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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Behind the Scenes: Writing as Therapy

Writing has always been like therapy for me. I wrote my first book over two decades ago after suffering from a miscarriage. I felt shattered and lost and completely alone. I ended up writing the fictional novel of a couple and their struggle through infertility as well as a non-fiction study guide stemming from my own search for God in the midst of the pain.

A lot of good came out of that writing therapy.

Like any family, we’ve had plenty of ups and downs over the years. We’re now coming up on the two year anniversary of one of our worst when our family was attacked by armed intruders in our home. Believe it or not, I was actually in the middle of writing a hostage scene for my heroine when the robbers broke in.

Here’s what I wrote about that experience in the Dear Reader letter in the back of the book just a few weeks after the attack. (The letter was later condensed.)

While I was in the process of finishing Desert Secrets, everything changed. Three armed men walked into our house, tied up myself, my husband and my daughter—gave me two black eyes and a mild concussion in the process—and robbed us, including the wedding ring off my finger.

The experience changed how I felt about a lot of things, including writing suspense. Before I could continue, I had to rethink why I write what I write. I was eventually able to move forward and pour my emotions from the attack into this story, which ended up bringing me healing.  I knew that I wanted my readers to never forget that the God who created the universe loves us and wants to be our strength no matter what is happening in the world around us. Jesus came to heal the empty and broken hearted, and those searching for freedom and hope. Psalm 91 says that He is our refuge and fortress. That no matter what we are going through, He will cover us with his feathers and it is under His wings we will find refuge.

I truly believed what I wrote.  But still, after the attack, I found myself seeking answers about God, and pain. Sin and the fallen world we live in. In the next book I wrote, Vanishing Point, I tackled the question that we’ve probably all asked at one time. Where were you, God? I worked through this question in my own life as I was writing conversations between my characters who were responding to their own string of tragedies they were dealing with.

Here’s part of a conversation between. Detective Garrett Addison and Special Agent Jordan Lambert.

“We ask that question—where were you, God?—as if we’re surprised when evil surfaces. We ask it because we want to know why he didn’t show up and stop what happened. We wonder what’s wrong with our world when we watch the news and hear all the tragedies happening around us. We forget that we live in a fallen world. We forget that God gives us the freedom to make choices. We wouldn’t like it if he forced us to follow him. But that means we have to suffer the consequences of our bad choices as well as enjoy the consequences of our good ones. God doesn’t give us free will, then stand over us and fix everything. Does that make sense?”
“It does,” Garret said. “Think of all the times in the Bible when people cry out to God for something. They beg him to rescue them from their enemies or give them something they want. Sometimes God intervenes and steps in dramatically, but it seems like more often than not, he doesn’t.”
“Exactly. And what I’m realizing is that when he doesn’t intervene, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there. I think it means just the opposite. He decided not to just sweep down and fix our problems every time something goes wrong. Instead he chose to redeem us eternally by sending his Son.”
“Immanuel,” Garrett said, feeling a chill go through him. “God with us.”
“Yes. I have to believe that he’s here with us. That he understands what we’re going through and feels our pain far more than we do ourselves.”
“It’s hard for us to understand why a loving God would allow such horror to exist among his creation,” Garrett said. “It doesn’t make sense to us. But God’s intent was never a fallen world. That was man’s choice.”
“But even though he never promised us we wouldn’t feel pain, he did promise that we would never be alone.”
Tragedies like the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Sandy Hook flipped through Garrett’s mind. The reality of a fallen world was clear. And yet like Jordan said, wasn’t God’s plan really a plan of redemption? Yes, he believed that God was capable of fixing our problems, but he chose instead to rescue and redeem humankind permanently.
“When we suffer a loss,” he said, trying to put his thoughts into words, “some people say that everything happens for a reason. But I don’t think there’s always necessarily a particular ‘reason’ for something to happen. Maybe the truth is that things happen because we live in a world where pain, death, and loss are all naturally a part of life. No one is immune.”
Jordan nodded. “But instead of believing that hardships are the norm, we say that we deserve being showered with God’s blessings. And yet Jesus told us that in this world we’d have many troubles. Sometimes we do experience God’s blessings, but he never promised us that everything would be perfect in this world.”
“Only in the redeemed world to come,” Garrett agreed.
“What he does promise is to walk with us through the bad times. As crazy as it seems, somehow, when bad things happen, we start to see God’s grace. We start to dig deeper. Sometimes it takes trauma to get someone searching for God.”   ~From Vanishing Point

Once again, my writing was therapeutic for me and something I hoped as I wrote it would minister to those who read the book. But there has still been something that has always bothered me. My family and I walked away from the attack on our family. We saw miracles that night, so many we made a list. We saw how things could have turned out so much worse. To this day anxiety that sometimes still lingers, but my family was okay. We were alive. And I was grateful.

There was a moment that night, though, when I didn’t know how things were going to end. When I ran around locking up the house after the robbers fled and didn’t know where my husband was. I remember as clearly as it was yesterday, sitting down in the hallway with my daughter, believing I was facing my new reality. Life without my husband. I was now a widow. They'd made threats and now they’d killed him. And at that moment, I truly believed he was gone.

Not long after that, he arrived back with the police. Little did I know that his leaving to get help was what saved us and scared them off. But what if God hadn’t saved him that day? Would I still be able to praise him? Would I still trust?

A scene from Daniel keeps repeating in my mind.

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NLT

Even if He doesn’t we will still serve You.

I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment, but I’m writing a book right now tentatively called Before You Leave Me. It’s centered around a man who loses his wife during a home invasion. I know. What was I thinking? But the spiritual thread of the story is one that dives into that very question. And it’s one I wanted—needed—to explore. What if God doesn’t say yes? What if He doesn’t heal my loved one? What if He doesn’t move mountains or save me from the fiery furnace?

Jesus said very clearly that we would have trouble in this world. Later Peter said: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”  I Peter 4:12-13

What if my husband had been killed that night of the attack? What would my response to that have been? Would I have blamed God? Left the mission field? Turned bitter? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope I wouldn’t have. I hope that I would have seen God even in the midst of my pain.

Here is what I do know.

He has promised to be our strength when we are weak, to give us hope when we are hopeless, and to love us when we feel unlovable. It’s never relying on our own strength to get us through difficult times, but leaning on the mighty arm of God and being continuously filled with His Spirit. Isaiah 41:10 says not to fear, because “I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So what is my response today? Right at this moment. It might not be a crisis, but what about when I have to deal with a rude cashier at the store? A difficult boss or client? Someone who bullies my child, cheats me, or cuts me off in traffic? Like the song below, whether I'm facing tragedy or just a bad day, may my life be filled with His strength and mercy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Never good-bye, just see you soon

It's hard to believe that our time in the US is over for now. We've been blessed to connect with so many wonderful people, including churches, friends, and family, literally all across the entire US. And we gained a daughter-in-law in the process who we already love like our own. I'm so grateful for the time spent together, and for the encouragement we received. God is so good!

We're packing up now, with the reality that our immediate family will be spread out and in four different time zones. Scott and I will be, for the most part (except for school breaks--already can't wait!) empty nesters! Yes, that's still sinking in. And yet for the most part, I feel at peace, though there are definitely those really tough moments as well!

But God has done so many amazing things these past few months and I know He's not done yet. So grateful for everyone who has hosted us, fed us, prayed with us, encouraged us, and simply loved us. Going home with a new excitement for our ministry despite the tears, and especially knowing it's not good-bye, just see you soon!

Friday, November 03, 2017

Next Up: Vanishing Point!

Hi all! I just put together a short video with an update on my very soon to be released, VANISHING POINT, plus a teaser about a fun giveaway that my wonderful publisher has put together. Giveaway will start Tuesday morning at midnight on my author FB page--release day. I'll post the link on my author page and here on Monday so you won't miss it! Happy reading!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt Stop #14

Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you have just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through the 25 stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 3 grand prizes!

  • The hunt BEGINS with Stop #1 at Lisa Bergren's site.
  • Hunt through our loop using Chrome or Firefox as your browser (not Explorer).
  • There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt--you have all weekend (until Sunday, 10/22 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books.
  • Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the clue on each author's scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at Stop #25. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!
Lynne and I are so excited to be able to host our long-time friend Elizabeth Goddard. The three of us have been friends for years--since we were each starting out as writers. Here is a brief summary of Elizabeth's newest book Wilderness Reunion. 


After stumbling on a drug operation, Alice Wilde races through the woods as bullets whiz past, using her skills as a wilderness guide to elude her pursuers. But she doesn't stay safe for long once one of the armed men recognizes her...and starts stalking her. When the sheriff asks her to guide his men and photojournalist Griffin Slater--her ex-boyfriend--to the crime scene, though, she can't refuse. Alice knows Griffin's just there for a story, but after the two of them are separated from the rest of the group, he's the only person who can save her. And with someone willing to do anything to hunt them down, Alice must put aside their past if she wants to survive.

SETTING AS CHARACTER, by Elizabeth Goddard

Wilderness Reunion is the fourth and last book in my Wilderness, Inc. series set along the wild and scenic portion of the Rogue River in southwest Oregon. The epilogue tied up all the characters in the series and was great fun to write. I lived on the Rogue River for five years and spent time hiking trails and admiring the gorgeous scenery.

For me, it's all about the setting, which is almost always a character in my stories. When a location inspires me, I set my story there. Characters and plot come later.

In Wilderness Reunion, wilderness guide Alice Wilde is hiking public lands when she stumbles across an illegal marijuana crop guarded by armed men. She flees for her life. Though some might not believe this is a likely scenario, as I began researching and digging deeper, I was stunned to read just how dangerous public lands can be for forest visitors. Innocent hikers have been killed for coming across such a garden. Stakes are high when we're talking about significant money. What makes it worse is the destruction to the forest and wildlife. 

Knowing this danger exists in the forest shouldn't prevent you from hiking and enjoying God's creation, but always make sure you know what signs to look for. If you come across a marijuana grow the Forest Service advises: Be Quiet and Leave the Area Immediately!

Alice Wilde tried, but danger followed...

ELIZABETH GODDARD is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than thirty romance novels and counting, including the romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies--a 2011 Carol Award winner. Four of her six Mountain Cove books have been contest finalists. Buried, Backfire and Deception are finalists in the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, and Submerged is a Carol Award finalist. A 7th generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated from North Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and worked in high-level software sales for several years before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dreams of writing full-time.

Here's the Stop #14 Skinny:
You can order Elizabeth's books online or at your local bookstore! 

Clue to Write Down: eager
Link to Stop #15, the Next Stop on the Loop: Elizabeth Goddard's own site!

BUT WAIT! Before you go, Lynne and I are offering a fun prize from Africa! Coffee from Ethiopia and two soapstone candlesticks. (US addresses only) All you have to do is sign up to get both of our newsletters (top left of the page, yellow box) or note in a comment below that you are already a subscriber. Winner will be drawn at the close of the Scavenger Hunt.

Happy Hunting!!

Lisa and Lynne

(Fun prize from Africa is for US Addresses only. Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.)

Monday, October 02, 2017

Where are you, God?

It seems as if tragedy after tragedy continues to rock our world. This morning as I was watching the news about Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but be reminded about the night our family was held by gunpoint in our home last year and beat up. It brought up the question that I know people are asking today. Why? Why could God let something like this happen? Because every time tragedy, loss, and evil surfaces, so do the questions.

Sometimes when we ask--Where are you, God?--we ask it as if we are surprised about the evil we see. We wonder what’s wrong with our world when we watch constant news coverage of tragedies without any answers. We ask it because we want to know why God didn’t show up and stop what happened.

The truth is that sometimes God does intervene and dramatically steps in.

But sometimes he doesn’t.

As I began searching for myself after the attack, I was reminded that we live in a fallen world, and that God gives us the freedom to make choices. And what I begun to realize is that while most people wouldn’t like it if God forced us to follow him, we still want help when things go wrong. And here’s what really struck me. With freedom comes choice, but it also means we often have to suffer the consequences of bad choices—both ours and other peoples. God doesn’t give us free will, then stand over us and fix everything that goes wrong.

Maybe that sounds like a cliché, but for me, it struck a cord.

Because here’s the other thing I was reminded of. When God doesn’t intervene, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there. I think it means just the opposite. Because he decided not to just sweep down and fix our problems every time something goes wrong. Instead he chose to redeem us eternally by sending his Son.

Immanuel. God with us.

Tragedies like right now in Las Vegas and recently the hurricanes demonstrate the reality of a fallen world, and it’s pretty clear that none of us are immune from suffering. But God’s plan has always been a plan of redemption. While God is capable of fixing our problems, but He chose instead to rescue and redeem humankind permanently.

There are no easy, pat answers. Nothing that will fix what happened. But what He does promise is to walk with us through the bad times. As crazy as it seems, somehow, when bad things happen, we start to see God’s grace. We start to dig deeper. Often it takes trauma to get someone searching for God. And hard times give us compassion toward others, deeper love, and more courage.

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NLT)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Behind the scenes with Lynne and Lisa

Things on my end have been a bit crazy (and thus quiet online) with one kiddo starting university and a second joining the Army and shipping off--all within three weeks! In all the craziness of life, Lynne and I managed to catch a few hours together and made some short, behind the scenes videos about Ghost Heart and writing together. Be sure and sign up here for our brand new YouTube channel and catch a new one each Friday!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Happy Release Day!

I'm so excited to be able to officially announce that today is the official release day for Ghost Heart! This has been such an incredible journey for Lynne and I as we wrote this book together, something we'd never done. But we are excited to finally be able to share this story with you. To learn more about behind the scenes, visit our Ghost Heart blog!

Ghost Heart Book Trailer from Lisa Harris on Vimeo.

                                             Amazon     Barnes & Noble      Itunes