Friday, March 31, 2006

Out like a Lamb

Finishing up in Atlanta today . . . I'll be at Mt. Paran Christian School this morning, then it's off to the airport to fly home. And--good news! Last night I clicked the "send" button and sent THE ELEVATOR off to my editor, along with its style sheet and timeline. As I wait to hear from her, I'll begin the research for my next book, the first in the "Fairlawn" series.

And I might take a few days off.

Oh--yesterday, at Fellowship Christian School, I walked into the library and received the shock of my life. The librarian, Linda Landrum, had unearthed a copy of the Re'Generation's UNMISTAKABLY album . . . and there I was on the cover, with nine of my teammates. What a hoot! Few people even remember the Re'Generation, let alone have the albums. If you have a store of them around the house, I also sang on the GOING HOME and STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES albums . . . wow. Those were recorded in 1976-77. That seems like an eternity ago, but I'm still living out lessons I learned that incredible year.

Can you believe tomorrow is April first? No April fools jokes here, though I have heard of a couple floating around cyberspace. Tomorrow I'll begin another "book of the month" feature, and we'll be discussing MAGDALENE. See you then!


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lady

Tucked into my hotel room again after a delightful day in two schools--Cumberland Christian Academy in Austell and Whitefield Academy in Vinings. It was school picture day at Cumberland, and the children looked adorable! What fun!

Michael, who is not only checking my elevator accuracy, but is also proving himself to be an excellent editor, asked if "Te quiero" means "I love you" or "I want you"--an important distinction if one's Mexican character is speaking to her mother. So I left my hotel room (in my stocking feet) and padded down to housekeeping, where I could hear several women speaking in Spanish.

So I walk into the room and say that I'm working on a book, and gee, "Habla espanol?" Two of the maids nod. So I say, "If you want to say I love you, mama, es te quiero Mama or te llamo Mama o que?"

They give me blank looks, but a couple of other ladies see them and come to my assistance. I realize that none of them speak English. So I say something about a book, and one of them says, "el libro?" and I jump on that and say, "Si es para mi libro. Es te quiero Mama or te llamo Mama? Como dice que?"

I, of course, have no idea if what I'm saying is the right thing--having spoken very little Spanish since the tenth grade. So one of the girls tells me to go to the office, which, after having gone there (still in my stocking feet), I realize is the wrong thing to do. The office people will have no idea what I'm talking about.

So I run to my room, grab my laptop, and run into two of the women in the hallway. I point to the screen. "Este es mi libro. Isabel dice que Adios, Mama. Te quiero, mama, vaya con Dios." I look at them. "Es bueno?"

And they nod at me. So I can only hope that they understood.

So--if you speak Spanish (well), can you confirm that a girl speaking to her mother would say "Te quiero?"

Later, at dinner, I realized what I must have sounded like. A mad woman in socks running around saying, Book, I want you mama, I name you Mama, I love you mama?"

I'm sure they will run when they see me coming tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Last pass

Tucked into my hotel room, ready to begin running through one final pass of THE ELEVATOR.

Spent the morning at Eagles Landing Christian School, and the afternoon at Mt. Zion Christian Academy. Lovely group of students in both schools--we had fun.

Two more schools tomorrow, in Austell and Mableton.



Glen Eyrie

I need to get moving today, but I couldn't help sharing some pictures from Glen Eyrie. The first picture is the Pink House, where Nancy and I stayed. The second house is the castle, where many of the conferees stayed and where we held our meetings. The third house is room number four, where Nancy slept in an antique canopy bed.

Glen Eyrie is not only beautiful in its natural and man-made appointments, but it is truly blessed. The people who work and volunteer there bathe the place in prayer and their care of their guests is truly extraordinary and kind. If you have a chance to visit one of their conferences, I highly recommend it!

I have to speak in two schools near Atlanta today, so I'd better get moving. Have a blessed day!


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Make a Writer's Day Today

Nancy Rue and I have just left the beautiful Glen Eyrie, where we did a fiction writer's workshop with about 45 really great and enthusiastic students. We had a great time and now it's time to get back to the real world . . .

We stayed in this beautiful house on the property called "The Pink House." And we learned that it was/is a favorite staying place of the Rev. Billy Graham. An incredible old house!

Want to make a writer happy today? Go to one of the many online booksellers who sell books and leave a favorable review of a title you're read and enjoyed.

It'll cost you nothing, but it will assure so many writers who are working HARD in their cloisters that those books really are being read . . . and touching hearts.

Thank you very much.


Saturday, March 25, 2006


Hallelujah! I feel like doing the Snoopy dance because I have met my deadline. The Elevator, after much last-minute cutting and writing of the ending, is now in submission shape!

Oh, how I love it when a plan comes together!

The really good news is that I'm heading out Friday morning for Colorado Springs, where Nancy Rue and I will be teaching an intensive writer's conference over the weekend. Then home on Monday afternoon in time to refill the suitcase and head out Monday night for a week speaking to Christian schools in Atlanta. BUT--when I speak at schools, I usually have my evenings free, so I plan to take a last look at the manuscript and do a little "heightening" of key points and places. The polish and buffing, if you will.

How are you coming with the 90-Day-Bible-Reading Challenge? I'm actually feeling a little disappointed that it will be ending very soon. I've enjoyed it tremendously. But as soon as I return home, I'm starting to work on my doctorate in biblical studies, so I know I'll be reading through the Bible again . . . and again.

Blessings to you and yours!


Friday, March 24, 2006

A writer's joke

A writer friend sent this out--

A novelist died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell. She decided to check out each place first.

As the novelist descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes."Oh my," said the novelist. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," cried the novelist. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

LOL! Not theologically correct, but in one sense, this is entirely true . . .


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Afghan man to die for his Christian Faith

Have you heard about Abdul Rahman? He's a 41-year-old Afghan man who may be sentenced to die because sixteen years ago he rejected Islam, a capital crime in Afghanistan, in order to accept Christianity.

Now (doubtless under international pressure), they are saying he may not be executed because he surely must be insane. But, as a friend of mine pointed out, look at his face . . . and then look at the faces of the men behind him. Who looks psychologically healthy?

You can read the entire story here.

Let's remember to pray for this brother . . . and thank God for the countries which allow their people the freedom to worship as they please.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

WIP Update


Arrrgh! I'm at the "sticky" part of the WIP and boy, do I feel the pressure of the ticking clock! I still have eight working days until deadline, but I'm traveling six of those days, so I really need to get all the big pieces in place for THE ELEVATOR--and they're not there yet. But I have faith, yes, I do, even though I feel like I'm spinning plates in midair.

This was a bit of nice news:

A review of Magdalene, from the April issue of Library Journal:

Only a skillful novelist could create such a multilayered, captivating portrait
of Mary Magdalene. Unlike Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which proposed
that Mary had married Jesus, Hunt's latest provides a perspective that will
appeal more to traditional Christian readers.

Mary is portrayed as someone who walked among the disciples of Jesus but who did not always understand his mission. Hunt's attention to detail in her historical research, combined with her bright imagination, fills in the sketchy biographical facts and creates a fascinating and convincing Magdalene. First-rate biblical fiction,
this will appeal to readers who enjoy D.S. Lliteras (The Silence of John;
Jerusalem's Rain
) or Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. For most
collections. Hunt resides in Florida.

Since Magdalene is out, officially or not, I've changed the countdown ticker to the next book in the pipeline--UNCHARTED. But we'll talk about that one later. (VBG)


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

One Woman's Courage

In the constant struggle between religions, governments, and ideological approaches, it is refreshing to hear a woman speak lucidly and with great courage. This Syrian woman is apparently an agnostic, but she is saying what so many are afraid to say about Islamic terrorism.

To watch a video clip of a television presentation, click here: . Pay special attention to what she says about the Jews, near the end of the clip.

From this corner, I am applauding. Hat tip to Lisa for pointing me to this clip.


Too Much Fun!

Okay, I should be working (and working hard), but what are friends for, if not to help you procrastinate? So Al Gansky sends me his country music video--watch Al's here

and of course I have to send him mine: watch Angie's here

So if you've nothing else to do, take a peek, have a laugh, and create your own music video!


Monday, March 20, 2006

Point of View

I was reading a review of THE NOVELIST online--and don't get me wrong, it was a nice review--but the reviewer said something about how she wished she could have had some scenes from Zack's point of view.

My response? Yes, wouldn't that be nice? Which leads me to explain a few things about point of view, and why a novelist chooses one or the other in a work.

You might remember the differences in POV from your English classes--first person is "I went to the store and looked at the guy behind the counter. That's when it hit me--I'm not the sorriest lout in the world." Technically, a first-person piece should allow the reader access to all a character's feelings and thoughts. To suddenly stop such access--or to hide something that ought to be accessible--is cheating.

Second person is generally weird. (VBG): "You go to the store and look at the guy behind the counter. That's when it hits you--you're not the sorriest lout in the world." Second person is not often used because it can be hard for a reader to identify with this "other self."

Third person uses "he or she": Tom went to the store and looked at the guy behind the counter. That's when it hit him--he wasn't the sorriest lout in the world." Third person can provide a certain distance between reader and character when appropriate, but it can also be very intimate, if a writer chooses to give us access to a character's thoughts through careful use of interior monologue. (Careful use is not writing out a lot of thoughts, putting them in italics, and ending with "he thought." Shudder!)

When I wrote THE NOTE, Peyton, the protagonist, had some deep secrets buried in her past--events she didn't want to think about and that I wanted to keep secret until the end of the story. So I wrote Peyton's scenes in third person. For variety, I wrote the peripheral characters in first person--I envisioned them as talking directly to the camera: "You want to know what I think about Peyton? She'd be okay, if she'd lighten up."

In THE PEARL, I had a logical, intelligent, rational Christian woman who decided to clone her son. Whoa! My challenge was to help the reader so identify with her thought processes and her grief that Diana's decision seems logical and, more important, right at the time. So I wrote her scenes in first person.

In THE NOVELIST, I wrote Jordan's story in first person, and I purposely didn't write any scenes from Zack's POV. Why not? Because it was Jordan's story, not Zack's. It's about how a mother is confused by her child's behavior. And if the reader didn't understand Zack, well, that helps us identify with Jordan, who didn't understand him, either.

So--POV choices are deliberately and carefully made. Everything depends upon the characters, the story, and the level of intimacy a writer is trying to create between reader and character. A wise writer limits the number of POV characters in a novel because that heightens the sense of reader identification--you want your reader to get into the skin of your characters, and the fewer the characters involved, the easier that is.

Magdalene is told in Miryam's first person POV because she is actually relating a story . . . but someone is listening, a Roman soldier who intercuts his own memories into her story. His scenes are third person POV. They are the only two POV characters in the entire book.

The Elevator has four--the three women and charming Eddie, whom I like more every day. All are third person, because I want to reveal them gradually, like peeling onions.

When the writing works, readers don't even notice these things. We just get caught up in the story and off we go.

Which is why we read novels in the first place . . .

My book club meets tonight--we're discussing Jodi Picoult's VANISHING ACTS. Should be interesting!


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Magdalene is trickling out there . . .

Despite the ticker above that's counting down to the official release date for Magdalene, I'm hearing that the book is showing up in bookstores (and mailboxes!) across the country. So by the time the ticker officially counts down, the book will definitely be available!

I spent yesterday hanging drapes in my living room. How can drapes take up an entire morning? Simple. Take one twelve foot metal pole, place it at least two feet higher than the first pole (requiring patching holes, repainting patched holes, and a ladder), and then try to hang very heavy drapes from curtain rings (the weight of the fabric will pull the curtains right off the hooks if you're not careful.)

Final result? A curtain that can be "styled" in at least three ways. I'll have to take a picture . . .

Better run. Off to church and then back home to work. My deadline approaches . . .


Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's Saturday--take time for fun

It's Saturday, and I thought it might be fun to post some of the pictures that have come to me this week--

one of the new panda pups born in China, watermelon art (someone has way too much time on their hands), a praying pup, and a hanging frog . . . to whom I can relate at the moment!

Have a blessed Saturday!


Friday, March 17, 2006

Ouch! A Migraine

Lost an entire day today to a migraine headache--a dilly of one. Usually I can take one of my super-duper migraine meds and be functioning within an hour or two; today that didn't work. Spent the entire day either in bed or on the bathroom floor, but the brain finally cleared about six o'clock.

I've only had one this bad three times in my life . . . and am in no hurry to repeat the experience. Honestly, I can't think of anything more frustrating because you can be right as rain in one hour, and flat on your back in the next. I'm not sure what Paul's thorn in the flesh was, but migraines are mine.

But that's okay. I just withdraw from society and wait until I can enter it again.

Oh--a happy St. Paddy's day to BJ and anyone else who's Irish!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

"The Purse" scene from The Elevator

Thank you, ladies, who emptied your purses for me! Here's the resulting scene:

By eleven-thirty, Michelle is as frustrated as a NASCAR driver stuck in commuter traffic. In order to stop thinking about Parker, she’s forced herself to focus on the problem with Greg Owens, but she can’t do anything until she reads the man’s application. Once she sees how Owens has presented himself, she should be able to find him a legitimate job offer within a week or two.

The thought of side-stepping the reporter’s assault brings a smile to her face, but she can’t deny the irony. Greg Owens, champion for the cause of integrity and ethics, has resorted to deception in the hope of exposing an employment scam. To remain free of his sticky little web, Michelle will counter with complete honesty. If not for the danger of further fallout, she might even be tempted to expose the reporter’s fake application.

But what kind of jobs might he have applied for? He might have claimed to be a teacher or a writer. Depending on his background, he might have claimed to be a coach or in retail. She could ask the school principal who emailed her this morning for possible leads at local schools, and Lauren might know someone in retail. When they meet at Lord & Taylor tomorrow—if they meet--Michelle could stop by the store office and ask for a sample application.

She pulls her purse from the corner and rummages through its depths for her notepad and a pen. She wants to jot down these ideas before she forgets them; she wants to feel like she’s doing something useful while she sits here staring at the walls.

She finds her notepad, drops it onto her lap, and thrusts her hand back into her purse. After grabbing a handful of objects at the bottom of her bag, she brings them into the light: a wrapped cough drop, a highlighter, a paperclip, a gum wrapper, and two pens, neither of which work when she drags them across a sheet of paper.

From the other wall, Gina watches with a look of patient amusement. “You might check--” she points toward the purse--“to see if you have anything edible in there. By the time the storm passes, we might be hungry.”

Michelle gives her a wintry smile. “We won’t be here when the storm passes. Eddie’s coming.”

“He may be,” Gina counters, “but unless he’s bringing help, I don’t think he’s going to get us out. Even a piece of hardy candy might boost our spirits.”

Tired of arguing, Michelle dumps the contents of her purse on the floor. The other women lean forward as she takes inventory: “Two tea bags—one Earl Gray, one chamomile.”

“Nice,” Gina says. “If only we had teacups and hot water.”

“A USB flash drive,” Michelle continues, “a couple of wadded tissues, one AAA membership card, one tube of raspberry antibacterial hand lotion, and my passport.” She looks up, anticipating the question in Gina’s eyes. “I’m not going overseas, but I do travel occasionally and I hate showing my driver’s license at the airport. The passport has a much better picture.”

Gina tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “I would do the same thing.”

“One pair of prescription sunglasses, a bottle of Motrin, a travel-sized mouthwash, a handful of receipts, my cell phone, my wallet, my pocket calendar. My notepad, highlighter, and two pens, both of which are apparently out of ink.”

Isabel sighs and leans back against the far wall while Gina folds her arms. “Not even a stick of gum? You must not have been a girl scout.”

“Look,” Michelle says, her voice coagulating with sarcasm, “at least I brought a purse. Where’s yours?”

A secretive smile softens Gina’s mouth, but she doesn’t answer.

Catching Up

Came home to find a box of MAGDALENE waiting on the dining room table . . . which is good, because I gave away my one and only copy in Ohio. (Aside: if you were among those first bloggers who sent me an email requesting an "influencer" copy, those should be going out soon. Let me know if/when they arrive, okay? If you didn't send me an email, look for the book at your local bookstore.)

I gave myself a work quota today, which may not be a good thing because I have a mountain of mail to go through, many letters to answer, and some general catching-up to do (not to mention the laundry.) But I'll sort through it. The good news is I did manage to get some pages done on my trip.

Had a wonderful serendipitous moment yesterday. After my last school gig (the fourth speech of the day), I was slogging through the Cleveland airport, ready to settle into my gate, and here comes Allison Bottke. We took a couple of minutes to hug and catch up. Allison is nervous about her first novel, which will soon release from Bethany, but I assured her she doesn't need to be. It's a wonderful read, about a zany woman who . . . well, here's the blurb:

Can a middle-aged Christian woman be faithful, fashionable, and fabulous? As a
successful fundraising executive in Southern California, Dee Decker works in a
world populated by impossibly thin, designer-outfitted women. Dee has never felt
like she fits in, but nonetheless enjoys a well-earned reputation as being cool,
calm, and collected. When she discovers that her husband is having an affair,
Dee embarks on a journey of self-discovery (and plastic surgery) that will
transform her inside and out. But it is Dee’s spiritual transformation that will
bring real change to her life and the lives of her family.

Allison's novel is titled A STITCH IN TIME, and it'll be available in June. In fact, you could preorder it here .

Well, off to create a to-do list, and then tackle it. Have a blessed day!


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

And You Thought You had A Hard Time Keeping Secrets . . .

According to the Chicago Tribune, the CIA is having a hard time keeping secrets . . . because you can use the internet to learn all kinds of things about a person. Apparently some folks in the CIA are listing "CIA" as their employer . . . and the info is available for anyone to see.

You can read the article here.

I had a new idea smack me upside the head Sunday morning, and I'd like to use the CIA as a character's occupation. I wasn't sure how hard it would be to learn about the inner workings of the CIA--apparently it won't be as hard as I thought!

I'm often asked about how novelists get ideas. I tell folks that a novel really consists of four parts: 1) the plot 2) the characters 3) the setting and 4) the theme. I usually get one part in a flash of an idea, then I have to either come up with the other parts of wait for them to "flash" me, too. (Remember the "flashy thingy" from Men in Black? It feels sort of like that, but without the amnesia.)

In any case, I'm excited about this new idea. That means I have four, count 'em, four really cool ideas rattling around in my brain. (I get ideas all the time, but really GOOD ideas are rare.)

Now, to find the other missing parts . . .

P.S. It is SNOWING in Cleveland! People are sweating in Florida . . .


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

LOL about the purses . . .

What an entertaining list! I think I'll try to use something from everybody's purse!

The contents of my own purse are fairly utilitarian. I have a weakness for purses--I like to collect them--so I force myself to switch purses every two weeks just to rotate my collection. This tends to keep clutter to a minimum.

Inside you'll find a huge wallet filled with discount cards, etc., glasses for reading, prescription sunglasses for driving, prescription regular glasses for driving (I'm aging), my Maxalt tablets for whenever a migraine strikes, assorted pens and highlighters (most of the pens don't work), a little wallet for business cards, a little wallet for post-it notes and sticky flags, a change purse, a couple of throat lozenges, a mirror, a lipstick in a case, a compact I hardly ever use, a pack of gum, and a collapse-able brush. I'm the type who would carry a Swiss army knife, except that I travel a lot and you can't get through airport security with one. Oh--and my cell phone, of course, which I honestly use only for emergencies, and my passport, which I always carry for ID because I HATE my drivers' license picture.

Saturday, when I was cleaning house, I discovered a great way to knock several years' dust off a silk ficus tree--I have a six footer in my bedroom that makes me sneeze, so I took it outside and dunked it in the swimming pool. It seems to have survived pretty well, so I think I'll baptize it every year. (If you don't have a pool, I should think a spritz with the garden hose would work just as well. Yes, it's sunny and warm down here in Florida. The oak trees are molting. They make me sneeze.)

Found a wonderful review of UNCHARTED here. Thank you, Lauren Steigerwald--you were not only kind, but you didn't give the plot away! Also found copies of UNCHARTED for sale last night on eBay . . . pretty good trick, since the book won't be released until July fourth. They're selling "unread" advance reader copies . . . somehow, that hurts my heart. (The entire point of ARCs is for reviewers to READ them.)

I pre-posted this because I know I'll be busy Tuesday and Wednesday . . . so thanks again for the great purse contents!


Monday, March 13, 2006

Can you help?

I need your help for a moment--it occurred to me that Michelle, the protagonist of THE ELEVATOR, will, at some point, go through her purse to see if anything inside might be useful.

Would you mind listing the contents of your purse in the comments section? Michelle is not married, so if you have any particular child-affiliated objects, I probably can't use those. But I'd love to hear what's in your wallet--er, handbag.

BTW, I'm heading out of town today and speaking in Ohio schools on Tuesday and Wednesday--seven schools in two days! Should be interesting.



Saturday, March 11, 2006

90 Day Bible Reading: Daniel's Dreams

I know this is a little late, because those of us who are on schedule with the 90-Day-Bible Reading Challenge are into the New Testament. But in the past I have written about Daniel's dreams, so I wanted to go back and comment on Daniel's dream recorded in Daniel 2:31-35. This is the standard interpretation of Daniel's dreams, and yes, I agree with it. I have learned however, not to be too dogmatic about future events. Hindsight is easy, but if God wants to fulfill his prophecies in a way I haven't expected, well, that's okay with me.

History has proven Daniel’s interpretation to be absolutely and totally accurate. As he prophesied, the empire which replaced Nebuchadnezzar’s head of gold was the Medo-Persian, the breastplate of silver. The Medo-Persians were displaced by Alexander the Great of Greece, the loins of brass. Alexander’s empire fell to the Romans, the strong and mighty domain which eventually divided into eastern and western empires.

You’ll noticed that as Daniel’s eye traveled down the image, the strength of the metals progressed from soft (gold) to very hard (iron.) This corresponds to the military strength of nations that would develop in centuries to come. Mankind has progressed from relatively weak weapons such as spears and cudgels to smart bombs, scud missiles, and thermonuclear devices.
It is important to note that the strength of the iron kingdom seems to dilute over time. The lower the eye descends, the weaker the material becomes, until the feet are composed of iron and clay, two materials which simply will not blend with each other. The “partly strong and partly broken” kingdom of Rome did weaken as it aged, until it finally divided into ten toes, or ten kingdoms.

What are the two substances that will not mix? Scholar William Kelly suggests that the final form of power from the old Roman Empire will be a federation composed of autocracies and democracies, represented by iron and clay. In his view, iron represents nations ruled by a monarch; clay represents nations which adhere to a democratic or representative form of government.[i]

These ten toes, or empires, will be some sort of European federation arising from the old iron, or Roman, empire. These ten nations—some ruled by monarchs, some by democratic governments—will be the “ten toes” crushed by the stone cut without hands, Israel’s Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nebuchadnezzar’s image, representing the glorious and powerful kingdoms of the world, will be ground to powder and totally obliterated by this stone, who will conquer all dominions and rule a kingdom which will stand forever.

Nebuchadnezzar was thrilled with the interpretation of his dream, and gave glory to the God of Israel.

But Daniel wasn’t done with dreaming . . . nor was God finished painting a portrait of prophecy.
Many years later, during the first year of Belshazzar’s rule over Babylon, Daniel slept, then awoke and wrote down the aspects of another disturbing dream:

“I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it as lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it” (Dan. 7:1-4).

In this dream we will see the same parade of nations described in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, but with a different and disturbing twist. Daniel saw four beasts rise up from the sea. The first beast was like a lion with the wings of an eagle: the exact representation of the Babylonian national symbol, a winged lion. Daniel had already seen the fulfillment of the first part of this vision. Nebuchadnezzar, who had risen to staggering heights of accomplishment, took pride in his success, but God struck him to the ground in a supernatural display of real power. Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind and actually ate grass like an ox for seven years, after which God restored his sanity. He returned to his kingdom with “the heart of a man” and a new appreciation for the power of God (Dan. 4).

But Babylon was doomed to failure. On the night of October 13, 556 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated Babylon’s army on the Tigris River just south of modern-day Baghdad. He entered the city and had Belshazzar executed. Interestingly enough, Daniel also foretold the city’s fall to the Persians—the story is told in the fifth chapter of Daniel.

“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’” (7:5).
The second beast, a lopsided bear (because the Medes were more prominent than the Persians), represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth graphically illustrate the three prominent conquests of the empire: Lydia in 546 BC, Babylon in 539 BC, and Egypt in 525 BC. A succession of kings ruled this empire, including King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the book of Esther. The Persian king Artazerxes was king during Nehemiah’s royal service.

“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it” (7:6).

The third beast, the leopard with four wings and four heads, represents Greece under Alexander the Great. The leopard is a swift animal, symbolizing the blinding speed with which Alexander’s military juggernaut attacked its enemies. Greece’s Golden Age produced some of the most notable personalities of the ancient world, including Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, renowned philosophers.

Through the telescope of history, the significance of the four heads becomes clear. In 323 BC, at age thirty-two, Alexander died in Babylon. At his death, his four leading generals divided his kingdom: Ptolemy I took Israel and Egypt, Seleucus I reigned over Syria and Mesopotamia, Lysimachus chose to rule Thrace and Asia Minor, and Cassander took charge of Macedonia and Greece.

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (7:7).

The frightening fourth beast, more terrifying than its predecessors, represents the Roman Empire and the final form of Gentile power on the earth. Rome controlled central Italy by 338 BC, and the Empire gradually expanded. Pompey, the famous Roman general, conquered the Holy Land in 63 BC. Rome ruled Palestine with an iron fist during the time of Christ and afterward. In 70 AD the Roman general Vespasian ordered his son, Titus, to destroy Jerusalem. The Temple was demolished, just as Jesus had predicted it would be.

In 284 AD, Diocletian separated the Eastern Empire from the West and appointed Maximian to rule the eastern realm. A succession of rulers struggled for control over the years, and in 476, the last Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was dethroned. Notice, however, that the Roman Empire was never conquered—it simply fell apart from struggles rising from within. It fell into separate kingdoms, but the spirit of Rome—in the European Union—is alive and well today.

The most important thing to notice about this last horrifying beast is not its strength, its ferocity, or the fact that it has destroyed all the other beasts before it. Notice that it has ten horns.

The ten horns of Daniel’s dream correspond to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s. The horns represent ten kings or leaders who will lead nations that have risen from the fourth great world kingdom—the Roman Empire.

“I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (7:8).

From among the ten kingdoms will arise one individual who will control the entire federation of nations. Who is this “little horn?” And what is his purpose?

Before we consider the answer to those questions, let’s look at the end of Daniel’s dream.
"I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

"I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom; that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (7:9-14).

Though Daniel’s dream ended with the good news of the permanent reign of Christ, still he was troubled. Four great empires would arise in the timeline allotted to the world’s kingdoms, and from a final confederation would come a pompous destroyer. The victory would ultimately be God’s, but not before the world had suffered greatly.

Before I conclude, I have to quote one of my absolute favorite prophecies of the OT. It's from Thursday's reading, in Zechariah. God is speaking of Israel: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great . . . . " BUT . . ."On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhavitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more." (Zech. 12:10ff) .


[i] William Kelly, Notes on Daniel (New York: Loizeaux Brothers), 50.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Goosebumps! That's what I had after listening to Cindy Swanson's audio review of Magdalene. You can hear it
here .

Be sure to leave a comment and let Cindy know what you think. I felt like she was right here in the office!

Thanks, Cindy!


A Nugget from the 90 Day Challenge Reading

Something jumped out at me today--I've probably read Matthew a zillion times, but this passage had never stood out to me--it's 13:51-52:

"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked.
"Yes," they replied.
He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

I'm blogging over on Charis today, and Lisa aptly pointed out that I used a metaphor right after I said I don't often use them. {VBG} Actually, metaphors are some of my Favorite Things, and Jesus used them a lot, too--nouns, strong verbs, and metaphors were his favorite literary devices.

In any case, I looked at the metaphor above and puzzled over it a few minutes. Hmm. I know what it says to me--the religious Jews of Jesus' day who understood what he was saying added new truths to the old ways. They understood that Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to destroy them.

It's been very meaningful for me to read at this quick clip--one week I'm reading the prophecies of Jesus, and the very next week I'm seeing those prophecies fulfilled--and Jesus spells it out for me.

Hope you have a great Friday, a restful Sabbath, and a joyous Lord's Day. Tomorrow I'll post that promised explanation of Daniel's dreams.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Set Down that Glass . . .

A friend sent me the following story today. For some reason, it rang a bell with me (could it be that looming deadline?)

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued,"And that's the way it is with stress . If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden."

And so, if you'll excuse me, I think Charley Gansky and I will go out to the back porch and watch the sun set.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The WIP Update

You've heard of the little foxes that spoiled the vines? Well my little mice have been spoiling my concentration!

I've been away from the WIP (work in progress) for six days and it shows. I had only a few pages to finish the third draft, but today I found myself reading words that made no sense about people I'd forgotten.

Well, not really, but all those stirrings and tuggings were gone. All those emotional threads that I usually carry from one day to the next managed to vanish while I was at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference.

The conference was super, BTW. Billie Wilson did a great job, as always, and this is one of the most "family-feeling" conferences you can attend. The weather was perfect, the conferees were enthusiastic, and my roomie, Martha Bolton, and I had a great time catching up.

But today my WIP suffered for it. So tomorrow I shall do "triage" (fix the bleeding wounds), and Thursday I will jump into the fourth draft, where things really get picky. The first half is in pretty good shape; it's the epiphany and ending that are rough. And they're rough because they're the most important part, the place where the character learns a lesson and makes a decision--the crux of the entire tale.

Plus . . . I think I might have picked up a bug of some sort at the conference. Last year I came home and went to bed with a case of the flu; hope I don't do that this year because I'm traveling to Ohio next week to speak at schools in the Cleveland area. (Update: I think the "bug" is just allergies. The oaks are molting again; everything is gold with oak dust. Ker-choo!)

So--as soon as I chat with the book club I'm supposed to call in half an hour, I think I shall get some sleep! After all, tomorrow is another day . . .


Tuesday, March 07, 2006


And now, to answer your questions . . .

I remember that this book and the truth teller were both set in Charlottesville, VA. (I'm not sure if you changed that in the update versions of both books). i found it interesting b/c i'm from VA and my sister goes to UVA. what made you choose charlottesville for the setting? --Deborah

I did set The Truth Teller in Charlottesville, VA, but Gentle Touch/A Time to Mend has always been set in Winter Haven, FL. I used Charlottesville in TTT because I lived in Lynchburg, VA, for ten years and knew the surrounding areas pretty well. Lately, however, I've decided to place most of my books in Florida. Because I was born and raised here, I know this area and mindset even better.

My question is what did you learn while writing Gentle Touch/A Time to Mend? I am asking from a temporal and a spiritual pov. I find lessons in life are often both temporal and spiritual. --Betsy

While writing GT/ATTM, I became even more aware that our lives really are, as Scripture says, "as the morning dew, that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away." In that sense, the lesson of this book is both temporal AND spiritual. In the grand stretch of eternity, our earthly lives are a sort of boot camp--we struggle and toil and God refines our characters through those struggles and toils and yes, even our failures. The things the world considers important--wealth, position, beauty--will vanish in the blink of an eye, and we will find that our characters are what remain.

We are all dying--physical death is the consequence of our mortality. Some of us will depart this earth suddenly, some of us will experience what Lara (in The Truth Teller) calls the "silver lining of cancer" --time to say goodbye and settle earthly affairs. And if we are chosen to die slowly, we are given an incredible opportunity to demonstrate something to the world : this is how a Christian departs a temporary place, a temporary condition, a temporary home.

My brother-in-law, Shane O'Hara, had a brother, Mike, who died at age 25 from bone cancer. I know Mike was in my mind when I wrote The Truth Teller. Some young men might have become bitter or angry at God because of the disease, but Mike sat in his recliner and told people about Jesus until he went into a coma and slipped away. He lived his life--and his death--with eternity solidly in mind.

This is what I have learned from A Time to Mend--that we will be given the grace to die boldly, successfully, and faithfully if we ask for it.

My English teacher, Janet Williams, required her students to memorize the last stanza of William Cullen Bryant's poem, Thanatopsis. I can still recite (and type!) it today:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, that moves

To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon,
But sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust,

Approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him
And lies down to pleasant dreams.

Ah, Angie, you may be thinking, easy for you to say these things when you and your loved ones are healthy . . . and perhaps you're right. But the heart can go with what the head knows, and I know the One in whom I have placed that "unfaltering trust."


Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Footnote

Instead of watching the Oscars, I watched the DVD of I WALK THE LINE. I just loved this exchange.

Johnny’s older brother says, “If you’re gonna be a preacher, you gotta know the Bible front to back. Can’t help nobody if you don’t tell ‘em the right story.”

Amen! I'd like to adopt that as a motto!

I also rented/watched Cry, the Beloved Country this weekend. Amazing and godly film! I highly recommend!