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June 2019

Lost Pen Magazine Montreal, Quebec, Canada Inquiries: deliatalent@gmail.com Submissions: www.deliatalent.wordpress.com/lost-pen-magazine/

Copyright and Other Information Copyright © 2019 by Christian Creative Nexus. All rights reserved. Submitted content is the property of its respective contributor and is published with permission. Contributed content may only be used for your personal non-commercial purposes and cannot be reproduced in any form without consent. Permissions can be obtained by contacting the contributor or the Christian Creative Nexus at deliatalent@gmail.com.

Note: Each contributor is responsible for verifying the veracity of their content as well as obtaining the proper permissions to use submitted content.

Images Unless otherwise mentioned, all images were obtained through Pixabay. See Pixabay for usage rights.

Bible Copyright Notices NKJV: Scripture [quotations marked (NKJV) are] taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

NIV: Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

NLT: Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Editor Dyane Forde

Design Team Amy Hands, Dyane Forde, and Samuel Lampron (consultant)



June 2019

Contents From the Editor


Poetry 6-17 Articles




Fiction 42-59

Brought to you by:

FROM THE EDITOR Years ago, when I became serious about writing, I never thought I’d one day be publishing a magazine. Looking back now, though, it actually makes sense. I’ve always valued supporting and encouraging writers (and creatives), probably because I know firsthand how hard creating can be, not to mention finding venues to share my work. My familiarity with this struggle was a driving force behind my original writing website, Dropped Pebbles (now Focus Writing Services) and was a founding principle of my writing and arts ministry, the Christian Creative Nexus. Being a God-centred creative can be challenging. Opportunities may be limited or our work may be undervalued or unappreciated. Therefore, a key goal leading to the creation of the Lost Pen Magazine was to regroup and publish these “lost voices” so they could be heard.1

deep,” inspired by Psalm 42:7. I liked the idea of using art in various forms to experience the highs and lows of our relationship with God as He takes us through the refining process. Sometimes, we feel higher than the clouds, and other times we feel lost at sea. Sometimes, we even feel like we’re drowning. I hope readers are encouraged by the knowledge they are not alone. Above all, I hope readers will soak in the love and grace of God, who forgives and forgets all our sins when we humble ourselves at the foot of the cross. Thank you, Reader, for journeying with us. We begin the process of “going deep” with our diverse and layered Poetry department, followed by the honest and raw Testimonies and Articles (Features) departments, and then come up for air with the moving Fiction department. Section by section, we move through our study of faith and unbelief, truth and opinion and, finally, restoration and renewed faith in God.

I think the Lord has been slowly opening my eyes to the possibility of publishing. Sharing people’s work on my websites was fine, but I felt a need to kick things up a notch. I wanted to create a space where Christian creatives serious about using their gifts for outreach, evangelism, and exhortation—those serving God with their gifts—could do so in a more structured fashion and with a higher potential for impact and distribution. I wanted something that was accessible to creatives of all levels, as long as the work submitted was God-centred.

I invite you to support our mission by commenting on the pieces and on the magazine as a whole. You can do this by contacting me at deliatalent@gmail.com, the Christian Creative Nexus LPM page, or Facebook. Also, each contributor’s contact information is included on the Department Pages so that you can follow them and send along words of appreciation. Lastly, you can support us by sharing the magazine so that others can also enjoy it.

The theme for this first edition is “deep unto

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive right in. —Dyane Forde


See Mark 4:21 for context.




CO N T R I BU TO R S ROBERT ADAMS Adams is a dramatist, songwriter, director, actor, musician, and storyteller. Adams has been writing poetry and song lyrics since 1967 and has acted in various television, film, and music video productions. He lives in Montreal with his wife, Claudia, and seven children. Contact Adams at robertandclaudia@gmail.com.


Antoinette enjoys dabbling in poetry, flash fiction, and song lyrics. Additional poetry may be found at Foxglove Journal, Cagibi, Better Than Starbucks, With Painted Words, London Grip, Literary Heist, and Your Daily Poem.


Awori was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. After obtaining her bachelor’s in law, she moved to Montreal where she studied scriptwriting for film and T.V. Awori works as a columnist and recently published her first book, a collection of poetic musings titled It Is Written. Contact her at Poetic Liberty.


Charters is a teacher from the Midlands who has two wonderful children, an amazing wife, and a rusty motorcycle on which he occasionally risks his life. Contact Charters’ website for more.


Ojeda is an educator and writer from Oklahoma. She teaches high school English and children’s Sunday school. She lives in the Texas Panhandle with her husband and two children. Contact Ojeda at eaojeda4@gmail.com.


Acquah is a writer, designer, and innovator. He is also the host of The Flashback Show and the CEO of Noble Signed. Noble is constantly exploring and experimenting in order to discover things that could impact society. Contact Acquah at aacquahnobel@gmail.com.


Cook is a fourth-generation Californian who has been living in Arizona for over 10 years, where the American Southwest inspires her writing and photography. Cook earns a living as a corporate writer and instructional designer. Visit her website for more.


Darnay is a published Christian writer. She is a proud Texan and is married and blessed with four children. Her goal as a writer is to spread sunshine and hope, and, most importantly, share Christ with the world. Contact Darnay on Facebook for more.


Smallwood is a Christian artist devoted to creating illustrations and stories in the hope of encouraging Christians in their everyday walk with Christ. She has been nominated for the 2019 National Indie Award for Best Children’s Religion Book and in numerous book and artistic categories in the 2019 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. For more, visit Smallwood at Spiritual Milk and Spiritual Milk Media. 6



IRENE Robert Adams

How true the words become the flower fades and withering grass life on earth a vapour transient, finite and fleeting for now we laugh and walk and love but she awaits the wind


I FEEL HIS VOICE Arlene Antoinette

There are moments when this world becomes too big for me. Moments when I am filled with doubts, fears and anxieties. In those moments, my Dear Lord, I lift my thoughts to You my Creator. I cry out for You and You answer me with a voice as great as the stormy sea. Your voice flows over me, covering my fragile being, wrapping around me. Healing waters like sea billows, wash away my doubts, calms my fears. In You, I see a future. In You, Dear Lord, I find hope.

“Faith and Fear” by Alison Smallwood



In the Artist’s Own Words “Faith and Fear” was produced during a transition period when I decided to stop producing secular illustrations to pursue Christian illustrations. At the time, I struggled with anxiety and lack of faith, which caused me to be tossed by the waves. Sometimes, we have to let go of the oars and trust God to carry us home. Sometimes, He takes the oars from us and we struggle to regain control. We sense the evil that lurks deep below and we fear that instead of fearing God. Letting go and discovering that I am powerless when I try to be the lord of my life, and instead seeking the kingdom of Heaven and bringing glory to God though my creative gifts, has helped me discover a new level of peace, spiritual growth, and release from anxiety. —Alison Smallwood 9

ALWAYS MINE Rosie Kuyumba Awori

I handpicked you to be a flower in a field I curated you to stand unique And even at your midnight I loved you and considered you mine When your back was turned away When you didn’t even know me I knew you I knew that you are a star I breathed your dreams into you Knowing that you may live a life That I never wanted for you I gave you life even though There was a chance you may Never live it for me I was willing to take the risk That maybe you may never choose me. And I would love you anyway 10

JOSEPH C RY Francis Charters

The plane is not cutting today. With the mallet on wood Hard work felt so good. I’d strive if I could, I know that I should, But my world is not with me today.

Then, while asleep in my bed, In the dark of the night I feel His great might. I know what is right, In His Godly sight, And I’m given the words to be said.

How easy and special it seemed. “I love you,” she said “Late spring we’ll be wed.” Stay together till dead. Oh, that voice in my head, “I’m pregnant! I’m pregnant,” she screamed.

The plane’s cutting smoothly today. With planks flat and wide And my girl at my side A round healthy bride Oh, the times that we cried… But my world is so peaceful today.

I have to decide what to do. So what can I say If I see her today? To go or to stay? To send her away? I can still hear her say, “I love you.”


first-time first-time bornborn battered, bruised battered, bruised and bloodied and bloodied -- -a looked-for beast, a looked-for beast, blessed inanity, blessed inanity, somebody’s Hope. somebody’s Hope. but --but -blood blood driesdries and and bruises bruises heal heal and somebody’s and somebody’s another another life life gottagotta pay the paybills. the bills. and longed-for and longed-for light,light, so into so into a boxa box another another longlong day at day best. at best. on a on shelf a shelf new new eyeseyes to pierce to pierce the surface the surface fog fog in the indark. the dark. and to andfeed to feed the dying the dying light.light. in the indark, the dark, but -but battered battered world, world, hungry hungry babies, babies, somebody’s somebody’s hope,hope, sweat, sweat, tears,tears, and and hollow hollow mothers, mothers, busted busted fathers; fathers; blood blood ran wild, ran wild, unchecked unchecked and untamed and untamed somebody’s somebody’s hopehope spinning spinning out of outcontrol-but of control-but staining staining dirt, dirt, wood, wood, and lives. and lives. somebody’s somebody’s billsbills got paid. got paid. so--neck so--neck bent, bent, gotta gotta planplan to to Nam dolenita hopehope bruised, bruised, innocence innocence broken, broken, wipewipe the blood the blood and and & Judas’ & Judas’ eyeseyes betraying betraying secret secret washwash the tears; the tears; so--last so--last timetime shame shame -- -a breathless a breathless drowning drowning in deep in deep waters, waters, Idi ditioreprae. Nam dolenita ipsus volorectati ute quibus es moleni fall into fall into faith,faith, a drop a drop into into purepure lightlight to to washwash awayaway fear.fear. insubstantial shadowed shadowed lightlight eyes eyes closed closed -- breath -- breath exhausted exhausted -- -quibustrum, saminsubstantial hillori busam, con cus vid ut et, quos aut ad estiame magnitae and emerge and emergefromfrom blueblue waters, waters, heartheart arrested arrested -- death -- death defeated defeated -- -second - time time born.born. ide as samenim poratus, third-time third-time born. velicab orrorro ducide second sum et il- illandam quam nusborn. ut



etur receprem. Picitio minis aligend igentium, conseratiore natem ratquos am April April Ojeda Ojeda (1-1-19) (1-1-19) landerum aspelecatur sandictus, tectemporem eatur moloreperum re consed April Ojeda millaute rerios alictem volorio incti dolupit quodi invellab is mo omnimilis sunturio. Archite niet accus rem ne intem aut modis et eum quia que volupis doluptassum re et porem volenis accum fugiae dolo qui coriae sinvell uptatqu idipsuntur? Quibusda voles as mod magnis nam que earciducias solum, qui que voluptatur, quosam nit lab illupta tempossi ommolupit, sam, volorum aut faccaborenet atem il enimporum num sed quas sequis nimi, que natium qui nonse et que secusciunt quas unt que praest fuga. Iqui ommoluptam volum faccae et etur solorat.


ABC PRAYER Noble Acquah

A - All my body and soul is

S - Servant who was

B - Before You

T - Truthful and

C - Come and rescue me, please

U - Unique, who always

D - Don’t leave me alone

V - Volunteered to do Your

E - Everything I do is for You

W - Wonderful work and please let

F - Father Almighty

X - X’mas be one of my happiest days


Y - You are indeed my comforter, You are truly the King of

H - Hear my cry and answer my prayer I - If I’m Your child

Z - Zion

J - Jesus!


K - King of kings L - Lord of lords and M - My Saviour, I know You will N - Never leave me alone O - Oh! Father, I want You to P - Purge me with hyssop then Q - Quench the devil’s flame and R - Remember me as Your


Photo by Jenise Cook


L I F E S AV E R Jenise Cook

After Christ’s arrest, I felt myself sinking into deep waters. Roaring, breaking waters swept over my weak, failing faith. Waters formed by my panicked words of denial. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” They hounded me with angry accusations. “Woman, I don’t know Him!” He looked at me. Forgive me, Lord! “I will.” Redeemed.

About this verse This 10-line descending verse, known as a decastitch or sonnetina, expresses St. Peter’s feelings of failure as he recalls his denial of Christ at the Lord’s passion. Inspired by Psalm 42:7, this verse calls upon the memory of when Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on the stormy waters towards his rabbi. In both situations, the Lord restored and strengthened Peter’s faith. He will do the same for you.


ALL TO ME Janelle Darnay

If I were unable to quote scripture But rather cherish its beauty And absorb its meaning, Would I be absent from Your favour? If the walls of Your sanctuary Were not imbedded into my Sabbath Sunday, Yet rather embraced every day, Would Heaven still be my soul’s home? If religion and its devout rituals Were not part of my being, And instead, I held You close to my heart, Would You still smile upon me? What is to be said of dedication, Sincere praise of Your name, A faithful journey, A close relationship? For Your greatness is more than simple claim. More than practiced sacrament. My Lord, I pray that You always behold That You are all to me.


I woke this morning newly made, Creature of colour, grace, and flight. I am not what I used to be Hiding in shadow, dreading light.

Some hidden hand found me here Sleeping fitfully in the night. With artist’s skill and clever touch, He transformed death, washed all in white.

I heard him sing and thought I dreamed As through the night with palette bright, In shades of scarlet, blue, green, gold, These wings he shaped, then woke to life.


CO N T R I BU TO R S BOB KIRCHMAN Kirchman is an illustrator and designer of artistic architectural renderings and is accomplished in residential design, fine arts, and photography. He teaches art to young people at the Augusta County Educators Home-School Coop and a summer program. Mr. Kirchman is the author of Pontifus, The Bridge Builder’s Tale in Three Parts. He lives in Staunton, Virginia, with his wife, Pam. Contact Kirchman at studio@bobkirchman.com.

ANNE ETIM Etim writes Christian articles and short stories and makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and children. When not writing, she reads and reviews books. Visit her website Our Shared Tales for more.

CHRIS MCKINNEY McKinney founded Called Writers Christian Publishing out of his extraordinary passion for writing, editing, and publishing Christian material. In addition to being a regular contributor for GODSPEED Magazine, he has also written for several ministries, and his articles have been featured in publications and websites such as Crosswalk.com. He and his wife, Shannon, live in Tuscaloosa where they are raising three boys and loving life together. Follow McKinney on Twitter.

CARLA DURBACH Durbach was raised and educated in South Africa. She worked as a therapist and assessor for close to twenty years. Carla resides in British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three Jedi cats who are plotting to take over the world. Follow her on Instagram @carlaedpsych.

LINDA MAYER Mayer founded the organization Go Beyond Online. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Rich. She has five kids and four grandchildren (so far) whom she tries to see as much as possible, sharing Jesus and freedom as she goes. Visit her at Go Beyond.

A RT NADEGE BURNESS Burness is a homemaker from South Africa. She is a designer and hobbyist photographer with a passion for nature and wildlife. Burness loves crafting because time is the most precious gift and crafting takes time. Burness’ designs can be found on Craftsuprint under “Passionate Crafting.”

JENNIFER SMITH-KIRK Smith-Kirk is a homemaker with a passion for making cards. She also makes digital crafts in other styles. Smith-Kirk has been making cards for some time and finds it very therapeutic. View SmithKirk’s cards and crafts at Jaye’s Crafted Cards. 18




Yes, our job as educators is to provide a platform of basic grammar to facilitate mutual growth and interaction, but I’m now convinced that we too often fail to see what our students are emerging to become as divine works. I’m reading the novel Mink River2 by Brian Doyle. Of particular interest to me is the sculptor, Nora, who listens to the art medium (blocks of wood or stone) in order to learn what it wants to become while she chips away at it. So often, we hear the “malleable clay” illustration applied to students, but they are more like Nora’s wood or stone. We (teachers) begin with the chisel and hammer, but even in the noise of chipping, we must listen!

Imagine if schools actually helped kids identify their strengths by exploring their talents from a young age and growing their skills over the 12 years instead of letting them all follow the same routine like sheep and leaving them confused after graduation. —Tallie Dar (@ talliedar July 21, 2018)1 Imago Dei


’m thinking about a wonderful illustration that Amanda Riley, my supervisor at the homeschool coop, gave to our students.

She brought a box into the room and challenged all 17 students to get into the box—all at once! The result was a bit of organized chaos that proved conclusively

My mother once took me to visit a friend of hers who was a sculptor. Sometime during a conversation about sculpting, the old saying “You cut away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant” came up. Actually, that is not how great sculptors work. Like Nora above, great sculptors seek the elephant

that they could NOT all fit into the box! She then proceeded to underscore the uniqueness of each of our beautiful students. Imago Dei carries with it the same wonder that you find in handmade pieces of fine pottery: no two of them are ever actually the same. 1

2 Boyle, Brian, Mink River (Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2010).

Comment posted on Twitter.


that is saying that it is there! When I’m at school, my eyes scan our classroom full of unique works in progress. The future healers, builders, poets, and prophets interact with artistic mediums, and hints begin to emerge as to what the Divine is shaping in them. They will one day go out into the world and continue this process. Can what we do serve to help them identify the grain and composition they have been made with and out of it shape a life pleasing to their Maker? The Wilderness Years Photo by Edward J. Kirchman

I think of my own childhood. At five, I think I remember Mom putting some construction paper, glue, and scissors out on the picnic table behind our house on a wonderful spring day. My sisters and I proceeded to create a little village of paper houses! It was a day of glorious satisfaction as we placed them into natural settings. Another time, Dad gave me little model airplanes and my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye. The wonderful thing about the Brownie was that it shot 21/4� film so, although it was no Hasselblad, its plastic lens still rendered an incredibly crisp image. Since it only shot black and white, it came with a red filter so you could get pretty good clouds and sky! Dad shot his work with an Argus C3, which I eventually inherited. By the way, he took the photos that accompany this article. Dad was an engineer at NASA who wore a white shirt and a narrow tie. Behind his pocket protector beat a wild heart!

engineers were not trained in the humanities, but he developed his own love for fine literature and had an extensive library. He wrote papers on spacecraft structural dynamics and testing, but at night he went home and read Shakespeare and Chaucer. Mom was a physicist and an engineer, and she was even more of a Renaissance person than he was. Such was the world of my preschool existence; however, it was the 1950s, after all, and the big modern school and the industrial model of education prevailed. At six years old, I was packed

Dad was educated in the day when 21

Photo by Edward J. Kirchman

off to a classroom with fifty students and entered the world of waxed hallways, antiseptic-smelling restrooms, and rote learning. By second grade, I lamented that I had become a very “bad kid” and was pretty much always in trouble for something. Sometimes I understood the infraction, other times it was a mystery. I became a quiet rebel. I drew pictures and hid them under my bed. One of my teachers tore up a very nice drawing I had made of a T-Rex. She told my dad I’d be lucky to be a truck driver. I continued to draw and hide the pictures under my bed. Somewhere along the way, I discovered John Gnagy’s Learn to Draw books. They taught me a lot of the basics. I also found one of my dad’s books on aircraft design. It was full of curves and calculus and wonderful elevations of airfoils. In the back, there was a chapter on drawing perspective. The discovery of that chapter was an epiphany.

be kind of like a monastic life on wheels and you could see the country.

One day, my dad noticed that I could draw a fairly decent perspective (before I’d had any formal training), so he had me do a pencil drawing of a building he was proposing for his facility at NASA. I think he even paid me for it. I was twelve years old and that was my first architectural rendering.

When I was older, I would learn of how Albert Einstein, the great theoretical physicist, had struggled in school. He, I would learn, was a daydreamer too. He barely passed school and then couldn’t get a job in academia. That might have been why he found the path to brilliance. He took a job as a patent clerk in

But I think most of the adults in my greater sphere saw me as a daydreamer. Under my bed, my pile of fantastic imaginings continued to grow—undersea worlds, cities on the moon—but on the outside, I was resigned to the life the world poured me into. Driving a truck didn’t seem that bad. It would

Berne, Switzerland. His job was to read the applications and recommend the good ones. Well, he became so proficient at analyzing the patent applications that he ended up with plenty of time to just stare out the window— and IMAGINE: 22

What would it be like to travel faster and faster away from the great clock tower in Berne? As you approached travelling at the speed of light the hand on the clock would appear to move slower. When you reach the speed of light, the hand of the clock would be standing still. If you could then travel faster, the hand of the clock would move backwards!3 From this little journey of imagination came new insight into the very nature of time, energy, and matter! Brilliance nurtured by space to develop opened up the greatest mind of modern times. But what if a discouraged Einstein had, as he once considered doing, gone on to sell insurance? He might have had a comfortable existence but his mind would have never taken that accelerated journey to brilliance. He would have been successful in the world’s eyes but at what cost! Another equally plausible scenario is that Einstein would have been admitted into academia in his younger days. He would have been consumed by the politics of the academy and writing papers of far less importance than his theories of gravity and general relativity. He would have lived his life as a successful but quirky professor without ever engaging in his great work. It was the wilderness years that played an important part in his development. There seems to be no course of study

in academia to take you through the wilderness years. My early wilderness years saw me as a grill chef and a factory worker. But, somehow, I found myself in my mind travelling faster and faster to the other things I would later be able to do. If I could give one thing to a young person in the wilderness it would be a heightened sense of imagination. Imagination is not limited to currently available technology and it costs very little, as well. A prince and a pauper can both access it, and it may take either on a journey of great significance. Two bicycle mechanics can imagine flying machines. An airmail pilot can imagine flying the Atlantic. A German munitions designer can envision a trip to the moon! Imagine if schools… Whatever you think of Elon Musk, and whatever you think of the practicality of some of his ideas, it is well to consider that he represents but the latest expansion in humankind’s ability to imagine. Last year in our classes, two sisters collaborated to create a concept for an undersea resort, right down to such furnishings as a jellyfish sconce for the hallways. Imagination! It is a gift possessed by the young. What should our mission as educators be when such illumination presents itself? Shouldn’t we find the passion to nurture such wonder? And shouldn’t our nurturing extend beyond the giving of tools and instruction to making sure the tool fits confidently into their young hands?

3 Paraphrase. “The Extraordinary Genius of Albert EinsteinFull Documentary HD,” YouTube video, 1:29:52, “Documentaries HD,” Jan 11, 2015, https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=Uvpw6Jh1WGQ.



walls can be torn down, patterns of writing reconsidered, and characters revised. It can take several turns, which may leave a writer frustrated, especially considering all the work put into writing the piece. Editing can literally lead to discouragement and anxiety. But this is where persistence plays a valuable role.


To understand persistence as a writer, determination must be an established part of your writing journey: determination to keep learning every day by reading a lot, determination to write better, and determination to self-edit and to consider suggestions from others. Considering other people’s opinions does not necessarily mean that you are terrible at your work, but you might just need a little push to make it better. Instead, be encouraged, knowing that the determination to take another look at your work will help you improve.


ompleting any form of writing is a great accomplishment for a writer. It is a breakthrough that allows one to present something beautiful and inspiring. “Whew! A job well done!” you say to yourself after all the brainstorming, the pinning down of beautiful thoughts and ideas, and the editing, re-editing, and maybe even more editing. Then, voilà! You have a completed work. Now, that’s courage and joy right there. It doesn’t matter how you started or if you struggled in the middle. The most important first step is completing your draft.

I encourage all writers to hold on to the things that inspired them to write, to hold on to what they believe they can achieve with their writing, and to hold on to the joy of letting the words flow through their fingers. This quote by Octavia E. Butler sums it up:

The real work, however, begins when you start editing your draft. This is a sensitive time, as it could be the point where a writer makes their work better or where they feel discouraged and “not good enough.” My encouragement to you, Writer, is to digest your editor’s comments and to apply the corrections carefully while not taking them too much to heart. Think of how the editor’s notes could make you a better writer. This will make your next work easier, as you will have an idea of how a reader responds to your work.

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.1

1 “Octavia E. Butler>Quotes,” Goodreads. n.d., https://www .goodreads.com/quotes/438859-you-don-t-start-out-writing-good -stuff-you-start-out.

Editing, as many know, is a moment when 24


F irst -T ime A uthors ’ BIGGEST M istake C hris M c K inney


magine the following scenario. A first-time Christian

publishing ministry. I saw the need to help others

author spends months writing his or her initial

because it’s not just me who made those mistakes.

manuscript. Then they go through multiple rounds

Over and over, I heard the same testimony from

of self-editing and revisions. They get up early to work

Christian authors regarding their first book: “I wish I’d

on the book. They go to bed late. They even wake

thought more about marketing.” And I think I know

up in the middle of the night to write or revise. They

what the problem is for many of us.

spend a lot of money that they don’t really have in

Because God is highly involved in every aspect of

order to pay for editing, proofreading, and design

the book, and because we see so much resistance

services. They slap on a title and book description

coming against us in relation to its publication, we’re

and self-publish the book on Amazon. Then the book

expecting God to do something supernatural and

sits. And sits. And sits. No one outside of a few direct

miraculous in regard to promotion and marketing.

contacts actually buys the book, and they only do it

We think thoughts like (deep breath): “I’m exhausted.

out of obligation, morbid curiosity, or pity.

God knows I have been faithful. He sees how hard

The author can’t understand how this could have

I’ve worked at this. He also knows that I’m not a

happened. God had clearly been involved in the

salesperson. It’s just not my thing. I’m a writer. God

writing and creation of the book. God had given them

created me to write. He didn’t gift me in the area of

all of the right answers at exactly the right time, even

marketing. He’s going to make up for my weaknesses.

waking them up in the middle of the night with the

He’s strong when I’m weak.”

exact quote or explanation they needed to finalize a

And that’s precisely where we stop making any sense

particular passage. God had worked in the author’s

whatsoever. We conclude that He’s going to make

life for years prior to the writing process, teaching

up for our weaknesses and lack of knowledge “in a

them valuable lessons they could then share with

miraculous way” that requires no further effort on our

others. They had overcome obstacle after obstacle

part when what He has actually done is given us other

in order to get the book out. They had cried out in

members of the body to help us. He puts those people

prayer and persevered through tremendous difficulty

in our path or sends us to their websites. But when it

in order to complete the task. God had unmistakably

all looks confusing and overwhelming, we conclude

given them strength and grace to do it. So why wasn’t

God doesn’t really expect us to learn about those

the book reaching anyone?

topics. Besides, we’re at the end of an exhausting

I went through all of this with my first attempt at

process. We’re battered and bruised and trying to

publishing, and it’s the main reason I started a

limp to the finish line. So, when the experienced 26

Christian author or editor tells us how important marketing is, we decide he just doesn’t understand how God is going to handle it in a supernatural way. God certainly does miracles. He works supernaturally. Please don’t read any cynicism into what I’m saying because the cynicism of many experienced authors was one of the things that caused me to not want to listen to them. But just hear me out on this. If, from a commercial standpoint, you give your book a genericsounding title, an unappealing cover, and a boring description, why would you expect God to bless the book with significant sales? Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed. (Ecclesiastes 10:10, NLT) Dave Ramsey says in his video “Trump and Hillary

Very few things are more heartbreaking to me as

Won’t Fix Your Life,”1 “Work like it all depends on you

an author and publisher. Please don’t make this

and pray like it all depends on God.” That approach

mistake. Pursue excellence in your writing, editing,

makes the most sense to me now for any ministry or

design, title, description, and every other aspect of

commercial endeavor. Let’s do our part and He will do

the presentation of your book, so that God can reach

what we can’t. Our part is to use every tool He gives

everyone He intends to reach with the message

us—working diligently to produce Christian material

He has given you. Otherwise, the entire endeavor

with excellence—and then pray our hearts out for

becomes like a church plant that never grows because

a miracle.

an inexperienced pastor did whatever made sense to him, without listening to or learning from others.

When we do those things, we are likely to be in good

The whole thing fails and becomes a painful lesson

shape. When we ignore the massive set of tools He

instead of a blessing and a ministry. Don’t do it!

gives us—namely, book marketing coaches, experts,

If a large traditional publisher isn’t likely to be

research, and software—we set ourselves up for

an option for you, seek out a good, independent

failure. We end up wagering all of the work we’ve

publisher who can help you. If you’re committed to

done up to that point on a bet that God is going to

self-publishing, be sure to watch out for those people

overlook our lack of diligence.

God will undoubtedly place in your path at exactly the right time. And no matter how much you don’t want to hear what they have to say, please listen to them.

1 “Trump and Hillary Won’t Fix Your Life,” YouTube video, 8:31, “The Dave Ramsey Show,”November 1, 2016, https://youtu .be/jPjM2jlZpK0.

You’ll be glad you did. 27

GOOD GRIEF! C arla D urbach


“I used to share my thoughts, my dreams…”

t is the middle of the night and I am wide awake. I am thinking, tossing and turning as I often do when sleep eludes me and various topics assail my mind, neural synapses firing furiously despite explicit commands to be still and go to sleep. It is interesting that the singular organ in my body tasked with providing me with self-control frequently fails to obey me. We engage in a battle of sorts, my brain and I, until, defeated and fermenting with resentment, I give in.

“I used to hold my daughter, my son…”

“I used to…” How I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. (Psalm 42:4, NIV) The psalmist laments, reminding us that there are times in life when the voices of joy and praise leave us; times when we lose our song and are struck numb and sorrow threatens to overwhelm us as we face our own private Gethsemanes. I am reminded of devastated parents grieving the loss of a toddler lost in an accidental drowning; of someone mourning the loss of a childhood spent beneath the shadow of abuse and violence; of a couple caught in the snare of a marriage in shreds; of a broken friendship in the tatters of betrayal; of a job lost. This is the kind of grief that oppresses, shatters

I am thinking, in particular, about grief and whether it can ever be truly good. We often use the expression “good grief” as an exclamation of surprise, shock, even. But can grief be “good” in the literal sense of the word? Inevitably, the word “grief” implies a loss of some kind, an irretrievable, painful, sad “I used to…but not anymore”: “I used to hold someone’s hand…” 28

Verse from NKJV

Art by Nadege Burness and Jennifer Smith-Kirk

before the cross, the best place to be lest we forget that we were never alone—are never—alone. At the cross, we are faced with the stark, raw truth: that Christ is also well acquainted with the agony of suffering.

the soul, and threatens to engulf. It is exceedingly messy and heart-wrenching. It brings desolation and loneliness—and a thirst for the only One who can provide true comfort and solace. Grief can make the strongest person, the most gifted intellectual, the most anointed servant, crumble. It brings us to our knees

There is great grief, too, in looking back at what was lost in Eden: the pain of 29

Deep calls to deep

separation from God, which is dulled and anaesthetized in this current century by modern conveniences and addictions that give the illusion of comfort but fall dreadfully short. There is the convenience of image without substance, money without generosity, sympathy without sacrifice, media without truth, sex without intimacy, intelligence without wisdom, existence without God. Still, grief remains.

in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:7-8) It is in our grief that God’s song is with us. When we have lost our own song—when we are drowning—it is then that He utters those precious whispers that keep us from despair. I have heard God’s whisper in my darkest of nights—His promises that He will not leave me nor forsake me, that He will not leave me stranded. I know you have too.

We grieve as our bodies ache with age and as we long for the coming of the Saviour because, despite our hope, we still see through a glass darkly1 and have to wait to see Him face to face. We wait in deep grief for those who have misunderstood, misrepresented, mislabelled, defamed, and rejected the message of the cross. We wait for them to return home like prodigal children. Our hearts break. Our spirits cry out for their salvation, for none to be lost. And we grieve.

But there are times when we cause the grieving: that hushed moment of unspeakable ache when we realize that we have grieved the Holy Spirit. It could be a sinful action that brings distance; words said in jest about another, words that are unfair, untrue, even cruel; decisions made in haste that have far-reaching consequences. It rends our hearts. This is grief that propels us to repentance, to reparation. We seek, amidst our many tears, to make amends and repair the breach. In His loving kindness, the Lord changes us from within, redeems us, and makes us His own. What at first seems unbearable looks very different in the glow of His grace.

King David was a man well acquainted with the anguish of loss. In the scriptures, we are reminded that he felt forsaken by mother and father, had his life threatened, and was hunted like an animal in the wilderness. He hid in caves, searching for sanctuary; his wife was given away to another; he lost a best friend, an infant son, two grown sons; and his daughter was raped. Yet, despite his agony, David carried on, calling to the only One who could save him: 1

Yes, grief has many forms, shapes, and

See 1 Corinthians 13:12.


facets. But can it be good?

is the price we pay for loving. I would not change it for the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have had too many encounters with grief for my liking. Grief has, in fact, been a constant companion for many years of my journey. I would never call grief my friend nor would I choose to embrace it. There are times, however, when I can reluctantly concede to its goodness. As debilitating as grief can be, and as much as it involves loss, I would not dispense with it. It keeps me focused on my Saviour. It keeps me looking at the One who matters. And from now on, when I say “good grief,” the phrase will hold an entirely different meaning for me.

What about when it reminds us of who we are in Christ? That we are called to a higher purpose but are also broken and need God desperately, even frantically? That we need Him—not the King’s men— to put us back together again? What about when grief enables us to reach out to another wounded soul and minister to them in their sorrow because we have been assailed by the same type of grief? What about when grief brings us closer to the Saviour, directing us along the narrow path and further into His presence and into His open arms? What of grief then? Someone told me the other day that grief 31

A HOT MESS L inda M ayer


ave you ever really thought about where the phrase “a hot mess” came from? Interestingly enough, I watched a sermon just the other day that spoke about its origins.

Let’s bring it closer to home. What about us? When we are at our lowest point and walk into church, school, or the mall, how do we feel when we think everyone else has it all together while we are such a—dare I say it— hot mess?

In the 19th century, it referred to a hot meal. In the mess hall. Funny how back then we equated good food with a mess. Then in the 20th century, the military began using it in reference to “a dangerous environment,” like walking into a booby trap or being surrounded by the enemy. That sort of situation. And now, in the 21st century, we have begun using it in an entirely different way.

We think we are the odd man out. That we are alone in our mess. That whatever we’re struggling with has never happened to anyone else. That no one would, or could, understand. But here’s the thing. We are surrounded by some of the finest hot messes ever! Because, at one time or another, every one of us has been that hot mess. We are all just one dumb decision away from being that hot mess. And, just so you know, there’s always someone else whose life is a bigger mess than ours!

Now we use it to refer to an “attractive disaster” of sorts. You know, that person whose life is a total mess but they clean up well. They know how to put on a face and look great to the outside world while everything on the inside and at home looks like a bomb exploded or is about to.

Funny thing is, that mess is what we all have in common. It brings us together. 32

It seems in our culture today, we are all striving to divide. He’s white, she’s not. So what? She’s Republican, he’s not. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Not one little bit.

prince, get married, and life is a piece of cake from then on? Or maybe we think like the religious people of Jesus’ time: that Jesus is going to come and save us and set up His rule and reign, and we will live—one more time—“happily ever after.”

Romans 3:22-23 (NKJV) says, “Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So, what? We’re never supposed to be mad or worried or frustrated? Shoot, Jesus had all those emotions Himself. I’ve never been worried enough to sweat blood, and I’m sure none of you have either.

Basically, we are all the same. We have all sinned and have become that hot mess we’re talking about. That’s fantastic news! Because this is exactly what brought God down to earth. It brought Him near because of His compassion and never-ending love for us.

Interestingly enough, there is a story in the Bible that talks about depression and anxiety to the point of suicidal thoughts and the desire to run away as fast and as far as possible. And it comes on the heels of the biggest victory in a certain man’s entire life.

God was not content to leave us in our hot messes. He did something about it. Wow! God sent Jesus as a sacrifice so He could pay the price for our hot messes. So, be encouraged today. You, who call yourselves by His name, have been forgiven. Your mess has been cleaned up. What a great spot remover!

In 1 Kings 18, we see the prophet Elijah defeat all the prophets of Baal in front of not only the king but the entire country. He should have been on top of the world, praising God for His miracles and shouting God’s glory! But there’s Queen Jezebel. She’s mad. Her god was Baal, and she’s upset he and all her so-called priests were defeated. In chapter 19, Jezebel sends someone to tell Elijah she’s going to kill him the next day!

The Foot of the Mountain But maybe, just maybe, you feel a gap between you and God because of your hot mess. Maybe you feel further away from God than ever. This Big Idea is for you: GOD WANTS TO MEET YOU IN YOUR HOT MESS!

You would think that Elijah would be pumped up. Fresh from the high of God’s incredible show of power, he should have been ready for anything, right? But no, sadly, that was not the case.

We have the idea in our heads that we will live—let me hear you say it with me— “happily ever after.” I mean, isn’t that what Disney tells us? That we find the handsome 33

Elijah was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That miracle, and everything leading up to it, took the snot out of him, and he is back “at the foot of the mountain,” so to speak. What does he do? He runs. Fast and far.

- 1 in 5 children aged 13-18 will have or already has a serious mental illness.

Where was the faith he’d had just the day before? Where was his faith and hope in God? The boldness that had enabled him to stand up to the 450 prophets of Baal?

- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.1

Out the window.

I love this quote from a preacher I recently heard: “We live twenty minutes from the socalled ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ and yet our local neighborhoods are filled with the most unhappy people on earth.” That’s a powerful statement and also so sad in its truth.

- Suicide is the leading cause of death in youth aged 10-24. - 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.

You are not the only one. You are not alone.

Gone. Doesn’t this happen to us too? We experience a great win and think we are going to stay high up on the mountain top and never come down again. After a victory, we often forget to put on the armor again, don’t we?

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s a health crisis or personal failure. Even huge successes can be draining, even suffocating.

Our battle is never-ending. It’s a war, not a once in a lifetime thing. If we forget that, we can easily fall apart, just like Elijah. I’ve done it. And if you’re honest, you have too. But Elijah’s breakdown was huge! He gave up under a tree. He had suicidal thoughts because he just wanted to die (1 Kings 19:3-4). The Bible is filled from cover to cover with men and women who struggled with their emotions. In today’s culture, we have stats: - 1 in 5 US adults experiences mental illness. 1 “Mental Health by the Numbers,” National Alliance on Mental Health. n.d., https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental -Health-By-the-Numbers

- 1 in 25 adults lives with severe mental illness. 34

The good news is that God wants to meet you in the middle of your mess, just like He did for Elijah in the desert:

Notice that it’s after Elijah acknowledged that he was desperate that God sent him food. We have to acknowledge our problems and our deepest hurts, regrets, and shames to God. He knows exactly what we need.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

God knew Elijah’s body needed food so he could think clearly again. God has already provided the “food” we need to get our minds working properly again. We read in Matthew 4:4, “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” After we cry out to God, we must next get into the Word, the manna God provides for our everyday health of both the mind and spirit. So, ready your bread. Get the strength you need to fight back. And cry out to Jesus for help, understanding, and comfort.

(1 Kings 19:4-8)

Don’t forget. He just wants you to come.



CO N T R I BU TO R S TALISHA WALTON Walton is a Christian creative writer and is the author of the Writeous Series. Walton stands firm on the fact that it’s completely natural to live a supernatural lifestyle and to operate fully in the gifts of the Holy Spirit while leading a normal life. Follow her on Twitter.

AMANDA GLASS Glass is a community builder, children’s book creator, and the founder and visionary of Live It Share It, an online community displaying the power of personal story. Glass believes that every woman has the capacity to stir hope in others by simply sharing what she has lived. For more information, visit Glass on her website.




Love Loves Me: A Testimony Talisha Walton I confess, in all honesty, that I’ve always had an intense desire in my heart to find true love. I wanted someone who’d truly love me—unconditionally. I coveted love from someone who’d accept me with all of my flaws, who’d look past all the mistakes I’d made and love me exactly as I was. For years I sought this elusive love from others, especially men, but to no avail. I certainly found something else, though, and the result left me a bad, bitter, broken-hearted mess. It didn’t take long for all of that bitterness and brokenness to become hatred and uncontrollable anger towards others. I also believed I wasn’t worthy of having a love that was true because I wasn’t able to love myself. If I didn’t love myself why should anyone else? Sadly, looking for love was the primary cause of my self-hatred, and hating myself resulted in the most damage of all: it caused my heart to become a slowly crumbling stone in my chest. I came from a broken home, and I was raised by an unstable, damaged mother who failed me numerous times. She abused drugs and alcohol throughout my childhood; however, she’s drug-free now and we are best friends. I also grew up without my father. He chose to walk out on my mother before I was born and declined every chance to get to know me. Even so, may God rest his soul. As a result of his absence and carelessness, I often felt confused, rejected, abandoned, and unloved. I was often teased, bullied, and rejected by my peers because of my parents’ lifestyles. We were constantly evicted from our apartments because my mother would buy drugs instead of paying the rent, which always left us with no other choice but to live with relatives. By the time I was a teenager, I found myself walking in my mother’s shadow and well on my way to becoming just like her. When I became pregnant at the age of sixteen, I noticed the pattern forming and knew it was time to stop. I knew, despite having a stony heart, that if a change wasn’t made the cycle of a loveless life, with all of its pain and failures, would repeat itself. The determination to become a better person grabbed hold of me but quickly developed into only a longing to change. In my eyes, my life was still worthless; the downward spiral had begun long ago. I was a victim of my poor upbringing and unfortunate circumstances. I was also a victim of constant betrayal from those who claimed to love me and from those I trusted and admired, but who leapt at every opportunity to hurt me. I couldn’t understand it. Then I thought that if I was more like them I’d be loved and accepted. Therefore, I gave in to the pressures lowlife had to offer. I became efficient in ruining other people’s lives. I was an alcoholic delinquent who stayed out all hours of the night and was involved in unspeakable acts. I rarely, if barely, attended school, and I was down with whatever I had to do to get my hands on a little love. None of it was what I was looking for. Real love still evaded me. 38


POEM Nam dolenita

I ultimately decided that since I couldn’t have real love I’d settle for hate. I quickly fell in lust with it because hate made it easier to hide my hurt and disappointment. I eagerly took hate by the hand. We went out and made it a priority to hurt anyone and everyone. I quickly became a force to be reckoned with. The hatred I let inside made me cruel, vindictive, selfish, uncaring, unforgiving, and unapologetic. But I still wanted love. I was truly just a lonely, lost, and loveless soul with trust, abandonment, and psychological issues who had successfully driven every single person out of my wreck of a life. I had lost all of my faith; I had no hope for a future. I no longer believed in love. I finally came to the conclusion that love didn’t exist, and if it did, it definitely didn’t have any interest in me. So I made the difficult decision to abandon my pursuit—for good. The moment I did, though, Love found me. What I discovered was that I was wrong about love. Love isn’t any of the things I thought I wanted and needed. True Love isn’t even a feeling at all. True Love, as it turns out, is an actual Person, and this Person has always known me although I never knew Him. He has always loved me, and it’s a fact that His love is so great that He chose to die so He could save my life. Admitting I was lost opened the door for Love to find me. He forgave me, removed my stony heart, and replaced it with a new one. He made me a new creation. He showed me not what but who He truly is; who He has always been. I accepted Love into my heart by making an everlasting covenant with Him. He showed me how to forgive others and then how to forgive myself. He taught me how to love myself and then how to love others. I believe in Love. God is Love, and I know Him. I am in Him, and He is in me. It is undeniably true: I love Love, and Love loves me. 39

My Faithful Friend Amanda Glass The week of January 23, 2019, a dear friend of mine passed away. I saw it on Facebook just an hour after it was posted. In shock, I covered my mouth and gasped. I just sat, stunned. In the hours and days since, I’ve soaked up our memories made and am realizing the depth of her influence on my life and the lives of others. Words and images have been posted on Facebook about her: how she helped bathe a new baby here, highlights of her contagious moves on the dance floor there, and many examples of her being a great friend and mother everywhere. Her face is bright, shining, and beautiful in each posted picture. Her life is one to be remembered, grieved, and celebrated, for she was an exquisite example of life as a faithful wife, mother, daughter, friend, and believer. Scripture speaks about friendship: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9, NIV). “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). “A friend loves at all times, and a [sister] is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). “The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Proverbs 12:26). When I read these scriptures, I remember how my dear friend refreshed me and lifted me up when I fell down. She loved at all times, even from afar. She sharpened me and chose me; it felt so good to have been chosen. Some of her personal messages to me read: Would you be interested in using my aunt’s place for your vacation? I wish we could go with you. Change is always scary but sooooo very necessary. I hope I get to meet your new baby. I’d love to hear what you recommend. Hope all is well, love your sweet pictures, what fun 3 kids can be. Take care, and if you’re ever in Dallas give us a holler. We’re close by. 40

I would love to see you. I’d love to host you and Luke, or meet. It’s a nonchemo week, so I am enjoying it! I’ll treasure these words. They remind me how to give and receive friendship well. She offered what she had and asked for what she needed. She made plans and followed through with excitement. When we met in Texas during her “nonchemo” week, she shared updates about her life, including the happy and sad, the easy and hard. She was honest and humble about life’s challenges. I’m thrilled now that I told her how much her advice had influenced me and that I’d thought about her often. Right now is always the right time to tell someone how much they mean to you. My dear friend was good to me. She was wise. She was kind-hearted, and she pursued me. She lived it and shared it: her struggles, her highs, her answers to prayers, her excitement, her knowledge and experience, her faith, and her fun. She was a mentor and a confidant. She made space for me and her people. Although life found us in different seasons, she met me right where I was and connected with the things we had in common: volleyball, faith, small children (her third, my first), the roles of wife and daughter. She loaned strollers, passed down clothes, and invited me to playdates. She checked up and in on me. She was an inspiration and the answer to my many prayers for real, genuine friendship and community. Her life demonstrates that faithfulness is a legacy. Telling your people with words and actions that they are yours is important. Making space and pursuing them always matters. Offering what you have and asking for what you need might just be the definition of true friendship. May we all be fortunate enough to be such a blessing and to leave such a legacy. Until then... Dance on, my Faithful Friend. 41


CO N T R I BU TO R S MADISON WHEATLEY Wheatley is an emerging poet and fiction writer from Northwest Indiana. Her poetry has been published in Seltzer and Cave Region Review, and her short stories have been featured in Seven Deadly Sins, A YA Anthology: Avarice and Secrets in Our Cities. Visit Wheatley’s website for more information.

SNORRI HAUGEN Haugen has been a firefighter, farmer, soldier, sailor, airman, and an electronics and information warrior. For fun, he reads, writes, and spends time with family. He has one small dog inside and a colony of cats outside. Contact Haugen at snorri.haugen@gmail.com.

R. J. RODDA Rodda is living in an ex-Soviet country where there aren’t many English books, so she’s forced to write her own. She’s a kid wrangler, Aussie expat, and Jesus follower. The Crux Anthology: Adventure Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories from 16 International Authors features one of her stories. Contact Rodda on Wattpad @rjrodda.

DYANE FORDE Forde is a the author of the Rise of the Papilion trilogy, founder of the Lost Pen Magazine, and a freelance editor. As an editor, her goal is to help writers feel positive about their craft while assisting them in the production of works they feel confident sharing with readers. Contact Forde at Focus Writing Services for more information.



A Voice was Heard in Ramah Madison Wheatley

“Come now, child.” Michal shook her head, still clutching her dead son’s blanket. Eliezer sighed, fresh tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke to his daughter. “If you stay like this, you’ll drown in your own grief.” “Then I drown.” Her voice was dark, full of glass shards. She pulled the blanket closer to her heaving chest. Her whole body began to shake as she succumbed to another bout of weeping. The sound made Eliezer clench his fists, overwhelmed by a mixture of terrible grief and blind rage—and underneath it all, helplessness. Her child—his grandson—was dead. Murdered by the king. Eliezer stooped down by the hollow crib, kneeling before it like it was an altar to their shared grief. He pulled Michal into his chest as her crying devolved into inhuman howls. “Why?” Why, indeed, Eliezer thought. It all seemed like a cruel joke, even to a holy man like himself. Why had the Lord made her struggle to get pregnant for years on end? Why, after finally blessing her with a child, had He let her husband die young? And now this. As her sobs subsided, Michal tore herself away from her father’s embrace and looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. “Am I cursed, abba?” she asked. It was as though she’d been reading his mind. He’d wondered—perhaps foolishly— whether Satan had been gambling with God over Michal’s fervent faith; perhaps his young, sweet daughter had housed the spirit of Job all this time. But Eliezer couldn’t vocalize these thoughts. He shook his head and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Have hope,” he said. “I’ve heard the Messiah has finally come.” She scowled. “Hope only disappoints.”


As Michal slept, still gripping the baby blanket, Eliezer sat on the roof and watched the sky. He wished for the wisdom to read the signs written in the expanse of stars, wished that he could find some word of comfort in the heavenly realms. He looked for the New Star he’d been told about. Rumors of a Messiah had been flying. Some blessed child had been born under silver starlight. And now all the children of Bethlehem were dead. Eliezer wiped away a fresh tear. What now? Eliezer’s feet dangled over the roof, and the sound of mournful wailing floated through the air like a ghostly choir. Suspended between the hopeless city below and the silent, silver-scattered sky above, the old man remembered the stories he’d been told about how God had saved the Israelite children from death ages ago. And he let himself do the unthinkable: he questioned God. “Why, Lord? Where were You?” His voice shook, and soon his own weeping joined in with the distant voices below. “Why didn’t You save my grandson?” Eliezer wept and prayed until he had worn himself out. As he climbed down from the roof and re-entered the house, he watched his daughter sleeping soundly on her thin bed. He knelt down beside her, stroking her hair. Eliezer sighed, hoping that she wasn’t enduring any nightmares. “Be strong, child.” He kissed her forehead. Eliezer stood and strode to the window. At last, the sky was lightening, and a sliver of sunshine shone over the fields behind his house. As sunlight melted the cruel night away, Eliezer prayed that the morning would be kinder.



The Parable of the Fireplace Snorri Haugen

There was a man. He was a builder. Houses, stores, workplaces, shops, barns, all were built by him as he worked to provide a good quality of life for his family. One day, he built a house for his family in a wooded area. Beautiful trees and flowers surrounded the home. It was strongly built of stone and timber. All it lacked was a fireplace and mantel in the large central room. His wife asked, “What about the fireplace? It is needed for light and warmth.” The man answered, “Light and warmth are the most important parts of a home. The kitchen has a stove for cooking. Its form follows its function, and it contains the fire we use to heat our home and cook our food. Yet the fireplace will be built with care because its fire is open to everyone who visits our home. So, it will be built in a manner that tells those who come by that it was fashioned with care and love.” Years passed. The man worked in many places and on many construction sites. Every time the man saw a discarded and unused brick he picked it up. Sometimes, a large number were given to him at the tearing down of an old building. Other times, he found abandoned bricks lying in the road, embedded in the earth. All were the same to him. Any brick, regardless of color, age, shape, or size was gathered and placed in the growing pile behind his house. The pile of bricks grew larger with each season of building. Each winter, his wife asked, “Is there not yet enough bricks for our fireplace?” And, every year, the man would answer, “Not yet.” 47

One fine spring day, the man looked over the large pile of bricks he had collected. His hair was no longer dark but tinged with grey. His face was no longer smooth but lined around the eyes and parched from years spent in summer’s sun and winter’s winds. “It is time,” he told his wife. She answered, “I will mix the mortar for you.” “Fair enough,” said the husband. “But there is much to do before we lay the first brick.” They went to work. The man gathered his sons. “While I construct a frame from wood upon which we will build the fireplace, mantel, and chimney, you will sort the bricks.” “How will we know which bricks to keep for building and which to throw away?” they asked. “And can we not help in the building? Do you not trust us with the important work?” “My sons, this is the most important work, for if one single brick is weak, the entire construction will fall. Each brick must be examined closely by each of you.” “Every brick must be examined by each of us? Is this not taking too much time for such a simple task?” “I tell you again,” said their father, “this is the most important task and not simple at all. First, you will look at each brick, each of you three times, to find any damage or weakness. Then each of you, three times each, will place the brick in the press, putting the weight of the entire construction on each brick alone. We will then know, without a doubt, that what we build will last and never weaken.” The three sons understood but, still, they asked, “How should we then sort the good bricks? Is there a colour or a texture to be used before another? Or an attribute of appearance which lends itself to one part of the fireplace instead of another?” “Is the color and texture of a brick not the least important of its attributes?” asked the father. “Sort them only by their strength and integrity.” “But surely you wish to arrange the color and design to be the most pleasing to the eye?” “Yes, of course. Trust me, though, and do as I ask.” The sons agreed. Slowly, a neat stack of good bricks of many hues and textures grew, while a disordered pile of discarded bricks grew more quickly by the wayside. “What are we going to do with this unsightly mound of bad bricks, Father?” the sons asked.


“You will see. In time,” said their father. So, they began to build. The mother mixed the mortar. The boys fetched bricks and helped with the tools. The man placed each brick with the utmost care, choosing them without considering its color or texture. The fireplace developed, then the mantel and a brick wall went up around it, wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The chimney went up. Eventually, the construction replaced an entire wall of one side of the house. And on the day it was completed, the family stood back and marvelled. Every brick was different; there was no discernable pattern to their placement. Yet the light rippled across the randomly placed colors in a way no human-conceived design could duplicate. “What shall we do with the pile of discarded brick?” the sons asked. “Crush them up into small pieces, and we will use the gravel to create a path from the road to the house.” It was done, and the refuse of the unsound bricks was trampled under their feet. Soon, the pieces became dust, ground into the earth, and disappeared as if they had never been. It was not long afterwards that people came to visit or to simply look upon the brick fireplace, which had become the focal point of the home. It quickly became the marvel of the region. Seasons passed and became years, years became decades, and decades became generations. The builder and his wife passed away, and their sons moved away. Neighbouring houses crumbled, and some were rebuilt. New houses sprang up. The builder’s house endured, though no one remembered his name or his family. Yet anyone could say, “the Fireplace Home” and everyone knew of which house they spoke. As more time passed, the town also eventually passed away. Wood and stone fell back to the earth, and the area became consumed by trees. But if a traveler were to walk through that quiet wood, he might see, hidden under ivy vines, a brick wall standing with a chimney in its center and a hearth in which one could still light a fire. Soundly built, the great old fireplace continues to weather the passing of time, waiting to be restored so it can shine its light and warmth on families and visitors alike, forever.


The Cousin Returns R. J. Rodda

With quivering fingers, Jacey checked her phone before shunting it back into the pocket of her white sundress. There was no missed call. No message. Somehow, incredibly, Pamela still did not know. She looked up to see her mother marching into the room, her sharp features lit with curiosity. “Why aren’t you preparing for the party?” “I’m not going.” “Why ever not? You’re the one who did most of the organizing. Even last night you were calling around for it.” Jacey searched her mother’s face for any sign that she knew. Instead, there was a flicker of softness in her dark eyes, a softness that drew the truth out of her. “It was always Pamela’s party, and on Tuesday she uninvited me.” “She can’t do that.” Jacey just looked at her. Of course, Pamela could. She was Seabrook’s social queen, the fun finder, the connector. She brought together the solitary farmers, the hermits, the old maids, and the singletons, and meddled until romance emerged. Four marriages were credited to her; Jacey just shimmered in her sparkle. It was the other purpose of the parties she disliked. There always had to be someone admiring Pamela now that Dillon Spencer had left town. Someone to pursue her and dance with her. Someone to bring her drinks and tell her she was beautiful. This time, Pamela decided that person would be Mitchell. When Jacey had protested, Pamela merely smirked in reply, her doll-like features taking on a superior air. “I’ll be doing you a favor, Jacey. He stopped writing to you, didn’t he? He’s as bad as Dillion. You can only rely on your girlfriends.” Pamela posed 50


like an actress delivering a line before she took off dancing around her stylishly decorated bedroom. Jacey wanted to defend Mitchell, to say he was just a kid when he stopped writing, but she didn’t. Instead, she sat there, remembering him. The first time they had met, she was curled up in the soft green grass of her front lawn. He ran over to her and pecked her on the cheek. “You kissed me,” she accused, flushed and flustered as she got to her feet, aware of all the amused adults watching. His forehead wrinkled. “Mom said you’d like it. That girls always do.” “Well, I don’t,” she said, taking in his wild brown hair, rumpled top, and cheeky air. “Kisses are for true love and weddings, not cousins.” A roar of adult laughter greeted her words and she ran off into the garden, sulking. He followed her, eventually, holding out a large red rose he’d swiped from a nearby bush. “Would you like this?” “No,” she said, still remembering the laughter. His tanned face drooped. “Oh. Flowers always make Mom happier.” He let the rose slip through his fingers. She looked at it splayed on the ground and picked it up, smoothing the ruffled petals as he walked away, down the path to the beach—her beach. She chased after him. “You’re it,” she said gleefully, smacking him on the shoulder and dashing off, making it to the lookout at the beach before him. He soon caught up to her, and the rest of the afternoon passed in milkshakes and games. Mitchell was eleven years old when he came again, staying for the summer while his mother went travelling around the world with her new boyfriend. She and Mitchell were instant allies, fighting in cubby wars against Jed and Adam, her neighbours. It was only when they were forced inside that they battled each other, turning the simplest tasks into competitive challenges. Even the duets they played on her mother’s old piano were executed at top speed so that Jacey had to race her fingers to keep up with him until the song dissolved into a crazy cacophony and they laughed too hard to continue. When he left, it seemed like their family was all wrong somehow, even though Mitchell was only a second cousin once removed. At first, he sent postcards every week from his new home in Tokyo. Jacey wrote back, but she found copying his Japanese address onto the envelope a gymnastic exercise she could never quite master. When 52

her letters were returned to her unopened, Dad said not to worry and that it was usual enough for Mitchell’s mother to shift around. As time passed, they stopped talking about Mitchell and filled his absence with a shaggy-haired puppy named Ralph. Then last Sunday, she’d seen a man with tamed curls and a blue shirt sitting in front of her in church. He had caught her staring and had given her a wink, blink, wink. Her breathing stilled as she realized it was Mitchell and that he was giving her their special signal. She returned it and saw him grin, a trace of the boy reappearing. Then she felt a nudge in her side as Pamela hissed, “Who is that?” Jacey watched Mitchell all throughout the service as he sang the songs with a deep baritone, found the scriptures without using the index, and took notes during the sermon with a scrawling backhand. She remembered how he had heard about Jesus for the first time that summer he’d stayed with them and that he had raised his hand in a commitment pledge the last Sunday before he left. At the end of the service, she went towards him as if in a dream, all fogged up with memories of him. She did not get there fast enough; Pamela was already commanding his attention. Disappointment welled up within her, snapping her throat shut. Still, she hovered nearby until he saw her. When he did, he surprised her with a crushing hug. She breathed in the woody scent of his aftershave, so different from how he used to smell. When he released her, he said, “All these years, I promised myself I’d come back and play a duet with you. You won last time, remember?” She giggled. “I’ll still beat you, you know. I’ve been practicing. Last I heard you were living in Perth? Why are you here and not staying with us?” “I’m actually driving to Mount Gambier on a work trip. I only realized late last night I could detour through here and catch up with you all after church.” “Mum and Dad are away for the weekend. They’ll be so sorry they didn’t see you.” “I insist on you both coming to my house for lunch,” Pamela interjected with a stunning beam of a smile. “We can catch up like old times.” Jacey froze just long enough for Mitchell to glance at her before accepting the invitation. That miserable afternoon was filled with Pamela’s infectious laughter. Her best jokes spiced every conversational pause, and Jacey was muted by her brilliance. Then Pamela leaned over, resting her manicured fingers on Mitchell’s jacket before saying, “You must come to our little party on Friday night. It’ll only take you a couple of hours to drive over.” “You could stay with us,” Jacey got out quickly. “Mom and Dad will be back by then.” 53

Pamela’s large green eyes became slits, but her voice was warm and gushing. “There you see? You can come for the weekend and we can catch up properly.” But Mitchell would not be going to the party now, and it was her fault. An impatient huff came from her mother, pulling Jacey from her thoughts. “Get that mopey look off your face, hop into your dress, and start doing your hair. I’ll ring Tracey right now and insist you be allowed to attend. No daughter of hers is going to exclude a daughter of mine.” “No Mom. Don’t. I don’t want to go. I’ll go hang out at the beach instead.” Before her mother could argue, she went to the back door, yanked on her flowered gumboots, and ran down the path that was muddy from the recent deluge, dodging puddles until she reached the lookout. The salty wind shivered freshness throughout her body. She could see the strip of beach that was her lonesome place—the place she had gone to throughout the years when the price of Pamela’s friendship seemed too high. Something about the turbulence of the waves always calmed her down. This time, her jaw dropped. The brown waves, fouled by river water, had left a cappuccino-like froth on the sand. Further out, the foam looked so clean and fresh and bubbly that she longed to touch it, play with it. To forget. She wriggled free of her boots and jumped down. A seagull swooped in front of her, perching on a blackened branch that was sticking up out of the foam. Jacey went forward, then stopped. Ringing the pristine foam was a section splattered with dirt that rippled when the wind caught it, as if an eel was slithering underneath. She shuddered as she looked at it. How like her heart it was. She picked up her pace, running towards it. At the last second, she leapt so that she landed in the clean section, her feet embracing the cold water that lapped around her before receding and revealing a strand of green kelp. Its sleek holdfast looked like a weapon. She picked it up. Last night, her phone had been a weapon when she’d rung every unattached male invited and told them that Pamela’s party was cancelled. Starting with Mitchell. Her phone began humming and Jacey’s heart plunged before she realized it was only Tilly. “Hi Jacey, are you ready for the party? I’ve got the most gorgeous dress, and I’ve decided that tonight I’m going to get down on my knee and ask Adam to marry me. We’ve finished high school. It’s time. He just needs a little nudge. I want our special song played while I propose. Is that okay?” Jacey stammered something Tilly took for agreement. The seagull was gazing at her with knowing eyes. An uncomfortable feeling settled in her stomach. It wasn’t only Pamela who would be furious with her tonight but also Tilly and Poppy and Evangeline. 54

It would be her fault their night was ruined. Just because she wanted to protect Mitchell from himself; because she feared he would become like all the rest of Pamela’s love zombies. “God?” she asked, looking up at the light-streaked sky. A trembling went through her, a tingling in all her senses as she waited for a response. There was no answer except a clenching in her chest, but she knew what she should do. It was not too late. There was an hour left before the party started. She phoned Mitchell first, her heart thundering over the waves. He did not pick up. She left a message, telling him the party was still on. Then she called everyone else she had uninvited and apologized, her face hot as she urged them to attend. “Happy, God?” she asked out loud when she finished. The warmth inside her chest flared. Pamela. “She doesn’t have to know, God.” The seagull let out a squawk and Jacey’s throat constricted. She pressed the call button. “Hi Jacey,” Pamela trilled. “So glad you called. I was just about to ring you. Of course, you can come to the party.” “What?” “I was feeling jealous about you and Mitchell, of course. Silly me. Anyway, Dillon is back in town.” “He is?” Jacey gathered her courage. “I was feeling jealous too, Pamela. I sabotaged your party. I told Mitchell, Jed—all of them—that it was cancelled.” “You did what?” Pamela screeched. “How dare you?” “I’ve re-invited them,” she said hastily. “Forgive me, Pamela.” There was a long pause. “They’re all re-invited? Like I re-invited you?” “Yes.” “You’re forgiven then. Must go, Jacey. Dillon’s just pulled up.” A grin overtook Jacey’s face as she scooped up the white froth and splattered it over the filthy foam. “That’s not how you do it though, is it God? You don’t cover the dirt. You take it away.” She bent down to throw the kelp back into the sea. A gust of wind sprang up and it began to writhe in her hand. She spun around with it until she could not spin fast enough and the kelp slapped itself around her body. Laughter shot out from her, filling the beach with the sound. She did not need Pamela, or Mitchell even, to make her happy. The dance of life with God was enough. “Hey,” came a shout from behind her. She pivoted, aware of her hair flapping around her face and the skirt of her sundress clinging to her legs. Mitchell was coming 55

Photo by Chloé Lampron

towards her, stylish in a white shirt. She took a step backwards and the water rose over her ankle. “What’s going on, Jacey?” Mitchell asked, his serious tone a contrast to the cheerful air she remembered. Her smile faltered. “I did the wrong thing, Mitchell. I lied to you about Pamela’s party because I didn’t want you to spend the whole night gazing into her eyes.” She wanted to turn and dive into the surf and swim and swim and swim away from him. Instead of her discovering he was less of a man than he appeared to be, he now knew how low she could stoop. Of course, he would walk away. He did not move. “You apologized already on that message you left on my phone, remember? I tried to call you back to say I was coming for the weekend, anyway. I was hoping to take you out, to the party or elsewhere.” “I’m not going.” “I won’t go either then. I told Pamela I’d only go if you were.”


Joy drenched her but she wanted him to really understand. “I’ve spent too long doing what Pamela wants. I don’t want to do that anymore. But I’d like to dance with you. You’ll have to do better than the kelp, though. It’s a wild dancer and tremendously fun. Look how wet my hands are.” She held out her damp fingers to him, and he captured them. “Are you suggesting my dancing is so terrible I’d be beaten by seaweed?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. “I assure you I have improved since I was a boy. I’ll only bump into you half the time now.” She tittered at that, then broke into a real laugh. He tugged at her hands, saying, “Come with me, cousin, back to the house. I have a rose waiting for you on the piano. It was to be the prize for the winner of our musical race, but we can get your mother to choose the best dancer instead. I’ll warn you. I am going home with that rose.” “Ha,” she snorted. “We’ll see about that.” But she was glowing so much on the inside that a huge smile bloomed on her face, one that he mirrored. Then he bent down to give her soft lingering kiss on the cheek. “My mom told me all the girls like kisses,” he said. “Well she was wrong,” Jacey retorted. “All the girls do not.” He quirked his brown eyebrows at her. “But I do,” she conceded. “Even from cousins. Not that you are close enough to be a real cousin.” “I’m glad about that,” he said as a wave crashed over their feet, drenching the hem of her skirt and the bottom of his trousers. They scrambled together towards the dry sand, running through the swirled-up foam until they reached the lookout, his hand still in hers. Jacey shot one glance backwards before she left the beach. The foam had been restored by the wave to pure white perfection. The seagull was gone.




It’s cold underwater. I float in the deep, watching bubbles bloat in front of me before they rise like clusters of miniature balloons. The sun sparkles beyond the water’s surface, golden and warm. He’s there too. So close. And yet, so far away. I hadn’t meant to fall. Since meeting that man on the road, I’d been walking merrily along with him across a mirror-smooth sea. We’d only recently met, but right away he invited me to follow him, promising that together we would do amazing things. I believed him; he spoke plainly, and there was no lie in his eye. Besides, I’d been looking for something meaningful to do. Once we’d started across the sea, its still waters reflective as glass, I became increasingly excited about what was to come. I followed him. Listened to him. Basked with him in the sun. But the waves suddenly arose, fierce and merciless. As though possessed by some malevolent force, they clawed at my feet, sloshed over my ankles, yanked at my legs. The waves crashed higher and louder. I looked at the man. All around him the waters were calm. I called for help. He answered, but overcome with dread and spray I couldn’t hear what he said. As the waters rolled over my head, the last I saw of him were his troubled eyes, watching. Now, the abyss awaits. Cold radiates from the ocean’s depths, chilling my toes, creeping up my legs. I cannot move. I cannot think. There is only pain as the sea clasps me into her bosom. The beautiful journey is over; I will succumb to a befitting end for one who is unworthy. Failure is part of the journey. Warmth pours from above, pushing back the deadening cold. Did you think that the way forward would always be so smooth? I am afraid to answer. Something in the steady flow of heat soothing my chest tells me he already knows. Learn from this, for the way is rarely so easy for those who follow me. Now rise. And come to me! The ice melts away. I kick my legs. And ascend. 59


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