I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The 2015 Christy Awards

One of the most distinguished award ceremonies for Christian books held their presentation ceremony last night. The Christy awards began in 1999. They were named for Catherine Marshall's best-know work, Christy, which has over 10 million copies in print.

Here's the list of this year's winners of the distinguished award. 

Book of the Year: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Contemporary Romance: A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Contemporary Series: The Amish Blacksmith by Mindy Starnes Clark & Susan Meissner

Contemporary: The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

Historical: The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot

Historical Romance: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Suspense: the Color of Justice by Ace Collins

Visionary: Once Beyond a Time by Ann Matlock

Young Adult: Storm Siren by Mary Weber

First Novel: Feast for Thieves by Marcus Brotherton

Congratulations to all the winners! I don't know about you, but my summer reading list just expanded! 

Have you read any of these books? Please give your recommendations to our readers!

Thanks, Teri Smith

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our dreams—God’s plans

By Jennie Atkins
As you read this, my hubby and I are putting the last of our belongings into POD storage and heading home. Four years ago, I took on a new position that moved us twenty-four hundred miles away from where we both lived since we were born. It had been our dream to move west, to experience the Wild West, and to blaze a different trail rather than slip into retirement without accomplishing some of the items on our bucket list.
Many things have happened to us this year, testing our faith, and our decision to move so far away from our kids. The last being the loss of the job I came to Nevada to take on. Although low gas prices are a boon to the consumer, they are a nightmare to businesses who provide technology to oil and gas businesses. And as result I found myself without a job and in a spot where we are relying on God’s wisdom for “the rest of our lives.”

The most logical decision, albeit hard, is to move back near family. But through it all I can see God’s hand moving. We put our house up for sale and as a fleece of sorts, we priced it higher than normal.
We half expected the process to take several months.  It didn’t—our house sold in just under two weeks with a second bid in the wings. 

We expected someone to come in and under bid our price.  But they didn’t. They came in at full value.
We then anticipated the bank to balk at the high price when they did the appraisal.  They didn’t.

People…this is NOT fiction. It is God’s hand guiding us.  I have no idea where we’ll find employment and our final destination is unknown. But, I’m okay with that. Everything has been stripped away and I am trusting God’s plans for our future.  And, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the rest of the journey! Especially if it even comes close to what we’ve experienced so far.
Although I won’t be able to answer your comments today because more than likely I’ll be somewhere on route 70 driving east, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“God didn’t promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, nor sun without rain, but he did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears, and light for the way.” (Author Unknown)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quick and Dirty Grammar

Heidi here. So, I consider myself to be fairly grammar savvy. I’d say I was a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police, but recently I’ve decided it is not my job to make sure the rest of the world understands how to grammar correctly. (And yes, I did just use “grammar” as a verb.) Besides, unless I am absolutely positive I’ve not made any mistakes in my own writing, I have no business pointing fingers.

That being said, I still want to do everything in my power to be sure my own writing is as grammatically correct as humanly possible. In my effort to avoid drawing the unwanted--and often pernicious--attention of the most zealous of Grammar Police Officers, I’ve found a secret weapon that helps me to grammar with near-perfection.

I’m not sure a day goes by that I don’t make at least one visit to the Grammar Girl. Grammar Girl’s real name is Mignon Fogarty, and she is best known for her “Quick and Dirty Grammar Tips.” She calls her website, "Your friendly guide to the world of grammar, punctuation, usage, and fun developments in the English language." 

If you are unfamiliar with this amazing young woman, I will be your new best friend for introducing you to her, because if you are a writer, she will also be your new best friend.

Whether you get her books or you visit her website, you will find incredibly helpful tips or explanations for tricky grammatical issues such as “affect vs.effect”  or  “further vs. farther”  as well as punctuation helps (such as proper use of terminal punctuation and parenthesis). She also offers explanations on the correct use of phrases (“Deep-seeded or Deep-seated”) or when to use “i.e. or e.g.”  In addition to explaining the hows and whys of correct usage, she also includes clever little ways to remember her tips. Honestly, she's bailed me out of some pretty dicey grammar situations!

I could go on and on about how great she is. Or, I could send you her direction and let you discover her plethora of grammar information. Or, I could jumpstart your Grammar Girl education by offering you my Top 5 Favorite Grammar Girl Episodes!

                    5.) Split Infinitives 

                    4.) Ending a Sentence With a Preposition 

                    3.) Lay Versus Lie 

                    2.) Who Versus Whom (Part 1) 
                         WhoVersus Whom Advanced 

                    1.) The Top 10 Grammar Myths 

And hey, if grammar isn’t your thing, the Quick and Dirty Tips website also offers tips from The Money Girl, The Modern Manners Guy, The Get-it-done Guy, The Mighty Mommy, and The Tech Talker.

Your turn: Do you have a Grammar Pet Peeve? Do you have a Grammar Achilles Heel?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Thank you, Cora Nolan, for the world of books

by Delores E. Topliff

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” I do not know George R. R. Martin, who is credited with this quote, but he is/was a very wise man.

From my 6h birthday on, we lived across the street from a community library. I know now it was small, but it seemed vast to me. Cora Nolan, the librarian was everyone’s ideal well-read grandmother who answered questions cheerfully, tolerated my imagination, recommended books she knew I’d love, and added more to my life than she ever knew. Though she has gone to her earthly reward decades ago, she made me rich. Her impact equaled lighting a candle in a dark room with a flame that has grown steadily brighter.

Our library was open six days a week and I went daily. Through elementary school, besides homework, I read two books every day and discussed them with her. Though Lucretia Ann on the Oregon Trail, Adopted Jane, The Boxcar Children, and a biography series on presidents and famous people were Junior Reader size, not thick books, they added up. Soon I advanced to adult volumes. I read all of Sherlock Holmes by age eleven, and Pearl S. Buck and Steinbeck. When my card stock library cards frayed and tattered from use, she replaced them saying I was the library’s most frequent user. If I had one of those tattered cards now I would dip it in gold to mount on the wall to convey what her gift meant.

Books expanded my world and introduced me to other peoples, times, and places that I loved. What I found in books inspired me get involved, pursue dreams, and travel further than that elementary girl dreamed.

How many lives did Cora Nolan give me? A thousand thousand and still counting and adding more. How can I thank her? Pass on the gift.

Now, please tell how someone encouraged and influenced you. Tell us how many lives you live daily, monthly, yearly through great books--and how you pass on that blessing. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jesus Promised...

Well, He promised a lot of things. Like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Photo from Free Digital Photos

And that’s just about as amazing as it gets. As long as Jesus walks by our side, we don’t have anything to fear, and I know we can make it another day.

But He made other promises too. We read one of the best in John 14:3.  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am there you may be also.”

How’s that to wow your neon-pink socks off?

But can we be honest here? Is there something you’d like to happen before Jesus comes?  Maybe you’d like to get that book contract first.  Maybe you desire the squealing joy when you tear open a package to find you own book finally there.

Perhaps your heart cries out for reconciliation with someone before you meet your Savior face to face. Or you urgently need to say, “I’m sorry” to a friend or family member.

 Could it be you want to hold your very first grandchild in your arms? (Hint, hint, somebody.)

Now that we’re being honest, how would you finish this sentence?

I’d want Jesus to come, except first, I’d like….

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make Your Hero Likeable

By Jennie Atkins
I’ve been studying movie characters trying to decide what it is I like (and dislike) about the hero. What is it about them that makes me love them, in spite of their character weakness?
You can make them bad . . . but give them something good too.
Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in Pirates of the Caribbean.  Jack Sparrow is a cocky pirate and a rogue. He’ll steal, he’ll flirt with the women, and he’ll do almost anything to find the Aztec gold. But he has a soft spot for his reluctant sidekick William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Norrington (Keira Knightley).  And despite his cavalier attitude, in the end he does the right thing, winning the hearts of viewers everywhere.

Give them a cause.
Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) in You’ve Got Mail.  Joe is the mega-million franchise book store, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) owns the small book store on the corner. Despite Joe’s determination to invade the New York market with discounted book prices, he feels bad that Kathleen must close down the store her mother started as a result. He shows sympathy and even gives her business pointers.  He does everything he can to convince Kathleen that he’s not as bad as he seems. And, he succeeds!

Give them values that resonate.
Navy Rear Admiral Matt Sherman (Cary Grant) in Operation Petticoat.  This is one of my top five all time movies. Sherman is determined to have his submarine, the USS Sea Tiger, in the war which means overlooking Lieutenant Nick Holden (Tony Curtis), ability to “scrounge up” whatever supplies they need—and then some. When Holden brings five female nurses on board, Sherman takes it all in stride—even when he’s tempted to do otherwise.
As characters go, I guess I could add that you need to make them all likeable. No person is all bad or all good, so let their character traits stand out.
Your turn:  What are some of your favorite movie heroes? 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Divine Romance—full disclosure

I would read few Christian romance or romantic suspense novels if some of my best friends didn't write them. As a single woman who appreciates marriage, reading fairy tale romances can grate like fingernails across blackboards. But a divine appointment March 30th in Indonesia changed my outlook as 6,000 formal guests and I attended the most amazing wedding ever.

Reaching the civic auditorium on one of many chartered buses, we met easily 100 trucks delivering large floral billboards celebrating the couple. Inside the building, every lavish detail contributed to a perfect day. Magazine-worthy flower arrangements towered over our heads. A full backdrop of a church with stained glass windows transformed the auditorium stage. Fragrant ceiling to floor banks of white flowers flanked both sides with orchids, lilies, tulips, roses, baby’s breath, gladiolas, and more for this fabulous wedding joining the son and daughter of two wealthy fourth-generation committed Christian families prominent from Indonesia and Singapore.

The couple could have chosen any wedding venue. Instead, they made their service a God-honoring portrayal of Christ loving and coming for His bride, the church, before multi-faith guests including three former Indonesian presidents, one vice-president, and endless other dignitaries. Most honored the prayers and tried to sing the printed Christian hymns presented by a talented live orchestra and chorale. I’d only seen such splendor at William and Kate’s televised wedding. I was privileged to attend this in person.

The handsome groom stood in front awaiting his bride, his rapturous expression showing anticipation. Impeccably dressed with every detail perfect, his bride walked confidently forward escorted by her beaming father. Her large genuine diamonds and lustrous pearls were tasteful, not overdone, and enhanced her beauty. Her 12-15 foot lace train was deftly managed by an attendant. I was impressed that every lavish touch to make her the loveliest of brides had been provided with no expense spared. And I suddenly realized that our heavenly Father has also provided everything we need, no expense spared, for our divine marriage.

This ceremony did not lack heart-grabbing romance. The groom declared his vows to love, honor, and cherish following his, “I do,” by adding, “with all my heart. His beautiful bride echoed his words, also answering, “I do, with all my heart” Their palpable love made both bride and groom shed tears, as did most present.

The groom  lifted the bride’s veil to reveal her beauty and they kissed. Instead of "Here comes the bride," for the recessional we sang all four printed verses of In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song by Stuart Townsend & Keith Getty Copyright 2001. For copyright reasons I'm told I can't share more, but it's worth tracking down the full song.

We imagined the bride and groom whisking away for a luxurious honeymoon. That may eventually have happened, but the next morning I sat in a campus church of 500 with my niece and family as children waved palm fronds for a Palm Sunday service. We filled the 2nd row, not noticing that the row behind us was empty and reserved. At 8:45 a.m. we heard a slight stir as the bride, groom, their families, attendants, and honored guests, arrived and filled that row. When church ended, I stood to shake hands and thank them for making their wedding so impacting and God-honoring.

People describe both families as billionaire philanthropists. When wealth serves outstanding purposes, I wish them continued success. I will never read another romance or attend any wedding without remembering the true Divine Marriage they represent.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I Don't Feel Good!

I don’t know about you, but I can generate a thousand excuses for not writing. Unfortunately, as I wrote in my last blog post, putting off writing when I know I’m supposed to equals sin. Regardless of excuses. But what about when I have a genuine excuse? What if I’m too sick to write?

When I was a little girl, if I told my mom I didn’t “feel good” and couldn’t go to school, she always told me to get up and shower, and if I still didn’t feel good, I could stay home. Brilliant, right? She did this to differentiate between sick and lazy. Because if I wasn’t really sick, by the time I was out of the shower, I was wide awake, and might as well go to school.

Does God do the same thing? It’s possible, except that He can see our hearts and doesn’t need the shower trick to know if we are truly sick. But I also think He doesn’t call us without giving us what we need to obey. In other words, I don’t believe He calls us to do something and then leaves us without the tools we need to finish the job. Look at all the scriptural accounts in which God equipped the people He called. He gave specific instructions to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Ruth, Mary and Joseph, Paul, and even Jesus, and then provided tools to aid in their obedience. Whether detailed specifications or His unshakable power, God provided everything these men and women needed to succeed.

Yesterday I woke up with a migraine headache. If you’ve ever suffered with migraine, then you know that my day was shot. Usually, when a migraine comes on during the day, I get a “warning” of sorts—a blurry patch in my vision, like pixilation on a TV screen—and I can get in front of it with my “Migraine Cocktail” (a combination of Excedrin, Benedryl, magnesium, feverfew, and turmeric washed down with a caffeinated beverage) and icepacks. However, if I wake up with one, nothing helps. My husband or sons put blankets over the windows to block out as much light as possible while I attempt to sleep it off and resist the urge to dig my left eye out of its socket with a spoon. Usually, I wake up the next morning with the exhaustion of a headache hangover being the only trace of the migraine. (And yes, both eyeballs intact.)

So, yesterday. The migraine went pretty much as expected with one notable exception. This morning I woke up and it was still there. This doesn’t happen to me very often…like maybe once every five years…but it happened today.  And of course, today was my day to blog. As I lay in bed, trying to figure out what to do, I remembered that thing my mom used to make me do. So I followed her lead and came out to my computer. I prayed that God would equip me to sit at my computer, look at the excruciatingly bright screen, and think clearly enough to write sentences that make sense. (Hopefully they do!)

As usual, God proved He is unfailing in all things. He literally used my pain to provide a topic, a message, and the clarity I needed to communicate it. Also, He showed me His faithfulness: after all, if He is willing to provide what I need to write a 700-word blog post, how much more will He provide when I need something significantly bigger? Psalm 55:22 tells us if we cast our cares on Him, He will sustain us. What a fabulous promise!  

So, back to the question of being “too sick to write.” Honestly, rarely do I feel worse than when I have a migraine. If ever a time existed in which I was too sick to write, it would be today, right now; the throbbing pain behind my left eye and down the left side of my neck, the nausea, and the sensitivity to light should make it impossible for me to sit here and write this blog. Yet, because God is faithful to provide, here I am, writing word number 701 on today’s blog post: YAY!!

Have you ever been too sick to write (or whatever else God is calling you to do)? If so, what did you do?