Sunday, September 27, 2009

DARE TO TAKE GOD SERIOUSLY--Interview of Golden Keyes Parsons

Are there any coincidences? I don't believe so. But coincidentally, Golden Keyes Parsons just posted an interview of me on Golden Keyes Parsons Blog yesterday, while I am interviewing her on my blog today. I chose to interview Golden now, because her second novel 'The Prisoner of Versailles' has just been released this month, as well as the fact that her first novel 'In the Shadow of the Sun King' was a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year. I really hope you'll read the following review and interview, and better yet, buy Golden's novel.

I also hope you'll read more about this gifted author on her own website Golden Keyes Parsons. But let me say a few words about 'The Prisoner of Versailles' before I let Golden tell you about her journey to become a writer, how she beat two bouts of cancer, her darkest hour, and so much more.

There’s a scene in ‘Prisoner’ that I believe conveys the pace and mood of this novel. “. . . silently through the crisp dawn air. A slight yellow haze hung in the eastern sky, tingeing the chateau in increasing shimmers of gold. The dim figure of Commander BoveĆ© merged with that of two horses in a bizarre silhouette in front of the stables in the early morning light. The horses pawed at the sticky, muddy ground . . .

In ‘Prisoner of Versailles’ Golden swept me away on a wild gallop from the very first page. I didn’t think it possible for her to best even herself and her first novel, but this second in Golden’s ‘Darkness to Light series’ is even more adventurous and riveting. The reader follows Madeleine Clavell and her children on a path strewn with ever increasing difficulties—from the safety of Switzerland back to the decadent danger of Versailles and to the damp dungeons of the Bastille. King Louis, The Sun King, seeks out, captures his former lover, Madeleine, and tries to steal the loyalty of her eldest son, Philippe, whom Louis is convinced is his son.

Golden uses her vast history of France to deftly weave a totally believable tale using all that is great about French history and fiction—Musketeers, dragoons, courtiers, King Louis’ own mistresses, and even the ‘man in the iron mask’. While being thoroughly entertained, we learn about the persecution of Huguenot Christians in that time period. Again, Bravo, Golden. I am so proud of you.

And now, my interview of this humble and gifted author:

Christine Lindsay: So Golden, I hope you're seated in your favorite writing chair, in your favorite comfy clothes. Is there a cup of tea or coffee on a table nearby?

Golden Keyes Parsons: Thanks for having me, Christine. Would a glass of iced tea do?

CL: Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, your family.

GKP: My husband and I are "retired" pastors. We live in Waco, TX, near two of our daughters and 7 of our 8 grandchildren. Our oldest grandson and his wife live up near Ft. Worth, and our youngest daughter and her
husband live in Dallas. We are a close-knit family and get together often. It's a mob when the whole clan is here, but I love it!

CL: What do you like to do for fun?

GKP: We love going to sporting events of our alma mater, Baylor University. We buy season tickets for the Lady Bears basketball team, and attend all the football games we can. And many weekends are spent watching grandsons play football and baseball. Our nine-year-old grandson just played in the Select Ball World Series and made the All-Tournament team as pitcher. Can you say "proud grandparents?"

CL: How did you come to write novels, especially this series, which I loved in your first book, "In the Shadow of the Sun King"?

GKP: This was my first novel. The second one, "A Prisoner Of Versailles," released from the warehouse week before last. The series is based on my family genealogy concerning the persecution of the French Huguenots in 17th century France. I wanted to tell their story. I started out in non-fiction, and honestly, possessed a rather elitist attitude toward fiction writers. After all, sniff-sniff, those are just made-up stories. But then I took a fiction class at the Glorieta Christian Writers Conference, and realized that I could get my point across better, in a more palatable fashion, telling a story. Jesus made his points that way, didn't he? Perhaps someone would pick up a novel who would never read a Christian non-fiction book. The fiction bug bit me, and I don't want to write anything but fiction now. By the way, I find fiction much more difficult than non-fiction to write well.

CL: This next question is dear to my heart; Did you ever doubt your call to write; ever feel like giving up?

GKP: Only every other week. All writers seem to struggle with an inner voice that whispers things like: Who do you think you are? A call to write? You've got to be kidding. If your stuff were any good, wouldn't someone pick it up? How many years have you been trying?

And, it doesn't necessarily stop once one is published. Then, it's: Why is hers a best seller, and yours isn't? What if your publisher lets you go after you fulfill your contract? What if you get fired? What if the sequels aren't as good as the first one?

So, yeah, I've doubted my call to write and felt like giving up. But I have to come back to center and literally pray through it. I have to put a stake down and trust God, that my times are in his hands, and he knows best.

I have a quote on my desk that says, "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit!" And I don't intend to quit until God tells me to.

CL: Tell us about your awareness of the Lord in your normal writing day.

GKP: My prayer is, "Write through me. Help me write better than I know how."
When I get stuck, I ask the Lord to show me what to do. I'm praying constantly as I write, especially when I come to a spiritual part of the story. But to be gut-level honest, sometimes I'm so engrossed in the story, that I'm not praying conciously. Even though sometimes the Lord is not uppermost in my mind, I think he is still guiding my hands and my thoughts. I believe his grace is more than we can even begin to understand, and he overshadows any shortcomings on my part. I'm so glad that his dealings with me are not based on my performance, aren't you?

CL: Oh my goodness, yes. How did you first come to believe in Christ and His promises for your future?

GKP: That seems to be two questions to me. I first believed in Jesus for salvation when I was 14 years old. My believing in him for the future has been a growth process. I still struggle with it at times when everything around me seems to shout the opposite than what I believe I've heard from God. But he has been so faithful in the past. Why should it be any different in the future?

CL: I've heard you mention you've had two bouts of cancer. Would you tell us about that? Would that have been your darkest hour? If not, what was your darkest hour, and how did God bring you through it?

GKP: Oh, wow. This may be a long answer. Interestingly enough, my two bouts with cancer were not my darkest hours. I had ovarian cancer in 2000 and breast cancer in 2007. Both were discovered in Stage One and had not spread. However, the ovarian tumors were very large, and one broke as it was being removed and the fluid spilled into my abdominal cavity. So, I had to do chemo. But I did well through that. I didn't like knowing all those chemicals were in my body, but I was still working, speaking and writing during that time.

With the breast cancer, we believed that God directed us NOT to do chemo, although my oncologist advised me to do so. I did radiation; took a year of herceptin treatment -- a new treatment which is a gene that fights the growth of cancer cells; and am still taking oral medication. I am doing great and feel good.

When I woke up from the ovarian cancer surgery and learned that the tumors were malignant, the peace of God absolutely overwhelmed me, and I simply turned over and went back to sleep. His grace truly was sufficient.

My darkest hour had to do with when an elder in our church came against me and nearly destroyed our ministry and our marriage. God brought Psalm 35 to me and told me what I needed to do -- basically that was to praise him in the congregation and forgive.

It's much too long a story to go into here, but it's truly not what happens to us during this journey in life, it's how we choose to respond. Are we going to respond with bitterness and anger, or with love and forgiveness?

CL: What message do you hope your readers will come away with after reading your novels?

GKP: God is faithful. You can trust him.

CL: Tell us what your most audacious prayer was.

GKP: Use me.

Great questions, Christine; I realy had to think. And thank you so much for interviewing me today. You are a sweet friend.

Christine again: Below is the book cover for 'Prisoner of Versailles' and a link to Christian Book Stores where you can purchase it if you can't find it in your local bookstore. And also below is the cover for Golden's first book in this series 'In the Shadow of the Sun King'.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

GOD'S DELAYS ARE NOT DENIALS--Guest Blogger, Rosella Pettigrew

We are all waiting. Perhaps we wait for our name to rise to the top of a list for a critical medical procedure. Or we wait for that certain school to open up a seat for us. Or for that long-dreamed-of-career to finally open up. Or for love to enter our lives in the form of a spouse, a child, a friend?

Can we really trust that God has a plan for us. This fourth instalment of Rosella Pettigrew’s story means so much to me on a personal level. As I read it today, I wonder, is God using her story to encourage me on my quest—the thing I believe God called me to do? One thing I do know for sure, God has directed me to share Rosella’s story with you today. Perhaps our good and loving God wants you to trust that He has a plan for you.


Almost 2 years had passed since my acceptance by Sudan Interior Mission (SIM). And still I waited for that crucial financial support. During this time I trained as a practical nurse and worked in a senior care facility, which I enjoyed. Also, I loved being involved in the ministries of my church, as a youth leader, teaching Sunday school, and singing in the choir. However, Africa was my goal.

Yet nothing was happening.

Did God want me to continue to wait when time seemed to be slipping by? Did He want me to continue to trust Him for this particular goal? Maybe I’d heard Him wrongly. But when I searched Him out with all my heart, I still came away with the same passion resonating in my heart that I was to go to Africa as a missionary.

Waiting is so hard. I wanted God’s will in my life. One of the basic lessons in the ‘school of faith’ is God’s way and in God’s time which will then bring the glory to Him.

But what was I to do? I had no financial support, nor did I know where to get any for my life in Africa. How was I to inspire people to give financially from their own pockets to send me out as a missionary? Believe me, patience was not my strong point.

Someone has said, “The secret of patience is doing something else in the meantime.”

I chose to return to Bible College in Regina for a year. I had siblings going there by this time, so it seemed a good reason for me to go back too. We sometimes take detours in our lives. During that first semester a representative from S.I.M. came during the ‘Missions Emphasis Week.

When she saw me she stopped, and said, “Rosella, what are you doing here?”

I shared with her that I felt nothing was happening in terms of support, etc. It was as though I’d hit a brick wall in what I thought was God's plan for my life.

“We’ll see about that,” she said.

So I returned home after the first semester to await the next move. Several S.I.M. representatives contacted me after that, and arrangements were made for me to visit various churches. Now I’m getting somewhere, I thought. The doors will swing open for me to get going.

But as time went by, not one of those contacts materialized into anything that would support me. Every one of them fell through. Finally the S.I.M head office asked me to come to Toronto—perhaps it was easier to get support there. It wasn’t. But while there I worked in the mission home. Maybe my calling was to support others in going, while remaining home myself. I could be a great cheerleader and prayer support for others. But somehow that didn’t fit with the strong feeling in my heart that just wouldn’t let go. I must keep trusting in His call no matter how long the delay.

One day in the latter part of November 1949, I was called to the office and given stupendous news. A church in Washington, D.C. had just had their first missionary conference, and as a congregation they wanted to support someone who needed financial support. Would I be ready to leave in 2 days time? Would I? Would I? Oh, dear Father in Heaven, yes. A great big yes!

The pastor and his wife of this Washington D.C church happened to be visiting relatives in Ontario, and would pick me up in Hamilton, only 30 miles from Toronto. Wow!!! The years of delay had gone by so slowly, but now His answer was speeding so fast, I could barely catch my breath. But I kept up to the pace the Lord was setting. I hung on to His whirlwind of action.

God blessed me with a wonderful group of people who faithfully prayed for me, showered me with love and kindness and generosity. It was the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend when I met them for the first time. God couldn’t have made our first meeting more perfect. The church decided I would be their very first missionary, fully supported. And they also paid for my passage!!!!

Monday morning of that weekend, the pastor called the S.I.M office in New York to give them the news. They asked me to be in New York that Thursday as I was booked to sail on a Norwegian Freighter on Saturday, December 3rd, 1949.

My first phone call after that was a breathless one to my parents, who shared the good news with many friends. What an answer to prayer, and especially those of my mother all those years.

Six weeks later—after the ship stopped in every port along the west coast of Africa—I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria. Upon my arrival I learned that I wouldn’t remain in Nigeria as my original assignment, but that I had been reassigned to Dahomey (now Benin) a pioneer area as far as Christian missions.

When God promises to direct our paths, we can be confident He will carefully lead us. “I will go before you and make the crooked places straight.” Isaiah 45:2.

I marvel at His plan for our lives. His plans for me included medical work, teaching Bible School, developing a literacy program, and being involved in full-time Bible translation work, to mention a few ministries during my 24 years in Africa.

What a privilege was mine to serve my Lord in Africa. Looking back I know the “why” of all those delays.

His way is best. Trust Him.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

THE ROAD GOT TOUGHER--Guest Blogger, Rosella Pettigrew

Christine's intro: Experiences like Rosella Pettigrew's encourage me to persevere as much as reading my Bible does.

Last year at this time I shared what it was like to set out on a road of God-inspired risk. You can read that story by clicking here on Growing Pains. My husband and I did a repeat journey this September. We drove our youngest son, Rob, to a college in the middle of the country, over a 1000 miles away. Rob is pursuing what he believes is God’s plan for his life. Rob doesn't want a job in the trades or a business degree—an education a mother could breathe a sigh of relief over, knowing her youngest child had chosen a solid, good paying profession. But God didn’t wire my Rob that way. Rob is pursuing music.

I didn’t think I’d cry the second year into this, but I did, my tears filled with the same trepidation. Will God provide a vocation for Rob to use the gifts God gave him?

I wish with all my heart I could be like some people who are full of courage, who expect everything to turn out just fine, who never doubt. But I struggle with fear on a daily basis, mostly that things I hope for will simply never appear. I am a person of little faith. But my flickering faith sparks brightly when I read how Rosella struggled to trust in God's plan for her life. Next week she will share more about that struggle. Today we carry on with how God made Rosella into a missionary. After Rosella obeyed God's call on her life to the mission field, you’d expect everything to open up like an easy road. After all, she was moving along with His plan. But it didn’t happen that way. Life got harder.

So I ask myself as I walk along this rock-strewn road of God-inspired risk, can I trust a God who calls us onto a specific road, and who then allows things to get tougher?

THE ROAD GOT TOUGHER, Part 3—By Rosella Pettigrew

So the hard part—I thought—was done. I’d said yes to the Lord. I was willing to leave my home and all that was familiar, and go wherever in the world He sent me. And Mother’s reaction to my news that God wanted me to be a missionary floored me.

“I knew,” she said, “The Lord told me and also showed me where you would serve Him.”

How He had revealed all this to her, I don’t know to this day—through a dream? A vision? Then she told me that she had dedicated me to the Lord before I was born. She had faithfully prayed about that through the years.

We had always seemed to have every visiting missionary in our home who instilled in us a love for missions and the Lord’s work. My dad had a great interest and part in establishing new churches. Sunday services were often held in our home, and he rented halls and invited pastors and missionaries to come and preach the Word of God. He did this for a couple of years until a church was built and a pastor came. So I had a rich heritage. What an awesome God. We were such a poor, ordinary family who experienced God’s blessings in the good times as well as in difficult circumstances. God has always chosen unlikely people to work out His purposes.

But what did I need to do next? Apply to a mission? Ernie Harrison had told us so much about Sudan Interior Mission, a faith mission known as ‘serving in mission’ (SIM). I applied to it.

Since all of this took time, my concern was, what do I do next? I was at home with my parents and looking for a job. Then a call came from our denomination’s head office—would Jeanne and I be willing to go to Northern Alberta to teach Bible in that school district?

I called Jeanne in Vancouver who also would consider it, and pray for guidance. But it wasn’t long before we accepted and packed our suitcases. We boarded a train for Edmonton where we spent a few days with friends before continuing on to a place called Rich Valley (in my estimation, a misnomer).

Our contact showed where we would live, in the house next door, a two-storey building. The upstairs would be our living quarters and the downstairs was a meeting place for Sunday School. Jeanne and I stared at our new home—an unfinished building—the walls were just boards with knot holes for fresh air, no insulation. The bedroom was partitioned off with cardboard. The bed was a fold-up cot which had seen better days. The one side was supported by an attached poplar pole. There were also some wooden boxes piled one on the other for a cupboard. The main room had a table, 2 chairs, an air-tight heater (wood burner) a 2 burner hot plate, a few dishes, pots, kettle. The basics and nothing more.

We were shown where we would get water, at the pump next door. And the outhouse was nearby too. A horse and buggy took us to the schools, and a sleigh whisked us throught the snow and ice in the winter. I had never hitched up a horse to a buggy, never mind controlling the horse. A new experience and my dear city friend was no help. So the job was mine, as well as pumping the water from the well, and chopping the wood. This wasn’t too difficult when we got there in the fall (1946).

But winter came early in Alberta and it got colder and colder. The pump froze, so I took a kettle of boiling water to thaw it to get water. The air-tight heater didn’t throw much heat; at least not that it was noticeable in our cold dwelling. The heater would get red hot so we bought a sheet of asbestos at the local store and attached it to the wall behind the heater. In the middle of winter the temperature dipped down to 62 degrees F below zero. We stayed in bed most of the day in order to keep warm. When we washed our dishes, the spilled water formed icicles on the table. Our motto soon became—Africa, here we come.

The bright spot was teaching Bible in the schools and the local Sunday School. When the weather was too severe we cancelled everything. In spite of the harshness of the winter and some difficult circumstances we felt blessed in being able to share Christ in that part of His world.

In the spring we received word from S.I.M. that they wanted us to attend the April candidate class in Toronto. So it was goodbye to our friends in the town of Rich Valley and area, and move on to our next assignment orchestrated by God.

Rich Valley was a hard place. Living conditions were poor (only one other person agreed to go there after we left). Bad weather was a factor often in whether we had Sunday School or no, and if we taught Bible lessons in school. With no conveniences it took a lot of time to just live there.

Sometimes we wondered what we accomplished. Someone has said, “Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith.” No doubt we would face many, more challenges in the future. But God never failed us.

This is Rosella with her brother and sister when they were children. Her brother, Elmer and his wife, Muriel, spent 37 years in India as missionaries. And Rosella’s youngest sister and husband served in the pastorate for 43 years.

Christine again--Looking back at Rosella's life and that of her siblings, the verse in Hebrews 11:6 keeps coming back to me, urging me to persevere and not lose heart. "...without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."