Tag Archives: Doubt

Guest Post: My OWL Story

I met Rachael Hartman last July at a Christian publishing event in Orlando, Florida. Recently she followed up and we met at my offices in New York City. During our conversation she told me her “OWL” story which I felt mirrored my own encounter with God way back in 1987. Rachael has graciously given me permission to post her story on my blog site. I think you will enjoy it.

My OWL Story

By Rachael Hartman


God speaks to each of us in ways we will understand. Sometimes He uses our quirks and imagination to spur His way in our lives. I am thankful God knows how to speak to me, and I hear the silent messages He speaks into my heart and mind, and are confirmed by His Word.

One of the most significant words I received from the Lord gave me the hope I needed to keep going forward in the midst of depression. It also paved the way for me to receive God’s call on my life to write and publish for His Kingdom.

It began with silliness on my part. I always had a sort of artistic way of looking at the world around me. I thought various people looked a lot like animals. I had a pastor once who truly looked like a turtle, straining his little neck out of his suit and tie shell. I thought one of my bosses looked like the human alternative to a beaver or a nutty squirrel. These were people I truly respected and loved, but I couldn’t deny their animal-like features.

I always wanted to know what kind of animal I would see myself as. I couldn’t think of anything based on my looks, but I figured I was an owl because of my glasses and all the time I spent at the library and in college. Around the time I discovered I was an “owl,” God began to use my silly perspective to speak to me.

It was 2008 and my emotional life was pretty much in shambles. The three years leading to this point, 2005 to 2008, were the hardest of my life. I felt as if I were living in a spiritual wilderness. I was in constant battle—mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. It was crushing, and I had to acknowledge some difficult truths. I felt as if my life was falling apart, and it was. Everything I knew to be stable was shaking.

In my quest for healing, I sought the face of God in a church in Texas where I experienced unconditional acceptance, and so my healing journey began.

One night after church and I was driving down a dark, East Texas road. A large owl swooped down to capture its prey in the middle of the road, and sadly flew right into my driver’s side windshield. As I turned around and pulled over to check on the poor bird, my bright headlights beamed into his eyes. He wobbled a little and looked at me, quite confused.

At that moment I heard the still, small voice of God speak to me. “You’ve been hit really hard,” He said, “but you are going to fly again.” At that very moment, the owl flew away. It was a sign from God; I was going to be okay.

A few weeks after my encounter with the owl, I was in Austin for a church conference. I met two ladies who spoke words of encouragement into my life and continued to add to my owl story.

The first lady said, “I don’t know anything about your life, but I feel like you’ve been living in darkness for a long time, and the light of God’s sun is going to start shining into your life.”

The second lady did not hear what the first one said. After a service, she came up to me and said, “Brightness. Brightness. All I see is brightness.”

Driving home through the Piney Woods after the conference there was another “owl confirmation” that God was leading me to better times. Perched on a road sign was an owl, in the brightness of day, eyes wide open. I had never seen an owl out in the day time before.

Later, God told me I had to learn to “see through the darkness” and go after what He was calling me to do.

About a month later, God confirmed my call to write and publish. The silent statement was clear, “I’ve given you everything you need to write and publish books.”

I knew God was calling me to write the stories of people who had lived in darkness and overcome to live in the light through the blood of Jesus. These stories would bring the hope of Christ to people in difficult situations.

The name of my business came next—Our Written Lives of Hope, or OWL of Hope for short.

The name was partially inspired by the history of Isle of Hope in the Savannah, Georgia area. In early days, Isle of Hope was known as a place where all kinds of people lived together despite the treacherous times of slavery and other evils shrouding the old South.

My “owl experience” and call to write and publish occurred during the time I was working for the local newspaper and taking a break from grad school.

When would I find the time to write a book? I knew I was using too much creative energy at the newspaper. I had to change careers if I was going to write for Jesus. The Lord opened the doors, and I relocated to the Fort Hood area for a job. It was there I began to look for the first story God would allow me the honor to write. It would be two years before He brought me the story He chose.

After two layoffs and another move, this time to Fort Polk, Louisiana, God’s timing kicked in. In July 2012, I began writing my first book titled Angel, The True Story of an Undeserved Chance. It was the life testimony of a woman I met at church. Her name was Angel. She had an amazing testimony of deliverance, and I had a desire to write a book for the Lord. God led us to start the project though we had barely met. Eleven months later, in June of 2013, we had the book in hand, and I had officially established Our Written Lives of Hope, LLC.

To date in 2016, I am working with over 20 authors, and have 23 published books in the OWL collection. Back when I received the call, I had no idea God would bless my business so quickly and swiftly. I still don’t know the extent of what He had in mind when He planted the vision to write and publish for His Kingdom into my mind and heart. I’m excited to see what the future holds, and I’m looking forward to learning and sharing the God-stories of our generation.

I’m still an “owl.” I’ve had people call me “the owl lady” and they send me all kinds of owl gifts, (even though I have no desire to collect owls). Just today I came home from a trip to New York City, and waiting for me was an owl tee-shirt a friend sent to me. It seems like every time I have doubt or fear about the future, God sends me an owl of some kind to remind me of where He’s brought me from, and who I am in Him.

He truly does speak to us all in unique and individual ways that align with His Word. We just have to listen.

An Encounter on Park Avenue

My routine for getting to work in the morning is predictable: I walk through Grand Central Station to 42nd Street and start down Park Avenue on foot, rain or shine, hot or cold. Before I began using my feet to get to my office building on West 20th Street, I would catch a subway. My initial reason for walking was health, but that wasn’t it exactly. The clustered morning crowds, pushing and shoving to get onto the departing train had finally lost its appeal. As I would battle for a place on the next southbound local, Ezra Pound’s short poem “In the Station of the Metro” would often echo in my mind:

In the Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

In the Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound

My homebound journey was different. By the time the day was done so was I. My mind fixated on getting to my destination in the fastest, most convenient way possible. Often that meant catching the #6 subway at 23rd Street on Park Avenue.

One day not very long ago, I left the office in my usual haste and headed for the subway stop. I hit Park Avenue at 20th Street and turned north to get to the underground train that would quickly deliver me to Grand Central and the waiting trains heading out to the suburbs.

As I walked up Park Avenue, I noticed a man sitting on the steps of a church. I had noticed him before. He had an empty cup in his right hand and while he was dressed well enough, he clearly was looking for money. I passed him by, but then stopped short as I remembered I had some quarters and other coins in my pocket.  As I dug for money, I looked the gentleman in the eye and he unexpectedly uttered: “You are a good man.”

I suppose there was a time when I would have agreed with his words; after all, wasn’t I about to give this man some money from my own pocket?  I said nothing as I searched for the change. When I finally found the coins, I dropped them into his Styrofoam cup. Then he said it again: “You are a good man.”

An Encounter on Park Avenue

I could have said nothing at all, but I could not be silent. Instead, I spontaneously said, “No I’m not. I am no better than you.” He looked at me to see what I might have meant. I don’t know what he was thinking, but my remark got me thinking. At the core he and I were both beggars; it was just that his apparent condition was more extreme than mine, at least for the moment.

When I reflected on this encounter during the train ride home, I recalled two instances where Jesus taught on the issue of poverty through the eyes of God. The first story involved a rich, young ruler who wanted to know how he might earn “eternal life”. He addressed Jesus as “Good teacher” but Jesus replied by asking “Why do you call me good?” He then said, “No one is good but God.” (Mark 10:17-18)

The second instance is a parable Jesus told to “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else”. Jesus contrasts the prayers of a religious leader with the prayer of a repentant tax collector. The leader prays, “God, thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector.” Meanwhile, the tax collector simply prays, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus then says to those listening: “I tell you that this man (the tax collector), rather than the other went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

So what did I mean when I said, “I am no better than you”? While it is impossible for us to discern all the complex motives of our own hearts, I was definitely not being falsely humble. I really mean it. In the eyes of God this man and I stood before Him as equals, though in the eyes of the world, we did not. In the past I might have adopted the world’s view, which would have made me equal in self-righteousness to the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, even though I had seemed to perform an act of generosity. I had clearly changed because I recognized in this encounter the need of two men for a savior, not just one.

A Light in the Ruins

An American friend, who lived in Ukraine as a missionary, told me an interesting story about an encounter he had with a young woman during his time there.

She was comfortable living in a godless world. Quote from Light in the RuinsThe story goes that this young woman was giving my friend a tour of the city of Odessa. As they walked from place to place, she began to open up a little and at one point she professed that she couldn’t understand how people believed in something so silly, archaic, and irrational as the existence of God. She was not belligerent; she was merely firm in the belief that her worldview was enlightened and progressive. There was no room in her world for what she considered to be an ancient and discredited myth. She was comfortable living in a godless world.

As they continued, they came to an area of town that starkly revealed the remnant ruins of the devastations of World War ll. The splintered bricks and hollowed out structures were fragments of a once populated and noisy place where families raised their children and lived normal lives. Now this area was nothing more than a wasteland where grass gripped the soil for dear life.

As they gazed on this desolate scene, my friend turned to the young woman and gently said, “Take a look at these shattered buildings. If you want to have an idea of what the world really looks like without God, here it is.” She surveyed the ashes of a city that once was thriving without uttering a word. My friend wondered whether she was linking this picture of the fruits of war with the political and intellectual effort to banish God once and for all. The woman lingered.  Asking herself the same questions many of us would be at that exact moment: Why did this happen? Why is there so much death, disease and suffering in the world? Is this a world without God?

My missionary friend told me that he believed that moment in Odessa touched the heart of this young woman. He did not preach to her, he merely allowed the surroundings to paint a contrasting picture of the fullness and abundance of a world filled with love to a world absent of everything most people consider good.

Man without God is a war zone.

Man without God is a war zone. Quote from Light in the Ruins


Doubt, Faith, and What is Possible with God

2013-11-03 10.34.21Now that I have blogged the story behind the story of the book GETTING TO KNOW JESUS (pub date 12/2/2015), I want to share my sense of trepidation behind this wonderful odyssey.

I am sure you have experienced a sense of doubt and even fear when you are about to set out toward destinations unknown. This is the way I felt right before leaving for Alaska a few weeks ago. I worried about all the bad things that might happen, most of them concoctions of an overactive imagination; if permitted, our minds can transform a tiny sound in the dark into a fearsome attacking grizzly or an intruder in the night.

But launching a book is so much worse than travel because the doubts and fears are reality based. I know this from my years of experience in the book business. Books are published daily that rarely live up to the author’s high hopes. The title comes and goes without creating even the slightest blip on the publishing radar screen and the indifferent world moves relentlessly on.

Doubt creeps in because I do know the facts of publishing life and I know even worthy books may disappoint. So what keeps me going?  Why do I set sail on a sea of troubles despite everything I know about the difficulties of reaching my hoped for destination?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. I see the publication of GETTING TO KNOW JESUS as the next step in a mission that may end up defining the very meaning of my life. Sometimes mission supersedes mere economic or practical calculation. If we all spent our waking hours assessing probabilities, we would never emerge from our shaded bedrooms.

rich_young_ruler_hofmannAnd then I look to the greatest model of all, Jesus, who faced incalculable odds at every turn and used prayer always when faced with a crossroads decision. In several instances in the gospel accounts, Jesus tells us plainly that if we are foolish enough to bank on our own powers, we will undoubtedly realize those fears that inhibit our will to act. He says, referring to the Rich Young Man who would not follow Jesus when invited, “With man this is impossible [to turn from this life to God], but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) (The September 14 podcast is about the story of the Rich Young Man.)

It is not my strength, my writing, my career or anything else I might claim as my own. I proved conclusively in 1989 that my life apart from God was a shipwreck. No, my hope rests not on my own strength; it is on the power of the Holy Spirit that will guide me wherever He wills and by the power of His spirit I will truly follow wherever it might take me. Ultimately, it is faith that neutralizes doubt.