Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Speculation, Part Three

Part three of this series is posted today over at SUM. For those who read the two part series last year, please know I always know there would be a part three. I just had no idea it would take a year to be revealed.

But as in everything, I've learned God has a distinct purpose for all He does and the timing in every bit of it. Have a very Merry Christmas, a day full of the love of the Saviour, family and friends. And may 2008 be an even more promising year for us all. All for his glory!

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Love

God's Gift of Love
by Kathleen Y'Barbo

Love. It seems as though everyone these days is either in desperate avoidance of it, in the heart wrenching process of losing it, or in the giddy throes of finding it. Some have given up on it while others believe they will know it when they see it. All of us hope when it’s our turn, the love we get - and give - will be unconditional.

But can flawed humans really offer unconditional love?

Oh, we try. If you’re a parent you know the depth of love you felt the first moment you saw that precious baby of yours. Then there’s the feelings you carried up the aisle to join your beloved at the altar. Or perhaps love to you is counted by the nights spent at a parent’s bedside. The thread of love winds through each of these, and yet it is the rare parent, spouse, or child who would admit to having loved perfectly. We are human and sadly flawed, even when we act with the best of intentions.

There is only one unconditional love that never fails. Only one love that never turns a blind eye, says the wrong thing, or procrastinates rather than acts. The love of the Father, our Heavenly Father, is perfect in every way. Not only is His love unconditional, but He also loves us in spite of who we are and not for what we are. How wonderful to know that the God of the universe loves us.

Not just love in the way we see it, the stars-in-our-eyes crazy-about-my-baby love, but a depth of feeling exponentially more than anything our flawed but well intentioned hearts could imagine.

So today, when you’re reminded of that tiny baby, Jesus Christ the Creator-made-flesh, think of the love it took to accomplish this holy miracle of unconditional love. To put on the fingers and toes of an infant and come to us as Savior was the beginning of a love story that has no end.

Kathleen Y’Barbo

Kathleen Y'Barbo is the author of Beloved Castaway and countless other books. For more information visit www.kathleenybarbo.com.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Christ Candle

Welcome to the lighting of the Christ Candle.

All the candles are lit! Isn't it glorious!

Christmas Eve (after sundown or Christmas Day)
Color: White
Theme: Christmas
Suggested Scripture Readings: Luke 1:68-79, Luke 2:1-20

Lord, we praise you for this glorious day. Your Word came and became flesh in the tiny baby. You walked among us as a man and died for us as our Savior. You deserve all our worship, love, and praise. Mighty Counselor, Prince of Peace, Holy God, You are wonderful! We love you! Amen.



On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas

God's Gift of An Uncluttered Christmas
by Cyndy Salzmann

It was enough to curl my toes. And a quick glance at the other mother’s in the audience told me I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

So what horrendous experience caused such a reaction from a room full of moms? A violent or sexually explicit movie? A challenge from Doctor Phil to “get real” and ‘fess up about our parenting faux pas? Or a pan of the audience spotlighting a really bad hair day?

Actually, the event that caused such a panic among this audience of mothers occurred during the Christmas program at my daughter’s school.

Things started innocently enough when the girls marched out onto the stage swinging colorful shopping bags. Of course, they were adorable and the apples of their mothers’ eyes. The trouble began when the girls opened their mouths and sang…

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

Scurry! Scurry! Scurry!

Worry! Worry! Worry!

Christmastime is here!

As I said, it was enough to curl my toes. Just the thought of all that hurrying, scurrying and worrying to prepare for Christmas gave me a full-blown a hot flash. No wonder depression peaks during the holidays. Faced with all that stress , I wouldn’t want to get out of bed either.

Once my hot flash ceded, I began to realize that this is just where Satan wants us – dreading the celebration of the most precious gifts to mankind – the birth of Jesus Christ. And frankly, it made my blood boil – almost bringing on another hot flash. I decided right then that he wasn’t going to get away with it.

We have a choice on how much hurrying, scurrying and worrying we do. And this year I hope you’ll make a commitment to join me in uncluttering your Christmas by jumping off the treadmill and keeping your eyes on the true reason for the season.

BTW- I have a tip sheet with practical ideas and advice to help you to simplify your holidays and focus on Jesus’ birth. Just contact me at cyndy@cyndysalzmann.com and I’ll email you a copy.

Cyndy Salzmann is the author of Crime & Clutter, book two in the highly acclaimed Friday Afternoon Mystery series published by Howard Books. As America’s Clutter Coach, Cyndy is a popular national speaker and radio personality. Cyndy, her husband and three children, live in Omaha, Nebraska. For more information visit http://www.cyndysalzmann.com/

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fouth Sunday of Advent

Welcome to the fourth Sunday of Advent.

If you've created a wreath of your own for the first time this year, I hope it's a tradition you will hold onto. My first three candles have burned shorter. And now the fourth one is lit. Almost time to light the Christ Candle! May the Prince of Peace fill your year with new revelations of his presence. Be blessed!

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Color: Purple
Theme: Peace
Suggested Scripture Readings: Isaiah 9:6-7, John 14:27

Lord, thank you for sending your Son to be our Prince of Peace. We praise you for this wonderful peace you give us by the indwelling of your Holy Spirit. And mostly, we thank you for the promise of salvation, an eternity spent in the presence of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. All glory is yours, Amen.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Memories

God's Gift of Memories
by Marlo Schalesky

Memory is a powerful thing. We hear a song from our high school days and we’re transported to sweaty school dances and blasting the radio in our first car. The smell of brownies baking takes us back to pigtails and ponies. We drive by the house we lived in as a kid and remember the swingset in the backyard and how that rotten kid from next door blew spitwads through the hole in the fence.

Ever gotten sick on a type of food? You’ll never want to have that again. And don’t even think about naming your child after that whiny little brat that sat behind you in the fourth grade, even if your spouse loves that name.

Memory. It’s why we treasure photos, display mementos, keep in touch with people from our past. It’s why God set up festivals for the ancient Israelites and told them to erect memorials at significant places in their history.

Memory. It’s why the sight of a stuffed stocking takes me back to those early mornings in my childhood when my brother and I would wake up before dawn, run to the fireplace, get our stockings, and race back to my parents’s bed. Mom was always ready. Dad pretended to complain. And together, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we’d pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one. Simple things, boring really. Candy. A toothbrush. Some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short weeks. And yet, opening stockings is my favorite Christmas memory from childhood.

Why? I think it’s because good memories are not necessarily made from the “big stuff.” Rather, they’re fashioned out of warmth and happiness and times together. They’re woven with laughter, colored with simple, plain joy. They come from times when you experience love.

So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid’s guitar for my oldest (age 7), or the new “ooo-ahh” (stuffed gorilla) for one of my 2-year-old twins.

Because the toys will break, get old, get lost, or they’ll outgrow them. But they won’t outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking – those won’t get old. The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch – those won’t break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we’re together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we’re building together.

So, that’s my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that’s the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus’ birth -- Memories that bring a smile to the face of children . . . and to the face of the King.

For more about the power of memories in our lives, check out Marlo's next novel, Beyond the Night, releasing in May. A woman in a hospital bed, a man sitting beside her, and between them, a memory that can set her free. Find out more at: http://www.marloschalesky.com/

Saturday, December 22, 2007

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Story

God's Gift of Dreams and Story
by Melody Carlson

A dream doesn’t always seem like a gift from God, but sometimes I’ll experience one so vivid and amazing that I can’t help but think God is at work. I remember a dream that woke me in the middle of the night about ten years ago. I was so moved that I felt compelled to write it down. In my dream I saw a sweet angel who was distraught that Jesus was about to leave heaven to be born as a baby on earth. So she volunteered to give up being an angel and God transformed her into a magnificent star to light the night sky for the Big Event. I won’t tell the entire dream, but simply let it be said that the ending surprised everyone—including me. The story became a children’s Christmas book called The Greatest Gift (which is currently out of print). But as a result of that dream, I began to pay even more attention to my dreams. Sometimes I think that God simply uses them to show me things about my own life and sometimes my dreams wind up in my books.

Melody Carlson is the author of Ready to Wed, (Guideposts Books 2007). This story also involves a dream! For more information visit www.melodycarlson.com

Friday, December 21, 2007

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Unexpected Blessings

God's Gift of Unexpected Blessings
by Angela Hunt

The arrival of our daughter from South Korea wasn’t exactly unexpected—we’d spent years longing for her, and then months praying for that little baby’s safe arrival in our arms.

And as I look back over the experience, I can’t help thinking of Mary, who must have had such mixed feelings when she held the infant Jesus in her arms. Great joy, for the promised child had arrived. Great responsibility for the fragile life in her care. And great dread for the difficulties and sorrows that would arise.

As a young mother, I knew there would be tough times, and I haven’t been disappointed. But through bad times and good, through loving moments and less-than-loving moments, I can see the hand of God’s sovereignty molding me, my husband, and my children into the people he intends us to be.

Christmas shines brightest in the eyes of children. But it resonates most deeply in the hearts of those who love them.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt is the author of Doesn't She Look Natural? (Tyndale Publishers). For more information visit www.angelahuntbooks.com

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

The Gift of Uniqueness

God's Gift of Uniqueness
by Tosca Lee

I used to hate my name. “Tosca” was too unusual. “Moon,” my middle name, was just downright embarrassing. “Lee” was all right, though it still set me apart from the rest of the Caucasian kids in my school. In an era when Christy Brinkley graced the cover of every fashion magazine, I did not wish to accentuate my different-ness.

The name I really wanted was Marie--probably because others had it and that meant I could at least buy one of those door plates for my bedroom door or license plates for my bike, which was my litmus test. As it was, they sure didn’t have plates for kids named “Tosca.”

In junior high, my friends called me “Weird Tosca.” I didn’t like that so much.

These days I teach about talent in my work as a consultant. I talk about the strange, quirky things that not only set people apart, but have the potential to make them great. A friend said to me once, “Stars have points.” He’s right. And when we blunt our points, we lose the defining characteristics of our unique mark in and contribution to this world.

Opportunities work much the same. It’s the unique ones that seem to hold the greatest potential impact. When my main character, Clay, bumps up against the opportunity to hear the story of creation from the viewpoint of a Demon, he is terrified--intrigued, but terrified. And so he resists. While his reaction might be in keeping with any sane person’s, it’s also a human reaction to the unusual. But in this case, it’s the unusual that might just might save his soul.

How has God revealed to you your uniqueness? And what, most importantly, is He telling you to do with it?

Weird Tosca

“You need to know something more about Elohim: he is the ultimate force of creativity. He is the author of diversity.” --Lucian, Demon: A Memoir

Tosca Lee is the author of Demon: A Memoir and of the upcoming Havah: The Story of Eve. For more information visit www.demonamemoir.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Unconditional Acceptance

God's Gift of Unconditional Acceptance
by Lisa Samson

Clearly God Incarnate wasn't choosy. He wasn't born in a palace, but to a simple peasant woman bearing the stigma of a pregnancy conceived out of the bonds of matrimony. He wasn't even born in his own town, but endured a long ride to Bethlehem in his mother's womb only to be born in a stable among the livestock. Even after his ministry began he owned one robe and proclaimed himself homeless when He said, "Foxes have dens, birds have nest, but the Son of God has no place to lay His head."

If we used some TV preachers' standards today, Jesus clearly wasn't blessed by God. He didn't have the finest clothes, transportation or housing. Even most of His disciples weren't exactly candidates for a PhD. Clearly He must not have had enough faith if that's all He was getting from His Father!

But Christ isn't choosy and that is good news for us. For there isn't a single human being who can impress Him into shining His light of grace upon them. The stockbroker on Wall Street stands level with the illegal immigrant who picks strawberries. The evangelist in fine suits or sparkly dresses looks eye-to-eye with the busdriver. And the homeschool mom stands shoulder to shoulder with the prostitute. His love demands He looks above the good and the bad, and His arms are always open, ready to receive us when we are ready to receive Him. Sometimes we run back into His arms many times in one day and He doesn't care if we've showered or put on the latest fashions, He's only looking for a contrite heart. That's it. A heart that says, "I'm sorry."

This Christmastime, rest in the fact that you can't impress Christ. He doesn't care about our beautiful cookies or the fact that our trees look designer coordinated. He isn't impressed we ran around to ten different stores to find the perfect present for Aunt Sue. He just wants us to love Him, just as we are, for when we do, we incarnate Him in the here and now, and there's no telling what He'll do through us.

Lisa Samson is the author of Hollywood Nobody (NavPress, 2007), For more information visit www.lisasamson.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Christmas Speculation, Part Two

Part two of this series is posted today over at SUM. Part three will post Christmas Day.

I pray you're having a wonderful Christmas season. May your days be full of love and laughter, and your hearts full of love. May God bless you richly and keep your thoughts continually on his grace and the gift of his Son.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Imagination

God's Gift of Imagination
by Jack Cavanaugh

Christmas is a holiday for the imagination.

Angels and shepherds and wise men (oh my!),
Tyrants and taxes and stars in the sky!
No room for a bed
As tidings were spread
And the Father looked down from on high.

It’s no wonder the story of the nativity thrills our hearts year after year. It’s a wonderfully creative event orchestrated by a Deity who loves using His imagination. Take the temple priest’s robes for example. When the temple was first built God assembled all the skilled craftsmen and gave them instructions (Exodus 35:10). The craftsmen designing the priestly robes were told to adorn them with images of blue pomegranates (Exodus 39:24).


There’s no such thing as a blue pomegranate! What was God thinking? If this kind of creativity were to catch on we could end up with Christmas cards with images of green angels, pink Christmas trees, and a plaid star over the manger!

If blue pomegranates bothers you…get over it! We have a wonderfully imaginative God who frequently colors outside the lines. Go, and do thou likewise.

Wishing you an imaginative Christmas season.

Jack Cavanaugh is the author of Hideous Beauty: Kingdom Wars #1 and countless other books. For more information visit www.JackCavanaugh.com.

Monday, December 17, 2007

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of God's Patience

The Gift of God's Patience
by Griffin Smith (written by Todd & Jedd Hafer)

Thanks for reading, everybody. My name is Griffin Smith. I’m in my second year at Lewis College (Go Eagles!) on the track team. Specifically, I run distance. Okay, I realize “distance” isn’t really specific at all. In high school I ran the 1600 and 3200 meters – that’s the mile and 2-mile for those of still holding strong in the anti-metric resistance.

As a runner and big-time sinner, the gift I am most thankful for this Christmas (and every day) is patience. Not my own, as my dad likes to say “looooong-suffering”. No, I could use a ton more. I routinely lose my patience in class, in races, in relationships – even with my little brother Colby who overcame the burden of being named after cheese to become the sweetest kid on the planet.

The amazing gift is God’s patience. His patience with me – the most unsweetened kid on the planet (and I know that is not the most grammatically sound phrase, but it’s tough for me to write about positive subjects, so, if we’re going to play ball, you’re going to have to indulge me).

Anyway, I constantly criticize myself, even punish myself (since we’re trying to be positive, I won’t get into that now), but God, He just keeps loving me. I try to squirm away, I even bend God’s fingers back, He just patiently holds on. I swear the guy must be double-jointed.

I’m definitely thankful for that grip though. I’d hate to think He’d ever let go.

The point is I know He never will. It’s just not in His nature. Good news for people like me!

You can read more of Griffin Smith’s ramblings about his surface life and his private pain in the novels Bad Idea: A novel with Coyotes and From Bad to Worse: A novel with Girls by Todd and Jedd Hafer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Third Sunday of Advent

Welcome to the third Sunday of Advent.

I hope you've been blessed by this tradition so far. I love seeing the candles burn down, creating a kind of stair step effect circling our wreath. Our excitement grows with each week as we watch the flames and anticipate lighting the Christ Candle. What a wondrous season. I pray for you that these last days before Christmas are filled with the joy of our Savior!

Third Sunday of Advent
Color: Purple or Pink
Theme: Joy
Suggested Scripture Readings: Isaiah 35:10, Psalm 51:12, Hebrews 12:2, 1Peter 1:8

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming as a tiny baby so long ago so that we may know the joy of your salvation. Show us daily how to walk in obedience to your glorious and freeing ways, and to always be ready to share the source of this incredible joy with others. In Your Holy Name, Amen!

On the Third Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Restoration

God's Gift of Restoration
by Rachel Thoene

When I was but a wee child, I had many opportunities to travel with my dad’s folks, Nonnie and Papa, on trips to the coast with their house trailer.

My Nonnie was religious about packing sandwiches, fresh home made cookies and fruit for the trip. She wrapped the cookies and sandwiches in wax paper… this was before the days of juice boxes and Lunchables… and the whole picnic was packed neatly into one or two sturdy shoe boxes for the trip. A thermos of coffee for she and Papa and one of milk for me. The trip to the coast was only about two and a half hours long, but about half way there, Papa would slow the rig to a wide spot in the road and we would have a “picnic” together before continuing on our way to the ocean.

I was asked to contribute some thoughts on the gift of God’s restoration vs. life’s destination. As I mulled a few thoughts over, it occurred to me that Nonnie’s “shoe box lunches” were a lot like God’s gift of restoration… Sure we had a destination in mind. It was exciting to get out of the valley and go spend time at the ocean with the sand and the waves and time all to myself with my Nonnie and Papa collecting shells… but the picnic lunch on the side of the road DURING the trip restored us and provided a brief respite in our journey.

Lately, my heart has been troubled and anxious as I have been caring for a friend with a very serious cancer. And I have found myself, head down, walking my campus during the day at work, talking to God about her condition and the outcome of all of this agony…And as I have conversed with Him on these strolls, I have picked up an amazing number of Pennies… every day… pennies… sometimes it’s only one or two, sometimes I’ve found 12 or more… but every day…pennies. And the curious thing is that every single one of those pennies says, “In God we Trust.” And I pick them up, put them in my pocket and say, “Thank you Lord. We are blessed today and we are whole, healthy, healed and restored…”

I believe that my friend is going to be well at the end of all of this, because God reminds me daily through those pennies to TRUST HIM”. And every penny draws me closer to Him so that I am focusing now on the moment and my conversation with Him, daily being restored in my faith and claiming her healing and I’m not any longer worrying about the destination or when we’re going to get there, because we have been given THIS MOMENT and in THIS Moment, I’m going to just pull my rig to the side of the road and have a picnic with Him in my heart.

Rachel Thoene is the author of The Vase Of Many Colors (Capstone Books, 2007), For more information visit www.thoenebooks.com

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On the Second Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, GRPR is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Simplicity

God's Gift of Simplicity
by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Amish people I write about celebrate Christmas in a much simpler way than most of us do. There are no Christmas trees or colored lights in their homes. The gifts they give one another are simple and functional, not elaborate or expensive. Their emphasis at Christmas is on the birth of Jesus and the love they feel for God, family, and friends. Anyone can give the gift of simplicity, and it can be given any time of the year. A smile, a hug, a listening ear. . .these are the gifts of simplicity.

Wanda E. Brunstetter is the author of many Amish themed books including the latest A Sister's Secret (Barbour Books, 2007) , the first installation in the Sisters of Holmes County series. Watch for the second installment, A Sister's Test, in January 2008. For more information visit www.wandabrunstetter.com

Friday, December 14, 2007

On the First Day of Christmas

Celebrating the true meaning of the Christmas season, Glass Roads Public Relations is proud to introduce to you the twelve days of Christmas. Twelve inspired devotional thoughts written by some of the best and brightest authors in the Christian industry.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me....

The Gift of Honesty

God's Gift of Honesty
by Mark Littleton

As a new Christian, I wasn’t really prepared for the stark truth about my previous life. Rummaging in my closet, I came across several shirts I had shop-lifted a couple of years before. I immediately remembered several items from the same heist.

Standing there trembling, I was unsure about what to do. I prayed, “God, what should I do about this?” It seemed the inner voice spoke immediately: “You need to return them to the store.”

I didn’t need to reflect much on it. I knew that was the right thing to do.

I packed up the items, drove to the nearby Bamberger’s store at the Cherry Hill Mall and found security. I explained what I’d done and offered to pay for the items. The guard smiled. “Every now and then we get one of these,” he said. “I’ll find out the prices and you can pay.”

A few days later, I got the call. Over sixty-five dollars in charges. In 1972 dollars, that was a lot of money. I sucked it up, though, wrote out a check and dropped it by. The guard thanked me for my integrity, saying, “I wish there were more like you out there. But shop-lifting costs us big-time. Just the same, I respect what you did.”

I went away feeling like I’d pleased God. There were other things I would return in the coming days, and it was always difficult. And costly. But the peace of mind and heart I received were all worth it. To say nothing of the witness to unbelievers, one of whom invited me to come visit him his family in Switzerland after I sent him back the stamps I’d stolen while babysitting his children years before.

Mark Littleton is the author of The Ten-Second Prayer Principle: Powerful Prayer As You Go (Howard Books, 2007) and many other books. For more information visit life-ology.townhall.com or www.winsunliterary.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Christmas Speculation, Part One

If you were around last year, you might remember a two part story surrounding the events of Christ's birth. I never did get to write the third installment. So, I'm reposting this series over at SUM, along with the third part this year. I pray it bless you as much as writing them did me.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm No Contest Diva

The wonderful ladies at The Seekers asked me to post about my writing contest experiences. I shared how I caught the eye of an editor in one contest and shared some pointers I picked up along the way. I hope you'll stop over and check it out!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Second Sunday of Advent

Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent.

Advent means "coming" or "arrival." So appropriate. And I just love the way each candle counts down the time to our Saviour's birthday. Both my girls were born in December, so it's a very special (and extremely busy) month. This tradition and an Advent Christmas tree quilt I created have helped my girls and I count down the days each December.

I've heard and read several interpretations of the wreath. Here are few of my favorite aspects:

  • The green of the wreath represents the eternal life we have in Christ.
  • The circular form of the wreath represents the unending love of God.
  • The purple of the outer candles represents the royalty of royalty.
  • The white of the center candle represents Christ's purity. (This candle is optional, by the way, but my favorite.)
  • The flames represent the light of God coming into the world through his Son.

Second Sunday of Advent
Color: Purple
Theme: Love
Suggested Scripture Readings: 1John 4:7-19, John 3:16-17

Father, you sent us the greatest gift and representation of your eternal love when you sent your Son as a tiny baby for the sole purpose of his sacrificial death. Help us to be shining examples of your love in a hurting world. And let us never forget this sacrifice and the amazing depth of your love. We love you so much. In Christ's Holy Name, Amen!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Hubby Brag Fest

Img_0087Let me tell you about my husband. He’s around six foot, salt and pepper hair, wears rectangular, black-rimmed glasses, and has a near genious IQ. (Yes, we are talking Mensa here.)

He’s the kindest, most loving man I have ever met. I’ve always felt cherished in our marriage. He’s a great dad, provider, and all around great guy. He’s affectionate, loves his girls to pieces, enjoys hanging out with his family, and actually saved a binky (a pacifier) from each of our girls as a memento.

He’s generous, quick to give of his resources, and wants only the best for not only us but for his extended family as well. Part of the reason I fell in love with this guy was because of his big and wonderful family.

He’s patient, never loses his temper. In twenty years of marriage, I can honestly say I’ve only seen him get really mad a few times, and even then it’s hard to tell. He’s even-keeled, passionate about his interests, loves his work, and is constantly stretching his mind.

In a nutshell, the guy has it all together. He's not perfect, but he's pretty wonderful.

Why am I telling in you this?

Read the rest at SUM.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday of Advent

I love this tradition. In my churches in Memphis and Zürich, we always had an advent wreath. I loved the lighting of the candles so much, that I adopted the tradition as my own. Each year, around Thanksgiving, I find the candles for our wreath.

Traditionally, the Advent wreath has five candles. Four purple or blue candles (sometimes the third or fourth candle is pink) and one white center candle. It's always a challenge to find the perfect center candle for the Christ candle. Our Lord and Savior deserves only the best.

Here's a picture of this year's Advent wreath. Each Sunday I'll post another picture of our wreath along with the meaning of each candle.

I hope you'll join my family and me in this wonderful tradition that exemplifies Jesus as the reason for the season.

First Sunday of Advent
Color: Purple
Theme: Hope
Suggested Scripture Readings: Isaiah 60:2-3, Romans 15:13, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:19

Precious Lord, we thank You for sending your son Jesus to be a light in a world of darkness, a light that never goes out or burns away. Teach us to place our hope in You and to share it with those struggling in hopeless situations. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Final Word on Thankfulness

716045_handsI know, I know. You’re most likely tired of the subject by now. Thanksgiving is over. We’ve seen plenty of posts about it, but I want to bring one more dish to the table before it’s cleared.

Thankfulness for our unbelieving spouses.

Sometimes this is incredibly difficult, or nearly impossible, but I do believe it to be vital. Our human nature tells us to do the opposite—to hold a grudge or to even be justifiably judgmental. Especially in situations where we’re criticized or ridiculed for our faith. However, I believe there is a deeper meaning to why we are to give thanks for all things, including our trials.

Read the rest at SUM.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What’s God Up to Now?

799092_iwu_chapel_entranceYou’re not going to believe this. Or maybe you will. Saturday evening I heard a still soft voice.

“Invite him to church.”

I paused. Or should I say, I froze. “Huh? Lord, is that you?”

“Invite him to church.”

“But why? He’ll just say no. Or laugh at me.”

“Invite him to church.”

“Well, okay. Whatever you want.” I laughed. Like Sarah when she heard God (appearing as the trinity) tell Abraham that by the time next year she would bear him a son.

Can you still hear me laughing?

Read the rest at SUM.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And Getting Older

Another birthday has come and gone, celebrated with family, calls from friends, and an inbox full of e-cards and special notes.

I am truly blessed. A huddle of cards sit on the table, surrounding the area I sit at each morning to do my quiet time. I intend to leave them there for at least a week as a reminder of how many wonderful people God has put in my life.

First, here's a little trivia about the number 42:
  • Level 42, the British pop and funk band, formed in 1980 and became my absolutely favorite group as I entered my first year of college. Anybody remember the funny blond dude in the clown outfit in the music video. Ah, such memories of MTV when it was gooooooooooood.
  • According to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. (I'll get back to you on that in about 364 days.)
  • According to Wikipedia, 42 is also the second sphenic number to be bracketed by twin primes. (Yeah, I just cut and pasted that one in.)
  • The Orion Nebula Messier 42 (M42, NGC 1976) is the brightest starforming, and the brightest diffuse nebula in the sky, and also one of the brightest deepsky objects of all.
  • As of October 18, 2007, iGoogle was available in 42 languages.
  • The Gospel of Matthew lists 42 generations (names) for the genealogy of Jesus.
  • The number of months the Beast will hold dominion over the earth according to Revelation 13:5.
Now what I'm thankful for:
  • A merciful and loving God who claimed me for his very own.
  • A wonderful, loving, and passionate man who married me over twenty years ago and has stuck by my side no matter what.
  • Two beautiful and talented daughters who amaze me everyday that I could have had anything to do with it!
  • A circle of friends, specially picked by God to uphold me in prayer, encouragement, and love.
  • That I can pray, encourage and love that circle of friends mentioned above, and have the honor of being a part of their lives.
  • That everyday is a new opportunity to do living and loving even better.

May God bless you richly with his love and mercy, and never, ever let you forget how much HE LOVES YOU!

Blessings :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Growing Younger

708892_insipite_storms_1I've taken to daydreaming lately. In church as I sing during worship, I imagine my husband standing next to me, singing slightly out of key. As I read my Bible, I imagine him asking me about what I'm reading and a lively discussion ensues, both of us enrapt by the Word of God. I picture taking communion by his side. I wonder what his baptism will be like. What words will he share about his journey to faith?

And, oh, what a testimony it will be.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Still Time to Win!!!

There's still time to win a copy of Sandra Glahn's Informed Consent (original post). I just finished this book last night and really enjoyed it. So leave a comment if you'd like to enter the contest. Blessings!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Most Dangerous Prayer

PrayingIt’s birthed in the deepest recesses of our hearts, then moves with our silent yearnings to the hidden places in our thoughts. We dare to think it, until we finally submit and give words to this most dangerous prayer.

“Lord, do whatever it takes to bring my husband/wife to Christ.”

Among the unequally yoked there is an unspoken enormity to this prayer. And we understand the journey it takes deep within ourselves to finally speak it—to pray it with sincerity, knowing full well we have no idea what we may have unleashed. It comes from a place of near desperation and complete trust in God.

We are willing to risk it all.

Read the rest at SUM.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Informed Consent by Sandra Glahn

Jeremy Cramer, M.D. is the next Einstein of infectious disease research. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes a breakthrough discovery in AIDS research that thrusts him into the center of a media frenzy.

But the publicity turns negative and his marriage reaches the breaking point when he accidentally infects a colleague and his negligence allows his son to contract a life-threatening disease. The viruses test the limits of his new formula and his ethics.

In his frantic efforts to save his son and his marriage, he must decide whether to allow his child to die or violate the rights of a young transplant donor. The choice forces him to stand face-to-face with the unfathomable love required to sacrifice an only son.

Sandra Glahn, ThM, teaches in the media arts program at Dallas Theological Seminary, where she edits the award-winning magazine Kindred Spirit. The author of six books and co-author of seven others, she is pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas . She recently released her first solo medical suspense novel, Informed Consent (Cook). She is the co-author of three other such novels, which include the Christy Award finalist, Lethal Harvest.

What’s Informed Consent about?

Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.

I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

The story had a thousand or more “what if” moments. I’m pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies, and I worked on the setting, characters, a lot of the plot, as well as my narrative voice during three novel-writing classes taught by a novelist who writes fiction reviews for Publishers Weekly. And I got some great feedback from fellow students who don’t believe in Christ about ways to address faith issues more naturally. I also took a Dante class, which influenced my choice to give my characters five of the seven deadly sins. (I’m saving the other two for a future work.)

But the elements in the plot designed to keep readers up at night came through a brainstorming session with medical doctor, William Cutrer, with whom I’ve coauthored three medical novels.

What made you decide to write a book that deals with AIDS?

The church in Africa is doing a fantastic job dealing with HIV-AIDS. The North American church—not so much. So I wanted to tackle some of our misconceptions, challenge some of our stereotypes, and hopefully help readers consider their own involvement with AIDS patients.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Dr. Nate Barlow. He’s imperfect, but he cares so much for his patients. And he’s a good friend. He has every reason to be arrogant, but he’s oblivious to his own greatness.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Eerie Read...

Halloween. Time for ghosts, goblins, princesses, pirates, witches, warlocks, and…demons? From a Christian novelist?

Author Tosca Lee says, yes, demons exist. “On the earth. In the air. In the heavens.” It’s that belief that caused Lee to pen the sleeper hit, Demon: A Memoir, an appropriate read for the spooky season.

The book’s Amazon rank across all Christian fiction recently hit the top 25 and her writing has drawn comparisons to the great C.S. Lewis work The Screwtape Letters as well as Anne Rice’s work Interview with the Vampire. The Smith College graduate has criss-crossed the country on a whirlwind book tour in such cities as Boston, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Omaha, Detroit, and her home city of Lincoln.

But, just as the holiday itself draws criticism from Christians, Lee has had to handle critical response from the faith-based community questioning her beliefs. One church deemed the book “inappropriate” reading. Some even wondered if she’d communed with demons to write the eerie manuscript.

“No, I’ve never had a direct personal experience with an angel or demon,” Lee laughs. “Not in the visceral way that others describe. Thank God. I think I would have a heart attack.” She did, however, endure some strange encounters.

“Things broke down in my brand new house. Mice infested it. The water turned blue. Smoke came out of my dishwasher. Granted, these were petty and stupid happenings that made me roll my eyes.”

Then, it got even more strange.

“My computer’s motherboard fried—I could smell it burning. I became more prone to anxiety attacks. My new laptop began to blank out in the middle of working on the story before I had saved anything. I was constantly distracted. While all of these events have practical explanations, it was the timing of all of them that made them a bit weird.”

Then came the fear.

“As the things that happened became both more subtle and distracting, I had moments where I actually began to worry about the safety of those around me and, at times, for myself. Yes, I know it may sound superstitious at best to anyone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. For me, though, I believe I was peering into a realm that should be understood to the best of our ability, but one that consists of opposing forces that may not want exposure.”

Whether coincidence or demonic activity, one thing is certain. Tosca Lee is happy to be writing about something else while Demon hits the shelves for Halloween. Her second novel is the story of Eve.

“At the heart of these books is my desire to more deeply understand this idea of God, of good and evil,” Tosca says. “And of the struggle of the first people to grasp these concepts and deal with their implications. I write foremost to fill in the gaps in my own conceptual understanding of my faith. When a reader writes to me and says, ‘You made me see something in a whole new way,’ or ‘I never thought of that before,’ that is the greatest compliment.”

Special thanks to Glass Roads for this article. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Tosca's fabulous book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Fine Linen Belt

16243_linenIn Jeremiah 13, God tells Jeremiah to purchase a linen belt and tie it around his waist. Jeremiah does as God instructs him. Then God speaks a second time, telling Jeremiah to bury the belt in a crevice. Many days later, Jeremiah unearths the belt at God’s direction and finds it ruined and completely useless. God uses this picture literally to show Jeremiah what Judah and Israel have become in their idolatry—“useless.”

As I read this chapter, I had to pause, and take note. (That’s usually the Holy Spirit saying, “Whoa, stop and pay attention!) Throughout the Bible, we usually see linen used in association with Christ and his priesthood, going all the way back to Exodus and Aaron. Revelations 19:8 says that “fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.”

Isn’t it so like God to use a metaphor to reflect his meaning on so many levels? Judah and Israel had lost their righteousness because of their pride, wickedness, and stubbornness. They became as broken and tattered as that linen belt.

God further expounds upon the meaning of the belt in verse 11:

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Hideous Beauty by Jack Cavanaugh

A Hideous Beauty, the first book in the Kingdom Wars series, is very fascinating. I was delighted to finally get a chance to read a book by Jack Cavanaugh. The premise is unique and keeps you hooked to the end, which is good because, in all honestly, I didn't like the hero of this story at first. He comes across very selfish and self-centered, but by the end, I could see how this works well with the plot. Big risk though.

Despite the lack of emotion in the beginning, I think Cavanaugh did a great job weaving a tale of the ageless battle between good and evil. I did question one aspect of his theology exhibited in the book, but with further thought decided this is only based on my interpretation of what was presented. (Would love to sit with JC and discuss that one!)

In the meantime, I leave this prelude for your reading consideration, courtesy of Glass Roads PR, and I definitely recommend this book for your reading stack. One lucky commenter will get a free copy!

Imagine America’s borders have been breached—but not by something you can see. Homeland Security doesn’t even acknowledge this terrorist group exists. Yet hundreds, possibly thousands of spies are crossing our borders every day. They are renegade angels, agents of destruction from a supernatural realm.

They move among us virtually undetected. For millennia they have acted as sleeper agents, influencing human history. All the wars in the world pale in comparison to the havoc they can wreak. And now, one man is about to be sucked in to the battle. Pulitzer Prize winner Grant Austin returns to his old high school to flaunt his accomplishments in the face of his childhood nemesis, Miles Shepherd. But he discovers a conspiracy of cosmic proportions involving a plot to assassinate the president and implicate Grant as a conspirator. In an effort to unmask the assailants and salvage his own reputation, Grant enlists the aid of a wheelchair-bound professor of theology, a high-powered Washington insider, and an investigative reporter who just happens to be his old flame. As Grant peels away the layers of conspiracy, the truth takes on a hideous beauty— for nothing is what it seems to be. Not even Grant Austin.

How did you get the inspiration to mix genres like you did in this book: suspense, political fiction, and the supernatural? How do you even classify the book when describing it to others?
Kingdom Wars is supernatural suspense, the everyday world colliding with the inhabitants of heaven. In A Hideous Beauty, the point of collision is the political arena when a plot to assassinate the president is uncovered. In the second book, Tartarus, the conflict erupts after a newly discovered ancient manuscript leads archaeologists to long-lost New Testament treasures.

Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?
As a student of the Bible I have developed a fascination with the way it describes the supernatural and natural worlds overlapping. It assumes the overlapping is obvious to everyone. The book of Hebrews tells us that we might at times find ourselves entertaining angels and not be aware of it. But it never says whether the angels we encounter will be friendly. After all, Lucifer is an angel. That’s all it took to get my imagination jump-started. I dove into the Bible looking for instances of encounters with the supernatural and developed my stories from there.

What sort of research was necessary for writing Kingdom Wars?
Extensive. I have used the same approach writing these contemporary novels that I used while writing historical fiction. Instead of tracking down historical documents, I have researched the Bible (translating from the original languages), read numerous theological books on angels and the supernatural, and read popular and literary works, such as Milton’s, Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. I want to introduce the modern reader to the supernatural through stories just as these men did for their readers in their day.

What takeaway points do you hope the reader pulls from this book?
Angels are real. They are here. They are active. And some of them are not friendly. In the front of each of the novels I included quotations from other Christian scholars like C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, who have said essentially the same thing I’m saying, only I’m saying it in the form of a story.

What other books are in the series, and when will they release?
At present, there will be a second Kingdom Wars book. The working title is Tartarus and it is scheduled for release Spring 2008. The concept for this book is the advantage rebel angels have over humans in terms of life span. Their lives span millennia. We have less than a century to learn about them, adapt our way of thinking to their presence, and engage them in battle. They can use this disparity to give them a tactical advantage. Think of it as time-released terrorism. The story begins when a fraudulent First Century manuscript is unearthed two thousand years after it was created.

Can you share something with our readers about what God has been teaching you lately?
Not surprisingly as I search the Bible for supernatural encounters, the lessons I have been learning are in the area of living a spiritual life. The book of Ephesians has been particularly helpful. I have been learning that intangibles such as courage, confidence, truth, humility, and patience are not simply characteristics of a spiritual person, they are that person’s offensive and defensive weapons. When the adversary attacks with doubt, lies, and intimidation, we fight back by choosing to live confidently, by choosing to tell the truth, and by choosing to take a courageous stand.

What else would you like your readers to know about you, or about Hideous Beauty?
Grant Austin’s use of humor in the face of adversity is a Cavanaugh family trait. We laugh a lot. Our family gatherings are marked by levity and laughter. We laugh during difficult times. Sometimes we laugh at the wrong times. (I once laughed myself out of $800 during a negotiation for a speaking engagement.) I have standing instructions for kazoos to be passed out at my funeral. My family will know what to do with them. I want them to laugh in the face of death and not to mourn as those who have no hope.

Monday, October 22, 2007


New_ark3Lord, prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
With thanksgiving
I’ll a be a living
For You.

The first time I ever went on a youth trip was as a youth counselor. I’m sure I learned more that year than the teens I worked with. (I was green beyond belief!) The lines above have stayed with me ever since that trip over ten years ago. Recently this song came to mind again in conjunction with a Bible study I’m doing about the Tabernacle.

God was very clear and specific with Moses in regards to how He wanted the Tabernacle made. Right down to the cubit. The altars of sacrifice and incense, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place, the priestly garments, the lampstand.

I love how the incense represents prayer. I love how the whole imagery here ultimately leads to Christ and his final sacrifice. I love how God weaves this tale in pages and pages of symbolism that will take us from this lifetime and into the next to understand it all. And maybe all of eternity to fully appreciate. I love this great big God who saw fit to give me a glimpse of what’s to come in regards to my precious husband.

You see, I’ve come to realize that what God shows me the first time is never the complete picture. Like a multifaceted diamond, his revelations capture the light of truth and reveal unlimited nuances. And so it’s happened again.

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How Did We Get Here?

833297_you_shall_love_the_lord_yourIt’s the question we all dance around. The one we sometimes want to ask but don’t. The one we dread being asked. The one we know the person’s dying to ask us when we tell them why our spouse doesn’t share our faith.

“Did you know he wasn’t a Christian when you married him?” (I can hear the universal cringe.)

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Life, Unscripted with Tricia Goyer

Tricia Goyer joins us today to talk about her new book, My Life, Unscripted. I've looked this book over and think it's a great tool for youth counselors and study groups. Now here's Tricia with a scoop about her book, and as always, leave a comment and even share a script of your teenage "drama." One of you will receive a copy of this innovative book.

The Facts of Life was teen girl drama at its finest. Yet today's teens know life if NOT like the movies. Real life means real drama ... something teens face on a daily basis. Yet, do teens have to let their lives be molded by every wave of emotion? My Life, Unscripted empowers teen girls to write their own script and direct their own life by using God's Script as a guide.

Looking back at my drama-filled teen years I now wonder ... What was I thinking?
The truth? I wasn't. I lived from day to day on every wave of emotion. Some days excitement and passion partnered up, pattering wildly within my heart.

Other days, depression and anxiety were my silent friends. I lived each day as it came, with no plan for my future, for my relationships, or for my heart.

I lived my life completely unscripted ... and, well, it didn't go well for me. Teen pregnancy and a broken heart were only two consequences. Yet my prayer is that when teen girls are asked Who's Writing Your Life? their answer will be ME ... with the guidance of God, My Director.

Q & A
Tell us about My Life, Unscripted.
Sure! With real-life scripts, screenwriting terms, and timely topics, My Life, Unscripted helps teen girls explore their own inner struggles and outward relationships. It's my hope they'll learn the importance of "scripting" their own responses BEFORE challenging life-situations arise.

By contrasting real-life with TV/movies, it's my hope that teen girls will understand they don't have to get caught up in the drama. They don't have to face situations as they arise, but rather they can think about, pray about, and consider how to face these situations before they hit the big screen of their lives.

Is it true that much of YOUR story shows up in these pages?
Gulp. Yes, I'm afraid so. In fact, I shared parts of my story that I SWORE I'd never tell a soul. My teenage script (portrayed in the book as Trish Valley) wasn't one I'd suggest my daughter, nor my readers to copy.

Tell us about these scripts.
The introductory script of Trish Valley shows a scene where Trish urges her mom to follow Trish's boyfriend into the McDonald's parking lot so she can "spill her news." The other girl in the car and her boyfriend's response to Trish's pregnancy are unfortunately not fiction. I wrote out the scenes as they would appear in an actual script. I even use all the correct terms and layout.

In addition to teen pregnancy, what are some of the other "scripts"?

Do I have to tell? Well, I guess it's in print now! Let me see: fists fights with a rival, sneaking out of my parents' house, getting caught by my boyfriend kissing his best friend--does that give you an idea? Do I have to go on?

No, you can stop there. But WHY? Why did you decide to share these stories?
First, because I want girls to understand the heartache of unwise decisions. I want to them to be able to relate to me, rather than feeling preached at. Also, I wanted to share my stories because many young women have faced the same type of situations, or they know friends who have. And finally because they are great object lessons for the importance of following biblical truth. That is something I did learn!

Okay, so your book is for teens, but what about the moms out there who feel they have past mistakes they don't want to share?
Well, they could each write a book about their teen years! Ha- just kidding! But for those moms out there, maybe your teen years were not as drama-filled as mine. Or, if they were, maybe you are fearful of sharing them with your teen. The truth is, teens learn best not with information and knowledge, but rather by hearing life examples and understanding how decisions can affect all parts of our lives. So, time to get brave, Mom. Open your heart and share what worked and what didn't. It just might help your daughter write a better script for herself.

Check out CHAPTER ONE.

Another scoop! My Life, Unscripted is in Barnes and Noble as part of their back-to-school endcap promotion!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An Interview with Robin Caroll

Today is a most auspicious day! One of my best friends, Robin Miller (writing as Robin Caroll) joins us today to share about her first book, Bayou Justice. And because she’s also one of my awesome crit partners, I get to torment her a bit. LOL! Just kidding…well, mostly.

So, here we go!

Robin, as you look back over the last two years you’ve spent as my wonderful crit partner (please hold your applause), what would you say stands out the most to you in this process of becoming published? (Insert reverent music here.)

Has it only been two years? Gosh, it feels like forever! LOL Seriously, I mean that in a GOOD way. I can’t remember how I survived without my cps! What stands out the most? Hmmm…..I’d have to say having so many people believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself. That’s humbling. VERY humbling. My family, my mentor, my cps, my writing buds, and my agent…..each one took a turn lifting me up when I was ready to chunk it all.

What has God taught you in this journey? (If she says the “P” word, get your water balloons ready and take aim!)

Don’t worry, I used my once-a-month-allowance of the “p” word on Heather’s blog! LOL I think God’s taught me, well, reminded me, that He’s in control. While I get so caught up in life and its messes, I think it’s all about me. And it’s SO not! LOL

Your books have a Cajun theme. Say something to us in that Cajun dialect you know so well. (Be still my heart…) Be sure to translate!

LOL…wow, free reign! LOL Hmmm…how about a bit of advice for writers? Lâche pas! Lâche pas la patate! Translated, that means Don’t give up! Keep it up! How’s that? My hubby says I say Mais non! a lot, which means But no! Oh no! LOLOLOL

Can I pick on her just a little more?

Gee, thanks, D! What’re friends for, huh? LOL

Robin, you’re president of American Christian Fiction Writers, a mom of three girls, a wife of 18 years…you’re about the only writer I’ve ever met who can actually write and hold a conversation at the same time. Tell the truth…when exactly did they clone you?

LOL…I wish! I just was blessed with the ability to read and write fast. Trust me, I need more hours in the day.

What’s your favorite pastime (besides killing your poor characters)?

Awww, you mean I can’t claim that one? I SO love killing my characters. Okay, I love torturing my characters, too. Does that count? Seriously, I like to scrapbook, although I haven’t had time to do it in some time. I love to talk on the phone (no comments from the peanut gallery) with family and friends. I call my mom every morning. It helps since we’re four hours away.

Favorite character in your book?

The heroine, CoCo. Maybe because so much of my own personality is in her. Or maybe because my youngest daughter’s middle name is the same, although I spelled it the Cajun way—Co-Ceaux. Or maybe because she loves the bayous I love so much. But since it’s fiction, I made her much more beautiful.

Favorite way of torturing your friends? (Just preparing myself…)

As if I’d tell you my secrets? HA! LOL

Any parting words of wisdom? (Hold your breath!)

Wanna know what I think is the coolest thing about writing fiction? You actually get to think before your character speaks. Always the quick, perfect comeback. Man, wish that would happen to me in real life! LOL

Isn’t she great? And her book is AWESOME! Run, don’t walk, and get a copy. And guess what? There are three more books in the series so you get to lose yourself in more stories about this wonderfully quirky Cajun family. Enjoy!

Thanks, D…this has been a lot of fun! :D

Be sure to leave a comment to win a copy of this fabulous book!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

An Interview with Lisa T. Bergren

Here's a series that looks absolutely fascinating, and I'm glad I can feature best selling and award winning author, Lisa T. Bergren's books, even if I don't have time at the moment to read them. That means I have to find a nice home for these two yummy books. Leave a comment, picking a number between 1 and 100. The winner will get BOTH books!

Now about Lisa...

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the author of 28 books, with over 1.3 million sold. She is a publishing consultant, writer, Bible study leader, mother and wife. Her hobbies include travel (mostly from an armchair), reading, watching movies, cooking and exploring with her family. Lisa's most recent books include The Begotten, The Betrayed, God Gave Us Heaven, What Women Want and The Busy Mom's Devotional. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To sign up for her monthly email (which includes a new, unpublished devotional) go to www.LisaTawnBergren.com and join her newsletter list.

Give us a glimpse of The Gifted series.

This is a supernatural suspense series set in medieval times, pre-Reformation, pre-Renaissance. It’s about a group of people who have profound spiritual gifting (healing, prophecy, wisdom, faith) who are in search of the lost letter of St. Paul, another letter he supposedly wrote to the Corinthians (an actual biblical mystery), but this letter has a non-Pauline prophetic bent. And in the margins, over the centuries, this secret letter has been passed along and protected by monks, some of whom added their own prophetic illuminations—drawings of the characters that appear centuries later. There’s the beautiful healer, a handsome knight, the wise priest, the child who can discern good from evil—characters that we both empathize with (when they fail) and wish to emulate (when they succeed). It is an epic story of good vs. evil and the desire to do what God calls us to do.

Where did you get the idea?
I read Da Vinci Code and stayed up all night reading it. In the end, I was grieved and angered at the heresy presented there. I set out to find a true biblical mystery, and two scholarly friends told me about the "lost letter(s) of Saint Paul," written to the Corinthians. At the same time, was profoundly influenced in watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on film. So when Publishers Weekly referenced both Da Vinci Code and LOTR, and compared my book, The Begotten, favorably, I was thrilled!

What truths from this series are most relevant for people today?

The main theme for The Begotten is really embracing God's supreme love, and finding total healing through it. The main theme for The Betrayed is perseverance and faith through trial. I'm thinking those are truths I need to be reminded of every year...and hope readers are ministered to through those lessons (even in the midst of a fast-paced read!)

What did you enjoy about writing these two books?

I love getting lost in this group of characters. They begin to feel like family to me, and alongside them, I learn more about the God we serve, battle evil, travel the world and inspire others, as if I'm in each of their heads, living each of their lives. Oh, and I got to go to Italy THREE times (and the South of France for a bit too) to research for this series--how cool is that?!?

Are there plans for more books in this series?

I'm currently at work on book #3, The Blessed. I think it ends there, but man, it's hard to say goodbye to such compelling characters! Blessed comes out next fall.

Don't forget to leave a comment and pick a number. These stories look fabulous!

Monday, October 01, 2007

An Interview with Creston Mapes

Creston Mapes returns to Kittens Come From Eggs to talk about his new powerhouse book, Nobody. This book has one of the clearest spiritual messages I’ve ever come across in fiction. Rich in subtly, this story isn’t preachy, it’s inspiring. You’ll walk away from this read, examining your own life and how you impact others. Now, let’s hear what Creston has to say about his latest book. (And stay tuned to the end for a chance to win a copy.)

Hey, Creston, great to have you back! Nobody just released. Can you tell us a little about the story?

Thanks for having me back, Dineen.

Nobody is the story of Las Vegas newspaper reporter Hudson Ambrose, who hears a report on the police scanner about an injured person at a bus stop along The Strip in Las Vegas. When Hudson goes to check it out in the pre-dawn hours, he finds a murdered homeless man with a safe-deposit box key and bankbook in his pocket worth close to $1 million. Because the police are slow to respond, Hudson is faced with a question—whether to wait for the cops and have the story get caught up in red tape, or swipe the key and bankbook, and run. Soon, Hudson finds himself on a deadly, suspense-filled investigation into the death the homeless man, Chester Holte. Who was this man? Was he really rich? Why was he living on the streets of Las Vegas? And why did the entire homeless community believe he was an angel in disguise?

Did you have to do a lot of research into Las Vegas and the homeless there for this story? Any of it on location?

Yes. My publisher sent me to Las Vegas for a number of days. I toured the city with a great guy named Brian Brooks with the Nevada Health Centers. Brian took me to several of the free clinics where the homeless of Las Vegas go for everything from chronic colds to spider bites. I interviewed doctors and nurses. We drove by the encampments and dry dessert wash beds where the homeless live, as well as the soup kitchens and other homeless hangouts. Of course, I visited the casinos and clubs while there as well.

There are some 10,000 homeless people in Las Vegas. Many suffer from drug addiction, depression, and mental illness. Some 6,000-8,000 people move to Las Vegas each month, many looking to “start over.” However, many of those same people end up homeless.

Las Vegas is the most visited tourist spot in the U.S., with 40 million visitors a year…more than tour the White House each year.

Chester Holte is a powerful character in this story. Amazingly, he’d dead before the story even opens, yet his presence is as strong as any of the other characters. What was that like, to write a character like that?

At times it was difficult. The book is done in the multiple first person point of view. So, the reader is hearing, first-hand, from a number of different characters. I love writing in the first-person and my editor helped my really work at making each character sound unique.

Chester is the only character in the novel we don’t hear from, first-hand. However, because Hudson is investigating his murder, we “see” flashbacks from Chester’s life that give the reader a very real and immediate sense of what he was like.

I enjoy writing from different and unique perspectives.

You credit your father for giving you the “seed” for this story? How did that come about and is Chester like your father? Who or what was your inspiration for this phenomenal and Jesus-like character?

My dad, Bernie, who passed away 10 months ago, was with me at a park in St. Augustine, Florida, when we saw a homeless man sitting on a park bench. The man was ripping chunks from a loaf of bread he was clutching. He threw a bunch to the black birds scattered all around him, and he ate some. My dad leaned near and said, “That would be a good idea for a book, Cres.” And so, when I heard my publisher was sending me to Las Vegas, that seed had been planted and I brought that idea to life by touring the homeless community and getting a good feel for what it’s like to be homeless in Las Vegas.

My dad was not the inspiration for Chester’s character (although Dad was a very generous man). I don’t know, I just envisioned this caring, compassionate homeless man who didn’t care about money, but cared about people. The more I wrote the book, the more Chester grew and formed into this almost angel-like character….but not so angel-like that he was unrealistic. He reminds me of the text when Jesus said to be kind to strangers, because we may be entertaining an angel in disguise.

Have you ever met a Chester Holte in the real world?

I wish I could say I have, but no, not yet. I do know several people who blow me away with their thoughtfulness, unselfishness, and generosity. I wish I could be more like them.

What journey did this story take you on personally?

Well, the journey to Las Vegas, for one. Also, when I was in Vegas, I met with Pastor Jud Wilhite of Central Christian Church, one of the country’s fastest-growing churches. Jud’s church’s mission is to “reach those who are far from God.” He shared a poem with me, written by the late Samuel Shoemaker, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. When I read this poem, I knew it would become the theme for NOBODY. It’s all about becoming so deeply involved inside the church, that we forget about people outside the doors. I had done this once in my life, so it was very emotional for me to tell it again, through Chester’s life, on a much more dramatic scale, of course.

If you like, I’ll end with that poem here, which runs at the beginning of the novel. My hope is that readers will refer back to it often and reflect upon it as they read the novel:

I Stand By The Door

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world.
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There's no use in my going way inside and staying there
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I, crave to know where the door is
And all that so many ever find is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men with outstretched, groping hands
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world is for men to find that door -
The door to God.
The most important thing any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands and put it on the latch -
The latch that only clicks and opens to the man's own touch.
Men die outside that door
As starving beggars die on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter
Die for want of what is within their grasp
They live on the other side of it, live because they have found it
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it
And open it and walk in and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints, go all the way in
Go way down in the cavernous cellars and way into the spacious attics
It is a vast roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And know the depths and heights of God
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is
Sometimes I take a deeper look in, sometimes venture in a little farther
But my place seems close to the opening
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there -
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God in the zeal of His house devour them
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia and they want to get out
"Let me out!" they cry, and the people way inside terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled for the old life
They have seen too much.
Once taste God and nothing but God will do anymore.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are to leaving
Preoccupied with the wonder of it all
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door but would like to run away
So for them too, I stand by the door.
I admire the people who go way in,

But I wish they would not forget how it was before they got in
Then they would be able to help the people who have not yet even found the door
Or the people who want to run away from God again
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long and forget the people outside the door
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there
But not far from men as to not hear them and remember that they are there too.
Where? Outside the door.
Thousands of them, millions of them
But more important for me, one of them, two of them, ten of them
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch
So I shall stand by the door and wait for those who seek it.
I had rather be a doorkeeper, so I stand by the door.

Stand By the Door: The Life of Sam Shoemaker, by Helen Smith Shoemaker, Word Books, 1967

Thanks again, Dineen. Keep writing for Him.

Thanks, Creston! Will do. Now you readers out there, here's your bonus. Whoever can tell me what kind of shoes Chester Holte wears gets a signed copy of this awesome book!