Why Storyformed?

My website has a new header. It’s not dramatically different, just a change from “Passionate living through passionate writing” to “Storyformed living through storyformed writing.”

Why the change?

I was first introduced to the term “storyformed” back in 2015 when my husband and I attended a church planter training called Soma School in Tacoma, WA. Soma recommended The Story-Formed Way, a method of facilitating conversations about God and the Bible through the overarching narrative of Scripture with believers and nonbelievers alike.

The concept behind the Story-Formed Way is that the Bible is first and foremost a story, a grand narrative in which God is the main character. To help people understand who God is and what He has done for us, it’s helpful to start by understanding the Story of God. Stories level the playing field, because when we stop and read the Bible as a story (a true one) and its individual components as stories, we relate to it, to God, and to each other on a whole new level.

The term reflects an instrumental change to my perspective on the Bible and my faith walk. I am part of a larger story. Every verse of the Bible fits within a larger story, a story God has been unfolding since the beginning of time. It’s incredible and masterful and brilliant.

We are a Storyformed people. We tell stories. We relate to stories. We pass down stories. Jesus used stories called parables to illustrate his points and the Bible is at least 50% narrative text because God knows this about us. We are a people shaped by stories, and specifically by the Story of God, whether we follow Him or not.

When it comes to my writing, I don’t love the term “Christian fiction,” because it’s too vague and peachy. My books aren’t just clean books Christians can feel comfortable reading or fun stories with some Jesus sprinkled on top (not that there is anything wrong with that); they’re purposeful vessels of life-transforming truth that include messy, raw people and complex plot lines. They’re intentionally written to reflect the reality of living in a broken world and how the gospel of Jesus breaks in and changes everything.

I slightly prefer the term faith-filled fiction, but considering that some of my characters are definitely NOT Christians for a good part of the story, that doesn’t quite resonate either.

Instead, Storyformed sums up the purpose and content of my writing. Every word is shaped by the Story of God, the grand narrative of God’s unrelenting pursuit and His redemptive work to save Humanity from our sin. Whether I am writing articles for small newspapers, penning blog posts, or authoring books (fiction or not), my prayer is that every word I write will point people to the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So, welcome to Storyformed Writing, where you’ll find Storyformed Fiction and other forms of written word. If my writing in any way helps you to better understand the Story of God and your part in it, I would love to hear from you – please send me an email or post a comment!

P.s. – I did my research on the term “Storyformed” to make sure it isn’t trademarked (it’s not at present). I did find one other organization using the term, The Storyformed Project, which is focused on getting quality literature into the hands of children. AWESOME! I haven’t dug into it much, but I plan to check it out, and if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or have ever met a child, you should too 🙂

When Easter isn’t a Major Key Holiday

 

On December 26, I published a post titled, “When Christmas Isn’t a Major Key Holiday.” It seemed to resonate with a number of people who also found themselves feeling unfestive as they dealt with grief and heartache during the season of “glad tidings and joy.”

I concluded,

Grief and heartache aren’t unfestive. They aren’t incompatible with Christmas. In fact, they’re the perfect platform for true Christmas spirit to bloom…

Perhaps, like O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Christmas is more about a cry of anguish than holiday cheer and warm fuzzies. Of aching longing for eternity rather than rosy contentment with earthly things. Of desperate expectation rather than idyllic sentiment. Of hope – hope in what has come, yes, but more so in what is yet to come.

Perhaps where our anguish and the hope of Christmas meet, we experience a glimpse of the true peace and joy of Christmas. Perhaps the key to Christmas spirit isn’t found in ideal circumstances or putting on a happy face or pretending Christmas doesn’t exist, but rather in embracing the anguish as we desperately cry out, flat on our face, with tears streaming and heart breaking, “O come, o come, Emmanuel!”

Little did I know when I wrote those words that Easter of 2020 would in many ways feel like a repeat of Christmas: a usually “major key” holiday arriving in the form of dissonant chords in a minor key. Coronavirus has drastically altered life across the globe in a startling matter of days. Like whiplash, the sudden halt to normalcy has left people bewildered and hurting and feeling anything but celebratory.

In our American context, we are used to Easter week being full of pastel colors, blooming flowers, new dresses in the latest floral prints, Easter egg hunts, loads of chocolate, visits with relatives, upbeat worship songs celebrating the Resurrection, and inspiring sermons about the victory of the resurrection. Perhaps we attend a somber Good Friday service or watch The Passion of the Christ to remind us of the more gory, solemn side of Easter, but we quickly get back to the heartwarming reality that Christ triumphed over sin and death.

What if the same conclusion I came to at Christmastime is true of Easter, too? What if grief and heartache aren’t anti-Easter but the doorway to a deeper, truer, more poignant kind of Easter joy? What if grief, heartache, confusion, isolation, disillusionment, and fear are exactly the Easter lead-up emotions that give way to the deepest kind of worship?

On Good Friday, Jesus’ disciples, family, and friends went to bed devastated and grieving. Their dreams had been crushed. Their hopes of deliverance dashed. Their would-be king hung on a cross. Their friend was in a tomb. Their band of brothers was temporarily disbanded: one had sold Jesus out, all of them fled out of fear, and one of them denied him three times. After all he had done for them, in His time of need, they were no where to be found.

They were hurting. Confused. Isolated. Disillusioned. Disappointed. Afraid. Grieving. Ashamed. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. Was it? Easter week had begun with joyful celebration. Yet it ended with something entirely different. What happened?

They couldn’t see that something better was coming. Something greater than their greatest hopes. There was no joy for the disciples that night, or the next or the next. There was no bright spot on the horizon.

Just days before, Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem on a donkey while people waved palm branches and effectively declared that He was their awaited Messiah. He’d been healing all their diseases. Raising their dead. Curing their blind. Feeding their hungry. They could follow him whenever they wanted and return to the comfort of their homes when his words became uncomfortable. They were ready for deliverance from all the things they didn’t like and he was their guy. Their ticket to freedom. The genie to their dreams.

Perhaps Palm Sunday represents our lives up until now. We have lived in the privileged comfort of life in a first-world country where our personal freedom and convenience are our gods. Where it’s easy to declare Jesus is King because it comes at little to no personal cost. Where we unabashedly use hashtags like #firstworldproblems because we’re so privileged we can even joke about it. Where we do what we want, when we want.

Maybe the Easter joy we are used to experiencing is actually Palm Sunday joy. It’s the joy of good times; the joy of living in a state of comfort; of having a god who mostly gives you what you want and expects little in return; of thinking our happiness is attainable with that next relationship, that next promotion, that newest iphone; of full bellies and satisfied sweet tooths.

But where is joy in shouting “Crucify him!”? Where is joy in the betraying kiss of a friend? In the sting of the whip and agony of the crown of thorns? In realizing the one you put your hope in is about to die, leaving you empty and confused? In the horrifying sound of the weeping and moaning of a bereaved mother at the foot of the cross? In the realization that you put the nails in his hands yourself?

The joy is there, friends. It is Sunday’s joy, but it is there. It is there in the sighing whisper,”It is finished.” It is there in the realization that everything he said WAS true…which means if he’s dying now, he’ll be living later. It is there in the kingdom of heaven breaking in, poking a cosmic hole in Brokenness. It is there in the tearing of the veil that has separated man and God for generations.

Easter is only a joyful occasion if Good Friday is a torturous one. For only when we are acutely aware of the brokenness around us, of the blood of guilt on our own hands, of the hopelessness of everything else around us…only then can Easter be good news. Pain is the birthplace of joy.

We are keenly aware of the brokenness around us right now. The illusion of Palm Sunday has spoiled. The tables have been turned. The entire world is groaning and aching even more intensely than usual at the afflictions of disease, injustice, hunger, economic uncertainty, fear, and loneliness because of COVID-19. Everything around us looks bleak and hopeless, empty and vain. We feel like we’re trying to contain and elephant in a birdcage, shoving one limb in only to have another fall out. On top of it all, the situation is only revealing our worry, selfishness, fears, idols, fragility, and helplessness that have been there all along.

Our dreams have been crushed. Our savings accounts drained. Our sense of control squelched. Our hopes of deliverance from this nightmare dashed. Our countrymen, even friends and family, lie in graves. Our communities are disbanded, isolated. Our deliverers of modern medicine, science, and intellect overwhelmed by a giant foe.

Maybe we don’t need more Palm Sunday joy this year. Maybe we don’t need celebrations and feasts and egg hunts and big to dos to find joy in Easter. Maybe we don’t need life to return to normal so that we can celebrate appropriately.

Maybe what we need is the lonely, quiet, uncomfortable silence of socially distanced living in the middle of a pandemic we cannot control to scrape off the layers of false joy, comfort, security, and hope we have covered up for so long. Maybe there in the depths of the agony of our deepest fears, heartache, grief, pain, confusion, disappointment, and disillusionment, we will discover true joy: the joy that comes when you realize that something great is coming. Something greater than your greatest hopes. That in fact, Jesus IS everything you’ve been looking for, only far, far better.

So friends, this may Easter look different for you than it ever has before. Maybe you don’t feel like celebrating. Maybe you’re planning to ignore it; it’s just another day, right? Maybe you’re trying to recapture as much of your sense of normal Easter festivities as you can muster in your own home and virtually. Maybe you’re trying to conjure up some leftover Palm Sunday joy that has to be stashed somewhere, right?

But maybe you should embrace the painful context of this Easter. Dig deep into the heartache. Let it be as uncomfortable as it actually is. Lay down your expectations for everything you thought life was supposed to be, how God was supposed to work. Admit that brokenness sucks. Acknowledge that coronavirus only reveals the things that have always been true: we are weak. We are finite. We are mortal. Wealth is fleeting. Security is momentary. Comfort is blinding.

Maybe this pandemic gives us the unique opportunity to strip away all the distractions, all the secondary sources of joy that so easily become primary, all the coverups for the things we don’t want to face, and simply sit with the story of Easter. Maybe as we see that the bad news is worse than we thought, we will also see that the good news is far better than we could have imagined. Maybe we will remember that this is not our Home, and that the deep ache we feel for the world to be right won’t go away when coronavirus is over.

Maybe then the true joy of Resurrection will sink deep into our hearts. Jesus is alive, and He is King of a Kingdom that is far better than this world could ever be.

Maybe Easter isn’t a major key holiday this year, and maybe that’s ok. Because the dissonant chords of life on this earth won’t find their resolve until Jesus returns. And if He’s risen tomorrow, He WILL be returning later.

 

 

Lessons from Labor: Do Not Worry

 

Thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus, we are living in a state of crisis. Not just locally, or even nationally, but globally!

Now, more than ever, we share in an insurmountable mountain of things to worry about – will we or our loved ones get sick? Will we find toilet paper? Will our paycheck ever return? When will we see our friends again? How will we mentally and emotionally survive isolated living for the foreseeable future?

Yet Jesus tells us “do not worry about tomorrow, for today has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). If He tells us not to worry, then it must be possible not to worry — but how?

I sent this video to some ladies from church the other day as the fruit of my own wrestling with the Lord last week on that very question. It is not easy to not worry, but it IS possible. Watch to find out how!

 

 

5 Ways to Live as Followers of Jesus in Light of COVID-19

 

The whole world is talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we know it has come to a screeching halt. The future remains uncertain. We stand on the precipice of something that could change the way our world and culture operate forever – or life could return to normal in a matter of months. We don’t know. We know people will get sick. We know some will die. We don’t know how many.

How do we respond to a crisis like this? Apathy is the wrong reaction. So is anxiety.  How, then, do we navigate through this unique time?

I’m in the throes of working through it just like you are, but here are a few places my prayers are landing me.

Stay Informed, but Not Consumed

Knowledge is power, right? Ignorance is not bliss in a situation like this and it’s certainly not love – at best it’s selfish stupidity. This is the time to become informed and stay informed. Know what is going on globally, nationally, locally. Keep up with the latest recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and local and federal governments. Research to understand viruses, communicability, basic statistics, etc.

However, as important as it is to stay informed, it’s equally important not to be consumed. I’ve been spending far too much time reading headline after headline, article after article, without really learning anything new. The only fruit that yields is anxiety.

Therefore, I’m choosing to limit the amount of information I take in. My goal is no more than 3 times a day (morning, lunchtime, and night), 10 minutes at a time, using NPR and BBC to check for new developments I should be aware of and scroll through my Facebook feed (let’s be honest – pretty much everything on social media is related to COVID-10 right now. So I’m putting social media in the category of coronavirus-related reading). Even 10 minutes 3x/day is still probably too much, but less than once a day would be too little right now.

My encouragement? Set limits, and determine that for as much time as you spend taking in information about the COVID-19 crisis (this includes posts like this one!), you spend at least twice that in prayer, reading Scripture, and fellowshiping with other believers who live in your home or via technology.  Prayer, Scripture, and fellowship will do far more to combat your apathy or anxiety than all the news reading/watching and research in the world could do.

Live Wisely

Knowing how to live wisely in light of COVID-19 feels like a daunting task, even with the recommendations that are in place. There are still many micro-decisions to make. Do we have over that friend who gets depressed when she’s by herself too much, or do we stay completely to ourselves? How much groceries and household supplies do we keep on hand? Do we budget normally, or do we drastically pull back to a barebones budget in case of a recession? Do we tell our children everything or nothing, or something in between?

Where is the line between panic-living and denial-living, between overreaction and underreaction?

The truth is, “the line” doesn’t exist. It’s more like a large grey area that sits in between the two extremes. Navigating that grey area requires wisdom.

And you know what? Wisdom doesn’t begin with a fear of coronavirus. It doesn’t begin with a fear of quarantined living. It doesn’t begin with a fear of economic catastrophe.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Wisdom begins with fear of the Lord. He calls us to submit to earthly authorities (second to His authority), so we start by doing what our government is clearly asking of us. After that, we lay the rest at the feet of the Lord with reverence and awe and ask for wisdom. There, and only there, will we find wisdom, moment by moment, day by day, through the guidance of His Holy Spirit, the help of His people, and the comfort of His Word.

Love Freely

Every single “one another” command in the Bible still applies during this time. We are called to encourage one another. Serve one another. Exhort one another. Be generous to one another. Bear one another’s burdens. The list goes on. The pragmatics may look different for a season, but the call to love God and love others freely remains.

Loving your neighbor may mean washing your hands till they’re raw. It may mean risking your own health to serve someone in need. It may mean buying a week’s supply of toilet paper and diapers and wipes instead of a month’s (or more) so that the next person can find what they need. Or it may mean buying an extra pack every time you go out  to give to those who couldn’t find any on the shelves. It can mean countless things depending on your unique situation.

Just like living wisely, loving others will have lots of challenging decisions that must start and end at the feet of Jesus in prayer, trust, and surrender. What we must constantly be asking ourselves as we go about our day is: “Is this action/response rooted in love?”

Let us be careful not to judge one another’s hearts as we navigate through the grey, but let us exhort one another to live to a higher standard in this time of panic, selfishness, fear, and self-preservation: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13).

So friends, I beseech you: love freely. And remember that loving freely will always mean sharing the hope that you have in Christ Jesus when hurting, anxious, confused people look to you for answers.

Trust Deeply

After all I’ve been through in the last year, little did I know that this March would bring another life-changing set of events, this time on a global scale. Yet again, I feel like I’m living in another alternate reality. Nothing feels normal. The future is uncertain. I am helpless and powerless. I am weary.

But if there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it is that God can be trusted. He is good, even when the world is falling apart. His promises never fail, even when everything else we thought we could count on does. He is always enough, even if our piggy banks drain empty and our stomachs are left grumbling. He provides, even before we knew what we needed.

God is not surprised by any of this. I don’t know what the outcome will be. Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee protection from illness, economic loss, hunger, hardship, and death.

But I do know God is my protector and my provider. He has already protected me from the bondage of evil and provided for my eternal salvation. What He says He will do. He is good. Nothing can take away the inheritance I have in Christ. The world is sinking sand, but on Christ the solid rock I stand.

Friends, the temptation to rely on ourselves, other people, the government, or something else is ever so strong in situations like these. No individual and no human institution is big enough to solve problems like these. Our world is broken, terminally ill. If it’s not COVID-19, it will be something else. Where can we turn when we are confronted with our finiteness, our humanity, our vulnerability, the reality of this broken world?

To Jesus. Press into Him, and trust deeply. He can handle it. You can’t.

Rejoice Greatly

Finally, dear readers, rejoice! Jesus is King! Jesus is Lord over all! He has risen from the grave victorious over sin and death and sorrow! He will return to consummate His Kingdom for once and for all!

Do not lose heart, but rejoice. Though our outer selves suffer now, our inner selves are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). We need not be crushed, driven to despair, forsaken, or destroyed, for “we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11).

These next few weeks or months may seem eternal. They will be difficult. But “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And oh, when that eternal weight of glory is revealed, what a joyous day that will be!

I can’t think of a better way to close this post out than with Paul’s prayer at the end of the book of Philippians:

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved…

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Blessings to you,

Britney Lyn Hamm

5 Christian Fiction Authors to Read in 2020

 

Considering that I had my fourth baby in January of 2019, I still managed to read a decent number of books. I may or may not have prolonged middle-of-the-night nursing snuggles a *little* longer than necessary because I wanted to finish a chapter…or a book.

I read a ton of romantic mystery/suspense, with a dash of historical fiction thrown in – two of my favorite genres. These five authors were new to me in 2019, but they’re all on my “read more” list for 2020!

Check out these authors and pick up a new title or two to read soon (bonus: most of these are available for free on Kindle Unlimited). Don’t forget to leave these authors a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you’re done 🙂

 

H.L. Wegley

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Topics: United States of America, domestic terrorism, Special Forces, patriotism, military, romance, high-action

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

H.L. Wegley is an Air Force veteran, meteorologist, and Boeing Systems programmer turned award-winning author of suspense-filled, action-packed novels.

Wegley’s accounts of combat scenes, weapons, and warfare are highly technical and detailed (which makes sense given his experience and scientific bent). Not everyone will enjoy this, but I personally love because it adds to the realism of the book (plus I enjoy learning about all things military). He writes about places he is personally familiar with and succeeds in bringing the reader there in a vivid way without losing you in flowery, overdone descriptions.

I found the romance in the first book a little weak, but the love story takes a back seat to the story line anyway, so I didn’t mind. I found the romance in the second book better than the first. Both books kept me turning pages rapidly.

Wegley’s books are thought-provoking, and you know I love fiction that challenges and changes you. The Against All Enemies series is an end-of-the-USA story of courage, bravery, and patriotism to save the nation from threats against its core values of freedom and democracy on the part of a tyrannical president who is slowly dismantling the democratic process by subtle abuse of power (please don’t grammatically dissect that sentence). Wegley does an excellent job of painting a scenario that seems scarily possible, especially in our current political climate. If you want to just read the book, you absolutely could, but if you’re willing to think deeper, Wegley  challenges the reader to think critically about the state of our democracy and wrestle with what our individual responses would be if placed in the same situations as the characters. In the second book, he grapples with the issue of the morality of violence and military action from a Christian perspective. I found his perspective on this (through the lens of two characters with very contrasting views) unique and provocative in a good way.

I’m only two books into this author, but he is definitely high on my “read more” list!

Next on my list: the prequel, Chasing Freedom (the Prequel to the other two)

Ronie Kendig

Genre(s): Christian Suspense/Action Fiction/Romantic Suspense

Keywords: war hero, Navy SEAL, PTSD, Special Forces, military, high-action, terrorism, FBI, conspiracy,

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

As an Army brat and now Army wife, Ronie Kendig has ample experience to draw from for her military action novels. Her “rapid-fire” fiction is just that – books fill with rapid sequences of action, suspense, drama, twists, and turns. Conspiracy of Silence felt like National Treasurer on Special Forces steroids mixed with some Indiana Jones. Her characters are raw and have believable human flaws.

I inhaled both books and honestly didn’t stop to read too critically, but I don’t have any critiques off hand. In Conspiracy of Silence, I loved how she incorporated the Biblical story of Korah in Numbers 16 (which, cool side note, I just studied last week in my Bible study). In both books, I felt like I was right there with the characters – experiencing the questions hanging in the air, the intrigue at each step, the danger right around the corner, and the heart-pounding adrenaline.

Next on my list: Crown of Souls (The Tox Files Book #2)

 

Linda Brooks Davis

Genre(s): Christian Historical Fiction/Inspirational Historic Fiction

Keywords: turn-of-the-century, inspirational, women’s suffrage, Great War, World War 1, domestic violence, abuse, heiress, Spanish Flu, female leads

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Linda Brooks Davis, a true Texan and former special-needs educator, is a relatively new author to the historical Christian fiction scene with the release of her debut novel in 2015. Her books aren’t for the faint of heart – they are long books that cover large spans of time with multiple twists and turns to the plot, all of which allows for a great deal of character development. Each books include a love story, but the romance is more like a supporting character in an ensemble cast rather than a main player. Davis dives deep into difficult issues that may be triggers for some readers (such as physical and sexual abuse), but she also paints a beautiful picture of the redemptive power of God’s love.

The Women of Rock Creek series is set at the turn of the 20th century through World War 1. Davis brilliantly depicts the historical setting, tensions, and events that shaped that time, touching on the women’s suffrage, the Great War, The Spanish Flu, class distinctions, and more. She is not just a fiction author who sets her books in a historical time period because it’s fun; she is a true historical fiction author who takes the time to research the time period and craft a story that could have come right out of the diary of a real person. The historical context is as much a character as the characters themselves.

Next on my list: I’m honestly not sure, because her only other books are novellas, and I don’t like novellas! (I’m weird – I usually only read books that are over 300 pages). But, since the novellas expand on the Women of Rock Creek characters’ stories, I may concede and read her Rock Creek Christmas Collection.

 

Julie Klassen

Genre(s): Historical Christian Romance

Keywords: Jane Austen, period drama, period romance, dancing master, apothecary, intrigue, Cornwall, regency romance, friendship, class society

Titles I’ve Read:

My Take:

Julie Klassen is an award-winning author who gives fans of Jane Austen more books to read! Her historical romances with a touch of mystery are true period pieces in the vein of Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Also, if you are a Poldark fan, you will love these books, especially since some of them are set in Cornwall as Poldark is.

Though lengthy (which I like), her books are filled with just enough unanswered questions keep you turning pages long after you planned to go to bed. She unfolds her characters’ stories slowly while keeping interest and resolving the unanswered questions in the end. Her character development is well-thought out, her attention to historical details is spot on, and her plot twists keep the reader guessing.

True confession: The first book I read of hers was The Dancing Master. I could not get into this book. It took me almost a month to read; usually I will fly through a book like that in well under a week. I’m glad I did not give up on her though, because I absolutely loved the others of hers I read!

Next on my list: I don’t know yet! She has plenty more books for me to discover, but I haven’t picked one.

 

Christy Barritt

Genre(s): Christian Romantic Suspense/Mystery/Thriller

Keywords: police drama, undercover cop, law enforcement, strong female lead, Navy SEAL, veterans, war hero, beach mystery, North Carolina

Titles I’ve Read:

Another true confession? I read over 30 of Christy Barritt’s books in 2019. Instead of listing them all, I’ll list the first book in each series I read. You’ll definitely want to read her series in book order!

My Take:

Christy Barritt is a Publisher’s weekly bestseller and award-winning author who churns out thrilling mysteries with clean romances and underlying faith messages. She’s like the modern Christian version of Agatha Christie (but her faith messages are light enough you can enjoy her books even if you don’t subscribe to her faith views).

I don’t find her books particularly deep or thought-provoking (although she does deal with some nasty gang violence and a cult in the above series), but they are solid page-turning reads that kept me awake through many wee hours breastfeeding sessions last year. I read them far too fast (and in too sleep deprived a state) to analyze her mysteries and law enforcement procedures, but there weren’t any glaring loopholes. Her books are a little bit like a drug to me…I just can’t stop reading them! And clearly she can’t stop writing them.

Part of what makes her books so addictive that each series has a threaded mystery (except for the Carolina Moon series). Each book in a series is has its own mystery to solve but also unfolds more pieces of the overarching mystery. Much like episodes in TV show like Burn Notice, you enjoy the satisfying completion of a story line when you finish a book, but you’re left hungering for the next piece of the bigger mystery.

Her characters are definitely not boring and have endearing quirks. She overlaps characters from other series, which is always fun for the reader (though risky as an author). She does a good job of maintaining each character’s persona when you encounter them in another series.

If I had to choose favorites, I’d say my favorite series were the original Lantern Beach Mysteries and the Worst Detective Ever. If you’re looking for fun, easy page-turning mysteries, start there!

Side note: I’ve tried reading a couple of her darker mysteries such as Dubiosity and the Fog Lake Suspense Series, but I personally do not like getting inside the twisted heads of serial killers and rapists. If that’s your thing, I’m sure they’re as good of reads as her other books, but they’re weren’t my thing.

Next on my list: Rains of Remorse (Lanter Beach Romantic Suspense Book #5) is currently waiting on my Kindle!

 

Bonus Author: Me!

Genre(s): Christian romantic suspense

Keywords: Maine, Ireland, dance, musician, domestic abuse, survivor, FBI, Navy SEAL, lighthouse, epic drama, romantic saga

Titles I’ve Written:

My Take: I’m a debut author, and I would be honored if you would read my book! I’ll let you read the description and reviews and decide for yourself 🙂

Next on my List: I’m in process writing the second book, Finding Forgiveness.

 

*I may earn affiliate commission if you purchase books using the links above.

Throwback to Relationship Redeemed Article

 

I am a sucker for a good love story. My favorite kind are real life romances that paint a picture of God’s redemption and unrelenting pursuit of us.

If you also love a good love story, head over to MBC Pathway to read an article I wrote last year chronicling one of my favorite love stories about a couple I dearly cherish. It was a joy to both watch this redeemed romance unfold AND get to interview them and write about it!

Relationship Redeemed Quote

Relationship redeemed: Young collegiate couple restored, discipled through MBC student ministry to disciple young couple

Is “Because I am Holy” Reason Enough to be Holy?

 

“You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

I’ve read that phrase countless times, and to be honest, it always struck me as a bit odd. God is commanding humans – whose sinful condition He is well aware of – to be holy. Uh…God? You know we can’t do it…right? The phrase conjured up the image of an index-finger wielding, over-the-glasses peering stern father commanding, “Obey, because I said so!” while the kid stares hopelessly at him, thinking, “I’m doomed to fail at this!” 

I’ve been studying Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this school year with my Community Bible Study (CBS) class. On top of that, my church is doing a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan using the Read Scripture app (which is amazing – see note at the end!), so I’m rereading sections of those books that we recently studied.

A few weeks ago, when I came across the phrase “be holy, because I am holy” in Leviticus 19, I saw something different there than ever before.

Of course we must be holy as He is holy…because we are made in the image of God!

The command to “be holy, because I am holy” isn’t some smug joke on God’s part, like when the bully on the playground tells the littlest kid in the class to climb the tree he can’t possibly reach. No, it’s rooted in who we were made to be as image-bearers of God. “Be holy, because I am holy, and you bear MY image.”

When that light bulb of obviousness went off in my head, so many other things made sense. Here are three of the implications of this creation-order understanding of the call to be holy.

 

God’s law is always rooted in His character.

Connecting the dots between being created in God’s image and being holy changed the lens through which I am reading these Old Testament books. Instead of coming to His laws – many of which I don’t understand – with underlying skepticism, I can come to them saying, “Somehow, whether I grasp it or not, these reflect His character.”

Leviticus 19-20 repeat the phrase “I am the Lord” or “I am the Lord your God” 19 times. That’s a lot! The image-bearer-holiness connection helped me shift from reading that as a purely authoritarian, “Do this, because I’m in charge,” to a beautiful linking to God’s character. “Live like this, because this is what I am like.”

I highlighted every instance of the phrase “I am the Lord” in my ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal (an amazing resource graciously provided to me through the generosity of a church member). On the lines opposite the phrase, I wrote down the link between God’s character and the command for us.

ESV Illuminated Scripture JournalHere are a few examples (I won’t spoil your own study by putting them all here for you):

  • Leviticus 19:9-10: He is a God who cares for the poor and oppressed; therefore, we care for the poor and oppressed.
  • Leviticus 19:11-12 – He is a God of truth; therefore, we walk in honesty.
  • Leviticus 19:31 – He is a God of wisdom; therefore, we seek Him and Him alone for wisdom.
  • Leviticus 19:35-36 – He is a God of clarity; therefore, we are to be clear in our judgments and transactions.

Side note: Jesus fulfilled the letter of the law. Hence, we are no longer bound by the ritual and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. However, the moral principles behind them remain the same (this is the “spirit of the law)”, and Jesus affirmed the so-called “moral commands” (do not murder, do not steal, etc.) still apply. We can learn a great deal about God’s holiness and what it means to reflect Him to the world by studying Old Testament law.

Is God the authority? Absolutely. Is He serious about His commandments? Yes.

If we stop there, though, I think we miss the very heart of His law and the motivation to obey it. Which leads me to…

 

Our holiness – or lack thereof – paints a reflection of God to the world.

If God’s law is a direct reflection of His character, and if we are made in His image, then our lives paint a reflection of who He is to the world. We either show them what He’s like, or we mislead them by showing them a different picture. Even the tiniest drop of sin mars the picture – HIS picture. It puts a crack in the mirror. One crack distorts the reflection. A lot of cracks make a clear image virtually impossible to see.

So when God says “be holy, because I am holy,” and when He gives “I am the Lord” as the precedent for each of His laws, it’s as if He’s saying, “This is what I am like. You’re made in my image. Reflect this to the world.”

Sin tarnishes image of God
Looking in the mirror is a favorite activity for my 1-year-old. In her case, slobber is usually the culprit for a distorted image.

When discussing this lesson, one of the women in my CBS core group said her mom used to tell her and her sister, “You’re the only Bible some people get to read.”

This is one reason sin is such a big deal, and why nothing short of total holiness is enough…it twists the very picture of who God is!

That’s also why it’s important to understand the heart of the law, not just follow them on a surface level. Jesus emphasizes this in the Gospels when he says repeatedly, “You’ve heard it said…but I say…” He takes the law and makes it 1,000 times harder to follow by driving at our hearts and motivations. To refrain from murder while hating someone in your heart isn’t holiness. To stay out of bed with people who aren’t your spouse while lusting after them isn’t holiness. To give generously of your paycheck while grumbling about the laziness of those your generosity supports isn’t holiness. Nothing short of total holiness will do. And total holiness is 100% pure in heart, thought, and deed.

 

We can’t do it on our own – but we don’t have to.

Total holiness is a must to stand in the presence of God. We fall woefully short. We tarnish the image with every snippy comment to our husbands, every over-frustrated response to our kids, every covetous thought toward our friends, every disgruntled inner complaint toward the providence God gives.

Anyone else feeling overwhelmed by this? Yeah, me too. Time for the good news.

Let me let you in on a not-so-secret secret: God knew – and knows – we can’t uphold the law perfectly. Not even close. In fact, many argue that the whole reason for the Old Testament law was to show the people that they couldn’t be righteous in their own right and to constantly point them to their need for a Savior.

That’s exactly why Jesus came. That was God’s plan, all along, from the moment sin entered this world.

Jesus came because He IS the perfect, untarnished, complete image of God. That is why He alone is qualified to bear the punishment for our sin. That is why His righteousness is enough to clothe us in so that we can stand in the presence of God.

Tacoma, Washington Puget Sound
Photo taken in Tacoma, WA, one of my favorite places.
  • He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)
  • He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
  • In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:8)

We are image-bearers. Individually, we reflect tiny slivers of God’s character. Together, we reflect a more well-rounded picture, but still woefully incomplete.

Jesus is THE image of God. Complete. Untarnished. Intact.

That Jesus makes us right. Removes our guilt. Purifies us. Shows us what God’s holiness looks like in action.

Then, He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us walk in that cloak of holiness – He actually says it is better for us to have the “Helper” than for Jesus Himself to remain with us on earth! (John 16:7)

We don’t have the power and ability; He does. Now, when we seek to be holy as God is holy, we fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit (How does the Holy Spirit help us? Great question. This article is a helpful place to start.).

 

Recovering Who We Were Made to Be

I won’t pretend I understand all (or even most of) the laws in the Old Testament. I have a litany of questions and do plenty of head-scratching when I read them and the consequences for breaking them.

But, if I believe God is ultimately good and that His laws are based on His character…if I believe I am to be holy because I bear His image and what I do (or don’t do) has a direct effect on the version of God people see through me…if I trust that Jesus is holy in all the ways I could never be and I stand righteous before Him so I don’t have to be right by my own merit…and if I live by the power of the Spirit He has given us, not by my own efforts…then following Jesus into holiness day by day is not a burden placed on me by an overbearing father but a joyful pursuit of recovering who I was made to be.

So, through the blood of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit…be holy, because He is holy, and you were made to bear His image!

 

Note: Our church is using the Read Scripture app. You read 2-3 chapters of the Bible a day beginning in Genesis, plus pray through a Psalm a day. The app tells you what to read each day. You can even set a daily reminder to read! You can read on your phone or your Bible of choice (the recommended version is ESV) and check the circle when you’re done to chart your progress. By the end of 365 days, you’ll have read the entire Bible once and the Psalms twice. Plus, the app incorporates short Bible Project videos that help make sense of the readings, which is super helpful in books like Leviticus!

Our pastor’s sermons on Sundays are based on a text from the prior week’s readings. If you want to join in with us, you can download the app, select 1/5/20 as your start date in the settings, and jump right in with us (No need to go back and reread what you missed unless you want to. And no shame if you miss a day, or two, or ten. We’re calling it the “Same Page” series for a reason). Or you can start from the beginning using your own start date. Either way, I highly recommend it!

You can download the Read Scripture app here .

You can listen to our church’s Same Page sermon series here.

Below are links to the ESV Illustrated Scripture Journals I referenced above. You may find better deals on Crossway’s site or elsewhere.

 

*I may earn affiliate commission through these links.

Britney Lyn Hamm for beauty and for glory

We were made for glory and for beauty

Britney Lyn Hamm for beauty and for glory“For glory and for beauty”.

This phrase is repeated multiple times in Exodus 28 as God instructs Moses in how the priestly garments are to be made.

The tabernacle and its furnishings, the priestly garments, everything about God’s dwelling place was to be constructed from precious materials with craftsmanship, skill, intricacy, integrity, creativity, and beauty.

In our day of minimalist design, the ornateness of the tabernacle almost surprised me. “Couldn’t those resources be put to better use, God?” I found myself beginning to think.

Then it hit me. The tabernacle housed the presence of God. The tabernacle represented His glory, beauty, and majesty. OF COURSE it and everything that furnished it and everyone who entered it had to be beautiful…because God is beautiful. His glory is incomparable.

Then it hit me again. The tabernacle housed the presence of God…now WE house the presence of God. We who have been redeemed, who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, together are the temple of the Living God. We exist to be a vivid representation of the glory of God.

When we make our houses beautifully warm and welcoming houses of hospitality and fellowship, we are reflecting His glory. When we roll out a pastry crust into an intricate leaf pattern even though it will be consumed in minutes, we are reflecting His intricacy. When we tend our roses and trim back the weeds in our garden, we are reflecting His beauty.

How much more, then, when we, by the cleansing of His blood and through the power of His Spirit, beautify our hearts to live in holiness…with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…do we reflect His glory and His beauty?

Church, we ARE the tabernacle. We were redeemed “for glory and for beauty.” Let your life be a beautiful, fragrant freewill offering unto Him today. Take joy in creating beauty around you. For with each shelf you dust, each cake you decorate, each wall you paint, each flower you trim, each hurt you forgive, each need you meet, each word of praise you sing, each burden you share, you are reflecting the glory and beauty of the God who saved you.

Photo credit: Background photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.com.

pen quill paper photo Britney Lyn Hamm

The Author of Life Analogy: Seeing God’s Authorship When Reading a Book by an Author You Know

This is a guest post on my blog today by my friend Morgan Robertson. Morgan is a deep thinker with a stunning mind and a beautiful heart for God. She shared this concept with me the other day after she finished reading my Christian romantic suspense novel, Finding Freedom. I asked her to pen these profound thoughts into a post I could share with my readers – enjoy!

“All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:3-4)

Cosmic Creation earth photo by NASAI’ve read numerous novels in my lifetime. Romance, science fiction, dystopian fiction; you name it. Though the books themselves differ from each other, one thing they all have in common is that I don’t know the author personally. Sarah Dessen, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Agathe Christie, Phillip K Dick, I don’t know a single one of them.

I never really thought about that until I read a book by someone I do know personally. When you read a novel or any piece of writing by someone you’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to, you start to see their personality, their identity in their works.

I just finished reading Britney Lyn Hamm’s debut novel, Finding Freedom. Though the plot and characters are not fashioned after her own life, I can still see evidence of her authorship throughout the novel. From the way she constructed the plot (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet) to the development of the characters down to the nitty gritty of vocabulary choices, I could definitely tell that Britney is the author of the story. Many of her characters share some of her likes – mocha lattes, dance, music, her Lord and Savior. Some of the characters share her own abilities – Jeremy and Lila, for example, were excellent Biblical counselors, a skill I know Britney uses for the Lord. Through every dialogue, every thought monologue, every description of places, food, events, you can so clearly see the author of Finding Freedom showing herself through her work.

I couldn’t help but draw the beautiful parallel between knowing the author of Finding Freedom and knowing the pen quill paper photo Britney Lyn HammAuthor of Life. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, has created a beautiful masterpiece of a novel with an incredible plot, insane character development, and amazing words spoken at just the right time. Throughout human history, you can see the Lord’s hand moving, writing, authoring the story of mankind. His kindness and mercy show through as well as His justice and righteous jealousy. The characters in His work reflect many of His own attributes – kindness, mercy, justice, righteous anger, love, morality. His characters are so fearfully and wonderfully crafted in His image.

God is a magnificently talented Creator and Author of Life. I imagine if we relinquish the pen more frequently, He’d use our lives to author an incredible story full of His love, redemption, mercy, and grace.

My question is this: Would Britney’s influence in her novel have been obvious to me had I not known her? The influence would still be there, the text would remain the same, but I wouldn’t have noticed it as much. I might have been able to piece together an idea of the author, but it wouldn’t be nearly as nuanced or detailed; just a vague sense of how this author differs from others.

In the same way, God’s influence on Creation as the Author of Life throughout human history has always been and will always be there. We just don’t really see it unless we know Him and His personality. At times, we can piece together a vague sense of some greater being behind it all, but the details are lost unless you seek to find out more.

At the end of her book, Britney has an open invitation for you to know the backstory of her choices. In her author’s note, she explains her love for Ireland, Maine, lighthouses, etc. She’s opened a door into her identity and has made her choices clearer for her readers.

Bible dock ocean sunsetGod gives us the same author’s note invitation to know Him in His Word – The Bible. He reveals His motives for the choices He’s made throughout the story of human history. He reveals the reason for the overarching plot, the climactic moment of His Son dying on the cross. He shows us His personality and how it affects the characters of the story, bringing some to complete repentance and others to total depravity and the hardening of their hearts. If you find yourself with some vague sense of who God is, both God and I invite you to dig deeper into Him. “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13).

Authoring a novel is another of many ways in which humans reflect the beautiful reality of how God works and who God is. This analogy can certainly be developed further, but I’ll let it rest with this simple invitation: seek Him and find Him throughout the masterfully told story of humanity.

 

Looking for a good book to read? Grab your copy of Finding Freedom – both ebook and paperback are available. If you order the paperback directly from my site, use the code FFRELEASE for 5% and free shipping or FFLOCAL for 20% off local pickup orders. And please, leave a review on Amazon when you’re done reading!

 

Earth Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Quill & Paper Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Bible & Water Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Priceless Story about Preemie Twins

Join me over at MBCPathway – an article I wrote is front page today! This is a priceless (pun intended) story about how God miraculously saved the life of twin boys born at 27 weeks over 20 years ago and how He is using those boys and their parents to impact lives today.

 

Priceless: Decades after decision to save premature twins, Marrs family advocates for life