ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Claudia is the author of the popular Ragamuffin Diva blog and the David C. Cook novel Zora and Nicky: A novel in Black And White. She is also the author of Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz, and the Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries and the Exorsistah series for teens. Her work has appeared in Discipleship Journal magazine, The One Year Life Verse Devotional Bible, and Justice in the Burbs.
She lives in Michigan with her husband, five of their seven children, and a quirky dwarf rabbit.
ABOUT THE BOOK
SHE HAD A VISION OF CHRIST PLACING TWO PERFECT RED ROSES IN HER HANDS...AND THEN SHE WAS WOUNDED!
If a miracle happened to you, wouldn't you tell everyone? What if they thought you were crazy?
Gina Merritt, poor in health and rich in faith is the last person to expect a miracle to happen to her. As she sits in a pew on Ash Wednesday with throbbing pain in her knees and a raging migraine, she turns her concentration elsewhere and silently prays, "Share with me, Jesus."
Instantly she has a holy vision of the Son of God kneeling before her. As tears fill her eyes, Christ kisses Gina's hands, leaving two perfect red roses. When the vision fades, Gina's hands are bleeding.
Anthony Priest, the junkie sitting beside her, instinctively touches Gina when she cries out, but she flees in shock and pain. A prizewinning journalist before drugs destroyed his career, Anthony is stunned that he is suddenly overcome with a sense of well-being and he instantly knows that he is cured of his addiction. Wanting an explanation, Anthony follows Gina home.
Is it a miracle, or just a religious delusion? It seems like everyone who knows of the mysterious stigmata has an opinion, and it's not always favorable. Putting aside their difference and their mutual distrust, Gina and Anthony embark on a search for answers. Along the way they encounter an uncertain evangelical pastor, a gentle Catholic priest, a certifiable religious zealot, and a transvestite drug dealer, all of whom lend their voices to the tale. It's a quest for truth, sanity, and grace…and an unexpected love story.
Excerpt of chapter one:
Friar John-Francis walked to the podium and stood front and center before the large expectant congregation. His nerves had frayed at the edges like the rough Franciscan tunic he wore. A knot of nausea settles like a stone in his stomach. He willed himself to ignore it. It would be the first time he'd share the book in front of an audience─for her sake he wanted it to go well. The monk has been given all the grace a man should ever need, That he stood there at all was a miracle.
Still, he stroked his scraggly beard, an anxious gesture.
Oh Lord, make haste to help me.
God must have taken pity. Bible verses flew like angels to his aid. He cleared his throat and inclined himself toward the microphone, clutching the edges of the cool wood. A deep breath. And another, before he prayed a few words based on Psalm 69.
"God, You know how foolish I am."
Twitters of laughter sprang up from the audience. His cheeks must not be made fools of, Yahweh Sabaoth, because of me! Those who seek You must not be disgraced, God of Israel, because of me!"
Smoothing the pages of the novel flat with his palm, he peered at his listeners. The gently friar knew that inevitable skeptics lurked in the crowd.
God makes provisions for them, too.
The thought came to him in her voice. She would remember her enemies kindly.
He took a moment and studied the faces staring at him, some with open, eager expressions; others guarded, as if they'd come armed with a refusal to believe. He sighed. The only way in it…is to begin it. But Friar John-Francis couldn't help thinking of all the travail it took for this book to be born. All the sorrow and suffering that made it possible. If they only knew exactly how much this cost.
It wasn't Holy Scripture. Only God knew how many people would bother to read it, but to him the book was sacramental. Isaiah 53 came to mind: "Who would believe what we have heard?" No comforting answer surfaced. He'd have to trust God to convince them. It was a good story. Truthful, whether or not anyone believed it.
"Let me tell you a story," he said.
Regina Dolores Merritt
I was sitting in church at the Vineyard when Christ first wounded me. Minutes earlier Mike had fingered a cross of ashes onto my forehead.
Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
Sounds like a plan. I shuffled away from him.
Throbbing pain in my knees heaved my steps─that, and the grim mood of my fellow pilgrims. You'd have thought Mike had forced us to peer inside our own caskets. We trudged back to our seats like mourners in a funeral procession, our footfalls a solemn largo on the red-flecked carpet.
For the heck of it, I pictured my tombstone:
Here lies Regina Dolores Merritt.
The world's oldest twenty-four-year-old.
Mother of Zoe.
To torment myself I filled the blank space after Zoe's name with all of the people I didn't have to love me. That made me want to throw down a punch bowl like Florida Evans did on Good Times when her husband died. I imagined shaking my fists to the heavens, shouting, "Dang! Dang! Dang!"
She didn’t say dang, but I don't cuss.
That was my darkest moment during the whole service, and it had more to do with my life. Death would be an upgrade.
We didn't do somber much at the Vineyard West. Not that we were shallow, but let's fave it, joy themes garner much more enthusiasm, On Ash Wednesday, however, we cloaked ourselves in sorrow and wore our ashes like nuns wear habits.