Thursday, April 02, 2009

Excerpt: Claudia Burney's Deadly Charm

Rocky showed up at my apartment door with an offer that, in his words, I “no coulda refuse.” Or maybe those were Marlon Brando’s words. I couldn’t be sure. My blond, dreadlocked former pastor slash ex-boyfriend locked me into a stare with those big, brown puppy eyes. He’d puffed out his jowls to utter the Godfather’s most famous line, while grazing his cheek with the back of his fingers—an excruciatingly amiss imitation. I’ve seen newborn babies’ smiles more intimidating.

“You look more like a hamster than a mobster, Rock.”

“Hamsters are cool.”

“But less compelling, you must admit.”

Rocky grinned and wagged his finger at me, “Never underestimate the power of a furry little creature.” He twitched his nose and started making hamster noises.

“Amen!” I said.

I thought of my vicious, former pet sugar glider, Amos. Although he’d become my friend and hero, I had to give him away to another nocturnal creature—otherwise, I’d never sleep again. My husband’s best friend, Souldier, had taken the murderous marsupial. Now Amos happily shreds his drapes.

“Come on in, my not-so-furry friend,” I told Rocky, mostly so he would stop making weird rodent sounds.

I moved aside so he could enter my little slice of paradise: shabby chic meets Africa is what Jazz, my husband called it. Rocky loved my funky, eclectically furnished place, too. He just didn’t describe it as aptly as Jazz did.

Who was I kidding? Rocky didn’t do anything as aptly as Jazz did. I had lost them both six weeks ago, and now here was Rocky, surprising me by showing up at my door like unexpected grace.

“Welcome back, Rocky,” I said. I know how lame I sounded, but I wanted him to know I was glad he’d come no matter what the reason.

He muttered a shy, “Thanks.”

We stood in my foyer exchanging reticent glances until I got bold enough to take a long look at him. I’d missed him so. He wore a typical Rockyesque uniform underneath his white down jacket—khaki pants and a long-sleeved Batman T-shirt. A cupid earring dangled in his right ear. Every year about this time he wore it to remind me to come to the Saint Valentine’s Day feast.

Without thinking I blurted out. “I see you and Cupid are still advertising our—” I bit my tongue. There’d be no “our” Saint Valentine’s Day feast this year for prodigal Bell. “Sorry,” I muttered.

“No problem,” he rushed to say, and then an awful silence descended on us like a cold, grey fog.

When I was still a member of his church, aptly named the Rock House, I never missed the event. Rocky would tell stories of the historical Saint Valentine; we’d eat candy conversation hearts, listen to live music, and share abundant amounts of food and laughter. It was Rocky’s way of making sure the lonely hearts wouldn’t spend the evening alone. There with my church family, not only did I get heaps of love, I could give out some from my meager supply.

That and we always had a chocolate fountain.

What was I going to do now?

I tried not to think about the sting of Rocky kicking me out of his church. I didn’t want to think about anything that had happened six weeks ago. Still, I figured whatever brought him to my door had an olive branch attached to it, and whatever he asked, short of sin, I’d be willing to do to reconcile with him.

Rocky hung up his jacket, kicked out of his Birkenstocks, and headed over to my rose-colored velvet sofa and sat. I followed, plopping down beside him.

“So, what’s the offer, Godfather?”

He stared at me. “Did you gain weight?”

Because I know it’s rude to kill your loved ones, I let that one slide and gave him a polite smile, but I did grab a mudcloth throw pillow and cover my expanding waistline.

“So, what’s the offer, Rocky?”

He gushed in a most un-Godfatherly like way. “I want you to go to a meeting with me. It’s only going to be the way-coolest event you’ve been to in forever.”

I cuddled the pillow and eyed him cautiously. He didn’t mean the Valentine’s Day feast. I braced myself. Rocky’s idea of way cool could get scary. “Can you be a little more specific?”

He didn’t answer. Just reached out and touched my hand, rubbing his thumb across my knuckles. “I really missed you.”

Oh, man. That small gesture—him touching the hand nobody held anymore—that tiny movement had the effect of a pebble in a pond, creating ripples of unexpected sadness that circled out of my soul. Lord, have mercy. I didn’t fling myself at him, begging like a rhythm-and-blues singer for him to keep loving me, to not give up on me, but something in me wished I could.

I didn’t want to marry Rocky, or even date him. He had never been the love of my life. In that moment I simply wanted to banish the nearly incarnate loneliness that had been dogging my heels as a solemn, maddening companion, shuffling me through all those days with no best-friend Rocky.

And with no husband Jazz.

I gazed up at him with my own version of puppy eyes. “I missed you too, Rocky.”

We let a bit of silence sit between us on the sofa like a third and very quiet presence. Our heads hung low. Apparently we both still smarted over our mutual pain of separation.

Minutes passed, our hands still clasped together, but Rocky’s merciful presence soothed my dry soul patches like olive oil.

Thank God. Thank God for every kind soul I don’t deserve in my life who loves me anyway.

“Rocky.” I made my voice as soft and small as a baby’s blankie.

He turned to me, his face as open and vulnerable as that blankie’s little owner.

I squeezed his hand. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

Those puppy eyes shone with the compassion I knew like the backs of my freckled hands.

“I’m sorry for the things I did, too, babe. For the things I said that night.”

“Don’t call me babe.”

He chuckled. “Some things never change.” Again, those gentle peepers bore into me. “Why didn’t you tell me you married Jazz?”

“At the time I didn’t seem too clear on it myself. Things happened pretty fast, and the next thing I knew, I was a wife.” I paused, the weight of that statement shifting just a bit since Rocky had shown up to help bear my burden. “He’s mad at me.”

“Duh-uh. You were kissing your blond boy toy.” He nudged me with his tattooed arm. “What’s going on with the two of you now?”

“I’ve seen corpses on Carly’s autopsy tables more involved than our marriage.”

I wondered if I’d ever get over what I’d lost with Jazz.

“I can only imagine what his parents think of me. I guess they’d say I’m the nightmare that took his ex Kate’s place.”

He regarded me with the care and concern I’ve seen him lavish on the fortunate souls he counseled as a pastor. Rocky may be only twenty-seven years old, but he’d been a pastor for two years. Two good years. He didn’t have the life experience an older pastor would, but God had given him an extraordinary shepherd’s heart.

“You’re not a nightmare,” he said. “You jumped into a marriage with no spiritual or emotional preparation.”

Like I, the clinician, needed him to tell me that.

I sighed. “Yet another psychologist heal thyself thing.” I looked away from him, guilt gnawing at me. “Maybe Jazz and I just aren’t meant to be, Rocky.”

“Have you talked to him?”

I shrugged. “Just once. He came over for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. I let him know I wanted him in a way I knew he’d understand. And then I waited. He never came back.”

“Why didn’t you go to him?”

“The same reason I didn’t come to you. I wanted to give him some space to feel whatever he felt and then to decide on his own.”

“But, maybe he’s not like me, babe.”

“Ya, think? And don’t call me babe.”

“Maybe he needs you to help him decide. Like, some extra reassurance or something.”

“That’s crazy, Rock.”

“It’s not so crazy, babe.”

I took back every nice thing I’d just thought about him. What did he know? Yes, he pastors a church of more than two-hundred members. He did missions work. He had a shepherd’s heart. He took pastoral counseling classes in seminary, but, honestly! His voice sounded just like Patrick’s on Sponge Bob.

Rocky glared at me. “Babe. . . .”

“Don’t call me babe.”

“Babe! You gotta go to him.”

“But he yells. Sometimes he cusses like a fish wife.”

“What’s a fish wife?”

“I don’t know, but my great-grandmother used to say that and it stuck with me. Maybe only females cuss like fish wives. Maybe he cusses like the fish.” Now I sounded like Patrick!

“Fish don’t cuss.”

“Okay, I know I should have reassured him.”

He sighed. Looked at me with those eyes. Squeezed my hand. “Will you ever let anyone love you?”

“People love me, Rocky. My sister. My secretary. Sasha.”

“I have doubts about Sasha.”

I thought about that and chuckled with him. “You may be right. My mother has done a few things that make me wonder. Now I’m really depressed.”

“I want to see you happy.”

“I want to see you happy, too. Speaking of which, how are you and Elisa?”

He grinned, reddened, looked away.

“What? Did you marry her in six weeks? My goodness!” For the first time, I didn’t feel jealous that someone was interested in Rocky. Well, not much.

“No. I’m not married. I’m . . . .”

“You’re what?”

“She’s really special, but it hasn’t been that long since she left creepy cult dude. I’m not sure I should be involved.”

“How involved are you?”

“I’m involved, babe.”

“You’re in love?”

He wouldn’t say anything, but his goofy grin spoke for him.


He nudged me, “Cut it out, babe.”

So, Rocky was really in love. Wow. I always knew it would happen, but I didn’t realize I’d still have the teensiest bit of pain knowing he’d moved on from me for good. I could see a flower of astonishing beauty blossoming between them when I saw them together, even though it nearly killed me at the moment. But God knows Rocky deserved the biggest, juiciest love he could find. He needed to look beyond the non-existent us. And he still calls me babe.

“Just take it slow, Rock. Trust me. The cost of moving too fast is astronomical, even if you are in love.”

I could tell he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about Elisa. I decided to let their love blossom without my tending, pruning, or pulling up weeds. I got back to the business at hand. “Are you ever going to tell me what your offer is?” I eased into the lush upholstery of my sofa.

Rocky’s face lit up. Honestly, if that guy had a tail to go with those puppy eyes, it’d be thumping my sofa with joy.

“It’s gonna be awesome, ba— I mean, Bell.”

Apparently our little chat about Elisa made him correct himself.

“You think everything is awesome, Rocky.”

“I don’t think everything is awesome.”

“You said my Love Bug is awesome. You said Switchfoot’s new CD is awesome. You said my new zillions braids are awesome, and you said the ice-cream at Cold Stone Creamery is awesome.” Okay, the ice-cream at Cold Stone happened to be awesome for real. Lately I’d craved it like the blind crave sight.

“But, babe . . . ”

There he goes again. Honestly! A holy war couldn’t make that man stop calling me babe.

He went on. “Those things are awesome.”

“God is awesome, Rock. Awesome meaning the subject inspires awe, as in reverence, respect, dread.”

“You reverence your tricked-out VW Beetle,” he said, “And I respect Switchfoot, especially Jon Foreman, and your way-cool, African-goddess hair inspired me to get dreads.”

I stared at him. Comments like these coming from Rocky tended to render me temporarily speechless.

He filled the silence with his proposal. “I want you to go see Ezekiel Thunder with me.”

My eyes widened. Electroshock therapy wouldn’t have given me such a jolt. “Ezekiel Thunder?” I screeched. I jerked up from my slouch. I’d heard the un-right reverend wanted to hit the comeback trail, taking his miracle crusade with him.

Rocky gave me a wicked grin and settled himself smugly into the soft folds of my sofa. He knew I’d left Thunder’s particular brand of Pentecostal fire many years ago and had no desire to go back.

Rocky bobble-head nodded, as if his physical movement would affect a change in my attitude.

“Stop all that nodding!”

“I’m just trying to encourage you.”

I did not feel encouraged.

“It’ll be fun,” he said, blasting me with the full puppy-eyes arsenal. Oh, those eyes. Powerful! Mesmerizing! Like a basket full of cocker spaniel puppies wearing red ribbons. I could feel myself weakening.

“Rocky, that meeting will torture me. It will torture you!”

“No, it won’t. Ezekiel is my friend.”

“Your friend?”

“He led me to Christ.”

“Ezekiel Thunder led you to Christ?”

“I told you I came to Christ at a Bible camp.”

“Yes? And?”

“It was a Sons of Thunder Bible camp. I’m a Thunder Kid!” He beamed with what I hoped wasn’t pride.

“You never told me that!”

Honestly! You think you know somebody! He was my ex-boyfriend for goodness’ sake. We’d talked about marriage. I couldn’t believe I had no idea he was close friends with the infamous Ezekiel Thunder!

“You can be kinda judgmental about guys like Ezekiel.” He went on. “I didn’t mean to upset you or trigger bad memories of your tongues-talking days.”

“Then don’t ask me to go see him.”

“He’s a different man. He and his family want to buy a house in Ann Arbor. He’s living at the Rock House house until one comes through for him. ”

“God forbid!”

“He needs support. People to show up and cheer him on.”

“Cheer him on? We should stop him!” Had Rocky forgotten that Ezekiel Thunder had fallen as hard as many of his televangelist contemporaries in the eighties—and for a tawdry little tryst with a young intern? May it never be!

“How hard would it be for you to sit there and listen? Maybe say a few prayers for him.”

“God bless you as you do that for him.”

“I was there for you, supporting Great Lakes Seminary when they were struggling and going to lose their building. I did it because of how much you love Mason May.”

“Rocky! That’s not even comparable. Mason is a fine theologian training good men and women for powerful, effective ministries. He’s not a snake-oil peddler.”

“It’s not snake oil. It’s miracle prosperity oil.”

I stared at him. He’d stunned me to silence once again. I waited for Rocky to fill the silence with testimonies about the healing properties of miracle prosperity oil. Thankfully, he refrained. But he didn’t look like he’d let me off the hook.

I tried to reason with him. “You shouldn’t ask me to do this. You’re Emergent, Rocky, not a dyed-in-the-wool charismatic.”

“You don’t like post-modern, post-denominational, Emergent folks either.”

“I like them more than Ezekiel Thunders.”

“What’s that thing you say about the Emergent Church?”

“This is not about the Emergent Church. I’d go to an Emergent meeting with you anytime. You name the place: Mars Hill, Ann Arbor Vineyard. How ‘bout Frontline Church? ”

He didn’t budge. “Come on, babe. He’s like a dad to me.”

“A dad?”

“You always say Mason is like a dad to you.”

“But Mason has a PhD. He doesn’t sell ‘miracle prosperity oil’.”

“Ezekiel doesn’t sell it, either. He gives it away for a love offering.”

“A considerable love offering, if I remember! It’s plain olive oil he’s pushing to gullible babes in the faith who don’t know any better. How can I support his money-lusting schemes?”

“Ummm. By going with me?” Hope burgeoned in his voice as if I hadn’t just accused his mentor of being a hustler.

“Did you hear what I said, Rock? Ezekiel Thunder is everything I walked away from.”

“You walked away from a lot more than that, babe. And you’ve been known to hang out with people with worse theology than his. People way more dangerous.”

He had a point.

“Rocky . . . .” I didn’t want to go. Please, God, don’t make me go.

“He’s changed, babe. Give him a chance. For me.”

The eyes again, and a smile with an invisible tail wag.

I grumbled.

He grinned.

I gave him a dramatic sigh. “What time are we leaving?”

“If you’re not busy, and you’re not, we can leave in a few hours. I’ll pick you up at six.”

“How do you know I don’t have plans?”

“Because you have antisocial tendencies.”

“Don’t hold back, Rock. What do you really think about me?”

“Don’t worry,” he said, ignoring my insolence. “You’re gonna fall in love with Ezekiel.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not likely.”

He put his face right in front of mine until we were eye to eye. “You are feeling veeeeeery tired. You’re getting sleepy. You’re going to enjoy yourself at the crusade.”

“No fair,” I said, “Those eyes of yours are potent hypnotizers.”

“You are going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

“I am going to love Ezekiel Thunder.”

Rocky got out of my face. “You’ve gotta admit, babe. This will be safer than sleuthing.”

No, it won’t, a disembodied voice--also known as the still, small voice of God--informed me.

I tried to ignore it. Maybe this Spirit prompting was speaking figuratively.

Couldn’t ignore it.

What, Lord, am I some kind of trouble magnet?

Don’t answer that, God.

I started rationalizing immediately to take the edge off what I truly hoped was not a prophetic warning. Maybe I could fall in love with the guy and respect him. Maybe he could even heal the egg-sized growth on my lower abdomen that scared me to death each time I ran my index finger across it. Maybe I could even find the keys to unlock the little room inside my heart where all the Ezekiel Thunders I’ve ever known were locked. I’d stored them there to keep me safe from the particular brand of harm only they could inflict.

I could feel my defenses shoot up as if a rocket propelled them.

Fall in love with Ezekiel Thunder?

I wished.

I shouldn’t have wished. My great-grandmother and namesake Amanda Bell Brown use to say, “Be careful what you wish for, baby. You just might get it.”

She ain’t never lied.

The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Woman of Mystery: Unveiling the Secret to True Romance

Tyndale House Publishers (April 1, 2009)


Hayley DiMarco is the best-selling author of more than thirty books, including Datable and Marriable.She spent the early part of her career working for a little shoe company called Nike in Portland, Oregon. After three years with the “Swoosh,” Hayley got fed up with the incessant rain of Portland and began to search for dryer ground. Soon she found just the spot—Nashville, Tennessee, where she became the manager of promotions at Thomas Nelson Publishers. While operating as the brand manager of Nelson’s new teen line, Hayley authored, edited, or had her hand in more than thirty-six different titles.

In 2002 Hayley left Nelson and founded Hungry Planet, a company intensely focused on feeding the world’s appetite for truth by producing books and new media, taking on issues of faith and life with a distinctly modern voice.

Shortly after founding Hungry Planet, Hayley successfully completed a nationwide executive search for someone to run the company so she could focus on writing. She describes her husband, Michael, as her most successful business acquisition! Hayley and Michael are now the proud parents of Hungry Planet’s thirty-plus books, including ten best sellers, three ECPA Christian Book Award finalists, one ECPA winner, and one amazing human, their daughter, Addison.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (April 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324685
ISBN-13: 978-1414324685


I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss from her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it. One.


I’d rather fight with you than make love to anyone else.


You’re a woman and you want him to appreciate you because of that. Being female is at the core of who you are, and you want him to notice. To notice your ability to communicate and the funny way you wiggle your nose when you’re happy. You hope he will catch the curve of your legs and the way you fixed your hair. You want him to follow the scent that lingers as you walk by. You want to allure the man you desire, and you realize that it takes all that is feminine in you to do it. But you also want him to love the parts of your personality that make you uniquely you: Your self-assertiveness and your ability to have strong opinions and ideas. Your sense of humor, your favorite and unfavorite things, the quirky habits that set you apart from everyone else. Your shyness, your strength. You want him to recognize your mind and all its creativity and power, your heart and its ability to love, your soul and its depth. You want him to find in you that thing he’s been looking for all his life.

Romance arrives when you realize that on all these counts he has seen you and found you alluring. In return, he shows honor and respect for those things in you that he finds so appealing. When he showers praise on your very essence, you are where you long to be—in the heart of romance. All that we define as romantic has the element of recognition in it. We are recognized for who we are, and we are loved for who we are. We are recognized as “other,” as different from the one who sees us, but still awe-inspiring.

When a man finds everything about you (even your idiosyncrasies) endearing, he is offering you pure romance. And it is intoxicating.

If you are like me, there is likely a part of you that is craving romance. Maybe you’ve tried to stuff it into the corner of your heart, or maybe you’ve tried to ignore it altogether. But it’s there, whether you acknowledge it or not. Like me, you might have tried to fulfill your need for romance with fantasies of romantic moments with a man, sexy clothes, romantic getaways, or idyllic decor . . . and more than likely, you’ve come up short. The romance your mind promises your heart never seems to arrive. And so you yearn for more, and you wonder what you are doing wrong—or what’s wrong with you. The search for romance seems never ending and always just out of reach.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. When we embrace the concept of womanhood as God designed it to be, true romance is possible. At her best, the Woman of Mystery is an echo of the divine, revealed in the romance of femininity (more on this in a moment). Her presence can transform a room. She is captivating

and inviting, and men find her unforgettable. If romance is a kind of aphrodisiac for women, then one could say that mystery is an aphrodisiac for men. The mystery of the woman who can’t be fully understood is an invitation to the masculine heart to come closer.

This woman is alluring and warm. She draws people to her. People who know her want what she has; people who observe her are intrigued by her charm and charmed by her beauty, though that beauty might be just beneath the surface. It is the atmosphere that surrounds her that entices others to her side. It is her soul that makes people curious, that causes them to follow her, pursue her, and want to know her.

Though mystery can keep many a man guessing, it is also what makes him desire a woman. Mystery says to the man who catches a glimpse of it, “That is something special,” and it compels him to explore the depths of it. But more than that, it can give him strength and hope. Mystery leaves his soul wanting more, so when a woman allows some things to remain hidden or unspoken, he is intrigued.

There are some women throughout history who have given us a peek at the mystery that captivates. Jackie Kennedy was one such woman who lived with a captivating sense of grace and dignity. She will forever be remembered as a woman who didn’t allow her grief and pain to become the focal point of her life. She maintained her personal strength in order to be strong for her nation. Lady Diana also had an air of mystery that endeared her to the world. Even in the midst of her own heartache, she reached out to the world and sought to bring comfort to the weak and neglected. Audrey Hepburn kept a certain sense of mystery about her throughout her life too, not only because of her physical beauty and the way

she carried herself, but also because of her dedication to helping underprivileged children in the poorest countries. She will live on in the minds of generations as a result. These women didn’t just let it all hang out; they lived with gentle reserve and unspoken confidence. They weren’t prone to fits of rage or given to public displays of emotional weakness or excess. Though their mystery might not have come from a life lived with Christ, they are still noteworthy starting points of what mystery looks like.

Feminine figures in the faith like Kay Arthur and Beth Moore demonstrate a compelling sense of mystery in their own way. They speak to thousands with confidence and yet also speak to individual women they meet with such charm that each woman believes, at that moment, that she is the only person in the world. I have personally watched Kay interact with hundreds of women and have seen how she treats each stranger as a friend. She looks into these women’s eyes as they share their hearts with her. She holds

their hands and hugs them tight. Her mind isn’t on herself or her next appointment but always on those she is with. This kind of compassion and love captivates anyone in her presence. It gives her an air of kindness and strength that draws people to her. God’s love is quickly seen in the lives of women like these.

The Mysterious Christ

“I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Christ himself is the author of mystery. His very presence here on earth was a mystery (see 1 Timothy 3:16). He maintained that mystery as he spoke in parables, suggesting that not all who listened would understand (see Luke 8:9-10). And in a way that defies human logic, when he was being persecuted, he didn’t seek to defend himself or argue with his persecutors but instead accepted their attacks with a sense of acceptance that God’s hand was in the matter (see 1 Peter 2:23).

Imagine how he walked while he lived among us; imagine how he talked and loved while he interacted with people. Imagine the calm he instilled in them. Imagine how captivating his words would have been to hungry hearts, how mysterious his reactions were even to the disciples who were with him every day. Though others disdained and avoided the Samaritan woman, Jesus loved her (see John 4:9-10). He ate with people who were viewed as the worst kind of sinners (see Matthew 9:10-12). His very nature went against the grain and baffled the minds of those who thought they knew God. And in the end, the world mocked him when he mysteriously refused to come down from the cross and save himself from such great pain (see Luke 23:35). To our human natures, Jesus was and is a complete mystery—his actions, his words, his heart. Mystery was his way of living. And dying. But to our spiritual natures, this mystery is revealed as we seek to know him more (see Matthew 7:7).

It shouldn’t be a surprise that our call as believers to imitate the life of Christ would also lead us to that same mystery that makes him so alluring, so different from the rest of the world. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul calls believers to imitate Christ. Beautifully, mysteriously, as we accept Christ, we find ourselves in the possession of his Spirit. “The person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). As we accept the life of Christ and all the mystery that it entails, we also accept the mind of God himself. First Corinthians 2:16 states that “we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” Because of that, the imitation of Christ’s life, and therefore his mystery, is within our reach as we walk this earth and relate to those who love us and those who hate us. Rather than thinking of Christ as a mystery we must solve, we must embrace his mystery, as it is this mystery that draws people to him in the first place.

This call to imitate the mystery of Christ is not a gentle request but a God-initiated command. Yet how many of us take the words of imitation seriously? At times my heart lacks the strength to stand, so it retreats into the habit of fear and worry, and looks nothing like the heart of Christ. I depart from the imitation of the God I love, and I travel to the land of introspection and anxiety. And the mystery is lost. It isn’t until I look from the trials of life to the God who sustains me that I can reclaim the ground I lost. It

is a daily returning. I confess my retreat, and I promise to march forward in faith and hope. “Day by day” has become my battle cry. My constant fight is against the conflicting impulses that tug at my heart and distract me from the face of God.

For a number of years, I struggled with a horrific fear of flying. I would see images of plane crashes on the news, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. So each time I would get onto a plane, my heart would pound, my mind would race, and my gut would hurt. And although I didn’t explode like I thought I would—and neither did the plane—I would end up physically sore, emotionally tired, and literally sickened by the end of each arduous flight.

Each time we landed, I would look back over my stressful trip and say to myself, Why can’t I trust God with my life? I knew all the biblical responses. I coached people through their fears. But this fear controlled me. However, each time I wanted to give up flying altogether, I’d say, “No, I will not let fear, a sin, control me.” And so I would fly in spite of the difficulty and stress of it. After much prayer and much refusal to let anything other than God control me, I am happy to say that I can now fly without fear. There are days in my life when I look like anything but a believer, let alone like Christ himself, but I refuse to let that be the end of me or define me. Instead, I push forward to attain what God promised me—the ability to imitate the life of peace and hope of Jesus himself.

No matter what your area of struggle is—whether it’s failing to trust God with your fears, failing to keep the mystery alive, or failing to embrace his version of true romance—don’t give up. I want to make it clear to your heart that perfection isn’t attainable this side of glory. But the desire to imitate Christ is worth pursuing. As many times as we fall down, we can keep getting up and trying again.

Three Kinds of Romance

If you talked to a dozen women about what romance means, you’d likely get a dozen different answers. One woman might say it’s getting red roses; another might say it has to be wildflowers. Some might say it’s a mountain getaway; others might say it’s Times Square at midnight. Or maybe a picnic by the lake is better than a candlelit dinner at a fancy restaurant. Opinions on what romance is may vary, so it might be best to establish what the term romance means to the Woman of Mystery. I believe there are actually

three different kinds of romance: manufactured romance, earthly romance, and true romance. Manufactured romance and earthly romance are only imitations of true romance. They give us hints of its flavor but not the full taste.

Manufactured romance is the least genuine of the three. It is an attempt to force romance through setting and circumstances. It is the imitation romance of films and music. Manufactured romance is going to a chick flick in order to get a taste of romance for ourselves. It is opening a Pottery Barn catalog and believing that if we could just have that room, our lives would be magical. It’s the romance we arrange ourselves when the real thing is lacking. And it’s little more than a false high that leaves us feeling empty when the vision and the hope wear off.

Earthly romance is a closer imitation of the real thing. Not only can it peacefully coexist with true romance, but it can also amplify it. Earthly romance is that thing that happens between a man and

a woman. It is the way the world fades into the background when you look into his eyes. It is that feeling that keeps you up at night with excitement and hope, and it is those moments when your heart feels truly adored and loved by one man who is wholly and completely devoted to you. And in its truest form, earthly romance is something God created to be a natural taste of the divine. But it can never be a substitute for true romance.

True romance is what all other forms of romance seek to imitate. It comes from a relationship with a holy God and is more amazing than any earthly relationship could ever be. It comes as you worship, as you obey, as you love. When your heart becomes aware of God’s presence, feelings of peace, hope, joy, and even ecstasy can overtake you (see John 14:27). The world starts to look a little brighter and seem a little less harsh toward you (see Psalm 37:3-4). When your thoughts mirror God’s thoughts, and when you can say that he is all you ever really want or need, then true romance descends upon you.

This is a romance that cannot be shaken, no matter how bad your outward circumstances. It stands in the face of every trial, every attack, and every heartache. It brings you tears of joy and real feelings of comfort and support. When you experience true romance, you know in the very center of your soul that you are loved with the kind of love that is beyond compare. And that love will never disappoint. It is this true romance that is the answer to all other longings for love in your life. Without true romance, earthly romance becomes fleeting and unsatisfying, but with it, all earthly romance is enhanced and strengthened. Gain true romance and you will never again need to ask, “Where is the romance?”

When I was single I had moments of despair. Would I ever find a man to love? Would I be alone forever? It was an emotional time. I can remember feeling deflated and wanting so badly to have someone hold me and say I was beautiful, to romance me and make me happy to be adored. But no one was to be found. In a lonely funk one evening, I walked out onto my porch, sat down to watch the sunset, and found just what I was looking for. The breeze gently touched my skin, and I sighed. The smell of fresh-cut grass made me inhale deeply. And the orange sky made me say thank you. How foolish I had been, looking for earthly romance when true romance was there right in front of me. Who needs flowers when you have a sunset designed by the very hand of the one who loves you most? Who needs a hug when his very creation fills your lungs and surrounds your body with every breath? When I pushed out my thoughts of what I lacked and focused on the abundance that was mine, I realized that true romance wasn’t dependent on the presence or the lack of a man in my life.

When Jesus was nearing the end of his time here on earth, he offered us these words: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). True romance is a gift the world cannot give. It is beyond compare, and it is available to everyone who seeks it. The Woman of Mystery is a woman who understands the secret to true romance and the need for it in her life. Because of her connection to God, she has an air of mystery that captivates those who are near her.

But becoming a Woman of Mystery can initially feel like a daunting task. Her qualities seem too perfect to be attained, her choices too impossible to imitate. I know from experience. I was not always a lover of mystery. I was an aggressive, successful executive type who took the world and the boardroom by the horns. I found it rewarding to shock people and to demand attention.

I can remember one particularly notable nonmysterious move that I once made that caused a few jaws to drop. I was presenting at an important sales meeting for the publisher I worked for. This conservative publishing house was, at the time, populated with middle-aged men who found me a bit of a wild card in the world of Bible publishing. In my belief that shocking people helped me to get my point across, I had chosen to wear an outfit that seemed to solicit a lot of comments. As I walked the length of the large—very large—mahogany conference table, the guys proceeded to make comic remarks about my attire. “You singing at a wedding later today?” They all laughed and murmured their snarky remarks. So,

when I got to my seat at the head of the table surrounded by some thirty men, I put down my papers and pulled out my chair. Then I stepped up on it and onto the shiny wood table. “Take a good look!” I pronounced. “Have your laughs now. Get it out of your system.” I twirled around slowly as they all sat in shock. As I came back around to face them, the huge doors at the other end of the conference room opened and the CEO of the company walked in. His very conservative jaw dropped, and a look of discomfort came over him. And I enjoyed every minute of it. Let’s just say that on that day I made my mark on the company.

Lest you think as you read this book that I’m now a quiet church-lady type and that mystery comes naturally to me, let me assure you that I am the exact opposite. I am, at heart, a driven, assertive woman who is at times both a social hermit and a show woman. When I’m expected to perform, I am the center of attention and take command of the crowd. But when I’m not on, I am shy by nature and would rather spend my days at home alone than with crowds of people. I can tell you that my desire to achieve has often made me do things even I am shocked by, both in the boardroom and in the romantic world. Most of the time, I’ve gotten it all wrong.

My dating life spanned almost two decades. And over those years I made many mistakes. For most of my adult life, I was the aggressor, not only in business, but also in love. I chased men, argued with them, and baffled them. I can’t tell you how many men said, “Can you just stop being the man in this relationship?”

And for years I couldn’t understand what they were talking about and why I was still single. I was a catch! (Isn’t that what we all tell ourselves?) Even after I got married, remnants of my “masculine”

tendencies remained. But more on that later. It wasn’t until after I started to discover the power of mystery that I was set free from this constant state of internal unrest. I was no longer striving or pushing against the world. I was living in step with it and the people around me, and I was finding beauty where I had never seen it before. I’m far from the picture of perfect mystery, but I’m miles closer than I used to be.

And so when I talk about this woman that we aspire to become, know that I have yet to get it all right. But as I embark on this life of mystery, I’m finding it is not only more relationally rewarding but more spiritually rewarding as well. I hope that these words resonate with you and that you will risk testing them to see if they are true. May this be a chance for you to find your heart full of true romance and the love that goes along with it.

Lifting the Veil


Don’t look for more candles or romantic music; try to look for opportunities to admire, even adore, God’s creation. And that includes your husband, if you have one, as well as your friends and family. Find the good in everything from nature to smells to tastes, and you will begin to discover the romance. Spend time each day taking it all in.

Meditate on the goodness in your life; disregard the negative. Refuse to become a slave to resenting what God himself has given you. And major on the positives.


Take a look at your life over the past five to ten years. What are some of the most romantic moments you’ve had? What has made them so romantic? What about the times romance was lacking? How did you handle its absence? Can you think of some ways you could replace those longings with God himself? Spend some time in prayer and Bible study, finding out how to fall deeper in love with Jesus.


I have found that if I listen to my favorite uplifting music while reading devotional and other inspirational books, I increase the degree of understanding and penetration to my heart. It’s the sound track of life, as I like to call it. So I encourage you to pick up your iPod or turn on the CD player and allow the sound track of life to add to the experience of reading and absorbing this book and other books you’re reading.

Mobile post sent by deegospel using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3


"hold out" (1) 1question (4) 1questionMay (2) 1questionspring (3) 1questionsummer (2) 1questionwinter (7) 2011 (2) 30 Days to Build a Better Blog (5) 30 Days to Build a Better Book Blog (17) 9/11 (2) a good man blog watch (2) aaliyah (2) about me (1) Academy award (2) acfw-vip (2) Africa (1) african america (3) african american christian fiction (19) african american history (8) altartainment (1) amazon (9) american heart (1) american idol (1) amish (4) amy grant (1) Amy wallace (1) andrew carroll (1) angela bassett (1) Arts (2) atlanta (3) atlanta journal (1) atlanta tornado (1) audition (1) authentic creation (1) author (1) author interview (12) author read-in (3) authors (6) authors read in (2) authors read-in (1) awards (11) barbie (1) Basketball (1) bath luxe (2) bational wear red day (1) bbaw (1) bea (2) best of (8) bestsellers (2) bethany house (4) bible (3) bible study (3) bill gates (1) billie jean (1) birthday (3) black authors (2) black authors network (1) black christian novel (1) black christmas plays (4) black hawk down (1) black history (1) black in america (2) black men in america (1) black spiritualism (4) blacklitchat (2) blog alliances (1) blog talk radio (22) blog tour (14) blogalicious (2) blogcatalog (1) bloggers unite (9) blogging (7) bloglight (1) blogtalkradio (6) blythe (1) book (3) book arts (1) book awards (12) book blogging (5) book chat (3) book club (6) book cover (4) book deals (1) book events (9) book fun (2) book marketing (51) book pick (1) book pr (1) book preview (9) book promotion (7) book proposal (2) book release party (2) book review (52) book review submission form (5) book signing (4) book tour (4) book trailer (21) bookbyte (3) bookclub (2) books (3) brook promotion (1) bubble bath (1) bynum (1) c.s. lewis (1) camy tang (2) career (1) carl weber (1) carleen brice (1) casting call (9) cba (2) cfba (4) children books (7) chip macgregor (2) choir (1) chris well (2) christian (2) christian comedy (1) christian detective novel (1) christian ethics (7) christian fiction (13) christian fiction blog alliance (2) christian fiction news (28) christian fiction online magazine (26) christian living (2) christian movie (1) christian novel (4) christian publisher (2) christian retailing (2) christian romance (4) christian summer book (9) christian writer's carnival (1) christian writer's guide (1) Christianity (4) christmas (14) christmas story (14) Christy Award (4) christy awards (3) chronicles of narnia (2) chuck holton (1) chuck palahniuk (1) church news (1) cindy (1) cindy woodsmall (9) civil rights (1) claudia burney (10) clown girl (1) cnn (2) coco brother (2) contest (20) contests (6) controversy (1) convention (3) copyright (1) craft (1) creston mapes (1) cupcakes (2) cyndy salzmann (1) darfur (2) dargur (1) david c. cook (4) David Talbert (1) deanne gist (2) deborah raney (1) decaturbookfestival (1) dee and marina (4) dee stewart (19) dee stewart hezekiah walker (1) dee stewart linda beed (1) deegospelpr (11) dekker (5) denzel washington (1) denzel washington. (1) Derek Fisher (1) designer shoes (1) devotions (1) DiAnn Mills (1) digital publishing (2) disney (2) domestic violence (1) don hoesel (1) doodle (1) dwan abrams (2) e-reader (4) e. lynn harris (1) Earth day (2) eartha kitt (1) easter (4) ecpa (1) editing (2) ella curry (2) England (1) eric wilson (1) essence magazine (3) ethics (3) excerpts (9) facebook (3) faith and fiction retreat (11) Faith anf fiction retreat (1) faith*in*fiction (3) fashion show (1) father's day (1) fictin in rather short takes (1) Fiction (1) fiction in rather short takes (33) flag of our fathers (1) followthereader (1) fox faith (1) frank peretti (1) friday afternoon club myster (1) friday afternoon club mystery (1) friday fest (8) fuge recipes (1) genesis awards (1) George Jackson (1) giveaway (8) Golden State Warriors (1) good reads (4) gospel dream (1) gospel fiction (3) gospel music (19) gospel play (13) Grace (1) guestblog (9) haiti (1) haley kilpatrick (1) hank stewart (1) harper collins (1) Harriet Beecher Stowe (1) harry potter (2) Hawaiian Islands (1) heart disease (2) help wanted (1) historical (9) hope for women (1) horror (3) house of faith (1) human trafficking (1) I Dream of Jeannie (1) ibook (2) imprints (1) inciting incident (1) infuze magazine (1) inspirational monday (2) inspys (1) interviews (12) iThink (1) itw (3) jeanee damoff (2) jeff gerke (1) jena 6 (3) jill elizabeth nelson (1) job announcement (1) juanita bynum (3) juanita bynumemkm (1) juneteenth (4) karen kingsbury (3) kathy herman (1) kim brooks (1) kim cash tate (1) kimani press (1) kimberla lawson roby (2) Kindle (1) kristy dykes (2) laura bush (1) lent (11) leny (1) librarything book reviews (2) lifetime tv (1) lifeway (2) linda hargrove (2) links (1) lisa samson (3) literacy (1) literary agent (3) Literature (2) love (1) M M (1) madea girl talk (1) marcher lord press (1) marilynne robinson (1) marilynnn griffith (5) marina woods (2) marines (2) marketing (5) marketing christian fiction blog (1) marriage (1) mary demuth (1) mary hart (1) media candy (10) medical fiction (2) melody carlson (2) meme (1) Memorial day (3) michael jackson (1) mike duran (1) ministry (3) miranda parker (26) mochareaders (1) mombloggers (2) mommyfest (5) monday mention (3) monika drake (1) morgan freeman (1) mothers (3) motivationmonday (6) movie (14) mtv awards (1) myspace (1) nanowrimo (7) Nat Turner (1) National Basketball Association (1) national book month (1) NBA (1) networking (1) New York Times (1) Newsletters (1) nicole seitz (5) non-fiction (2) novel (2) novel writing (10) ny times bestseller (1) obama (14) off-topic Thursday (3) offf-topic Thursday (2) olympia vernon (1) online bookstore (5) oprah (2) ott (2) Pacific War (1) pam perry (1) parenting (2) party (1) pat simmons (1) pay it forward (2) Pearl Harbor (1) people magazine (1) Philippines (1) play (2) plug and play (1) po bronson (1) politics of the mass media (1) poll (1) prayer cell (4) prayer request (3) preorder pick (2) prince caspian (1) princess dominique (1) publishing (14) race and religion (3) radio (1) radio talk show (4) rawsistaz (4) reading series (4) rebeca seitz (1) reflections (1) relief journal (1) Relief Journal christian writing (3) Religion and Spirituality (3) renovating becky miller (1) reshonda tate billingsley (5) retreat (1) rhonda bowen (5) rhonda mcknight (9) richmond (1) romance (6) romantic times (2) romantic times magazine (8) rt convention (2) saint patrick's day (1) sally e.stuart (1) saturday christian carnival (3) Science fiction (3) secret life of bees (2) selah (3) self-publish (2) shana burton (8) sharon ewell foster (6) sharon hink (3) shawneda marks (1) shelfari (1) sher (1) sherri lewis (12) shine in 09 (5) shoes (1) Shopping (1) short story (2) Sidney Sheldon (1) single women (1) sistahfaith (1) skype (2) Slave ship (1) social media (7) social network (2) social network problogger (7) social networking (2) social networkingh (1) sormag (1) South Carolina (1) specfiction (3) speedlink (8) spiritual autobiography (3) Sports (1) spotlight (2) stacy hawkins adams (6) star wars (1) steeple hill (1) storytellers (3) stranger than fiction (1) sudan (1) summer (8) sunrise (1) survey (2) sxsw (1) t.l. hines angela hunt (1) tavis smiley (2) tavis smley (2) teen (4) the first lady (3) the master's artis (2) the master's artist (56) the masters artist (6) the shack (2) the spirit of your story (1) the stones cry out (1) the trouble with publishing (2) theology (2) thomas nelson (7) thriller thursday (7) tia mccollors (1) tiffany warren (7) titletrakk (1) to (1) tolkien (1) top ten (25) tosca lee (1) tours (1) trailer park tuesday (61) trailer park tuesdaycngdkvb (1) travis Hunter (1) tribute (12) tricia goyer (4) tuesday (2) tv (1) twitter (22) ty moody (3) tyler perry (55) tyler pery (1) tyler play (1) United States (3) urban christian book (5) Utah Jazz (1) utterz (10) valentine (2) vanessa davis griggs (1) vanessa miller (2) veteran's day (2) video (2) wachooreading (2) walmart (1) wanza leftwich (1) warren buffet (1) WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group (1) weakend read (2) wedding (1) wednesday wrap (11) weekend chat (29) weekend chatter (17) weekend read (11) westbow (1) what i'm reading (3) what's done in the dark (1) why fiction matters (9) widcard (1) wiki (1) wild card (12) wildcard (32) Wings of Glory (1) womanist thought (1) women (1) women of faith (2) women's ministry (1) workshops (4) world aids day (1) World War II (1) write-or-die chick (3) writer's call (3) writer's conference (8) writer's prompt (2) writing (4) writing conference (8) writing contest (8) writing journey (2) writing life (38) writing opportunities (2) writing project (5) writing tip (3) writing workshop (2) x-files (1) yolanda king (1) young adult (5) youtube (4) zondervan (5)