Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Meditations: Secret Salvation

I have a confession to make. I keep my eyes open during altar calls. I don’t mean to be disobedient but I have a good reason for it. I learned pretty early in my career as an altar worker than keeping your eyes closed may not always be the best thing to do. Unexpected things happen when you’ve not looking. Unfortunately, that practice has crippled me when I’m not working the altar. When the preacher is telling everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes, I normally still have one eye cracked.

I understand why this practice of closing our eyes and bowing our heads during the invitation to Christ has gained popularity. We are living in a very PC world and sadly that has infiltrated the church. God forbid we embarrass people while their accepting Jesus. I’m sure the practice makes it unbelievers feel better knowing no one sees them raising their hands, but I’m not sure that’s the best way to bring people into the Kingdom of God. It’s a contradictory start to their walk with God.

Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:16:

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (NIV)

It can’t get any clearer that God intends for us to be seen. The imagery of the city on a hill and a light on a stand that Jesus uses shows that we should have high visibility. But we come into the Kingdom under the cloak of secrecy. That’s a little paradoxical, isn’t it?

Another reason I don’t like this practice is because I want to meet my new brothers and sisters in Christ. All believers make up God’s family. How crazy would it be for a woman to bring a baby into the world and hide the baby away from the rest of the family? That’s what I feel like the secret salvations do. We can't love on the babies in Christ because we don’t know who they are.

And they need love. They’ve made the most important decision in their lives. They will leave the church a changed person going back to their old lives. New believers may even question what happened to them, thinking that nothing really happened. They need some fellow believers to assure them that what they are experiencing is real. They need us to properly welcome them and benefit of being a part of a family. This will help them start to build relationships in the Body of Christ.

New converts need us to gather around them and coo and tell them how cute they are. Hard to do when you’ve got your eyes closed. What do you think? Do you think new believers should secretly come into the Kingdom or should we openly welcome them? Whatever your position, make it a point to welcome new Christians into the family when you do see them. Love on them and tell them they won’t regret the decision they’ve made.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Writing Hope

Since I homeschool my older two children, my youngest child sometimes feels neglected because the attention they get. To remedy this, I try to be very active whenever his school has events. Today was Snuggle Up with a Book Day (aka Dr. Seuss Day. I don’t know for sure which one). Basically, the children wear their PJs on top of their clothes and the teachers ask parents to come in and read to the students.

Read books? To kids? Yeah, I’m in. I selected my favorite children’s book, Fox in Socks. If you’ve never read the book, it’s a great tongue twister and quite funny. I also read one of my son’s favorite book, Boy, Can He Dance. This book became my son’s favorite because my husband read it to him over and over again. I also read If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

Nothing in life compares to reading a book to a child. Most of the children (the kindergartners were a little rowdy, but that’s to be expected) listened intently, laughing and giggling in the right places. Even the problem children settled down when I started reading. Nothing touches a child like a book and someone one to read it to them.

As I read, I began noticing something. I could see imagination in their eyes. I could see the wonder of the story washing over them as they clutched their teddy bears and blankets. I could almost pick the ones who would be writers later in life. And today, I realized it is that look, that sparkle in their eyes, that writers live for. Writers tell a story that engages the attention and causes people to think of possibilities beyond their worlds.

Being a parent, I could have picked out the children from troubled homes just from their behavior. I could also tell the ones who have no one read to them. They sat close, hanging on every word, cherishing the moment like it wasn’t going to happen again anytime soon. And the writers of the books I read accomplished something those troubled children needed. Those books made the children forget about the issues they might have at home and transported them to a world where anything was possible. Writers give readers hope.

I pray I can remember this day when I’m going through painful edits and long nights of working out plot. I hope I can still see the sparkle in those children’s eyes when I get another rejection letter. That’s the fuel that writers can use to keep going and helps us to remember why we right. We put hope on a page. Never forget it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tea & Read: A Case for Love

Title: A Case for Love
Author: Kaye Dacus
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

Blurb: The Alaine Delacroix that all of Bonneterre knows is the carefully polished image she puts forth every day on her noontime news-magazine program. When her parents’ home and small business is threatened by the biggest corporation in town, Alaine is forced to choose between her image and fighting for the life her family has built.

Lawyer Forbes Guidry is used to making things go his way. But when he’s asked to take on a pro bono case for a colleague, he’ll learn that he can’t control everything—including his feelings for his new client: Alaine Delacroix.

Alaine’s only option to help her family is hiring Forbes, but can she bring herself to trust the handsome, disarmingly charming lawyer? And will Forbes Guidry be able to make a case for love before losing his job and family? Can both trust that God will present a solution before it’s too late?

This is the third book in the Brides of Bonneterre series and it is as great as the first book. It is Forbes Guidry’s turn to shine. He makes appearances in the first two books as a likeable but domineering family protector. Forbes (who in my head looks like Robert Downing Jr. as Tony Stark) always seemed more three-dimensional character than other secondary characters. I guess I connected with him since I’m a bit of a control freak myself. Alaine appeared in the second book of the series and it was nice to see her make a return, even though I didn’t like her very much at the beginning.

As usual, Dacus weaves an intricate story with lots of memorable characters. I’m always amazed how she is able to juggle so many characters but not leave you feeling overwhelmed. She already had a full cast with the Guidry and extended family but she manages to fit more wonderful characters in this book. I connected with each character and all the work Dacus puts into character development shines through each person.

The plot moves a long and again, Dacus shows her skill in weaving multiple subplots together and tying up them nicely. Even though the plot may seem familiar, big business vs. mom and pop, I still enjoyed the way the novel brings to life the people involved in that struggle. The book is well paced with no slow spots.

I also think the themes in the book are timely ones. I loved Alain and Forbes struggle with appearing to be one way but dealing with the truth of who they are. The idea of a big time lawyer standing up for the little people and the importance of integrity kept me hooked. And of course, Dacus has a way with dealing with being single with a realistic flare.

Kaye Dacus has written another great book and I hope there are more books to this series.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Meditations: Whining

Sometimes I believe that Christians can be such whiners. There I said it. We claim to be people filled with the power of God’s Spirit, but our behavior often contradicts that. And don’t think I’m excusing myself. I’m not. I’m a whiner, too.

For instance, I’m a worship whiner. I love to worship and sing. One of my favorite things to do is to get lost in the music of worship. I’m very opinionated about what good corporate worship is and what’s not. If you want to get me whining, have me experience some worship that doesn’t connect me to God and allow me to bask in His presence. That makes me very unhappy and it’s not pretty when I get into my worship-whining mode.

Sad to say, I’ve been in one of those moods lately. I’ve experienced eclectic forms of worship in the past couple of years. I’ve seen everything from rocked out verses, to contemporary R&B sounding verses with dance moves, to traditional black church worship. Despite this, I’ve been whining.

The whining continued in a recent service I attended. I tried to engage the Lord through a fabricated Hillsong-like worship but it wasn’t working. Upsetting since I really enjoy Hillsong but I was not enjoying this particular unsatisfying re-enactment of it. I started to zone out (don’t look at me funny. You know you do zone out, too) until something else caught my eyes.

I was seated near a signer and group of deaf people. I’ve always wanted to learn sign language so I found myself studying them (and I learned to sign a few new words). The signer moved along with the rhythm of the song, almost like she was dancing. But then I noticed that the deaf people were signing alone with the song…a song they couldn’t hear. Occasionally they would lift their hands in worship right along with the rest of us. They closed their eyes and at times swayed to their own rhythms.

I found myself watching them intently and God began to prick my heart. How many times had I complained about not being able to “get into” worship because of something I didn’t like? Many times, sad to admit. But, watching the deaf people sign, clap and worship to a song they couldn’t here, what was my excuse? I can hear music and I pout. They can’t hear music and they worship.

Thank God for grace because He could have hit the mute button on my ears long ago. He could have, but He extended grace and allowed me to hear, a gift that I’m grateful to have. However, that doesn’t give me the right to whine. I love God and my worship, musical or otherwise, should be focused on Him. I need to stop focusing on what’s not right with worship. I believe that God is trying to teach me to press through my perceived limitations and connect with Him.

How about you? What are you whining about? What obstacles have you put up that’s keeping your from connecting with God and are they that serious? Take a good look at your whining and see if it’s legitimate. If not, you’re just being a baby.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tea & Read: A Distant Melody

Title: A Distant Melody
Author: Sarah Sundin
Rating: Spend the Day Sleepy

Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love. Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

I’ve grown to love historicals over the past couple of years, but I must admit I’d grown a little weary of Victorian or cowboy books. Not that the books I’ve been reading aren’t great (ok, some of them weren’t) but it seemed like if you wanted to read a book with a historical setting, you had two time periods to choose from. Sundin provides the perfect remedy for this, setting the book in the 1940’s. It’s clear that Sundin is passionate about this time period. For me, the little details make it real, like the sugar and silk shortage. Sundin does an excellent job of creating the setting.

And as great as the historical setting is, the characters are equally superb. Allie is such a down-to-earth person, not like the “larger than life” heroines normally found in historicals. So when she gets thrown into some extraordinary circumstances, my interest was piqued. I wanted to know how she would handle her challenges. Walter is equally ordinary, but Sudin does a fabulous job of revealing subtle hints of his great qualities. Walt seemed very Boy Next Door, sweet and thoughtful, but had the presence to make me take notice.

Sudin beautifully weaves in a strong theme, the value of honesty. She realistically portrays the trouble of something that seems so harmless. She shows the devastating effects of little white lies, but not in a corny, soap opera way. And because Sudin has created such great characters, you don’t hate them for the lies they tell, but you sympathize with them. Sudin helps you relate to their struggles.

Also, I love the fact that Sundin doesn’t gloss over the harsh realities of war. I found myself gasping in unbelief when the war claimed characters I’d grown to love. She handles death well and takes you through the process with grace.

This is a great book if you love historicals but you’re longing for something different.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Winner of The Promise of Morning

Juanita Davis, you've won a free copy of The Promise of Morning by Ann Shorey. Please send email me your address so I can send you the book.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Second Opinion: The Promise of Morning

This is the first post in my new feature called Second Opinion. Check out the full explanation at

Featured Book: The Promise of Morning by Ann Shorey.

Synopsis: Ellie Craig grieves the loss of three infant children, and when long-hidden secrets are brought to light, she must find a way to contact the family of her long-lost father. Meanwhile her husband, Matthew, faces controversy in his church and competition from a new arrival in Beldon Grove, who claims to be both a minister and the son of the town's founder. Will Matthew find the courage to reclaim his church? And will his unexpected travel companion help Ellie's heart mend?The Promise of Morning addresses themes of overcoming tragedy, finding strength to meet daunting challenges, and trusting your heart to love again.

Here is how Second Opinion works:
  1. Enter by posting a comment on my blog if you're interested in reading this featured book
  2. I pick a winner one week later and send him or her the featured book
  3. The winner must agree to email me a review of the book to be posted on my blog
  4. Check back the first Friday of each month for a chance to win

Enter now and check back next week for the winner.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Feature: Second Opinion

Opinions are like noses; everyone has one. Including book reviewers. We have opinions and we get to write them out for the world to see. But it is important to remember that reviews are nothing more than a single reader's opinion and very subjective.

The reviews I write are based on likes and dislikes unique to me. Yes, some women in her mid-thirties with the mortgage and three children may read my reviews and completely agree with me. But someone else in another phase of life, like a 20 year old, single college student might disagree.

I realize when writing my reviews that someone may not agree with my reviews (I'm sure the authors of said books don't agree with me). That’s why I’m creating a new feature on my blog called Second Opinions. In this feature, I will give away a books that I gave a low rating in exchange for a second opinion review.

Here’s how it works:
  1. Enter by posting a comment on my blog
  2. I pick a winner one week later and send him or her the featured book
  3. The winner must agree to email me a review of the book to be posted on my blog
  4. Check back the first Friday of each month for a chance to win

Second opinions are good for doctors and book reviews. Here is your chance to share yours.

Tea & Read: The Promise of Morning

Title: The Promise of Morning
Author: Ann Shorey
Rating:Wall Target Practice

Synopsis: Ellie Craig grieves the loss of three infant children, and when long-hidden secrets are brought to light, she must find a way to contact the family of her long-lost father. Meanwhile her husband, Matthew, faces controversy in his church and competition from a new arrival in Beldon Grove, who claims to be both a minister and the son of the town's founder. Will Matthew find the courage to reclaim his church? And will his unexpected travel companion help Ellie's heart mend?
The Promise of Morning addresses themes of overcoming tragedy, finding strength to meet daunting challenges, and trusting your heart to love again.

Right from the start, I had issues with feeling that the characters' actions were completely unbelievable. Matthew's position against traveling actors seemed unreasonable even with an explanation of why. I found myself disliking Matthew because of his narrow-minded stance. And being his opinion of traveling actors was a major point on his plot line, I found myself not caring about him.

Ellie didn't fare too much better. I thought she was too overprotective. Even with being a mother of three, I found myself having a hard time connecting with her. I also had a hard time believing in her maternal instinct when she treated her living children like they didn't matter. If she wanted to be a mother, she had other children who she could pour her love on.

The plot felt scattered and I found myself skimming large sections. I didn't feel like the story built up to a climax. The novel read like a series of unconnected events with a happy ending. Also, Matthew and Ellie's martial problems seemed a little soap oparah-ish. There were several times that the tension between them could be resolved with a good conversation. The tension between them was, and I hate to keep using this word, unbelievable. Good tension comes from conflict in goals and motivations, not because two people jump to unsupported conclusions and don't talk.

This book was challenging to finish.

Monday, March 1, 2010

And of the winner of Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot is...

...Key! Congratulations.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Be sure to visit my blog again for more upcoming contests.