This Christmas feels different. For me, for the first time in forever, it's not about the hustle and bustle. It's not about the lights and the presents. It's about God. About what He did, invading our sin-soaked world, evading those who wished to kill Him before He ever spoke one word, and devoting His life, here on earth, for one sole purpose: To pay a penalty we could never repay in a thousand lifetimes. Name one other God who did that.
You can't. Because none exist. All other gods demand something from the worshipper as payment. A baby son or daughter to burn in the fire. A trek across hot coals. A climb up a gazillion steps on one's hands and knees. A debilitating depravation of food and water. Do these things, and that god or goddess may allow you to enter their presence. They are all "religions of human achievement."
But not Christianity. It is the "religion of Divine accomplishment." Our God came to us. Our God realized there was nothing we could do to earn a seat at His table. Perfect adherence to the Law couldn't do it, because no human could pull it off. So, if our God wanted to be like the other gods, then He would have left us alone, to burn in hell for all eternity. His rightful response to any questions about His lack of love would have been, "All you had to do was follow the one rule of the garden in Eden. It was that simple. Believe in me. Trust my Word. But instead, you believed in the Serpent, believed his lies, and thought me to be the jealous con artist and the crook, trying to keep you from getting all that was coming to you. But you see, it was never about the tree, really. It was about Truth. And what is not the truth. Who you should believe in and who you should not trust. Sadly, you failed the test. You chose the serpent, so with him you shall reside for all eternity."
I am so happy God did not end the story there. From Genesis 3 on, the Bible is a love story about a God - as awesome and fearful as He is - who came down to earth and dwelt among us. Why? So He could redeem those who cannot redeem themselves. Once we accept this gift, then our allegiance changes from one devoted to self to one devoted to God.
The Babe in the manger. The work of the Holy Spirit. The work of God. It's all because of Him, and for Him.
That's what we are celebrating on the Florida Front Porch this holiday season!
With wind-whipped storms spiraling down from the plains to mini-heatwaves pushing back from the tropics, it's December in Florida, where 359,000 moved to in the last twelve months, according to a report I just read. Soon, the peninsula will break off, because of the weight, and float out into the Atlantic. If it doesn't sink, then all that land becomes island property. And those of us in the interior suddenly have oceanfront views. It's a win-win (wink-wink).
known to us as the husband and wife writing duo, Matthew and Bethany Aznoe!
In ABTS fashion, give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is M. B. Aznoe?
Being the writing duo we are, we seek to explore God’s faithfulness through fantasy, because we can wrestle with real-life struggles without the real-life baggage that often gets in the way. Our main desire is to encourage and challenge people toward a deeper walk with Jesus.
Obviously, you are married? Tell us more.
Yes, we have been married for over twenty
years, and God has blessed us with six children (5 teenage boys, and one
Congratulations! Twenty years. A great milestone!
For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?
In addition to a house full of kids, we have a dog
named Peppermint (a black lab mix who tops the scales at a hundred pounds), a
cat named Glacier (a stray who graciously adopted us and manages to tolerate
our presence), and a hamster named Lachonk (who pretty much just does his
I saw a sign in a veterinarian's office once that read: "Dogs think they're human. Cats think they're God." That is so true!
Do you have a
favorite line from a movie or book? If so, what is it and explain why it is
special to you?
Since we are two people, we have two lines.
The first is from the movie, The Two Towers:
Frodo asks Samwise, “What are we holding onto, Sam?”
Samwise responds, “That there is
some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it's worth fighting for.”
The second is by J.R.R. Tolkien from the book, The Fellowship of the Ring.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Sometimes it feels like we are living in one of those times
where we really would rather not be. But God has placed each of us here for a
purpose. These quotes remind us that we are not only placed here for a purpose,
but we are called to fight “the good fight” of faith.
Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?
We are both musical people. Matt plays the keyboard, and Bethany plays the bass guitar. We serve on the worship team at our church and like to write songs (some of which have managed to make their way into our books). Bethany is also an excellent cook and loves experimenting with new recipes that she creates on the fly. Matt is a skilled software engineer and, in addition to his professional work, is working on an application to generate chord sheets that he hopes to someday release to the wild.
We are actively working on the fifth and final book of the Swordflower Saga. It has been a real challenge to complete due to many life struggles in the past two years. However, the end is in sight, and we feel like we’re finally getting a handle on the complex conclusion to our series. We’re hoping to be done by March of 2024.
Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?
We write whenever we can find a spare couple of hours, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening. Matt works a standard 9-5 day job, and we are both active in our church. These combined with having six children who all live at home makes finding those hours a real challenge sometimes. We have a writing nook set up in our bedroom with a large monitor that we can share. We take turns typing while the other offers suggestions or corrections or does research on their cell phone.
Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?
Find a good writing group… like Word Weavers! Seriously though, we published our first four books without having one. There were many ups and downs and several mistakes we think could have been avoided if we had been a part of a writing group. A great writing group encourages you and gives helpful feedback on your work-in-progress. It is so rewarding, and it revives you with renewed energy to get your project done.
This is so true. Writing is one of those professions where encouragement from those "in the know" helps so much.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
We get asked this question a lot, especially because our character names are often quite exotic. We start with a good understanding of the culture and language of whatever character we are naming in our fantasy world. Each of the cultures in our books have their own specific sound and feel to the names they use. The Auxlanders have a more guttural, consonant-heavy tone and often use the near-silent “h”, while the Jyrye have a more fluid, light feel using a lot of “ya” (female) and “ye” (male). One other trick we have used in our current series was to use Biblical names that are transliterated into the native language of that character. For example, Aaron became Ahron. David became Davyed. We even devoted a section of our website to sound clips for all of the people, places, and things in our make-believe world.
On a fun side note, Khomar Tyrinian was originally the name of an old role-playing character that Matt used back in college. The name was brought forward into the series and split into two different characters. The characters themselves are quite a bit different from the original.
What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?
We live crazy, but not in the way people might
typically associate with that term. God calls; we follow and leave the rest in
His hands. One instance of this was when we moved to Texas solely because we
felt God would have us attend a specific church there. We lived in a small, 900
sq. ft apartment with our (at the time) 5 boys until God provided us a bigger
space to live. Years later, when we were living in Kalispell, MT (near Glacier
National Park), we felt called to pastor a small church in Poplar, MT (on the
flat eastern side of the state on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation). So Matt
left his computer
programming job, and we headed east to heed that call.
Why do you live where you live now?
After pouring ourselves into the church in Poplar, we were approaching burn-out. Matt was called out of the blue by a pastor friend of ours, and as he was explaining all that was going on, our friend suggested that we come down to Florida to rest for a while. Filled with a peace that this was God’s answer to our prayers, we left for Florida. We did not have a job lined up nor even a place to live. We just packed our belongings into a storage unit and headed south. God not only provided us a job and a home in which to live, but He also gave us a church with a great youth pastor for our kids which was sorely needed. In addition, He led us to Word Weavers of Lake County. They have been a tremendous encouragement. We had been struggling to write again after our recent experiences, and they gave us the support and enthusiasm we desperately needed.
What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?
There are so many scriptures that have carried us through both difficult and amazing circumstances over the years. As a result, we had a hard time narrowing it down, but we settled on Romans 8:28.
“And we know that all things work
together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his
Some might find this answer cliché, but for us, it has truly been a lifeline that we’ve clung to through some pretty dark and trying times. As the old hymn “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” says,
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him.
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus.
Oh for grace to trust Him more!”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?
Our writing journey began after we watched an episode of Deep Space Nine. We spent over an hour complaining to one another about their inaccurate portrayal of marriage in that particular episode. Finally, we stopped and looked at one another as the thought struck us: why were we complaining about someone else’s work? We should write our own.
We had been talking about it for years, and each of us had created separate fantasy worlds, characters, and ideas. We joined them together, combining the strongest elements of each, and set to writing a compelling story with a more realistic view of marriage. And thus spawned the Swordflower Saga!
Interesting how each writer has his or her own story about what launched them into the career they have forged.
Well, readers, like always, we encourage you, if interested, to find out more about our guests by checking them out via their social media outlets. You can find M. B. Aznoe in the following locations:
X, formerly Twitter: https://twitter.com/mbaznoe
Until next time, Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year!