I recently encountered a forlorn-looking older man sitting alone in the hotel lobby at a very secure conference. I did the polite thing and spoke, asking him about his day. His stood, replying, “Not too good.” I offered the proper platitudes—”I’m sorry,” “I hope things aren’t too bad”—as he pondered how to respond. When he shared that he had recently lost several friends, I expressed sorrow for his losses.
One thing led to another, and I invited him to join me for dinner in the dining room. I discovered that he was Egyptian, a culture that fascinates me in light of my studies of the ancient world. We had a vigorous discussion about the region. Then he quietly remarked that he was Coptic. Copts are a little-known segment of Christianity, tracing their patrimony to the apostle Mark (or John Mark), who traveled to Egypt on his evangelistic journeys (like those of the apostle Paul). There are few Copts in the US, and I had never met one. He immediately became more fascinating because he is an endangered species.
Copts are a favorite target of ISIS. The tiny Egyptian minority (10 percent of the population) has been suffering brutal persecution under radical Islam. A small group was killed on a pilgrimage to a monastery recently. On Palm Sunday ISIS attacked several Coptic churches in Egypt, killing dozens.
Copts are not alone. Christians throughout the region in which our faith was born are persecuted. Christians who have fled what can be considered no less than a regional genocide are being evicted from the US, returned to the places where their faith endangers them. (That’s not a political statement, BTW.) There is no Mayflower in the bay, waiting to carry them to America as it did many of our ancestors fleeing religious persecution in western Europe.
And here we sit, remembering gender discrimination in our youth and age discrimination in our Boomer and elder years. Comfortable in our pews. (Is the capital campaign for new cushions necessary?) Chatting over coffee after Bible study. (Can we forego breakfast burritos and put that money to better use?) Planning the next men’s or women’s retreat. (Do we really need to pay someone to lead us in guided meditation?) Organizing Vacation Bible School. (Do bounce castles and clowns spread the love of Christ, or are we offering a babysitting service?) Volunteering at YoungLife. (Do teenagers really need another bus trip to another camp?) Blogging about persecution. (Where’s my checkbook?) Have we lost the big-picture view of our faith, the one manifested by the sacrifices of Jesus Christ, exemplified by His ministry to the poor and disenfranchised?
In the larger world the influences that test this Coptic gentlemen’s ability to worship continue to grow while we’re obsessed by Western minutiae. The only way to stem the crippling tide, to protect our religious freedom, is to engage in places and about topics that are uncomfortable. To be informed about persecution—in China and Russia, in Egypt and Syria, even here in the US—while standing solidly with our sisters and brothers in Christ. To show the love of Christ by giving to organizations helping persecuted Christians: Aid to the Church in Need, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Caritas.
To haul our carcasses outside our comfort zone to realize that worship in an isolationist America is no guarantee of future freedom.
Kumbaya around a campfire just isn’t going to cut it any more.
Summer is my favorite time of year on this mountaintop. (Closely followed by autumn because of our Crayola-vibrant colors.) I’ve finally settled in after the back-to-back deaths of Mom and Dad, although my “season of change” didn’t stop with those losses.
My literary agent, Mary G. Keeley, retired this spring from publishing. My heart hammered when I heard the news. Her Herculean efforts on my behalf contributed to my momentum, and I could not appreciate her humor and work ethic more. She’ll remain a part of this team while pursuing the next phase of her life. Meanwhile, I’m excited to be represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. I look forward to the adventures and lessons ahead.
As I worship, fly fish, garden, golf, attend symphonies and concerts, shop farmers markets, and shoo hungry deer out of my flowers, I’m repositioning my social-media brand. All of my trademarks—strong female protagonist, humor, suspense, quirky love of God and family—enrich my latest manuscript, a work of domestic suspense. I take your input too seriously to abandon the story elements that you (and I) love. And I can’t wait to introduce you to my new protagonist. I never thought that a character could compete with archaeologist Grace Madison, but investigative journalist Laura Cummings surprises me by doing just that.
Another surprise made me clamber down a slope this morning, interrupting two peaceful hours of deadheading between daybreak and breakfast. A sport (as in, serendipitously planted by the wind) poppy plant shot a vibrant red bloom skyward, like a flaming bottle rocket. I’ll have these reminders on my desk for weeks, of God’s general revelation of Himself through nature.
Spring is a time of rebirth. I’m being reborn this summer. I pray that your days are filled with His love and joy. Thanks for being here.
If you’re reading this post, then you’re one of few to know that I’m out of the country for an extended period. Although the house is occupied and secure, this is not the type of information I’m comfortable sharing on Facebook. You’re the “inner circle” here.
With the loss of Mom and Dad, and a few other epic life challenges crammed into the past two years, my reservoirs are running dry. So armed with the infrastructure of my faith, I turn to what always recharges me: travel. I can finish healing while traveling. Deal with grief before it becomes an indulgence. Shove vision to the forefront. Return ready to write, having left three completed, edited manuscripts with my dedicated literary agent.
The places I have been astound me. So I chose a region with which I am totally unfamiliar. Its history, its culture, its people groups are a blank slate.
I am in a lagoon far, far away. Swimming with sharks, hiding from the sun. Cruising waters surrounded by glaciers. Dancing the night away with my husband. Immersing in cultures whose rock art is some of the oldest on the planet. Reading, reading, reading. Resting, praying, resetting.
I’m on an almost total technological fast. No cell phone, few emails, pre-scheduled social media, very little Internet. That isolation alone is a godsend.
When I return I’ll post photos of my adventures. Until then I pray that you march through a winter that is record-setting here in the Rockies. And I ask that you pray for me as I indulge in the privilege—that’s what it is—of becoming a hermit as God works His magic on my soul.
I’m sitting at my desk, watching heavy snow fall, breathing through a nasal cannula. Now that’s a beautiful mental image, isn’t it?
The infection that barreled into something bronchial and resulted in a $2,200 doctor’s visit (thank you Obamacare) is popping a kink in my packing. I’m preparing for an epic adventure, the reset button on the worst and hardest two years of my life.
While doing a breathing treatment last night, after popping antibiotics, I thought about the past twenty-four months. According to my family I weathered them well. Faith drove my choices and responses, and I cannot imagine marching through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (and Other Weird Places) without God.
In my twenties I was blessed by a phenomenal church. For six years a discipleship group with four other single women was an extension of my worship. Not only did they solidify my walk with Christ, but we shared books and ideas and the trials of being twenty-somethings.
One book that emerged from this association was Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He talks about discipleship as a life-long pursuit, referring to the annual Jewish pilgrimage to the temple year after year.
If you’ll note the photo at the top, you can see that the Temple Mount is, indeed a mount. This little jaunt involved camels, donkeys and feet; lots of rocks and sand; no clean restrooms; the random scorpion. It was an uphill climb all the way—just like life, just like faith. But the Jews persevered, as did I. This “long obedience” becomes the rhythm of life, sometimes quiet, sometimes deafening.
I smiled last night at the thought of Peterson’s book. It’s funny how, decades later, I realize that some of the daily aspects of my belief system took root while reading his work. The knowledge that God walks beside me enables me to settle into my temporal journey with hope.
We all need hope now, don’t we? Shalom.
(makes roughly four dozen)
Preheat oven to 375 and line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Cream 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup unsalted butter. Add 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, 3 eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract. In separate bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 2.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon sale, and 2 tablespoons anise seed. Add dry ingredients to wet. Then add 2/3 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries, and 2/3 cup pistachios. Form dough into four balls.
Shape each ball into logs about 3/4 inch thick. Lay two logs on each baking sheet, with the parchment between the dough and sheet. (Yes, son. This specific advice about the parchment is for you.)
Bake for 25 minutes, switching the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Then slice each log into roughly 1/2 inch slices, spreading the slices back on the parchment.
Bake an additional seven minutes, again switching the sheets at the mid-point. Let cool, then top with the best quality melted chocolate you can find .