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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fall in Review

This morning, I have the windows in my home up and there is a really nice, cool breeze blowing.  It is a nice 76 degrees in the house and I LOVE it!  In SW Florida, we don't get to experience the distinction between the seasons like in other places we have lived, so these cooler days help it to feel a little more like Fall.  We put the Christmas tree up this past weekend and I've been listening to Travis Cottrell's Ring The Bells Christmas cd.  It's my favorite one right now.  You should really check it out!

Also, don't forget to take a look at my Advent Readings post for this year.  You can find it HERE.  This time of year always seems to get a little "distracting" with shopping lists and parties to attend and overly busy schedules.  I think the enemy works overtime during the month of December to draw our hearts and minds away from true story of Christmas:  God made flesh and dwelling among us!
We've had a good time as a family these past few months.  Here's a little review with a lot of pictures:
Bentley (our 6 year old) started Kindergarten this school year and he is doing great.  We are so proud of him.  Both his general education teacher and his speech therapist have said he is the "star student" in their classes.  And he loves school!
In his first student led conference, he was able to show us around his classroom and tell us about how his days go.  Little sister liked sitting in "bubba's" desk in his classroom.
Bentley is doing really well with his reading.  He was standing over me the other evening as I was sending an email to someone reading it!

In October, our church has a Fall Festival held in the parking lot where nearly 600 people from the community come and enjoy games, pony rides and free food.  This year I went with the Sand Woman, Spiderman and the cutest little cowgirl ever seen!
JennaBeth (our 2 year old) has fallen in love with one of our youth girls, Darci (Daree as she calls her).  They were both dressed as cowgirls and JennaBeth just thought it was the coolest thing.  She says "daree" is her best friend!  She and Bentley both enjoyed hanging out with their friends.  Cecily was busy working the games the whole evening.
JennaBeth, Seth and Bentley enjoying hotdogs.
JennaBeth and Tabitha
Taylor, Bentley and JennaBeth
Taylor, JennaBeth and Jailyn
Morgan (a friend who lives next door to us) and JennaBeth
Anna (next door neighbor, Morgan's sister) and Bentley.

There were lots of pony rides:
and bounce houses:
and games with way too much candy (I'm still getting rid of that when no one's looking.  Shhhh...don't tell them!)...

Our family also took a trip to LegoLand Florida early in November.  I'll share about that tomorrow!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Face to Face


Set in the tumultuous world during Jesus' earthly life, here is a timeless story of suffering, longing, and healing. Conflicts arise between a young woman's devotion to God and the demon that holds her captive; between her attempts to free herself and the judgment and condemnation of others; between the rabbi named Jesus and the legalistic religious leaders; between the daily reality of Roman oppression and the Jewish hopes of a Deliverer-Messiah.
A vivid imagining of the account in Luke 13:10-17, where Jesus calls the bent-over woman to himself.

 Author Bio:
Catherine was born in Colorado and grew up as a pastor's daughter in seven towns up and down the state of California. She has loved to write since she was a child, having her first poem published in a national periodical at the age of twelve, and since then her byline has appeared in numerous periodicals and book compilations. She has a BA degree in English from Pasadena College. She served as a church musician for many years, as a private piano teacher, a public school substitute teacher and English reader, and freelance writer and editor. Cathy and her husband, Larry, have participated in and led volunteer short-term mission teams to Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela, Sicily & Rome, and Peru.
After living in Santa Rosa, California, for thirty years the Lawtons moved to Colorado, returning to Cathy's roots. Besides the publishing business, Cathy enjoys gardening and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. The Lawtons love spending time with their two grown children and their spouses, and their five beautiful grandchildren.
The author can be found on the internet at these places: , ,

Purchasing Info:
Trade Paperback
192 pgs
Available through most stores and online retailers.
You can purchase it now at:
Just-released: Amazon Kindle Version
Or buy from the publisher on sale this week for $9.74 at

Chapter 1 can be read by going HERE


Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 2011: Grace Upon Grace

I have lots of pictures and things to share with you about Fall and the Thanksgiving season around our place, but since today marks the beginning of the Advent season I wanted to get the Advent Readings posted for this year.  I am using the readings given in the promotional materials for the Common English Bible.  If you missed my original post introducing this new translation of the Bible, you can see it HERE.   

I will also be giving away another copy of the CEB, softcover edition, soon.  Keep checking back for your chance to win!  The winner of last week's giveaway was Marial Davenport who blogs over at Growing in Godliness.

Advent Readings for 2011

Nov. 27 -           Micah 5:2,   Isaiah 11:1-10/7:10-14 ,  9:6-7,  Jeremiah 33:14-16
Nov. 28 -           Matthew 1:18-24 and Luke 1:26-33                   
Nov. 29 -           Luke 2:1-5
Nov. 30              Luke 2:6-7                                                                                       
Dec. 1 -              Luke 2:8-9                                                                                       
Dec. 2 -              Luke 2:10-12                                                                                 
Dec. 3 -              Luke 2:13-14                                                                                 
Dec. 4 -              Luke 2:15-16,  Psalm 25:1-10/27:1-7,18-19,
Dec. 5 -              Luke 2:17-18                                                                                 
Dec. 6 -              Luke 2:19                                                                             
Dec. 7 -              Luke 2:20                                                                                                                
Dec. 8 -              Luke 2:21                                                                             
Dec. 9 -              Matthew 2:1-2                                                                              
Dec. 10              Matthew 2:3-6                                                                              
Dec. 11 -           Matthew 2:7-8,  1Thess. 3:9-13, Romans 15:4-13,  Matt. 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38
Dec. 12 -           Matthew 2:9                                                                                   
Dec. 13 -           Matthew 2:10-11                                                                        
Dec. 14 -           Matthew 2:12-15
Dec. 15 -           Galatians 4:4-5
Dec. 16 -           Ephesians 2:8-9                                                                          
Dec. 17 -           1 John 4:7-16                                                                               
Dec. 18 -           Ephesians 2:12-22 ,   Matt. 3:1-12,  Luke 21:25-36
Dec. 19 -           John 7:37-38 and 14:6
Dec. 20 -           Matthew 28:19-20
Dec. 21 -           John 8:12
Dec. 22 -           John 9:4-5 and Matthew 5:14-16
Dec. 23 -           Psalm 98:1-6
Dec. 24 -           John 1:1-3, 14 and Romans 6:23

Dec. 25             Psalm 100/Rev. 3:20-21

I hope you will join me in preparing your heart during this Christmas season by focusing on Immanuel, God with us

"The Word became flesh and made His home among us.  We have seen His glory, glory like that of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.  From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace."  John 1:14,16  CEB


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jesus + Nothing = EVERYTHING


William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is a Florida native, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Tullian is the author of Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship (Multnomah), Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different (Multnomah) and Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (Crossway). Tullian is also a contributing editor to Leadership Journal. He speaks at conferences throughout the U.S. and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living.  Some of his favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer and Jonathan Edwards.

 The very generous folks at Crossway sent me a copy of Pastor Tullian's latest book Jesus + Nothing = Everything for the purpose of review.  In the book Tullian tells a little of his intense struggle to merge his five year old church plant, New City Church with Coral Ridge Presbyterian after being called as the Senior Pastor there.  In reference to this time (2009), Pastor Tullian says it was "the most difficult year of my life, the year God helped me rediscover the now-power of the gospel in the crucible of excruciating pain".  Not only was Pastor Tullian following in the footsteps of Coral Ridge's only Senior Pastor (Dr. D. James Kennedy) and merging two very different congregations, but his father Stephen was dying of cancer.  In God's bountiful grace toward Tullian during this time, He opened up the rich gospel truths in the book of Colossians which would serve as a healing balm to the wounds suffered in this most dark time of life.

In Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Pastor Tullian takes a look at the equation in reverse order beginning with the everything we all so deeply desire in our lives.  I believe that message is summed up beautifully in a quote from Pastor Tullian's invitation to his new congregation just one day after being formally installed as senior pastor of the newly combined church on May 10, 2009:
"I believe this one new church will thrive beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine if it's packed with gospel-intoxicated people:  people who understand that since Christ laid his life down for us, we must lay our lives down for others...A gospel-saturated church is a church filled with people who give everything they have because they understand that in Christ they already have everything they need."
Tullian spends the rest of the book sharing through his observations of truths in Colossians that "the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present" and "the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before".  Throughout his powerful exposition of the book of Colossians, Pastor Tullian asks his reader some very probing questions such as:
  • Are you experiencing any restlessness in your life anywhere?
  • Where exactly am I experiencing agitation, impatience, unease, anxiety?  Why is it there?  What's that really all about?
  •  What are you looking to (instead of Jesus) for meaning in life, for purpose, significance, security, direction, acceptance, approval?
He goes on to offer this exhortation:
"Identify where your restlessness is rooted - because that's where a confrontation with the gospel is needed."
A confrontation with the gospel is exactly what Tullian experienced and he offers his readers the same in Jesus + Nothing = Everything.  Crossway offers supplemental chapter videos from Pastor Tullian that can be found at  Here is Tullian introducing the powerful equation in his book:

Jesus + Nothing = Everything: Intro from Crossway on Vimeo.

You can order Jesus + Nothing = Everything from Crossway by going HERE.

I encourage you to get a copy of this book.  All this world offers is a restlessness that is never really satisfied, but as Pastor Tullian reminds us in the closing of the book,
"The banner under which Christians live reads, 'It is finished.' "
Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Common English Bible

A few weeks ago, our church had a missions emphasis weekend.  We had two missionary couples visiting with us; one couple who are presently serving in Gent, Belgium and another couple who had formerly served in China.  Gib Gerlach, who presently serves on staff with the International Mission Board, spoke in our services that particular Sunday night about he and his wife's time in China and his work now with the IMB.  Of all the things he shared about "going" on mission, whether it's 8,000 miles away or 80 feet into the yard next to yours, one thing he shared touched me deeply.

He shared that 2,500 people groups still do not have Bibles in their native languages.

That's 2,500 people groups who can't read God's word, because they don't have it translated into their own language!  And many who do have a Bible in their language can't read it, because of illiteracy.

We are so blessed in the Western world to have Bibles in many different translations.  I don't know for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that you have multiple copies of God's Word in your house.  I do in mine!  So, you might ask, "Why another version of the Bible when we already have so many?"  I ask that same question myself!  It is for that very reason that I was interested in being part of the "Thank You-Come Again- I Promise" Blog Tour for the Common English Bible.

Beginning this week, which happens to be National Bible Week, and over the course of the next three months, I will be taking a look at the Common English Bible.  I hope you will join me as I examine this new translation of the Bible.  Because God's Word is not to be treated lightly, I will be consulting with my husband (also Associate Pastor of our church) as well as the Senior Pastor and group of Elders as I look at this translation.  Besides the website for the CEB, here are several other places where you can learn more about this new translation:

Common English Bible Translation Background:
Known for being "built on common ground", the CEB is a collaboration of 120 academic scholars and editors, 77 reading group leaders, and more than 500 average readers from around the world who joined together to clearly translate the Bible's original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages into 21st century English.  More than half-a-million copies of the Bible are currently in print.  It's also available online and in 20 digital formats.
"When we say 'built on common ground', we mean that the Common English Bible is the result of collaboration between opposites: scholars working with average readers; conservatives working with liberals; teens working with retirees; men working with women; many denominations and many ethnicities coming together around the common goal of creating a vibrant and clear translation for 21st century readers, with the ultimate objective of mutually accomplishing God's overall work in the world; in essence, helping Bible readers live on common ground, " says Paul Franklyn, PhD, associate publisher for the Common English Bible.
The CEB is written in contemporary idiom at the same reading level as the newspaper USA Today - using language that's comfortable and accessible for today's English readers.  It's available - with and without the Apocrypha - in multiple editions and bindings.
Combining scholarly accuracy with vivid language, the CEB is the work of 120 biblical scholars from 24 denominations in American, African, Asian, European, and Latino communities, representing such academic institutions as Asbury Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University, Bethel Seminary, Denver Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, Seattle Pacific University, Wheaton College, Yale University, and many others.
Additionally, more than 500 readers in 77 groups field tested the translation.  Every verse was read aloud in the reading groups, where potentially confusing passages were identified.  The translators considered the groups' responses and, where necessary, reworked those passages to clarify in modern English their meaning from the original languages.  In total, more than 700 people worked jointly to bring the Common English Bible to fruition; and because of the Internet and today's technology it was completed in less than four years.
The CEB is sponsored by the CEB Committee, an alliance of five publishers that serve the general market, as well as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (Chalice Press), Presbyterian Church (USA) (Westminister John Knox Press), Episcopal Church (Church Publishing, Inc.), United Church of Christ (The Pilgrim Press), and the United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press).

If  you are interested in the Common English Bible and would like a copy to examine for yourself, leave a comment to this post telling me what version of the Bible you are currently studying/reading from and I will pick a winner on Friday!  Be sure to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win.  If you are chosen, you will be sent a softcover copy of the Common English Bible.  But don't fret if you don't win this week!  As part of this blog tour I will be giving away a softcover copy of the CEB EACH WEEK for the duration of the tour.  So, come back each week for your chance to win!
"Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.  Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good."  2 Timothy 3:15-17  (CEB)

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Abundant Life Day Book

    I received a copy of Abundant Life Day Book by Nancy Guthrie for the purpose of review from Tyndale.

    Abundant Life Day Book is a collection of 365 readings by Guthrie designed to take you through the Bible, inviting you to savor the abundant goodness God intends for you to experience and enjoy through Christ.  Each day you'll be reminded of yet another way God has loved you and will still be loving you into eternity. 

    Nancy teaches at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN; speaks at conferences around the country and internationally; and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Covenant Theological Seminary.  She and her husband, David, are the cohosts GriefShare, a video series used in more than 6,000 churches around the country.  They also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. 

    Nancy is the author of numerous books including one I'm using this Advent Season, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas.

    You can connect with Nancy on FaceBook by going HERE and can read more about her at her personal website found at

    The readings in the Abundant Life Day Book are written as if God is speaking directly to you each day.  For an example go HERE to read a few excerpts.  The scripture used in the readings are taken primarily from the New Living Translation of the Bible.  The book itself is small enough to be carried in a purse and is a beautiful black and lime green color scheme. 

    If you are looking for a Christmas gift that will last the whole year long, the Abundant Life Day Book would be an excellent choice!  It can be ordered at by going HERE.


    Why I May Not Be Able To Read Another Karen Kingsbury Novel

    She has been dubbed "The Queen of Christian Fiction" by Time magazine and has written more than forty life-changing fiction titles.  She has nearly twenty million books in print.  She lives with her husband Don in the Pacific Northwest and are parents to six children, including three adopted from Haiti.  Her name is Karen Kingsbury and I may never be able to read another one of her books!

    Waterbrook Multnomah sent me a copy of Karen's Forever Faithful Trilogy, which includes three books:  Waiting for Morning, A Moment of Weakness, and Halfway to Forever as part of their Blogging for Books program.  After reading the Forever Faithful Trilogy, I may never be able to read another Kingsbury novel!

    Why you ask?  Because this woman is an absolute genius and a master story teller!  Her characters are believable and their stories are emotionally gripping.  When I turned the last page of the last book in this trilogy, I was not ready to let Hannah, Tom, Alicia, Jenny, Matt, Jade, Doris, and Tanner go.  From the first few paragraphs of the first book Waiting for Morning, I was hooked!  I found myself involved in the story so much so that when I forced myself to stop reading at night, I went to bed wondering about the outcome of the lives I was reading about as if they were true to life friends.

    Waiting for Morning   A drunk driver...a deadly accident...a dream destroyed.  When Hannah Ryan loses her husband and oldest daughter to a drunk driver, she is consumed with hate and revenge.  Ultimately, it is a kind prosecutor, a wise widow, and her husband's dying words that bring her the peace that will set her free and let her live again.A Moment of Weakness
       When childhood friends Jade and Tanner reunite as adults, they share their hearts, souls, and dreams of forever--until a fateful decision tears them apart.  Now, nearly a decade later, Jade's unfaithful husband wants to destroy her in a custody battle that is about to send shock waves across the United States.  Only one man can help Jade in her darkest hour.  And only one old woman knows the truth that can set them all free. 
    Halfway to Forever
       Matt and Hannah...Jade and Tanner--after already surviving much, these couples must now face the greatest struggles of their lives: parental losses and life-threatening illness threaten to derail their faith and sideline their futures.  Can Hannah survive the loss of an adopted daughter?  Will Tanner come through decades of lonliness only to face losing Jade one final time?

    You can read the first chapter of Waiting for Morning by going HERE, but be warned:  After reading this chapter, you WILL want to get this series!  You won't be able to help yourself!

    I may find it hard to read another Karen Kingsbury novel, because I absolutely do not know how she can possibly top the story given in this series of books!  I'm afraid I'll be disappointed in any other Christian Fiction book after reading this one!

    You can order your copy of the book by going to the publisher's page HERE or from by going HERE

    Ms Kingsbury's website can be found at

    *Thank you Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a copy of the book and thank you Grace Postorino for introducing me to the best Christian Fiction writer I have ever read!!

    Please take a minute and rate this review for me!  If you do, you will be entered in a chance to get a free copy of the book from the publisher!


    Monday, November 14, 2011

    The Power of a Simple Gift: Operation Christmas Child

    Each year in November, the ladies in my church get together for our Holiday House.  Different women offer to decorate a table and we have a nice dinner which consists of ham and yummy sided dishes and desserts provided by those who attend.  Here are some of the tables this year:
    (That's my oldest daughter, Cecily.  She does the table for the youth/children.)
    (Tunis and her table.)
    (Wilmarie and her table.  Wilmarie and her husband Ryan work with our youth.)
    (Sharon and her beautiful silver and black table.)

    There were two others, but I failed to get a picture!  Sorry Karen and Leslie!

    This year we had Lucy Long speak for the event.  She and her husband John are IMB missionaries in Gent, Belgium.  Our youth have adopted them as their class missionary and have committed to pray regularly for them as they carry out their work in Belgium.  Cecily (my daughter) is the class contact for the Longs.  

    The main purpose for our Holiday House event (and the part of the evening everyone enjoys the best) is packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  If you are unfamiliar with OCC, it is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse.  You can read more about this amazing ministry HERE.  
    I wish you could experience the excitement in the room when it is time to begin packing the boxes!  It is so encouraging seeing the joy everyone takes in such a simple task.
    One thing that always strikes me at this event is the way these simple boxes unify such different people.  You have older ladies packing boxes beside youth girls and children.  Imagine a room full of ladies focused, not on outfits and handbags and shoes matching those handbags, but on preparing a box full of simple gifts that will be the delight of some child somewhere in another country.

    One thing that OCC has made possible in packing the shoe boxes is a way of making personal contact with the child that receives the box you pack.  Mostly our children and youth do this.  OCC provides a paper where the person packing the box can write a little about themselves even including a picture if they want along with their address.
    I was so excited to have a next door neighbor to me and her daughter attend Holiday House with me this year.  Anna and her mom Sandy worked on one of these personal contact forms together for Anna to include in the box she packed.
    Anna and her Operation Christmas Child Box.
    I didn't notice this particular detail about the picture above until I was uploading it for this blog post.  But do you see it?
    "Blessed is the man whose sins are forgiven"
    That's what makes the task of packing these shoe boxes take on such significance.  We are blessed to be forgiven of our sins by a compassionate and long suffering Savior.  These boxes and the potential impact they have on a young life is just the beginning of many ways we can share with someone else about this amazing gift of grace that we have freely received.

    If you have about 5 spare minutes, please watch this video.  It tells the story after the box and God can use a simple gift:

    Blessings on you and your family this Thanksgiving and Christmas season,

    Hope Underground

    * I am so happy to have my computer back and working again!  We had to have a new power source put in.  I've got so many pictures to show you from our trip to LegoLand, our fall festival and our ladies' Holiday House.  I'll try to get caught up on all that tomorrow, so come back to visit and see all the fun we've been having!

    Audra Jennings with the B&B Media Group sent me a copy of Hope Underground:  The 34 Chilean Miners - A Story of Faith and Miracles by Carlos Parra Diaz for the purpose of review.  Pastor Parra and his wife Gloria live with their two children in Asuncion, Paraguay, where he serves as regional pastor and missionary.  He was known as the chaplain of Camp Hope during the 2010 mine collapse that trapped 33 miners a half mile underground for 69 days at the San Jose Mine in the middle of the Atacama Desert.

    You can visit and find links to watch the book trailer and read an excerpt from the book.

    An Interview with Carlos Parra Diaz:
    Q.  In Hope Underground, you mention several instances that suggest God's intervention.  Did you personally experience God's presence while there and, if so, how did it affect you?
    "This recognition of divine intervention throughout the entire process of the rescue has been the consistent perspective of the miners, their families, the rescue personnel and millions around the world.  For myself, I had always believed that God is real, a living God who chooses to be close to those who love Him.  But during my weeks at Camp Hope, I experienced for myself just how real God is and how deeply He loves the human beings He has created.  And how directly involved He is in the daily lives of His children."
    Q.  You made the decision to present the miners with a special gift while they were trapped in the mine.  Could you tell us a little about that?
    "Yes.  I had already presented Bibles to each of the families at Camp Hope, but I wanted to do more.  In my mind was the thought that a Bible would be one way I could help the miners in the prolonged wait facing them.  The comfort of God's Word and His promises could help the miners bear up under the various physical, emotional or spiritual difficulties that were bound to appear.  I received the necessary permission to send Bibles down tot he men but was told that each one had to be less than three inches wide because of the narrow size of the shaft used in sending items down tot he miners.  It took some time, but we ere finally able to find a supplier of such tiny Bibles and had them shipped to us.  When we received word that such small Bibles had been found, I sent up a prayer of heartfelt thanksgiving.  Along with each Bible, we sent down a small magnifying glass with which to read the small print."
    Q.  What lessons in faith can be learned from the mine collapse?
    "God was able to get our attention and call humanity back to Himself.  Through the miracle of the San Jose Mine rescue, witnessed by people all over the world through the media, God has issued a call to His creation, every human being, to make a decision while there is still time to do so.  Jesus Christ laid down His life on the cross as a substitute for sinful humanity, as a guarantee of salvation and eternal life, free of charge, to anyone who will receive this precious gift.  By reminding the world of His reality and His love, even in the depths of San Jose Mine, God is once again offering every human being the opportunity to make a very simple decision:  Will you follow God?  Or will you reject Him?  For most people, this spectacular rescue is already yesterday's news.  However, for the millions who prayed for a miracle, this event has become a spiritual heritage for the whole world, a stirring reminder that God listens to the pleas of His children."

    I would encourage you to read this moving account by Pastor Parra.  You'll be introduced to the declared "mayor" of Camp Hope, the miner whose wife gave birth to their first child during the ten week ordeal and the youngest miner who to this day boldly insists there were 34 in the mine instead of 33, because, as he explained, "God never abandoned us."

    The book is well written and full of reminders that our God is a God Who Sees and cares for His creation.  You can order your copy at by going HERE.


    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Proof of Heaven

    This week, the
    is introducing
    Proof of Heaven
    William Morrow Paperbacks (November 1, 2011)
    Mary Curran Hackett

    Author Bio:  Mary Curran Hackett is the mother of two children, Brigid Claire and Colm Francis, and is married to Greg Hackett. She received an MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska and a BA from the University Honors Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Danbury, CT, she has traveled extensively and lived in various places throughout the U.S., but her favorite place in the world is home with her kids, husband, and her stacks of books. Like her character Colm Magee, Mary suffers various heart and brain ailments, but thanks in part to her brother, a physician, as well as her own doctors, she now has a pacemaker and a heart that beats on its own at least most of the time. This is her first novel.

    About the book:  A mother’s faith, a child’s courage, a doctor’s dedication—a moving and thought-provoking tale of hope, love, and family.
    He might be young, but Colm already recognizes the truth: that he’s sick and not getting better. His mother, Cathleen, fiercely believes her faith will protect her ailing son, but Colm is not so sure. With a wisdom far beyond his years, Colm has come to terms with his probable fate, but he does have one special wish. He wants to meet his father who abandoned his beloved mother before Colm was born.
    But the quest to find the dying boy’s missing parent soon becomes a powerful journey of emotional discovery—a test of belief and an anxious search for proof of heaven.
    A magnificent debut novel, Mary Curran Hackett’s Proof of Heaven is a beautiful   and unforgettable exploration of the power of love and the monumental questions of life, death, and the afterlife.

    You can read the first chapter by going HERE.

    The author's website can be found HERE.

    My thoughts about the book:
    I have to be honest by telling you that I did not finish this book.  I only made it to page 83 (chapter 12).  I couldn't finish the book, because in those 83 pages, Ms Hackett used the Lord's name in vain multiple times in the most profane way possible.  Not only that, but other expletives were used as well.  I'm actually a little shocked that this title was accepted by the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance as part of their blog tour.  I am all for creativity and "telling a story", but in my opinion the use of this kind of language to do so goes beyond the boundaries of decency and reverence for Almighty God.


    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Katie's Choice

    I am taking part today in Cladach Publishing's Fall Fiction Fling.  Today's featured fiction title is Katie's Choice by Tracey Langford. 

    Katie's Choice is a story about a high school student who becomes pregnant. She meets with a nurse in an abortion clinic and speaks to a counselor at a pregnancy resource center. Encouraged in that direction by her single mother, she decides to get an abortion, believing it is her best choice. As Katie attempts to move on with her life, though, her past continues to haunt her.
    She thought she was choosing freedom and a future; but then shame and regret haunt her and keep her inner life a closed book even to the man who falls in love with her. Truth pursues Katie, though, until her defenses finally crumble.
    This moving tale of redemption chronicles an emotional journey out of self-loathing and spiritual denial into hope and life-changing love.

    Tracey Langford lives with her husband, Jon, and their four children in Alabama. Homeschooling keeps Tracey busy these days. Ideas for future novels are brewing, though. In the future she will no doubt tackle other "dark" subjects with engrossing, hope-filled fiction. Tracey has been a high school English teacher and a youth worker.
    Tracey was strongly encouraged to "reduce" her pregnancy. She declined, and now is the proud homeschooling mother of 15-year-old quadruplets. As part of her research, Tracey sat in mock interviews with counselors at pregnancy centers, role-playing the part of a troubled pregnant girl.

    Author Interview:
    1. Before writing Katie's Choice, you wrote a song called "Her Name Is Katie". Thankfully, you have a musical husband who created a tune for it and recorded it onto a CD. (Excerpts from the song are on the book video.) Do you still use that song?
    Tracey: My husband sings "Her Name is Katie" (from his CD BeyondThat) any chance he gets. People usually respond positively to it, which opens opportunity for dialogue (similar to what is happening with the new movie "October Baby"). Sometimes people feel more comfortable responding to music or literature than they do to sermons or lecture. That's why I feel passionately about art being used to spread God's messages, whether those messages be forgiveness, repentance, creation, eternal life, or any other biblical truth.

    2. How did the song evolve into a novel?
    Tracey: When my kids were little, I was constantly reading Christian fiction. Unfortunately, I would criticize many of the books I read by saying things like, "I don't think that character would really say that," or "I don't think that's an honest portrayal of this particular subject." One day Jon said, "You're thinking of writing your own book, aren't you?" Well, I can honestly say that the thought had never entered my mind, but he planted a seed that day and it slowly grew. I gradually warmed up to the idea. I naturally thought of writing about a woman having multiples since I had quadruplets, but I lived that experience every day; I wanted to write about something new. Then, one day while eating breakfast, I thought, "Why not turn the song 'Her Name is Katie' into a full-blown novel?" I was so excited I called my husband and told him. I started researching abortion that very day. And two years later I had a completed manuscript.

    3. How old are your kids now?
    Tracey: My kids (two boys and two girls) are fifteen now and in the ninth grade. They just got their learner's permits, so we have now begun teaching them to drive! Pray for us!! :-) Seriously, they are doing well with it, and I'm remaining mostly calm!

    4. What are the biggest blessings/challenges of raising and homeschooling quadruplets?
    Tracey: By far the biggest blessing is the time I get to spend with my kids. It's definitely hard and we certainly get on each other's nerves, but it is so worth it. I would not trade the time we've had opening up God's Word each day, reading a paragraph or a chapter, and just discussing it. I have learned so much about the Bible and God. And what a privilege to be able to share these truths with my kids and to see them grow and mature in their own spiritual walk. I would encourage Christian parents to spend time in the Word with their kids whether they homeschool or not. The time issue is huge, I know, and it can be an awkward thing if you're not used to it. But, trust me, it is the biggest blessing; I cannot stress that enough.
    I don't want to make it sound like homeschooling doesn't have its challenges, because it does. Time management and planning are obviously essential (and those aren't always my strong points). I've struggled a good bit with high school and feeling inadequate as a teacher. But I'll tell you what -- God has provided everything I need. For instance, I knew math was going to be a huge stumbling block for me. But God, in His mercy, brought me together with another homeschool mom who is a great math teacher. She, however, needed someone to teach English to her kids. How perfect could that be!

    5. What ministries are you involved in currently?
    Tracey: For the past several years, we have been involved in a nation-wide student outreach ministry. We've traveled in our RV all around the country assisting Rick and Mick Ministries in taking the Gospel to unreached teens. It's also been a great outlet for my husband's CD and my novel. Unfortunately, due to the economy right now, my husband has had to take a job requiring him to travel so we have been unable to go with the ministry team. But, we just got involved with starting up a student ministry at our church. I pray that God will bring some teens that need to hear the Truth. I will be teaching and hoping to plant some seeds. It's exciting and humbling at the same time.

    6. What are you currently writing?
    Tracey: I started a second novel a couple of years ago. I am excited about the prospect of it. I gravitate toward dark subjects (like abortion) and they take a lot out of you when you wrestle with the "why's" and "how's" of it all. But I think Christian literature should address the realities of life -- and let's face it -- there's a lot of darkness out there. Light needs to be interjected into the darkness.
    I am also writing skits. I'm currently working on one called "Waiting for Christmas" to be performed at our church in December. Jon and I are also writing a song for it. I'm hoping the skit and the song give people some new thoughts on Christmas this year.

    You can read chapter one by going HERE.

    Purchasing Info:
    Trade Paperback
    436 pgs
    Available at: and through most stores and online retailers.
    Available from the publisher at's-Choice.html
    where it is on sale this week for the discounted price of $12.00.

    Here's the book video which includes the song written by Tracey and her husband Jon:


    The Grace Effect

    Due to busyness of life (the good kind) and computer issues, my regular posts have been sporadic.  I'm having to use a loaner for this post until my computer returns home!  We've had lots of fun things going on that I want to share with you - Fall Festival and Legoland to name just a few!  In the mean time, while my right arm (computer) is in the hospital, I'll be sharing about some books I've read lately.

    The Grace Effect:  How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief by Larry Alex Taunton was sent to me by Thomas Nelson for the purpose of review.  I just finished reading this book yesterday.  When I turned the last page, the thought in my mind was "Wow"!  Mr. Taunton is a historian and Christian apologist who lives with his wife and children in Birmingham, AL.  He is the founder and executive director of Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith.  Mr. Taunton has engaged some of the most vociferous opponents of Christianity, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer.

    In The Grace Effect, Mr. Taunton seeks to explain concepts like "common grace" and what he calls "the grace effect", which is an observable phenomenon simply defined - "that life is demonstrably better where authentic Christianity flourishes".  Mr. Taunton makes his argument beautifully as he tells the story of his family's adoption of a 10 year old girl, Sasha, from Ukraine. 

    The Grace Effect is a good blend of the story of the adoption, history and the theology of grace.  While some parts of the book are hard to take in due to the emotional subject matter of the state of the orphanages in the Ukraine and the corruption of the government there, Mr. Taunton does a tremendous job of painting a picture through his words.  The reader sees clearly what a society without any regard for God looks like.

    The book includes a discussion guide with recommended reading suggestions after each chapter discussion.  In The Grace Effect, Taunton provides many excellent discussion starters with which to engage those the reader may encounter who question the validity of the Christian faith or who are searching for an understanding of grace.  The book with the built in discussion guide and reading list would make for an excellent book club selection or for use in small group meetings.  The book can be ordered at by going HERE.


    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    The Spirit Who Speaks

    Audra Jennings with the B&B Media Group sent me a copy of Peter Lawrence's book, The Spirit Who Speaks, for the purpose of review.  Lawrence was a vicar in the Church of England for 32 years.  He spent his last 14 years as leader of the three churches of Canford Magna in Dorset.  Peter's goal always was to help people put into practice the things he taught, highlighting many of the principles through his stories of both success and failure.  Mr. Lawrence died from a brain tumor on February 22, 2009.

    The Spirit Who Speaks:  God's Supernatural Intervention In Your Life follows Lawrence's life and his attempts to introduce the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the church he led.  While writing this book about living fully in the Spirit's healing power, Lawrence received his diagnosis of terminal cancer.  I admire his passion to see this project through to the end.

    While much in the book was foreign territory to me (such as "ministering" sessions where the Holy Spirit is "called" upon to speak) and leans a bit more toward the "charismatic" ideas of tongues and prophecy and healing, Lawrence has some solid things to say such as...
    "His (God) nature is perfect, incorruptible, and totally consistent.  He always reveals His true character in everything He does.  We may not interpret all He does correctly, because we see through a glass darkly due to our sinful natures, but when so many believers over so many centuries have encountered the God who speaks by His Spirit, it seems right to conclude this is a part of who He is.  The Bible rests on the assumption that God is a God who speaks...It is always much easier to claim that God has spoken and God will speak than that God speaks."
    He quotes John Wimber (I'm not familiar with this gentleman or with all that he teaches, but go agree with the truth in this statement.) as saying...
    "We do not seek to bring Scripture down to our experience, but rather we seek to bring our experience up to Scripture."
    I appreciated that multiple times in the book, Lawrence exhibited a high view of the importance of God's Word as the primary way God speaks to His people.  He issues this warning on page 28...
    "We should be very cautious about anyone who claims to have subsequent revelations from the Holy Spirit that either add to or take away from Scripture."
    and again on page 32...
    "Thus a word from God today must not contain any new teaching; neither must it add to or take away from the doctrines of the Bible.  It seems right to say that a present day word from God may therefore illustrate Scripture, help to apply Scripture, authenticate Scripture, and enable Christians to fulfill the commands of Scripture, but must always be tested by Scripture.  This enables us to understand the different purposes behind the Word of God and a word from God."
    Particularly helpful was chapter 9 entitled "Test Everything" with statements from Lawrence like these...
    "Clearly, if Satan can convince people that everyone who dies will be okay, there is limited value in the gospel of Christ."
    "This is why Scripture must always supply foundation, and words of knowledge can only ever build on that. The Bible is our major source in discerning whether words in our minds are from God or not.  Our first and firmest pole is vital.  Any word that contradicts the teaching of the Bible is not from God, while any word that is positively supported by Scripture is more likely to be from God."
    The book includes a study guide through each chapter.  The book can be ordered at by going  HERE


    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Women of Faith: IMAGINE - Friday Evening/Saturday

    If you missed my recap of the Women of Faith Imagine Pre-Conference, you can see that HERE
    The actual Women of Faith weekend began at 7 p.m. on Friday evening.  The hotel where we were staying the night was a bit of distance away from the arena, so by the time we got checked in and had dinner, we were late getting back to the event.  We missed Kenn Kingston (Christian comedian).  Our group wasn't too upset, because we were blessed with wonderful fellowship over dinner.  When we did arrive, the Women of Faith Praise Team was leading in worship.  They are a very talented group of ladies! 

    Cecily and I had really good seats for the weekend - floor seats about eight rows from the stage!  Thank you again Thomas Nelson for the complimentary tickets for this event!

    After the praise team, a World Vision video was shown.  Please understand what I'm about to say.  I firmly believe helping those in need and yes I am very concerned about families, especially children in other countries that don't have some of the most basic needs like clean water and food.  BUT...the push for sponsoring a child in World Vision at Women of Faith was simply overbearing.  The push to sponsor was constant the entire weekend even with sponsorship packets including pictures of children being left on each seat.  And being told "don't worry they (as if the child themselves were there in person) will be there waiting for you when you return in the morning".  After almost every speaker, something was said or a video shown regarding World Vision.  It was almost as if attendees were being "guilted" into sponsoring a child.  At one point, my daughter (13) was crying as she looked at the packet left in her seat.  She was sad, because she is aware of our family's financial situation and knows that we simply can't afford a $35 a month sponsorship.  We would not have even been at this conference if it had not been for the complimentary tickets from Thomas Nelson.  With that said, there is nothing wrong with mentioning the need for sponsors or showing a couple of videos to give a visual of the need; however, deciding to do something like sponsor a child in another country should be a decision made in one's own heart and not because they have been fed constant guilt to do so.  I have multiple families around me in my neighborhood who are struggling to feed their families and we help them as we can and serve in other ways through our church.  The needs are great right around us.

    Imagine resumed on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.  We got there about an hour before the first session, so Cecily and I had time to "shop" a little.  One of the things I had planned to pick up was Angie Smith's book I Will Carry You:  The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy.  I have been following Angie's blog Bring The Rain for some time and have wanted to read this book in which she shares about the devastating loss of their baby girl Audrey Caroline.  Angie's husband sings with the Christian group Selah.  As we were picking up the book, the lady helping us at the product table let me know that Angie was signing and meeting people just down the way on the concourse, so Cecily and I grabbed the book and headed that direction.  We barely made it before Angie's meet and greet was over!  We were the last allowed in the line!
    Such an opportunity, and wouldn't you know I'd have my eyes closed!!!  Angie is such a sweet, sweet girl.  She has also written another book, What Women Fear.  You would be blessed by checking out her books and her blog, which can be found at  She is genuine.  She is real.  She is refreshing.

    After catching our breath a bit, we headed into the arena and Saturday's event got underway.
    After praise and worship, Lisa Harper took the stage.
    Lisa talked about looking at Jesus with blurry vision.  We were encouraged to overcome the enemy by telling out stories of healing.  She shared her background of sexual abuse as a child and how bruises on our hearts become areas of bondage for us if not completely given to the Lord.  She ended by quoting Psalm 139 and reminding us that we worship a God Who sees and knows everything about us and loves us anyway.
    Sheila Walsh spoke again.  She is such a gifted speaker and I think it is because she is so transparent about her struggles and her utter dependence on the Lord.  Sheila spoke about God's mercy being severe, because He wants to make us like His Son.
    "The Shepherd knows where to find you!" 
    Walsh shared about her deep seated fear and feeling in her life that she needed to be perfect after her father was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital.  He escaped from the hospital and was found dead at the age of 35.  Sheila went on to share about her clinical depression and subsequent hospitalization for psychiatric care at the age of 35.  She reminded us of how God covers us and spoke about Psalm 91:4, Psalm 143:8 and John 16:33.  She closed her time by singing How Great Thou Art.  Again, we were so blessed by her time.
    After lunch, Nicole Johnson spoke.  Her testimony included divorce and remarriage and how she has learned to give her anger to God. 

    Next to Sheila Walsh, my favorite speaker of the day was Angie Smith.  She spoke after Nicole Johnson and although I knew her story from reading and following her blog, it was a blessing to hear Angie share in person.
    In the midst of sharing about the loss of her sweet baby girl Audrey Caroline, who only lived a little over two hours after birth, Angie shared about Peter walking on the water.  She pointed out that the word for Lord in Matthew 14:29 that Peter used when he cried "Lord save me" after beginning to drown is the Greek word Kyrios and means "Son of God, the one to Whom I belong". 
    Angie's challenge was this:  When you think you are about to sink, you can call out to the Son of God, the One to Whom You belong. 
    Next on the schedule was the gospel duo Mary Mary (sisters Tina and Erica Campbell).  Cecily and I were really excited about seeing them.  We both love the song Shackles, which was on Mary Mary's debut album.  I am sad to say, they were a huge disappointment.  There was very little if anything that was worshipful about their "performance".  There was so much frenetic energy in the arena as they sang.  It just didn't feel right.  Their dialogue between songs was silly and any reference to God or worship seemed forced and less than genuine.
    The thing that completely blew me away was when Tina (on the left) not once, not twice, but three times took the Lord's name in vain on stage in front of over 6,000 women.  Yes, you heard me right!  She threw around the name of Christ so flippantly that I just knew I didn't hear right the first time, but then she did it again two more times.  To say I was shocked is a huge understatement.  There was a heaviness in my chest that wouldn't let up after that.

    I have emailed Mary Graham, president of Women of Faith about this.  I did so because it seemed as if this whole experience was glossed over by those in charge at the event.  Mary Mary was asked back on stage to close out the event.  As of this posting, I have not gotten a response back from Ms Graham.  As soon as I do, I will add an update with her response in full to this post; so check back in the next few days.

    The last speaker of the day was Lucy Swindoll.  I'm not sure if it was because I felt the Holy Spirit was so grieved after Mary Mary's performance and that the Lord's blessing had left the arena, but Swindoll's talk was just very generic.  She spoke about "enjoying the moment you are in" and "taking care of your souls", but shared not one instructive word from Scripture about how to do this in a way that honors the Lord.  It was just very general and nothing specific or with substance. 

    At the end there was a quick recap or "take-away" from each speaker:
    • Lisa Harper - Addictions are disorders of worship.
    • Angie Smith - Remember "kyrios" - the Son of God, the One to Whom You Belong
    • Nicole Johnson - Fairy tales are a glimpse of the gospel, because they let us see ourselves as we really are.  (Not quite sure exactly what she was trying to say here??)
    • Lucy Swindoll - Don't fully now.  (Here she gave a very vague reference to a passage in 1 Corinthians.  She said, "In 1 Corinthians, oh you know somewhere there on the right side of the page"...and then gave a very loose paraphrase of whatever scripture she was refering to.)
    • Sheila Walsh - The Shepherd knows where to find you.  The Shepherd's job is to get you all the way home.
    Stongest things about the weekend:

    • Sheila Walsh was the strongest speaker by far!  Next in line would be Angie Smith and Lisa Harper.
    • The event was kept on schedule and flowed nicely.
    • Getting lunch to that number of women went smoothly.
    Weakest things about the weekend:
    • Performance by Mary Mary - such a disappointment.
    • Constant World Vision push
    • I didn't even need my Bible, because there was very little Scripture shared over the course of the weekend with the exception of Sheila Walsh's talks.  Testimonies are good and very much needed; however, when 6,000 women are gathered together they need to hear clearly a presentation of the gospel - that didn't happen.  References to Scripture were vague at best.
    Will I go to another Women of Faith event?  Maybe.  While I had a good time in fellowship with the group of ladies I was with and enjoyed spending the weekend with my daughter, I'm looking for something with a little more depth.

    And if the truth be told, women who are lost and dying without a Savior are too.