Monday, April 30, 2007

Talking Cats

I'm not an avid U-Tube watcher, but when it comes to kitties, I'm there! This is just too funny. I have five cats and not one of them can talk. But these do! Check it out...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Psalm 23

If you're like me, you've heard the 23rd Psalm so often, your eyes kind of glaze over when you hear it. Yet it's one of the most popular Psalms. This little gem came up one day in my Bible reading, so I asked God to show me a deeper meaning. Now why was I surprised that He did?

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

The Lord is my provider. He takes care of all my needs. Like a true sheppard, He even anticipates needs I'm not even aware of.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

His way is always the best. This is where I will find rest.

3 he restores my soul.

He alone is my source of peace. The Hebrew word for restores is shuwb (pronounced shoob), and it has a long list of meanings. The ones that really stood out to me were to return, come or go back; to restore, refresh, or repair.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

I am designed to glorify Him. The Hebrew word for sake is ma'an (pronounced mah'an) and means on account of, for the purpose of, to the intent that, in order to, or to the end that. This is my sole reason for existence. Like a vase in its completed form is a reflection of the potters skill and vision. I, the vessel, reveal God's glory. He created me for this reason.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Trials are guaranteed no matter how much money we have or how perfect our lives may seem at any one time. There is no such thing as a stress free life while we're on this earth. But we can take comfort in knowing Christ has walked, is walking, and will walk every step of the way with us.

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

God's authority gives us security and freedom. This can be a difficult one to understand. I'm just discovering its meaning myself, but I'm finding this freedom that exists under God's authority to be truly desirable. It's like a protective shield that allows me to be safe and protected as long as I'm under his authority. When I'm not, I'm answering to another "commander"—either my own will or the enemy's. Then I'm in bondage, a slave to sin, and not free.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

He is stronger than anything I will ever face. The Hebrew word for table is shulchan (pronounced shool-khawn) and means of king's table, private use, or sacred uses. Right in the face of my enemies, He's working for my benefit, and not just any table, but a king's table, a feast. He's already preparing for the victory celebration, because He knows Who who will win.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I love the Hebrew word for overflows. R@vayah (pronounced revawyaw) means saturated. He not only pours out His blessings on us, He saturates us with them.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

This is a benefit of God's love. It's not saying we will have an easy life, but we will have goodness and love in our lives. The Hebrew word for follow is radaph (pronounced rawdaf) and means to be behind, follow after, pursue, pursecute, run after, chase, or attend closely upon. (There are more but this post is already long enough!)

God doesn't just trail behind us like a faithful dog. He pursues us, intent to give us His love and goodness. He is passionate about us, jealous for us to experience all He is and has to give. That's powerful.

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

My eternity is secure in Him. The Hebrew word for dwell is yashab (prononced yawshab) and means to remain, still, abide, to be set, stay, have one's abode, or to be inhabited. One meaning even goes as far as to marry (give a dwelling to). We are truly the bride of Christ and our future is set. No matter what lies or temptations the enemy flings at us, he can't change this. Our eternal homes are there waiting for us to inhabit them, like a wedding present.

I won't look at the 23rd Psalm as boring ever again. It's meaning is much richer than I ever realized. But isn't God's Word like that? Deep and interconnected on so many levels. This is what makes the Bible timeless. Like Hebrew 4:12 says:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Bible photo by Tanya McConnell

(Be sure to leave a comment here for a chance to win a signed copy of
Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace. A winner will be announced Tuesday. Thanks!)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Did LOST Jump the Shark?

If you're not a LOST watcher, this post won't mean a whole lot to you. If you haven't watched the last episode yet, then consider this a spoiler alert.

If you were watching LOST last Wednesday, were you as surprised as I was to see the Russian dude walk on scene? I mean, come on, he died a few episodes ago. But there he is, residual blood around his ears and on his shirt, smiling that sneer and still wearing his eye patch.

I did what any reasonable viewer would do. I waited for an explanation. I waited for a reaction. I got neither. Oh, the ones there (Hurley, Charlie, Jin, and Sayid) seemed a little surprised but only because they knew he was an Other. Then, finally, one of them casually asks, "Aren't you supposed to be dead?"

Russian dude gives a smirky smile and spews out some explanation about the "mysterious" powers of the island. Okay, then it gets better (aka more unbelievable in this usage). He helps the Italian woman who fell out of the sky (don't even ask) and says she'll be fine. By tomorrow she'll be great. The frantic four question Russian dude again, and he makes some statement, again alluding to the power of the island, that wounds behave differently there.

Well, okay, then what about Boon? Why did he die? What about Shannon? What about all those dead bodies (including the two buried alive—again, don't ask)? Will they all come back and change the show name to "Island of the Walking Formerly Dead"?

I gotta say, LOST is about to lose this viewer. I know the premise of the show is about the impossible, or seemingly impossible. That's part of what I love about this series. They push the boundaries of reality to a whole different level. But last week, they made a liar of themselves. The inconsistency blew believability right out of their deep blue ocean water.

Next week? Yeah, I'll watch but with a probationary eye. I'll be looking for sharks. ;-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace

It is my great pleasure to have Amy Wallace here to share about her amazing new book, Ransomed Dreams, book one in the Defenders of Hope series. Definitely in my top five list so far for the year. This is a book you don’t want to miss out on so be sure to leave a comment. You could win a signed copy of her book.

Amy Wallace is a wife, homeschool mom, writer, youth Bible study leader, and an avid chocoholic. Go to her website featuring heart chocolate. I promise you’ll drool. But her favorite description of all is daughter of the King. Come meet this wonderful woman of faith.

Amy, I’ve read in other interviews that your new book, Ransomed Dreams, was birthed from a dream. Did you do any writing before that?

I’ve penned tons of journals since I was a young teen, and I often wonder if they shouldn’t be kept locked away somewhere. ;-) Professionally, I did have some poetry published when I was in high school, and then before the contract for Ransomed Dreams I was honored to be a part of a Chicken Soup anthology, in one of the Cup of Comfort books, and also in two God Allows U-Turns books.

Your prologue is very intense, very emotional. How did you manage to write it and work through it?

I prayed…a lot! It was painful to write, rewrite, edit, and edit some more. Each time I cried. But it’s my prayer that my walking in Gracie’s shoes will give the readers a powerful connection to Gracie and to hearing God’s whispers through her.

Your characters are incredibly rich. Even your antagonists have a three dimensionality without losing their depravity. How do you go about developing your characters? Do they come alive as you write or do you develop character sketches beforehand?

I have to answer this question carefully because I made the mistake once of telling a reader that I liked my bad guys and could, in some ways, relate to them. She looked at me like I’d grown a third head. I think the key to writing three dimensional characters is to craft their back-story in such a way that there’s something you can relate to and understand in them. Even the bad guys. For instance, I totally get Gordon’s love for his brother. While I wouldn’t take the path Gordon chose, I could write his passion and belief in his plan because I connected with some part of his personality. While none of my characters are completely “me” they all have something in their stories that resonated with me. Doing the Snowflake character charts helped me figure that out and craft story people that came alive as I typed.

Do you have a special soft spot for one of your characters?

Can I just say, “yes” and not elaborate? ;-) I totally fell in love with the kids in Gracie’s class, James especially, and with Steven and Clint’s friendship. I know that’s more than one, but it’s nearly impossible to pick a single character.

Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you plan out your story or does it stew in your head until your fingers touch the keyboard?

The writing process has been different for each story in the Defenders of Hope series. I’m a plotter, so I work from an outline with each story. But because Ransomed Dreams was a literal dream, after I developed Gracie and Steven and did my research (thinking about the story all the time) it pretty much flew out of my fingers without a detailed outline. Book 2 was harder because it’s a little more personal, and God keeps digging deeper into me as I write. With book 2, the story idea was pretty strong in my mind after writing RD, so I was able to develop a comprehensive outline. Book 3 has totally changed three times before I even started writing it. The outline for Book 3 is the most extensive outline thus far and this story is one that wakes me up at night with ideas.

Loved the references in your story to the Princess Bride and heart chocolate. What’s the story behind these two elements?

The Princess Bride background stems from my husband looking like Wesley and hearing him say, “As you wish” as a flirtatious jest. He isn’t serious when he says it, but I’m working on that one. ;-) The heart chocolate story is one of my favorite insider details. The phrase came from a dear friend of mine in response to something I’d written to encourage her. When my web designer hubby couldn’t make my beach themed author website work, I mentioned Heather’s heart chocolate comment. He ran with it and created a site I love. Then I received some invitations to speak and the heart chocolate topic was a natural spring board, especially for speaking to women’s groups.

Did you know your story would have a strong a theme of forgiveness or did that develop as you went along?

When I first thought about Gracie’s quest for justice, I knew forgiveness would have to be a large part of her story. Then, as a natural outcome of Steven’s back-story, he struggles with a completely different aspect of forgiveness, one I believe a lot of us wrestle with…that of trying to make up for past actions.

Another spiritual thread you touch upon is who we are in God’s eyes. This part of the book touched me so deeply and brought me to tears at the end. It’s such a powerful message. Can you share how you wound up including this in Ransomed Dreams as well?

Wow, Dineen! Your comment about being deeply touched overflows my heart with thanks. I find myself rereading the end of RD just to remember how God spoke to me as I wrote those scenes. It’s a reminder I need often. To answer your question, that message came out of my walking with God through some painful places and how I’ve come to experience His healing my wounded heart.

Okay, on a more personal level. So many of us struggle to truly accept God’s love. To truly believe how much we are loved and how deeply God expressed this through sacrificing His Son. What words of wisdom could you share on this most challenging journey of the Christian walk?

I agree that one of the most universal things we believers struggle with is accepting God truly loves us. We know God loves us, but for it to resonate in our hearts is often a hard fought battle with so many lies and obstacles from our pasts. My encouragement is to curl up with a teddy bear and picture yourself in God’s arms, or a place that is safe for you in God’s presence. Tell Him the lies that are eating away at your heart, ones like: “I’m not loveable” or “I’m a disappointment.” Let yourself feel the memories that drove those lies home. When you’re able, ask God what He says about you. He has so many good things, His words of truth, to speak personally to you.

When I first learned how to go to God in this way, one of my most pervasive lies was that I’m a disappointment. The powerful truth God whispered to my heart was this: “Amy, you are a beloved child with whom I am well pleased.” I fought that truth for a while, thinking God couldn’t feel that way about me. I still sometimes doubt it. But I know in my heart it’s true. And that one truth has changed so much about me from the inside out.

I’d love to talk about this more in depth with anyone who’s interested. You can also check out the Bible studies I’ve written related to replacing lies with God’s truth. They’re all on my Heart Chocolate discussion board for anyone to read and work though the study questions.

Amy, thank you so much for being here, for sharing your heart with us. I can’t wait for the sequel, to read Clint and Sara’s story!

Thank you for having me, Dineen! You’ve been awesome heart chocolate to me and I’m very thankful for your friendship and support.

Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this fabulous book! I'll announce a winner next Tuesday. God bless!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What's Happening

It's that time of the month again. No, not that one. My turn to post at Writer...Interrupted. My series continues with the unequally yoked theme, and a challenge. Yes, you read that right. Go see for yourself.

Also, at Writer...Interrupted, Carnival of Writers happens on Monday. This is a very informative and fun event. A great chance to learn some very interesting stuff too. Come visit the Carnival!

Coming up this week, an interview with Amy Wallace and her new release Ransomed Dreams. I'm reading it right now, and am really anxious to finish this post so I can get back to it! Be sure to come by on Thursday for a great interview and a chance to win a signed copy of her book.

Finally, how about the 23rd Psalm? Are you tired of hearing it all the time? I was, too, until God showed me some special meanings buried in this jewel. Stay tuned for that as well.

In the meantime, be blessed!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Passing the Wisdom...

My husband found this wonderful tid bit at they must need bears. It's making the rounds since Kurt Vonnegut's death. This is from his book Bamboo Snuff Box:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Good stuff, huh? Most of this is in reference to short story writing, but I think it applies well to novel length too. Number eight is the one I'm not sure I agree with though. What's your take on that one?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

CORAL MOON by Brandilyn Collins

The amazing Brandilyn Collins has a new book out! The Kanner Lake series is awesome and this second book promises to excite and keep you on edge. Stap on those seatbelts and take a look...if you dare.


The figure remained still as stone. Leslie couldn't even detect a breath.

Spider fingers teased the back of her neck.

Leslie's feet rooted to the pavement. She dropped her gaze to the driveway, seeking...what? Spatters of blood? Footprints? She saw nothing. Honed through her recent coverage of crime scene evidence, the testimony as last month's trial, the reporter in Leslie spewed warnings: Notice everything, touch nothing...

Leslie Brymes hurries out to her car on a typical workday morning...and discovers a dead body inside.

Why was the corpse left for her to find? And what is the meaning of the message pinned to its chest?

In Coral Moon, the senseless murder of a beloved Kanner Lake citizen spirals the small Idaho town into a terrifying glimpse of spiritual forces beyond our world. What appears true seems impossible.


And as Brandilyn would say...

Presently this Kanner Lake Series of books has its own character blog called Scenes and Beans. Stop by and visit the folks from Kanner Lake!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Christian Women Online

I have the priviledge of being a guest columnist this month for Christian Women Online. Darlene Schacht is the editor and does amazing things with this ezine, along with a fantastic crew of writers. Hope you'll check it out.

Easter is fast approaching. May your week be filled with God's amazing and ever-faithful love. This is my prayer:

Father God, may we celebrate the majesty that is You this Easter season. May we rejoice in knowing You loved us so much that You willingly sacrificed your Son so that we could join You in heaven one day. And May our hearts thirst anew to know you better, to experience your Word deeper, and to love one another in the truest way. Like Jesus.