Saturday, December 31, 2011

Booksneeze Review: Be the People by Carol M. Swain

From the Cover:
Without a doubt, America's foundation is shifting. Over time our nation has adopted policies that have broken our founders' vows of faith. We have educated a generation that does not understand it unique destiny. We have banished the virtues we no longer find relevant. But it is time to think clearly. Who have we been historically, and what kind of nation are we becoming?

Be the People sounds a rallying cry for "We the People of the United States" to stand up and reclaim the life, liberty, and justice envisioned by our forefathers.  Drawing on her training  in political science and law, author Carol M. Swain, PhD, examines the religious significance of today's most pressing issues and courageously exposes the cultural forces that threaten our cherished values and principles.

"Publishing this book is a risk well worth taking," Dr. Swain writes, " Because America is a nation well worth restoring." With expert analysis, action points, and an appendix that includes essential documents such as the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, this landmark book empowers We the People to Be the People who fight for the values and principles that helped make our nation one of the greatest the world has known.

Andrea's Take: ****4 Stars
In Be the People, Dr. Swain explores how the American government has moved slowly but surely away from the ideals of our founders so that they likely wouldn't recognize modern America as the same country they intended when they signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. "America's foundation is shifting. It is time to think clearly. Who have we been historically, and what kind of nation are we becoming?" (17).  She explores hot-button social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, separation of church and state, racism, and illegal immigration) from a biblical perspective and a Constitutional perspective. As she overlaps these two perspective, the reader sees remarkable similarities between them that modern cultural elites would have us overlook - and have gone to great lengths to see that we do.

Dr. Swain discusses each topic in depth, giving details about our government's practices.Then she applies the Bible and the writings of America's founders to the issue to show how we've gone wrong and where we should be headed. I like that she included the appendices of the Ten Commandments, The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution of the United States. While I own several Bibles in various versions, making the Ten Commandments readily available, I did not have copies of the other documents, and I really think every American household should have them handy.

The only negative I found in Be the People is that the academic style often slowed me down.  I found myself digging through academic speech to get to the nuggets of wisdom buried within it. This was enough to count off a star on my 5-star scale. However, those nuggets were pure gold, certainly worth the dig. This book earned every one of it's four stars.

* * * * *
Lovely Readers,

Don't forget to comment on Thursday's post for a chance to win Darlene Franklin's three books. And tune in next week for the third and final review on that trilogy.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I Read Thursday (Again): Plainsong by Darlene Franklin

Plainsong From the Cover:
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in human beings. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
~Psalm 118:8-9

Michelle longs for a storybook romance. Homeless and jobless, Michelle Morris visits her friend Carrie in Denver to find a new job. She quickly envies Carrie's married life and wishes she could have a happily-ever-after of her own.  What she doesn't Realize is her knight in shining armor is about to sweep her off her feet--and love is much more complicated than she imagined.

Joe Knight lives by a code of chivalry and honor. As he spends more time with Michelle, he wants to protect her, fight her battles for her.  He wants to be her strong knight, but feels more like a bungling squire. Does he have what it takes to be the man Michelle needs?

As their picture-perfect romance starts to hit reality, can Michelle and Joe overcome life's obstacles and find a love that truly ends in happily ever after?

Andrea's Take: ****4 stars
The heroine in Plainsong is the character of note I mentioned in last week's review of Romanian Rhapsody.  I must apologize. I called her Michelle Miller. In fact, as you may have noticed her name is Michelle Morris.

Michelle is at an uncertain place in her life, and is listening for God's will. When her relationship with Joe grows serious, she wisely refuses to act on impulse. She waits and God opens--and closes--doors to show her His perfect plan. Joe, the impulsive one in the relationship, doesn't act quite so wisely, but he makes up for it in his dedication to chivalry. He struggles when circumstances move beyond his control, but Michelle, his family and friends are there to remind him of the truth of the verses quoted above.

I enjoyed this sweet story. I generally like to know more about the characters' pasts than we learn of Michelle's in this book, but I understand the need to use words wisely in the short format offered by Heartsong Presents. As in the previous book, Darlene Franklin does this beautifully, using her words for the more important purpose of moving the story forward.

I love how Joe's hometown of Ulysses, Colorado celebrates their namesake (who happens to be one of my favorite Greek heroes) with their Odyssey Days Festival.

Characters to Watch:
Nel Knight - An eccentric Anglo-phile, Joe's mother heads her family with grace and love that comes from her deep faith in God. She is a joy to read.

Sonia Oliveira - a close friend of Joe's who helps him come to terms with some issues he hasn't given over to God.

The comment section is open starting now.  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for all three books in this series, Romanian Rhapsody, Plainsong, and Knight Music (which I will review next week).

You get one extra entry for following my blog through GFC or on email. US addresses only please.

The drawing will be open until 11:59 pm, Thursday, January 5, 2012. I will announce the winner on January 6, during a week of posts devoted to that day - Epiphany. I hope to post an interview with the wonderful author of these books, Darlene Franklin, on that day as well.

If you don't know much about Epiphany, come back next week and we'll learn about it together

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I just looked at my Blogger Dashboard, that hub of helpful information, and it informed me my blog has reached 2000 pageviews!

Yay! Thanks to all my wonderful readers.

I'll have a book review and some more giveaway info later today.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Song Lyrics, Christmas Edition: Away In a Manger

This is  the cover art from a lovely book we have. Thomas Kinkade presents the Christmas story and this wonderful song in beautiful detail. I just love this picture. I imagine this is what it looked like before the shepherds came to see him and the wise men arrived with their wonderful gifts.

Mary holding Jesus in the starlight, memorizing his features and marveling--as all mothers do--at the little miracle in her arms.  Joseph doing his very best to make their meager quarters as comfortable as possible. 

The Lyrics:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the sky look down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with thee there.

Andrea's Take:
The Bible tells us that Jesus's message is so easy a little child can understand.  This song is just that way. It's lyrics and music so simple and beautiful.  It's the first Christmas carol I ever learned. Now my daughter loves to sing it too.

The last line is often rendered, "And take us to Heaven to live with thee there."

I prefer "fit us for Heaven" because I think that's exactly what Jesus does with us while we're living on this earth.  He shapes us and molds us, making us fit to live with him in Heaven.

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas with many reminders of the baby in the manger...the man he became...and the Savior he is today.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I Read Thursday: Romanian Rhapsody by Darlene Franklin

Romanian RhapsodyFrom the Cover:
"The Lord is good unto them that wait for him...It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
~Lamentations 3:25-26

Haunted by the orphans she met in Romania, Carrie Randolph returns to work in an orphanage. Soon she finds herself mothering five toddlers full-time and dreaming of adopting on of them when her two-year mission is finished.

Steve Romero's wife and son died in tragic circumstances in Romania, and he struggles to put the past behind him.  When he decides to adopt a child, he returns to Romania and the orphanage where Carrie works--breaking her heart when he chooses Viktor, her favorite.

Will Carrie trust God to fulfill her dreams in His time? Can Steve let go of grief and love again?

Andrea's Take: **** 4 Stars
Romanian Rhapsody is the story of two people whose lives change irrevocably after one shocking, tragic event.  It is the story of how their paths crossed, and parted time and again until the time--God's time--was full for them to join forever.

After grieving his losses for a time, Steve finds his heart once more open to give and receive love. He decides to adopt a child and proceeds prayerfully through the necessary channels.  Carrie finds her heart likewise open to love as she's surrounded by affection starved orphans.  Both Steve and Carrie set their hearts on the same little boy--Viktor. Apart, one of them is destined to suffer. Together, perhaps they can find happiness, and God's perfect will for all of their lives.

Romanian Rhapsody is a very good story, the characters and plot well-developed in the short format of Heartsong Presents. Though there is little room for extensive back story, the author uses her words wisely and gives the characters a close connection early on.  Carrie's youthful preference for action over prayerful consideration causes her some heartache, and she suffers loss akin to Steve's during her work in the orphanage. She learns to wait on God and trust Him with her plans and is blessed for it in the end.

Characters to watch are Viktor Groza, the little boy who captures both Steve and Carrie's hearts, and Michelle Miller, Carrie's friend and fellow mission worker.

* * * * *
Well, that was the promised book review. And now for the announcement.

Romanian Rhapsody along with its two sequels Plainsong, and Knight Music will be the subject of a special giveaway on this blog after the first of the year. I will be featuring those two books, also by Darlene Franklin, in the next two editions of What I Read Wednesday. "Stay tuned" for more information on this giveaway next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Playing Catch-Up: The Winner Is...

It's amazing how a car wreck can throw a wrench into your plans! Yesterday was a crazy day indeed. But everyone is okay...except the car (or truck in this case).

Today, I'm away from my computer, but I've got a few minutes and a smart-phone, so...

The winner of Margaret Daley's novel From This Day Forward is...Jackie S!

Jackie, I'll hunt up your email address and send you something asking for your snail mail.

Today is What I Read Wednesday, but I'm short a review, so come back tomorrow for a book review and an announcment.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fundraiser for Sandi Rog: Want to go to ACFW's premier writing conference fo...

Fundraiser for Sandi Rog: Want to go to ACFW's premier writing conference fo...: If you're serious about being a fiction writer, you need to go to conferences and learn from the folks who are making it in the industry. Bu...

Sunday Song Lyrics, Christmas Edition: O Holy Night

The Album:

O Holy NightSara Groves: CD Cover

This is one of many album's by this title.  
While I do like Sarah Groves, I really picked it for the picture.

The Lyrics:
O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Click here for a clip of seven-year-old Rhema Marvanne singing this song.  I'd never heard of her before I searched out a link for this post.  I confess it isn't my favorite performance, but the she is just adorable.

Andrea's Take:
This has long been a favorite carol of mine.  The beautiful sweeping melody is the perfect frame for the moving lyrics. I love for a Christmas song not only to focus on Jesus's birth, but also to remind us of  His greater purpose in coming to earth that long ago night.

As is common for me, my favorite lyrics are in the second verse (a verse often neglected in the performance of Christmas music).

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

Peter tells us that "God is no respecter of persons." These lines embody that truth for me.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview and Christmas Giveaway: Margaret Daley

Okay, I confess, I'm not really giving away Margaret Daley. Though I'm certain any of my readers would love to take her home and benefit from her years of experience,  I'm pretty sure the shipping costs would be impractical.  :-)
But...I do have is interview with Margaret today. And, in honor of the Christmas season, I am giving away my influencer copy of her recent release From This Day Forward, a truly worthy read if I've ever read one.

 Click here to see my review. But come right back when you're done.

Without further ado (I love that phrase), I give you...Margaret Daley.

The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning DisabilitiesWhat is something about you that is little known to your readers?

Up until recently I didn't talk a lot about my learning disability I've dealt with all my life. I have an auditory processing problem. I took part in a book (available on Kindle) called The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities which talks about my struggle to learn to read  (Click here for more information or to order)

I find that inspiring, particularly given your success. It seems like you truly have overcome. And thank God you did, otherwise we'd miss out on all the wonderful stories you've given us, and have yet to give us.

What was it that made you start writing stories?

As a child I loved to make up stories, especially when I was playing with my paper dolls. That's where the desire to tell stories came from.

What inspired this particular story?

I love history and romance. In fact, when I first started writing, I wrote several historical romances that never sold. It's what drew me to writing as an adult. I did later sell two historical novels, published in the secular market.

What scene in From This Day Forward stands out as your personal favorite?

There are several I really like, but the beginning is my favorite. Being in a strange country with no one to depend on and going into labor would be terrifying, especially when you are out in the forest and your cart has turned over.

That scene is an excellent example of a "hook" in my humble opinion.

Among your body of work, what would you recommend to readers as your favorite novel or your best work? 

Saving Hope is one of my favorites--a book of the heart. It will be out March 2012 from Abingdon Press. I worked with teenagers for 27 years as a high school teacher. I hate seeing people preying on the young. This book is about human trafficking.

Blurb for Saving Hope:
When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt's daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.    

Now it's personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as he fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

Wow!  It sounds very powerful. Not a light read, I'm guessing. I'll be on the look out for that one in a few months.

I notice at your website that most of your recent releases are contemporary category romances for Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense. From This Day Forward is a trade book. Can you outline some of the major differences between writing for category lines and writing trade size novels?

The main differences are word length and the complexities in the plot--mostly having several sub plots to support the main plot.

You certainly gave your plot twisting muscles a great workout in From This Day Forward.

What are the pros and cons of writing contemporary vs. historical novels?

Actually it really depends on what you enjoy writing and reading. With historical novels you must do a lot of research, but then when I write a romantic suspense, I have to do research often. The terms used in a historical have to be researched while what we say in a contemporary novel usually doesn't unless you have to research regional or job terminology. But ultimately it is what you want to write that is important in deciding.

As a multi-published author, what words of wisdom do you have for those of us trying to break into the writing industry?

Keep writing, even through the rejections. After I sold twenty books, I went through an eight-year dry spell. If I had given up writing, I would never have sold sixty-one more books.

Talk about prolific! Over eighty books sounds impossible at this point in my life. 

Where can readers find you on the web?

Margaret Daley, an award-winning author of more than seventy-six books, has been married for over forty years and is a firm believer in romance and love. When she isn’t traveling, she’s writing love stories, often with a suspense thread and corralling her three cats that think they rule her household.

Me again: 
Margaret also currently serves as President of American Christian Fiction Writers. In this position, I can personally testify, she is a powerful source of encouragement to writers like me who are struggling to find our own path to publication. Thank you, Margaret, for all you do.

Okay, time to see to some practicalities.  
  • The giveaway of Margaret's book From This Day Forward is open to readers with U.S. addresses only. 
  • The comments section will be open for entries until 11:59 pm, Tuesday, December 20, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 21. 
  • Followers and subscribers get an extra entry (just one). If you are one, mention it. If not, fix it.
  • Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery (hopefully it won't take that long).
The comments section is now open for entries. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your visit.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I Read Wednesday: From This Day Forward by Margaret Daley

From the Cover:
Rachel doesn't believe her situation could get any worse—until she meets her new neighbor.

Shortly after the War of 1812, newly widowed immigrant Rachel Gordon arrives in Charleston, South Carolina.  Though frightened and alone, she is determined to establish a home for herself and her child in a new country.

Weary from fighting a war against England, Nathan Stuart is content with his self-imposed isolation.  But then desperate circumstances force him to care for his lovely, helpless—and very English—new neighbor.  Can the battle-scarred American physician who comes to Rachel’s rescue also heal her wounded heart?

Andrea’s Take:
All the books I’ve reviewed for influencing purposes to date have been written by authors entirely new to me. This book is not. I’ve read several books by Margaret Daley. All of them were category romances from Love Inspired, and all were contemporary stories. She has also written many romantic suspense novels for Love Inspired Suspense. I’ve heard that it can be a struggle for an author to switch between genres and/or time periods. If it was for Margaret Daley, she conquered it thoroughly. In From This Day Forward. Margaret Daley proves to possess a versatile talent for storytelling in any time and setting.

From This Day Forward is a story of understanding and submitting to God's call on your life.  Rachel understands her calling to be a particular thing at the beginning of the story, with good reason. The circumstances she is in would probably lead anyone to believe what she does.  She trusts God and acts according to his calling as she understands it. When it seems that God has something a bit different in mind, Rachel wears herself to a frazzle for a while before she fully catches on.  

Nathan is well aware of God's calling on his life and is running from it - also understandably so. The healing nature God gave him is battered and bruised by the horrors of war, and he needs time to heal.  He also runs from conflict within his family. Circumstances force him to face both of these issues all at once

When they both stop insisting--to God and one another--that they know best, they find God's true plans for them are better than either of them ever could have imagined. 

My favorite supporting character is George Baker. After an exciting introduction to Rachel and her household, the backwoods neighbor takes in stride everything they throw at him. He proves to be an invaluable source of support and a dear friend.

Many things make this book a truly good read. Both main characters are sympathetic. I really did ache and rejoice with them. It is set in a time period with which I am woefully unfamiliar, and I benefited from the fruits of Ms. Daley's research efforts. The story line followed a natural yet unpredictable path.  These are all very good things to my way of thinking.

In fact, I recommend this book so strongly I'm going to give it away to one lucky reader. 

Please return tomorrow for an interview with the author Margaret Daley. The comment section will be open for entries.

Though I received this book free from Summerside Press for influencing purposes, the opinions expressed herein are my own and they are genuine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Special Birthday Tribute

Seventy-seven years ago today a very special baby girl was born to Willis and Dorothy Stout. They named her Naomi Stout. They did not give her a middle name. She was the sixth of her mothers seven children.

She grew into an adorable little toddler

Her family traveled a rocky path, and she lost her father and a beloved brother before she was six years old.

As the years passed Naomi grew into a lovely young woman.

In 1953 she graduated from Clinton High School in Clinton, Missouri. Shortly thereafter she married. Four children were born before the marriage ended painfully for Naomi. She raised her family alone for several years before meeting the love of her life. Wilford Cardwell. The two married December 26, 1970. Wilford filled a long-empty void, and quickly became "Daddy" to Naomi's children. Wilford and Naomi lived happily together until Wilford's death in 1989.

"Smoochie Face"
Naomi's children grew up, married, and had children of their own. She watched all of their triumphs and mistakes, and she guided them the best she knew how. Though disagreements and rifts sometimes occurred, those children never forgot where they could find the unconditional love of their mother.

David, Terrie, Brenda (my mom) and Ross with Naomi
about 1990

Some time in the mid-1980s two of Naomi's granddaughters learned she had not been blessed with a middle name. They thought this was a terrible injustice and took it upon themselves to remedy the situation. Forever after, Naomi proudly claimed the moniker Naomi Elizabeth Cardwell.

Naomi "Elizabeth" with Tiffany (age 7), Heath (2-3 months),
and Andrea (age 4). Summer 1983. 

Many more years passed. Naomi's grandchildren grew up, married, and had children of their own. She continued to rejoice in their triumphs and mourn their mistakes, still guiding the best she could.

On December 13, 2010, Naomi Elizabeth Cardwell celebrated her 76th birthday surrounded by her children and grandchildren. We decorated her Christmas tree together, as we had for more decades than I can remember.

On July 22, 2011, having buried her mother, her beloved husband, and all of her siblings, Naomi went home to Heaven.

Taken December 13, 2010

This year, Naomi celebrates her birthday with Jesus, and with all the loved ones who awaited her on the other side. Those of us who love her miss her terribly. Today we celebrated her life. We will never forget the legacy of love she left behind.

Happy Birthday, Grandma! 
We Love You!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Song Lyrics, Christmas Edition: Welcome to Our World

The Album:
ChristmastimeMichael W. Smith: CD Cover

The Lyrics:
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

You can click here for Michael W. Smith's rendition. 

Click here to hear a version by Chris Rice (I think this is the version I've heard on the radio).

Andrea's Take:

This song was part of a Christmas cantata several years ago at the church we attended. I absolutely loved it, and have since purchased the soundtrack so I can sing it myself (I don't do near as well as either of those men). 

Obviously, this is a song of welcome, and I love these welcoming words--the same ones I might say to an honored guest in my home: 

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

I think he did make himself at home.  I'm certain he was the best son any mother could want. The best big brother a girl could ask for. And I know he was the greatest teacher and leader who ever lived. Every role he filled in his life on earth, I think he filled it to overflowing and made it his own.

The song is also a prayer:

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God

"Injured flesh" speaks volumes to me. The healthy body of a perfect newborn--singing with life and potential as it does--is certainly, at its best, "injured" and imperfect compared with the body He gave up to come here.  And I love the image of him "wrapping" himself in this earthly form, like wrapping a present. Only this gift would stay sealed until a Sunday morning many years later, when he "unwrapped" and revealed the greatest gift the world will ever know.

"Rob our sin," paints a vivid picture.  "Rob" of course means to take something from someone else. This is one "robbery" I'll willingly submit to. Also Christ robs sin itself. He robs it of power over my life and over my death. 

How about you? In this Christmas Season do you welcome Jesus to your world?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Song Lyrics: Adoration by Newsboys

The Album:
Adoration: The Worship AlbumNewsboys: CD Cover

The Lyrics:
I’m here with the others
Who saw the heavens testify
Now I hang back in the shadows
I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

He raises a wrinkled hand
Through the dust and the flies
Wrapped in rags like we are
And with barely open eyes
He takes my finger
And He won’t let go
And He won’t let go
It’s nothing like I knew before
And it’s all I need to know

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to the world we live in
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

God is with us here
Our Immanuel

God is with us here
Our Immanuel

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him

Jesus, our Immanuel
Is with us here and He won’t let go

Andrea's Take:

I don't usually post the entire song, but this one is good from beginning to end.

It's one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. I have the album. I bought it for "He Reigns" (a song that could easily appear in a Sunday Song Lyrics post in the future). "Adoration" was the hidden jewel on the album for me.

Favorite Lines: 

These lines lend this song the feel of "Little Drummer Boy" only it's Biblical (as much as I love LDB--and I really, really do--no such person is mentioned in Scripture).

She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

The persona is rather like Simeon and Anna, those two devout elders who saw Jesus as a baby in the Temple, but they knew right away that He was The One.

He takes my finger
And He won’t let go
And He won’t let go
It’s nothing like I knew before
And it’s all I need to know

And finally:
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration
As though he wanted anything else...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Sunday Song" Lyrics: Faith is Living by John Waller

I know.  It's Tuesday. But this song really hit home with me, and it's definitely a "Sunday Song." So bear with me please.

The Album:
While I'm WaitingJohn Waller: CD Cover

The Lyrics:
I wish I could see just three steps in front of me
But the lamp unto my feet it only moves when I take a step
And believe Your word to me Lord You have a history
That proves You're worthy of my faith

It's the evidence of things I cannot see
And faith it's the confidence that You are holding me
It's stepping out it's breaking through all my doubts
And all I thought I knew 'cause you've never lived until you've lived
You've never lived until you've lived by faith

Click here to read the rest of this wonderful song.
Click here for a video of John Waller singing it.

Andrea's Take:
Why this song? Why today?

Have you ever put your money in the offering plate and watched it progress down the aisle, all the while thinking of the myriad other things you might do with that money? I'm ashamed to admit I had just such an experience this past Sunday.

You see, things are tight at our house. We've had some unexpected and bigger-than-expected expenses lately. It's nothing more than anyone else is experiencing, I'm sure. But it got to me a little over the last weekend.

So as I watched the man walk away with my check in the little basket, I said a silent prayer, something to the effect of, "Lord, you'll have to take care of it."

It was a pretty flat prayer, like I was approaching the throne of grace with resignation rather than boldness.

This morning my husband tossed a slip of paper at me.

"Whoa! What's this?" I asked as I unfolded the slip of paper. I looked at it and declared it to be "a blessing from Heaven." It was an "extra duty" check for things like mileage and bus driving that he does for the small school district where he teaches.

The amount was 60 cents more than our electric bill.

(I really want to put that sentence in super-sized letters...I think I will).

The amount was 60 cents more than our electric bill.

Okay, so what's that got to do with the song? These lines:

I wish I could see just three steps in front of me
But the lamp unto my feet it only moves when I take a step

I'm like that. I want to know how it's going to work out. And I want to know now. But that wouldn't be faith.

First, God will "take care of it." Every single time. The Bible says God loves a cheerful giver. That's true. But he also blesses an obedient one whether she's cheerful or not.  He promises if we obey "I will be your God and you will be my people."  As the song says, "You have a history..." But it's not just history. It's the here and now. It's tomorrow. Every time, every day.

Second, God blesses our sacrifices. In this, I don't refer to the money I placed in the offering. That was simple obedience. Shamefully grudging obedience at that. I refer to the sacrifice made by my husband who put in extra time and effort to earn that money. I am convicted of all the times I've griped under my breath - or at the top of my lungs - about missing him and wanting him home.  God blessed every second of that time, using it to meet a need we never even realized we would have.

Another song lyric says it very well too. "Our God is and awesome God!"

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What I Read Wednesday: A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman

Cover ImageI confess to you that I read this book months ago and am only now getting the review written...and late in the day at that. Please forgive my tardiness and enjoy the book review.

From The Cover:
No man can resist her charms. Or so she thought.

Charity O'Connor is a woman who gets what she wants. Her stunning beauty and flirtatious ways have always succeeded with men. Until Mitch Dennehy, that is. Brilliant and dangerously handsome, Mitch is a no-nonsense newspaperman who wants nothing to do with her. Charity burned him once, destroying his engagement to the only woman he ever truly loved. He won't play with matches again. But Charity has a plan to turn up the heat, hoping to ignite the heart of the man she loves. And she always gets what she wants--one way or another.

Or does she? Will her best-laid schemes win his love? Or will her seductive ways drive him away forever?

Book 2 in the Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed will captivate your heart and stir your soul with a story of faith and redemption rising from the ashes of temptation, desire, and shame.

Andrea’s Take:
The title of this book might well have been “A Woman Redeemed,” for that is one of the major events in the story.  Charity O’Connor, no longer simply a spiteful, vengeful, and jealous younger sister, becomes real in A Passion Redeemed.

We find that she is fiercely loyal and deeply loving (qualities I feared at one time she lacked completely). We follow her on a journey into her past that is both tragic and liberating. It is a journey that teaches her (and us) the root of the jealousy and insecurity that plague her in A Passion Most Pure.

Through all of this, Charity tries again and again to redeem herself. Some of her schemes make me want to lecture her. Others make me want to shout at her.  But she is teachable.  With every failed scheme, she gets closer and closer to the Truth of Christ and what He offers.  When, finally, she reaches her lowest point, she knows without a doubt where to turn for refuge. It is surely enough to soften all but the hardest of hearts (and maybe even them).

Charity in A Passion Most Pure I would gladly have slapped had she been my sister. That same character in A Passion Redeemed, made my heart cry out with sadness at the hand life had dealt her. Julie Lessman is a masterful story teller to have created a character and story that evoke such a wide range of emotions.

Mitch, Faith’s well-loved fiance from A Passion Most Pure (sadly for him, not quite so well-loved as Collin), learned his lesson once with Charity. He means to have nothing more to do with her. Ever. But he simply cannot stay away.  Ultimately, he must face demons from his own past while helping Charity deal with hers. 

I think it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that both find their own answers. They learn that love is so much sweeter when we wait on God's timing.

I quipped about the title in my opening line, but in reality I think A Passion Redeemed is the perfect title for this book. Charity is a passionate woman. There is nothing wrong with being a passionate person. However, throughout both books, Charity often allows that passion to lead her astray. When she places that passion in God’s hands, He does indeed redeem it. He turns it into something pure and wonderful that she can use to glorify His name.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I Read Wednesday: Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Cover ImageFrom the Cover:
            When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back.

            Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery—and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on.  He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born.  He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read.

            With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members.  He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much he loves us.  Retold by his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words, Heaven is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where, as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”

            Heaven is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.

Andrea’s Take:
            I have a confession. I approached this book with what I considered “healthy skepticism.” I was determined not to be swept away by the drama of an amazing story. At the same time, I would keep my mind and heart open. I’m no Bible scholar, by any means. I am familiar enough with Scripture and secure enough in my own relationship with God to “try the spirits” as the Bible encourages. I intended to do exactly that.

            As I read, I learned something wonderful. The Burpos have no desire whatever to convince anyone of any radical idea about God. It seemed to me that, prior to the experiences recounted in this book, Todd Burpo and his wife would have approached similar stories with the same “healthy skepticism” with which I approached their story (Of course, I could be wrong). 

            When faced with a seemingly unbelievable tale, I ask two questions. Do I have a reason not to believe the person telling the story? And Can I point to anything in the story that I know is wrong (either uninformed or simply untrue)?

When I applied this test to the tale in Heaven is for Real, I found no reason to suspect this man’s honesty. And I found nothing in the story went against my knowledge of the Bible. Some things challenged my opinions, but there was no account I could point to and say, “I know that is wrong because the Bible says otherwise.”

            This story covers comforting things like God’s amazing love for us. It deals with painful things like the loss of loved ones or unborn children. It even touches very briefly on scary things we can’t fully understand about the end of time. Little Colton’s story (though he’s not so little anymore) touches on many issues, big and small, that Christians think about in passing, ponder at length, and spend lifetimes studying an writing books about. Everything he says at least makes sense, and much of it seems to hit the nail right on the head.

            I can’t tell you all the accounts I love in this book because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I do want to share a short excerpt that deals simply with the admonition “Ask and ye shall receive.”

During that time, Colton had also become obsessed with rainbows….

So when, in the spring of 2004, the most brilliant rainbow we’d ever seen appeared over [our hometown], we called him outside to take a look.

Sonia was the first to see it…. “Hey, you guys, come see this!” she called.

From the kitchen, I crossed the dining room to the front door and was astonished to see a rainbow so bright, so vivid that it looked like an artist’s painting of the Perfect Rainbow. Or a kid with a brand-new box of crayons illustrating his science lesson: ROY G BIV. Every color sharply divided from the next, and the whole arc blazing against a perfectly blue sky.

“Did it rain and I missed it?” I asked Sonja.

She laughed. “I don’t think so.”

Colton was down the hall in the playroom. “Hey, Colton,” I called. “Come out and take a look at this.”

He emerged from the playroom and joined us on the front stoop.

“Look at that rainbow, Colton,” Sonja said. “There definitely should be a big pot of gold at the end of that thing.”

Colton squinted at the colors pouring across the sky.

“Cool,” he said with a nonchalant smile. “I prayed for that yesterday.”

Then he turned on his heel and went back to play.

Sonja and I looked at each other like, What just happened?...

Colton Burpo hadn’t seen a rainbow in a while, so he asked his heavenly Father to send one. Faith like a child. Maybe, Sonja and I thought, we had a lot to learn from our son.

~ ~ ~
            Some might say the idea of God suspending the laws of nature because a little boy wanted to see a rainbow is far-fetched. To that I say, what is far-fetched? That he could do so? Or that he would do so? I believe my God is more than powerful enough to create a rainless rainbow. And I believe he loves each of us enough to do that and more for us if we ask him. (Andrea is stepping down from her soapbox now)

            This book is an excellent reminder to sometimes forget everything I think I understand about the world around me and just let God show me what he wants me to see.

Definitely 5 stars on this one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I Watched (?) Wednesday: The Tourist

Yes, this is a bit of a spin on my usual Wednesday post. But I watched this movie a couple of weeks ago, and I loved it. I can't get it out of my head, so now you get to hear about it.

The Tourist starring Johnny Depp: DVD CoverWhat I Loved About This Movie:
Johnny Depp:  I've been a fan since 21 Jump Street (though I confess, he's about the only thing I remember from the show). He's a great actor who has played countless interesting and memorable characters. Think Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane, Sweeney Todd, Jack Sparrow, The Mad Hatter. And we love him in those quirky roles. But when he's not wearing some crazy character get-up...well, let's just say there's a reason this Kentucky native was named People's Sexiest Man Alive...twice (2003 and 2009). And his acting is good too ;) exceptionally so.

Angelina Jolie: She has a very Hepburn-esque quality in this movie. I don't know if it's the wardrobe or the accent, but it's something. Please do not take this comparison lightly. I'm no gushing Angelina fan, in fact I'm not generally a fan at all, so this is saying a lot. She really shines here.

The Twists: There are a couple of big ones. I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't tell what they are (probably you've all seen it if your going to anyway, but still...), but they're fabulous. I feel like I should have seen them coming, but I didn't. If you did, you're a better guesser than I am.

The Love Story: You know what a sucker I am for romance. This one is sweet, exciting, and surprising.

What I didn't love about it:
Language: It's rated PG-13, so one can expect a little off color language. But there was one occurrence of a word that, in my opinion should only appear in R rated films (and sparingly, at that). Alas the rating people didn't ask me.

Shoot 'em up: Violence. No good spy-type movie is complete without it. There's shooting, stabbing, punching, Oh my! With the focus on action, and not its aftermath, this is not over the top for the rating. It doesn't exceed my personal threshold (which is not high by any means). But I wouldn't want my child to watch it. That makes it worth mentioning.

Rating: 3.5 stars (I'd love to give it 5, but one foul little word packs a lot of punch. The half-point represents the over-all family friendliness factor).

This is not a movie I would recommend for families with young kids, and your standards for adult viewing may be different from mine, as well.

That said, if you like a fast pace, plenty of action, and unexpected twists, The Tourist might be just what the doctor ordered from some late-night sofa snuggling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wrapping Up the Bash: We Have Winners!!

Wow! What a week! Deadlines are killer for a super-procrastinator like me. But I got all the interviews posted on time, I kept up pretty well with comments.

And, most importantly I've picked the winners on the day I promised.  More on that later...

Author Stephanie Grace Whitson
Stephanie Grace Whitson
First, I want to thank my amazing authors

Penny Zeller


Anne Mateer
Elizabeth Camden

I'll answer that: Resoundingly Yes! They are lovely, inside and out. This Birthday Bash would have been awfully dull without their participation. I cannot thank them enough. I suppose I'll just have to read all their books and gush profusely about how wonderful they are.

Second, I want to thank my readers. Even with lovely interviews by all these lovely ladies, this event would have fallen flat (in direct proportion to my ego) if the readers hadn't stopped by and left comments and entered giveaways. I started this week with 1,306 hits to this site (approximately 109 pageviews per month). At the time of this typing, I'm sitting at 1,553. Now that's an amazing week!

A special thanks to all who liked my blog enough to follow it. I started the week with 15 Google Friend Connect Followers. Now I have 22. A few of you subscribed by email too (4 I can count off the top of my head). I know I kinda bribed you ;) but I hope you enjoy what you read here. I won't promise it will always be "normal," but it should never be boring.

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for...

Hailee by Penny Zeller: Book CoverThe winner of Hailee by Penny Zeller is...Melissa Jagears

The winner of A Most Unsuitable Match by Stephanie Grace Whitson is...karenk

The winner of The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden is...Aly Logan

Cover Image
And Finally...The winner of Wings of a Dream by Anne Mateer is...Jen

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks once again for stopping by to run up my hit counter ;) I think you will all enjoy your prizes. Perhaps you'll pass them on to other lucky readers. Or perhaps they'll find a spot on your keeper shelf 

Since I've just given my copies away, I may have to put them all on my Christmas list.

Come back tomorrow to see what I thought of the movie The Tourist