Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ A Vote of Confidence

Robin Lee Hatcher's new release, A Vote of Confidence, is just around the corner. Keep reading for my review, and here's a bit more for your reading pleasure.

First Chapter

Robin's Website

Previous Dregs ala Robin.

My Review:

Vote of Confidence ended up being a satisfying and charming story. Sometimes I hesitate to read about, let alone root for a female character who comes off prickly and offended by any and all references to anything resembling a female weakness. Confidence's first few pages sent those vibes. The I'm-not-going-to-like-this-chick, vibes. In the hands of a lesser writer, that could've easily been the case. However, we're talking Robin Lee Hatcher here, and, as she painted the portrait of Gwen, she added enough humanity and depth that not only did I begin to like her, I actually wanted to see her get the guy and the job.

I love that there are some historical events that Hatcher borrowed and tweaked for her story. I also couldn't find much to not like about Morgan. If you love a solid hero, a heroine who eventually gets it, and a little suspense thrown into your historical fiction, you should probably put this one on your list.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ A Scene from Puppy 101

What's going on over there?

Oh, yeah.

Sawyer is the teacher's pet. Look at him run through his skills like a big, show-offy expert.

Rob patiently filling in for 22 while she's on her big, southern adventure and we are left home alone with the stinky twins.

Would've taken a video but these were tough enough to grab. Didn't want to give
anyone motion sickness.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ Slosh Sunday - Fun Run

I'm not a runner. Hello! I'm an anti-runner if I'm anything. I have never liked running, nor have I ever wanted to like running.

That said...

22 is gone for a spell. I'm the puppy-master. Puppy-masters get to do awful things like stick their hands in bright pink bags and pick up puppy by-products. When 22 is on walks with the girls and me, she does this, they are her dogs. But, since I'm such a nice mom, I will do this until she returns.

Day one of 22's trip -- all goes well. Rob and I take the puppies out for a brisk walk even though we'd gotten up early for a garage sale and then unloaded, sold, reloaded and hauled all the leftovers to the homeless mission. Even though we'd done all that, we took the pups for a walk. Nice, nice parents.

Day two of 22's trip. Rob was really tired. He hadn't really committed to being the puppy-master. So, me, being the woman who does wear big girl panties most days, decided I could do it alone. Three weeks of obedience training and all those walks with our fabulous Gentle Leaders...I could do it.

The weekend was a bit rainy. Did I mention that already?

The usual byways were surrounded by many places that could have been big mud puddles and to avoid the whole bath thing and/or other issues involving mud I decided to drive to a trail that is asphalt the entire way and butts-up to a concrete parking lot. We'd walk a mile or so. I could handle them for a mile all by myself. I told Rob, packed my phone, loaded the girls and took off. I needed to get the walk over and done with because we had more rain in the forecast.

Our walk was going swimmingly. Until we nearly reached our turn-around destination. I glanced up because what little sun there was had pretty much disappeared. Huh? Might be because it was now buried under a very dark cloud. A dark cloud with little rumbles and occasional flash of lightning.

First, as we turned around and began race-walking to the car which was parked about a half mile away, the rain drops were big, fat and steady. I could live with that. The faster I walked, the less hit me. Oh, they hurt when they hit my face, but I could deal with it. Then the sky opened and someone began throwing full pails of warm water on us. (At least they were warm.) So we ran, then when the puppy-master began to fear exploding lungs more than lightning strikes we slowed back down to a race walk. Then we rinsed and repeated.

We reached the car, drenched, soggy and grateful. Can you imagine how it smelled when two, very warm, wet dogs and I rode home? And, I have to confess something. When someone needed to take a break from running to take care of a personal doggy issue, I didn't take time to cart it out in a pink bag. Sorry.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shut-Ups ~ Brownie Recipe...

Amazing Brownies....I'm not kidding. I've tweaked and tweaked, played and played with brownie recipes. My all time favorite calls for 5-6 eggs and butter and sugar and they taste SO good and are a heart attack on a plate.

The Sneaky Chef has one made with a spinach/blueberry puree which I think it good, but they were cakey and 22 sent me back to the search.

Finally, we found one we adapted. Fudgy vs cakey, delicious with little or no funky tastes or texture. And we can feel good about it.

3/4 cup of chocolate chips melted (the darker the better)

1/2 pkge of tofu (12.5 to 14 oz brick, I use firm) (discard the water)
1/4 cup canola, sunflower or walnut oil.
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon coffee or flavored extract (vanilla)

1/3 cup whole grain flour (I dump old fashioned oats in the food processor or blender to make whole grain flour which you can mix with other flour or use alone)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil 9x13 pan. Preheat oven to 350. Dump tofu (without the water it floats in!) in food processor or mixer, blend, add sugar, oil, salt, melted chocolate, and coffee. Blend til smooth and uniform in color. Add cocoa, and flour, mix so you don't have a cloud of cocoa powder hit you in the face when you turn on machine, and blend til mixed. Spread out in pan and bake approx 20-24 minutes.

These stay gooey and fudgy vs. cakey. Taste good chilled or right from oven. Double the recipe and use all the tofu and bake two pans... freezing the extra brownies for another occasion and/or individually as treats.
This recipe is one I found in a cookbook that called for additional sugar and oil and I've adapted it (shaving off 1/3 cup sugar, 2 TBSP oil) because the originals were overtly sweet and had an oily residue. I also changed some measurements to make things a bit easier to measure.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ You Really Want to Know This...Right?

So. We took the camera to dog obedience class.

Did we take any pictures?

Any pictures of the dogs "Leaving It!" and "Taking It!" and "Placing!" ?

Any pictures of the two wending strolls around the store wherein we tested focusing skills by walking past cages of fluttering, chirping birds and eye-level tanks
of colorful, darting fish?

No. We stinking FORGOT we had the camera.

But, next week, maybe. Next week we may learn hand signals, because once again, we are ahead of the basic, into the intermediate, and AWESOME.

I do know that walking on the trails has become way more fun. We hardly trip over eight dog feet entangled with the four human fe
et. The pesky shoulder pain has lessened considerably and I dare say the calluses on our hands from the leash burns have softened a bit.

Here are two pictures...posed and for the teacher's "brag" board. We'll see what we can pull off next week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ A Little Bit O' Fun

A quick, little Wednesday pick-me up.

My mom and I have always talked about the crazy-fun idea of bursting into song and dance in a shopping mall. I think talent may be the only thing holding us back. That and fear of severe injury.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~Signs of Spring

The all season basket bench has been filled with all things spring and summer. 22 birthed the idea and then put together fabulous fall and winter displays. The spring/summer colorfest is all mine.

My garden is growing!!! I have brown thumbs. I've killed everything I've ever tried to grow save for a few hardy cacti. But, in light of organic produce prices, I thought I'd give it a try. On order are the everbearing indoor/outdoor strawberries and a dozen assorted raspberry and blueberry bushes. My indoor garden has begun sprouting. I have teeny-tiny baby lettuce and this is flax. Yes, I'm going to plant flax. Ambitious and crazy, yup. But the seeds only cost two bucks and flax seed at the store is pricey....what can it hurt? Only dirt and some time. Right?

And behold, my bright red front door and crazy rainbow wreath. Yes, those are house keys in the keyhole. Oops.

Now, on to psyching myself up for the obedience class. Hopefully, Lily and Lola will be better there than they were on the walk we just took. Oy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Saturdays with Stella

I've had this little gem of a book for awhile and I've finally gotten to it. How appropriate that I'm reading it during our adventures in dog training.

My review:

Saturdays with Stella is one of the sweetest books I've read this year.

I have an attachment to animals. So, if you aren't a big fan of four-legged friends you probably won't be interested and you are excused from the rest of this review.

If you are a fan, well, then, get yourself a copy and prepare to be enchanted as you join Allison Pittman and her shaky, insecure Stella as they are schooled in the art of obedience. Stella and Allison find something that looks a lot like peace and a deeper understanding of the beauty of faith. The reader is treated to very visual (sometimes this is not the most positive thing) and auditory treats as we get to participate in intermediate dog obedience classes. You'll meet Rex, and Prima and Donna. Cheeto, the toy, makes several important cameo appearances in a handful of scenes as well.

I don't know how you could read this charming narrative and not cheer for Stella as she discovers her purpose. Nor for Allison as her faith is increased with the understanding of how truly loving God is. Pittman doles out generous doses of wisdom for the Christian walk like treats to her beloved Stella.

Pittman writes with poignancy and humor, some of her descriptions painted delightful, laugh-out loud scenes, others left me misty-eyed. Herriot and Keller fans may discover that Stella belongs in their library. Pittman even provides practical dog-training advice, too.

Animal lovers and those who are looking for a unique view of the Christian walk, or folks looking for a light or simple small group topical Bible study should dig deeper into Saturdays with Stella. Within Stella's chapters are some buried treasures. Pet enthusiasts on your gift list would likely love this little treat.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Super Cinema Saturday ~ Marley & Me

Just goes to show you....on Sunday I swore to a whole room full of people that I'd never watch Marley and Me.

Why? Multiple reasons. A) I can not handle pets in jeopardy scenes. I won't watch Old Yeller, I cried over the promo clip for 8 Below. My mom always thought Lassie was my favorite show, but I always watched with my little heart in my throat and sweat glistening my brow. B) I'm sentimental and a sucker for anything that is designed to play my heartstrings. I've cried at Hallmark and coffee commercials along with a thousand movies. It's so bad that my family watches me for entertainment during sad scenes.

Marley and Me were never meant to be. But on Monday, a friend invited a few of us over for her birthday. Her movie of choice? Yeah. You guessed it.

I sobbed. Not even going to try to downplay the sad. My eyes were swollen for at least an hour after the movie ended. I didn't just cry at the end, I was leaking from the mid-point. I'm not even a natural dog person. That said, I like Marley and Me. I liked it because it didn't rely on just cheap "cute" pet shots to win over the viewers, instead it was a nicely fleshed out character piece. The Grogans struggled with life in quite a few scenes and I was there with them. I didn't grow as attached to Marley as I might have, and this is a good thing, any more attached and it would have been too, too sad, because the filming covered about a dozen years in highlights.

Some of the scenes were hysterical. Some also hit a little close to home. Alan Arkin cracks me up. I love his delivery. Only one caution...I watched this film with an eleven year-old and cringed a few times. The language is mild, but there is some. The situations are PG-to PG-13, but there are a few uncomfortable moments, especially with a child in the room. So, parents, don't assume this is G-rated Disney family friendly. If you are concerned, check it out first.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Boneman's Daughters ~ Dekker

About the Book:

Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter?

They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who’s abducted six young women. He’s the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die.

Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives.

Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan’s estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own.

But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Boneman's Daughters, go HERE

My Review:

A serial killer who could be a few different men is dormant for two long years. It may be because the man who's been convicted has been placed behind bars, or maybe because he is yet uncaptured and fighting terrorism in a desert across the world. Or maybe the man is waiting and stalking his next victim.

Bizarre twists and turns keep the reader wondering, doubting and riveted. Plenty of horror and bursts of adrenaline will keep any Honken Chicken Club members buried under blankets for weeks, and may tilt even the most stoic of readers off-center. Heed the warning if you are squeamish.

Very classic Dekker. Good vs. evil where good is broken and imperfect and evil is broken and unredeemable. A spiritual allegory plays out clearly, especially in the last seven or eight chapters. The characters are an interesting blend of stereotype with unexpected elements that make them feel real. Though the FBI is involved this is a very tense suspense more so than a police procedural. If you are a Dekker fan, you won't find threads connecting Boneman to other stories unless I missed something. PG-13 overall, including a smattering of curse words, R in intensity and subject matter.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ I Love This

Youtube won't allow me to embed this clip so just click on it. Consider it a click toward celebrating the unexpected, the courageous, the every-day-is-a-new-opportunity to dream and reach and hope.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Scribble and Scrambles ~ Survival Report ~ Obedience Class Week 2

One day after watching Marley and Me, Lily, Lola, 22 and I headed out for week two of basic obedience classes.

The whole Marley and Me thing is a whole extra story and I'll be posting my review on Saturday. But there is one big connection between Lola/Lily/Me and Marley....that would be the doggie behavior issues.

Lily and Lola are uncomfortably close to Marley, the big screen "Worst Dog in the World."

Maybe it's because there are two of them to his one. Maybe, they share his zest for life or the knack for physical comedy.

Who knows. I do know that, for some crazy reason, they behaved in class last night. The trainer passed out "Good, girls!" and "Excellent!" as often as I passed out slimy bits of dog treats. She even gave us some advanced training because our group (Lily, Lola and Sawyer plus their handlers) is so far ahead of the game. What? Seriously?

Of course, this happened after a very, very tense walk designed to knock the vim and vinegar out of them so they'd behave at class.

We are considering taking a camera next week. Don't know if we can pull off any successful shots, but if we do, you'll know where to find them. I'll even post the ones wherein they pounce on the teacher and tip her over and/or knock over a display. I'll have to work on my video skills since it's possible 22 may do some skiing, too, especially if I'm the team photographer and she's doing double-handling. Maybe we should rethink pictures.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Deadlock ~ Robert Liparulo

Robert Liparulo is cranking out the books. And he's doing a great job keeping his i's dotted and t's crossed. His latest is a follow-up to Deadfall. See my review of Liparulo's other books and his interviews here. Visit Liparulo's website, Deadlock's first chapter and the rest of the details through the book cover.

Book Details:

John Hutchinson thinks it's no coincidence that Brendan Page runs this modern Praetorian Guard, and that the billionaire military industrialist must have had something to do with the atrocities his son Declan committed in Canada. The Canadian and U.S. Justice departments disagree, but Hutch has been digging for dirt ever since.

Brendan Page has some dirty not-so-little secrets. he's built an empire on supplying futuristic weapons and highly trained soldiers to the world's most powerful armies. But he's saved his most destructive weapons for himself.

When Hutch discovers the secret of Page's success, Page decides to teach him a lesson. But the operation goes terribly wrong, and Hutch's son is kidnapped. While a lone man stands little chance against the best black op soldiers ever issued M-16s, Hutch manages to survive longer than Page anticipated. As far as Hutch is concerned, high-tech helmets, machine guns, and hand grenades are nothing compared to a man determined to save his son. It's a lesson he sets out to teach Page-and one that he can only hope works as well in the real world as it does in his heart.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Deadlock, go HERE.

My Review:

Deadlock follows John Hutchinson (Hutch) and his family as he puts his life back together after his harrowing nightmare as detailed in Deadfall. Dillon and Laura have come to Denver for a visit. Life is calm, a little boring, even, except for Hutch's growing obsession with Brendan Page, the billionaire father of Declan. Declan, the young man who nearly killed Hutch, Laura and Dillon and did kill several people near and dear to them paid the ultimate price, but, it seems Brendan Page's money is keeping him safely out of the reach of the law and free to dabble in war games.

After a warning that ends up turning deadly and into a kidnapping, war breaks out between Page and his sophisticated killing forces and Hutch and a rag-tag band of kids and a woman.

Deadlock is a page-turning story that had me rooting for Hutch, not just to take care of the bad guys, but to discover the children who love and need his time and attention. Other than some intense scenes complete with gore, I found Deadlock to be a very good and satisfying novel. The characters are solid and likable, the action is twist and turn complex, the writing continues to satisfy even though Liparulo has several irons in the fire. Action and adventure lovers, gamers, guys, suspense hounds and character collectors might want to look a little deeper.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Henry and Melvin Blackaby's Experiencing the Spirit

Book Description:

Experiencing the Spirit

God’s Holy Spirit is ready to answer that for us in an awesome way, as Henry Blackaby and his son Mel Blackaby make clear in Experiencing the Spirit. You’ll see how the proof of the Spirit’s presence is our awareness of God’s personal assignments for us, plus our supernatural enablement to carry out those assignments. You’ll find essential clarification on the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts. You’ll explore the dynamics of being filled with the Spirit.

Authors Bio:

Dr. Henry Blackaby has devoted his life to the ministry. A multi-faceted talent, he has served as a music director, senior pastor, college president, missionary, and later as an executive in the Southern Baptist Convention. Blackaby is the author of more than a dozen books with more than one million copies sold, including the best-selling Experiencing God. As the President of Blackaby Ministries, he is a vibrant speaker and the father of Dr. Melvin Blackaby. Melvin serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro in Georgia, where he lives with his wife, Gina, and their three children.

My Review:

I was surprised how much information I found in this little book. The Blackabys cover the basics of the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christ follower. They also share different insights, personal experiences and scripture that illuminates different layers and aspects of the Christian faith. I appreciate the insights they shared especially about the role of the Holy Spirit as a sanctifier and the gifts that He gives.

This would be an excellent book for small group studies. Several discussion questions are provided for each chapter. Young believers would benefit as well as more mature Christians. Anyone struggling with their faith and wondering where God is might want to consider getting hold of a copy.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Slippery Slopes

I'm sad. Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy.
Thanks be to God that the tomb is empty. In Him, and His power, I can hope and trust.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Scribbles and Scrambles - Lily and Lola Go to School

Week One Obedience Class:


The teacher, Madame Julie, praised Lily and Lola. Said they did an awesome job. (It may be because Lily and Lola were wearing their special face harnesses that keep them controlled so no chance of 22 taking any unexpected ski jumps while out for a walk. Or of store bowling with 22 as the ball.)

Lily and Lola took a stroll around the store. There were no destroyed displays, broken bones or schnuffled children. (Slight correction. Lola kind of took a stroll. Kind of. Lily made it out of the training pen and down the first aisle five times before turning back to start over.)

Only one other dog was present. Sawyer the four month old perfectly behaved golden retriever. Lily and Lola got lots of one on one attention.

They learned the "Get it" and "Watch" commands which were new to 22 and me. "Watch" will come in very handy.

Both Lily and Lola had full tummies by the time the class was over.


Lily barked when we attempted to put on the harness. A not so charming habit they've developed. Apparently, when they are excited to go on an adventure they must avoid the only thing that makes said adventure a go.

We were late.

My fingernails had bacon scented crumbs embedded in them and Lola nearly ripped the pocket off of my jacket.

Many, many practice sessions to follow.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ The Noticer Project

This is cool. A website designed to get us thinking about the importance of others in our lives. Click on the book cover to visit the website and here to join the Facebook Noticer Group.

Here's the basic info.

"The Noticer Project is a worldwide movement to "notice" the five most influential people in your life! Noticing those five people can be as private (just a letter or email) or as public (posting to your Facebook page or joining The Noticer Project Facebook group) as you choose, but the movement is meant to encourage us to step outside our busy schedules and avoid waiting until a wedding, graduation or even a funeral to take notice of the special, influential people in our lives. By noticing those who have made a difference for you, you not only acknowledge their contribution, but you may gain a new perspective on your own journey. If you are noticed, you are encouraged to continue the movement by 'noticing' five people in your life!"

I'm not going to lie. I had a little trouble limiting myself.

So here you go:

The List...ala Kelly...I think I will call it...

Five People Who've Influenced Me. Wait. No, Let's Amend that to Five Groups of People Who've Influenced Me. But This List is Not All Inclusive. I Think It's a Good Start, Though.

My husband. My husband and I grew up together. We began crushing on each other when I was fourteen. Through massive ups and downs, doubt, failures, alcohol, infidelity, churchlessness, financial crises and sorrow, we've grown into a unit that is still imperfect but thriving. I trust his heart and I love the man he has become. I respect him for the commitment he has made to me and our marriage. We have survived so much and I respect him for being willing to climb a few mountains, brave a handful of storms and battle some beasts to protect our family and my heart. He is my number one hero.

My kids. My children have been teachers and learners. They've taught me that it's not about me. I've also learned that no matter how big the mistakes I make are, that if I will ask my children to forgive me, they will. Unconditional love pours out of my children. My kids have also shown/reminded me that the world is full of wonder and color and sights, sounds, taste and smells. Each of them has taught me something about life, and something about myself. Each has given me new experiences and splashes of color, joy and delight.

My parents. My mom and dad shaped me and gave me memories, character and boundaries. My mom and dad taught me that a mistake can be a chance to communicate and clear the air and an opportunity to start over. My friends didn't have parents who apologized when they were wrong, my parents did and that, above everything else, made me feel respected and cherished. My husband's parents have become very dear to me the more I've gotten to know them. I was so close to my own mom that I didn't give my mother-in-law the welcome that I should have. They have never pushed. They have always encouraged. Even when what they had to say didn't sit well, the wisdom of their life did. Their generosity and love overwhelms me. Now that I am a mother-in-law I understand so much more what it means to be a mother-in-law and have grown to love my own on a deeper level. My in-laws have taught me about unconditional patience and support.

My friends. I have known and cared about so many people. How can I chose one person? Stephanie, the friend I rarely talk to, who needed me in the darkest hour of her life. Sandi, the friend always ready to take in the stray or the lost, little critter with the broken wing. Christa, the friend who lives life on the edge of the cliff and embraces it as a grand stage with details spelled out in neon. Noel and Shirlee who actually think I'm wise and seek my advice. Evelyn, a woman who encourages me to keep plugging away at my dreams, and has given me an example of what that might look like since she forged through and accomplished huge things. Michelle, a woman who has become an honorary aunt to my children, who has infused my life with laughter, encouragement and generosity. How can I pick between them? Each of them has taught me something or enriched my life in a hundred different ways.

My church. Not just my local church though I have grown and changed and been challenged in my local church. But, my sisters and brothers in the worldwide body of Christ have taught me the reality of gifts and purpose. My local church tends to be like the backseat of a station wagon with skirmishes and warnings not to cross the line or else, and the endless question, "are we there yet?" This is great on a few levels because it teaches me how to get along well with others who I'm glued to whether I'm thrilled about that or not. But beyond that, and there are wonderful sweet moments in the backseat, comforting and rich, don't get me wrong, but beyond that there is a huge world full of people who think slightly differently than me.

The body of Christ has to have a few doctrinal beliefs that are rock-solid, unmoving, foundations. But the rest...oh my, there are exotic scents and strange sounds and wonderful experiences that I don't get to have in my small, conservative Iowa backyard. Some of the most amazing people I've met are friends I've met on-line. Ane, Gina, Jessica and the other Pennies have poured themselves and their knowledge into me. Not to mention shared their spotlights and opportunities. Kim, Nora, Birdie, friends I hope to meet someday, but are special friends in spite of never meeting face-to-face.

I could go on for hours about the people in my life. But I was supposed to pick five. Five measly people...yeah, right. Ha.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ The Treasure Principle ~ Randy Alcorn

Summary: The Treasure Principle

After years of writing and teaching on the theme “God owns everything,” in 1990 Randy Alcorn was sued by an abortion clinic (for peaceful, nonviolent intervention for the unborn). Suddenly he had to resign as a pastor and was restricted to making minimum wage. Legally unable to own anything, Randy gave all his book royalties to missions work and need-meeting ministries. He and his family have experienced the reality of The Treasure Principle—that God really does own everything, takes care of us, and graciously puts assets into our hands that we might have the joy and privilege of investing in what will last for eternity.

Author Bio:

Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM). Prior to 1990, when he started EPM, he served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has spoken around the world and has taught on the adjunct faculties of Multnomah Bible College and Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Randy is the best-selling author of twenty-seven books, with over three million in print.

My Review:

This book is simple, and quick, weighing in at a purse-sized 120 pages. The writing is to the point. However, don't expect to read it without doing some soul-searching.

We all know deep down what is expected of us. Really. No matter what we cover it up with, we know there is something bigger than us, something beyond the physical space we take up on this planet. regardless of what we call IT. We also know there is a response of some sort required.

I've lived on both sides of the coin -- living for myself and living for a purpose. Self leaves me feeling empty and unfulfilled. And that's the bottom line. With comments such as " As the wealthiest man on earth, Solomon learned that affluence doesn't satisfy. All it did was give him greater opportunity to chase more mirages." Alcorn cuts through the gunk and the excuses we give for not living our lives for others.

This isn't a comfortable read, at all. If you are not a Christian or are a Christian who doesn't really like the idea of giving God control over your life, I guarantee you'll come away with at least one bruised toe. However, if you are wondering what might be missing in your life, looking for something to bring meaning to your existence, the questions at the back of the book alone are worth the investment you'll make if you chose to purchase the book. Based on Alcorn's heart and principle as shared in this book, I dare say he'd even encourage you to check for it at your local library. The Treasure Principle would translate into a Bible or small group study very easily.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Bill Myers' Angel of Wrath

Whew!! It's been a reading, writing and chasing my tail week. But I just finished Angel of Wrath and here are my thoughts.

By all means, click on the first chapter of this very intense read....and click on the pictures for more info.

Book Description:

Thirteen-year-old Jazmin, her ex-Special Ops uncle Charlie, and former FBI agent Lisa are reunited in the second of the Voice of God series to stop a an assassin driven to murder members of a megachurch led by Lisa's brother. This assassin has drawn in a coven of teens toying with satanic practices to support his efforts. The naive youth engage in ceremonies that appear to usher in the death of each of his victims. When their rituals open a portal into the spiritual realm, a terrifying and mysterious entity crosses over to our world.

The battle culminates with the capture of Lisa's father as the next target and a Black Mass requiring both their deaths as a sacrifice. The team will, once again, have to rely on all their wits, strength, and faith to survive in this action-packed, unearthly warfare.

If you would like to read an excerpt from Angel Of Wrath, go HERE

My Review:

I've whipped through every Bill Myers title I've ever read, from the Wally McDoogle series I read when I could snatch a book from my son, to the Fire of Heaven Trilogy. Whether Myers is going for humor or suspense, he cranks it out into a great read.

Angel of Wrath is not a departure from this MO or the expected Myers' skill with plot and character development. Though I didn't read book one in The Voice of God series, I'm intrigued enough to go back and pick it up because Myers, as he did with the Fire of Heaven Trilogy, introduces just enough speculation and scientific questioning into Biblical fact to make me stop and think a bit and want to read beyond the story I held in my hands.

Written in multiple POV Myers melds Satanism with a twisted "Christianity" and comes up with a horrifying religious blend from the pits. Honken Chicken Club members may find some creepiness just a little too creepy. Very conservative folks may find some of the slang language a bit trying or toe stomping. Overall, this is an entertaining and thought-provoking read. Parent warning...I'd rate it PG-13 because of some intense subject matter.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Clutter-Free Christianity

I haven't read this yet. Right now, my emotional/physical clutter has made it impossible to make time for Clutter-Free Christianity
. However, I will be reading and reviewing it. I need all the clutter help I can get whether it is in the form of physical, emotional, mental or spiritual rescue.

Here's the back cover info.

When did the Christian life become so complicated?

Your greatest desire is to please God, but with each passing week, your spiritual to-do list grows longer. As you strive to fulfill a never-ending inventory of requirements for being a godly parent, spouse, voter, employee, and more, you feel increasingly disconnected from the God you’re trying to serve.

It’s time to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of what it means to please God. In this liberating look at the core principles of faith, Dr. Robert Jeffress reveals the truth about what God really wants from you–and what He wants to do for you.

Through solid biblical teaching and practical insights, Dr. Jeffress points you toward a revitalized faith centered on becoming more like Jesus in action, attitude, and affection. You’ll learn how to partner with God i
n the process of spiritual transformation as you choose to follow Christ in forgiveness, obedience, trust, contentment, service, and prayer.

Through a renewed focus on experiencing the kingdom of God right now, you’ll find your to-do list shrinking and your spiritual life deepening. It all comes with embracing Clutter-Free Christianity.

Includes a Bible study guide for personal growth and group discussion.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Serials and Scenarios ~ Herman-u-tics -- Kathy Herman

Kathy Herman dropped by with a whole lot of fun and fascinating comments/creations. Hope you enjoy her thoughts as much as I did. Scroll down to Monday's post to read the first chapter of The Real Enemy. Thanks, Kathy. Lots of fun.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

Hmm…my characters have so many problems I’m not sure I’d want to be any of them Seriously, I loved Ellen Jones in the Baxter and Seaport Series. Her character allowed me to use MY voice. I didn’t agree with all her views, but I could still speak in my own voice. That made it easy.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

This is tough. I’ll probably think of a hundred things later. I’d love to know what Lazarus experienced when Jesus called him back to this life.

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

I would go back to my first, Tested by Fire, and rewrite the story with only four points of view instead of a myriad. It would have been even more powerful. I learned about POVs later in my career.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Yellow. Bad day? Black. Which one do you aspire to be? Light blue and calming

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.

Nothing clever, just a profound statement from Chariots of Fire. “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” That’s how I feel when I write.

If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

I don’t think ahead about any of my novels so I’m not sure I can answer this with specifics. But I’d probably stay where I am—in mystery suspense. I love to keep readers turning the pages, and this genre is just ripe with desperate people who need biblical solutions. Great for developing sympathetic characters and easy for making the scenarios real and applicable but not preachy.

What period of history intrigues you the most?

The years Jesus walked the earth.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

I would love to write a story so profound that it became a classic and outlived me by decades.

What makes you feel alive?

Reader feedback—which makes me realize how God is using my words to affect positive changes and bring people closer to Him.

In a tangible sense, the wonders of nature make me feel alive. The creation draws me closer to the Creator. I love mountains, forests, oceans, meadows—bird watching, star gazing, people watching.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?

I’m a sucker for hurting children. We have a TV station here that airs a program called, “The Gift of Love,” and every week they feature a child in foster care who tells us that what they want most in the world is a “forever family,” that will love them. It breaks my heart every time. Some of these kids have been passed over for years. No child should have to ask someone to love them. <>.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

I’d like to go back to Alaska in the winter, lie in the snow, and marvel at the colors of the Northern Lights.

Favorite season and why?

Fall. The colors are spectacular. And the air is crisp enough that the sun feels wonderful (I think I’m part cat).

Favorite book setting and why?

Mountains! I lived in Colorado Springs for fifteen years and I miss those gorgeous peaks. But a seaside setting ranks a close second. What I like is a place I can “stay” (mentally and emotionally) during the time it takes me to write the series—a place I can touch, see, hear, smell, and taste! My favorite place in my books was Phantom Hollow, which was set on the western slope of Colorado.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

There have been so many it’s hard to choose. But the one that I’ll never forget came from a lady named Belinda. She wrote to my publisher, desperately wanting to get in touch with me because my book made her want to accept Jesus. I got in touch with her and we emailed back and forth. Later I wrote a sinner’s prayer that she prayed and accepted Christ. When I started writing suspense novels, I had no idea the impact they would have.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

A reviewer who had always given me favorable reviews decided that one of my books had too many typos and had been rushed to print and so assumed I had rushed through the writing as well. She stated that right in the review and also said, “Come on, Kathy. You can do better than this.” Thing is, she loved the book and put the sequel on her wish list. She was scolding me for typos—and for that gave me 3 stars instead of a 4 ½. Anyhow, I disagreed with her assessment that I had rushed anything. My copy editors had missed several typos, yes. Shame on them. But the book was my best to date. I had worked my behind off to come up with a compelling storyline. And I delivered. Her remarks really cut.

On the other hand, the weirdest criticism I ever got is that my characters aren’t realistic because they don’t swear and drink. The reader said it was a horrible distraction that they didn’t—this from an elderly woman (a bit crusty, I dare say) who also resented my book being, in her words, “a morality tale.” I don’t think the letter I got was bogus. The woman took great care in handwriting her critique. She was hung up that my characters never swore or had a beer, but overlooked the fact that they very poignantly and realistically dealt with murder, adultery, and the societal problem of gossip. Yep, they were just too clean cut for her.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Tell everyone I love (and some I don’t) that soon I’ll be in heaven, and that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life—and what that means for me and for them.

What is your favorite word?


What word annoys you more than any other?

Like (when used in place of “uh”)

Favorite chore

Folding laundry

Anything you'd do but don't because of fear of pain? What is it? Ex. Bungee jumping, sky diving, running with scissors.

Mountain climbing (fear of extreme subzero temps and frostbite)

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

As a transplant to the South, I’ve learned to tolerate idioms such as “might could,” fixin’ to,” and “over yonder,” yet I struggle with the Chicago Manual Style of eliminating commas. Sentences look naked without commas. For example, “I might could help you since I’m fixin’ to go over yonder too.” Weird, huh?

  • Societal pet peeve…sound off.

  • We women let fashion designers strip of us dignity and convince us it’s cool. For example, cleavage (and then some) is in. If you haven’t noticed you’re either blind or dead. I think female professionals look absolutely ridiculous with half their boobs showing. I mean, what man will take them seriously in any profession (other than the oldest one?) Okay, done sounding off.

CREATIVE CORNER: Pick any of the following and have fun with it.

Describe something you can see, hear, taste or feel without telling us what the item is.

It rose up from the valley floor, a mighty fortress, formidable and flint gray against the lava-colored sky. Majestic. Mysterious. Immovable—unless one possessed faith the size of a mustard seed.

Frizzy hair, purple scarf and a book – make a character.

Mavis Bloom flopped on the rain-soaked bench at the bus stop, feeling very smart that she was wearing the raincoat-in-a-pouch she had bought at a neighbor’s yard sale. She held the umbrella over her head, her frizzy hair sticking out from under her purple scarf, and looked down Rosewood Lane, hoping to see the eight o’clock bus. She tucked her library book under her arm, and leaned away from the disheveled stranger sitting on the bench next to her. He smelled of whiskey and stale tobacco. She had a ready response, should he ask her for a handout.

“We need the rain,” he finally said.

Indeed.” She shifted her weight. “I wonder what’s keeping the bus.”

There’s been an accident.”

How do you know that?”

I see things.”

She turned and locked gazes with him. “What does that mean?”

The stranger flashed a creepy smile that revealed a row of brown teeth. “Oh…I’m not sure you really want to know.”

Mavis heard the screeching of tires and the horrible sound of metal crashing against metal and of glass breaking. She closed her eyes and sucked in a breath and forgot to exhale. Seconds passed. She heard screaming and the sound of footsteps running on the pavement. A chill crept up her spine and her eyes flew open. She turned to the stranger. He had vanished.

A crack broke the stillness as Terri tugged on the frozen door.Ice fell on the top of her pink boot as she squeezed through the opening, her heart beating wildly, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. How far had she run—a mile? Two? She grabbed a chair and wedged the back of it under the doorknob until it felt secure, then pressed her ear to the door and listened intently to the crunching sound of someone walking in the snow. The man with the scar was following her! Everything in her wanted to scream but nothing would come out. From the moment she realized he was studying her at the coffee shop, she knew Jack Stiles had sent him to kill her too.

If Alex had known the body of the senator was in the bathtub, she would've taken Jim's offer for coffee. She didn’t pay for incompetence! She picked up her cell phone and hit the speed dial. Disposing of the body was part of the deal. Did she have to tell him how to do everything? She took her thumb and forefinger and massaged her temples. What a hassle. This was so typical of Monday.

Swirling leaves riding the icy wind, danced up Liesel's skirt. She felt the heat scald her face and heard the Frederick and Leo laughing. Morons, both of them. If they knew what Dougan was about to do, they would be on their knees, begging for mercy. Not that she relished the thought of them dying. But before she met Lady Sarah for tea, each would occupy a shallow grave. Pity. With better breeding, Leo would have made a suitable husband.

The leaves weren't the only things stirred up by the breeze which now carried the cloying scent of death. Revenge was such a power trip. He’d pay for it later. But as long as hell was his final destination, he might as well take whatever he could—including the lives of anyone who got in his way. And they had gotten in his way—all three of them. They’d been warned. Wasting them had been easy.

It was a damp and dismal afternoon. (Yes, as in It was a dark and stormy night : ). Andrew Wicket tucked the Glock into his waistband and stepped over the body of Joe Harper, wondering if Flo’s Diner was still serving tonight’s special.

One of my favorite prologue openings (from my first Phantom Hollow book, Ever Present Danger):

Ivy Griffith stood beside her pink-and-silver snowmobile, her breath turning to vapor in the late afternoon chill, her gaze set on the giant cottonwood tree that marked the secret grave like a towering headstone. She knew that even after the spring runoff came rushing down the mountain, and the Phantom River became like a torrent of baptismal whitewater lifting the impurities and washing them away, the horrible deed that was done here would not be cleansed. Not then. Not ever.