Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Negative reviews, or no negative review - that is the question

I ran across a blog post the other day about reviewing books. The blog owner is a fiction Christian author himself: http://www.tlhines.com/blog/content/contrarian-advice-about-book-reviews#comment-3638.

He feels a book reviewer should not post negative reviews about books - that the reviewer should pick only books they are sure they will like, and post positive reviews. His reasoning lies mostly with the idea that if you review books and might ever possibly want to write, the author and editor will be holding a grudge against you and could hinder your book from being published - stuff along that line.

I disagree. I believe people who review anything - music, books, movies, foods - whatever - should be honest. If you liked it, fine - say so, and why. If you didn't like it - fine - say so, and why.

I commented on the blog post - will put it below - but I'd like some thoughts on this, whether you write, read, review, or don't review - should a book reviewer post a negative review? If not, then why? And if not, is it honest to post a review for a book you didn't like, or had issues with, and not admit it?

And I am not out to "get" this author/blogger. I just totally disagree with him, and would like input of others.

My comment:
I respectfully disagree with you about bad reviews. I do try to review books that interest me and I will like, but in my course of reviewing books. in the last several months, I have reviewed three I had issues with, or didn't like - one was from an author I had read before, I feel he bombed on the one book.

Even thought I pointed out what I did't like about the book, I still tried to balance it with what was good - likable characters, etc. Two of the authors responded well - one even wanted to give me his upcoming book to review. The third did not take it well.

I believe it is less Christian to give a glossy review of a book you did not like, then to put the truth out there. If you give a glowing review of a book you didn't like - and a family member, friend, or even someone who happens across the review, reads it, buys the book, and is unhappy - will they trust your reviews and opinions in the future? Most likely not.

Book reviews should be honest - is it not about giving your thoughts about the book? If all reviews are glowing and 100% complimentary, why even do reviews?

I review only Christian books - and assume you do also, so I am referring to Christian authors here - if they aren't man or woman enough - or Christian enough - to handle a negative review and not hold a grudge, then maybe they need another trip to the altar, or maybe they should not write books in the first place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jesus Saves

One of my current favorite songs, Jesus Saves, by Travis Cottrell, not quite the whole song, but most of it - awesome song:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Canaan Revisited, A CD Review


Word Music recently revived the Canaan Music label, which for years was home to Southern Gospel artists such as the Nelons, Talleys, Goodmans, and more. This double CD contains songs all recorded in years past. There are thirty songs in all, so I am not going to mention them all, but it is a great representation of the music these artists recorded on this label over the years.
The CD contains songs by six groups: The Nelons, Talleys, Florida Boys, Inspirations, Goodmans, and the Cathedrals.
Some of the top favorites of mine on this CD are: Triumphantly, The Church Will Rise by the Talleys, Statue of Liberty by the Cathedrals, When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind by the Florida Boys, Step Into The Water by the Cathedrals.
There are many other great songs on this CD. Definitely worth listening to over and over again.
Music clips can be listened to here: http://canaanrecords.com/canaanrevisted.html

The Ride, by the Hoppers - A CD Review


The Hoppers are up at the top of my favorite mixed groups, and are most likely the best Southern Gospel family group out there. Comprised of Claude & Connie Hopper, their sons Dean & Michael, and Dean's wife, Kim, the Hoppers have perfected their sound.
This CD, The Ride, comes with thirteen songs, instead of the usual ten - and I love it when an artist gives you more songs for your money.
They start off with the bouncy and fun Freedom Band. Cool song, and a favorite.
The Dove is the second cut, and brings out a unique thought - maybe right, maybe not. It starts out talking about the dove that Noah sent out from the ark that never returned. The song puts forth the idea that the dove just kept flying through time until it lit on Jesus' shoulder at His baptism - far fetched? Maybe, but a neat idea, and a neat song.
Yahweh is next, a cool somewhat repetitive song talking about what Jesus accomplished. The Applause of Heaven tells what it might be like when we step into Heaven - a beautiful and thoughtful song.
Another two favorites are next: My Only Option gives the idea what to do when we face a mountain - our only option may be to climb it. Dean & Kim's oldest daughter debuts on God Already Knew - a song of assurance that no matter what we go through, God already knew we would go through it, and is there to help us through it. An awesome song.
Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin is a great reminder that no matter how deep the sin, God's grace is always greater - great song, and something we need reminded of.
Let The Redeemed Say So - a song the Nelons did several years ago - one of those songs with a lot of underparts - Kim gets to show her stuff on this one, and they do the song in style. A great, upbeat song.
He Erased It is a great reminder of what God did with our sin. Another awesome song from this CD.
Try A Little Kindness/Less of Me - an oldie, but a goodie. And it doesn't hurt to be reminded we need to be more kind to those we meet. A "fun song".
Haven Called Heaven - a pretty, slow song that talks about Heaven, and how it will worth getting there.
I'm Just Waiting For My Ride, the song the CD title comes from, is an upbeat, fun song that talks about being ready and waiting for Heaven - another favorite.
The CD closes with a re-recording of a popular Hoppers' song - That's Him. Though I think the original recording and version of the song is the best, this newer, shorter version is still worth adding to the CD - and a great reminder that Jesus is coming soon to take away His bride.
Sound clips available here: http://canaanrecords.com/hoppers.html

Touching Wonder....Reclaiming The Awe of Christmas


As I stated before, I can't resist Christmas books, and have quite a few of them - in storage of course. When I saw this small book listed to review, I grabbed it up simply because it is a Christmas book.

Titled, Touching Wonder, and subtitled, Recapturing the Awe of Christmas, this small book, novella size, has only 122 pages, but the author tries a great undertaking in this small book: recapturing the awe of Christmas.



I am not famliar with the author, John Blase, but he talks about having a "slack-jawed awe" of Christmas when he was younger, and how he - and we all need to have that again. He has a good point. The Christmas story has lost its wonder for so many of us, and we do need to look at the story afresh. God sending His only Son into this world as an innocent baby, born in the shadow of a cross.


Each chapter starts out with Scripture from the Christmas story, taken from The Message. Then follows a sketch about one of the people in the story. Zachariah, Elisabeth, Mary, Gabriel, Jospeh - and others.

The author does have a way with words. One line that caught my attention: Time pulled eternity from the womb of a girl, and bloodstained Love spilled on the hay. I think he pulled off what he wanted - he does help the reader recapture the awe of Christmas. Though three months away, I hope the message of this little book sticks with me, and I will most likely read it again closer to Christmas Day.

Available now, from David C. Cook

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What Is Your Language?

If you are reading this, and are not familiar with the Five Love Languages books, you should read them. There is the original for couples, simply titled The Five Love Languages, and the books written after that: The Five Love Languages of Teenagers, Singles, Kids, and more. Written by Gary Chapman (not Amy Grant's ex-husband, Gary Chapman), they present the idea that we each have a "love language." There are things our friends and loved ones do to make us feel loved, and what we can do to make them feel loved. Those vary in everyone. Here are the five love languages from the love languages website:


Words of Affirmation
Mark Twain once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Verbal appreciation speaks powerfully to persons whose primary Love Language is “Words of Affirmation.” Simple statements, such as, “You look great in that suit,” or “You must be the best baker in the world! I love your oatmeal cookies,” are sometimes all a person needs to hear to feel loved.


Aside from verbal compliments, another way to communicate through “Words of Affirmation” is to offer encouragement. Here are some examples: reinforcing a difficult decision; calling attention to progress made on a current project; acknowledging a person’s unique perspective on an important topic. If a loved one listens for “Words of Affirmation,” offering encouragement will help him or her to overcome insecurities and develop greater confidence


Quality Time
Quality time is more than mere proximity. It’s about focusing all your energy on your mate. A husband watching sports while talking to his wife is NOT quality time. Unless all of your attention is focused on your mate, even an intimate dinner for two can come and go without a minute of quality time being shared.

Quality conversation is very important in a healthy relationship. It involves sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. A good mate will not only listen, but offer advice and respond to assure their mate they are truly listening. Many mates don’t expect you to solve their problems. They need a sympathetic listener.

An important aspect of quality conversation is self-revelation. In order for you to communicate with your mate, you must also be in tune with your inner emotions. It is only when you understand your emotions and inner feelings will you then be able to share quality conversation, and quality time with your mate.

Quality activities are a very important part of quality time. Many mates feel most loved when they spend physical time together, doing activities that they love to do. Spending time together will bring a couple closer, and, in the years to come, will fill up a memory bank that you can reminisce about in the future.
Whether it’s sitting on the couch and having a brief conversation or playing together in a tennis league, quality time is a love language that is shared by many. Setting aside focused time with your mate will ensure a happy marriage.



Receiving Gifts
Some mates respond well to visual symbols of love. If you speak this love language, you are more likely to treasure any gift as an expression of love and devotion. People who speak this love language often feel that a lack of gifts represents a lack of love from their mate. Luckily, this love language is one of the easiest to learn.

If you want to become an effective gift giver, many mates will have to learn to change their attitude about money. If you are naturally a spender, you will have no trouble buying gifts for your mate. However, a person who is used to investing and saving their money may have a tough time adjusting to the concept of spending money as an expression of love. These people must understand that you are investing the money not in gifts, but in deepening your relationship with your mate.

The gift of self is an important symbol of love. Sometimes all your mate desires is for someone to be there for them, going through the same trials and experiencing the same things. Your body can become a very powerful physical symbol of love.

These gifts need not to come every day, or even every week. They don’t even need to cost a lot of money. Free, frequent, expensive, or rare, if your mate relates to the language of receiving gifts, any visible sign of your love will leave them feeling happy and secure in your relationship.



Acts of Service
Sometimes simple chores around the house can be an undeniable expression of love. Even simple things like laundry and taking out the trash require some form of planning, time, effort, and energy. Just as Jesus demonstrated when he washed the feet of his disciples, doing humble chores can be a very powerful expression of love and devotion to your mate.

Very often, both pairs in a couple will speak to the Acts of Service Language. However, it is very important to understand what acts of service your mate most appreciates. Even though couples are helping each other around the house, couples will still fight because the are unknowingly communicating with each other in two different dialects. For example, a wife may spend her day washing the cars and walking the dog, but if her husband feels that laundry and dishes are a superior necessity, he may feel unloved, despite the fact that his wife did many other chores throughout the day. It is important to learn your mate’s dialect and work hard to understand what acts of service will show your love.

It is important to do these acts of service out of love and not obligation. A mate who does chores and helps out around the house out of guilt or fear will inevitably not be speaking a language of love, but a language of resentment. It’s important to perform these acts out of the kindness of your heart.

Demonstrating the acts of service can mean stepping out of the stereotypes. Acts of service require both mates to humble themselves into doing some chores and services that aren’t usually expected from their gender. However, these little sacrifices will mean the world to your mate, and will ensure a happy relationship.


Physical Touch
Many mates feel the most loved when they receive physical contact from their partner. For a mate who speaks this love language loudly, physical touch can make or break the relationship.

Sexual intercourse makes many mates feel secure and loved in a marriage. However, it is only one dialect of physical touch. Many parts of the body are extremely sensitive to stimulation. It is important to discover how your partner not only physically responds but also psychologically responds to these touches.

It is important to learn how your mate speaks the physical touch language. Some touches are irritating and uncomfortable for your mate. Take the time to learn the touches your mate likes. They can be big acts, such as back massages or lovemaking, or little acts such as touches on the cheek or a hand on the shoulder. It’s important to learn how your mate responds to touch. That is how you will make the most of this love language.

All marriages will experience crisis. In these cases, physical touch is very important. In a crisis situation, a hug can communicate an immense amount of love for that person. A person whose primary love language is physical touch would much rather have you hold them and be silent than offer any advice.

It is important to remember that this love language is different for everyone. What type of touch makes you feel secure is not necessarily what will make your partner happy. It is important to learn each other’s dialects. That way you can make the most of your hugging, kissing, and other physical contacts.


The descriptions of the different "languages" here is geared more for couples, but the same "languages" apply to all relationships we have. And we can have more than one "love language." There is a test I will link to in case anyone wants to take it - 3o questions - that tells you what your primary language is. I scored in all five, but more in some than others, and one was the highest. I took it even though it is geared for couples - most of the questions could apply to any relationship - well except the one about kisses. :-)

I do believe we need to take more time and examine this idea of speaking people's love languages. Spouses, parents, friends. Some parents may need to hug one child more than their siblings, while another of their kids may need to hear words of affirmation more. Bad thing is, not everyone is comfortable "speaking" the love language the other person needs to receive, so maybe everyone needs to work on that more. What an interesting world it would be if we gave the people in our lives what they needed to feel loved.

The Love Languages test: http://www.afo.net/hftw-lovetest.asp

The Love Languages site: http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/

I Am Loved

One of my favorite songs........

I Am Loved (Gaither)

I said, "If You knew, You wouldn't want me
My scars are hidden by the face I wear"
He said, "My child, my scars go deeper
And it was love for you that put them there."

Forgiven - I repeat it -I'm forgiven!
Clean before my Lord I freely stand
Forgiven, I can dare forgive my brother
Forgiven, I reach out to take your hand.

I am loved, I am loved
I can risk loving you
For the One who knows me best
Loves me most
I am loved, you are loved
Won't you please take me hand
We are free to love each other
We are loved

Intervention

I just finished reading a great fiction book that addressed an interesting concept. Intervention. I of course know what the word means, but did not know what it means in relation to what I just read about until a few months ago when another fiction book that I read had something about it - see I really do learn things from reading fiction!

If you are like me, and are not familiar with this concept, I will briefly explain. When a person is addicted to something and is destroying their life because of it - i.e. drugs, alcohol, family and friends can try intervention. All involved write letters telling the person how much they love them, and how it hurts them what the addict is doing to himself. They then converge on the addict, read the letters, and try to get him in a corner to agree to get help.

The idea is intriguing for a few reasons. It makes me wonder how far I would go to help someone I love quit an addiction. How much should I do. Whether we really are concerned enough about the people in our lives - whether it is an addiction that could kill them and/or destroy their lives, or if they are simply without God. How far are we willing to go to help rescue them?

I know God is ultimately the One who can rescue anyone, and yes, we should pray, but I am afraid too many Christians sit back and smugly think they have done their duty by praying for someone. We don't want to get our hands dirty. We don't want to offend, risk driving our friend, our children, or even a parent - away. So we sit back, pray, and hope for the best.

I admit, I have someone in my life who has an addiction. I have prayed, cried, plead - and seemingly to no avail. I wonder what more I can do, what more should I do, whether I should do anything at all.

If we had a loved one about to step out blindly in the path of a speeding car, or step off a cliff, we would do all we could to stop them. Why do we not do the same when it is a slow killer. Or when it is their soul that hangs in the balance, and not necessarily their life.

I don't know what the answers are. If I did, I would go after the addict in my life. Were it in my power, I'd be tempted to lock them up with a Bible and shove food under the door. Amusing thought maybe, but it does make me wonder - what am I willing to do to help those I love if and when they are doing something harmful to their body and soul?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scewtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis

I have never read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, but when I saw that Focus on The Family was dramatizing the book, and it was available for review, I decided to go for it.


A note about these dramatizations: Focus on the Family has dramatized several books - the whole Chronicles of Narnia series, Ben Hur, The Father Gilbert Mysteries, and more. Paul McCusker produces them, and he does a great job. These are not simply books on CD. There are sound effects, different voices - they call it a movie for your mind, and that is pretty much what it is.


The Screwtape Letters come from the imagination of C.S. Lewis. They are imaginary letters between a senior, retired demon, to a younger demon in training. The younger demon has his "patient" - a young man he is in charge of hounding, discouraging, tempting - doing h

is best to make sure the man misses Heaven. The senior demon gives him advice on how best to accomplish that.



The book was in letter form, but for the dramatization, they go mostly for interaction between the two demons, along with conversation between the subject of their attention and his friends.


Even though this is C.S. Lewis' ideas, it is still frightening and sobering to realize that the devil is trying to take us all down, and that his methods are many and devious. Though the story has humorous moments, I was left with the sobering realization that Satan indeed wants all of us to fail at serving God, and will do whatever he can to destroy us.

This dramatized version has four audio CDs, totaling about four hours in length. It includes songs inspired by the book, and some additional audio of C.S. Lewis' words. Also included is a DVD that has 5.1 surround version of the entire audio on it, the making of the dramatization, and some other features.


Though somewhat creepy at times, I recommend either reading the book, or listening to the CDs. We all need to be more aware of the battle we are in, and this may help us realize that more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Congratulations, Booth Brothers

Last week was the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, KY. My favorite group, the Booth Brothers, took home eight awards. I don't think there were many more they could have gotten. Congrats, guys.

Favorite Baritone Singer - Jim Brady
Favorite Lead Singer - Ronnie Booth
Favorite Tenor - Michael Booth
Favorite Male Singer - Ronnie Booth
Favoite Album - Room For More
Favorite Trio - Booth Brothers
Song of the Year - What Salvation's Done For Me
Artist of the Year - Booth Brothers

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ratings for Christian Books?

Since my money flow is very slow coming in, I have been pretty much spending money on my bills. And gasoline. I stopped off at the Christian bookstore where I used to work last week to chat with my former co-workers as I do occasionally, and spied #1 in a series I was interested in reading, and it was only $2.99 - so I bought it.

This book was not from Thomas Nelson, who has the tendency to drop in some words they shouldn't, but was from Zondervan.

The main character was a n FBI agent. The plot was good, interesting read once it took off, but..... I has some issues with the book.

First off, I know there are a lot of Christians who believe you can drink alcoholic beverages in moderation - but...... there are also a lot who do not believe that, so I personally feel Christian fiction authors should leave it alone - it isn't necessary to have the character drinking a Budweiser - why not a Diet Coke, or iced tea?! But even if you go with the moderation belief, this "Christian" character in this book got drunk a couple of times, and "buzzed".

Next up, the language. Once I hit the language I sped my reading up to just get the book done, so I may have missed some. What I caught was the "d word", the "a" word (donkey), and of course "hell" used as a curse word.

I love to read Christian fiction, and do not like running into these kind of words - why do they need to be in there? Shouldn't Christian fiction be held to a higher standard than secular? And if an author wants those words in there, then why not write secular fiction?

I have a couple of ideas I'd like these companies to try if they must put curse words in their books:

1) Have a line of secular, or secular-leaning, so people will know what to expect from any books in that imprint

2) Have a rating, or more likely, a warning on the book - they do it with movies - so if these Christian publishers just have to put curse words and other questionable content in their books, is it asking too much that they let readers know what to expect before they buy a book?

And the book I mentioned....... I took it back and got my $2.99 back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Green, by Ted Dekker


Green, or Book Zero, in the Circle series by Ted Dekker. I read that this book could be read before Black, Red, and White, or after. I admit, I scoffed at the idea that this book could be read first, but now, after reading the book to completion, I agree. This newest Dekker book could truly be read before or after the three books that preceded it.

This may be the best of the series, in my opinion. In the other world where Thomas Hunter has gone to live, there is much unrest. Too many of the people doubt that Elyon cares about them, or even exists. Some are tempted to take up the sword and fight - something that goes against their beliefs and very nature.

Things worsen when Samuel, Thomas' son challenges their ideas and beliefs, and decides to take things into his own hands. Chaos, war, and death follow his decision, resulting in everything going back to the beginning. Where Black started.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was fun and interesting to go back into the world Ted Dekker created with his Circle Series. If you are a Dekker fan, and enjoy his books, I highly recommend Green. It is worth reading.

An Imperfect Christmas


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Imperfect Christmas

Abingdon Press (September 2009)

by

Myra Johnson




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Making up stories has been second nature to me for as long as I can remember. A select group of trusted friends back at dear old Mission High waited eagerly for the next installment of my "Great American Spy Novel" (think Man from Uncle) and my "All-American Teen Novel" (remember Gidget and Tammy?). I even had a private notebook of angst-ridden poetry a la Rod McKuen.

The dream of writing persisted into adulthood, although it often remained on the back burner while I attended to home and family and several "real" (read paying) jobs along the way. Then in 1983, while recovering from sinus surgery, I came upon one of those magazine ads for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I knew it was time to get serious, and the next thing I knew, I'd enrolled in the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course.

Within a year or so I sold my first story, which appeared in the Christian publication Alive! for Young Teens. For many years I enjoyed success writing stories and articles for middle-graders and young adults. I even taught for ICL for 9 years.

Then my girls grew up, and there went my live-in inspiration. Time to switch gears. I began my first women's fiction manuscript and started attending Christian writers conferences. Eventually I learned about American Christian Romance Writers (which later became American Christian Fiction Writers) and couldn't wait to get involved. Friends in ACFW led me to RWA and the online inspirational chapter, Faith, Hope & Love.

So here I am today, still on this crazy roller-coaster ride. Still writing. Still hopeful. Writing, I'm learning, is not about the destination, it's about the journey. My current projects are primarily women's fiction and romance . . . novels of hope, love, and encouragement. Novels about real women living out their faith and finding love in the midst of everyday, and sometimes not so everyday, situations.


ABOUT THE BOOK


Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she's allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves-most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she's one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom.

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit's end. Nothing he's done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa's adolescent rebellion isn't helping matters. As Daniel's hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

If you would like to read the first chapter of One Imperfect Christmas, go HERE


Watch the trailer:

My review:

Even though this is pretty much a romance novel, I can't resist Christmas books, so I requested this one to review, and was not disappointed. The whole book is not centered around Christmas, but starts after Christmas and goes through to the following Christmas.

The main character, Natalie, wallows in guilt, blaming herself for her mother's accident and stroke. Her preoccupation with guilt leads to she and her husband separating, showing what effect guilt can have on a person and family.

Meanwhile, their teenage daughter schemes to get her parents back before another Christmas rolls around.

I really liked the book. This was a first novel for this author, and she did a great job. The characters are likable and real, and they have real problems. No issues with language or inappropriate content here. The author writes a true Christian fiction novel, and I recommend this book. I had to read it quite a while before Christmas, but if you like Christmas books, and especially Christmas romance novels, find yourself a copy of an Imperfect Christmas, sit back, and enjoy.

Check out my two giveaways in the two previous blog postings. One ends September 29, and the other on October 4.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kim Hopper, I Just Wanted You To Know


I like Kim Hopper's singing and style better when she sings with The Hoppers, but this is a good CD, her second solo effort: I Just Wanted You To Know.
When God Sings kicks off the CD. A slow & thoughtful song, and presents the neat of idea of what it is like when God sings.
Promised Land is a bouncy, pleasing to the ear song that talks about what it will be like in Heaven. Previously recorded by The Crabb Family, Kim's version holds its own, and is a favorite.
Gospel to The World presents the Great Commission - a neat song, and another favorite.
What Will I Wear has a bluegrass song talks about what we will wear in Heaven - cool song, nice bouncy tune.
The Woman in My Little Girl's Room is the best song on the CD. Sung as a duet, Kim & Dean Hopper present a tear-jerking song that talks about how fast little girls grow up. Even though I am not a parent, I am an uncle to 3 great girls who are growing up too fast, so this song makes me get a bit misty-eyed. It sounds like something Tim McGraw & Faith Hill might sing. Awesome song.
The Devil Lost His Keys - talks about the devil losing his keys to death, hell, and the grave when Jesus rose from the dead. A neat idea for a song, but not one I am too crazy about. It is too "something."
The beautiful That Sounds Like Heaven to Me is another song talking about Heaven - Kim does a great job on the song.
Come Out Praising is a faster song that points out praising is the key to get through our troubles - great song and message.
The title song ends the CD, I Just Wanted You To Know. A slow song telling God how much we love Him.
Though a totally different sound from The Hoppers, the CD is pleasing to the ear, and has some good messages in the songs, and Kim Hopper is most likely the best soprano in Southern Gospel music.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Step Aside, Michael & Ted

I blogged recently about how sad it is we laud corrupt men at their deaths just because they were popular or important. I'd like in my feeble way, to laud a truly great person, the greatest teacher, and one of the greatest people & Christians to ever cross my path - Miss Nancy Ritchey.

Miss Ritchey was a unique individual. She was sarcastic, yet told her students training to be teachers that a teacher shouldn't be sarcastic. She didn't like music, men, or children - or so she claimed. She often stated that when she went to a restaurant and they asked "smoking, or non-smoking", she would ask for the "non-children section", yet I would see her smiling at little kids in church, and know she bought toys for them.

She liked Garfield, the comic strip cat, and collected all sorts of Garfield memorabilia.

She had enough college and training - and smarts - that she could have taught in the biggest universities in our land, yet she spent most of her life teaching in a Christian school, and later in a Bible college - neither of which are known for being well-paid jobs.

I remember the first time I met her. Fall of 1988. I was a very shy, backward freshman at Allegheny Wesleyan College sitting in her New Testament Survey Class. The requirements for the class seemed way too much for this guy to handle, so I dropped the class and never took it until my Senior year. I tried to avoid her classes after that - she seemed so mean, and asked so much, yet she turned out to be the best teacher I ever had.

I remember one year I was taking a teaching methods class from her - the only class I got a "A" from her in. As part of a class assignment, I was decorating her room for a presentation. While trying to hang something, I rested a foot on the shelf of a bookcase. To my horror, the shelf broke. I was so scared I drafted a friend into going with me to tell her. I walked up the sidewalk to her house with true dread in my heart. Her reaction? She laughed and said she was getting new bookcases anyway, and to just prop it up temporarily.

She had a way of lowering her head, looking over her glasses, and making you feel like a bug under a microscope. I will never forget one time I was on the receiving end......

She was our class sponsor. I was late to a class meeting, and tried to sneak in. Unfortunately, the only empty seat was in front of her desk. I tried to slip into my seat as quietly as I could. Slipping off my jacket, I turned in my seat to hang the jacket on the back of it, and promptly fell out of my chair onto the floor. She had been talking, but stopped and gave me one of those over the glasses looks.......and I was mortified. I heard later she used the incident in Psychology class.... I never did find out what she said. :-)

She had a great sense of humor, and could tease. A few years ago, long after I had graduated from college, she was talking to me about what classes she was teaching that year. I mentioned that the one sounded familiar and wish I had taken it. She informed me it was a required class - even when I was in college, and I should have had to take it - she mentioned having my diploma taken from me, but was just joking..... I think - you never could tell with her.

I guess the greatest memory I have of her is from about six years ago. Something had happened in my life - pretty bad. I called her and told her what was going on, and asked her to pray for me. Her reply stunned me. She said "Mark, I pray for you every day." Wow. Eleven years after I had had her as a teacher in college, she still prayed for me every day? That still amazes me. To think of all of the people she taught in school and college down through the years....... that she prayed for me - every day?

She was the toughest teacher I ever had, but truly the best, and I learned toward the end of my time being taught by her that she wasn't the mean and brash person she made herself out to be. She was possibly the most godly person I have had the privilege and honor to know - and she cared - she cared a lot.

One last memory. A few years ago I had a health crisis. My parents were freaking out, thinking I might be contagious to the whole family - I called Miss Ritchey and she took time out to allay their fears - and mine.

Earth has lost a far greater person than Michael Jackson or Ted Kennedy. Only eternity will reveal how many lives this great woman of God touched and helped toward Heaven.

Miss Ritchey, you will be sadly missed by many, but I believe with all my heart that you have stepped through those pearly gates and heard the words you truly deserve to hear: "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have fought the fight, you have kept the faith. Enter into your eternal reward."


My life - and many others - are truly better for having known you.

A few songs come to mind as I finish typing this. A song "Who's Gonna Take Their Place When They're Gone?" - and how true - "Thank-you For Giving to The Lord", by Ray Botlz, but perhaps the best song to leave in her honor is one that my friend Lori mentioned on her blog - "Faces" by Greater Vision.


I dreamed my life was done
I stood before God's Son
It was time to see what my reward would be
With love he reviewed my life
To count what was done for Christ
For that is what will last eternally

See I'd done my best to share
That Jesus really cares
And he would save if they just believe
Oh, but seldom did harvest come
And so few did I see won
Until the Lord said, "turn around and see."

(Chorus)
Then he showed me the faces of the ones who'd come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That's when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces.

He said though you did not see the yield,
You were faithful to plow the field
At other times you helped me plant the seed
No matter how small the task, you did just as I asked
And thanks to you these souls have been set free.

(Chorus)
Then he showed me the faces of the ones who'd come because of me
So many faces that my life had led to Calvary
All those years I thought nobody saw as I labored in lowly places
That's when Jesus smiled and showed me all the faces.

Tag:
And for those years you thought
Nobody saw as you labored in lowly places
One day He'll smile and show you all the faces.
... the faces... you'll see their faces.


I wanted to put the video for the song here, but whoever posted it on Youtube disabled that feature, but you can view it here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Hoppers, Live Across America


The Hoppers, one of my favorite groups, just did a new CD titled, "Live Across America". To my understanding, it was recorded live at several different locations, then put onto one CD. My one gripe with the CD is that it is about half old songs and half new, but the new songs make it worth buying.

The CD starts out with a song I wouldn't have picked from their many songs: "Holy Ghost Wind". It is an OK song, but I can't believe it would rank very high among audience favorites.

Next up is a new song, "Blame It On Love". A cool song, talks about what Jesus did on the cross, and the reason He did it, can be "blamed on love". The song has good lyrics, and a nice tune, a song I can see myself listening to a lot.

Third on the disc is another song the Hoppers have previously done: "Jesus Saves". This is one of those convention style songs, where everyone seems to be singing a different line on the chorus. I've always liked this bouncy little song, and am cool with it being on the CD.

"Pathway Built For Two", penned by Phil Cross, and someone who is really turning out good songs: Jim Brady of The Booth Brothers. Again, a song with a pleasing tune, and good lyrics. Talks about the narrow road we are on, but walking it with Jesus, staying on the pathway built for two.

The 5th cut on the CD is the best song on the CD. When I saw the song list, and saw it had this song listed, I found myself hoping it was the same one I have known for years, and it is: "Ten Thousand Years". I have always loved this song, ever since I first heard it as a teenager. I don't have it anywhere to listen to. I think we used to have it on a LP by someone, so to get it on CD by a great group I love, makes me ecstatic. The whole group leads off on the first verse, with Kim taking a solo on the second verse. They do a tremendous job on it, even better than I hoped. Can I say "repeat"?!

"Ready to Leave" is an old Hemphills' song - fast and upbeat, and the Hoppers do it better, I have to say.

"On My Journey Home" is another I wouldn't have picked. It is bouncy, and I like bouncy, but it is one that Claude is featured on, and face it, the guy just can't sing that great anymore........the song is a good song though.

"Mama Was Praying For Me" was recorded by Connie Hopper several years ago, but I don't think ever by the whole group. With her still singing the verses, this new recording is well done. Talks about how important it is for mothers to pray for their kids, and grand kids.

"He's Worthy" is a rousing song done back in the 90's by the Hoppers. Never was a favorite, but it is a good song and has a nice tempo. The song really shows what Kim can do with her great soprano voice.

"It Is Well", one of my favorite hymns, and is performed very well here.

The CD ends with "Jerusalem". I liked this song the first time I heard it, done not too many years ago on a CD in the 2000's. It has a very unique tempo and accompanying music, but is a neat song.

Overall, a great CD. I would have selected a few different songs, but hey, they didn't ask me. :-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Danger At The Door, by Michelle Sutton


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Danger At The Door

(Desert Breeze September, 2009)

by

Michelle Sutton




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michelle Sutton, otherwise known as the Edgy Inspirational Author, is Editor-in-chief of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, a member of ACFW, a social worker by trade, and a prolific reader/book reviewer/blogger the rest of the time.

She lives in Arizona with her husband of nineteen years and her two teen aged sons. Michelle is also the author of It's Not about Me (2008) and It's Not About Him (Sheaf House 2009). She has nine other titles releasing over the next three years.






ABOUT THE BOOK


Upon her fiance's death, Laney became a recluse who only left her home for emergencies. She managed to survive - barely - on food delivery service and her work-at-home job. When she tries to move on from her grief, the commemorative meal she orders is ruined. However, it leads to an unlikely friendship with an attractive man, Bojan, who speaks little English.

As he befriends Laney he continually says the wrong things, but he doesn't give up trying to win her trust. Meanwhile, she has this strange feeling of being watched and wonders if she's losing her mind.

Complicating things further, every time she leaves her house something bad happens, confirming that she is safer at home. Can Bojan convince Laney she'll be safe with him, or will his presence put her in further danger? Will he be able to protect the woman he loves before it's too late?


If you would like to read the Prologue and first Chapter of Danger At The Door, go HERE

Though short - 132 pages on the Adobe PDF file (got it as an e-book), the plot and story was very gripping. The main character, Laney, has become reclusive and fear rules her life. She is afraid to ride in a car, afraid of people and everything that moves.

Enter the handsome foreign pizza delivery guy. He soon takes her heart, and teaches her to trust God. Meanwhile, someone from her past is bent on revenge and is out to take her life.

I liked the characters - very likable and believable, and I appreciated the message resonating throughout the book - we cannot let fear rule our life, and we must trust God in all things.

I did feel the physical attraction between the two main characters was played out a little too extreme for a Christian book. One sentence went "He secured the back of her head with one hand as he suckled her, engaging one lip at a time, and exploring her mouth with abandon. The desperate, husky moans emitting from low in his throat made her body hum. His tongue slid against hers in an intimate dance and her body pulsed as she pressed against him. She wanted more. Needed more." The whole book isn't that bad, but it does give a pretty good picture of how the physical attraction and interactions are played out - a bit too much. I can handle some romance as much as the next person, but it needs tamed down in a Christian book.

That issue aside, it really is an interesting and exciting book.

Make Love, Make War


Press release:

Living a Life of Radical Worship

Award-winning songwriter Brian Doerksen shares insights behind

some of the most beloved songs of our time as he provokes readers to love and war

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—What is true worship? It can elevate us into the presence of God, renew and refresh our spirits, and offer the deepest expression of love for our Savior. Yet worship can also be a call to arms, a battle cry, a salvo in an ancient spiritual war that continues today. In his first book, Make Love, Make War: Now Is the Time to Worship (David C Cook, August 2009), award-winning songwriter Brian Doerksen challenges Christians to make their lives an offering of radical worship.

An acclaimed songwriter, recording artist, author, conference speaker, and pastor, Doerksen believes God is calling us to love and to battle—to spread peace and wage spiritual warfare. “Each is essential to our daily spiritual walk,” writes Doerksen. “We do this through how we live, how we serve Him, and how we protect and fight for what matters most. One of the ways I make love and war is through music.”

In Make Love, Make War, Doerksen shares the stories and inspirations behind some of today’s most influential songs of worship, including “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship,” “Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing),” and “Refiner’s Fire.” While offering special tips for aspiring songwriters, Doerksen also reveals rich truths and insights about the nature of God, His calling for us, and how we can wage spiritual war and share His love through a life of radical worship.

“I believe that we know love and war are at the heart of everything inside us, and everything going on all around us,” says Doerksen. “We sense that there is nothing that Satan hates more than the worship of Yahweh by those who are faithful to the Lamb. He spends more than a little energy convincing us that there really is no war going on, and that the sum total of our lives’ calling is to be nice. But God is provoking us to rise up and fight. The war He calls us to make is always for the sake of love!”

Author Bio

Brian Doerksen has always had a passion for expressing worship through music. He is an award-winning songwriter of some of today’s most popular songs of worship. He is currently developing a musical of hope based on Luke 15 called “Prodigal God.” Brian, his wife, Joyce, and their six children reside in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.

This isn't my usual type of reading material, but I enjoyed the book. In addition to sharing how he wrote some of his songs, the author also gives songwriting tips, talks about the struggles of raising two special needs children, and even addresses the importance of keeping marriages alive.


The title, Make Love, Make War is the emphasis of the book - loving God, what true worship is, but also the fact that we are in a war, a battle for our souls. Brian focuses on how important it is for us to worship God, and do it in the right way, so as to defeat the enemy of our souls. Great book, and very thought provoking.

Farraday Road, by Ace Collins

It’s just another quiet evening out for Lije and Kaitlyn Evans. But somewhere along the way, it becomes something more sinister and a murder takes place. In the aftermath, a small-town attorney sets out to find his wife’s killers and uncovers a deadly conspiracy. A suspenseful mystery with a twist of faith


Farraday Road by Ace Collins has been out for almost a year. The sequel, Swope Ridge will be out on October 1. This is another book I have looked at many times, but was afraid to try a new fiction author. Ace Collins has written many books, of which I have a few: Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Stories Behind The Great Traditions of Christmas, and other books along that line. This is his first fiction effort, and he hit one out of the ballpark with this one. Farraday Road is book one in the Lige Evans Mystery series.

The story starts out with a murder on Farraday Road. Lige (Elijah) Evans and his wife are forced off the road. Both are shot and left for dead, but one survives. The motives abound for the murder, even reasons going back to the days of Jesse James. There are more attempts on the life of the survivor and on the agent protecting him. They face several twists and turns in trying to find a motive and suspect, and the reader is kept guessing even as the end of the book comes closer.

The book does jump around a lot, but I found the action and plot easy to follow. The characters are likable. I do think the Christian element could have been stronger in the book, but it is an excellent book and worth reading. The story doesn't really end, but continues on in the sequel, due out soon. If you like clean Christian suspense, give this series a try.

Click here to read the first chapter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Nothin' But Good

In addition to my book reviews, I will be reviewing a few CDs in the next couple of weeks. First up, Nothin' But Good by the Mike Lefevre Quartet.

Mike Lefevre was the baritone for Gold City Quartet in the late 80's-early 90's, when they were at their best, in my humble opinion. Iknew he had started his own quartet, but had never heard them. I must say I am impressed.

The CD kicks off with an old Southern Gospel/quartet number, Let Me Tell You About Jesus, and there are a few other traditional Southern Gospel songs on the CD: It's Time To Sing - awesome song, Didn't It Rain (ok), & Big Mighty God.

There were a few surprises for me on the CD. The last song on the CD, Jesus Saves, is not Southern Gospel at all. It was written and recorded by Praise & Worship leader, Travis Cottrell, but these guys do an awesome job, and it is my favorite song on the project.

Another great cut, and not having much SG sound, is Take My Life - great song.

The slow and thought-provoking He Thought of Us reminds us we were on Jesus' mind throughout His ordeal at Calvary.

You're Never Too Far Away is a great song of hope and assurance that we are never too far away for God to hear us, even if we stray.

Glorious
is another song that doesn't have a lot of SG flavor, and simply talks about how great God is. Another favorite cut.

Last One Worthy
talks about our unworthiness, and how thankful we need to be.

I don't feel this is the typical Southern Gospel quartet sound, but overall it is a great-sounding CD. If you like Southern Gospel, you will definitely enjoy it. Check this group out.

Just Between You And Me, by Jenny Jones


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Just Between You And Me

Thomas Nelson (September 1, 2009)

by

Jenny B. Jones



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I write Christian fiction with a few giggles, quite a bit of sass, and lots of crazy. My novels include the Katie Parker Production series and So Not Happening. I would also like to take credit for Twilight , but somewhere I think I read you’re not supposed to lie.

When I’m not typing my heart out (or checking email), I teach at a super-sized high school in Arkansas.

My students are constantly telling me how my teaching changes their lives and turned them away from drugs, gangs, and C-SPAN.

Okay, that’s not exactly true.

Since my current job leaves me with very little free time, I believe in spending my spare hours in meaningful, intellectual pursuits such as:

-watching E!
-updating my status on Facebook
-catching Will Ferrell on YouTube and
-writing my name in the dust on my furniture

I’d love to hear about you, so drop me a note. Or check me out on Facebook.




ABOUT THE BOOK

The only thing scarier than living on the edge is stepping off it.
Maggie Montgomery lives a life of adventure. Her job as a cinematographer takes her from one exotic locale to the next. When Maggie's not working, she loves to rappel off cliffs or go skydiving. Nothing frightens her.

Nothing, that is, except Ivy, Texas, where a family emergency pulls her back home to a town full of bad memories, painful secrets, and people Maggie left far behind . . . for a reason.

Forced to stay longer than she intended, Maggie finds her family a complete mess, including the niece her sister has abandoned. Ten-year-old Riley is struggling in school and out of control at home. The only person who can really handle the pint-sized troublemaker is Conner, the local vet and Ivy's most eligible bachelor. But Conner and Maggie keep butting heads--he's suspicious of her and, well, she doesn't rely on anyone but herself.

As Maggie humorously fumbles her way from one mishap to another, she realizes she's going to need to ask for help from the one person who scares her the most.

To save one little girl--and herself--can Maggie let go of her fears and just trust God?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Just Between You And Me, go HERE

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Through The Fire

This book is not a book I was sent to review. I actually won it. I have eyed it ever since it came out, but I am always leery to try a new author even when I do have money to buy books, plus it is an "I" book (first person), which is my least favorite type of book. I entered to win a copy a few weeks ago, and actually forgot all about it until I received an email telling me I had won it.

Through The Fire, is Shawn Grady's first book, and he did an awesome job on it. Besides now being an author, he is also a fireman and paramedic, which is what he writes about in his debut novel.

Even though this is a first person novel, I really enjoyed this book - maybe I am just getting used to that style of writing. The main character, Aiden O' Neil is a firefighter. Knowing that the author also is, helps the reader know the firefighting scences in the book are realistic, and he knows what he is talking about.

Besides there being a lot of firefighting scenes, there is also a bit of romance, and suspense. Aiden's father was killed in a fire five years previously, and he and others don't think it was an accident.
There is also the faith element in the story. The main character struggled with some of the same issues I deal with - trusting God, believing He really cares - so it helped reinforce the truth that He does care.

The reader is kept guessing on the identity of the arsonist/murderer, but I wasn't totally surprised when his identity was revealed, as the thought had occurred to me that the person might be the one - I love it when I figure something out like that. :-)

If you read fiction, and want to try out a new author - and a great one. Get hold of a copy of Through The Fire by Shawn Grady. You won't be disappointed.

The Transformation Study Bible

David C Cook blurb:

"As pastors seek to make the Word of God more understandable in an age that is unfamiliar with the Bible, and as growing disciples seek to discover the truth of Scripture in a skeptical culture, there is a great need for guidance in both the preaching and study of God’s Word. Whether you’re a pastor, a seminary student, or a truth-seeking disciple, an understanding of the Bible can be made clear to you with the help of one of the most influential, in-depth, and practical Bible scholars in modern history.

For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s “Be” Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God’s Word with the goal of life transformation. According to Dr. Wiersbe, “It isn’t enough for us simply to read assigned portions of the Bible each day, as helpful as that is. A truly transforming experience involves meditating on what we read (Ps. 1:2), studying it carefully in the light of other verses, and then obeying what God tells us to do (Josh. 1:8).” Now available for the first time, The Transformation Study Bible offers the full text of the highly readable New Living Translation with accompanying notes and commentary from the 50 books in Dr. Wiersbe’s “Be” series.

“The Transformation Study Bible will better enable readers to appreciate, appropriate, and apply the Word of God, which will result in ‘purity, joy, right values, hope, comfort, freedom, new life, peace, guidance, wisdom, integrity, encouragement, and effective prayer,’” states Wiersbe. In other words, if you want to be a new person, knowing and obeying the will of God and becoming more like Jesus Christ, there is perhaps no finer tool to encourage that process than The Transformation Study Bible.

One of the most anticipated and comprehensive study Bibles of the year, The Transformation Study Bible has been a lifetime in the making by a man who is widely known as a prolific and trusted writer and theologian. The former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago, an internationally known Bible teacher, and someone who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God, Dr. Wiersbe lends his vast experience and scholarly insight to the most beloved and revered book of all time. This effort is to encourage believers of all levels to know and love the Bible and to experience the same transformation that has radically changed his life. The result is a Bible that is clear, understandable, and applicable to the lives of its readers. "

Dr. Wiersbe writes, “The remedy for discouragement is the Word of God. When you feed your heart and mind with its truth, you regain your perspective and find renewed strength.” By providing a new set of tools for Bible students of all levels, David C Cook and Warren Wiersbe have partnered to provide an essential tool to help bring the “perspective” and “renewed strength” that comes from a life transforming study of God’s Word. This fantastic and long awaited resource will bring more clarity than ever before to the study of God’s Word."



My review:

I liked the looks of this Bible, and they had a limited amount available to review, so I jumped on it. I have been reading it daily for my daily devotions, and really like it.

The Bible version is the New Living Translation, one of my favorites. I have a few study Bibles, and like them, but I really am impressed with this one. As I have read the Scripture, I have read the accompanying notes at the bottom, and like what I read. They are in simple "layman's" language, and I have been getting a lot of out the notes. One such note had this quote: to lose hope is to surrender the future to the enemy, and that only destroys the meaning of the present. And there are many more.

Warren Wiersbe is the general editor.

The Bible has these features:

Book out lines: prepares you for reading Scripture by outlining key themes and verses

Book overviews: Provides controversial and practical overviews for each book of the Bible

Catalyst notes: motivates you to experience real-life transformation by highlighting key character issues in Scripture

Be transformed: helps you learn how each book of the Bible will impact your life with these core application notes

Cross references: connects you to related verses throughout the books of the Bible

Charts and maps: enables you to quickly locate verses when studying by topic

Study notes: Clarifies key Bible passages by explaining what they mean and how they apply to your life.

This really is a good study Bible, and I highly recommend it. I honestly feel the study notes are a cut above the average study Bible out there. Available now.

Fearless, by Max Lucado

Fearless may be Max Lucado's best book so far. The book is subtitled Imagine Your Life Without Fear. The biggest majority of my reading is fiction, and when I read a non-fiction book, I never read it in one sitting, but I did with this one.

Max starts out the book with a chapter titled "Why Are We Afraid.?" He relates the story from the Bible when Jesus was asleep in the boat and the storm came up. Jesus asked them "why are you afraid, you of such little faith?" This story is used as the springboard for the rest of the book.

Throughout the book, Max addresses the relaity of fear, some of the things we fear, but assures the reader that no matter what, God is in control. That some fears are reasonable, and some even healthy, but we can't let fear rule our lives, and that fear can indicate a lack of faith.


Accompanying the book are some additional resources. A DVD small group kit, a discussion book, and a promise booklet. Max also has launched a site dedicated to the book and people's fears: thefearlesstimes.com.

You can read the first chapter of the book here. Check it out. I found the book to be very helpful, and it convicted me of how fearful I am, and how I need to trust God more, and fear less.

I review for Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fools Rush In, by Janice Thompson


I don't read many romance only novels, and was planning on my sister helping me some with my reviews, so this review is from her. In Vicki's words:

If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be fun! Bella’s wedding planning is hilarious and you wonder if she is actually going to pull off the wedding without any disasters. The mix of cowboy and Italian is an added bone-tickler. I really enjoyed this book. If you are wanting to read something that has romance, is entertaining, yet clean & Christian, check out Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson.

Press release:

Delightful Romantic Comedy for Readers
Italian beauty meets charming Texan
in this new heartwarming (and hilarious) fiction series

Fools Rush In is the printed page’s equivalent of a Hollywood romantic comedy hit, with its perfect blend of love and loads of laughter. Delivered by seasoned author Janice Thompson and her delightful cast of characters, Fools Rush In is the first book in the Weddings by Bella series, featuring a beautiful (albeit single) wedding planner, her boisterous Italian family and the antics they encounter with the family’s wedding-planning business.

In Fools Rush In, readers meet Bella Rossi, who may be nearing thirty, but her life is just starting to get interesting. When her Italian-turned-Texan parents hand over the family wedding planning business, Bella is determined not to let them down, transforming the business into one specializing in themed weddings. First up? A “Boot Scoot’n” country-western wedding that would make any Texan proud.

When a misunderstanding leads her to the DJ (and man) of her dreams, things start falling into place. But with a family like hers, nothing is guaranteed. Can the perfect Texan wedding survive a pizza-making uncle with mob ties, an aunt who is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and a massive delivery of 80 cowboy boots? Will Bella run the family business into the ground or
will her family scare off the one guy she’s set her heart on?

And will Bella ever get to plan her own wedding?

Book one in the Weddings by Bella series, Fools Rush In is fun, fresh, and full of surprises. Readers will love the flavorful combination of Italian and Tex-Mex, and the hilarity that ensues when cultures clash.

Janice Thompson is a seasoned romance author and native Texan. An experienced wedding coordinator herself, Thompson brings the everyday drama and humor of getting married alive in her books. She lives in Texas.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Available September 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Cracked Waterpot

Saw this on Mark Lowry's website, and liked it:


The cracked water pot

A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his shoulders. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house.

Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor, cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

Moral: Each of us has his or her own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots but it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

**Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

- Author unknown


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Forgiven

Ran across this song today, and really appreciated the lyrics & message - Forgiven, by Sanctus Real

Well the past is playing with my head
And failure knocks me down again
I am reminded of the wrong that I have said and done
And that devil just won’t let me forget

In this life I know what I’ve been
But here in Your arms I know what I am
I’m forgiven I’m forgiven
I don’t have to carry the weight of who
I’ve been ’cause I’m forgiven

And my mistakes are running through my mind
And I relive my days in the middle of the night
And I struggle with my pain
And wrestle with my pride

Sometimes I feel alone and I cry
When I don’t fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ ‘Cause ….

In this life I know what I’ve been
But here in Your arms I know what I am
I’m forgiven I’m forgiven
I don’t have to carry the weight of who
I’ve been ’cause I’m forgiven

Transformation, by Terri Kraus


David C Cook blurb:

“What happens when the normal Christian life you expected doesn’t turn out exactly that way? Can a good, hard-working Christian man disregard his cultural and religious admonitions—as well as his mother’s plans for his life—for the love of a woman and a historic church building? For anyone who has ever faced a dilemma of the heart—or for the avid HGTV watcher—author Terri Kraus tackles these questions with The Transformation (David C Cook, September 2009), the latest installment in her Project Restoration series dedicated to remodelers, rehabbers, and DIYers.

Oliver Barnett is a good contractor, a good Christian, and an obedient son, never in trouble, never one to rock the boat…until real estate developer Samantha Cohen enters his life. Samantha, full of life, vitality, and wit, is unlike any woman he has ever known—in more ways than one. Not only is she planning to transform a historic church into a restaurant/nightclub, she is Jewish and has had a “modern moral past,” having none of the restrictions that Oliver has had placed upon his own behaviors. While Oliver needs the work, he struggles with the idea of being involved in such a building project.

At the same time, an old girlfriend, Paula, rekindles a long-ago relationship with him—with the enthusiastic encouragement of Oliver’s domineering mother. Paula would be the safe choice, and the choice that would appease Mom, yet Oliver is drawn to Samantha because of her beauty and her exotic nature. Oliver finds himself in a most unsettling dilemma. Does he do what’s right by the nice girl his mother has chosen for him, or does he do what his heart is telling him to do?

“Can a ‘good, Christian boy’ find happiness with a woman from another faith?”asks Kraus. “Can Samantha find salvation through Oliver’s witness? And can a church ever be anything other than a place of worship? These are the intriguing questions I pose in The Transformation and I hope readers will enjoy discovering the answers”


My review:
I thought this book, Transformation, by Terri Kraus sounded really good. The idea of the story, a building being transformed as the backdrop of a person being transformed, made a very good plot.

I liked the main character, Oliver, and could appreciate his struggles and determination to do right. The message came through loud and clear that no matter what your past, God can forgive and redeem.

I did have a couple of problems with the book. The main character, though a Christian, drank alcoholic beverages, and even went to a bar. I know a lot of Christians are ok with that, and I have heard the arguments, but there are also a lot of Christians who do not drink, and believe it is wrong. I feel it is something a Christian author should avoid in their books. It is a big turn off for me when I run into it in a book, and I am sure there are others who feel the same way.


Oliver had two women throwing themselves at him, both trying to seduce him. I know it was a fiction book, but a real Christian man should have walked away from both women under the circumstances, so I think that gives a wrong message about dating relationships.

Overall, the book was a good read, and if alcohol-consuming Christians don’t bother you, then you will most likely enjoy this author. She can write a good story.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More from the bridge

I went back to the covered bridge today and took some "real" pictures with my camera. I didn't walk today, just spent some time praying and thinking and enjoying the scenery and peace & quiet. The second picture is now my desktop background. If you like covered bridges, enjoy.