Thursday, April 30, 2009

CFBA Review - Nothing But Trouble

REMINDER: Remember to leave a comment on this post by 10:00 AM CDT Friday (5/01) for a chance to win an autographed copy of Vicki Courtney's book Logged In and Tuned Out!

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This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Nothing But Trouble

Tyndale House Publishers (May 1, 2009)


Susan May Warren

Susan grew up in Wayzata, a suburb of Minneapolis, and became an avid camper from an early age. Her favorite fir-lined spot is the north shore of Minnesota is where she met her husband, honeymooned and dreamed of living.

The north woods easily became the foundation for her first series, The Deep Haven series, based on a little tourist town along the shores of Lake Superior. Her first full-length book, Happily Ever After, became a Christy Award Finalist, published in 2004 with Tyndale/Heartquest.

As an award winning author, Susan returned home in 2004 to her native Minnesota after serving for eight years with her husband and four children as missionaries with SEND International in Far East Russia. She now writes full time from Minnesota's north woods and the beautiful town that she always dreamed of living in.

You can sample a chapter of each and every one of Susan's novels, on her website, HERE.

PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:

1) After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that's become her life, she needs a fresh start.

2) The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister's wedding is Boone-her former flame and the reason she left town.

3) Her best friend's husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn't know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she'll uncover much more than she bargained for-a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she's been longing for.

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her home town, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder—who also happens to be PJ's former flame—is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend’s husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nothing But Trouble, go HERE

PJ Sugar may be Nothing But Trouble, but author Susan May Warren is Nothing but Talented! This book is full of adventures and mishaps that sometimes gave me a chuckle and at other times made me cringe. While much of it is resolved by the end of the book, it's obvious that more mayhem is ahead for PJ in upcoming installments. Although it has plenty of entertainment value, this book's primary appeal lies in PJ's quest to figure out how her relatively new trust in God will affect the relationships she is somewhat reluctantly renewing as she returns to her hometown. And that is the challenge for us all - taking our faith out of the pews and into our daily lives. This is a great addition for your summer reading list!

Happy Reading!


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Vicki Courtney & an Autographed Giveaway

UPDATE: Friday, 5/1 at 10:50 a.m.:

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-05-01 15:48:58 UTC

Congrats to Bridgett! Email me your address and I'll send the book your way!

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Tuesday night I had the privilege of helping with Vicki Courtney's Logged On and Tuned Out event at our church. Those who were there were encouraged to parent their children in the technological realm. It just amazes me to watch this (which Vicki showed at the event and which she posted on her blog back in January) and hear that the girl's dad thinks it's fine because "it doesn't interfere with other activities" -- in spite of the fact that she washes dishes with one hand and texts in the shower! Vicki addressed cell phones and social networking sites and ended with a Q & A session.

I always love working the book table when I have the opportunity. And I had the presence of mind to pick up a copy of her book Logged On and Tuned Out, which Vicki autographed just before she left, to give to one of you! Just leave a comment on this post and tell me which area causes the most concern for you: 1) cell phones and texting 2) the potential for sexting and/or cyberbullying, or 3) social networks like Facebook. Continental US residents only, please. Please respond by 10:00 a.m. CDT tomorrow (Friday, May 1) and I'll draw a winner.

BTW, Vicki is giving away TWO of her hot-off-the-UPS-truck 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter Bible Study/DVD Kit on her blog right now! Check it out!

Happy Reading and Discerning Parenting!


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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Books and a Giveaway

UPDATE: Thursday, 4/30 at 1:40 p.m.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-04-30 18:37:21 UTC

Congrats to Sara! The book will soon be on its way to you!

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I have a double feature of books by Jane Kirpatrick to tell you about, along with a giveaway!

A Flickering Light
Jane Kirkpatrick

Returning to her Midwest roots, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick draws a page from her grandmother’s photo album to capture the interplay between shadow and light, temptation and faith that marks a woman’s pursuit of her dreams.

She took exquisite photographs,
but her heart was the true image exposed.

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele loves nothing more than capturing a gorgeous Minnesota landscape when the sunlight casts its most mesmerizing shadows. So when F.J. Bauer hires her in 1907 to assist in his studio and darkroom, her dreams for a career in photography appear to find root in reality.

With the infamous hazards of the explosive powder used for lighting and the toxic darkroom chemicals, photography is considered a man’s profession. Yet Jessie shows remarkable talent in both the artistry and business of running a studio. She proves less skillful, however, at managing her growing attraction to the very married Mr. Bauer.

This luminous coming-of-age tale deftly exposes the intricate shadows that play across every dream worth pursuing—and the irresistible light that beckons the dreamer on.

Although this is a fiction book, as indicated above Jane Kirpatrick based this on her grandmother's youth. The determination of Jessie to become a photographer in the days when few women had dared to attempt such a vocation was inspiring. Her maturity in dealing with many of the challenges that came her way was admirable. Yet in spite of her maturity, she is still very naive. I found myself sympathizing with each of the characters - with Jessie in her desperate attempts to follow her dream, with Mrs. Bauer in her mental and emotional struggles in a time when little was understood about such things, and with Mr. Bauer in his rejection by his wife. This book is a great reminder not to place ourselves (or allow our daughters to be drawn) into situations where familiarity and admiration can open doors we should leave firmly closed. Through her photography, Jessie learns much about life itself, and these parallels are expertly described in sectional "forwards", accompanied by actual photographs taken by the author's grandmother.

I looked at this fine photograph. . .and remembered. . .the source and understanding of light marks a portrait master. I held that thought close, ever grateful for the lesson, hoping always to reflect that learning in my life.

View the book trailer:

Jane Kirkpatrick

Wrap yourself in a fantastic journey,
a remarkable commitment, and a spare and splendid story

Master storyteller Jane Kirkpatrick extols the beautiful treasures, unknown to a wider public, rediscovered in the Old Aurora Colony of Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. The people and legacy of Aurora, a utopian community founded in the mid-1800s, will stir your imagination, hopes, and dreams; and remind you that every life matters—that our lives are the stories other people read first.

Unique and treasured quilt pattern variations
More than 100 photographs, many never-before published, from 1850 to today
Cherished stories from Aurora descendants
Rich images of fine crafts from the Aurora Colony and private collections
An introduction by renowned American artist John Houser

Aurora is about the difference every ordinary life can make—and a beautiful celebration of a time and place in which people expressed their most cherished beliefs through the work of their imagination and hands.

This is a beautiful book containing a peek into the life of a close-knit group of settlers in the tiny settlement of Aurora, Oregon. Life was a challenge as many of the items needed had to be made or "cobbled together" from the materials they had. Then there was the challenge of simply staying alive, well-fed and healthy. The founder of the community, Dr. Keil, and his wife buried six of their nine children. Four of them, including 12-year-old Aurora, for whom the colony was named, died of smallpox just prior to Christmas 1862. Yet in the midst of such heartache and difficulty beauty arose, and the book is filled with beautiful pictures of quilts, embroidery, and weavings from this community. And for the quilting buffs, patterns and directions for two quilts are included in the back of the book.

Here is the book trailer:

Jane Kirkpatrick is a best-selling, award-winning author whose previous historical novels include All Together in One Place and Christy Award finalist A Tendering in the Storm. An international keynote speaker, she has earned regional and national recognition for her stories based on the lives of actual people, including the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Hall of Fame. Jane is a Wisconsin native who since 1974 has lived in Eastern Oregon, where she and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 rugged acres.

Jane has a great website, which includes a blog where she talks more about the fact vs. fiction aspect of her writing and the role that photoographs played in unlocking the mystery of her family relationships.


I have an extra copy of A Flickering Light for one of you. Leave a copy on this post by 12 noon CDT tomorrow (Thursday, 4/30) and I'll draw a winner. Continental US residents only, please

Happy reading!


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Winner of What Happens When Women Say Yes to God

Well, whaddaya know, Lysa TerKeurst was the first name that popped up to win her own book, so I stirred the pot and drew again. But I will send Lysa something and I know just the thing!

So here's the "real" winner!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-04-29 03:24:59 UTC

Congrats to Kelly at Love Well! Tell you what, Kelly: you send me that cute baby Teyla, and I'll send you the book, 'kay?

No? Hmmph. Fine. I guess I'll settle for your address.

I've got giveaways overflowing this week, people. I'm typing as fast as I can! Stay tuned!


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Review - A Vote of Confidence

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Vote Of Confidence

Zondervan (April 2009)


Robin Lee Hatcher


Robin Lee Hatcher discovered her vocation as a novelist after many years of reading everything she could put her hands on, including the backs of cereal boxes and ketchup bottles. The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction (Whispers from Yesterday), the RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance (Patterns of Love and The Shepherd's Voice), two RT Career Achievement Awards (Americana Romance and Inspirational Fiction), and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

In A Vote of Confidence, the stage is set for some intriguing insight into what it was like during 1915 to be a woman in a “man's world.”

Guinevere Arlington is a beautiful young woman determined to remain in charge of her own life, For seven years, Gwen has carved out a full life in the bustling town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, where she teaches piano and writes for the local newspaper. Her passion for the town, its people, and the surrounding land prompt Gwen to run for mayor. After all, who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?

But stepping outside the boundaries of convention can get messy. A shady lawyer backs Gwen, believing he can control her once she’s in office. A wealthy newcomer throws his hat into the ring in an effort to overcome opposition to the health resort he’s building north of town. When the opponents fall in love, everything changes, forcing Gwen to face what she may have to lose in order to win.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Vote Of Confidence, go HERE

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. And I thoroughly enjoy living in modern days! Because although this is a work of fiction, much of the political environment described in this book was all too real. And while I don't like many of the connotations of the word "feminist", I'm glad there were women like Gwen who dared to break the molds and not settle for being a puppet on the end of a man's string. Of course, some things are as old as time itself. Like greed. And deception. Stubbornness. And of course, love. Gwen's spunk and determination made me smile. She was determined not to lose the election because of a man. And equally determined not to win it because of a man. Will she win the day, or lose it all?

I give this book A Vote of Confidence! Happy Reading!


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Another BFF

I featured Lysa TerKeurst yesterday and the fun I had seeing her at the Expo. (Don't forget to comment on that post by 4:00 this afternoon for a chance to win her book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God!) An unexpected bonus was seeing one of my other Proverbs 31 BFFs - Renee Swope.

Renee and I are long-time friends now, seeing as how she spoke at our church's Ladies Retreat about three or four years ago (a memorable event due to her incoming flight experiencing a glitch in Dallas when a bird was sucked into an engine, unusually frigid temperatures, the power going out during the retreat, and our almost getting iced in at the end!). I also had the privilege of seeing her at the Girls Night Out in January in Houston.

I can even prove we're close friends. So close we coordinate our wardrobe.

Now don't be destroying my bloggy illusion. That's just mean!

Renee is a busy gal. She serves as Executive Director of Radio, Devotions and Speaking for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Renee travels throughout the country with her own busy speaking schedule. In addition to coordinating the Radio Ministry, she shares microphone duties with Lysa in presenting the daily one-minute devotional spots, which are heard on hundreds of stations across the United States, Canada, and throughout the world. (Find the station closest to you here!) You can also listen to the devotions here or read them here, I love her blog, which is full of inspiration and insight.

Renee is open and authentic in her sharing about her journey with Christ, from her difficulties as a child to her struggle with clinical depression. She is passionate about the Lord, and prays "that my love for Him and His Word will be contagious and that women will leave wanting to know Him, be known by Him, and make Him one, to some or to many!"

Renee and her husband, JJ, are parents of two boys, and they are eagerly anticipating the adoption of a daughter or two from Ethiopia.

I encourage you to spend some time visiting Renee if you don't already know her. She's my BFF but I'll share!


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Monday, April 27, 2009

What Happens When Bloggers Say Yes to a Giveaway!

I love blogging.

Especially the illusion that accompanies it. The illusion that I am BFF with Famous Women! An illusion that is fed by the fact that, contrary to preconceived notions, some of these Famous Women are completely unpretentious, down-to-earth, and authentic in their interactions and their walk with God. (And that is no illusion!)

One of these BFFs that I was very excited about stalking seeing at the Expo is Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I l-o-v-e that gal! Many of you are familiar with Lysa through her wise, often witty, and very real blog. I am soooo not into speakers who think they are all that with a cherry on top. (Why do they need my support if they are their own #1 fan?!) Lysa's humility shines through her blog. Whether sharing about a moment with her daughter, lamenting about the latest hamester demise, reflecting on marital moments, chastising her children, or dealing with delectable dessert temptation, Lysa is open, honest, entertaining, and insightful. And full of God's truth. This is a woman who walks with God. She makes me smile, and she makes me think. And she's just fun to be around!

Here she is, speaking at the Friday evening worship session at the Expo. And while it appears that she could be pointing out what a cute outfit she has on, let me just say her brief 5-10 minute talk was packed with passion. I wanted to yell out "Preach it, sistah!"

I'm sure she's quite relieved that I controlled myself.

Her book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God is as fresh and down-to-earth as Lysa herself. Beginning with the story of the day she said yes to God (albeit reluctantly after a bit of arguing!) and gave her beloved Bible away to a man on an airplane, Lysa writes from a heart of understanding because she faces the same struggles as you and I but has learned the joy of radical obedience.

How easy it is to obey partially. Obeying just enough to give the right Christian appearance is not the obedience God desires. He looks past all the outside trappings and misguided intentions straight to the heart. He wants our full attention and absolute devotion. Don't mistake this to look like a bunch of Christianese-speaking robots walking around chanting the rules of God. No, women who say yes to God are as unique in their approach to the sold-out life for Christ as pebbles found creekside. We've all been tumbled and smoothed in different ways, but we all have one thing in common...we know we rest in the mighty hand of God. We live in anticipation and expectation of God showing up and giving evidence of how very near He always is. (p. 114)
Each chapter concludes with Bible Study questions, making this ideal for a group or accountability partner setting.

I have a copy of this book, autographed by Lysa at the Expo, for one of you who is ready to see What Happens When Women Say Yes to God! Leave a comment on this post by 4:00 p.m. CDT Tuesday (4/28) and I will pick a winner. (Continental US Residents only, please.)

You can also purchase this book directly from Lysa's website, Amazon, or your local Christian bookstore.


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Whole New Meaning to a Familiar Bible Chapter

Well, lo and behold. You learn something new every day.

I cut my teeth on the crib in the church nursery. I have been to more Bible Studies, retreats, Sunday School classes, Sunday night classes (which have run the gamut of being called Training Union, Church Training, Discipleship Training, and a few other "trainings"), etc. You get the picture. And while I certainly don't claim to be an expert on the Bible, there are some chapters and passages that I have known inside out and backwards & forwards for years.

Or so I thought. Until our Ladies Retreat this weekend.

I Corinthians 13. The Love Chapter, right? How many of you had the middle portion of it read at your wedding? Or use it as a sort of litmus test for evaluating your marriage?

While the principles found therein can certainly apply to these situations, the context of this chapter is not even remotely related to marriage.

It is spiritual gifts.

In the previous chapter, Paul begins addressing this subject with the Corinthian church. Apparently there was some conflict and dissatisfaction among the believers regarding their gifts. He lists nine spiritual gifts, explaining that the Holy Spirit distributed a particular gift to each person just as He saw fit. He then uses the human body as an example of how all the parts are to work together and if the whole body were one part, it would suffer for the lack of the missing part.

In chapter 14, Paul focuses on two of the gifts, prophecy and tongues, because their misuse was causing chaotic and disorderly worship. He explains their purpose: prophecy is for instructing believers and tongues are for evangelizing non-believers.

And smack-dab between these two chapters is I Corinthians 13. And highlighting four of the gifts as an example, he tells these believers -- who are fussing and squabbling jealously over the "popular" gifts -- that it's all for naught if they don't love each other:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy ("I want your gift"), it does not boast ("Hundreds were saved because I spoke in tongues"), it is not proud ("My gift is best"). 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking ("I'll behind the scenes supporting you"), it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs ("What you did to me last month doesn't matter; I've already forgotten"). 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. (Grow up!) 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (You don't have the full picture now, but one day you will.)

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(Bolded emphasis and additions in parentheses are mine!)

And one more thing. . . When is it easiest to practice your spiritual gift? For example, when do you most readily sign up to serve someone by taking them a meal or doing some other task? When do you have a burden to share the gospel with an unbeliever? When are you more likely to show mercy to someone who has sinned?

We tend to be much more willing to do these things if it is for someone that we love. My best friend has surgery? I'm over there doing her laundry. A family member isn't a Christian? I'm going to pray and share much more diligently. A niece is 16 and pregnant? I'll reach out to her in love and forgiveness. But replace any of the folks in those scenarios with someone who grates on my nerves, who I have no personal attachment to, who I criticize and judge for their behavior, and suddenly I'm not nearly as quick to reach out.

Or is it just me?

After this portion of the retreat, we washed each other's feet. It was a sweet time.

And I'll never read I Corinthians 13 the same way again!


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

TSMSS - A Look Back to the Beginning

I suspect I'm not the only one to feature a Steven Curtis Chapman song this weekend. In fact, I had another post all ready to go, but I'm saving it for another Saturday.

Each year the Dove Awards are presented to honor the Artist of the Year and the Songwriter of the Year, just two of the numerous categories. This year the Artist and Songwriter awards went to SCC. Just the fact that these are his 55th and 56th Dove Awards (not to mention the 5 GRAMMYs he has won!) is mind-boggling. Clearly, he is gifted and anointed by God.

But another factor comes into play that has allowed him to accumulate such an incredible collection of accolades. And that is his consistency and faithfulness in serving God through the years. This was the 40th year for the Dove Awards. SCC won his first two awards at the 20th Dove Awards back in 1989, and he has been a recipient every year since, with the exception of 2003 and 2004.

Is he perfect? Certainly not. (I don't know him personally, but the Bible clearly says all have sinned!) But he has been able to remain true to God and his family in an industry in which Satan has successfully attacked others, resulting in their falls into scandal and regret. While he's certainly not immune to the temptations and lures of the world, especially those which accompany fame and fortune, he's fixed His eyes on Jesus and stayed the course.

And those years of consistent faithfulness are what have enabled him and Mary Beth to persevere through these past 11 months of unspeakable heartache and to be able even to walk up on that stage Thursday night to accept the awards.

"I know the reason why I think we're standing here is not something we ever would have signed up for," Chapman said, with wife Mary Beth by his side and sons Caleb and Will Franklin watching from the front row. "Our hope is not in this life, and thank you all for communicating that, and communicating it more boldly. If we can say anything as a family, a broken family having lost our little girl, it's to let this hope make us so bold." (Source: The Tennessean)
Thursday night's award was rooted in the first award SCC won in 1989 as well as his award- winning song the following year, in 1989. Although he first wrote and sang these songs two decades ago, he's now living them out day by day and is a testimony to their validity and truth. "Everything we’re singing about tonight is true, in the darkest, ugliest, most hopeless places,” Chapman said backstage addressing reporters in the pressroom. “We’re more certain of this hope that we have and we’re more desperate for God.” (Source: Gospel Music Channel)



Sometimes His eyes are gentle
And filled with laughter,
And sometimes they cry;
Sometimes there is a fire
Of Holy anger,
In Jesus’ eyes.
But the eyes that saw hope in the hopeless,
That saw through the fault to the need,
Are the same eyes that look down from Heaven
Into the deepest part of you and me.

His eyes are always upon you;
His eyes never close in sleep.
And no matter where you go,
You will always be in His eyes, in His eyes.

Sometimes His voice comes calling
Like rolling thunder,
Or like driving rain;
And sometimes His voice is quiet,
And we start to wonder
If He knows our name.
But He who spoke peace to the water
Cares more for our hearts than the waves,
And the voice that once said "You’re forgiven",
Still says "You’re forgiven" today.

Sometimes I look above me when stars are shining
And I feel so small;
How could the God of heaven and all creation
Know I’m here at all.
But then in silence He whispers,
"My child, I created you too
And you’re my most precious creation;
I even gave my Son for you."


Sometimes His eyes were gentle, and filled with laughter.

WORDS & MUSIC: Steven Curtis Chapman & James Isaac Elliott

And I have always loved this next song. What a beautiful message and hope for dark days!



I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength,
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me;
No great success to show, No glory on my own,
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know . . .

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes;
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end.
He hears our humble cry and proves again . . .

WORDS AND MUSIC: Steven Curtis Chapman and Jerry Salley

May God continue to comfort the Chapman family and give them new mercies every morning.

More great music for your Saturday can be found at Amy's!

Picture Credits:
SCC Performing - AP Photo
SCC & MBC Accepting Award - The Tennessean


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Friday, April 24, 2009

Of Manicures & Lungs

On the way home from taking kids to school just a bit ago, I passed a 20-something gal in her car with the window rolled down. I happened to notice that she had perfectly manicured nail tips. . .and that between her first two fingers she was holding the stub of a cigarette.

I thought it such a shame that she was obviously concerned about her appearance, yet she gave no thought to the decay, destruction and havoc she was wreaking on the inside of her body as she was filling her lungs with a substance that could kill her. The contrast was striking and sobering.

And then it hit me how much like that I can be.

In the video clip I posted yesterday of Mark Lowry, he referred to these verses in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Mark was right. Those are scary verses.

Oh, that my insides would be consistent with my outer person!

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Laughing and Pondering

Laughter is a great gift, and Mark Lowry can deliver like no one else. But the best thing is that imbedded in his humor are some great spiritual truths.

Here's the song he sings, Isn't It Amazing?


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jennifer Rothschild & Personal Irony

God's power and sovereignty are often easily recognized in creation and in the big things of life. But when He "zings" me with a lesson tailor-made for my circumstance, it always blows my mind.

I have raved about the Christian Book Expo and what a wonderful time I had. And I did. But isn't it typical that out of all my wonderful experiences, when I got back to my hotel room on Saturday night, all I could think was, "I'm an idiot. I can't believe I did that. What a doofus."

And the irony of it was the book I was holding, on which the autographed ink was barely dry, when I made my self-deprecating statements.

I guess I better explain.

One of the last people I had the complete delight of meeting late Saturday afternoon is Jennifer Rothschild. I heart Jennifer! Our church did her Fingerprints of God Bible Study a few years back, and it was wonderful. Since then I've enjoyed her website & her newsletter, Java with Jennifer. She is a gifted teacher whom I admire so much. And an incredible woman. She continually wows me with her comments about the things she does even though she is blind (including putting on her own make-up and cooking).

So I was thrilled she was signing books late in the day when the already light crowds had trickled down to just a smattering of people. I made my way over to the booth where she sat. And then all rational thought departed my brain as I became a blathering idiot.

As I effused over her telling her how wonderful she was and getting her to sign the book I had brought and another one I had bought for a friend (sorry bloggy friends, I kinda left you in the lurch and it never occurred to me to buy a giveaway! Nope, this one was all about me & Jennifer.), I'm sure she thought I must be a teeny-bopper groupie! I could not seem to make my mouth shut up, focused waaay too much on "I don't see how you _____ since you're blind", and I probably sounded like I'd never met anyone with a physical disability. She was gracious and kind, but after I left, I wanted to crawl in the nearest hole, telling myself "stupid, stupid, stupid."

Oh, the book I took for her to sign? One I obviously need to reread!

Self Talk, Soul Talk addresses what we as women do all too well: talk to ourselves in a demeaning way. As the back cover says,

Jennifer paints a picture of our minds as closets:

I seem to have a secret closet tucked somewhere in the hallways of my mind. A thought closet. And what I had been storing in that closet wasn't good at all: shelves and racks and bins full of hidden thoughts, secret insecurities, lies, illusions, and reminders of former failures. How did they get ther? Why can't I get rid of them?

Without my consent, my mind keeps reaching into the dark corners of that closet to retrieve the troublesome contents I have inadvertently stored away over the years. The boxes have labels like these:
  • You're not good enough.
  • You're not the wife you could be.
  • You're not a good mom.
  • You should have done a better job.
Our soul talk can finally change the contents of our thought closets. . .My faith has led me to the Bible to find what to say to my soul. And speaking the truths I've found in the pages of Scripture has turned my thought closet from a prison into an oasis of freedom! (p. 14-15)

And this part really gets me as I think about berating myself in the hotel room:

Are your words gracious and yet based on the authority of Scripture? I am quite sure I would not tolerate someone else speaking to me with the kind of words I have used when speaking to myself. . .If my husband, Phil, ever called me an idiot because I spilled coffee on his newspaper, I would be crushed and explode with indignation. Yet idiot is the word I most frequently called myself when I made a similar blunder. . .The next time you gear up to spout off some choice words to your soul, pause and consider the words of Paul: "Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone" (Colossians 4:6 NLT). "Everyone" includes you. (p. 28-29)

Sigh. Nothing like being Exhibit A for the book you just got autographed!

Each chapter concludes with Questions to Ponder, and Jennifer also has a Self Talk Soul Talk website containing more thoughts from Jennifer and Interviews with Women Who Talk to Themselves, such as Chonda Pierce, Patsy Clairmont, Lisa Welchel, and Kathy Troccoli.

Jennifer has also just released the corresponding Bible Study - Me, Myself, and Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover. Here's a brief intro:

And here she is with her sweet husband, "her" Dr. Phil:

Oh, and talk about double the fun! Lysa TerKeurst just announced last week that Jennifer will be speaking at this year's She Speaks Conference! I'm dying to go!

I am an idiot. I am a friend of God! (And maybe one day, Jennifer Rothschild?!)


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Chat with Susan Meissner & Giveaway!


Random Integer Generator
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Timestamp: 2009-04-22 18:28:45 UTC

Congrats to Beverlydru! Email me your info and I'll get it in the mail to you!

* * * * *

I will long treasure the memory of the Christian Book Expo and the opportunity to be around so many authors. Meeting the names on my bookshelves was a thrill in itself. But the opportunity to sit down and talk with them and get a glimpse behind the scenes of their writing was an indescribable privilege. These folks have such a spiritual depth and a driving desire that their words present God's truth. Having received disparaging and even disdainful remarks from friends who say they don't read fiction books (implying, if not outright declaring, greater spiritual maturity to be found in non-fiction), I must say that I have learned some great lessons from these fiction authors' books. (And after all, Jesus spoke in parables, which would be considered fiction, right?!) But I digress.

Today I share with you the heart of Susan Meissner. Susan's book The Shape of Mercy (which I reviewed here) won the ECPA Book of the Year Award at the Expo. (It has also been nominated for a RITA award by the Romance Writers of America, in the category Novel with Strong Romantic Elements; winner to be announced July 18, 2009.) It was wonderful to sit down and talk with her.

Congratulations on your award!

“Thank you. I was very surprised. I was in a field of wonderful writers. Anyone really could have won, and all of our writing is different enough that it could have appealed to the panel of judges in any number of ways, so yes, I was surprised and pleased. . .it’s affirmation for me, which is one of my love languages. It will help me remain confident that I have a gift and I’m meant to use it – because I do struggle with confidence. . . This helps me feel that I have something that God has given me to do and I am meant to use it and I’m using it in the way He wants me to.

Tell me about the book. It was a good book. I don't know if I would say I enjoyed it, because some books are tough to read because they’re hard and gritty. There were some sad and hard things in it. The Salem Witch Trials took me back to my junior year in high school; I hadn't thought about them in years. What made you come up with this storyline or idea?

I had actually forgotten that I was in a play when I was 13; I played the role of a young girl accused of witchcraft. It was a one-act play called To Burn a Witch and it was set in England. This other young girl and some of our friends were placed in this cell and we knew we were going to die. And I got it in my head that if I started screaming and railing and that one of the other girls was bewitching me that I might be let go, so that’s what my character did. I screamed, and everyone in the front row jumped, and they led me away to safety, while the others were led away to be burned. And it was the whole idea that you can sway the crowd with just a word, and if they want to believe it, they will.

I've never forgotten what it felt like to be the accused and then the accuser. But I hadn't thought about it in years. Then a couple of years ago I read an article about a woman wanting to exonerate her great-times-8-grandmother who had been accused of witchcraft but her name had never been expunged, and she wanted to clear her name. So when I read that, I remembered the play and reading The Crucible in high school, and it all came together.

The idea for the diary came as I was thinking “How can I make it real? How can I take our present day notions back in time? That's what Arthur Miller did with The Crucible - it wasn’t about the Salem Witch Trials; it was about McCarthyism. It was about everyone accusing everyone else of being a Communist. [In The Shape of Mercy] this young college student from an affluent family is tired of the presuppositions people make about rich people. She thinks she’s above all that, that she sees people for who they are. As she’s transcribing the diary, she realizes she does make presuppositions and she does rise to snap judgments and she does believe the worst about people because that’s easier.

As I said in my review, it reminds me of GroupThink.

Exactly. And it's all motivated by fear – when someone is afraid – like Chicken Little and The Sky is Falling!; he was able to use his fear to sway all the others.

You've written quite a few books, haven't you?

This is my tenth book.

Have you always wanted to write?

I can’t remember when I didn’t want to write. So that’s why I think it was a gifting from God. It was just an innate thing that kept blossoming in different places. I wrote little poems and stories in elementary school. And I had a really great English teacher in high school and he was really instrumental; he saw that I had potential and he kept finding ways to draw it out and encourage me. He kept writing comments on my papers to affirm me. I dedicated my first book – he’s in the acknowledgements. I see him now; I live back where I went to high school and we go out for coffee. It’s wonderful to see him because he was pivotal as far as my confidence to even try this. When you write, it’s an expressive art form, and it invites criticism; it invites reaction -- it’s putting yourself out there. But I feel like I’m wired for it. and I’m restless when I’m not writing.

So do you have the voices in your head?!

I do. Not so much the voices but the images of things that I'm picturing, the conversations that I'm picturing, a home, someone’s dress, or seeing someone in the airport and wanting to follow them to where they’re going, feeling like they're a walking character – what do they sound like when they talk on the phone? Do they fidget when they sit down? Are they a coffee drinker or a tea drinker? It's probably slightly annoying and unnerving. Most writers have highly developed observation skills and that's why we see a story where there is no story because we've trained our minds to see beyond what's there.

How do you prepare? Do you journal and "listen" to your characters before writing?

I ask my characters a list of questions. Like, "what are you afraid of?" Knowing what I'm going to put them through, what would they be afraid of, and what fear could I use to drive my plot? Who do they admire? What is their favorite food? It might not even show up in the plot. And sometimes I give them my own characteristics. I really love Wheat Thins with peanut butter and raisins on them. I gave that to one of my characters. I need to know my characters before I write about them. I could write a story about my sister because I know her. So I need to know my characters like that.

What is your next project?

I have a book coming out in October called White Picket Fences. It's about a contemporary family with the iconic perfect life from the outside – the white picket fence life: good jobs, parents who love each other, a boy, a girl, a dog, a minivan. They’ve even convinced themselves everything is fine. But one of the kids has some powerful and painful memories and no one wants to talk about it because to do so would be to admit they don’t have the perfect life.

And that is all I'm going to share from the interview about that book right now! I'm going to save the rest for this fall when the book is coming out! Just wanted to whet your appetite a bit!!

Thanks so much, Susan!

Susan has a beautiful website and two blogs. Edgewise is her blog containing her posts on Mondays and Fridays regarding "topics such as literature, writing, culture, and lots of etcetera." The Shape of Mercy blog is a place where the characters in the book live on as though time hasn't stopped. Join Lauren, Clarissa, Abigail, Esperanza and Mercy as they post on Mondays and/or Fridays.

Fresh from the Expo, I have a copy of The Shape of Mercy, signed by Susan and with the ECPA Book of the Year seal on it for one of you! Just leave a comment on this post by noon tomorrow (Wednesday, April 22) and I will draw a winner. Continental US residents only, please!

Happy Reading!


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Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review & Double Giveaway!

UPDATE Tuesday @ 2:00 PM:

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Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-04-21 18:54:55 UTC

Congrats to Carole, winner of the books! Email me your address, and I'll send them your way!

Thanks to everyone for your comments. More giveaways to come (including the one today for Susan Meissner's The Shape of Mercy)!

* * * * *

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Reluctant Cowgirl

Barbour Publishing (April 2009)


Christine Lynxwiler

Christine lives with her husband and two precious daughters in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains in her home state of Arkansas. Her greatest earthly joy is her family and, aside from doing God’s will, spending time with them is her top priority.

She recently took a break from writing romance to pen a Christmas story with a twist. Her Mom Lit novella, My True Love Gave to Me, is part of a 2 in 1 anthology from Barbour entitled All Jingled Out. It’s also included in Simply Christmas, a 4 in 1 Barbour anthology.

She has written two other novellas, both romance, which are included in Barbour anthologies, City Dreams, and Prairie County Fair and a serial for the Heartsong Presents book club newsletter – The Carousel Horse. The Carousel Horse can be read in its entirety on the Heartsong website, and you can read excerpts from all of her other books on her website, HERE

In 2003, Christine was honored by being voted #2 Favorite New Author by the Heartsong Presents Book Club members!

Actress Crytal McCord gave up the closeness of her big family in order to make a name for herself on the New York City stage. But when life in the Big Apple turns sour, she follows a country road back to her parents Arkansas ranch.

The last thing she expects to find in cowboy country is a new leading man. Still, she can't help but imagine handsome rancher Jeremy Buchanan in the role.

Unfortunately, Jeremy's been burned by Crystal's type before. Or has he? Every time he thinks he knows her, the multi-faceted woman surprises him. Will the reluctant pair allow their hearts to guide them, or will their common stubborn pride keep them miles apart?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Reluctant Cowgirl, go HERE

Although I'm a city girl through and through, living on a ranch near a small town was very appealing in this book. Life can change in the blink of an eye, and guilt can drive us away from God regardless of our environment. And sometimes coming home involves more than packing our belongings.

I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Christine Lynxwiler at the Christian Book Expo. What a sweetheart! Although there wasn't an opportunity to do more than "meet & greet" her (and take the picture above), it was evident that this is a lady who cares about others and has a heart for sharing God's love through her books.

I have a copy of The Reluctant Cowgirl and Christine's previous book, Along Came a Cowboy (another delightful read!), to give to one of you! Leave a comment on this post by noon CDT tomorrow (Tuesday 4/21) and I'll draw a winner. Continental US residents only, please.

Happy Reading!


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mars & Venus

Actual Conversations I Had Today Regarding These Shoes I Was Wearing:

Walking into church:

Friend: Cute shoes, Linda!
Me: Thanks, but they sure aren't very comfortable.
Friend: Oh well, the cuteness makes up for that!

Walking out of church:

My Girl: Mom, my sandal straps are rubbing my feet.
Me: Sometimes that happens; my shoes are bothering me, too.
My Boy: (with a completely dumbfounded look on his face) Why would you wear shoes that hurt your feet?! No one cares what your shoes look like!


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A Must-See

Sometimes a picture gets the point across more powerfully than a lengthy thesis.

This is excellent.


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Saturday, April 18, 2009

TSMSS - A Tribute

April 20, 1999

It's hard to believe that Monday will be the 10th anniversary of the horrific Columbine tragedy. It was an unprecedented event and one that opened the eyes of safe suburban America to the potential for unspeakable tragedy that can happen. And the chilling realization that at least two of the victims, Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, apparently stood up for their faith and were killed as a result, juxtaposed faith and inspiration with fear and dread in the heart of believers across the country.

When I recently read and reviewed Rachel's Tears, I was once again touched by this tragedy and yet I was also reminded of how God's sovereign hand continues to work good out of evil as these lives of these young believers continue to make an impact a decade after their death.

Many of you will remember Michael W. Smith's song that he wrote in honor of Cassie Bernall. I thought it fitting that we should reflect on this song at this milestone anniversary. And Smitty's comments about the changes he made to the initial song are yet another picture of God ministering to a hurting family in the seemingly smallest of details.

More songs to bless your Saturday can be found at Amy's.


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Friday, April 17, 2009

I Feel a Song Coming On!

Those of you who went to a prom in 1979 like I did (warning: you might be described as a grandmother!) probably remember slow dancing to Peaches & Herb singing

Reunited and it feels so good. . . .

I'm singing that song today as I sit here in my comfy chair with my LAPTOP! It is a beautiful thing to behold, indeed.

It still needs some things reloaded, including most of my files. But it's here and it's working, and if it could, I'm sure it would join me in singing

We both are so excited 'cause we're reunited.

(I once had friends ask me if I could come up with a song for any situation. Pretty much. Sorry, 2nd Cup Lidna - life is just a musical!!)


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