Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bell Tolls for Freedom

Travel log Philadelphia: part II

If you've never visited Christ Church while in Philly, it's well worth the time to add it to your next trip.
Not far from the Betsy Ross house and Elfreth's Alley, Christ Church was founded in 1695.


This building was erected in 1727. It's eight original bells were brought from England in 1754 and rang proclaiming independence on July 4, 1776. They still ring today. In fact, they rang during our visit.


The church is open to the public. We lucked out and got to sit in George Washington's pew and listen to the organist practice on the pipe organ for Sunday's service. The sound of the pipe organ transported me to the European churches I'd sung in during college. Thrillingly beautiful sound.


It made me grateful for our freedom of religion.

John 8:36: "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."

Let us use our freedom for God's glory and not take it for granted. Let us remember our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world who are not free to worship Christ openly. Remember your freedom and those lacking any kind of freedom the next time you hear a bell toll.

Conversation Point:
How do you remember or celebrate your freedom in Christ?
Do you feel that you use your freedom in Christ to the fullest?
What does freedom mean to you?

The winner of the No Safe Harbor give away is: 
Melissa Andres!! (we need your email address!)

Also:
Here's one of our favorites thing! ANITA HIGMAN'S NEW BOOK "A Merry Little Christmas"! Cute in its hardback binding, warm 1960's flavor, and sentimental romance. We'll be interviewing Anita on Friday and guess what? We're giving away THREE COPIES of this Christmas story! Comment every day and your name will be entered once for every comment! Winners will be announced Monday, 11/5! (Sorry, US citizens only) 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens ... Garsh I love Sound of Music. It's one of my favorite things. I feel like a favorite things Tuesday. Why? Just because it's Autumn, and it's my day to blog -- so I can! :)

These are a few of my favorite things:

Pin boards on Pinterest and blog posts with comments
Long winter scarves and cute fridgerator magnets
little girls and little boys that giggle as they sing
these are a few of my favorite things ...

Coffee with soy milk and hazelnut for flavor
fireplaces that roar and hot chocolate to savor
orange and brown pillows that smoosh when I lean
these are a few of my favorite things ...

When my work sucks
When the kids are sick
When I'm feeling bad ...
I simply remember I have you as friends
and then I don't feel so sad

There ya have it... My favorite things Tuesday. What's your favorite things? 

and ONE MORE favorite thing! ANITA HIGMAN'S NEW BOOK "A Merry Little Christmas"! Cute in its hardback binding, warm 1960's flavor, and sentimental romance. I'll be interviewing Anita on Friday and guess what? We're giving away THREE COPIES of this Christmas story! Comment every day and your name will be entered once for every comment! Winners will be announced Monday, 11/5! (Sorry, US citizens only)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Have You Examined Your Worship Lately?

I helped plan and attended an all day worship training session for local area churches this weekend. It was our hope to share resources, encourage other leaders, and provide a time for area churches to connect and plant seeds of new and fresh ideas about worshipping our God. This is the first time our church has done this, but I found myself personally challenged to examine my worship.

The keynote speaker, Michael Zehr with Design International Group, talked about how our consumer attitudes affect our worship. When visiting the local retail stores weekly, we not only want--we expect to:
--find what we want
--be comfortable
--get it conveniently
--and at the lowest cost to us.

But when we think this way about worship, we get it all wrong. The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, and when we worship our King, we should aim to:
--find what God wants
--be willing to get uncomfortable
--put commitment above convenience
--and not only expect it to cost us something but expect to bring an offering to the King.

John 4: 23-24: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

He reminded us that the three magi went out of their way, on a long, inconvenient, dangerous journey with only one purpose: to honor the King and offer Him precious gifts.

He reminded us that the widow--the one person who would have every reason to come to worship wanting to receive, to be comforted, in need of conveniences, and desiring low cost worship---she was the one who gave all she had.

A quote that sticks with me:  "God is God, and we are not Him."

He asked us, and I in turn ask you: 
"When is the last time you got on your knees, or got prostrate before God?"
"Do you prepare to worship and practice worship all week?"
"What do you have to offer God in your worship?"

Have you examined your worship lately? Are you ready to actually ask God to search you, to try your heart?

I join you in recognizing, and confessing that I really needed to examine my heart, and to let God examine my heart.

Psalm 139: 23-24:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Report: No Safe Harbor by ELizabeth Ludwig


Elizabeth Ludwig's Now Safe Harbor will tug you in like a tugboat into the harbor! Setting the stage, she layers her plot masterfully until you'll find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat. Plot-driven and suspenseful, Elizabeth paints the picture of the Irish immigrant's world in old New York City.


Setting: You'll want to remember that 1897 New York City saw Ellis Island built just five years before and New York Harbor had only been under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty since 1886. The times were heavily influenced by the large influx of European immigrants, overcrowded tenement houses, an under paid labor force, and New York City's corrupt Tammany Hall political machine--all things in which the Irish were deeply involved!

Characters:
Cara Hamilton has left her Irish homeland, once believing she’d been orphaned, she glides into New York Harbor clinging to only a letter and the hope of finding her long lost brother. Her only instructions are to trust no one—talk to no one.
When her path crosses that of Rourke Turner, she yearns to entrust her secrets to someone who cares. But can Rourke choose between his clan and his heart to overcome the past that left him fatherless?

Romance & Plot:
Rourke is a bad guy you want to love, while Cara is an innocent you don’t want wounded—and yet Ludwig masterfully entwines their future, wrapping their paths to redemption into a cord that only the Lord’s strand between them can save. Forces beyond immigration far from their homeland, their penniless state, their fragile trust and clannish loyalties seek to divide the two. At one point, Cara’s actions not only surprised Rourke, but surprised me. However, true to her character, Cara is pressed to desperation to find her brother. So like Rourke, I saw this in Cara and had to forgive her foolishness. Be patient while Elizabeth introduces you to the cast of characters on this stage, there are none who aren’t essential!

Writing:
A few favorite lines:  (promise, no spoilers here!)
 “She studied him critically. His cheeks were ruddy, but that could easily have been caused by the brisk walk…..Certainly he didn’t look to be lying. Traitorous tears burned the back of her eyelids, accusing her of longing to believe him.”

Overall:
--Fresh new era & setting
--Intense & suspenseful
--Satisfying romance & ending

Bio: Elizabeth Ludwig is an award winning author whose work has been featured on Novel Journey, the Christian Authors Network, and The Christian Pulse. She is an accomplished speaker and teacher, and often attends conferences and seminars, where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. She is the owner and editor of the popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book. Along with her husband and two children, Elizabeth makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her at www.elizabethludwig.com.

Give Away: Elizabeth has graciously offered a free give away of a copy of No Safe Harbor. To participate you must live in the continental US, leave a comment. An entry will be made for every comment. Drawing will be announced on October 31st next week.
Comment questions: 
Have any of your ancestors immigrated through NYC? Do you know your country of origin?
A point for anyone who remembers what Tammany Hall was from history class or otherwise!
Have you been to NYC, seen Ellis Island, or the Statue of Liberty?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's Your Coffee? ... Or Inspiration

Compliments of FotoSearch
It's Thursday!!! YAHOO! Another day to celebrate one of God's greatest creations! THE COFFEE BEAN!

I'm indulging in White Russian coffee with a splash of my latest favorite creamer, Amaretto.

My inspiration for today comes from Deuteronomy 10:21:
"He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes."
 
I hope you recognize great and awesome wonders today ... what's your coffee and inspiration? oh, and you lurkers out there who are reading this blog and not commenting? SHAME ON YOU! We want to meet you :) please comment :)
 
 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author, CARA PUTMAN - A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island

I (Jaime) am SO excited to introduce today's "guestie" at CCC! I was privileged to meet  Cara Putman at the ACFW conference in 2010 and since then, interact frequently with her online via FB and her blog. She's an amazing author and an equally special lady ... take over the blog, Cara and thanks for visiting! ....

________________________________

Behind the Scenes with A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island

I often start my books by thinking about a setting that I think readers will enjoy escaping to through the pages of a book. A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island was no exception.

I didn't grow up aware of Mackinac Island. I wasn't even sure what I was getting into the first time we drove the ten hours from Lafayette, Indiana, to the tip of Michigan's mitten. I knew is it took a long time to reach this tiny dot on the map. It didn't take me long to learn the island had worked hard to preserve a feel of days long ago. It took even less time to fall in love with this retreat. We've stayed at the Grand, in B & Bs and in Mackinaw City. Each time, I couldn't wait to reach the island and explore its roads, shops, and Fort. It was only natural that it became the perfect place to set a contemporary romance. 

 The island is a little over 8 miles in diameter. Bike shops dot the town from the docks to the area near the B&Bs. Each visit, we rent bikes. The trips stay the same, the number of bikes grow.  In the beginning it was two adult bikes with a burley cart. In July, we had three adult bikes, a burley cart, and a tandem attached to my bike. What doesn’t change is the way I relax as we circle the island, listening to the waves. Or the way I push to complete the loop in an hour so we don’t have to pay more for rental. Maybe next time we’ll take our own bikes and our time. Another thing Mackinac Island is known for is its fudge.  As I evaluated what elements to add to the story, fudge had to be part of it. The island has many fudge shops. Yummy!  One problem came as I incorporated fudge into my story…a key event in the mystery occurs there. My Facebook friends helped me come up with the perfect name for my fudge shop: I’m Not Sharing. And once you’ve walked into a shop, smelled the sweet scents and tasted a free sample, you’ll agree…the fudge is too good to share!
A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island Join attorney Alanna Stone as she returns home despite her determination to never set foot on Mackinac Island again. Once again in close proximity to Jonathan Covington, her first love, she vows to protect her privacy and her heart from the man who still makes her pulse race. But when her  worst fears are realized and history repeats itself—landing her in the midst of a murder investigation—Jonathan may be her only hope. Will they be able to lay aside the past and let God heal their hearts, or will reconciliation come too late?  Read the first chapter here.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

18th & 19th Century Book Desinations

Have you ever traveled to your favorite book setting?

I just love it when I read a great book and have been in the places it is set in, or better yet--get to plan a trip with the novel in mind!

I wanted like everything to visit the Biltmore Mansion when I read Deanne Gist's Maid to Match. But it wasn't in the budget or on the itinerary of the family's trip to Florida. When I mentioned in the presence of the family "oh honey, we should plan a stop over at the Biltmore." Did anyone pounce on that idea? No one. I mean not even a word! Okay, so it was the Super 8 instead--without upstairs downstairs wait staff, duvets, or room service. Sigh.


So, when I  saw that my annual medical conference was scheduled in Philadelphia, I signed up and conspired with a more willing travel partner--my dear mom. Then I shot off a quick note to Laura Frantz. She'd mentioned in her book Love's Reckoning (just reviewed last week here) that she'd taken a five day walking tour of the city for her research. (I can't wait to read her next book!)

No spoilers here, but she tipped me to visit Elfreth's Alley, and oh-my-word!! My mom and I were transported straight out of our taxi time machine to the streets of the 18th century. My mouth fell open. It was better than Disney's It's a Small World!

Elfreth's--try saying that three times fast to a taxi cab driver--is the nation's oldest continuously inhabited residential street dating back the time of William Penn in the early 1700's. Thirty-two homes line an old cobblestoned narrow street. It is a National Historic Landmark District--but here's the secret--it's off the beaten path.


Some homes are still lived in today. We toured the museum and walked up and down the quiet alley, imagining the clip-clop sounds of carriages and horse's hooves on the cobblestone. The alley is just one block from the river front of the Delaware River. Until the Industrial Revolution, most 18th century businesses were operated from the fronts of their homes. Elfreth's is named after Jeramiah Elfreth, blacksmith and property owner. For decades tailors, shoemakers, cabinetmakers occupied the row homes of Elfreth's.



The #110 home above with blue shutters was inhabited by John Webb in 1775. He was a cabinet maker and business partner of Daniel Trotter who lived in house #114. I am still working to confirm if John Webb is connected to my husband's Webb ancestors who lived in Philadelphia in the 1700's and married to Daniel Boone's family. It astounds me that this very river front was a vibrant village on the harbor in the early 1700's when my own family by surname of Herr immigrated to Philadelphia in 1710, and that a village street like this one might have greeted them with welcome like it did me.

So, what book destination have you visited?
What destinations are you your wish list?

Monday, October 22, 2012

When You're a Walking Dart Board ...


Compliments of FotoSearch
Remember those days in High School? Yeah, you know the ones. When all your friends decided you had a massive dart board on your face and were relentless in their pursuit to make you fall? To cave in on your principles--to deny your beliefs--to compromise...just once. My youth pastor used to tell me the problem with sin is that sin is FUN! WOOT WOOT! It's a party. Not so much if you're trying NOT to sin. Ugh.

In the past, I have found myself catching a lot of sharp darts on my face. It seemed like everyone was hitting the bullseye. It was very difficult to stand against the pressure--it hurt a lot too. It would be so easy to just give in, but I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself later (I have an insanely acute conscience). Usually, none of it was earth shattering sin, either ... just ... against my convictions. What was hardest was the constant battering. One pressure was enough, but consistent, relentless pounding made me exhausted, sore, and bruised.

Am I being dramatic? I guess as you travel down that narrow road that is OH SO UNPOPULAR you're not exactly imbedding your star on the walk of fame. Jesus said that the path was narrow and that we would be hated for His name. Shucks. Really??? Now I can see why people don't race to become die-hard Jesus freaks. It hurts. A lot. Rewarding in the long run, fulfilling and everything we ever needed--but sometime we flinch from the pain and it's tempting to pull away.

Scripture cliches of "be still and know I am God", or "cast all your cares on Him" are ever so true, but sometimes, you still bleed through the Scripture bandages. I guess when it comes to that point when you feel as if you can't take one more dart, you remember Jesus on the cross. Jesus the vine. You attach yourself to Him, the life source, the one that will shoot forth healing balm into your soul. He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

I see more darts on the horizons. It's inevitable as a Christ follower. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're soon to become missiles. But I tied on my tennis this morning and I'm going for a jog down that narrow road. It's a little heavy too, 'cause I put on the armor of God and I belted the shield to my back since the darts are determined to hit me. It's coming ... there's no doubt about it ... but Jesus knows and Jesus will take the darts with me. In the meantime, I'm praying for wisdom--LOTS of wisdom.

Have any dart throwers in your life? Need relief? Maybe this is where the family of Christ comes in. Let's hold hands today and pray us through - k? If you need prayer just comment a big "I DO I DO I DO" and suddenly though the road is narrow and few walk it ... we'll see it's not totally empty.

*WINNER OF KRISTA PHILLIPS DEBUT BOOK IS ---- LEE CARVER!!! CONGRATS LEE!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Report: Sandwich With A Side of Romance, by Krista Phillips


I love plane rides. Hours in a cramped seat, with arms overflowing onto other passenger's laps, knees stuffed up to your face, and six-dollar peanuts. What a beautiful existence. Well, it was this last Wednesday. On my flight home, I squeezed Krista Phillips, "Sandwich With a Side of Romance" between my knees and my nose. Only three quarters of the book left to go and three hours between Scottsdale, Arizona and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Here. We. Go.

HOLY PEANUTS! I think I may have discovered the next Denise Hunter. Krista's debut novel is wacked out with amazingness. I know, I always gush over books, but really ... I do only gush when I feel they're gush-worthy. Krista's book was so well-balanced, so put together, concise, and gutsy, I didn't think a demure looking, pretty, brunette author who is Krista, could pull together such a witty piece of literature. LOVED. IT.

Characters: Ok. So Maddie, the main character, is fiesty. What I loved about her fiestiness is the fact that it was a cover -- for anxiety, insecurity, guilt, and shame. It was the perfect cover to unveil as the story and the romance moved forward. Inside we see someone who no longer deserves to be loved, who's past failures were spawned by abuse and neglect, and who doesn't realize the grace her Lord brings her more love than she can fathom. Rueben, our hero, is a jerk. I LOVED IT! I love jerks. To the extent that their form of jerkiness is impatience, irritability, strong-minded confidence, and lovability. Yeah. You wouldn't think an insensitive hero could be loveable, did you? Well, Krista nailed it. And made him drop dead gorgeous with FANTASTIC hair. Rueben was a great dichotemy between Maddie's soiled past and his shielded past. Grown up Christian, well-raised, well-loved, and stable, Reuben has to learn that his "issues" are perhaps God's means of teaching him sensitivity and outreach to this snippy young thang just just rolled into town.

Setting: Is Sandwich, Illinois a real place? I think it is. And, though the landmarks don't necessarily scream an identity, the PEOPLE of Sandwich is what makes this setting really work. It's a town filled with familiar faces -- people we meet everyday. The busy-bodies, the givers, the spiteful, and those who sacrifice.

Romance: It's thick, lovely, heady. As delicious as a BLT, as juicy as a turkey on rye, and as filling as a grilled ham and cheese.

SO to celebrate Krista's new release and to share the delicious goodness - CCC BLOG is GIVING AWAY our personal copy of Sandwich With A Side of Roamnce!!

To enter - you can receive multiple entries by:
1. Leave a comment on the blog
2. Follow our blog by becoming a Fellow Coffee Guzzler (see over to your right) -- if you already ARE, just let us know in your comment
3. Go to our "About Us" pages and follow our links. Like us on Facebook and Follow Us on Twitter. Let us know you did in our comment.

AND ...

4. Recruit a friend to visit the CCC blog. If they leave a comment and mention they were referred by you, you'll receive an extra TWO entries!

You can receive up to FIVE entries by the doing the above. And trust me, you'll want EVERY ONE!

Drawing will be announced on Monday morning, the 22nd. Only applicable to those living in the United States.

What's been your best read of the week?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's Your Coffee?

My morning routine is a bit like watching the movie Groundhog Day.

Seriously.

The alarm rings and I hit snooze exactly three times to rise thirty minutes later at precisely 6 a.m.

I take my vitamins and reach for the coffee filters. My eyelids half-mast I've been known to dump the previous day's grounds into the trash can without noticing my teen son didn't put a fresh trash bag in yet. Ugh.

Then it's two spoonfuls Folger's Decaf.
Next, time to grind the rich, full, Starbucks Breakfast Blend--two spoonfuls.

I make breakfast for everyone and ahhhhh---the first swig is ALWAYS the BEST!
I let it sit on my pallet, warm the roof of my mouth, wait for my sinuses to clear, then swallow--the warmth sliding to my middle.

I get a whole cup of 1/2-caff while I surf my blogs, Facebook, and check email.
It's "a warmer" then---cause that's what we say here in the midwest when we top off the cup--and I'm onto the treadmill to read through some edits before I fly out the door with my large red Longaberger travel mug full for the day.

Confession: I don't count the number of cups I drink before 2 p.m.

And tomorrow, I'll do it all again.

What's your sweet indulgence?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Top 5 Things: Fall in the Midwest

Living in a woods in the midwest during the Fall season is a lovely time of year. My father-in-law lives in Florida and recently requested that I take some pictures of the fall foliage he misses living down south year round. Sometimes it's easy to forget not everyone gets to see the colors we have here, so I'm sharing some pics with you.



Thinking about fall today as the wind blows and huge fluffy white clouds float past my window view in the office I write in--I'm grateful God made our seasons.





My top five favorite things about fall are:

1. The colors of the sugar maple trees



2. Wearing sweatshirts


3. Football games


4. The first fire in our wood stove, and of course reading a book there while covered under a blanket!




5.  Putting flannel sheets on the bed


So what's your favorite thing about Fall where you live?



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When God Meets A Need...

It's not secret, so if my coworkers read this, I'm not exactly writing an exposé on myself -- but I do NOT fit in at work conferences. For a multitude of reasons (stop chuckling, Lindsay). Tonight, at night #2 of my conference, Lindsay Harrel rescued me from Back to the Future 80's night (hard to see professional cohorts sporting spandex). We plopped ourselves on a cabana couch-chair for two with about twenty pillows, palm trees illuminated by lights, a blue pool, and a cool refreshing breeze.

I'd never met Lindsay before. In fact, Facebook only connected us a few weeks ago -- thank you Julie Jarnigan for creating our accountability group! Funny how you can feel more at home with a stranger than business people you've networked with for years at these conferences.

We talked writing, reading, critique partners, ACFW, editing, babies (mine), puppies (hers), husbands (ours), and careers. I announced my all-typical and common career choice of HR Director -- but guess what, Lindsay is a CURRICULUM EDITOR! Curriculum editor! Isn't that freakishly wierdly cool? I forgot to ask you, Linsday, what TYPE of curriculum? English, History, Engineering, Biophysics????

I was rude and totally forgot to offer to buy her coffee, tea, or even a simple bottle of water. Yes, it's a 5-star hotel so water costs money where at Super 8 it's free. Go figure. We had three hours to cram a lifetime of stories into -- I think we did a pretty good job.

Have you ever had those moments in life where you needed rescued? I knew coming here Lindsay and I would meet up and I was excited. But by 8pm tonight, I was desperate. Homesick for my Monkey-Face and Froggy-Face, missing my best friend/husband, out of my element, socially disabled (I don't do networking funtions well at all), and dealing with other asundry aspects of the evening ... in marched Lindsay. Dimpled, cute -- well, gorgeous actually -- a woman on a mission. To meet me, to befriend me, to fellowship with me, rejoice in our Lord and and the mission of LIFE He has laid before us.

I bid her farewell. A dear friend after three hours. A heart full. (an empty hotel room to retreat to -- which is another story I'll save for someday far in the future) When God meets a need, He meets it in a big way. Lindsay was His big way for me tonight.

What's been His big way for you lately? Do tell! I want to glory in God's blessings today and give Him the praise! Join me!

(oh and for what it's worth, 80's night at my conference wasn't all lost. I did get to see Michael J Fox's actual Delorean from "Back to the Future")

Monday, October 15, 2012

Faith & Fiction: Finding a Balance

Jaime and I love nothing better than a steaming mug of Guatemalan coffee over a great fiction reader's review or a brainstorm of our latest WIP, work in progress. Simply put--we love to chat about made up stuff!

I'm aware that some (somewhere, not here though! LOL) are critical of "Christian Fiction"as if made up things are false and therefore negate any possible positive benefit to the Christian life. That logic might work for the logical, but then I don't believe faith is strictly logical.

But while we might enjoy a great fake story, no one is advocating being fake. 
There's a huge difference.

Last week I was reading Brennan Manning's The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus. He reminds us: "Concern for appearance might be the American original sin; it goes right along with fake furs, paste jewelry, sawdust hot dogs and deceptive advertising. Such self deception is subtle, even for a while relatively harmless. But the temptation to settle for looking good while everything is falling apart inside can be dangerous. After a long season of accepting appearances for reality, a Christian forgets what the truth even sounds like."(page 116)

Great fiction should point us to the truth, lead us to it, paint it for us--it should touch us deeply with truth. We are raised knowing right from wrong, but most often it is the more subtle things in our lives that are the trickiest for us. That's why I love it when I'm reading a great nonfiction like this one, or a great fiction read and I get that ah-ha moment when the author has touched a spot in me, and I have to go back and reread it again. In fact, often the subtler things take rereading many times.

So next time you are reading and you find yourself challenged not to pretend, but to pay attention to what might be falling apart in your life--underline it, reread it, copy it down, let it sink in and change you. Let us shake off the fake things in us and take hold of the unshakable things of His Kingdom.

Hebrews 12: 28 "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

What have you read recently that gave you pause for the ah-ha moment?


   

     

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Love's Reckoning by Laura Frantz

I've been waiting very impatiently for Laura Frantz's fourth book to release for weeks. I've read all her others and this one truly rose to the top of my favorites list. Love's Reckoning is the first in the Ballantyne Legacy, and it's sure to move your heart.



Setting  This legacy spans the map from 1784 York County, Pennsylvania to the growing town of Pittsburgh. This is the frontier of the 18th century with stalwart immigrants trudging westward to new unclaimed lands.

Characters & Plot Silas Ballantyne is a swoon-worthy unsuspecting blacksmith apprentice bonded to Liege Lee of York County, but his sites are set on Pittsburgh. Eden and Elspeth are the master's daughters--one gentle, humble, and kind--the other with a cunning nature and a secret agenda. You will want to move westward with this Scotsman and will be touched by the unfolding saga of God's love--a love that covers a multitude of wrongs--both willful and presumptuous. If I could sum up the theme, I'd say what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50: 20: "what others meant for evil, God meant for good."

Style Laura's gift is in her balance of tension, powerful prose, enticing portrayal of the setting, and careful pacing of burgeoning love of a man, a woman, and their God and Father above. If you venture to read Laura's latest release, I've no doubt you'll be temped to charge over to amazon, order her earlier works, and share them with your friends.

Favorite's Test I'm not a big fan of re-reading books---unless they are just that good! I don't have a large list of favorites that I reread, but this book made it into my re-read pile. I'd give this a 5-star on my re-read pile.

And Laura, well I've never met her in person. But I can't wait to do so because her sweetness shines through her online virtual presence as much as it does in her fiction. You can find her at http://laurafrantz.net/. She is truly a kindred spirit. I smile often when I'm pinning on Pinterest and my gaze falls on an image I love--only to find that Laura pinned it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What's Your Coffee?

Courtesy of FreeFoto.com
It's WHAT'S YOUR COFFEE Thursday around here at the CCC Blog! I'm pouring myself a hot mug of Highlander Grogg (one of my all time faves) and I'm mixing in some Cheesecake Creamer for that touch of the upcoming holidays!

WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING this morning -- and share your great thoughts for Thursday, I KNOW you have some!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Inspires You?

My daughter surrounds herself with monkeys. Oh yes, and a few other well-placed friends. We just put her flannel sheets on the bed this weekend and had to rearrange her menagerie. So, she's a little OCD --I had to put each friend in its rightful spot. At nighttime, I can hear her chatting it up with her friends, having little parties and singalongs, and even telling them stories about stinging bees, or biting tigers (yes, I think she's going to write suspense when she grows up). Her friends are her inspiration.

Which led me to think -- what inspires me? Specifically, what inspires me to write? Am I like my daughter--do I surround myself with it?

  • History - history inspires me. I love hearing the old stories, reading the annals of memories of a long lost soul, journals and diaries ... sigh... love it.
  • Romance - yes, dear hearts -- IT EXISTS! So it's in the form of my husband building a doghouse for my dogs when he's not a dog lover - at all. It may not be a rose, or a dinner out, but trust me, that plywood doghouse is beautiful.
  • Characters - I love looking at pictures of people. There's such art in a person's face. Not necessarily just handsome men or beautiful women. But the wise, wrinkled face of an old man, or the narrow nosed lady with the high brows and huge lips.
  • Nature - a crisp Autumn day with orange leaves making a blanket on my yard, or a summer afternoon with a cool breeze and the smell of fresh flowers drifting over the air. Mountains in the distance, the broad expanse of a lake, the trickle of a creek, or the blue of the sky - inspiring.
Do I surround myself by the inspirational? It motivates me to write. Stories evolve in my brain like a neverending cd on loop. It's AWESOME! I love it! I learn so much from my daughter. SHE inspires me. And I do surround myself with her. If she can imagine herself in a different world with all her friends, well then, gosh darn it, so can I! :)

What inspires you - to write, to read, or to live?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tell Me a Story

We visited my daughter this weekend at Taylor University where she studies Professional Writing. She took us to all her favorite campus spots. After meeting her advisor, we visited the University's private collection of C.S. Lewis works. You can find more information about the collection at http://library.taylor.edu/cslewis/index.shtml  Before heading to my very first la crosse game, she led us to the hall where she takes most of her classes. Though the halls were empty and the offices were closed, we still got a flavor for where she spends her time.

I was relieved to know her department head is a kindred spirit when I saw this on his office door:


Sigh.  She's in the capable hands of a good storyteller. (and he drinks a good cup of jo!)

Why should I feel so at ease? Quite simply, storytellers understand things about life that others often miss. Storytellers see and feel things, sometimes empathetic to a fault. But since I know Doc Hensley, I'm certain she's in good hands. Jesus was a storyteller after all. His parables helped people to see things in a new light, to apply wisdom where there was darkness. Before the printing press and word processor, there was oral tradition. Have you ever heard yourself say in a conversation--"go ahead, you tell it better." We have a sense that some people are gifted to tell the stories, and I believe that's true whether recounting a real life story or made up stuff. Haven't you ever "told stories" to children? Don't you remember begging at bedtime--"tell me a story!" And the best stories are better when told, and retold, cementing them deeper in our souls and spirits.

So why do we make up stuff? And why do we love to read stuff that is made up?

Because it inspires us. To remember. To love deeper. To believe harder. To hope more. To pray more often. To be something for someone. To feel that someone might understand just a flicker of our own story, even if we've never told it to anyone.

Stories change us.

Tell me a story.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Redemption or Revenge

Courtesy of Photobucket.com
* CHECK OUT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST FOR THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF LAST WEEKS' BOOK DRAWINGS! :)

I always thought King David was nuts--a bit crazy. He blamed King Saul for losing his mind, but whenever I read the story of David and his rogue son Absalom, I always thought David had lost a few marbles along the way.

For those of you who aren't familar or can't recall, here's the story in a nutshell: Drop-dead gorgeous son decides he can rule Dad's kingdom better than Dad. Son starts and uprising, gains supporters, and goes to war against Daddy. Daddy turns into a wuss and instructs his men not to take said-rebellious-son out. Dad cries. Weeps. Moans. David's main man, Joab, kills Absalom. David cries more. Wah, wah, wah, until Joab tells him to be a man and stop crying like a baby.

I agreed with Joab. All this years. Here is David--War King--man of honor, man of God, strong, just, humble ... acting like a massive cowardly baby in the shadow of his powerful son. He should be seeking revenge. Take my throne, why don't you? Not in my lifetime. Wham! Imprison your son, for goodness' sakes, kill or banish his minions, take back your kingdom -- be a man.

I always agreed with Joab -- until I had my daughter. The other night, cuddled in bed, my two year old stated baldly: "I don't love Jesus."
"You don't love Jesus?"
"No."
"Why don't you love Him?"
"Becuase I don't like Him."
"Why don't you like Him?"
"Becuase I don't want to obey Him."

I went to bed telling myself she was only two -- but what two year old can verbalize the spiritual struggle of mankind from the beginning of time? Obedience. The need for submission. The need for redemption. I prayed earnestly that night and ever since, for the redemption of my stubborn, hard headed, independent thinking, little girl. Her will to be right--to be queen of her life--might cause her to try to overthrow her King. Dear Lord ...

...and I wept. That night I wept. To see my daughter willfully desire to walk away from her Father--to see the cold logic on her face as she lifted her hands palms upward like "no duh, mommy" and states, "becuase I don't want to obey." My heart was broken. My soul in agony. My mind terrified that she would never change, never find redemption.

... and there was no revenge in my heart. I didn't want to prove to her who was King over her life. I didn't want to be right. I didn't want to see her spirit massacred. I had no desire to go to war with her. All I wanted -- still crave -- is her redemption. A change of heart. Brokenness. While she is still alive, there will always be hope that one day, she will see the King for who he is, recognize Him, break before Him, bow on bended knee, and have her relationship with Him restored -- in spite of her sin. But if she were to die ... now ... unrepentant ...

I understand David. He wasn't a king in this moment--he was a father. A parent. Grieving, aching, desperate for the redemption of his child. His baby son. The little boy that had run through the castle, probably raising havoc, stubborn and willful -- it was cute when he was two. There was no joy, no relief, no praises when he was informed of his son's death. Only his son's killer could convince him to come back to life and lead his people. I think if David could have been like any other parent, he would have retreated to his chamber for months, in the dark depths of despair. Not only was his son dead--but his son was un-redeemed. It was a loss too great for a parent.

Today I have a new respect for King David and his quest to see redemption on his son's face. He would trade his weatlh, his position, his kingdom, even his men ... if his son would only reconcile. When I look at my blue-eyed little beauty, I would do the same.

Whom do you long to find redemption? A broken relationship? An unbelieving child or sibling or parent? We can only do what David did ... show great strength in laying down our agendas and beseeching the Lord for the heart of our beloved.

David was a great man. I know that now. His son was well-loved. In life. In death.

__________________________________________________________________________


HEY! We have TWO WINNERS Of our prize packs:

Winner of our historical prize pack including Julie Lessman, Sarah Sundin, and Jody Hedlund's latest releases PLUS great Indiana tea is ... Raquel Byrnes!





Winner of our mix-it-up prize pack including Richard Mabry, Anne Mateer, and Nancy Mehl's books along with a cool Autumn coffee mug stuffed with coffee and tea is .... SHELLY!






THANKS to all for helping us launch our new blog! We'll be in contact with the winners of the prize packs and please continue to visit us. We want to get to know YOU and we have great more giveaways, interviews with amazing authors, and more in the near future!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Report: With Every Letter, by Sarah Sundin

I am an AVID fan of Sarah Sundin's novels. I've always been obsessed with World War II history, collecting my Grampa's wartime articles, uniform, army trunk, etc. Her first series, Wings of Glory, was everything I wanted a good WWII novel to be about. Can she best her first three books? (Every author's worry). SHE DID SHE DID SHE DID!!

With Every Letter is a fascinating book about Mellie, a flight nurse, and her ministry letters to a soldier she's never met with a name she doesn't know. Tom is a soldier with a name he despises and a friendless life that isn't made friendlier as he is immersed in battle.

Characters;  Sarah brings out the best in the common struggles between Mellie and Tom. The need for acceptance, yet the lonely existence of being ostracized from community binds them. Mellie's cultural background during a war that surrounds the world doesn't aid her quest to remain in the background, ministering to wounded soldiers. Tom's association with a murdering father marks him as a killer he is not, and his quest to convince the world he is a pleasant, humor-filled man keeps his relationships surface and his heart empty. Sarah does a fantastic job bringing the reader deep into the minds of the characters and within the first chapter - you will be in love! Even if they haven't fallen yet ;)

Setting: It's WWII. What more of a setting do you want? Yet, Sarah takes us to Algeria. Not exactly the most popular setting for a war novel. Paris, Normandy, the South Pacific, Hawaii... all been done. Algeria. Nope. THAT'S WHY YOU'LL love it!! Sarah also richly captures the history of the era -- from the music, the slang, the planes, the battles, the wounds ... it's realistic. While it reads like a novel, it's also a rich history book of one of the most glamorous yet horrific eras in American history.

Faith: Both Mellie and Tom are characters of faith. While they have moments of crisis, their faith is strong. And, I love this. Often in novels, one character is seeking while the other has faith. I enjoy a book where the Spiritual struggles are relatable to a well-established person of faith. It's a refreshing take on Inspirational novels.

And Sarah? Gee golly whiz. If you knew her you'd LOVE her! She's a great person, a creative mind, a woman with humor... I love Sarah! She TOTALLY ROCKS! :)

You'll want to check it out - buy it - share it - and love it!
And don't forget YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN IT!! Comment to enter both of our book prize packs listed below!

Drawing winners will be announced Monday!



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Whats Your Coffee Thursday

Thursdays at the CCC blog will simply be meeting over coffee and answering random get-to-know-you questions!  Today, I'm drinking Brazilian Rainforest with Amaretto creamer.

My qeustion is: If you could go back in time, when/where would you go? Me? I'd go to the streets of Rome in the days of Paul just to breathe in the atmosphere!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What's Your Story?

Friday night's football game with a low ranking team ended with our team running out the clock. Second down, third down--they took their knees watching the clock tick--tick--tick. The team we played had only scored seven points the whole season, but against us they had managed 24 points and one more possession of the ball might have gained them a victory.

As the score board clock ticked on and it was clear they'd not get another possession, one of their team members broke from the ranks on the sideline and strode toward our team. Flailing his arms, yelling and strutting as he got closer and closer to our team. No technical was called since the ball wasn't in play and the game was nearly over with 25 seconds left. But a frenzy grew around the young man as he got face to face with his opponents, coaches flanked him, teammates held him back and pulled him back to the sidelines.

The clock read zero seconds left in the game. Final score: home team: 27, opponent: 24.

A cheer went up on our side of the stands.

But my eye was on that young man on the opposing team. His coach had his arm around him, his head close to his helmet. Arms still flailing, it was clear from a distance that words were still flowing freely. His teammates hung in a pack ready for the after game coach's run down. But just as the young player had separated from the pack to risk a foul, he still stood separated with his coach.

Then I saw it. 

The boy walking away from his team along the sideline with long strides, walking it off. Was he alone? Where was he going? Didn't anyone notice? Five yards, ten, twenty, thirty yards from his team mates.

Then it happened. He turned and took a knee--but he wasn't alone. His coach had matched his stride so closely. Had his arm around his shoulder, had leaned into his shoulder so near, that the two had appeared one as they walked it off together. The coach knelt with him. They appeared to pray. Then he rose, strode further from his team toward our team and shook hands with every one of our coaches.

Used by permission from Paul Kern, thanks Paul!

Whatever that boy's story was--his coach knew it.
Whatever his story was, it was enough to want to win that much--enough to leave his man pack on the sidelines.
Whatever his story was--he'd been pushed to care so much that it broke inside.
It made me want to know his story.

Everyone's got story.

There's a great line in the movie Australia when Drover (Hugh Jackman) is talking to his brother-in-law Magarri. He's droving cattle, believing that Nullah is safely on walk about. He's had a bit of a spat with Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman) about maintaining his freedom. Denying his love for her he's left to drove again. But his once carefree life of being his own man answering to no one is empty. Magarri begins to whistle a tune that reminds Drover of the drive he'd completed with Lady Ashley--the time he had fallen in love with her. Drover tells Magarri not to sing that tune as he attempts to deny his love and forget. But Magarri confronts him that he's running from the truth and asks if he's even told Lady Ashley that he loves her. Magarri tells Drover he's never said it because he's too afraid to get his heart hurt again like before, but that if he doesn't face the truth--then he's got no love.

Magarri says: "If you've got no love in your heart, you've got nothing...No dreaming, no story....nothing."

He says it as if story, dreaming, and love cannot be separated.


Sounds a lot like faith, hope, and love.

And we know the greatest of these is love.

What stories, lines, movies, or books have touched you?

How have they made you want to dream? To risk?

To hope?

To love?


**Keep commenting this week for a chance to win my free basket of books**

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's In YOUR Name?

(*check out our SECOND drawing at the end of this post)
(c) Billy Frank Alexander Design
Courtesy of Stock.xchng

What's in YOUR name? Did you know names actually mean something? Well of course you did, why else do we call our cranky co-worker "Mr Grinch", or label our mopey next door neighbor "Eyeore". Every name has a connotation, whether we realize it or not.

When my husband and I named our children, we tossed around the standards, then the crazy faddish names that hit the top ten list every year - "Neveah" being the new popular female name. ("Heaven" spelled backward. See? Meanings). We finally settled on a pretty name -- well, we though it was pretty. My daughter's name means, "Growing in God's Graciousness". Let's hope she does 'cause she sure inherited a massive dose of Mommy's sassiness. My son's name means, "Defender of the Weak". So far for a five month old he successfully leveled a drop kick on our cat, so perhaps he has defense mechanisms.

Did you know your favorite authors have to be careful what names we pick? (Don't you love how I said "we" and included myself in "favorite authors"? lol). I've learned a lot in story telling, and names MEAN something. A hero named "Horace" doesn't scream -- super duper hotty. Sorry. Nope. A heroine named "Gertie" doesn't spring to mind a confident heroine I can believe in. Sorry, Gerties of the world. A man named "Jayden" in a historical isn't believable. A heroine named Star in a historical might work if they're in a questionable industry, but isn't probably the first pick for a modest, temperant young lady.

How does the name sound in comparison to other characters? I had Jeremiah and Hezekiah in my first chapter. Aside from being extremely Biblical in nature and a bit Old Testament -- the "iahs"got a bit redundant. Quickly. Too many names starting with the same consonants can get confusing. Right readers?

There's a lot that goes into a name when writing a book, when naming a child, when considering that perfect nickname for your co-worker. Mine is "Unterdrucker" - German, for "The Oppressor" - yes, he's our regional manager :)

My name means "I Love" - it's French -- correctly spelled it would be J'aime. We dropped the apostrophe-thingy and went for English. But my mom said I always lived up to my name. I've loved life and everything in it passionately. I must be French. Wait. I am. Go figure.

So what's in YOUR name? How do names touch your life? Best name in a book that you've read lately?

And to make things more exciting -- we want to introduce ANOTHER BOOK DRAWING to kick off our blog this week! :) YEAH! Anne and I realize you're not ALL historical lovers, so this is our Mix-It-Up Pack:
  • Diagnosis Death, by Richard Mabry
  • Inescapable, by Nancy Mehl
  • Wings of a Dream, by Anne Mateer
So I snuck in one historical (Anne Mateer's) - but you'll love it because she's THAT good! A great suspense novel by Dr Mabry and another suspense/Mennonite novel by Nancy Mehl that will keep you up at night.

And it wouldn't be complete without a pottery-style coffee mug, some coffee samples and decaf tea just in case you need some hot liquid at ni-nite time.

Enter to win by leaving a comment and the drawing will take place next Monday, October 8th! Continental US only.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What's Your Mission?

Have you ever returned from a conference, a retreat, a vacation, or even home from work and asked yourself what's the point? How much does it matter that I do this thing in life? It's only human to wonder. I'm a glass-half-full kind of girl, but I still think it.

Everyone wants to matter, to know their lives hold meaning and purpose--to believe in their mission.

At work we have to read the company mission statement before every staff meeting. Everyone knows the mantra. Some have even memorized it or at least could repeat half of it or the gist of it when asked--what's our mission?

So--what's your mission?
I know why I'm a Christian, a wife, a mother, a nurse practitioner. But a writer? Isn't my life full enough already people ask, and I secretly wonder. First it comes as a question nagging in my heart, mind, and soul. Then a prayer.

Then comes an answer--because I can, I should, and I want to. Because I can learn to tell His story--to declare it: that salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
That's it. That's my mission. Wherever I am. Who ever I am. That's it.

And how can I keep silent? When I've known His love, tasted the depths of His grace and mercy?

And so I move on. One step at a time, through the open doors in front of me. Holding the hand of my Christ. Knowing only that His great love will be enough for me on this path. And that on that final day, when I stand before His throne, I want to have spent myself for him, spent my talents--all in--double or nothing.

So, what's your mission?
Have you doubted it?
Do you know your mantra?


Don't forget about our free give away!



Free Give Away Details: Continental US only. Make a comment to enter. Drawing next Monday Oct 8th.