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This just posted and I LOVED chatting with Jayne at Tales With de Sales about the beauty of God’s grace, our need for story and how God weaves his love and grace through our own stories. Check out her podcast library for all manner of intelligent conversations with all manner of authors. Life isn’t easy and story helps us cope, helps lighten our load!

And do check out our interview here!

https://anchor.fm/jaynedesalesgmailcom/episodes/Interview-with-Christian-Fiction-Author-Camille-Eide-e1kehh3

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Last week during worship at church, I was confessing to the Lord about my stingy heart (again). You may remember that I’ve been here before.

In fact, I just went back through old blog posts (links below) and found 2 previous posts on this topic. Clearly, I’ve been dealing with this for some time now.

But, oddly, I’m not beating myself up over it. I’ve stopped doing that. In fact, I’m much kinder and more patient with Camille than I was 10 years ago. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still believe I need to surrender daily (er… hourly) and ask God to turn my stony heart to playdough and make me more like Jesus. As always and more than ever, and ever, Amen.

Because there’s a distinct difference these days in the way I view my flawed, sinful nature and God’s desire to see me change and grow and produce more of his Spirit in me. After years of despair about my failure to arrive, to “be a better Christian” (compared to her or him or some perfect figment of my imagination), the truth finally sunk in that I can no more lose my right standing with God than I can earn it. I can not earn or lose my righteousness. This has been entirely done on my behalf by Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection. I can’t undo that by having a bad day or a bad week or even a bad year. I can’t lose God’s saving grace and I can’t earn it. Growing and living for Jesus is always my goal, but somewhere in the back of my little mind, it was somehow attached to keeping my foot in heaven’s door. It was also attached to an age-old fear that some fathers stop loving you and vanish, and others get pleasure from verbally beating you to down.

God doesn’t deserve to be thrown in with deadbeats and bullies.

When he looks at me, he sees holy, which feels weird to say. He sees me fully cloaked in the righteousness Jesus paid for with his life. When he looks at me, he sees his lovely, precious Son.

And because of that, I want to grow up. More than ever. I have a long way to go, but he’s brought me incredibly far. I am no longer driven by fear, but by gratitude, grace, and love. I am encouraged by God’s 40+ year display of inexhaustible love and kindness toward me.

So while I was having a stare-off with my stingy nature, I asked God to help me be more generous when others have need—through gritted teeth. We’re talking muscle cramps from how tightly my jaw was clenched. I also admitted—might as well since there’s no hiding it from God, right?—that this is REALLY HARD for me to ask.

He knows. He gets that I’m wired a bit off the grid.

Now, there are reasons I tend to withhold giving of myself emotionally, and some might seem justifiable. For instance, I still carry scars from emotional wounds at a time in my life when I was extremely vulnerable. And then I spent decades having no clue what “boundaries” are and why you’re allowed to have them, so I’ve been burned and emotionally drained and have therefore grown resistant to giving. But… I’m also a sinner and admit that I’m selfish, sometimes lazy, and have a powerful aversion to discomfort. (Hey–cut me slack, I’m working on it. Plus Aspies have serious discomfort issues—another topic for another time.)

So as I was admitting to God that needing to be more generous was really hard to ask for, he reminded me of the verse in Matthew 11, when Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let me pause there a sec. You might have expected the answer to my request to come in the form of a challenge, like Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. A solid truth, and a perfectly good verse. But I find that Jesus really is gentle and lowly in heart, as he said, and this is especially evident in the way he deals with the wounded. I am not afraid of challenge. But the Lord knows me well and knows that a challenge to try harder, do better, is NOT going to produce the results I’m humbly asking him for. He knows that shame has never brought about any good thing in me, only damage. He knows full well that I can accept a challenge, but he also knows that I need reminded–again–that he wants to help me.

Effort is needed on our part, to be sure. But our Father, who knows each one of us intimately—and who has, in fact, wired us all uniquely—has fashioned an easy, custom-fitted yoke for each of us. Not to weigh us down, but to share our load. To ease the burden for us. To do the heavy lifting, actually. I believe his end of the yoke bears like 95% of the weight. Okay, maybe more like 99%. He invites us to come to him, come under the safety and abundance of his provision, lean into his strength. Submit to the power of his Spirit living and working in us. Draw from him, learn from him, find peace and rest. Whatever burden he asks us to bear, he promises to share. He promises to carry the heaviest part. In his grace, he promises to lighten our load.

I so often forget that he will provide whatever it takes to do whatever he asks of me.

I also often forget that the “giving up of myself” doesn’t mean I must surrender to every need or request that comes along. I need only to surrender to the Lord. He will direct me about how he wants to meet the needs of others. When I come under his yoke, he can be FULLY and COMPLETELY trusted. When I place myself in his hands, he does not violate my trust and does not hurt me or take anything from me that I can’t part with. If what is being asked of me costs time or energy or resource, and he is directing me to give it up, he will provide. He can make the sun stand still. He can send rain out of the clear blue. He will provide manna. He’ll turn water to wine. He will multiply a couple loaves and fish to such an overabundance as to leave heaps of leftovers.

His yoke is easy.

His load is light.

His provision is ridiculously more than enough.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” -Jesus

“Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours.” -C. S. Lewis

Jesus loves me, this I know. He will never leave me on the road with four flats and an empty tank. He will not let me be overwhelmed. He will provide every last drop of what I need, when I need it, always. Whether it be time, energy, mental focus, resources, the ability to pour out love and care, the space to withdraw and process and recharge when all the cares become overwhelming. He is carrying the heavy end. He’s got this.

see also:

https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/surrender-brings-freedom/ https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/surrender-brings-freedom-part-2/

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My dad passed away recently, and I was reminded that the Lord truly is near the broken hearted.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on that nearness at first: the warmth I felt as we gathered around Mom at her place a few days later and just leaned on each other, talking and remembering Dad, watching as my sister offered to tackle the tall pile of accumulated random stuff that was years overdue for sorting. Bless her heart and her poor aching back, she sat there for hours, patiently sorting through things one piece at a time, things my grieving Mom didn’t have the energy to deal with.

We had just spent the morning with our pastor planning Dad’s funeral. My sister hadn’t felt well, but came to the meeting anyway, and then decided to stay and attack the monster pile in the corner. So for the next several hours, Mom and I and my brother and his wife and my brother in law all looked on as my sister pulled things out of the teetering pile one by one, laughing about some of the items, crying over others, marveling at photos and artwork from grandchildren who are now grown with kids of their own. As we laughed and cried and marveled, I couldn’t help but feel a distinct warmth, a feeling of peace and softness in the room. It was like a warm, sweet, comfy blanket. I’m not sure if the others felt it, but I just wanted to stay and bask in it.

What could have been a difficult time of planning a memorial turned into a very sweet, simple time of just being together. And not that we don’t usually enjoy one another’s company, but we don’t often spend time together due to distance and other life stuff. When Mom and Dad met and married, we “kids” were pretty much grown. It took time for us to really connect with each other at the heart level, but even then, we are still a crazy quilt of frayed, mismatched pieces. We’ve grown into a real family who truly care about each other, but I wouldn’t say we necessarily feel warm and fuzzy by just being together.

So to feel so much warmth and sweetness that day was definitely unique, and I couldn’t put my finger on that the reason for that feeling for the longest time. I called it a gift of grace, which I believe it was. But then today, when I heard a friend was struggling with a loved one’s scary illness, I began to pray, and was instantly reminded of the verse that says the Lord is near the brokenhearted.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

I believe without a doubt that this is not a platitude, it’s a promise, it’s true, and even more, it’s palpable.

We don’t like to be reminded that eventually, death is a given for us all. Of course we always pray for people whose lives are threatened by all manner of terrible things, and I’ve heard of many miracles and have seen countless prayers answered. But I am often reminded that a reprieve from death is not the most important thing we need from God. We have an amazing eternal life guaranteed to us if we’ve placed our trust in Jesus, but our earthly life is a breath, our time on earth is limited.

So what I seek first from God, before I ask for a miraculous healing or intervention that I fully trust he is able to bring, is that his perfect peace that passes understanding will be with the person I’m lifting up in prayer. That Christ’s sweet presence will be felt and that he will guard their hearts and minds from fear, that she or he will be able to look to him and trust in him and feel the safety and strength of his loving, capable hands. He is so caring and so full of compassion. I think he would want us to look up when we are in the midst of struggle, to remember his great love and trust his goodness rather than placing all our hope in the resolution of our present difficulty.

Of course, looking up and remembering his love and goodness is not our first impulse when we suffer difficulty, illness, or fear. Our impulse is to cry out for help, hearts pounding, emotions high. He understands. He is near. He cares deeply. Though he knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he wept along with the mourners, his heart moved by his own love for his friend and his compassion for the family’s anguish.

He understands our pain, our fear. And he is not bothered by it. Though we are at times faithless, he remains faithful. Whatever we suffer or fear, he doesn’t leave us, but he joins us. He himself suffered and knows all manner of pain and heartache, in order to bring an end to these things once and for all.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

He is Immanuel, God With Us.

He is so much nearer than we know.

And he promises especially to be near the brokenhearted, and I am reminded that he means it.

May you sense his nearness today. ~Camille

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rl-montgomery-54-1.jpg

A few days after Christmas 2020, my dad went home to be with Jesus.

Anyone who knew him would agree that even at 86, Robert L. Montgomery was bigger than life. He was no gentle breeze you had to look around for, but more of a gale force. If he was anywhere in the vicinity, you couldn’t miss him.

My first memory of Dad was hearing his voice above the crowd in a noisy pizza parlor. I was 15.  From across the restaurant, Mom and I heard someone up front hollering, “Hey, Joe—how’s your wife doing?” Followed by more boisterous greetings for the rest of the staff. At our table, Mom hid behind her hand and muttered, “Oh no, it’s that R.L. Montgomery.” Because of the crowd and his height (or actually, his lack thereof), I couldn’t see who belonged to the voice, but apparently Mom didn’t need to see him to recognize her co-worker.

I soon found out that EVERYONE knew R.L. He may have been small in stature, but he had a big voice and a big personality and an even bigger heart. In fact, everything about him was bigger than life. And he liked only the best of things: The prettiest girl. The choicest cut of meat. The top of the line cookware. He often drove a Cadillac. He had good taste for high quality, which my sister Tandy inherited, and which he tried, unsuccessfully, to instill in me.

When I was 16, my brother Stephen was in the Army and it was just me and Mom. She was going through a hard time following a rough divorce, and I, punk that I was with problems of my own, had just become a brand new Christian, so I asked her if we could find a church to attend. She said “that R.L. Montgomery” had been “bugging” her (I think was the phrase) to come to his church. They began dating and were married the following year.

Which was great, but for me, dads had been a major disappointment, to say the least, and the term STEPDAD was a foul word on my tongue. By the time I was 17, I was completely self-reliant and had ZERO use for a dad. Any childish wish for a daddy had long been abandoned. So when Robert and Mom married, I told him I was moving out to give them space. I didn’t want to be a third wheel.

His response? He laughed hysterically (a sound I can’t tell you now much I wish I could hear once more…) Then he talked me into staying, but I kept my guard up. He kept telling me I was special and said things like “You’re so NEAT!” and “I sure love you!”

Great, my mom married a nutcase. I did NOT need sweet-talking from some hyper red-head who was absolutely going to let me down. I’d been too hurt and disappointed and I was hard. I didn’t need a dad. I was way over it. So I kept him at arm’s length. Pushed him away.

Or… I tried.

But he wouldn’t let me push him away. He kept up the encouragement and the compliments and the bone-crushing hugs, day after day, week after week after week. He just wouldn’t let me get away with avoiding a relationship with him and eventually, the man wore me down.

What I didn’t know about Dad until many years later was how loss during his childhood had shaped him. He’d lost his mother as a young boy, and his dad wasn’t around. His grandma raised him, but he missed the real nurturing he needed. I think a lot of people respond to loss of this kind by becoming bitter or hard, or falling prey to addiction. Not Dad. His response was to double down and love others with every tool had, which included endless words of affirmation. And of course, chocolate.

Early in our relationship, I don’t think even Dad realized that his refusal to let me push him away was not only changing my heart, but impacting my eternal life. I had come to faith in God with a wary, deeply damaged view of fathers. In my experience, dads were unreliable, abusive, or indifferent. When you needed protection, they vanished. When you needed affirmation, they criticized. When you needed to know you had worth, they demeaned you. This was the baggage of insecurity I’d brought into my relationship with God.

But Dad’s persistent love gave me hope in the possibility of a father who won’t abandon you or stop loving you, even when you make him mad.

Oh, and I’ve made him boiling mad over the years. Many times.

Robert Montgomery was a big personality and he was far from perfect. He was THE most stubborn human I have ever met. Don’t even get me started on his backseat driving and his volatile relationship with traffic. He was a professional driver—and he made sure you knew it—but he had a red-headed temper on and off the road. He and I argued at times, and he’s gotten so mad at me he didn’t talk to me for a week—on more than one occasion. But he ALWAYS got over it and he ALWAYS welcomed me back and he still loved me every bit as much.

He could get frustrated with you, but it never affected the depth of his love for you. Relationships were far too important to hold a grudge.

If I could ask to inherit one thing from Dad, it would be his tenacity to love.

Dad didn’t model perfection, but I didn’t need that. What he modeled for me—of far greater worth—was persistence, both in the way he loved, and the way he followed Christ.

Dad gave me a daily reminder that the Father’s love NEVER fails. If not for Dad, I don’t know if I would have gone on daring to trust that God really wants a forever relationship with me, or that I could approach God again and again for help, strength, and forgiveness.

For me, Dad’s stubborn love and persistent faith was a priceless, life-changing gift.

There’s a lyric in his tribute video that says,

There is no life without its hunger;

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;

But when you come and I am filled with wonder,

Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

Thank you, Dad. I owe you so much and I’ll love you forever. See you soon. 

-Camille

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What usually gives you a sense of real, lasting peace? It is calm seas? Things going smoothly?

For me, lasting peace boils down to one word. HOPE.  Not hope like, Oh, man! I sure hope it works out.  But the real, LIVING hope I have in Christ.

Funny story about the origins of the phrase living hope. It was actually penned by the very guy who had some of the highest highs and lowest lows of anyone in the Bible, and some of his greatest triumphs and worst failures came within minutes of each other.

The Apostle Peter is one of my favorite people of the bible. He was an all or nothing guy, which I can totally relate to. In his early days with Jesus, he could be pretty erratic. For example, he went from walking on water with Jesus (!?!) to sinking only moments later.

“Hey, Jesus! Check this out—I’m walking on the water too! Whoa…. Wait… is that… a tidal wa—HEEEELLLLP! I’m DROWNING!!!!!

It wasn’t the waves that sank Peter, it was his loss of focus. Peter had a lot of passion, but many times, Good Old Pete’s passion did not serve him well. And passion certainly wasn’t what he needed in the middle of a stormy sea. What he needed was steady focus and self-control, which is something an older, wiser Peter teaches later in 1 Peter.

So back to hope—which, in the bible means Confident Assurance. What gives me that confident, assured kind of hope?

My hope comes from 2 things:

  1. WHAT GOD PROMISES to do in his word, and
  2. WHAT GOD HAS ALREADY DONE in my life

I have HOPE because the Bible is full of God’s promises, like the promise of forgiveness and salvation by his grace, the promise of eternal life, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and so much more. God has proven to be faithful and true to his word, so we can believe his promises.

But I also have hope because God has shown himself real to me over the years.  I’m not perfect and I don’t have all the answers. But I do have 40 years of witnessing God’s love, power, and faithfulness in my life and the in the lives of others. He’s answered more prayers than I could ever count. And he’s been working in my life—changing, challenging, and enabling me. He’s protected, healed, and provided for me. I can’t encapsulate all that he’s done in my life.

So what does this living hope have to do with our need for lasting peace in difficult times?

The Bible says peace is ours when we keep our minds & hearts focused on God. Remember Peter? He was walking on water …. Until he took his eyes off Jesus. He took one look at the waves and BAM, he forgot Jesus. Forgot who had him. His passion to walk with Jesus turned into panic. But Passion is not a bad thing. If properly directed, Passion can also bring Peace.

Isaiah 26:3 says You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.

Psalm 112:7 says He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

Phil 4:7 says And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Hope I have is not based on how things are going or how I feel—it’s based on Jesus, on knowing him personally. It’s based on the confident assurance that I have in both the promises AND the presence of God in my life. I have confidence in what he’s done and what he says he’ll do.

The Word of God is alive, the Son of God is alive, so the hope we have in him is also alive.

So Instead of focusing on the waves around us, let’s focus on God, and on the living hope we have in him. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and keep our hearts and minds focused on all that he has done AND all he has promised to do for us.

One last verse: Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

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Many people have inspired me. One of them, who I’ve mentioned & blogged about several times, was my late father-in-law, Al Eide. (The little cutie on his lap is my husband, Dan, and the other cutie is his brother, Phil. And yes, Al was once a sailor, if you caught the tat. 😉 )

Al was a man who never met a stranger, never said an unkind word, rarely ever complained, prayed and meditated on God’s word daily, always went to church, and never failed to trust in God, even when dementia in his 90s muddled his mind. Even then, he still loved Jesus and asked caregivers if they knew Him. Even then, he displayed kindness, patience, and the living spirit and love of Christ. 

Many who knew him will readily tell you they want to be like Al when they grow up.

In my NEW novel, Wings Like a Dove, sisters Anna and Shayna are not only very close, but inspire each other to be better, each in their own way.

If you have read the book, I wonder if you can spot (and name) the person in the story inspired by my father-in-law.

Question: Who inspires you to be a better person?

And as Al would say, God bless you real good!

~Camille

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Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!

scav hunt 2019 prize photo

  • The hunt BEGINS on 11/7 at 2pm eastern/11am pacific with Stop #1 at LisaTawnBergren.com
  • 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, 11/10 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them.
  • 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 the final stop, back on Lisa’s site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!

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Hey there, Hunters!

I’m Camille Eide, and I write poignant, relational dramas with a solid love story. My books include both contemporary and historical, serious and sarcastic, and I season it all with hope, faith, and grace. I also blog about the patience and grace of God here at Along the Banks. For those who like a thoughtful, poignant love story, you can find my books at my WEBSITE, plus follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

4-Cover Wings like a Dove

Wings Like a Dove my upcoming December 1 release, is a historical tale, and while I originally meant for it to be a simple love story, the socio-economic backdrop and racism of the 1930s also added a slightly wider, more dramatic lens angle to the story.

In 1933, Anna, a young Jewish immigrant, discovers to her horror that she is with child. Forced to leave home, she travels in search of her missing father, but stumbles upon six orphan boys in need of a tutor, and their deep-hearted mentor with troubles of his own. She dares not risk staying too long, opening her heart, and letting her secrets out. But with the Klan presence in their small Indiana town growing stronger, and the danger to this family increasing the longer she stays, Anna is torn between fleeing to keep them safe … and staying to fight beside them. It’s a tale of love, loyalty, and the power of grace.

Love and loyalty go hand in hand, don’t they? And some of the best examples of love and loyalty are standing quietly beside us, out of the spotlight . . .

SUPER SIDEKICKS

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Some of my favorite characters in literature are sidekicks.

Samwise

Samwise Gamgee tops the list. Jane Bennet is a close second. I don’t think sidekicks get fleshed out as much as they deserve. They spend most of their time in the shadow of the protagonist. They are often dismissed as a sounding board or foil for the main character; a trope.

Jane-Bennet-jane-bennet-9571663-500-348

Sidekicks aren’t expected to do the heavy lifting, don’t have to hit all the story arc points that the Hero has to meet. Like royal offspring, there are inherent expectations of the Hero that a sidekick doesn’t have to deal with. I think sidekicks, like commoners and peasants, are free to be whoever they want to be. Something in me craves that…

Wings Like a Dove contains a quiet but strong sidekick: Sarah Tucker. She’s the young, neighboring farmer’s wife who befriends Anna, the heroine. Sarah is kind, open-hearted, and struggles with a longing for friendship that causes her to seek to be included in a group of women whose agenda troubles Anna. Sarah ponders the pros and cons of joining these women, and throughout the story, we see her carefully weighing the group’s rhetoric against what she feels in her heart to be true.

sarah tuckerAmanda Seyfried: My inspiration for Sarah Tucker

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What I love most about Sarah Tucker is that while she longs for friends, she doesn’t let her personal needs color her judgment. While prejudice and bigotry are prevalent in her world, Sarah possesses enough “Missouri Mule-headedness” to keep her longings from distorting what’s right and true. While the story follows Anna’s journey, Sarah makes a journey of her own. She must hold up the facts as she sees them, against the hate-speak, the “stories,” the voice of the majority.

You may find yourself cheering for Sarah at a certain point in this story. I can’t say more without ruining the read for you. But sometimes a hero needs a sidekick who is equally heroic. Anna needs a Sarah like Frodo needs a Samwise, like Lizzie needs a Jane.

I wish everyone had a Sarah.

~Camille

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Here’s the Stop #25 Skinny:
You can Pre-order Wings Like a Dove on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Clue to Write Down: Borland
Link to Stop #26 – the LAST Stop on the Loop

BUT — just one more thing before you go: I’m offering one of my full-length novels—winner’s choice of title (eBook)—in a drawing! To enter, all you have to do is sign up HERE for my E-NEWS OR note that you’re ALREADY a subscriber.

Also, additional entries will be given for following me on:

ENTER BY LEAVING A COMMENT BELOW naming my Social Media that you’re now following (a separate comment for each location, up to 6 total) along with a masked email address to reach you if you are a winner. (Example: E-NEWS/ edith (dot) smith (at) cooldomain (dot) com ).

Winner will be announced in a follow up post here on November 11.

Okay, one last thing, I promise: You are invited to attend my online Wings Like a Dove Facebook Book Launch Party on December 1 from 3-5pm Pacific (6/5c), for fun LIVE interaction, drawings, and a grand prize giveaway. Just click on the “GOING” button and you’ll get updates.

Good work making it this far, and good luck on the hunt!

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Bread Basket shutterstock_208501699_0BREAD …

Do you salivate just hearing that word?

Bread is a staple of so many world cuisines. Mix flour, oil, water & salt and you have a tortilla. And good heavens, some bread is more addictive than street drugs (just a guess, Mom). Have you ever buttered a slab of homemade bread still hot from the oven? Sunk your teeth into a freshly-baked cinnamon roll? Guarded that sweet, spongey little center knob with a hiss that would scare off a coyote?

Don’t give me that look, you know what I’m talking about.

Bread symbolizes Life in so many ways, don’t you think? It’s so universal, so basic a life-giving staple that we ALL need, recognize, and can relate to. I wonder if Jesus referred to himself as the “Bread of Life” for this very reason.

Because my upcoming novel, Wings Like a Dove, is the story of a young Jewish woman, let’s talk about Challah (pronounced: KHAH-luh). This is a Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Have you ever baked it? Eaten it?

In the story, Anna often bakes bread for the boys she tutors, and sometimes, it’s challah. For her, there is special meaning in the baking and sharing of this bread. For example, she explains to young Samuel that the braid symbolizes unity and mankind’s interdependence, that people need one another in order to succeed. For Anna, this is a belief perhaps discussed by her family as she grew up taking part in Shabbos. But in the story, as Anna’s journey progresses, this philosophy will be put hard to the test.

I am not Jewish, but I do like to bake, and I used to bake bread quite often. We didn’t have a lot of money and it’s such a ridiculously cheap but delicious treat. When my kids were younger, I found a recipe for challah and made it a handful of times, to my “if you bake it, we will come” carb-a-holic family’s delight. The challah recipe I used came from a magazine (remember those??).

I was intrigued by the fact that the recipe called for extra egg yolks, which makes the finished bread golden yellow. The yolks also gave the loaf a rich, satisfying flavor. We loved the bread, but none of us had any idea what challah was actually meant to be used for. All we knew was that we loved to inhale it, and the more butter we could slather on it, the better.

So since we are breaking virtual bread together, I asked my Jewish friend, Donna Cohen, if she would share some thoughts about challah with us.

“I am no expert in Judaism but I sure do love my challah! The interesting thing about challah is that, while it is associated religiously with Shabbos (the Sabbath) it is also associated culturally with the Jewish people.  In our home, leftover challah is used for making French Toast, garlic bread, PB&J, and just plain toast!

For me, baking my own challah is part of the spirituality of Shabbos. On Shabbos, two challahs are set on the table representing the double portion of manna that came from G-d. The process of making the dough, braiding the bread, and the amazing smell of the bread helps to put me in the spirit of Shabbos.

Here is an important fact: There is no such thing as a typical challah. There is a basic challah recipe but so many variations from that recipe. Some use sugar, others use honey. Some use white flour, others wheat flour. Some use oil, others margarine. Some may have raisins, others do not. Many have a combination of these. There are even recipes for gluten free challah.

Actually there are certainly hundreds of recipes (and that is probably an understatement)!  I have a cookbook devoted only to challah. Not only does it have recipes, but it includes rituals related to challah as well as instructions on how to braid challah (there are many techniques using various numbers of strands and different ways to create various shapes). The most common types are probably plain, or topped with poppy or sesame. I’ve seen them made with other toppings as well such as garlic, sprinkles, or even chocolate chips (usually pareve which means non-dairy as in kosher homes meat and milk are not mixed). Some people get extremely creative! In my assortment of various other kosher cookbooks, there are inevitably a few recipes for challah. YouTube has many tutorials as well.

Challah baking is more than bread baking. It’s tradition, it’s a personal and spiritual experience, and it is a way to bring blessings into the home. I’ve experienced “Challah Bakes” where hundreds of women get together to bake. It is amazing to feel the energy in that room. All over challah.
Donna C Bread photo
Here’s a picture of my plain challahs that I baked for Shabbos. Wish you could all join us for a taste! To those who celebrate, Shabbat Shalom!”  -Donna Cohen

Thank you, Donna! So my question for Donna is why the two different types of braids in the pictured batch?

There are many options as far as recipes and styles of challah, but if you want to give it a try, here’s one fairly basic recipe that I found online. And please feel free to share your bread recipes and stories, challah or any other kinds.

Let’s Talk:

  • What is your favorite bread to eat? To bake?
  • Have you ever baked or tried challah?

If you have not and are now determined to try challah, I hope you’ll come back and comment (or email me) and share your challah baking or sampling experience.

Blessings!

-Camille

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trillium 1

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There are people who, based on their actions, seem absolutely bent on making it impossible for me to display grace and forgiveness. But this doesn’t change the fact that I must forgive. Tirelessly, and totally. Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 18:21-35.

 

Who must I forgive?

EVERYONE, no exceptions. Even my enemies.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44)

When?

Whenever they offend me.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

How?

Completely. No holding back.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Why?

Because I was forgiven a debt I could never pay, and I am expected to do the same for others just like me.

JUST. LIKE. ME.

Wait—I don’t act like HER … I’m not a bad as HIM

Wait—in whose book did I deserve the grace I received?

he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:10

Some people are hard to forgive because they are hard and unforgiving. Are they a lost cause?

Not to God.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).

How will my bitter neighbor ever learn to show grace and forgiveness if I, a recipient of undeserved grace, can’t show him what it looks like?

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)

…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

If it’s not my responsibility to exemplify undeserved grace, then whose is it?

What if you and I are the only example of Jesus that an offensive person will ever know?

i love u bc God loves u

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Let’s Talk: What has the Grace of God taught you, and how has it changed you? What does it allow you to do that you couldn’t before/on your own?

-Camille

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Bridge-to-Haven_3001I recently read Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers. It’s a beautiful allegory, and it doesn’t take long to see how Ezekiel and his son Joshua—a carpenter—symbolize God and Jesus. How a fast-talking charmer deceives and lures the main character, Abra, away from those who love her and into a path of ruination. How quickly she becomes enslaved, and how, with every bridge she burns, she feels more and more separated from her father. How unforgivable and unlovable she believes herself to be.

It’s a powerful and painfully raw story. But life is often painful and raw. Gritty. Enslaving. And the consequences of our choices often hurt more than we ever anticipate. But to me, the most heartbreaking consequence isn’t Abra’s lost innocence or the degrading enslavement she finds herself in. It’s the assumption she is too far gone, and her bitter resolve to keep running away from God and never look back.

sad girl bridge

Have you ever believed a lie like this? Felt you’d burned too many bridges? Believed that God is fed up with your repeated failures and you might as well just give up? We see God through human eyes, and assign him human qualities, such as impatience, resentment, frustration, etc. Even the enemy of our souls, the father of lies, knows that God will not write you off, let you wander off, lost and alone.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:3-7

Jesus leaves the 99 and goes out in search of the one, his precious lost lamb, his beloved. He won’t force us to come home, but he will climb every hill and ford every stream and beckon to us, show us there is no place we can go that he has not already gone, no place we can hide that he is not already there.

The idea of leaving loved ones behind and believing oneself beyond redemption runs through my next book, Wings Like a Dove (Dec 2019). We’ll talk more about Anna’s story soon.

But in the meantime, let’s talk about burned bridges.

  • Have you ever burned a bridge with someone in your life? Left a trail of burned bridges? 
  • Have you ever felt you’d reached a point of no return with God or people in your life? 
  • Have you ever wanted to make amends, but didn’t know where to begin? How did you deal with it? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
  • What advice would you give someone who feels they are truly unforgivable?
  • What stories or characters have left a lasting impression on you about the relentless love of God?

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