Be Still and Know that I Am God

Easter is upon us once again, and with it always comes a profound longing that stirs me to examine myself, and my walk with Jesus, a bit more intently. There is something about going from the horror of the crucifixion, to the despair of waiting, to the elation of the resurrection, that brings a sense of renewal.

This is an unusual Easter for many, who would typically be preparing for a week of church services, and celebrations with friends and extended family. The need for social distancing and quarantine have forced us to forgo many of our annual Easter traditions. But maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing if we view this as an opportunity to grow. We can turn our forced solitude into a gift of time, during which we can slow down enough to contemplate the full depth and meaning of Easter. Maybe we can even start some new traditions.

The most profound and memorable Easter I ever celebrated was not in a church. When I was a teenager living in Germany, I didn’t have a church, or even a Christian community to lean on. I had a Bible, a budding faith that was challenged and tested every single day, and a loving God who stood with me through all of it. One Easter Sunday I was invited by friends to take a hike in the grayness before sunrise. We ascended to the peak of a tall hill that had been entirely formed from massive piles of rubble leftover from WWII—a war in which my own grandfather had come overseas to fight.

The hill was green and forested by the time I went there in the late 1980s. You never would have known it wasn’t a natural hillside until you got to the top, where the rubble seemed to burst forth from the ground, and you suddenly recognized massive pieces of wall, and columns, and sculpted stone adornments. The hill rises 1,000 feet above the Nekar River, and is made of 530 million cubic feet of historic debris—that’s the Empire State building 14 times over.

As I stood there on the highest point in all of Stuttgart, my mind struggled to fathom just how much destruction was piled beneath my feet, and how many millions of lives had been lost during the war. It was stunning, and incomprehensible. Words failed and silence fell over everything.

Rubble Hill, or Birkenkopf as it is also called, is one of those places that seems to demand quiet reflection. From it you can see everything on a clear day, even the distant Black Forest and the beginnings of the Alps. Erected at its top is a massive cross. The one that is there now is made of steel, but I was fortunate enough to see the original wooden cross that had been there since the 1950s. Standing on that hill on a chilly Easter morning, and singing hymns to the heavens while the sun rose to illuminate that cross, was an experience I will never forget.

We’re all like Rubble Hill in a way—sometimes broken and scarred by life’s trials, burdened by sins that we try to hide beneath attractive greenery, yet cannot fully contain. In victory over it all stands Christ, whose death on another wooden cross over 2,000 years ago set us free. He keeps vigil over our souls day by day because we now belong to Him, and He alone can transform all of our inner rubble into something beautiful beyond imagining.

So take some time in the quiet of this Easter morning to pray and reflect—maybe even sing hymns of praise as the sun rises. Take comfort in the words of Psalm 46 as we continue to endure these challenging times together.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Hope you all have a blessed Easter!

 

Inspiration Sunday!

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 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. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

 

Inspiration Sunday!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Inspiration Sunday!

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 4:29 – 5:2

Mystery, Magic, and Faith

Are you signed up yet to get my bi-monthly newsletter? It features insights into my writing, author updates, giveaways, lots of FREE book promotions and more. When you subscribe, you also get the second book in the Wind Rider Chronicles free. Below I’ve shared a section from my first January newsletter–check it out! Click to see the entire newsletter and browse this month’s free and discounted books.

In Journey to Aviad, Elowyn carries a little satchel with her initial on it that Morganne had made for her—it’s full of herbs meant to ward off evil. This was a common thing to do in the Middle Ages, as certain plants were thought to fend off everything from demons and witches, to just plain bad luck. Medieval people lived in a world full of danger and mystery, which was very often explained with superstitions.

The pervasive thought was that there were two kinds of magic. Black magic was demonic, and therefore harmful. Magic of this sort was feared and avoided, and was used to explain accidents, unknown illnesses, and other tragedies. White magic was supposedly based on the power of nature (God’s Creation). Using charms, talismans, and spells, performing sunrise rituals while sowing crops, or reciting incantations while weaving fabric, are just a few examples of white magic. The study of astrology and alchemy fell into this category as well.

The Church disapproved of them all, but pre-Christian paganism was still very much embedded in Medieval culture and had intertwined itself with Christianity. Folk-beliefs, like the belief in fairies for example, was everyday common sense in places like the British Isles—and had been for hundreds of years. Local priests could not convince people otherwise and eventually gave up trying, despite sharp pressure from the Catholic Church.

It’s easy to see how the medieval period lends itself so well to fantasy literature, which often relies on various forms of magic to add intrigue and to move the story. I have included some of these elements in my series for the sake of flavor and authenticity, like Elowyn’s little bag of herbs and the superstitions held by the people of Minhaven. But since I am writing Christian fiction, I have been very careful about the way I handle magic so that there is a true distinction between what is demonic, what is divine, and what is merely misguided belief. Hopefully my readers noticed that when Elowyn gave away her little bag of herbs, she did not seek to replace it with another. It was a small milestone on her journey to spiritual maturity, as she replaced her belief in the empty “magic” it contained, with a much stronger faith in Aviad and His ability to protect her.

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Elowyn was convinced that by removing the coin so soon after the man’s brutal death, she had somehow interfered with his ascension into the afterlife, causing his spirit to appear before her in the night. How else could she explain it? He had sought her out from beyond the dead, and pointed directly at the pouch that held the coin. It was quite obviously an object not meant for her to keep, and it had to be returned at the proper time of day.

Elowyn knew very little about the workings of magic, but it was common knowledge that the rites of good magic were most effective at sunrise. That was usually when cures were tried, when newly planted crops were blessed, and when pilgrims to the shrines petitioned their most desperate prayers. Nearly any ritual of importance, even the harvesting of garden herbs, was best performed at sunrise. If she did not make it before then, she would have to wait another day, and perhaps risk another terrifying vision in the night.

~ from Chapter 2, Journey to Aviad

Inspiration Sunday

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Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1:2-4