Yesterday’s game to play. A poem.


the teacher asked my middle
son what do you want to be when you grow up
and he replied in the usual fashion of one
who believes
there is a world to grow up into
where souls don’t have to flee to mountains
and days are not filled with reminders of how things must have been for Noah
And so I smiled and nodded trying
hard to believe in growing up
and peace under
darkened suns and moonless nights


I fled to my garden where mounds of hydrangea blooms cool
if only for a moment
the low grade fever of sadness spiking within me
Truth be told I’m hot and shaky and my head is filled with news flashes and the




of boxes of food and diapers–diapers!–as they land on hills
trembling from the cries of the least of these and
despite the hydrangeas my soul screams
are the Bonhoeffers and Niemöllers and
didn’t we listen to them in the first place
but still
the bright yellow cross painted by my oldest son years ago stands steadfast beneath our river birch
and the Still Small Voice moves me like a
trumpet call and I choose
not to grow weary but to


keep watch and


Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away

~The Beatles







Plain truth about the obscurity of abuse survivors.

paradoxical_silence_by_philomena_famulok-d6kcg8dShe adored him. Cooked for him. Tended to him. Laughed with him. Grew up with him.

He was her brother, after all.

Someone she looked up to.

Someone she could trust.

Someone who, because of the roles they naturally assumed, had authority over her.


He adored her.

Grew up with her.

Looked out for her.

Developed an all-consuming attraction to her.


And then, he raped her.


Oh, sure, their dad was angry when he learned of the incident, but that soon passed. After all, he couldn’t bring himself to punish his eldest son, the apple of his eye.

The girl’s other brother, he took care of that, though. Killed the incestuous sibling.

And they lived happily ever after.

Most of them, that is.

Except for the girl.

They told her to hush.

They told her to get over it.

They told her to forgive and forget.

They told her the wounds would heal with time.

Get over it and get on with it, they said.

And they did.

Except for the girl.

Who, as the history books tell us, went off to live in desolation and obscurity.

Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Thousands of years have passed since the book of II Samuel was written and the lives of King David’s children, Tamar, Absalom and Amnon documented. 

Much ado has been rightfully made in the last week or two about an article published and then rescinded by the Leadership Journal. I’m not writing about it here to attempt to add to the wisdom of other writers have who’ve already posted on and led the way in successfully toppling this particular offender’s platform.

I only have a question.

What will you do about the Tamar’s, one out of every four (by conservative estimates) girls and women all around you?

In your church?

Yes, your conservative, evangelical, wealthy suburban church?

In your quiet little country church?

In your burgeoning, established city church?

Because the Amnon’s of the world know no boundaries.

It’s not the people you don’t know who will hurt your daughter, girlfriend, wife.

It’s the people you do know.

The charismatic worship leader.

The hipster youth leader.

The incred-amazing coach.

The theater professor.

The cousin.

The uncle.

The aunt.

The brother.

The father.

The mother.

The guy who got caught but weeps and grovels and praises Jesus for breaking him and makes everyone believe he’s been redeemed, who convinces everyone he had a mean judge who sentenced him to prison. Because you know, the girl in his youth group, she was sorta slutty, and she sat on his lap. What was he supposed to do? (See Maureen Garcia’s brave article here: I Married a Sex Offender.)


There is a better question.

What will you do to shatter the obscurity of the Tamar’s around you today?

To give them a voice?

To give them a platform?

To give them a reason

a purpose

and a hope

that they can step out of the shadows of shame

that they can live strong

and out loud

instead of in desolation?


Note: I wrote my novel, How Sweet the Sound, to give the Tamar’s of the world hope, and to let the rest of the world around them know what it feels like to suffer and begin to heal from the vices of sexual abuse and assault. I took great care to write the story in a way that is gentle enough for survivors to read without being triggered. But make no mistake: the book tells the truth. If you know a Tamar, they might like my book. And if you just want to understand a Tamar better, you might, too. 


For further reading, see also:

Ed Stetzer’s article, It’s Abuse not an Affair

Mary DeMuth’s brave post, Dear Man in Prison

Karen Swallow Prior’s heartbreaking article, #HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heartbreaking Hashtag

Elizabeth Esther’s Open Letter to Christianity Today

HerMeneutic’s article, To Publish a Predator

The Leadership Journal‘s editorial apology for publishing their article, “From Youth Minister to Felon.”





Novel #2 title reveal!

I don’t know about other writers, but for me, the journey from the inception of a book idea to an actual novel is at once fleeting and furious, enigmatic and concrete. For months–years, in fact–I become a slave to what is often the convoluted formation and exhausting (although beloved) revision of plot and character.

This has been no less true for my second novel, slated for publication (also by David C. Cook) in spring, 2015. 

Readers of How Sweet the Sound have asked if my second book is a sequel, and (((sorry))), it’s not–at least not in the sense that I’m bringing back any aspect of that story, the characters, or the Alabama setting.

However, I do believe readers will find just as much–perhaps even more–hope and redemption, heart-rending characters, aspects of social justice, and a unique and captivating storyline.

I’m not going to reveal much about the plot of my second novel today, except to say that it’s set along the shores of Lake Michigan, and that it involves a  jewelry designer, Nel Stewart, who must discover how decades-old secrets of her aging father’s past instersect with a lost and mysterious aquamarine, in time for them both to find the grace and forgiveness they’ve been longing for all their lives.



Boy standing by wooden gatepost; 1910 Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection (Library of Congress), via


But wait–that picture doesn’t look much like Lake Michigan, does it? That’s because while set in the 1990’s, much of the story involves the plight of a boy who escaped pogrom-torn, Pale of Settlement Ukraine in the early 1900’s. An exceptionally tragic time in history often overshadowed by the Holocaust, as many (if not more) millions of Jews were brutally and mercilessly slaughtered during this time period.  The much-adored musical, Fiddler on the Roof, lends a glimpse into shtetl life during this time, but many countries in the region forbade their citizens to even speak about the massacres, which lasted up until and throughout the Holocaust. In fact, many of the physical reminders such as Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in the regions are being unjustly erased and torn down even today.

My paternal ancestors were turn-of-the-century Ukraine immigrants along with hundreds of thousands of other courageous Jews who escaped these events. As such, I was inspired to write this novel.

Related to that, and as promised, today I’ll tell you the title of this upcoming book, which is…


…hold your breath…

…wait for it…



Then Sings My Soul: A Novel


Aside from being a line from one of my all-time favorite hymns and a nod to the use of a hymn line in the title of my first novel, How Great Thou Art was translated from Swedish to English (and more stanzas were added) by a man named Stuart Hine, who was, in fact, a missionary to Western Ukraine. According to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame,

Stuart K. Hine was born in 1899 in Great Britain. In much of Stuart’s earlier years he and his wife were missionaries in the Western Ukraine of Russia, where they evangelized as Christian workers and singers. In 1931, Stuart K. Hine and his wife returned to Britain and conducted gospel campaigns throughout Great Britain. During those years, Stuart published many song books and wrote many of his beloved gospel songs…Stuart retired from the active ministry but continued to publish his song books and his music and contributed the majority of his income to various missionary endeavors around the world…Stuart K. Hine’s most popular composition is “How Great Thou Art,” which is recognized in many polls as the number one Hymn in America…

One of my favorite recordings of the song is by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill. Enjoy this incredibly rendition, and stay tuned for cover design and more as the weeks and months go by.

And before you go, it’d be so kind if you’d leave a comment below about what you think about this preview of my second novel!