Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Romanced by Evil?

In a world full of evil, Christians must make decisions about morality on a daily basis.

Some decisions against evil are easy. We choose not to murder, or steal, or commit sexual sin. But other decisions may not--on the surface--require a moral battle to be won. We make these decisions when we choose what to watch, which video game to buy, which book to read, and even what words come out of our mouths.

I can almost hear the moans: But there’s nothing wrong with what I watch! It’s just a movie! My friends read it! I know it’s all fake…

But is it?

Violent video games, movies and books are easy to identify. The odds are that nearly everyone at CCS has, at one time or another, watched an act of violence. Be it on TV--ever watch the news?--or in a movie, or in a video game. TV shows, movies and video games are graphic representations of violence. What is the graphic representation based on?

Reality.

“Evil is deceptive…” (Jess, age 14)

The big question: Which is more evil?

“…a big scary monster with five inch canines, and deep red eyes, and sharp claws, and long legs and arms.” (Allan, age 15) OR the evil that poses as “an angel of light.”

In Isaiah 5:20 the prophet explains, “Those…who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, who turn bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter…” are as good as dead.

Wow. That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? But, it is the Bible, and God tells it like it is.

Look around your world. Do you see any instances where evil has been disguised as good? Has anything that was once considered evil been “prettied up” until it appeals? Any examples of something from the dark being recreated, renamed, or rewritten into the light?

“Evil can look like something that is [innocent]…fun or pleasing. Evil…attempts to draw you away from God.” John (age 14)

Think about your choices. Do you have the discernment to, “Stay away from every form of evil”? (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Children's Book Extravaganza: God Gave Us Heaven

God Gave Us Heaven was read with great interest in our home.

The story presents simple answers to difficult questions often posed by youngsters. Over the course of a day, Papa (a polar bear) patiently answers Little Cub's questions. Vibrant captivating pictures help tell the story and engage young readers. The pictures received rave reviews from my kid.

The plan of salvation is presented in an easy to understand way aided by pictures to appeal to auditory and visual learners. Kids remember best when they see, hear, and read something. This book meets those criteria.

From the young readers in the family we have reviews of: "AWESOME!" and "The pictures were cool!" and "It was so cute!"


Author Bio: Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than one million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Heaven is Lisa’s fourth children’s book, following in the tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She makes her home in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.

Illustrator Bio: Laura J. Bryant studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She has illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books, including God Gave Us You, Smudge Bunny, and If You Were My Baby. Laura lives in Asheville, North Carolina.


COME BACK on Wednesday for a review of God Loves Me More Than That

and Friday for When God Created My Toes, both by Dandi Daley Mackall


BEST OF ALL, I have a free copy of each book to give away at the end of the week...Keep reading for more information!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Love as a Way of Life

Interview with Gary Chapman:
1. Describe some of the everyday situations that can be changed if a person has a foundation of love.

When love becomes the focus of ones life it will change every encounter we have with people. In the family, the husband is thinking, “what can I do before I leave for work that would be helpful for my wife?” Such thinking may lead him to take the trash out, put his breakfast plates in the dishwasher or feed the baby while his wife takes a shower.

In the workplace, employees are asking, “on my break, what might I do that would help someone else?” They will also make time to listen to a co-worker who seems to be having a hard time with a personal issue.

At the bank, post office, or cafeteria, the lover will look people in the eye and smile, perhaps opening the door to a conversation. They will express interest in what is going on in the lives of those they encounter.

The focus is not on “it’s all about me.” But, rather on “It is all about others.”

2. What is the take-away message of Love as a Way of Life?

Love as a Way of Life is designed to help the person who sincerely wants to make a positive impact in the world. I believe that is ‘most of us.’ Our biggest problem is that we don’t know how and we keep getting tripped up by our own selfish ambitions. The purpose of the book is to help us break free from the prison of selfishness and come to experience the satisfaction of truly loving others as a way of life. It is little acts of love that build up to a lifestyle of service.

3. Why do you need a foundation of love before you start figuring out our love languages?

The five love languages give information on the most effective way to express love in a meaningful way to a particular person. But, if you are not a loving person – don’t have the heart or will to focus on others – the information is of little value. Most of us must make a conscious change of focus from self to others if we are going to genuinely, and consistently enrich the lives of others. Love as a Way of Life is designed to help people make that change.

4. When did you realize the need for this book?

I first recognized the need for Love as a Way of Life when in a counseling session a husband said to me, “I’ll tell you right now, if it is going to take my washing dishes, and doing the laundry for my wife to feel loved, you can forget that.” I had just explained to him the concept of the five love languages and that his wife’s primary love language was ‘acts of service’ and that these acts would deeply communicate his love to her. I realized that he lacked the will to meet his wife’s need for love. He was locked into his own perception of what his role was to be and it did not include washing dishes and doing laundry. I knew at that moment that there was something more foundational than simply knowing a person’s love language.


5. What are the seven characteristics of lasting love?

I view love not as a single entity, but as a cluster of traits, which if developed will enhance all of life. These traits are:
  • Kindness: discovering the joy of helping others
  • Patience: accepting the imperfections of others
  • Forgiveness: finding freedom from the grip of anger
  • Courtesy: treating others as friends
  • Humility: stepping down so someone else can step up
  • Generosity: giving your time, money, and abilities to others
  • Honesty: caring enough to tell the truth

6. Why do you think it’s so hard for people to embrace these characteristics?

All of us have some of these characteristics to some degree. Most people see love as being better than hate. But most of us are comfortable to live somewhere between love and hate in a lifestyle that is fundamentally focused on self. We feel good when we are making money, accumulating things, gaining status, but in time these things do not ultimately satisfy what I call the ‘true self’. The true self longs to make the world a better place to live. To do something to help those less fortunate than we.

However, we all suffer from the malady of being ego-centric. I call this the ‘false self’. It is that part of man that pulls him to focus on self-preservation and a self-centered lifestyle. This is not all bad. Indeed we must meet our own physical and emotional needs in order to continue life. It is when we never get beyond this self focus, that life becomes a ‘dog eat dog’ world where everyone is out for self even at the expense of others. Such a life never brings long-term satisfaction. However it is often later in life that people discover the emptiness of selfish living. I’m hoping that Love as a Way of Life will help people discover the satisfaction of developing the ‘true self’ earlier in life.

Gary D. Chapman


Book Summary:

For decades Dr. Gary Chapman’s best-selling books have shown readers how to speak the “love language” of those they care about. Now he digs even deeper to uncover the foundations of what it means to cultivate a lifestyle of love and how doing so leads to satisfaction and success in every area of life.

Drawing fresh insights from timeless biblical principles, Chapman presents poignant stories of real people who have discovered the joys of living out the seven characteristics of authentic love: kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, courtesy, generosity, and honesty. Enhanced with eye-opening self tests, practical ideas for building daily habits of love, and inspiring examples of love’s power to change lives, this book guides readers in putting love to work in all of their interpersonal relationships.

Convinced that in a world of constant conflict people desperately need authentic love, Chapman paints a compelling vision of how life can be richer and relationships more satisfying for anyone who practices Love As a Way of Life.


Gary Chapman is the author of twenty-five books, including the New York Times bestseller The Five Love Languages, with more than 4 million copies in print. His daily radio program, A Love Language Minute, is broadcast on more than 100 stations nationwide. Chapman, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, Wake-Forest University, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, serves on the pastoral staff at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Too Much

There are days when it all feels like "too much." There is too much to do, too many dishes, too many people getting away with stupid stuff. Sometimes I feel like curling up in a warm fuzzy blanket and just sleeping for a week or two. Maybe three.

This is one of those days again.

Some days it is almost impossible to convince myself that God does have a plan. And no matter how many times he comes through, it is still hard to see when you are in the middle of something. Thoughts are scrambled. Nothing seems to fit. Something doesn't feel right.

If only I had that fuzzy blanket today.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Trouble With Book Reviews

Book reviews are difficult. I want to say nice things about the author. I want to say it is a great read. But that is not always the case.

It is summer, which means I get to read whatever I want right now. Currently, I am reading an old historical romance and a new mystery/suspense published by Multnomah. Two very incompatible reads.

The mystery/suspense utilizes concise action driven writing. The historical over uses passive construction and shifts point of view randomly, but I have read dozens of books with these problems and can overlook this. This type of structure is typical for the genre and for books written during that era. The newer book has plot holes and contradictions within the story. Which is worse?

Either way, it is hard to read! I am line editing everything. But really it gives me hope. The stories are still getting out there. The books are still getting published. Books are still being read.

Hopefully in a few days I will have a new book review. Two if I can get through the non-fiction I just received. As for the historical romance--I have no room to dis on Johanna Lindsay. However, I will have to pick up the newest novel to see what she has learned in the past thirty years and forty plus books.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

God's Provision

If I had to choose one word to describe the first book in The Good Earth series, perhaps it would be provision. Of course that is a theme in most every life, but for my characters Bethrina and Kjell, God's provision is phenomenal.

It is interesting how God chooses to provide sometimes. Many people call it a miracle. Others simply call it life. I know in my own life God has provided some pretty amazing things. The problem, as I often see it, is timing.

My novel begins with a young woman who has experienced little or no caring in her formative years. She is longing for a home of her own and someone to love her. What she does not realize is that the Lord is waiting with open arms. Not until she is forced away from the life she knows does she let go enough to experience God's extraordinary provision.

Bethrina suffers from a bit of the same problem I do. Timing. God's timing is not her timing. She has hopes and dreams and when things do not go as she planned she assumes God must not love her. As I write her story I lead her down that path, which I know God has sent me on a time or two. I help her--one day at a time--learn her own worth in the kingdom.

Therein lies the key. One day at a time. If we live one day at a time, we will all see the blessing of God's provision. The hope that we have is in Him. He is our all in all.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Editing

A great deal of my time as a High School English teacher is spent editing. In my free time I work on my novel, and often times that means editing. Even in my free-free time--those times when God, family, writing and work are not requiring all my time--I search multiple listings* for homes and end up editing. My husband and I have decided there is absolutely no prerequisite for a real estate agent to spell, be concise, or use grammar rules of any sort.

How tragic that our culture puts so little emphasis on literacy that a professional has no need to be professional.

One thing I can't seem to get my students to understand that editing is not a one time proposition. Read what you've written. Read it out loud. Read it to someone else. Read it again. Perhaps you will still make an error, but your effort will make a much better product.

To my loyal readers who are eagerly awaiting my novel, I say all this to let you know that after a bit of polishing the first three chapters have been submitted to an editor--per request.



*For those who are not familiar with "multiple listings," this is the real estate business' fancy way of saying a house is searchable by other real estate agents, and in the day of the internet, house hunters everywhere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Review: A Mending at the Edge


Have you ever finished a book and realized that you had been so immersed that it felt like you were reluctantly saying good-bye to the characters? In her Author's Notes at the conclusion of her latest book, Oregon writer Jane Kirkpatrick says something similar about one of her characters. After reading the book, I fully understand why.

A Mending at the Edge is the third and final installment in the Change and Cherish Historical Series, a trilogy that shares a fictionalized account of the historical figure Emma Wagner Giesy. Once again, Mrs. Kirkpatrick has done meticulous and extensive research and has masterfully amplified history with infusions of fiction. The end result is a teacher's dream: history comes alive and is truly meaningful to the reader.

The story starts where the last book (A Tendering In the Storm, reviewed here) left off. Frau Giesy has grudgingly accepted the help of the Aurora Colony and the colony's spiritual leader, Herr Doctor William Keil. Over the course of the story, her grudging acceptance transforms into loving Christian servanthood and the mature understanding that God knows better than any human ever could.

In addition to making history accessible and appealing to the reader, Mrs. Kirkpatrick shows us through Frau Giesy that following the Word of the LORD is much more important than following the pressures of those around us.

This book will take its place on our bookshelf next to the other books from the series, but I doubt they'll sit unread for long.

A synopsis of the history of the Aurora Colony can be found here.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the best-selling author of two nonfiction books and fourteen historical novels, including the popular Kinship and Courage series. Her award-winning writing has appeared in more than fifty publications, including Sports Afield and Decision. She’s won the coveted Western Heritage Wrangler Award, an honor shared by such writers as Larry McMurtry and Barbara Kingsolver. Jane is a licensed clinical social worker as well as an internationally recognized speaker. She and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 acres in eastern Oregon.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Doris Marie Heiser Moore


Doris Marie Heiser
Nov. 2, 1921-March 11, 2008

My grandmother died. Of course I never called her grandmother, she was my Granny. The woman who would kill a snake with anything she could wield, including her heel.


Her hair was always braided, and she snapped at me when I asked her about it. Why? Goodness, who knows! She was Granny. But then later she let me watch her comb through the long strands as I sat at her feet.


We would go for long walks along the railroad tracks listening for the wildlife. She would point out the bunnies, birds (my favorite were the kildeer), and nutria. For years, I believed she had made up the nutria, because not once in all my growing years did I actually see one. Not until I had my own place in college did I see a nutria. Bit creepy those critters...


One of my favorite memories was rearranging her spice rack whenever my parents and I arrived. I would accuse her of mixing them up just for me. Then I would spend the first part of our visit putting the spices in order. The rest of the time I spent upside down doing cartwheels or headstands. Thing is, it was always very difficult to sit still at Granny and Poppo's, if you did one of the dead animals on the wall just might attack. The red fox isn't too bad, especially when Poppo would let you touch it just a little.

She passed away only two weeks ago, but my best memories are from two decades ago. Why?

Granny had Alzheimer's. It isn't that it was contagious, but that she went from being a cantankerous-stubborn-old woman, to being a bitter-forgetful-suspicious-cantankerous-stubborn-old woman.

You may think I am being harsh, but here are a couple of examples:


She got in an argument one time with Poppo and a few others. Her claim: matches have dynamite in them. In order to prove her point she got out an encyclopedia and read the ingredients, and low and behold HER dictionary included dynamite as one of the ingredients. That encyclopedia certainly disappeared soon after.


One of my favorite tales is my own. When I was about eleven years old, I spent a week with Granny and Poppo. They have ten acres of farmland near Albany, and in the front corner of their land stands an old house from the turn of the century. The house always fascinated me and Granny would tell me stories. She told of a suicide in the front room, she gave details including how much the house and land originally sold for. She drew a map of the entire town, back when it was a town!

Just a few years ago, Granny claimed that I had made up all those stories myself. But that was Granny.

She was a strong woman, who worked hard all her life. She loved her family, all of us, and her farm. No matter how we argued while I was there, I was always given a hug and a "Be good, babe"
when I left. Except maybe in the last couple of years when the line between reality and the haze of illness was no longer clear.

In the last three months she no longer crossed into the realm of reality. It was time for her to go. Now it is my time to sort through all the years when I was scared of her and felt like she didn't care, to see the woman she was, before her mind began to fail...






The woman who cooked atrociously. The woman who loved the land and everything on it. The woman who gave life to my dad and therefore to me. The woman who loved me.


My beloved, My Granny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fiction Book Proposal

My school is on Spring Break. I thought I had another week, but it turns out that I have until Thursday night to write a book proposal. Believe it or not, I was not procrastinating. Honestly it never occurred to me that I could hand a document this large to an editor I may meet...

A book proposal seems to consist of the following elements.

Fiction Proposal Outline

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Table of Contents
  3. The Market/Audience
  4. Marketing of the Book
  5. Promotion and Publicity
  6. Author's Promotion
  7. About the Author
  8. Synopsis
  9. Chapter Outlines
  10. Two Sample Chapters
Needless to say, I have a lot of work to complete.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Stagnant Blog

Dear faithful and loyal readers,

I know it has been some time since I posted. My heart has been elsewhere. Being a first year teacher after thirteen years of teaching is a challenge. The tender years of my children are too precious to pass up. Then there was the persistent illnesses followed by the death of my grandmother.

Here is to a renewed effort to post most every day. Every attempt will be made to find focus.

Coming soon: Review of Jane Kirkpatrick's new book A Mending at the Edge. You will also have a chance to win a copy of this book.

Thanks for reading...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brush Up Your Shakespeare...

High school English is an interesting creature. My job requires that I teach a group of hormonally driven, confused, but well-intentioned young people about literature and the fundamentals of writing. This becomes especially challenging when you throw parents into the mix.

I recently fielded a phone call from a concerned parent. The issue: The Taming of the Shrew contains lewd scenes and inappropriate innuendo. The suggestion was that we do one of Shakespeare's less offensive plays.

Maybe Midsummer Night's Dream? Or perhaps Hamlet?

An old movie version of Shrew has a comical dance number performed by two thugs in which they sing "brush up your shakespeare, start quoting him now." After reading Midsummer this spring my junior's adopted "tawny tarter" as the new dis*. But really how often do you quote Shakespeare?

Do you even know when you are doing it? Shakespeare invented or coined somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 words.


*Teen term for disrespect or put down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Review: Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear


I'll be honest...when we first picked up this book, we were skeptical. I mean, the title sounded like a toy-based horror flick and the first chapter contained as many clich├ęs as a dog has fleas.

However, after I respectfully decided to give Mrs. Dunn the benefit of the doubt, I was caught...hook line and sinker.

This story is the second book in a series following Ginger, Suzanna, Arleta and Kindra in their quest for bargains and the adventures that seem to follow them. In a manner reminiscent of Diane Mott-Davidson's character Goldie Bear, Mrs. Ginger Salinski is an unlikely hero with a cadre of loyal friends.

However, unlike Goldie, Ginger is portrayed as a strong Christian with morals and values to match. Throughout the book, Ginger's decisions, actions and attitudes reflect her faith, a trait not often seen in a mystery novel hero.

This book is a playful whodunit with a twist. I recommend spending an evening with Ginger and the rest of the Bargain Hunters Network. I know that after reading this one we'll be looking for the first book in the series, Death of a Garage Sale Newbie. We'll be looking for a sale-priced copy...gotta find those bargains!

And you can take that one to the bank.

------------------------------------------------------------



Sharon Dunn is the author of Death of a Garage Sale Newbie, book one in the Bargain Hunters Mysteries, and the Ruby Taylor mystery novels including Sassy Cinderella, which was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers. She earned a BA in television production and a master’s in history Sharon lives in Bozeman, Montana, with her husband of twenty years, three children, two cats, and lots of dust bunnies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

While They Are Young

One of the best things about teaching in a Christian School is the morning prayer time with the staff. Last week, during this special time, I was shocked to learn that Jenessa Byers had lost her battle with cancer. This sweet little girl was only eight years old.

Despite the fact I have never met her, and my connection to her is precarious at best, I cried. And cried some more.

Her story reminded me that God has gifted me with two children for the time he designed. Some days I feel sorry for myself because I missed those precious years when they were infants and toddlers. Of course my son was little more than a toddler, but that time passed far too quickly. As does every day since.

While they are young: I will dance with them in the rain.

While they are young: I will play steamroller with my son.

While they are young: I will braid my daughter's hair.

While they are young: I will play puppy with my son.

While they are young: I will listen to girl's stories.

While they are young: We will make snowmen in the yard.

While they are young: I will read bedtime stories every night.

Before it is too late.