As a kid, it was all about the presents. OK. It still is, a little.
But as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the weeks leading up to Christmas. The time that is commonly referred to as Advent.
Last year, I made Jesse Tree ornaments and placed them on a wreath (you can read about that fiasco here!) and each night in December, we talked about the story behind each ornament. We are way behind on that this year, but I still like the Jesse Tree concept because it focuses on the way the entire Old Testament leads up to the birth of Christ. How we see prophecy given and then fulfilled in Jesus. I love how it’s teaching my kids how we fit into God’s redemptive plan.
But this year, I’ve been struck by the importance of family.
Messed up. Broken. Crazy. Family.
Have you ever paid attention to the fact that in both Matthew and Luke—the two Gospels that give us the Nativity story—we get the family legacy first.
In Luke, we start with the off-beat cousin, John the Baptist. No matter how you slice it, that guy was out there. He ate bugs. ‘Nuff said.
In Matthew, we get the whole gang. From Abraham to Joseph. If you know anything about the Old Testament, the names that pop up in this genealogy are not exactly a Who’s Who of Who Got It Right. We’ve got moon-worshipers, liars, thieves, adulterers, and murderers for dads along with foreigners, adulterers, and prostitutes for mothers.
Have you ever heard the saying that “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family?” That’s usually true, but guess what?
God could. He could have chosen anyone and he chose people who had screwed up—BIG TIME—to carry the promise into the world.
A messed up, broken, crazy family. He claimed them. All of them.
And then He did something truly extraordinary. He claimed the entire naughty list and said, “I want you. I love you. I died for you. Come to Me. Join my family.”
No matter what condition your earthly family is in, you have access to a family like no other. A family full of misfit toys made acceptable though Christ. A place where the broken, banged up, and forgotten become the whole, cleaned up, and beloved.
Not because of anything we have done, but because, a long time ago, a baby was born into a messed up, broken, crazy family.
His name is Jesus.
Matthew 1:21 ~ She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (ESV)
Anyone else feel like the holiday hustle began right after Halloween this year? It’s been CRAZY at my house.
But, you know me. I’ve always got time to read a good book. Or two! And I want to share them with you.
I met Lisa Carter in 2010 at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, before she had an agent, or a book deal (or four!). I’m so excited to share her first two books with you today. You know you’ve got a someone or two on your shopping list who would love for you to introduce them to a new author. Consider your list a little bit shorter!
This is Lisa’s second book. It just came out this month and it is such a sweet story. I generally prefer my books to have a little bit more mayhem and murder, but I couldn’t put this one down!
The only thing Laney Carrigan has to tie her to her birth family is the Hawaiian quilt she was wrapped in as a baby. But that quilt holds the key to everything she’s searching for—the answers to her questions and a reason to put down roots. Of course, Kai Barnes complicates her plans from the first time they meet. He knows there’s more to the mysterious Laney Carrigan than she’s chosen to share with the family. She can’t be trusted. Not with the plantation—and certainly not with his heart.
Aloha Rose is a beautiful story that doesn’t shy away from the painful consequences of sin, the damage unforgiveness can do to our hearts, and the desperate need we all have for grace.
This is Lisa’s first book and it came out this summer. Lisa uses the tag line “Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder” (isn’t that the BEST!!!) and Carolina Reckoning met every expectation a tag line like that has.
It’s so very Southern! Set in the Raleigh area of North Carolina, the conflict centers around a historic estate complete with a main house, gardens, and wealthy board members. The characters are as varied as the dishes at a church dinner. There are exotic outsiders, quirky cousins, scary strangers, and let’s not forget the downright creepy psychopaths.
The opening pages of Carolina Reckoning will twist your heart as Alison Monaghan discovers proof that her husband has been cheating on her. She’s going to confront him, but instead finds herself staring into the face of homicide detective Mike Barefoot. Her husband will never come home, but are the people responsible for his death willing to leave his family alone? Or is Alison next on their list?
Carolina Reckoning will keep you guessing until the climax when … oh, wait a minute. I’m not going to tell you!
Buy the book. Buy both of them. Buy one for your friends. Put one in your daughter’s stocking. Send one to your grandma. Hmm…that’s actually a really good idea. My Granny loves to read…(yes, it’s hereditary). Grab it for your Kindle and read it while everyone is watching football tomorrow.
You can’t go wrong with Aloha Rose or Carolina Reckoning!
Even if you don’t think of yourself as artistic or creative, after reading Emily P. Freeman’s latest offering, you’ll view everything you do in a new light. Because “art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.” (p. 21)
While I have no trouble saying that I’m a writer, I’ve never considered myself to be an artist. Art is painting, drawing, sculpture, design. Art it musicals, opera, plays, and concerts.
Or is it?
What if art is so much more and what if all of us make art in a million little ways?
Making beds, writing books, cooking meals, designing clothes, playing with Legos, decorating interiors, and hosting dinner parties, all can be ways you express yourself, ways you create, ways you make art.
The most beautiful thing? God uses us as “we make art with our lives” to reveal different aspects of Himself to a world that desperately needs Him.
A Million Little Ways is divided into three parts: In Part 1, we see a beautiful picture of God as the Artist and us, as His image-bearers, placed in the world to live art. In Part 2, we uncover the art we were born to make by looking within, back, up, around, and beneath. In Part 3, we release the art we were made to live when we show up, wait, offer, wonder, and create.
Emily P. Freeman writes with a transparency and honesty that always leaves me surprised to discover that someone else struggles with the same things I do. Each chapter feels like a conversation with a friend who sees beauty in you. Beauty you may be unable to see in yourself, not because of anything you can do in your own strength, but because you are an image-bearer of The Artist.
There was so much in these pages to digest, to ponder, to consider, to breathe in and live out, that I don’t feel one read-through was sufficient so I’m starting over and reading it again.
Lucky for you, when I attended Allume a few weeks ago, I got to hear Emily speak and the fine folks at Revell gave all the attendees a copy of A Million Little Ways. But I already had my review copy from Revell, so I’m going to share the art with you. Subscribe to the blog through email or leave me a comment here on the blog, on Facebook, or Twitter. I’ll put the names in the random number generator and whoever it picks will win their own copy. Contest ends Sunday, November 24th.
A Million Little Ways is available November 2013 at your local bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing. The super fine print: I received a copy of A Million Little Ways in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
God wants me to be a bay leaf. Sounds exciting, right? Yeah. I’m not so sure about it myself. I woke up early a few weeks ago, too early to get up. The time of day when I fade in and out of awareness, praying, listening, thinking. On this particular morning, my mind flipped between the things I needed to do before the day ran off and left me and the images that had flooded it for the past few days. Images of women—old, young, trendy, traditional—women who had gathered in one place to learn, to be renewed, to find new ways to share their message. Some women had answered life-altering calls. They’d seen a need. They’d decided not to shove it off on someone else. Now, they and their families call new cities in foreign lands home. They are doing BIG things for God. I want to do big things for God, too. I was willing. I would have gone. If He’d called me, I’d have packed my bags and learned a new language, and I’d have gone anywhere. I told Him so. More than once. I’m still willing. But here I am. I have a great husband and three cool kids and a new minivan parked in the garage of a nice house in a safe part of the world. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing big things for God. I know, I know. Those three cool kids are the future and the time I spend with them is a daily act of worship. I.Know.This.Is.True. But I feel so small. So insignificant. And as I lay there that morning, I couldn’t help but wonder why God hadn’t called me to more? While I lay there, wondering if maybe I’d missed something along the way, He spoke. I want you to be a bay leaf. No, it wasn’t audible, but I heard it and I can assure you that as I have never, ever aspired to be a bay leaf, it was pretty clear to me that this was God’s voice and not my own. Seriously, God? A bay leaf? I want you to be a bay leaf. See, I had spent days surrounded by walking, talking oaks of faith. Singing, laughing diamonds of grace. War-torn but still smiling warriors in the fight for the kingdom. I was trying to think of ways to be big. God asked me to be small. Do you know what a bay leaf does? It’s that dried leaf your mom or your grandma always added to the chicken broth or the spaghetti sauce or the vegetable soup. Bay leaves help bring other flavors together, the result of which is a richness, a savoriness that is hard to define, but noticeable in its absence. I’ve been pondering the idea of being a bay leaf for a few weeks. Not to diminish the sacrifice of those who answer the “flashier” calls, but I think, sometimes, it’s harder to say yes to being small. To going unnoticed. To being content to add that “little something extra” to the lives of those around us without ever being the main event. So as I continue to dwell with the idea, I’m praying for opportunities to be a bay leaf. For ways to add some richness and depth to the souls I find myself simmering through life with. I’ve also started praying that Out of the Boat will be a bay leaf in your life. Something that deepens your faith, enriches your walk, and maybe adds a little something extra to your day.
Most of us accept death as a part of life. But not everyone.
In Singularity, the second book in The Jevin Banks Experience, Steven James plunges us into a world where research into brain function and artificial intelligence that is intended to help quadriplegics or children with life-shortening diseases is being hijacked by psychopaths.
Psychopaths who will eliminate any and all obstacles between them and immortality.
In Singularity, illusionist Jevin Banks loses a friend in what the authorities insist was a tragic accident. He knows it wasn’t and he refuses to allow his friend’s death to go unsolved.
Lucky for him, the supporting cast from Placebo, the first book in the The Jevin Banks Experience, is back, and they are as fabulous as ever. Charlene, Jevin’s girlfriend; Xavier, Jevin’s right-hand man; Fionna, home-schooling mom and computer whiz; Fionna’s kids, four of the coolest kids on the planet.
Of course, one of our villains from Placebo is back, too. Derek Byrne, aka, Akinsanya, intends to live forever and his methods are, well, let’s go with extreme. (Gory, sick, disturbing, horrifying—those would all work as well).
As I’ve come to expect from Steven James, the first few chapters are tough. Evil men unleash their power over those who’ve tried to thwart them, and the results are devastating.
From there, Singularity takes us into a world of illusion, organized crime, conspiracy theory, top-secret military research, and prostitution. Set mostly in Las Vegas, Singularity doesn’t shy away from gritty realities. Nor does it glorify them.
If you’re looking for safe, predictable fiction that gives you an interesting enough story but doesn’t make you think or wonder about anything, then Singularity is not for you.
If, however, you’d love to read something that you haven’t figured out by page five, if you’d like a story that reflects the world we live in, that delves deep into questions about what makes us human and why God allows people to do bad things, if you’d like to get to the final page and go “What??!!!” as the whole story gets turned on its ear…
Read Singularity. Singularity is available as of November 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The super fine print: I received a free copy of Singularity in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Through the Balustrade pulled me in from the first page. Roxan is seventeen and has her own shanty. And she’s thrilled about it. What? Immediately, I want to know why she’s on her own at seventeen. Why does she think a dirt-floor shanty is a little slice of heaven? What kind of horror was her life before this point? Why does she believe she’s free now? And is she? Really? Seriously. I got all that from the first few paragraphs. If you’re a fan of books like The Hunger Games or Divergent, Through the Balustrade is going to be right up your alley. If you’ve ever felt different, unwanted, or weird—if you’ve ever believed (or maybe you still do) that you are nothing special, then Through the Balustrade is going to grab your heart strings and refuse to let go. There are so many things I love about Through the Balustrade. I love the characters—not a predictable one in the bunch. You’ll love some of them, you’ll despise others. And then there are the guys you just aren’t sure about. I spent half the book trying to figure out if this one guy wanted to help Roxan or if he was just trying to get close enough so he could kill her. (No. I’m not going to tell you. This is a spoiler free review!) I love the language. They speak English in the Oblate, but they have their own expressions. Turns, rolls, flashes, matchments, Vitawater, merits…the words are dropped in so skillfully that even though you’ve never used them this way before, you’ll know exactly what they mean. It serves to highlight that this world is different—so very different—from our own. Or, is it? Speaking of the world…I love the world. Hmm…Well, not really. I love M.B. Dahl’s masterful world building, but it’s not a place I would want to live. Life inside the Protectorate is a closely monitored place where the adults do their jobs and don’t ask questions. Children are raised underground and any child who demonstrates certain gifts gets “modifed”—and yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds. And the thing about modification…it doesn’t always take. Which brings us back to Roxan. She doesn’t know what’s “wrong” with her, but she’s smart enough to know she needs to keep it to herself. Bless her heart, she does try, but there are evil forces at work in the Oblate and she’s the key to unlocking the door that will truly set the people free. It’s going to take every ounce of strength and bravery she’s never thought she had to do what must be done. Because she’s the only one who can get them Through the Balustrade. The weird one. The one who’s nothing special. She’s the key to everything. You won’t be able to read Through the Balustrade without wondering if the very thing you dislike about yourself—that thing you so desperately wish you could change—if that’s not the thing that God wants to use to set you, and others, free.