Who Is Nila Black?

To celebrate the release of my second novel Nila’s Hope, I would like to introduce you to the heroine of the story. If you’ve read Melody’s Song (my first book), you’ve already met this remarkable young woman. Nila comes from a background of neglect and abuse, and her mistreatment dulled her self-value so much, she submitted to an abusive live-in arrangement.

But let’s let Melody’s story tell of their first encounter:

On the only occupied bed in the four-bed ward lay what appeared to be a broken doll. She was on the bony side of slender, and her face was a pale background for the dark bruises that stained her eyes, cheeks and mouth. Her long, dark hair was coming loose from its confining braids. She had stitches on one cheek, and her left arm was in a cast. Her eyes were so swollen Melody couldn’t tell if she was awake or asleep. Above the neckline of the hospital gown more bruises colored the girl’s collarbone.

Melody’s stomach clenched. How could anyone do this? God, help me help her.

“Hello? Nila?” she called softly, not wanting to scare or waken the girl.

One bruised eye opened slightly. “Who are you? What do you want?”

“We’re your neighbors, Nila. I’m Melody; I moved into the yellow house down the street from you a few weeks ago. And this is Bobbie. She lives next door to me. We’re concerned about you and want to know if there is anything we can do for you.”

“Just take your concern and leave me alone. There’s nothing anyone can do.” Her eye closed again she turned her face away.

Melody felt tears fill her eyes at the hopelessness in that weak voice. “That’s not true. We can help you.”

She was surprised at the smoothness of her voice—not a waver to betray her nerves. “May I sit beside you? I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Nila’s slight one-shouldered shrug gave permission, and Melody moved to the chair beside the bed. She glanced over at Bobbie, who was still standing just inside the doorway.

“Nila, I know you’re in a lot of pain, so we won’t stay long. But I do want to help you. Is there anything at all I could do for you? Perhaps bring you something to read? I notice you don’t have a television in here. Would you like one? Or something special to eat?”

“Eyes hurt too much, and I can’t eat much yet—mouth’s too sore.” The words came with their own pain, causing a spasm in the young, battered face.

“What if I read to you? Would you like that?” Melody stroked the slender fingers protruding from the stark, white cast.

“If you want. One of my foster moms used to read to me when I was a kid.” Nila turned to look at Melody. “But why would you? I’m nothing to you.”

Melody smiled through unshed tears. “Oh no, that’s not true, Nila. You are very special. God loves you so much he pushed me to come to you even though I was afraid. He cares, and now that I’ve met you, I care too. I think I should read you my favorite psalm. It gives you a clear picture of just how much God cares for you.”

Melody pulled her small Bible out of her purse and quickly found the page.

“Here it is, Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depth, you are there…”

The girl’s eyes were closed when Melody looked up, but she looked much more peaceful then when she’d arrived.

“Nila?”

No response.

That’s who Nila was. But that’s not who she is.

I hope you’ll enjoy both Melody’s Song and Nila’s Hope, available through all online booksellers, the publishers, and I have copies on hand.
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Now it’s your turn. Have you ever dealt with an abusive situation? What did you do?

Please leave a comment below or email me at kathleenefriesen@gmail.com.

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What? Me, Worry?

Give all your worries and cares to God, because he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)

Worry. We know we shouldn’t, and we know it can damage our health as well as our outlook on life. If you need confirmation on that, check out these websites (http://www.christianpost.com/news/are-you-a-worry-wart-52589/; http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body) or just Google “effects of worry.”

I have been known to worry. My family is now laughing at this understatement. In fact, my sweet husband often tells me, when I’m in the middle of a state of anxiety, that at least I’ve found what I do well and am doing it with all my heart. Ouch.

I know I’m sensitive. I feel things most do not notice, but too often I allow those feelings to wear me down and erode my faith. It’s as though a pebble of worry gets into a groove of my life.

That’s why these photos, shot at Bailey’s Chute in Wells Gray Park in British Columbia, speak so clearly to me. On our visit there, my husband and I learned that these ciSONY DSCrcular holes in the rock are made by a tiny pebble washed up by the rushing water. The pebble finds an indentation, and the action of the water rolls it around and around, eroding solid rock and creating a deep hole. Unless someone or something plucks out the stone (and it’s much too dangerous here), the hole continues to grow. After a while, that massive rock looks like Swiss cheese, and its strength is destroyed.

You know where I’m going with thi????????s, don’t you? Jesus is the only one who can pluck that pebble of worry out of my life, but I have to allow him access to it.

What is the antidote to worry? Faith, of course. We are told to “take up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16), and it will protect us from those abrasive, destructive pebbles.

As Corrie Ten Boom so eloquently said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

Father God, take away all my pebbles of worry, so that I can live in your strength. Amen.

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How Can I Know God? (Part 2 – Relationship)

How Can I Know God? (Part 2 – Relationship).

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How Can I Know God? (Part 2 – Relationship)

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His (Jesus Christ’s) divine power has given us everything we need for life (vitality) and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

As I meditated on this verse, I couldn’t help wonder: If the vitality and godliness Jesus has given us comes via our knowledge of him, how, exactly do we acquire this necessary knowledge?

To be honest, at first I patted myself on the back (figuratively, of course). I’ve been a Christian most of my life, I read the Bible and pray every day…most days…well, I try. But I must know God pretty well by now. I do ask Him a lot of stuff. Sometimes I even listen. Isn’t that enough?

Back I went to Strong’s Concordance for affirmation of my assumptions. And guess what? Another word for the Greek rendered “knowledge” is relationship. Whoa! That puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?

Jesus Christ doesn’t want us to be content with head knowledge. He desires a relationship with us. Friendship. Love. Intimate knowledge. (If that bothers you, consider the fact that the church is called the bride of Christ.)

When I examine how I interact with the One I call Lord and Savior, I cringe. Instead of eagerness to spend time with him, I often race through my devotions with one eye on my to-do list and the other on my watch. And I wonder, how would I feel if my friends treated me like that? What about my husband?

So this year, my word to consider and absorb is Relationship, particularly my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to know him, to be his friend, his BFF, so to speak.

How? By talking less and listening more. By asking for fresh insight as I read his word. And mostly by spending time with him – without the bratty impatience and self-absorption that has been my habit.

By the grace of God, this year I will dive deeper into a relationship with him.

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How Can I Know God? (Part 1 – Vitality)

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His (Jesus Christ’s) divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

I must admit, I love my good old Strong’s Concordance. Digging deeper into the meaning of words fascinates me, and Strong’s is my go-to reference for delving into intriguing Bible verses like this. And I love this verse, so much that I’ve chosen it for my verse of 2015.

Why?

My health isn’t the greatest, and I often struggle, especially with lack of energy. So reading that Jesus has already given me everything I need for life, while a wonderful thought, doesn’t exactly resonate when I’m struggling to breathe. Life isn’t much fun then, and I wonder if this is what He intended.

Imagine my surprise when I dug into alternate meanings for the word rendered “life.” The one that jumped out at me? Vitality. Jesus has given us everything we need for vitality – wow!

At the time I discovered this, daily life had become of blur of exhaustion, where walking across the living room required a rest on the couch. Life? Yes. Vitality? No way.

So I grabbed hold of that promise, the assurance that God’s intention is vitality, not a foot-dragging, blurry existence. And I realized that even when my body is uncooperative and I cannot do everything I want to or should, the life that God gives me through Jesus Christ can be a life of vitality. He intends me to be vital.

Like a plant in His garden, God provides everything I need to burst forth in abundant life.

My body is mortal, and some days that fact is plenty obvious, but the life I have in Jesus Christ is eternal – and energetic, invigorating, indispensable, significant, and vibrant.

Just typing those words makes me sit up straighter and breathe deeper. Yes, I want that! I want to exhibit the vitality of a godly life. But how can I do that?

What do you think? How do you tap into God’s vitality?

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SILENT NIGHT?

P1000533Lights from the Christmas tree reflected on my piano’s glossy surface as I opened my new music book, a gift from our church, to one of my favorite Christmas carols, “Silent Night.” My husband wanted to watch the news on TV, so I plugged in the headphones that directed sound from the electronic instrument to my ears only.

This arrangement of “Silent Night” began simply with the soothing melody. Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright…”

I played on, following the written score as it added harmonies, point and counterpoint, when the newscast behind me seeped into my awareness. Some poor soul had been found nearly frozen to death. War erupted in two more areas, details to follow. Financial gurus predicted hardships in the New Year. On and on, bad news assaulted my ears even as my fingers played.

Silent night, holy night; Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

The contrast jarred me, and I realized this painted a true picture of the world Jesus came to so long ago. Wars, brutality, tragedy were just as prevalent then as now. The world needed – and still needs – redemption, and that only comes through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Redeeming grace is God’s gift to us. Hardships and trauma still surround us and affect us, but because Jesus gave up Heaven’s glory to live in our mess, we have hope. What a wonderful reason to celebrate!

The music continued, and joy brought tears to my eyes as I played.

Silent night, Holy night; Shepherds quake at the sight

Glories stream from heaven above

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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Thoughts on Vulnerability

Quote-Vulnerability-opens-the1Vulnerable: adj. Exposed to being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally (Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Doesn’t sound very appealing, does it?  Sure scares me.

Maybe that’s why it took me so long (well past mid-life) to begin to share the thoughts of my heart. Putting words on paper or typing them into a computer feels safe – until they escape or are pushed “out there.” To the public, where strangers can read, criticize, or even condemn. Frightening.

I’m not a brave person. By nature I’m quite timid, something God has been working on for many years.

So last month when my dear friend and pastor’s wife, Linda Reeve, asked me if I’d be the speaker for Emmanuel Baptist’s Christmas Ladies’ Tea, My initial reaction was, “Are you sure?” I’d never done any public speaking before.

She assured me that she believed I was the one, and a sense of wonder and the feeling that this was from God seeped into my soul. A few days later I agreed, even though I knew that on my own, I would surely fail.

Fear served me well this time, though, because it prompted me to ask everyone I knew for prayer. And they prayed.

One reason for my nervousness is that sometimes when stress hits, my vocal cords spasm, and that prompts a coughing fit. I could picture that happening as I stood onstage – not a pretty sight.

The Ladies’ Tea at Emmanuel is so popular, it’s held on two nights, and both were sold out. The first night went well in spite of nerves, but the second night, just as the program began, my throat twitched. I began to cough and had to leave the room. Even as I walked past table after table of ladies, I could feel the power of their prayers. A few moments later, my throat eased and I was able to go back in. When it was time for me to share my heart, the words flowed smoothly.

And that sharing of my heart, the talk I’d been so nervous to give, made me extra vulnerable to all those women. They could have ridiculed or criticized me, but to my knowledge, no one did.

Instead, my vulnerability touched many to share their hearts with me. When one dear lady shared her story and asked me to pray for her and her family, my eyes filled. What a privilege!

For this is the blessing of opening our hearts, in spite of our fears, as only open hearts can connect.

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