Foreword: The Stone of Ebenezer

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In the days of the last judge of Israel, from the foothills of Ephraim to the coast of the Great Sea, THE STONE OF EBENEZER is a thrilling saga of loss and revenge. As nations clash in a struggle for regional dominance, two men, on opposite sides, each strive to overcome the past and reconcile faith in his god.

The battle is about to begin! Summer 2015

I am truly fortunate to have experienced such unfailing support in writing this novel. With pleasure, I here present the foreword to THE STONE OF EBENEZER, written by my good friend and mentor, Rev. Judith Wiegman. Her enthusiasm for my effort is overwhelming; she is a constant source of guidance and strength.

So without further adieu, the FOREWORD:

~ ~ ~

As I begin this Foreword, I am reminded of the call from Susan when she completed her manuscript “The Stone of Ebenezer.”  Months before, she had contacted me to pray about writing the Foreword; a request that aroused a feeling of deep responsibility.  I am a pastor, author, and faith writer columnist but this was more than a writing assignment, more than a column for the newspaper, it was a call from Susan’s heart to mine; one I accepted with feelings of immense humility.

Susan and I met when as a children’s pastor; I taught her three children in a Dallas area church. Our mutual love for prayer, music, and writing, bound our hearts and minds together as kindred spirits. One summer I learned of Susan’s love for biblical, historical accuracy when she created booths for a children’s vacation Bible school. The children were intrigued to step back in time and experience life in the little village of Nazareth where Jesus grew in “wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and men.”[1] 

I agonized with Susan and her family upon learning how deeply they were all wounded two years prior to our meeting in the powerful tragedy of September 11, 2001.  They were forced to travel a journey, not of their choice, but theirs just the same. One of the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the Pentagon was her father, Stanley R. Hall.  I prayed diligently for her as she struggled to publish her first book, SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN. I share her grief each time I pick up the book and re-read any portion.

During our times together, Susan would share about another “book” gathering momentum in her heart and head.  As an author I could certainly relate and was not surprised when she completed her second work, THE STONE OF EBENEZER.  Susan sent this message: “I am sending the manuscript certified mail. It is always a frightening thing to put your manuscript in the mail. It is like sending your child away unsupervised.” Her choice of words struck a memory in my thoughts as they wandered to an Old Testament mother who placed her child in a basket made of bulrushes and “sent him away” unsupervised.  As the mother gave the basket a small push, she trusted God to provide a person that would receive the child and care for him. [2]

I could picture Susan as the manuscript left her hands in Texas headed for mine in Pennsylvania. It arrived! Overwhelmed by excitement, I signed for the treasured box.  I held it in my hands, called immediately to announce its safe arrival and curled up in a sunny spot to begin an incredible journey that began long ago in Ancient Israel. A journey traveled by Old Testament characters, re-born in Susan’s heart, now ready for anxious readers such as myself.

As I began to read, I envisioned the daunting task Susan faced as the overwhelming “I must write” feeling flooded her mind repeatedly in the early dawn. I marveled at the countless hours of research she logged in on this work. Her dedication allowed her to portray the events found in I Samuel chapters 4-7. Its amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate. The Bible states “So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas died.”[3] God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.

Portrayed in her book are characters brought forward from Old Testament antiquity and presented face to face for the reader to experience.  This novel draws the reader to “be at home” in the Old Testament setting. Woven throughout its pages, the reader will readily see the hand of God as it moved in times past to protect the ark of God and the chosen children, Israel.  It will allow the reader to grasp the fact that God’s faithfulness to His Word in both blessing and judgment has not changed and can be claimed by us today.

I am honored to introduce this work by Susan Van Volkenburgh and to encourage her to pursue the completion of the series, TRILOGY OF KINGS SAGA.

~ FOREWORD BY: Rev. Judith Wiegman

Ordained Minister, Church of the Nazarene, 2003

Women’s Conference and Retreat Speaker

Faith Writer Columnist, Jotting Judi, The Dalhart Texan Newspaper 2008-2013

Author: Featured in Teatime Stories for Mothers, River Oak Publishing; Tulsa, Oklahoma

Featured in God’s Vitamin C for the Hurting Spirit, Starburst Publishers, Lancaster, PA

Recent Children’s Books: The Trail of the Wooden Horse,  A Stranger at the Gate, The Night of the Storm, Beacon Hill Press, KC, MO


[1] Luke 2:52

[2] Exodus 1:22-2:10

[3] 1 Samuel 4:10-11

THE STONE OF EBENEZER is the Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 New Look Writing Contest

To learn more about Susan’s experience with September 11, 2001, read her book: SILENT RESOLVE AND THE GOD WHO LET ME DOWN (a 9/11 story). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, LifeWay or your area retailers.

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The Stone of Ebenezer Official Book Trailer

Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

The Stone of Ebenezer
by Susan Van Volkenburgh

Coming Summer 2015

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

Book Cover Reveal: THE STONE OF EBENEZER

It has been long in coming, but here it is–the official book cover for
The Stone of Ebenezer
Book 1: Trilogy of Kings Saga

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Things are getting exciting here as the release date for my novel, THE STONE OF EBENEZER, draws near. Here is something to whet your appetite–a teaser for the official book trailer.

teaser

What’s In a Name

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“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, Act II. Scene II

Really? Is not a name important? If you called a rose “fetid” would it smell as sweet?

In the ancient Hebrew culture, a person’s name, or “shem,” was significant. It told of the person’s character: of his birth or some future hope. God often changed a person’s name after His call came into their life.

Take Paul for example:

His given name was Saul, which means “desired” or “asked for” in Hebrew. It was changed to Paul – which means “small” or “little” in Greek – after his conversion. The bold and dangerous Pharisee was sent in humility to witness to the Gentiles of Greece.

And then there was Peter, whose name was Simon (meaning “he has heard”). His name was changed by Jesus to Peter – meaning “rock or stone.” It was upon his faith that Jesus was the Christ that the Church was built.

Was it not Jacob (“heel holder” or “supplanter”) who stole Esau’s (Esau means “hairy”) birthright, and thus, supplanting Esau, by tricking Isaac into blessing him instead of his elder brother.

It was as though by calling a child by a particular name, one could predict the future character of the person the babe would grow to be. And so, as I began my journey through the Hills of Ephraim that I took great pains to name the characters within my novel according to their given purpose.

Each name has a specific meaning in relation to their role in the telling of this epic tale.

There is Nagad, the haunted protagonist, whose name means “messenger” in Hebrew. His story reaches us through the warfare in his life, both physical and spiritual, as he works through old hurts to find how he measures into Yahweh’s plans.

His foil, Ekwesh, is a Philistine struggling with the same issues of faith as his counterpart. His name is found in writings describing the Sea Peoples of old, and the ancient Greek warriors such as Homer’s Achaeans in the Iliad.

Tiphcar (“captain” in Hebrew), his very name denotes strength and leadership, is captain of the Israelite forces. He is a pillar of courage on which the young conscript, Nagad, can lean.

And so the characters enter into the midst of the story, each bringing a message to the reader by the name they bear.

So what is in a name? Join the story and see what message the characters have for you.

THE STONE OF EBENEZER

Spring 2015

~ Susan

THE STONE OF EBENEZER, or the story I did not intend to write

 

triology of kings logo in black03Grand Prize Winner of the New Look Writing Contest

A novel that almost did not happen:

In the stillness of the early morning, I come to my desk and write. Darkness is brushed away by the gentle glow of my lamp. All slumber, save me, for it is the appointed hour, the time set aside in my hectic life to bring forth words upon the page. So I sit at my desk, and begin to relay a tale, of a king, anointed by God, asked for by His people, but against the will of the prophet, Samuel. Images of great battles and events of fealty and lordship take shape. Through the vivid drama played out before my mind’s eye, a solitary figure emerges. Just a glimpse at first, then a gentle nudge, until at last, he erupts upon the scene in full grandeur, filling the pages. He has a story to share, a tale to tell, and he has chosen me as his vessel. I listen to what he has to say, but I only allow him an opening place in my story, a lead into the main action of what I have chosen to recount. But he is relentless, pressing into my mind, usurping the process; until, at last, I stop and take notice.

Before I begin my scheduled writing time, I have a moment of prayer. I ask of God direction in my work. Each word, each phrase, is to be the voice of God revealed within my manuscript. It is, and has always been, my chief desire to express the message of the Lord upon the pages of my books. And I have been amazed at the words He has given me. So there I was, trying with great effort to write a novel about King Saul. The story came, but this nagging image of another character kept taking my attention. I added scenes to the beginning of my book in an attempt to quell the voice of this one leaning heavily against my mind. Then it came to me, as so often thoughts do, in the dark as I lay in my bed.

“Make it its own story.”

But that is not the story I want to write, I thought to myself in the stillness.

Again the thought came to me, “Set it down as its own tale. It is a story unto itself. A prelude.”

A prelude, I repeated. But it is not long enough to stand alone.

“Rewrite it and make it so.”

God, is that you? I questioned. If this is what you want of me, then I ask two things to prove it so. Firstly, I have to have a title. A good book needs a name. Secondly, it must be at least 300 pages or 90,000 words, or it will not match my plans for the rest of the series. If, through me, You accomplish this, then I will write it as its own story.

By the end of the day, I had my title: THE STONE OF EBENEZER. It was perfect. I would never have thought of that myself.

Ok, Lord, I have the picture.

So I began writing. I had worked six years on this novel. Now, after so much effort, I split off the front and began to flush out this new venture. Within four months, the story transformed, into a tale of faith and revenge, of loss and hope. I could hardly believe my eyes.

What was happening?

It was as if I had lost control, given up to the character. It was he, telling the tale of his crisis of faith, of his struggle with his past. Could he let go of the hurt? Move on to a future bright and hopeful? He had so much to overcome, and all the while, his nation faced annihilation. War festered in the land, and with sword in hand, this character strove to fight his way to resolution.

As I wrote the words, I was amazed at how they grew.

When the word count reached 87,000, I told God, alright, I am convinced, it is done. It mattered not that the manuscript had not yet reached 90,000 words; I would do as He asked.

But the Lord is faithful, and we had a deal. And as it often is with God, He exceeded His promise. The novel grew to 380 pages; 98,000 words.

Oh, and the character, who so ardently pushed his way upon my consciousness, his name is Nagad, (naw-gad’ ), which means messenger in Hebrew.

Message received.

~ Susan

Release date – Spring 2015

Grand Prize Winner

10444401_783430071694342_4450495211235494301_nI am overwhelmed!

THE STONE OF EBENEZER has won the Grand Prize in the New Look Writing Contest!

www.westbowpress.com/newlook/winners.aspx

The Stone of Ebenezer

There are some things that should not be forgotten, some truths that should not be forsaken. A story torn from the pages of antiquity, in an age where gods ruled the land: two men, two nations, drawn into an immortal struggle.

~     ~     ~

NAGAD’s life was perfect until it was torn apart by the ravages of war. Now, haunted by his past, this young conscript must meet the enemy in battle. With shaking rage the nations collide in a fierce conflict for dominance. Yet more is at stake than the survival of a people. The dispute contests the claim of immortal supremacy, the outcome to prove whose god reigns omnipotent.

And so, Nagad of Benjamin pushes on through the raging tide of battle. But to no avail. Soon crushed by the mighty war machine of Philistia, thousands of Hebrew soldiers lay slaughtered upon the carrion infested field. Hope has abandoned them. Then it is remembered, that in the days of their fathers, any army that bore the Ark of the Covenant could not be defeated. They need the Ark, for only then can the Chosen of God prevail against the enemy.

But they are wrong.

~ Susan

An amazing, vivid account of biblical events is historically accurate where God’s judgments, treacherous journeys, blood battles and even romance come alive to the reader in this skillfully written epic story.
Foreword written by Rev. Judith Wiegman

THE STONE OF EBENEZER Coming spring of 2015