Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Meaning of Love

HeartclothAfter looking at John, I’m finding my interest sparked now by Peter. We know Peter denied Christ three times, then in John 21, Jesus asks if Peter loves him three times. I love the symbolism here, and again, God brings more than one purpose to light.

Just as Peter denied Christ three time, Jesus gives Peter the chance to “choose” him three times thereby reaffirming Peter’s place in relationship to God’s kingdom and also to Christ himself.

If we dig a little deeper though into the Greek meaning behind the words, two different words are used for love.

The first time Christ asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” he uses agape, which portrays love as volitional (a choice) and self-sacrificing. Peter answers him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” But he uses phileo which means a brotherly type of love with common interests.

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More about John...

591856_modern_stained_glassThe next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." John 1:29-31 (NIV)

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"

They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."

So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). — John 1:35-42 (NIV)

Several of you let me know that Sunday’s post really challenged you. I think that’s what God had in mind, because like you, it truly challenged me. Yet I find John is still walking around in my head, as if his story still needs to be told. Or perhaps the writer in me is just trying to understand a character not well defined in the Bible.

What struck me from the above verses was how the two disciples following John left him and followed Jesus. One of whom was Peter, the one who Jesus planned to build his church upon. Again the picture shows John’s mission of preparing things for Jesus. He enlisted these two men for the Messiah’s cause and then released them to the Lord he’d faithfully served.

But did he wonder? Did he watch these two men go with Jesus and long to go with them? Did he wonder why he wasn’t destined to be one of the twelve—a confidant and friend to the long awaited One?

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What about John?

591856_modern_stained_glassThey came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."

To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." — John 3:26-30

John the Baptist has been on my mind this week. I wonder what he felt when he saw Jesus with the Twelve. Did he wish to be one of those chosen men, constantly in the presence of the Son of God? Did he look longingly at this group, wondering why he'd been set apart? Or did he actually have the better job?

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My Soul To Keep by Melanie Wells

This weeks Christian Fiction Blog Alliance feature is My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells. This is one author's work I can definitely sink my teeth into and am looking forward to diving into the ominous depths of this one. So check it out...

About the Author...
A native of the Texas panhandle and the child of musicians, Melanie Wells attended Southern Methodist University on a music scholarship (she's a fiddle player), and later completed graduate degrees in counseling psychology and Biblical studies at Our Lady of the Lake University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

She has taught at the graduate level at both OLLU and DTS, and has been in private practice as a counselor since 1992. She is the founder and director of LifeWorks counseling associates in Dallas, Texas, a collaborative community of creative therapists.

When the Day of Evil Comes is her first published work of fiction, and the first of a three-book series. The second work, The Soul Hunter was released in May, 2006. Melanie lives and writes in Dallas.

About the Book...
As nasty as I knew Peter Terry to be, I never expected him to start kidnapping kids. Much less a sweet, funny little boy with nothing to protect him but a few knock-kneed women, two rabbits and a staple gun…

It’s psychology professor Dylan Foster’s favorite day of the academic year…graduation day. And her little friend Christine Zocci’s sixth birthday. But the joyful summer afternoon goes south when a little boy is snatched from a neighborhood park, setting off a chain of events that seen to lead nowhere.

The police are baffled, but Christine’s eerie connection with the kidnapped child sends Dylan on a chilling investigation of her own. Is the pasty, elusive stranger Peter Terry to blame? Exploding light bulbs, the deadly buzz of a Texas rattlesnake, and the vivid, disturbing dreams of a little girl are just pieces of a long trail of tantalizing clues leading Dylan in her dogged search for the truth.

Like water rising to a boil, My soul To Keep’s suspense sneaks up on you…before you know it, you’re in the thick if a frightening drama…Superbly crafted.”
---ROBERT LIPARULO, author of Deadfall, Germ, and Comes A Horseman

Written with passion, a good dose of humor and, dare I say it, soul, this novel reminds us that we all, with grace and good fortune, bumble our way toward salvation.”
---K. L. COOK, author of Late Call and The Girl From Charmelle

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Interview with Amy Wallace

Today it's my absolute delight and pleasure to have one of my favorite authors here. Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises. These books are two of my favorite stories and I can't wait to read Enduring Justice, book three in the Defenders of Hope series (Spring '09). (Btw, there are some spoilers in the first chapter of Healing Promises so you might want to read Ransomed Dreams first.)

Now here's the best part. One very special commenter will win a Healing Promises Gift Pack, which contains a signed copy of the book, Healing Promises, a Healing Promises mug, and a Starbucks gift card!

Amy, you touch on some pretty powerful struggles with your characters. What’s the “story” behind this story?

Healing Promises grew out of a painful time of wrestling with God and doubting His goodness during two very intense experiences. One was attending a friend’s funeral after three years of praying for healing. My faith was rocked to the core and I struggled to pray for a long time after my friend died. The second difficult season was that of losing a baby before becoming pregnant with my third daughter. Both dark nights of the soul took me to the end of what I understood about God. As I worked on Healing Promises, I went back to those memories and poured into the pages all the pain of those moments as well as what God taught me and the grace He lavished on my wounded heart.

Clint’s character is so deep and real in his struggle to trust God through his cancer treatment. And what a challenge that must have been to write! How did you handle that?

I had an amazing group of people praying me through the writing of this story. And four very dear friends who shared their cancer journeys with gut-wrenching honesty and gave me the privilege of mixing my tears and prayers with theirs.

Sara’s constant feeling of failure, no matter how much she actually helped or accomplished, is true for so many Christians. What was your motivation to show her struggle?

Not until writing the end of this book did I realize how much of my life and my struggles appeared in Sara’s story. It would have been easier to sanitize Sara’s pain and rework her issues. But my mentor taught me that bleeding into our writing and letting the Lord work within the mess of our lives and our stories is the only way to fashion words that will capture people’s hearts and point them to the Lord.

One part I really could relate to was Sara’s role as Clint’s wife, especially in such a difficult time and through her own emotional struggles as well. Marriage is a challenge even in the best of circumstances. What holds this fictional couple together in such a difficult time in their lives and relationship?

The only thing that holds real-life together—the all-powerful and infinite love of our amazing God that never lets go of us. I think the various storms Clint and Sara faced together in the past as well as their deep love and respect for each other also provided some strong glue to their relationship.

There were definitely some hanging threads there with Michael and Hanna. Will we get to see their story in book three?

Absolutely! Enduring Justice is Michael and Hanna’s story as they learn that the difference between executing vengeance and pursuing justice is their choice to heal.

What has been the most difficult aspect in writing this series? The most rewarding?

The most difficult aspect has been pouring my soul into these stories and then having to let them go and trust that God will accomplish His good purpose for them.

The most rewarding has been pouring my soul into the pages and watching God touch hearts and do amazing things beyond what I could have asked or imagined.

One line in the book is so powerful. “Are you depending on circumstances or people?” Can you give blog readers a glimmer of this most important message?

It’s been said that trusting God on sunny days when life is cruising along is easy. But it’s a far different scene when storms are raging and God asks us to step out of the boat—the one we’re sure is the only thing keeping us safe.

I’ve watched God pry things from my hands that I knew were His will for me and His gifts. The problem was I kept looking to those people and circumstances for my peace and okayness. It’s God’s amazing grace and love that breaks our hold on the things that can’t keep us afloat when life turns stormy, so that we’ll cling to His hand instead. The hand that holds tight even when the waves roar and enables us to walk on water with Him.

Wow, great stuff, Amy. Thanks for sharing with us.

Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win that gift pack. Also, check out Amy's AMAZINGLY cool website, where you can sign up for her newsletter, Dark Chocolate Suspense. You really don't want to miss that. Amy shares wonderful stories in her newsletter, and the most tempting recipes!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


813780_thumbs_upHave you ever had one of those weeks where you notice a common theme? The subject of a devotional, an email that comes over your favorite prayer loop, Sunday’s sermon, this weeks subject at your small group Bible study…

Those are the times I pay close attention, because I know God has something teach or show me. This has happened over the last week and the subject has been about contentment.

Paul touches on this subject very clearly in Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
At first glance, it’s easy to assign material needs to these verses, and you would be correct. But Paul addresses a deeper level in the latter part of verse 12—“being content in any and every situation.”

On daily basis, we struggle with this issue in our unequally yoked marriages. How do we find contentment in the midst of conflict? How do we reach the point of saying like Paul did, “I am content in my situation?”

Read the rest at S.U.M.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Amber Morn by Brandilyn Collins

This week, Christian Fiction Blog Alliance presents Amber Morn by Brandilyn Collins. If you haven't had a chance to check this series out, I highly recommend it. I'm halfway through Amber Morn, the fourth and final book in the Kanner Lake series (sniffle-snifle) and it carries on in Brandilyn's true "don't forget to b r e a t h e ... ®" style. Be sure to leave a comment for the book drawing. One "lucky" person will receive a copy of Amber Morn AND a signed copy of Coral Moon, book two in the series.

About Brandilyn...
Brandilyn writes for Zondervan, the Christian division of HarperCollins Publishers, and is currently at work on her 19th book. Her first, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows.

She’s also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons), and often teaches at writers conferences.

Brandilyn blogs at Forensics and Faith. Visit her Website to read the first chapters of all her books.

About Amber Morn...
The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than sixty seconds.

Bailey hung on to the counter, dazed. If she let go, she’d collapse—and the twitching fingers of the gunman would pull the trigger. The rest of her group huddled in frozen shock.

Dear God, help us! Tell me this is a dream . . .

The shooter’s teeth clenched. “ Anybody who moves is dead.”

On a beautiful Saturday morning the nationally read “Scenes and Beans” bloggers gather at Java Joint for a special celebration. Chaos erupts when three gunmen burst in and take them all hostage. One person is shot and dumped outside.

Police Chief Vince Edwards must negotiate with the desperate trio. The gunmen insist on communicating through the “comments” section of the blog—so all the world can hear their story. What they demand, Vince can’t possibly provide. But if he doesn’t, over a dozen beloved Kanner Lake citizens will die...

Amber Morn is the climactic finale to Collins’ widely read Kanner Lake series. All first three titles in the series, Violet Dawn, Coral Moon, and Crimson Eve, were bestsellers. Library Journal placed Crimson Eve on its Best Books of 2007 list, and hailed it the “Best Christian suspense of 2007.”

***Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win these books. I'm still waiting for one commenter to get Allison Bottke's groundbreaking book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. Winners picked Friday.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

An Interview with Allison Bottke

Today Allison Bottke is here to talk about her new book, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. This book addresses a very critical area and I encourage anyone dealing with difficulty to get a copy of this book. If you've been looking for encouragement and wisdom to stop an enabling pattern with your adult child, this is the book to have.

Allison shares her own story in this book and the journey she took to S.A.N.I.T.Y.
I have one copy of this groundbreaking book to give away. If you are a struggling parent or know someone dealing with this situation, please leave a comment for the book drawing.

The book comes out of your own personal experience with your son. Please tell us about that.

For years I really thought I was helping my son. I wanted him to have the things I never had growing up. I love my son, and I didn’t want him to hurt—but sometimes pain is a natural result of the choices we make. For a long time I didn’t understand the part I was playing in the ongoing drama that had become my son’s life—I didn’t understand that I didn’t have to live in constant chaos and crisis because of his choices. When I chose to stop the insanity and start living a life of hope and healing my life changed. It’s a feeling I want other struggling parents and grandparents to experience. I want other parents to know that change is possible when we choose to stop the destructive cycle of enabling. And we can stop it. I know, because I’ve done it.

Why do you think so many parents struggle with enabling their adult children?

We don’t understand the difference between helping and enabling, that one heals and the other hurts. We don’t realize that we handicap our adult children when we don’t allow them to experience the consequences of their actions.

You say there are two separate yet intrinsically combined things going on when we look at the pathology of enabling our adult children, what are those two things?

#1. We have the issue of the dysfunctional child himself—the product of our enabling. Most often, we are dealing with adult children who have no concept of healthy boundaries as they pertain to their parents and grandparents. Many are dealing with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, gambling, and more. Some of these children are involved in illegal activity, while others have been in and out of jail numerous times. Some are abusive to us. Some have jobs while others do not, most have extreme financial challenges. Others are still living at home, and some have even moved their spouse or “significant other” into their parents’ home with them. Many have been in and out of treatment centers, most often at the urging (and cost) of their parents. While we cannot change the behavior of our adult children, we can change how we respond to their actions and to their choices. We can, and must, begin to establish healthy boundaries and rules.

#2. Then, we have the issue of our own personal health and growth (or lack thereof.) For many of us, we have spent years taking care of, bailing out, coming to the rescue, making excuses for, crying over, praying for, and otherwise focusing an unhealthy amount of time and attention on this adult child, that we have neglected our own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Many of us have neglected other family members as well, as the adult child has taken so much of our energy. Some of us are now experiencing severe financial ramifications from having enabled our adult child. Others are finding their marriage falling apart as tempers flair and situations spiral out of control. What is it inside us that makes us respond in such a way—that makes us enable our adult children?

What are some things that parents can do to break the cycle of enabling?

Follow the six steps to S.A.N.I.T.Y.: Stop blaming yourself and stop the flow of money. Stop continually rescuing your adult children from one mess after another. Assemble a support group of other parents in the same situation. Nip excuses in the bud. Implement rules and boundaries. Trust your instincts. Yield everything to God, because you’re not in control. These six things can start a parent on the road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. in an insane situation that is spinning out of control. However, a key issue in breaking the cycle of enabling is to understand whose problem it really is.

What is the ultimate goal of Setting Boundaries?

While recognizing and identifying enabling issues must come before positive change can be made, it is the eventual peace and healing parents will feel as they gain power in their own lives that is the goal of this book. It’s a tough love book for coping with dysfunctional adult children, as well as getting our own lives back on track, Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children empowers families by offering hope and healing through six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps. I walk parents through a six step program to regaining control in their home, and in their life.

Tell us about the S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network you founded. How can people get involved?

The “A” step in S.A.N.I.T.Y. is to ASSEMBLE a support group. This is a vital component in being able to look at our situations more objectively. We have developed a powerful Companion Study Guide that can be read individually or in a group setting. This Companion Study Guide contains all the information you need to conduct a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support group in your neighborhood or community. Visit our web site here to find out more: http://www.sanitysupport.com/blogtourguests.htm.

The S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group Network is a powerful resource to help parents and grandparents who have challenging adult children gain S.A.N.I.T.Y. in a world spinning out of control. During the years I spent as an enabling parent there were no support groups available for me as a parent in pain. Although it’s a tremendously successful program, AA wasn’t quite right for me, and I attended a few Alanon meetings, but the kind of empowering strength I needed for my situation wasn’t available. I needed to hear from others who had walked in my shoes—I needed to hear what they were doing that worked. I needed people around me who would lovingly hold me accountable to my own choices as I experienced the journey of parenting and enabling a dysfunctional adult child. I needed an action plan to help me make changes in my life.

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt as I was writing Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child that a vital part of the outreach would be the development of an international support group network based on the six S.A.N.I.T.Y. steps I had developed.

We need a resource that can help us to set appropriate boundaries and get some S.A.N.I.TY. in our households, as well as assuring us that we are walking in God’s will. Following the steps outlined in Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Child is a start in addressing this issue. Attending, and/or facilitating a S.A.N.I.T.Y. Support Group in your community is the next vital step in gaining hope as you walk the often painful path to healing.

You say that enabling our children is “a nationwide epidemic with catastrophic consequences.” What has led you to believe this?

There is clearly an epidemic of major proportion plaguing our nation today. This has become obvious to me as I travel the country sharing my God Allows U-Turns testimony and outreach. Seldom does a week go by when I am not approached by someone in deep pain concerning their adult child. It’s not just audience members in conflict with this troubling issue, but fellow authors, speakers and entertainers, some quite well known, who are living in the throes of familial discord concerning out-of-control adult children. It’s happening all over the country to people from all walks of life.

I encourage your readers to tell me what they think about Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. I really do want to hear reader feedback. They can reach me at: SettingBoundaries@SanitySupport.com. Please be sure to visit our web site at http://www.sanitysupport.com/blogtourguests.htm where they will find additional resources for helping them on their road to S.A.N.I.T.Y. Remember to tell a friend in need and help save a life!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Be Sure

55446_catch_the_lightThe Bible defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1) This verse has always had special meaning for me. I’ve studied the flow of each word, and the nuances of its meaning. I’ve embraced its truth within my spirit where its lies deeply affirmed. And now I’m coming to see a new perspective from this verse I’ve called “friend” for so long.

I’ve always placed substantial weight on the last part, “certain of what we do not see.” Faith isn’t tangible. Perhaps this is the biggest hurdle to the unbeliever, to have faith in something that can’t be proven by science, by men. Faith, in and of itself, isn’t provable either. It just is.

Many of you know of the journey I’m on, that God shared his plan for my husband’s salvation with me almost seven years ago. That time is almost here, possibly within days, yet I’m somewhat astonished to find myself doubting.


Read the rest at S.U.M.