inner secrets, powerful enough to strike me down with a lightning bolt this instance—it overwhelmed me.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” he said gently, placing a firm hand on my quaking shoulder. Then He turned away to greet the others, leaving me alone by the wall, ashamed of my fear.

 

I watched Him speak to us in a deep, calming voice filled with both passion and sympathy. He spoke of the good news of the kingdom of God as He had many times before, revealing mystery upon mystery, layer upon layer of truth, yet doing so with a genuine love that I could not fathom.

Martha served the men while Simon’s wife lingered in the kitchen, but I was caught in my Lord’s words, which pierced my heart with truth. I longed to show Him my esteem for Him, my gratefulness for what He had done for Lazarus, my deep love for all that He was.

I knew, somehow, that He’d seen right through me when He’d greeted me, and He’d understood my fear. But as He even told me—He didn’t want me to be afraid. He wanted my love and devotion, the key to my heart, He wished to be the whole Reason of my self.

I drew the alabaster jar of pure nard from my satchel that I’d brought along, because I knew. I knew He would die, yet rise again as Lazarus had, only this time to bring the assurance of everlasting life we all were searching for. The knowledge of it penetrated my soul. He would be led as a lamb to be slaughtered. He’d be the ultimate sacrifice for all who believed in Him, for eternity.

Lazarus eyed me, noticing the jar in my hands, and he offered a smile of encouragement. Though my family had been saving this perfume for Jesus for two years, I knew that the time was now. Martha and Lazarus had given it to me as my responsibility, so I had every right to use it if I believed it was time. The Messiah deserved so much more than mere fragrance for his feet, but it was all I had to offer Him.

Father, I prayed, may Your Son’s name be glorified because of me.

I stepped forward, gripping the jar. My awe of Him, my delight in the Christ’s humility to grace this earth, my thankfulness for the miracle He’d done in Lazarus’ life—it all poured through me at once as I fell on my knees before Him, weeping.

“Lord, Lord,” I whispered, opening the jar and letting the strong perfume flow out over His feet. As I emptied out every drop of the nard, the aroma permeated the whole room. Trembling with emotion, I wiped His dripping feet with my hair.

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?” a disciple of Jesus protested, his voice edged with frustration. “It was worth a year’s wages.”

Heat flooded through my cheeks. Would my Lord resent me for what I had done? Did He believe I despised the poor?

But I felt His hand on my shoulder. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to Me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have Me.”

The tension released inside me, as I slowly raised my eyes to His warm brown ones. I was beyond grateful that my offering should please Him. Yet the thought that one day He would have to leave filled me with sorrow.

My Lord turned His focus back towards Judas Iscariot, the disciple who’d objected my actions, and then He continued. “When she poured this perfume on me, she did it to prepare me for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

His words sent a roil of shock through me. That people would long remember me was an honor I knew I didn’t deserve. Yet if it should glorify Jesus’ name, praise God!

“Mary, are you all right?”

Suddenly I was aware of Martha’s arms around me, first embracing me, and then pulling me to my feet. “Will you help me serve them?”

I looked around in a daze. Jesus was now preaching to the men with the same audacity as before. The disciple who had spoken against me, Judas, was sulking in the corner. Noticing his empty goblet, I snatched a pitcher and came to him to refill it. After all, he had just as much as a right in the Kingdom of God as I did, if he only humbled himself. And through my kindness, perhaps he’d understand that I wasn’t a hater of the poor.

As I poured Judas’ wine, I smiled at him. For a moment he studied me carefully, and then his dark eyes narrowed, sending a sinking feeling within me.

Dear Father, I prayed fervently, help Judas and Simon’s wife and the rest of the doubters to all know that Lazarus was truly dead and made alive again. Help them to know that the same can be true for them in their hearts, and that my offering was nothing compared to His overflowing anointment on my soul.

(Historical Fiction based as much as possible on John 12:1-10 and Matthew 26:6-13.)

A Hero for the Highest Cause

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Photo by Jacek Mleczek on Pexels.com

“There’s a real war out there, you know, you mustn’t risk your life.”

She looked up at me with earnestness in her pale cheeks and round opal eyes. Dark brown cascades rippled over her shoulders. She was too pretty a girl to leave, too pretty to run off and risk my life when I could live happily here with her… but no—I could not think of myself. The lives of hundreds of others were at stake. God had gifted me with the capability of healing the sick and wounded, so I had to use it for His glory.

“I understand your fears, Clarisse, but this is a risk I must take for the Lord. I will risk my life to save the people of France and to share with them the mysteries of God’s grace. And I will risk it for you, beloved—by helping others have the strength to fight this war, so you can be free.”

She breathed in my ear. “Oh, Pierre, I would rather be with you in the coldness of this place than flying on the wings of freedom without you.”

Her voice was worn and ragged from years of adversity. She was not innocent of troubles; she was afraid, because she knew well the capacity they had to hurt her.

I clutched her hand tightly and whispered against it. “I am not going to die, my love. Trust me, I am not going to die.”

“You can never be too sure, though. Can’t you think for once of yourself?” she asked quietly. Her heart thudded against me as I drew her shivering frame close and rested my chin on the top of her head. She continued, “You’ve always been caring for the sick and wounded, but someday you will wear yourself out, you will die. Then what will become of me? Perhaps you don’t mind yourself dying, but really, Pierre, what will I do without you?”

Withdrawing from my arms, she stared fixedly up at me, her chin trembling and silent tears dripping down her cheeks. What would she do?

I studied her carefully, as I tucked her soft hair behind her ears. “You are right, Clarisse—I am not one to bother about myself, but it is simply because I have learned that my life is in the hands of God, and His grace is something to be spread like wildfire. That is the only way all the wars of this world will end: by spreading God’s grace that covers all sin to even the most undeserving. So, beloved, do not be afraid if you find out I have been healing the wounds of the enemy. They don’t deserve it, but neither do any of us. And no person can truly live if they are never completely forgiven.”

I gazed down at her glistening eyes and slim shoulders. “And as for you, dear one, God is always with you, even if I die. He loves you and He cares for you—rely on Him, will you, my love? Will you place your life in His hands while I’m gone, and even when I return?”

“I will, Pierre,” she agreed, her face radiant with a new hope. “You are right—God is in control. He will take care of me while you are off healing the dying people of France. He will take care of you as well.” She smiled tenderly. “You are a good man, Pierre.”

Heat poured into my cheeks. I knew I didn’t deserve that praise. And yet her words gave me a more acute awareness of her love for me. How could I leave her? But I had to—but no. But yes. I determined to untangle myself from the mysteries of love, and I fixed my eyes on the ground, my thoughts on God, the One I’d be a most pitiable man without.

“Then now is when we would say farewell, my love.” I kissed her hand lightly, and then hastened out the door with my burlap sack over my shoulder.

“Wait.”

I had to stop. That one word shook me with a feeling so severe I could not make sense of it. If I looked at her one more time, my heart might break from the knowledge of what I had to do. No matter the cost, the pain, no matter how much I loved her—I belonged to the Lord, and it was futile and worthless to think of myself and what I most wanted, when He had a far better plan for me. So I just stood in the doorway with my back to her.

“You will return to me?”

“Yes,” I assured her, “all in the good Lord’s timing. I will come back and marry you. You can be sure of that.” I took another step away.

“Do you promise?” she asked in a small, frail voice.

I looked back at her, just once, for the last time. Her beauty warmed me inside, as it had so many times before.

“Promise?”

Collecting my thoughts, I considered telling her what I felt to say, but the truth ended up prying its way out of my mouth. “I can’t promise my return,” I said frankly. “The French Revolution isn’t an organized war—anything could happen. But I do promise I will try my very hardest.”

She nodded slowly, accepting it. “God be with you, Pierre.”

“And He with you, Clarisse.”

I turned away from her before my emotions could overpower the insistent Spirit within me. I straddled the old mare and set her off down the road, departing the fragile young woman all alone in the cold house. Tears sprung from my eyes as I rode through the snow with the sack full of food, medicine, and blankets.

I hadn’t been completely honest with her. No matter what, I was bound to die through this risky procedure of healing the sick and wounded on the streets of Paris, simply because I didn’t have a weapon. I wouldn’t defend myself, no matter what, even if I did have a musket. I wouldn’t shoot at anyone, because God saw them all as wandering souls in desperate need of a Savior—and He had perfect eyesight. Both my allies and enemies would be healed, and God would be glorified through me. But the French Revolution wasn’t an organized war. The enemy would likely fire at me even if I came to heal them. Indeed, the Spirit within me gave me the sense that this would surely happened, and that my time would soon end. I knew I would never see Clarisse again in that cold little house, and neither would we ever marry. But thank God we’d meet in a big warm one, filled with inexplicable light. There, at least, I was guaranteed to see her again, as a sister in Christ, and in a place where I could breathe free air at last.

As I rode nearer to the deafening sound of the gunshots, I prayed that the lives I saved physically would be saved spiritually through the words the Spirit gave me, and that they would discover the big, warm house as well. But for the first time since I had learned about God’s hand on my life, it took great strength to place my thoughts off myself, and place them on the road in front of me that led to the dying people I would heal. Nevertheless, I forced myself to look through God’s eyes, and see the hurt and suffering of the world. I asked for His strength to think of them and their pain, and to forget about my own. For if I did not look through His eyes and ask for His strength, I would fail. And if I failed to turn to His power, I would die trying to do good on my own—or worse, I would die forgetting the hundreds of lives at stake.

I could not think of myself.

 

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” – Acts 20:24 (NIV)

On The Train

I fondle the yellow marigold between my fingers as the rusty train screeches down the track. The sun shines on me through the dark clouds and through the glass window; the wind pulls my hair out of my face.

“I love you,” says a low, murmuring voice. I turn to the stranger on my right, and then whip my head to the seat behind me.

I shake my head, amused with myself. No one is talking to me. I am alone.

I try to remember when the last time I heard those words was. Too long ago. I’m going home now, to my parents who raised me. But home with them is of one kind, while home with my husband is another. I won’t really be home till I die.

“I love you,” says the voice again.

I grip the marigold, and turn hesitantly to the stranger on my left. “Ma’am…?” I say, my voice breaking.

She is a big woman who is idly knitting a scarf in her lap. “Hmm?”

I give a tight smile. “Did you hear some feller say something?” Continue reading

Uncle John’s Mansion

An excerpt from a novel I wrote when I was twelve and thirteen.

The train jolted. She woke up from the pleasant dream. Looking at the train clock, it appeared that several hours had passed by. And outside the window she saw the sun slowly setting in the west. She had slept practically the whole day!

From the window she could see the train was rumbling over a tall bridge that hung over a dazzling canyon.

The train started to sway. Continue reading

The Girl Who Died

I had heard about him before, about his loyal disciples, strange parables, and mostly of his extraordinary miracles. He was all that everyone talked about nowadays. My father, a synagogue leader, talked about him more than most. Father claimed that this man was the Messiah, the Son of God, the King who would come to save us from our sins. Mother, on the other hand, called the whole thing a bunch of nonsense. Continue reading

An Excerpt From My Viking Novel

One morning I awoke to find Erik missing from his usual place by the fire, flopped on his belly with his blanket over his head. He just wasn’t there. So I yawned and stretched my sore muscles, and then took a good look around. Of course, due to the fog, it wasn’t easy. I was thankful when I heard a familiar voice by where I knew the river we followed was. The voice was familiar, but not the language it was speaking. I couldn’t understand it at all. Continue reading