Time to Launch

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The fun began this week. Last Friday I got to leave my lonely office and travel to four different bookstores to meet with some of my readers. I was very excited to present my newest book, “Waves of Mercy” to them. The novel is based on the true story of the Dutch immigrants who left the Netherlands in 1846 to settle the town of Holland in the wilderness of Western Michigan. I even bought a new outfit to wear for the occasion. It’s a typical Dutch costume from the province of Zuid Beveland, and is the type of dress that the characters in my book might have worn. What do you think?img_3663

My first stop was the Kregel Parable Christian Store in Grandville, Michigan. Here are some of my new friends.

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Next, I traveled southwest to Banner Books – Parable Christian Store in St. Joseph, Michigan. More new friends!

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On Saturday morning, I met all of these wonderful people at Light of Grace Book & Gift Store in Nappanee, Indiana.

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And finally, I drove to J.Farvers Bookstore on Saturday afternoon in Shipshewana, Indiana. Thanks for a great time!

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I met so many wonderful people, and I can’t begin to describe how contagious their enthusiasm is. I came home determined to finish writing my next book because I know that all of these amazing new friends will be waiting to read it. I cautioned them to read s-l-o-w-l-y, though. They can read my book in a matter of days but it takes me a year to write it!

14560178_10208494069283086_6255560714484562699_oI’m not quite finished launching “Waves of Mercy” yet. On Tuesday, October 4, I’ll be speaking at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 7:00 PM (2768 E. Paris Ave., SE, Grand Rapids). I’ve put together a power point presentation with some of the pictures that inspired the novel—and I’ll tell a little bit about why I decided to write it. I hope to meet more of you there.

Two days later, on Thursday, October 6, I’ll be giving the same presentation in Holland at 7:00 PM at Christ Memorial Church (595 Graafschap Rd., Holland). Maybe some of you are descendants of those first settlers? I would love to meet you. “Waves of Mercy” will be available for purchase at both of those places.

img_2284So, I have to say that while it was awkward at first, I’m growing fond of this Dutch dress. You can’t tell from the picture but there’s a voluminous petticoat underneath the skirt, and a black apron on top of it. Twenty yards of cloth is very effective at hiding any and every flaw in my figure. But don’t try to drive a car in wooden shoes…just saying.

Happy reading!

Waves of Mercy

Have you ever prayed about a decision but when you followed through on where God was leading, everything went wrong? You probably asked, “Did I really hear from God? How could He allow this to happen?”waves-of-mercy-cover-1

immigrantsMy newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” (which releases on October 4) tells the true story of the Dutch immigrants who settled the town of Holland, Michigan in 1846. These faithful Christian men and women, who suffered religious persecution in the Netherlands, prayed about what to do and felt God leading them to America, where religious freedom was guaranteed. So they left beautiful, centuries-old cities to move to the virgin wilderness of Michigan and live in crude log cabins. The first summer, malaria struck the community killing many settlers. A year later, a ship called the Phoenix, carrying 225 passengers, including 175 Dutch immigrants, caught fire and sank in Lake Michigan, five miles from their destination. 180 men, women and children died. As the bewildered immigrants buried their loved ones, they must have asked, “Did we really hear from God? How could He allow these tragedies to happen?”

gods-and-kingsI battled similar questions when writing my first novel, “Gods and Kings.” I had an opportunity to go to Israel on an archeological dig to research my book, and it seemed like an answer from God. To earn money for my trip, I babysat for three small children. My husband encouraged me to go and volunteered to take over while I was away. But a few days before I was supposed to leave, our three children came down with the chicken pox. Then we discovered that my husband had never had them, and he became extremely ill. I called the tour organizers to try to cancel or at least postpone my trip only to learn that it wasn’t refundable, nor could I re-book my flight. I would lose all of the money I had worked so hard to save. In spite of his illness, my husband still encouraged me to go—while someone from church called to say, “I think it’s clear that God wants you to stay home and be a wife and mother, not a writer.” Had I really heard from God about being a writer? Why had my family become sick at the worst possible time? I wrestled with God for answers.

It’s in these times of wrestling that we often find ourselves drawing closer to God. I think of Jacob who returned to the Promised Land with his family at God’s command. Yet before he reached home, he learned that his brother, who had once threatened to kill him, was coming with a large army of men. Jacob wrestled with God all night long, and was changed from Jacob the “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

As I wrestled with God about my trip to Israel, the reading for my morning devotions happened to be Psalm 48: “Walk about Jerusalem, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.” I trusted God to take care of my family, and walked into my calling as a writer. The novel I researched, “Gods and Kings,” has since been translated into nine languages.fullsizerender

And what happened to the Dutch settlers in my novel “Waves of Mercy?” I won’t reveal any “spoilers” in case you’d like to read the book, but if you visit the town of Holland, Michigan today, you’ll find that the immigrants’ faith remains strong and vibrant. The town, with a population of 33,000, has more than 71 churches, including Pillar Church, built by the first settlers in 1856.pillar-church

1co15-58“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

My Imaginary Friends

An introduction to the characters in Waves of Mercy:

Released October 4, 2106

When my daughter was in pre-school she had an imaginary friend named Bareko. She talked about her constantly, and was so convincing that I made plans to invite Bareko to our house for a play date. I figured out that she was imaginary when I didn’t see her name on the class list. Later I learned that my daughter’s entire Sunday school class was praying for Bareko’s brother who had been in some sort of an accident. It’s very embarrassing when your child’s Sunday school teacher asks you for a follow-up report on an imaginary person!

But I have to confess that every time I create new characters for one of my novels, they become real people to me. That’s why it’s always sad to say goodbye to them when the novel ends. It’s like moving to a new city and making new friends, then having to move away again. Yet like good friends, they remain in my mind and heart forever. That’s the way I feel about Geesje and Anna and Maarten and Derk and Hendrik—and I can’t wait for you to get to know them, too.

I admire Geesje’s honesty, her willingness to write a truthful account of her life, including all of her faults and failures. How many of us would be willing to write down the story of our past and allow the people we love to know so much about us? I would certainly balk at the idea!

What I love about Anna is the way she questions things. Most of us would say that she lives a wonderful life of wealth and ease with a family and a handsome fiancé who love her. But Anna is courageous enough to look beneath the surface and ask if this charmed life is really the one God wants her to live.

Then there’s Maarten. I love his constancy and faithfulness—to the people he loves and to God. He is a behind-the-scenes character who fills an important role in the story and in Geesje’s life, whether she appreciates his efforts or not. Are there people like him in your life?

Derk is another one of those secondary characters, and his role is to act as a bridge between Geesje and Anna. He “wears his heart on his sleeve,” and I think his tenderness and compassion toward others will make him a wonderful minister. I’m blessed to have people like Derk in my life, people who love building bridges and bringing strangers together.

Hendrik turned out to be one of my favorite characters, even though I wasn’t too sure about him, at first. As I write my novels, I always create a bulletin board with pictures of what I think my characters look like, and this is the picture I chose for Hendrik:

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I think it’s a worthwhile practice to take time to think about our real-life friends and the qualities we most admire most in each one. What lessons have they taught us? Are there ways we wish we could be like them? And when we’re finished, let’s stop and thank God for the gift of good friends!

Happy reading!

Waves of Mercy will be released October 4, 2016

Pre-order on Amazon today, click here.

A Behind-the-Scenes Peek at “Waves of Mercy”

The story of the Dutch immigrants who settled Holland, Michigan has interested me for many years. I grew up in an area of New York State that was originally settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, Michigan for the first time as a Hope College freshman. I saw how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage—so much so, that they imported a 250 year-old windmill from the Netherlands as the showpiece of their town, and planted nearly 4 ½ million tulips in parks and gardens and along city streets. The annual Tulip Time Festival brings swarms of tourists in cars and buses and motor homes to the otherwise quiet town. All of this impressed me as a young college student.

Tulip Time Dancers

 

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I met my husband Ken while we were students at Hope College, and although he grew up in Holland, he didn’t know very much about his Dutch ancestry on his mother’s side. In the years since, we’ve learned that his family immigrated to Holland, Michigan in 1871. Here’s a picture of Ken’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather. (Evidently their wives were camera shy.)

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When Ken and I decided to move back to Michigan two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. I wasn’t disappointed! The first Dutch settlers arrived here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution and famine in the Netherlands. Since that’s been true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered while founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.371426546741_1

The Dutch settlers chose this area—which was a virgin forest back then—because it was on the inland waterways of Black Lake and Lake Michigan. I was struck by the beauty of Lake Michigan’s beaches as a college student, and again whenever Ken and I visited his family in Holland. I learned that several resort hotels once perched on the shoreline in the late 1800s, bringing vacationers from Chicago by steamship. So I decided that the Hotel Ottawa Resort would also play a part in Waves of Mercy.

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By the time I finished my research, I was very impressed by the commitment the Dutch community had to each other and to God. As I researched the many hardships the original settlers faced, I found it amazing that their faith in God never seemed to falter. And the settlers’ faith is still very strong and vibrant in Holland today, which has more than 70 churches in a population of 33,000—including this church, built by the first settlers in 1856.

Pillar Church, Holland, MI

I won’t give away any more of my story because I hate “spoilers.” But I hope you’ll enjoy Waves of Mercy when it’s finally released next month. Happy reading!

To preorder your copy of Waves of Mercy click the cover below.

Release date: October 4, 2016

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Welcome!

One of my favorite hobbies is interior decorating. I’m an avid fan of magazines and TV programs that transform a rundown house or a piece of outdated furniture into something beautiful. I love scouting thrift stores and yard sales for bargain items that I can repurpose, just like my favorite interior designer Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” As anyone who has visited my home knows, I enjoy rearranging my furniture and changing accent pieces every now and then for a totally new look—without spending a dime, of course. In fact, I have a “décor closet” filled with items I can swap out as the seasons (or my whims) change. My goal is always to create a comfortable, welcoming space that my family, friends and guests can enjoy.

A few months back, I looked at my website and decided it was overdue for a change. I wanted a space that reflected my style and personality, but that was also a warm, welcoming place where my readers and I could get to know each other a little better. I wanted it to have information about my books—especially when a new one was released—and a place for readers to contact me. I wanted an up-to- date event calendar so that I could meet some of my readers in person the next time I’m speaking or visiting a bookstore in their area. And since I wanted to send out a newsletter occasionally when I have something new or fun to share, I wanted to feature an easy way for interested readers to sign up.

I confess that my talents are limited to writing (and maybe amateur interior design), so I needed lots of professional help with my website redecorating project. I’m very grateful to my savvy marketing and publicity expert, Christine Bierma, for all her hard work and great ideas, as well as to the very talented graphic and web designer, Cori De Roos, for the beautifully renovated site. It has been under construction for the past few months, and now I can finally open the door and welcome you in for a visit! Thank you for your patience while the reconstruction has been taking place.

We’re inching closer and closer to the October release date for my newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” so I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the cover. And here are behind-the-scenes photos from my research that I hope will pique your interest. I’ll be revealing more about “Waves of Mercy” in my coming newsletter so make sure you sign up for it.

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The welcome mat is out! Please let me know what you think. I look forward to visiting with you here in the future.  As a thank you for visiting, I will be giving away a signed copy of one of my books to two of the readers who comment below. Contest Ends on Sunday, August 14 at 7pm EST

 

Blessings,
Lynn

Mule-Headed Stubbornness

Stubborn as a mule.
Stubborn as a mule. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

I’ve had my stubborn moments. Times when I’ve refused to do what I’m asked. When I’ve folded my arms and refused to budge. An incident in seventh grade art class comes to mind. The teacher assigned a short research report on any famous artist we chose. I liked art class. I liked our teacher, an exotic woman who wore her hair in a chignon and dressed in Bohemian clothes and seemed wildly out-of-place in our boring, conventional village. Writing came easily to me. The report would have been an easy A and I was an A student. But for reasons I still don’t understand, I didn’t do the assignment.

When my children used to turn stubborn I would get angry. When my husband turns stubborn I get frustrated. But when a character in a novel I’m writing becomes uncooperative, I’m baffled. I know, I know, I created these “people.” They exist only in my mind. How can they turn rebellious? Aren’t I in charge? Well, in a word . . . no. Once I’ve created them along with a resume of their likes and dislikes, quirks and fears, family histories and dreams, they become “real.” If I try to make them do something “out of character,” it rings false. They have a right to turn stubborn.

Have you ever read a story where the main character does something that doesn’t feel right? Something that makes you want to throw the book across the room in frustration and vow never to read a book by THAT author again? I suspect that the character did refuse to do what the author wanted but was forced to comply against her will.

A Light to My Path IIOne character who turned against me and my well-plotted plans was Kitty from my Civil War novel, “A Light to My Path.” She was a plantation slave who was supposed to escape. I had done tons of research about the Underground Railroad that I was eager to use. Grady, a fellow slave who she loved, was escaping with her. Conditions were perfect for a night-time getaway. But when the “now or never” moment came, Kitty refused to go. Grady left without her. And I was left with a plotting dilemma.

Depiction of the Underground Railroad
Depiction of the Underground Railroad

I could have forced Kitty to go, and maybe it would have turned out okay. Or maybe readers would have thrown my book across the room. From the moment I created Kitty, she was beaten down by her life of slavery. Her real name was Anna but her spoiled mistress renamed her and forced her to pretend she was a cat. Kitty was too terrified of the consequences to ever disobey. Slaves were chased down and mercilessly whipped for escaping. I researched the mosquito-filled, alligator-infested swampland on her escape route, and believe me, even the bravest soul might have refused. Kitty was not brave. To run away would have been completely out-of-character for her.

I used this swamp as inspiration
I used this swamp as inspiration

I’m now facing another stubborn character in the novel I’m currently writing. She has a difficult choice to make, one that’s going to affect the rest of her life—and the rest of my novel. I know what I want her to do. Readers will probably want her to do the opposite. But I’m relinquishing all of my plots and plans and letting her decide. She has to remain true to herself. I’m granting her free will.

My seventh grade art teacher was very surprised when I failed to turn in my paper. It was so out-of-character for me as an A student that she believed she had lost my paper. She asked if I still had the rough draft. Of course I didn’t. I would like to say that I confessed—but I didn’t. She asked if she could give me a B for the assignment and I agreed. I feel the guilt and shame of my deception to this day.

galatians-220_5618_1024x768I hope I’ve developed more honesty and integrity as I’ve matured in my Christian life. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I hope it would be out-of-character for me now to behave in an un-Christ-like way. I long to be true to His character in all of the decisions and choices I make. To do otherwise after the price He paid as the Author of my salvation, would be sheer, mule-headed stubbornness.

On This Foundation

It’s always an exciting day when my newest novel arrives in the mail, hot off the press. It’s especially exciting this year because On This Foundation is the third and final book in my biblical fiction series, “Restoration Chronicles.”S__ACB9

When readers asked me to write more biblical fiction like my “Chronicles of the Kings” series, the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah immediately came to mind. These two leaders showed enormous courage when they left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the city walls. On This Foundation tells how Nehemiah, who was the cupbearer for the King of Persia, became the architect and builder of Jerusalem’s defenses. In spite of fierce opposition and death threats from his enemies, he never doubted that the hand of God was with him.3-Lynn in front of main portion of Nehemiah's wall

I did extensive research in Jerusalem before I began writing this series because my goal is to stay as close to the scriptural text as possible—not adding to it, but merely filling in some of the historical and cultural background. Here are some of the pictures I took on my research trip:6-Nehemiah's wall 1

It was so amazing to view the archaeological discoveries in Jerusalem and actually see and touch Nehemiah’s wall, built more than 2,400 years ago!IMG_0970

And seeing the steepness of the slope made me appreciate how difficult his task must have been.1-Looking down at Nehemiah's wall

Chapter three of the biblical book of Nehemiah lists all the men who volunteered to rebuild a section of the wall. Then verse twelve offers this intriguing piece of information: “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.” I wonder what inspired these young women to volunteer for such an undertaking? And I wonder how the men working alongside them responded! You’ll have to read the book to see how I imagined these unique women’s story.

It’s my hope that these novels will bring the Bible to life and not only help readers visualize the stories, but also to see biblical characters as real flesh-and-blood people. It’s my prayer that the novels will draw readers back to the Bible so they’ll read it for themselves—and maybe understand its relevance to their own lives just a little bit better. Enjoy!S__A35F

To help me celebrate the release of “On This Foundation”, please email your name and e-mail address to LynnAustinBooks@gmail.com by Wednesday September 23rd for a chance to win one of two free copies.

And for my readers in the SW Michigan area, please join me at the Kregel Parable Christian bookstore in Grandville, Michigan on Thursday, October 1 from 7-9 pm where I’ll be speaking and signing my new book. I would love to meet you!

The Genesis of a Book

Candle in the Darkness IIOne of the questions authors are frequently asked is, where do our ideas come from. My answer? Everywhere! It seems different for me for each book. Since many of my readers have told me that Candle in the Darkness is their favorite book, here’s the story of how that novel came about.

dressesIt started when my musician husband, Ken, performed at a Civil War re-enactment with the “Yankee Brass Band.” I had never been to a re-enactment before, but as I wandered around the camp grounds and watched the mock battles, my creative juices began to flow. I interviewed dozens of participants and asked hundreds of questions. These re-enactors really know their history and are a treasure trove of information. The women gave me quite an education about the layers and layers of mysterious garments hiding beneath their voluminous skirts—and how they manage the privvy.

confederatesFilled with all this information and inspiration, I began researching the Civil War, planning a three-book series from three different viewpoints. The woman in the first book would be from the South, the second from the North, and the third would be a slave. Thanks to my local librarian, I found a diary entitled Richmond. During the War by Sallie Brock Putnam. This young woman lived in the Confederate capitol of Richmond,Virginia throughout the war, cheering enthusiastically for her beloved Confederate soldiers. She offers a day-by-day account of the fear she felt as the Union army advanced and how the sounds of cannon fire could be heard in the distance. Exciting stuff! She provided me with valuable information about which sites to explore on my research trip to Richmond.

wo and daughterAnother great resource was All the Daring of a Soldier by Elizabeth D. Leonard. She describes some of the amazing things that women did for both the North and the South during the war, including becoming spies. The woman in this picture ended up in prison with her little daughter for spying.

Picture1But the inspiration for my two main characters, Caroline and her faithful slave Eli, came from this photograph that I found during my research. The little girl is impeccably clothed in a white dress trimmed with lace; the slave’s clothing is worn and threadbare. Yet the love and trust between the two is obvious in the way they are holding onto each other. I knew I had to tell their story.

I keep all of these photographs on a bulletin board near my desk—the pictures copied from books and the ones I take myself on my research trips. And from all of these ingredients, and the spark of an idea that began at a Civil War reenactment, Candle in the Darkness was born.

Sneak Peek…

I love previews of coming attractions and sneak peeks, don’t you? Even though the release of my next novel is months away (September of 2015), I just have to share a peek at the fabulous new cover with you.BenShlim-Book-Cover

On This Foundation will be the final book in my biblical fiction trilogy “The Restoration Chronicles,” in which I tried to bring to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The series tells about the Jewish survivors after the destruction of Jerusalem and how God made a way for them to return to the Promised Land from captivity in Babylon. The prophet Zechariah is the main character in the first book, Return to Me, which describes how the first returning exiles rebuilt God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The second book, Keepers of the Covenant, is the story of Ezra’s efforts to restore true worship and reignite his people’s passion for God. The final book, On This Foundation, will feature Nehemiah and his mission to rebuild the city wall around Jerusalem.

ReturntoMe_mck.indd Keepers of the Covenant

I thought the art department at Bethany House Publishers would have a very hard time coming up with a third cover as beautiful as the first two—but they did it! Not only is it striking, but they managed to hint at some of the drama and action in this novel.

SAMSUNGThe designers always ask for my ideas and input into the cover design, and I thought it was important for the model who would portray Nehemiah to look Jewish. My daughter did some behind-the-scenes work and coaxed a Jewish friend of hers, Ben Shlimovitz, to come to the art studio and pose for the cover. Here are some outtakes from that photo shoot. I’m told that Ben was also a great help in getting the costuming right. Thank you Ben! Great job! I LOVE this cover!SAMSUNG

And now that I’ve generated some excitement about the book, I’m sorry to say that you won’t be able to read it until September. In the meantime, I’m taking an informal poll. Which of the three covers do you like best?

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BenShlim-Book-Cover

BenShlim-Book-Cover

KEEPERS OF THE COVENANT Kindle Giveaway and Live Author Chat with Lynn Austin!

keepers-pinterestBook two of The Restoration Chronicles series, Keepers of the Covenant, weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

I am celebrating with a Kindle HDX giveaway and a live author chat webcast on October 21st.

 

One winner will receive:

-A Kindle HDX

-Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Click here for more info:

Keepers of the Covenant Lynn Austin
 

 

 

 

 

Enter today by clicking here. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 21st. Winner will be announced at the Keepers of the Covenant LIVE webcast event on October 21st. Connect with me for a fascinating evening centered around God’s unwavering love for His people. I’ll be hosting a Biblical fiction book club discussion, giving away prizes, answering your questions, offering an exclusive peek at the next book in The Restoration Chronicles, and much more!

So grab your copy of Keepers of the Covenant and join me with friends on the evening of October 21st for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!

Keepers of the Covenant

{More about Keepers of the Covenant}

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king’s palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra’s brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude’s widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple–but the fight to keep God’s Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges…this one for the survival of God’s covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.